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Thread: Lu Xiaofeng - Unabridged

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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 – Flying Into Glamour and Good Fortune

    Everybody knew Lu Xiaofeng was an adventurer.

    Adventure can also be considered a disease, just like cancer. It’s not easy to cure, but wanting to catch the disease is equally not easy. Therefore, nobody has ever turned into an adventurer overnight. If someone suddenly turns into an adventurer, there must be a very unusual reason behind it.

    It was said that when Lu Xiaofeng was around seventeen years of age, he went through a very painful experience, which led him to almost jump into the river. It was then that he turned into an adventurer.

    An adventurer would never jump into a river, unless the water that day happened to be warm, and a very beautiful girl happened to take a bath in the river. He also happened to possess a very good water skill.

    Adventurers would never mistreat themselves, because in this world, the only one who would take care of them is themselves.

    Lu Xiaofeng had always taken good care of himself. If a carriage was available, he would never walk. If there was a three-tael a night inn to spend the night, he would never stay in a 2.9-tael inn.

    The ‘heavenly’ character of the ‘Heavenly Good Fortune Inn’ refers to several of the best rooms, and the rent was precisely three taels a night. Those who had stayed in the ‘Heavenly Good Fortune Inn’ all agreed that the three taels a night rent was not price-gouging.

    The beds were spacious and comfortable, with clean bed sheets and goose down pillows. Hot water was available for a hot bath anytime of the day.

    Lu Xiaofeng was lying down on the bed. He had just taken a hot bath and had eaten a nice dinner, plus two catties of very good Bamboo-leaf Green wine.

    Regardless of who was in this condition, only exhaustion would take over, and the only thing to do was shut his eyes and sleep.

    Lu Xiaofeng had closed his eyes, but he just could not fall asleep. He simply had too many things in his mind right now.

    There seemed to be a hole in this matter, but he could not figure it out.

    Right now, as soon as he closed his eyes, he would see two women.

    One woman was wearing light, apple-green, soft silk gown. Her entire beautiful face was completely without makeup, her expression was always icy cold, just like a piece of iceberg.

    The other was like the sunshine in the spring time, or the spring water under the warm sun, gentle, tender, flattering, and arousing. Especially her eyes. When she looked at you, you would feel for an instant that your soul has left you.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s soul had not left him yet; simply because she had not looked straight into Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes yet. But Lu Xiaofeng had actually looked straight at her. As a matter of fact, he saw her nearly all the time these past two days, because she had been closely following Lu Xiaofeng, as if there was an invisible thread pulling her behind him.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been followed by other people, as well as he followed other people. It’s just that there were three groups of people following him. For Lu Xiaofeng, this was actually the first time in all his life.

    Three groups of people did not mean three people.

    That gentle-and-tender-like-the-spring-time-water girl was one of them, but she was the only one in her group.

    The second group consisted of five people. Some were tall, some were short, some were old, and some were young. They all rode on big and tall horses, and they all wore sharp swords and long sabers. Each one of them looked at Lu Xiaofeng with glowering eyes, as if they were not afraid that he would know about their presence.

    But Lu Xiaofeng pretended he did not see them. As a matter of fact, he really did not know these five people's origin, and he did not know why they were following him.

    The third group of people consisted of three men wearing square hats. They dressed like old Confucian scholars, and rode on a large carriage, complete with an attendant. They brought along tea set and wine pot, as if they were on vacation, enjoying the beauty of nature along the way. But Lu Xiaofeng was able to recognize them as soon as he saw them. No matter how they dress, he would always recognize them.

    Because although they can change their appearance, they would never be able to change the cold and arrogant look on their faces, the expression that says they were without equal in the world.

    These three old scholars, naturally were the present days' Law Protector Elders of the Devil Cult of the Western Region, the Kunlun Mountains' Great Brightness Mirror, Heavenly Dragon Mountain Cave's Sui Han San You.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not try to avoid them at all, they were also following him from some distance away, did not try to overtake him at all.

    Because the Blue Beard had told them.

    "If there is any one person in the world who can retrieve the Luocha Tablet back for you, that person must be Lu Xiaofeng."

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped by the Heavenly Good-fortune Inn to spend the night. He was wondering if those three groups of people also stayed at the Heavenly Good-fortune Inn?

    What, actually, were they going to do to Lu Xiaofeng? Would they make their move tonight?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed silently. He was not the least bit afraid others would trouble him, but to simply wait helplessly for others to come and give him trouble was not a pleasant feeling at all.

    While he was still sighing, someone suddenly knocked on his door.

    They're here! Finally they're here!

    Which group had come? And what did they want to do?

    Lu Xiaofeng simply lay down on the bed; not only did he not move, he did not even ask. He only called out loudly: "Come in!"

    The door was pushed open, and in came a servant carrying hot water kettle.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng relaxed, he was actually very disappointed.

    Not only he was not afraid others would come and give him trouble, sometimes he even wished others would come quickly to give him trouble.

    Although the servant said that he came to add hot water to the teapot, his manner seemed to be a bit suspicious. While pouring water into the pot, he tried to strike a conversation, "The weather is very cold. It feels like it is already the twelfth month."

    Lu Xiaofeng just looked at him. He knew this kid would surely continue.

    Sure enough, the servant said, "Such a cold weather, sleeping alone must be uncomfortable!"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: "Are you saying that you are going to find a woman to accompany me sleep?"

    The servant also laughed: "Don't Mister Guest want to look for a woman?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Of course I want a woman, but I must know first: what kind of woman?"

    The servant narrowed his eyes and laughed: "Other women, I dare not say anything. But this woman, I guarantee Mister Guest will be satisfied, because ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because what?"

    The servant laughed again, a vague laugh, a very mysterious laugh. He lowered his voice and said, "This woman is not local, she actually does not do this line of work. Besides, other than Mister Guest, she does not seem to be interested in other guests."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Could it be that she was to one who sent you here?"

    Unexpectedly the servant nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng's eyes shone; immediately that gentle-and-tender-like-the-spring-time-water girl appeared in his mind.

    He had not guessed wrong.

    The one the servant brought back was really her.

    "This is Miss Ding, Ding Xiangyi. This gentleman is Young Master Lu. You two can get better acquainted."

    The servant laughed his mysterious laugh, then slipped out of the room and closed the door behind him.

    Ding Xiangyi stood silently under the lantern with her head lowered. Her tender and elegant hands were playing with the corner of her garment.

    She did not say anything. Lu Xiaofeng also did not say anything.

    He was determined to see what kind of trick this woman was going to play in his presence. And he got his wish rather quickly.

    The lantern light was bright. A beautiful woman was standing under the light.

    She had not opened her mouth, but suddenly, using her two fingers she gently pulled the belt on her clothes.

    Once the belt was loosened, the front lapels of her robe also loosened, and her breasts, as white as snow and as pure as jade, with her two small reddish nipples, suddenly appeared in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was so startled that he jumped.

    He had never thought that her clothes were fastened by only one belt; he was even more surprised that underneath the clothes, she did not wear anything, not even a piece of ribbon.

    This kind of clothing was actually easier to take off than a baby's diaper.

    Therefore, that graceful, charming, yet shy respectable young lady of a moment ago now suddenly turned into an innocent newborn baby. Other than her own skin, nothing covered her body.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: "Are you always this straightforward toward other people?"

    Ding Xiangyi shook her head: "When playing hide-and-seek, I like to circle around."

    She smiled. With the pair of innocent and naive eyes she was looking straight at him. "But you called me here not to play hide-and-seek!"

    Lu Xiaofeng could only admit: "No, I did not!"

    Ding Xiangyi sweetly said, "I am not here to accompany you playing hide-and-seek either."

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, "I can see that."

    In a soft voice Ding Xiangyi said, "Since you already know what I am here for, and I also know what you want, then why do we still circle around as if we are playing hide-and-seek?"

    Her smile became even more seductive, even more captivating. It's just that the most captivating part of her body was not her smile, but the part which some men should not look, yet they always want to look anyway.

    Lu Xiaofeng was a man.

    He suddenly felt that his own heartbeat was getting faster, his breathing quickened, even his mouth felt dry.

    Obviously Ding Xiangyi could also see these changes on his body, especially the other part which underwent an even more pronounced change.

    "I can see that you are a grown man, and I'm also certain that you don't like playing hide-and-seek anymore!"

    She slowly walked near, and suddenly she slipped into his blanket, just like a fish slips into the water. Lithe, slippery, and natural.

    But her body actually was unlike the fish.

    Whether it was in the river, the stream or in the ocean, there have never been a fish whose body was like her. Sleek, soft, and warm.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. "Damn it!" he cursed himself in his heart.

    Each time he realized he was not able to resist some kind of temptation, he always cursed himself first.

    Afterwards, he would be ready to accept the temptation.

    He had just reached out with his hand when suddenly, 'pop, pop, pop!' three times; three metal awls, three flying daggers, three divine arrows, flew in from outside the window all at the same time, straight toward their bodies, hard and fast.

    Ding Xiangyi's face changed; she was about to scream.

    But before any noise came out of her mouth, these nine secret projectiles, which flew in lightning fast, suddenly fell down without any reason. Each secret projectile broke into two pieces.

    Because Ding Xiangyi was about to scream, her mouth stayed open. Suddenly she heard 'Bang!' Someone broke through the door brandishing a steel saber in his hand.

    This man looked strong and was wearing tight clothing. Not only his expression was fierce, his movements were also extremely swift and fierce; obviously he was an expert in external martial arts.

    Who would have thought that as soon as he barged in, he suddenly leaped high backward, as if there was an invisible hand grabbing his neck from behind.

    There was another 'Bang!' as the window was struck open, another man brandishing a pair of sabers with a wild roar charging in from the outside. But with another roar he flew out through the window on the opposite side of the room. 'Boom!' he fell heavily on the flagstones outside the window.

    Ding Xiangyi saw everything clearly, yet she did not have the slightest clue on what was actually happening.

    Right this moment yet another man rushed in from the door straight toward the head of the bed. With the ghost-headed saber in his hand raised high, he stared at Lu Xiaofeng and in stern voice said, "I kill you, you ..."

    This sentence of his was only half spoken, the saber in his had also had not chopped down, but he crumpled down, his limbs shrunk, his face turned black, as if he was suddenly possessed by a ghost. His entire body curled into a ball and suddenly he rolled out of the door.

    The room was full of daggers, swords, secret projectiles flying here and there; several tall and strong men rushing in and out, but Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be oblivious of it all. He was still lying on the bed, unmoving.

    A gust of wind blew. The pushed open door suddenly closed automatically, the stricken window also closed on its own.

    Lu Xiaofeng's expression still remained unchanged, as if he had already known that even the sky was falling down on him, some people would certainly support it for him.

    Ding Xiangyi looked at him in amazement. She slowly reached out to feel his forehead, and then also felt his chest.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: "I haven't been scared to death yet!"

    Ding Xiangyi: "And you are not sick!"

    Ding Xiangyi sighed and said, "Your ancestors must have done a lot of good deeds, that you can turn misfortune into blessing, calamity into safety, that anywhere you go, there will be deities and demons protecting you in secret!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You are absolutely correct. Nine heavens ten earths, various deities numerous demons, are all protecting me in secret!"

    Revealing his teeth, he grinned evilly. Although he had not looked into the mirror, he knew his face would certainly look very sinister, almost as sinister as those people of the Western Region's Devil Cult.

    But Ding Xiangyi only laughed. She winked and smiled: "Since there are deities and demons protecting you, I don't have to be afraid, we can still ..."

    Her hand started to move underneath the blanket.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt as if he was jolted by a lightning. He looked at her in shock: "After those kinds of things, you still have the interest?"

    Ding Xiangyi smiled coyly; she replied his question with her actions.

    Right this moment, suddenly the lantern went off, the room was covered in darkness.

    In such a dark room, anything can happen.

    Who can tell what was going to happen in that room?

    Lu Xiaofeng's sleep was very sweet. He had not enjoyed this kind of sweet sleep in such a long, long time.

    He was not a sage.

    And neither was she.

    When he woke up, he could still smell the lingering fragrance on the pillow, but the person actually had disappeared.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at the ceiling with eyes open wide. He was lost in thought for half a day. "Could it be that she followed me all the way just because she wanted me ..."

    He forbade himself to continue his thought; he had sworn long ago that he would not think himself as a gift to the opposite sex, that he would not to be infatuated with himself.

    The sunlight streamed in through the window pane. The weather was very good that day.

    When the weather was good, he was always in an unusually happy mood. But as soon as he pushed the window open, he saw five not-so-happy things.

    He saw five coffins.

    Ten men, carrying five brand new coffins, had passed through the courtyard, and out the main gate.

    The ones lying in the coffins must be those five men riding the big tall horses, the men who tailed him.

    Who were they, actually? Why did they follow him? Why did they want his life?

    Lu Xiaofeng was completely clueless.

    He only knew that these five people must have died under those three 'Old Scholars' staying in the room on the other side of the yard.

    He also knew that it was not him they were protecting, but the white jade they wanted him to retrieve.

    "If there is any one person in the world who can retrieve the Luocha Tablet back for you, that person must be Lu Xiaofeng."

    The three 'Old Scholars' on the opposite side were staring coldly at him. Two were drinking tea, the other one was drinking wine. Their piercing gaze was sharper than the point of a needle, probably they were telling Lu Xiaofeng: "If you cannot retrieve that Luocha Tablet, we can always kill you just like that anytime!”

    Lu Xiaofeng closed the window. Only then did he discover that the secret projectiles, which were struck to the ground the previous night, had disappeared. Only about eight, nine pieces of pebbles were left on the floor.

    Ding Xiangyi actually reappeared.

    With a steaming hot soup bowl in her hands, she walked in from outside. Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, an angelic sweet smile appeared on her face. With a gentle voice she said, "I know you must be awake by this time, so I went to the kitchen to prepare a bowl of chicken soup especially for you. Quickly drink it while it's still hot."

    Lu Xiaofeng was completely speechless.

    After staring at him for half a day, Ding Xiangyi laughed and said, "You look very shocked to see me here. Do you suppose I should be gone by now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny at all.

    Ding Xiangyi sat down, her smile was even sweeter. She looked at him with the corner of her eye: "But I still don't want to go, what do you say?"

    Her smile seemed very mysterious, it looked very strange.

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng remembered; in some business, when you are done, you have to pay. Similarly, after what the woman did, she might be waiting for others to pay her.

    She tailed him for two days, probably because she had seen it early on that he was such an open-handed man, so she was prepared to gouge his pocket.

    "Luckily I did not think myself as a gift to the opposite sex, I was not infatuated with myself!"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled; he was very proud of himself for having such a mature judgment.

    Someone who was very proud of himself would naturally be very open-handed toward others, much less Lu Xiaofeng was not a stingy person to begin with.

    He seemed to remember that he still have four or five banknotes in his pocket; each seemed to worth a thousand taels of silver. But when he reached into his pocket, he realized that he only have two left. Yet he still pulled one out and waved it in front of Ding Xiangyi.

    Ding Xiangyi looked at the banknote then she looked at him. "Is that for me?" she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Ding Xiangyi smiled. A very strange smile indeed.

    "Does she think it is too little?"

    Immediately Lu Xiaofeng pulled the last banknote from his pocket. It was his entire fortune. After he used it all up, how would he manage afterwards? Basically he did not even want to think about it.

    Ding Xiangyi looked at the banknote again, then she looked at him. Suddenly she also pulled out from her bosom piles of banknotes, each also worth a thousand taels of silver. There were at least forty, fifty banknotes.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Is that for me?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "All for you."

    Lu Xiaofeng was so surprised that his face looked like, while yawning, a piece of meatball suddenly fell from the sky and landed on his mouth.

    In all his life he had gone through countless dangerous, secretive, and mysterious situations, but he had never been shocked like this time.

    Ding Xiangyi suddenly asked: "Do you know what the term 'eating easy rice' means?"

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Do you know what the most ancient occupation in the world is?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded his head.

    Ding Xiangyi: "A woman who makes money this way usually is called a *****."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And a man who makes money this way is called 'eating easy rice'?"

    Ding Xiangyi laughed: "I knew you are a smart man; you understand everything right off!"

    Surprisingly, Lu Xiaofeng's face blushed deep red. His expression looked like someone who was forced to stuff his mouth with a stinky duck egg.

    Ding Xiangyi looked at him, then giggled and said, "Although I am not pretty, I have never lost money over a 'little white face' [attractive young man (derogatory) / pretty boy / gigolo]!"

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng was not a 'little white face' at all, he was a 'big red face'.

    Ding Xiangyi continued, "Besides, although you might consider me a *****, I actually know that you are not that kind of person!"

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a breath, he seemed to be very appreciative in his heart.

    Ding Xiangyi said, "These fifty thousand taels are not mine to give to you!"

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask, "Then who gives it to me?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "It's my Biaojie [older female cousin]."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Who is your Biaojie?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "My Biaojie is the Blue Beard's wife, Fang Yufei's meimei."

    Lu Xiaofeng croaked: "Fang Yuxiang?"

    Ding Xiangyi smiled: "She is also called Xiangxiang."

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbfounded.

    Ding Xiangyi: "She knew you are always generous, she was afraid you won't have enough money to spend along the way. She was also afraid you won't be able to sleep at night, and so ..."

    She bit her lips and glanced at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of her eye. "And so she wanted me to keep you accompany!"

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng sneered: "She wanted you to watch over me, didn't she?"

    Ding Xiangyi sighed: "I knew you would misunderstand her. Although outwardly she seems to be as cold as ice, she is actually a very compassionate woman, especially toward you ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "How she feels 'toward me'?"

    Ding Xiangyi smiled again. An even more mysterious smile. "The two of you spent most part of the night together inside a dark carriage, how she feels toward you, don't you know it in your heart? Why do you have to ask me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng's face was devoid of any emotion. He stopped his sneer, but somehow he felt that a bit of sweetness started to creep into his heart. Somehow it felt very good.

    Such a sweet and good feeling was enough for a man to let his neck wrapped in a noose.

    Thereupon when Lu Xiaofeng left the Heavenly Good-fortune Inn that day, he had fifty thousand taels more in his pocket, while the number of people tailing behind him was reduced by six. Five had entered the coffins, while one entered his bosom.

    Although he did not intentionally have any part on these two matters, he also did not have any way to avoid those matters.

    Just like most people in the world, if something was advantageous to him, he usually did not want to think too much about how to avoid it.

    Have you ever been followed by nine people? If you have, you would certainly know how good it is to know that the number of those nine people has been reduced to only three.

    Too bad Lu Xiaofeng was not able to maintain this good feeling for too long. Because on the next day, he discovered that the number of people tailing behind him had increased from three to ten.

    In order to have a good night sleep, Lu Xiaofeng tried not to turn his head as much as he can, he tried to pretend that he did not see those people.

    But Ding Xiangyi could not stop turning her head around; she was continually looking back from the small window on the rear of the carriage.

    Finally she could not bear not to ask, "Are those people also following you?"

    Lu Xiaofeng reluctantly nodded his head.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Looks like they have been watching you since last night!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "Do you know who they are?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't know." He really did not know.

    Ding Xiangyi closed the small window. Suddenly she snuggled herself into Lu Xiaofeng's bosom. Coincidentally, her warm body clung to his chest, but her hands were actually colder than ice.

    "I am scared!" She hugged him even tighter.

    "What are you afraid of?"

    "Among those seven people behind us, there is one 'lacking-half' man. He looks so scary!"

    "What do you mean 'lacking-half'?"

    Lacking-half means his left eye was blind, his left ear was gone, his left hand was replaced by an iron hook, his left leg was also replaced by a wooden leg.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Actually, I am more afraid of the other half which are not lacking."

    His right eye, nose, and mouth are crooked, they were twisted, completely deformed.

    Ding Xiangyi tightly grabbed Lu Xiaofeng's hand: "This man looks like a rag doll which had fallen into the water and then somebody tore the left side of his body."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "A rag doll?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "He doesn't look old, his stature is also very small; he must have had a round baby face, but now ..."

    She had not finished speaking when she noticed Lu Xiaofeng's eyes revealed a loathing look. Immediately she changed her course and asked, "Do you know who he is?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Ding Xiangyi: "You know him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    He seemed to be very unwilling to talk about this man, as much as he was unwilling to step his foot on a viper.

    But Ding Xiangyi still had to ask, "But you must know what kind of man is he, don't you?"

    There are some women who, by nature, always want to get to the bottom of everything. If she wants to know something and you do not tell her, she might not stop pestering you for three days and three nights.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: "He was originally called 'Yin Yang Kid'. After meeting Sikong Zhaixing, his nickname was changed."

    Ding Xiangyi: "Changed to what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Yin Kid!"

    Ding Xiangyi laughed. She said with a wink, "He was originally called 'Yin Yang Kid', it must be because he was neither a male nor a female kind of 'yin-yang' person!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Ding Xiangyi: "But Sikong Zhaixing destroyed the male half of him. And thus he can only be called the 'Yin Kid'."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Ding Xiangyi: "Why didn't Sikong Zhaixing simply kill him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because Sikong Zhaixing very seldom kills people."

    Ding Xiangyi: "Or could it be that Sikong Zhaixing thought that his female half had not done too many bad deeds?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Ding Xiangyi rolled her eyes. She said offhandedly, "I want to find a 'yin yang' person and take a look. I always wonder what difference do they have from other people?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I also have something I always wonder!"

    Ding Xiangyi: "What is it?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Why you have never blushed?"

    Ding Xiangyi's face right now was very red, not because she was blushing, but because she had just taken a hot bath.

    The rent of Lucky Inn rooms was also three taels a night, they also supplied hot water any time of the day, day or night.

    With one hand holding her hair bun and the other hand holding a towel, she walked from the bathroom on the other side of the corridor into the room. Bumping the door close with her buttocks, she chuckled sweetly, "The room here is too expensive, business is not so good, there is nobody outside, you should come out and take a bath together with me!"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not hear her. His full attention was on a sandalwood box.

    This box was laid neatly on the square table in front of him. The top of the box was carved with delicate pattern, with its corners inlaid in gold. It looked just like jewelry boxes used by the rich to keep their valuables.

    As Ding Xiangyi turned around, she immediately saw the box. "Where did it come from?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It was delivered by the servant!"

    Ding Xiangyi: "Who ordered him to deliver it?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't know!"

    Ding Xiangyi: "What's inside the box?"

    Lu Xiaofeng also did not know.

    Ding Xiangyi walked over. "Why don't you open it and take a look? Are you afraid a viper would jump out of the box?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am afraid a woman will jump out of the box, a woman just like you!"

    Ding Xiangyi glowered at him, then she laughed and said, "I wish a man would jump out of the box, better yet, a man just like you!"

    She opened the box, and the smile froze on her face, exactly like one who was scared to death.

    Inside the wooden box were more than a hundred white teeth, plus five black linen belts. Black linen belts which were soaked in blood.

    A tooth for a tooth, blood debt must be paid by blood.

    Only after her teeth chattered in fear was she able to croak, "Are these ... are these human teeth?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. His face looked rather pale.

    Ding Xiangyi: "What do these five black belts mean?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't know."

    Ding Xiangyi sighed: "Looks like you don't know anything."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I only know one thing."

    Ding Xiangyi: "What is it?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Men's business, it is best if a woman does not meddle too much, also does not ask too much!"

    Surprisingly, this time Ding Xiangyi really obeyed him; she sat down nicely on a chair and closed her mouth.

    Unfortunately it was only because she was so frightened that her body turned weak. After regaining her strength a little bit, she opened her mouth again, "I seem to remember the seven people who were following you today also wore black belts!"

    Lu Xiaofeng maintained a straight face, but inwardly he was impressed. She did have careful observation skills.

    Perhaps women were born with the ability to pay more attention to details than men; especially women, like her, who like to get to the heart of the matter.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Could it be that those seven people today are related to the five men who died that night?"

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her. Suddenly he said, “So you are determined to meddle in my business, aren’t you?”

    Ding Xiangyi sweetly replied, “I am sure you know that at least we are not strangers anymore.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “In that case you won’t mind doing something for me?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “What is it?”

    Her face was already blushing with excitement, just like a little girl who had just heard a grown up was going to take her to the temple.

    It was the very first time Lu Xiaofeng saw her blushing. Suddenly he discovered that when she was blushing, those pair of seductive, crafty and sly eyes turned into the naïve eyes of an innocent little girl.

    He stared at her for half a day before realizing that it was now his turn to say something.

    Now was the time for him to put up a façade of a heartless man, not looking at a young girl affectionately like this.

    Thereupon he cleared his throat immediately and said in stern voice, “Deliver this box for me to the other side!”

    Ding Xiangyi almost screamed, “What did you say?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I want you to deliver this box to the other side, because I am sure the real killer of these five men stay on that side!”

    Ding Xiangyi looked at him in disbelief, her countenance paled again.

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “What makes you think you can meddle in others’ business if you won’t dare to do such a trivial thing like this?”

    Ding Xiangyi gritted her teeth; she stomped her feet, ‘Bang!’ she closed the box, lift it up off the table and went out the door without turning her head again.

    Lu Xiaofeng deliberately did not look at her. Suddenly he felt that his heart was a lot more harder than it used to be. To an adventurer like him, it was certainly a good thing.

    Too bad that in his heart he still did not feel at ease.

    Sending a young girl to deliver a wooden box containing dead men’s teeth to the three men whose hands had killed them was a cruel thing to do.

    “But I have to let them know about this matter!” He consoled himself in his heart, “I must send her there. Remembering their own status, those three old freaks certainly won’t give a young girl any trouble!”

    After his own heart had calmed down somewhat, he started to think about things he should have thought earlier.

    What enmity did these people have against me? Why did they follow me this far and want to take my life?

    Why did all of them wear black linen belts? What kind of organization did these people belong to?

    Black linen cloth, black linen belt.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked down, he wanted to see what color his own belt was, but what caught his attention first was his pair of white socks.

    Instantly his mind remembered the ‘Red Shoes Sisterhood’ and ‘Green Shirt Pavilion’.

    It’s just that in his mind right now, those frightening experiences seemed pale in comparison to the matter at hand.

    Right now, the most frightening thing he was facing was these black belt people.

    If someone like the Yin Kid also became their subordinate, their organization must be very secretive, strict, and frightening.

    While Lu Xiaofeng was still pondering on what he knew, trying to discover the origin of this ‘Black Belt Society’, Ding Xiangyi was back, she was back empty-handed.

    “Have you delivered the box?”

    “What did they say?”

    “They did not say anything,” Ding Xiangyi pouted, “Because actually they were not in, so I handed the box over to their attendant!”

    “And the attendant also does not know where they are?”

    Ding Xiangyi shook her head. Suddenly she sneered and said, “I don’t care where you sent the box, that ‘yin yang person’ would come to find you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “He won’t come to find me!”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because right now I am going to find him first!”

    Ding Xiangyi was shocked. She was about to act like she was angry, but then her eyes showed concern as she asked, “Do you know how many people are in their group?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Seven.”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Do you know that those seven people have fourteen hands?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I can count as well!”

    Ding Xiangyi: “But you have only one pair of hands!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed before saying, “Does one tael of gold worth more? Or does one catty of iron worth more?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Of course the gold would worth more!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said matter-of-factly, “Therefore, one pair of hands is sometimes more useful than fourteen hands!”

    Ding Xiangyi looked as he was walking out. When he reached the door, she suddenly asked, “Are you confident that you are coming back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng only laughed.

    Ding Xiangyi: “How confident are you of coming back alive?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to turn his head and asked, “Why do you ask such a meticulous question?”

    With a straight face Ding Xiangyi said coldly, “If even half a confidence you do not have, you’d better leave those banknotes in your pocket. If I am going to be a widow, at least I will be a rich widow!”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her; he looked at her for half a day. Slowly he reached into his pocket, took the banknotes out and placed them on the table. Suddenly he laughed and said, “Don’t worry, you will never be a widow!”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because I can guarantee you that no man in this world would dare to take you as his wife.”

    Lu Xiaofeng had left. He left without even buttoning his collar, as if he was going out for a walk.

    But why did he leave all those banknotes behind? Was it because he did not have full confidence that he was going to come back alive?

    Just how frightening were people like that Yin Kid?

    Ding Xiangyi stared at the banknotes on the table. Suddenly she sighed and muttered, “If you don’t come back, although I won’t be a widow, there will be someone who will be a widower.”

  2. #42
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 – Ocean of Vinegar*, Waves of Prosperity

    *[Translator's note: vinegar is often used to symbolize jealousy]

    The Lucky Inn’s courtyard was surrounded by four building complexes. Yin Kid’s party seemed to stay on the fourth complex. They seemed to rent the entire complex.

    Just a moment ago Lu Xiaofeng seemed to hear the voices of women singing and laughing, but now the voices had ceased.

    He walked around and entered the complex from the back door, and did not see even a single human being. Apparently this place was not enjoying good business.

    Although the lanterns around the courtyard were lit, not even a sound of breathing or coughing was heard. Could it be that nobody was home?

    Lu Xiaofeng stood on tiptoes and then leaped up the short wall. The lantern light shone through the window, but not a single shadow was to be seen.

    There seemed to be a faint trace of the fragrance of women’s cosmetic and the aroma of wine and meat in the courtyard. Apparently there was a joyous gathering in that courtyard not too long ago. When people gathered to have a good time, wine and women were never absent.

    But where were the people now?

    A breeze came. Lu Xiaofeng suddenly knitted his brows. The breeze brought the smell of not only the wine, meat and perfume, but also a very particular smell, a special odor that usually can be found only around the slaughter house.

    He deliberately created some noise, but nothing was stirring in the room. While he was still hesitating, unsure whether he should just break into the room, suddenly he heard a miserably scream.

    The scream was ear-piercingly sharp; it did not sound like a human being’s voice.

    If you insist that that was a human’s voice, then this human certainly was a deformed monster.

    Immediately Lu Xiaofeng remembered the ‘lacking-half’ person. Could it be that the Sui Han San You had beaten him again by one step?

    He flitted across the roof ridge, his shadow floated like a light smoke. The scream came from the back, the two rooms at the very back. He could see the dim light far ahead. The two window panels and the door were actually half open.

    The smell of the reeking of blood was getting thicker.

    Lu Xiaofeng flew in and stopped right in front of the door. He gently pushed the door open with two fingers.

    Immediately someone was laughing fiendishly inside the door, “You are really here. I knew that as soon as the box was delivered, you will come here. Come in, quick.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not come in.

    Not that he did not dare to come in, but he could not bear to come in.

    The situation inside the room was a lot more horrible than the slaughter house, a lot more nauseating.

    Three teenage girls, young girls who had not completely matured, like slaughtered white sheep were lying askew on the edge of the bed; their pale and slender bodies were still bleeding, with blood flowing through their tender legs, dripping to the floor.

    The ‘lacking half’ person, like the grim reaper sat on the head of the bed. He raised a dagger in his hand, with blood still dripping from the blade.

    “Come in!” his voice was sharp and ear-piercing like an owl in the night, “I tell you to come in, you must come in, otherwise I am going to cut these stinky three girls into eight pieces.”

    Lu Xiaofeng gritted his teeth, trying hard to stop vomiting; because vomiting can usually weaken one’s body.

    Yin Kid laughed fiendishly: “Although these three stinky girls do not have any relation with you, too bad you are known as a man who always shows tender compassion, you can’t bear to see them die in your presence!”

    This malicious monster indeed knew how to capture Lu Xiaofeng’s weakness; Lu Xiaofeng’s heart had already sunken.

    He indeed was not able to bear it.

    His heart was not as hard as he wanted it to be. He knew perfectly well that sooner or later these girls could not avoid death, yet he still could not bear to see them die in his presence.

    All he could do was to brace himself and step in.

    Yin Kid laughed out loud: “At first we did not want to kill you, but you should not …”

    His laughter suddenly stopped; three cold rays of light flew in through the window. With the flashing of these rays, three star-like objects penetrated the young girls’ throats.

    The Yin Kid roared wildly and flew out instantly, but he did not pounce on Lu Xiaofeng at all, instead, he dashed out to pursue the person who launched the secret projectiles.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was unwilling to let him go.

    The young girls had already died, Lu Xiaofeng had nothing to risk, why would he let him go?

    The Yin Kid made a somersault in the air, the iron hook on his left arm grabbed the beam, and his body spun around the beam just like a spinning top. His fake leg created a strong gust of wind, turned out it was made of cast iron.

    As soon as he executed this strange trick, anybody would have to give up any idea of coming close to him.

    Lu Xiaofeng also could not come close, he had no choice but helplessly watch him spinning continuously. Suddenly his iron hook came loose. Borrowing the centrifugal force of the spin, his body shot out the window like an arrow.

    Turned out he was not trying to score any victory, but was only hoping to escape. Obviously he realized he was not Lu Xiaofeng's match.

    Too bad he still underestimated Lu Xiaofeng.

    As his body flew, Lu Xiaofeng's hand suddenly reached up. With two fingers outstretched, he pushed lightly.

    'Wham!' The Yin Kid was thrown heavily outside the window, his prosthetic leg struck the ground and sparks flew in all directions.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not intend to kill him. With a lightning fast speed he simply sealed his acupoint with the intention of leaping out after him to interrogate his origin and the purpose of his trip.

    Again a cold ray of light flashed in the courtyard and a nail pierced Yin Kid's throat.

    "Who's there?"

    The night was dim, the stars and the moon were not shining, not a single shadow was visible. Since he could not see anything, how could he pursue?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. "Luckily there were seven of them," he muttered, "There remain six living mouths."

    He had just finished talking when suddenly from behind him came a cold voice, "It's a pity that now even half a living mouth is no more."

    Only one person spoke, but there were three shadows on the ground, three long shadows because of the light from the window.

    Sui Han San You.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly turned around. With a bitter smile he said, "So the other six people are no longer alive?"

    One old man coldly said, "If they were still alive, you would not get out of that room that easily just a moment ago."

    Presumably the other six people were setting up an ambush in the darkness; so Lu Xiaofeng was actually walking into a trap. Pity that they all lost their lives silently in the dark.

    Without a doubt these six people were martial art masters. Killing them all might not be too difficult but killing them all together silently was not an easy matter.

    Sui Han San You's martial art skills were high, the way they made their moves was ruthless and accurate; truly astonishing.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and silently reminded himself that no matter what, he must not act blindly without thinking.

    Surprisingly, this old man's hand was still holding a wine cup, and there were still wine inside the cup. Other than Mr. Gu Song [lit. lone pine (tree)] of Sui Han San You, how many people in the world would be able to kill people in an instant with only one hand?

    Mr. Gu Song sipped the wine in his cup, then with a cold laugh he said, "Actually, we wanted to keep this half mouth alive. It's a pity that although you have the skill to kill, you don't have the ability to save."

    "So it wasn't you just now?" Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Mr. Gu Song arrogantly said, "This kind of scrap copper and rusty iron, Lao Fu [old man, referring to self] has not touched for many, many years."

    The secret projectile on Yin Kid's throat was a very elaborately manufactured three-corner bone-penetrating nail. The girls also died under this kind of nails. In just a short period of time their faces turned black and their bodies started to shrink. It was obvious that the nails were dipped into some kind of throat-sealing violent poison.

    Lu Xiaofeng also knew that this kind of secret projectiles could not possibly be used by the Sui Han San You. If one was capable of throwing a flower or a leaf to harm others by his internal energy, one could casually pick a pebble to strike down the enemy's arrow or flying dagger, one would not need to use such a poisonous secret projectile like this.

    He simply needed to ask, because he really could not figure out who had acted so ruthlessly?

    With a cold look Mr. Gu Song sized him up: "I have long heard that among the younger generation martial art experts, you are the most astute and the best, but I cannot see the least bit of that sign in you."

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed: "Sometimes when I looked into the mirror, I would feel disappointed in myself."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Still, you'd better be more careful along the way, you need to take a better care of yourself."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because before I find your Luocha Tablet, I must not die."

    Mr. Gu Song laughed coldly. With a flick of his long sleeve, 'Whoosh!' the trees around the courtyard swayed, autumn leaves fluttered, and the three of them disappeared.

    Their qing gong had reached perfection, their temperament was extremely hard to deal with, whoever had these three as adversaries cannot possibly be too happy in his heart.

    Lu Xiaofeng pinched a fallen leaf with his two fingers. He looked at the leaf and then let it fall again, while muttering, "The leaves have dried up. Two more days farther north, snow will start to fall. Those who are not afraid of cold are free to follow me."

    The room was still lit.

    When he left just a moment ago, the light was very bright. Right now it had dimmed quite a bit.

    The door was half ajar, exactly like when he left a moment ago. Suddenly he asked the question he had never thought of before: "Is she still waiting for me?"

    At first he was hoping that Ding Xiangyi would leave quickly; the sooner the better. But now? If she really had left, he would certainly not feel too good.

    Regardless of what kind of person you are, when you know someone was waiting for you in your room, your heart will certainly grow warm. This feeling is similar to those of a lone hunter, when he returned home on a cold winter night and found out that someone has lighted the fire for him at home, then he would not feel lonely anymore.

    Only an adventurer like Lu Xiaofeng can understand how precious this kind of feeling can be. Therefore, when he pushed the door open, he was a bit nervous.

    Right this moment, with this kind of feeling in his heart, he truly did not wish to walk into a cold and empty room.

    Someone was inside, she had not left.

    With her back facing the door, she sat next to the light, with her soft jet-black long hair hanging loosely on her shoulder.

    She was slowly combing her hair with an ebony comb. Why is it that women always like to comb their hair to pass lonely time?

    Seeing her, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt the light was a lot brighter.

    No matter who you are, you would feel better when you know someone was there for you. Suddenly he realized that the older he got, the more unbearable loneliness was to him.

    However, he did not show the feeling in his heart; he said lightly instead, "At last I am back alive."

    "Mmm," she did not turn her head.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am not dead, and you haven't left. Looks like it is not time for the two of us to bid goodbye yet."

    She still did not turn her head, but saying gently, "Do you wish I will never leave you forever?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer, because he suddenly realized the woman who sat in his room combing her hair was not Ding Xiangyi at all.

    She seemed to be smiling coldly, the hand that hold the comb was so white that it looked almost transparent, her fingernails were very long.

    She was still combing her hair, she was combing hard, as if she wanted to take her own hair to vent her anger.

    Lu Xiaofeng's eyes shone. "It's you?" his voice hoarse.

    She was laughing coldly, "You did not think it was me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng admitted, "I really did not think it was you."

    "I also did not think that you are such a lover, see one woman love one woman."

    At last she turned her head. Her face pale, her nose straight, her eyes shone like the cold stars in the autumn night.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a bitter smile he said, "This time I don't want to climb an iceberg, but the iceberg actually wants to climb me?"

    If Fang Yuxiang was really an iceberg, then there comes a time when an iceberg can also blush.

    Right now her face was red, with her big eyes she hatefully stared at Lu Xiaofeng. "Is it true that you are not capable of speaking like a human being?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled: "Once in a while I am capable of speaking one or two sentences. But it is only when I see a human being."

    "So you think I am not a human being?" Naturally these words were not spoken, but her big eyes grew even bigger as she stared at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. "A couple of days ago I heard someone said that although your appearance looks mean, actually you are a very warm-hearted person. Too bad that try as I might, I fail to see it."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Someone said I am a very warm-hearted person?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Uh huh."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Who was it?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am sure you know."

    With a cold laugh Fang Yuxiang said, "Isn't she the full-of-affection little biaomei [younger female cousin] of mine, Ding Xiangyi?"

    Lu Xiaofeng coughed lightly twice in reply; suddenly he felt that his face was blushing a little bit.

    He always thought his heart was not too black, his face was also not too thick; as soon as the content of his heart was revealed, he would blush a little bit.

    Fang Yuxiang coldly looked at him. "These last two days, she was always with you, I presume?" she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only admit.

    Fang Yuxiang: "Where is she now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled. "You don't know where she is?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "I have just got here, how would I know?"

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: "Perhaps she was afraid when I come back I would turn into a freak who lacks a nose and lost an eye. She could not bear to see me like that, so she decided to walk away."

    Fang Yuxiang coldly said, "She is indeed a soft-hearted woman, she always shut her eyes when she kills people."

    Suddenly from outside came a giggle. "Of course Da Biaojie [elder female cousin] understands me best. Because the last time killing someone I closed my eyes, blood spattered all over my body."

    Amidst the silver bell like laughter, like a swallow Ding Xiangyi flew in gracefully.

    Although her laughter was delightful, her appearance was actually a bit distressing; even the front lapel of her gown was torn. She looked more like a swallow that has just been hit on the tail by a hunter's crossbow.

    Fang Yuxiang's face was devoid of any feeling. "I didn't think you would come back."

    Ding Xiangyi laughed. "Knowing Da Biaojie is here, I have no choice but to come back."

    Fang Yuxiang also laughed. Her laughter was also very sweet. "Although sometimes I am mad at you, I also know that no matter what, you are still my good Biaomei, you are always good to me."

    Ding Xiangyi: "It's a pity that the opportunity for us to see each other is not always many, you are always with Da Biaoge [older male cousin], leaving me all alone on my own."

    Fang Yuxiang's smile was even sweeter: "Your words are so pleasant to hear, but don't you think that I do not know that you have already forgotten us long time ago."

    Ding Xiangyi: "Who says that?"

    Fang Yuxiang smiled while casting a glance toward Lu Xiaofeng. "When the two of you are intimate, do you still remember us?"

    The two women were smiling sweetly, they both also spoke very pleasant words, but the more Lu Xiaofeng watched, the more he felt something was amiss.

    Amidst the laughter as merry as silver bells, suddenly he heard 'Crack!' The comb in Fang Yuxiang's hand turned into a chain of swift arrows. One comb has at least forty, fifty teeth; just like a rainstorm these forty, fifty sharp arrows all flew toward Ding Xiangyi.

    Ding Xiangyi's hand also suddenly launched seven cold rays of light, all flew toward the seven vital acupoints on the front of Fang Yuxiang's torso.

    These two women made their moves together, unexpectedly both were launching fatal blows, each one wanted to take the other’s life in this split second.

    They both did not close their eyes, but Lu Xiaofeng did.

    When he opened his eyes, he saw seven cold stars nailed on the wall in front of him, Fang Yuxiang was lying on the bed, and Ding Xiangyi had already flown seven, eight zhang away.

    He heard her voice from the distant darkness, a voice filled with hatred: “Remember this: I will never forgive you!”

    But before she even finished speaking, her voice had turned into a scream. The scream was immediately cut short, replaced by an eerie silence.

    The autumn fog had dispersed. The fog was noiseless. The wind was still blowing, but even the wind did not create any noise.

    The whole earth was silent.

    Fang Yuxiang was still lying motionless on the bed, so much so that her breathing was not heard.

    Lu Xiaofeng sat down. He looked at her breast.

    A very mature and firm pair of breasts.

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “I know you are not dead yet.”

    A dead person’s breast would not be as enticing as her breast, but like a dead person, she did not show any reaction.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her for half a day. Suddenly he stood up, walked over, and lay down by her side.

    And then he also turned into a dead person, while the other dead person actually started to revive.

    Her hand was moving, her leg was also moving.

    Lu Xiaofeng was motionless. Fang Yuxiang suddenly guffawed. “I know you also are not dead yet.”

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng showed some reaction. He grabbed Fang Yuxiang’s constantly moving hand.

    Fang Yuxiang: “What are you afraid of? I am not Blue Beard’s legally married wife; you are not his friend.”

    She laughed again: “Don’t tell me you are scared of Ding Xiangyi? I guarantee she won’t be coming back this time.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He knew that if Ding Xiangyi managed to come back this time, she might really turn into a freak who lacks a nose and lost an eye.

    But he was not too concerned about it, because he noticed that the seven stars nailed onto the wall were precisely the tree-corner bone-penetrating nails he saw earlier.

    He suddenly asked, “Did she come to find me on your order?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “I have neither enmity nor grudges against you; why would I want to harm you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Harm me?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “Right now she is like a volcano which might erupt anytime. No matter who she is following, that person may die under her hands anytime.”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “Looks like my luck recently is not too bad. I met two women, one is an iceberg, the other is a volcano.”

    Fang Yuxiang: “Volcanoes are a lot more dangerous than icebergs, especially a volcano who hides three hundred taels of gold on her.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Three hundred taels of gold? Where did she get that much gold from?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “She stole it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What sort of place has that much gold for her to steal from?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “Black Tiger Hall’s treasury.”

    Lu Xiaofeng exhaled slowly. “Black Tiger Hall, black linen belt ...,” he muttered.

    Fang Yuxiang: “That’s right, all of the Black Tiger Hall’s various section leaders [orig. 'xiang zhu', lit. fragrance/incense host/master, and 'duo zhu', lit. helmsman. I do not know how to translate these two titles properly, so I refer to them as 'leaders'.] wear black linen belts."

    Although the Black Tiger Hall was a new organization within the Jianghu, their organization was tight and their influence was enormous. Some said that it had already surpassed the Green Shirt Pavilion of the former days. It was backed by strong and solid financial resources that even the Beggar Clan and the Diancang Sect could not compete.

    The Beggar Clan has always been the biggest clan of the Jianghu, while Diancang's disciples were all of rich families; plus there was a gold mine on the Diancang mountain. Therefore, these two organizations have always been the richest.

    But Black Tiger Hall was actually richer.

    Money will make the Devil turn millstones, they say. The main reason the Black Tiger Hall was able to rise so rapidly was exactly because of its riches.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "They say the Black Tiger Hall is fearsome because it has too much money. Naturally the defense of their treasury is very strict."

    Fang Yuxiang: "I believe so."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "These last couple of days I found out that the number of martial art masters who work for Black Tiger Hall is a lot more than I imagined. What ability does Ding Xiangyi have that she was able to empty their treasury?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Her ability might be superficial, but whatever little ability she has is enough."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Who is the Hall Leader of Black Tiger Hall?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Flying Jade Tiger." [orig. 'Fei Tian Yu Hu', lit. jade tiger flying to the sky]

    Fang Yuxiang: "She is Fei Tian Yu Hu's wife."

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked.

    Fang Yuxiang: "I heard when Fei Tian Yu Hu was not home recently, Ding Xiangyi seized the opportunity to clean up the Black Tiger Hall's treasury and eloped with one of Fei Tian Yu Hu's pageboys."

    She laughed, and then continued, "Actually, you shouldn't be surprised. She is not the first, and definitely won't be the last of women who steal their husbands' valuables and elope with a 'little white face' [see my previous note in Chapter 3]."

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng sighed: "Looks like this 'little white face's ability is not to be trifled with; he was able to make her brave this kind of danger."

    Fang Yuxiang laughed: "Are you jealous?" [orig. 'eat (or drink) vinegar']

    With a straight face Lu Xiaofeng said coldly, "I just want to see what kind of man he is, that's all."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Too bad you will never see him now."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Why?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Because he has been chopped into eight pieces by the Five Warriors of Liao Clan, stuffed in a box and shipped back to the Black Tiger Hall."

    The Five Warriors of Liao Clan must be the five men who followed him earlier.

    Now Lu Xiaofeng understood, they were not following him at all, but tailing Ding Xiangyi.

    Fang Yuxiang: "After the 'little white face' was dead, she realized that the Black Tiger Hall was hot in pursuit. Only then did she get scared, therefore ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, she looked for me."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Everybody in Jianghu knows that the Four-eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng is not someone to be messed up with. Even the Emperor is his good friend. Even the Master of the White Cloud Castle and Yan Duhe have fallen under his hands. With an escort of this caliber, surely the Black Tiger Hall would not dare to act rashly."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But they did not know that I have three even fiercer escorts protecting me in secret."

    Fang Yuxiang: "That's why out of the thirteen people who came, twelve have already died."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Who is the last one?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Fei Tian Yu Hu."

    Lu Xiaofeng's countenance changed. "He is also coming? Where is he?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "He seemed to be outside a moment ago. I think he must be going home now."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Why?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Because he must have found the person he was looking for. In handling his business, he always draws a clear line between gratitude and grudges. He knew that you are merely a puppet exploited by Ding Xiangyi. Therefore, he will not come looking for you."

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, "Therefore, I should feel relieved, because Fei Tian Yu Hu's martial art skill is simply too high, his ability is so awesome that if he comes looking for me, I will definitely die."

    Fang Yuxiang sweetly said, "I have no doubt that you are not afraid of him, but it's always best to avoid this kind of troublesome issue."

    Lu Xiaofeng turned his head around to look at her. Suddenly he asked, "Probably Ding Xiangyi's knowledge of Black Tiger Hall is not any clearer than yours."

    Fang Yuxiang sighed: "To tell you the truth, I was the one who introduced her to him, consequently, when she offended him like this, I also am losing face."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Also because he did not marry you but married Ding Xiangyi instead, you were very angry and then went out to gamble everything you have, in the end you married the Blue Beard."

    Fang Yuxiang nodded. She said softly, "That's why I do not have any emotional attachment toward the Blue Beard. In all honesty, I regret ever marrying someone who owns a gambling establishment like him."

    It does not matter whether it was a man or a woman, when one is going through a heart-breaking experience, one would usually drink to drown one's sorrow or gamble to gain happiness, and then casually pick just anyone to be one's partner. But when one's head is clear afterwards, it usually is already too late to regret.

    This is a tragic story, but also a very common one.

    The man is too busy dealing with his business outside, the woman cannot bear the loneliness, and thus cheating with someone else, so much so that they eloped together.

    This kind of affair is also very common.

    Ding Xiangyi was afraid Lu Xiaofeng would pay no attention to her if he knew the truth; hence she did not give the Yin Kid any opportunity to speak, and thus she took the initiative to strike the first blow to silence the witness.

    Seeing Fang Yuxiang had arrived, originally she wanted to slip out unnoticed; but as soon as she went out, she discovered Fei Tian Yu Hu's trail. Without any better option, she was forced to return to the room. Unfortunately, Fang Yuxiang forced her out again.

    There was a very plausible answer to each of his questions. But Lu Xiaofeng was still not satisfied. For some reason he always felt that there was a conspiracy in the midst of all these, a secret he was not able to penetrate.

    "They say Fei Tian Yu Hu is a very mysterious character; he has never revealed his true identity."

    A leader of a secret organization must always maintain his mystery, only then can he live quite a long life.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But you are an exception, you must have seen him."

    Fang Yuxiang concurred. "I have seen him many times."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Actually, what kind of person is he?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Lately, many people believe the Jianghu's two most mysterious personalities, the two most fearsome people, are the Two Jades of the North and West."

    The west had a Jade, the north also had a Jade. Bumping into these two Jades, the game was as good as lost. [Translator's note: the character 'yu' in both 'Yu Luocha' and 'Fei Tian Yu Hu' means 'jade'.]

    Fang Yuxiang: "Since he shares the same reputation as the Western Region's Yu Luocha, he must be similarly vicious and ruthless, a similarly astute and fierce character."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What does he look like?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Although he is more than forty years old, he looks about thirty-six, thirty-seven years old. His stature is short and small, his eyes look like a hunting hawk."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What is his surname? What is his name?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "I don't know."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You don't know?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Perhaps he has a very bitter past that he has never revealed his real name and origin in front of others. I am no exception."

    Her hand suddenly started moving again.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still motionless.

    In a tender voice Fang Yuxiang said, "Now that you know everything, what are you afraid of?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not respond.

    Fang Yuxiang: "The night is very deep, the wind outside is also very strong, are you cruel enough to drive me out?"

    Her voice was sultry, full of passion, her hand was even more stimulating.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Of course I won’t drive you out, but I …”

    Fang Yuxiang: “But you what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped her hand, “I only want to clarify one thing.”

    Fang Yuxiang: “What matter?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Ding Xiangyi came to me because she wanted to use me as her shield. What about you?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “Do you think I am here to exploit you as well?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “I truly wish you came here because you had a liking for me. Too bad I would still not believe it even after I drank thirty catties of wine.”

    Fang Yixiang: “Because you know you are not someone who thinks himself to be a gift to women?”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I was, in the past; and that is the reason I still live even today. It truly is not easy.”

    Fang Yuxiang also sighed. “If you must know the truth, I will tell you the truth. I came here to strike a business deal with you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What business deal?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “I want to trade your Luocha Tablet with my body. I will give you my body first then when you get the Luocha Tablet, you must give it to me.”

    She laughed, then continued, “I am the Blue Beard’s wife, if after finding the Luocha Tablet you give it to me, you can be considered successful in your mission, hence you won’t suffer the least bit of loss.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And if I cannot find it?”

    Fang Yuxiang: “That’s a risk I am willing to take. I will not blame you at all.”

    Her voice was even sultrier, even more passionate: “The night is already this deep, the wind outside is so strong, in any case I do not dare to go out.”

    Unexpectedly he did indeed stand up and walked out the door without turning his head. Suddenly a ‘Crack! Bang!’ was heard, the spacious and sturdy wooden bed collapsed.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Hearing Fang Yuxiang cursing and swearing, his laughter was even more cheerful. “You prevent me from having a good night’s sleep, I won’t let you have a good night’s sleep as well.”

    He was not a sage, nor a gentleman.

    Fortunately, he was Lu Xiaofeng, the one and only Lu Xiaofeng.

    Who can imagine where he would sleep tonight?

    He slept on the roof. Hence by the time he woke up the next morning, he was almost dry blown by the wind, blown until he turned into a ‘wind chicken’ [not sure, orig. 風鷄 Can anybody tell me what a ‘wind chicken’ is?].

    Apparently someone sometime should think oneself to be a gift to women so that one would sometimes enjoy better days.

    He sighed and strained to stretch his body really well before he was able to move his hands and feet. Luckily Fang Yuxiang had left. Nobody would be able to spend the night on a shattered bed.

    Nobody would want to go up the roof to vent her anger to him, therefore, she unleashed her rage on his clothes.

    When he wanted to change clothes, he found out that all his clothes had been torn to pieces. Except one long robe, on which someone had written these characters using the rouge Ding Xiangyi had left behind: “Lu Xiaofeng, your guts is smaller than that of a chicken; why don’t you change your name to Lu Xiaoji?” [Translator’s note: ‘Xiaofeng’ - Little Phoenix, ‘Xiaoji’ – Little Chicken.]

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    “Even if I am a chicken, I won’t be a ‘little chicken’.” Feeling his blown-dried face he said, “At least I should be a ‘wind chicken’.” Wind chicken was very nourishing.

    Other than wind chicken, there was a dish of cured meat, a dish of scrambled eggs, and a dish of cucumber pickled in soy sauce.

    Lu Xiaofeng drank four large bowls of sweet smelling and hot sticky rice porridge before he finally put his chopsticks down. Although he was a bit sore all over his body, his heart was very happy.

    It was a pity that his happiness has always been short-lived.

    He was about to order the fifth bowl of porridge when someone coming from the outside delivered a letter for him.

    The stationery was very exquisite, the handwriting was also very delicate. “Has that troublesome fox left yet? I do not dare to call on you. Do you dare to call on me? If you don’t, you are a grandson of the turtle.”

    Lu Xiaofeng recognized the courier as the inn’s attendant. From the tone of the letter, Lu Xiaofeng also recognized it as Ding Xiangyi’s.

    So she had not died yet?

    “This Miss Ding is the same Miss Ding who came in with Mister Guest yesterday.”

    Indeed she had not died yet.

    Immediately Lu Xiaofeng forgot all the soreness on his body, just like someone who suddenly hears the singing of the ‘Tan Appeals to the Heaven’ opera outside. He sprang up instantly, “Where is she? Take me to her, quick! If I don’t go, I am the grandson of a turtle’s grandson.”

    The door was unlocked.

    Pushing the door open, he smelled a scent even sweeter than the osmanthus flowers.

    There were no osmanthus flowers inside the room, but there was someone, someone who was lying on the bed.

    It was not the first time Lu Xiaofeng smelled this kind of fragrance. It was precisely the scent of Ding Xiangyi’s body.

    Ding Xiangyi was indeed very fragrant.

    The person lying on the bed was indeed a very fragrant person.

    The sunlight streamed in through the window. The room was serene and elegant, making one’s heart full with joyful and warm feeling.

    She was lying on a spacious soft bed, covered in cotton quilt embroidered with a pair of mandarin ducks playing on the water.

    Scarlet quilt, emerald-green mandarin ducks, her face captivating pink, her jet-black hair shiny; obviously she had just finished grooming herself.

    The woman was pleased and ready, she was waiting for him.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt warmness creep into his heart again, but he deliberately maintained a straight face as he said, “Why do you want me to come? Are you going to return those fifty-thousand taels of silver banknotes to me?”

    Ding Xiangyi also deliberately closed her eyes and ignored him.

    Lu Xiaofeng sneered: “If one already has three-hundred thousand taels of gold, why would one want to take fifty-thousand taels of silver?”

    Ding Xiangyi still did not pay him any attention, but from her tightly shut eyes two streams of tears suddenly flowed down.

    Crystal clear tears, flowing slowly along her captivating pink cheeks, just like dews on the petals of a rose.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart softened again. He slowly walked over. He was thinking of saying some rather gentle words.

    He had not said anything. Because suddenly he realized something strange – Ding Xiangyi’s body seemed to be a little bit shorter. The lower part of the quilt seemed to be empty.

    Why?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even dare to think. He grabbed the corner of the cotton quilt embroidered with a pair of mandarin ducks playing on the water and raised it up. Suddenly he felt as if he sank into cold water. His body, from top to bottom, was ice-cold.

    Ding Xiangyi was still fragrant, she was still pretty, her breasts were still full and tender, her waist was still soft and slender, but her pair of hands, her pair of feet, had disappeared!

    The sunlight was still streaming in through the window, but the warm bright sunlight had turned more dazzling than the tip of a sharp needle.

    Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes; immediately he saw a thin small face with eyes like a hawk, filled with malicious hatred. The face was grinning fiendishly at Ding Xiangyi, as if he was saying, “I cut off your hands, I want to see if you still dare to steal my gold. I cut off your feet, I want to see where can you run?”

    Lu Xiaofeng clenched his fists, tight.

    A man has every right to get his eloped wife back. He did not resent Fei Tian Hu Yu for this. When he knew Ding Xiangyi was captured, he only felt sourness and sadness, nothing more.

    But this was a different story.

    Nobody has any right to harm others. He abhorred violence, just like farmers hate locusts.

    When he opened his eyes, he found out that Ding Xiangyi was looking at him. She had been looking at him for a while.

    Her eyes did not contain any anger, only sadness. All of a sudden she softly uttered two words, “Go away!”

    Originally she wanted him to come; now that they have met, why did she want him to go away? Was it because she did not want him to see her wretched condition? Or was she afraid Fei Tian Yu Hu would return unexpectedly?

    Perhaps she wrote the short note under Fei Tian Yu Hu’s coercion. Perhaps it was a trap.

    Lu Xiaofeng gently set the quilt down. He pulled a chair and he sat by her bed. Although not a single word came out of his mouth, his meaning was loud and clear: “I will not go away.”

    It did not matter the reason she wanted him to go away, he was determined to stay, to keep her company.

    Because he knew that this time was definitely a time when she needed company the most. When he was lonely, didn’t she also come to keep him company?

    Lu Xiaofeng was not a narrow-minded person. Although others had wronged him, he would quickly forget those offenses.

    He preferred to remember only other people’s kindness.

    Obviously Ding Xiangyi also understood his intention. Other than sadness, now her eyes were brimming with unspoken gratitude. “Now I am sure you know my story.” Her voice was so low, as if she was afraid others would hear her. “Obviously I have no way of taking those three hundred thousand taels of gold everywhere with me. In order to force me to reveal the whereabouts of the gold, he tortured me like this.”

    “And now certainly you have returned the gold to him; but why did you wait until he tortured you like this before you were willing to return it to him? Those gold were his to begin with, you should return it to him.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth stayed shut; of course he did not utter these thoughts. In reality he could not bear to hurt her anymore.

    The wind was blowing outside the window; one by one the falling leaves hit the shutters like a weary hand fiddled a zither bow, grating it across a rough tangerine-peel surface. Although it created a sound, it was a very distressing sound.

    What should he say now? Any consolation would be unnecessary, because whatever comforting words he was trying to say, she would not be comforted.

    After a long distressing silence she suddenly asked, "Do you know why I stole those three-hundred thousand taels of gold?"

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, he could only pretend he did not know.

    But Ding Xiangyi's explanation was beyond his expectation. "It was also because of that Luocha Tablet."

    It was not a good explanation, that's why it did not sound like a lie.

    Ding Xiangyi: "I know Li Xia took the Luocha Tablet. I also know that she has returned to Lao Wu [lit. old house]."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Lao Wu?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "Lao Wu is Rahasu. Rahasu is the local dialect, it means the Old House."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You know Li Xia?"

    Ding Xiangyi nodded. Her face suddenly showed a very strange expression. After hesitating for a long time she softly said, "She is actually my stepmother."

    This reply was even more beyond Lu Xiaofeng's expectation; she explained further, "Before Li Xia married the Blue Beard, she was my father's wife."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Your father ...?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "He is dead now. But Li Xia and I still keep in touch with each other."

    Li Xia was her stepmother, Fang Yuxiang was her older cousin. Her cousin had actually snatched her stepmother's husband, and her cousin actually introduced her to her current husband.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that these three women had a very complex relation with each other. If she did not tell him, he would have never guessed it.

    Ding Xiangyi could see through his mind; she said mournfully, "Women are weak; there are a lot of who women have fallen into very unfortunate situations, they are often forced to do things they were unwilling to do. Not only men do not show the least understanding toward them, oftentimes men would also look down upon them."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. "I ... I understand."

    Ding Xiangyi: "This time, although what Li Xia did was wrong, I sympathize with her."

    "She stole her husband's Luocha Tablet, you stole your husband's gold. What you did were the same, of course you sympathize with her."

    Obviously Lu Xiaofeng did not say this thought out loud, but Ding Xiangyi could read his mind.

    "I said she did something wrong, not because she stole the Luocha Tablet," it was the first time her expression revealed grief and indignation, "If a woman has been abandoned by her husband, whatever she did to retaliate is justifiable."

    This is a woman's idea; most women will have this idea.

    Ding Xiangyi was a woman.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng could only express his agreement.

    Ding Xiangyi: "I said she did something wrong, because she should not agree to sell the Luocha Tablet to Jia Leshan."

    Lu Xiaofeng's countenance changed. "Jia Leshan of Jiangnan?"

    He knew this man.

    Jia Leshan was a well-known rich man from Jiangnan; he was also known locally as a benevolent warrior. Only a very small number of people knew that in the past he was a notorious pirate of the four seas that even more than half of 'wokou' [my dictionary says 'Japanese pirates of the 16th and 17th century'] of the eastern world [orig. Dong Yang - modern day Japan] was under his command.

    The 'wokou' had always been known as bloody and cruel, vicious bandits, they were valiant and unafraid to die. Not only that, their natural disposition was capricious. The fact that Jia Leshan was able to subdue these people showed just how formidable and fierce he was.

    Ding Xiangyi: "I know Li Xia has had a negotiation with Jia Leshan's secret envoy who was sent to the Central Plains, even the price has been agreed upon. The transaction will be conducted at Rahasu. Payment is cash on delivery."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Since they have reached an agreement in the Central Plains, why must the transaction be at the remote small town way up north?"

    Ding Xiang Yi: “That is also one of Li Xia’s conditions. She knew Jia Leshan is always vicious and ruthless. For fear that he would eat her alive, she insisted that the transaction must be done at Rahasu.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Because that is my father’s hometown. Also, she had lived there for ten years, she is very familiar with the people and the area. Even Jia Leshan would not dare to be reckless there.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “It seems like she is an unusually astute and fierce woman.”

    Ding Xiangyi sighed: “She has no choice but be astute, because she has fallen into men’s treachery too many times.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But she told you this secret anyway.”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Because right after she got hold of the Luocha Tablet, the first person she looked for was me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “She also made a promise that if I could get two hundred thousands taels of gold by the end of the year, she would sell the Luocha Tablet to me …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why do you want that Luocha Tablet?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Because I want revenge.”

    Clenching her teeth, she continued, “I have known long ago that Fei Tian Yu Hu has another woman, he has always considered me a hindrance; that woman obviously dislikes me even more. If I live a day longer, she could give up the idea to be Madame Clan Leader of the Black Tiger Hall forever.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Are you saying that they want to kill you?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “If not for my vigilance, I am afraid I would have died under their hands long time ago. But if I have the Luocha Tablet in my hand, they would not dare to deal with me.”

    If a woman is willing to spend two hundred thousand taels of gold on something, she must have a strong reason.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why?”

    Ding Xiangyi: “Because if I have the Luocha Tablet, that means I am the Cult Leader of the Luocha Cult. Even Fei Tian Yu Hu cannot help not to have at least a third part of fear toward the Cult Leader of the Western Region’s Demon Cult.”

    Her tired and sad eyes suddenly shone as she told a very astonishing secret:

    The Western Region’s Yu Luocha was dead. He died suddenly as his son was entering the Great Wall.

    “When my hundred years is over, whoever I pass on the Luocha Tablet to, will become the next generation Jiaozhu of our Cult. Whoever defy this order will have to suffer ten thousands cuts, will be dismembered by poisonous ants. After death will be imprisoned as a ghost and will not be redeemed for ten thousand years.”

    The Western Region’s Yu Luocha was certainly astute and fierce character. He was afraid after his death his disciples would massacre each other in their fight for power, and thus destroy the Cult he founded with his own hands.

    Therefore, when he opened up the mountain to establish his school, the first thing he did was personally drawing up this demonic jade law.

    Also because of this, he had already passed on the Luocha Tablet to his son. Too bad that Yu Tianbao was no different from children of affluent and wealthy families, he was a spoiled brat, the black sheep of the family.

    Ding Xiangyi: “If Yu Luocha knew that his precious son has pawned the Luocha Tablet, even in the netherworld he would certainly vomit blood in anger."

    Lu Xiaofeng exhaled slowly. Now he finally understood why there were so many people fighting with everything they got over the Luocha Tablet.

    "For the purpose of holding a memorial for Yu Luocha, and also inaugurating the new Jiaozhu, the Law Protecting Elders and various leaders within the Cult have decided that on the seventh of the first month next year, all important disciples will gather together on the Great Brightness Mirror of the Kunlun Mountains."

    "And if on that day you manage to bring the Luocha Tablet to that place, you will become the new Jiaozhu of the Devil Cult. From now on, absolutely nobody will dare to mess with you."

    The Western Region's Devil Cult not only possessed such a deeply rooted power and influence, their disciples were spread all over the world. Whoever became the next Cult Leader would immediately turn into the most influential character in Jianghu. With power and influence, naturally fame and riches would follow.

    No matter who you are, you would find this kind of enticement nearly impossible to resist.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He suddenly realized that this matter had become increasingly complex, and his mission was also getting more and more difficult.

    But there was something he did not understand: "Why won't Li Xia personally take the Luocha Tablet to the Kunlun Mountains?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "Because she is afraid that she would die along the way before she reaches the Kunlun Mountains. She is even more afraid that she would not live to see the seventh of the first month next year."

    Before the seventh of the first month next year, regardless of who had it, this Luocha Tablet would be like a bomb, which could go off anytime, frying the holder into a torn body and crushed bones.

    Ding Xiangyi: "She has always been an astute woman; she knew the safest option would be to sell it to other people."

    She sighed before continuing, "A woman her age, who does not have anybody to lean on, whose spirit is always restless, would usually do everything she could to make more money, therefore ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, although you have a special relationship with you, she still wants you to pay her the two hundred thousand taels of gold."

    Ding Xiangyi grimly said, "It's a pity that my condition right now is more wretched than hers. I really don't have anything left in me."

    Forcing a laugh, Lu Xiaofeng said, "At least you still have a friend."

    Ding Xiangyi: "You?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. Suddenly he felt an unexplainable feeling bubbling up in his heart. Originally they were not 'friends', but their relationship was actually closer than friends. Yet now...

    Ding Xiangyi looked at him. Her eyes revealed an unspeakable emotion. Who can say if it was sadness? Comfort? Or was it gratitude?

    After a long time, she suddenly asked, "Can you promise me a favor?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Tell me."

    Ding Xiangyi: "Now, even a Luocha Tablet is useless for me, but I still wish to be able to see it, because ... because I have sacrificed everything for it. If I cannot even look at it, I will not die peacefully."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "So after I find it, you want me to bring it here and show it to you?"

    Ding Xiangyi nodded, her gaze was fixed on him. "Will you promise?"

    How could Lu Xiaofeng not promise?

    "But it will take me at least a month; will you still be here at that time?"

    "I will," Ding Xiangyi was suddenly mournful, "Now I am no more than just a trash. It doesn't matter if I live or if I die, they will not pay me anymore attention."

    Her eyes turned red, and tears started to stream down. "Besides, for somebody like me, where else there is go?"

    The moon was gradually rising, outside was getting more quiet, the guests who should have hit the road have already left.

    Lu Xiaofeng gently wiped the tears on Ding Xiangyi's face with his sleeve then he sat back down.

    After another long pause, she sighed gently and said, "You should also go."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You want me to go?"

    Ding Xiangyi laughed: "Certainly you cannot stay here with me forever?"

    Although she was laughing, her expression was actually more forlorn than when she was crying.

    Lu Xiaofeng was about to speak, but he stopped.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Do you want to say something?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. There was something he originally thought he should not ask, because he did not want to rub salt into her wound; on this matter, however, he had no choice but to ask: "What kind of man is Fei Tian Yu Hu, actually?"

    Ding Xiangyi's answer was the same as Fang Yuxiang's. To his surprise, even she did not know Fei Tian Yu Hu's actual name. His life experiences stayed secret, his actions were unpredictable, his stature was thin and small, his eyes like a hawk. He would never trust anybody, his own wife was no exception. But his martial art skill was definitely very high, all throughout his life he had never met any who could be his match.

    The above points were the known facts.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help but ask, "What kind of place is Rahasu?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "That place is just like Fei Tian Yu Hu, mysterious and frightening. The locals are usually narrow-minded, often show hostility towards foreigners and newcomers. Other than two people, it is best if you do not believe whatever anybody else is saying."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Who are these two people I can trust?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "One is called Lao Shanyang [lit. old mountain goat]; he was my father's old business partner. The other is Chen Jingjing, she grew up with me. If they knew you are a friend of mine, they would certainly spare no effort in helping you."

    Lu Xiaofeng committed these two names into his memory.

    Ding Xiangyi: "Right after the Mid-autumn Festival [15th day of the 8th month of Lunar Calendar], the weather turns cold, day in and day out. By the middle of the tenth month, the river freezes."

    Lu Xiaofeng had also heard that once the Songhua River turned into ice, it became a strip of a flat and vast main street.

    Ding Xiangyi: "People who have never been there will have no idea how cold that place actually is. On the coldest days, the snoot flowing down from your nose will freeze into ice, even the breath from your mouth will become particles of ice."

    Lu Xiaofeng groaned inwardly, without realizing it he pulled his collar higher.

    Ding Xiangyi: "I know you are a Jiangnan person, so you must be very sensitive to cold weather. Therefore you'd better leave as soon as possible before the weather turns really cold. It’s best that when you are outside the Great Wall, you buy a fur-lined coat to protect you against the cold first."

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt warm again. Regardless of what had happened, she cared about him after all.

    Knowing that somebody in this world cares about you is always a pleasing matter.

    But he still had one matter he must ascertain.

    After hesitating a moment he asked, “With the death of Yu Luocha, inside the Devil Cult there must be some unavoidable turmoil. His death must be kept a secret until today to prevent outside forces from entering by exploiting their weakness."

    "Not too many people knew about this secret," Ding Xiangyi agreed.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Then how did you find out?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "In the Black Tiger Hall, there are three sections: White Pigeon, Grey Wolf and Yellow Dog ..."

    The Yellow Dog's responsibility is to trace and pursue. The Grey Wolf's mission is to fight and kill. The White Pigeon's task is to gather and distribute information.

    The Black Tiger Hall's rapid rise could be attributed in part to these three highly efficient and well-managed major sections.

    Nearly all famous characters of the Jianghu; their lives' stories, their appearances, martial art skills and origin, as well as personal strengths and weaknesses, including their hobbies and indulgences, were all documented properly in the White Pigeon section.

    "That's why before I even saw you, I already know what kind of person you are," Ding Xiangyi concluded.

    Was it because she knew he had a weakness against women, so she came to him to make him her shield?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to think about this aspect. Others wronged him, he did not want to think too much about it. That was the reason he was able to maintain a bright, cheerful and open-minded attitude.

    Ding Xiangyi laughed suddenly, a forlorn and bitter laugh. "Actually, I used to occupy two positions in the Black Tiger Hall."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "Not only I was the Hall Leader's punch bag, I was also the Head of the White Dove Section."

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng left.

    Ding Xiangyi was right, certainly he could not accompany her in this place for the rest of their lives.

    The weather was still very clear. The sun was still shining with the same brightness. But his mood was actually not as cheerful as only a moment ago.

    His mind was burdened with his mission, which was growing in complexity and difficulty. Thinking about how he was implicated in all these troublesome matters, he wished he could just jump into the river.

    The courtyard was full of falling leaves. Amidst the continuously falling autumn leaves, a girl of thirteen, fourteen was standing alone underneath a tree, as if she was going to be swept away by the autumn wind any minute.

    She had a letter in her hand. Her frightened eyes were looking at Lu Xiaofeng, from top to bottom.

    Lu Xiaofeng came over to her and smiled suddenly. "Are you waiting for me?"

    The girl was startled; she pressed her back closer to the tree. With a frightened voice she stammered, "Are you ... are you that Four-Eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. "I am Lu Xiaofeng. Who are you?"

    The girl replied, "I am Qiu Ping." [lit. autumn duckweed]

    Looking at her frail stature and timid appearance, perhaps her life story was as sad as floating duckweed.

    Women are weak creatures. Too many girls have a tragic life story, encountering a very pitiful experience.

    But isn't this world a man's world?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a gentle voice he said, "Didn't Fei Tian Yu Hu tell you to come?"

    Qiu Ping nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Didn't he want you to give this letter to me?"

    Qiu Ping nodded again. Holding the letter with her pair of pale hands, she gave it to Lu Xiaofeng.

    The stationery and the ink were of a top quality, the handwriting was also surprisingly very elegant.

    To Mr. Xiaofeng:

    Mister is a great hero of this age, an absolutely extraordinary man, Di [younger brother, referring to self] has long admired you, it is a great regret that I fail to make a personal acquaintance with you. About my wife Xiangyi, since she has already been bequeathed by Mister's kind affection, Di can only give up my treasure and offer her to you, as a token of my meager appreciation, wishing Mister would kindly accept.

    Another day, when we are destined to meet, there will be food and wine at the Green Plum Pavilion, where Mister and I will commune and drink for ten days.

    Also, the board and lodging expenses of this place, Di has paid in full until the end of the month. Enclosed please find the receipt from the Inn, please accept accordingly.

    In addition, here is the divorce certificate of my wife to clear all formalities, please also accept accordingly.

    The signature underneath was indeed Fei Tian Yu Hu.

    Suppressing his anger, Lu Xiaofeng read the letter until the end. Suddenly he discovered that his self-cultivation had made some progress, he did not tear the letter away.

    Qiu Ping was still standing there, her pair of big eyes was still scrutinizing his face. She seemed to be very interested in this four-eyebrowed handsome man.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled: “Are you waiting for my reply?”

    Qiu Ping nodded. Fei Tian Yu Hu naturally wanted to know very much how would Lu Xiaofeng respond after reading his letter? How was his expression?

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Go and tell him that I very much appreciate his gift, and thus I also want to give something to him.”

    Qiu Ping: “Do you want me to deliver it back to him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You have no way of bringing it back; he must personally come and get it from me.”

    Qiu Ping seemed to be afraid. “But… “

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But there is no harm in me telling you what kind of gift I prepare for him, so you can go back and tell him.”

    Qiu Ping relaxed. “What do you prepare for him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I want to give him an a$$h01e.” [Translator’s note: I am not sure about this, the original was 屁眼, pi yan, pi – fart, yan – eye (or classifier for big hollow things)]

    Qiu Ping was startled.

    She did not understand. She wanted to ask, but she did not dare to ask. She wanted to laugh, but she did not dare to laugh.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not laugh. “I want to give him an a$$h01e on his nose.”

  3. #43
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 – Suddenly Acquiring Ill-gotten Gains

    ‘Cursing people’ is definitely not something you recommend to others, but it is definitely something that always has a good reason behind it. Anybody who has just spontaneously cursed somebody who he hates most will certainly cheer up, his mood will be happy, just like someone who has had constipation for several days and suddenly he can go freely.

    Too bad that Lu Xiaofeng had never been able to maintain this kind of happy mood for too long.

    Leaving the inn, he walked in big strides along a dusty road, with yellow sand billowing in the distance. But before he even covered half a li, he suddenly discovered two things that would extremely displease him.

    Other than the Sui Han San You and himself, he did not see any other traveler nearby, no more people were following behind him.

    Other than a little bit of spare change, which he prepared for tips, not even a wen adorned his pocket.

    He always liked company, he liked to see all kinds of people bustling around him. He did not care even if he knew that some of those people bore malicious intentions against him.

    Isn’t ‘poverty’ also a loneliness of some kind? Why is it that loneliness always follows poverty?

    When you are rich, it is so easy for you to chase loneliness away. But when you are penniless, you will find that loneliness is just like your own shadow, even if you whip it, it would not go away.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. For the first time he realized that the wind blowing straight to his face was really cold.

    At lunch Lu Xiaofeng only ate a bowl of sheep’s innards soup and a couple of bread rolls. Those three old freaks were actually ordering four catties of choice cut mutton, five or six stir-fried dishes, and seven, eight fresh wheat steamed buns, plus several pots of wine.

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to go over and tell them: "You old men eat too much of greasy food, your bellies must be hurting."

    Since the meal was not enjoyable, he should have not left any tip. Too bad that when somebody was used to be a big boss, the big boss attitude could not change even when they had fallen into the bottom of the pot.

    Therefore, after paying the bill, the amount of money in his pocket reached a pathetic stage.

    Rahasu was still very far on the horizon. He could not steal, he could not swindle some money, it was even less possible for him to beg. If it were someone else in his place, there is no way that person would have continued walking this road.

    Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng was not someone else.

    Lu Xiaofeng was Lu Xiaofeng. No matter what difficulty he encountered, he always seemed to find a solution.

    When the dusk fell, the wind was blowing colder; the road was devoid of any travelers.

    With his hands behind his back, Lu Xiaofeng walked leisurely, as if he had just finished a very satisfying meal and had enjoyed good wine, and right now he was strolling along the busiest street in Beijing, enjoying the lively atmosphere.

    Although the bread rolls in his tummy had already been digested long time ago, he was laughing in his heart; because no matter how slow he walked, Sui Han San You could only follow behind him nicely.

    Everybody knew Lu Xiaofeng was more slippery than a fish, he was more sneaky than ghost. If they let down their guard in the slightest, they could forget even seeing his shadow. If he did not stop for dinner, they certainly did not dare to stop for dinner.

    However, travelling this dusty road on empty stomach, with only northwest wind for them to drink, definitely would not make them too happy.

    In all their lives Sui Han San You had never received this kind of treatment from anybody. Mr. Gu Song finally could not bear anymore. With a wave of his long sleeve he flew like a floating cloud and landed in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was all smiles. "Why are you stopping me? Am I walking too fast for you?"

    With an ashen face Mr. Gu Song asked, "I only want to ask you a question."

    He was not someone who had a good sense of humor, much less right now that what was left in his stomach was anger. "I am asking you, do you know what time is it now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng blinked his eyes several times. "Looks like now is dinner time."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Since you know it, why don't you hurry up and find a place to eat?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I am not happy."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Happy or not, you must eat."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: "Being forced to have sex and being forced to gamble I have heard, but I have never heard anybody being forced to eat."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Now you have."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Whether I eat or not, why do you care?"

    Mr. Gu Song: "Everybody has to eat. Don't tell me you are not human?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's right, everybody has to eat. But there are kind of people who cannot eat."

    Mr. Gu Song: "What kind of people?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "People who are too broke to eat."

    Finally Mr. Gu Song understood. With a gleam in his eyes he said, "And if someone is inviting you to eat?"

    Lu Xiaofeng said lightly, "It depends."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Depends on what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It depends on whether he invites me wholeheartedly."

    Mr. Gu Song: "If I wholeheartedly want to invite you, will you go?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, "If you really want to invite me, certainly it is improper for me to reject."

    Mr. Gu Song stared at him. "You don't have money to eat and want to be invited, yet you don't want to open your mouth and ask, but waiting for me to open my mouth and ask you first.

    Lu Xiaofeng said indifferently, "Because I know you will definitely come to ask. And since you have come, not only you must take care of my meals, you have to take care of my lodging as well."

    Mr. Gu Song fixed his gaze on him for half a day before he finally heaved a long sigh and said, "The rumor floating around the Jianghu is truly not wrong. Dealing with Lu Xiaofeng is really not easy."

    Good dish, good wine, good tea.

    Mr. Gu Song: "Drink!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't drink a little."

    Mr. Gu Song: "If you want to drink then you must drink until you are satisfied, right?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Not only you need to be satisfied, you must drink it fast, too."

    He really filled his cup full of wine, then raising his head, he poured the wind into his mouth and swallowed.

    The way he drank his wine was not really 'drink', but actually 'pour'. Although there are many people in the world who can 'drink' wine, not too many can actually 'pour' wine into their mouths.

    Mr. Gu Song looked at him. For the second time there was a gleam in his eyes. He also filled his cup full, and downed it.

    Unexpectedly, his drinking method was also 'pour'.

    Lu Xiaofeng cheered in his heart: "This old fellow's pouring skill is really not bad."

    Mr. Gu Song drew a smug look on his face. “Drinking wine not only must be fast, it has to be painful too.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Painful?”

    Mr. Gu Song: “Painful to drink. Three cups or five cups, even if you can drink faster, it’s nothing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “How many can you drink?”

    Mr. Gu Song: “Drinking much is also considered nothing. Drinking much without getting drunk, now that can be considered a real skill.”

    This cold and arrogant old loner, when he chatted about wine, it looked like he had changed into a different man.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “How much can you drink without getting drunk?”

    Mr. Gu Song: “I don’t know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Are you saying that you have never been drunk?”

    Mr. Gu Song did not deny at all, he asked back, “How much can you drink without getting drunk?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I only drink one cup and I felt a bit tipsy already. I drink more cups and I still feel the same.”

    For the third time a gleam appeared on Mr. Gu Song’s eyes. “So you have never really been drunk?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny; he simply raised his head and poured another cup of wine down his throat.

    For a chess player, meeting a worthy match is a very interesting matter; for a drinker, meeting a worthy match is equally satisfying.

    For people who don’t drink wine, seeing this drinking match was a very senseless matter.

    Qing Zhu [lit. green bamboo] and Han Mei [cold plum] were not interested in watching them, their expressions showed nothing. They stood slowly and walked out the door.

    The autumn night was as cold as the water.

