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Thread: Lu Xiaofeng - Unabridged

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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 12

    Chapter 12 – Panic in the Haunted Mansion
    Translated by Foxs


    The fifth of fourth month. Clear.

    Lu Xiaofeng was facing a very clear bronze mirror with a smile on his face.

    Seeing the reflection in the mirror was not his own, although it was kind of strange, it was very interesting.

    Naturally the old man in the mirror was not as handsome as his original face, yet it was a dignified and lordly old man, not at all like a lecherous, alcoholic old man whose one of his feet had already stepped into the coffin.

    This minor point has no doubt made him very happy. His only regret was that he could not wash his face.

    Therefore, all he could do was just perfunctorily wiping his face with a dry cloth and joyfully rinse his mouth with water, before finally turned around to look at the old granny on the bed.

    He shook his head and sigh, “Canine Master really should make you a bit younger,” he said, “Now it simply looks like you are my mother.”

    Liu Qingqing gnashed her teeth and hatefully said, “For you, you don’t care what other people turn you into, you can always admire and enjoy yourself.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed; a big hearty laugh.

    At that moment, the obedient dog walked in, wagging its tail, followed by the filial son who came to kowtow and pay his respect.

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more cheerful; he said with a laugh, “You are all very good today, I’ll take you to ‘San Liu Jiu’ [lit. 369] to eat ham, dried bean curd and some steamed meat buns.”

    San Liu Jiu’s steamed meat buns were dainty and delicate, one bamboo basket contained twenty buns, each bun was bite-size. Eating three or five baskets could not be considered too much.

    Even Old Master Lu’s dog ate three baskets; but his housekeeper and housemaid could only stand in the back, waiting.

    Becoming high-ranking officials in the Capital, these Big Masters always followed a bit stricter protocol compared to other people.

    The restaurant waiter was standing on the side, watching; he shook his head and then using a half-baked Suzhou’s ‘officialese’ accent he tried to strike a conversation, “Looks like becoming a dog in Da Laoye’s [big old master] home is luckier than most people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was picking his teeth using the silver toothpick that he brought along; he made loud clicking noise with his tongue. Suddenly he said, “Since you like the dog, why don’t you take it out for a walk, let it do its business. When you are back, Laoye [master] will give you a reward.”

    The waiter hesitated. He looked at the housekeeper and housemaid, “Aren’t these master housekeepers not coming?”

    “He does not like the dog,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Hence the dog likes to bite him.”

    The waiter was scared, “Does this master dog like to bite other people?”

    Lu Xiaofeng snorted, “Even if others want it to bite them, it may not necessarily be eager to open its mouth.”

    Old Master’s wife also offered her opinion, “Although this dog of ours does not bite people, it does not like to gnaw on bones either; it only loves to eat a bit of sh1t. You can at most let it lick a little bit, but you must never let it eat it, otherwise it will have an upset stomach.”

    The waiter could only force a laugh while pulling the dog’s leather leash, and gently and cautiously took this ‘master dog’ out for a walk.

    The housekeeper looked at the housemaid, the housemaid looked at the filial son, the filial son looked at the Old Madame, the Old Madame smiled and said, “Don’t you worry, your Old Man’s dog is a precious, obedient dog, it won’t run away. Besides, even if it wants to run away, it cannot.”

    “Why?” the filial son could not help asking.

    “Because you are going out with him,” the Old Madame said, “When it goes poo, you are going to wait on the side.”

    Cousin was indeed very obedient. He simply stood up and left.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Looks like our son is indeed a filial son,” he said with a smile.

    Lu Xiaofeng had a shortcoming: every day after breakfast, he seemed to have to go to the bathroom. He drank too much wine, hence his stomach was not too well.

    Although the Old Madame was a jumbo-size vinegar jar [see Chapter 11], and she could watch other people like a hawk, but when the Old Master was going to the bathroom, she could not stare at him.