    Two men, with their hands behind their backs, looked up to the sky for a long time before Qing Zhu slowly asked, “How long has it been since Lao Da [lit. old big or old first, eldest child in a family or the leader of a group] got drunk the last time?”

    Han Mei: “Fifty-three days.”

    Qing Zhu sighed: “I’ve known it all along that he will be very drunk one time today.”

    After a long time Han Mei also sighed and said, “Since for how long have you not been drunk?”

    Qing Zhu: “Twenty-three years.”

    Han Mei: “After the three of us got really drunk that day, you have never touched a single drop of wine?”

    Qing Zhu: “Among the three of us, as long as there is one who’s always sober, we can live a bit longer.”

    Han Mei: “Two people sober even better.”

    Qing Zhu: “Therefore, you also have never touched a drop in more than twenty years.”

    Han Mei: “Twenty one years and seventeen days.”

    Qing Zhu smiled, “While in fact your alcohol capacity is greater than Lao Da.”

    Han Mei also smiled, “The one with the greatest alcohol capacity is certainly you.”

    Qing Zhu: “But I know that in this world there is no one who has never been drunk.”

    Han Mei nodded. “That’s right,” he said, “If you drink, you will get drunk.”

    If you drink, you will get drunk. This saying has never changed from time immemorial. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was drunk.

    The room was very spacious, with a very big fire in the fireplace. Lu Xiaofeng was lying down, stark naked on a very big bed.

    He always thought that sleeping with your clothes on was just like farting with your pants down. Not only it was troublesome, it was also totally superfluous.

    It doesn’t matter who you are, when you drunk, you would get a very deep sleep. Lu Xiaofeng was not an exception. It’s just that he always woke up earlier than most people.

    Right now outside the window was still a layer of darkness, the room was also dark, but he was already wide awake. In the face of this cavernous emptiness, the boundless darkness surrounding him, he was only staring blankly as if his soul had left him.

    He remembered a lot of matters; many of those matters he could not tell others, not only that, he did not even want to remember those matters. Perhaps because he wanted to forget these matters that he intentionally challenged Gu Song to a drinking contest; he deliberately wanted to be drunk.

    But as soon as he opened his eyes, he would remember these matters.

    Why is it that things that should be forgotten always come back to haunt you? Why is it that things that should be remembered always slip out of your mind?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed quietly. He got up without making a noise, as if he was afraid he might wake up the person sleeping right next to him.

    Was there anybody sleeping right next to him?

    Wasn’t he afraid of waking himself up?

    Right this moment he suddenly heard a soft sigh. Although there was not anybody sleeping by his side, there was somebody in the room.

    In the darkness he seemed to see a vague outline of a shadow, sitting motionlessly on a chair opposite his bed. He did not know when the person came; he also did not know how long the person had been sitting there.

    “Being drunk along the country road, he cannot bear to continue his journey,” that person sighed, and then continued, “But if this road is travelled too much, it’s like all the interest for it is gone.” [Translator’s note: this must be a quote from some famous verse, but I do not have the ability to provide you with the exact reference. Plus, I am never good at translating poems or quotations, so the above translation might be off. For these, please accept my apology.]

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    In circumstances where everyone else was not able to laugh, he would always be able to laugh.

    With a smile he said, “I am surprised Sire is a very educated man.”

    The man: “I do not dare. It’s just that sometimes my heart is moved and I could not help but blurt it out.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Sire came in the middle of the night, I am sure not to say these words for me to listen?”

    The man: “I do have something else to say.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And you insist that I listen?”

    The man: “Seems like that. Yes.”

    Although he was speaking softly in an even tempo, his voice was actually piercing with sharpness that was sharper than the tip of the needle.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and simply lay back down on the bed. “The matter that I have to hear, most probably is not something too pleasant. If I can listen lying down, why would I have to sit?”

    The man: “Listening while lying down, aren’t you showing too much disrespect toward your guest?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I believe Sire is not my guest. I have never even seen Sire’s appearance.”

    The man: “If you want to see me, it’s very easy.”

    He coughed lightly once, and the door behind him immediately opened. A flicker of flame appeared as a lantern was lit. Someone dressed in black, even wore black cloth mask, with a stature as slender as a bald eagle, standing straight like a javelin, suddenly appeared from the darkness.

    His hands were holding a bronze lantern. There was a sword scabbard hanging on his back. The lantern looked exquisite, antique and elegant; the sword also looked exquisite, antique and elegant, making him to look like someone who had been banished in hell for many years and then suddenly received the devil’s spell to hasten back to bring disaster to the world of the living as an evil apparition; so much so that the lantern seemed to emit an eerie bluish green light, bringing an unspeakable gloomy feeling into the room.

    The man sitting on the chair also appeared suddenly under the light.

    The fire in the fireplace was already out.

    Dark and gloomy light, dark and gloomy room, dark and gloomy man.

    His attire was very elegant, stunningly beautiful; his expression looked noble and graceful. His eyes fiery, with the dignity of one who used to give orders. But all in all, he still looked dark and gloomy, so much so that he looked more frightening than the man in black standing behind him.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Not bad, not bad indeed.”

    The man: “Not bad? I do not look bad?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “Sire’s appearance surely does not differ too much to the one I’ve always imagined.”

    The man: “Do you know who I am?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Jia Leshan?”

    The man let out a breath softly. “You have seen me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    The man: “But you actually recognize me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “Other than Jia Leshan, who in their right mind would brave the cold to look for me in this desolate place? Other than Jia Leshan, who would have an ancient-sword-wielding, internal-energy-expert Wulin master like this as an escort?”

    Jia Leshan laughed out loud.

    His laughter was similar to his personality, carrying that kind of sharp, oppressive and mocking sentiment. “Good, Lu Xiaofeng is not ashamed of being Lu Xiaofeng, you indeed have keen eyes.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I do not dare. It’s just that sometimes I see something and I could not help but blurt it out.”

    Jia Leshan’s laughter stopped. He stared at him for a very long time before finally he slowly said, “Do you also know why I came?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I would rather hear it directly from you.”

    Jia Leshan: “I want you to come back.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Come back? Where should I come back?”

    Jia Leshan: “Come back to the soft and red wide-world of luxury, come back to those bright and glamorous restaurants and casinos, to the perfume and cosmetic-filled red light district. Those are places Lu Xiaofeng should go.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “That’s true, I also want to come back very much, it’s just that …”

    Jie Leshan cut him off, “I also know that recently you have been strapped and short of cash; therefore, I have already prepared something to tide you over.”

    He coughed again, and an old servant with long white hair, followed by two big men carrying a huge chest, walked into the room.

    The chest was brimming with ingots of dazzling yellow gold and white silver.

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned. “Where did this much money come from? Isn’t it troublesome?”

    Jia Leshan: “I understand that banknotes are more convenient, but they are not as real as gold and silver in the eyes of the beholder. If you want to move others’ heart, you must use quite the real thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Make sense.”

    Jia Leshan: “You are willing to accept?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “The money is moving the heart, why am I not willing to accept?”

    Jia Leshan: “You are also willing to go back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I am not.”

    He smiled, and then continued: “Accepting is one thing, coming back is another. These two things are basically unrelated to one another.”

    Jia Leshan laughed.

    Unexpectedly, he was also the kind of man who could laugh when there was no reason for him to laugh.

    “This is the enticement by profit.” He smiled again, “For a man like you, I also know that this kind of enticement by profit will not be enough.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What else did you prepare?”

    Jia Leshan: “Profit is not enough, naturally there is intimidation.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Very good.”

    The man in black suddenly said, “Very bad.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Bad?”

    Man in black: “Sire’s reputation covers the imperial court and the ordinary people, you make friends with everybody everywhere, even the current Emperor is good to you. If I kill a man like you, my trouble will not be a few.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And thus you don’t want to kill me?”

    Man in black: “I don’t.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I happen to be not willing to die either.”

    Man in black: “It’s a pity that once my sword leaves its sheath, it must find blood.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again. “Is this intimidation?”

    Man in black: “This is not only a warning.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And after a warning?”

    The man in black slowly lay down the bronze lantern, and slowly raised his hand. With a sudden ringing noise, the sword had left its scabbard.

    A pale sword, as if it longed to drink the enemy’s blood to its heart’s content.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “A truly rare hundreds-of-years-old weapon.”

    Man in black: “Are you sighing for yourself?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “No.”

    Man in black: “No?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I am sighing for you. I am happy for you. When I am happy for others, I will also sigh.”

    Man in black: “Oh?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You are wielding such a divinely sharp weapon, yet are willing to be a lackey for people like Jia Lezhan. You came all the way from Jiangnan, yet you did not meet that friend of mine at all. Your luck is really not bad.”

    Man in black: “And if I met that friend of yours, then what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If you did, then at this moment this sword was already his, and you had entered the yellow dust.”

    Man in black laughed coldly. “The tone of your voice is certainly not small.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “It is not my tone, it is his.”

    Man in black: “Who is he?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Ximen Chuixue.”

    Ximen Chuixue!

    Long white robe floating like the cloud, a drop of blood slowly dripping from the tip of his sword …

    Sword’s ray like the lightning, eyes as cold as the stars.

    The blood dripped down, splashing …

    The veins appeared on the hand-holding sword of the man in black. The pupils of his eyes suddenly narrowed. “Too bad you are not Ximen Chuixue!”

    In this split second, his sword thrust forward, the sword’s ray was like a rainbow, the sword’s aura was bone-chilling!

    Astonishing power, from an astonishing position, with an astonishing speed!

    Such a sharp sword, thrust with such speed, its power was not inferior to a lightning bolt or thunder.

    Who in the world is able to resist a lightning bolt or a thunder?


    Lu Xiaofeng!

    He was still calmly lying down on the bed, only his hand was stretched out from inside the cotton quilt, using two fingers he clamped down on the blade of the sword.

    The most amazing in the world, peerless, unparalleled!

    Incomparable and unfathomable skill!

    As soon as the two fingers clamped down, the sword’s ray disappeared, the sword’s aura vanished.

    Also in this split second, one of the roof-tiles was suddenly lifted up, someone hang upside-down like a monkey. His hand waved, thirty seven cold stars shot down like rain toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    It was beyond his anticipation, a murderous act you cannot guard against!

    But a series of ‘puff, puff, puff!’ was heard as all the thirty seven secret projectiles hit the cotton quilt shielding Lu Xiaofeng.

    They only hit the cotton quilt.

    Such a close distance; the secret projectiles ricocheted and scattered all over the room.

    The man in black looked at his clamped sword, the man hanging upside-down from the beam sighed in admiration: “I have long heard about Lu Xiaofeng’s most amazing finger skill in the world, who would have thought that he still have such an astonishing internal energy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Actually, I am also surprised. When one is faced with a life and death situation, one’s strength can grow unusually big.”

    The man in black suddenly said, “This is not mere strength, this is real qi [chi] and real power.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Real qi [chi] and real power is also strength. If you have no strength, how can you have real qi [chi] and real power?” He stretched out another finger and lightly traced the blade of the sword. He sighed and said, “Good sword!”

    Man in black: “You …”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again. “I am not Ximen Chuixue; therefore, your sword is still yours, and your life is also still yours.”

    Jia Leshan also laughed.

    “That was intimidation.” He was still smiling, “Profit did not work, intimidation also failed. What do you say I should do?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why don’t you go back?”

    Jia Leshan did not seem to hear him, he continued, “As the saying goes, ‘It is difficult for a hero to pass a beautiful woman barrier’, Sire is without a doubt a hero; where is the beautiful woman?”

    The beautiful woman was outside. With the blowing wind, there was a faint trace of delicate fragrance.

    The old servant, who kept his fingernails very long, used a silver ear-spoon to pick the wick of the bronze lantern so that the light was brighter. From outside the door walked a middle-aged woman wearing a pale-colored plain robe, holding the hand of a young maiden wearing a purple gown.

    The middle-aged woman was slender with white skin, her figure was graceful, with jet-black hair neatly combed. Under the lantern light, her complexion looked as delicate and tender as that of a young woman. All who had seen her agreed that she was definitely a beautiful woman in her youth. Although she was now middle-aged, she still possessed the charm to make men’s hearts beat faster.

    Sometimes, this kind of mature and experienced woman was more alluring to a man than a young girl.

    But, standing next to the young maiden dressed in purple, all her charms and brilliance completely failed to attract other people’s attention.

    No one could describe this young maiden’s beauty; just like no one could describe why the hearts of men would tremble like the first breeze of spring wind blowing across the lake and rippling the water.

    She lowered her head, standing silently over yonder, quietly casting a glance toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    She did not even move her fingertips; using only her eyes she calmly gazed at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng already felt a wave of bizarre change in his heart, so much so that his body was also giving a strange reaction to this bizarre change.

    There seemed to be an invisible flame in her eyes, a flame that burned a man's desire.

    Only after looking at this young maiden did Lu Xiaofeng finally understand which kind of woman can be considered a natural extraordinarily beautiful woman.

    Jia Leshan was sitting comfortably on a chair, enjoying looking at Lu Xiaofeng's facial expression. "She is called Chuchu [lit. lovely/cute]," he said slowly, "Don't you think she is really cute and moving?"

    What else could Lu Xiaofeng do but to agree?

    Jia Leshan exhaled softly. "Very well," he said, "Anytime you are willing to go back, she will go with you, along with this chest."

    Lu Xiaofeng also exhaled softly. "In that case, you'd better tell her to wait for me here."

    Jia Leshan: "When are you going back?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "As soon as I find the Luocha Tablet, I will go back immediately."

    Jie Leshan's countenance changed. "What does it take to make you agree? What is it that you actually want?"

    Lu Xiaofeng rolled his eyes. "Originally, I want nothing. But now I remember that I do want something."

    Jia Leshan: "What is it that you want?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I want Sikong Zhaixing's nose."

    Jia Leshan was startled. "Gold and beauty you don't want, why do you want his nose?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I want to see, after his nose is gone, will he be able to masquerade as a deity or dress up as a ghost and fooling people everywhere."

    Jia Leshan stared at him. Suddenly he burst into laughter.

    His laughter had changed; now it was bold, clear and bright. Laughing with his face up he said, "Good, good kid, I am surprised this time I still didn't fool you. How did you find out?"

    By saying those words, he obviously acknowledged that he was indeed Sikong Zhaixing.

    Lu Xiaofeng nonchalantly said, "I can smell your thief smell."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "I have a thief smell?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It doesn't matter whether it is a big thief or a little thief, all thieves have thief smell on them. You are the king of thieves, naturally your smell is heavier. Besides ..."

    Sikong Zhaixing could not bear not to ask: "Besides what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Although I was drunk and lost my consciousness, other than people who used to commit petty burglary like you, everybody else should give up the idea of slipping into my room and stealing my clothes."

    His clothes were originally hanging on the head of the bed, but now they were gone.

    Sikong Zhaixing laughed: "I was only trying to help you find a reason to hide underneath the blanket; who wants your clothes?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "So you really don't want my head?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Your head is too big; it is too heavy to carry, and takes too much space to be kept at home."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What do you want, then?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Someone wants to look at you."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You haven't seen me enough already?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "If you think it was me who want to look at you, you are wrong. I only need to look at you one time, and I am already full in the stomach."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Who wants to look at me?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Jia Leshan."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The real Jia Leshan?"

    Sikong Zhaixing nodded. "He wants to know you, what kind of man actually is this four-eyebrowed freak? How good you really are?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Why didn't he personally come?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "He is already here."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In this room?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "In this room. Let's see if you can spot him."

    Altogether, there were nine people in the room.

    Other than Sikong Zhaixing and Lu Xiaofeng, there was the man in black who wielded the ancient sword, and then there were the secret projectile expert who was still hanging upside-down from the beam, the old servant whose fingernails were very long, the young maiden, the middle-aged pretty woman, and the two big men who brought the chest in.

    Among these seven people, which one was the real Jia Leshan?

    Lu Xiaofeng looked up and down at the man in black, sizing him up. "You wield an ancient sword, your martial art skill is not weak, you do not dare to let your true identity known, could you be the real Jia Leshan?"

    The man in black did not open his mouth.

    But Lu Xiaofeng suddenly shook his head. "No, can't be."

    The man in black could not bear not to ask, "Why?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because although your swordsmanship is acute, swift and fierce, you lack certain aggressiveness."

    Man in black: "How do you know the real Jia Leshan would have certain aggressiveness?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "If he didn't have certain aggressiveness, how could he dominate the four seas in the past, to be in command of a group of warriors?"

    The man in black could not say another word.

    The second one Lu Xiaofeng sized up was the secret projectile expert who was hanging upside-down on the roof like a monkey. But he only looked at him once and immediately shook his head. "No, you can't be him."

    "Why?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because a man like Jia Leshan will not possibly hang upside-down on the roof like a monkey."

    The man also could not say another word.

    Next, it was the old servant with very long fingernails' turn.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Based on your position, you should not have kept your fingernails that long. You raised the wick of the lantern with a silver ear-spoon, which, not only it was exquisitely made, it is also used by veteran Jianghu people to test for poison. Your expression is adequate, your footsteps steady, your internal energy must be not weak."

    The old servant's expression did not change. "Could it be that you think Lao Xiu [lit. old rotten - a modest way to refer to one's self] is Jia Leshan?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. "You can't be."

    The old servant: "Why?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you are not fit."

    The old servant's countenance changed: "I am not fit?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In the past Jia Leshan dominated the sea, nowadays he is also a prominent figure in his area. Whether there is poison in his food or drink, naturally it will be tested by his numerous attendants; why would he personally carry this kind of knick-knack?"

    The old servant also could not say another word.

    The two big men carrying the chest were even more impossible; their rough hands and feet, their uncouth appearance lacked of grandeur, anybody would be able to see it instantly.

    Now Lu Xiaofeng was staring at the young maiden in purple.

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Do you think she could be Jia Leshan?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It's possible."

    Sikong Zhaixing almost screamed: “It is possible?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Based on her beauty and charm [Translator's note: in Chinese, the actual characters used were 'mei li' and 'mei li'. The first 'mei li' (美麗) means beauty, the second 'mei li' (麗力) means 'demon/elf power'.], indeed she can make men to grovel under her skirt, willingly do whatever she bids them to do. During the last several hundred years, among the pirates dominating the oceans, there was one 'overturning-the-state, causing-the-downfall-of-a-nation' kind of outstandingly beautiful woman; it's just too bad that ..."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Too bad what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Too bad that her age is too young. At most she could only be Jia Leshan's daughter."

    Sikong Zhaixing looked at him. Unexpectedly, he could not hide the feeling of admiration and respect in his eyes. "In that case, only one person left."

    The only one left was that middle-aged beautiful woman.

    "Could she be Jia Leshan?"

    "Of course not."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Jia Leshan dominated the oceans thirty years ago, now he is at least fifty, sixty years old."

    The middle-aged woman looked no more than forty years old.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It was said that not only Jia Leshan possessed an inborn supernatural power, his bravery also exceeded that of ten thousand men. During the struggle over the domination of the oceans in the past, he would always be the first to charge the enemy, his bravery was uncontested."

    While the middle-aged woman looked extremely gentle, extremely weak.

    Sikong Zhaixing smiled: "Although your explanation made a lot of sense, you have actually forgotten the most important point."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "You have forgotten that Jia Leshan is a great man, while this madam is a woman."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That is an inconsequential point."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Oh?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Nowadays, the number of Jianghu people who are adept in the art of disguise is increasing daily. Men masquerade as women, women dress-up as men; it doesn't mean anything."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "No matter what, you definitely believe she can't be the Jia Leshan."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It is impossible."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "But I know for sure that Jia Leshan is in this room. If the seven of them are not Jia Leshan, then where is Jia Leshan?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. "You should not have asked that question."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Why shouldn't I?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you also know that the things of the world are just like a game of chess, the changes are extremely numerous. Many things that should not happen have actually happened, many things that are impossible to do have been done. Even the vast ocean can be turned into a mulberry orchard; much less other matters?"

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Therefore ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, although this madam can't be Jia Leshan, she actually is."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Are you saying that she is a man dressed-up as a woman?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Hmm."

    Sikong Zhaixing laughed. "Jia Leshan dominated the seven seas, and was feared by pirates everywhere. Obviously his appearance was that of a beastly real man. If he looked this delicate, how could the seafaring warriors submit to him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Perhaps you have forgotten his nickname in the years gone by. I have not."

    Sikong Zhaixing: "Why don't you tell me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In the years gone by, he was known as Iron-faced Dragon King, because just like the famous general of the former dynasty, Di Qing, whenever he charged and broke through the enemy line, he would always wear a ferocious looking bronze mask on his face."

    Unexpectedly, Sikong Zhaixing also could not say another word.

    The middle-aged woman sighed and said, "Good, good eyesight."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It's not too bad, I think I can pass a casual inspection."

    The middle-aged woman: "That's right, I am Jia Leshan, the Iron-faced Dragon King of the years gone by, and the Jiangnan's benevolent warrior of today."

    When he said the word 'Jia Leshan', the graceful-attitude of his face turned as cold as the autumn frost; when he said the word 'Iron-faced Dragon King', his eyes were as sharp as the blade of a saber. When he finished speaking, he had completely turned into a different individual.

    Although his clothing and facial appearance did not change at all, his expression and aura had completely changed. He was like a sharp weapon drawn out of its scabbard; even Lu Xiaofeng was able to feel the murderous aura surrounding him!

    The Wulin warriors who killed people as if they are cutting grass are just like sharp swords; they have this murderous aura around their persons.

    He started at Lu Xiaofeng, and then continued, "But I still don't understand, how did you see through me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled: "Because of her."

    He was looking at Chuchu, the heart-moving Chuchu. Each time he looked at her, his eyes were full of admiration and passion.

    But Jia Leshan’s eyes were full of suspicious and anger. “Because of her? Did she give you a hint?”

    Looking at Jia Leshan’s expression, Lu Xiaofeng laughed even happier. He lightly said, “I don’t care what you think. If she wasn’t here, I would never guess you are Jia Leshan.”

    Jia Leshan’s hand, which was holding Chuchu, suddenly tightened. Immediately Chuchu’s beautiful face showed some pain.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. He had just realized the relationship between those two people. Ferocious and cunning old fox, gentle and beautiful little white rabbit. Greedy hawk, little canary which lost its freedom …

    He could not bear to see her suffer much longer; thereupon he explained: “Such a beautiful girl like her, wherever she goes, men would not bear not to give her a glance or two.”

    Jia Leshan: “Humph!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But the men here actually did not look at her, so much so that nobody even dares to give her a glance. By nature, women like to be looked at by men. Yet the men here did not dare to look at her, obviously not because they are afraid she might get angry, but because they are afraid of you. Therefore …”

    Jia Leshan: “Therefore what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Therefore, I asked myself: the men in here are not easily intimidated by others; why do they fear you? Is it possible that you are the Jia Leshan who kills without batting an eye?”

    Jia Leshan stared at him. Suddenly he burst into laughter. “Good! Well said! Good thinking!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You came here not to listen to me, but to see me, you want to know what kind of man I am.”

    Jia Leshan: “Correct.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Well, you have seen me now.”

    Jia Leshan: “Correct.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What kind of person am I?”

    Jia Leshan: “You are a smart person.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “Good! Good thinking!”

    Jia Leshan: “You are not only smart, but strong-willed as well. No matter what, it would be very difficult to move you. I think that if you are determined to do a certain thing, you would definitely disregard hundreds of obstacles and make an all-out effort to accomplish it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Good! Well said!”

    Jia Leshan: “You will make a very good friend, but also a very frightening adversary.”

    His saber-blade-sharp eyes were fixed on Lu Xiaofeng. “It’s a pity that you are not my friend, therefore, you must die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I must die?”

    Jia Leshan coldly said, “You must die.”

    The night was growing deeper, the wind was growing cold.

    The man in black was still standing straight up like a javelin over yonder. The white-haired old servant took out a small file from his pocket and leisurely filing his long nails. Nobody knew when he jumped down, but the man hanging on the beam was already standing on the ground without creating any noise.

    Jia Leshan: “Indeed you have not misjudged people. These three men are truly not to be trifled with. A moment ago you have tasted a stance of Lao San’s [lit. ol’ three, the third] killer sword and Lao Er’s [lit. ol’ two, the second] skill of man tian hua yu [flower rain filling the sky]. If Lao Da [the oldest] also joined in, the situation would be different.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at that white-haired old servant. “You must be the Lao Da.”

    The white-haired old servant laughed coldly. Bending his fingers, the three-inch long nail on his middle finger coiled in unexpectedly, just like a flexible noodle; as it sprang back out, a ‘swish’ was heard, as a line of wind flew out of his fingernail and pierced the window paper about seven, eight feet away.

    If this nail pierced a human’s body, what would the outcome be?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not restrain from shouting praises: “Good! Good tan zhi shen tong [divine flicking finger]; really worthy to be called Huashan’s special skill.”

    The old servant coldly said, “Your eyesight is indeed not bad.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Kongtong’s killer sword, Xin Shi Niang School’s man tian hua yu, plus Huashan’s tan zhi shen tong. Looks like I really cannot escape from death today.”

    Suddenly Sikong Zhaixing laughed. “Others say your eyesight is not bad, but I should say that your eyesight is not good.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “You only recognize those three’s martial art origins, but forgot that there are two even more frightening people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I have not forgotten.”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “You do not count me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I don’t.”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because in my eyes, not only you are not frightening, you are actually very loveable.”

    Sikong Zhaixing laughed.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You didn’t think I would say that you are loveable, did you?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “I also did not think that you would consider this Miss Chuchu as frightening.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “I can also see that she is loveable.”

    Isn’t it true that loveable people are usually also frightening?

    Perhaps you do not understand this, but when you really fall in love with someone, I am sure you will understand my meaning.

    Sikong Zhaixing: “There is a saying that I am sure you haven’t heard yet.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What saying?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “Cute [orig. ‘chuchu’] and moving, snatch one’s life pursue one’s soul.”

    Lu Xiaofeng turned his head to look at Chuchu. He shook his head and said, “I don’t believe you have the ability to snatch one’s life pursue one’s soul.”

    Chuchu smiled sweetly, “Neither do I.”

    Her smile was like the first bloom of a spring flower, her voice was like a Black-naped Oriole [Oriolus chinensis, a songbird] flying out the valley, but her hand was more venomous than a rattlesnake.

    She made her move when her smile was the sweetest; a golden light flashed, like a lightning it went straight toward Lu Xiaofeng’s throat.

    The weapon she used was the hairpin on her hair.

    Lu Xiaofeng was ready to clamp it down; his fingers had never failed.

    But this time, as he was stretching his hand out, he pulled it back instantly, because on this golden flash, he discovered that there were countless thorns, as fine as cow’s hair, on the golden hairpin. If he continued clamping, the golden hairpin would definitely break, but the fine thorns would certainly prick his hand.

    The thorns must be poisonous. Chuchu definitely was not the first one among the enemies who had used this kind of tactic to deal with him.

    Lu Xiaofeng was able to live well ‘till now, it certainly was not entirely due to his good luck.

    His eyes and his reaction were quicker; once his hand was pulled back, his body also slid away. ‘Swish, swish!’ the hairpin streaked over his neck.

    Chuchu flipped her wrist, the hairpin also followed.

    The hairpin was short and agile, and hence the changes were certainly very quick. In an instant she had stabbed twenty seven stances, each stance came from a very difficult angle for the opponent to evade; each stab aimed at vital point.

    The hairpin in the hand of this cute and moving young woman was indeed far more frightening than the sharp sword in the hand of the man in black.

    Only, it was a pity that the opponent she met was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Her movements were fast, Lu Xiaofeng dodged even faster. She stabbed twenty seven times, Lu Xiaofeng evaded twenty six times. Suddenly he flipped his hand and grabbed her delicate, beautiful and tender wrist.

    The wrist was not broken. Lu Xiaofeng had always been a man who ‘pity fragrance and compassionate toward jade’, how could he have the heart to act cruelly?

    But her heart was cruel enough. With a twist of her waist she suddenly launched a fierce kick toward Lu Xiaofeng’s groin.

    In all honesty, it was not a move a virtuous young woman should put forth. Nobody would guess that such a gentle loveable girl would put forth such a malicious move.

    But obviously Lu Xiaofeng had anticipated this movement, because he gently twisted her wrist and flung her away, so that when her foot had just about to kick, her body had already been thrown away. Struggling hard to turn her body over in the air, she landed on Jia Leshan’s bosom.

    Jia Leshan knitted his eyebrows: “Are you injured?”

    Surprisingly, the tone of his voice was very gentle.

    Chuchu shook her head, she slowly slid down from Jia Leshan’s bosom. Suddenly, with a backhand movement the golden hairpin in her hand went straight into Jia Leshan’s chest.

    This change was completely beyond Lu Xiaofeng’s anticipation; much less for Jia Leshan, even in his wildest dreams he had never thought this could happen.

    It was undoubtedly a fatal strike!

    But Jia Leshan was worthy to be called a formidable character of the present age. In the face of death his mind stayed clear, he was still able to make his move. Furthermore, once he made his move, he was able to grip Chuchu’s throat tightly.

    Chuchu was so scared that her face turned scarlet; her throat did not stop making ‘ge ge’ noises.

    Jia Leshan’s hands tightened; with a fierce grin he roared, “Lowly woman, I’ll take your …”

    He had not finished speaking when with a ‘zip’ noise a three cun and three fen [1 cun is approximately 1 inch, 1 fen is approximately 33mm or about 1/8 inch] long fingernail had already pierced the ‘yu shu’ [lit. jade comb] acupoint on the back of his head.

    This was also a fatal strike!

    Jia Leshan’s hands loosened; he roared as he turned around and pounced on that white-haired old servant.

    But as he was turning around, a burst of objects splitting the air; thirteen cold stars simultaneously hit him on his back. A pale sword also came in lightning-fast speed, piercing his waist.

    As soon as their strike succeeded, four people leaped back instantly, retreated into the four corners of the room.

    When the sword was pulled out, blood spurted out. Surprisingly, Jia Leshan had not fallen down. His very good looking face had turned unspeakably and hideously frightening. His pair of charming eyes also bulged out, staring at those four people. “You … why did you do it?” he said in a raspy voice.

    The man in black gripped his sword so tightly that the blue veins on the back of his hand popped out, his knuckles also turned white from excessive force, but his trembling did not stop. The old servant and the man who hang from the beam were also trembling incessantly.

    They were so shaken that they could not speak.

    The one who could speak was, surprisingly, Chuchu. Biting her lip, she sneered and said, “You should understand why we did this.”

    Jia Leshan sighed, with his last breath he said, “I don’t understand …”

    Those words were spoken with a weakening voice so that by the end, his voice turned into a mere sigh.

    He did not understand. Even in his death he did not understand.

    The lantern gradually dimmed.

    There was not a single noise in the room, as if all breathing and heartbeats had stopped.

    Jia Leshan had fallen on his own pool of blood.

    He came suddenly, he died abruptly.

    Lu Xiaofeng loosened his tight fist; he suddenly realized that his own palms were drenched in cold sweat.

    The first to speak was Chuchu. Was it because by nature women’s tongues are more dexterous and flexible than men’s?

    She turned around to face Lu Xiaofeng: “Surely you didn’t think that we might kill him.”

    Lu Xiaofeng concurred. He thought that in a matter like this, it would be hard for anybody to imagine this might happen.

    Chuchu: “Do you know why we wanted to kill him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng hesitated – an unmatched marriage relation would always bring about tragedy. It was not that he did not know this fact, but he would rather hear her say it with her own mouth.

    Chuchu’s face appeared grieved and anger. “He used force to hold me captive, he coerced me to be his play thing. He also blackmailed them and forced them to be his lackeys. We had always wanted to kill him, but it was a pity that so far we could not find the opportunity.”

    Without a doubt Jia Leshan was an extremely frightening man; if they did not have at least ninety percent confidence of success, they certainly would not dare to act rashly.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Could it be that this time I gave you a good opportunity?”

    Chuchu nodded her head. “And that’s why not only we are very appreciative, we are also prepared to repay you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. When the word ‘repay’ came from a woman’s lips, it usually carried a different meaning.

    But Chuchu’s expression was very somber as she said, “Our mission is to find the Luocha Tablet, yet we also know that your chance of success is next to nothing, because our current situation is still better than yours.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Chuchu: “If you wish, we can do everything within our power to help you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “How will you help?”

    Chuchu pointed her finger toward the chest brimming with gold and silver on the floor: “A chest like this, we still have twelve more on our carriages. Li Xia does not know Jia Leshan has died, she also has never seen his true identity; therefore …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Therefore, if I masquerade as Jia Leshan and buy Li Xia’s Luocha Tablet with this money, we will be successful without too much effort.”

    Chuchu sighed. “At least Jia Leshan was not mistaken at all, you are definitely a smart man.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But I still don’t understand why you want to do it like this?”

    Chuchu hesitated a little bit before answering, “Because we are unwilling that others should know that Jia Leshan died under our hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Are you afraid his disciples would avenge him?”

    Chuchu laughed: “Nobody will avenge him. It’s just that …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “It’s just that he was a very rich person, he left behind a lot of inheritance. As his murderers, you don’t have any chance of ever acquiring his inheritance.”

    Chuchu sighed again: “You are indeed very smart, so smart that it is scary.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You do not have any confidence to kill me to shut my mouth, yet you are afraid this secret will leak, you are concocting this idea of buying me.”

    Chuchu winked. “Are you still not satisfied?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Too bad that I am not the only one with eyes in this room, I am also not the only one with a mouth.”

    Chuchu: “Everybody in this room is on our side, except Sikong Daxia [great hero] …”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “I am not a Daxia, but a Dazei [great thief].”

    Chuchu: “Right. Since our Sikong Dazei is a good friend of Lu Xiaofeng, if Lu Xiaofeng is willing to comply, Sikong Dazei will certainly not sell him off.”

    Sikong Zhaixing stared at her. “I said I am a Dazei, and you also say that I am a Dazei?”

    Chuchu sweetly said, “This is called, ‘to follow one’s precepts is the sincerest form of respect’.”

    Sikong Zhaixing also laughed.

    After all, he was a man. A beautiful woman in front of a man, whatever she says, usually the man would find it very fascinating.

    Chuchu definitely had a very high confidence on her own beauty. She cast him a glance with the corner of her eye, “What do you say?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “Sikong Dazei is not Lu Xiaofeng’s friend; therefore, he can sell Lu Xiaofeng off anytime. But Sikong Dazei has never wished to invite any trouble, especially to attract this kind of trouble, therefore …”

    Chuchu: “Therefore, Sikong Dazei also agrees.”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “But Sikong Dazei has one condition.”

    Chuchu rolled her eyes. “What condition? Don’t tell me Sikong Dazei wants me to accompany him sleeping.”

    These words were more shocking that her kick to Lu Xiaofeng’s groin just a moment ago.

    Sikong Zhaixing laughed aloud. “A girl like you, if you sleep by my side, I would wake up with a start even if I am sound asleep.”

    Chuchu: “What do you want, then?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “If you are successful in obtaining the Luocha Tablet, let those four women go.”

    Chuchu: “You mean Li Xia and the others?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “Uh huh.”

    Chuchu winked at him. “Why do you care about them this much? Have they accompanied you sleeping?”

    Sikong Zhaixing stared at her. With a rueful smile he shook his head: “You look like a nice girl, but why is it that you always talk about those things?”

    Chuchu sweetly said, “Because whenever I talk about those things, I always feel aroused, I feel very excited.”

    Sikong Zhaixing sighed. “I only want to ask you: do you agree to my condition?”

    Chuchu: “Of course I agree.”

    Sikong Zhaixing immediately stood up. He waved his hand to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Goodbye!”

    Lu Xiaofeng called out, “What about my clothes?”

    Sikong Zhaixing: “There is this kind of woman in the room, what do you need clothes for? Since when did you become this stupid?” He laughed and jumped out; he was already outside the window before the last few words were even finished. In an instant his laughter was already thirty zhang [1 zhang is approximately 10 feet or 3 meters] away.

    Nobody knew since when there were only two people left in the room. Lu Xiaofeng was lying on the bed, Chuchu was standing by the bed.

    She still looked very docile; docile and tender, yet again she asked a shocking question: “Do you want me to sleep with you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I do.”

    This time he was not the least bit shocked; he did not even blink.

    Chuchu laughed. With a tender voice she said, “In that case, why don’t you lie down here alone and slowly think about what you want.”

    Suddenly she turned around and left, without even looked back. It was not before she reached the door did she turned around and waved. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

    ‘Bang!’ she slammed the door shut.

    With eyes open wide Lu Xiaofeng stared at the ceiling, while asking himself, “Why do I always meet these strange people? These strange matters …?”

    Actually, he did not know that an even stranger matter was waiting for him.

  4. #44
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 – Ice Country, Strange Talk

    The place they were heading was not on the horizon at all, it was on the Songhua River. And Songhua River was not on the horizon. It was in between Baishan [lit. white mountain, a prefecture level city in Jilin province] and Heishui [lit. black water, a county on northwest Sichuan].

    Rahasu was south of Songhua River. This word means ‘the Old House’ [orig. Lau Wu]. Although the name itself carried the connotation of a happy and cozy place, it was actually a desolate and cold place. When the Chongyang Festival [ninth day of the ninth month] comes around, the river freezes, and it would not thaw until the Qingming [early April, the tomb-sweeping day] of the next year. So the river was frozen more or less seven months out of a year.

    But these seven months were not distressing at all.

    As a matter of fact, Lau Wu’s residents were looking forward to these seven months of frozen river, because it was a period when their days would have more variations, would be richer with interesting activities.

    “Where is exactly Rahasu?”

    “On the Songhua River.”

    “How can there be a small town on the river?”

    “Strictly speaking, the town is not on the river at all, but on the ice.”

    “On the ice?” Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Although he had seen many strange occurrences, he had never seen a small town on the ice.

    People who had never been to Rahasu would indeed have a very difficult time believing this, but Rahasu was indeed on the ice.

    That section of the river’s surface was not very wide, only about twenty, thirty zhang. But the ice was more than ten chi deep [1 chi is approximately 1 foot or 1/3 of a meter].

    Long time residents of Lao Wu always had some kind of extraordinary premonition on when the river was going to freeze. Perhaps they could smell it from the wind, or hear the news from the breeze, or see it from the wave that the river was about to freeze.

    Therefore, a few days before the river was about to freeze, they tossed the pre-assembled wooden frame into the river and tied it firmly with the rope to the bank of the river, much like the migrating people of the ancient times staking out their territory on the wilderness.

    Once the river froze, this section of the river surface turned into a long and wide crystal main street, dazzling to the eyes.

    By this time, the wooden frame on the surface of the river had been frozen like they were rooted inside the ice. By adding beams and rafters, laying out bricks and tiles, with sandy soil mixed with water as the bonding agent, in just one night the walls would be frozen solid as rocks.

    Thereupon one by one, all kinds and sizes of houses and buildings appeared on the river, built on ice, so that in just three to five days this place had turned into a bustling little town, so much so that even a large carriage pulled by eight horses would be able to travel on the crystal main street.

    All kinds of stores of various trades were also open for business. Although outside a drop of water would freeze into ice, inside the buildings the air was as warm as the springtime.

    Listening to all this, Lu Xiaofeng felt like he was listening to a fairy tale.

    “In a place where water turns into ice, where even your nose can freeze and fall off, how can the air be as warm as the springtime inside the buildings?”

    “Because we can build fire inside the house, we can even build fire underneath the kang [a heatable brick bed].”

    “Build fire on the ice?”

    “That’s right.”

    “What about the ice?”

    “The ice stays as ice, it won’t change the least bit.”

    The ice stayed right up to the Qingming season of the next year before it started to melt. By that time, the people had already moved their ‘homes’ ashore, leaving empty wooden skeleton and waste, which would be washed out, along with the ice chunks, by the surging river.

    Therefore, this bustling small town on the ice would vanish into the thin air, probably like a dream in the spring time.

    Right now, it was the time when the river freezes, as a matter of fact, it was the coldest time of the year.

    And this was the time Lu Xiaofeng arrived at Rahasu.

    Naturally he did not arrive alone, because his status was different now, even his appearance was not the same. Other than the original moustache, which looked exactly like his eyebrows, he now grew a clump of beard on his chin. It would not be such a big deal if this change happened to other people; but to him, it was a big difference because originally he was known as the four-eyebrowed man, and now this special characteristic was lost with the addition of a beard.

    This change had made him look like a different person, perhaps he would look like the number one millionaire of Jiangnan, the Jia Leshan.

    His style was not small, to begin with; now that he was leading a large entourage, wearing thousands of taels worth sable-fur coat, riding on a large carriage heated by a stove, he did indeed look like an insufferably arrogant multi-millionaire.

    Chuchu, wearing silver-fox fur-coat, nestled by his side like a little pigeon.

    This girl was wild and unpredictable; sometimes she was weird to the point of very annoying, some other times she seemed to be ready to go to bed with you any time. But as soon as you actually made your move, you would not be able to even touch her.

    Lu Xiaofeng was no exception; therefore, in the past several days his mood was no good at all.

    He was a normal and healthy man; would you say his mood was supposed to be good if he was entangled with such a girl all day long, yet when the night came he was left to stare blankly at the ceiling alone?

    Sui Han San You were still following him from a distance; they did not interfere with whatever he was doing.

    Their only objective was for Lu Xiaofeng to find the Luocha Tablet for them, so for them, it does not matter whether Lu Xiaofeng turned into Jia Leshan or Zhen Leshan [Translator’s note: a play of words. ‘Jia’ sounds like ‘fake’ (different character), ‘Zhen’ means ‘real’]. They did not care, they took a completely ‘did not hear, did not ask’ policy.

    From the window of the carriage looking ahead to the distance, they were able to see the dazzling bright, jade-white crystal main street.

    Chuchu sighed softly, “Finally we are through with this stage of the journey."

    Lu Xiaofeng also sighed. He knew that all endless arduous journeys would eventually come to an end; however, his heart was still feeling very happy seeing that the destination was in sight.

    The spirit of the driver of the carriage also rose, he lashed his whip to make the horses ran faster. White mist spurted out from the horses' nostrils, while dense white foam flowed down from the corner of their mouths. Looking into the distance, they now could see the outline of the houses in the little town on the ice.

    And then the night came.

    In bitter cold, on the extreme north, places like this, night always comes quickly. Clearly it was not even dusk just a moment ago, and now suddenly the night had covered the earth. The brilliance of the crystal main street was also dimmed. One lantern after another was lit, and very soon the small town that had vanished in the dark was suddenly brightened by glorious lantern lights.

    The light illuminated the ice, and the ice reflected the light; the town looked like a cluster of crystal palaces, standing on a piece of colored glaze world. Whoever saw this scene for the first time would certainly be dazzled in awe; it was very relaxing.

    Lu Xiaofeng was no exception.

    Along the way he had suffered countless hardship, so much so that several times he almost lost his puny life.

    But in this moment, he suddenly felt everything was worth it. If time could go back to the past and brought him back to the Silver Hook Casino, and let him choose again, he would still agree to come here one more time.

    Isn’t it true that hardship would make one’s life richer, more abundant? To obtain true happiness, won’t one have to pay the price of hardship first?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not restrain from sighing softly. “Perhaps this place would not look as beautiful as this if it is right across the street from your home and you can visit it anytime.”

    Chuchu also sighed softly, “You are right.”

    Night, night market. The little town on the ice, glorious lantern lights. The light from the buildings and the reflection of the light from the ice enhanced each other’s beauty. One lantern became two; two lanterns became four, as if the whole universe was full with glittering stars. Even Beijing’s most busy street could not compare with this place.

    The street was not narrow at all; all kinds of shops lined up on either side of it, the street was busy with carriages, horses and pedestrians, sounds of people talking and laughing were heard from the teahouses and wine shops.

    Looking at these people, and then looking at this crystal glass world, Lu Xiaofeng practically could not tell whether this place was earthly or heavenly.

    As they entered the street, he knew that the first building he saw was a small wine shop, because there was a sign board which said, ‘Tai Bai Yi Feng’ [Tai Bai legacy. Tai Bai refers to the ‘Great Li Bai’, a poet of Tang Dynasty]; under the board stood a woman wearing a leather coat lined with purple satin, looking at him with smiling eyes.

    The woman was not too pretty, but her smile was very charming, very warm. When she smiled her round face revealed two deep dimples. Her pair of eyes, which seemed to be always smiling although she was not smiling, was fixed on Lu Xiaofeng’s face.

    Chuchu snorted a cold laugh from her nose: “She seems to be very interested in you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I don’t even know her.”

    Chuchu: “Of course you don’t know her, but I do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Chuchu: “Her surname is Tang, she is called Tang Keqing. Everybody thinks it is so easy to get close to her; looks like you are no exception.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “You seem to know her a lot?”

    Chuchu: “Of course.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But she does not seem to know you.”

    Chuchu winked. “Guess, how do I know her?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I can’t guess, and I do not want to guess.”

    Chuchu: “Jia Leshan always handled matters meticulously. Before he came here, he had already investigated those four women carefully; he even had someone drew pictures of them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned. “Are you saying that she is one of the four women the Blue Beard sent away?”

    Chuchu: “She is precisely the Lao San [lit. ‘ol three, the third in rank], that is, the Blue Beard’s second mistress.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help from turning around his head to give her another look, only to see another woman.

    The woman came out from a drug store, specialized in herbal medicine used specifically for the treatment of external injury, across the street, and entered Tang Keqing's small wine shop. She was draped in black clothing, her stature was thin and small, her face always wore cold and apathetic expression, as if everybody else in the world owed her a couple hundred taels of silver and nobody had paid her back.

    No matter how you look at it, you won't say that she was an attractive woman, but she would definitely catch your attention. She was totally of a different type from Tang Keqing, but contrary to expectation, it looked like they were friends; not only just regular friends, but good friends.

    Chuchu: "You are very interested in this woman, are you not?"

    With a forced laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, "Do I know her?"

    Chuchu: "I do know her."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Are you saying she is also ..."

    Chuchu: "Her surname is Leng, called Hong'er. She was Blue Beard's third mistress."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. "Blue Beard is indeed a very strange character. After he got that sweet and cute second mistress, why would he take this cold and unfriendly Lau Si [lit. 'ol four; the fourth in rank]?"

    Chuchu said matter-of-factly, "A cold and unfriendly woman also has her good points. If you have a chance, you can try it yourself."

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to look back again, only to see two men carrying someone who had broken his leg toward the drugstore's door. "Is Doctor Leng in?" they shouted, "Please come over."

    Turned out this Leng Hong'er still had some skill in treating external injury, other than being the boss of this herbal medicine store.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: "What do you know? She still possesses some skills!"

    As soon as he closed his mouth, Lu Xiaofeng realized that in this world, there might be some women who do not eat rice, but woman who do not eat vinegar [meaning, jealous], he had never seen any.

    Yet Chuchu only laughed and winked. "Actually, among Blue Beard's four women, the prettiest is the first mistress, Chen Jingjing."

    Chen Jingjing?

    Lu Xiaofeng had heard this name before.

    " ... the people of Rahasu are usually narrow-minded, often show hostility towards foreigners and newcomers. Other than two people, it is best if you do not believe whatever anybody else is saying ... One is called Lao Shanyang [lit. old mountain goat]; he was my father's former business partner. The other is Chen Jingjing ..."

    Immediately he recalled Ding Xiangyi's warning, but he had never guessed that Chen Jingjing was also one of Blue Beard's women.

    Chuchu cast him a sidelong glance with the corner of her eye, she lightly said, "If you want to see her, I might be able to help you find her."

    Lu Xiaofeng could not restrain from asking: "Do you know where she is?"

    Chuchu: "She is Li Xia's right hand woman, chances are she is at the casino, helping Li Xia running her business."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Casino? What casino?"

    Chuchu: "Silver Hook Casino."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "There is a Silver Hook Casino in here?"

    Chuchu nodded. "We have an appointment with Li Xia to meet at the Silver Hook Casino.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ask further, because he had already seen a shiny silver hook swaying in the wind.

    The door was not wide, the silver hook glittered under the lantern light.

    Lu Xiaofeng pushed the door open, he went from the bone-chilling cold of outside to the as-warm-as-spring room. He took off his sable fur coat and casually tossed it to a chair behind the door, and then he took a deep breath.

    The air was filled with men's tobacco and alcohol smell, mixed with women's cosmetics and perfumes, plus the smell of fresh wood shavings and paint ...

    It was not a suitable air for someone to take a deep breath, but Lu Xiaofeng was very familiar with this kind of smell.

    Sikong Zhaixing was right, Lu Xiaofeng belonged to this kind of place.

    He loved luxury, he loved excitement, he liked to indulge. It was his weakness, but he had never denied this fact -- Everybody must have some kind of weaknesses, right?

    Although the scale of this gambling establishment could not be compared with that of Blue Beard’s, the gamblers were also not as orderly, but mahjong, dice, and all kinds of gambling tables were also available in this place.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not wait for Chuchu to lead the way; with stuck-out chest and big strides he walked straight in.

    He was perfectly aware that everybody’s attention was at him; they were looking at his clothes, his style. No matter who, those who looked at him saw a grand guest, a tycoon.

    Tycoons’ eyes are usually looking up, above everybody’s head. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng also held his head high. But he could still see someone was walking over to him with smile on his face.

    He did not pay attention to any particular person, but this man’s manner was too strange; his attire was even weirder that even Lu Xiaofeng had seldom seen this kind of eccentric person.

    This man was wearing a red satin loose robe, the robe was embroidered with all kinds of flowers; there were yellow flowers, blue flowers, green flowers.

    The weirdest of all, he also wore a very, very tall pointed hat; the hat was also embroidered with six large scarlet characters, ‘Number One Child Prodigy in the World’ [orig. tian xia di yi shen tong’ – 6 characters].

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Of course he recognized this person. This must be Li Xia’s precious younger brother, Li Shentong [‘shentong’ means child prodigy].

    Seeing Lu Xiaofeng laughed, Li Shentong also laughed. His laugh was half silly, half stupid, half insane, half wild. He walked with a sway like a woman, cupped his fists to greet Lu Xiaofeng, saying, “How are you?”

    Suppressing his laughter, Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Good.”

    Li Shentong: “Your honorable surname?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Jia.”

    Li Shentong looked at him from top to bottom, sizing him up. “Jia Xiong [brother Jia] came from different part of the country?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Hmm.”

    Li Shentong: “I wonder how would Jia Xiong like to gamble? ‘Tian Jiu’? ‘Chan Shuang’? Dice?” [My apology, I am not familiar with gambling. The original were 天九 and 单双, respectively.]

    Although his manner seemed silly and half insane, his speech was surprisingly quite clear and normal.

    Lu Xiaofeng had not replied when someone else behind him answered on his behalf, “This Master Jia is not here to gamble, but to see someone.”

    The voice was gentle, tender and silvery, it was a woman’s voice, but it was not Chuchu’s voice. The woman’s manner was very refined, her look was also very good. Chuchu was standing behind her, busily signaling Lu Xiaofeng with her eyes.

    Could this woman be Chen Jingjing?

    Lu Xiaofeng face did not show any emotion. “Since you know that I am here to see someone, I am sure you also know who I am looking for.”

    Chen Jingjing nodded. “Please follow me.”

    There was a small cottage behind the casino, unexpectedly the decoration was very exquisite, but there was nobody in there. Lu Xiaofeng sat down on a large bamboo chair draped in fox fur. “Where is Li Xia?”

    Chen Jingjing: “She is not here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s face sank. “I traveled over thousands of li to see her, and she is not here?”

    Chen Jingjing laughed. Her laughter was also gentle and soft. With a soft voice she said, “It is exactly because she knew Master Jia is coming that she left.”

    Lu Xiaofeng angrily said, “What do you mean 'she left'?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Because she cannot see Master Jia for the time being.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why?”

    Chen Jingjing: "She has left, but she may come back, because she does not wish to offend you, and when she comes back, she will bring the Luocha Tablet along."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What did she say?"

    Chen Jingjing: "She said she would like Master Jia to render the payment to me. After I deliver the money to her, she will come back promptly."

    Lu Xiaofeng deliberately slapped the table: "What kind of business practice is this? I haven't seen the goods, yet you want my money first?"

    Chen Jingjing was still smiling very tenderly: "She also wants me to pass this message to you: if Master Jia does not agree to this condition, the deal is off."

    Lu Xiaofeng sprang up from the chair, but then he slowly sat back down.

    Chen Jingjing smiled: "If you asked me, I think it would be better if Master Jia agree to this condition, because she has hidden the Luocha Tablet in a very secret location, a very secure place. Other than her, nobody else knows where it is. If she is unwilling to take it out, nobody will be able to find it."

    Lu Xiaofeng's eyes glimmered: "She is afraid I was going to force her to hand the Luocha Tablet over, therefore, she went into hiding as soon as I arrived."

    Chen Jingjing did not deny at all.

    With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, "She is not afraid I am going to find her?"

    Chen Jingjing laughed: "You won't find her. If she doesn't want to be found, nobody can find her."

    Although she was laughing tenderly, her eyes showed her determination; apparently she was also a strong-willed woman, and had a complete confidence that nobody could find Li Xia's hiding place.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her. He said coldly, "Even if I can't find her, I will have a way to make you to take me there."

    Chen Jingjing smiled while shaking her head. "Of course I know that the way Master Jia handles matters must be extraordinary; it's a pity that I do not know where the Luocha Tablet is being hidden, I also do not know where Li Dajie [eldest sister Li] has gone. Otherwise, why would she leave me here?"

    Her manner was very calm, her voice was also completely under control; anybody would know that she was telling the truth.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. "If that's the case, if I want the Luocha Tablet, I won't have any other choice but to agree to her condition, will I?"

    Chen Jingjing also sighed. "That Li Dajie of ours is indeed a very astute and cautious woman; we are also ..."

    She did not continue. There was no need for her to continue. Just from her sigh anybody could tell that they had suffered more than just a few hardships from Li Xia.

    Lu Xiaofeng muttered, "What if after I pay her she is still unwilling to give me the goods?"

    Chen Jingjing: "I also do not have any way of guaranteeing you over that matter; therefore, there is no harm in Master Jia giving it further consideration. We have already prepared a place for Master Jia to rest."

    Lu Xiaofeng stood up suddenly. With a cold voice he said, "No need. I will find one myself."

    Chen Jingjing: "Master Jia has just arrived here, you do not have any acquaintance yet; how would you find a place?"

    In big strides Lu Xiaofeng walked out; with head held high he said, "I don't have any acquaintances, but I have money."

    Naturally Chuchu always stayed by his side. As soon as they left the Silver Hook Casino, Chuchu laughed and clapped her hands. "Good! Very good!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What do you mean 'very good'?"

    Chuchu: "Your acting was very good. You truly acted like a millionaire who is covered in money from head to toe."

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled ruefully, "Actually I know that Jia leshan's conduct was extremely shady, he would never act like a newly rich person. I just could not think of acting any other way."

    Chuchu laughed. "But your act was very convincing. If I did not know Jia leshan, I would have been fooled myself."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But apparently Chen Jingjing was not a simple woman at all, Li Xia must be even more astute and fierce. I don't know if I will be able to fool her."

    Chuchu: "Actually, it doesn't matter if you can fool her or not. She only recognizes the money and not the person anyway."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, but did not say anything. He was thinking in his heart that now he had seen Chen Jingjing. Under the circumstances, he definitely could not reveal his true identity; introducing himself as Ding Xiangyi's friend was even more out of question.

    What about the Old Goat?

    Just when he was thinking about the Old Goat, someone was being kicked out of a nearby restaurant. 'Wham!' he landed on the ice, and slid seven, eight more feet, and incidentally stopped in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

    The man was wearing an inside-out sheepskin coat and a sheepskin cap. Surprisingly, there were two goat horns on his cap. Additionally, his face looked dry, thin, yellowish and old, with sparse goatee on his chin. He indeed looked like an old goat.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him without showing any emotion on his face, so much so that his eyes did not even blink.

    With gasping breath the Old Goat struggled to stand up, while mumbling, “Damn those barbarians. Even if Laoye [master, referring to self] do not have money to drink wine, you, those bastard lambs, did not have to kick me out.” Cursing and swearing, he limped away.

    Lowering his voice, Lu Xiaofeng instructed Chuchu: “Have Xin Lao’er [‘ol two, the second in rank] follow him.”

    Xin Lao’er was the man expert in qinggong and secret projectile, formerly a direct descendant and disciple of ‘Flower Rain’ Xin Shi Niang [Tenth Madame Xin].

    The one with the ancient sword and dressed in black was surnamed Bai, he was the Lao San [the third]; together with the Huashan disciple, the white-haired old man, they were sworn brothers. Just because many years ago they committed a mistake, Jia Leshan blackmailed them so that they had no other choice but becoming his lackeys. It had been seven, eight years they served Jia Leshan without any opportunity to leave.

    This story was told by them, Lu Xiaofeng only listened. Did he truly believe their story? Nobody knows.

    ‘Eternal Heaven Restaurant’ actually did not have any second story [Translator’s note: the word translated as ‘restaurant’ was actually ‘jiu lou’, jiu – wine, lou – building with more than one floor level]; but without a doubt it was the biggest restaurant in the area, with the most luxurious interior.

    Right now the building had become Lu Xiaofeng’s. He only needed a few sentences to close this business deal.

    “How much do you make in a day?”

    “When business is good, at least three to five taels of silver.”

    “Here is a thousand taels of silver, give this building to me. When I am gone, the building is still yours. Will you or will you not agree?”

    Of course the restaurant proprietor agreed, moreover, he agreed so quickly. Consequently, the signboard above the door was taken down promptly, and the business was closed immediately. About an hour later, even the bed was ready to be used. Isn’t it true that people with money always handle matters rather conveniently?

    The most convenient of all was that wine and food were readily available in this place, complete with a very able chef.

    Sitting next to a blazing hot furnace, after several cups of warm wine entered his stomach, Lu Xiaofeng had almost forgotten the bitter cold outside, the cold which would freeze someone’s nose and made it fall off.

    When he was drinking his third pot of wine, Xin Lao’er came back. Although he was shivering in cold, he could only stand far away at the door, he did not dare to come close to the stove. He knew that if right now he came close to the fire, he might melt away like a popsicle in a hot summer day. If he put his hands into hot water, when he took them out, only bones might remain.

    Lu Xiaofeng waited until he caught his breath before asking, “Well?”

    Xin Lao’er hatefully said, “That old bastard shouldn’t be called the Old Goat, he is more an old fox.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Did you fall into his trick?”

    Xin Lao’er: “He knew all along that I was following him, so he deliberately took me circling around the ice several times before he finally turned around and asked if it was you who sent me to see him.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And what did you say?”

    Xin Lao’er: “Since he’s already known everything, what else can I say?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Where is he now?”

    Xin Lao’er: “He is outside, waiting for you. He also said that no matter who, and no matter why you want to see him, since it is you who want him, then you should go and find him yourself.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a bitter smile he said, “I don’t care if he is an old bastard, an old goat or an old fox; one thing I do know is that his bones must be quite hard.”

    With his chest puffed out, the Old Goat walked in the front while Lu Xiaofeng followed behind him. It seemed that not only his bones were hard, his skin was also rather thick, because he did not seem to be afraid of the cold at all.

    Beyond this strip of main street was a world of ice and snow. The silvery white expanse of ice stretched out ahead as far as eyes could see, with dark waves of snow on either sides. Nothing else was visible amidst the gray and hazy night.

    Anybody would feel awful coming from the place with a million lantern lights to this very cold and very dark world. At first Lu Xiaofeng intended to suppress his feelings and simply see what kind of medicine he was going to sell from his bottle of gourd. But finally he could not restrain from asking, “Where are you taking me?”

    The Old Goat did not even turn his head, “To my home.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why must we go to your home?”

    The Old Goat: “Because you are the one looking for me, I did not look for you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only concede. With a bitter smile he said, “Where is your home?”

    The Old Goat: “Inside the giant water barrel.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What kind of place is the giant water barrel?”

    The Old Goat: “Giant water barrel is a giant water barrel.”

    The giant water barrel was indeed a giant water barrel, it was real water barrel to store water.

    Lu Xiaofeng had lived for twenty, thirty years, but he had never seen a water barrel this big.

    In reality, if he did not come to this place, even if he had lived two, three hundred more years, he would have never seen a water barrel this big.

    This water barrel was at least two zhang [about 20 feet or 6 m] tall. It looked just like a house with a circular ridge roof, or a round canopy. However, it was indeed a water barrel, because it had neither door nor windows. The only opening was at the top, with a piece of rope dangling down from top to bottom.

    The Old Goat pulled the rope and climbed up. When he got to the top he beckoned and called out, “Are you coming up or not?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why must I go up? I am not Sima Guang. Even if I want to drink water, I don’t need to go into a water barrel like this.”

    Although he muttered, he climbed up the water barrel anyway.

    There was no water inside the water barrel, not even a drop of water.

    There was only wine in the water barrel, inside a very large sheepskin bag, wine so strong that if you drink only a mouthful your eyes would water with the burning sensation.

    The Old Goat took a mouthful and his eyes brightened.

    The water barrel was full of animal skin, piled up randomly everywhere. Hugging a large wineskin he sat comfortably on one of them. After letting out a deep breath he asked, “Have you ever seen such a giant water barrel before?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “No.”

    The Old Goat: “Have you seen me before?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Also no.”

    The Old Goat: “But it seems like I have seen you before?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Mmm.”

    Suddenly the Old Goat laughed, he shook his head and squinting his eyes he said, “No, you are not.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I am not Jia Leshan?”

    The Old Goat: “Definitely not.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Then who am I?”

    The Old Goat: “I don’t care if you are Zhang San or Li Si [Zhang the third or Li the fourth; this is the same as 'Tom, Dick or Harry'], I know you are not Jia Leshan; because I have seen that old bastard lamb once before.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. He did not want to laugh, but he could not help laughing, because he suddenly felt this old fellow was an interesting person.

    The Old Goat looked at him from top to bottom, sizing him up. It seemed like he also felt Lu Xiaofeng was an interesting person. People who had seen Lu Xiaofeng usually would feel that he was an interesting person.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I wish to ask …”

    But the Old Goat suddenly cut him off, “Li Xia is a strange woman, Ding Lao Da [ol’ Ding] was even stranger; just because he loved to drink pure water, he has not hesitated to sell his house and spent more than two years to build these two water barrels, so that he could drink pure water during the summer.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Was Ding Lao Da Li Xia’s former husband?”

    The Old Goat nodded. “Right now Li Xia went missing, but I am sure she has not left this area. I guarantee you she is hiding somewhere in the town. But if you want to ask me where she is, I don’t know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “How do you know I am looking for you over this matter?”

    The Old Goat: “Don’t tell me you are not?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Do you know who I am?”

    The Old Goat: “I don’t need to know, I don’t even want to know. I don’t care who you are, you have nothing to do with me at all.”

    He looked at Lu Xiaofeng with squinted eyes, with a sly laugh he continued, “I feel that you are not an annoying person, that’s why I took you to this place and told you all this. If you want to inquire other matters, you’d better find other people.”

    But Lu Xiaofeng still asked him, “Did you say that there were originally two water barrels like this?”

    The Old Goat: “Uh huh.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Where is the other one?”

    The Old Goat: “I don’t know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “So other matters you don’t know?”

    The Old Goat sighed. “I am getting old. So old that I have already forgotten even my own surname and given name. There are a lot of younger men in town, there are also a lot of younger women there. Whatever information you want to inquire, you should go and ask them.”

    He closed his eyes and took another swig of wine then he laid down comfortably as if he had decided not to give Lu Xiaofeng another look or say another word to him.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, “You know I am not Jia Leshan, you know that I know your Ding Lao Da’s daughter, that’s why you were not the least bit surprised when I mentioned her name. You know for sure that Li Xia has not left, but you kept saying that you did not know anything.

    He shook his head, and then laughed again. “Looks like Sin Lao Er is right, you shouldn’t be called The Old Goat, actually, you are an old fox.”

    The Old Goat also laughed. Suddenly he winked at Lu Xiaofeng: “It’s all right for you to meet an old fox like me. I do wish you will not meet a fox spirit [or vixen, female fox demon].”

    The small wine shop owned by Tang Keqing was called ‘Not-going-home-before-drunk Restaurant’.

    Although the sky had turned dark for a long time, the night was not too deep yet. By the time Lu Xiaofeng returned, the street was still bright with glorious lantern lights, the ‘Not-going-home-before-drunk Restaurant’ was still open.

    This small wine shop did not look too bad, the lady boss also did not look bad at all, but for some reason the shop was cold and quiet, with no guest inside.

    Therefore, the first thing Lu Xiaofeng saw was still this lady whose look was not too pretty, but whose smile was very fascinating. She was still standing below that ‘Tai Bai Yi Feng’ wooden signboard; she was still smiling sweetly at Lu Xiaofeng, as if she was intentionally waiting for him. Her smile was not only alluring, it was inviting as well.

    Lu Xiaofeng had never refused this kind of invitation, furthermore he always believes that girls who loved to smile would also love to talk, and it would be easier for girls who loved to talk to also leak somebody else’s secret.

    Thereupon Lu Xiaofeng also revealed a smile while slowly walking toward her. He was not sure how to strike a conversation, but contrary to his expectations, Tang Keqing opened her mouth first. “I heard you have bought the Eternal Heaven Restaurant.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was genuinely amused: "News travel really fast in this place!"

    Tang Keqing: "It is a little town, such a big character like you is not commonly seen."

    Her smile was indeed too sweet, she might be a real fox-spirit.

    Lu Xiaofeng coughed lightly twice. "Not-going-home-before-drunk, does that mean whoever come here to drink must be drunk?"

    "That's right," Tang Keqing sweetly replied, "Whoever comes here and does not get drunk must be a turtle."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And if they are drunk?"

    Tang Keqing: "Then they must be bastards."

    Lu Xiaofeng roared in laughter. "That being the case, whoever comes here to drink must be either a turtle or a bastard. I am afraid nobody would dare to step his foot on your door."

    Tang Keqing: "You have clearly bought a restaurant, yet you still come here to drink. You are not afraid being either a turtle or a bastard; I wonder what is the reason ...?"

    Her smile was even sweeter, she looked even more like a fox-spirit.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly discovered that his heart had been moved, he could not stop himself from pulling her hand, "Can you guess why?"

    Tang Keqing looked at him with the corner of her eye, "Could it be because of me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny; in fact, he could not deny, because he had already gripped her hand. He gripped her hand really tight.

    Her hand was beautiful and soft, but it was icy-cold.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "As long as you are willing to accompany me drinking, I don't care if you want me to be drunk or not drunk, I will follow your wish."

    Tang Keqing laughed charmingly, "That means, you agree to be either a turtle or a bastard."

    Squinting his eyes, Lu Xiaofeng said, "It depends whether you agree or not."

    Tang Keqing's face blushed. "You must let my hand go first, so that I can get the wine for you."

    Lu Xiaofeng's heart was already beating faster. He was a very healthy man, and recently he had suppressed his desire a bit too long. Moreover, this time he had a very good excuse for his behavior. "I wasn't really a lecherous man, it's just that to gain information, I have no other choice but to use this 'handsome man tactic'."

    When he let her hand go, his mind had already started having some fantasy. In the deep of the night, when everything was quiet, two people under the influence of alcohol.

    Nobody would have guessed that right this moment, suddenly Tang Keqing raised her hand and gave Lu Xiaofeng a really good slap on his face.

    The slap did not land squarely on his face, but naturally Lu Xiaofeng was extremely shocked.

    "What are you doing?"

    "What am I doing?" Tang Keqing's face grew ashen; with a cold laugh she said, "I just want to ask you: What in the hell are you doing? What kind of woman do you think I am? Just because you have a bit of stinky money, you think you can bully women anytime you wish? Let me tell you: in this place I only sell wine, I don't sell anything else."

    The more she talked, the angrier she got, until finally she stomped her feet and roared, "Go away! Just roll out of here! If next time you dare to step into my door, let's see if I won't break your dog legs with a stick."

    To suddenly receive a curse like that, Lu Xiaofeng was greatly startled. But in his heart he also understood why not even a ghost dares to visit this place.

    Turned out although this woman looked as sweet as honey, she was actually hotter than chili pepper. Moreover, she also had another shortcoming, i.e. she was abusive toward men; she must see a man suffer before she could be happy.

    Therefore, she was always standing on the door, seducing the male passer-by; and then when a man was hooked, she would pinch the man half-dead in the palm of her hand, just like one pinches a mosquito.

    Evidently the number of men in this place who had received troubles from her, who had been beaten by her, was not just a few. Lu Xiaofeng could be considered lucky that he was able to get out from that place in one piece.

    Fortunately, nobody else was outside. In a place where dripping water would turn into ice instantly, not many people would be strolling leisurely on the street.

    When Lu Xiaofeng walked in, he looked like a horny tycoon; when he walked out, he looked like a fool.

    "Women ..." he sighed inwardly, "Why would there be so many aggravating women in this world?"

    He had not thought of what would the world turn into if there were no women in it when suddenly he heard a miserable cry.

    The cry came from inside the drugstore across the street. It was a man's voice.

    Lu Xiaofeng rushed toward the store. The thin and small, cold and indifferent Leng Hong'er was pinning down a big man on a chair, with one hand pinching on his shoulder blade and the other hand twisting the man's arm behind his back, while coldly asked, "Where exactly is your sprained muscle? Where is the dislodged joint? Tell me!"

    The man gritted his teeth; he could barely open his mouth, "I ... I don't ..."

    Leng Hong'er: "Then why did you come? You wanted to massage me? To loosen my bones?"

    The man could only nod; he could not deny, yet he did not dare to admit.

    Leng Hong'er let out a cold laugh, then she raised her hand, and just like a small rubber ball, this big man was thrown outside the door. 'Bang!' he fell on the cold, hard and slippery ice outside.

    This time he truly sprained his muscle and dislodge his joint from the fall, and could only go home and probably vent his anger to his wife.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled ruefully inside; this time he wondered whether it was the man who was at fault? Or was it the woman who had the shortcoming?

    Leng Hong'er stood on the other side of the street, looking at him with cold eyes. "Are you here to have me to treat your illness as well?"

    With a forced smile Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, and then simply turned around to leave.

    'Within the thirty-sixth stratagems, running away was the most important.' Suddenly he discovered that the women of this place must not be provoked.

    Who would have thought that he did not want to provoke others, others wanted to provoke him instead.

    Suddenly Leng Hong'er blocked his way. "What is it that you actually want by coming here? Why are you unwilling to speak?"

    Forcing a smile Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Why would I want to speak?”

    Leng Hong’er bit her lips and stared at him. “Even if you don’t speak, I know what’s in your heart; you must think that I am cold and ferocious, that I am also a problematic woman.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I do not have such thoughts.”

    This time he was obviously lying, because he indeed had those thoughts in his heart.

    Leng Hong’er was still biting her lips, she was also still staring at him, but from her pair of cold eyes two drops of tears like pearls rolled down her cheeks.

    A woman like her could also cry? Lu Xiaofeng was taken aback, “What is it?”

    Leng Hong’er lowered her head with tears streaming down her face. “Nothing, I … I just don’t feel well.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Don’t feel well?” – You beat others until they are rolling in pain on the ground? You don’t feel well? What about the people you have beaten?

    Obviously Leng Hong’er could not hear what he said in his heart, she continued, “You came from a different part of the country, you did not know what kind of men live in this place. They saw me, a single woman, live here, they always find ways to bully me, humiliate me.”

    When she cried, she looked even more petite, even weaker; her cruel and cold look vanished without a trace that she looked like a little girl who had suffered injustice.

    She continued, “If they succeed in bullying me just one time, I would forever not able to live a respectable life, because not only other people would not blame them, they would say that I am a flower beckoning to the bees and drawing butterflies near. Therefore, I can only put on a façade of cold and indifferent manner. But in the dead of the night, I … I also …”

    She could not continue; she did not need to continue.

    When the night was deep and quiet, she was alone in an empty room, she did not need to explain that kind of desolate, lonely and dark feeling because Lu Xiaofeng understood it well.

    He suddenly felt that that the frail little girl standing in front of him not only should not be feared, but also very pitiful.

    Quietly Leng Hong’er wiped her tears, she seemed to force a smile when she said, “We have just met; actually, I shouldn’t say this kind of words in front of a stranger.”

    “It’s all right,” Lu Xiaofeng immediately said, “I also have too many concerns. Sometimes I also want to unload my burdens to a total stranger.”

    Leng Hong’er lifted up her head to look at him, with a tender voice she asked, “Can you unload your burdens to me?”

    The tears on her eyes had not dried up; standing in front of him, she looked even smaller and feebler.

    If Lu Xiaofeng was thinking of leaving then, he could not leave now – Why is it that invitation that comes with tears is always more difficult to refuse than invitation that comes with a smile?

    Steaming hot pickled Chinese cabbage, plain boiled pork, and a dish of intestine hotpot, and some Green Bamboo Leaf wine, warmed at just the right temperature.

    “I brought this wine from the inland, and so far I always drink it sparingly.”

    The tears on Leng Hong’er’s face had dried up. Right now she was setting the table, arranging the food and wine; she looked as busy as a little sparrow.

    "Every night I would drink a bit of wine alone. My drinking capacity has always been low, but I can sleep only after I get drunk."

    And then she also made a confession to Lu Xiaofeng, "Sometimes sleep would still elude me even when I am drunk. On those nights I would go out and sat on the ice of the frozen river, waiting for dawn. There was one night I saw a bear. At least I thought it was a bear, its body was covered in thick and stiff black hair."

    Her drinking capacity was indeed not good. Only after two cups of wine, her face turned as red as sunset clouds.

    Looking at her, Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. Such a little girl unexpectedly must sit on the ice looking at a black bear; it was truly a pitiful matter.

    Just when he started to feel her pain, by a strange coincidence her hand was moving in front of him. Thereupon he grabbed her hand.

    Her hand was small and delicate, but also burning hot.

    The room was as warm as springtime, the bottle on the table still contained some preserved plum, outside the cold wind was screaming, but the window was tightly closed.

    Her heart was beating faster.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not clear how it happened, but suddenly he felt she had fallen into his bosom. Her petite and delicate body was as hot as a clump of fire, but her lips were icy cold. She was cold, and fragrant, and tender.

    Until a very long time afterwards, Lu Xiaofeng was still unable to figure out how this happened.

    “Actually, what happened that day?” someone would ask him.

    “Technically, nothing really happened,” Lu Xiaofeng would reply, he could not but admit, “It was not because I was a gentleman, but rather because …” Because when something was about to happen; they suddenly heard somebody clapping and cheering.

    “So someone applauded you at that kind of moment?” Whoever heard this story in the future would always think that it was extremely hilarious. “Obviously it was because the two of you had displayed such a brilliant performance.”

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng had to admit that this applause did indeed scare them; as a matter of fact, both of them did indeed spring up in fright so that they crashed into the table and tumbled the hotpot over.

    “Who applauded?”

    “It was the big bastard, the one wearing red gown, the big bastard who wore green cap [meaning: a man whose wife cheated on him].”

    Li Shentong was standing at the door, looking at them and giggled: “Gentleman and Lady must not stop; it was such a splendid performance, which I have not seen for many years. If you are willing to continue and let me watch for a while, I am going to invite you for some soup dinner tomorrow.”

    All in all, he did not speak even one obscene word, but to Lu Xiaofeng’s ears, it was the most nauseating words he had ever heard for as long as he had lived.

    He almost could not stop himself from pouncing over and give this half-real, half-fake lunatic a good slap on the face. He did not have to pounce over because Leng Hong’er had preceded him in pouncing over. This petite and delicate, tender and frail woman had suddenly turned into a mother wolf, her actions were malicious and vicious.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew she knew martial arts, but he had never thought that her martial art skills were very good. Her movements were swift and ruthless. Within the seventy-two ways of grappling technique, she had mastered some skills in spraining muscle and dislocating bones. If any part of Li Shentong’s body was grabbed by her, two kinds of sound would definitely be heard – the noise of shattering bones and the painful scream of a pig being slaughtered.

    Yet Li Shentong did not give her any opportunity to touch even the corner of his clothes.

    His painting might be awful, his attire might be very funny, but his martial art skill was not funny at all.

    Even Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to admit that compared to people anywhere, anyplace, his martial art skill could be considered first class.

    Such an able individual, why did he act like an idiot, hiding under his own older sister’s skirt and let himself ran over by other people everywhere? Why didn’t he get out to the world on his own? Could it be that his Jiejie’s [older sister] martial art skill was stronger than his?

    Lu Xiaofeng looked up and happened to see Li Shentong’s hand had just moved away from Leng Hong’er’s breasts. Followed by Leng Hong’er dashed to the door. It was not until she was out of the door did he hear her crying.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt anger rising in his breast. With his hands tightly curled into fists, he determined to give this man a really good lesson.

    Unexpectedly, Li Shentong laughed. He waved his hand and laughed: “You must not come over. I know I cannot beat you, I also know who you are.”

    With a maintained composure Lu Xiaofeng said, “You know?”

    Li Shentong laughed: “You can hide the truth from others, but you cannot hide it from me. It will still be useless even if you add more beards. I know you are that Four-eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Lu Xiaofeng halted his steps with a start.

    He arrived in this place less than four hours ago, and had met with only five people, but all these five people had astonished him tremendously. It seemed like the people of this place were not simple at all. If he wanted to bring the Luocha Tablet back, it might not be an easy task after all.

    Li Shentong’s smile was getting wider: “But you need not worry, I will definitely not reveal this secret, because we are on the same side. I have been waiting for you for a long time.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more astonished: “You knew I was coming?”

    Li Shentong: “Blue Beard has said that he would certainly send you over, and I very much believe his words.”

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng understood; he also recalled what Blue Beard had said, “… even if you cannot find her, there will be someone who will lead you to her … when you get there, someone will make a contact with you.”

    Li Shentong laughed, “I am sure you did not think that I would betray my Jiejie and be Blue Beard’s spy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “But I am not too surprised. Someone like you, is there any kind of job you can’t do?”

    Unexpectedly, Li Shentong sighed and said, “When you see that precious Jiejie of mine, you will understand why I am doing this.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What can I do to be able to see her?”

    Li Shentong: “Only one way.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What way?”

    Li Shentong: “Quickly deliver those boxes you brought with you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You don’t know where she is hiding?”

    Li Shentong: “I don’t.”

    He sighed again then with a bit a rueful smile he said, “Other than shiny white silver and bright yellow gold, she doesn’t know anything else, not even her own family.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared hard at him for a long time, enough to drink a cup of tea. Suddenly he asked, “Do you want to take a beating?”

    Of course Li Shentong did not want to.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Then you’d better eat everything spilled on the floor. If I find out that you leave even one piece of food, I will make sure that you’d regret it for the rest of your life.”

    The hotpot was knocked over, pickled Chinese cabbage, plain boiled pork, black pudding, were scattered on the floor, which quickly became a layer of white oil.

    Li Shentong bitterly bent his waist and went down on his knees. Lu Xiaofeng slowly walked out. When he got to the door he heard Li Shentong throwing up.

    The night was very deep; the brilliant lantern lights were getting sparse, the magnificent little town was shrouded in cold darkness.

    The cold wind was blowing from the frozen river, from a distance came the howling of a pack of wolves, a cold and desolate howl, making the hearts of those who heard it also turn cold.

    Where did Leng Hong’er go? Did she go to sit on the frozen river, waiting for the black bear to pass by?

    In her mind, what did the black bear symbolize? Did it symbolize mankind’s primitive desire?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not feel well. Not only he did not feel good about her, but also he did not feel good about himself. Why does mankind always suffer by his own desire?

    The lanterns at the Eternal Heaven Restaurant were still shining. The light leaked out from the crack on the door. The cold wind also carried an intermittent whiff of warm aroma.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s forehead creased into a frown. He knew waiting for him inside were pickled Chinese cabbage, plain boiled pork, and black pudding hotpot, plus one weird girl.

    In that instant he really wished he could simply run to the frozen river, waiting for the black bear to pass by.

    Also, right that instant he saw a shadow dash out from the back of the Eternal Heaven Restaurant. The shadow immediately disappeared in the darkness.

    The shadow’s qinggong was really not below Lu Xiaofeng’s. Was there a qinggong master of this caliber in this kind of place?

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned, again. The door opened. A pair of laughing eyes was looking at him from the threshold. With a giggle she said, “Finally you remembered to go back. I thought you have died on that woman’s tummy.”

    Steaming hot hotpot and some Green Bamboo Leaf wine, warmed at just the right temperature, Chuchu’s smile was truly very sweet: “I brought this wine from the inland ...”

    Lu Xiaofeng just wanted to run away; he could not take it anymore, the same dishes, the same wine, the same woman. Even more unbearable, they talked the same.

    Whatever she was going to say next, he did not want to listen – the same idle talk, the same boring people …

    He sprang up suddenly: “Hurry up, tell your men to deliver it quickly.”

    Chuchu was startled, “Deliver what? Deliver to where?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Quickly deliver those boxes to the Silver Hook Casino.”

    The seven, eight zhang wide room had been divided by wooden boards into seven, eight smaller rooms. In the biggest room the biggest bed was prepared, with the thickest bed quilt spread over it.

    Lu Xiaofeng was lying on this bed, blanketed by the thick quilt, yet the cold was still unbearable.

    Everybody must have had a time when they were feeling downcast. He was also a man. This time he only felt that he had thrown the business into a total mess. He wished he could simply give himself three thousand eight hundred slaps on the face, and then punish himself by kneeling to the Heaven three hundred eighty times, and finally buy a block of tofu and smash his own head to death.

    People were moving the boxes outside, amidst the noises of their yawns and sneezes.

    It was the third hour of the night [between 3 – 5am], to drag people out of their warm beds and order them to move boxes was probably not their idea of having a good life. Why haven’t these people died? But why must they die?

    To stay alive was not only one’s right, it was also one’s duty. Nobody has neither the power nor the authority to destroy others, just like nobody has any right to destroy oneself.

    Lu Xiaofeng tossed and turned in his bed, wishing that sleep would come earlier. It’s a pity that waiting for sleep was just like waiting for a woman. The more anxious you are for her to come a bit earlier, the later she would come to you. Why are there so many matters in life just like that?

    Suddenly he heard a crashing noise outside, followed by people shouting in shock.

    Lu Xiaofeng sprang up from his bed and grabbed his coat, without having any time to put on his shoes. With bare feet he dashed outside, only to see several big men, who were carrying the boxes, standing around, looking at a box as if they had lost their minds.

    The box had fallen to the floor that its lid was opened and the all its contents were scattered around. Shockingly, the contents were neither gold nor silver, but blocks of bricks.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked.

    Tonight, it was the sixth time he was startled. This time not only he was shocked, he was angered as well, because he felt he had been cheated, and naturally the feeling of being cheated was not a pleasant one.

    Chuchu, however, did not even bat her eye, she said unenthusiastically, “Why are you standing around looking like fools? The fall did not hurt the bricks the least bit. Quickly put them back and deliver them.”

    “Deliver them?” Lu Xiaofeng coldly asked, “Deliver to where?”

    Chuchu: “Of course deliver them to the Silver Hook Casino.”

    With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “You want to trade other people’s Luocha Tablet with bricks? Do you think other people are that stupid?”

    Chuchu: “It is exactly because that Miss Chen is not stupid that I can simply deliver these boxes just like this. If she really knows how to judge the quality of goods, once she look at these boxes, she won’t say anything.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Are those other boxes also filled with bricks?”

    Chuchu: “Exactly the same bricks, but …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But what?”

    Chuchu smiled, “Although the boxes are filled with bricks, but the boxes are made of pure gold. We are taking this much gold, travelling over such a long distance, there is no harm in being a bit more cautious.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbfounded. He suddenly discovered that the only fool around was probably himself.

    The rest of the boxes were quickly loaded and delivered. Lu Xiaofeng was still standing barefooted, with a baffled look on his face.

    Chuchu looked at him then sweetly said, “I know you are really mad at me. I know.”

    She knew under his coat Lu Xiaofeng did not wear anything else. She walked over, untied his robe, and leaned her head against his naked chest. With her arms tight around his waist, she whispered tenderly, “But tonight I won’t make you angry. I certainly won’t.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked down at the top of her long-hair covering head. He looked at her for a long time before he suddenly asked, “What made you change your mind?”

    In a gentle voice Chuchu said, “I always do things I am happy about. Before, I was not happy that I had to accompany you, but now …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But now you are happy to be with me?”

    Chuchu: “Mmm.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Suddenly he picked her up and carried to his bedroom, and threw her on the bed as hard as he could, then turned around and left.

    Chuchu leaped up from the bed and shouted, “What do you mean by this?”

    Without even looking back Lu Xiaofeng indifferently said, “I don’t have any other meaning except to tell you one thing: this kind of matter takes two people to be both happy. Although right now you are happy, I am not.”

    That night, Lu Xiaofeng still slept alone, but his sleep was sweet. At long last he managed to vent off his frustration. When he woke up the next day, he felt his appetite was extremely good, he felt as if he could swallow an entire whale.

    Although it was already high noon, Chuchu was still hiding inside her bedroom. It was not clear whether she was still asleep or she was still angry.

    Surprisingly, he also had not heard anything from the Silver Hook Casino.

    Lu Xiaofeng wolfed down his breakfast and lunch. The meal made his face glow with health, his spirit rose; therefore, he made a special effort to visit the kitchen and give his compliments to the chef.

    When his heart was happy, he always hoped that others can also be similarly happy.

    Just before leaving, he patted the chef’s shoulder and said with a laugh, “If you move inland and open up a restaurant, I guarantee you will get rich. Those who are accustomed to eat fish nuggets and deep-fried potato chips would happily climb the wall just so that they can eat your big chunks of roast mutton.”

    The chef looked at him walking out the door with heart brimming with gratitude; in his heart he wished Lu Xiaofeng to have good luck in whatever endeavor he might have to do today.

    Lu Xiaofeng also believed that he would definitely have the good luck today.

  5. #45
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7 – Demoness with Lascivious Heart

    Although the lantern had not been lighted, the silver hook kept swaying in the wind.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked in big strides toward the Silver Hook Casino, with a feeling that his luck would guarantee his success that day; he almost could not restrain himself from stopping at one of the tables and throwing some money.

    He did not stop, because he did not want to waste his luck on a gambling table.

    Li Shentong had seen him walk in from afar, so he hastily stole away. Today he seemed to be a bit sick, his face was yellowish, his body thin, and he looked downcast. Perhaps he threw up all night last night.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled as he walked in straight toward the door with a sign that said 'Important place of accounting office, idle person must not enter'*. Two large men immediately blocked his way.

    One of the men pointed to the sign on the door and calmly said, 'Do you or do you not recognize characters?"*

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled: "Characters, I know some, but I am not an idle person, I am a very, very sweet person."

    [Translator's note: Just to let you know that Eliza and I have given this part some thought. I can simply translate the two sentences with asterisk (*) above as 'Private, Do Not Enter', and "Can't you read?" respectively, but then, Lu Xiaofeng's reply would not make any sense. Therefore, awkward as it may, we decided to keep it as it is. Additional note (courtesy of Justin13): the character ‘idle’ sounds like ‘salty’, hence the ‘sweet’ joke.]

    The man was startled, but before he realized what has happened, Lu Xiaofeng already walked past him. He was thinking of stretching out his arm to block, but suddenly his waist went numb and his entire body went weak that he could not even lift up his finger.

    Chen Jingjing was indeed inside the room, as was Li Shentong. Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, both forced a smile.

    Lu Xiaofeng also smiled, "Good morning."

    Chen Jingjing: "It's not morning anymore."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Since you know it is not morning anymore, why haven't you sent me any news?"

    Chen Jingjing coughed lightly twice: "We are thinking of inviting Master Jia for a simple dinner tonight."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I have never eaten simple dinner, I only eat full course banquet."

    Chen Jingjing forced a laugh: "Certainly. It will be a full course banquet. When the time comes, Li Dajie [big sister] will also be here."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But since I am already here, I want to eat now."

    Chen Jingjing: "What can we do, then?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Simple, you go and tell that Li Dajie of yours to come and see me. If she does not come, I am going to cut her brother's two ears and one nose."

    Li Shentong's countenance changed. Chen Jingjing's smile was even more forced. "It's too bad that we do not know where she is; how could we go and tell her?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You don't know where she is, but I do know a bit, actually."

    Chen Jingjing: "Oh?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "There were originally two giant water barrels in this place, but now only one is left outside, where did the other one go?"

    Chen Jingjing's countenance seemed to change a little bit.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Where that water barrel is, there will Li Xia be."

    Chen Jingjing: "What are you talking about? I do not understand."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am sure you do. Unless you are crazy, nobody would sell a house just to make two giant water barrels only to collect rain water to drink."

    Chen Jingjing agreed with this point of his, she could not disagree.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Ding Lao Da was not crazy, obviously he had a different motive."

    Chen Jingjing: "What do you think his motive was?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Li Xia and he eloped to this place, because they were afraid other people would pursue, they made that kind of water barrels, and were prepared to hide inside the water barrels."

    Chen Jingjing: "People can live inside the water barrel to hide?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Normally, absolutely not. But if you freeze the water barrel inside the river, you won't find a better hiding place, because nobody would guess that some people are hiding inside the frozen river."

    Chen Jingjing wanted to smile, but she failed. Li Shentong could not bear not to ask, "Do you know where that water barrel is?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, with his foot he tapped the wooden board covering the floor, "In here."

    Chen Jingjing looked at Li Shentong, Li Shentong looked at Chen Jingjing. But before they opened their mouths, someone underneath the board had already replied.

    A deep and low, hoarse female voice coldly said, "Since you already know I am here, why haven't you come down?"

    Unexpectedly, the water barrel, which was over two zhang tall, had been divided into two levels. The lower level was completely covered with soft fur, just like a comfortable bed. There was a small ladder connecting this bed with the level above it, which served as the living room. There were a table and a chair, with the wall all around covered with thick carpet in random pattern. There was even an exquisitely made bronze stove.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He fantasized that if he could live in here for several days with a girl that he likes, then those days would certainly feel like a dream.

    A middle-aged woman, whose appearance could not be considered too ugly, was sitting on the other side, staring at him.

    This woman's hair was very neatly combed, very bright. Her face was square, her cheek bones high, her lips very thick, and her pores were large; plus she maintained a very solemn expression. In short, she did not have even one attractive feature.

    Others may feel that she was not ugly, perhaps because of her eyes. When she was staring at other people, her eyes seemed to be covered with a hazy layer of mist. If you have never seen her, you would never guess that this kind of pair of eyes could belong to this kind of face.

    “I am Li Xia,” she stared at Lu Xiaofeng, “And you must be Jia Leshan.”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Li Xia: “Do you know that people say that you are an old fox?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I certainly am.”

    Li Xia: “But you don’t look old.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Because I know a way to make a man always look young.”

    Li Xia: “What is it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Women.”

    Li Xia’s eyes seemed to be gleaming with laughter, “Sounds like your method is not bad at all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also stared at her. He smiled, “You also don’t look old.”

    Li Xia: “Oh?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What method do you use to maintain your looks?”

    Li Xia’s countenance fell. With a cold laugh she said, “Do you think I use men?”

    Lu Xiaofeng dryly said, “As long as you don’t use me, whatever method you use is none of my business.”

    Li Xia started to stare at him again; her eyes revealed a very strange feeling when she suddenly called out loudly, “Get the wine!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I am not here to drink.”

    Li Xia: “But you must drink.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why?”

    Li Xia: “Because I want you to drink. The thing that you want is in my hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly, because his nose smelled a very familiar aroma.

    The aroma of pickled Chinese cabbage, plain boiled pork, and a dish of intestine hotpot.

    He nearly fainted.

    The steaming hot hotpot and Green Bamboo Leaf wine, warmed at just the right temperature.

    Before Li Xia said anything, Lu Xiaofeng had already opened his mouth, “Naturally you brought this wine from the inland, and so far you always drink it sparingly.” He thought Li Xia would be greatly surprised that he knew exactly what she was going to say.

    Who would have thought that Li Xia shook her head and said, “Wrong. This wine was brought by your woman. I have not drunk it, because I am afraid there is poison in the wine.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only force a smile. Everybody makes mistakes. With a bitter smile he said, “And so you want me to drink it first?”

    Li Xia did not deny at all. Lu Xiaofeng raised a cup and poured it down his throat.

    He was born with a rather strange natural instinct; his feeling was far keener than most people. If the wine was poisonous, as soon as it wet his lips, he could feel it. Otherwise, he would have been dead of poisoning several hundred times.

    Li Xia suddenly asked, “I heard your woman is not bad at all. What is her name?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Chuchu.”

    Li Xia coldly said, “You already have such a pretty woman, yet you are still reaching to the east and pulling to the west, that you won’t even let other people’s wives alone?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Seems to me Hong’er and Little Tang are not other people’s wives anymore. I love women.”

    Li Xia suddenly smiled, “Right now I also am no longer another man’s wife, and I am also a woman.”

    Lu Xiaofeng bluntly said, “It’s too bad that in my eyes you are no more than someone who is doing business with me.”

    Li Xia: “But now our business deal is done.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Seems to me it is not. Although I have paid you the money, you have not delivered the goods.”

    Li Xia: “Don’t worry, you want the goods, tomorrow first thing in the morning I will deliver it to you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why do I have to wait for tomorrow morning?”

    Li Xia only poured a cup of wine and slowly drank it. Her eyes revealed that very strange feeling again as she slowly said, “We are both adults, we don’t need to play games like little children do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I am not thinking of playing games.”

    Li Xia: “The men around here are as stinky and filthy as donkeys, they have not taken a bath in several months. I feel like throwing up just by looking at them. But you … you …”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But I what?”

    Li Xia: “Not only you look a lot younger than I imagined, your body seems to be this sturdy, so strong.”

    The hazy mist in her eyes was growing denser, her breathing also suddenly became rapid. “What I want, don’t you understand?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I don’t understand at all.”

    Biting her lip, Li Xia said, “I am also a woman, and all women must have men, but I … I haven’t had any man for several months. I …”

    She panted hard. Suddenly she leaned this way and her hand grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s hand.

    Her grip was so tight that her nails dug into Lu Xiaofeng’s flesh.

    Beads of sweat started to form on her face; her nostrils flared up and down, as she was continuously gasping for breath. The pupil of her eyes gradually grew, sending out warmness like a vast expanse of water …

    Lu Xiaofeng did not move.

    He had seen this kind of expression before. It was only when a woman was burning with desire that her face would show this kind of expression. But right now she did nothing more than gripping his hand.

    In this moment he suddenly understood why she eloped with Ding Lao Da, and why she married the Blue Beard.

    Without any doubt she was a woman whose desire was insatiable, and she was at the age where a woman’s desire was the strongest.

    Although she was not beautiful, she was the type of woman who created a strange attraction on the opposite sex; especially her thick and meaty lips, would lead a man to associate those lips with some primal lust.

    Lu Xiaofeng had not moved.

    But even he had to admit that his heart was beginning to move.

    His Adam’s apple was moving up and down, his mouth suddenly became dry. He was thinking of leaving, but Li Xia had thrown her body into his, pressing him hard, entangled his body just like an octopus holding him down, never would let him go.

    Even Lu Xiaofeng had never seen a woman whose desire was so intense. He nearly could not breathe. Her hand suddenly started to move, she grabbed hard on his …

    Suddenly ‘Bang!’ the wooden board above them opened, with a throaty voice someone was shouting, “Let me in, I want to go in! I will kill whoever dares to stop me!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled, Li Xia sat up, but did not stop her labored breathing. A woman jumped down from above. Her round face was twisted with anger. Lu Xiaofeng almost did not recognize the woman who always stood under the ‘Tai Bai Legacy’ signboard to entice men to be crushed on her butcher block, Tang Keqing.

    “It’s you …” Li Xia sprang up and indignantly said, “What are you doing here? Get out!”

    Tang Keqing stared at her hatefully and icily said, “I won’t get out. Why can’t I come to this place? You forbid me from touching men, why are you cheating with a man in here?”

    Li Xia was even more enraged, she sternly said, “It’s none of your business! Whatever I am doing is none of your business!”

    Tang Keqing also shouted, “Who said it’s none of my business? You are mine, and I forbid any man to touch you.”

    Li Xia abruptly raised one palm and gave her a hard slap on her face that immediately several purple streaks appeared on her cheek. But suddenly she pounced and wrestled Li Xia, just like Li Xia wrestled Lu Xiaofeng just a moment ago.

    “I want you. Even if you beat me to death I still want you.” Like rain Li Xia’s fists were beating on her body, but she still did not let her go. “I am as good as any man, and you know it, why do you …”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to hear it anymore, he did not want to see even more; to him, what was happening was pitiful, laughable and disgusting.

    Quietly he slipped out, while gaining an understanding of why Tang Keqing hated men so much and wanted to abuse them.

    He could not help but feeling nauseated recalling that he had held her hand.

    All of a sudden it was evening.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even know when the sky was beginning to turn dark. He did not return to the Eternal Heaven Restaurant; he simply stopped by at a wine shop on the street and bought a big pot of wine and sat alone to drink it.

    His heart was brimming with sorrow and dismay, he was even more dejected than last night, because although he realized that there was always the dark and ugly side on everybody’s life, he had never wanted to see that side.

    It was an uninhabited little wooden hut by the bank of the river. Presumably the inhabitants of that hut had moved to the little town on the frozen river. The door of this hut was almost completely buried under the ice and snow.

    The cold wind blew in from the cracks on the window, from the cracks on the door, from the gaps on the wooden planks. The cold wind was as sharp as blade.

    But he did not care.

    He only hoped Li Xia would keep her promise and delivered the Luocha Tablet early in the morning tomorrow. And he would leave as soon as he got it.

    When he first arrived, he felt that this place was glorious and beautiful, with new and wonderful excitement everywhere.

    But now he just wanted to leave, the sooner the better.

    There was still an oil lamp on the shabby wooden table. There seemed to be a little bit of oil left in the lamp.

    But he had no desire whatsoever to light the lamp. Even he himself did not understand why these past two days he was in such a bad mood, so much so that he wished he could find Gu Song to have a drinking competition with him.

    Strangely, as soon as they got here, Sui Han San You seemed to suddenly vanish from the surface of the earth.

    Viewed from a distance, the little town on the ice was still brilliantly illuminated. Darkness came early in this place. It must still be very early in the evening, which means tomorrow morning was still quite some time away.

    How would he spend this long night?

    Lu Xiaofeng grabbed the wine pot, but then he put it back down. Suddenly he heard very light footsteps on the ice and snow outside.

    At a moment like this, who could have come to a place like this?

    Suddenly the window was struck open then someone jumped in. The door was completely blocked by the ice, Lu Xiaofeng also leaped over the window to get in.

    By the dim reflection of the light on the snow, he was able to vaguely see that this person was wearing a long and oversized fur coat, carrying a large bundle in her hand. ‘Bang!’ She placed the bundle on the table, and then with hands shaking from the cold, she took a flint and lighted the oil lamp on the table.

    Only then did she turned her head around to face Lu Xiaofeng and smiled, “I did not guess wrong. You are indeed in here.”

    Her face was frozen white, her nose was frozen red, but her smile was as gentle, tender and beautiful as a spring flower. It was Chen Jingjing.

    But Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be unfazed, only he could not bear not to ask, “How did you guess that I am here?”

    Chen Jingjing smiled sweetly, “I saw you with a pot of wine walking toward this direction. I know that around here, only this place can be used to take shelter from the cold. Although I am not smart, I am not stupid either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Are you especially looking for me?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Mmm.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why are you looking for me?”

    Chen Jingjing pointed toward the bundle on the table: “To deliver this food and wine for you.”

    She smiled as she untied the bundle, while continuing, “You are, after all, our guest. Naturally I cannot let you starve.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked coldly at her then frostily said, “You shouldn’t have come.”

    Chen Jingjing: “Why not?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because I am a sex maniac, aren’t you afraid I …”

    Chen Jingjing did not let him finish, she smiled and said, “Why would I come if I was afraid?”

    Those few words, if it was Ding Xiangyi, she would have said it enticingly, full of passion. If it was Chuchu, those words would have come out as a challenge.

    But her manner was very calm and natural, because she was just stating the fact – I know you are a gentleman, that’s why I come; I also know that you will treat me as a gentleman would.

    This matter should be as obvious as ‘two plus two is four’, plain and simple.

    Under normal circumstances, when a woman resorts to this kind of approach in dealing with men, she should be considered smart. Too bad Lu Xiaofeng’s circumstance right now was not normal.

    Not only he was dejected to the extreme right now, he was very mad. He was mad at Chuchu, mad at Li Xia, mad at Tang Keqing, and even madder at himself. He felt that in the last two days, in everything he did he deserved to get spanked three hundred times with a plank. As a matter of fact, these past few days he seemed to feel uncomfortable all over his body.

    Chen Jingjing added: “I specially bring some ‘wind chicken’ and preserved meat for you. You should eat a little bit.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s gaze was fixed at her as he slowly said, “I only want one thing.”

    Chen Jingjing: “What do you want to eat?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Eat you.”

    There was no resistance, there was no escaping, nor there was any attempt on her part to push him away. Regardless of what was going to happen, she seemed to be fully prepared to accept her fate.

    Her response was not too enthusiastic, but she was not cold either. She was like an ordinary woman under any ordinary circumstance, being approached by her man, as if it was as it should be; such a simple and natural matter.

    And now that the excitement had subsided, she slowly got up and tidied up herself. Suddenly she turned toward Lu Xiaofeng, laughed, and said softly, “And now what do you want to eat?”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed, “Right now I can eat anything. If you have brought an entire cow in here, I might swallow it all down.”

    The two of them laughed as the gazed at each other. Something that should have caused remorse and hatred to others had suddenly turned into a joyous and pleasing experience.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her. Other than peaceful and serene joy, his heart was also brimming with gratitude.

    All uncomfortable feelings suddenly disappeared like snow melting under the sun. Suddenly he felt his entire body was very comfortable – oftentimes the change a woman can bring to a man’s body is just like a miracle.

    Chen Jingjing’s eyes were gleaming with that kind of radiance, the feeling of joy and amazement. “Finally I understand something.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What is it?”

    Chen Jingjing: “No matter how good the dish is, if you don’t put salt in it, it would certainly be very unpalatable.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Extremely unpalatable, definitely.”

    Chen Jingjing: “Men are just the same.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was confused, “How can men be the same?”

    Chen Jingjing sweetly said, “No matter how good a man is, if he does not have a woman, he would be spoiled, would be extremely unpalatable.”

    Her face still had that kind of blush, which made other’s heart beat faster; her sweet smile was like the sunset glow of early summer night.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was also beating faster, and he reached out to pull her hand.

    But this time Chen Jingjing deftly evaded his hand, and with a somber expression said, “Actually, I am here to tell you something.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Because I knew you were such in a bad mood that I did not dare to tell you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And now you are ready to tell me?”

    Chen Jingjing slowly nodded her head. Obviously she was able to see that his emotions were now very stable. “I only hope that you won't get too upset after hearing it."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I won't get upset. Quickly tell me."

    Although in the mouth he said he was not upset, his heart was already anxious.

    Finally Chen Jingjing sighed and said, "Little Tang is dead. She died under Li Xia's hand."

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned. "Li Xia killed her? Why?"

    Chen Jingjing: "I don't know."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You did not ask her?"

    Chen Jingjing: "I did not ask, because Li Xia has disappeared, this time she really disappeared. We have searched for her for a long time, and could not find even her shadow."

    She had not finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng had already sprang up.

    Chen Jingjing: "I knew that when you heard this news, you would jump up, because other than her, nobody else knows where she hid the Luocha Tablet."

    Lu Xiaofeng jumped again, he jumped even higher.

    Chen Jingjing: "Those twelve boxes, she personally sent people who packed them off. Nobody knows where she had those boxes delivered to."

    Lu Xiaofeng yelled, "This kind of matter, why did you wait until now to tell me?"

    Chen Jingjing smiled ruefully, "I told you just now, and you already jumped eight feet high. If I told you then, I wouldn't be surprised if you punch my nose till it crooked."

    Lu Xiaofeng sat back down; he did not jump, and he did not yell.

    Chen Jingjing: "Was it because of me that you agreed to hand the boxes over?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Chen Jingjing: "Now your boxes are gone, she also disappeared. Tell me, what should I do?"

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly replied, "You have already found a very good way to shut my mouth."

    Chen Jingjing hung her head down, looking at her own toes, and quietly said, "If you think that I did what I did just to shut your mouth, you are wrong. Do you think I cannot disappear as well if I am afraid you will find me to settle the account?"

    Her eyes turned red, her tears were ready to fall.

    Lu Xiaofeng's heart softened. He stood up suddenly and said, "Don't you worry. She won't be able to run away."

    Chen Jingjing: "Do you have any confidence that you can find her?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "If I could find her the last time, I can find her again this time."

    Although he said those words with his mouth, he did not have the least bit of confidence in his heart.

    He simply wanted to comfort her -- if you have a special relationship with a woman, even if she makes a mistake, all you can do is to forgive her, and you would find a way to console her. If she let you down, all you can do is to admit it. -- If you maintained some distance with a woman from the start, she would not feel anxious, but you would.

    "Why do men always have this many complications?" Lu Xiaofeng groaned inwardly, "Why didn't I follow Honest Monk's example, just shave my head clean and forget about everything?"

    "After she killed Tang Keqing, unavoidably she would feel a bit scared, thereupon she ran away."

    "Mmm."

    "At that time you were also at the Silver Hook Casino, didn't you see the direction she took?"

    "I did not," Chen Jingjing replied, "When I heard Little Tang's miserable cry, I rushed downstairs, but she was already gone."

    "No one else saw her?"

    Chen Jingjing shook her head. "As soon as the sky turns dark, everybody in this place would stay inside, much less it was particularly cold tonight. It also happened to be dinner time."

    Lu Xiaofeng was deep in thought. "But I know one person, who would still be strolling outside no matter how cold the weather is."

    Chen Jingjing: "Who are you talking about?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The Old Goat."

    Chen Jingjing: "Is he the old freak who lives inside the giant water barrel?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. "Have you seen that giant water barrel?"

    Chen Jingjing: "When I came a while ago, I saw a blazing fire on that direction, like a house is on fire."

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned, "But there is no other building in that direction, and the water barrel is fireproof."

    Chen Jingjing: "That's why I also did not know what's going on."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In that case we'd better go quickly to have a look."

    It was very cold outside, the wind blowing on your body felt like it is penetrating your fur coat and piercing your bones.

    Before they even saw the giant water barrel, they had already smelled strong aroma of wine carried by the wind.

    Lu Xiaofeng's nose had already frozen stiff, but he was still able to smell the aroma. He frowned immediately. "Not good."

    Chen Jingjing: "What's not good?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't care what kind of wine it is, but if it entered the belly, the aroma will not drift this far."

    Chen Jingjing: "But if the wine is burned, won't the aroma drift very far?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, "But the Old Goat I know will never burn wine, he usually pours the wine into his belly."

    Chen Jingjing also frowned. "Do you think someone is using wine to burn his water barrel?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Although the water barrel cannot be burned, the person can be burned to death."

    Chen Jingjing: "Who wants to burn him? Why would they want to burn him to death?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because he knew too many secrets."

    If someone keeps too many secrets in his belly, he would be like dry firewood soaked with oil, very easy to burn.

    Right now the fire was already out.

    When they arrived at the giant water barrel, they saw black smoke rising from it. They also saw firewood was piled up high all around it, the firewood had also been scorched black.

    The aroma of wine still lingered in the air. Such a high pile of firewood, soaked in wine, the blaze was certainly not small. Even seventy or eighty water buffaloes would definitely well roasted, let alone only an old mountain goat.

    Chen Jingjing: “The aroma of wine has not dispersed yet, the fire must have died not too long ago.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I’ll go in to take a look, you wait outside.”

    He leaped up, but suddenly jumped back down.

    Chen Jingjing: “What’s the matter?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I cannot go in.”

    Chen Jingjing: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because the inside is full of ice.”

    Chen Jingjing: “In this place, even boiling water will turn into ice immediately. Nobody would have a way to fill such a big barrel with water to the brim. How can there be any ice inside?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Heaven knows …”

    His sentence had not finished when suddenly there was a ‘Pop!’ A long strip of crack was formed on the barrel’s wall. Followed by another ‘Pop!’ as the crack split open. In the blink of an eye, this specially manufactured giant water barrel disintegrated into pieces as large as a table, and one by one the pieces fell down and crashed to the ground.

    But as the water barrel fell apart, the ice inside did not crumble. Under the dim starlight, it stood straight up like an iceberg. There seemed to be a painting inside the transparent ice.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I thought you have a flint with you?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Uh huh.”

    She handed the flint over to him. He picked up a dried up branch and lighted it. When the fire brightened, their hearts sank. Chen Jingjing almost could not stand up.

    Even Lu Xiaofeng had never seen this kind of strange and dreadful scene in all his life.

    Under the glittering torch light, the transparent iceberg looked like a large chunk of jade-white crystal, sparkling brilliantly with fantastic beauty.

    In the middle of this sparkling crystal, there were two humans hovering as if they were suspended vertically in the air, unmoving.

    Two naked people. One with head on top, the other with feet on top. One was a shriveled and thin old man, which was the Old Goat, the other had a pair of large breasts and ample thighs, which was, to their surprise, Li Xia. Their four eyeballs were bulging out, one pair at the top, the other at the bottom, staring at Chen Jingjing and Lu Xiaofeng.

    Finally Chen Jingjing cried out in fear and passed out. When she regained her consciousness, she was back at the Silver Hook Casino, back at her own bedroom.

    The decoration in her room was both elegant and unique; each article seemed to be meticulously chosen and was placed at the most appropriate spot. There was a large and thick bearskin draped over the chair, as warm as the ocean wave under the summer sun.

    Chen Jingjing had been awake for quite some time, but he seemed to be asleep and was not awake yet.

    The fire in the stove was blazing hot, the lantern was also very bright. The scene she had just seen seemed to be a distant memory of her childhood dream.

    Chen Jingjing sighed softly, with a bitter smile she muttered, "Luckily I passed out. If I had to look at those two people a bit longer, I might be scared to death."

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer, he did not even show any reaction.

    Chen Jingjing stared at him and continued, "What are you thinking about? What is your concern?"

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng said slowly, "There was no water in the water barrel, so it was impossible for it to be filled with ice. Since nobody had any way of filling the barrel with water, where did the ice come from?"

    Chen Jingjing: "And now you have figured it out?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not reply directly, he asked again, "When I was there yesterday, there was a large accumulation of snow on the riverbank by the barrel. But today actually I did not see any. Where has that pile of snow gone?"

    Chen Jingjing rolled her eyes. "It has gone inside the water barrel?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. "If you light up a fire outside the water barrel, won't the snow inside melt into water?"

    Chen Jingjing's eyes glittered. "As soon as the fire outside was extinguished, the water would quickly turned into ice."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And just before the water froze, Li Xia and the Old Goat were thrown into barrel."

    Chen Jingjing bit her lip. "After she killed Little Tang, she went to find the Old Goat, because they were old friends. Moreover ..."

    Moreover, although the Old Goat was old, his body was still strong, while Li Xia was in a desperate need of a man.

    Although she did not say these words, and she could not bear to say it, she knew that Lu Xiaofeng also understood this fact.

    And sure enough, Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, "Perhaps it was then that someone killed them."

    Chen Jingjing: "But who killed them? And for what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I cannot figure out who this killer is, but I know for certain that it was also because of the Luocha Tablet."

    Chen Jingjing: "But the Luocha Tablet would not necessarily fall into his hand by killing Li Xia."

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled ruefully, "And since he failed to acquire it, he won't let me have it either."

    Chen Jingjing also sighed. "I still don't understand. After killing Li Xia, why would he spend so much effort in melting the snow into water and then freezing Li Xia in the ice?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Perhaps he only wanted to threaten Li Xia to hand the Luocha Tablet over to him before the water froze."

    Chen Jingjing: "But Li Xia was not stupid; she certainly knew that even if she hand over the Luocha Tablet to him, there would only be death to her, therefore ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, the Luocha Tablet must still be at its original hiding place."

    Chen Jingjing sighed, "It's a pity that Li Xia is dead; nobody else knows this secret."

    Lu Xiaofeng got up and stood in front of the stove. He seemed to be very deep in thought for a long time before slowly said, "I have a friend who told me that there are only two people I can trust in this place. One was the Old Goat, the other is you."

    Chen Jingjing appeared to be very surprised. "Who is your friend? Does he know me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "She is also your friend; not only that, she grew up with you."

    Chen Jingjing's eyes grew big. "Are you talking about Ding Xiangyi?" she asked in shock, "How did you know her?"

    With a forced smile Lu Xiaofeng said, "I only want you to know that she is a friend of mine. About other matter, you'd better not ask too many questions."

    Chen Jingjing stared hard at him, finally she slowly nodded: "I understand. I also want you to know that her friend is my friend."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And thus you won't deceive me?"

    Chen Jingjing: "I won't."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "So if you knew where that Luocha Tablet is hidden, you'd certainly tell me."

    Chen Jingjing: "But I really do not know."

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved a deep sigh. "For that reason, actually Li Xia should not die. Moreover, she should not die such a tragic death. I always feel that only a lunatic would be able to invent that kind of method to kill people. But there is only a half-lunatic in this place."

    Chen Jingjing: "Who?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Li Shentong."

    Chen Jingjing was startled. "Do you think he is able to deal with his own sister with such a violent treachery?"

    Before Lu Xiaofeng could answer, suddenly someone rushed in from outside the room, while clapping his hands and laughed, "At long last she agrees to marry me. Finally I have a wife. You must come quickly to drink my wedding wine."

    Obviously, this man was Li Shentong.

    He was still wearing the oversized red gown, with the green pointy hat on his head. Unexpectedly, his face was smeared with a layer of red rouge commonly used in wedding ceremony. He seemed to be crazier than before. But was he really crazy? Or was only pretending to be crazy?

    Chen Jingjing could not bear not to ask him: "Who agrees to marry you?"

    Li Shentong: "Naturally my new bride."

    Chen Jingjing: "And where is your new bride?"

    Li Shentong: "Naturally she is in our bridal chamber."

    “Today in my bridal chamber, everybody is radiant with joy, the bride is truly pretty, I so love my bride …” [Translator’s note: this is supposed to be a song, but I can’t make the English translation rhyme. My apologies.]

    He insanely clapped his hands and sang loudly, and then dashed out the room.

    Chen Jingjing could not help but asking Lu Xiaofeng: “Do you want to see his bride?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I do.”

    Obviously Li Shentong also had his own bedroom. Unexpectedly, he also lighted a pair of red candles in his room, and there really was a bride on his bed, wearing a red skirt and a red veil over her face.

    She sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard. Li Shentong stood by her side while incessantly singing a very annoying song.

    Chen Jingjing frowned and said, “We are not here to hear you sing. Can’t you shut your mouth up?”

    Li Shentong kept giggling madly, “But my bride is very beautiful, don’t you want to see her?”

    Chen Jingjing: “I do.”

    Immediately Li Shentong reached out to lift the red veil, but suddenly he pulled his hand back, while muttering, “I must ask her first whether she wants to see you.”

    He really stooped down with his face close to his bride’s ear, and then whispered some indistinct words.

    The bride did not seem to open her mouth; as a matter of fact, she did not seem to react at all, but Li Shentong sprang up and laughed, “She agrees, she even wants you to toast her with a cup of wine.”

    Thereupon he reached out and this time he indeed lifted up the red veil covering the bride’s face.

    Lu Xiaofeng and Chen Jingjing’s hearts sank again, and they felt their entire body go ice-cold stiff; they felt that this scene was even more nauseating compared to the two-dead-people-in-the-ice scene they had just witnessed earlier, it was even more shocking.

    The bride’s face was also smeared with thick red rouge, but her eyes were bulging out.

    To their utmost shock, the bride was a dead woman.

    “Little Tang,” Chen Jingjing could not help but screaming in terror, “Tang Keqing.”

    But Li Shentong was still laughing happily, while preparing four cups of wine, and then, grinning and walking, he handed one cup over to Chen Jingjing: “One cup for you, one cup for me, one cup for him, and one cup for the bride.”

    Lu Xiaofeng and Chen Jingjing did not have any choice but to receive the cups, while in their hearts they were feeling very uncomfortable.

    It seemed that this man was indeed insane.

    Li Shentong had already walked toward the head of the bed. He sat down and gave the cup to his bride, while laughing and saying, “Let’s drink this sweet wine together. After we drink it, I am going to kick them out of here.”

    Of course the bride did not lift her hand to receive the cup. He glowered at her, “Why don’t you want to drink the wine? Are you having a second thoughts and do not want to marry me anymore?”

    Chen Jingjing really did not want to see it anymore, she was afraid she would cry, she was more afraid she would throw up. Finally she could not bear not to shout, “Can’t you see she is already dead? Why do you still want to …”

    Li Shentong leaped up suddenly and hissed, “Who said she is dead? Who said it?”

    Chen Jingjing: “I did.”

    Li Shentong glowered hatefully at her then sternly said, “Why did you say such words?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Because she is really dead. If you truly love her, you should let her rest in peace.”

    Suddenly Li Shentong dashed toward her: “She is not dead. She is my new bride, she must not die.”

    Forcefully he grabbed Chen Jingjing’s collar and tried as hard as he could to shake her. Chen Jingjing’s face turned green from fear. Without thinking she gave him a heavy slap on his face.

    The ringing of the slap, the sound of weeping, the sound of screaming, suddenly stopped. The room became as quiet as a tomb. Li Shentong stood with a blank expression on his face. From his dull looking eyes suddenly appeared two drop of tears, which then slowly rolled down his rouge-covered face.

    The tears mixed with the rouge, flowing down like two streams of blood.

    His dull eyes were still fixed on Chen Jingjing; the emotion showing in his eyes was that of a deep sorrow, but also with a hint of madness.

    Chen Jingjing could not restrain her urge to draw back, she only took two steps back and was not able to stop herself from shuddering.

    Li Shentong slowly said, "That's right, she is dead. But I remember who killed her."

    Chen Jingjing: "Who ... who was it?"

    Li Shentong: "It was you, it's you! I saw it. You used a stocking to strangle her."

    Suddenly he turned around and lifted Tang Keqing's collar to show a strip of purple scar on her neck. "Look, you did it, you cannot deny it even if you want to."

    Chen Jingjing was anxious and angry at the same time that her body did not stop trembling. "You are crazy, you are really crazy. Luckily no one will believe your crazy talk."

    Li Shentong ignored her, he suddenly fell on Tang Keqing's body and wept loudly, "Do you know why I followed my Jiejie? It was because I am secretly in love with you, all along I was waiting for you to agree to marry me. Although I am penniless, Blue Beard has already promised me thirty thousand taels of silver. Because of these thirty thousand taels of silver, I was willing to sacrifice even my own Jiejie. But you ... why must you die?"

    Lu Xiaofeng slipped out quietly, if he had to stay any longer, he would probably turn into a madman himself.

    A man indeed must not love a woman too much, if his love was too deep, usually he would end up in tragedy.

    Why must there be so many tragedies in this life?

    Outside, it was dark and cold. As Lu Xiaofeng walked out, he took a very deep breath. Suddenly he bent over and threw up, he was continuously throwing up.

    The night had been very deep.

    Lu Xiaofeng strolled along the street alone for more than an hour. One by one the bright lanterns went out, one by one the cold stars twinkled in the sky, little by little his low spirit sank even lower.

    He did not know how far he had walked, he did not even know when he stopped, but when he raised his head, he discovered that he had stopped right in front of Leng Hong'er's drugstore.

    Surprisingly the light was still visible behind the door. He stared blankly at the closed door for half a day while asking himself in his heart, "Did I really want to see her? If not, why did I coincidentally stop at her door?"

    This question, even he was not able to answer.

    In the deepest part of one's heart oftentimes there are some secrets hidden, secrets which even he did not know about, or perhaps it's not that he did not know, but rather he did not dare to dig them out.

    "What the heck. I am already here."

    He knocked on the door.

    But nobody answered the door. He gently pushed, the door was unlocked. The room was bright, but there was nobody in sight.

    Where was she?

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng felt an inexplicable bad feeling, he immediately stepped in. There was nobody at the front hall, there was nobody in the bedroom at the back, there was nobody in the kitchen.

    The back door of the kitchen was also unlocked and blown by the wind, it was banging against the door frame.

    Could it be that sleep had evaded Leng Hong'er again that she slipped out of this small door to watch that black bear pass by?

    A cold night full of mystery, a frozen river full of mystery; a black bear that appeared and vanished suddenly.

    The boundless darkness seemed to be filled with this kind of unpredictable mysteries and dreadfulness.

    Lu Xiaofeng set out in large strides, walking against the wind. What else would he find tonight? Although he was incapable of predicting what would happen, he was determined to find Leng Hong'er. In no way would he let Leng Hong'er also disappear in this mysterious darkness.

    But where was Leng Hong'er? Where was the black bear?

    He had no idea whatsoever. Only, there were several cold stars in the distance, and he felt like walking toward those stars.

    While looking at the twinkling stars, suddenly he heard a scream; the scream came from the direction of the stars, it was so sharp and miserable, obviously, it was a woman's voice.

    He ran at full speed towards the voice. The stars were illuminating the frozen river, adorning the surface of the ice with silvery glitters, it looked impressive against the scarlet bloodstain on the river bank.

    There were splotches of blood, blood drips, and blood streaks over the ice from the riverbank toward the river. Following these bloodstains for twenty, thirty more steps, he saw Leng Hong'er crouching motionless some distance away.

    Her body was completely stiff like a block of ice, her entire face looked like a clump of meat dripping with blood, with five strips of deep scars that looked like the wound was caused by a claw. It was such a fatal wound that the power behind the claw must be immeasurable.

    She must have seen that black bear she was talking about, but this time the black bear did not symbolize her deep desire, but rather a death wish to her.

    The strange thing was, why did the hungry bear leave her body alone, and did not even touch her?

    There was not a single tooth mark on her, evidently she was not dragged away by the black bear, but rather, she crawled on her own accord – why did she struggle with her last ounce of strength to crawl all the way to this place?

    Although her body was twisted, both of her hands were stretched out forward, with her fingers clawing into the hard ice, as if she was trying to dig the ice – what secret could be hidden in the frozen river?

    What was it that she was trying to dig?

    At last the cold stars vanished one by one. The earth and the frozen river were enveloped in total darkness.

    It was the darkest time of the night, but when Lu Xiaofeng raised his head, his eyes shone as if the bright light at the end of the tunnel was already in sight.

  6. #46
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 – Locust and Dragonfly Catch Cicada

    The darkest time of the day is the time nearest dawn.

    Life is just like that.

    As long as you can survive the darkest and the most difficult times, your life henceforth will be brimming with bright prospects and hope. The first streak of light penetrated the darkness shone on Lu Xiaofeng’s body.

    The sunshine felt as warm and gentle as a lover’s tender gaze; Chuchu and Chen Jingjing’s tender gaze also felt warm and gentle on his body. Only their eyes also carried a bit of anxiety and confusion. They did not understand why Lu Xiaofeng dragged them here this early in the morning.

    Under the morning light, the frozen river looked so glorious and spectacular. Leng Hong’er’s body had been carried away, even the bloodstains had disappeared, but what they had seen would be very difficult to forget.

    Chen Jingjing leaned on Lu Xiaofeng, her face was still pale. Only then she was finally able to open her mouth. “I have heard there are bears around here, but I have never thought they would be this vicious!” she said with a sigh.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “So you think she died under the bear’s claw?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Only the most vicious beast would have such big strength, among the wild beasts, only bears can stand up like human and assault people with their front paws!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Make sense.”

    Chen Jingjing quietly said, “If you did not happen to wander around here, I am afraid not even her bones would have remained. Among the four of us, she was the only one I could talk to, I …”

    Her voice broke, her eyes reddened, and suddenly she buried her face on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder and wept softly.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help but wrap his arm around her waist. When a man and a woman have had a special and intimate relation between them, it would be like dust under the bright sunlight, it would be difficult to hide from other people’s eyes.

    Chuchu stared at them then she laughed coldly and said, “I didn’t come here to watch the two of you making out. Goodbye!”

    And she left just like that. Only after she was quite some distance away did Lu Xiaofeng indifferently say, “So what do you want to see? Don’t you want to see Luocha Tablet?”

    His words were like a lasso catching Chuchu’s feet. “Luocha Tablet? Have you found the Luocha Tablet? Where is it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Right here!”

    By ‘here’ he meant the place where he found Leng Hong’er, that is, the place where Leng Hong’er was trying to dig the solid ice with her bare hands.

    The ice was ten zhang thick, solid like a slab of steel. Not only she would not be able to dig with her bare hands, even if she had used iron spade and steel pick, she should forget the idea of moving only a fraction of the ice.

    Chuchu: “Are you saying it is below the frozen river?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Not only that, it is exactly within a zhang circumference of this place."

    Chuchu: "Can your eyes see through the ice? Can see what's inside the frozen river?"

    That place was very near the river bank, the color of the ice was somewhat darker compared to other parts of the river; naturally nobody with normal vision would be able to see through the ice. There was only a section of a dead tree visible by the surface of the ice, presumably it fell down when the river started to freeze. Nobody knew who scraped the branches, but the short section of the tree trunk above the ice was like a bench; coincidentally, those who sit on this short trunk could see the snow covered mountain peak on the distance and a temple on the other side of the river.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Although I cannot see through the ice, I can feel it."

    Chuchu sneered: "In any case, you cannot prove it. Even if the Luocha Tablet was indeed inside the ice, you have no way of digging it out."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "When I was very young, I have heard two very useful sayings!"

    Chuchu coldly said, "It's just too bad that no matter how useful those sayings are, they cannot move the frozen river!"

    Ignoring her remark, Lu Xiaofeng continued, "The first one is: 'There is nothing impossible in this world for people with resolution.' The second one is: 'To do things right, you need the right tools.' I am sure you also know the meaning of these two sayings."

    Chuchu: "I do not understand the least bit!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In other words, if you have a strong will and the right tools, there is nothing in this world unachievable to you!"

    Chuchu: "Too bad I cannot see your strong will, and I don't see you have any tools either!"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, "You'll see."

    Chuchu stood on the side, watching.

    Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng's tools were only about a dozen bamboo tubes and one small bottle?

    Chuchu laughed, "Is that all you have?"

    Lu Xiaofeng did not seem to hear what she said, his face suddenly turned serious as he pulled the cork of the bottle and carefully poured the contents of the bottle one drop at a time. As a drop of dull yellow liquid dripped on the ice, there was a hissing noise, accompanied by a whiff of blue smoke. Surprisingly, it was as if the solid ice, as solid as steel, was drilled by the liquid that a hole appeared on the ice.

    Before the smoke completely dissipated, he had already inserted the bamboo tube into the hole. With one hand pouring the liquid from the bottle and the other hand inserting the bamboo tubes, in a short moment the dozen or so bamboo tubes were all inserted into the ice, forming a circle of approximately one zhang in diameter.

    Each bamboo tube had a fuse about two, three chi long. He lighted an incense stick, then like a flash his shadow moved as he lighted the dozen or so fuses together. Suddenly he shouted, “Back off! Hurry up and back off!”

    The three of them leaped about five zhang back, and then a loud ‘Boom!’ was heard. The earth shook as millions of ice chips flew up, along with the debris from the dead tree, filling the air like rain falling down onto the surface of the river. They also heard another indeterminate noise, like a hollow metal being struck, or zither string being pulled, or like the sound of pearls falling onto a piece of jade, followed by a blackish object shot up from the explosion and ‘Dang!’, it fell down amidst the rain of ice and wood chips on the surface of the frozen river. Turned out it was a steel cylinder.

    When the cap of this steel cylinder was ripped open, a piece of sparkling and translucent jade tablet slipped out. Sure enough, it was the Luocha Tablet.

    Chuchu could only stare in disbelief. Chen Jingjing was also dumbstruck. They stood motionless as the ice chips rained on their bodies, as if they did not even feel the sting.

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved a long and deep sigh as he smiled and said, “This is my tool. What do you think?”

    Chuchu forced a smile and said, “This kind of weird method, I am afraid can only come from you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If there was no gunpowder made by Pi Lei Tang [lit. Thunderbolt Hall] of Jiangnan, even a better method would be useless.”

    Chuchu: “Where did you get the Thunderbolt Hall of Jiangnan’s gunpowder?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I stole it?”

    Chuchu: “From where?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “From the water barrel.”

    Chuchu: “Whose water barrel?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Li Xia’s.”

    After discovering Leng Hong’er’s body, Lu Xiaofeng had a hunch that the Luocha Tablet was hidden in that place, but he was not a hundred percent sure.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And then when I found these things inside Li Xia’s water barrel, I knew I have guessed correctly. Because she had always handled matters prudently, in whatever she did, she must have prepared a good way out. If she dared to hide the Luocha Tablet in the frozen river, she must have prepared a way to retrieve it. “

    Since this kind of extremely strong solvent and extremely powerful gunpowder could break open a mountain, naturally it could also shatter the frozen river.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Since she had already prepared this kind of powerful tool, it is only natural to deduce that she had hidden the Luocha Tablet inside the frozen river. This logic is as simple as ‘one and one equal two’.”

    Actually, this logic was not simple at all; he arrived at the conclusion after going over countless hypotheses and numerous proofs.

    Suddenly Chuchu sighed and said, “Actually, I was going to curse you some more, but I have to admit that in my heart I am a bit impressed by you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Actually, in my heart I am also very impressed by myself!”

    Chuchu rolled her eyes: “But your ability cannot be considered great yet; if you can find the assailant who murdered Li Xia, then I can say that your ability is truly amazing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "I do not wish other people to call me amazing, I also do not wish to find someone else's murderer, the one I want is only the Luocha Tablet."

    All this time Chen Jingjing was staring at him. She suddenly said, "And now since you have found what you are after, I presume you are going to leave soon?"

    She said those words very softly, perhaps with a pang of hidden bitterness and heartache?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help but sighing. He slowly said, "Perhaps I should have left earlier."

    With a rueful smile Chen Jingjing said, "No matter what, I can be considered the host in here. Today at noon, I am going to hold a farewell dinner for you, both of you must grace it with your presence."

    Chuchu quickly said, "He will certainly come, but I won't."

    Chen Jingjing: "Why?"

    Chuchu: "Because your wine and dishes will definitely have a lot of vinegar in it. If I consume too much vinegar, I will have a stomachache!"

    She also sighed, and then looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of her eye. "Not only stomachache, I might have heartache as well. Therefore, I'd rather not go!"

    As soon as he returned to the Eternal Heaven Restaurant, Lu Xiaofeng went straight to bed, and he did sleep very well.

    However, he told himself: "At the most I can sleep only for four hours."

    Sure enough, before the four hours were over, he had woken up.

    His body seemed to have a built-in internal alarm clock, whatever time he set his clock, it would go off at the appointed time -- actually, everybody subconsciously has this kind of alarm clock, it's just that Lu Xiaofeng's alarm clock was particularly sharp.

    When he opened his eyes, Chuchu was standing at the door, watching him. "I have been waiting for you for a long time!"

    Lu Xiaofeng rubbed his eyes, "Why are you waiting for me?"

    Chuchu: "I want to say goodbye to you!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Goodbye? You want to leave now?"

    Chuchu drily said, "Since you have found the Luocha Tablet, I figure my debt is settled. You want to go drinking wine, I don't want to drink vinegar; why shouldn't I leave now?"

    She did not give Lu Xiaofeng any chance to open his mouth, she asked, "I just want to know one thing, how did you suddenly become that close to her? Furthermore, you two seemed to have had sex!"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "The reason is very simple: because I am a normal man, and she is a normal woman!"

    Chuchu: "What about me? Am I not a woman? Am I not normal?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You are a normal woman all right, too bad you are a little bit too normal!"

    Chuchu fixed her gaze at him. Suddenly she lunged forward, lifted his blanket up, and pressed his body down with hers.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What are you doing?"

    Chuchu: "I just want to tell you: as long as I am willing, whatever she can do, I can also do, moreover, I can do it better than she does!"

    Her fiery hot torso did not stop twisting and swaying, caressing and rubbing his body, she nibbled on his ears and panted for breath. "I was ready for you, but you did not want me. And now aren't you starting to regret your decision?"

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He could not but admit that this girl was a little demon who could raise a dead man.

    Chuchu actually leaped up and dashed out the door without even turning her head. She shouted, "So then you'd better lie on your bed alone and regret slowly."

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have to lie on his bed alone for too long, because Chuchu had just left when Chen Jingjing showed up with two small wine cups and a pot of wine. She chuckled and said, "Why did that Miss who loves to drink vinegar and afraid to have stomachache leave first?"

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng replied, "Because if she did not leave first, my head would hurt more than her stomach."

    Chen Jingjing sweetly said, "It is best that she is gone. I have already closed the Casino with the intention of spending time with you in here."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "It's a pity the wine you bring is only enough for me to rinse my mouth."

    Chen Jingjing tenderly said, "The wine does not need to be plenty. As long as it is drunk with sincerity, one cup is already enough."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "All right, you pour, I drink!"

    Chen Jingjing slowly poured two cups of wine. She quietly said, "I toast you one cup, to bid you farewell, to wish you have a pleasant journey. You may also toast me one cup, to bid me farewell, for henceforth we will go our separate ways!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You are also leaving?"

    Chen Jingjing sighed, "The five of us came together to this place; now, I am the only one left, why would I want to stay here?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You ... do you know where you are going?"

    Chen Jingjing: "I do. Somewhere."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Since we both are going to leave, why can't we travel together?"

    Chen Jingjing smiled ruefully, "Because I know you are not being sincere in inviting me, I also know that the number of women by your side must be many. I have never known any woman who does not drink vinegar, I am also a woman, I ..."

    She did not continue, but simply drained her cup, then slowly put the cup down, slowly turned around, and slowly walked away.

    She did not turn her head, as if she was afraid that once she did, she would never have the ability to leave.

    Lu Xiaofeng also did not stop her. He simply looked silently at her back. Looking at his face, he looked like someone who had just drank a cup of bitter wine.

    Right that moment, suddenly he heard someone on the outside say, "Congratulations! At last you succeed!"

    The voice sounded old, naturally it came from Sui Han San You.

    Lu Xiaofeng had already seen their hands before he even saw the people.

    "Hand it over!" The old man Gu Song had not entered the room, his hand had been stretched out. "You hand the stuff over then you may go. The gratitude and grudges between us henceforth are written off."

    Lu Xiaofeng did not open his mouth, he did not even move, he was just looking at them with a wide stupid grin on his face.

    The old man Gu Song's face sank. "Don't you understand what I just said?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I understand."

    The old man Gu Song: "Luocha Tablet?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It's gone!"

    The old man Gu Song’s countenance changed abruptly. “What did you say?” he said in stern voice.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still smiling, “What you said, I understood. How come you do not understand what I said?”

    The old man Gu Song: “Are you saying you do not have the Luocha Tablet?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I did have it.”

    The old man Gu Song: “And now?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And now somebody has stolen it.”

    The old man Gu Song: “Who stole it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “By the person who had just pressed me and rolled around on my body.”

    The old man Gu Song: “By the woman whom you brought in here?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Of course it was a woman, if it was a man pressing me and rolling around my body, I would have fainted early on!”

    The old man Gu Song was furious. “You clearly knew she has stolen your Luocha Tablet, and yet you let her go free?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I have to let her go free.”

    The old man Gu Song: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because the Luocha Tablet she has stolen is a fake one.”

    The frigid wind, dark clouds and murky sky, snow covered road, a solitary woman riding a thin and weak little donkey, with a faint cold and lonely sound of Qiang flute [vertical flute used by the Qiang – an ethnic group of Chinese people] coming from a distance, and a large temple looming silently like a dark cloud.

    She was at the ends of the earth, but her heart was even farther, at the outer space [Translator’s note: ends of the earth – ‘tian ya’, outer space – ‘tian wai’].

    “A lonely life, an endless journey, gazing into the infinite road toward the horizon, where is the way back home …?”

    She travelled very slowly. Since she did not know where the way back home was, why should she hasten on her journey?

    Suddenly from the fork of the road a large horse-drawn carriage came over. The driver was a large man wearing a fur cap on his head, with a long whip in his hand. When the carriage caught up with her, the man unexpectedly smiled to her.

    And she smiled back.

    What harm would a little smile between two travelers while journeying together at the ends of the earth and meeting each other by chance be, although they were not acquainted with each other?

    Suddenly the man driving the carriage asked, “Miss, are you or are you not cold?”

    Chen Jingjing: “Cold.”

    The man driving the carriage: “You won’t be cold if you sit inside the carriage!”

    Chen Jingjing: “I know!”

    The man driving the carriage: “Then why haven’t you boarded the carriage?”

    Chen Jingjing thought for a moment then slowly dismounted the donkey. The carriage had also stopped -- Since she dared to go down even a deep fryer, why not board a carriage?

    Seeing she boarded the carriage, the driver suddenly lashed his whip at the donkey’s behind.

    Feeling the pain, the donkey fled like an arrow, leaving behind the desolate land.

    A smile appeared at the corner of the driver’s mouth. Leisurely he hummed a tune, a folk song: “In the Hei Wu La by the Song River there was a beautiful and tender girl; from among a million of rich families she chose me. I embraced her by the waist, not because of my family’s riches, but because she is so tender!”

    The song was melodious; it seemed to bring a joyous rhythm to the bland snow and ice covered road.

    Afterwards, the carriage travelled far away.

    This Hei Wu La was not the Hei Wu La by the Song River.

    The Hei Wu La by the Song River was a town by the Song Hua River, a big river.

    This Hei Wu La was not a big town, but on this extremely cold and desolate place in the middle of nowhere, it cannot be considered too small either.

    More than two hours later, the large horse-drawn carriage had reached Hei Wu La. After going through two large streets, it turned into a small alley and stopped in front of a small hut.

    The man driving the carriage turned his head around and smiled, “We have arrived at my house. Would Miss care to come in and sit down?”

    It was not until half a day later that Chen Jingjing’s unenthusiastic voice replied from inside the carriage, “Since I am already here, there is no harm for me to come in and sit down.”

    She had just got out of the carriage when the shabby wooden door opened with a creaking noise and a foolish looking and filthy boy stood at the threshold, looking at her with a grin and giggle on his face.

    Chen Jingjing’s face did not show any emotion. She patted the dust from her clothes, and then slowly walked in.

    Inside the door was a very crude small living room, situated at the middle of the wall there was an offering table with an idol of the God of Wealth, holding a gold ingot in his hand. There was another leafed door toward the back, where a cotton cloth curtain was hung; it was faded blue in color from too much washing. There was a large red ‘happiness’ character made of paper pasted above the opening. Whoever entered this room would be able to see immediately that the owner of this place must be a poor peasant who dreamed about gaining sudden wealth all day long.

    One poor peasant, one filthy kid, a broken down house with two, maybe three, unstable rooms, which felt like it was ready to fall down to the east and lean to the west anytime, four, maybe five, broken down and tattered wooden furniture, the ‘happiness’ character above the door, which, whoever sees it would not be able to say that it was pleasing to the eyes, and the idol of the God of Wealth on the wall, which looked more like a newly rich person.

    Actually, it was the kind of place where Chen Jingjing would not stay even for a moment; she liked tidiness, she liked elegant furniture, but unexpectedly, this time she did not look like she was about to leave soon.

    Could it be that she had nowhere else to go?

    The poor kid was still looking at her with smile on his face; her face still did not show any emotion. She looked around the room; unexpectedly she then raised the faded blue cotton curtain and entered other people’s bedroom.

    Naturally, there would be a bed in a bedroom. The bed was unexpectedly very big; moreover, it looked brand new. The mattress and the quilt also looked brand new, not only that, it was also exquisitely embroidered with expensive yarn in the shape of four big scarlet flowers and a pair of mandarin ducks playing on the water.

    Behind the bed piled four, five brand new chests made of camphor-wood, and a dressing table with a water chestnut-shaped mirror. The wall all around was white-washed that the room felt like a snowy cave. Apparently, it was a newly-wed couple’s bridal chamber.

    Chen Jingjing frowned, her eyes revealed a disgusted look; but when her gaze fell on those camphor-wood chests, her eyes immediately shone.

    And then she did the most unthinkable thing: she jumped into somebody else’s bed, and then she took a string of keys from her bosom and opened up the large padlock on somebody else’s camphor-wood chest.

    Suddenly, a dazzling golden ray burst out from the camphor-wood chest, for surprisingly, the chest was full of ingots of pure gold [orig. ‘yuan bao’ – gold ingots in the shape of boat].

    The golden ray also shone on her face, the face that revealed a smile for the very first time. She ran the tip of her finger gently on the row after row of neatly stacked golden ingots, just like a mother gently caressed her newborn baby.

    To gain this gold was not an easy matter at all, it was a lot more difficult than for a mother giving birth to a child.

    But right now all hardship and misery had passed, so she sighed with contentment. When she looked up, she saw the man driving the carriage has just entered the room. He smiled and said, “What do you think of my play acting?”

    Chen Jingjing smiled sweetly, “Good, it was very good, truly deserving the title ‘Number One Child Prodigy in the World’.”

    The man driving the carriage exploded in laughter. He took off the fur cap, which was pressing low to his eyebrows, to reveal a somewhat boyish face. He was none other than Li Shentong.

    After taking out the red gown and the green hat he wore earlier to feign insanity, this man did not look the least bit crazy on the contrary, he did not look ugly at all.

    Chen Jingjing looked at him with her eyes brimming with tender and happy feelings, “These last two days must be very hard on you.”

    Li Shentong laughed, “It was not that hard, it was just a bit nerve-wrecking; that four-eyebrowed son of a b**tch truly was not a tasty and well-cooked rice!”

    Suddenly he also asked, “When you left, did he ask you about me?”

    Chen Jingjing shook her head, “He thinks you are really crazy, so basically he does not even think about you!”

    Li Shentong laughed, “That’s why although that guy is like a ghost, he still drank the water you used to wash your feet in.”

    Chen Jingjing: “Wasn’t it entirely because of you? When you pretended to be crazy, even I almost believed it!”

    Li Shentong: “That’s not difficult at all; I only had to pretend that Hong’er was you. You should have known that I directed those words to you.”

    He looked at her as if he was entranced by her, just like a baby desiring to drink his mother’s milk. After a long time, he laughed and said, “What do you think of the way I decorated this room?”

    Chen Jingjing sweetly said, “Very good, it simply looks like a bridal chamber!”

    She lied down with a smile on her face; lied down with that pair of eyes that can melt ice into water looking at Li Shentong. “Do you think I look like a bride?” she asked in husky voice.

    Li Shentong’s adam’s apple went up and down; he looked too nervous to even breathe. Suddenly he pounced to the bed and pressed her down. With a gasping breath he said, “I want you, I have been holding myself crazy … It has been three months since we …”

    While his mouth was busy talking, his hands were also busy pulling her clothes.

    Chen Jingjing did not push him away at all, she was also panting slightly, her hot breath was blowing onto Li Shentong's ear that he felt the bones in his entire body had turned into jelly. She also wrapped her arms around his neck.

    Li Shentong gasped even harder that his voice turned raspy, "I can't take it anymore, hurry up ..."

    Suddenly there was a 'Crack!' noise, just like the sound of breaking bones. He leaped high into the air from Chen Jingjing's body but his head hang limply on his shoulders. His entire body crumpled like a lump of mud as 'Crash!' he fell back onto the floor. His eyes bulged out, his breathing stopped.

    Chen Jingjing did not even give him another look, she quietly lied down on the bed and shut her eyes.

    Right this moment, from outside came a tender laugh, as clear as the sound of a silver bell. Obviously it was a melodious laughter of a woman. She clapped and laughed: "Good, very good! No wonder ever since we were little, Little Ding has always said that you are the most ruthless-hearted woman; she really has not misread you!"

    Chen Jingjing's countenance changed suddenly, but by the time she stood up, her face had already wore that kind of gentle and touching smile, "My heart might be ruthless, but it is still not too black. What about you?"

    "My heart has been eaten by the wild dog a long time ago!"

    A young woman wearing a fur cap and a five-flower pattern dress, walked in with a smile on her face. Her smiling countenance was as beautiful as the fresh blooming flowers in the late spring; she was none other than that really cute and moving Chuchu.

    Behind her followed three men: one man dressed in black wielding a sword, one man looked nimble and strong like an ape, one man was old with long white hair; they followed her closely as if they were her shadow.

    Chen Jingjing had already walked toward her to welcome her, she said sweetly, "I really did not expect you might come over here, otherwise, I would have prepared a few dishes of your favorite delicacies to accompany you drinking a couple of cups of your favorite Rose Nectar Wine!"

    Chuchu smiled even sweeter, "I did not expect you would still remember my favorite dishes?"

    Chen Jingjing: "After all, we grew up together. Even if you have forgotten me, I would definitely still remember you."

    Chuchu: "Really?"

    Chen Jingjing: "Of course. These past couple of days I had always wanted to look for an opportunity to visit you, but I was afraid it might raise someone else's suspicions."

    Chuchu: "Same with me, that lowly four-eyebrowed sex maniac is truly not a good thing."

    The two women were smiling to each other, their smiles were brimming with warm friendship.

    With a tender voice Chen Jingjing said, "You haven't change a bit!"

    Chuchu: "Neither have you."

    Chen Jingjing: "I have missed you so much these past few years.

    Chuchu: "I have missed you even more."

    Both women were walking toward each other with arms open wide, as if they wanted to hug the other to express their love. But before they reached each other, Chen Jingjing's smile suddenly disappeared, her tender gaze became a fierce stare filled with a murderous look; her hands also changed, from open palms into eagle claws. Like a lightning one claw struck toward Chuchu's main artery, while the other claw maliciously grabbed Chuchu's abdomen below her left ribs.

    It was a very sharp and vicious attack, and was executed exactly in the same way as Leng Hong'er's 'spraining the muscle dislocating the bones' technique. If Chuchu was grabbed by her, Chuchu would not be able to die easily even if she wanted to.

    But although her action was fast, Chuchu was even faster; she had just made a move when a light 'Ding!' was heard, two thin dark rays, as thin as a cow's hair, shot out from both of Chuchu's long sleeves.

    She only felt tingling sensation on both knees, just like as if she was bitten by a mosquito; her strength immediately drained out and her legs gave up. 'Plop!' she fell on her knees, she knelt right in front of Chuchu.

    Chuchu laughed again, with laughter as clear as the silver bell, "We have been sisters for many years, why be overly courteous?"

    Amidst the melodious laughter, another cold ray flashed, striking Chen Jingjing's laughter acupoint on her waist.

    Chen Jingjing started to laugh, she could not stop giggling, but there was not the least bit of laughter in her eyes. Her pretty face contorted in pain, with beads of cold sweat the size of soy beans rolled down her face.

    Chuchu winked and laughed. "I get it. You must have been pricked by your own conscience that you have wronged me, and so you come to me to apologize. But why must you kneel down? As long as you hand that thing over to me, I won't blame you anymore!"

    Chen Jingjing was still laughing hysterically while the cold sweats were still flowing profusely; she struggled to say, "What thing?"

    Chuchu: "You don't know?"

    Chen Jingjing shook her head; her whole body was weakened from the laughter that this shake of the head seemed to entail a very strenuous effort on her part.

    Chuchu's countenance fell; she coldly said, "Even among brothers all accounts must be settled clearly. We, sisters, are no different. Jia Leshan was willing to spend four hundred thousand taels of gold for Li Xia's Luocha Tablet. You have promised me that as long as I can come up with a hundred thousand taels of gold, you would guarantee that the Luocha Tablet would be mine, right?"

    Chen Jingjing: "But ... hasn't the Luocha Tablet already been taken by the man you brought along?"

    Chuchu took out a piece of jade tablet. "Are you talking about this?"

    Chen Jingjing nodded.

    Chuchu suddenly walked over and slapped her with the back of her palm, while with a cold laugh said, "Do you really believe I can't see a fake article?"

    Suddenly she forcefully flung the jade tablet toward Li Shentong's head and said, "You regarded this fellow as a clown, you think that his counterfeit goods may fool others, it's just too bad that his engraving of all those demons and deities are worse than Zhu Bajie [the pig-like character in Journey to the West]!"

    Chen Jingjing struggled hard to bite her own lip, trying to stop her laughter, but even after her lip was torn her laughter did not stop.

    Chuchu: "Actually, I have suspected you for a long time. You are obviously aware that the Luocha Tablet is a priceless treasure, yet you were willing to sell it to others? Usually your heart is blacker than anybody; when you eat someone, you won't even spit the bones out. That's why I ordered Xin Lao'er to observe you closely. Even if you hide underground, I will have a way to drag you out!"

    Chen Jingjing: "You ... you think I took away the real Luocha Tablet?"

    Chuchu: “Before Li Xia hid the Luocha Tablet in the frozen river, apparently you have already swapped it with the fake one. Although we originally …”

    Originally, their plan was …

    The amount of gold as the payment: if Chuchu would pay a quarter of the selling price, as long as three out of twelve chests were filled with gold, the other nine could be filled with rocks.

    Because Chen Jingjing would personally receive the payment, as soon as the twelve chests were submitted, she would immediately notify Li Xia to deliver the goods.

    She was Li Xia's most trusted aide, naturally Li Xia would not suspect any foul play. Li Xia was prepared to use the explosive to blast open the ice on the following day to get the Luocha Tablet out. All she wanted was just gold and men, she did not have the slightest interest toward the throne of the Cult Leader of the Western Region's Demon Cult.

    Chuchu: "But you knew that as soon as she discovered the Luocha Tablet was fake, she would realize you had a part in it, because other than you and herself, there was no third person who knew about this secret. Therefore, that very evening you had to kill her, and then deliberately froze her, along with the Old Goat, inside the ice to divert other people's attention, because nobody would have guessed a woman like you would be able to commit such madness!"

    She immediately continued, "You see, your secret is totally open before me, why would you still feign innocence?"

    Chen Jingjing's entire body was twisting in convulsions; not only she was wet from cold sweat and tears, but even her pants were also completely soaked. Her knees felt like they had just been cut by steel blade, with the sharp edge of the blade lingering on the incisions; but she was still laughing continuously as if she had just picked up three hundred gold ingots from the street.

    Chuchu: "You still don't want to get it out? Do you know what the outcome would be if you keep laughing like this?"

    Chen Jingjing struggled with all her strength to close her mouth, but even her jaw refused to follow her command.

    Chuchu: "When you first laugh, only sweat and tears came out; now, presumably your urine and feces are already out. Two or four hours later, the joints in your entire body would disintegrate, you will crumple on the ground like spilt mud. I don't care who, but if anybody would just touch you with the tip of his finger, I guarantee that you would scream like a pig being slaughtered!"

    Chen Jingjing: "You ... you ..."

    Chuchu: "If you think I do not have the heart to do this kind of ruthless act, you are wrong! Just like Jia Leshan did not believe I could kill him!"

    Chen Jingjing: "You killed him?"

    Chuchu: "He had money, he had power. Although he was no longer young, his stamina was excellent; he was still able to rock the bed, not the least inferior to any young man. His charm against women was several folds better than a young man. He was even more gentle and considerate toward me. Nobody would believe that I was capable of killing him!"

    She continued drily, "Yet I have killed him. Since I can kill him, what other things I won't be able to do?"

    Exhausting her entire strength, Chen Jingjing croaked, "The Luocha Tablet is in my sanitary cloth, please spare me!"

    The sound of laughter had stopped, Chen Jingjing was paralyzed, she sprawled on the floor like a lump of mud.

    Naturally the Luocha Tablet was already in Chuchu's hand. She held this piece of sparkling and translucent jade on the palm of her hands, just like a royalty holding the jade seal, the symbol of his authority. She was delighted, proud and also feeling smug, and could not restrain from shouting and laughing loudly.

    Just when her laughter reached the happiest moment, suddenly a long whip flew in quietly from outside the window. The tip of the whip coiled itself around the jade tablet on her hand and just as quick, like a snake it flew back out the window.

    Chuchu could not laugh anymore, the expression on her face was like someone whose nose had just been cut by somebody else.

    She heard someone outside say with a laugh, "No need to chase me out, because I am coming in. I appreciate your help in getting this Luocha Tablet back for me, the least I can do is express my gratitude personally!"

    Lu Xiaofeng!

    Chuchu bit her lip: "I knew it must be you. Why don't you come in?"

    She had just stopped talking when with a chuckle Lu Xiaofeng suddenly appeared in front of her, with a long whip in one hand and the jade tablet in the other.

    Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, she unexpectedly also laughed, "I didn't know you still have a hidden skill in whip technique!"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, "I stole it!"

    Chuchu: "Stole it? Stole what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I stole this whip from the horse-drawn carriage outside, I stole the whip technique from the Shadowless Divine Whip ['wu ying shen bian']. Speaking about stealing, although my skill is a far cry from the King of Thieves, I might say that it is a lot higher than yours."

    Chuchu sighed, "But I already knew about your stealing skill. You almost stole my heart away, much less other things?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "Didn't you say your heart had already been eaten by some stray dogs?"

    With eyes wide open Chuchu said, "You came here pretty quick, actually!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You have never guessed?"

    Chuchu: "How did you find it out?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed: "Because when I lay on my bed alone, I had so many things to think about, that's why I was able to solve a lot of mysteries."

    Chuchu pouted: "Who told you to let your imagination runs wild alone? Why didn't you rape me?"

    She seemed to be resentful that other people did not rape her. "You are not even a gentleman. If you could rape others, why couldn't you rape me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "Because at that time I was not desperate yet. Since you withheld my desire, I also want to withhold yours!"

    Chuchu blinked her eyes several times. "Since when did you change your mind?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Since the rocks spilled out from the chest."

    He chuckled, and continued, "Although I am not accustomed to 'going on the line to open and dig out, stepping on the tray', but whether a chest is made of iron? Or is it gold? I think I can still clearly tell!"

    'Going on the line to open and dig out' means stopping someone on the road and robbing him. 'Stepping on the tray' means looking at the appearance of the goods, looking at the wind and the water. It was said that the experts of the underground world, just by looking at the rising dust when a carriage passed by, would be able to tell what kind of cargo that carriage was hauling, plus the amount of the goods.

    Chuchu sighed again: "Turns out not only you can steal, you also have this kind of ability. Actually it is too bad that a man like you does not become a robber."

    Lu Xiaofeng also sighed in exasperation: "Frankly speaking, sometimes I also feel displeased with myself. Several times I almost change profession!"

    Chuchu sweetly said, "If you did change your profession, definitely I would have been your chief's wife who's keeping the stronghold under control."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "If I became the chief of any gang, I would definitely ask you to become the Hall Leader of one of the three Internal Halls, just like your old friend, Ding Xiangyi!"

    Chuchu's eyes grew big: "You knew I know her?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because as soon as we arrived at Rahasu, it was like you were home, you are very familiar with everything and everybody. At that time I already had my suspicions; it was very possible that you also grew up here, it was very possible that you already knew Chen Jingjing and Ding Xiangyi.”

    Chuchu stared hard at him. “Since you know Little Ding, you must be very close to her. I know her very well, seeing a man like you, it is impossible for her to let you off!”

    Lu Xiaofeng neither denied nor admitted.

    Chuchu pouted again. “Among the three of us, you have slept with two. Why did you neglect me?”

    The two of them were talking and joking, flirting with each other; while the faces of the three men behind her had already changed. Suddenly they leaped out to surround Lu Xiaofeng with glowering looks.

    Lu Xiaofeng acted as if he had just noticed them. He smiled, “Last time gentlemen withdrew without any fight; this time you all want to try again?”

    The white-haired old man coldly said, “Last time we should have killed you!”

    Xin Lao’er: “Last time we spared you because she still wanted to use you as her puppet!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud, “If I am her puppet, then what are you? I need only to nod, and she will come with me, but you?”

    The three men’s countenance grew even more terrifying, they turned their heads toward Chuchu, but Chuchu stepped aside, as if saying that this matter had nothing to do with her.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Actually, I have recognized Huashan disciple ‘Solitary Finger Penetrates the Heaven’, Hua Shaokun, the Wulin master of Jiangbei [in Sichuan province] ‘Multi-hand Wolf Immortal’, Hu Xin, and Cloaked Sword School’s ‘Divine Sword in Black’, Du Bai, long ago; but I did not dare to announce it to the world, because I did not believe three famous experts of such famous schools would be willing to be a woman’s slaves.”

    The three men’s countenance turned from green to white. They had assumed their given names as surnames, but Lu Xiaofeng was still able to recognize their real identity and origin.

    The hunched body of the white-haired old man slowly straightened up. He cupped his fists and said, “That’s right. I am Hua Shaokun. Please!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You want to fight me alone?”

    Hua Shaokun: “If you did not know my real identity, I would definitely join hands with them and battle you together, but now …”

    Suddenly his expression became very solemn as he sternly said, “My own life and death, honor and disgrace, is not worth mentioning; but Huashan Pai’s reputation must not be destroyed in my hands!”

    Although Huashan was not the top or even the second rank Sect of the Wulin world, they were after all, a noble and respectable school. It was very rare that their disciples turned into a scum of the community, it was even rarer that their disciples turned into a coward!

    Lu Xiaofeng’s expression also turned solemn – one who can respect oneself is also worthy of other people’s respect.

    Hua Shaokun: “I have long heard Lu Daxia’s [great hero] special finger skill is number one in the world; coincidentally, Zaixia [humble one, lit. under/below] also trained this kind of skill. I beg Lu Daxia to grant me some pointers!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Very well!”

    He took a very deep breath, put the Luocha Tablet securely in his pocket, and lay down the long whip. Suddenly there was a whooshing noise of a sharp gust of wind. Hua Shaokun’s finger, as sharp as a sword, swiftly piercing the ‘jian jing’ [shoulder well] acupoint on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulders.

    In this one move he had attacked two places, all along his power did not diminish at all, the second attack was as powerful as the first; he was truly worthy to be called a famous school’s disciple.

    But in this one move, although Lu Xiaofeng had to admit that this old man's skill was profound, his style actually lacked variation; his movement seemed to be too old-fashioned and somewhat stiff, which was exactly the shortcoming the famous schools' disciples usually have.

    Although he only looked once, Lu Xiaofeng was confident that in two, three stances he would score a victory.

    Yet he could not help but ask himself in his heart -- Once I make my move, should I defeat him? Should I give him a little more face? -- If one was in love, regardless of whom he loved, he should not be blamed, should he? Especially when he is already old; once he fell down, it would not be easy for him to stand back up.

    While these thoughts flashed in his mind, Hua Shaokun’s fingertip was already less than half a chi from his acupoint. He could feel the strong wind penetrating his clothes; he did not have the luxury of pondering his options away.

    His only option was to make a move, make a move like a lightning, using his own fingertip to meet the old man’s fingertip.

    Hua Shaokun felt a burst of heat from his fingertip spreading into his entire body, while his own force suddenly faded away.

    Huashan’s Dan Zhi Shen Tong [divine flicking finger] was one among the seven major unique skills of the Wulin world, and his mastery of this skill was over forty years of hard training. But right now his strength vanished just like snow and ice melting under the bright sunlight and he was overcome by cold sweats all over his body.

    Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng suddenly fell back two steps and said with a bitter smile, “Huashan’s divine finger truly deserves its reputation.”

    Hua Shaokun: “But I … I lost!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You did not lose. Although I took your attack, and perhaps my movement was somewhat quicker than yours, your power is actually deeper than mine, why do you bother …”

    He had not finished speaking when suddenly ‘Ding!’ dozens ray of cold stars like rain of flowers filling the sky threatened his back.

    His back did not have eyes, also it did not have any hands.

    Hua Shaokun’s countenance changed from shock, but Chuchu’s eyes actually shone.

    In this split second, Lu Xiaofeng’s body suddenly swiveled on his feet, dozens of cold stars flew very close below his ribs and since Hua Shaokun was standing in front of him, unexpectedly all of the stars landed on Hua Shaokun’s chest.

    Hua Shaokun’s eyes bulged out, staring at Hu Xin while step by step he walked over to him.

    Hu Xin’s countenance also changed, as step by step he withdrew backward.

    Hua Shaokun only managed to take two steps forward, when suddenly blood simultaneously gushing out from the corners of his eyes, his nostrils, and the corners of his mouth.

    Hu Xin seemed to feel relieved, “I …”

    He only said one word when blood suddenly gushed out from the pit of his stomach; along with the blood, the tip of a sword appeared.

    With eyes full of shock Hu Xin looked at the tip of the sword protruding out from his chest, as if he could not believe it was really happening. Blood also gushed out from between his lips and then with a loud roar he fell forward, no longer moving.

    It was not until after he collapsed that everybody could see Du Bai standing behind him with a sword held tight in his hand; blood was still dripping from the tip of his sword.

    Looking at him, Hua Shaokun struggled hard to smile: “Thank you.”

    Du Bai also forced a smile, but did not say anything.

    Hua Shaokun turned toward Lu Xiaofeng, word by word he said, “Thank you even more!”

    Du Bai avenged him, Lu Xiaofeng preserved his reputation. These were exactly the two most cherished believe in the Wulin world.

    Hua Shaokun closed his eyes. The corners of his mouth seemed to show a smile; his last smile.

    The wind blew in through the window, the nip in the air felt as if it was creeping into the bottom of their hearts.

    After a long time, Lu Xiaofeng finally heaved a sigh while muttered softly, “Why? What are all these for …?”

    Du Bai’s face was expressionless. He slowly said, “You should know what are all these for. I also know!”

    Greed!

    Greed over money, greed over power, greed over fame, and greed over sex!

    Isn’t it a fact that all misery and disaster humankind are going through are all because of this greed?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help but heave a deep sigh again. He turned toward Du Bai and said, “You …”

    Du Bai coldly said, “I am not your match!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, a very hollow laugh. “In that case, you may leave,” he said, waving his hand.

    The blood at the tip of the sword was dry. Du Bai slowly withdrew his sword. As the sword entered its sheathe, he was already standing in front of Chuchu. “Let’s go!” he said.

    Chuchu: “Go? You want me to come with you?”

    Du Bai: “Yes, I want you to come with me!”

    Suddenly Chuchu laughed, she doubled over in laughter, she laughed so hard that tears seemed to flow from her eyes.

    Seeing Chen Jingjing laugh, Lu Xiaofeng only then knew that laughing is sometimes more painful than crying. Seeing Chuchu laugh, Lu Xiaofeng only then knew that sometimes laughter can hurt people more than the sharp blade of a sword.

    It was as if blood was completely drained from Du Bai’s face. His pair of originally very calm and steady hands trembled continuously. Yet he was unwilling to give up his hope; he asked again, “You don’t want to go?”

    Chuchu’s laughter stopped abruptly. With cold eyes she looked at him, as if she did not recognize this man at all. After a long time she finally said with a frosty voice, “Get lost!”

    These words were like a strip of merciless whip; a whip which cut through Du Bai’s skin and bones, split him in halves, and ripped his heart away, and tossed it in front of him, letting him trample it with his own feet.

    Without saying anything he turned around to leave. But Chuchu suddenly leaped, pulled the sword hanging on his back, flew high and made a somersault, while throwing the sword backhandedly toward the middle of his back.

    Du Bai did not evade, he let this sword penetrate his heart.

    But he did not collapse; instead, he turned around to face Chuchu, and looked at her coldly.

    Chuchu’s countenance also changed; forcing a laugh she said, “I know you cannot live without me, so I might as well let you die and that’s the end of it.”

    Blood also gushed out of the corner of Du Bai’s mouth; he slowly nodded his head, “Good, very good …”

    As the second ‘good’ came out of his mouth, suddenly he lunged forward and embraced Chuchu tightly, so tight that even in his death he did not let go.

    The sword in his chest also pierced Chuchu’s chest. The blood from his chest also flowed into Chuchu’s chest.

    Chuchu’s head hang on his shoulder, her eyes gradually bulged out, while her breathing was growing harder. She felt the body embracing her own was growing colder; growing colder and stiffer, but the arms still did not relax.

    Then her own body also started to feel cold, so cold that it penetrated her bones and marrows, but her eyes actually shone brighter. Suddenly she turned toward Lu Xiaofeng and laughed, “Why didn’t you rape me? Why …?”

    And those were the last words she ever said.

  7. #47
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 – The Panic-Stricken Powerful Enemy

    Chen Jingjing did not die. Not only she did not die, her mind was very clear.

    Under these circumstances, clear-headed in itself was a pain that was truly hard to endure; it was as if in the dark, there truly was a divine being who administer justice for the common people, who was deliberately tormenting her.

    By this time Lu Xiaofeng had already carried her to the other room and lay her down quietly on the bed, but her pain had not diminished, perhaps only death would be able to free her from this suffering.

    When the pain became intolerable, death suddenly became not in the least terrifying.

    She wished to die. She really wished she could die, she only wished Lu Xiaofeng would give her a quick relief, but she would never make her desire known; because when she was very young, she received a very valuable lesson: The more you want to die, the more others would let you live, the more you want to live, the more others would want to kill you.

    She also remembered that lesson today, because she had seen too many people who did not want to die died in front of her; she had also seen too many people who should not have lived, but clearly they were alive. After all, she grew up in a hard life.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was standing quietly by the bed, she could see clearly that his mind was not peaceful at all. Whoever had seen an extremely disturbing, tragic and shocking incidence like that, definitely would not feel good in his heart.

    Suddenly Chen Jingjing forced herself to laugh. "I did not expect you would come, but I am sure you have already found out it was me all along."

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny.

    Chen Jingjing: "I always thought that I have prepared everything meticulously. If Chuchu was more careful and not letting the rocks inside the chest spilled out, perhaps you would not suspect me.

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a long time. Finally he slowly said, "That the chest contained rocks yet you accepted it; that Chuchu and you had known each other since childhood, yet the two of you pretended not to know each other, although those two facts indeed made me very suspicious, they were not the most important clue at all!"