    But if a dog wanted to watch someone, it did not have too much of a scruple. It doesn’t matter if you are going to the bathroom or not, the dog can always follow you.

    Therefore, every time Lu Xiaofeng wanted to go to the bathroom, Canine Master would follow him while wagging his tail.

    Today was no exception.

    As soon as Lu Xiaofeng squatted down, Canine Master immediately said in low voice, “That waiter is definitely not a real waiter.”

    There was no response. Practically Lu Xiaofeng was ignoring him.

    Canine Master continued, “His qinggong must be very high, I can hear it from his steps.”

    Still no response.

    Just like most people, when he was going to the bathroom, Lu Xiaofeng liked to concentrate, he liked to focus his attention on the task at hands.

    Canine Master continued, “Moreover, I can tell than he is an expert in disguise, so much so that his skill is higher than mine.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly said, “Do you know what you are? You are a demon.”

    Canine Master was startled, “A demon?”

    “A dog who can speak human language, what is it if not a demon?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “But …” Canine Master started.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not let him continue, “Do you know how people deal with a demon?” he asked.

    Canine Master shook his head.

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “If not burning you to death, then they will beat you to death.”

    Canine Master did not dare to utter even a single word; he obediently left with his tail between his legs.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng was able to enjoy a moment of peace. To him, if a man can enjoy a moment of peace, even if that means he had to sit on a chamber pot, then it was already a pleasure in life. Not only that, it was a pleasure that was hard to come by, because he suddenly had a wife who watched over him constantly.

    When he went out, he discovered that Liu Qingqing was already outside, waiting for him; worse yet, it seemed like she had been waiting for a long time, because there was a big pile of fava bean shells on the floor.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “You love to see a man going to the bathroom? Or you love to smell the stench in here?”

    Liu Qingqing said, “I was just a little suspicious, that’s all.”

    “Suspicious about what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Suspicious that you did not really go to the bathroom, but was simply trying to avoid me, while whispering sweet nothings with your dog friend,” Liu Qingqing replied.

    “Hence you sat out here to listen if I am really going to the bathroom,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Liu Qingqing laughed. “Now I know,” she said, “That kind of noise is really not pleasant to the ears.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a strained smile he said, “Fortunately he is a male dog; if he were a female dog, what would happen then?”

    Liu Qingqing flatly said, “If he were a female dog, he would have been dead by now.”

    The sixth day of the fourth month, cloudy, but no rain.

    An entry in Housekeeper’s journal: “Light breakfast at the Kui Yuan Guan of the eastern city. During the meal, there was someone else who took the dog for a walk; from start to finish it took about half a sichen [i.e. about an hour, 1 sichen is 2 hours].”

    “The waiter who took the dog for a walk is surnamed Wang, locally born and bred here, has been a waiter for fourteen years, has a wife, a son and a daughter.”

    “This man has been investigated, but no suspicion is found on him.”

    Naturally this journal would be handed over to Old Sabre Honcho later. But Hai Qikuo had an objection, “Can’t do, you must not write it like that.”

    “Why not?” Housekeeper asked.

    Hai Qikuo said, “We shouldn’t have taken this dog along, we shouldn’t have let him get someone else to walk the dog even more; when Old Sabre Honcho read this, he will think there are problems.”

    “What do you think we should do?” Housekeeper asked.

    With a cold laugh Hai Qikuo said, “If the dog is a dead dog, it will be like the (grain) rice has been cooked into (cooked) rice; what can he do to me?”

    Housekeeper exhaled and said, “I just don’t know how long will it be before the living dog turns into a dead dog.”

    “Soon,” Hai Qikuo said.

    “Are you going to take the dog out for a walk tomorrow?” Housekeeper asked.

    Hai Qikuo sighed and said, “It looks like this is the first time in my life I have to do such thing.”

    “Won’t it be the last as well?” Housekeeper asked.

    “That’s right,” Hai Qikuo said, “Absolutely correct.”

    The seventh day of the fourth month, clear.