    Chen Jingjing: "What was the most important clue?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The black bear!"

    Chen Jingjing: "The black bear?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Leng Hong'er thought she saw a black bear, while in fact it was nothing more than someone wearing black bearskin. Because this person was doing something very secretive, while her appearance was very easy to be recognized by others, she wore the bearskin to deceive other people's eyes and ears. Whoever saw a black bear would certainly run away from it, he would not dare to come closer to look carefully."

    Chen Jingjing: “And you think that person was me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Mmm.”

    Chen Jingjing: “Because you saw a bearskin in my room.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Naturally you did not expect I would enter your room; it was simply a lucky coincidence!”

    Chen Jingjing sighed, “Indeed nobody else has ever entered into my room; on this point you are not wrong at all.”

    Chen Jingjing continued, “You can go into my room, not because fortunately I was fainting; because that day I did not faint at all!”

    Although her voice was weak, but each word was very clear, owing to the fact that she had always exercised a very good control on herself. Perhaps very few people in the world could be compared to her in term of self-control.

    She added, “I let you go into my room, because when you carried me, suddenly I had a feeling I have never experienced before, I … I also did not think that Li Shentong would suddenly break into my room.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also forced a laugh. “If I were him, I would also break into your room suddenly!”

    Chen Jingjing: "Originally, there were two identical bearskins; the other one belonged to Li Xia!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "When the two of you buried the Luocha Tablet that night, were you both wearing the bearskins?"

    Chen Jingjing: "It was very late at night, we did not expect Hong'er would still be sitting on the shore, busy with her thoughts. When I saw her, I do not doubt that she also saw me!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But she did not see clearly, she thought you were a real black bear!"

    With a bitter smile Chen Jingjing said, "Yet I was very worried; women are usually overly suspicious!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, when you found out that she was there last night, you killed her to shut her mouth."

    Surprisingly, Chen Jingjing did not deny at all. "Ding Xiangyi always said I am the most ruthless person alive!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Although she did not know your secret, when you made your move to kill her, she finally recognized you."

    Chen Jingjing sighed: "I am afraid I won't be able to forget her look when she saw my face for as long as I live!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That time you were unavoidably a bit afraid, hence you left as soon as you strike went well."

    Chen Jingjing: "Because I was confident her death was imminent."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "But you did not think that when someone is at the death's door, oftentimes it is also the time when his mind was the clearest."

    Chen Jingjing did not reply, her heart felt sour, because she realized her mind was very clear.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, before her death, she finally realized that the black bear must be you. She also realized that you must be burying the Luocha Tablet. That's why she exhausted her last ounce of strength to crawl toward the place you appeared that night."

    Chen Jingjing: "And thus you knew the place where we hid the Luocha Tablet."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's right!"

    Chen Jingjing suddenly sneered, "That being the case, her death was advantageous to you; why are you grieved?"

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to say something, but in the end he kept silent.

    Chen Jingjing: "You are grieving over matters that you should not grieve, but you are very happy over matters that you should be grieving."

    Lu Xiaofeng stayed silent, waiting for her to continue.

    Chen Jingjing: "When I looked for you that day, it was not because I wanted to deliver food and wine to you, or even because I care about you or because I like you. I looked for you, only because I had to hold you back, to give Li Shentong the time so that he could freeze Li Xia's body in the ice, that's why I steeled myself to endure your humiliation, while actually each time you touch me, I wanted to throw up!"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed suddenly. "I understand now!"

    Chen Jingjing: "Understand what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You want to die."

    Chen Jingjing: "Why do you think I want to die?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you deliberately want to infuriate me, you want me to kill you."

    With a cold laugh Chen Jingjing said, "I know you won't dare, you can only watch other people in action, but you simply have never had the nerve to kill anybody!"

    Lu Xiaofeng only laughed. Suddenly he turned around and walked away.

    Chen Jingjing called out loudly, "Where are you going?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "To prepare the carriage!"

    Chen Jingjing: "Why do you want to prepare the carriage now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you cannot ride a horse, and you cannot walk!"

    Chen Jingjing: "You ... you want to take me away?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Although I cannot take the secret projectile buried inside your acupoint, I know someone who can do it."

    Chen Jingjing: "You ... you ... why don't you just let me die?"

    Lu Xiaofeng matter-of-factly said, "Because the number of people who has died today is simply too many."

    He left without even looking back.

    Looking at his back as he left, tears started to flow down from Chen Jingjing's eyes, until finally she wept bitterly. But nobody knows whether it was tears of sorrow? Or was it tears of remorse? Or was it tears of gratitude?

    Whatever it was, if anybody wanted to cry, it would be best if he was left alone to weep freely, as much as he wanted.

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng heard her cry. He did wish that she could cry, that she could cry out the sorrow, pain and remorse filling her heart. Perhaps after crying she would not wish to die anymore.

    The sun had already disappeared, the wind blew colder. The foolish-looking and filthy kid was still standing there with snooty nose, grinning foolishly at him. It looked like the tragic incident just a moment ago did not affect him in the least.

    "Other people might laugh at his foolishness, but perhaps his life is somewhat happier than most people would ever live."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. He smiled and patted the kid on his head, while saying, "Take a good care of that Auntie inside for me. She has a lot of money, she may buy you some candy!" Unexpectedly the foolish-looking kid understood what he said, jumping for joy he ran inside: "I love eating candy, lots and lots of candy!"

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again. He had just stepped outside the door, an extended hand had already met him.

    He was not surprised, he knew early on that Sui Han San You must be waiting for him outside.

    Mr. Gu Song: "Give it to me."

    Lu Xiaofeng blinked his eyes, "Do you want money? Or do you want rice?"

    Mr. Gu Song's face turned green from anger, he coldly replied, "Perhaps this time I want your life!"

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, "I don't have either money or rice, but life? I have one."

    Mr. Gu Song indignantly said, "Do you really want me to break your legs first before you are willing to give the Luocha Tablet to me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Even if you break my legs, I am not going to give the Luocha Tablet to you."

    Mr. Gu Song's countenance changed. "What do you want?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Let me ask you first: what do you want? When did I ever say that I am going to give the Luocha Tablet to you?"

    In stern voice Mr. Gu Song asked, "To whom are you going to give the Luocha Tablet?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The Blue Beard."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Must you give it to him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I must."

    Mr. Gu Song: "Why?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I want to exchange it with something!"

    Mr. Gu Song: "What thing?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "My innocence."

    Mr. Gu Song stared at him. He slowly said, "Are you telling me you have never thought of taking possession of the Luocha Tablet yourself?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I have."

    Mr. Gu Song: "And do you still want it now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I do."

    Mr. Gu Song's countenance changed again.

    But Lu Xiaofeng unenthusiastically continued, "The things that I want are simply too many. Sometimes I want to be the Emperor, but I am afraid I would be lonely. Sometimes I want to be the Prime Minister, but I am afraid I would be too busy. Sometimes I want to get rich, but I am afraid someone might steal everything. Sometimes I want to take a wife, but I am afraid it would be too troublesome. Sometimes I want to grill steak, but don't want to wash the pot. Sometimes I want to slap your face, but I am afraid I will only court disaster!"

    He had not finished speaking, Mr. Gu Song already could not restrain from laughing, but in an instant his face turned wooden again. "Therefore, although what you want is many, actually you have not done a single one of them."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a bitter smile he said, “Those who think a lot but do a little in this world can’t be only me.”

    Mr. Gu Song’s eyes suddenly gazed into the distance, seemingly asking himself the question: what have I thought about, and what have I done?

    As long as one lives in this world, one will always suffer some kind of limitation. If everybody is able to do whatever he wants to do, what would this world turn into?

    It was quite a long time later that Mr. Gu Song finally sighed softly, he waved his hand and said, “Just go!”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a breath and said, “I thought you were not going to let me go this time, I am surprised that you still trust me this much.”

    With a wooden face Gu Song said coldly, “This is the last time!”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, “Whenever you want to drink, you may look for me anytime, I will definitely accompany you.”

    He also waved his hand and was about to leave their presence when suddenly Han Mei said, “Wait a moment!”

    Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but stop. “Do you have any other instructions?”

    Han Mei: “I want to have a look at you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “You may have as much look at me as you wish, I heard people say that my appearance is not bad.”

    But there was no smile on Han Mei’s face, in fact, his face did not show any emotion as he coldly said, “I want to have a look not at your appearance!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What do you want to see, then?”

    Han Mei: “I want to see your martial art skill.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile turned into a bitter smile, “I suggest you’d better have a look at my appearance. I can guarantee that my martial art skill is not as good as my looks.”

    Yet Han Mei did not even cast a glance toward him. Suddenly he turned around and said, “Come with me!”

    Lu Xiaofeng hesitated. He looked at Ku Zhu, and then at Gu Song, but those two men’s faces did not show any emotion either.

    He sighed and had no choice but to follow Han Mei, but his mouth would not stop mumbling, “Where do you want to take me, exactly? Drinking or gambling, I will come with you anytime, but if you want to fight, I’d rather sneak off!”

    Han Mei ignored him completely. Three turns and two blocks later, they were walking along the main street. There was a very big restaurant on the main street, with more than a dozen horse-drawn carriages parked by the front door. A pole with violet satin escort banner was planted at an angle outside the door. The banner fluttered in the wind, it was embroidered with a dragon and a large ‘Zhao’ character, as big as a tray.

    Lu Xiaofeng recognized this banner, it belonged to the ‘Golden Dragon Escort Agency’. Although it operated outside the Great Wall, serving mostly ginseng pickers from the Changbai Mountain area, inside the Great Wall its reputation was also resounding, because this escort agency’s chief, ‘Hei Xuan Tan’ [Black and Mysterious (worship) Altar] Zhao Junwu, was originally a very famous escort of the Central Plains with stellar reputation. It was not too long ago that he was appointed the chief of the ‘Golden Dragon Escort Agency’ over a very generous compensation of his service.

    Right now he happened to drink at this restaurant. A man with his reputation and status, naturally his style was not simple.

    As soon as Han Mei stepped inside the restaurant, he went straight toward Zhao Junwu. He looked at him coldly and asked, “Are you Hei Xuan Tan Zhao Junwu?”

    Zhao Junwu was startled. He looked at Han Mei up and down, sizing this neither a monk nor a priest, yet not uncouth, weird-looking old man. Usually his vision was very good, yet he failed to recognize this old fellow’s origins. Not knowing how to respond differently, he nodded and said, “I am!”

    Han Mei: “Do you know who I am?”

    Zhao Junwu shook his head. “Please advice!”

    Han Mei: “I am Mr. Han Mei of the Kunlun Mountains' Great Brightness Mirror’s Sui Han San You, the Law Protector Elder of the Western Region’s Devil Cult.”

    He pronounced each word very slowly. Hearing the four words Sui Han San You, Zhao Junwu's masked-like face suddenly fell; hearing the four words 'Western Region’s Devil Cult', Zhao Junwu's forehead broke in cold sweats.

    Han Mei: "Do you know who I am now?"

    Immediately Zhao Junwu stood up and rushed to bow in respect: "Wanbei [younger generation] has eyes but fails to see, did not know the honorable presence of an immortal ..."

    He was still prattling away all the flattering and polite greetings he could muster when Han Mei turned around back to face Lu Xiaofeng. "Do you know who he is?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I have heard about him."

    Han Mei: "His reputation is not minor, his martial art skill is also not weak, but when he sees me, he is very respectful. On the contrary, you have never showed respect in our presence."

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, "When he was little, his family must have brought him up really well, he is a man with good family education, always rather courteous to everybody."

    Han Mei: "And you?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am an orphan."

    Han Mei: "And thus you did not have family education?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "No."

    Han Mei: "In that case, you should receive some lessons."

    Suddenly he turned around again. Pointing toward Lu Xiaofeng he asked, "Do you know who this man is?"

    Zhao Junwu shook his head.

    Han Mei: "You don't have to know. I only want you to give him a lesson for me."

    Zhao Junwu's countenance turned awkward, forcing a smile he said, "But Zaixia does not have any grudges with him, how can I ..."

    Han Mei cut him off, he coldly said, "I am not going to force you. You may choose for yourself: do you want to teach him a lesson? Or do you want me to teach you a lesson?"

    While speaking, he picked up a tin wine cup from the table and casually kneaded it in his hand. The wine cup immediately turned into a clump of shapeless tin. Again he casually pulled and the tin clump turned into a tin stick.

    Zhao Junwu"s countenance changed; suddenly, like an arrow he dashed forward, and with the back of his palm he ferociously struck the back of Lu Xiaofeng's head. It was a swift and vicious strike. Unexpectedly, once he made his move, he did not show the least bit of leniency.

    Surprisingly, Lu Xiaofeng did not move at all. He stood on the same place, and let the palm strike land on the back of his neck.

    There is a major artery to the left of the neck, one of the vital points on the human body. Although Zhao Junwu did not practice internal energy cultivation, his pair of hands was callous and hard as a rock. In reality, this strike was not light at all, if Lu Xiaofeng did not die, he should have at least fainted.

    Who would have thought that he was still standing quietly, even his face did not change at all.

    Zhao Junwu's face was sweating instead; suddenly with a balled fist he struck in between Lu Xiaofeng's chest and abdomen as hard as he could.

    Lu Xiaofeng also received this fist quietly, not even batting his eyelids.

    By this time Zhao Junwu was sweating profusely. Twice he had attacked with all his might, and twice his attack did not fail to hit its target, but unfortunately it was as if he was hitting empty air. He felt as if the opponent was an empty space, as he exerted his strength on his palm and fist, it was as if his strength vanished into the thin air.

    He had prepared the third attack, his fist was clenched, but in all honesty he did not know how he was going to attack!

    Probably Lu Xiaofeng was also waiting to take the beating. But after waiting for half a day, suddenly a smile broke out on his face. "Have you given me enough lessons, Sire?" he asked.

    Zhao Junwu also forced a smile, but even if right now there were some gold ingots falling from the sky in front of him, he would not be able to smile.

    Lu Xiaofeng turned around to face Han Mei and said with a laugh, "Can I go now?"

    Han Mei's countenance turned ugly, but before he could open his mouth, Ku Zhu already said, "You may go!"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, "Thank you."

    He patted his clothes, and then picked up a wine cup, which had not been flattened, from the table and poured the wine into his mouth, before finally he walked away from Han Mei in big strides.

    But before he reached the stairs, an inn attendant rushed upstairs with a piece of letter in his hand, while shouting loudly, "Which one is Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Daxia [great hero]?"

    Lu Xiaofeng pointed his own nose and laughed, "I am Lu Xiaofeng, but I am not a Daxia. Daxia only knows how to beat people, not to take a beating!"

    There was only smile on his face, not a sign of anger, because he knew that in the world there are many people who take advantage of the weak but is afraid of the wicked. Bullies who were ten times worse than Zhao Junwu were simply more than a few. It was precisely the weakness of mankind.

    He loved mankind deeply, he adored life; usually, it was very easy for him to forgive this kind of matter.

    But when he finished reading the letter, he was very angry. Not only furious, he was anxious as well.

    "Dear Xiaofeng Daxia, my brother:

    Previously, about the a$$h01le you were pleased to bestow on me [see the end of Chapter 4], I am ashamed and dare not to accept, because I do not dare to receive the reward without any merit.

    Presently, about Miss Chen Jingjing, I am concerned that she would inconvenience my brother's journey. Di [younger brother] has also hauled away a few taels of money. This I respectfully inform you.

    Respectfully wishes your well-being!"

    The signature below was Fei Tian Yu Hu!

    When Lu Xiaofeng was reading the letter, Sui Han San You were also reading his expression.

    They were also shocked because they had never expected Lu Xiaofeng's face would become such dreadful.

    Therefore, when Lu Xiaofeng dashed out, they also rushed out behind him, leaving Zhao Junwu standing there in shock; the expression on his face was that of one who wishes he could smash his own head and die immediately.

    Never in his dream would he imagine that the person he had just taught a lesson was precisely the world-famous Lu Xiaofeng.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng had forgiven him, he would never be able to forgive himself. Although Lu Xiaofeng did not move a single muscle, actually it was he who gave him a lesson.

    But Lu Xiaofeng had also made a mistake. He should not have left Chen Jingjing, he should not have left that house at all. By the time he arrived, the house had nearly turned into a blazing inferno.

    Luckily the air was cold and the earth frozen, there were ice and snow everywhere that the fire did not spread too far. Not too many homes were burned down, but unavoidably there were many innocent people who became the victim of this fire.

    Undoubtedly, Chen Jingjing's beautiful and tender body had also been burned like a pile of dry bones, and flew up piece by piece as sparking ashes.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been too late.

    The raging fire roasted his face red, it roasted his eyes red, but his hands and feet were actually icy-cold, his heart was also icy-cold.

    The alley was a mass of confusion; the men were running around, shouting and trying to put out the fire, the women were screaming, and the children were crying. They were simple people, living a simple and tranquil life, they had never harmed anybody; but now, they had to suffer without any cause or reason.

    Lu Xiaofeng turned around suddenly, he stared at Han Mei and sternly said, "Have you seen it?"

    Han Mei: "Have seen what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "This disaster is brought by you, can't you see it?"

    Han Mei kept his mouth shut, obviously in his heart he did not feel good at all.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Do you still want to see my martial art skill now?"

    Han Mei: "I have just seen it a moment ago."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "A moment ago was my taking-a-beating skill. Don't you want to see my punch-someone skill?"

    It was a challenge.

    In all his life, he had never challenged anybody like this. Although his natural disposition was as cool-headed as a rock, this kind of stretched-almost-beyond-the-limit brutality had burned his anger to be more dreadful.

    An extreme calmness; it was actually just another face of anger.

    Han Mei stayed calm and collected. Under the flickering light of the blazing fire, his face seemed to look pale, even his lips were white.

    No one had ever dared to challenge him face to face like this.

    He was not afraid of this young man. Not at all. He had never been afraid of anybody. Yet in this instant, he suddenly felt some kind of nervousness he had never felt before. So nervous that even his breathing seemed to stop.

    Because he had always been standing on the winning side. He was used to oppress other people based on his reputation and status. But actually now was the first time he felt somebody else was oppressing him.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s pressure came again: “Well? Do you or don’t you want to see?”

    Before Han Mei opened his mouth, Ku Zhu suddenly said, “He does not want to!”

    Gu Song immediately caught on: “The only thing he wants to see is the Luocha Tablet, and so do I.”

    He stepped in front of Lu Xiaofeng, giving Ku Zhu the opportunity to pull Han Mei away, and then he slowly continued, “Therefore, you must not disappoint us.”

    He did not turn his body around; still facing Lu Xiaofeng, he walked backwards, and then his long sleeve waved, his shadow flashed, and in an instant he had disappeared.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not move, he did not try to stop them. Only after a long time did he finally exhaled slowly.

    Suddenly he realized that he had yielded toward those three men for too long. Now the time had come that they should step back a bit.

    It was the first time that he counterattacked. They did not fight, and yet he had scored a victory.

    But he also knew that they would not retreat too far; if they were being pushed too far, who knows what the outcome would be?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to think that far.

    The fire was still blazing, he simply could not just stand there doing nothing. Although there were many things he needed to think through, everything must wait, right now the most important thing was helping to put out the fire.

    He rolled up his sleeves and jumped into action. Snatching a water bucket from the man next to him, he leaped onto the top of the wall of the nearby house and splashed the water down.

    Naturally his movements were a lot quicker than other people. The power of him, one man, was comparable to at least to that of five people. However, there was another man working side by side with him. Surprisingly, this man’s movements were not too slow compared to him, so much so that the man seemed to work harder than Lu Xiaofeng. There was one time when that man leaped onto a burning wall and almost fell into the inferno below.

    With the melting snow and ice wetting the burning timber, plus the joint effort of the people, the fire was quickly contained, and finally it was completely out.

    At long last Lu Xiaofeng could take a breather. With his sleeve he wiped his perspiration, with such a good feeling in his heart, a feeling that he had not had for a very long time.

    The man next to him was also catching his breath. With a broad smile in his face he said, “Altogether you poured seventy three buckets of water, and I poured six less buckets than you did!”

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his head only to discover that the man working alongside him to put out the fire was none other than the Hei Xuan Tan, Zhao Junwu.

    With an unrestrained laughter Zhao Junwu continued, “Not too long ago I was thinking of smashing my head and die, but now I want to live several years longer, the longer the better.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, he did not ask ‘why?’, because he already knew the answer.

    If you think that you are a useful person, you won’t want to die, because you feel that your life is worth living, that your life deserves to be cherished.

    If you have ever helped other people wholeheartedly, you would definitely understand this truth, because if you are willing to help others, you are definitely a useful person.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled as he patted Zhao Junwu’s shoulder. “I know that just now you put a lot more effort than anybody else. If you have hit me with the same zest, I would have not able to withstand!”

    With blushing face Zhao Junwu laughed, “When I hit people, of course I won’t do it with the same zest, because hitting people is not a delightful matter, besides, I am afraid I might hurt my own hand!”

    The two of them broke out in laughter. It was only then did they realize that all around them people were also laughing, their eyes were brimming with happiness, admiration and gratitude.

    A little girl, whose hair was combed into two long braids, suddenly emerged from the crowd and pulled their hands. She put some candy into their hands and with a blushing face she said, “This is my favorite candy, but I want you to have it, because you are good men. When I grow up, I want to be just like you, when other people’s house is on fire, I am going to help putting it out!”

    Lu Xiaofeng gently stroked her hair, he wanted to say something, but there seem to be something choking his throat.

    Zhao Junwu also looked at her, he felt his tears almost falling down. In that moment he felt that if he were killed in the fire, it would have been worth it.

    Right then a small black head suddenly appeared from a dirty and narrow gutter at the side of the street. With finger pointed toward Lu Xiaofeng he shouted, “He is not a good man, he lied to me, Auntie did not give me any candy.”

    A little black boy crawled out from the gutter; unexpectedly, it was that filthy foolish-looking kid.

    Surprisingly, he did not die; perhaps it was not because he was lucky, but because he was stupid and ignorant, because other than him, nobody, neither adult nor children, would be foolish enough to force himself into such a dirty sewer.

    But he had eyes; not only that, he was in Chen Jingjing’s room just a moment ago, and now he was the only witness who can tell what had been happening!

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes brightened, immediately he stepped forward to meet the boy. Could this boy depict the assailant’s appearance? Although he did not have any confidence, at least there was some hope.

    At that moment, suddenly from among the crowd someone shouted, “Although he helped putting out the fire, it was also him who set the fire in the first place. Everybody, don’t be fooled by him!”

    Yelling and screaming, several people charged toward Lu Xiaofeng; the situation immediately became chaotic. Although there were some who did not believe, some were skeptical, but some people whose houses were also burned could not distinguish between right and wrong, they were the ones who attacked Lu Xiaofeng.

    They were simple-minded people; seeing their homes were burned, already their eyes were red with fury, and they attacked without any regard for their own safety.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not blame them, he also did not want to fight them. Fortunately Zhao Junwu helped him to stop them. Although Lu Xiaofeng suffered several punches, he finally managed to get out; but that filthy kid had disappeared.

    There were several dripping wet footprints by the gutter, the rubble of the burned down house was still emitting blue smoke.

    Lu Xiaofeng gritted his teeth and suddenly entered the smoking rubble.

    By this time several escorts working under Zhao Junwu had also arrived, and they helped suppressing the riot. Zhao Junwu made a personal guarantee that Lu Xiaofeng was drinking wine with him when the fire started, and only then did the riot subside. But when inquiry was made of who was the person who shouted the first time, nobody knew.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still in the midst of scalding rubble, nobody knew what was he looking for?

    “What were you looking for?”

    As soon as they left the fire location, Zhao Junwu could not bear not to ask, but Lu Xiaofeng did not answer.

    His eyes were gleaming with a very strange expression, yet nobody knew what kind of difficult problem he was pondering about, or perhaps he had solved this difficult problem.

    Zhao Junwu did not ask anymore, he started to ponder on his own. He suddenly said, “The person who accuse you a moment ago must be the same person who started the fire, and he wanted you to take the blame.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a long time before he slowly said, “They did not want to shift the blame on me, but they wanted to shut someone’s mouth.”

    Zhao Junwu: “Shut whose mouth? That dumb kid who crawl from the sewer?” Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Zhao Junwu frowned, “That kind of dumb kid, what does he know?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “They really should have not done it!”

    Zhao Junwu also sighed, “Whatever it was, it’s in the past now. Let us have a drink.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If you want me to drink with you, I am afraid you must wait.”

    Zhao Junwu: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng clenched both of his fists and said word by word, “If I cannot find Fei Tian Yu Hu, henceforth I am not going to drink a single drop of wine.”

    Zhao Junwu: “Can I do something for you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You can!”

    Zhao Junwu: “Tell me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You are much more familiar with this area than me, I want you …”

    All of a sudden he lowered his voice a lot as if he was afraid others might hear it, because now he knew that Fei Tian Yu Hu’s influence reached as far as this place; it was far greater than he previously imagined.

    When he finished speaking, Zhao Junwu immediately responded, “I will definitely do it for you; but when I get all the information you need, how am I going to pass it on to you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Have you ever gambled at the Silver Hook Casino?”

    Zhao Junwu laughed, “Not only I have been there, I have gambled with that Big Beard several times and I even won several hundred taels of silver from him!” [Before you freak out, no, it is not a mistake, the text (both online and the book) does say ‘Big Beard’ and not ‘Blue Beard’.]

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Half a month from today, we will meet there. Whoever comes first must wait for the other, don’t leave without seeing each other!”

    Zhao Junwu stared at him, and then suddenly said, “Thank you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “I want you to do something for me, I have not thanked you and you thanked me instead?”

    Zhao Junwu: “It is exactly because you have not thanked me that I must thank you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And why is that?”

    Zhao Junwu’s eyes shone as he said, “Because I know for certain that you consider me as your friend!”

    A friend! What an honorable and glorious word! What a beautiful word!

    If you are like Lu Xiaofeng, accept people with love and respect, you must understand one thing first – the true power that can subdue other people is not the brute force of martial arts, but rather, it is patience and compassion.

    It is not an easy thing to do, other than broad-mindedness, it also requires an immense amount of valor!

    The room was decorated in a serene and elegant, as well as neat, style. The snow-white paper covering the window seemed to be replaced only recently. Outside the window, the air was clear, the sun was shining bright. The window sill was adorned with pots of narcissus and chimonanthus praecox (腊梅). Surprisingly, Ding Xiangyi was already able to sit up. Her originally pale face had shown some color; it was like a dying, withered flower suddenly had its life back.

    All of these things were very pleasant things, Lu Xiaofeng’s mood was also definitely better than just a few days ago.

    “I promised I would come back, and I definitely come back to see you!”

    “I know!” Unexpectedly, Ding Xiangyi’s face showed a gentle and tender smile, “I know you will definitely come back!”

    She sat leaning on the bed. The bed sheet had just been replaced. She was wearing a warm and comfortable, loose robe; the robe was very long, the sleeves were also very long, completely covering her cut feet and cut hands. The sun light streamed in through the snow-white window paper, illuminating her still-very-beautiful face.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “I also brought something with me!”

    Ding Xiangyi’s eyes shone, “The Luocha Tablet?” she asked excitedly.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “What I promised to you, I will certainly deliver it, I did not lie to you!”

    Ding Xiangyi blinked a couple of times, “Are you saying I lied to you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng pulled a chair and sat down. “You told me that Chen Jingjing was your good friend and that I can trust her!”

    Ding Xiangyi replied in affirmative.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Was she really your good friend? Can you really trust her?”

    Ding Xiangyi turned her head away to avoid his gaze. Suddenly her breathing became rapid, as if she had difficulty controlling herself. After quite a long time afterwards, she still could not restrain from spitefully said, “She is a *****!”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Yet you wanted me to trust a *****!”

    Finally Ding Xiangyi turned back around and forced a smile, “Because I am a woman. Which woman does not frequently ask men to do things she herself is not willing to do?"

    Frankly, this reasoning was not good, but Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be very satisfied; because she was a woman, and he knew better than to reason with a woman, which probably would be as difficult as pushing camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

    Ding Xiangyi suddenly asked, "She has died, has she not?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Mmm."

    Ding Xiangyi gently let out a breath; her expression looked like someone who had just spat a mouthful of thick phlegm.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared hard at her, suddenly he asked, "How do you know she has died?"

    Again Ding Xiangyi turned her head the other way; she lightly coughed twice before she slowly said, "I did not know, it was nothing more than a wild guess!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "How did you come into that conclusion?"

    Ding Xiangyi: "By the way you asked me about her a moment ago, I can see that she has done many things to you that were offensive and she personally wronged you, a woman like her certainly did not deserve to live long!"

    This reasoning was even worse, but surprisingly, Lu Xiaofeng also accepted it. "No matter what, I managed to get the Luocha Tablet back at long last, my trip has not been in vain!"

    Hearing the word 'Luocha Tablet', Ding Xiangyi's eyes brightened again. She watched as Lu Xiaofeng put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a piece of jade tablet. Suddenly she burst into tears.

    Lu Xiaofeng understood her feelings.

    For this jade tablet, she did not hesitate to destroy her own marriage, to destroy her own life-long happiness; even she herself had turned into a crippled person.

    Although this piece of jade was a priceless treasure, the value of happiness is even more beyond measure.

    Was her sacrifice worth it? And now, didn't she regret what she had done?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not restrain from sighing. "If this thing is mine, I would certainly give it to you, but now ..."

    Ding Xiangyi interrupted him. "I understand, you don't have to explain it to me. Even if you give this to me now, I do not have any use of it!"

    She broke into tears again, and then continued slowly, "Now, I would be well satisfied just to look at it, to caress it!"

    Lu Xiaofeng also understood her feelings, immediately he handed the Luocha Tablet to her, but Ding Xiangyi's expression actually looked even more painful.

    She had lost her hands. This piece of jade tablet, for which she did not hesitate to sacrifice everything, was finally in her presence, but she had no way of reaching out to take it. Certainly not everybody would be able to endure this kind of pain, yet clearly she was able to endure it.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from heaving a sigh. Forcing a smile he said, "Why don't I place it on your body? At least you can see it a bit more clearly!"

    Ding Xiangyi nodded. Seeing Lu Xiaofeng gently placed the jade tablet on her chest, her tearful eyes suddenly revealed an unexplainable feeling. Was it gratitude? Was it satisfaction? Or was it sorrow?

    Under the bright sunlight from the window, the jade tablet seemed to emit a soft and beautiful luster, so much so that the shininess felt warm.

    Ding Xiangyi lowered her head and kissed the jade tablet gently with her lips, as if she was gently kissing her first love's sweetheart.

    "Thank you, thank you ..."

    She did not stop saying 'thank you' while clamping the jade tablet with her handless wrists and pressed it gently on her own face.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear to look at her. He remembered her hands used to be slim, tender and beautiful, with her nails always painted with a layer of dull-colored rose juice, making her hands also look like blooming roses.

    But now the roses had been mercilessly plucked out, leaving a pair of withered stems, bald and ugly.

    A plucked rose will bloom again the following year, but her hands ...

    Lu Xiaofeng stood up and turned around. Suddenly he heard a 'puff!' sound, as something flew out through the window, followed by a 'swish!' noise as something flew in through the window.

    Quickly he turned his head around. The jade tablet clamped between Ding Xiangyi's wrists had disappeared, but from her chest blood was gushing out like a fountain.

    Her captivating pink cheeks became bloodless instantly, her eyes and the corner of her mouth did not stop twitching, as if she was crying, but perhaps she was smiling.

    But even if she was smiling, it was such a forced smile, a smile out of desolate and painful heart, a smile which was even more sorrowful than crying.

    She looked at Lu Xiaofeng, her eyes had also lost their gleam, which was replaced with a dead grey color. With her last ounce of strength she said, "Why ... why don't you pursue?"

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head. There was only sympathy and compassion on his face, he did not show the least bit of surprise or anger.

    It seemed that everything Ding Xiangyi said or done had been anticipated by him from early on. It was after a long time had passed did he finally say with sorrow in his voice, "Have you been deceived by others?"

    Ding Xiangyi's voice grew fainter and fainter, "I deceived you, in turn, he deceived me. Seems to me that everybody is destined to be deceived one way or the other by someone else; don't you think so? Don't you ...?"

    Her voice was very soft, and very slow, but there was not a trace of sorrow or pain in it.

    In that instant when death was knocking on her door, she suddenly understood the complex and subtle yet simple philosophy of life, she suddenly understood that life was just like that.

    And then her life had ended.

    Why do people always wait for the last second of their lives to understand the matter, which they should have understood much, much earlier?

  8. #48
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 – Enlightenment Before Death

    Night, winter night.

    The dark and long alley was quiet, there was nobody, there was only a lantern.

    An old, battered white lantern, so old that the white had turned into a deathly grey, hanging in an angle above the narrow door at the very end of the long alley. Actually, there was a shiny silver hook dangling under the lantern, just like the fishhook that the fishermen use to catch fish.

    The silver hook kept swaying in the cold wind. The wind seemed to sigh, sighing over why would there be so many people in this world who were willing to let themselves being caught by this silver hook?

    From the gloomy and damp cold fog outside, Fang Yufei entered the brilliantly illuminated Silver Hook Casino. Taking off his white cloak, he revealed an extremely well-fitting, specially tailored, exquisite silver-colored satin garment.

    Every day, he was happiest around this time, especially today.

    Because Lu Xiaofeng had returned. Lu Xiaofeng had always been a friend he was most fond of, a friend he respected the most.

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng himself was even happier, because he was back, back from the frozen wasteland, the faraway ice country.

    The luxuriously decorated hall was brimming with warmness and gaiety. The aroma of wine mixed with the fragrance of high-quality cosmetics; the intermittent jingling of silver coins was pleasant to the ears, no music in this world was more melodious than this kind of noise.

    Lu Xiaofeng liked to hear this kind of noise, just like the majority of people in the world, he also liked luxury and enjoyed life to the fullest.

    Especially now.

    After going through many days of arduous journey and back to this place, he was like a lost child who was back to his warm home, back to his mother's bosom.

    That he was able to return safe and sound, in itself was truly not an easy matter.

    He had just taken a hot bath, and changed into a brand new set of clothes. The fake beard under his chin, the fake wrinkles on the corner of his eyes, the white powder on his hair, everything had been completely washed out.

    Right now his face was glowing, his body was full of energy; indeed, even he himself was very pleased with his appearance.

    In the main hall there were several women who were stealing glances toward him from the corner of their eyes. Although all of those women were middle-aged, they still looked attractive. Lu Xiaofeng flashed them his most moving smile.

    As long as he could make others happy, while not bringing any harm to him, he had never refused to do so.

    Seeing his smiling face, even Fang Yufei was very happy. "You seem to like this place very much," he said with a laugh.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It seems to me that the number of people who like this place is growing."

    Fang Yufei: "Indeed the business of this place has grown by leaps and bounds. Perhaps it's nothing more than because nowadays everybody has quite some extra time in their hands and live rather comfortably, plus the weather is cold; nothing is better than staying inside, gambling and drinking wine."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. "Is it true that many women come here especially to see you?"

    Fang Yufei burst out in laughter.

    He was indeed a very attractive man, his appearance was clean, his clothing impeccable, his figure was always well-maintained. Although sometimes he looked somewhat artificial, his type was exactly what middle-aged women of high and respected position liked most.

    Lowering his voice, Lu Xiaofeng said, "I believe you have attracted quite a few of women in this place!"

    Fang Yufei did not deny at all, he smiled and said, "From all the people who day in and day out come and go to the casino to gamble, how many are decent and honorable?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "How about people who operate a casino? Are they also ..."

    He stopped abruptly because right that moment he saw someone with a dagger in his hand was pouncing Fang Yufei from behind, with the dagger lunged toward his lower left waist.

    Fang Yufei did not see the attack, because he did not have eyes on his back.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng saw it, it was already too late because this man's dagger was already less than a foot from Fang Yufei's waist.

    This part is a vital point of the human body, one dagger stab may be fatal; even Lu Xiaofeng could not help but shed some cold sweats.

    Who would have thought that in a flash Fang Yufei's waist twisted suddenly and reaching backward, he grabbed the dagger-holding wrist of that man. 'Ding!' the dagger fell down to the floor. The man opened his mouth to curse, but he only managed to shout one word, his mouth had already covered by two large men who suddenly appeared behind him. With one man on each side, he was dragged outside immediately.

    Surprisingly, Fang Yufei's expression did not change at all. With a smile he said, "This kind of matter happens every day in this place."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Do you know why he wanted to kill you?"

    Indifferently Fang Yufei replied, "If he is not drunk, then he must have lost a lot of money."

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, "Or perhaps he is simply wild with rage!"

    Fang Yufei: "Why is that?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you made him to wear a green hat!" [cuckold, a man whose wife was cheating on him] Fang Yufei laughed aloud.

    In his opinion, making a man to wear a green hat was undoubtedly a very honorable achievement, something which would give him a lot of face. Whoever able to do it would not need to be ashamed nor feel sorry.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him as if it was the first time that he saw this person.

    The incident just a moment ago happened so quick and also finished very suddenly, but it had created a small disturbance nonetheless, particularly to those people who gambled on the nearby tables. Most people left their seats and talked about what had happened in low murmur.

    Only one person did not move, he was still sitting on his seat, staring at the two tiles of ‘Pai Jiu’ [Pai Gow, Chinese dominoes] in front of him as if he was entranced. Apparently in this game of Pai Jiu, if he had not won big, then he must have had lost not a few.

    The man was wearing a mink fur cap on his head, an inside out large fur-lined coat and he had a full beard. Obviously he was a ginseng picker who had just returned from outside the great wall. The folding purse inserted in his trouser belt on his waist was packed with hard-earned money after toiling for half a year, which he was prepared to lose in just one night.

    Fang Yufei also lowered his voice, "Looks to me you are eager to win his money."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Spending money won on the gambling table is the most fun; how can I let this kind of opportunity pass?"

    Fang Yufei: "But my brother-in-law has been waiting for you inside for a long time, I also heard that those three old freaks are already here early on!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "They can wait, but this man's money cannot, he may spend it all very soon!"

    Fang Yufei laughed, "Make sense!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's why you'd better go in and tell them that I will be there in a moment!"

    Without waiting for Fang Yufei to reply, he had already walked over to join the Pai Jiu table, and happened to sit right next to the bearded ginseng picker. "What do you say, other than playing against the dealer, we also play against each other?" he said with a smile.

    "You're on!" the large bearded man agreed immediately, "The bigger the stake, the more fun it is for me. How much do you want to bet?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "If we want to have a satisfying game, whatever your bet, I will match you!"

    Looking at them, Fang Yufei smiled and shook his head. Suddenly he felt his own hands were itching to play.

    When he had walked around the table to go to the back, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly gripped this bearded man's hand under the table.

    The Blue Beard was admiring his own hands.

    He had always taken a very good care of his hands, the nails were well-manicured, the fingers were slender and elegant.

    Truly a very attractive pair of hands, without a doubt, it was also a very sensitive pair of hands.

    His hands were laid flat on the table, where Fang Yuxiang could see them clearly. Even Gu Song, Ku Zhu and Han Mei could also see them clearly.

    Although they were all looking at the same pair of hands, the thought they had in their hearts were completely different.

    Even if she wanted to, Fang Yuxiang could not deny that these hands were indeed very attractive, very clean, but who knows this pair of seemingly clean hands had done how many dirty works? Killed how many people? Taken off how many girls' clothes?

    Thinking about the last thing, her face blushed slightly. She recalled the first time this pair of hands took her clothes off, and her feelings when the hands gently caressed her body. Even she herself was not sure what kind of feeling exactly did she feel?

    Sui Han San You were asking themselves, "Other than caressing women and playing tiles [Translator's note: 'tiles' as in 'mahjong tiles' or 'Chinese domino tiles'], what else is this pair of hands capable of doing?"

    This pair of hands did not look like hands that were trained hard in martial arts, but what difference did it have with Lu Xiaofeng's hands?

    And what was Blue Beard himself thinking? It seemed like nobody has ever been able to see through his mind.

    Fang Yufei had been there for a long time. Finally he could not bear not to cough lightly, "He is here!"

    Fang Yuxiang: "Where is he? Why didn't he come in?"

    Fang Yufei smiled, "Because incidentally he saw the Pai Jiu table, and also incidentally saw a fool with more money than senses!"

    Just like anybody who loves to gamble, if he sees these two things at once, even if his wife is expecting their first child, he will immediately forget his child.

    With a cold laugh Han Mei said, "Turns out he is not only a follower of wine and women, he is also a compulsive gambler!"

    Fang Yufei: "Men who love wine and women but do not gamble, I am afraid there are not too many."

    Fang Yuxiang cast a glance at him and said, "You seem to understand these kinds of people very much, because you are one of them."

    Fang Yufei sighed and said, "The crows in the world are all black, as a matter of fact, not one of us, men, is a good thing!"

    Actually, it was the scold women use against men, but had scolded himself first.

    Fang Yuxiang also laughed. Obviously she was a good sister, not only she was very fond of her older brother, she was also very affectionate.

    Blue Beard suddenly asked, "What kind of man is this fool?"

    Fang Yufei: "He is a ginseng picker from outside the Wall, he is surnamed Zhang, called Zhang Bin."

    Blue Beard: "Does this man wear a mouthful beard?"

    Fang Yufei: "That's right!"

    Blue Beard drily said, "If the beard is not wrong, then you are wrong!"

    Fang Yufei: "In what way am I wrong?"

    Blue Beard: "In what way you are wrong? That man is not a ginseng picker, and his name is not Zhang Bin!"

    Fang Yufei: "Oh!"

    Blue Beard: "He is an escort, his surname is Zhao, he is called Zhao Junwu!"

    Fang Yufei thought for a moment then asked, "Is he the Hei Xuan Tan Zhao Junwu?"

    Blue Beard: "There is only one Zhao Junwu!"

    Fang Yufei: "Has he been here before?"

    Blue Beard: "Escorts who pass by this area, at least nine out of ten have visited this place!"

    Fang Yufei: "If he has been here openly before, why does he have to be in disguise this time?"

    Blue Beard: "Why don't you go ask him yourself?"

    Fang Yufei did not say anything, his eyes revealed some kind of very strange expression. By this time Blue Beard had already put his hands below the table, but Gu Song actually stretched out his hand.

    At long last Lu Xiaofeng came in.

    Gu Song put out a hand, "Give it to me."

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "If you want money, this is not a good time, because incidentally, all my money has been wiped out clean."

    Surprisingly, Gu Song was not angry, he indifferently said, "Probably in the beginning you wanted to win other people's money."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, with a bitter smile he said, "It was exactly because I wanted to win other people's money that I ended up losing it all. People who can lose everything are usually those who want to win everything!"

    With a cold laugh Gu Song said, "Don't tell me you also lost the Luocha Tablet!"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "If I have the Luocha Tablet with me, perhaps I would also lose it!"

    Gu Song: "You don't have the Luocha Tablet with you?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "At first I had it!"

    Gu Song: "And now?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And now it's gone!"

    Gu Song looked at him, his face did not show the slightest bit of emotion, but the pupils of his eyes suddenly shrank.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng only laughed, "Although the Luocha Tablet is gone, I still am not dead yet!"

    Gu Song coldly said, "Why don't you die?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I am still prepared to get the Luocha Tablet back for you!"

    Gu Song could not restrain his countenance from changing. "You can get it back?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “If you really want it, I can get it back for you any time, but …”

    Gu Song: “But what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I suggest you’d better not look for it, because if you get it back, you will certainly be even angrier!”

    Gu Song: “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because that Luocha Tablet is also fake!”

    Blue Beard raised his hands above the table again, Gu Song also raised his hands above the table.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “Altogether I found two Luocha Tablets, it’s just too bad that both are fakes!”

    Everybody was listening, they waited for his explanation.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “The first tablet I found from inside the frozen river, so we can call it the Binghe [frozen river] Tablet for the time being. The second tablet I snatched away from someone else’s hand with a horsewhip, so there is no harm in us calling it the Shenbian [divine whip] Tablet, because people say my whip technique is simply divine!”

    Gu Song: “The Shenbian Tablet was stolen by Li Xia, and it was swapped with the Binghe Tablet by Chen Jingjing, which was then fallen into your hand!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Absolutely correct!”

    Gu Song: “Then it is definitely not fake!”

    Lu Xiaofeng sigh: “I also thought that it was impossible for it to be fake, but the fact is: it is fake!”

    Gu Song sneered, “How can you tell whether the Luocha Tablet is real or fake?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Indeed at first I could not, but in the end I can!”

    Gu Song: “How can you tell?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because I happen to have a friend by the name of Zhu Ting, and he happened to be the one counterfeiting the Shenbian Tablet!”

    Gu Song: “Do you happen to speak about Zhu Ting whose nickname is ‘The Boss’?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You know him?”

    Gu Song: “I have heard!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Although this man has never wished to do anything exceptional, he is actually a hundred-percent genius. Whatever strange, bizarre object you can think of, he can make it for you. Counterfeiting painting, calligraphy, or some jade and stone, he is simply the best in the world.”

    Talking about this man Zhu Ting, he could not restrain his face from revealing a smile.

    Zhu Ting was not only his old friend, he was also his good friend. In the ‘Princess Danfeng’ case, if not because of Zhu Ting, he might still be locked up in the Green Shirt Pavilion headquarters at the back of the waist of the mountain even until now.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again, with a wry smile he said, “If not because of him, I would not have these many troubles right now, he has given me a lot of troubles, he gave me practically a lot more troubles than all my friends put together!”

    Gu Song: “He is also your friend?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Uh huh.”

    Gu Song: “Who wanted him to forge the Shenbian Tablet? Have you asked him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I haven’t!”

    Gu Song: “And why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because we haven’t spoken to each other for at least a couple of years.”

    Gu Song: “You and he are friends, yet you do not speak to each other?”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because he is a big bad egg, and probably I am not much different.”

    With a cold laugh Gu Song said, “If anybody believes you, then he is also a big bad egg!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You don’t believe me?”

    Gu Song: “I don’t care if that Shenbian Tablet is a fake article or not, I simply must see it with my own eyes.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I told you, if you really want it, I can get it back to you any time!”

    Gu Song: “Where are you going to get it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Here!”

    Gu Song’s countenance fell, “In this room?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Perhaps right now it is not here yet, but when I blow out the lamp and read some incantation, by the time the lantern is shining again, that jade tablet will certainly be on this table.”

    Blue Beard laughed, Fang Yufei also laughed; this kind of out-of-the-world matter, if anybody believed it, it was just like seeing ghost in the middle of the day.

    Fang Yuxiang also could not bear not to laugh, “Do you really think anybody would believe this kind of nonsense?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “There is at least one person who will believe me!”

    Fang Yuxiang: “Who?”

    Gu Song suddenly stood up and blew the first lantern, “Me.”

    There were three lanterns in the room, when all three were snuffed out, the secret room, which was underground to begin with, became pitch black that nobody could even see their own fingers in front of their noses.

    In the darkness, they only heard Lu Xiaofeng’s low voice drone on and on. Perhaps it was really some kind of mystical magician’s spell, yet if one was listening carefully, one seemed to hear some names being repeated over and over, ‘Laohekou [city in Hubei], Tongde Hall, Feng family shop, Blind Feng Erzi [number two kid …” But whatever he was saying, his voice sounded really mysterious and weird.

    Everybody seemed to hear everybody else’s heartbeat, and one or two persons’ heart seemed to beat faster and faster, as if they started to get really anxious. It was a pity that the room was just too dark, nobody could see anybody else’s expressions, let alone guess which one was it.

    While this person’s heart was beating faster and faster, Lu Xiaofeng’s incantation was also getting faster and faster. Over and over, nobody knew how many times he muttered the same thing. Suddenly he shouted, “Light up!”

    A flame flickered, one of the lantern was lighted up. Unexpectedly there really was a piece of jade tablet under the light.

    Under the bright light of the lantern, the jade tablet’s gloss looked soft and beautiful, while the faces of the people were actually so pale that there was a hint of green in their white faces.

    Everybody’s expressions looked about the same, their eyes brimming with amazement.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed smugly while sweeping everybody’s face with his gaze. He suddenly said, “And now, do you all believe in my nonsense?”

    Fang Yuxiang sighed and said, “Actually, I should have believed you, because you are in actuality a living ghost.”

    Gu Song coldly said, “But this piece of jade is not ghost, even more, it is not alive, it cannot fly by itself from outside.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Of course it can’t!”

    Gu Song: “Then how did it end up in here?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, “It’s none of your business. If you ask too much, perhaps it will suddenly fly away again!”

    Of course it would not fly away on its own, just like it was impossible for it to fly in on its own, but Gu Song really did not ask again. This was exactly what he was asking for, now that he got it, why would he ask too many questions?

    He stared at the jade tablet on the table, but actually did not reach out, he did not touch it even once.

    From Yu Tianbao’s hands this jade tablet was handed over to the Blue Beard, which was then stolen by Li Xia and taken away. In turn, it was swindled by Chen Jingjing, and again passed through Chuchu’s hand, followed by Lu Xiaofeng and Ding Xiangyi, and in the end, whose hands had it fallen to?

    Under the bright light of the lantern, although it was still spotless, sparkling and translucent, actually it had been dyed red by blood; the blood of ten human beings, ten lives. Was their sacrifice worth it?

    Gu Song suddenly heaved a deep, deep sigh, “Unavoidably all those people’s deaths are too unjustifiable.”

    Blue Beard: “All those people?”

    Gu Song: “All those people who died for it!”

    Blue Beard: “Actually, is this jade tablet a genuine article or a fake one?”

    Gu Song: “It’s fake!”

    Then he slowly continued, “The carvings on the top indeed can be confused as the real one, but the substance of the jade lacks too much from the real one!”

    Blue Beard was silent for a long time. Finally he turned his gaze toward Lu Xiaofeng and asked, “Did you really snatch this tablet away from Jingjing’s hand?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Blue Beard also sighed, he sadly said, “She was still young and very bright, actually, she might have a very bright future, but she sacrificed her own life for this fake article not worth a ‘wen’ [copper coin], was it really worth the trouble?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “She did all that because she had never thought that this jade tablet is a fake.” Blue Beard agreed.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “She was a very careful person, if she had the least bit of suspicion, she would never have braved this kind of danger.”

    Blue Beard also agreed, “Indeed the way she conduct her business was always very meticulous.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But this time she did not suspect anything, only because she knew that the jade tablet was indeed stolen by Li Xia from your place in here. It is very possible that that time she was at her side, witnessing everything.”

    Blue Beard sighed, “Too bad Chen Jingjing has forgotten that Li Xia was also a very astute and cautious woman.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You think the real Luocha Tablet was taken away by Li Xia?”

    Blue Beard: “You think otherwise?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I only know that Ding Xiangyi and Chen Jingjing had known her since they were little girls, no one knew her like they did. Their view of her must not be wrong.”

    Blue Beard: “And their view of her was …?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “That other than gold and men, she did not care much about anything else. It was even more impossible for her to venture into this kind of trouble.”

    Blue Beard: “So you are telling me that the Luocha Tablet Li Xia stole was a fake one?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “That’s right.”

    Blue Beard: “Well then, where is the real Luocha Tablet?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, then suddenly he replied that question with a question: “On this plate there is a stuffed steamed bun, and then there is a plain steamed bun; if I ate one and the stuffed steamed bun is still on the plate, what does that mean?”

    Blue Beard also chuckled, “If you ate the plain steamed bun, naturally the stuffed steamed bun is still on the plate.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Isn’t this logic very simple?”

    Blue Beard: “Very simple.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If the Luocha Tablet Li Xia stole was a fake, the one Chen Jingjing swapped was also a fake, where is the real Luocha Tablet?”

    Blue Beard: “I also cannot think it through.”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled again, “Actually, the logic behind it is as simple as the stuffed steamed bun on the plate; if you do not suddenly turn stupid, you should be able to think it through.”

    Blue Beard: “Oh?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said matter-of-factly, “If all the Luocha Tablets in other people’s hands are fake then the real one is without a doubt still in your hands.”

    Blue Beard laughed.

    He was always polite, always graceful; his laughter was equally polite and graceful.

    But when he laughed, he had never looked at others; he had always looked at his own pair of hands.

    Wasn’t this pair of hands similar to the Luocha Tablet on the table? Although the hands looked spotlessly white and neat, they were actually reeking with blood.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You deliberately created the opportunity for Li Xia to steal the fake Luocha Tablet …”

    Still smiling, Blue Beard interrupted him, “Why would I do that?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “This is precisely the most crucial point of your grand plan. After Li Xia fell into your trap, only then your plan has proceeded step by step.”

    There was wine on the table.

    Blue Beard poured a cup full then used both his hands to lift it up and let the heat from his palms to slowly warm the wine; only then he slowly drank it down.

    Each one of his movements was very graceful, his facial expression was even more relaxed, as if he was listening to a very amusing story.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “For a long time you have loathed Li Xia and have been weary of her, because as she grew older, her need of men also grew bigger. You wanted to take this opportunity to let her go away as far as possible on her own account, as well as forever she would not dare to come back and see you again. This is exactly the first step in your plan.”

    Blue Beard slurped his wine noisily, and then he sighed and said, “Good wine.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You knew the relationship between Li Xia and Ding Xiangyi, you have predicted that Li Xia would definitely go to look for her. This is also another step of your plan, because you have known early on that she was not being faithful to you, you wanted to use this opportunity to test her, to find out who her lover was.”

    Blue Beard laughed, “Why would I want to test her? She was not my wife.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed, “She was not?”

    Blue Beard: “Her husband is Fei Tian Yu Hu, not me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared hard at him, he said word by word, “Who is Fei Tian Yu Hu? Not you?”

    Blue Beard burst out in laughter, as if he had never heard such a ridiculous matter before; he laughed until he was nearly choked by the wine.

    But Lu Xiaofeng no longer laughed, he slowly said, “Fei Tian Yu Hu is an extremely ambitious man; he cannot coexist with the Western Region Devil Cult. But this time he did not join the race to get the Luocha Tablet, because he knew early on that the Luocha Tablet fight was over a fake one.”

    Blue Beard was still laughing, but suddenly ‘Crack!’ the wine cup in his hand broke since he squeezed it.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Ding Xiangyi did not know that Fei Tian Yu Hu is the Blue Beard, because when she met the Blue Beard, what she saw was a big man with face full of beard. She had never suspected this point, because, just like everybody else, she had always believed the Blue Beard is someone with beard, otherwise, why would he be called the Blue Beard?”

    He continued in a cold voice, “Perhaps the only person who knew your secret is only Fang Yuxiang. It is even possible that she found it out only after a very long time, because it was just recently that she found you in here.”

    Fang Yuxiang’s face did not show any emotion. She slowly stood up to get a golden cup from the cupboard behind them and wiped it clean with a pure white handkerchief before pouring a cup of wine for the Blue Beard.

    Blue Beard gently held her hand, unexpectedly, his eyes suddenly turned warm and gentle.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You used Blue Beard’s identity as a cover. Originally it was very difficult for other people to uncover his secret. When she found you, originally you wanted to kill her to shut her mouth, but you did not have the heart to do so, because in all honesty she is very captivating. You were afraid she might reveal your secret out of jealousy, so you were forced to send the other four women away.”

    Fang Yufei had been standing quietly on the side, listening to them. When even Han Mei and Ku Zhu did not open their mouths, naturally his chance of butting in was even slimmer.

    But now he suddenly asked a question which should not be asked, “Since you have acknowledged that his use of the Blue Beard identity as a cover is a very intelligent move, how did you find out this secret?”

    Blue Beard’s countenance changed abruptly; Fang Yufei’s question was nothing other than admitting that he also knew that Blue Beard and Fei Tian Yu Hu were identical.

    But Lu Xiaofeng only laughed and said indifferently, “I don’t care how thorough his plan was, unavoidably there are some flaws.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Actually, he should not have ordered you and Fang Yuxiang to deal with Ding Xiangyi. If Ding Xiangyi was not his wife, he would not tell you to deal with her with such cruelty, even more, he should not mind other people’s business.”

    Fang Yufei’s eyes seemed to show a painful feeling; he slowly lowered his head and no longer said anything.

    Blue Beard coldly said, “How do you know I was the one sending him out? How do you know he is not Fei Tian Yu Hu?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s answer was plain and simple, “Because I am his old friend.”

    Blue Beard also closed his mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly chuckled and said, “I also have another friend, you know him too; seems like you lost to him several hundred taels of silver.”

    Blue Beard: “Are you talking about Zhao Junwu?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, “He has met the Blue Beard, who was also a big man with face full of beard. Naturally other people also see the same.”

    Blue Beard coldly said, “Yet the Blue Beard you met did not have any beard.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, “You must know that for some people, even a single grain of sand will not enter their eyes, much less a large clump of fake beard.”

    Blue Beard: “And you are one of those people?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Don’t tell me you are not?” Blue Beard only laughed coldly.

    “Not only you have known about Ding Xiangyi’s affair for a long time, you also knew who her lover was. By doing what you did, not only you seized the opportunity to kill them, you could also divert other people’s attention.”

    Gu Song suddenly said coldly, "What you mean by 'other people' must be me."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's exactly what I meant."

    Gu Song: "What about you?"

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, "I am merely the puppet he exploited as bait, nothing more than the rabbit some people would release when they are hunting for a fox."

    If one was comparing oneself to a rabbit, it must be because one's heart was extremely upset. Whoever discovered that he had just been exploited by others, naturally would not feel good in his heart.

    Gu Song: "But the rabbit will always run all over the place in the front, wherever it goes, the fox can only run after it."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "When you see he spared no effort just to get me to retrieve the Luocha Tablet for him, naturally you would not suspect that the Luocha Tablet is still in his hands." Gu Song agreed.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Whether I can get the Luocha Tablet back, whether the Luocha Tablet I found is genuine or a fake, it has nothing to do with him, because he has already shifted all responsibility on me."

    Gu Song: "And if anything went wrong with the Luocha Tablet in your possession, the one we are going to look for definitely will be you."

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, "The journey was truly long, it was practically the same as if we were being banished from the civilization. Along the way we were cold and hungry, while he was sitting comfortably by the fire waiting for us. By the time the seventh of the first month has come and gone, even if someone can uncover his secret, the most he could do is to stare at him."

    Gu Song: "Because by that time he is already the Cult Leader of the Western Region's Luocha Cult."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "By that time not only he is the Cult Leader of Luocha Cult, but also the Clan Leader of the Black Tiger Clan. It's a pity ..."

    Gu Song coldly said, "It's a pity right now he is not."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It's truly a pity."

    Gu Song: "Right now he is no more than a turtle in a jar, a fish in the net."

    Suddenly Blue Beard also sighed and said, "It's a pity, truly a pity."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What is it that you feel pity?"

    Blue Beard: "It's a pity we are all blind."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "We?"

    Blue Beard: "What I mean by 'we', is you and me."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Me ...?"

    Blue Beard: "Only blind men can make a mistake in choosing a friend."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I made a mistake in choosing a friend?"

    Blue Beard: "A very grave mistake indeed."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "And you?"

    Blue Beard: "I am even more blind than you are, because not only I made a mistake in choosing a friend, I made a worse mistake in marrying a wife."

    He had not finished speaking the word 'wife' when fast as lightning he made his move by grabbing the main artery on Fang Yuxiang's wrist and fiercely said, "Take it out!"

    Fang Yuxiang's beautiful face turned grayish green from the fright as she said, "I don't know where the real Luocha Tablet is, what do you want me to take out?"

    Blue Beard: "The one I want is not the Luocha Tablet, it's ..."

    Fang Yuxiang: "What is it?"

    Blue Beard did not reply, he did not even open his mouth, even his breathing seemed to have stopped, as if suddenly there were a pair of invisible hands gripped his throat tightly.

    His usually calm and composed face was also suddenly twisted and turned into indescribably eerie bluish green.

    Fang Yuxiang looked at him in shock, “You … what do you want from me?”

    Blue Beard’s mouth was tightly closed, cold sweats dripped down like rain.

    Fang Yuxiang’s eyes suddenly filled with gentleness and compassion; in a tender voice she said, “I am your wife, whatever it is you want from me, I will give it to you, why do you have to be angry?”

    Blue Beard only stared at her. Suddenly the corner of his eyes burst apart. Instantly blood started to flow from the corner of his eyes, the corner of his mouth, his nostrils and his ears.

    It was blood all right, but it was not scarlet.

    Strangely, the color of his blood had also turned into an eerie bluish green.

    He was not able to sit anymore and slowly fell backward.

    Fang Yuxiang gently propped him up while prying his hand off. Fang Yufei also hastily helped him up.

    "What happened? You ..."

    They did not continue asking, because they knew a dead person would not be able to reply or say anything.

    In one instant they saw the Blue Beard made his move like a lightning, in another instant he had turned into a dead man.

    But it looked like his bulging eyes were still staring at Fang Yuxiang; a stare filled with grief and indignation, but also accusation.

    Looking at him, Fang Yuxiang drew back step by step, with crystal clear tear drops flowed down on her face like a mountain spring.

    "Why did you do this? Why did you do this?"

    Her voice was unbearably sad. "Whatever it is, it is not unsolvable; why did bring your own destruction?"

    The room was quiet save for her sorrowful wailing.

    The rest of them had not recovered from this shock.

    The Blue Beard was dead. This turn of events was truly more shocking than everything that had happened just a moment ago.

    Strangely, Lu Xiaofeng was not shocked. Even the least bit of astonishment did not appear on his face.

    The one with the most painful expression was Gu Song. In a low voice he mumbled, "The real Luocha Tablet must still be in his possession. He must have hidden it in a very secret location. He must be the only one knew this secret. But now he is dead ..."

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng said, "It doesn't matter whether he is dead or not."

    Gu Song: "Doesn't matter?"

    Lu Xiaofeng lightly said, "He is not the only one who knows his secret."

    Gu Song: "Who else would know?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I do."

    Gu Song sprang up suddenly, but slowly sat back down. His expression was back to normal as he slowly asked, "You know where he hid the Luocha Tablet?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "He was such a shady and sly person. A sly person is usually over suspicious; therefore, the only one he would trust perhaps is himself."

    Gu Song: "And so he must have kept the Luocha Tablet on himself?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "He must have."

    Gu Song sprang up again and was about to rush over.

    But Lu Xiaofeng cut him off, "If you search him right now, I guarantee you won't find it."

    Gu Song: "But you just said that the Luocha Tablet must be on him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Then was then, now is now; in just a short moment many things can change."

    Gu Song: "And so the Luocha Tablet was on him a moment ago, but now it is gone?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Definitely gone."

    Gu Song: "Where is it now?"

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng turned toward Fang Yuxiang and slowly stretched out his hand in front of her, "Take it out."

    Biting her lips, Fang Yuxiang bitterly said, "Even my husband's life has been taken by you, what else do you want from me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What he wanted a moment ago indeed was not the Luocha Tablet, because at that time the Luocha Tablet was still on him."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Do you know what he wanted?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Yes, he wanted the antidote."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Antidote?"

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled while picking up the gold cup Blue Beard used to drink his last wine, "He had always been a very cautious person, it was truly not easy for anybody to poison him, but this time ..."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Could it be that this time somebody poisoned him?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. "This time he was poisoned because he was so sure that there was no poison in the wine, there was also no poison on the cup."

    Fang Yuxiang: "If that's the case, then how did he get poisoned?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because he had forgotten something."

    Fang Yuxiang: "What thing?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "He had forgotten than the gold cup was fetched by you, moreover, that you have wiped it with your silk handkerchief."

    He looked at the handkerchief tucked into Fang Yuxiang's lapel and slowly added, "He forgot, although there was no poison in the wine, there was also no poison on the cup, your silk handkerchief is poisonous."

    Fang Yuxiang was silent. Only after a long time did she softly say, "I just want to ask you something."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I am listening."

    Fang Yuxiang: "I am asking you: people like Fei Tian Yu Hu, do they deserve to be killed?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "They do."

    Fang Yuxiang: "In that case, even if I killed him, you should not blame me."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I have never blamed you, I only want you to take it out."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Take out what?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The Luocha Tablet."

    Fang Yuxiang: "The Luocha Tablet? Where would I get such Luocha Tablet from?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Indeed you did not have it, but now you do."

    Fang Yuxiang: "What you want is ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Is the piece you groped from Blue Beard's body just a moment ago."

    Fang Yuxiang fell silent again for a long time before she finally sighed softly and said, "Apparently Lu Xiaofeng truly deserves to be called Lu Xiaofeng, seems like nothing can be concealed from you."

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, "Although sometimes my eyes are blind, fortunately most of the time they are wide open."

    Fang Yuxiang bit her lip, she looked at Lu Xiaofeng, and then looked at Sui Han San You, finally she stomped her feet and called out, "All right, you want me to take it out, I'll take it out. This evil thing can only bring bad luck to people anyway."

    She really took out something from her pocket, an amazingly crystal clear jade tablet. The beauty of this jade tablet indeed far exceeded the other two tablets.

    The jade tablet had just fallen onto the table, like a floating cloud Gu Song's long sleeve flew out.

    The jade tablet on the table immediately vanished into his sleeve.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled as he looked at him, "The mission accomplished, the tablet is returned, fortunately I do not bring disgrace to myself."

    Gu Song: "Bygone enmity and old grievances have been wiped out herewith with this word 'accomplished'."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Thank you."

    Gu Song: "Thank you."

    With a wooden expression Fang Yuxiang coldly said, "Now Fei Tian Yu Hu is dead, the Luocha Tablet has also been returned to you, what are you waiting for?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You want us to leave?"

    Fang Yuxiang bit her lip, "What else do you want? Could it be that you want me?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, "If you ask me, of course I want you, but there is a minor problem."

    Fang Yuxiang: "What problem?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Are you really a human being?"

    Fang Yuxiang laughed, Lu Xiaofeng also laughed.

    He was laughing out loud while walking out. Suddenly he turned his head and patted Fang Yufei on the shoulder, "Chen Jingjing is a very smart girl. Since you like her, you should treat her well."

    Fang Yufei: "Chen Jingjing? Which Chen Jingjing?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Of course the Chen Jingjing we both know."

    Fang Yufei: "Then you should know that she died in the fire."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "No, she did not."

    Fang Yufei: "She did not?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "There was indeed a woman's body in the fire, but it was not Chen Jingjing's."

    Fang Yufei: "Oh?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Chen Jingjing was hit by Chuchu's three bone-penetrating needles, that woman's skeleton did not have even one needle. Before you burned her to death, would you still have time to extract the secret projectiles first?"

    Fang Yufei chuckled, "I do not have that kind of ability."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Therefore, the woman died in the fire was not Chen Jingjing."

    Fang Yufei was still laughing, but his laughter was somewhat forced. "If Chen Jingjing did not die, where did she go?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Since the stuffed steamed bun is still on the plate, the one you ate must be the plain steamed bun."

    Fang Yufei: "Since Chen Jingjing did not die in the fire, someone must have carried Chen Jingjing away."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I told you, this logic is very simple."

    Fang Yufei: "Do you also know who carried her away?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You."

    Fang Yufei could not say another word.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "At first I did not have any suspicions on this matter, but actually you should not kill that child."

    Fang Yufei lowered his head, he looked at his own hands.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I'm sure you also knew that that child was an idiot, there is no way he would recognize your appearance, but you still did not want to take any risk and thus killed him to close his mouth, just because you were afraid he might tell me that the Auntie who was supposed to give him some candy did not die. Although he was stupid, he would certainly be able to tell this little fact."

    Fang Yufei: "And you started to suspect me from then on?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's why I went back to the fire to take a look, and only then did I discover the woman's skeleton was not Chen Jingjing's."

    Fang Yufei: "But you still could not prove that I was the one who carry Chen Jingjing away."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's why I employed Zhao Junwu's help to find some information for me."

    Fang Yufei: "What information?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Chen Jingjing was seriously injured, if you want to keep her alive, you would certainly find a doctor for her, and the number of doctors who are able to treat that kind of injury is truly not many."

    Fang Yufei: "Within several hundred li around that place, perhaps there is only one."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Exactly one."

    Fang Yufei: "Laohekou, Tongde hall, Feng family shop's Blind Feng number two."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "The best part is: because he is a blind man, blind man cannot see the shape of the secret projectile."

    Fang Yufei indifferently said, "Perhaps because of this fact that he is still alive."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Only it's too bad that Chen Jingjing was hit by a bone-penetrating needle from a unique school, a very rare type of secret projectile."

    Fang Yufei: "Therefore, as soon as Zhao Junwu asked around, he found the information."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "From this, it can be seen that Ding Xiangyi was killed by you, her lover is also you."

    Fang Yufei: "Oh?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because the jade tablet I showed to her has fallen into your hands. Therefore, when a moment ago I mentioned the Blind Feng number two, you promptly took it out like an obedient child."

    He chuckled, and then continued, "Actually, my incantation was completely useless to others, but to you, it was a threat."

    Fang Yufei: "Saving others' life is not a disgraceful matter, why would I feel threatened by you?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you are afraid someone might find out."

    Fang Yufei: "I ... I am afraid who would find out?"

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, he turned his face toward Fang Yuxiang.

    Fang Yuxiang's countenance had turned ashen.

    Lu Xiaofeng patted Fang Yufei's shoulder again, and said with a smile, "I told you that Chen Jingjing is a very lovely girl, not only she is smart and pretty, she is also gentle and considerate toward others. Since you have taken the risk to save her, you should treat her well, don't you agree?"

    Fang Yufei: "Right, absolutely right."

    He smiled again, Lu Xiaofeng was also smiling, yet those two people's smile definitely did not have anything in common.

    Thereupon Lu Xiaofeng walked out with a smile on his face.

    "Wait!" Fang Yuxiang suddenly called out loudly.

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped.

    Fang Yuxiang: "You have also forgotten something."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Fang Yuxiang: "You forgot you said you are going to give him something."

    By 'him', she meant Fang Yufei.

    Previously, when she looked at Fang Yufei, her eyes were always brimming with sweetness and affection, but now not even the least bit of a smile remained.

    Now, there were only pain, jealousy, and hatred in her eyes, the kind of jealousy and hatred that almost reaches madness.

    Word by word she continued, "You forgot to give him an a$$h01le." [see end of Chapter 4]

    The wick of the lanterns was in need of trimming, resulted in the dimmed light.

    The room became suddenly still, as still as the grave.

    Fang Yufei stood motionless where he was; no emotion was shown on his face, but for some reason, his exceptionally handsome and attractive face somehow looked gloomy and unspeakably dreadful.

    Even Fang Yuxiang did not dare to look at him anymore.

    She turned toward Lu Xiaofeng and said, "I know you said you were going to give him one."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I did say that."

    Fang Yuxiang: "Will you?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I will."

    Fang Yuxiang suddenly burst out in laughter, a mad kind of laughter, she laughed so hard that tears flowed down her face.

    She used the handkerchief tucked in her lapel to wipe her tears. "I would rather be blind than seeing you and that ***** together."

    Her voice became raspy as she shouted loudly, while blood started to appear on the corners of her mouth.

    She used the handkerchief to wipe the corners of her mouth.

    "Actually, I should have known early on that you were only using me, but I have never thought that you would like that *****."

    She started to cough. "All along you have hidden the truth from me, I suppose you were afraid I might leak your secret. As soon as our business is over, I will definitely die without a burial place, because in reality, I know your secret too much, too much ..."

    She still wanted to continue, but her throat was closing down, as if suddenly there were a pair of invisible hands gripping tightly gripping her throat.

    And then her pretty face started to twist, blood also started to flow out from her orifices.

    But the blood was not scarlet, but eerie bluish green. When she fell down, she happened to fall onto the Blue Beard's body.

    Fang Yufei saw her falling, he was still not moving, his face was devoid of any emotion.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from heaving a sigh and mutter, "There are things I did not want to say, too bad ..."

    Fang Yufei suddenly cut him off, "Too bad you have suspected me a long time ago."

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, "You are the real Fei Tian Yu Hu, the Blue Beard was nothing more than a puppet you exploited."

    Fang Yufei: "You also knew early on that she was not my Meimei."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Chuchu, Jingjing, Xiangyi, they all grew up with her, but they have never mentioned she had any Gege!"

    Fang Yufei: "You are very attentive."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Whenever Fei Tian Yu Hu appeared, you were always nearby, but the Blue Beard had never left this place."

    Fang Yufei did not deny.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "You knew the Luocha Tablet was in Blue Beard's possession, so you told Chen Jingjing to incite Li Xia to steal it. Using Fang Yuxiang as bait, you trapped me, and then you led Li Xia to deal with Jia Leshan. Finally you wanted to use the Blue Beard as your scapegoat. In the end, naturally their riches would belong to you."

    Fang Yufei indifferently said, "You should have known that my expenses are always very big, I have to support many women, all women know how to spend money, especially women who are both beautiful and smart."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "These women, no doubt they all are very intelligent, but actually, in your eyes, they are ..."

    Fang Yufei: "They are no more than a bunch of b**ches."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "No matter what, your being able to use these many women, your ability is truly not small, it's a pity ..."

    Fang Yufei cut him off again, "It's a pity that in the end it was a woman who brought me harm."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Actually, the one bringing harm to you is not Fang Yuxiang."

    Fang Yufei: "If not her, then who?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Chen Jingjing."

    Fang Yufei: "She ..."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Only she can bring you harm, because only to her you were being sincere. If not because of her, how could you reveal that many secrets?"

    Fang Yufei closed his mouth. Although his face was still devoid of any emotion, he was clearly struggling hard to control himself.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because you still have this little bit of sincerity, I am going to give you an opportunity."

    Fang Yufei: "What opportunity?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Toward a man like you, actually we do not need to speak about righteousness and justice of the Jianghu. There are four of us in here, if we make our move together, no doubt you will die in the blink of an eye."

    Fang Yufei did not deny.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But now I am willing to give you the opportunity to have a fair duel.”

    Fang Yufei: “You and me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “That’s right, you and me, mano a mano.”

    Fang Yufei: “If I win?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If you can defeat me, I am dead, you are free to go.”

    Fang Yufei turned his gaze toward Sui Han San You.

    Gu Song coldly said, “If you can defeat him, he is dead, you are free to go.”

    Fang Yufei: “You say it and mean it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Definitely I won’t renege on my words!”

    Suddenly Fang Yufei laughed and said, “I know why you want to do it this way.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Fang Yufei: “Because you want to kill me with your own hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny.

    Fang Yufei smiled and said, “But you are wrong!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I have often done wrong things, luckily once in a while I can also do the right thing.”

    Fang Yufei: “But this time you are wrong, very wrong!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    Fang Yufei: “You will not defeat me, once you make your move, you will no doubt die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed.

    Fang Yufei: “I clearly understand your martial art skills, your magical finger is completely useless against me, but I have a special strategy to deal with you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng only smiled as he listened to him.

    Suddenly Fang Yufei turned his body around, and when he turned back, his hands were covered by a pair of silvery and glittering gloves. Not only the gloves were covered with needle sharp thorns, the fingers were equipped with tiger claw hooks.

    Fang Yufei: “I developed this especially to deal with you. Your finger only needs to make one contact with this, in less than three steps, you will definitely fall down and die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Can I not touch it?”

    Fang Yufei: “You can’t.”

    He continued slowly, “Clamping down the opponent’s weapon with your fingers has always been your usual practice. A usual practice of many years will not change in just a short moment, especially in the face of a danger. And I guarantee you will face a lot of danger.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at his silvery gloves; in the end he sighed and with a bitter smile he said, “Looks like my death has been decided.”

    Fang Yufei: “I have no doubt. You will definitely die.”

    His voice and manner were full of confidence. When martial art masters were having a duel, confidence was actually a very formidable weapon, even more formidable than his pair of fantastic silver gloves.

    The smiling expression on Lu Xiaofeng had disappeared.

    At this moment, Fang Yufei already struck.

  9. #49
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 – A Bunch of Ugly Condemns

    The light flickered, dazzling Lu Xiaofeng's eyes. Strange and crafty style, each stance spelled death.

    The room was not too wide to begin with, Lu Xiaofeng practically did not have any room to retreat.

    In this world, there are people who had never suffered any defeat.

    Lu Xiaofeng was that kind of person. Could it be that today he will suffer defeat in here?

    With his hands behind his back, Gu Song was standing on the farthest corner, coldly watching the battle. Suddenly he asked, "Do you think he will be defeated?"

    Ku Zhu mumbled intelligibly, then said, "What do you think?"

    Gu Song: "I think he will be defeated. No doubt."

    Ku Zhu sighed and said, "I never thought there will come a day Lu Xiaofeng will be defeated."

    Gu Song: "I was not talking about Lu Xiaofeng."

    Ku Zhu was surprised, "No?"

    Gu Song: "I said Fang Yufei will be defeated."

    Ku Zhu: "But right now he seems to be occupying the upper hand position."

    Gu Song: "Occupying the upper hand position early in the battle only wasting one's strength; in the battle between masters, the key to victory or defeat lies in the very last strike."

    Ku Zhu: "But right now Lu Xiaofeng already seems unable to defend himself."

    Gu Song: "It's not that he is unable, he is only unwilling."

    Ku Zhu: "Why?"

    Gu Song: "He is waiting."

    Ku Zhu: "Waiting for the very last opportunity, to make the very last strike?"

    Gu Song: "Too much talk leads to error; by occupying the upper hand position, by rushing to the offensive early, sooner or later one will make a wrong move."

    Ku Zhu: "And that's when Lu Xiaofeng will get the opportunity to strike?"

    Gu Song: "That's right."

    Ku Zhu: "Even if there is such opportunity, it will surely like a white steed flits past a crack, an opportunity that will disappear in a flash."

    Gu Song: "Naturally."

    Ku Zhu: "And you think he will not miss it?"

    Gu Song: "I believe that if he wanted to make a move, one strike is all he need."

    All this time Han Mei was quietly listening on the side, but his eyes seemed to have that kind of mocking or ridiculing laugh. Suddenly, with a cold laugh he said, "Too bad there's always time when somebody will miscalculate."

    When he started talking, Fang Yufei had just managed to push Lu Xiaofeng toward the corner they were standing.

    Nobody could describe the speed with which he drew his sword, nobody could see clearly his movement when he drew his sword, all they could see was the flashing of the sword!

    The flashing of the sword as fast as the lightning went straight toward Lu Xiaofeng's back.

    It was definitely a fatal strike!

    Lu Xiaofeng was hounded to death by the attack from the front, perhaps not even in his dream he would ever imagined that the fatal strike would come from behind instead.

    How could he evade?

    He could!

    Just because he was Lu Xiaofeng.

    There were sixty split seconds in one snap of the fingers; the crucial point to decide life and death is no more than one split second. In that split second he suddenly twisted his body, just as if his body suddenly shrank.

    Like a flying arrow the sword by, once released, it could not be pulled back.

    The sword's ray penetrated his clothes, but did not penetrate his back. Instead, the sword's ray went straight toward Fang Yufei who was directly in front of him.

    Fang Yufei clapped his palms to clamp the blade of the sword.

    He also did not have anywhere to evade the sword, it was merely a last minute desperate move to save his own life.

    Too bad he forgot that his opponent was not Han Mei, but Lu Xiaofeng.

    And Lu Xiaofeng was right by his side.

    Almost in that same split second, Lu Xiaofeng had made his move.

    Nobody could describe the speed of this strike, nobody could see clearly his movement, but they could see a bloody hole appeared in the middle of Fang Yufei's chest.

    They could see very clearly, because fresh blood was starting to flow out from his chest.

    His body slowly turned icy-cold and stiff, yet he had not fallen down, because there was a sword sticking into his chest.

    Han Mei's sword.

    It was truly a fatal strike, but it was not Lu Xiaofeng's world-famous finger, rather, it was this sword.

    When Lu Xiaofeng's finger struck in between his eyebrows, his hands, which were clamping the blade of the sword, loosened; the sword, which still carried a residue of the thrusting force, pierced his chest.

    Han Mei's body also seemed to stiffen and turned icy-cold -- there is always time when somebody will miscalculate, but this time it was he who miscalculated.

    The outcome of this affair was truly beyond anybody's expectation.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the hole in between Fang Yufei's eyebrows and slowly said, "I said I would give you one, and definitely I must deliver."

    Fang Yufei looked at him with an empty eyes; his hawk-like sharp gaze had already turned empty grey. The corners of his mouth suddenly twitched into a mocking smile as he struggled to say, "Originally, I have always envied you very much."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Fang Yufei: "Because you have four eyebrows."

    He gasped for breath, but struggled hard to continued, "But you cannot compete with me now, because I have two a$$h01les. I guarantee that you will never surpass me in this regard."

    Lu Xiaofeng did not open his mouth, in fact, he was unable to open his mouth.

    Fang Yufei looked at him. Suddenly he laughed; he laughed hard as he drew back. The sword came out of his chest, blood splashed out.

    His laughter stopped instantly.

    When he stopped breathing, blood was still dripping from the sword in Han Mei's hand.

    Han Mei's face was ashen.

    It was as if the blood dripping from the tip of his sword was not only Fang Yufei's, but also his own.

    He did not dare to look up, he did not dare to face Ku Zhu and Gu Song; but they were staring at him.

    Suddenly Gu Song sighed and said, "You were right, there's always time when somebody will misread something; I have misread you."

    Ku Zhu also sighed and said, "How could you work hand in glove with this man? How could you do this kind of matter?"

    Suddenly Han Mei shouted, "Because I don't want to be bullied by you for the rest of my life!"

    Ku Zhu: "But you are willing to be bullied by Fang Yufei?"

    With a cold laugh Han Mei said, "If we succeeded, I would become the Cult Leader of the Luocha Cult. Fang Yufei would rule inside the Great Wall, I would control the outside. The Luocha Cult joins hand with the Black Tiger Hall, no doubt we would be unchallenged under the heavens."

    Ku Zhu: "Have you forgotten your age? We have lived in seclusion on Kunlun Mountains for twenty years, have you not whittled away the greed in your heart?"

    Han Mei: "It is exactly because I am old, exactly because I have wasted several dozen years of tedious days, that while I am still alive, I wanted to do something earth-shattering."

    Gu Song coldly said, "It's a pity that you did not succeed."

    With a cold laugh Han Mei replied, "I don't care if I succeed or I fail. Either way, I will never be bullied by you."

    A dead man will never be bullied by anybody.

    Night. The dark long lane, the dismal and frigid fog.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly stepped out into the dark. Gu Song and Ku Zhu slowly walked by his side. The sparse stars were sinking.

    Their moods were sinking even lower -- sometimes a success cannot take the place of a true happiness.

    But at least success is a lot better than failure.

    Beyond this long lane, the outside world was still covered in darkness.

    Suddenly Gu Song asked, "Have you anticipated the sword from your back?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Gu Song: "So you figured out early on that he was in cahoots with Fang Yufei?"

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded again, he said, "Because they have made a mistake.”

    Gu Song: “Tell us.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “That day, Han Mei shouldn’t have forced me to fight Zhao Junwu; seemed to me he was simply trying to buy Fang Yufei some time.”

    “Humph,” Gu Song snorted.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “When one’s secret is exposed, when one is at the end of the line, one would not have the confidence Fang Yufei had just displayed, unless he had another way out.”

    Gu Song: “That’s why you deliberately put yourself in dire situation first; that was also not a good thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Everybody needs to have self-confidence, but too much confidence in oneself is also not a good thing.”

    Gu Song: “It was because he was so confident that you were going to die that you did not die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Oftentimes, it was when one is closest to success that one would be most negligent.”

    Gu Song: “Because he thought success was already knocking on his door, his guard was down and his arrogance rose up.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Therefore, the number of people who really achieved success is indeed not too many.”

    Gu Song was silent for quite a long time before he suddenly asked, “There is one more thing that I do not understand.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Tell me.”

    Gu Song: “You really have never seen the real Luocha Tablet?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I haven’t.”

    Gu Song: “But with one glance you were able to tell whether it was genuine or fake?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because it was the Big Boss Zhu’s craftsmanship. Big Boss Zhu is my friend, I know his special characteristic.”

    Gu Song: “What special characteristic?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “When he produces a replica, he always leaves a distinguishing mark, he intentionally wants people to find it.”

    Gu Song: “What kind of distinguishing mark?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “For example, when he copied the Han Gan horse, oftentimes he would deliberately paint a little worm on the horse’s mane.”

    Gu Song: “When he copied the Luocha Tablet, what distinguishing mark did he leave?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “The back of the Luocha Tablet is engraved with images of various deities and various demons, among which was a flower-scattering fairy [orig. ‘tian nu’ - female heavenly being, celestial woman].”

    Gu Song: “That’s right.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “With just one glance I was able to recognize the face of that flower-scattering fairy.”

    Gu Song: “How come?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because that was the Lady Boss’ face.”

    Gu Song: “Lady Boss?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, “The Lady Boss is of course the Boss Zhu’s wife.”

    Gu Song’s face looked ashen, with a cold voice he said, “Therefore, you must have also seen that the Luocha Tablet Fang Yuxiang took from the Blue Beard’s bosom is also a fake article.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Actually, I did not want to look, but I could not bear not to give it a glance; therefore …”

    Gu Song: “Therefore what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Therefore, very soon I will have a bad luck.”

    Gu Song: “Bad luck? What bad luck?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Han Mei’s kind of bad luck.”

    Gu Song’s countenance fell.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Han Mei did all that because he was unwilling to acquiesce to old age, unwilling to be lonely, but what about you?”

    Gu Song closed his mouth, he was unwilling to answer.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If the two of you are really that kind of hermits who are without care of the world and live a simple life, why would you join the Luocha Cult? If you do not harbor the desire to be the Luocha Cult’s Jiaozhu, why would you kill Yu Tianbao?”

    Ku Zhu’s countenance also changed greatly, “What did you say?” he sternly asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng matter-of-factly said, “I am simply stating a simple logic.”

    Ku Zhu: “What logic?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “If you are truly loyal and devoted to the Luocha Cult, why didn’t you kill me to avenge the son of your Jiaozhu?”

    He chuckled and then answered his own question, “Because you know that Yu Tianbao did not die in my hands. I have never even seen him. Who actually killed him, in your hearts you certainly know how things stand."

    Ku Zhu coldly said, "If you are a really smart person, you should not have said these things."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I said these things, only because I know a simpler logic."

    Ku Zhu: “What logic?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: "It doesn't matter whether I said these things or not, I will still fall into the bad luck."

    Ku Zhu: "Why?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I have seen the Luocha Tablet, because in this world I am the only one who knows that Luocha Tablet is a fake. If you intent to use that Luocha Tablet to ascend the Jiaozhu's throne of the Luocha Cult, you have no choice but to kill me to close my mouth."

    He sighed, then added, "Right now there is nobody else around here; this is precisely the best opportunity for you to make your move. Song Zhu Shen Jian [Divine Sword of Pine and Bamboo; Gu Song and Ku Zhu's name mean 'lone pine' and 'dry bamboo', respectively], combined double sword to form a wall, I am definitely not your match."

    Gu Song looked at him with cold eyes; suddenly he said, "You gave Fang Yufei a chance, I can also give you a chance."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "What chance?"

    Gu Song: "I'll let you run right now, as long as you can escape from us this time, definitely we will no longer look for you in the future."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I cannot escape."

    Although Gu Song and Ku Zhu seemed to be standing casually, the position they occupied was actually very ingenious; they were like a pair of pliers, ready to pinch Lu Xiaofeng in the middle.

    Although right now the pliers had not clamped down, they were already like a fully-taut bows, ready to spring into action. Perhaps no one under the heavens would be able to escape from the clamping of these pliers.

    Lu Xiaofeng was able to see this fact very clearly, yet his laughter was still very cheerful, "I know that I won't be able to escape from you, but there is one thing that you do not know."

    Gu Song: "Oh?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Even if I am able to escape, I will not run away. Even if you cannot catch up with me, I will still not run away."

    Gu Song: "You want to die?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I don't want it even more."

    Gu Song did not understand, Ku Zhu did not understand even more. The way Lu Xiaofeng dealt with his problem, less than several people in the world would understand.

    Lu Xiaofeng: "In the last six years, I should have died at least sixty times, but until now I am still alive and well. Do you know why?"

    Gu Song: "Tell us."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Because I have friends. I have a lot of friends. Among those friends, fortunately there are one or two who know how to use sword."

    As the word 'sword' came out of his mouth, Gu Song suddenly felt an intense and cold sword aura on his back.

    He turned around quickly, but did not see any sword. He only saw a man!

    The intense and cold sword aura was actually coming from this man; this man's body seemed to be even sharper than the sword.

    It was foggy. The fog was gradually getting thicker.

    This man was standing in the hazy fog, in the middle of the icy-cold thick fog, as if he was coming from a distant past to stand in there, or perhaps he had just appeared from nowhere into the thick fog.

    Although this man was sharper than the sword, yet just like the fog, he also looked empty and blurred, faintly indiscernible like an imaginary shadow.

    Gu Song and Ku Zhu could not see his face, but they could see this man was wearing white clothes, as white as snow.

    Peerless sword of the present age. Although there was no sword in his hand, although the sword had not left its sheathe, only his presence carried a sword aura that was nearer and more threatening than a sword.

    The pupil of Gu Song and Ku Zhu's eyes shrank. "Ximen Chuixue!"

    They had not seen this man's face, in fact, they had never seen Ximen Chuixue before, yet in that instant they was already aware that this man must be Ximen Chuixue!

    Unique and unmatched sword under the heavens.

    Unique and unmatched under the heavens, Ximen Chuixue!

    Ximen Chuixue had not moved, had not opened his mouth, had not pulled his sword, as a matter of fact, he did not even have any sword in him!

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled again.

    Gu Song could not bear not to ask, "When did you call him to come?"

    Lu Xiaofeng: "I didn't call him, but fortunately among my friends, there are one or two who would call him for me."

    Gu Song: "Finally you find the right man."

    Ku Zhu coldly said, "It has always been our wish to see the 'bright moon night, indigo sky, one sword breaking the flying immortal' Ximen Chuixue."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "That's why although I did not call him to come, you would also go to look for him."

    Ku Zhu laughed coldly.

    Ximen Chuixue suddenly said, "You are wrong."

    Ku Zhu: "What's wrong?"

    Ximen Chuixue: "The swordsmanship of the Master of the White Cloud Castle was just like white cloud in the clear sky, faultless and pure. Nobody can break his 'flying immortal of the outer sky'."

    Ku Zhu: "You cannot either?"

    Ximen Chuixue: "I cannot."

    Ku Zhu: "But you did."

    Ximen Chuixue: "The one who broke that 'flying immortal of the outer sky' was not me."

    Ku Zhu: "If it was not you, who was it?"

    Ximen Chuixue: "He himself."

    Ku Zhu did not understand, Gu Song also did not understand. The way Ximen Chuixue spoke, less than several people in the world would understand.

    Ximen Chuixue: "Although his swordsmanship was pure, his heart was not."

    His eyes shone as he slowly continued, "The essence of the sword power lies in the 'sincere heart and upright mind'; when one's heart is filthy, how can he not be defeated?"

    Ku Zhu suddenly felt a gust of sword aura rushed in. These words were sharper than the sword.

    Wasn't it because his own heart was not pure?

    Ximen Chuixue said, "If the heart is not pure, the sword will definitely weak ..."

    Eventually, Ku Zhu could not bear not to interrupt him. "Where is your sword?" he asked in stern voice.

    Ximen Chuixue: "I have it."

    Ku Zhu: "Where?"

    Ximen Chuixue: "Everywhere!"

    It was also a hard-to-understand word, but Ku Zhu understood it, Gu Song also understood it well -- if his being and his sword had been dissolved into one entity, his body was the sword; as long his being existed, all objects under the heavens was his sword -- it was precisely the highest and most profound realm of swordsmanship.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, "It seems to me that after your duel with Ye Gucheng, your swordsmanship has advanced one more level."

    Ximen Chuixue was silent for a long time before finally he slowly said, "There is still one thing you do not understand."

    Lu Xiaofeng: "Oh?"

    Ximen Chuixue's shining eyes suddenly became like the fog, empty, blurry, and melancholy, "With a sword I defeated the Master of the White Cloud Castle. All over the world, who is worthy to accompany me using that sword again?"

    Ku Zhu coldly said, "I ..."

    Ximen Chuixue did not let him continue, he coldly said, "You are even not worthy, if you must depend on the collaboration of a pair of swords to defeat the enemy and achieve victory, this kind of swordsmanship is only fit to trim the flowers and cut the cloth."

    Suddenly there was a ringing noise, the sword had left its sheathe.

    Ku Zhu's sword!

    The sword ray split the air, it flew ten zhang away.

    Although the mighty power of this sword was incomparable to the 'flying immortal of the outer sky', it stood out above the lone steep hill, just like the ten-thousand years old dry bamboo resisting the cold wind on the mountain peak.

    Ximen Chuixue still had not moved, had not drawn his sword.

    There was no sword in his hand, where was his sword?

    Suddenly, there was another clear ringing sound, the sword ray dispersed, the shadows of the two men came together, but suddenly separated again.

    The fog was getting thicker, getting colder.

    The two men stood facing each other, the tip of Ku Zhu's sword was dripping with blood ...

    His own sword, his own blood.

    But the sword was no longer in his hand, this sword pierced his heart from the front, and went through his body to appear on his back.

    He looked at Ximen Chuixue in shock, as if he did not believe this really happened.

    Ximen Chuixue coldly said, “I believe you should know by now where my sword is?”

    Ku Zhu wanted to speak, but he could only cough.

    Ximen Chuixue coldly said, “My sword was in your hand, your sword is mine.”

    Ku Zhu roared wildly and pulled the sword out.

    As soon as the blade came out of his chest, blood spurted out like flying arrow.

    Ximen Chuixue still had not moved.

    The blood splashed in front of him, falling down like rain, the tip of the sword also went straight to him, and then drooped down to the ground.

    When Ku Zhu fell down, he did not even give him a glance.

    He was looking at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from heaving a sigh, but Gu Song actually was holding his breath.

    Ximen Chuixue said, “You sent people to get me, and here I am!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I know you would certainly come.”

    Ximen Chuixue: “Because I owe you one.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because you are my friend.”

    Ximen Chuixue: “Even though we are friends, this is the last time I am helping you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “The last time?”

    Ximen Chuixue coldly said, “I have paid my debt of gratitude, I do not owe you anything anymore, I also do not wish you to owe me anything, therefore …”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Therefore, if next time you see me about to die under someone else’s hand, you will not do anything anymore.”

    Ximen Chuixue only looked at him with his cold gaze; he did not deny at all.

    And then suddenly he disappeared, disappeared into the wind, disappeared into the fog; just like the way he appeared, so mysterious and unexpected.

    Gu Song did not move, he did not move for a very, very long time, as if he had suddenly turned into an ancient pine tree. [Reminder: ‘Song’ means pine tree.]

    The cold fog filled the air, so dense that eventually Ku Zhu’s body, which lay about ten zhang away, was no longer visible, let alone Ximen Chuixue, whose shadow had disappeared for a long time.

    Gu Song heaved a very deep sigh, he suddenly said, “That man is not human, he is definitely not a human.”

    Although Lu Xiaofeng did not deny, he did not acknowledge either – if one’s swordsmanship has reached the divine level, won’t that mean the person has also reached divinity? His body is his sword, his sword is his god!

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes suddenly showed an indescribable emotion, perhaps it was sympathy and sadness.

    Unexpectedly Gu Song looked at him, with a cold voice he asked, “You have sympathy for him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “My sympathy is not toward him.”

    Gu Song: “It is not?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “He is married and they have a child, originally I thought he would change into a real human.”

    Gu Song: “But he hasn’t changed.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “No, he hasn’t.”

    Gu Song: “Sword is eternally unchanging, if he is the sword, how could he change?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed dejectedly – sword is eternally unchanging, sword will always hurt people.

    Gu Song: “If a woman becomes the wife of a sword, naturally her life will not be pleasant.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Naturally.”

    Gu Song: “Therefore, your sympathy is toward his wife.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from sighing again.

    Gu Song stared at him, then he slowly said, “There must be a lot of sad events in the past among you. It is very possible that his wife was yours. The past events are unbearable to recall, you …”

    When the word ‘you’ came out of his mouth, his sword had already moved.

    The sword flashed like a lightning, straight toward Lu Xiaofeng’s throat!

    The throat is the most fatal point in a human’s body, and right now Lu Xiaofeng was at the most frail state of mind.

    The unbearable-to-recall past events, why do they always make one become sorrowful and weak?

    Gu Song had chosen the best chance to strike!

    His sword was faster than Ku Zhu’s, the distance between Lu Xiaofeng and him was no more than an arm length.

    This sword move was undoubtedly a fatal strike, he made his move with complete confidence.

    Too bad he had forgotten one small detail – his opponent was not anybody else, but it was Lu Xiaofeng!

    The sword stabbed, a cold ray flashed.

    Right at this same split second, Lu Xiaofeng also made his move – he only extended his two fingers and pinched lightly!

    No one can describe the speed and the magical characteristic of this pinch; the power displayed by this pinch was almost beyond the limit of human being’s potential.

    The cold ray vanished, the sword also blocked, he suddenly found that the blade of the sword was clamped between Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers.

    Gu Song pulled the sword, he pulled again!

    The sword would not budge!

    Gu Song’s entire body trembled in fear. Suddenly he let his sword go and leaped high into the sky he jumped five zhang away.

    The speed and power with which he ran away was also beyond anybody’s imagination, because he knew it was a matter of life and death to him.

    The power a human being is capable of exerting in order to save his own life oftentimes is difficult for others to fathom.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not pursue.

    Because right this moment he suddenly felt a shadow appeared in the midst of the thick fog ahead.

    A hazy shadow of a man, seemingly more blurry than the fog, seemingly more illusory than the fog, even more unfathomable than the fog.

    Even if you saw him appear with your own eyes, you would feel it is difficult to believe that he really did appear from the earth. Even if you knew very well that he is not a ghost, you would also find it difficult to believe that he was a real human being.

    Gu Song’s elegant posture as he soared like a dragon in the sky suddenly halted and he dropped straight down to the ground, as if in that split second his mighty power suddenly crumbled and completely vanished.

    Because he also saw this man, the man who appeared human but not quite a human, who appeared ghost yet not quite one.

    ‘Bang!’ This man, whose qinggong was peerless among the Wulin masters, unexpectedly dropped down to the ground, just like a piece of rock, and no longer moving.

    It appeared that not only his strength suddenly crumbled and vanished completely, but even his life had completely gone.

    Could it be that this sudden collapse only because he had seen this man?

    Could it be that this man’s body emit a power which will make others collapse and die? Could it be that he was the death?

    The fog had not dispersed, the man had not walked away.

    The man in the fog seemed to look at Lu Xiaofeng from the distant, Lu Xiaofeng was also looking at him, he could even see his eyes.

    No one can describe that kind of eyes.

    Obviously his eyes were located horizontally across his face, but his face seemed to be dissolved in the fog. Obviously his eyes were shining, but even this kind of shine seemed to blur into the fog and became indiscernible.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was looking at his eyes, he seemed to feel that probably he was just looking at the fog.

    The man in the fog suddenly said, “Lu Xiaofeng?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You know me?”

    The man in the fog: “Not only I know you, I am also grateful to you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Grateful?”

    The man in the fog: “Grateful over two different matters.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

    The man in the fog: “Grateful because you helped me removing the scum in my own school and the enemy outside, also grateful because you are not my enemy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng took a very deep breath and said, “You are …”

    The man in the fog: “I am surnamed Yu [jade].”

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly exhaled before saying, “Yu? Yu as in ‘precious jade’?”

    The man in the fog: “Precious jade without a mind of its own, precious jade is undefeatable.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Undefeatable means did not die?”

    The man in the fog: “The Jade of the Western Region, as everlasting as the Heaven and the Earth.”

    Lu Xiaofeng exhaled again, “You are the Western Region’s Yu Luocha?”

    The man in the fog: “I am.”

    The fog was hazy grey, he was also hazy grey; standing in the midst of the fog, he looked similarly blurry, similarly vague as his surrounding.

    Was he really a human being? Or was he a ghost?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed, he laughed while shaking his head, “Actually, I should’ve thought of it early on.”

    The Western Region’s Yu Luocha asked, “Think of what?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I should’ve thought early on that your death was only a trick.”

    Yu Luocha: “Why would I use such trick?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Because you personally founded the Western Region’s Luocha Cult, of course you would hope that it will be as everlasting as the Heaven and the Earth.”

    Yu Luocha admitted.

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But the organization of Western Region’s Luocha Cult is simply too big, the elements inside are simply too complex. When you are still alive, nobody dare to challenge your authority, but when you are dead, would these people continue to show the same devotion and loyalty to your descendants?”

    Yu Luocha said matter-of-factly, “Even the most pure gold unavoidably will not reach 100% purity, much less people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “You must have known early on that among your people, there are some people who are not loyal to you. You will want your offspring to retain this share of your family estate, so you wanted to find these people first.”

    Yu Luocha: “When you are about to cook rice, don’t you also pick the grains of [稗 - Echinochloa crusgalli] from among the grains of rice first?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But you also knew that this is not going to be an easy task, some grains of barnyard millet are white; mixed among the grains of rice, they are very difficult to distinguish. Only when they have nothing to fear from you will they appear in their true colors.”

    Yu Luocha: “Only when I died, otherwise, they would never dare!”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “It’s a pity that desiring your death is really not easy; therefore, you resorted to this trick of feigning death.”

    Yu Luocha: “This is one of the very ancient schemes, but it survives until today, is precisely because it is still effective.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “Now it appears your scheme is a total success, you must be very happy, are you not?”

    Although he was smiling, his voice seemed to carry a hint of unspeakable mocking tone.

    Naturally Yu Luocha was able to catch this mocking tone, he asked back immediately, “Why must I not be happy?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Although you have saved enough water for your descendants to preserve the world, the family estate which will not be defeated for all ages, but what about your son?”

    Suddenly Yu Luocha laughed. His laughter was just like his personality, gloomy and faintly indiscernible; his laughter seemed to also brimming with an unspeakable mocking tone.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand why he was still able to laugh.

    Yu Luocha was still laughing; he laughed when he said, “If you think the one who died under their hands was my real son, you underestimate me too much.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “So the one who died under their hands was not really Yu Tianbao?”

    Yu Luocha: “It was Yu Tianbao all right, but Yu Tianbao was not my son.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “They have been with you for many years, could it be that they did not even know who your son is?”

    Yu Luocha lightly said, “The day my son was born, he is not my son anymore.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand even more.

    Yu Luocha: “I know it is hard for you to understand, because you are not the Cult Leader of the Western Region’s Luocha Cult.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “And if I were?”

    Yu Luocha: “If you are, then you would know that when one reaches this kind of position, one would have absolutely no time to teach one’s own son, because the matters you have to attend is simply too much.”

    His voice suddenly became somewhat melancholy, “The woman who gave birth to my son, she died of childbirth on the same day. If a child, who is to become the future Jiaozhu of the Western Region’s Luocha Cult, does not have his parents’ admonition for all his life, what kind of man do you think he would grow into?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Certainly a man like Yu Tianbao.”

    Yu Luocha: “Naturally you do not want someone like that to inherit the organization you founded.”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head again, and he sighed again.

    Suddenly he realized that being the Cult Leader of the Western Region’s Luocha Cult was indeed not easy, raising his own child to become a responsible adult was truly not easy.

    Yu Luocha continued, “Therefore, by the seventh day after he was born, I handed him over to my most trusted man to be raised. Also on that same day, I adopted other people’s child to be my own. Nobody knows this secret until today.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Why do you tell it to me now?”

    Yu Luocha: “Because I trust you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But we are not friends at all.”

    Yu Luocha: “Exactly because we are neither friends nor foes that I trust you.”

    His eyes were gleaming with that kind of mocking laugh again, “If you were the Cult Leader of the Western Region’s Luocha Cult, you would understand my meaning.”

    Lu Xiaofeng understood.

    Sometimes, some friends are more terrifying than foes.

    It’s just that although he had also experience that kind of bitter friendship, he had never lost confidence in his friends.

    Because he was not the Cult Leader of Western Region’s Luocha Cult.

    He did not want to be, he had also never wanted to be a Cult Leader of any Cult. Supposed some people come to him and bring him up in a sedan chair, he would definitely not go.

    Lu Xiaofeng was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Yu Luocha’s gaze seemed to penetrate the dense fog and see through his heart. He suddenly laughed again and said, “Although you are not the Western Region’s Luocha Cult Jiaozhu, I know that you understand me very well. Likewise, although I am not Lu Xiaofeng, I can understand you very well.”

    Whether he wanted to or not, Lu Xiaofeng could not deny this fact.

    Although he was still unable to see this man’s face clearly, but between them, without a doubt there was already an understanding and respect, which other people would find it hard to understand.

    One kind of mutual respect.

    He knew that Yu Luocha was very thorough in his thought and very profound in his vision, which he himself would never able to achieve.

    Again, Yu Luocha seemed to touch his feeling, he continued slowly, “I am grateful you are not my enemy, because I have just discovered a very terrifying matter.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “What is it?”

    Yu Luocha: “You are the most terrifying person I have ever met in all my life. The things that you can do, many of those I would never be able to achieve. Therefore, I come here this time, originally I wanted to kill you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “But now?”

    Yu Luocha: “But now I only want to ask you one thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “Go ahead.”

    Yu Luocha: “Right now we are neither friends nor foe, but what about later?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I hope it will always be like this.”

    Yu Luocha: “You really hope so?”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I do.”

    Yu Luocha: “But maintaining this kind of relation is really not easy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “I know.”

    Yu Luocha: “You won’t regret it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I also wish you would understand one thing.”

    Yu Luocha: “Tell me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng: “In all my life, I have met a lot of terrifying people, but no one is more terrifying than you!”

    Yu Luocha laughed. When he started to laugh, he was still standing in the midst of the fog, but by the time Lu Xiaofeng heard his laughter, he had already disappeared.

    In this kind of hazy dense fog, meeting such a person as blurry as the fog, and then seeing that person faded away just like in a dream.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt that even he himself seemed to be lost in the fog.

    After all is said and done, did he achieve success in this matter? Or did he fail? Even he was not able to tell clearly …

  10. #50
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 1

    Lu Xiaofeng Book 5: Mansion of Spirits (幽灵山庄)
    Written by Gu Long
    Translated by Junny, Ren Wo Xing and Foxs

    Chapter 1 - Lu Xiaofeng on the run
    Translated by Junny

    Underneath the shiny antique bronze paperweights rested twelve white paper cards, around the elegant Eight Immortals Table sat seven people.

    Seven people whose reputations and fame shook through the martial arts world.

    Ancient Pine Hermit, Wooden Taoist, Monk Bittergourd, Second Master Tang, Swordsman Xiaoxiang, Sikong Zhaixing, Hua Manlou.

    These seven people had unusual statuses and distinctive backgrounds; among them were monks, hermits, wandering swordsmen, highly-skilled imperial guards, disciples of esteemed sects, and elders of the martial arts world who had seen it all.

    They had gathered here because they shared something in common.

    They were Lu Xiaofeng’s friends.

    Now they had something else in common – all seven had grave expressions and heavy hearts.

    Especially the Wooden Taoist.

    Every one was watching him, waiting for him to speak.

    They had all come here at his bidding; this was no simple matter, and of course he had the most important of reasons.

    There were food and wine on the table, but nobody had lifted their cups or touched their food.

    A breeze was blowing and the pavilion was filled with the fragrance of flowers, spirits should have been high during such a beautiful season.

    They were originally carefree, unrestrained characters, why would they be so troubled?

    Hua Manlou was blind, and the blind do not light lamps, but the one who had lit the hexagonal lamp on the table was precisely he.

    There are many things in the world that are just like this – they should not have happened, but they did.

    The Wooden Taoist sighed and finally opened his mouth: “Every one has made mistakes, but so long as he repents, that is a good thing.” He was trying very hard to restrain himself, but his voice still sounded rather agitated: “However, there are some things where you absolutely cannot do wrong, once you have made a mistake, you only have one path to go!”

    “A dead end?” Sikong Zhaixing asked.

    The Wooden Taoist nodded and picked up the antique bronze paperweight on the table; twelve paper cards, with twelve names written on it.

    Twelve famous names!

    “They shouldn’t have died, whoever wanted to kill them wouldn’t have had it easy. A pity they had all committed a fatal mistake!”

    He retrieved four from the pile of paper cards: “Especially these four, I’m sure you have heard of them.”

    Four paper cards, four names.

    Gao Tao: Phoenix Tail Sect’s third section chief
    Crime: Turncoat
    Bounty hunter: Ximen Chuixue
    Fate: On the run for thirteen days, died in the marshes.

    Gu Feiyun: True successor to Bashan Swordsman
    Crime: Killed friend’s son and seduced friend’s wife
    Bounty hunter: Ximen Chuixue
    Fate: On the run for fifteen days, died in the busy downtown.

    Liu Qingqing: Famed swordswoman of Huainan, wife of Diancang swordsman Xie Jian
    Crime: Adultery, murdered husband
    Bounty hunter: Ximen Chuixue
    Fate: On the run for nineteen days, died in the wilderness.

    “One-armed Divine Dragon” Hai Qikuo
    Crime: Indiscriminately killing innocent people
    Bounty hunter: Ximen Chuixue
    Fate: On the run for nineteen days, died at sea after boat capsized.

    Every one had heard of these four names, but the one name they were most familiar with was Ximen Chuixue’s!

    Which self-respecting martial artist had not heard of Ximen Chuixue? Who would dare say his swordplay was not unparalleled?

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang suddenly said: “I’ve seen Ximen Chuixue.”

    Since that duel at the Forbidden City, even this number one imperial guard had to concede that Ximen Chuixue’s skill was unmatched: “But I am not able to see how he enjoys poking his nose into other people’s business.”

    “This isn’t frivolous business,” said Hua Manlou.

    Sikong Zhaixing immediately added: “He rarely makes new friends, but hates people who betray their friends.”

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang shut his mouth, but Second Master Tang began to speak.

    The Tang family of Sichuan was famous for its use of poisoned hidden weapons, equally well-known was Second Master Tang’s dislike of talking, but he suddenly asked: “You think their fatal mistake was to have betrayed their friends?”

    “Isn’t that the case?” Sikong Zhaixing asked.

    Second Master Tang shook his head and did not say another word, because he knew someone else would understand the point he was trying to put across.

    Indeed, another person understood: “Their crimes were different, but the fatal mistake was the same.”

    “Which is?”

    “Ximen Chuixue!” the Wooden Taoist slowly said: “Should Ximen Chuixue decide to kill someone, nobody would be able to escape.”

    Even if one could, one couldn’t live beyond nineteen days.

    “These twelve people all died by Ximen Chuixue’s sword.” The Wooden Taoist’s expression was even graver: “And now there’s another person who has committed the same fatal mistake, and the crime is even more serious.”

    “Oh?”

    “He not only betrayed a friend, the one he betrayed is Ximen Chuixue!”

    “Who is this person?”

    “Lu Xiaofeng!”

    A while of heavy silence, so heavy that it was suffocating.

    The first to break that silence was Swordsman Xiaoxiang: “I know Lu Xiaofeng is not only Ximen Chuixue’s friend, he’s also his benefactor.”

    The Wooden Taoist sighed: “It’s a pity that gratitude has been repaid, but vengeance has not been redressed!”

    “For what?” Swordsman Xiaoxiang asked.

    “Stealing his wife,” the Wooden Taoist said.

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang was startled and asked: “Is there proof?”

    “Yes.”

    “What proof?”

    “He saw them in bed with his own eyes.”

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang suddenly lifted the cup in front of him and downed his wine; Sikong Zhaixing was even quicker.

    The only one who could still maintain his composure was Hua Manlou; his cup of wine was still full, he had only had a sip: “Lu Xiaofeng is not that kind of person, there must be something more to this.”

    Sikong Zhaixing agreed immediately: “Maybe he was drunk, maybe he was drugged, or maybe they were not doing anything on the bed at all.”

    These excuses were not very good, and he was not very pleased with them, so he drank another cup.

    Those who draw conclusions are always the ones who speak the least.

    “I do not know Lu Xiaofeng, but I do know he has done the Tang family a good turn.” Second Master Tang delivered the conclusion: “Regardless of whether there is more to this matter, we must find him and clarify this personally.”

    The Wooden Taoist, however, was shaking his head.

    “You don’t want to find him?” Sikong Zhaixing asked.

    “It’s not that I don’t want to find, it’s that I can’t,” Wooden Taoist replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been on the run the moment this matter broke out, nobody knew where he’d escaped to.

    The Wooden Taoist spread out the twelve cards, said: “That is why I have invited you all here to look at these…”

    Sikong Zhaixing interrupted him, saying: “Lu Xiaofeng is neither Gao Tao nor One-armed Divine Dragon, what have these bastards’ affairs got to do with us?”

    “There is some connection,” Wooden Taoist said.

    “What connection?”

    “Their escape route.”

    If they hoped to find Lu Xiaofeng, they would have to deduce which route he had chosen to use.

    The Wooden Taoist continued: “These were highly skilled, experienced, wily and smart members of the martial arts fraternity. When they chose to be on the run, they must have had very elaborate plans, and the escape routes that they had chosen would not have been too bad.”

    “Unfortunately they still couldn’t escape their fate,” Sikong Zhaixing said coldly.

    “Even then, we can still use them as reference,” Wooden Taoist said.

    The escape plans of these twelve men could roughly be divided into four main routes –
    Buy a boat and escape via the sea
    Leave the city and enter the desert
    Infiltrate into the busy downtown
    Flee into the barren hills and treacherous rapids

    The Wooden Taoist said: “You are all Lu Xiaofeng’s old friends and know him very well, which route do you think he would take?”

    No one could answer him.

    No one wanted to be certain that his prediction was right.

    Hua Manlou slowly said: “He wouldn’t flee to the sea or enter the desert.”

    Nobody asked him how he could be so certain of that, because every one knew he had some sort of special ability and touch.

    Sikong Zhaixing had finished his eighth cup of wine and said: “I am also sure of one thing.”

    Every one was listening.

    “Lu Xiaofeng definitely will not die.”

    Someone doubted that prediction: “Why?”

    Sikong Zhaixing said: “I know Lu Xiaofeng’s skills, and have seen Ximen Chuixue’s swordplay.”

    Of course, he could not deny the speed and accuracy of Ximen Chuixue’s skills: “However, since his marriage and the birth of his child, his swordplay has weakened, because his heart has softened.”

    Because he was no longer the god of sword, he had gradually become more human.

    “I had thought so as well, but now I know we have all been wrong,” Wooden Taoist said.

    “We are not wrong,” Sikong Zhaixing insisted.

    The Wooden Taoist shook his head, said: “Before the duel at the Forbidden City, his sword had indeed lost its edge, because what he felt for his wife had surpassed his intense passion for the sword.”

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang had evidently understood the meaning of the sentence: “But things were different after he defeated the Master of White Cloud Castle.”

    Whoever had defeated such a skilled martial arts exponent as the Master of White Cloud Castle would naturally be in high spirits and want to move to the next level.

    The duel at the Forbidden City had evidently reignited his passion for the sword, which once again exceeded the love he had for his wife.

    Perhaps it was his neglect of his wife that had aroused Lu Xiaofeng’s sympathy and caused all this mess.

    Every one had thought of this point, but no one wanted to voice it out.

    The Wooden Taoist said: “I saw Lu Xiaofeng recently and he told me himself that Ximen Chuixue’s skill had reached the ‘sword-less’ state.”

    What does it mean to be in a “sword-less” state?
    - Although one holds no sword in his hand, his sword remains, is everywhere.
    - Man and sword are one, he is the sword; so long as he exists, anything in the world can be his sword!
    - Such a state means one has almost reached the pinnacle of swordplay, and very few can surpass him!

    The Wooden Taoist sighed again and said: “Lu Xiaofeng was drunk when I saw him, he told me that if there were still one person who could kill him, that person would be Ximen Chuixue!”

    Another silence, as they all came to the conclusion – if Ximen Chuixue caught up with Lu Xiaofeng, the latter would definitely die by his sword.

    The question was – where had Lu Xiaofeng escaped to? How long could he stay away?

    “Even if he didn’t take the sea or desert routes, he could have lost himself in the crowded downtown or vanished among the barren hills and treacherous rapids.”

    The options had narrowed: “But then who would know how many busy cities or barren hills there are in the world?”

    Second Master Tang suddenly stood up and walked out.

    Cup in hand, Sikong Zhaixing hollered: “Are you leaving?”

    “I’m not here to drink,” Second Master Tang said coldly.

    “You can’t be bothered with this anymore?”

    “It isn’t that I can’t be bothered, but I can’t do anything about it.”

    Ancient Pine Hermit suddenly let out a long sigh as well, said: “Indeed we can’t do anything about it.”

    Monk Bittergourd immediately nodded his head and agreed: “Indeed, indeed, indeed…”

    By the time the third “Indeed” was out of his mouth, the three of them had already left.

    Swordsman Xiaoxiang wasn’t any slower than the trio.

    Sikong Zhaixing looked at the wine in his cup, suddenly set it down heavily, and said loudly: “I’m not here to drink either, don’t know who’s the bastard who came to drink.” He too strode out.

    There were only two people left, but the one who could still maintain his composure was only Hua Manlou.

    The cup in the Wooden Taoist’s hands had been crushed into smithereens.

    Hua Manlou laughed instead, saying: “Do you know where they have gone?”

    “Who the hell knows[1].”

    “I know.” He was still smiling. “I’m not a ghost, but I know.”

    “Where did you say they’d gone?” Wooden Taoist couldn’t resist asking.

    “If we rush to Ximen Villa right now, we’d definitely find them, and not one less.”

    Wooden Taoist did not understand.

    Hua Manlou continued: “They have gone there because they want to know one thing –”

    – If I were Lu Xiaofeng and I wanted to begin my escape from this place, which route would I take?

    Hua Manlou said: “When they have thought about it, they will definitely continue their pursuit along that route.”

    “Why didn’t they say so?” Wooden Taoist asked.

    “They were afraid of being wrong and letting their error affect others.”

    “You are certain?”

    Hua Manlou nodded and smiled: “I am, because I know they are all Lu Xiaofeng’s friends.”

    His face was radiant and his smile was bright; he loved life and was always confident of the positive side of human nature.

    Wooden Taoist finally gave a long sigh and said: “To have as many friends as Lu Xiaofeng does is indeed a good thing. Unfortunately this time he himself has made a mistake.”

    He patted Hua Manlou’s shoulder and added: “Let’s go. If there is still one person who can find Lu Xiaofeng, that would be you.”

    “Not me.”

    “Who else but you?”

    “Lu Xiaofeng himself.”

    If one has lost his self, then who else can find him other than the man himself?

    [1] The literal sentence in Chinese is 鬼知道, which means "only a ghost would know", and is meant to be said in as much the same tone as "who the hell knows" (basically sarcastic). That's why Hua Manlou's reply was that he's not a ghost, but he still knows (where everyone else has gone).
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:03 AM.

  11. #51
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 – Adversity makes for strange bedfellows
    Translated by Junny


    Even if Lu Xiaofeng had lost himself, at least he hadn’t lost his bearings.

    He was certain this road led westwards, and once he crossed the hills ahead, he would be able to find spring water that he could drink.

    Night had fallen and the fog in the mountains was thick, but he still believed his judgment was right. However, he was wrong again.

    There were neither hills nor spring water ahead, only a thick mass of forest.

    He had been on the run for three days, in these barren mountain ranges where he couldn’t even find spring water.

    Even if his friends could see him now, they might not be able to recognise that he was Lu Xiaofeng.

    The suave and charming Lu Xiaofeng who could always make girls swoon.

    The forest was pitch black, and danger lurked in all shapes and forms in absolute darkness. Every kind of danger was potentially fatal, so if a person lost his way in the forest, hunger and thirst would surely kill him!

    He was not certain he could find his way out of this mazy forest. He had already lost confidence in his own judgment.

    But he could only forge ahead; even though there was no other road he could choose, he could not backtrack!

    Retreating would only be scarier and more dangerous, because Ximen Chuixue was hot on his tail!

    Even though Lu Xiaofeng could not see, he could feel it, feel the menacing aura of the sword.

    At times, for no good reason, he’d feel chills down his back, and he would know then that Ximen Chuixue was nearby.

    Being on the run is a kind of torture.

    Hunger and thirst, fatigue, fear, worry… they are like countless whips, all flogging him nonstop.

    It was enough to push him to the verge of a breakdown, not to mention he was carrying an injury.

    A sword wound!

    Every time the wound began to hurt, he would recall the impossible speed of that sword!

    The “swordless” Ximen Chuixue had used his sword after all!

    – I used that sword to defeat Ye Gucheng, so who else in the world would be fit enough to make me pull out that sword again?

    – Lu Xiaofeng, only Lu Xiaofeng!

    – Because of you, I used the sword, and it will not return to its sheath unless it is stained with your blood!

    It was impossible to describe the speed and ferociousness of the move.

    If there were really immortals and spirits on earth, they too would turn pale when faced with such a strike.

    A flash of the sword and blood will flow!

    No one could counter this blow, not even Lu Xiaofeng, but still he didn’t die!

    Not dying was a miracle!

    He was probably the only one who could escape alive from that lethal strike!

    Dark, endless darkness.

    How many dangers abound in the dark?

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t even think about that. If he worried too much, he would probably have suffered a nervous breakdown or even gone mad.

    He had entered this pitch-black forest, and that was equivalent to a wild beast falling into a trap; it was no longer in his control.

    Still no water, no food.

    He broke off a branch, used it to feel his way about slowly, just as a blind man would.

    This stick was like his white cane.

    A man who was well and alive had to resort to relying on a lifeless piece of wood – Lu Xiaofeng laughed when he thought of that.

    It was a laughter filled with shame, grief, pain and self-mockery.

    Only now did he truly understand the pain of the blind, and realised Hua Manlou’s greatness.

    How much love did a blind man have if he could still live happily and in peace?

    There was a tree in front, a tall and big tree.

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped at the tree, gasping for breath; perhaps this was the only time he could afford to take a breather.

    – Ximen Chuixue would have paused to reconsider before stepping into this forest.

    – However, he would still come chasing in.

    There was almost nothing that would stop him; he was determined to have Lu Xiaofeng die by his sword!

    It was near silence in the dark, but this sort of quiet was also one of the most frightening sounds.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s breathing seemed to have stopped too; suddenly he struck with lightning speed and caught something with two fingers!

    He hadn’t seen anything, but he’d already struck.

    He did not usually miss.

    In times of real danger, man would be no different from beasts, would develop the sort of abilities and sixth sense inherent in animals.

    He had caught a snake.

    With the snake’s tail between his fingers, he twisted and shook it, then bit down on an area seven 'cun' from the head of the snake (where the heart was).

    The snake blood, fishy and bitter, slid down his throat and into his stomach.

    He suddenly felt as though he had become a beast. But he didn’t stop; as the snake blood flowed, he immediately felt a burst of life!

    He would accept whatever could give him life, could allow him to go on living!

    He didn’t want to die, could not die!

    If he died now, he would turn into a vengeful ghost and return to haunt the living, so as to redress his grievances!

    The darkness was beginning to fade into a curious shade of dull, dead grey.

    He’d finally endured through this long night and it was finally dawn.

    But so what if daylight came?

    Even if darkness was long gone, death was still clipping at his heels!

    He snatched up a handful of fallen leaves and wiped the blood off his hands; it was then that he heard a sound.

    A human voice.

    He wasn’t sure where it was coming from, it seemed as though someone was moaning and gasping for breath.

    How could there be anyone here at this point in time?

    Who would be in this forest, on the path of no return, if he were not at his wits’ end?

    Was it Ximen Chuixue?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt as though his whole body had frozen over and his breathing had stopped, as he listened quietly.

    The weak moaning, panting sounds floated over little by little, the sounds were filled with pain.

    A pain filled with fear, a kind of hopeless pain.

    This kind of pain could not be faked.

    Even if this person were Ximen Chuixue, the pain he was suffering now would not be any lesser than Lu Xiaofeng’s.

    Could he have suffered some sort of fatal blow? Otherwise how could he have lost that deadly aura of the sword?

    Lu Xiaofeng was determined to find out; regardless of whether that person was Ximen Chuixue, he had to find out.

    And of course he found out.

    The fallen leaves were wet, so was the mud.

    A man was lying on the wet mud, among the fallen leaves, his entire body twisted with pain.

    He had white sideburns and was old, haggard, weary, sorrowful and fearful.

    He saw Lu Xiaofeng and seemed to struggle to spring up, but ended up suffering a fresh round of pain.

    There was a sword in his hand, its shape was classically elegant and made of pure steel; whoever saw it could tell it was a good sword.

    But this sword was not frightening, because this person wasn’t Ximen Chuixue.

    Lu Xiaofeng expelled a long breath, muttered: “No, it’s not him.”

    The man’s throat worked and there was a trace of hope in the eyes that were filled with fear, as he wheezed: “Who… who are you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, said: “I’m no one, just a passer-by.”

    “A passer-by?” the old man asked.

    “You must be wondering why there are passers-by around here!”

    The old man scrutinized him from head to toe, and suddenly, a cunning look entered his eyes as he said: “Don’t tell me you are on the same road as I am?”

    “Most probably,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The old man laughed.

    His laugh was miserable and bitter, and he couldn’t stop coughing once he started laughing.

    Lu Xiaofeng also realized that he was injured; there was also another more serious wound on the chest.

    “Who did you think I was?” the old man suddenly asked.

    “Someone else,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Was it the person who wants to kill you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed too, asked instead: “Who did you think I was, the person who has come to kill you?”

    The old man wanted to deny but couldn’t.

    They gazed at each other like two wounded beasts.

    No one could understand their expressions or their feelings.

    After a long while, the old man let out a long breath, said: “You should go.”

    “You want me to go?”

    “Even if I didn’t, you would leave anyway.”

    He was still smiling, but more bitterly. “My situation is worse than yours, so naturally I won’t be able to help you. You don’t know me, so you wouldn’t help me either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t speak, he had also stopped laughing.

    He knew this old man was speaking the truth; he was in a difficult situation, much worse than what the old man had imagined.

    One person might not be able to make it out alive, much less with an extra burden.

    This old man was evidently a very heavy burden.

    After another long while, Lu Xiaofeng expelled a long breath as well, said: “Indeed I should leave.”

    The old man nodded his head and shut his eyes, not bothering to look at him.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued: “If you were only a wild dog, I would have left by now, but…”

    The old man suddenly interrupted, saying: “Unfortunately, I’m human, not a dog.”

    “I’m no dog either, I’m also human,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a forced smile.

    “It’s a pity,” the old man agreed.

    Even though his eyes seemed to be shut, he was actually looking at Lu Xiaofeng out of the corner of his eye. Again, the cunning look returned.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled again, said: “You knew anyway that I wasn’t going to go.”

    “Oh?”

    “You’re human, so am I, and I can’t watch you rot to death here.”

    The old man’s eyes flew open, widened and stared at Lu Xiaofeng, asked: “You will take me away?”

    “What do you think?”

    The old man blinked. “Of course you will take me away, because you are human and so am I.”

    “That’s not enough reason.”

    “Not enough? What else is there?”

    “A scumbag is still human.”

    Nobody understood why Lu Xiaofeng suddenly said this, much less the old man, who could only wait for him to continue.

    “If I take someone away with me, that’s because I’m not only human, I’m also a scumbag, an extra big scumbag.”

    It was spring, the season when all things began to blossom and grow.

    The trees and leaves that had withered were sprouting out in thick bunches again, such that not even sunlight could pierce through.

    It was still a patch of misty grey between the branches and leaves, and one could only see a hint of murky shadows.

    One could see, but not very far ahead.

    Lu Xiaofeng helped the old man lie down before he did. He couldn’t move another step, not even if Ximen Chuixue was nearby.

    They had walked quite some distance, but as soon as he lowered his head, he saw once again his own footprints.

    He’d exhausted himself running, but still ended up on the same track.

    This was no longer any sort of irony, it was plain sad, the kind where desperate people at their wits’ end could only understand.

    He was panting, and so was the old man.

    A huge python was slithering down from the tree. A python of that size would no doubt possess immense strength, enough to strangle the life out of any living thing.

    But he wouldn’t think of that. The old man couldn’t move, and incredibly, the python didn’t touch him, merely slid past them quietly.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, not knowing how he could still do so.

    The old man slanted a glance at him, said suddenly: “Of course I can’t call you a scumbag.”

    “You can call me a big scumbag,” Lu Xiaofeng said. He was still smiling.

    There are different kinds of smiles. Some are more miserable than crying, and his was of this sort.

    There was only smiling, no laughing, and in the deep silence, time seemed to pass especially slowly.

    After a long while, the old man suddenly said: “Big scumbag.”

    “Mm.”

    “Why don’t you ask me who I am, what my name is?”

    “I don’t have to.”

    “You don’t?”

    “We’re going to die soon anyway, whoever heard of a dead person asking another dead person his name?”

    The old man gazed at him for a long time, wanted to speak but didn’t, then looked at his eyebrows and beard, and finally said: “I suddenly thought of someone.”

    “Who is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Lu Xiaofeng,” the old man said. “The one with ‘four eyebrows’.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled again, said: “You should have thought of that, since the world’s biggest scumbag is Lu Xiaofeng.”

    The old man sighed, said: “But I can’t imagine why Lu Xiaofeng would end up like this.”

    “What did you think Lu Xiaofeng would be like?”

    “Once, a long time ago, I heard that Lu Xiaofeng was a playboy who enjoyed plenty of female attention, and was very highly-skilled too. So I always thought Lu Xiaofeng must have been a very handsome and awe-inspiring man, but now you look like…”

    He didn’t finish the sentence, but Lu Xiaofeng continued it for him: “Like a desperate wild dog chased and forced into a corner.”

    The old man smiled too, said: “Seems as though you’ve stirred up some big trouble.”

    “Indeed it’s big.”

    “Is it because of a woman?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only give a resigned, bitter smile.

    “Who is the woman’s husband?” the old man asked. “I heard you could even counter the Master of White Cloud Castle’s ‘Flying Immortal’ stroke, what else could force you into desperation?”

    “Only one person.”

    “I’ve thought about it and it seems too that there’s only one person.”

    “And who do you think this person is?”

    “Is it Ximen Chuixue?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s bitter, resigned smile was back again.

    The old man sighed. “You’ve got yourself into quite a big mess, I simply can’t understand how you’d get involved in something like this.”

    “I didn’t really do much,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “I only slept on the same bed with his wife, and it so happened he saw.”

    The old man stared at him in shock. After a long while, he shook his head and said: “So you have some nerve.”

    “And what about you?” Lu Xiaofeng countered. “What mess did you get into?”

    The old man was silent for a long while, then sighed and said: “I’m in big trouble as well.”

    “I can tell.”

    “Oh?”

    “If someone is wearing clothes worth three hundred tales of silver and carrying a good sword worth three thousand taels of silver, but doesn’t at all look like he’s been hounded into desperation, this person must have stirred up some big trouble.”

    The old man couldn’t help a bitter smile, said: “I’ve gotten myself involved in more than one mess.”

    “How many are there?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The old man put up two fingers, saying: “One is Ye Guhong, the other is the Pink Swallow.”

    “Ye Guhong, Wudang’s Little White Dragon?”

    The old man nodded.

    “And that’s ‘Flower Thief’ Pink Swallow[1]?”

    The old man nodded again.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Indeed you’re in deep shit.”

    Ye Guhong was the secular disciple of Wudang Sect, and one of the most promising. It was said he was also the distant cousin of the Master of White Cloud Castle, who had personally imparted some swordplay tips to him.

    Pink Swallow’s reputation in the martial arts world was even bigger, very few could match his qinggong and skill with hidden weapons.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued: “But Ye Guhong is a member of a prestigious sect, while Pink Swallow is a master thief of Lower Five Sect, so how did you get involved with both of them at the same time?”

    “You can’t figure out?” the old man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    “Actually it’s rather simple. Ye Guhong is my nephew, and it so happens that Pink Swallow is too. Their wives, coincidentally, were guests at my place…”

    Ye Guhong travelled the world, while Pink Swallow slept around; naturally their wives would be lonely.

    “So I couldn’t not comfort them,” the old man explained. “But unfortunately I was caught.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him in shock. After a long while, he said in a resigned tone: “Looks as if you are not only bold, you don’t recognise family ties as well.”

    The old man smiled, said: “You thought I wasn’t?”

    Lu Xiaofeng seemed even more shocked. “Don’t tell me you really are?”

    “In the last ten years, very few in the martial arts world have heard of my name, I didn’t expect you to know.”

    Twenty years ago, there were three notorious master thieves and the first one was “Cold-blooded” Dugu Mei[2]. If a man had a name like that, one could imagine how heartless and ruthless he was.

    Lu Xiaofeng was resigned. “Looks like you’ve got the right name after all.”

    Dugu Mei said blandly: “I have no care for familial ties, while you value women above friends. You’re a big scumbag and I’m pretty much the same, so we’re on the same path because we have something in common.”

    “Fortunately we have something not in common,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What’s that?”

    “Now I can still leave, but you will have to lie here and wait for your death.”

    Dugu Mei smiled.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued: “If you think that I still can’t harden my heart to do that, you’re wrong. Since you care for no one, why can’t I do the same?”

    “Of course you can,” Dugu Mei replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng had already stood up and was walking away.

    Dugu Mei watched him, then slowly said: “But I guarantee that once you leave, you’ll regret it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help turning his head to ask: “Why?”

    “There are not only man-eating beasts in this world, there are also men who will eat their own kind.”

    “I know that,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “You’re one.”

    “Do you know there are other things in the world that eat humans?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “And that is?”

    “Forests,” Dugu Mei said. “Some forests will swallow up those who lose their way. Once they walk into such forests, they will be eaten up and won’t be able to walk out alive.”

    It was almost noon, but the surrounding areas were still a dull, murky grey. The huge, ugly trees and rotting swamp made it impossible for one to find a way out.

    If there were really man-eating forests, this must be it.

    Lu Xiaofeng finally turned around, stared at the old man’s face. “You know the way?” he asked. “You’re confident of getting out?”

    Dugu Mei smiled again, said leisurely: “Not only can I get you out, I can ensure that Ximen Chuixue won’t ever be able to find you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed coldly.

    Dugu Mei continued: “I can take you to a place. No matter how highly-skilled Ximen Chuixue is, he won’t be able to find it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at him, neither moving nor speaking. In the distance, however, someone had let out a chilling laugh. It had sounded faraway, but in the twinkling of an eye, it was here.

    The one who had arrived wasn’t the qinggong master Pink Swallow, but rather a pale, sickly white man – sickly white face, sickly white hands and sword, dressed in a snow-white outfit.

    Having searched in this dark swampy forest for over forty hours, his spirits were still as cool and steady as ice, and there were only a few spots of mud on his clothes.

    He was like his sword, untouched by blood, untouched by mud!

    The moment he appeared, Lu Xiaofeng had frozen, but just as suddenly relaxed.

    Dugu Mei laughed mockingly as he said: “Did you think he was Ximen Chuixue?”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t deny that.

    This young man was exceedingly like Ximen Chuixue – pale face, haughty and cold demeanor, snow-white clothes… even his posture was the same as Ximen Chuixue’s. Even though he was far younger than Ximen Chuixue and his features softer, he looked just like Ximen Chuixue’s shadow.

    Dugu Mei said: “His name is Ye Guhong, unrelated to Ximen Chuixue right down to his ancestors, but he could really pass for Ximen Chuixue’s son.”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help a smile. “There’s some resemblance.”

    “Do you know why he’s become like this?” Dugu Mei asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    Dugu Mei laughed coldly. “Because he’s just dying to be Ximen Chuixue’s son.”

    “Maybe he just wants to be another Ximen Chuixue,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Dugu Mei said frostily: “Unfortunately, he’s picked up none of Ximen Chuixue’s good qualities, just all the bad ones.”

    The ice-cold, haughty nature, like the pristine snow of the mountains in the distance; the shining vitality of life, like the shooting stars in the winter sky; that peerless sword…

    How many young men in the martial arts world would not worship Ximen Chuixue as their personal god?

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed into the distance and suddenly sighed, said: “At least there’s something of Ximen Chuixue that others can’t imitate.”

    “His sword?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “Not his sword, his loneliness.”

    Loneliness.

    That chilly loneliness akin to the frosty snow on the faraway mountains, the aching loneliness that was like the shooting stars of the winter night.

    Only someone who has truly experienced this kind of loneliness and was willing to endure it could reach the level that Ximen Chuixue had attained.

    Ye Guhong had been eyeing Lu Xiaofeng frostily and had yet to utter a word.

    Suddenly, he let out a chilly laugh, said: “What kind of thing are you, that you’re fit to even discuss him!”

    Lu Xiaofeng could offer a forced smile. He knew Dugu Mei would be rushing to answer that, and he wasn’t wrong.

    Dugu Mei was already saying: “He can’t really be considered a ‘thing’, just a human after all. But if there’s one person qualified to talk about Ximen Chuixue, he would be the one.”

    “Why” Ye Guhong couldn’t help asking.

    “Because he has four eyebrows,” Dugu Mei replied leisurely. “And because he’s the only one in this world who has slept with Ximen Chuixue’s wife.”

    Ye Guhong looked startled. “Lu Xiaofeng, are you Lu Xiaofeng?”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t deny.

    The veins on Ye Guhong’s hand that was gripping his sword were nearly popping out, as he clipped out: “I should have killed you on Ximen Chuixue’s behalf…”

    He was interrupted by a voice high up on the trees: “A pity he’s not the one we have to kill this time.”

    A flurry of activity among the thick leaves saw a man sail down as smoothly as a swallow.

    A pink swallow.

    A rosy face that was not unlike a young girl’s, close-fitting pink clothes, and on the pink belt around his waist hung a pink pouch.

    Even the look in his eyes was ‘pink’, the sort that most men would have when they see the bare thigh of a young lady.

    The worst of it was that he was sporting that exact expression when he gazed at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt like vomiting.

    Pink Swallow was unconcerned with his reaction; he was still smiling and looking at him, said gently: “Lu Xiaofeng is indeed Lu Xiaofeng, you have not disappointed me.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You don’t look too good now,” Pink Swallow said, “but if you get a basin of water and a bar of soap, then take a good bath, you’d be a very good-looking man.” His eyes crinkled as he scrutinised Lu Xiaofeng from head to toe. “I can imagine it now.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t quite feel like vomiting now, because the thing he’d most like to do now was to smash this man’s nose flat.

    Fortunately, Pink Swallow had already turned to look at Ye Guhong, saying: “This one is mine, I won’t let you touch him.”

    Ye Guhong also looked as though he was about to retch, and coldly said: “You will take both men and women?”

    Pink Swallow chuckled and said: “I’d want you too sometimes.”

    Ye Guhong’s already pale face turned green.

    Pink Swallow said: “I know you’ve always hated me, but you can’t do without me because if you didn’t have me around this time, you wouldn’t have found this wily old fox and you can forget about going back alive.”

    He smiled and continued: “You young heroes from prestigious sects can show off all you like in the world out there, but in this man-eating forest, you probably won’t survive beyond four hours.”

    Ye Guhong, surprisingly, did not refute that.

    Pink Swallow gently expelled a breath, said: “So if I allow you to have this old fox, you should feel very satisfied.”

    Ye Guhong’s hand gripped the sword hilt again, said: “You must let me strike, you know I’ve sworn to kill him with my own hands.”

    “Lu Xiaofeng, you mean?” Pink Swallow asked.

    Ye Guhong gritted his teeth and said: “Lu Xiaofeng is yours, I just want him…”

    Dugu Mei suddenly broke into laughter, said: “You’re all wrong, Lu Xiaofeng is neither his nor yours!”

    “Whose, then?” Pink Swallow asked.

    “Mine,” Dugu Mei replied.

    Pink Swallow laughed uproariously as well, and said: “Even if he’s got my bad habit, he wouldn’t fall for the likes of you.”

    “But if he wants to live, he can’t let me die at your hands,” Dugu Mei said.

    Pink Swallow turned to Lu Xiaofeng, said gently: “If you stay out of this, I can let you live too.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t reply.

    Pink Swallow let out a sigh and said: “Young Master Ye, you can strike now!”

    “Fine.”

    The sword was out of its sheath by the time he said that. The speed with which he pulled out the sword paled in comparison to Ximen Chuixue’s, but was certainly a cut above others’.

    His attack was swift and ruthless; other than the Wudang skills he already possessed, there were at least two other schools of swordplay mixed in them.

    This stroke was the most exquisite of his swordplay. It was also a fatal blow, an unerring stroke that would leave no business unfinished.

    Dugu Mei’s mouth was wide open; he wanted to scream, but not a sound came out.

    True enough, Lu Xiaofeng had not stepped up to counter the blow.

    Pink Swallow was still laughing, but suddenly, his smile froze.

    The blade of a sword suddenly pierced through from his heart, blood splattered and rained down right before his eyes.

    This was his own blood?

    He would not believe it!

    Unfortunately, he had to believe.

    He stretched out his hand to retrieve the hidden weapons in his pouch, but he had already collapsed.

    Blood was still dripping from the tip of the sword.

    Ye Guhong gazed at the blood droplets on the edge of the sword, then gently blew off the final droplet.

    This was a habit unique to Ximen Chuixue, and he had imitated it to perfection.

    Unfortunately, he wasn’t Ximen Chuixue, never would be!

    Every time after he’d killed someone, there would instantly be that sense of isolation and loneliness about Ximen Chuixue, that incredible feeling of emptiness and disinterest.

    Blowing the last droplet of blood off his sword was merely like someone returning home in a snowstorm brushing the last snowflake from his cloak.

    He was blowing off snow, not blood.

    But now, Ye Guhong’s eyes were filled with indescribable excitement, as though he was ready to rush into the snowstorm and conquer.

    He was blowing off blood, not snow.

    The last droplet, coincidentally, fell on Pink Swallow’s face, which seemed to still be twitching; however, his eyes had popped out like those of dead fish, and the lust in his eyes was no longer evident.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt this person was very pitiful.

    He’d always felt sorry for those who died without knowing why, and he knew this one wouldn’t have died in peace.

    The blood had dried, and the sword was back in its sheath.

    Ye Guhong suddenly turned around and stared at Dugu Mei.

    Dugu Mei was also staring back at him, his eyes filled with suspicion and surprise.

    “You didn’t expect me to kill him, did you?” Ye Guhong asked coldly.

    Indeed, Dugu Mei had not expected it, nobody had.

    “You’re not here to kill me?”

    “No.”

    Dugu Mei was even more surprised. “But you were…”

    “I was indeed determined to have you die by my sword,” Ye Guhong interrupted him.

    “So why did you change your mind?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “Because now I know you’re no longer alive.”

    This was a very odd sentence and difficult to understand, but Dugu Mei seemed to get it and expelled a long breath. “So you’re from the Mansion as well?” he asked.

    “You didn’t expect that, did you?” Ye Guhong said.

    “Not even in my dreams,” Dugu Mei admitted.

    Ye Guhong’s eyes were mocking, and after a long while, said slowly: “Of course you wouldn’t have thought of it. Some people do things they wouldn’t have expected to.”

    Dugu Mei was sighing as he said: “The people in the Mansion all seem to be those you’d never expect to be.”

    “Precisely, that’s why it is able to exist.”

    Dugu Mei nodded his head slowly, and suddenly changed the topic. “Have you seen Lu Xiaofeng fight?” he asked.

    “No,” Ye Guhong said.

    “You don’t know the level of his skills?”

    “No.”

    “What do you know of him?”

    “I know he once managed to take a blow from the Master of White Cloud Castle’s ‘Flying Immortal’ swordplay,” Ye Guhong said.

    “But he’s now wounded by Ximen Chuixue,” Dugu Mei said.

    “I can tell.”

    “So let me ask you something that you must consider very carefully before you reply,” Dugu Mei said. His expression turned serious as he enunciated each word: “Are you confident of killing him now?”

    Ye Guhong was silent. There was that mocking look in his eyes again, and the veins on his forehead seemed more pronounced. After a long while, he replied slowly: “I am not Ximen Chuixue.”

    Dugu Mei gazed at him for a long time before he turned to Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was expressionless; it was as if he’d not understood what they were saying.

    Dugu Mei suddenly laughed, saying: “Just now you didn’t save me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent.

    “So I don’t wish to kill you, since we aren’t confident we can do it,” Dugu Mei said.

    Lu Xiaofeng remained silent.

    “We didn’t know each other and never crossed the other’s path; it remains thus.”

    “But we were just on the same road,” Lu Xiaofeng had finally opened his mouth.

    “Such are the vicissitudes of life,” Dugu Mei said lightly. “Change abounds, you and I are no exceptions.”

    “That’s reasonable,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Dugu Mei said: “So you are still you, I am still me, and you’d best be on your way.”

    “Not good,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “No?”

    “Because the road I’ll take is still the one I’ve been on.”

    Dugu Mei smiled. “Well, that’s your problem.”

    “And you?”

    “Of course I have my own path to take.”

    “Which one? The one to the Mansion?”

    Dugu Mei’s expression hardened, said coldly: “Since you’ve heard, why bother to ask?”

    Lu Xiaofeng persisted. “What sort of Mansion is this that you’re going to?”

    “It’s one that you can’t go.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because you’re not dead.”

    “So it’s a mansion for the dead people!”

    “Indeed.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “You guys should go.” He waved his hand, smiling: “I don’t want to go to a mansion of dead people, neither do I want to be dead. So long as I can stay alive, even one hour is good enough.”

    He walked off without a care in the world, and vanished quickly in the grey of the forest.

    It wasn’t until he’d disappeared that Dugu Mei snapped to alertness and yelled: “You really let him go?”

    “He’s gone,” Ye Guhong replied coldly.

    “You’re not afraid that he’ll leak the secret of the Mansion?”

    “He doesn’t know much, and in these circumstances, he might not even live beyond an hour.”

    “Well, he’s still alive now,” Dugu Mei said. “And he could follow us secretly.”

    “Where are we going?” Ye Guhong asked.

    “To the Mansion, of course,” Dugu Mei said.

    Ye Guhong laughed coldly. “You’re wrong. We are not going to the Mansion; rather, if you want to go, you go alone!”

    “You’re not going?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “Why should I?” Ye Guhong returned blandly.

    Dugu Mei’s expression changed.

    “I know you have a contract with the Mansion, so I can’t kill you,” Ye Guhong said. “But I never said I was going to lead you there.”

    Dugu Mei’s face was mottled with rage and he shrieked: “But you should know I can’t even move an inch right now.”

    “That’s your problem,” Ye Guhong replied frostily. “What’s that got to do with me?”

    He drew his sword again and sliced off a large piece of tree bark, then laid it on a relatively dry area of the mud and sat down cross-legged.

    Dugu Mei glared at him, and finally couldn’t resist asking: “Why aren’t you leaving?”

    “Why should I?” Ye Guhong asked leisurely.

    “Are you waiting for me to die?” Dugu Mei asked.

    Ye Guhong replied: “You can take your time to die, I’m in no hurry.” He was looking mighty comfortable, and had even brought out a piece of beef that was wrapped in oilpaper, and a flask of wine.

    To an old man ravaged by hunger and thirst for seventy-two hours, the aroma of beef and wine was no longer mere temptation, it was a kind of torture.

    He could only watch, as aromatic waves of the beef and wine pricked him like needles and every part of his body trembled.

    Ye Guhong sipped some wine and let out a satisfied sigh. Suddenly he said: “I know you must be regretting in your heart about letting Lu Xiaofeng go just now, but there’s something you don’t know.”

    Dugu Mei was just about to start a conversation to distract himself, so immediately he asked: “What’s that?”

    “I didn’t kill Lu Xiaofeng not because I wasn’t confident of killing him,” Ye Guhong said, “but because I’d rather let him die at Ximen Chuixue’s hands.”

    “Oh!”

    “So if he dares return, once my sword is out of its sheath, I’d make his blood splatter all over.”

    “So you mean there’s no one in the world who can save me, and nobody can save Lu Xiaofeng,” Dugu Mei said.

    “Definitely not,” Ye Guhong said.

    In the moment that these words were said, a hand snaked over from behind the tree and stole away his flask of wine.

    His reaction wasn’t slow either. By the time the hand was withdrawn, he’d gone behind the tree.

    There was no one behind the tree.

    When he came back again, the flask of wine was in Dugu Mei’s hand, and he was pouring the last of it into his own mouth.

    The piece of beef in the oilpaper that had been on the tree bark was also gone.

    Ye Guhong did not move again and his breathing seemed to have stopped; the murky forest was grey and silent as a graveyard.

    There was no wind, but something floated down from the top of the tree.

    Ye Guhong drew his sword and pierced through it. Stuck on the tip of his sword was actually that piece of oilpaper.

    Dugu Mei burst into uproarious laughter and tears came out of his eyes.

    Ye Guhong didn’t seem to have heard any of it, but his face had turned green as he slowly plucked the oilpaper off the tip of his sword.

    Dugu Mei laughed: “There’s no blood on that oilpaper, so what are you blowing?”

    Ye Guhong still didn’t hear that; in a flash, the sword was back in its sheath.

    He settled down on the tree bark again and breathed in deeply twice. From his sleeve he took out a few pieces of paper and used needles to pin them one by one on the tree trunk behind. Then he coldly said: “This is the map to getting out of the forest and into the mountains. Whoever has the guts can come and take it.”

    Once again, he sat motionless, with his back facing the tree, eyes closed, as though an old monk gone into deep meditation.

    Dugu Mei had stopped laughing; his eyes were wide open, fixed on the pieces of paper pinned to the tree trunk.

    He knew this was Ye Guhong’s way of luring the fish to bait.

    Wudang was a sect known for its internal skills; Ye Guhong had been at Wudang since he was four years old, and his internal energy must have reached peak levels.

    Now his mind and heart were one, and although his eyes were closed, anything within a fifty-feet radius would not escape his attention.

    His bait was ready, but where was the fish? Would the fish bite?

    Dugu Mei’s breathing suddenly stopped; he’d seen a hand stretch out stealthily from behind the tree. Agile and brisk, it reached immediately for the pieces of paper on the tree trunk.

    “Dong!” Just at this point, there was a flash of brilliance from the sword as the blade pierced through the wood and pinned the hand firmly to the tree trunk.

    Dugu Mei’s face blanched, so did Ye Guhong’s.

    He did not see blood.

    The hand was no oilpaper, why wouldn’t there be blood?

    Dugu Mei expelled a long sigh; he had already realised that the blade had not pinned the hand to the tree. Rather, the blade was caught by the hand.

    More precisely, wedged between two fingers.

    Ye Guhong’s pallor turned red again and sweat dripped down his face. He’d exerted all his might trying to wrench the sword away, but it was as though it’d been flattened beneath Mount Tai, it just refused to budge.

    Whose fingers were these? Whose fingers had such extraordinary strength and power?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s!

    It could only be Lu Xiaofeng!

    The smile was back on Dugu Mei’s face, as he said: “Now your sword is out of its sheath, but his blood hasn’t splattered all over.”

    Ye Guhong gnashed his teeth, then suddenly released his hold on the sword and dashed behind the tree.

    Lu Xiaofeng was indeed behind the tree grinning at him. In his hand was Ye Guhong’s sword, its blade caught between two fingers.

    Ye Guhong laughed coldly: “I don’t need a sword to kill you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “But the sword is yours, so I shall return it to you.”

    Ye Guhong had already struck, using Wudang’s Golden Silk Palm, mixed with the Hand into Blade and Seventy-Two Grappling Techniques, his five fingers like hooks and with all the strength concentrated at the tips.

    But Lu Xiaofeng actually returned the sword back to him, with the blade captured between two fingers and the hilt back into his hands.

    Without conscious volition, he stretched out for it and his face immediately changed; blood trickled from between his fingers.

    Lu Xiaofeng had sent over the hilt of the sword, but what he held in his hands was the tip.

    He hadn’t even seen how Lu Xiaofeng had done it.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still smiling, saying: “This is your sword, nobody is going to steal it from you, so why did you exert so much effort?

    Ye Guhong’s face had drained of blood, but suddenly said: “How many strokes did Ximen Chuixue need to wound you?”

    “One,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You couldn’t counter even one blow?” Ye Guhong asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile.

    “You weren’t dead drunk then?” Ye Guhong asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    Ye Guhong asked again: “With skills like these, you couldn’t even take one blow from him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and replied: “I know you’ve seen him fight, but to those on the sidelines, they can never understand the speed with which he strikes.”

    Ye Guhong’s head bowed as he looked at his own hands.

    Blood was still dripping from them, and he had not released his hold on the blade. Blood was also dripping from the tip of the blade, droplet by droplet…

    This was his own blood.

    When the last droplet fell, he let out a long sigh and pierced the sword right into his chest.

    His breathing abruptly stopped and his eyes popped out.

    Startled, Lu Xiaofeng said: “I don’t want to kill you, why are you doing this?”

    Perspiration dotted Ye Guhong’s face and his breathing quickened and he struggled to get his words out: “I studied the sword for twenty years, believing myself to be unbeatable. I’d arranged to duel with Ximen Chuixue during the Dragon Boat Festival at high noon at the peak of the Forbidden City.”

    “This year’s Dragon Boat Festival?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Guhong nodded. “I had no hope of winning, but I was confident of giving him a good fight. However, having seen you today, I realized that even if I train for another twenty years, I would not be his match…”

    At this point, he began coughing nonstop, but Lu Xiaofeng understood his meaning.

    If he didn’t turn up for the duel, he would not be able to face the martial arts fraternity; even if he did show up, it was just asking to be humiliated.

    It was because he had suddenly realized there was such a huge gap between his skills and Ximen Chuixue’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t even take one stroke from Ximen Chuixue, and he hadn’t even been able to figure out Lu Xiaofeng’s moves. The disparity between them was a kind of shame and dishonor.

    To him, such humiliation was worse than having his wife raped.

    Lu Xiaofeng was already feeling sorry for him and said: “You’re dying because of this?”

    Ye Guhong nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a gentle sigh, then crossed over and whispered something into his ear.

    Ye Guhong’s face suddenly twisted and there was an indescribable expression in his eyes as he stared at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Then he collapsed.

    The strange thing was that after he collapsed, there seemed to be the faintest of smiles on his face.

    There was no more blood on the tip of the sword.

    The last droplet had been blown dry by the wind.

    The man was dead, but the sword was still there, its brilliance clear as autumn waters.

    Regardless of whether the blood on the sword was blown dry by man or wind, it didn’t matter to this sword.

    The sword is emotionless, but humans have emotions.

    So the sword remains while people die.

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at this emotionless sword, couldn’t help a long sigh.

    – Why are there so many sentimental people in this world who want to devote their lives to an emotionless sword?
    – Is this because there is some irresistible power of the sword that draws one to it?

    Looking at the shining brilliance of the sword, Lu Xiaofeng felt as though he was beginning to be lost again…

    [1] Pink Swallow's (nick)name in Chinese is 万里踏花粉燕子 (wan4 li3 ta4 hua1 fen3 yan4 zi), which stumped both mich and me. After an enlightening discussion, she figured the most appropriate meaning of the whole phrase would be "bisexual fiend". However, because he is often referred to as 粉燕子, this is translated as "Pink Swallow", while 万里踏花 is translated as "Flower Thief".

    [2] Again, Dugu Mei's nickname is “六亲不认” (liu4 qin1 bu4 ren4), which means the person has no regard at all for familial ties or kinship. But that's quite a mouthful, and mich and I figured "cold-blooded" would be an appropriate substitute.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:06 AM.

  12. #52
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 – In the same boat
    Translated by Junny


    Being on the run hadn’t ended, but darkness had already arrived.

    In the dark there were only sounds of panting, two people panting. The sounds had stopped and they had collapsed.

    It didn’t matter whether it was dry earth or wet mud, they were in no position to choose.

    – They had to lie down; even if Ximen Chuixue’s sword was at their throats, they had to lie down.

    Even if they channeled all the strength there was in the world, they couldn’t have taken another step forward.

    In the darkness, there seemed to be shards of phosphorescence peeking out from between trees. The phosphorescence was very weak, and one had to concentrate real hard in the darkness to be able to make it out.

    So long as there was a bit of light, the phosphorescence would disappear.

    “If we follow this phosphorescence, we can get out of here?”

    “Mm.”

    “You’re confident?”

    “Mm.” Dugu Mei was so exhausted that he couldn’t even speak, but he had to reply, because he knew Lu Xiaofeng would persist in his questions. “I am very confident.” He continued, panting: “So long as you have a contract with them, they won’t sell you out.”

    “Who are they?” Lu Xiaofeng asked again. “Are they from the Mansion?”

    “Mm.”

    “What Mansion is this? Where is it?” Lu Xiaofeng persisted. “What sort of contract do you have with them?”

    Dugu Mei didn’t answer; from his breathing, he seemed to have fallen asleep.

    Regardless of whether he was asleep, he seemed determined not to answer any more such questions.

    Lu Xiaofeng too felt that he’d asked one too many questions, so he closed his mouth and wanted to get some shuteye.

    But he just couldn’t fall asleep.

    In the distance, the phosphorescence flickered, so near yet so far.

    His pupils were so tired that they couldn’t even differentiate far and near, so why couldn’t he sleep?

    – Only in absolute darkness could one differentiate these guiding signals; had firelight been used, it would not have been seen, much less in daytime.

    – Perhaps even Ximen Chuixue would not be able to figure this out, so he would not be travelling in this sort of absolute darkness.

    – It looked as if the Mansion people were very clever, they had planned everything to the last detail.

    – Will Dugu Mei really lead me to the Mansion?

    – He has a contract, but I don’t. Would the Mansion accept me if I went there?

    – Is that place really safe and isolated? So secluded that even Ximen Chuixue wouldn’t be able to find me?

    – Why can only dead people go there?

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t sleep, he had so many unanswered questions in his mind.

    Absolute darkness meant absolute peace.

    Dugu Mei’s breathing had evened out gradually, and it even sounded a little like music in the darkness.

    “Little girl carrying a clay doll,
    Came to the garden to admire the flowers,
    The doll cried for mama,
    And the birds in the trees burst out laughing…”[1]

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t know why, but the old man’s breathing had stirred his memory of a childhood song.

    He found it pretty funny too, but he didn’t laugh out loud, because suddenly a ghastly shriek pierced the darkness.

    Then he heard a body bounce up and flop down heavily on the muddy ground.

    “Is that you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked hoarsely.

    No answer.

    After a long while, there came the sounds of Dugu Mei’s moaning, as though he was hurt.

    Who had attacked him in the night?

    Lu Xiaofeng could feel his heartbeat quicken, his throat dry, and his palms perspire; in this darkness where he couldn’t even see his fingers if he stretched them out, he could make out nothing.

    Again after a long while, he heard Dugu Mei’s faint voice: “Snake… poisonous snake.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a relieved sigh, asked: “How did you know it was a poisonous snake?”

    Dugu Mei replied: “The area where it bit me doesn’t hurt, only numb.”

    “Where’s the wound?”

    “On my left shoulder.”

    Lu Xiaofeng fumbled about and found his left shoulder, then ripped apart his clothes. His fingers found a swollen lump of flesh, and he bent his head, opened his mouth and began to suck until Dugu Mei yelped.

    “You’re feeling the pain?”

    “Yes.”

    Since he could feel pain, that meant the poison in the wound was all sucked out.

    Lu Xiaofeng spat out a breath and said: “If you can sleep, rest for a while. If not, just endure for a little more, it will be daylight soon.”

    Dugu Mei lay there whimpering. After another long while, he suddenly said: “You didn’t have to do this.”

    “Oh?”

    “You know the way out, why didn’t you abandon me and go off?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was quiet for a long moment before he replied: “That’s because you can still laugh.”

    Dugu Mei didn’t understand.

    “I feel,” Lu Xiaofeng continued slowly, “that if a person can still laugh, he cannot be considered to have no regard for others.”


    Once daylight came, the guiding phosphorescence would disappear.

    Now it was almost light, and Lu Xiaofeng had finally gotten some rest.

    Certain people possessed strength that was like the wildfire of the grasslands, it could be reignited at any time.

    Lu Xiaofeng was such a person.

    He had not yet exhausted the strength he had built up again when they found that they were finally out of that man-eating forest!

    In front of them was a lovely spring day, the sun had just risen from the verdant mountains and a light breeze blew along the fragrance of new blooms and shoots. Dew drops sparkled like a lover’s eyes under the sun’s rays.

    Lu Xiaofeng rubbed his eyes, unable to believe all this was real. This was a miracle, a dream.

    Had he just woken up from a nightmare and gone into another dreamscape?

    Dugu Mei, whom he was carrying on his back, suddenly asked, his breathing quickening: “Is there a large pine tree in front?”

    There was.

    An old pine tree, standing proudly erect and all alone in front of the rocks, far away from this dense forest, as though it did not care to be associated with other ordinary trees.

    “Is there a big piece of stone underneath the tree?”

    There was.

    It was a slab of green stone as large as a table, the quality of it pure and beautiful, tender and smooth as jade.

    Lu Xiaofeng crossed over and sat down on the stone, then sat down the man on his back and expelled a long breath. “We’ve finally made it out.”

    “This place isn’t really considered safe yet,” Dugu Mei replied, panting.

    “At least I wasn’t eaten alive in that man-eating forest,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “But you could still die by Ximen Chuixue’s sword anytime!”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Can’t you say something nicer for once?”

    Dugu Mei smiled, said: “I only want to tell you one thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was listening.

    “There was no one in the world who could have saved you, but you saved yourself instead.”

    “Oh?”

    “When you saved me just now,” Dugu Mei said, “you saved yourself at the same time.”

    “You didn’t really want to take me to that Mansion, did you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Dugu Mei nodded. “But I’ve changed my mind,” he said, “because even though I don’t care a hoot for anyone, I’m still human.”

    He gazed at Lu Xiaofeng, and the cunning look in his eyes suddenly turned tender. “You didn’t desert me even in those circumstances, so now I won’t abandon you either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled.

    There is always a kind side to human nature, of that he was always confident.

    There was a smaller slab of green stone beneath the branches, and Dugu Mei said: “Go move that stone and see if there’s a chest under that.”

    There was.

    Made of rattan, the chest contained a piece of cured meat, chicken, a flask of wine, a packet of medicine for knife wounds, a whistle and a letter.

    The whistle was oddly-shaped, the color of the letter and its envelope were also strange, like a dead man’s skin.

    There were only ten words on the letter: “Blow the whistle, listen for the echoes, follow the sounds.”

    Lu Xiaofeng took a swallow of wine. “Good wine.”

    He gave a satisfied sigh and said: “These people are really thoughtful.”

    Dugu Mei said: “They do things down to the finest detail and their reputation is stellar. Once you have a contract with them, they will ensure you get to the Mansion.”

    “What contract?” Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t resist asking.

    “Contract to save your life,” Dugu Mei replied.

    He didn’t evade Lu Xiaofeng’s question this time, so Lu Xiaofeng immediately asked: “What Mansion?”

    “Mansion of Spirits.”

    Mansion of Spirits!

    – Only dead people could go there!

    Lu Xiaofeng could feel his palms turning cold, but couldn’t resist asking: “Don’t tell me that place is full of dead people’s spirits?”

    Dugu Mei smiled mysteriously and replied slowly: “Precisely because all the dead people’s spirits are there, no living person can find it, and no living person dares to go in!”

    “What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng queried.

    Dugu Mei’s smile grew even more mysterious. “I am at a dead end, of course I’m bound to die.”

    “Since you had to die, of course you’re already a dead person!”

    “Now you finally understand,” Dugu Mei said.

    “I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile. “I don’t understand at all.”

    The whistle was in his hand. He couldn’t resist blowing it gently, and a strange, keen sound pierced the air, startling even him.

    Just at this moment, the same whistling sound floated over the distance, as though from the west!

    It was not difficult to distinguish whistle sounds in the vast loneliness of the mountains. They followed the sounds, forwards and upwards; all around them mist swirled and eventually they found themselves amongst clouds.

    After a good amount of wine and half a chicken, Lu Xiaofeng was full of energy and felt he could go on and on.

    Dugu Mei’s condition, however, worsened and Lu Xiaofeng could smell the stench emitting from his wound. But Lu Xiaofeng didn’t mind at all.

    “Ximen Chuixue isn’t deaf.”

    “Of course not.”

    “He would have heard the whistle sounds.”

    “Mm.”

    “So he could be upon us anytime.”

    “Probably.”

    “Since you know the way into the mountain, you’d best put me down.” Dugu Mei’s face was twisted with pain. “You’d make better progress alone. I can’t make it; even if I reach there, I probably wouldn’t live much longer.”

    His were sincere words, but Lu Xiaofeng didn’t seem to have heard a single word.

    He moved even faster; the clouds were suddenly at his feet, and the clouds in his mind dissipated.

    Ahead, the sky was clear and the mountains stretched on as though in a beautiful painting.

    But Lu Xiaofeng’s heart plummeted.

    In front of him was a bottomless abyss; he was looking at those picturesque mountains, but there was no way to bridge the gap between them.

    He picked up a stone and tossed it into the abyss, but couldn’t hear the slightest hint of an echo.

    Below, clouds swirled around and nothing could be seen, not even souls of dead people.

    Could it be that the Mansion of Spirits was located down in that deep gully?

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile and said: “It doesn’t seem that difficult to get to the Mansion of Spirits. You only have to jump off from here and you’d instantly be a dead person.”

    Dugu Mei panted and said: “Try blowing the whistle again?”

    The keen sound of the whistle sliced through the loneliness and the clouds.

    Suddenly, someone appeared among the clouds.

    There were white clouds both in the sky and in the abyss, and this person was just there among the clouds, as though suspended in mid-air.