    Hai Qikuo had already taken the dog out very far, as if he had no intention of coming back.

    Cousin was following behind, he couldn’t help asking, “Since when do you like walking like this?”

    “Just now,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “And where are you heading now?” Cousin asked.

    “Outside the city wall,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “What are you going to do outside the city wall?” Cousin asked.

    Hai Qikuo replied, “Although a dead dog on the street is a very common thing, but if suddenly a man appeared from inside the dog’s skin, it will be a different thing altogether.”

    Cousin agreed, “Of course something like this must not be seen by anybody else.”

    “Hence we are going out of the city wall,” Hai Qikuo said.

    He held on the dog’s leash tightly; Cousin also held on to the sword hilt under his clothes. Not only this dog understood human language, he was also a secret projectile expert. If the dog did not die under human hands, but the human died under the dog’s hands, it would really be a joke.

    Who would have thought that the dog did not show any reaction at all?

    “Do you know what kind of trick this dog has in his belly?” Cousin asked.

    “I only know that there seems to be no one else around here,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “Not even half a shadow,” Cousin agreed.

    Hai Qikuo suddenly stopped. Looking at the dog, he sighed and said, “Quan Xiong, Quan Xiong [lit. ‘brother dog’], we have eaten together, we have drunk together; in short, we are friends. If you have any last wish, there is no harm in telling us. As long as we can do it, we will surely do it for you.”

    The dog wagged its tail. “Woof, woof!” it barked.

    “Even if you wag your tail, it’s useless, we still have to kill you,” Hai Qikuo said.

    Cousin added, “But we can guarantee that we won’t sell you to the dog meat shop.”

    Hai Qikuo sighed again. His vinegar-bowl size fist struck down. As soon as the fist hit the dog’s head, a sound of breaking bones was heard.

    The dog howled, unexpectedly it was still able to stand. Cousin’s sword quickly pierced its neck.

    Blood splashed, Hai Qikuo leaped high to evade; by the time he landed on the ground, the living dog has turned into a dead dog.

    Hai Qikuo heaved a sigh; he said with a laugh, “Apparently killing dog is much easier than killing people.”

    But Cousin’s countenance sank; suddenly he said with a cold laugh, “I am afraid we really killed a dog.”

    Hai Qikuo was stunned; immediately he stooped down, trying to peel the dog’s skin to take a look.

    Inside the dog’s skin, it was still a dog; this dog was not Canine Master.

    Hai Qikuo’s countenance changed. “I clearly saw it,” he said.

    “Saw what?” Cousin asked.

    “I saw Canine Master got into a dog skin like this, and became a dog like this,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    “There are many kinds of dogs,” Cousin coldly said, “Dogs of the same breed look more or less alike.”

    “Where is Canine Master then?” Hai Qikuo asked, “Where did this dog come from?”

    “Why don’t you go ask Lu Xiaofeng?” Cousin said.

    Unexpectedly there was someone waiting outside the lavatory. Lu Xiaofeng has just reached the door, he has not even tied his belt yet, and he had already seen Hai Qikuo.

    Hai Qikuo’s appearance was like someone who could not hold on anymore, perhaps a piece of sh1t was already falling into the crouch of his pants.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and mumbled to himself, “Why is it that each time I go poo there is someone waiting in line outside? Could it be that everybody ate the wrong medicine and are having diarrhea?”

    Hai Qikuo clenched his teeth and said hatefully, “I did not take the wrong medicine, just killed the wrong person.”

    Lu Xiaofeng appeared shocked. “Whom did you kill?” he asked.

    “I killed a dog,” Hai Qikuo said.

    “Wait, did you kill a person? Or a dog?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hai Qikuo replied, “The dog I killed was supposed to be a person; who would have thought that it was a real dog? There was nobody inside the dog skin.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He said, “Dog is dog, inside the dog skin there is naturally dog meat, dog bones; naturally, there is no person!”

    He sighed again while patting Hai Qikuo’s shoulder, “You must be too tired lately. If you don’t take a good rest, you might really go crazy.”

    Hai Qikuo looked like he really was going to go crazy from rage. “Where is Canine Master?” he suddenly roared.

    Lu Xiaofeng was indifferent. “He is not my son, nor is he my housekeeper; how do I know where he is?”

    “But the one insisted to bring him down the mountain was you,” Hai Qikuo said.

    “I just wanted to bring a dog down the mountain,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I never said I wanted to bring Canine Master.”

    He patted Hai Qikuo’s shoulder again and said with a laugh, “Now, although you killed my dog, I don’t want you to pay it with your life at all. No matter what, a good housekeeper is a lot more useful than a dog. Besides, I can’t bear to have Housemaid become a widow.”

    Hai Qikuo was so angry that he could not say anything.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng was able to tie his belt. He started to walk away leisurely, but after only a few steps he looked back and said with a laugh, “You must report this matter to Old Sabre Honcho, I am sure he will find it very interesting. Maybe he will reward you heavily with something.”

    There was a hint of malicious intention in his laughter, “Can you think of what he is going to reward you?”

    Hai Qikuo could. No matter what it was, it would be something very, very heavy. Could it be a very heavy punch? Or perhaps a very heavy chop?

    Hai Qikuo suddenly laughed aloud. “I finally got it,” he said.

    “You got what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hai Qikuo said, “Since the one I killed was a dog, the one died was also a dog. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog, in the end it is a dead dog now.”

    He winked, and then said with a smile, “Even dead people are all the same, much less dogs?”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed heartily, “Looks like this fellow really gets it,” he said.

    The eighth day of the fourth month. It was cloudy with occasional shower.

    The entry in Housekeeper’s journal was very succinct, “Traveled four hundred li [1 li is approx. 1/2km], the dog died suddenly.”

    The ninth of the fourth month. Overcast.

    No rain, only dark clouds. Thick layers of cloud hung low overhead, the sky turned dark fairly early.

    “How did we get here?”

    “Because the driver was afraid of getting into the lodging too late, so he took a shortcut.”

    “This is a shortcut?”

    “Should have been. But now …” Housekeeper sighed, and then with a bitter smile he continued, “Now it looks like we are lost.”

    It was dinnertime. They should have been eating, they should have been washing their face, rinsing their mouth, putting on clean clothes, and sitting under the bright light of the inn, eating some snacks and cold plate.

    Yet the fact was that they have lost and were in an unfamiliar place.

    “I am hungry, hungry as hell.” Liu Qingqing was clearly not a woman who was accustomed to hardship. “I must eat something, my stomach does not feel well.”

    “If you really want to eat something, just eat some grass like a sheep.”

    Liu Qingqing frowned, “Isn’t there anything to eat in the carriage?”

    “Not only there is nothing to eat, we don’t even have anything to drink.”

    “So what do we do?”

    “Only one thing.”

    “What is it?”

    “Go hungry.”

    Liu Qingqing suddenly pushed the door open and jumped down the carriage, “I don’t believe there is nothing else we could do; I am going looking.”

    “What are you looking for?”

    “No matter what kind of place this is, there must be people around, there must be a house nearby.” Liu Qingqing sounded very sure, but in her heart she was actually not sure at all.

    But she was willing to look.

    Because she could not endure hardship, she could not go hungry.

    It doesn’t matter what you are looking for, only those who are willing to look will find it.

    There are a lot of things like this in the world – the first person to invent a vehicle must be someone who was disinclined to walk. Exactly because people did not want to endure hardships that humanity has made some progress.

    She was willing to look, hence she found it.

    Just beyond the col down the hill, unexpectedly there was really a house. A very big house.

    In fact, no matter where you are, it would be difficult to find such a big house like this.

    In the dark, the slopes of the roof looked like layers upon layers of dark cloud being piled up together. The main gate was expansive, so wide that at least six horses could enter in side-by-side.

    But the vermillion paint on the door was peeling off, and the door was shut. The strangest thing was, such a big house, but there was no light in sight.