    Who had the ability to stand on the clouds like that?

    A dead person? The soul of a dead person?

    Lu Xiaofeng expelled a breath, then realised this person was moving very quickly, as though riding with the wind. In the blink of an eye, one could tell the colour of his clothes and should be able to discern his features.

    But he had no features or facial outline, it was as though someone had pared off his face with a knife.

    If one had not seen him in person, one could not have imagined what kind of face that was.

    Lu Xiaofeng was no coward, but when he saw that face, he could feel his legs turning into jelly and nearly fell into the bottomless abyss below.

    He could feel Dugu Mei, who was on his back, trembling as well; at this moment, the person had arrived in front of them all too quickly.

    Although this person had leapt up the mountain, when he moved his body still seemed to be floating and his feet were at least half a foot off the ground.

    Lu Xiaofeng had always thought that the three most skilled martial artists in qinggong were Sikong Zhaixing, Ximen Chuixue and himself.

    Now he knew he was wrong.

    This person’s qinggong skills were strange, just like his face; unless you saw it for yourself, you could not have imagined it.

    Now he was gazing at Lu Xiaofeng, his eyes resembling volcanic vents that had just recently spouted lava, scorching hot and dangerous.

    Lu Xiaofeng had no idea what he was going to say to such a person.

    Dugu Mei suddenly asked: “Are you the Soul Collector of the Mansion?” He saw this man nod and immediately continued: “I’m Dugu Mei, my soul is already here.”

    This person finally opened his mouth: “I know, I knew you would come.”

    His voice was slow, strange and constricted, because he had no lips.

    People who had not seen him could not have imagined what it was like to speak for someone with no lips.

    Dugu Mei didn’t even dare to look at him, for fear that he would vomit.

    The Soul Collector suddenly laughed coldly: “You don’t dare to look at me? Is it because I’m too ugly?”

    “Of course not…” Dugu Mei immediately denied with a forced smile.

    “If that’s not the case, then look at my face when you talk to me,” the Soul Collector said.

    Dugu Mei had no choice but to look at his face, but he didn’t open his mouth because his throat and stomach had constricted out of fear, and no sound came out.

    The Soul Collector was laughing instead, it seemed he enjoyed seeing people frightened and in pain, enjoyed having people be afraid of him.

    But his laughter ended soon enough as he said coldly: “You should have come alone, why are there two of you now?”

    Dugu Mei still couldn’t open his mouth, so he was unable to answer the question.

    “You stay, he goes!” said the Soul Collector.

    Dugu Mei suddenly gathered up his courage and replied: “He can’t go either.”

    “If he doesn’t go, you go.”

    “I have a contract,” Dugu Mei protested loudly. “It’s a contract that you guys made.”

    “You have a contract, he doesn’t,” the Soul Collector said.

    Dugu Mei said: “He’s my friend, I can pay the contract price for him.”

    “Pay now.”

    “I can pay it anytime,” Dugu Mei said. “I have…”

    The Soul Collector interrupted him coldly: “Even if you pay now, it’s too late.”

    “Why?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “Because I say so.”

    “But since he’s here, he surely can’t go back alive,” Dugu Mei argued.

    “If you want to save him, you go and leave him here,” the Soul Collector replied coldly.

    He had no lips and his voice sounded as though it’d come from hell, where it’d been refined by demonic fire.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly spoke up loudly: “I go.”

    He set Dugu Mei down gently, patted his clothes and, true to his word, walked off.

    Dugu Mei was still panting, and suddenly grabbed the edge of his clothes, said: “You stay, I go.”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “You don’t have to worry. I made it here in one piece, so I can get back out alive too.”

    Dugu Mei laughed too and said loudly: “I know you aren’t concerned about life and death, but I’m really afraid of dying…”

    “But you aren’t any longer,” Lu Xiaofeng finished for him.

    Dug Mei nodded. “Because I…”

    “Because you won’t live long anyway, so you want to let me have the opportunity instead,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “This is the only chance,” Dugu Mei said.

    “I’ve heard all these already, and I understand your intention, but…”

    “You still won’t?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said: “I’m very satisfied to have made friends with someone who doesn’t give a damn about kinship. Unfortunately, I don’t have a habit of wanting my friends to die on my behalf.”

    “You are bent on leaving?” Dugu Mei asked.

    “I definitely can leave quicker than you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The Soul Collector gazed coldly at them, his eyes filled with indescribable hatred.

    He abhorred friendship, hated all things good and beautiful, just like the bats that detested sunlight.

    Suddenly, a voice called out in the distance: “Bring them in, both of them.”

    The clear, crisp sound came from somewhere in the white clouds, and there suddenly appeared among the clouds a pale red shadow, also seemingly suspended in mid-air and waving them over.

    “Who said to bring them inside?”

    “Old Sabre Honcho[2].”

    These words were like an incantation, and Lu Xiaofeng was suddenly transported into another world.

    No one could hang suspended in mid-air, and no one could really travel with the wind.

    The Soul Collector was also human, not a ghost or spirit, so how had he come?

    After Lu Xiaofeng crossed over, he realized that hidden among the clouds was a very thick steel cable that served as a link between the cliffs.

    This was their bridge.

    The bridge from the mundane world to the ‘Spiritual’ entrance.

    On this side of the cliff was a big bamboo basket, attached to a pulley that was hooked on the steel cable.

    The cliff on this side was higher, and once one of the ropes was released, the bamboo basket would slide over to the other side of the mountain.

    Dugu Mei was already in the bamboo basket.

    The Soul Collector gazed coldly at Lu Xiaofeng and said: “Are you thinking of getting in there too?”

    “I have legs,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “If you slip and fall down there, you won’t have any more legs,” the Soul Collector said.

    “I can see that.”

    “You won’t have either soul or corpse; once you fall in there, you’ll be turned into minced meat.”

    “I can imagine,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “This cable is very slippery,” the Soul Collector said. “The wind up here is very strong, and no matter how good one’s qinggong skills are, there’s always the possibility of falling down.”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “You’ve fallen down there before?”

    “No.”

    “You like me?”

    The Soul Collector laughed coldly.

    Lu Xiaofeng said lightly: “Since you haven’t fallen in, how would you know that I would? Since you don’t like me, why would you care whether I lived or died?”

    “Fine,” the Soul Collector said frostily, “you go first.”

    “You want to walk behind me and watch me fall?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “There are plenty of chances like that, and I don’t like to miss them,” the Soul Collector said.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled again. “But this time, I promise you will be disappointed.”

    The steel cable was indeed very slippery and the mountain wind was very strong. One was like a hapless candle flame walking on the cable in such circumstances.

    There were misty clouds drifting around them, and the world seemed to be floating, so it was difficult to get a firm footing on the cable.

    But the more difficult the task, the more enjoyable it was to Lu Xiaofeng.

    He wasn’t walking very quickly, because it was easier to be fast rather than slow; he walked slowly, as though treading on a flat, broad road.

    The Soul Collector could only follow behind.

    So Lu Xiaofeng was in great spirits.

    Wind breezed past beneath his trousers, clouds flew by in front of his eyes, and he suddenly felt that there was nothing in the world worth troubling over. Even if he slipped and fell, he didn’t care.

    His voice was normally very rough and he couldn’t carry a tune, so he’d stopped singing after he turned nine.

    However, he suddenly felt like bursting into song and actually began singing a children’s song, because he only knew children’s songs:

    “Little girl carrying a clay doll,
    Came to the garden to admire the flowers…”

    A sudden whoosh of wind over his head, and a man was standing in front of him.

    A man without a face.

    Lu Xiaofeng grinned. “Is my singing nice?”

    The Soul Collector said coldly: “That’s not singing. That’s a donkey braying.”

    Lu Xiaofeng roared with laughter. “So there are times when you get fed up too. Great. Fantastic.”

    He began singing again, his voice even louder.

    “The doll cried for mama,
    And the birds in the trees burst out laughing…”

    The Soul Collector stared at him frostily. When the singing was over, he asked: “Are you Lu Xiaofeng?”

    “You mean you can recognise me from my singing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “Don’t tell me my voice is more famous than my own self?”

    “You’re really Lu Xiaofeng?” the Soul Collector persisted.

    “Other than Lu Xiaofeng, who else could sing like that?”

    “Know who I am?”

    “No.” He smiled again. “There are many people in this world who don’t want face, but none who have done it as completely as you.”

    The Soul Collector’s eyes seemed to blaze up again; suddenly he removed a black wooden hairpin from his hair and threw it at Lu Xiaofeng.

    There was nothing extraordinary about his strike, but it was too fast, so fast that it was beyond imagination.

    Lu Xiaofeng had no time to retreat or dodge; he could only stretch out his hand and catch it with two fingers!

    This was originally an infallible strike, but this time it had failed.

    An ordinary black wooden hairpin seemed to have split into two, quick as lightning they were about to pierce his eyes.

    Had he been on flat ground, he could of course have dodged, but he was standing on a slippery cable right now and not on stable ground.

    His body tilted and he lost his footing. He dropped down, right into that bottomless pit below.

    – One fall and he’d become minced meat.

    He did not become minced meat.

    The Soul Collector inclined his head downwards and saw a foot hanging on the steel cable. Lu Xiaofeng was just like a fish being strung up on the fishing rod, swaying with the wind.

    He seemed as don’t-carish as ever, even amused, and started singing again:

    “Rock-a-bye baby,
    Rocking to grandma’s bridge,
    Grandma called me a good baby…”

    He didn’t carry on, because he’d forgotten the rest of the lyrics.

    “Looks like you’re really Lu Xiaofeng,” the Soul Collector said.

    “I still am now,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. “But maybe I’d become a pile of minced meat later on.”

    “You’re really not afraid of death?” the Soul Collector asked.

    A “whooshing” sound and like the turning of a pinwheel, he was suddenly upright again on the steel cable, smiling as he said: “Looks like you don’t really want me to die either.”

    The Soul Collector said coldly: “I just want you to know one thing.”

    “What thing?”

    The fire was back in the Soul Collector’s eyes as he bit out: “I want you to know, Ximen Chuixue is not the fastest sword in the world. I am quicker than he.”

    This time, Lu Xiaofeng did not laugh and an odd expression entered his eyes as he gazed at the other and asked: “Who exactly are you?”

    “Someone who doesn’t want face,” the Soul Collector said.

    He didn’t want face and had no face either. He was devoid of expression, but there seemed to be indescribable grief in his voice.

    Lu Xiaofeng was about to press further, but he’d already darted off like a bird and in a flash, disappeared among the white clouds.

    The misty clouds swirled about and Lu Xiaofeng stood stupidly among them, his thoughts uncertain.

    After a long while, he began walking forward again and finally reached the other side. He saw in front of him two bamboo poles and a red string tied between them. In the distance, a cold voice said: “Once you cross this life-death line, you are a dead man.” The voice was as chilly as the tip of a knife: “So you’d better think again: should you cross over or go back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was also asking himself that: “Should I cross over or go back?”

    Once he was over the line he’d be a dead man, but if he turned back it’d be a dead end too.

    This line would probably break when touched, but how many could actually cross over?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. “There were times when I felt like dying every day but I couldn’t; I didn’t expect that today it’d be so easy to die.”

    He smiled and easily crossed over, walked into a world he’d never expected.

    Into a dead person’s world.

    It was hazy all around and nothing could be seen, not even the Soul Collector, who’d disappeared to god knows where.

    Dugu Mei was gone too.

    – What sort of a place was this?
    – Am I really a dead person now?

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved his chest and strode ahead, bursting into song again:

    “Little girl carrying a clay doll,
    Came to the garden to admire the flowers…”

    He hadn’t yet finished the line when he heard a voice moaning: “Please, spare me.”

    [1] This is a very common children's song, here are the Chinese lyrics (complete with pinyin):
    “妹妹背着泥娃娃,(mei1 mei1 bei4 zhe ni2 wa2 wa)
    走到花园来看花,(zou3 dao4 hua1 yuan2 lai2 kan4 hua1)
    娃娃哭了叫妈妈,(wa2 wa ku1 le jiao4 ma1 ma1)
    树上的小鸟笑哈哈……” (shu4 shang4 de xiao3 niao3 xiao4 ha1 ha1)

    [2] Old Sabre Honcho was named in the spirit of "Ancient Pine Hermit" Obviously it's a pseudonym. The Chinese title is 老刀把子 (lao3 dao1 ba3 zi).
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:08 AM.

  13. #53
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 – Mansion of Spirits[1]
    Translated by Junny


    The sound came from a small wooden hut.

    One must be very observant to pick out a small greyish-white wooden hut among all that fog-like clouds.

    Lu Xiaofeng finally saw it – only the hut, but no person.

    The moaning hadn’t stopped, and Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help asking: “Are you hurt?”

    “Not hurt, but dying soon.” It was a young lady’s voice: “Dying from your singing.”

    “Since you’re here, you must be a dead person too, so what’s the harm in dying again?”

    “Not even a living ghost can take your singing, what more dead people?”

    Lu Xiaofeng roared with laughter.

    From the hut, the voice asked again: “Do you know who saved you just now?”

    “It was you?”

    “That’s correct, it’s me.” Her laughter was very sweet. “My surname is Ye, I’m Ye Ling. Every one calls me Little Leaf[2].”

    “Good name.”

    “Your name isn’t too bad, but I don’t understand how a big man like you is called little phoenix?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s laughter became forced as he said: “My name is Lu Xiaofeng, not little phoenix.”

    “What’s the difference?” Ye Ling asked.

    “Phoenixes (feng huang) come in pairs – ‘feng’ refers to the male, while ‘huang’ refers to the female’.”

    He crossed over slowly, but silence suddenly filled the hut. After a long while, he could hear Ye Ling sigh gently: “I’m just a little leaf and not part of a pair, don’t even know whether it’s male or female.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “That you don’t have to worry. I only need to take one look at you to know whether you’re male or female.”

    He thrust the door open suddenly and burst into the hut.

    From the outside, this hut already seemed small and miserable, and it was like walking into a dove’s cage.

    However, doves despite their size had everything necessary and this hut was no different. It had seemingly everything that could be found in other houses, even a golden night stool.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not someone overly interested in night stools, but he noticed this one because when he walked in, this young lady dressed in red was sitting on it.

    Neatly dressed and sitting on the night stool, she was gazing at Lu Xiaofeng with large black eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng could feel his face turning a little red.

    No matter the circumstances, men should not force their way in when a girl is sitting on the night stool.

    Still he’d come in and wouldn’t it be more embarrassing if he’d slipped out now?

    Lu Xiaofeng decided to take the offensive and suddenly smiled. “Do you always sit on night stools to greet your visitors?”

    Ye Ling shook her head primly. “I’d only do that in two situations.”

    The first situation didn’t need elaborating, of course, but what about the other one?

    Ye Ling said: “That’s when something is trying to wiggle out of the night stool.”

    Lu Xiaofeng almost lost his smile.

    Would there still be something wanting to get out of the night stool? Other than a horrible stench, what else could come out?

    “Do you want to have a look at what’s inside?” Ye Ling asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head immediately. “No.”

    “You still have to look even if you don’t want to,” Ye Ling said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because everything in here is for you,” Ye Ling replied.

    “Even if I don’t want them?”

    “Of course.”

    As he watched her stand up and lift the lid from the night stool, Lu Xiaofeng almost wanted to bolt out the door and flee.

    He didn’t flee.

    Not only was the smell from the night stool not horrible, it was rather fragrant.

    Following the fragrant aroma were a pair of swallows and a pair of butterflies.

    The swallows and butterflies flew out of the little window and Ye Ling, as though performing some magic tricks, retrieved a new set of attire from the night stool, a pair of soft socks, a small jar of wine, two wine cups, two pairs of chopsticks, a large earthen jar, a large spoon, four or five buns and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

    Nobody could have imagined that so many things could be retrieved from a night stool.

    Ye Ling said: “The swallows and butterflies are our welcome to you, the clothes and socks should fit you, the wine is vintage ‘zhuyeqing’[3], the earthen jar contains flavored braised chicken and the buns are freshly steamed.”

    She raised her head and gazed at Lu Xiaofeng, continued lightly: “Do you like them?”

    Lu Xiaofeng expelled a breath and replied: “I totally love them.”

    “Do you want them?” she asked.

    “If I don’t, I’m an idiot.”

    Ye Ling smiled, like a flower, a candy, a little fox.

    A fox that could harm or charm people.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her and couldn’t help another sigh, said: “You’re female, definitely female.”

    The flowers were just put in the vase, but the wine was already in Lu Xiaofeng’s tummy.

    Little Leaf gazed at him pouring the cool ‘zhuyeqing’ down his throat as he would water, surprised and feeling that it was rather a waste. Suddenly she sighed and said: “There’s just something not quite right.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t understand.

    Little Leaf explained: “Someone said that very few people can match your intelligence, martial arts, drinking ability, thick-skinned and lascivious nature.”

    Lu Xiaofeng set down the empty wine jar and laughed. “Now you’ve seen my drinking ability.”

    “I have seen your skills too,” Ye Ling said. “You didn’t fall off just now, I almost wanted to take my hat off you.”

    “However, I’m not lascivious, so that’s wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “That’s not wrong,” Ye Ling said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was angry. “Have I ever been improper towards you?”

    “No, until now no,” Ye Ling said. “But when you look at me, your eyes…”

    Lu Xiaofeng hurriedly cut her off: “What did you say was not quite right?”

    Ye Ling chuckled. “You’re not very thick-skinned, you blush too.”

    “Did you think I’ve never blushed in my life?” Lu Xiaofeng said. “Do you believe everything that person tells you?”

    Ye Ling batted her eyelids and countered: “Do you know who said all that?”

    “Who?”

    “Old Sabre Honcho.”

    This man, this name… why did it exert so much influence?

    Lu Xiaofeng tried testing the waters: “He’s the leader around here?”

    “Not only that, he’s our boss, our old man.”

    “What’s he like?”

    “A man who can make everyone willingly regard him as their old man, what kind of a person do you think he is?”

    “I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “I haven’t got anyone who wants to be my son, and I’ve never wanted to be someone else’s son.”

    “You just want to know his name and background, that’s all,” Ye Ling said.

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t deny. “Of course I want to know, desperately want to know.”

    Ye Ling said coldly: “If you really want to know, it could cost you your life.”

    Her expression became very stern. “If you want to live comfortably here, don’t ever sniff out anything about other people, or…”

    “Or what?”

    “Or you’d vanish, no matter how highly skilled you may be.”

    “Vanish?”

    “That means you suddenly disappear without a trace, and nobody knows where you’ve gone!”

    “Do people around here disappear often?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Frequently,” Ye Ling said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, gave a forced smile. “I thought this was a very safe and regulated place.”

    “This place is regulated. In fact we have three main rules.”

    “What are they?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No checking out people’s pasts, no offending Old Sabre Honcho, and no disobeying his orders.”

    “So whatever he wants me to do, I have to do it?”

    Ye Ling nodded her head and said: “Even if he wants you to eat shit, you’ll have to eat it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile was forced.

    “Do you know why I wanted to come here and tell you all these?” Ye Ling asked again.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile suddenly turned cheerful and said: “That’s because you like me.”

    Ye Ling smiled too. “Looks like he wasn’t wrong after all. Your skin is so thick that even the tip of a spear couldn’t pierce through it.”

    Her smile was more beautiful than a flower and sweeter than candy, as she continued lightly: “But if you break my rules, I will skin your face off and use it to make slippers for me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile turned forced again and said: “You should at least let me know what sort of rules you have.”

    “I only have two rules: don’t offend Big Leaf, and don’t let women into Lu Residence.”

    “Who is Big Leaf?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Big Leaf is Little Leaf’s sister, and Lu Residence is Lu Xiaofeng’s residence.”

    “Where’s Lu Residence?”

    “Right here,” Ye Ling said. “From now on, this is your home. You must sleep here at night and stay here quietly in the daytime. I will make spot-checks.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was laughing again, but it sounded rather odd.

    Ye Ling’s brows rose. “You’re laughing at me?”

    “Not at you, just at myself.”

    His laughter sounded not only strange, but a little grieved too, as he said: “I’ve lived thirty years, but this is the first time I have a home of my own, my own place…”

    He didn’t continue, because Ye Ling had shut his mouth – used her own lips to shut his mouth.

    Her lips were soft and icy cold.

    Their lips had barely brushed each other’s before she suddenly aimed a punch at Lu Xiaofeng’s tummy.

    Her punch was hard and heavy.

    Lu Xiaofeng was almost bent double by the blow, but she merely gurgled with laughter before slipping out.

    “Remember, don’t let any women in.” Her voice was already outside. “Especially not the Flower Widow.”

    “And what kind of a person is the Flower Widow?”

    “She’s not a person, but a female dog, a man-eating b!tch.”

    Lu Xiaofeng had four eyebrows, but only two hands.

    He used his left hand to massage his stomach, and his right to finger his lip – he didn’t know whether to cry or laugh.

    He’d muddled through all this to find himself turned from a living person into a dead one, and now with a home to boot.

    He still had his two legs, but he couldn’t go anywhere.

    He was suddenly asleep and began dreaming soon after; he dreamt he was being enveloped by an icy cold giant leaf, then dreamt of a flower-covered b!tch crunching his bones, and he could hear the crunching sounds very distinctly.

    Then he realized that there was indeed someone in the hut crunching bones.

    Not his bones, but chicken bones.

    And it wasn’t a b!tch sitting there chewing bones, but a person.

    The moment Lu Xiaofeng came awake, this person was suddenly on the alert, just like the instinctive alertness of wild beasts.

    He twisted his head and stared at Lu Xiaofeng, his eyes full of hostility.

    But he was still gnawing at chicken bones.

    Lu Xiaofeng had never seen anyone take such an interest in chicken bones, nor had he seen such a skinny person before.

    In truth, the flesh on this person’s body would not be any more than the meat on the chicken bones he was chewing.

    However, the clothes he wore were magnificent and he definitely didn’t look poor enough to have to resort to chewing chicken bones.

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t resist probing a little. “Are you ill?” he asked.

    “You’re the one who’s sick!”

    This person spat out the bones in his mouth all over the floor, revealing a row of shiny white teeth as he glared at Lu Xiaofeng.

    “What illness did you think I was suffering from? Hunger?”

    “You aren’t hungry?”

    “I eat three meals a day, sometimes supper too.”

    “What do you eat?”

    “I eat rice, noodles, meet, vegetables… whatever is edible, I will eat it.”

    “So what did you eat today?”

    “At noon, I had northern dishes, one was braised pork shanks, one was yellow lamb stew, one was Sanxian duck, one was fried tofu dumplings, one was prawns in black ginseng, one was five-plum pigeon, and another was a bowl of cucumber and meatball soup.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    This person glared at him again. “You don’t believe me?”

    “I’m merely curious why anyone would want to barge into another’s home to chew chicken bones.”

    “Because I feel like it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again. “If you like, you’re welcome to drop by whenever I have chicken bones here.”

    There was however a hint of wariness on this person’s eyes as he said: “You welcome me here? Why?”

    “That’s because this is the first time I have a home,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “You’re my new home’s first guest, and I like having friends.”

    This person’s expression grew fiercer. “I am not your friend.”

    “Maybe not now, but definitely in the future,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    This person was still glaring at him, but seemed to have calmed down somewhat.

    It couldn’t be denied that Lu Xiaofeng was very good at making friends, and people generally liked him. Male or female, they were all the same.

    Lu Xiaofeng had already sat up and suddenly gave a sigh and said: “It’s a pity there’s no more wine now, or I’d have a drink or two with you.”

    This person’s eyes immediately shone. “There’s no wine here, but can’t you go outside and find some?”

    “I haven’t been here for more than half a day,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “and I’m not familiar with the area. But I guarantee that within three days, I’d be able to find whatever you want to drink.”

    This person gazed at him for a long while and finally expelled a breath, his whole body relaxing. “I’m a wandering soul and may barge anytime. You really don’t mind?”

    “I don’t mind,” Lu Xiaofeng said. He really didn’t.

    Often, he would drag friends out in the middle of the night to drink with him, and his friends didn’t mind either.

    Every one knew that he would be only too happy if people came to find him in the middle of the night.

    Darkness had fallen and the night breeze carried with it the sound of a bell.

    “That’s the dinner bell.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t understand, so the Wandering Soul explained: “The dinner bell summons every one to the hall for dinner.”

    “Every one must go?”

    “Mm.”

    “Every day?”

    “About four or five days a month.”

    “On what days?”

    “On the first and fifteenth, during festivals, and when a famous person arrives here for the first day.”

    He gave Lu Xiaofeng the once over and said: “You must be a famous person, don’t tell me you’re that Lu Xiaofeng with four eyebrows?”

    Lu Xiaofeng offered a forced smile. “Unfortunately the Lu Xiaofeng now is no longer the Lu Xiaofeng of yesteryear.”

    Wandering Soul looked about to speak but restrained himself. Suddenly he stood up. “There will be someone here soon to lead you to dinner, so I have to go. You’d best not tell anyone I have been by.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t ask why.

    If someone had a favor to ask of him, he would not ask the reason so long as he was prepared to agree to it.

    Just on that, he should have many friends.

    Wandering Soul also seemed pleased on that score, then suddenly lowered his voice and said: “When you reach the hall tonight, they will try and scare you into submission.”

    “Oh?”

    “At least half the people here are loonies, and their only hobby is to torture people and watch others suffer. There are six or seven who are even more terrible.”

    “Which seven?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Wandering Soul said: “One is called Housekeeper, one is General, one is Cousin, one is Hook…”

    He’d only said these four names before suddenly leaping out.

    The hut’s window was very small, but he managed to shimmy out by grabbing the top ledge and inserting himself through.

    It looked as though his qinggong was not only very high, he could shrink himself.

    These two skills were exclusively Sikong Zhaixing’s areas of expertise, so how was he related to Sikong Zhaixing?

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t think further because he’d heard footsteps outside.

    The footsteps were very light, and only animals with padded paws would be able to tread so lightly.

    Only very highly-skilled veterans of the martial arts fraternity would be able to walk like such beasts.

    Were there so many highly-skilled martial artists in the Mansion of Spirits?

    Just when Lu Xiaofeng was still feeling shocked, he heard a knock on the door.

    He really wanted to see who this person is and what he looked like. Immediately he went to open the door.

    He was even more stunned.

    The knocker was not a person, but really an animal with padded paws!

    It was a dog!

    A big black dog so shiny that he looked just like a leopard in the fading light.

    But it wasn’t hostile to people, as long-term, strict training had already defused its animosity towards humans.

    It wasn’t barking either, because it held a piece of paper in its mouth.

    On the paper were these words: “Please follow me.”

    This dog was here to lead Lu Xiaofeng to dinner.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    No matter what, being able to eat is always a pleasant thing, especially now when he was really craving for a sumptuous, delicious dinner.

    “Braised pork shanks, yellow lamb stew, Sanxian duck…”

    When he recalled the names of these lovely dishes Wandering Soul mentioned, he almost started salivating.

    The dog was waving its tail at him and he patted its head, smiling. “You know, I’d rather you guide me around, because the dogs here are definitely more adorable than the humans.”

    It was night but the fog had not dissipated. There were flickering lights in the distance, but they merely served to make the darkness even darker.

    The dog was walking ahead with Lu Xiaofeng following. When his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was walking on a winding path.

    On either side of the path were trees of varying types and some unknown flora.

    In the daytime, this must have been a beautiful valley.

    But who knows whether the sun’s rays would chance to shine here?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly found that what he truly desired wasn’t a dish of red-hot braised pork shanks, but sunshine.

    He had once been like the others, had once cursed the sunshine.

    Whenever he perspired and panted under the blazing hot sun, he would feel the urge to curse the scorching rays.

    But what he most wanted now was that kind of sunshine.

    There are many things like that in this world, only when you lose them do you realize their value.

    Lu Xiaofeng was sighing in his heart when he suddenly heard someone else sighing nearby, and a voice spoke: “Lu Xiaofeng, I knew you would come, I’ve been here waiting for you.”

    This was the Mansion of Spirits and there were possibly many spirits lurking in the darkness. This voice sounded sinister and thready like a ghost’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s palms began perspiring.

    He was certain the voice was nearby, but he just couldn’t see anyone around.

    “You can’t see me,” the voice began again. “When a vengeful ghost wants to take a life as repayment, it would never let itself be seen.”

    “I owe you a life?” Lu Xiaofeng asked cautiously.

    “Mm.”

    “Whose life?”

    “Mine.”

    “Who are you?”

    “I’m the Blue Beard who died at your hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed uproariously.

    When a person is truly fearful, he sometimes starts laughing for no rhyme or reason.

    His laughter was loud but short.

    He suddenly realized that it was not a human or ghost speaking, but the dog.

    The dog, which had been walking in front of him, had turned its head and was staring at him with a pair of eyes that resembled dead fish.

    “I’m the Blue Beard who died at your hands.”

    How could a dog utter human speech?

    Could Blue Beard’s ghost have possessed this dog?

    No matter how brave Lu Xiaofeng might be, he still shivered. Just then, the dog lunged at him.

    He made a grab for the dog’s front paw, but a hand snaked out from the dog’s stomach.

    It was a human hand holding a knife; a raise of the hand and the knife flew out, aimed right at Lu Xiaofeng’s lower abdomen.

    This was a complete surprise. How many could avoid such an attack?

    At least one.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s lower abdomen suddenly contracted as he stuck out two fingers and caught the blade neatly.

    The dog, however, had somersaulted and backtracked ten meters, whereby it vanished into the darkness.

    It was impossible to see anything in the darkness.

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his head and gazed into the night, then looked down at the blade he held in his hand, a forced smile on his lips.

    This was supposed to be a nightmare, but it wasn’t a dream.

    In this dreamscape-like Mansion of Spirits, was any one thing a dream or reality? It was difficult to tell.

    However, he had finally understood one thing: “The dogs here aren’t really more adorable than the people.”

    Another voice floated over in the darkness: “So are you now finally willing to let a human guide you along?”

    This time, he actually saw a person.

    He saw Ye Ling.

    In the foggy light, Ye Ling was still smiling sweetly.

    “Now you should understand whether the people or dogs here are more adorable.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “You still don’t?”

    “I only know one thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “Sometimes the dogs here are people, and the people here are dogs.”

    The Flower Widow might not be a real b!tch, but that black dog was a human.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued: “Although few in the martial arts world are willing to be dogs, there is only one who can actually do it to a T.”

    “You know who that is?” Ye Ling asked.

    “Mister Dog.”

    “You already knew?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said: “I at least know that Blue Beard did not die by my hand. He knew that too, so even if he turned into a vengeful ghost, he wouldn’t come after me.”

    Ye Ling laughed, batting her eyelids. “Even if vengeful ghosts don’t come after you, hungry ones would.”

    “Hungry ghosts?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That means the people who will die of hunger while waiting for you to turn up for dinner,” Ye Ling said. “If you don’t hurry over, there will be thirty-seven hungry ghosts tonight.”

    “Even if I don’t go, there will only be one hungry ghost.”

    “Who?”

    “Me.”

    [1] The title for this chapter (in my book, that is) is "Ye Guhong's Suicide" but there are some sites that have labelled it as "Mansion of Spirits", which is more reflective of the chapter's contents if you read on, and is what I will use here.

    [2] Ye Ling - written as 叶灵, the character 叶 (Ye) is the same whether it is used as a surname or for the word "leaf".

    [3] zhuyeqing - 竹叶青, a kind of tea leaf. Can be used to make tea and wine, which is what Lu Xiaofeng drinks here.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:11 AM.

  14. #54
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 – No words to describe a painful situation
    Translated by Junny


    Yesterday was Hook’s seventieth birthday, and as he awoke today with a hangover, he suffered a splitting headache and rush of sexual adrenaline.

    The first symptom indicated that he was already old.

    Yesterday he’d only drunk forty jin of Shaoxing wine, but today his head hurt so much that he longed to take a sabre to it and split it apart.

    Ten years ago, he’d had the record of downing eighty jin of Shaoxing wine in one night, and still be full of energy after four to six hours of rest; with one hand, he’d been able to snap the throats of twenty three of the thirty six Taixing Friends.

    When he thought of that, he was full of hatred, hating heaven and earth, hating himself – why does a person like me have to grow old?

    However, when he realized the second symptom, he felt comforted; at least one part of his anatomy was as rock-hard as the hook inserted up his right wrist.

    How many seventy-year-olds could be as strong as he?

    A pity there were very few women here, and even fewer who could catch his fancy.

    In truth, there were only three he was attracted to, and these three damn women always enjoyed leading him along on purpose.

    Especially that naughty and coy little fox, who had already promised him thrice to come to his room and made him wait in vain for three nights.

    When he thought of that, he felt even angrier and wished he could grab that little fox right now and press her firmly down on the bed.

    Thinking like this made him swell painfully; if he didn’t get some form of release today, he might die of suppression.

    He was still entertaining thoughts of that little fox with her sweet smiles, and her cold as frost sister, along with that over-ripe Flower Widow…

    He was about to stretch out his hand when suddenly someone knocked insistently on the door.

    Only two or three people dared to knock on his door like this, it was either Housekeeper or Cousin.

    Even though these two were his buddies, he still couldn’t help feeling rage well up within him.

    When sexual desire is interrupted, it often turns into rage.

    He pulled a thin blanket over himself and growled in a low voice: “Come in!”

    Hands behind his back, Cousin stood outside the door, his shiny, fair-skinned face looking just like a freshly shelled egg.

    Nobody could guess his age upon seeing that face.

    He was always very proud of this point, sometimes even he forgot about his own age.

    Hearing Hook’s angry growl, he just knew that this old bugger was experiencing stirrings of love.

    With a smile, he pushed open the door and walked in. Seeing that hint of a bulge beneath the blanket, he grinned and said: “Looks like you’re in good shape today, should I pluck two leaves for you?”

    “Shut your thieving eyes and stinky mouth,” Hook roared. “If I want to find girls, I’ll find them myself.”

    “How many have you found?” Cousin asked.

    Hook was even angrier as he leapt up and dashed over to Cousin and pressed the hook of his right hand up Cousin’s belly. Gnashing his teeth, he said: “Say one more word and I’ll rip your heart and intestines out.”

    Cousin was not in the least afraid as he laughed merrily. “I’m not annoying you, in fact I want to cure your illness. See, you’ve gone all soft.”

    Hook glared at him, but suddenly roared with laughter and released his hold. “You don’t have to get cocky either. Were it not for the men here outnumbering the women, your illness would be worse than mine.”

    Cousin crossed over slowly and sat down in a chair by the window, said leisurely: “It’s a pity the number of men here is decreasing, there’s only maybe one who has caught my eye.”

    “Would that be General?” Hook asked.

    Cousin gave a cold laugh and shook his head. “He’s too old.”

    “Is it Xiao Qing?”

    “He’s got the looks but no substance.”

    “Don’t tell me it’s Housekeeper?”

    Cousin laughed again and said: “He’s an old lady himself. I’d be grateful if he leaves me alone.”

    “So whom exactly are you referring to?”

    “Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “Lu Xiaofeng?” Hook yelped. “That Lu Xiaofeng with four eyebrows?”

    Cousin narrowed his eyes and smiled. “Other than him, who else could tempt me?”

    “How did he end up here?”

    “It seems it’s because he had an affair with Ximen Chuixue’s wife.”

    “Have you seen?” Hook asked.

    “Only stole a few glances.”

    “What is he like?”

    Cousin’s eyes narrowed again and he said: “Of course he’s a real man, the cream of the crop.”

    Hook had just sat down but he stood up again and walked barefoot to the window.

    Outside, it was foggy and desolate.

    Suddenly he turned his head around and stared at Cousin, said: “I want to kill him!”

    Cousin jumped up too. “What did you say?”

    “I said I want to kill him.”

    “You want to kill people just because you’ve got no women?”

    Hook’s fists clenched as he said: “He’s probably only thirty or thereabouts this year; I’m already seventy, but I’m confident I can definitely kill him!”

    Seeing the expression on his face, anyone could tell his desire to shed blood was not only because he wanted to vent his anger, he also wanted to prove he was still young.

    – This is most probably the reason why many old men desire young girls.
    – However, they have forgotten something: youth may be glorious, but old age has its fun side too.

    A Western sage once said something that the elderly should take note:
    – The passing of years is not a gradual process of decline; rather it is the fall from one plain to another. This might upset some, but when we stand up and realize that our bones are not broken and before our eyes is yet another splendid new world, with many wonders still for us to explore, might this not also be a beautiful thing?

    Hook, of course, had not heard of this, and neither had Cousin.

    He gazed at Hook’s expression and finally sighed, saying: “Fine, I’ll help you kill him, but you have to help me do him first.”

    “Fine!” said Hook.

    Suddenly, they heard someone laughing coldly from outside the door. “That’s all well and good, but a pity that both of you are too late.”

    Following the laughter in was a tall, thin hunchbacked man with an eagle nose.

    Cousin sighed again. “I just knew that you, Housekeeper, would come and poke your nose into our business.”

    “I’m merely here to relay some news,” Housekeeper said.

    “What news?” Hook cut in.

    “That black dog has already gone to find Lu Xiaofeng, so even if he doesn’t succeed, there’s still General.”

    Cousin was startled. “What has General prepared?”

    “He’s prepared a Hongmen banquet[1] and is waiting for Lu Xiaofeng,” Housekeeper said.

    The night was still the same, as were the fog and mountain valley.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was feeling differently.

    Strolling side by side with a sweet and intelligent girl was definitely more pleasant than following behind a dog.

    Ye Ling glanced sideways at Lu Xiaofeng. “You seem happy.”

    “At least I’m happier than just now,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Because you know I won’t bite you?” Ye Ling asked.

    “You’re also prettier than that dog,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “Prettier than any dog.”

    Ye Ling laughed sweetly. “Am I only that little bit better?”

    “Of course there are other merits,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Such as?”

    “You can talk. I enjoy listening to you talk.”

    Ye Ling batted her eyelids and said: “What do you like me to talk about? The secrets of this place?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    One could attribute many meanings to his laughter, but denial was not part of it.

    “Where do you want to start?” Ye Ling asked.

    “How about we start from Hook?”

    Ye Ling’s eyes widened and she stared at him in shock. “You know about Hook? How did you know?”

    “Not only do I know of Hook, I also know of General, Cousin and Housekeeper,” Lu Xiaofeng replied leisurely.

    Ye Ling crossed over to pluck a leaf from the tree and returned, then suddenly sighed and said: “You know too much. However, if you must ask, I can still tell you.”

    “Then you’d better start from Hook,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “He’s a murderous one, and also a lusty wolf. The thing he most wants to do is to rip my pants apart and press me down on the bed.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said: “Actually, you didn’t have to be so honest.”

    Ye Ling widened those innocent eyes of hers and said: “I’ve always been an honest woman, and it so happens also one who understands men the best.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again and gave a forced smile. “What a coincidence, but I don’t want to hear how many men want to rip off your pants.”

    Ye Ling batted her eyes and said: “If someone wants you to take off your trousers, would you want to listen?”

    “That’s a pretty common thing,” Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Not the first time I’ve encountered that.”

    “If the person who wants you to take off your trousers is a man?”

    “A man?” Lu Xiaofeng yelped.

    Ye Ling said sweetly: “I was wrong. It’s not one man, it’s two.”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t even yell out. Only after a long while did he dare to ask: “Are they Cousin and Housekeeper?”

    Ye Ling’s eyes widened again. “How did you know?”

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile. “These two names sound rather perverse.”

    “But the most frightening one isn’t either of them.”

    “Oh?”

    “Have you seen anyone who could tear apart a live bull into half?” Ye Ling asked.

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng shook his head immediately.

    “Have you seen anyone shatter someone’s brains with just a mere finger?”

    “No.”

    “Well, you’ll see that soon.”

    Lu Xiaofeng swallowed hard. “Do you mean General?”

    “That’s right,” Ye Ling replied.

    “He’s waiting for me too?”

    “Not only that, but he’s getting annoyed at having waited for so long, so you’d better go find a huge pot first.”

    “What do I need a pot for?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “To cover your head.”


    General was standing on the high dais.

    He stood at eight feet ten inches, weighed one hundred and seventy three jin, had broad shoulders and a deep chest, along with thighs thick as tree trunks. When he stretched his palms out, they were as large as palm-leaf fans. The calluses on his palms were over an inch thick, no matter how sharp the weapon, once in his hand he’d snap it instantly!

    There was indeed a huge steel pot in front of him!

    The steel pot rested on a stove, which was on the dais in the great hall.

    The height of the great hall was 13.4 meters, while the dais’ height measured at seven feet, and over three feet for that of the steel pot.

    The fire in the stove was burning merrily as meat cooked in the huge pot, its aroma was so fragrant that man and dog within a ten-mile radius would be attracted over.

    When Lu Xiaofeng walked in, General was using a big wooden ladle to stir the meat in the pot.

    He set down the ladle the moment he saw Lu Xiaofeng, glared at the latter and roared: “Lu Xiaofeng.”

    The roar was like a thunderbolt from the sky, but Lu Xiaofeng didn’t even bat an eyelid and roared back: “General?”

    “Are you coming or not?” General asked.

    “I come,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He really walked over, his strides larger than usual.

    General glared at him and said: “There’s meat in the pot.”

    “It’s meat,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You eat meat?”

    “Yes.”

    “Eat a lot?”

    “Lots.”

    “Good, you eat!”

    General handed the ladle over to Lu Xiaofeng, who took a full scoop of it.

    One scoop was enough to fill a bowl of meat, sizzling hot meat.

    Lu Xiaofeng wasn’t afraid of it being hot and finished it quickly. When he was done, he let out a breath and said: “Good meat.”

    “Of course it is,” General said.

    “You eat meat too?”

    “Yes.”

    “You eat a lot too?”

    General snatched the ladle over and helped himself to a full scoop of meat, looked upwards and roared: “Good meat.”

    “It is good meat,” Lu Xiaofeng agreed.

    “You know what meat this is?” General asked.

    “No.”

    “You’re not afraid this is human flesh?”

    “I’m afraid.”

    “And you still want to eat it?”

    “It’s better to eat others than to be eaten,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    General stared at him for a long time and said: “Fine, you eat!”

    A scoop of meat filled a bowl, and a bowl of meat weighed one jin; Lu Xiaofeng ate another scoop.

    General ate another scoop too, and he did as well.

    In a short while, at least five jin of sizzling hot meat had gone down his stomach.

    At the sixth scoop, General asked: “You can still continue?”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t answer, but suddenly began doing somersaults, three-hundred and sixty of them at one go, then stood up to reply: “I can still eat.”

    “Fine, let’s continue eating,” General said.

    Lu Xiaofeng ate and ate, five somersaults per scoop of meat; after two thousand somersaults, he was still in good shape.

    General, however, was startled. “Good somersaults.”

    As soon as those words were said, a splitting sound could be heard as the belt around his tummy snapped into two.

    “Can you still eat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    General didn’t answer, but leapt off the high dais and seized the legs of the stove. The stove was made of raw bronze, and coupled with the steel pot on the stove, must have weighed at least five hundred to seven hundred jin!

    He lifted it with just one hand, set it down, then lifted it, for a total of three hundred and sixty times before he set it down. Then he snatched over the ladle and said fiercely: “Watch.”

    This time, he ate two scoops.

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at the ladle in his hand, seemingly dazed, but suddenly also seized the stove and raised it, then put it down for three hundred and sixty times, grabbed the ladle and ate two scoops of meat.

    General’s eyes were stunned.

    “More?” Lu Xiaofeng panted.

    General gritted his teeth. “More!”

    He took the ladle and shoved scoop by scoop down his throat, and again there was a clattering sound. This time it wasn’t his belt, but that the ladle had reached the bottom of the pot.

    A scoop of meat was equivalent to one jin, and a pot of meat had at least thirty to fifty scoops, all swept clean by the both of them.

    Lu Xiaofeng expelled a long breath as he smoothed over his protruding belly and said: “Good meat.”

    “Of course it is,” General said.

    “Although, no meat is better than having meat,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    General glared at him, but suddenly laughed loudly. “Much better.”

    Both of them roared with laughter and suddenly fell down together, stretched out on the stone dais and still laughing.

    There were still people standing below the dais, all with wide eyes and open mouths as they gazed at each other, unable to say anything.

    Suddenly General said: “Your tummy hasn’t burst?”

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Couldn’t tell that such a small tummy could hold so much meat.”

    “I ate one more scoop too,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “My scoops were bigger than yours,” General said.

    “Not necessarily.”

    General suddenly leapt up and glared at him.

    Lu Xiaofeng still lay on the dais calmly.

    “Stand up,” General said. “Let’s cook another pot and compete.”

    “No need,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You’re admitting defeat?”

    “I’ve already won, why compete again? I’ve already triumphed, so why should I admit defeat?”

    General glared at him, the veins on his forehead popping out, each green line thicker than most people’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng said lightly: “So not only has your tummy burst, your head is swelling too.”

    General’s fists clenched and his bones crackled like firecrackers; already at eight feet ten inches, he seemed to have grown an extra half feet.

    It looked as though this man not only possessed innate superhuman strength, he’d also perfected his skills.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed instead. “You want to fight?”

    General shut his mouth.

    Now he’d concentrated all the strength within him, and if he spoke, all that strength would disperse.

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “I’ve lost interest in eating meat, but fighting, I can still oblige.”

    General suddenly bellowed and struck with his fist.

    He’d stored up his energy for long and was just like the bow when drawn tight. The force of this fist was near unimaginable.

    A flurry of noises ensued as the stove and pot toppled over, even the zhang-wide table and chairs had fallen down; the cutlery and lamps on the table had either smashed to the floor or crushed to bits on the table.

    Lu Xiaofeng, too, had nearly been blown outside by the force of that fist, travelling over at least three or four long tables, over the heads of more than ten people, across more than ten zhang of the great hall, just like a kite with a string that had snapped.

    Immediately, a burst of applause sounded in the great hall. General stood on the high dais looking even more majestic, awe-inspiring and domineering.

    But at this moment, there was a “whoosh” sound and Lu Xiaofeng was back in front of him, a smile on his face as he said: “That blow really cooled me up, how about another one?”

    General roared with rage and struck three times in quick succession.

    His blows were not fancy or tricky, but every fist struck was solid and effective.

    Although these three blows were not as powerful as the first one, they were far quicker than the first blow.

    Lu Xiaofeng was once again blown off, but not to outside the hall; suddenly he somersaulted in the air and landed behind General.

    General might be bulky but he was agile and his actions quicker. Feet apart, knees bent and arms akimbo, he shed his robe, pulled back as though he was shooting at the moon, and released another three blows in rapid succession.

    These were the most basic of fist skills, but coming from him they were not blows that could be countered by ordinary people.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng was not an ordinary person, indeed it would be impossible to find another Lu Xiaofeng in the world.

    He darted aside in a flash and suddenly reached a hand out to grasp General’s elbow before ramming his head against General’s ribs.

    He actually caused General’s one hundred and thirty-seven jin body stumbling backwards, almost falling off the high dais.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was even more shocked.

    He suddenly realized that this person possessed unusual strength; ramming his head against that body was like crashing into a stone wall and he was seeing stars.

    And because he was dizzy and shocked, he laughed even louder, saying: “You lost again.”

    “Rubbish,” General said.

    “I almost knocked you down, you still won’t admit defeat?”

    “What boxing skills did you use?”

    “Head-boxing,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “What sort of skill is that?”

    “That’s a fighting skill. So long as the opponent is knocked down, any skill can be used.”

    General laughed coldly. “I’ll see what else you can still use.”

    He got back to the same stance and struck again, his blows coming thick and fast, purposely establishing an advantage for himself.

    This time, as he gave free play to his skills, one could see the true depth of his power.

    Lu Xiaofeng had no way of breaking through, not with the way this was evolving. Lu Xiaofeng seemed to have realized this point as well, so he abandoned attacking and retreated to one corner of the stone dais, suddenly bent over double and clutched his stomach: “I can’t, my stomach is hurting like crazy.”

    In truth, he knew that even if he died of stomach pains, nobody would care.

    General shot forward like an arrow, raining blows.

    At the point where he leapt up, Lu Xiaofeng had already slipped under his legs like a fish, then pressed his hands to the floor and arched upwards, slamming his bum against the other’s.

    General was already fully focused on the attack and could not withdraw the force exerted, so this time he was actually knocked off the dais by Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng clapped his hands and laughed loudly. “You lost again.”

    General’s face was red with fury, his lips trembling.

    “Why don’t you ask me this time what sort of skill I used?”

    General didn’t ask, didn’t open his mouth.

    “It’s bum-boxing,” Lu Xiaofeng said. He smiled and continued: “Next time if you see someone using his bum in a fight, you’d better stay far away, because you would definitely not be his match.”

    General roared again and struck out once more. This time his target was not a person, but the stone dais.

    The dais, made of green stone, was now smashed to smithereens that scattered in all directions. He leapt up as well and struck the second blow while in mid-air.

    While such a strike was powerful, it also easily exposed one’s weaknesses, and was actually best used against a weaker opponent.

    Lu Xiaofeng was definitely not weaker than he, so this was a cautious move on his part because he knew Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t hold his balance.

    Nobody could stand properly on that crumbling dais with all that crushed stone scattered about like darts. That also meant one could not strike properly and could only retreat and hide. No matter how one hid, one would be unable withstand being swept away by the force of his blows.

    Although this move was extremely cautious, it was however a definite killer!

    Lu Xiaofeng had not recovered from his injury and his body was still very weak; he would surely be unable to withstand General’s aggression.

    He didn’t.

    He could actually still retaliate, in circumstances that were completely unimaginable, he fought back.

    General was vastly experienced and could decide battles in a very short time, and he’d been certain of victory.

    A pity he had miscalculated this time.

    Lu Xiaofeng was always unpredictable and always did things that people thought would be impossible to do.

    Unique Lu Xiaofeng, unparalleled Lingxi Fingers.

    His body suddenly flew up diagonally, used his index finger gently flick General’s fist and his middle finger to flick General’s chest.

    What was the use of doing that against an iron fist that could smash the stone dais or a chest that couldn’t even be cut up with a steel sabre?

    It worked.

    Nobody could imagine the amount of power that went into these two finger flicks.

    General roared, flew up, crashed down heavily on the heap of crushed stone.

    There were still thirty six people in the great hall, all staring at Lu Xiaofeng, an odd expression in their eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng had a forced smile on his face.

    He could only smile like that, because he knew that even if those people weren’t General’s friends, they’d now become his enemies.

    When a newcomer comes to a foreign place and suddenly has thirty six enemies, it can’t have been a pleasant thing for anyone.

    He could only hope General wasn’t too badly hurt.

    When he turned his head around, General who had been lying on the crushed stone had disappeared.

    He turned around again and saw a man clothed in grey making his way slowly towards the doorway; General was in this man’s arms.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s sharp ears had not at all picked up where this man had materialized from, how he had managed to carry General away and reach the doorway.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

    The man in grey was already out of the door.

    The thirty six people in the great hall had all stood up and followed him out slowly; nobody turned around to spare Lu Xiaofeng a glance, as though already regarding Lu Xiaofeng as a dead man.

    No matter how pretty a corpse, nobody was willing to look at it even once.

    Lu Xiaofeng also suddenly felt as though he was standing in a tomb, there was neither man nor noise, and although the lights were still there, the place seemed darker than darkness.

    If you couldn’t see anything, not even a sliver of hope, what use is light to you?

    He was still standing there dumbly after a long while, unmoving.

    This was a foreign place, so where could he go?

    He was on the path of no return, so where else could he go?

    At this point, he saw a pair of eyes and a hand.

    A small and fair hand, a pair of laughing eyes, and Ye Ling was at the doorway waving at him.

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately crossed over.

    Even if there were a thousand traps outside, a million ambushes waiting for him, he’d walk out without hesitation.

    He’d suddenly realized that the despair and helplessness of being alone was infinitely worse than death.

    There was nothing outside, only a person, a patch of darkness.

    In the darkness, Ye Ling’s eyes seemed to shine like the first star rising from the Mid-Autumn night.

    She gazed at Lu Xiaofeng and smiled, then suddenly said: “Congratulations.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t understand. “Why congratulate me?”

    Ye Ling said: “Because you haven’t died. So long as one is alive, that is something worth congratulating.”

    “I should have been dead?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Ling nodded.

    “And now?”

    “Now at least you can live on in the Mansion of Spirits.”

    Lu Xiaofeng expelled a breath and couldn’t help asking: “Who was that man in grey just now?”

    “You couldn’t guess?”

    “It was Old Sabre Honcho?”

    Ye Ling’s expression shifted and she countered: “What kind of a man do you think he is?”

    “A frightening one,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What about his skills?”

    “I couldn’t tell.”

    “Even you couldn’t tell.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Precisely because I couldn’t figure it out, so it’s frightening.”

    “What kind of a person do you think Old Sabre Honcho should be?”

    “A very scary one, of course!”

    Ye Ling laughed and said: “Then he should be Old Sabre Honcho, so you needn’t have asked.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was smiling too, but it wasn’t pleasant at all.

    It couldn’t be a good feeling for a highly-skilled martial artist as he to discover that there was someone whose skills far surpassed his.

    Ye Ling’s expression grew somber and she said coldly: “You got into a fight on your first day here. He would have killed you but for someone pleading on your behalf, otherwise you’d have died twice.”

    “Who pleaded for me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Ling pointed at her own nose. “It’s me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again. “Of course it’d be you, I knew that.”

    Ye Ling smiled merrily. “Since you know, how do you plan to repay me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said: “I plan to bite off your nose.”

    Ye Ling stared at him and suddenly leapt up. “Scram, buzz off back to your dog hole and don’t come out until the bell tolls.”

    “That’s what Old Sabre Honcho said?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Mm.”

    “So can I see him?”

    “No.”

    She made a face and said: “But when he wants to meet you, you won’t be able to get out of it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said: “Actually it’s not bad to get some rest in the house, but it’s a bit hard since there’s no food.”

    “You have food, three meals a day, six dishes and soup. Take your pick.”

    “I can order tomorrow’s menu?”

    “You can.”

    “I want to eat braised pork shanks, yellow lamb stew, Sanxian duck, fried tofu dumplings, prawns in black ginseng, five-plum pigeon, and a bowl of cucumber and meatball soup.”

    Ye Ling gazed at him oddly, as though feeling puzzled.

    “Well, these are good dishes,” Lu Xiaofeng explained. “So what’s so strange about that?”

    “I’m just curious about one thing,” Ye Ling said.

    “Oh?”

    “I’m wondering why you don’t want to eat my nose?”

    The lights had gone out.

    Lu Xiaofeng lay in the darkness; this was his first night in the Mansion of Spirits.

    He’d only been here half a day, but had encountered many strange and frightening things, and many odd and scary people.

    Especially the Soul Collector and Old Sabre Honcho, these two were so highly-skilled it was beyond imagination.

    He was still alive now, but what about the future?

    Who knows how many more dark, lonely and scary nights he would have to endure?

    He didn’t want to think anymore.

    He suddenly felt an unspeakable kind of dread…

    [1] Hongmen banquet (鸿门宴, hong2 men2 yan4): a dinner party intended to kill the guests. Hongmen (鸿门) is located in modern day Xi'an, Shaanxi province. In BC 206, Xiang Yu's armies marched into Hongmen to eliminate Liu Bang. After mediation by Xiang Yu's uncle Xiang Bo, Liu Bang personally went to Hongmen to meet Xiang Yu, who threw a banquet in his honor. At the banquet, Xiang Yu's adviser Fan Zeng ordered Xiang Zhuang (Xiang Yu's cousin) to assassinate Liu Bang, under the guise of performing a sword dance. Xiang Bo realized the danger and joined the sword dance to protect Liu Bang. Later on, Liu Bang escaped back to his camp on the pretext of going to the latrine. 鸿门宴 is later used to refer to a trap or a situation ostensibly joyous but in fact treacherous.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:15 AM.

  15. #55
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 – Embattled on all sides
    Translated by Junny


    The next morning, the mountain valley was still covered in thick mist and the little hut seemed to be floating in the cloud heap; opening the door, one could even feel like one was drifting, as though a duckweed floating on the water surface.

    There were many people like this in the world, people with no concerns, no roots.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and closed the door heavily, his spirits so low that it was as though he’d seen his lover get on someone else’s wedding sedan chair.

    The only sound that cheered him up a little was the knocking sound indicating that food had arrived.

    The delivery person had pockmarks all over the face, along with a dull expression and a mouth full of yellow teeth. The only happy thing about him was that he was carrying a large food box.

    There were six dishes and a soup in that food box, along with white rice. Those dishes actually contained what Lu Xiaofeng had ordered last night.

    However, it was only a bite-sized portion of each dish; one might have missed if one had bad eyesight, and if the breeze got any bigger, the food would be blown away.

    The best of it all was that Sanxian duck[1], which had only one bone, a piece of skin and a duck feather.

    “That’s Sanxian duck?” Lu Xiaofeng yelped.

    Pockmarks actually glared and said: “If that’s not duck, what is? A person?”

    “Even so, where the Sanxian part?”

    “The duck feather was freshly plucked, duck skin freshly peeled off, and the duck bone is very fresh too. If that’s not freshness, what is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shut his mouth.

    Pockmarks had already flounced off, slamming the door on the way out.

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at the six dishes, then at the single grain of rice in the bowl, not knowing whether he should weep or laugh.

    Now he finally understood why that Mister Wandering Soul was so interested in chicken bones.

    He picked up the chopsticks, then set them down, and suddenly heard someone sighing from the little back window: “Your piece of braised pork shanks is bigger than the one I had yesterday, at least twice.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t need to turn around to know that Mister Wandering Soul had returned, and couldn’t help asking: “How long have you been eating such meals?”

    “Three months,” Wandering Soul said.

    He tunneled through the window and his eyes fixed on the six dishes on the table, said: “There’s a trick to eating such meals.”

    “What trick?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Savor every dish very slowly,” Wandering Soul said, “best if you use your front teeth to gnaw at it, then lick it with your tongue, so as to get the full taste.”

    “But you’re still not dead,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “That’s because I don’t want to die yet,” Wandering Soul said. “The more other people want me to die, the more I want to live on, just to show them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help a sigh too, and said: “It mustn’t have been easy for you to survive until now.”

    Wandering Soul nodded slowly, two tear droplets rolling down from the corner of his eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t bear to look, so he lay down on the bed and covered his head with the pillow.

    “The food is here, aren’t you going to eat?” Wandering Soul asked.

    “You go ahead, I’m not hungry,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Because you have to live too!” Wandering Soul said.

    Suddenly, he yanked the pillow off Lu Xiaofeng and yelled: “If you want to die, you might as well let me bash you to death now since the flesh on your body can still sustain me for a few happy meals.”

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at him, then at the bony face that was barely covered by skin, then suddenly said: “My name is Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “I know,” Wandering Soul said.

    “What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “Who are you? How did you come to be here?”

    This time, Wandering Soul didn’t get agitated, he merely stared at Lu Xiaofeng with socket-like eyes and countered: “And how did you end up here?”

    “Because…”

    Wandering Soul interrupted: “Because you did something wrong and were forced into a corner, so you ended up on the path of no return.”

    Lu Xiaofeng had to admit to that.

    “Now every one in the martial arts fraternity must be thinking you’re dead, Ximen Chuixue too, that’s why you can continue living here.”

    “What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Me too,” Wandering Soul said. He added: “General, Cousin, Hook, Housekeeper… these people are all in the same situation.”

    “But I’m not afraid of letting them know my background,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “They are afraid of you,” Wandering Soul said.

    “Why?”

    “They still don’t trust you. They cannot let anyone know they are still alive, otherwise…”

    “Otherwise their enemies will most probably turn up here.”

    “Indeed.”

    “What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “You don’t trust me either?”

    “Even if I do, I can’t tell you anything about me,” Wandering Soul said.

    “Why not?”

    An odd look entered Wandering Soul’s eyes; was it fear or agony?

    “I can’t say, definitely not…”

    He was muttering to himself, as though warning himself, and his body began floating up again.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was determined not to let him get away this time, and with lightning speed, caught hold of his arm and asked again: “Why not?”

    “Because…” Wandering Soul gritted his teeth and said determinedly: “Because if I tell you, we definitely won’t be able to become friends.”

    Lu Xiaofeng still didn’t understand and wanted to press on, but Wandering Soul’s emaciated, wizened hand suddenly turned soft as silk and slipped from his grasp.

    Nobody had been able to slip away from Lu Xiaofeng’s grasp before.

    He reached out once more, but Wandering Soul had already tunneled through the window, just like the wispy wandering souls.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

    He’d never seen anyone who had perfected flexibility to such an extent; perhaps he’d once heard Sikong Zhaixing mention it but even this memory itself was hazy.

    All his memories were becoming hazy; Lu Xiaofeng had been shut inside this wooden hut for two or three days.

    Was it two days? Three days? Or four days? He couldn’t remember clearly.

    So hunger not only causes memory to deteriorate, it could also hurt brainpower and let one remember things that one should forget, but forget things that one should remember.

    A person lying all alone and starving in a tiny hut the size of a pigeon cage is agony that nobody can endure.

    However, he still couldn’t resist leaping up excitedly after hearing the sound of a bell outside the hut.

    “If the bell doesn’t ring, you cannot come out.”

    So now the bell had sounded, he leapt up and dashed outside, even without his boots.

    It was still foggy outside and right now it was dusk.

    The setting sun in the misty fog shone like a seven-colored halo.

    This world was still beautiful after all, and it was a pleasurable thing to be alive.

    There were still thirty six or seven people in the hall, but Lu Xiaofeng did not know any of them.

    The people he’d met before were all not here; the Soul Collector, General, Wandering Soul, Ye Ling… why did they not come? And Dugu Mei, why had he disappeared once he entered this mountain valley?

    Lu Xiaofeng settled down in one corner and nobody paid him any attention, not even to spare him a glance. Everyone looked stern and the mood seemed heavy.

    Maybe it was like that for people living here.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed privately and raised his head for a look, only to realize that the high dais, on which the huge pot of meat had rested, was now holding up a coffin.

    A brand new coffin, with the lid not yet nailed shut.

    Who had died? Was it General? Had they asked Lu Xiaofeng here to avenge General’s death?

    Lu Xiaofeng was feeling a little uneasy when he saw Ye Ling rush in.

    This smiling girl who was fond of wearing red was now dressed in white mourning clothes, and was crying bitterly.

    The moment she rushed in, she collapsed onto the coffin crying uncontrollably.

    Lu Xiaofeng could never have imagined that she would weep so for someone else. She was still young, lively and beautiful, these sad and unfortunate events had seemed they would never happen to her.

    How was the deceased related to her? How had the person died?

    Lu Xiaofeng was just preparing to find an opportunity to comfort her later, but she’d already begun hollering: “Lu Xiaofeng, come here!”

    He had no choice but to go over.

    He couldn’t figure out why Ye Ling would summon him over, he didn’t want to get too near.

    But Ye Ling wouldn’t stop hurrying him, telling him to walk faster, to come nearer and get up onto the stone dais.

    He lifted his head and realized she was glaring at him with teary eyes, her gaze full of animosity.

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help asking: “You want me to come up?”

    Ye Ling nodded.

    “What for?” he asked.

    “Come up and look at him!” she said.

    “Him” was of course the person lying in the coffin, and what was so interesting about looking at a person already in a coffin?

    But she was insistent, as though she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

    Lu Xiaofeng had to go.

    Ye Ling lifted the coffin lid and a mixture of fragrance and stench immediately wafted up, the person in the coffin had evidently turned swollen and rotten, so why did she want Lu Xiaofeng to come and see this?

    Lu Xiaofeng only took one look before he felt like puking.

    This person was evidently Ye Guhong, the one who had died in that man-eating forest!

    Ye Ling gritted her teeth and glared at Lu Xiaofeng, said: “You know who he is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    “He is my brother,” Ye Ling said. “My real brother. If he hadn’t saved me, I’d have died in the ditch.”

    Her eyes were full of grief and hatred. “Now he’s dead, you tell me, shouldn’t I avenge him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded again.

    He never wished to argue with women, and besides, there was no room for argument in this matter.

    Ye Ling said: “Do you know how he died?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could neither nod nor shake his head, or explain or deny; he couldn’t help wishing there would be another coffin nearby so that he could hide in there.

    Ye Ling gave a cold laugh. “Even if you don’t say, I already know.”

    “Know what?” Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help asking.

    “He died in that patch of forest out there,” she said. “Died for three days, and during those three days, only you had been in that forest.”

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile. “You think I killed him?”

    “Indeed!”

    “Wrong. There were other people besides him in that forest during those three days.”

    The person who had spoken up for Lu Xiaofeng turned out to be Dugu Mei, who had previously been on a disappearing act. “At least I’d been there. I came from there too.”

    “Can you be considered a person?” Ye Ling yelled. “You had the ability to kill my brother?”

    Dugu Mei sighed: “Even if I wasn’t a person, there would still be others.”

    “Others?” Ye Ling asked.

    Dugu Mei nodded and said: “Even if I weren’t your brother’s match, it wouldn’t be too difficult for this person to kill your brother.”

    Ye Ling was outraged. “Whom are you referring to?”

    “Ximen Chuixue!”

    His eyes were smiling just like those of an old fox, as he said: “Have you heard of this name?”

    Ye Ling’s face changed; she had indeed heard of this name.

    Ximen Chuixue!

    The mystical sword among swords, the sword god!

    Whoever had heard of this name once would not forget it.

    Dugu Mei eyed her and said: “Moreover, Lu Xiaofeng was rather seriously injured then, he was at most half a Lu Xiaofeng, so how could half a Lu Xiaofeng be a match for Wudang’s Little White Dragon?”

    “You lie!” Ye Ling yelled again.

    Dugu Mei sighed again and said: “Why would a man who doesn’t give a damn about kinship lie for another person?”


    Foggy night, narrow road.

    They walked shoulder to shoulder along the narrow road; they had walked like this for a long stretch of road.

    That road was far narrower than this one, for it was a dead end.

    Lu Xiaofeng finally opened his mouth: “Why would an old man who doesn’t give a damn about kinship lie for me?”

    Dugu Mei laughed and said: “Because this old man likes you.”

    He continued: “Fortunately this old man doesn’t have Pink Swallow’s habit, so you need not worry at all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed too, laughed loudly: “Does this old man have wine?”

    Dugu Mei said: “Not only wine, I have meat as well.”

    Even Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were smiling: “Really?”

    Dugu Mei said: “I not only have meat, I have a friend too.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked: “Your friend, or mine?”

    Dugu Mei said: “My friends are your friends.”

    The wine was good, and so was the friend.

    To someone who enjoys drinking, the meaning of a good friend usually means one who can hold his liquor.

    This friend not only enjoyed drinking to his heart’s content, he was forthright as well. After a few cups, he suddenly asked: “I know you are Lu Xiaofeng. Do you know who I am?”

    “I don’t.”

    “Why don’t you ask?”

    Lu Xiaofeng only gave a resigned smile: “Because I have learnt my lesson.”

    “You asked others and they refused to say?”

    “Mm.”

    “But I am not others, I am just me.” He downed the wine he held in his left hand, and used his right hand to hook a piece of meat.

    The meat was hooked up because his right hand was not a hand, it was a hook. A steel hook.

    “You are Hook?” Lu Xiaofeng finally recalled.

    Hook admitted that!

    “I know you have heard others talk about me, but there is something you definitely don’t know.”

    “What is it?”

    “I’ve wanted to make friends with you since the day you came.” He patted Dugu Mei’s shoulder and said: “That’s because your friend is my friend, your enemy is my enemy.”

    “He is our friend, but who is our enemy?”

    “Ximen Chuixue!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled: “You are…”

    Hook said: “I am Hai Qikuo!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more surprised: “The ‘One-armed Divine Dragon’ Hai Qikuo who rode roughshod over the seven seas years ago?”

    Hai Qikuo threw his head back and roared with laughter: “So Lu Xiaofeng does know my name after all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng gazed at him, the shock in his eyes turning into suspicion, and suddenly shook his head. “You are not,” he said. “Hai Qikuo already drowned at sea.”

    Hai Qikuo’s laughter was even merrier: “It was someone else who died, a scapegoat who wore my Rolling Dragon Robe, carried my Rolling Dragon Sabre, and who resembled me.”

    He continued explaining: “Every one here has already died once outside. Is that not the same for you as well?”

    Lu Xiaofeng finally understood: “This is the Mansion of Spirits, and only dead people can come here.”

    Hai Qikuo laughed loudly and said: “If Ximen Chuixue knew we’re still enjoying wine and food here, he’d probably explode in fury.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled: “It seems I do have quite a few friends here.”

    Hai Qikuo said: “You are very right. There are at least sixteen people here who were forced by Ximen Chuixue to seek refuge in the Mansion.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes shone and asked: “Are there a few who were forced here by me?”

    Hai Qikuo said: “Even if there are, you don’t have to worry.” He laughed and raised his cup, but suddenly lowered his voice: “There is only one person you have to beware of.”

    “Who is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hai Qikuo said: “Actually, he can’t be considered a person, he’s just a wandering soul, that’s all.”

    “Wandering Soul?” Lu Xiaofeng cried out involuntarily.

    “You’ve met him?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny.

    Hai Qikuo said: “Do you know what kind of a person he is?”

    “I would love to know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Hai Qikuo said: “There is a very strange organization here called Council of Elders. When Old Sabre Honcho is away, this council takes care of everything here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “Naturally the people in the Council of Elders are all elder statesmen. You are one of them, of course.”

    “Besides me, there are eight others,” Hai Qikuo said. “However, the true elder statesmen are only two.”

    “Which two?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “One is Wandering Soul, the other is Soul Collector. They and the Ye sisters’ father were the ones who helped Old Sabre Honcho with the Mansion set-up years ago. Now that Old Ye has died, there is no one else more senior than them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “So because of this, I should beware of him?”

    “There is one more thing,” Hai Qikuo said.

    Lu Xiaofeng picked up his wine cup and waited for him to go on.

    Hai Qikuo said: “He’s the elder statesman here, so if he wants to kill you, he can find a chance anytime and you won’t be able to avoid it!”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked: “He has reason to kill me?”

    “Yes,” Hai Qikuo said.

    “What reason?”

    “You killed his son.”

    “Who is his son?”

    “Flying Jade Tiger.”

    Lu Xiaofeng breathed in deeply and suddenly felt that the wine he’d just drunk had all turned sour.

    Hai Qikuo said: “He set up Black Tiger Sect, but just as the foundation of the sect was becoming stable, he had to come here with Old Sabre Honcho. He had offended someone he couldn’t afford to offend, so he was at his wits’ end.”

    “Whom did he offend?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hai Qikuo said: “The Wooden Taoist, the most famous and respected member of Wudang.”

    Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help breathing in deeply again. Now he finally understood why Wandering Soul had refused all along to talk about his background.

    Hai Qikuo said: “You destroyed Black Tiger Sect, and coincidentally the Wooden Taoist is your friend. So wouldn’t you say he has enough reason to kill you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile and said: “He does.”

    Hai Qikuo said: “The worst thing is that you know he wants to kill you, but you can’t make a move.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “Because he’s the most senior in the council.”

    Hai Qikuo nodded and said: “Besides him, there are eight others in the council. If you kill him, these eight people will not let you off.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “So I can only wait for him to strike.”

    Hai Qikuo said: “He won’t strike unless he can kill you with one blow. Since he hasn’t done anything, he’s probably waiting for an opportunity.”

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was not talking, he had not shut his mouth.

    He was busy drinking.

    Hai Qikuo sighed and said: “If you are drunk, that’d give him the chance to strike.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “And you still continue drinking?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly smiled and said: “Since he’s part of the council, he’ll get his chance. I might as well drink more while I’m still alive.”

    Drinking is not the same as eating.

    A person who usually eats three bowls of rice would definitely not be able to finish thirty, but a person who does not get drunk easily might sometimes be drunk only after a few cups.

    Was Lu Xiaofeng already drunk?

    “I’m not drunk yet.” He pushed away Dugu Mei and Hai Qikuo: “I still recognize the way home, you two don’t have to see me back.”

    Indeed, he knew his way back.

    Sometimes, even when a person is dead drunk, he still knows his way home and only after he reaches home will he collapse.

    If you are a drinker, you would definitely have had such an experience.

    Lu Xiaofeng had had such an experience, and very often too.

    “This is my home,
    We all love it,
    There’s fish in front,
    And flowers at the back.”

    Although this little hut had neither fish nor flowers, it was still his home.

    A wanderer with no roots discovering he actually has a home to return to after he’s drunk –

    This is such a wonderful feeling. Except us wanderers, who else would understand?

    Lu Xiaofeng started singing again, in a very loud voice, because he suddenly realized his own voice was sounding better and better.

    There was no light in the hut, but once he pushed open the door, he felt a presence there.

    “I know who you are, even if you don’t speak a word.” Lu Xiaofeng was laughing, very loudly too: “You’re Wandering Soul, one of the Elders here. Are you going to kill me since you’re waiting here for me?”

    The person in the hut still did not speak.

    Lu Xiaofeng roared with laughter: “Even if you want to kill me, you would not do it behind my back, right? It’s because you’re the most famous among Wudang’s secular disciples, because you’re Mister Zhong. Boneless Zhong.”

    He went inside, shut the door and started searching for some flint: “Actually you were Wooden Taoist’s old friend, but you shouldn’t have secretly set up Black Tiger Clan outside. Otherwise, why would Wooden Taoist need to deal with you?”

    There was still no sound, but there was light.

    The flint had lit up to cast light on a person’s face, one that was all skin and bones. That pair of sunken eyes was staring at Lu Xiaofeng unflinchingly.

    Lu Xiaofeng said: “Now that we’re both dead people, why continue to bear old grudges? Besides…”

    He didn’t continue.

    His voice suddenly broke up, and the flint in his hand stopped burning.

    He suddenly realized that this Mister Zhong was really a dead man!

    The hut was pitch black. Lu Xiaofeng stood in the dark, unmoving, his limbs and body icy cold, as though he’d suddenly fallen into an icy pit.

    But this was no icy pit; it was a trap.

    He’d already realized it, but he had no way of escaping from it.

    He had nowhere to run!

    So he sat down instead. He’d just done so when he heard footsteps outside, and then someone knocking on the door.

    “Are you asleep? I have something to tell you!” The voice was gentle – it was Ye Ling’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes.

    “I know you’re not sleeping yet, why won’t you open the door?” Ye Ling’s voice turned fierce. “Are you hiding a woman in there?”

    Lu Xiaofeng finally sighed: “There’s not even half a woman here, though there’s a half-dead man.”

    Ye Ling sounded even fiercer: “I said before: if you dare to let women enter your house, I’ll kill you. Doesn’t matter if they’re dead or alive.”

    “Bang”, and the door slammed open.

    “The women here are all dead anyway.”

    “This dead person is male, actually.”

    The flint was lit up again and Ye Ling finally saw the dead man: “And where’s the other half?”

    Lu Xiaofeng gave her a resigned smile: “That would be me!”

    Ye Ling gazed at him, and then the dead man, then suddenly jumped up: “You killed him? How could you? Don’t you know who he is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t open his mouth. He didn’t need to, since someone outside answered on his behalf: “He knows.”

    The hut was small, the window was tiny as well. Ye Ling was blocking the doorway, so the person outside had no way of walking in.

    But they had other methods.

    Suddenly, another there was another banging sound. He didn’t reach a hand out to block, not even when the roof crashed down and the people in the hut suddenly found themselves out in the open.

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t move.

    The roof crashed down on him, but he neither stuck a hand out to cover himself nor escaped, he only let out a sigh.

    This was his first time having a home, and it was very likely his last.

    “So there are not only unlucky people in this world, there are unlucky houses too.” Lu Xiaofeng lamented: “The hut was unlucky because it chose the wrong owner. People are unlucky because they befriend the wrong people.”

    “You’re unlucky because you did something wrong.”

    “You can do anything, but why did you have to kill him?”

    “I already told you, even if you know he wants to kill you, you can’t kill him or even I wouldn’t let you off.”

    That last was said by Hai Qikuo. As for the other two, one had a pale and beardless face and was well-dressed, while the other was tall and thin, with a hooked nose and hunched back. One was always smiling, as though he admired even himself, while the other was always frowning and unappreciative of himself.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked: “Which one is Cousin?”

    Cousin’s shiny face was still wearing a smile, but he purposely let out a sigh. “Fortunately I’m not your cousin, or even I would be in trouble thanks to you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng purposely sighed as well and said: “Fortunately you’re not my cousin, or I’d definitely bang my head and die!”

    Cousin laughed. “I guarantee you don’t have to bang your head and die, we’ll think of many ways to let you die.”

    He was laughing even more merrily. He took pleasure in whatever he was saying and was very pleased with it.

    The other person suddenly said: “I’m a housekeeper anyway, so I definitely have to concern myself with this.”

    He sighed gloomily and said: “Actually I really do not like poking my nose into other people’s business one bit. I have not had a good night’s sleep for many months now, and my back has been hurting me lately. The pain in my teeth is even worse…”

    He kept on grumbling and nagging; he was evidently not pleased with his own life or that of other people’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile. “So three of the Council of Elders have appeared.”

    Ye Ling suddenly said: “Four.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled. “You too?”

    Ye Ling made a face and said coldly: “Elder refers to seniority in rank, not in age.”

    Cousin smiled and said: “Well said.”

    Housekeeper added: “Old Sabre Honcho isn’t here, so if the majority of the Elders agree on something, then that decides things.”

    “What things?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Anything,” Cousin replied.

    “How many people is the majority?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “How many are there in the Council?” Housekeeper said. “Majority means five people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a sigh of relief and said: “There are only four of you here.”

    “Five,” Housekeeper said.

    “The dead are counted too?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Every one is dead here,” Cousin said. “Mister Zhong merely died again.”

    “So you can now reach a consensus on something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You are very clever,” Cousin said idly. “Surely you must know what we are going to decide on.”

    Housekeeper said: “We are going to decide whether you should die.”

    “Don’t I have the chance to defend myself?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No,” Housekeeper replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only give a resigned smile.

    “So have you decided he should die?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    “Of course he should,” Housekeeper said.

    “Definitely he must die,” Cousin added.

    Hai Qikuo sighed again and said: “I believe Mister Zhong is of like mind.”

    “Now it only remains for Miss Ye to decide,” said Cousin.

    Ye Ling bit her lip and darted a glance at Lu Xiaofeng from the corner of her eye. It was as though she was like a cat that had already caught the mouse.

    At this point, a voice suddenly floated over from the dark woods behind: “Why don’t you ask what I think?”

    A streak of light burst through from the dark woods and a pair of well-dressed girls carrying gauze lanterns[2] walked over. A woman with extremely long hair lazily followed behind.

    She was not particularly beautiful; her cheekbones were a little too high and her mouth a little too big, the misty look in eyes giving one the impression that she was not awake.

    She was casually dressed in a very loose black night robe – it seemed like a man’s – that was only loosely held together by a sash. Her long hair flowing, she had come barefoot, not having even put on shoes.

    But she was undoubtedly a very special woman. Most men would be attracted to her at first glance.

    Watching her stroll over, Cousin’s brows knitted instead, while Ye Ling was pouting and Housekeeper forced a smile, asking: “Do you think he should die?”

    Her reply was very succinct: “No.”

    Ye Ling had not expressed her opinion, but now she suddenly jumped up and demanded: “Why not?”

    This woman smiled lazily and said: “To sentence someone to death, you need evidence. What evidence do you have?”

    “Mister Zhong’s corpse is evidence,” said Housekeeper.

    The black-robed woman said: “Would you hide a body in your house after you’ve killed him?”

    Housekeeper looked at Cousin, who looked at Hai Qikuo. The trio didn’t open their mouths.

    Ye Ling leapt up again and said: “They have no evidence, but I do.”

    “What do you have?” the black-robed woman asked.

    “With my own eyes, I saw him strike,” Ye Ling said.

    Not only was Lu Xiaofeng stunned by her words, Cousin and the others seemed rather surprised as well.

    However, the black-robed woman’s face had no expression as she said lightly: “Even if you really did see that, it’s of no use.”

    “Who says so?” Ye Ling asked.

    “I did,” the woman said.

    Lazily, she crossed over to stand in front of Lu Xiaofeng, used one hand to hook the sash and the other to tidy her hair. “If you aren’t satisfied, you are welcome to take me on.”

    Hai Qikuo sighed and asked: “Must you do this? What for?”

    “Because I can, because it’s none of your business,” the black-robed woman said.

    Hai Qikuo stared at her: “Must you force us to strike?”

    “You dare?” she asked.

    Hai Qikuo glared at her, his eyes nearly spitting fire, but he did not even dare to lift a finger against her.

    Cousin’s face had lost its smile and his expression was ghastly as he said: “Widow Hua, you’d better wise up. Hai is interested in you but I’m not.”

    Widow Hua tossed him a glance and said coldly: “What can you do to me? Just because you learnt some swordplay from that old man Bashan, you dare to be rude to me?”

    Cousin’s face turned bright red at that. Suddenly he roared and pulled out a sword, a soft one that had been attached at his waist.

    The soft sword trembled slightly in the breeze and became as straight as an arrow. A flash of brilliance and he’d already struck.

    Lu Xiaofeng had never in his dreams expected this somber, affected man would become so violent and rash when he was provoked.

    Widow Hua had already anticipated this, however. The hand that was hooked on the sash moved and that soft piece of cloth suddenly straightened out as well. Like a poisonous snake, it had already wrapped itself around Cousin’s sword.

    Only the best iron could fashion a soft sword, but alas, his sword could not even slice through a sash.

    Widow Hua’s hand moved again and the sash flew out, slapped Cousin squarely in the face.

    Cousin’s face turned red, and Lu Xiaofeng could also feel his face flaming.

    He suddenly realized that Widow Hua was not wearing anything underneath her robe.

    Without the sash holding the robe together, all the vital parts of her body were now exposed.

    But she did not care in the least, and was still standing there lazily, asking: “Do you want to try again?”

    Cousin indeed wished to have another go, but Housekeeper and Hai Qikuo were now holding him back.

    Hai Qikuo worked his throat furiously, wanting to shift his gaze away from Widow Hua’s robe, but he was unable to move an inch.

    Widow Hua was no longer young, but her body seemed as though it still was, except that it was even more alluring, more mature than that of a young girl’s.

    Hai Qikuo sighed again and gave a resigned smile: “Can you please fasten that robe before you speak?”

    Widow Hua’s reply was just as succinct: “No.”

    “Why not?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    “Because I like it, and because it’s none of your business.”

    “So what exactly do you want?” Housekeeper interrupted.

    “I don’t really want anything,” Widow Hua said. “But Old Sabre Honcho let Lu Xiaofeng in, so whoever wants to kill him, that person would have to wait until Old Sabre Honcho returns before doing anything.”

    “And now?” Housekeeper asked.

    “Now I’m taking him away, of course,” Widow Hua said.

    Ye Ling leapt up again, even higher now. “What right do you have to take him away?”

    “My sash,” Widow Hua said lightly.

    “What can this sash do?” Ye Ling asked.

    “It can’t do much,” Widow Hua said. “At most, it can tie you up, peel off your clothes and let Hook have his way with you.”

    Ye Ling’s face flamed and her fists balled, but she was simply unable to strike back and could only stamp her foot. Savagely, she said: “If my sister were back, I’ll see if you dare to be this rude.”

    Widow Hua smiled and said: “But your sister isn’t back, so you can only watch me take him away.”

    She took Lu Xiaofeng’s hand and glanced back with a laugh: “I have an extra big bed at my place, enough for both of us to sleep very comfortably. Aren’t you going to hurry up and come with me?”

    She really took Lu Xiaofeng away then, and every one else could only stand by and watch.

    After a long while, Ye Ling suddenly said: “Old Hook, are you even a thing?”

    “I’m not a thing, I’m a person,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    Ye Ling laughed coldly. “A wretch like you is a person? Among us, only you could have handled that b!tch, so why didn’t you strike?”

    “Because I still want her to sleep with me,” he said.

    “Are you really that desperate for women?” she asked.

    “Definitely.”

    “Fine,” Ye Ling said. “If you kill her, I’ll sleep with you, for three days.”

    Hai Qikuo laughed. “You’re jealous? You like Lu Xiaofeng too?”

    Ye Ling gnashed her teeth and said savagely: “No matter whether I’m jealous, this time I mean what I say. I’m still young, but that b!tch is an old hag now. At least in this aspect, I’m superior to her.”

    “But…” Hai Qikuo hesitated.

    “Do you want to see the goods first?” Ye Ling asked. “Fine!”

    She suddenly tore off her bottoms, revealing a pair of smooth legs.

    Hai Qikuo’s eyes glazed over. “I can only see this much?”

    “If you want to see the rest, kill that b!tch and we’ll talk.”


    [1] Sanxian duck: 三鲜鸭子. The "Sanxian" part translates literally to "three freshness".

    [2] gauze lantern (纱灯, sha1 deng1): a kind of sheer lantern made from materials such as gauze, yarn, voile.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:18 AM.

  16. #56
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7 – Drowning sorrows in wine
    Translated by Junny


    The bed was indeed very big. The sheets were white, the bedding brand new. The moment they walked in, Widow Hua immediately lay down on the bed.

    Lu Xiaofeng remained standing at the head of the bed.

    Widow Hua scrutinized him from head to toe with her misty eyes, then suddenly said: “By now you should know that I’m that scary Widow Hua.” Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    “Naturally you’d have heard that I’m a b.itch, a man-eating one,” she continued.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded again.

    “Do you know people here think I can sleep with them anytime?”

    Lu Xiaofeng still nodded his head.

    Widow Hua’s eyes seemed to mist over. “So why aren’t you jumping into bed?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even move.

    “You don’t dare?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not nod his head, but he did not shake it either.

    Widow Hua sighed and said: “Of course you don’t dare, because you don’t even know who I am!”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly smiled. “There are not many who can merge the zhenqi of the Liu Family of Huainan and Diancang Sect’s Flowing Cloud Swordplay, so…”

    “So, what?” Widow Hua asked.

    “So you must be Liu Qingqing, the Huainan Hero’s woman, and the wife of the Diancang swordsman.”

    “Do you know too that I have slept with Xie Jian’s four best friends?”

    Lu Xiaofeng admitted that, since it was such a scandal to begin with.

    “Since you know everything, why don’t you come to bed?” she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said: “Because I don’t want to, and because it’s none of your business.”

    Widow Hua laughed. “Looks like you’re quite different from other men.”

    She suddenly leapt from the bed. “Come, I’ll treat you to a drink.”

    As they started getting tipsy, the mist in her eyes seemed to deepen as well.

    Precisely because the valley was always shrouded in mist, that was why it was able to preserve its aura of mystery.

    Was it not the same for her as well?

    It was probably not too difficult to see her naked body, but it was much harder to guess what was in her heart.

    After another cup of wine, she suddenly asked: “Do you know why Hai Qikuo always wants me to sleep with him?”

    “Because he thinks you have slept with the other men here.”

    Widow Hua smiled. “Every one thinks that way, but… the number of men I’ve slept with, I think not even you can guess.”

    “Not even one in this place?”

    “Only one,” Widow Hua said.

    Lu Xiaofeng started drinking.

    Widow Hua’s gaze seemed very faraway, as though there was a faintly discernible figure in the distance; her gaze was filled with love and adoration.

    After a long while, she snapped out of her reverie: “Why did you not ask me who this person is?”

    “Why should I ask?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Widow Hua smiled. “You are indeed a unique person. I like unique men.”

    Her smile suddenly vanished: “Xie Jian was a very unique man as well. I married him because I really liked him at that time.”

    “But you changed later on,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “It was not I who changed, it was him,” she said.

    A slit appeared through the mist in her eyes, sliced by a sword full of hatred and anguish. “You will never be able to imagine what kind of person he had turned into, much less the terrifying things he had done.”

    “Terrifying?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Do you know why I slept with his friend?” Widow Hua asked. Her fists clenched and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Because… because he wanted me to do it, he liked to watch… he even knelt and begged me to, even threatened me with his sword…”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly averted his gaze, downed his cup of wine. He suddenly felt his gut clenching and he almost felt like vomiting.

    When he turned around again, Widow Hu had quietly wiped away the tearstains on her face.

    She too downed her cup of wine: “You must be wondering why I am telling you these things.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not feel it was strange, not at all.

    When one is feeling grief and anguish, and these emotions have been suppressed for too long, one is wont to find someone else to confide in.

    Even though Widow Hua had managed to vent her pain, she was getting tipsier: “He’s an old man now, but he is a real man, an extraordinary one. Even if I don’t love him, I respect him. So long as I can make him happy, I am willing to do anything.”

    She raised her head and gazed at Lu Xiaofeng: “When you meet him, you will like him too.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking: “You mean…”

    “I am talking about Old Sabre Honcho,” Widow Hua said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “Old Sabre Honcho?”

    Widow Hua nodded and said: “He is the only man for me here. I know you couldn’t have imagined that.” She smiled, a desolate one: “I had thought no one in this world would be able to understand me or sympathize with me, but he understands me and sympathizes with me, and it is genuine.”

    “So you gave yourself to him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can sacrifice everything for him,” Widow Hua said. “Even if he tells me to die, I will die. But… but…”

    She did not continue. Such emotion was not something that could be put into words, and she knew Lu Xiaofeng would understand.

    Lu Xiaofeng could understand, all right. Not only that, but he could also understand Old Sabre Honcho the person.

    “If I were you, I would have done the same,” he said gently. “I think he must be an extraordinary man.”

    Widow Hua let out a long breath, as though she had just set down a very heavy burden. To know that there is still someone in this world who understands your pain and anguish is still a pretty good thing.

    She gazed at Lu Xiaofeng, her eyes filled with gratitude and gratification. “Ever since coming here, I’ve not been so happy like I am today. Here, I’ll toast you, three times.”

    “We’ll be drunk if we drink more.”

    “What’s the worry?” She raised her cup. “If I could get drunk, I’d be really grateful to you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “To be honest, I’d long wanted to get rip-roaring drunk, just this once.”

    So they ended up being drunk on the bed.

    They held each other, mumbling words in their drunken stupor that other people would never be able to understand, because in their hearts they were lonely and had too many knots they were unable to untangle.

    Although they were holding each other tightly, their hearts were pure like a child’s; there was probably no other time in their lives that they were so pure and honest.

    What then was this sort of feeling?

    Youth was dying and the past was best left forgotten. A woman who had suffered abuse and humiliation, a man with no roots… who on this earth could understand your feelings?

    Both of you have been driven into such circumstances, but since you have met, why should you need other people to understand your feelings?

    Outside the window, the night was deep, and so was the fog.

    The window was not closed tightly and in the cold fog there suddenly appeared a figure, whose eyes were filled with enmity, jealousy and hatred.

    Then, through the crack in the window, there appeared a blowpipe.

    A black blowpipe, puffing out dark purple smoke.

    The fog dissipated, and even those who were not drunk were now intoxicated, they had no choice.

    This person was confident of it, because what he used was the “Bone and Soul Corroding Powder”, the most effective of intoxicating drugs. He had used it thirteen times – it had never failed him.

    (Translated by Ren Wo Xing)

    When Lu Xiaofeng and Widow Hua woke up, they were no longer lying on the spacious, soft bed.

    Cellars are cold and moist. They were lying in the corner of one such cellar. Who knew how they got here?

    Only one person knew.

    There was one stool in the cellar. Cousin sat on top of this stool. He coldly stared at them, his eyes filled with venom and jealousy.

    Upon seeing him, Widow Hua couldn’t refrain from shouting, “You!”

    “Are you surprised?”

    “I really am.” Widow Hua sneered. “I didn’t imagine that a disciple of the Bashan Swordsman actually stoops to using this sort of anesthetic fragrance.”

    “There are many things that are outside of your imagination,” Cousin smiled.

    “But by now, I’ve come to understand everything.”

    Everyone who came to this place had signed a contract. The Old Sabre Honcho’s contracts were always safe and reliable.

    But in recent years, in the Mansion of Spirits, there were many people who suddenly disappeared without a trace. No one knew who it was who had gotten rid of them!

    “It’s you.” Widow Hua pronounced her verdict. “Only now do I realize that it’s your doing!”

    Cousin didn’t deny it.

    “Unfortunately, no one could have imagined that it was me.” He smiled. “This time, after I kill the two of you, no one will suspect me.”

    He was very confident. “Because everyone will place their suspicions upon Hook.”

    Widow Hua didn’t deny it either.

    Virtually everyone in the Mansion of Spirits knew that Hook lusted for her, and also knew that Hook wanted to kill Lu Xiaofeng.

    This wouldn’t be the first nor the last time that a man would commit murder due to jealousy.

    Widow Hua said, “Actually, I know that you hate me.”

    Cousin said, “Oh?”

    Widow Hua said, “Because you like men, but men like me.”

    Cousin laughed. “Maybe I have other reasons as well.”

    Widow Hua said, “What reasons?”

    Cousin laughed in a strange way. “Maybe I just want to help Hook give vent to his frustrations.”

    But as he laughed, someone above their cellar laughed as well. “Or maybe you’ve just come to realize that ole Hook is right above you and could hook your brains out at any time.”

    Housekeeper had arrived as well.

    Like all housekeepers the world around, whenever this person appeared, a sour, worried look was always on his face. But Hook was laughing very happily.

    Cousin was also laughing, but his laughter was very unhappy.

    Although Hai Qikuo didn’t hook him in the skull, he had hooked him in the arm. Lifting him up high, it seemed as though he was raising up a piece of dead meat. Naturally, this was a very unhappy sort of feeling.

    There is a type of person in this world who rejoices in the misery of others. Hai Qikuo just so happened to be this type of person.

    Smiling, he said, “Didn’t you say, just now, that you plan on pushing the blame for this event onto me?”

    Cousin didn’t deny it. He couldn’t deny it.

    Hai Qikuo said, “Because you wanted to kill them, but you were afraid that the Old Sabre Honcho wouldn’t agree.”

    Cousin didn’t deny this either.

    Hai Qikuo said, “To be honest, I feel the same way.”

    Cousin didn’t understand. “You feel the same way?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “I also want to kill Lu Xiaofeng, and I am also afraid that the Old Sabre Honcho wouldn’t agree to it. There’s only one difference between the two of us.”

    Cousin couldn’t resist asking, “What difference?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “My luck is better than yours. I found someone to be my scapegoat.”

    Cousin actually understood everything, but he still played along and asked, “Who?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “You.”

    Cousin said, “You want me to kill Lu Xiaofeng for you?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “Are you unwilling?”

    Cousin said, “Why would I be? I wanted to kill them anyhow. Otherwise, why would I go to the trouble of tying them up?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “Previously, if you killed them, I would’ve become your scapegoat. But now?”

    Cousin forced out a smile. “Now, if I don’t kill them, you will kill me.”

    Hai Qikuo laughed loudly. “You really are a discerning person. That’s why I’ve always liked you.”

    Cousin said, “If I were to kill them, you would be willing to let me go?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “I can let you go right now. No matter what, you won’t be able to escape me.”

    He released his hook.

    Cousin relaxed slightly. Turning around, he looked at him. A smile crept out onto his face. He suddenly asked, “Tell me, do I look like a very excitable person who isn’t able to keep his cool?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “You do not.”

    Cousin said, “Do I know that Widow Hua is a very formidable woman, one who is dangerous to anger?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “I do.”

    Cousin said, “Then why did I use poison to incapacitate her earlier?”

    Hai Qikuo said, “Why?”

    Cousin’s smile became very strange and sinister. “Because I wanted you to believe that my martial arts are very poor.”

    Hai Qikuo no longer was smiling. “And in reality?”

    Cousin said, “In reality, I can kill you with just a single stance!”

    He said a total of eleven words in that sentence. By the seventh word, he had made his move. By the final word, he had already killed Hai Qikuo.

    His attack was fast yet effective. In actuality, no one was able to see how he made his move; the only clue was two heavy, nauseating sounds, which sounded similar to a butcher’s blade cutting into dead flesh. And then, like a piece of dead meat, Hai Qikuo collapsed.

    Lu Xiaofeng and Widow Hua were shocked. But Housekeeper was even more shocked.

    Cousin dusted his hands off. Smiling, he said, “I’ve always heard that the three hall-leaders of the Phoenix Tail Sect are all extraordinary figures, especially the chief hall-leader, Gao Tao. But unfortunately, to this very day, I’ve never had the good fortune of witnessing the awe-inspiring techniques that you used to awe the martial world.”

    Housekeeper, who always looked sour and worried, now looked as though he were about to cry. “What sort of awe-inspiring techniques do I have? The only skill I have is in helping others take care of their domestic issues.”

    Cousin said, “You don’t know how to kill?”

    Housekeeper immediately shook his head. “No, I do not.”

    Cousin let out a long sigh. “Then you might as well hurry up and let me kill you.”

    Housekeeper let out a long sigh as well. His body suddenly flipped into the air and in the blink of an eye, forty or fifty different hidden weapons shot out. Filling the sky with their cold gleam, they all shot towards Cousin.

    Turns out, this person wore countless hidden weapons on his body, all of which could be shot out instantly.

    There were definitely less than ten people who could shoot out that many hidden weapons instantly.

    There were even fewer people who would be able to dodge that many hidden weapons.

    But unfortunately, Cousin just so happened to be one of those few people who could dodge this weapons. Not only had he long ago calculated that Housekeeper would use this attack, he had also prepared a way for dealing with it.

    When the hidden weapons shot out, his sword was already there, waiting.

    A sword flash rose up and chopped through all of the hidden weapons. With another flash of the sword, Housekeeper collapsed as well. Only after collapsing did the blood begin to flow from his wound.

    Only after the blood began to flow did Lu Xiaofeng let out a held breath. “So this would be Bashan’s Seven-Sevens Forty-Nine Strikes of the Dancing Wind Willow Sword?”

    Cousin said, “Just so.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “So you are the one and only true heir of the Bashan Swordsman. You are Gu Feiyun?”

    Cousin said, “I am indeed.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Bashan’s divine sword arts definitely are incredible.”

    Cousin said, “It always is.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But I don’t understand. How could a person like you also be forced to the point of no return by Ximen Chuixue?”

    Cousin said, “And you also don’t understand why I killed them, but not you, right?”

    Lu Xiaofeng truly did not.

    Cousin chuckled. “The logic behind this is actually extremely simple. It’s because I never wanted to kill you to begin with.”

    Lu Xiaofeng didn’t understand.

    Cousin said, “The Old Sabre Honcho always believed that our organization was extremely secretive, but in the martial world, at least three people are aware of it. The very first is my venerable teacher.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance changed. “Then you…”

    Cousin said, “I was sent by my sect here to be a spy. Because although we knew of the existence of the Mansion of Spirits, we didn’t know any of its secrets.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “So they intentionally put you in a position where Ximen Chuixue would force you on a path with no return?”

    Cousin said, “That entire event was nothing more than a scheme. They had calculated long ago that Ximen Chuixue would intervene in this affair, and had also calculated that someone from the Mansion of Spirits would come to me first and offer me a contract.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why?”

    Cousin said, “Because I had just inherited a significant inheritance. At any point in time, I can withdraw over a hundred thousand taels of silver.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The price of the contract here is a hundred thousand taels?”

    Cousin said, “In order to purchase one’s life, a hundred thousand taels isn’t an overly large sum.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “It definitely is not.”

    Life was priceless. What was more valuable to a person than his own life?

    Cousin said, “When they ordered me to come here, the most important command was to investigate the Old Sabre Honcho’s background.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even they do not know the details about the Old Sabre Honcho?”

    Cousin said, “No one knows.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “What about you?”

    Cousin laughed wryly. “Although I’ve been here for quite a while, I’ve never even seen his real face, so I’ve urgently been searching for a person.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Who?”

    Cousin said, “The person who will come to my rescue.”

    He explained, “They originally had agreed to send someone to bring me out as soon as possible. But all the newcomers find it very difficult to move about freely, and it would also be hard for them to discover that Gu Feiyun is actually ‘Cousin’.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You were really anxious, so you had no choice but to seek them out instead.”

    Cousin said, “I’ve already sought out twelve people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But you were wrong about all of them.”

    Cousin said, “So I had no choice but to kill them so as to silence them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “And so this time, you believe I’m the person who has come to bring you out?”

    Cousin stared at him. One word at a time, he slowly said, “I just hope that this time, I’m not wrong.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a sigh. “I also hope that this time, you aren’t wrong.”

    Cousin was still staring at him. His eyes had turned as cold and sharp as knife blades. He suddenly asked, “Aside from my master, the Swordsman of Bashan, who are the two others? Who asked you to come? What is your code name?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I can’t say.”

    Cousin said, “Because you don’t know!”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. Forcing a smile, he said, “I’m very apologetic. Looks like this time, you are wrong yet again.”

    There was a lamp lit in the cellar. This was spring, and so it shouldn’t have seemed too cold down there.

    But Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt a wave of cold horror fill him. It wasn’t because Cousin was gripping his sword with his hand yet again. Rather, it was because another person suddenly appeared in the cellar. A man wearing a gray robe, who wore a bamboo hat on his head.

    Just as Cousin gripped his sword, the man appeared behind him.

    Lu Xiaofeng saw this man. Widow Hua also saw this man. But Cousin himself did not.

    This person was like a ghostly spirit, with form but without substance.

    An unusually designed bamboo hat covered his face. Lu Xiaofeng was totally unable to see his face, but could already guess his identity. Widow Hua’s face was expressionless, but a look of joy appeared in her eyes as well.

    This person was waving at her.

    Cousin seemed to have realized that something was amiss. He suddenly turned around.

    But no one was there. Not even a shadow could be seen.

    This person remained behind him like a shadow, then waved at Widow Hua again.

    By the time Cousin turned around to face her, she had already calmed down. Icily, she said, “Do you want to kill Lu Xiaofeng first? Or kill me first?”

    Cousin slowly sat down. He leisurely said, “Neither of you look like you are afraid of death.”

    Widow Hua said, “Since we have no choice but to die, what’s the point of being afraid? Only…”

    Cousin said, “Only you don’t want to die without even know what’s going on.”

    Widow Hua assented to this. His words struck a chord in her heart.

    Cousin said, “So you want to ask me, aside from my master, the Swordsman of Bashan, who else knows this secret?”

    Widow Hua said, “Since I’m going to die no matter what, why not tell me?”

    Cousin stared at her. Suddenly, he began to laugh, very loudly.

    Widow Hua said, “Why are you laughing?”

    Cousin said, “I’m laughing at you. You know the answer already. Why ask me?”

    Widow Hua said, “What do you mean? What do I know?”

    Cousin said, “Aside from my master, there are two people who know. One is the Wooden Taoist. The other is your old man. You clearly are just the same as me, someone who was sent here as a spy. Why put on an act?”

    Widow Hua’s face changed.

    Cousin said, “By now, I imagine you already know what kind of a person the Old Sabre Honcho is. Because you are a woman. You can accompany him to bed and sleep with him.”

    Widow Hua said, “You want me to pull me under as well?”

    Cousin said, “Actually, I’ve always known your secret. The only reason I did this today was because I set a trap for you. I wanted to entice you into spilling your secrets. I’d rather kill a hundred innocents than let a single spy live.”

    Widow Hua stared at him. She suddenly let out a sigh. “So you aren’t trying to pull me under. You are just trying to find a scapegoat for yourself.”

    Cousin said, “Why would I need to find a scapegoat?”

    Widow Hua said, “Because although you didn’t see the Old Sabre Honcho, you know that he’s already here.”

    She sighed again before continuing. “You really are a talented person. But there’s something you don’t understand.”

    Cousin said, “What?”

    Widow Hua said, “This really is a scheme, but the person who fell into it wasn’t me. It was you.”

    Cousin said, “Oh?”

    Widow Hua said, “The Old Sabre Honcho and I had suspected you long ago, which is why we set up this trap to catch you. If you believe that I really was poisoned by you, you are wrong about that as well.”

    Dusting off her sleeves, she slowly stood up. Someone poisoned by the Powder of Rapture would find it difficult to purge the poison that fast. But she actually stood up.

    But Cousin continued to sit on that stool without moving. He suddenly turned to look at Lu Xiaofeng. “What do you think?”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a sigh. Forcing out a smile, he said, “All of you are geniuses. I respect all of you.”

    Cousin suddenly laughed loudly. “For someone like Lu Xiaofeng to respect me, even as I die, I, Gu Feiyun, feel content!”

    He said the word die, and he really did die, just like that. It was even faster than when he killed others.

    His sword flipped around, his blood spurted out, and he collapsed.

    He definitely couldn’t let himself survive and allow others to force information out of him.

    If you want to find out someone else’s secrets, you had best prepare to be willing to sacrifice your own life.

    Widow Hua frowned. “I didn’t expect him to not fear death at all.”

    The Old Sabre Honcho said, “People who are afraid of death can’t enter his line of work at all. People who are overly intelligent cannot, either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “There’s another sort of person who cannot as well.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Who?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The type of person who, no matter where he goes, finds lots of trouble for himself. Even if he doesn’t want to cause trouble, trouble still manages to find him.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Are you this sort of person?”

    Lu Xiaofeng forced out a laugh. “I’ve always understood myself very well.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “You definitely did bring a lot of trouble to my doorstep...”

    Lu Xiaofeng interrupted him. “But you definitely cannot kill me.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Why is that?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I didn’t want to come here. You were the one who brought me in. So even though others can kill me, you cannot, because I am your guest.”

    Old Sabre Honcho grew silent. He slowly said, “I can spare you, but you have to promise me one thing!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “What?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Seal your mouth as tightly as a closed bottle. Forever maintain your silence regarding what you learned of this place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately said, “I accept.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Fine, I’ll trust you. Leave!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled. “You want me to leave?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Even if a host cannot kill his own guest, he can at least ask his guest to depart.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But outside…”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “No matter who is waiting for you outside, at least it’s better than dying inside.”

    Lu Xiaofeng spoke no further. He could tell that no matter what he said, it would be useless. So he left.

    But Old Sabre Honcho suddenly called him back. “But at the very least, you were my guest, and at the very least, you didn’t sell me out. So if there’s anything you want, I’ll let you take it with you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter what I ask for?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “As long as you can take it with you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “What if I want to take her?”

    The ‘her’ he wanted to take away was Widow Hua!

    Old Sabre Honcho shut his mouth. After a long time, he slowly said, “You can take her away as well. But in the future, you had best never let me see you again!”

    The ravine was still filled with dreary, misty clouds. In any circumstance, it would be extremely difficult to find that narrow, steel-chain path. To pass across it would be even harder.

    And after crossing it? The world within the ravine was the world of the Mansion of Spirits. And outside? How many life-threatening dangers were outside?

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a long sigh. He suddenly laughed.

    Widow Hua looked at him. She couldn’t help but ask, “Aren’t you afraid?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Afraid of what?”

    Widow Hua said, “Death.”

    She gently held his hand. “Aren’t you afraid that as soon as you leave this ravine, you’ll die under someone’s sword?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “I’ve already died once. So what if I die a second time?”

    Widow Hua laughed as well. No matter what, at least they had left the Mansion of Spirits, left this world of the dead.

    Widow Hua said in a soft voice, “I’ve often thought to myself that so long as I had the chance to once more truly live again, even if it was just for a day, I would be utterly satisfied.”
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 10:20 AM.

  17. #57
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 – Lu Xiaofeng commissioned
    Translated by Foxs


    There was no grass on this mountain rock, the towering peak was as sharp as blade.

    Widow Hua suddenly came to a halt; she looked down at her feet. There was a trace of blood flowing from the soles of her slender, delicate, and tender feet.

    “You did not wear shoes?”

    “No.” Widow Hua was still laughing, “I rarely walked.”

    She was following him without wearing any shoes. In fact, she left without taking anything with her.

    “You did not ask for anything, as long as I am coming with you, what else do I want?” Although her face was white because of the pain, her laughter was still very gentle and soft. “In this world, what could be more valuable than true love?”

    Looking at her, Lu Xiaofeng felt a surge of tenderness welling up in his heart like warm spring torrent. He lifted her up and carried her through the mountain rock. She whispered in his ear, “Ximen Chuixue must be thinking that you are dead by now. If you want, I am sure we can find a quiet place to live, and I am sure we can live for more than one day.”

    “Originally I was determined to die for Old Sabre Honcho, but then I met you.” She continued, “And he did not try to stop me either; therefore, I hope from now on you will forget this person Widow Hua, my surname is Liu, Liu Qingqing.” [qing means green/dark green]

    The grass ahead was green, the trees and leaves were also green.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not walk directly ahead; he did not forget that that was the man-eating forest.

    They sat down on the hillside outside the forest. On the lush, green grass, he saw dead leaves.

    It was still spring, how could there be dead leaves?

    Lu Xiaofeng picked up a dead leaf. As soon as he looked at it, his palm was suddenly wet with cold sweat.

    Liu Qingqing immediately saw his peculiar expression; she immediately asked, “What is it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng pointed to the stem of the leaf, “This leaf was not blown by the wind,” he said.

    The stem of the leaf was cut, clean and tidy.

    Liu Qingqing frowned. “Not by the wind, could it be sword blade?” she said.

    “Not sword blade either,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s sword aura!”

    Liu Qingqing’s countenance changed.

    -- Whose sword could emit such a sharp sword aura?

    Lu Xiaofeng picked up a piece of feather from the grass; it was also cut by a sword aura.

    There were birds outside the forest. Birds can also allay one’s hunger. But how many people in the world were able to shoot down a bird just by using sword aura? Other than Ximen Chuixue, who else had that kind of ability?

    Liu Qingqing no longer smiled, “He has not left?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “He has always been known as a man who doesn’t give up easily.”

    Liu Qingqing looked down and said, “I know what kind of man he is; I have seen him.”

    She suddenly looked up again, “But we don’t need to fear him, with the two of us joining hands, could it be that we can’t handle him, one person?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    “You are afraid of him?” Liu Qingqing asked, “Why?”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked down. “Because there is shame in my heart,” he sadly said.

    “Did you really do that sort of thing?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “There is time when anybody can make a mistake,” he replied.

    “But you are not a fool,” Liu Qingqing said.

    “Sometimes someone who is not a fool cannot avoid being a fool,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Liu Qingqing’s expression grew even bleaker, “You think we have no chance in getting out of this forest alive?”

    “That’s why now we only have one way to go,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Which way?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “The way back,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Liu Qingqing looked at him in shock, “You mean back to the Mansion of Spirits?” she asked.

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter what is waiting for me there, it is always better than to die in this forest.”

    The valley was still shrouded in clouds and mist, dreary and hazy; going back was similarly not easy as coming out.

    On the mountain rock directly ahead, someone was flying toward them as if he was riding on the wind; it was precisely the Soul Collector.

    Although he had no face and no name, yet he had hands, he had sword.

    The sword was already in his hand, the sword was already unsheathed.

    He looked coldly at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Since you already left, why come back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, “Because I am homesick.”

    “This is not your home,” Soul Collector said.

    “Originally it was not, but now it is,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I have nowhere else to go.”

    “Do you see what’s in my hand?” Soul Collector asked.

    “It looks like a sword,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “If you can defeat the sword in my hand, I’ll let you pass,” Soul Collector said.

    “I advise you not to try,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    With a cold laugh Soul Collector said, “You have confidence that you can defeat me?”

    “I don’t have any confidence,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not even a bit. But I have confidence that I can at least take ten moves of yours.”

    “And what if you can take ten moves of mine?” Soul Collector asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I have confidence that within ten moves I can tell your martial art background.” He chuckled again before continuing, “I believe you won’t want anybody to find out your martial art background.”

    Soul Collector closed his mouth. The veins on the back of his hand that was holding the sword were bulging like vipers.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng did not even cast him a single glance, he simply walked forward confidently under his sword, Liu Qingqing could only follow.

    The viper-like veins on his hand twitched, the tip of his sword also trembled with a cold light.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not look back. Liu Qingqing could feel her neck was wet; she noticed that all over Lu Xiaofeng’s body, from top to bottom, there was not the least bit sign of alertness. If this sword was thrust forward, the tip that was trembling with cold light would be enough to take his life.

    Yet the Soul Collector did not seem to realize that; he simply watched Lu Xiaofeng walked away until he was far, and only then did the sword in his hand fell. In the midst of a loud dragon-like roar sparks flew everywhere as a large rock split into four pieces under his sword.

    Liu Qingqing stole a glance backward; she saw his back was drenched in sweat.

    On this mountain, each piece of rock was as hard as refined steel. Even using iron hammer or sharp axe, one might not necessarily be able to chip the rock, yet this sword’s sharpness and power were simply too frightening.

    It was not until they were out of sight did she finally breathe again. “Did you see that sword?” she asked.

    “Nothing remarkable,” Lu Xiaofeng indifferently replied.

    Liu Qingqing could not help asking, “What kind of swordsmanship would you consider remarkable then?”

    “If he were able to calmly retract his sword, that would be considered remarkable,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Just now in furious rage the Soul Collector transmitted all his power onto the tip of his sword; just like a fully-drawn bow, he had no choice but to release it. Therefore, as the sword struck, naturally the power was astonishing. However, it also proved that he was not able to control his own anger; he was not able to release and retract his power freely. If he were able to retract his sword calmly, then he would have reached perfection [orig. the stove fire has turned bright green].

    Liu Qingqing came from prestigious school; naturally she understood this principle. Yet she still could not resist asking, “Even if there is nothing remarkable about that sword, but if it was used against you, do you have any confidence that you would be able to evade?”

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “So you are confident that he won’t kill you?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Again, no,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Yet you appeared to be totally unfazed?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “When a man is at the end of his tether, he should always take a little risk.”

    Liu Qingqing sighed. But before she said anything, they saw a man in grey clothes and a bamboo rain hat on his head, walking leisurely ahead of them, with his hands behind his back.

    “Old Sabre Honcho!”

    Lu Xiaofeng called out, and without waiting for an answer he tried to catch up. Yet although the man in grey walked in strolling pace, he just could not catch up.

    He was about to give up when the man in grey ahead suddenly said, “Clearly you are not the kind of person who casually takes risk with your life; you were certain that he would not kill you, you had confidence in this matter.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny; he could not deny. He suddenly realized that no matter what, it would be very difficult to conceal anything from Old Sabre Honcho.

    Old Sabre Honcho continued, “What gives you such confidence?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only tell the truth, “I could see clearly that his face was cut off with sword blade. Based on his swordsmanship, there is only one person in the world who was able to cut his face like that.”

    “Who?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “He himself,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Old Sabre Honcho let out a cold laugh.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “He would rather destroy his own face than letting others recognizing him; naturally he would not let me recognizing his background. Therefore, I was certain that he would not make his move.”

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly turned around to stare at him; even under the bamboo rain hat, his eyes were still as sharp as blade. “You have such confidence, was it because you have already figured out who he is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng forced a laugh. “I just happen to remember something,” he said.

    “Speak up!” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “Twenty years ago,” Lu Xiaofeng began, “The most prestigious swordsman in Wudang was Shi He, the most promising candidate to succeed Wudang unification effort was also him. Yet on the eve of him receiving the Sect Leadership, there was news spreading in Jianghu that he died suddenly …”

    “At that time he was at the prime of his life; a middle-aged man with such internal and external cultivation like him, how could he die suddenly?” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Therefore, inevitably Jianghu people were doubtful about the news of his death. At that time rumors were abound; some even went too far by saying that because he did not keep his purity in following the rules, he was expelled from his school, and thus he killed himself in anger. But all along I suspected that he is still alive; it’s just that no one has ever seen him.”

    Old Sabre Honcho was listening calmly. Only after Lu Xiaofeng finished did he laugh coldly and said, “You are not supposed to come back to see me either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But I also know for sure that you are not going to kill me.”

    “What makes you think that?” Old Sabre Honcho asked sternly.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I know that right now you are looking for people, and you ought to know that I am a very useful person.”

    “Why would I want to use you?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “To accomplish big things, you must employ useful people.”

    “How do you know I want to accomplish big things?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “To establish a base like this, I don’t know how much manpower and resources you have already spent; maintaining it is even more difficult. Even if you charged everybody here with a hundred-thousand taels contract, you may not necessarily be able to deal with your friends. Even if you can make a bit of money, based on your character, I doubt it that you would spend so much effort just to make an insignificant amount of money.”

    “Go on,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “So I conclude that by doing all this, you must have a plan. Based on your ability and wisdom, naturally you want to accomplish big things.”

    Old Sabre Honcho stared at him with cold eyes; his gaze was even more piercing. Suddenly he turned around and said, “Follow me.”

    At the end of winding path was a stone building that looked ancient and austere; the furnishing inside was equally simple and unadorned, so much so that it had a gloomy forest feeling, obviously this house was rarely inhabited. But right now there were three people waiting inside; three people that were supposed to be dead.

    Hook, Cousin, and Housekeeper, three people were standing next to a sacrificial table under a drooping yellow curtain. All three were wearing some kind of malicious, crafty smile on their faces, as they looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of their eyes.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng struggled hard to maintain his composure, he could not refrain from looking shocked.

    “Do you understand it now?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand at all.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “From start to finish, this is actually a trap.”

    Lu Xiaofeng still did not understand.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Everything they did, it was my doing, I only wanted to test you.”

    “You suspected that I am an undercover spy?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I suspected everybody,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Everybody here has to go through some kind of test. Those whom Gu Feiyun killed were those who did not pass the test.”

    At last Lu Xiaofeng understood, “You intentionally let me go, it was also part of the test, to see whether I was really driven by Ximen Chuixue and had nowhere to go.”

    “If you did not come back,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “by this time you must have been dead in that man-eating forest.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “You have already anticipated that I might take Liu Qingqing with me, hence you prepared to have her kill me.”

    “That was actually unexpected,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “If you did not come back, she would have died with you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist turning around, Liu Qingqing was staring at him. Neither of them say anything, because whatever it was they wanted to say, they have said it all through their eyes.

    She did not blame him, he did not feel guilty either.

    It was the most wonderful feeling in the world: no need to blame, no need to feel guilty.

    Old Sabre Honcho quietly watched them. He waited until Lu Xiaofeng turned back again before he said slowly, “Now do you understand why I had to do what I did?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “You wanted to see whether I am worthy to be used by you,” he said.

    “You are absolutely right,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    The tone of his voice suddenly became very gentle, “Both your martial art skill and resourcefulness are not bad, but the most important thing is that you did not lie in front of me.”

    With a wry laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since I know for sure that I cannot lie to you, why bother lying?”

    “You are a smart man, and I like smart people,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Therefore, from now on, you are my partner. As long as you don’t leave this Mansion, you may do whatever you want. I believe such a smart man like you would never do anything stupid.” [The word ‘Mansion’ here actually carries a lot broader meaning: a village, a building complex, a cluster of houses, etc. Not just a single ‘mansion’.]

    He turned toward Housekeeper, “Pass it down, arrange a banquet tonight to welcome him.”

    Housekeeper withdrew, Cousin and Hook also withdrew.

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly said, “Your house is torn down, starting today you may stay at Qingqing’s place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng hesitated; forcing a smile he said, “You …”

    Old Sabre Honcho did not allow him to finish, he said, “I am already old; it is always easy for an old man to forget a lot of things.”

    He stood up and turned around to face the shrine underneath the drooping yellow curtain. “Only one thing I still cannot forget,” he slowly said, “When this all ends, I will tell you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ask, he knew that Old Sabre Honcho’s word was a command!

    Not only the food and wine were abundant, they were of the finest quality. There were twelve kinds of wine, the format of the banquet was an ancient format, eighteen long tables were arranged in ‘U’ shape [orig. half a character ‘口’ - kou, mouth], Old Sabre Honcho sat in the middle, and on his left sat Lu Xiaofeng.

    Naturally everyone’s view on Lu Xiaofeng was not the same as two days ago; not only because he was the honorary guest of the banquet, but also because he had suddenly become Old Sabre Honcho’s trusted aide.

    The first one to stand up and offer him a toast was the Hook, Hai Qikuo, followed by Cousin, Housekeeper, and Dugu Mei.

    All along Ye Ling was the only one who never cast him a single glance, because the one sitting next to him was Liu Qingqing. This man-eating widow also seemed to have changed; becoming quiet and gentle.

    Old Sabre Honcho was still wearing that odd-looking bamboo rain hat, so that even Lu Xiaofeng, who sat right next to him could not see his face clearly.

    He ate very little, he drank even less, and did not say too much either; yet whoever looked at him did so with absolute obedience and total respect.

    The number of people attending the banquet was more than the last one, altogether there were fifty-nine people. Although Lu Xiaofeng did not know most of them, it was not difficult for him to imagine that in the old days these people must have had glorious history; if not the son or disciple of filthy-rich families, they must have been towering hero who dominated the Wulin world in the past. Not only people of high status, their martial art skill must be pretty good; otherwise they would not be qualified to enter this Mansion of Spirits.

    “Are all people present?” Lu Xiaofeng asked quietly.

    “Only two are not here,” Liu Qingqing replied equally quietly, “One is the Soul Collector; he never mingles with other people.”

    “And who is the other one?”

    “Ye Ling’s older sister, Ye Xue [lit. snow],” Liu Qingqing said, “She is fond of hunting, oftentimes she went out for more than ten days in a stretch.”

    “How did she have free access to come and go?”

    “The Old Sabre Honcho made a concession with her,” Liu Qingqing laughed coldly, “That woman is a freak, whatever she wants to do, nobody can stop her. Even when she is here, she never speaks with anybody.”

    “Why?”

    “Because she always think that she is much stronger than anybody.” It was obvious that Liu Qingqing was very reluctant to talk about her, she was even more reluctant to talk about her with Lu Xiaofeng. As a matter of fact, they were not able to continue talking about her; because they had just been talking about Cao Cao, Cao Cao[1] has arrived.

    Suddenly, a leopard flew in from outside the door, and landed heavily in front of their table. Ye Xue came in right behind this leopard. As soon as the leopard landed, Lu Xiaofeng immediately saw her.

    She looked just like the leopard; beautiful, agile, cold and cruel. The only difference was that the leopard was already dead; it died in her hands.

    It was the thirteenth leopard that died in her hands. Nearly all leopards in the vicinity of the valley died in her hands.

    She loved to hunt; even more, she loved to hunt leopards.

    Why do people always love to hunt and kill those which are similar to them?

    Among the beasts, the most agile and ferocious, the most difficult to deal with is precisely the leopard. Even hunters with extremely vast experience may not necessarily be daring enough to hunt leopard single-handedly; very few people actually dared to do such a foolish and dangerous thing.

    Yet not only she dared to do it, she was successful in doing it.

    She was a quiet and reserved woman, yet she was able to hunt leopard. She looked beautiful and delicate, yet she had a leopard-like agility and coldness.

    These different kinds of complex and contradictory character brought up a kind of strange charm about her. Even Lu Xiaofeng has never seen this kind of woman. When he saw her, he nearly forgot Liu Qingqing, who was sitting by his side.

    Ye Xue kept her gaze toward the Old Sabre Honcho; with her pale face, her pale lips, she suddenly said, “Do you know that my cousin (sic) is dead?” [Translator’s note: Earlier Ye Ling said Ye Guhong was her big brother, but if Ye Xue was her big sister, it would mean Ye Xue and Ye Guhong were siblings.]

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded.

    “Do you know who killed him?” Ye Xue asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded again.

    “Who is it?” Ye Xue asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart skipped a beat. A woman who hunted leopards, if she wanted to exact revenge, would not stop at anything.

    And right now he did not want to be the leopard she hunted.

    But Old Sabre Honcho’s reply was totally beyond his expectation, “It was Ximen Chuixue!”

    Ye Xue’s countenance became even paler, her hands suddenly clenched into fists.

    Old Sabre Honcho said slowly, “You must remember what your Gege [older brother] had told you, if he died under Ximen Chuixue’s hands, you must never seek revenge against him, because it was definitely a fair duel.”

    -- It was also because he did not wish anybody who avenged him should die under Ximen Chuixue’s sword!

    Ye Xue’s lips trembled, her clenched fists were also trembling. Suddenly she sat down. She sat down on the floor. “Give me wine!” she said.

    The one delivering the drink to her was the Housekeeper; it was an earthen jar of wine, which seal has just been broken.

    Ye Xue did not even look at him; she said coldly, “You’d better go away, the farther the better!”

    Unexpectedly Housekeeper did indeed go away, he went very far away.

    “Who’d want to drink with me?” Ye Xue asked.

    “Me,” Hai Qikuo scrambled to answer.

    “You are not fit,” Ye Xue said.

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly tapped Lu Xiaofeng. Lu Xiaofeng slowly stood up and walked over to her.

    Finally Ye Xue gave him a look, “You are Lu Xiaofeng?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    “Can you drink?” Ye Xue asked.

    “I can,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Alright,” Ye Xue said, “Get some bowls, big bowls.”

    The bowls were very big. She drank one bowl, Lu Xiaofeng drank one bowl. She did not say anything, Lu Xiaofeng also did not open his mouth. She no longer looked at Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Xiaofeng did not look at her either.

    Thus the two of them sat face to face on the ground like that; you drink one bowl, I drink one bowl.

    One bowl was at least eight taels. [one tael is approx. 50grams.] After a dozen or so bowls, surprisingly her countenance did not even change.

    When the jar was empty, she stood up; without even looking back she walked out the door. She did not say anything; not even one word.

    When Lu Xiaofeng stood up, his head was a bit dizzy.

    “How was it?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    With a wry smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “I did not expect she has such a good wine capacity, really unexpected.”

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly sighed. “I did not expect it either,” he said, “I have never seen her drink.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “You have not seen her drink?”

    “Nobody has ever seen her drink,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “In all her life, this was the first time she drank wine.”

    For someone who was drunk, there is absolutely nothing in the world more enticing than a bed. Especially if the bed was very big, and very comfortable.

    Too bad there was someone who clearly did not want him to lie down comfortably in the bed.

    As soon as he entered the room, Liu Qingqing was already sitting on the floor with an earthen jar of wine, “Who’d want to drink with me?” she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked forward, he looked backward, he looked to the right, he looked to the left, and then with a bitter laugh said, “It seems like I am the only one in this room.”

    “Can you drink?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Can I not drink?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You can’t,” Liu Qingqing replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only sit down to drink with her. When he sat down, he was already drunk.

    He was really drunk.

    When he woke up, Liu Qingqing was no longer in the room, he was lying on the bed, alone. Even his boots were still on. His head hurt so much that he felt as if it may burst at any moment.

    He did not want to get up; he could not get up. But clearly someone was calling out to him from outside the window.

    The window was pushed open. The man outside was Dugu Mei. “I’ve come here three times, watching you sleeping so well, I did not dare to wake you up.”

    “Why did you want to see me?”

    “Nothing, just that I haven’t seen you for a while, I wanted to chat with you.”

    No matter what, he was a friend. When a friend came to chat with Lu Xiaofeng, even if his head really burst open, he simply could not refuse.

    “We’d better go out and talk. I am afraid to see that Widow Hua.”

    Outside was still foggy, cold and damp fog, but it was very effective to cure hangover. Although Dugu Mei’s injury has been healing very well, he seemed to be a bit worried.

    “Actually, I had been wanting to see you, I was afraid you might be angry with me.”

    “Why am I angry?”

    “Because I was the one who introduced Hook and the others to you, I really did not know that they were going to harm you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Of course you didn’t, you are my friend, all along you have been doing me a favor.”

    Dugu Mei hesitated; finally he found his courage and said, “But last night I did something wrong.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Dugu Mei said, “Last night I was also drunk, in my stupor I divulged the secret, and now those three knew that Ye Guhong died under your hands.”

    ‘Those three’ were, naturally, Cousin, Hook, and Housekeeper.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not laugh anymore.

    Although they only met once, Lu Xiaofeng understood a person like Ye Xue very well; naturally he understood Ye Ling even better.

    “They say that in this place, the most difficult people to be provoked are precisely those two sisters. If they knew this matter, they would definitely find you and staking everything they have to fight you.” Dugu Mei was trying to be very tactful, “I know you are not afraid of them, but it’s easy to dodge the spear in the open, but hard to avoid a stab in the dark; therefore …”

    “Therefore what?”

    “Therefore it would be best if you’d think of something to shut their mouths.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, he understood Dugu Mei’s intention, “You want me to be a bit friendlier with them, and not set myself against them. If they want me to do something, it would be best if I don’t refuse.”

    Dugu Mei stared at him; suddenly he grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s hand rather hard and said, “I am sorry.”

    After speaking those five words [我对不起你 – wo dui bu qi ni], he simply left.

    Looking at his stooped back disappearing, Lu Xiaofeng really did not know whether this man was his friend, or someone who at any time could sell his friend?

    But right now he only know one thing for sure:

    -- Hook and the others would find him and have him doing something very soon.

    But what were they going to have him do? He could not think about it, he did not even dare to think about it, and he did not have time to think about it either, because right this time, a flash of sword, a lightning fast sword, was stabbing him.

    By this time Dugu Mei had already left for some time, and Lu Xiaofeng was walking along a path, which very soon would lead him to the cottage where Liu Qingqing lived.

    The sword flash came precisely from behind the eaves. Not only it was swift, it was also accurate and vicious too.

    He had never expected that someone would ambush him at this place; he nearly did not have any leeway to parry or to evade.

    Fortunately, he was Lu Xiaofeng. Fortunately, he still had his hands.

    Suddenly he extended his two fingers and clamped.

    -- There were thousands upon thousands of people on earth, each one had a pair of hands, each pair of hands had fingers.

    But these two fingers of him were undoubtedly the most valuable; because these two fingers had saved him countless times.

    This time was no exception.

    Once the fingers clamped, the blade of the sword was caught between his fingers.

    The ice-cold sword blade was strong and powerful, yet it was unable to struggle free from these two fingers. He looked up and saw a pair of cold, yet beautiful eyes.

    -- Ye Xue was staring at him.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. With a wry smile he said, “You knew?”

    Ye Xue stared at him for a very long time before she slowly nodded and said, “Now I know that Lu Xiaofeng is worthy to be Lu Xiaofeng; finally I found the right person.”

    There was no hatred in her voice at all. Immediately Lu Xiaofeng tried to probe her out, “Did you come here looking for me, or did you come here to kill me?”

    Ye Xue said, “I just want to see your world-famous consummate skill; if you can catch my sword, you are the person I have been looking for.”

    “And if I die under your hands?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You deserve it,” Ye Xue replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from forcing a laugh. Since he had not died, naturally he could not help but ask, “So now I am the one you have been looking for?”

    Ye Xue nodded. “Come with me,” she said.

    Walking along a winding path, passing through secluded and secret forest, and then over a short hillside, they heard the sound of running water.

    The water was not flowing fast at all, by this time it was already collected into a small lake, surrounded by lush, green mountain; even the fog was light in this place. If one could sit quietly by the lakeside for half a day, one would forget a lot of worries in his mind.

    “I never thought there is such a quiet, beautiful place within the Mansion of Spirits.”

    Oftentimes children have their own secret little world. This little world clearly belonged to Ye Xue. Why did she bring Lu Xiaofeng here?

    “Actually, what is it that you want me to do?” Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking.

    Ye Xue stood by the lake, while lifting her eyes onto the distant mountain, letting her soft hair, like a spring of water, loose on her back.

    Her voice was also as soft and as quiet as the spring of water, but what she said was actually shocking. She said, “I want you to be my husband.”

    Lu Xiaofeng felt his breathing suddenly stopped.

    She turned around to face him and fixed her gaze on him. Her eyes were clear and bright, just like the ripple of water on the middle of the lake.

    “I am still a virgin,” she continued, “No man has ever touched me.”

    She also guaranteed, “After I am marrying you, I won’t let anybody touch me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sucked a deep breath. “I believe you,” he said.

    “So you agree?” Ye Xue asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng forced himself to laugh. “I am sure there are other conditions you want me to agree on,” he said.

    Ye Xue said, “The matter that I want you to do, it is also beneficial for you.”

    “At least I have the right to know what it is first?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Ye Xue’s gentle and soft eyes suddenly shot a dagger; only deep hatred would produce that kind of sharp gaze. “I want you to help me killing Ximen Chuixue.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not respond; this request was not completely outside his expectation.

    “If we can find him,” Ye Xue continued, “He will definitely make his move to kill you; because he won’t give you a second chance to escape.”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Basically, we don’t need to go trying to find him. As soon as I leave this valley, he will immediately find me.”

    “I know,” Ye Xue said, “If I go out trying to find him, it would be very difficult. If I want to find him, I must have him find me; that’s the reason why I picked you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You want me to divert his attention, so that you have the opportunity to kill him.”

    Ye Xue did not deny. “He will never pay any attention to me,” she said, “Because he hates you, and because he basically does not know who I am. As long as you can catch his sword blade, I definitely will be able to kill him.”

    “And if I miss?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Xue said, “Dealing with Ximen Chuixue is actually a very dangerous thing to do, but I have given this matter a lot of thought. As long as you agree, we have at least seventy-percent chance of succeeding.”

    “Perhaps your chance is more than seventy-percent,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “because even if I miss, you can still take the opportunity to kill him while his sword is embedded in my chest.”

    He chuckled again. But obviously the laughter was forced out. “I am sure you have also considered this point early on, that’s why you can give me guarantee that later on you won’t let anybody touching you, because you want me to die with peaceful heart.”

    Ye Xue did not deny either, “Indeed I have thought about it. Although your chance is really not great, I also know that you have always been a gambler; as long as anything’s worth betting on, you will definitely lay down your bet.”

    Her clear and bright eyes became even deeper, just like an ocean attracting Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes.

    Only after a long, long time was he finally able to look away. Immediately he discovered that she was already stark naked.

    The mountain peak was lush green, the lake was clear; she stood quietly over there, exuding an aura of unspeakable pride and beauty.

    She deserved to be proud, because her virgin body was indeed completely flawless.

    She just looked at Lu Xiaofeng, then, after a long time she slowly said, “As long as you agree, right now I am yours.”

    Her voice was brimming with confidence, because she believed that there was absolutely no man in the world could refuse her.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s breathing has stopped; it was a long, long time later that he was finally able to speak, “If I refuse you, I am sure there will be a lot of people who’d think that I am crazy. But I …”

    Ye Xue’s eyes narrowed, “But you refuse?”

    “I just want you to know one thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Speak up,” Ye Xue said.

    “Your Gege did not die under Ximen Chuxue’s sword at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “How did you know?” Ye Xue was emotional.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When he died, I was standing right in front of him; the blood spilled by the sword almost splashed on me.”

    “Whose sword?” Ye Xue asked.

    “His own!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Ye Xue suddenly screamed like crazy, “You lie, you lie …”

    Lu Xiaofeng waited until the echo in the valley disappeared before saying, “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I actually am able to get you, why would I want to lie?”

    His words was calm yet sharp, it went straight to penetrate her to the core.

    And then he walked away. He went far, far away before looking back. From behind the willow branches he was still able to see her.

    She was still standing motionlessly on the same place. It was as if the entire creation and this mysterious and beautiful creature had dissolved into one entity.

    However, who would know the feeling in her heart?

    [1] Cao Cao (155-220), famous statesman and general at the end of Han, noted poet and calligrapher, later warlord, founder and first king of Cao Wei, father of Emperor Cao Pi, the main villain of novel the Romance of Three Kingdoms.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-11-14 at 09:38 PM.

  18. #58
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 – Beauty’s favor
    Translated by Foxs


    Secluded, secret, serene lush-green valley; perfect, flawless virgin body, with clear and bright eyes as gentle as ripples of water …

    Lu Xiaofeng tried hard to control himself not to think about it; yet he himself knew that this memory would be forever etched at the bottom of his heart.

    He walked as fast as he could, as far as he could. He ought to have reached the pathway leading back by now, yet when he stopped, he discovered that he was even deeper into the mountain.

    And then he immediately discovered something dreadful: – he was lost.

    A more frightening fact was that all around him the fog was getting thicker, a lot thicker than the Mansion of Spirits. It does not matter how good your vision is, you simply can’t see past two zhang [approx. 6m/20ft] in all direction. No matter which way he took, there was a good possibility that he may be even farther away from the Mansion of Spirits.

    But Lu Xiaofeng still wanted to try. He was not the kind of person who would simply sit down, waiting for the cloud to clear, or the fog to disperse.

    After walking far way, he still could not find the road. In this unfamiliar forest in the mountain, the most frustrating thing was that in this thick fog, how much longer did he have to walk before he could find his way home?

    When he started to feel hungry and tired, when he started to feel anxious, he suddenly smelled something, a breath of life.

    Although the aroma was very weak, he could instantly tell that it was the aroma of roasted hare.

    Way back when he was a boy, he had established himself as a capable hunter. Even after he grew up, his interest in hunting was still very strong.

    Rabbits cannot roast themselves, so where the rabbits are roasted, there must be people around, and the only place with people in that vicinity was the Mansion of Spirits.

    He swallowed his own saliva. Although he felt hungrier than ever, his spirit was boosted. After holding his breath for a moment, he took a very deep breath, and immediately decided that the aroma came from somewhere west of here.

    His judgment was obviously correct, because after walking along a small path for a while, the aroma was growing thicker and thicker.

    The terrain ahead seemed to be even more rugged, and the path seemed to be heading down. The aroma of roasted hare seemed to blend with some kind of rotten stink that only a swamp could produce.

    Even if there were people around, this place was definitely not the Mansion of Spirits.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank again. What kind of people would live in this kind of place? He simply could not imagine it.

    Right this moment, suddenly there was strange noise ahead. He quickened his pace, and soon saw strange shadow in the midst of thick fog.

    He could see that it was in no way a man’s shadow, but it did not look like any beast either; he could not even describe the shadow’s shape.

    One thing that he did know was that when he saw the shadow, there was unspeakable dread and nauseating feeling creeping up in his heart, something that made him nearly vomited.

    The shadow ahead did not seem to be at peace, it seemed to be twisting and turning continuously. By the time Lu Xiaofeng braced himself and rushed forward, the shadow suddenly disappeared. It disappeared completely, as if it never existed.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help shivering. He stood unmoving, staring blankly for a long time. Suddenly he smelled a whiff of burning charcoal carried by the wind. This must be the place where the rabbit was roasted!

    He believed his intuition was correct, yet all around him he did not see any trace of human.

    If it were someone else, he would have left early on; perhaps he would have run away as fast as he could.

    But Lu Xiaofeng never gave up.

    First, he made a mental circle, surrounding the area about ten zhang [1 zhang is approx. 10ft/3m] with an invisible rope. And then he scoured the area just like someone unfolding a roll of rug.

    The dirt and dead leaves on the ground was damp, typical of an area around a swamp. Only a piece of ground was unusually dry, it was obvious that the dead leaves covering it were just moved over.

    He stooped down and pushed the leaves aside, just like a hunting dog he sniffed the dirt; he even picked up a bit of dirt and tasted it.

    Sure enough, the dirt had a flavor of burnt charcoal, with a hint of hare fat. He dug the ground, and found some dried branches, several gnawed pieces of bones, and a Y-shaped piece of branch that was used as roasting fork. There was even a little bit of rabbit meat left on the fork, the cut on the skin was clean and tidy.

    Only human’s hands could make such a roasting fork, only human teeth could gnaw the bones and clean the meat on them, moreover, only human cook his meal.

    This place must be inhabited.

    Not only this person had very skillful hands, he did everything very carefully; if it was not Lu Xiaofeng, others might find it very difficult to find any sign that someone had roasted a rabbit over here.

    Who was this person? Why did he come here? Was he also running away from someone else’s hunt? What was that twisting and turning shadow he had just seen?

    Lu Xiaofeng was completely at a loss. But precisely because he was at a loss that he got even more curious.

    In his mind right now, whether he was able to find his way back or not has become a less important matter; because he was determined to find the answer to these questions.

    The answer must be around here. Yet clearly there wasn’t any clue around here.

    Lu Xiaofeng sat down. First he cleaned up the dirt from the rabbit meat, and then tearing it piece by piece, he slowly chewed.

    There was no salt, the meat was burnt, plus it had been buried in the dirt; naturally the rabbit meat was tasteless, practically it was inedible.

    But he forced himself to finish it.

    No matter what he wanted to do, he had to have strength, and hunger was his fatal weakness.

    After having something in his stomach, indeed he felt a bit better. He lay down, thinking that he would rest on this pile of soft leaves for a moment before continuing searching around.

    Naturally he did not know that as he lay down this time, he nearly could not stand up again, forever.

    Like drifting clouds, the fog was floating between the leaves of the trees. As Lu Xiaofeng was lying down, he did feel that the mist was far away like floating clouds in the sky, and he felt that everything was floating farther and farther away from him.

    His entire being felt like it suddenly sunk into a soft and sweet, yet bottomless hole. It was as if everything in the world had become distant, become beautiful, and even the most important thing has become insignificant, all the pain and suffering had gone away.

    This kind of relaxed and sweet feeling was exactly what everybody was looking for, yet Lu Xiaofeng was feeling a kind of unspeakable dread.

    He knew that he was not supposed to feel this way, that he should not feel this way, that his anxiety and burdens should not be put down like this. His greater fear was that when he tried to get up, he found that all muscles and joints in his body felt so relaxed without any strength left.

    Just then, he saw the strange shadow again.

    In the fog, the twisting shadow looked like a rag doll that have been twisted by a naughty child; it did not look like a human at all.

    Because ‘his’ entire body was flexible, every part could be distorted.

    Humans have bones, humans have joints. Humans can’t be like that, ‘he’ was definitely not human!

    Lu Xiaofeng opened his eyes wide, trying to focus his vision. When he looked clearly enough, he heard the shadow talked.

    “You are Lu Xiaofeng?”

    The voice was strange, incomprehensible and sounded slow-witted, yet it was definitely a human’s voice.

    Not only this shadow was a human, he was a human who knew Lu Xiaofeng!

    Fortunately, by this time Lu Xiaofeng had no more shock or dread in his mind, otherwise he might be so scared that he went crazy.

    Unexpectedly the shadow was laughing, a ‘chi, chi’ kind of laughter; he said, “I heard Lu Xiaofeng has never been poisoned, yet now you are being poisoned?”

    Lu Xiaofeng has been wondering about that. Whenever there was a tiny bit of poison in his food and drink, no matter which kind, he could always detect it.

    The shadow laughed again and said, “Let me tell you, this is cannabis leaf, I like to use it to roast my food. When I eat it I can feel happy like immortals, but when you ate it you became like a dead dog.”

    He went on to explain, “Just now when you smelled the aroma of roasted meat, you have already breathed the poison a little bit, that’s the reason why by the time you ate the meat, you could not detect it.”

    “You intentionally lured me here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The shadow shook his head, “I intentionally left that piece of meat in here, otherwise, even an entire horse, I could eat it all.”

    He seemed to enjoy of what he had just said very much.

    -- Only people who have been alone for a long time would have the habit of mumbling to themselves like that. Only this kind of people would enjoy his own voice like that.

    He laughed his ‘chi, chi’ laughter for half a day before continuing, “If you did not find that piece of meat, I would have let you go, unfortunately, you did find it.”

    “Unfortunately?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The shadow said, “Because I can’t let anybody know that I am here.”

    Suddenly, using some kind of indescribable, bizarre technique he jumped over toward Lu Xiaofeng, and sealed several of his acupoints.

    His hand looked like a rotten snake skin gloves, but his movement was absolutely accurate and was very effective.

    Compared to the rest of his body, this hand seemed easier to bear.

    No one could describe his appearance. No one could, no one dared, but also no one could bear to describe.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng’s mind was completely blank and he was delirious, seeing this man, he still could not refrain from shuddering and wanting to vomit.

    The shadow laughed coldly and said, “Now that you’ve seen me, you think that I am very ugly, don’t you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not deny.

    The shadow said, “If you have been pushed down from a cliff hundreds of zhang high, and soaked down in the mud for dozens of days, you’d have become like this too.”

    His laughter was more sorrowful than crying, “Formerly, not only I was not as ugly as you are, I could be considered a handsome man.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not pay attention to his last sentence; his question was, “You have been pushed down from a cliff hundreds of zhang high, and soaked down in the mud for dozens of days, yet you did not die?”

    With a miserable laugh the shadow said, “I don’t know either how I survived, it was as if God was helping me, yet God has also deliberately trying to torment me.”

    This man could live until now, it was indeed a miracle; yet this miracle was just brought about by some rotten leaves.

    The rotting leaves on the swamp produced some kind of exotic fungus; it was as if this special fungus could miraculously heal human’s festering wound.

    The shadow said, “I depended on things that had not been rotting in the mud to fill my stomach; after dozens of day I was finally able to crawl out. Afterwards I realized that the mud seems to be beneficial to my injury; hence every time my wound started to turn into festering boil, I dipped myself into the mud. Over the years, it had become a habit.”

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng understood why this man’s body could easily twist and turn like a snake.

    The shadow continued, “But this condition was really unbearable to me; fortunately later on I accidentally discovered that cannabis leaves can help me forget my many sufferings. That’s the reason I can still be alive until now.”

    The amazing resilience power of life, the way all living things fit fantastically, beyond anything humanity are capable to imagine.

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved a deep sigh; the shadow in front of him gradually return to its original shape. All along he willed himself to concentrate; it’s a pity that although by now the effect of the drug has gradually disappeared, his acupoints were sealed.

    Suddenly he asked, “You knew that I am Lu Xiaofeng; did you recognize me?”

    “I did not,” the shadow replied, “But I have seen you.”

    “When did you see me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “A moment ago,” the shadow replied.

    “You saw me a moment ago?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The shadow said, “You have discovered my secret, I should have killed you to close your mouth; it was precisely because I have seen you that you are still alive until now.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more confused. “Why?” he asked.

    The shadow said, “Because all in all you are not a bad person; you did not seize the opportunity to bully Ah Xue.”

    His voice suddenly became emotional, “Ah Xue has always been a good child, I don’t want her to be bullied.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “What are you to her?” he asked.

    The shadow was unwilling to answer this question; he asked instead, “Why did Ximen Chuixue want to kill you? What kind of enmity do you have against him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng hesitated, but in the end he decided to tell the truth, “He saw me sleeping in the same bed with his wife.”

    The shadow did not say anything; he stared at Lu Xiaofeng for a long time. Suddenly he let out a strange laughter and said, “Now I understand why you are coming to Mansion of Spirits.”

    “I came to escape disaster,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “No you don’t,” the shadow said.

    “Even you did not want to die,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Naturally I don’t want to die either.”

    The shadow said, “You are not afraid to die; you came here just because you wanted to unearth the secret of this place.”

    His voice was brimming with confidence, “Even a woman like Ah Xue failed to tempt you, how could you steal Ximen Chuixue’s wife?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “I just want to ask you one thing,” he said.

    “Go ahead,” the shadow said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I were a spy, how could Old Sabre Honcho let me live till now? He is such a formidable character, you should know it better than I do.”

    The shadow suddenly shook, his body suddenly curled up into a ball, immediately his eyes were brimming with grief and indignation, with hatred and fear.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly said, “Of course you do, because the person who pushed you down from the high cliff was precisely him!”

    The shadow was shaking even harder.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “But don’t worry, I will never reveal this secret.”

    “Why?” the shadow could not help asking.

    “Because I really like Ye Xue,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I will never harm her father.”

    The shadow cowered and took a step back; his voice was hoarse, “Who’s her father?” he asked.

    “You are,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The shadow suddenly dropped down, lying on the ground; even his breathing had stopped.

    But he was not dead; after a long time he sighed and said, “You are right, I am. Everybody thought I was dead, even they, the two sisters, thought I was dead.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “At least you have to tell them that you are still alive.”

    The shadow sprang up and said, “You must never tell them; never!”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The shadow said, “Because no matter what I can’t let them see me like this. I would rather …”

    Suddenly he stopped. Pressing his ear to the ground, he listened for a long time, and then he said in a low voice, “You must never tell anyone that you have seen me, please, I beg you.”

    By the time he said the last three words, he had already disappeared. With these three words he was indeed pleading earnestly.

    Then, after a long time Lu Xiaofeng finally heard footsteps, someone was coming, treading on dead leaves.

    Lu Xiaofeng only hoped that it would be Ye Xue.

    But the incoming person was not Ye Xue, it was Ye Ling.

    When she saw Lu Xiaofeng, she was shocked as well, but soon she calmed down.

    Apparently this little Miss was a lot more cool-headed than anyone gave her credit for; she was a lot more experienced. She asked, “Just now I heard people talking, whom did you talk to?”

    “No one,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I was talking to myself.”

    Ye Ling laughed. She winked and laughed and said, “Since when do you like to talk to yourself?”

    “When I found out that friends are not very reliable,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Then why did you lie down in here alone?” Ye Ling asked.

    “Because I like to,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Ye Ling laughed again. With hands behind her back, she walked around Lu Xiaofeng, twice. Suddenly she said, “You sealed your own acupoints, it must be because you also like to do it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only laugh bitterly. He was forced to admit that this little Miss’ eyesight was also a lot keener than people gave her credit for. But he was also confident that he could still deal with her.

    For people like him, lying to a little girl like her was not too difficult to do.

    “Most of the leaves and wild mushrooms around here are poisonous, I ate some by accident, hence I was forced to seal a couple of my own acupoints, so that the poison would not attack my heart.”

    He suddenly found out that lying was not too difficult to do.

    Ye Ling stared at him; she seemed to believe him, yet she said nothing.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Only after I sealed my acupoints did I realize a grave problem: I couldn’t unseal it myself. Luckily you are here now; indeed I must thank the Heaven and thank the Earth.”

    Ye Ling was still staring at him without saying anything.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I know you can unseal the acupoints for me, you have always been a very resourceful person.”

    Ye Ling suddenly said, “You wait here, I’ll be right back.”

    Finished speaking, she flew away without even looking back.

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbfounded.

    Fortunately as soon as Ye Ling left, the shadow suddenly appeared.

    Lu Xiaofeng was relieved. He said, “Whatever you want to do, I’ll do it. I promise. Now can you let me go?”

    The shadow’s answer was very blunt, “Cannot.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I really want to see how Ah Ling is going to deal with you,” the shadow replied.

    There was a hint of laughter in his voice, “That little girl has always been mischievous; the tricks she played, sometimes even caught me by surprise.”

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to laugh, but he simply could not, because in truth he also could not guess how Ye Ling would deal with him. He only knew that this crafty girl was capable of doing anything.

    He was going to talk it out with the shadow, but the shadow disappeared once more. And then he heard footsteps on the dead leaves again.

    This time the footsteps sounded heavier, Ye Ling also arrived a lot quicker than the last time. In her hand she had some unknown herbs; evidently she has just picked it. As soon as she stopped and caught her breath, she said, “Eat it!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, “You want me to eat this crap weeds?”

    With a straight face Ye Ling said, “This is not weeds, this is a life-saving medicine, that I worked so hard to find for you.”

    She went on to explain, “Unsealing your acupoints is so easy, but after the acupoints are unsealed, if by any chance the poison attack your heart, won’t I be harming you instead? Therefore, I must find you the antidote first.”

    “Right now the poison in my body seems to be dissipating,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “It doesn’t seem like it,” Ye Ling said, “We must completely eradicate the poison from your system; besides, this kind of medicinal herb is beneficial to your body anyway, eating a bit more won’t do you any harm.”

    While her mouth was busy talking, Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth could not speak at all, because it was being stuffed with herbs.

    He suddenly found out that the saying ‘good medicine tastes bitter’ made a lot of sense. It doesn’t matter if this herbs was very beneficial to him, he simply did not wish to try it the second time.

    With so much difficulty he was finally able to swallow the grass into his stomach. Ye Ling was visibly relieved; she blinked and asked, “How are you feeling? Did it taste good?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Baa, baa …”

    “What is that?” Ye Ling asked.

    “That’s sheep,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I suddenly feel that I have turned into a sheep.”

    Ye Ling laughed; she said sweetly, “I love little sheep. Come, let me carry you.”

    Unexpectedly she really carried Lu Xiaofeng; her strength was indeed not small.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, “What are you holding me for? Why haven’t you unseal my acupoints?”

    “Right now the poison has not been completely eradicated,” Ye Ling said, “This is not a good place to linger, I must carry you someplace else.”

    “Where are you carrying me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Naturally to a good place,” Ye Ling replied, “A very, very good place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only smile wryly.

    Being carried away by a young girl who was young enough to be his own daughter, naturally the feeling was not too pleasant.

    But this young girl’s breasts were obviously very mature, her body also smelled so good. Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to close his eyes; he wanted to meditate like an old monk; but Ye Ling suddenly sang:

    “Little girl carrying a clay doll,
    Came to the garden to admire the flowers,
    I told the doll to listen to me,
    The doll calls me little mama.”

    Half of this song was sung by Lu Xiaofeng, she made up the other half, but it was very fitting. Listening to the song, it was only natural that Lu Xiaofeng did not know whether he should laugh or he should cry. And at that moment, he suddenly discover another matter that he did not know whether he should laugh or cry.

    He suddenly felt something was not right. At first he still did not know what went wrong. And it would be better if he did not know, because as soon as he found out, he felt even worse.

    -- He suddenly discovered that unexpectedly he had become a cat on a hot tin roof. [alright, alright, the original text does not have the word ‘tin’ …] A male cat.

    If he were really on a hot roof, it would be a bit better. But the fact was that he was in the embrace of a young woman, a soft and sweet-smelling young woman. And this young woman was clearly someone that he must not let his heart be moved by.

    He repeatedly warned himself, “She is just a little kid, I must not think about this kind of things; I absolutely must not …”

    Too bad that there are certain things that even if you don’t want to think about, you will find that you are fighting a losing battle. Just like ‘it is going to rain, wifey wants to cheat on you’. Nothing you can do about it. [Translator’s note: I am not sure about this, perhaps some Chinese saying.]

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that a certain part of his body has changed, a change that a healthy man in the prime of his life is absolutely helpless to prevent.

    His only hope was that Ye Ling would not notice.

    He did not dare to look at Ye Ling, not even a single glance.

    Yet obviously Ye Ling was looking at him. She suddenly said, “Why is your face red? Are you having a fever?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have any choice but mumbling some obscure reply, something that even he himself did not know what he was talking about.

    Luckily Ye Ling did not ask further; luckier still, he was basically unable to move at all.

    If his acupoints were not sealed, what could he possibly do?

    He did not even dare to think about it.

    Ye Ling suddenly said, “Looks like the herbs is finally working.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking, “What kind of herb was that? Was if a life-saving [救命 – jiuming], or life-killing [要命 – yaoming, could also mean annoying, desperate, awful, terrible, etc.]?”

    “Life-killing,” Ye Ling replied.

    She suddenly stopped, put down Lu Xiaofeng, and lay him down on a pile of soft leaves and grass.

    When Lu Xiaofeng opened his eyes, he found out that they were in a cave. With arms akimbo, Ye Ling was standing in front of him, and grinning wickedly like a little demon.

    “Don’t you feel terrible [see above] right now?” she asked.

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Practically I feel damn desperately terrible.”

    Ye Ling said, “I know what kind of medicine can cure you.”

    “What medicine?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Me,” Ye Ling replied, while pointing at her own nose, “Only I can cure you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her.

    She was not a little girl anymore; the parts of her body that were supposed to be big were already big.

    Clenching his teeth, Lu Xiaofeng said bitterly, “You ask for it, don’t blame me.”

    “I won’t blame you,” Ye Ling said, “What are you going to do?”

    Nothing. Lu Xiaofeng could not do anything, because he could not even move.

    -- A moment ago he felt so fortunate, but now it has become a misfortune.

    He just felt that he was about to burst any time.

    Ye Ling looked at him. She giggled and said, “Do you know that sometimes a time like this could make you desperate?”

    Lu Xiaofeng knew.

    He believed that right now no one else in the world could know it better than he did.

    Worse yet, he had seen her legs. Nobody knew since when did this little demon’s leg was suddenly exposed outside her clothes.

    Her leg was curvaceous, slender, and firm.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s voice became a moan, “Why do you have to kill me?”

    Ye Ling replied in tender voice, “I really want to help you. I really like you, too bad …”

    She ran a finger along Lu Xiaofeng’s body, “I am also a virgin, no man has ever touched me.”

    It was precisely what her older sister has just said; she even imitated the tone of her voice.

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng understood. Ye Xue’s secret little world was not as secret as she imagined it would be.

    Suddenly Ye Ling let out a cold laugh and said, “To tell you the truth, I have seen everything that the two of you did over there, I have seen everything clearly.”

    “She is your [older] sister …” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “She is not my sister!” Ye Ling said in a loud voice, “She is my natural enemy, everything that I liked, she always wanted to snatch it away from me.”

    “I …” Lu Xiaofeng started, but Ye Ling cut him off, “She clearly knew I saw you first, yet she still wanted to snatch you. But this time I will not let her, you are mine, I want to marry you.”

    Suddenly she broke into laughter, a very sweet, and tender laughter, “Actually, if you say it is you who wanted to marry me, I am fine with it. Either way, I agree.”

    Things have come to this, what else could Lu Xiaofeng say?

    The cave was dark and quiet, twilight drew near.

    After a moment of quietness, Ye Ling suddenly broke into crying. But it was not clear whether she cried of excessive grief, or because she had suffered enough injustice.

    “You bullied me; how could you bully me like that? You ruined my life forever.”

    Actually, who bullied who? Who harmed who?

    Lu Xiaofeng only smiled wryly; he did not dare to laugh. No matter what, she was a little girl; not only that, she was a little girl who has never let a man touch her.

    If a man had done something to a little girl like he had just done to her, what else could the man say?

    “That thing that you promised just now, do you already have regret?”

    “No, I don’t.”

    “You really don’t have regret?”

    “Really.”

    She laughed. And she laughed as if she was really a little girl.

    “Let’s go, we are going home.” She grabbed his hand, “From now on, you are a married man. As long as you don’t go looking for other women, I will definitely wait on you like I am waiting upon the Emperor.”

    The sun set in the west, twilight covered the mountain.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt very tired. In all his life, he has never felt this tired.

    It was not because of that life-killing grass, and it was not because of that ‘terrible thing’ either. This kind of tiredness seemed to stem from his own mind.

    When in his heart a man is prepared to abandon everything, he would feel this kind of tiredness.

    -- Perhaps I really should be a ‘married man’.

    Under this kind of beautiful sunset, looking at Ye Ling’s child-like smile on her face, in his heart he indeed had a thought.

    -- No matter what she did, she did it all because she liked me.

    Her smile was even sweeter. He could not help pulling her hand.

    Right this moment they heard the bell tolling in the distance, it seemed like Mansion of Spirits was going to have another banquet tonight.

    Could it be that the Old Sabre Honcho has already prepared a wedding feast for them?
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 08:43 AM.

  19. #59
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 – Taking chances in scaling the peak of the pavilion
    Translated by Foxs


    The banquet had not started yet, because everybody was still waiting for someone, someone who could not be absent.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked in quietly, Ye Ling followed behind him with a smile on her face; her smile was very cheerful, but Lu Xiaofeng was wearing a sour look on his face. He was hoping that nobody would notice him, but obviously everybody noticed him, all eyes were on him, their expression looked a bit strange.

    Old Sabre Honcho stared at him and said, “You are late.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I was lost, I …”

    Basically Old Sabre Honcho did not hear whatever he said, because he continued, “But I know that you would come as soon as you heard the bell; hence everybody is waiting for you, and we have been waiting for a long time.”

    Lu Xiaofeng forced a laugh and said, “Actually, you need not wait for me.”

    “But today we simply must wait,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because today is a celebration day,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “Whose celebration?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yours,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbfounded. He really did not know how Old Sabre Honcho could find out about this matter. Could it be that Old Sabre Honcho sent Ye Ling to do this?

    Ye Ling did not say anything, he did not turn to look at her either; even more, he did not dare to look at Ye Xue, who was sitting right next to Old Sabre Honcho.

    All along Ye Xue was looking down, unexpectedly she did not look at Lu Xiaofeng either.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “This place has always seen funerals, but after you came here, at long last you have given us a reason to celebrate.”

    His tone gradually relaxed as he continued, “Everybody here is also very much in favor of this matter. You and Ah Xue are indeed a very good pair.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “Ah Xue?”

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded. “I have asked her,” he said, “She obeys me completely, and I am sure you would not object.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned again.

    Ye Ling, who sat behind him, suddenly cried out, “I object!”

    Everybody’s countenance changed dramatically. Nobody has ever imagined that someone actually dared to go against the Old Sabre Honcho.

    Ye Xue lifted up her head; she looked at her younger sister in shock.

    Ye Ling stood up and said loudly, “I strongly object, even if I have to die I will object!”

    Old Sabre Honcho angrily said, “In that case you’d better die quickly!”

    Ye Ling was unfazed. “If I die, Lu Xiaofeng will die with me.”

    “Says who?” Old Sabre Honcho said sternly.

    “I don’t care who said that,” Ye Ling replied, “Because he and I are already husband and wife who live together and die together.”

    This last sentence shocked everybody even more. Ye Xue’s face was suddenly drained of any color. “You married him?” she asked.

    Ye Ling raised her head high and said with a cold laugh, “That’s right, I have married him, I have given everything to him. This time I am one step ahead of you. He does not want you, he wants me.”

    Ye Xue’s entire body shook. “You … you lie!” she said.

    Ye Ling pulled Lu Xiaofeng’s arm. “Why don’t you tell her?” she said, “Everything I said is the truth.”

    Each word she said was like a needle. Lu Xiaofeng did not need to speak up, everybody knew that she was not lying.

    Ye Xue suddenly stood up, threw the table in front of her, and stormed out without ever looking back.

    Ye Ling’s confidence soared; pulling Lu Xiaofeng’s arm, she went straight toward Old Sabre Honcho and said, “Ah Xue is your goddaughter, and I am too; why aren’t you willing to support me?”

    Old Sabre Honcho stared at her; from underneath the bamboo rain hat, his eyes seemed to shoot arrows. He said coldly, “Have the two of you really made an oath to become man and wife for the rest of your life?”

    “Of course we have,” Ye Ling replied.

    “Very well,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “I will support you. After three months, I will personally officiate your wedding.”

    “Why do we have to wait for three months?” Ye Ling asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho’s voice was stern, “Because I said so. Do you dare not to obey my words?”

    Ye Ling did not dare.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “In these three months, I forbid you to see each other. After three months, if you have not changed your mind, I will let you get married.”

    Without giving Ye Ling any opportunity to talk, he ordered Liu Qingqing, “These three months, I am handing Lu Xiaofeng to you!”

    Ye Ling bit her lip. Suddenly she stomped her foot and stormed out; but as she reached the door, she looked back and gave Lu Xiaofeng a venomous gaze, “You listen to me, if you ever dare to touch another woman, I will steal a hundred men for you to see, I want you to wear a hundred green hats.” [Wearing green hat: a man whose spouse cheated on him, a cuckold.]

    The banquet in the main hall was over, the people dispersed. Liu Qingqing had her small kitchen staff to prepare several kinds of dishes.

    The dishes were exquisite, the wine was of top-quality; she was a woman of a very good taste. And she seemed to understand men very well.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not talk, she simply sat quietly by his side, keeping him company. Whenever Lu Xiaofeng’s cup was empty, she immediately poured more wine.

    The dishes were not touched, but the wine was nearly gone.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng looked up and fixed his gaze on her. Suddenly he said, “Why don’t you yell at me?”

    Liu Qingqing said, “Why would I want to yell at you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I am a jerk [orig. hun dan, muddled-egg], because I …”

    Liu Qingqing did not let him continue; she said in tender voice, “You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I am older than you are, I have never had any ambition to marry you, I just want to be your friend.”

    She smiled. A very coquettish smile. “If you agree,” she added, “I could be your mistress.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only let out a wry smile.

    If she really yelled at him, perhaps he would feel a bit better. Even if she slapped him several times, he would not care.

    Liu Qingqing continued, “But I know you will never take such a risk.”

    “Take what risk?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The risk of wearing green hat,” Liu Qingqing said. “That little demon is capable of doing whatever she dares to say.”

    She chuckled again and said, “Actually, she cannot be considered little demon anymore, she is already seventeen. When I was seventeen, I was already married.”

    Lu Xiaofeng started to drink again.

    Liu Qingqing watched as he drank several more bowls. Suddenly she asked, “Are you thinking about Ah Xue right now?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head right away.

    Liu Qingqing said, “You are not thinking about her, but I am a bit concerned about her. She has always been stubborn, someone who is most concerned about her dignity, but today she lost such a big face in front of everybody, I am afraid …”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking, “What are you afraid of?”

    Liu Qingqing started to speak, but she stopped herself. Actually, she did not need to speak, because what she was about to say, no one would not not understand it.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed coldly and said, “If you are afraid that she was going to kill herself, you are wrong.”

    “Oh?” Liu Qingqing said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “She is definitely not a woman who is unable to take a lighter view, plus she and I don’t have that kind of relationship.”

    Liu Qingqing did not argue, she could see that Lu Xiaofeng had a bit of drunkenness and a bit of remorse in him.

    But what did he regret? Was it what he did to Ximen Chuixue? Or was it about Ye Xue?

    Anybody who rejected that kind of girl would inevitably feel some kind of regret.

    Perhaps he regretted marrying Ye Ling. In reality, they could not be considered a perfect couple.

    Liu Qingqing sighed inwardly as she poured another cup of wine for him. The night was deep, being sober might be too painful instead, he might as well be drunk.

    Therefore, she poured another cup for herself. Suddenly from the outside someone said, “Leave a cup for me.”

    The visitor was, unexpectedly, Cousin. Liu Qingqing coldly said, “Since when did you start to think that I’ll invite you for a drink?”

    Cousin’s expression was very peculiar; he was short of breath. Forcing a laugh, he said, “Originally, I did not come here to drink wine.”

    “What did you come here for?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “I am here to deliver news,” Cousin replied.

    “And now you want to drink?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Cousin sighed and said, “Because the news is actually very bad.”