    It is often said that sometimes a haunted house will appear in an uninhabited wilderness. Could it be that this place is a haunted house?

    “Even if this is really a haunted house, I still want to take a look inside.” Liu Qingqing was afraid of hunger, she was not afraid of ghosts.

    She was already knocking on the door. The copper ring door-knocker was more resounding than a gong, yet there was no response from the inside at all.

    She was about to give up, but the door suddenly opened. It was opened just a slit, hence a slit of lantern light shone out. A man was standing in the dark, with his back toward the light. He was staring at her with cold eyes.

    Although the lantern light was dim, it was glaring to her eyes. By the time her eyes had adjusted, she looked at the man, and instantly did not dare to look the second time.

    This man simply did not look like a human, but he did not look like a ghost either. If we say that he was a human, he must be a mud-man. If we say that he was a ghost, then he was a ghost that was formed of clay.

    From top to bottom his body was covered in mud; his face, his nose, his eyebrows, even his mouth looked like it was stuffed with mud.

    Luckily he could laugh.

    Looking at Liu Qingqing’s expression, he suddenly roared in laughter; he laughed so hard that the dried mud on his face flaked off and ‘plop, plop’, it fell to the ground.

    Whether he was a human or a ghost, as long as he was able to laugh, he would not look too scary anymore.

    Finally Liu Qingqing put on a brave face and with a forced laugh she said, “We are lost …”

    She only said one sentence, the man already cut her off, “I know you are lost; otherwise, how could you get to this ghost place?”

    His laughter was even more cheerful, “But Old Lady, you need not be afraid, although this place is a ghost place, I am not a ghost; not only I am a human, I am a good human.”

    Liu Qingqing could not resist asking, “If you are a good human, how come there are so much mud on you?”

    The man replied, “Anybody who dug earthworms for several days would have so much mud on him.”

    Liu Qingqing was stunned, “You dig earthworms?” she asked.

    The man nodded. He said, “I have already dug 783 big earthworms.”

    Liu Qingqing was even more shocked, “What are you going to do with so many worms?” she asked.

    “That many worms is still not enough,” the man replied, “I still need to dig 713 to have enough.”

    “Why?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    The man replied, “Because I made a bet with someone, whoever loses will have to dig 1500 earthworms, mustn’t be less even one.”

    “And you lost?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    The man sighed and said, “Although I haven’t lost yet, I know that I will lose for sure.”

    Liu Qingqing looked at him; she stared straight into his eyes, “This kind of bet is very unusual, the person who made a bet with you must be a strange man.”

    “Not only he is a strange man,” the man said, “He is also an a$$h01e [orig. muddled egg]. Not only he is an a$$h01e, he is a big a$$h01e.”

    Lu Xiaofeng has been standing afar off, suddenly he interrupted, “Not only he is a big a$$h01e, he is an especially big a$$h01e.”

    The man readily agreed, “Totally correct.”

    “If he is an a$$h01e,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “What about you?”

    The man sighed. “It seems like I am too,” he admitted.

    Lu Xiaofeng was going to say something else, Liu Qingqing was already screaming, “You are not an a$$h01e, you are a good man. I know you will definitely let us stay for the night here.”

    “You want to stay overnight in this place?” the man asked in disbelief.

    “Uh huh,” Liu Qingqing said.

    “You really want to?” the man asked again.

    “Of course I really want to,” Liu Qingqing replied.

    The man looked at her in shock, as if it was more shocking than seeing someone digging earthworms from the dirt.

    Liu Qingqing could not help asking, “We are lost, there are no other houses around here, we want to stay here for the night, what is so strange about that?”

    The man nodded, and then he shook his head, finally he muttered under his breath, “Not strange, not strange at all.”

    Although his mouth said ‘not strange’, his expression looked very strange indeed.

    Liu Qingqing could not help but ask, “Is this place haunted?”

    “No, it’s not,” the man replied, “Not a single ghost in here.”