    Bad news always makes people wanted to drink. The person who hears it wants to drink, the person who delivers it wants to drink even more.

    Liu Qingqing immediately handed over the cup in her hand. As soon as he finished drinking, she asked, “What news?”

    Cousin said, “Ye Xue has entered Skyway Pavilion.”

    Instantly Liu Qingqing’s expression became very peculiar as well.

    A long time afterwards, she slowly turned around to face Lu Xiaofeng, and slowly said, “Looks like you are the one who is wrong, not me.”

    “What kind of place is this Skyway Pavilion?”

    “It’s a log cabin, located on the Skyway Cliff. Skyway Cliff is that towering cliff at the back of the mountain.”

    “I don’t think I’ve seen that cliff.”

    “Of course you haven’t, this log cabin is temporarily closed.”

    “What’s inside?”

    “Nothing, only a coffin with a dead person inside.”

    In the Mansion of Spirits, there was only one dead person.

    “That closed log cabin is used to store Ye Guhong’s coffin.”

    “Not to store it, to cremate it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank.

    Cousin said, “Ah Xue went there, obviously she wants to be buried together with her [older] brother, to be cremated together!”

    A gloomy night, a dark cliff. In the dark night, that lone log cabin looked like a deathly grey object.

    Three men were standing under the platform-like rock: Hai Qikuo, Housekeeper, and Old Sabre Honcho.

    In the strong mountain breeze, the three people’s expression was as dark as the night.

    Dry branches have already been piled up around the log cabin.

    Lu Xiaofeng let Cousin and Liu Qingqing went forward to join them, while he halted his steps quite some distance away.

    His heart was a mess; he needed to calm down first.

    Liu Qingqing already asked, “How long has she been there?”

    “Too long,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “Who first saw her there?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Nobody,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “She told me to come here. She had the night guard on duty come to me, saying that she has last words she wanted to tell me.”

    “And what did she say?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho clenched his fists. “She wanted me to find the real killer, and wanted me to avenge his brother!” he said.

    “That was her last words?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded. His countenance grew heavier, “She is ready to die,” he said grimly.

    “Why don’t you go talk to her?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “She said that as soon as I come, she would immediately die in front of me.”

    Liu Qingqing no longer asked questions; she certainly knew that Ye Xue was someone who meant what she says, and she has never been known as someone who easily changed her mind for whatever reason.

    The wind grew colder. Vaguely they seemed to hear the sound of weeping.

    Liu Qingqing could not help shivering. She said, “Are we going to watch her die just like that?”

    Lowering his voice, Old Sabre Honcho said, “I was just waiting for you two, perhaps you could save her.”

    “You want us to sneak up there?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “The two of you have the highest qinggong,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “When the wind is strongest, go up there, Ah Xue will never find out.”

    “And then what?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Cousin go around to the back first, break through the wall and charge inside, I will be waiting outside the front door. When she sees Cousin, even if she won’t fight, she will definitely argue for a bit, you then rush in and hold her.”

    Liu Qingqing hesitated, “That doesn’t sound like a good plan,” she mumbled.

    Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “Can you think of a better way?”

    Liu Qingqing could not, hence she went up.

    Her qinggong was indeed not bad, Cousin was not necessarily inferior to her either. In fact, the two of them could be considered top-notch experts. Five, six zhang-high cliff, they were able to climb easily.

    The log cabin was still dark and deathly quiet; Ye Xue indeed did not detect their action.

    Liu Qingqing quietly made a hand signal, Cousin immediately winded around to the back, and then there was a loud ‘bang!’

    It was a wooden structure made of flammable material, to break into it was not difficult at all.

    But that loud ‘bang’ was immediately followed by a miserable scream. In this cold midnight wind, the scream sounded extremely mournful.

    There seemed to be a faint sword flash in the dark as well, and then somebody fell down from the cliff, and landed heavily on the ground; half of his body was drenched with blood. It was none other than Cousin.

    And then they heard Ye Xue’s voice carried by the wind, “Widow Hua, if you are not leaving, I will have you accompany me in death.” Her voice was shrill and impatient.

    “Tell Old Sabre Honcho, if he does not want more people getting hurt, it would be best if he does not send anybody up anymore. In any case, I will not walk out of here alive.”

    There was no need for Liu Qingqing to pass on the message, everybody has heard what she said; they heard every word clearly.

    With both hands clenched into fists, Old Sabre Honcho’s gaze looked as sharp as blade, as he stared at Cousin from beneath the bamboo rain hat and said in stern voice, “You are [Taoist] Priest Gu of Mount Ba’s disciple, you have always thought that your martial art skill is not bad, why are you this useless?”

    Cousin’s hand was pressing onto the wound on his shoulder, blood was still pouring from his fingers, while the cold sweats on his forehead were as big as soya beans. This sword wound was undoubtedly very serious.

    It took a long time before he was finally able to speak, “She seemed to be ready for me. As soon as I broke in, her sword was waiting for me right there.”

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly threw his head back and heaved a deep sigh, “I have told you that she is better than all of you. Wandering Soul is dead, General is seriously hurt, I lost two experts already. If I also lose her …” He stomped his foot, the rock underneath his foot immediately shattered into small pieces.

    Right this moment, suddenly a voice coming from the darkness, “Maybe I still have a way to save her.”

    The newcomer was Dugu Mei.

    “You have a way?” Old Sabre Honcho asked, “What way?”

    Dugu Mei chuckled and said, “Too bad I don’t recognize my own family [see Junny’s note in Chapter 2]; naturally I won’t try to save anybody with no cause, no reason.”

    His laughter was so despicable, so crafty.

    Old Sabre Honcho stared at him for a very long time before asking, “What’s your condition?”

    “My condition is very simple,” Dugu Mei replied, “I want a wife.”

    “Whom do you want?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    Dugu Mei said, “The Ye sisters, Widow Hua, I don’t care.”

    “As long as you promise that it will be effective,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “And if it is effective, I agree,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Dugu Mei laughed again. “My method is very simple,” he said, “Tie Lu Xiaofeng up and bring him up there. I can testify that he is the real killer who murdered Ye Guhong, because I was there at that time. When Miss Ye hears me, she would definitely rush forward to avenge her brother. After she personally kills Lu Xiaofeng, naturally she won’t think about killing herself.”

    Old Sabre Honcho was listening quietly. He suddenly asked, “Wasn’t it you who brought Lu Xiaofeng here?”

    Dugu Mei laughed. “That was one of the times when occasionally I did not guard against finding my conscience; nothing more. The number of times I have conscience is really not many.”

    Old Sabre Honcho was deep in thought for a long time. Finally he nodded slowly and said, “Your method indeed sounds not so bad.”

    He had just finished talking when he suddenly made his move; a light slap sent Dugu Mei splaying on the ground like a pile of mud.

    Dugu Mei shouted, “Since my method is not so bad, why did you hit me?”

    Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “The method is not bad, the person is.”

    The second time he made his move, Dugu Mei was unable to shout anymore. His hand was not only too fast, it was not too heavy, but was absolutely accurate and effective.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still standing on a distance, Old Sabre Honcho suddenly came over and patted his shoulder, “Come with me!” he said.

    The depression behind the mountain was even darker, Old Sabre Honcho took Lu Xiaofeng to the darkest part before stopping and turning around to face him. He said slowly, “Dugu Mei’s method is indeed very effective, why didn’t I use it?”

    “Because you knew I am not the real killer,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Wrong,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “Because you need me as well?” Lu Xiaofeng guessed.

    “Correct,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    They both knew that they need not lie in front of the other, because they both were men who would not be easily deceived by others. This mutual understanding has elevated the relationship between them to almost close friendship.

    “I am already old,” Old Sabre Honcho began, “I know when an opportunity is lost, it will never come back; therefore …”

    Lu Xiaofeng completed the sentence for him, “Therefore you need me, because your opportunity will come very soon!”

    Old Sabre Honcho looked straight at him; he slowly said, “I also need Ye Xue. Because the thing I am about to do is a big thing, and all of you are parts of my plan that I cannot afford to lose.”

    “You want me to save her?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded slowly and said, “If there is one person in the world who can keep her alive, that person would be you.”

    “Very well,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I’ll go. But I also have one condition.”

    “Speak,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I want you to give me twenty-four sichen [1 sichen equals to 2 hours]. During this period, no matter what I do, you must not interfere.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “I know that you always like to do things your own way.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Starting now, I don’t want anybody to see where I am or where I am going. As long as you promise, after two days, I will definitely bring her back to see you.”

    “Alive?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “I guarantee,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Old Sabre Honcho did not even blink, “I promise.”

    Everybody else has left, the sky above the cliff was eerily dark, the death-grey wooden cabin stood alone on the cliff like a lonely ghost.

    Facing the wind, Lu Xiaofeng went over to the peak. The mountain breeze was moist and cold. Why was this ghost place always foggy?

    Before he got too close to the log cabin, Ye Xue’s moist and cold voice has already greeted him from the inside, “Who’s there?”

    “You should know who I am,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I can’t see you, but I am sure you can see me.”

    After a very long silence, the answer was only one word, “Get lost!” [OK, two words, but the Chinese is only one, 滚 – lit. roll.]

    “You don’t want to see me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The answer was still one word, “Get lost!”

    “If you don’t want to see me, why all along you were waiting for me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Another silence in the log cabin.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “You knew that sooner or later I would come here, that’s the reason you are not dead yet.”

    He spoke very slowly, yet he walked very fast. Very soon he had already reached the door of the log cabin. “Hence I am going to push the door open and come in. I guarantee that this time there is no second person around.” And then he pushed the door open.

    Inside the log cabin, it was even darker and gloomier; but he could see a pair of shining eyes, the eyes carried some kind of indescribable emotion. Was it sorrow? Was it heartache? Or was it hatred?

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped some distance away, “Don’t you have anything to say to me?” he asked.

    The weeping has long stopped, but the eyes were still wet.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, even if you don’t tell me, I know. You did all these things, it was not entirely because of me. It’s just that you have never had something that you wanted taken away from you before.”

    Another cold ray flashed in the dark, just like the flash of a sword blade.

    Was she trying to kill Lu Xiaofeng? Or was she trying to die in Lu Xiaofeng’s presence?

    The palm of Lu Xiaofeng’s hands was already wet with cold sweats. This was the most critical juncture. If he committed the smallest error, at least one of them would definitely die in here.

    He must not do one wrong thing, and he must not say one wrong word.

    Ye Xue’s voice suddenly echoed in the dark, “I am doing this, because there is no one in the world worth living.”

    “There is one,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “At least there is one.”

    Naturally Ye Xue could not help asking, “Who?”

    “Your father,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He did not let Ye Xue open her mouth; he continued quickly, “Your father is not dead, I saw him last night.”

    Ye Xue suddenly laughed coldly, “Give me one good reason why I should believe your nonsense,” she said.

    “This is not nonsense,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I can take you to see him right now.”

    Ye Xue was hesitant, “You really can find him?” she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If within twelve sichen we can’t find him, I’ll take you back here and let you die in peace and quiet.”

    Finally Ye Xue was convinced, “Very well,” she said, “I believe you this time.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a relieved breath. “You won’t regret it,” he said.

    Suddenly, there was a cold flash, the sword’s blade was already pressed on Lu Xiaofeng’s eyelashes, Ye Xue’s voice was even colder than the sword’s blade, “This time you deceive me again, we will die together!”

    Dark valley, secluded and secret forest, but to Lu Xiaofeng, the place was not unfamiliar. Just like the woman by his side; although sometimes she was terrifying, other times Lu Xiaofeng could not deny the irresistible attraction he felt toward her.

    This time he did not get lost. When he returned from this place, he was already prepared that he would be back here.

    Ye Xue walked beside him silently, her face was still pale, her eyes cold; apparently she was determined to keep her distance from him.

    But in such a deep and dark secret forest on the mountain, anything could change.

    They have traveled for a very long time, the breeze was beginning to bring the smell of swamp in it. Lu Xiaofeng suddenly came to a halt; turning to face her, he said, “I saw him around here yesterday.”

    “Where is he now?” Ye Xue asked.

    “I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Ye Xue’s hands tightened.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “All I know is that he is in the swamp ahead, but we have to wait until dawn to look for him.”

    He sat down and said, “Let’s wait here.”

    Ye Xue looked at him with cold eyes, she said in cold voice, “I told you, if you lie to me again this time …”

    Lu Xiaofeng cut her off, “I have never lied to you. Perhaps it was precisely because I never lied to you that you hate me.”

    Ye Xue looked away from him, her cold and beautiful eyes suddenly showed weariness.

    She was indeed very tired, physically and mentally, yet she adamantly refused to sit down, she forced herself to stay awake.

    But Lu Xiaofeng lay down on the soft leaves and closed his eyes.

    After he closed his eyes, Ye Xue turned her gaze toward him. Quite some time later, her lips began to tremble, and then her entire body shook, as if she suddenly remembered something dreadful.

    She bit her lip, hard, and struggled to control herself, but this place was really too quiet, the kind of quietness that can drive people crazy, and the thing that she remembered happened to be something that no woman can endure.

    Suddenly she rushed toward Lu Xiaofeng and kicked him on the ribs, while hissing, “I hate you, I hate you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng opened his eyes in shock.

    Gasping for breath, Ye Xue said, “You must be here with my sister last night, and today you brought me here. You … you …”

    Her voice cracked, her eyes were fiery with madness, all of a sudden she pounced to clutch Lu Xiaofeng’s throat.

    Lu Xiaofeng caught her hand. She pressed down hard, he had to resist even harder. The two of them rolled around on the soft leaves, fighting each other. Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng found himself on top of her.

    Her breathing was intense, but her body was softer than the dead leaves; she had exhausted all her strength.

    Then suddenly she quieted down. She had given up all her will to struggle and to resist. When she opened her eyes to look at Lu Xiaofeng, her eyes were full of tears.

    The heaven and the earth were so quiet, so dark; the distance between them was so close. Lu Xiaofeng’s heart suddenly softened like the fruit inside a honey candy. In this instant, all the pain, suffering and hatred were forgotten.

    The tears streamed down her pale cheeks, he really wanted to suck the tear dry with his lips.

    Just then, a cold breeze was blowing from the swamp, carrying with it the sound of singing. A sad song; sad enough to evoke all the suffering and hatred in people’s heart.

    Ye Xue held her breath, “Is it him?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly, “Looks like it,” he said.

    Ye Xue bit her lip again, “Maybe he knew that we are here,” she said, “Maybe he is calling us.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stood up quietly; he pulled Ye Xue’s hand along, just like pulling someone who was nearly drowning from the water.

    Only this time he felt that the one was nearly drowning was not Ye Xue, but he himself.

    Other than mud, what else is there in a swamp? Rotting leaves, poisonous weeds, crumbling rocks, countless insects and snakes, which names he did not even know, blood sucking mosquitoes and leeches.

    In this nothing-is-too-bizarre swamp, you may even be able to find hundreds of kinds of bizarre things, and I can guarantee that not a single one is not foul.

    But in the dark, this foul swamp has suddenly become some kind of indescribable beauty; other than the stench that even the dark was unable to conceal, it exuded beauty that it almost felt like a mystical and tranquil lake.

    The sad song had stopped, Lu Xiaofeng did not continue moving forward either, he had no choice but to stop his steps; because just now one of his feet had already stepped onto the mud, he had narrowly escaped being sucked into the swamp.

    Just like sin, the swamp seemed to have a demonic, depraved attraction; as soon as you step into it, you will sink to the bottom.

    Ye Xue’s face became even paler, “Are you saying that all these years he had been hiding in here?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    “How could he survive in this place?” Ye Xue asked.

    “Because he did not want to die,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. There was sadness in his voice, “When one really wants to survive, any pain and suffering, no matter how big, will be endurable.”

    It was a very simple, yet very complex and profound truth. Only people who have endured bitter pain and suffering can understand it.

    There was a sigh in the dark, “You are right, but you have done wrong; you shouldn’t have brought anybody else here.”

    The rasping and bitter voice did not sound unfamiliar. Ye Xue’s hands felt ice-cold.

    Lu Xiaofeng held her hand tight; he said, “This is not somebody else, this is your daughter.”

    Seeing no one and hearing no response, he faced the dark swamp and continued in a loud voice, “Even if you won’t let her see you, at least you ought to see her, she has already grown up.”

    The voice suddenly cut him off, “Isn’t she still like before, loves to hide alone in a dark room, so that others cannot find her?”

    It was her secret; she was born with a pair of eyes that can see in the dark. She loved to hide in the dark, because she knew that others could not see her, yet she could see others.

    Those who knew this secret were indeed not many; suddenly her body tensed.

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Have you heard clearly who he is?”

    Ye Xue nodded. Suddenly she shouted, “If you won’t let me see you, I’ll die in here.”

    Another bout of silence.

    At last a shadow emerged from the dark; unexpectedly it was a strange looking houseboat. Not only it could float on the swamp, it could also move around.

    “You really have to see me?”

    “I must,” Ye Xue’s answer was firm.

    “Lu Xiaofeng, you shouldn’t have brought her here, you really shouldn’t.”

    The shadow sighed. No one could understand his daughter’s pride and obstinate character better than he.

    “I may let you see me one time, but you will regret it, because I am not what I used to be …”

    Ye Xue loudly said, “I don’t care what you have become, you are still my Dad; in my heart, you won’t change forever, you will always be the most handsome man in the world, the man who always treat me the best.”

    The floating houseboat was getting closer. When it was only two zhang away, Ye Xue leaped over.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not stop her, he could tell that there must be a deep emotional ties between them in the past. He suddenly thought about his own parents, he thought about his loneliness being without any family in the world.

    A scream interrupted his train of thought.

    The scream came from the houseboat, it was Ye Xue’s voice; while the houseboat floated away, gradually disappearing in the dark.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s voice cracked, “You must not take her away!”

    The shadow laughed, “Since she is my daughter, why can’t I take her away?” The laughter was full of mocking and malice intention.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s entire body turned cold; he suddenly discovered something terrible has happened, “You are not her father!”

    The shadow talked in slow, drawn voice, almost like chanting, “Wei River in the east, Jade Forest facing the wind …”

    “I know who you are,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are Jade Forest Swordsman, Ye Lingfeng, but you are not her father.”

    The shadow laughed heartily, “It doesn’t matter whatever I am to her, I am taking her away. Go back and tell Old Sabre Honcho, if he wants her back, tell him to come to me personally.”

    The laughter gradually diminished, the houseboat also disappeared in the dark. Once again the mysterious swamp regained its darkness and tranquility.

    Like a wooden statue Lu Xiaofeng stood in the dark. After a long, long time, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “I don’t need to go back and tell you, because everything he said, you ought to be able to hear each word very clearly.”

    He was not talking to himself, because it was only after the houseboat has gone far away did he find out that Old Sabre Honcho was already behind him.

    He did not need to turn back to know that.

    Old Sabre Honcho has indeed arrived; he also heaved a deep sigh and said, “Every word he said, I indeed heard everything, but I always kept quite a bit of distance from you, I did not want to interfere with your action.”

    “I know you are a man of his word,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What else do you know?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly turned around; he stared at him and said, “Ah Xue is not Ye Lingfeng’s daughter; she is yours.”

    Old Sabre Honcho did not deny, but he did not confirm either.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “It was because Ye Lingfeng also knew this that you killed him.”

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed. But his laugh was difficult to understand. “I never thought that he didn’t die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Although he is alive, it is more painful than death; all along he has to clench his teeth to endure.”

    “Because he wants revenge,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “But he does not dare to come to you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “This is the only way you would look for him. He is more familiar to this area than you are, plus he has Ah Xue as a hostage, his chance is far better than yours.”

    Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “I thought that you’d never fallen into his trap, unexpectedly in the end he could still exploit you.”

    “Fortunately my time limit has not expired,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Do you have confidence that you would be able to get her back before the time is up?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “But I must go.”

    “How are you going to do that?” Old Sabre Honcho asked, “Are you going to dig into the mud like a loach?”

    “I can make a raft,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Old Sabre Honcho hesitated. “Can your raft take two people?” he asked.

    “Only two people working together can make a raft that can take two people,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed, “Looks like this man never wants to suffer any loss.”

    There was a forest by the swamp, with the two of them working together, in short period of time they were able to cut down seventeen, eighteen tree trunks – not with saber, just by hands.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “You go get rid of the branches and leaves, I’ll go to find rope.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed wryly and said, “Doing business with someone like you, even if I don’t want to suffer loss, I can’t.”

    Although he was fully aware that his job was comparatively harder, he knew that he had no choice; because he simply did not know where to go to find rope.

    Actually, Old Sabre Honcho was not trying to find ropes either. Lu Xiaofeng had just stooped down, the edge of Old Sabre Honcho’s palm struck the back of his neck, and he fell down just like a tree.

    The sky was overcast and dark, it was still foggy too.

    When Lu Xiaofeng woke up, he found out that he was lying on Liu Qingqing’s bed.

    There was nobody else in the room. On the small bedside table, he saw a pot of wine, with a small wine cup next to it. Underneath the cup there was a note saying, “My hand slipped and accidentally hurt your respected neck. For the time being, here’s some wine to alleviate your shock. When you wake up, there is no harm in enjoying a bit of drink, around noon tomorrow we’ll meet again.”

    It was not until he finished reading the note that Lu Xiaofeng found the pain on his neck, that it was very difficult for him to even turning his head.

    Naturally he knew that Old Sabre Honcho’s hand did not slip and accidentally injuring him. But why did Old Sabre Honcho plot against him? Why did he prevent him from rescuing Ye Xue? What kind of skeleton did he hide in his closet?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand, therefore, he might as well not think about it. Picking up the wine pot, he poured the wine directly into his mouth.

    When half a bottle had entered his belly, suddenly there was a dog barking outside. At first it was only one dog, but very soon it became seven, eight dogs: big dogs, small dogs, male dogs, female dogs, everything. The barking was extremely noisy.

    How could there be that many dogs in this secluded and secret valley?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist going out to look. As soon as he pushed the door open, he could not help but was stunned.

    There was not a single dog outside, there was only one person. A thin and withered man in black clothes, his face sickly yellow like wax, but his eyes were brilliantly bright.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a wry smile he said, “What are you? A man, or a dog?”

    “I am neither a person nor a dog,” Canine Master[1] replied.

    “So, what ‘thing’ are you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am not a ‘thing’ either,” Canine Master replied, “Therefore, I am coming to you.”

    “What for?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “If you promise me one thing, I’ll give you two news,” Canine Master said.

    “Is it good news, or bad news?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Canine Master laughed; he said, “Coming out from my mouth, how can there be good news?”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. Suddenly, as fast as lightning, he made his move; his two fingers pinched Canine Master’s nose.

    The two most valuable fingers in Wulin, the most famous unique skill in Jianghu. Canine Master was practically helpless to evade. Even if he could plainly see that these two fingers were about to pinch his nose, he would still be helpless to evade.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “I hear that dogs’ nose is the sharpest, it must be difficult for a dog to pass his days without a nose.”

    Canine Master’s yellowish face turned deep red; he couldn’t even breathe.

    Lu Xiaofeng let go of his hand and said, “Let’s hear your news first.”

    Canine Master took a deep breath and said, “What news?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again. Suddenly, as fast as lightning, his two fingers pinched Canine Master’s nose again.

    Canine Master still could not evade it.

    Lu Xiaofeng let go of his hand again, and then smiled and said, “What do you think the news is?”

    This time Canine Master could only tell the truth, because he understood one thing – as soon as Lu Xiaofeng made his move, he could easily pinch his nose, just as easy as an old beggar caught lice.

    “General is dying, Little Leaf disappeared.”

    Those were the news coming out of his mouth, the news were indeed not good news.

    “Nobody knew where Little Leaf went?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    With a wry laugh Canine Master said, “Not even a dog knew; much less a human?”

    “What about the General?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “General is just waiting to die,” Canine Master replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I know my own strength when I made my move, I did not wish for him to die at all.”

    “Other than you,” Canine Master said, “There are other people in here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If somebody else killed him, the debt would be put on my head.”

    “Hence you should understand my good intention,” Canine Master said, “General has always been good friends with Old Sabre Honcho.”

    “Hence I ought to agree to your condition,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Canine Master said, “I just want you to take me along when you go.”

    “That’s it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “To you, it’s a small thing, to me, it’s a big thing,” Canine Master said.

    “Alright,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I promise.”

    Canine Master suddenly kneeled down and knocked his head heavily on the ground. Looking up, he let out a relieved sigh and said, “Too bad I don’t have a tail, otherwise I will wag my tail at least three times whenever I see you.”

    “Where is General?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “General is naturally at the General’s Mansion,” Canine Master replied.

    There was a forest outside the General’s Mansion, Canine Master has left, but there was someone panting like a dog in the forest.

    To be able to pant was a good thing, because General’s breathing had stopped.

    Someone, panting like a dog, was riding astride his body, strangling his throat with both hands.

    This man was, unexpectedly, Dugu Mei.

    Lu Xiaofeng rushed over and slapped him with the back of his palm, sending him flying outside. General’s face looked like ‘golden paper’ [used in funeral ceremony], his heart still seemed to be beating, his eyes had not closed; he looked at Lu Xiaofeng with eyes that were begging for pity, as if he wanted to say something.

    When at the brink of death someone wanted to say something, usually it was a big secret. Too bad he could not even speak a single word. When Lu Xiaofeng leaned over, his heart had stopped beating.

    Dugu Mei was still panting for breath. Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and said, “Did the two of you have any enmity?”

    Dugu Mei shook his head.

    “Was he going to kill you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Again Dugu Mei shook his head.

    “Then why did you kill him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Dugu Mei stared at him. His breathing gradually calmed, while his eyes gradually became sharp. Suddenly he asked back, “Do you really think that I am the ‘Cold-Blooded’ Dugu Mei?”

    Anybody would ever dream of him suddenly asking that question. Lu Xiaofeng was no exception, “You are not?”

    Dugu Mei sighed. Suddenly he said some more shocking words, “Take my pants off.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him for a very long time. Suddenly he laughed and said, “I have never taken a man’s pants off, but this time I am making an exception.”

    Dugu Mei was an old man, but his buttocks still looked firm and youthful.

    “Do you see a tumor there?”

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng could not miss it. The tumor was big enough to be seen clearly from a li [1 li is approx. 1/2km or 1/3mile] away.

    Dugu Mei said, “Use this blade to cut it open.” He handed over a knife, the blade was razor sharp.

    In all his life, Lu Xiaofeng has done countless bizarre things, but as he received the knife, he could not help hesitating for a long time before he finally cut the tumor open.

    Blood splashed, a golden ball, mixed with blood, burst out of the slit. “Cut the ball,” Dugu Mei said.

    Once it was cut, Lu Xiaofeng found out that this golden ball was made of wax, wrapped in golden paper. Inside was a piece of yellow thin, tough silk fabric, with this note written on it:

    ‘Wudang’s Fourth Disciple, Sun Bubian, in disguise under the Sect Leader’s order on mission to investigate the whereabouts of a renegade. Signed.”

    Underneath it, not only there was the official seal of Wudang Sect Leader, there was also Sect Leader Shi Zhenren’s [Taoist Spiritual Master] personal signature in grass-style writing.

    Dugu Mei said, “This is Sect Leader Master’s proof of identity for me to be used in emergency.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him in shock; finally he sighed and said, “Looks like you really are not Dugu Mei.”

    Sun Bubian said, “Before entering Wudang, I was a disciple of Hua’s Four-Nun School. Hua Xiang’s disguising skill is world-renown. But just to be safe, I also spent some time as a slave in Dugu Mei’s school. It took me the whole ten months to learn his voice, appearance and mannerism. I did not make any move until I felt absolutely safe.”

    “You killed him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sun Bubian nodded. “I simply cannot let anybody find another Dugu Mei,” he said.

    “Who is this renegade you are investigating?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The first one is Shi He,” Sun Bubian replied.

    “And now you have found him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That is also thanks to you,” Sun Bubian said.

    “Did Zhong Wugu die in your hands?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He was also Wudang’s renegade,” Sun Bubian replied, “I simply cannot let him live.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes flashed; he said, “Wasn’t Jade Forest Swordsman Ye Lingfeng also Wudang disciple in the early days?”

    “Both he and Zhong Wugu were layman-disciples of Wudang,” Sun Bubian replied, “Both were driven out of school by Grand Master Mei Zhenren.”

    Mei Zhenren was Wooden Taoist’s older martial brother; after wielding power in Wudang Sect for seventeen years, he passed on the leadership to the current Sect Leader, Shi Yan.

    Sun Bubian continued, “We investigated for a long time, and we all believed that using Dugu Mei’s identity as a cover was the safest way; too bad …”

    “Too bad your secret was discovered by General,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    With a bitter laugh Sun Bubian said, “Everybody thought that he was seriously injured, I was nearly deceived as well, who would have thought that the man hiding in General’s Mansion to recover was not him; all along he had been watching me.”

    “What made him see your secret?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sun Bubian said, “He was actually an old friend of Dugu Mei, he knew many secrets of Dugu Mei’s early years, but I did not. He trapped me using words, I had no choice but to kill him to silence him.”

    “Why did you tell this secret to me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “This is an emergency,” Sun Bubian replied, “I cannot stay silent, not only I want you to guard this secret, I also want you to help me. I cannot stay in this place much longer, I must go back to Wudang right away.”

    With a barely perceptible smile he said, “Naturally I have found out long ago that you are not the type of man who’d sell his friend. From the beginning I never believe that you really seduced Ximen Chuixue’s wife. That must be a ruse you guys concocted because you also want to uncover the secret of the Mansion of Spirits.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him for a very long time. Suddenly he heaved a deep sigh and said, “Pity, pity … what a pity …”

    “What do you mean, pity?” Sun Bubian asked.

    “Pity that you are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sun Bubian’s countenance changed. With a harsh tone he said, “Did you forget who brought you here?”

    “I did not forget,” Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “And I haven’t forgotten that in these two days you have harmed me three times. If it was not for Old Sabre Honcho, I would have died in your hands.”

    “Are you saying that you did not see that I deliberately did all those things as a show in front of them?” Sun Bubian asked.

    “I could not see it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sun Bubian stared at him. Suddenly he also heaved a deep sigh and said, “Good, you are very good.”

    “Not good, I am not good at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sun Bubian said, “In that case, you deserve to die!” While shouting, his body had already pounced. His fingertips were still half a chi [Chinese foot, approx. 1ft or 1/3m], the hollow of his palm suddenly stuck out forward to strike Lu Xiaofeng’s xuanji [lit. mysterious principle] acupoint. It was indeed the Little Celestial Star Palm technique from Wudang; moreover, his aim was amazingly accurate.

    Too bad that by the time his palm arrived, Lu Xiaofeng’s xuanji acupoint has already gone, along with his entire body.

    Sun Bubian flipped his palm and launched ‘Mysterious Bird Scattering the Sand’, ‘Goose Fall onto Flat Sand’, and ‘Northern Goose Flying South’, one move three styles. In his hand, not only this kind of light but tightly knit Wudang Palm Technique appeared powerful, the changes also happened very fast.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Priest Shi’s disciple indeed performs as expected.”

    The sentence completed, all Sun Bubian’s moves hit empty space. No matter how fast he moved, Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be always one step ahead of him. In term of Wudang Palm Technique, Lu Xiaofeng’s knowledge did not seem to be less than his.

    Suddenly he stopped. Staring at Lu Xiaofeng he said, “Did you train Wudang’s martial art as well?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “I did not train Wudang’s martial art,” he said, “But I do have a lot of Wudang friends.”

    A glimmer of hope appeared in Sun Bubian’s eyes. “In that case, you have to help me escape even more,” he said.

    “Too bad you are not my friend,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You helped me once, you harmed me three times, and just now I yielded to you for eight moves; our books have been settled long ago.”

    Lu Xiaofeng added, “And now I am ready to make my move!”

    The move he used was, unexpectedly, also Wudang’s Little Celestial Star Palm technique; his palm facing out, the acupoint he struck was also xuanji acupoint.

    Sun Bubian pulled his arm and turned around, trying to evade this palm strike, but Lu Xiaofeng’s left palm struck the major artery on the back of his neck. As he fell down, he looked at Lu Xiaofeng with surprise in his eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “Don’t you know that I have two palms?”

    Naturally Sun Bubian did, but he never imagined that a human hand could move that fast.

    Old Sabre Honcho was sitting on his old, spacious wooden chair, watching Lu Xiaofeng; he seemed to enjoy the show very much.

    Old chair is just like an old friend, it always make people feel very comfortable, very pleasant. Too bad Lu Xiaofeng still could not see his face.

    Sun Bubian was right in front of him, but he did not even cast him a single glance; apparently his interest in Lu Xiaofeng was greater than his interest in anybody else.

    “This man is a spy,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “A spy from Wudang.”

    “Why didn’t you kill him?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “I have no right to kill people, I don’t wish to kill either,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “In that case, you ought to let him go,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was caught by surprise, “Let him go?” he asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho flatly said, “All real spies have already died long ago, no one has ever survived more than three days in here.”

    “So he is not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He is indeed a spy,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “But not Wudang’s spy; he is mine. Many years ago I sent him to go undercover at Wudang.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stumped.

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed again; a very cheerful laugh. “No matter what, you should thank him.”

    “Why would I want to thank him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because of him, I trust you completely,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “So you also sent him to test me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho smiled, “Some people are just born as spies, you can only send them out to do spy thing, and they never disappoint you.”

    “So this man is a natural born spy?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “From head to toes,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. Suddenly he kicked Sun Bubian, just like kicking a ball, sending him rolling away.

    Old Sabre Honcho also sighed; he said, “Being a spy, there is only one disadvantage: these kinds of people are just like donkeys, oftentimes people give them a couple of kicks.”

    “I just kicked him once,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who else are you going to kick?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “Kick myself,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Are you also a spy?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “I am not a spy,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I am just a donkey, a stupid dumb ***.” He looked furious, “Because with all my heart I was going to rescue someone else’s daughter, but in return I got a slap; not only that, the slap happened to land on my neck.”

    Old Sabre Honcho sighed again and said, “You ought to know that I will never let you go to rescue her.”

    “But I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Not only that swamp has deathly traps everywhere, it also has quicksand; once you are going down, not even your skeleton will survive. How could I put you at risk?”

    “Why not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I need you,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “General and Zhong Wugu are dead, right now you are my right arm. If I lose this arm, I am afraid the big plan I prepared for some time might vanish into thin air.”

    “Are you saying that right now you can’t do without me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    His question was very unusual, and he worded it very cautiously. Actually, he could ask the same question using only six words, but this time he was using sixteen words. [Trust me, Lu Xiaofeng’s question above consists of 16 Chinese characters.]

    But Old Sabre Honcho’s answer was simple and blunt, “Yes.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Just as he started to laugh, like an eagle his body soared, his hands were the claws. The prey of these claws was the bamboo rain hat on Old Sabre Honcho’s head.

    Old Sabre Honcho was still sitting, unmoving, but the claws caught an empty spot.

    Even the quickest and craftiest fox or rabbit would have difficulty escaping eagle’s claw, and Lu Xiaofeng’s movement was faster and more accurate than eagle claw.

    But he caught an empty spot, because Old Sabre Honcho, along with his chair, suddenly slipped out of the way, just like a kayak suddenly swept away by the torrent. The heavy wooden chair seemed to be one entity with his body.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, his body landed down slowly. He knew that since this first strike failed, the second one would be even more difficult to succeed.

    “You wanted to see me?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    With a wry laugh Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You want me to die for you, at least you ought to let me see who you are.”

    “I don’t look good,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “And I don’t want you to die for me either. If this matter succeeds, it will be advantageous to everybody.”

    “What if it doesn’t succeed?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho said matter-of-factly, “You will die, which is not a big deal, since you are supposed to be dead anyway.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Did you establish this Mansion of Spirits just to get people in here to take risks for you?”

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “People who came here are people who had already died once; what’s the harm in dying one more time?”

    “Perhaps people who had already died once are more afraid to die,” Lu Xiaofeng noted.

    Old Sabre Honcho agreed with him on this point, “But what’s the difference between hiding in this place and death?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He admitted that the difference was indeed not much.

    Old Sabre Honcho’s dagger-like gaze looked at Lu Xiaofeng from behind the bamboo rain hat, “Would you stay here forever?” he asked.

    Immediately Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    “Other than the two of us, there are thirty-seven other residents, and you seem to have met them all,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “What did you see?”

    With a wry smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “I can’t see anything.”

    Old Sabre Honcho seemed to be very pleased, “Of course you can’t see anything, because all edges and sharp corners have been ground smooth, they all look like very ordinary, mediocre people.”

    “While the fact is?” Lu Xiaofeng prompted.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Those who are able to come here, every single one of them is a martial art expert, everyone had a glorious history. Just like you, no one is willing to be left out. No one wishes to stay here for the rest of their life.”

    His voice was very cheerful, “As long as everybody can have the hope of seeing the light again, we can make this endeavor successful.”

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask, “When all is said and done, what is this endeavor, actually?”

    “You’ll find out very soon,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “When is very soon?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Like, right now,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    He had just finished speaking, the bell was ringing outside. Old Sabre Honcho stood up, his voice was even more cheerful, “But we must eat first,” he said, “I guarantee that you will be very satisfied with our lunch.”

    The food was abundant, but the wine was very sparse; evidently Old Sabre Honcho wanted everybody to stay clear-headed.

    But he himself drunk more than half ornamented golden goblet of Persian grape wine; and then surprisingly he poured another half a goblet.

    It was the very first time Lu Xiaofeng saw him drinking wine. “It must be a very big day for him,” Lu Xiaofeng thought, “He must have been waiting for this day for a very long time.”

    Everybody was eating silently with their heads down; they all ate very little, and most did not even drink. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng could drink a bit more wine. It was only after he had had his fill that he leisurely sizing up these people.

    Although everybody was wearing oversized, conservative long gown, under the dim light in the hall, there were still several people who appeared comparatively more eye-catching.

    There was a big man with ringworms on his face about the size of golden coin; after drinking two cups of wine, each ringworm on his face appeared to shine like copper coins.

    Another man had a purple face with long beard, he looked somewhat like the Guan Gong on the stage. And then there was a man with fat all over his face, his belly was sticking out like a ball. One man wore a serious expression, as if he was sitting in a torture chamber. And then there was an old granny whose teeth were nearly gone, yet she ate more than anybody else in the hall.

    Still there were a few old, thin men who were exceptionally quiet. They were eye-catching, perhaps precisely because they were so quiet.

    Other than Liu Qingqing, the youngest one had a round face like a pot, he appeared to be a midget who looked like a kid. The oldest were those quiet old men wearing black clothes.

    As Lu Xiaofeng looked around, he tried to figure out the origin of these people from his memory. The first one that came to his mind was the ‘Leopard’ Hua Kui. [Translator’s note: the first two characters of the word ‘leopard’金钱豹 are the same word as ‘gold coin’ above.]

    This man was tall, the amount of wine he consumed was not less than that of Lu Xiaofeng’s. His movements seemed slow; the ringworms on his face made him look a bit comical.

    But when he shot his secret projectiles, nobody would ever think that he was comical. The Hua family of Jiangnan was the Jianghu’s most prestigious secret projectile family.

    And Hua Kui was a direct descendant of Hua family. Some even said that in term of secret projectile skill, he could be ranked among the top three experts in the world.

    Lu Xiaofeng has also noted that although he had drunk a lot of wine, his pair of hands still looked very steady.

    That man with a solemn expression like a government official, could he be the torture chamber’s Hall Master of the Seventy-two Strongholds of the Criminal Underworld of the yesteryear, the ‘Pungent Hand Soul Chaser’ Du Tiexin?

    And that old granny; could she be the ‘Mother Ape’ of the ‘Twin Apes of Qinling’ [mountain range in Shaanxi]? Just because of several banner peaches that according to legend could promise longevity, she did not hesitate to cut her husband’s neck, the ‘Divine Physician Immortal Ape’ Lou Dasheng.

    Who were those old men in black who never talk? And that round-faced, big-headed dwarf?

    Lu Xiaofeng was unable to continue his musing because right that moment Liu Qingqing was quietly pulling the corner of his clothes, and was quietly asking, “Where’s your wife?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was taken aback, and then he realized that she was talking about Ye Ling. “I heard she disappeared.”

    “Don’t you want to know where she went?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Liu Qingqing pouted her mouth, and then with a deliberate sigh said, “Indeed there is not one good thing among men. But I simply must tell you.”

    She lowered her voice even more, “She must be underwater right now.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand, “How could she be underwater? How do you know she is underwater?”

    Liu Qingqing said, “Because, before leaving she stole other people’s fish skin-like wetsuit, and four pairs of ‘parting water flying fish harpoon’.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more surprised. There were two things that surprised him more:

    -- Wetsuit and harpoon do not have to be used only underwater; these objects were equally useful in the miry water of the swamp. Could it be that Ye Ling was looking for her older sister? How did she know what happened at the swamp?

    -- The fish skin-like wetsuit and flying fish harpoons were very famous underwater weapons in Jianghu, belonging to a very famous character.

    Not only the name of ‘Master of the Flying Fish Island’ shook the seven seas, he was also very famous within the Wulin world of the Central Plains. Not only his water skill was extremely high, his swordsmanship was not weak either.

    If this person had not died, if he was in here, he should also be very eye-catching. Yet Lu Xiaofeng had not found him.

    Liu Qingqing was still waiting for his response, hence all along she did not open her mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng was lost in thought for a while; finally he asked, “Did Old Sabre Honcho know about it?”

    Liu Qingqing chuckled and said, “It seems to me that there is nothing in here that Old Sabre Honcho did not know about.”

    -- Ye Ling went out to look for her sister, could it be that it was Old Sabre Honcho who incited her? Otherwise, how could she know Ye Xue’s whereabouts?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ask about anything else, because he suddenly discovered that there was someone, without word without any noise, standing behind them.

    When he looked back, he immediately saw a faceless face; unexpectedly it was the Soul Collector, who had never made any appearance before.

    The atmosphere in the hall grew heavier and more serious. Everybody seemed to be a bit frightened by this faceless man.

    He did not sit down; he merely stood motionless behind Old Sabre Honcho.

    He wore a sword on his waist.

    On the antique looking, yet elegant sword sheathe, there were seven marks that looked like they were made by blade. It was obvious that originally there were pearls, jades and jewels embedded above the marks.

    If it was in Wudang, only the Sect Leader could wear the Seven-Star Treasured Sword on his waist!

    Just then, Hai Qikuo suddenly stood up, and with a thunderous voice announced, “Operation Thunder has begun!”

    [1] Orig. Quan Langjun: quan – dog, langjun – husband/master/playboy of rich family/pimp. Anybody has a better idea on how to translate this into English?
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 08:46 AM.

  20. #60
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 – Operation Thunder
    Translated by Foxs


    These were the four stages of the Operation Thunder:

    -- Stage One: personnel assignment and mission statement of each person.

    -- Stage Two: assume disguises and go down the mountain in batches.

    -- Stage Three: assemble at the appointed place and prepare to strike.

    -- Stage Four: the actual operation.

    The meeting today was only the first stage, and it already made people trembling with fear.

    Now that the heavy and tense atmosphere in the hall had reached its peak, Old Sabre Honcho stood up.

    “In this world, there are a lot of people who should be dead long ago, yet no one dared to take any action to punish them. There are a lot of matters that should be dealt with long ago, yet no one dared to take any action to do it. And now we are going to deal with exactly these people, to deal with exactly these matters.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly discovered that this man was a born leader; not only he was calm, cool-headed, and well-planned, he was extremely eloquence as well. In just a few words he was able to lay down the objective of the operation very clearly.

    “Our operation will be like thunderbolt from the sky, hence it is called the Operation Thunder.”

    In that vast hall, the only thing that could be heard was the sound of breathing and the heartbeat of these people; everybody was waiting for him to continue.

    Old Sabre Honcho paused his speech for a very long time, just like the short period of silence a moment before the storm; but it also seemed that he was giving the audience the chance to prepare their hearts to hear the earth-shattering sound of the thunderbolt.

    “There are seven people that we have to deal with first.” He paused again before revealing the names of these seven people, “Shi Yan of Wudang, Tie Jian [lit. iron shoulder] of Shaolin, Wang Shidai [lit. ten-pouch king, or Wang The Ten-pouch; not sure if this is his name or simply a title] of Beggar Clan, Shuishang Fei [Flying-Over-The-Water] of Yangtze [River], Gao Xingkong [lit. skywalker] of Yandang [mountains, southeast Zhejiang], Priest Xiao Gu of Bashan [mountain, eastern Sichuan], and Yingyan Laoqi [lit. Hawk Eye the seventh] of the Twelve-Dock Alliance [see also Book 6].”

    The hall, which was originally very quiet, grew even quieter, almost like inside a tomb, even the sound of breathing and heartbeat had stopped.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng already knew that the matter he wanted to accomplish was a big matter, yet as he heard each name mentioned, he could not help but was shocked.

    After a long time, some people started to wipe their sweats, some started to drink, and several people quietly ducked down underneath the table to throw up.

    But Old Sabre Honcho’s voice was even calmer, “If this operation is successful, not only it will create a bigger sensation than today, the Jianghu will be shaken, and it will be beneficial for everyone.”

    He paused again, “I have planned every detail of this operation well, it should have had a hundred percent chance of success; too bad that in every step of the way, it was difficult to avoid the unexpected. Therefore, there will be unavoidable dangers in this operation, so I won’t force anybody to participate.”

    His blade-like gaze, from under the bamboo rain hat, swept past everybody’s face in the hall. “Those who do not wish to participate may stand up now, I will definitely not force you.”

    Once again a hush blanketed the hall. Old Sabre Honcho slowly sat down, and to everybody’s surprise, he poured another half a goblet of wine.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help picking up his cup as well, and found out that his palm was sweaty.

    Up to this time, still no one stood up. But suddenly someone asked, “Those who do not wish to go, can they still stay in this place?”

    “Yes,” Old Sabre Honcho’s answer was very sure, “You may stay as long as you wish.”

    The man who asked the question hesitated for a moment, but in the end he slowly stood up, followed by his big, protruding belly.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered this man. Twenty years ago, there were four freaks in Jianghu, one was extremely fat, one extremely thin, one extremely tall, and one was extremely short. The one who was as fat as a pig was called Zhu Fei, which read backward became ‘fat pig’ [fei zhu, different characters].

    But those who knew him knew that not only he was not a pig, but he was absolutely capable; those who had fought him knew even better that he was definitely not a pig, because not only his movements were very fast, he was ruthless as well. His ‘Eighty-one Styles of Blooming Flowers Filling the Earth’ from Ditang Saber Technique was a consummate skill that was rarely seen in Wulin.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew for sure that this man must be Zhu Fei, but he had never expected that he would be the first person to stand up.

    Zhu Fei was not a coward who was afraid of death.

    “I can’t go,” he reasoned, “Because I am too fat, my appearance is too obvious; no matter what kind of disguise I am going to take, people will recognize me immediately.”

    It was a very good reason. So much so that Old Sabre Honcho had no choice but to admit it, yet he could not help sighing in regret.

    Zhu Fei’s Ditang skill has been unmatched in Jianghu until today; clearly Old Sabre Honcho could use talents like this.

    But he only sighed quietly without saying anything. Therefore, other people also found the guts to stand up.

    -- If there is the first, it was only natural that there will also be the second, the third, and so on.

    All along Old Sabre Honcho only looked on coldly, not even batting an eyelid; until the thirteenth person stood up, and then he was visibly emotionally moved.

    This man had a plain appearance with wooden expression, he looked totally unremarkable.

    But if a man could emotionally move Old Sabre Honcho, he was definitely not an ordinary character.

    “You are not going either?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    This man’s face was completely emotionless. “You said those who don’t want to go to stand up, so I stood up,” he said indifferently.

    “Why don’t you go?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    The man replied, “Because my wetsuit and harpoon went missing.”

    As soon as he said those words, Lu Xiaofeng could not help being shaken as well. He really never expected that this unremarkable man with wooden expression could be one of the six island masters of the South Sea Swords of the past, whose reputation was second only to the Master of the White Cloud Castle.

    This man was unexpectedly the ‘Flying Fish Island Master’ Yu Huan!

    On land, the Master of the White Cloud Castle was a swordsman whose name shook the heavens. On water, he was definitely could not be compared to Yu Huan.

    In the operation this time, Old Sabre Honcho definitely could use someone with ultimate water skill like him.

    With a loud ‘crash’, the wine cup in his hand was suddenly crushed and shattered.

    Almost simultaneously, there was a miserable cry. The person sitting right next to Du Tiexin had just stood up, but he fell down again right on the table, crushing a row of wine cups so that wine spilled everywhere.

    And then everybody could see blood flowing along the wine, dying the tablecloth red.

    The pair of chopsticks in Du Tiexin’s hand had already turned red; obviously it was also dyed red by the blood.

    Yu Huan quickly turned around and asked, “Did you kill him?”

    Du Tiexin admitted, “This is the first time I am using chopsticks to kill.”

    “Why did you kill him?” Yu Huan asked.

    Du Tiexin replied, “Because he knew too many secrets. If he was alive, all of us might die instead.”

    Using the chopsticks stained with blood, he picked up a piece of scallop, which he then chewed slowly. He did not even blink his eyes. The ‘Ruthless Pungent Hand’ Du Tiexin was indeed able to kill without blinking an eye; a ruthless character.

    Yu Huan stared at him; he said slowly, “He knew a lot of secrets, and I do too. Are you going to kill me as well?”

    “That’s right,” Du Tiexin coldly replied. Still without blinking his eyes he added, “Those who don’t go, don’t even think that any one of you will walk away from this room alive.”

    Yu Huan’s countenance changed; before he could say anything, someone else said, “If that was Old Sabre Honcho who said it, I would accept misfortunes as decreed by fate, but you …”

    He could not finish, because a chopstick was flying from the side, it pierced his left ear, and came out of his right.

    The toothless old granny had only one chopstick left in her hand; she sighed while mumbling, “Double-log bridge is easy to cross, a single-log bridge is hard to pass; it looks like I will have to eat with my hands.”

    She really grabbed a piece of pork ribs with her hand and gnawed it with gusto with her two only teeth.

    ‘Crash!’ the person whose ears were pierced by the chopstick fell down right on top of bowls and cups on the table.

    From the people who already stood up, some tried to stealthily sit back down. Du Tiexin coldly said, “Those who already stand up are not allowed to sit down.”

    Zhu Fei could not refrain from asking, “And whose idea is it?”

    “It’s our collective idea,” Du Tiexin replied.

    Zhu Fei hesitated. In the end he forced a laugh and said, “The fact is, it’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s just that I am too fat. If you want me to go, you must roll me like noodle and make me a bit thinner.”

    “Alright,” Du Tiexin said, “Roll him!”

    The dwarf with round face and big head suddenly jumped up and shouted, “I’ll do it!”

    His head was as big as a bucket, but his body was thin and small. When he stood up, he looked like a round persimmon stuck onto a half-length chopstick or a pen; he looked really funny.

    But Zhu Fei did not laugh, instead, his countenance changed. The man standing in front of him looked like a kid, but he was terribly frightened by this man.

    Looking at the horror on his face, and then looking at the man’s head, Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance also changed. Could it be that this man was one of the Western Top Ghost Bunch, the one with the blackest heart and pungent hand, the ‘Big Head Ghost King’ Sikong Dou [‘dou’ means bucket]?

    He was not mistaken, because Zhu Fei really shouted the name, “Sikong Dou, this has nothing to do with you, what do you want?”

    “I want to roll you,” Sikong Dou said. He also had a pair of chopsticks, which he then pressed between his palms, as if he was rubbing Zhu Fei in between his hands. He exerted his strength and rolled the chopsticks. Suddenly a cloud of powder fell down like snow.

    When he opened his hands, the chopsticks had disappeared. Unexpectedly his child-like hands were able to turn the pair of chopsticks, which could be used to kill just like a pair of sharp swords, into a pile of dust.

    Zhu Fei’s face twisted, it was as if his entire body had turned soft as he collapsed into a chair. But when Sikong Dou was ready to pounce, he suddenly dropped down to hide under the table. Exerting his strength onto his knees, he crawled across seven, eight tables; his movement was unbelievably nimble.

    Too bad the tables were not joined together into a loop. Sikong Dou already leaped out with ten fingers spread out like claws; as soon as Zhu Fei appeared from under the table, he leaped down to strike.

    Who would have thought that Zhu Fei’s movement was even faster? With his right elbow he pushed, and immediately he disappeared underneath the table on the opposite side. ‘Pop!’ Sikong Dou’s ten fingers were embedded onto the tabletop. And when he pulled his hands, ten holes appeared on the table.

    Zhu Fei hid under the table and refused to come out. Using his right arm Sikong Dou swept the table, sending bowls, cups, and chopsticks crashing to the floor; soup, dishes and wine splashed onto someone, the quiet, silent old man in black.

    Sikong Dou turned his hands over, he was going to tear the table apart, but suddenly someone said, “Wait a moment.”

    A pair of chopsticks stretched out with the sharp pointy tips facing up, aiming the major artery on Sikong Dou’s hand. If he continued moving his hand, he could forget about using this hand ever again.

    Fortunately his reaction was very quick, instantly he pulled back his strength and stopped the momentum of his palm. The four old men dressed in black were still sitting quietly in their respective chairs, staring at him with cold eyes.

    Sikong Dou seemed to have noticed them only now; drawing back the corners of his mouth he smiled widely and said, “I was wondering if the four gentlemen would let me kick the fat pig out of under your table?”

    The old man, who was splashed by the soup and wine, coldly said, “Would not.”

    “Are you going to protect him?” Sikong Dou asked.

    The old man in black said, “People don’t cross me, I don’t cross people.”

    “Who crossed you?” Sikong Dou asked.

    “You,” the old man in black replied.

    Sikong Dou no longer smiled, “What if I crossed you?” he said.

    The old man in black said, “If someone crosses me, then he is not a person.”

    “Who’s not a person?” Sikong Dou asked.

    “You,” the old man in black replied.

    “I am indeed not a person,” Sikong Dou said, “I am a ghost.”

    The old man in black said, “You are not a ghost either, you are a domestic animal …” He then added coldly, “I don’t kill people, I kill animals. Killing one or two animals cannot be considered I am breaking my vow not to kill.”

    Sikong Dou clenched his hands into fists, the joints in his entire body were cracking, his round pot-like face turned into metal blue.

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly said, “This man is useful to me, could Mr. Wu let him go this time?”

    The old man in black hesitated for a moment; finally he nodded, “Very well, I only want one of his hands.”

    Sikong Dou laughed; he roared in laughter, but his laughter sounded like a crying ghost.

    His left hand was trained in White Bone Claw, his right hand was trained in Black Devil Claw; he had spent painstaking effort for more than twenty years on either one on his hands, asking for one of his hands was equal to asking half of his life.

    The old man in black said, “I want your left hand.”

    “Alright,” Sikong Dou said, “I’ll give it to you!”

    As soon as the word ‘you’ came out of his mouth, both claws moved together, one hand became snowy white, the other turned pitch-black.

    He was unleashing the full power of the entire twenty-year of training. Anything touched by his fingertips, even a rock, would have ten more holes on it.

    The old man in black was still sitting motionless; he merely sighed while sending out his sleeve, rolling out like a cloud.

    There was a crisp ‘crack!’ like the sound of breaking radish, followed by miserable scream. Sikong Dou flew out and hit the wall.

    By the time his body slid down to the floor, he could no longer move; both of his hands were drenched with blood, all his ten fingers were broken.

    The old man in black sighed. “I only wanted one of his hands,” he said.

    Another white-haired old man coldly said, “If you only wanted one hand, you did not need to use 70% of your strength.”

    The old man in black replied, “I have not made my move in many years, I did not know the limit of my power; plus I overestimated him a bit.”

    The white-haired old man said, “Therefore, you were wrong; even domestic animal has life, you have violated your vow against killing living beings.”

    “Yes,” the old man in black said, “I was wrong. Buddha have mercy.”

    Four men put their palms together, while reciting the name of Buddha. They slowly stood up and faced Old Sabre Honcho, “We are asking to be excused, to face the wall and ponder about our misdeeds for three days, as a token of our gratitude to the Master of the Mansion.”

    Unexpectedly Old Sabre Honcho also stood up and said, “It was he who followed the path to his own doom, why did Mister blame yourself?”

    The old man in black said, “If Master of the Mansion has any errands for us, we will definitely come to receive your order.”

    Old Sabre Honcho seemed to be relieved; he immediately cupped his fist and said, “Please.”

    “Please,” the old man in black replied.

    The four of them walked out of the room, slowly and peacefully. When they reached Lu Xiaofeng, they suddenly stopped in front of him.

    The white-haired old man suddenly asked, “Lu Gongzi [young master], have you seen Master Bitter Gourd lately?”

    “I saw him several times last year,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The white-haired old man said, “Master’s culinary skill is amazing, his vegetarian dish is number one under the heavens, presumably Lu Gongzi’s luck in eating fine dishes is not shallow.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “That’s right,” he said.

    “In that case,” the white-haired old man said, “Presumably he is as strong as before.”

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The white-haired old man put his palms together and said, “Buddha have mercy, the Heaven blesses those who do good deeds …”

    The four of them recited the name of Buddha together, and then walked out slowly, their steps were still peaceful and smooth; but Lu Xiaofeng’s hands and feet turned ice-cold. He finally figured out the background of these four old men.

    Looking at how respectful Old Sabre Honcho was to them, looking at the power behind the ‘floating cloud flying sleeve’, looking at their devotion to Buddha, he remembered.

    At first he could not figure it out; because they grew hairs and shed their Buddhist robes, he did not think that they were monks who had left their homes. Even more, he would not have thought that they were Shaolin Temple’s Five Arhats [luohan].

    Five Arhats were originally siblings, who shaved their heads together to become monks and entered Shaolin. Right now there were only four of them, because the oldest brother, Wu Long [lit. no dragon] Arhat had died.

    In their youth, these five brothers ran amuck in Jianghu, killing people unscrupulously, and were known as ‘Dragon, Tiger, Lion, Elephant and Panther’, the Five Ferocious Beasts. Each one of them had hands that were reeking with blood.

    But then they laid down the butcher’s knife and became Buddha on the spot. Henceforth the notorious Five Ferocious Beasts became Shaolin Temple’s Five Arhats: Wu Long, Wu Hu, Wu Shi, Wu Xiang, Wu Bao [no dragon, no tiger, no lion, no elephant, no panther, respectively], with the heart of Buddha.

    Wu Long was in charge of the Scripture Depository Pavilion, plus he was promoted to be an elder Protector of the Law. Nobody knew what happened, but one night he was really drunk and toppled a candlestick, and nearly burned the Scripture Depository Pavilion, which was located in the middle to Shaolin Temple complex, to the ground.

    In his rage, Head Abbott punished him with ten years of sitting against the wall in meditation, plus twenty flogging. Wu Long was humiliated, he died of hatred. His brothers [orig. hands and feet] joined their hearts, the surviving four Arhats changed from being devoted to Buddha into filled with murderous intent; unexpectedly they did not hesitate to violate the law of Heaven and went as far as attempting to assassinate the Head Abbott.

    Jianghu people all knew that their assassination attempt was not successful, but nobody knew their whereabouts, even whether they were dead or alive. Even more baffling was that Arhat Wu Long has already washed his heart and renewed his face early on, why did he suddenly become very drunk?

    This matter has become one of the mysteries of the Wulin world, just like nobody knew why Shi He was suddenly expelled from Wudang.

    But now Lu Xiaofeng knew that Wu Long’s drunkenness must have something to do with Monk Bitter Gourd – eating Monk Bitter Gourd’s unparalleled-throughout-the-world vegetarian dishes, one would inevitably drink several cups of wine.

    Just now they were inquiring about Monk Bitter Gourd’s well-being; presumably they were hoping that he was still alive, so that they could personally extract revenge on him.

    Just now Wu Bao suddenly made his move, which caused a man had his bones broken and died a violent death, it was clear that the hatred and malicious intent in his heart ran very, very deep.

    The one they hated the most was not Monk Bitter Gourd, but Shaolin. Precisely like Shi He hated Wudang, and Gao Tao hated Phoenix Tail Clan.

    Mount Ba has abundant mineral resources; not only that, rumor has it that there was gold sand over there. Naturally Gu Feiyun wanted to take over the business of Gu Family Taoist Monastery from his [paternal] cousin, Priest Xiao Gu [lit. little Gu, the same surname as Gu Feiyun].

    Hai Qikuo had established his business on the sea; naturally he wanted seize control of the monopoly on Yangtze River from Shuishang Fei.

    Du Tiexin’s hatred toward the Beggar Clan was as deep as the sea. Most likely the purple-faced, long-bearded man was the ‘Hundred Victory Saber King’ Guan Tianwu, who in the past struggled over the leadership of Yandang Sect against Gao Xingkong.

    In his operation this time, Old Sabre Honcho was trying to catch all their enemies in one net; naturally they were willing to make an all-out effort.

    But most of these ‘targets’ were people of sect-leadership status, under normal circumstances, it would be very difficult to see them, plus their headquarters were far apart from each other; how could they catch everybody in a single operation?

    Old Sabre Honcho was ready with an explanation, “The thirteenth of the fourth month is the anniversary of Wudang’s Mei Zhenren’s death; it is also the tenth anniversary of Shi Yan taking control of the sect leadership. I hear he wanted to appoint the Sect Leader Disciple to succeed him in unifying Wudang on that very same day.”

    He let out a cold laugh and then continued, “On that day, naturally there will be dignitaries converging on Mount Wudang, the mountain will be bustling with noise and excitement, Tie Jian and Wang Shidai, those people will most likely be among the distinguished guests.”

    “Are we going to make our move on that day?” Actually Lu Xiaofeng wanted to ask this question, but Du Tiexin has preceded him.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded. “That’s the reason we must hurry to Mount Wudang before the twelfth of the fourth month,” he said.

    But if all these people made their moves together and arrived at the mountain area on the same day, it would definitely create quite a sensation in the Wulin world. This operation must be executed in absolute secrecy, they must not beat the grass to scare the snake.

    “Therefore, not only we must go in batches, everybody must be in disguise.”

    This matter was also part of Old Sabre Honcho’s well-planned program.

    Housekeeper said, “The details of this operation have been arranged, gentlemen and ladies need not worry.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “I can assure you that the person in charge of your disguise is an expert that is absolutely without equal throughout the world. Although he cannot make you shedding your mortal body and exchanging your bones [idiom, turn over a new leaf (in Taoist principle)], and turn you into somebody else, but he can definitely change you so that others will not be able to see your true identity.”

    Right now there was only one question left, “How are we going to bring our weapons up the mountain?”

    No one allowed to bring any weapon up Mount Wudang, all weapons must be left by the Shedding-sword Rock by the bank of Shedding-sword Pond.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “But I can assure you that on the eve of the D-Day, everybody can go to Hidden Snow to get hold of a weapon that you can use.”

    Old Lady Lou has just finished nibbling on a piece of chicken drumstick, she interrupted him by asking, “Where is that Hidden Snow?”

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed and said, “Hidden Snow is actually a hidden place, i.e. the lavatory.”

    “If it is the lavatory, why did they call it Hidden Snow?” Old Lady Lou asked.

    “That is the term that outsiders use,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “There are two versions of the origin of that name.”

    -- ‘Snow’ is the Dhyana Master Ming Jiao [lit. clear/bright feeling] of the Xuedou [lit. snow hole/aperture] Mountain, ‘Hidden’ is the Ling Yin [Hidden Spirit] Temple of Hangzhou. Because one time Xuedou was in charge of the lavatory at the Ling Yin Temple, the people at the monastery called it the Xue Yin [hidden snow] Lavatory.

    -- Because Fuzhou’s Divine Monk obtained Five Awareness while cleaning the hidden place while living at the snowy peak, hence the name ‘Hidden Snow’.

    Old Lady Lou did not wish to ask further. Housekeeper already served her a dish of roast chicken, so that she could stuff her mouth with chicken drumstick.

    How could they stuff Yu Huan and the others’ mouth? The secrets they knew were indeed too many!

    These people’s faces were already completely devoid of any color, because they themselves knew that there is usually only one way to deal with this kind of thing!

    Only dead men tell no tales.

    To seek a way to live in the midst of death, there is usually only one way as well, “You want to kill me to shut my mouth, I will kill you first!”

    Yu Huan suddenly leaped up, just like a flying fish leaping out of the water.

    Originally he had five pairs of Flying Fish Harpoons, Ye Ling stole four pairs. The remaining one pair was kept in his sleeves, right now these harpoons have turned into a pair of lightning about to strike Old Sabre Honcho.

    Old Sabre Honcho did not move; but Shi He, who was standing behind him, did. The sword inside the Seven-Star leather sheathe turned into a rainbow.

    The rainbow met the lightning. ‘Ding, ding!’ the lightning suddenly broke, two pieces of copper tips fell from the air, the rainbow also vanished, the sword ray already penetrated Yu Huan’s chest.

    He looked at the remaining Flying Fish Harpoons in his hands, he looked at the sword blade penetrating his chest, and then he looked up to see the man without a sword standing in front of him, as if he still could not believe that it was really happening.

    Shi He was also looking at him with cold eyes. Suddenly he asked, “How’s my sword compared to Ye Gucheng’s Flying Immortal to the Outer Heaven?”

    Yu Huan gritted his teeth without even said a word, the corner of the mouth on his twisted face seemed to reveal a mocking smile, as if he was saying, “Ye Gucheng is dead, so what if you are better than him?”

    Shi He understood his meaning, suddenly he twisted his hand, which was grasping the sword hilt, from the wrist, hence turning the blade as well. Yu Huan’s face twisted even more. Suddenly he roared and pounced forward. Blood splashed from his chest as the sword went through his body to the other end.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear to watch. There are still several people who were standing up, he could not watch them die one by one in front of his eyes.

    He quietly got up and quietly went out.

    The fog was wet and cold. He took a very deep breath, filling his chest with the cold mist. He must calm down.

    “You don’t like killing?”

    It was Old Sabre Honcho’s voice. Old Sabre Honcho was following him out, he was also sucking the cold and wet foggy air.

    Lu Xiaofeng indifferently said, “I like drinking, but watching other people drink is another matter altogether.”

    He did not turn around to look at Old Sabre Honcho, but he could hear the smile in Old Sabre Honcho’s voice; obviously Old Sabre Honcho was very pleased with his answer.

    “I don’t like watching either,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “It doesn’t matter what, doing it ourselves is always more interesting than watching.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a moment. Suddenly he laughed and said, “There are things that you don’t seem to like doing it yourself.”

    “Oh?” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You knew Ye Ling stole Yu Huan’s wetsuit and flying fish harpoon, you also knew what she was doing, yet you did not stop her.”

    “Indeed I did not,” Old Sabre Honcho admitted.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “You did not let me rescue Ye Xue, but you did not go either; why did you let her go?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Because I know Ye Lingfeng can’t possibly hurt her.”

    “You’re sure about that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded; his voice suddenly became hoarse, “Because she is the real daughter of Ye Lingfeng!”

    Lu Xiaofeng sucked a mouthful of air again, as if he was completely oblivious of the pain and hatred in Old Sabre Honcho’s voice, “There is one more thing that you did not want to do yourself.”

    Old Sabre Honcho waited for him to continue.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Is it true that you want Shi He to deal with Wudang’s Shi Yan; Tiger, Panther and his brothers to deal with Shaolin’s Tie Jian?”

    “That is their own enmity,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “They are the ones who wanted to personally resolve the matter.”

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Can Du Tiexin deal with Wang Shidai?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Over the years, his martial art has improved tremendously, besides, there will be Old Lady Lou as his backup.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Priest Xiao Gu shouldn’t be Cousin’s match, Shuishang Fei against Hai Qikuo, which one would you bet will win?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Yangtze River is a fertile ground, Shuishang Fei is already so fat that he can’t fly anymore [reminder: Shuishang Fei means ‘flying-over-the-water’]. Whether it is on land or in the water, I will bet with ten-to-one handicap that Hai Qikuo will win.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But Guan Tianwu has been defeated by Gao Xingkong three times.”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Those three times, there was someone lending a helping hand to Gao Xingkong in secret.”

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    With a cold laugh Old Sabre Honcho said, “You should have heard, Gao Xingkong criss-crossing Yangtze River unhindered and Wudang Sect Leader’s death have nothing to do with each other, why did he have to rush over immediately? Could it be that Wudang disciple do the deed in secret? The strife over Yandang Sect’s leadership, why would Wudang disciple want to meddle in other people’s business?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to ask too many questions; he said, “In that case, there is only one left, Yingyan Laoqi. Even if Housekeeper cannot keep him in check, with the addition of Hua Kui, it should be more than enough.”

    “Hua Kui has other task,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Gao Tao has no use for assistant either.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “In that case, the seven main targets are being taken care of; not only that, their success rate is over ninety percent.”

    “Over ninety percent,” Old Sabre Honcho echoed.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, and then said, “So, what do you want me to do? To deal with those Taoist priests who sweep the floor, wash the dishes and fetch the firewood?”

    “What I want you to do is the key to this operation’s success or failure,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho also chuckled, and then said, “Right now what you know is already too much, I will tell you the rest the night of the twelfth of the fourth month.”

    He patted Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder and said, “So tonight there is no harm in you relaxing, I can even say that you may want to get drunk, because tomorrow you may sleep the whole day.”

    “You want me to wait until the day after tomorrow to go down the mountain?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You will belong to the last batch going down the mountain,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “Who else is in my group?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Housekeeper, Old Lady Lou, Cousin, Hook, and Liu Qingqing,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    He laughed again and said, “In all good plays, the best act is always saved for the last; naturally you want to be the last to enter the stage.”

    “Besides,” Lu Xiaofeng added matter-of-factly, “With them following me into the stage, at least there won’t be any possibility I will die half-way in somebody else’s hands.”

    Old Sabre Honcho’s laughter was even more cheerful, “Don’t worry,” he said, “Even if you meet Ximen Chuixue along the way, he can’t possibly recognize you.”

    “Because the person in charge of my disguise is an expert that is absolutely without equal throughout the world,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed and said, “If someone is able to disguise himself as a dog, do you have any reason to worry?”

    He was talking about Canine Master.

    Canine Master’s responsibility was precisely to alter everybody’s appearance so that nobody could recognize them. But what would happen after he finished his job?

    -- I just want you to take me along when you go.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng understood what he meant; he was certainly able to see the crisis he was in.

    Old Sabre Honcho looked up to the sky, he took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. The plowing and weeding time was over, now he was just waiting for the harvest. He seemed to catch sight of the fruits already sprouting from the branches.

    Each fruit represented one human head.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly turned around to look at him and asked, “What about you? Everything has been taken care of, what are you going to do?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “I am the creditor, I am just going to wait for you to pay me back the investment I spend on you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Wudang has a debt toward Shi He, Shaolin has a debt toward Tiger, Panther and his brothers, who has a debt toward you?”

    “Everybody has a debt toward me,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    He patted Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder again, and said with a smile, “Didn’t you also owe me a bit?”

    Lu Xiaofeng also exhaled the air from his lungs, but it seemed like the cold and damp fog remained in his chest.

    He knew that whoever owed Old Sabre Honcho anything, sooner or later he would have to pay him back double.

    And he could not afford it. Yet.

    Canine Master was lying on the bed, staring blankly at the ceiling.

    He really wanted to get some sleep, he had already closed his eyes many times before, yet sleep seemed to elude him.

    When the rabbit has been caught, the hunting dog will be boiled.

    Right now he felt like he was already in the pot, and very soon the soup inside the pot would be boiling; how could he fall asleep?

    In the dead of the night, the window suddenly creaked, someone flew in as if swept-in by the wind. It was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Canine Master has not even made any noise, Lu Xiaofeng already covered his mouth, “Are you the only one in this house?” he whispered.

    He was the only one. Because nobody wanted to live in a house where dog skin and human skin were hanging everywhere. Nobody could stand the foul odor of cooking glue and leather emitted by the copper pot on the stove.

    The art of disguise is not as effortless and pleasant as people imagined it to be. To make a perfect human skin mask, not only it required a pair of steady and skillful hands, it needed tremendous patience as well.

    Lu Xiaofeng already knitted his brows from the stench of the smoke emitted from the pot; he could not help asking, “What are you cooking?”

    “Cowhide glue,” Canine Master replied, “Human skin mask must be affixed using cowhide glue, otherwise it will fall off.”

    “Human skin mask?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “You really use human skin to make masks?”

    Canine Master said, “Only real human skin masks can completely change someone’s facial features, plus every single mask must be fixed in accordance with that person’s original face first.”

    Suddenly he smiled to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “I already made one to fit the shape of your face as well.”

    With a wry smile Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Also made of human skin?”

    “Genuine goods at fair prices,” Canine Master replied.

    “How many masks did you make in total?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Thirty one masks,” Canine Master replied.

    And then he added, “Other than Old Sabre Honcho, everybody gets one.”

    Why didn’t Old Sabre Honcho need any disguise? Could it be that he was going to Wudang still wearing that deep-basket like bamboo rain hat?

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “After these people wear the disguise, will there be any special mark on their faces?”

    “Not the least bit,” Canine Master replied.

    “If everybody does not recognize anybody, won’t it be difficult to avoid killing the wrong person?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Absolutely not,” Canine Master replied.

    “How come?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Canine Master said, “Because each group of people going down the mountain will have different task from each other. Some will deal with Wudang’s Taoist priests, some will deal with Shaolin’s monks. As long as this particular group of people can remember what the other people look like after they are wearing the disguise, they won’t kill the people in their own group by mistake.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was deep in thought for a moment. Suddenly he lowered his voice, “Can you leave a special mark on each group of people? For example, a pockmark, or perhaps a mole?”

    Canine Master stared at him with some kind of strange expression in his eyes; after a very long time he asked quietly, “Do you have confidence that you will be able to take me along when you leave?”

    “I am sure of it,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Canine Master exhaled. He said, “You promised me, of course I also promise you.”

    “How are you going to do it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Canine Master winked; he said, “Right now I don’t have any idea yet, but by the time we are leaving together, I will tell you.”

    It seems like the people in this place were just like the Old Sabre Honcho, other than self, nobody trusted anybody else.

    Sometimes they did not even trust themselves.

    Canine Master suddenly asked, “Isn’t Widow Hua in your group and you are going to leave together?”

    “Most probably yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “How do you want me to disguise her?” Canine Master asked, “Do you want me to make her old and ugly, or young and beautiful?”

    “The older the better, the uglier the better,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “And why is that?” Canine Master asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because no one will believe that Lu Xiaofeng is with an old an ugly woman, therefore, no one will believe that I am Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “Hence the older and the uglier she is, the more you will feel safe,” Canine Master said, “Not only others will not recognize you, you yourself will not be tempted.”

    He winked and laughed, “These days you really have to preserve your strength,” he said, “Being with a young and beautiful widow, preserving your strength is indeed not an easy thing to do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him; he said coldly, “Do you know what your problem is?”

    Canine Master shook his head.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Your problem is that you talk too much.”

    Canine Master smiled sheepishly and said, “As long as you take me out of here, I promise that I won’t even say a word along the way.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even if you wanted to talk, I have a way to shut your mouth.”

    Canine Master could not refrain himself from asking, “What is it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am a government official from the Capital who’s ‘announcing old age and returning home’ [i.e. to retire from public life]; not only I bring along a few attendants and followers, I also bring along a dog.”

    He smiled before continuing, “And you are that dog. Naturally a dog cannot speak human words.”

    Canine Master stared at him for half a day; finally he let out a bitter laugh and said, “That’s right, I am that dog. I just ask you to never forget that this particular dog only eats meat, I cannot gnaw on bones.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “But you must also never forget that a disobedient dog will not only have to gnaw on bones, it will also have to eat sh1t.”

    He roared in laughter as he walked out of the room. Suddenly he turned his head around and asked, “Ye Xue and Ye Ling are supposed to be in which group?”

    “I don’t know either,” Canine Master replied, “In the list that Old Sabre Honcho gave me, both sisters’ names are not listed.”

    The night grew even deeper.

    Lu Xiaofeng sat down in the cold fog, there was a war going on in his heart.

    -- Should he go to the swamp to look for those sisters? Or should he drink and get really drunk?

    His choice was to get really drunk.

    Even if he could not find them, he did not have to be drunk; yet he was drunk, as drunk as mud.

    Why did he have to be drunk?

    Could it be that he had a painful problem in his heart that cannot be divulged to anybody else?

    The third day of the fourth month, afternoon. The sky was clear, but the air was foggy.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng woke up, his head ached so much that he felt it was about to burst open; his mouth felt like sawdust, and his mood was a total washout, just like the feeling he had when he was seriously ill.

    He woke up for a long time before he finally opened his eyes, and as soon as he opened his eyes, he almost jumped in fright.

    How could Old Lady Lou sit on his bedside? How long has she been staring at him?

    He rubbed his eyes, and was finally able to see that the old granny sitting on his bedside, nibbling on some fava beans was not Old Lady Lou at all, yet she couldn’t be a lot younger than Old Lady Lou.

    “Who are you?”

    He couldn’t resist asking, but the old granny’s answer shocked him.

    “I am your wife,” the old granny’s cracked dry lips seemed to be drawn back into a cold laugh, “I have been married to you for fifty years, so if you don’t want to recognize me now, you can’t.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her in disbelief. Suddenly he roared into loud laughter, he laughed so hard that he rolled about on his bed.

    The old granny was Liu Qingqing, he recognized her voice.

    “How did you turn into something like this?”

    “Because that [email protected] has seen a ghost in a clear day light; I want to be a bit younger, but he did not let me.”

    Liu Qingqing crushed a fava bean with her teeth, and said with hatred in her voice, “And now I look like this; are you happy?”

    Lu Xiaofeng deliberately blinked his eyes and said, “Why would I be happy?”

    Liu Qingqing said, “Because you were wishing that I would be the older the better, the uglier the better. Because all along you wanted to avoid me, as if you are afraid that I would swallow you alive.”

    Lu Xiaofeng still pretended he did not understand, “Why would I want to avoid you?”

    Liu Qingqing said, “If you are not avoiding me, why did you drink every day like a dead man?”

    She laughed coldly and said, “Actually, I am aware that you do not dare to touch me, but I am a bit curious; you are supposed to sleep with an old granny like me every night, how can you stand it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sat up on his bed, “Why would I want to sleep with you every night?” he asked.

    “Because you are a government official from the Capital who’s ‘announcing old age and returning home’, and I am your wife,” Liu Qingqing said, “Moreover, the wife is a notorious vinegar jar [i.e. person of a jealous nature].”

    Lu Xiaofeng was speechless.

    Liu Qingqing continued, “I also have good news for you, our son is coming along with us.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked again, “Who is our son?” he asked.

    “Cousin,” Liu Qingqing replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly fell flat on his back on the bed, and stayed really still.

    Liu Qingqing roared in laughter; suddenly she pounced on him and said with a giggle, “Although my body is old, my heart is not, I still want to do it every day, you can’t even play dead on me.”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am not playing dead, but if you want me to do that thing with an old granny like you every day, I am going to die for real.”

    Liu Qingqing laughed and said, “You can always close your eyes, and just try really hard to imagine what I used to look like.”

    She was laughing so hard that she was out of breath, “Besides, don’t you men often say that as long as you close your eyes, all women in the world are just the same?”

    At last now Lu Xiaofeng understood the meaning of ‘you reap what you sow’.

    This hole was dug by him, and now the one falling head first into it was precisely himself.

    By the time Canine Master arrived, Liu Qingqing was still gasping for breath.

    Watching an old woman, so old that her teeth were falling apart, lying side-by-side with a young man while gasping for breath, if one can refrain from laughing, this person’s ability is indeed not small.

    Canine Master’s ability was indeed not small.

    Unexpectedly he did not laugh; unexpectedly he could pretend not to see. But when Lu Xiaofeng stood up, he suddenly gave him a wink as if saying, “What do you think?”

    Lu Xiaofeng really wished he could dig these two eyeballs out and gave them to Liu Qingqing to eat just like the fava beans.

    Fortunately, before he could make his move, an old granny that was even older than Liu Qingqing and Old Lady Lou combined stuck out her head from the door, and said with a laugh, “Master and Madame had better get ready, we are going to set off at first light.”

    This person was, naturally, the Housekeeper.

    Who would have thought that the Hall Master Gao of the Phoenix Tail Clan’s three inner halls could turn into someone like this?

    Instantly Lu Xiaofeng felt a bit better; suddenly he raised his voice, “Where is that precious son of mine? Quickly summon him here to pay his respect to the old man.”

    Cousin, who looked about twenty years younger, had no choice but coming in with a frown on his face.

    With a straight face Lu Xiaofeng said, “Government officials from Beijing always have a bit stricter household rule, even during traveling we must not be negligent; therefore, from now on you must come to kowtow and pay your respect to me every day. Do you understand?”

    Cousin only nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since you understand, why don’t you hurry up to get on your knees and kowtow?”

    Watching Cousin really went down on his knees, Lu Xiaofeng’s mood was even better. No matter what, being the old man is always much better than being the son.

    One thing for sure, he would not be lonely along the way; other than a wife, he had a son, a housekeeper, and a housemaid.

    He even had a dog.

    “Can’t take the dog along!”

    Hai Qikuo has had the hook on his severed hand removed, the useless bare stump of his hand hidden inside his sleeve looked awkward and funny.

    But his expression was very serious, his manner was even more firm, “We absolutely must not bring him along.”

    “Is this Old Sabre Honcho’s order?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course it is,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “You are going to kill him, aren’t you?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Yes,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    Now that Canine Master’s job was done, they did not have any scruple toward him.

    “Who is going to kill him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Me,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “Without the hook you can still kill people?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can kill anytime,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “Very well,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “In that case, go ahead and kill me now.”

    Hai Qikuo’s countenance changed, “What do you mean?”

    Lu Xiaofeng dryly said, “What I mean is very simple: he goes, I go, he dies, I also die.”

    Of course he could not die.

    Hai Qikuo looked at Cousin, Cousin looked at Housekeeper, Housekeeper looked at Liu Qingqing.

    Liu Qingqing looked at Canine Master; suddenly she asked, “Are you a male dog, or a female dog?”

    “I am male,” Canine Master replied.

    Liu Qingqing said, “Some dogs love to sleep by their master’s bed at night. How about you?”

    “I love to sleep by the door,” Canine Master replied, “And once I asleep, I will be like a dead dog, I won’t hear anything.”

    Liu Qingqing laughed and said, “As long as it is not a female dog, I don’t care how many dogs he want to bring, I have no objection.”

    “Anybody has any objection?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hai Qikuo sighed. “No,” he said.

    “Not even half a person,” Housekeeper said.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Cousin, “What about you?”

    Cousin chuckled and said, “I am a filial son, I am ten times more obedient than a dog.”

    Therefore, with four people and a dog, our Old Master Lu grandly set off from the Mansion of Spirits.

    This was the second time he left this place. He knew that this time he would never come back again.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 08:50 AM.

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