    “In that case, would you let us stay one night in here?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    The man chuckled. He said, “As long as you really want to, you can stay here as long as you wish.”

    He turned around and walked into the gloomy and desolate courtyard, while still mumbling to himself, as if he was saying, “I am just afraid that you might not even stay for half a sichen, because so far there has never been anybody who can stay here for long.”

    Across the courtyard there were seven rooms, and there were quite a few lanterns in each room.

    Surprisingly, there was still oil in the lanterns.

    And surprisingly, the man lighted every single one of the lanterns in the room. And then he sighed in contentment, “No matter what kind of ghost place, as long as there are lighted lanterns around, it will look a lot better.”

    Actually, the place did not look too bad. Although there was thick layer of dust accumulated everywhere, the beautiful and expensive looking decoration and furnishing did not look worn-out at all. In fact, it could be said that they were of the contemporary style.

    Liu Qingqing tried to sound out the man, “Did you say that there has never been anybody who are able to stay here?”

    The man admitted.

    It was only natural that Liu Qingqing probed further, “Why?”

    The man replied, “Because there is something here that no one has ever been able to stand.”

    “What is it?” Liu Qingqing asked, “And where is it?”

    The man pointed with his finger, “Right there.”

    He was pointing to a crystal case, which was on the sacrificial table right in the middle of the main hall.

    The crystal was polished and ground that it was extremely thin, it was almost completely transparent. Inside the case there was something that looked like a withered flower petal.

    “What flower is that?”

    “That’s not flower; it’s not anything you can think of.”

    “What is it then?”

    “It’s a human eyeball.”

    Liu Qingqing’s eyes grew big, but the pupil of her eyes shrank; she could not help taking two steps back in fright.

    “Whose eyeball?”

    “A woman’s, a very famous woman. This woman’s most famous feature was precisely her eyes.”

    “Why was it famous?”

    “Because she was the Divine Eyes. It was said that not only she could do embroidery in the dark, she could even hit a mosquito’s head with a needle from thirty steps away.”

    “Are you talking about the Divine Eyes, Third Mistress Shen?”

    “Other than she, who else?”

    “Who put her eyeball in here?”

    “Other than her husband, who else?”

    “Wasn’t her husband the Jade Forest Swordsman Ye Lingfeng?”

    “That’s right. There is also only one Ye Lingfeng in Jianghu. Fortunately there is only one.”

    Liu Qingqing clasped her hands together tightly, the palm of her hands were wet.

    Did she know the web of gratitude and grudges between Ye Lingfeng and Old Sabre Honcho? They reached this place, was it a coincidence? Or some unseen people secretly arranged all these?

    The man who dug earthworms had his face completely covered with mud, nobody could see the expression on his face.

    But his voice was rather hoarse, as he continued his narration, “There are a total of ninety-three rooms in this building, each room has a crystal case just like this.”

    Each room had one? Liu Qingqing immediately burst into the second room. Sure enough, she saw an identical crystal case in it.

    But the object inside the case was a withered ear.

    Like a specter the man who dug earthworms followed behind her, “When Third Mistress Shen died, Ye Lingfeng cut her off into ninety-three pieces …”

    Liu Qingqing could not help crying out, “Why did he do that?”

    The man who dug earthworms sighed and said, “Because he loved her too much, he wanted to see her all the time, no matter where he was or where he went, he wanted to see her. Even though he could only see one eye, one ear, he was satisfied.”

    Liu Qingqing bit her lower lip, she nearly could not refrain from throwing up.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked, “I heard that Third Mistress Shen’s cousin [orig. maternal older male cousin] is Wudang’s famous swordsman Wooden Taoist.”

    The man who dug earthworms nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “I heard that the two of them got married, it was Wooden Taoist who became the matchmaker.”

    “That’s right,” the man who dug earthworms said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Ye Lingfeng did that, wasn’t he afraid Wooden Taoist would deal with him?”

    The man who dug earthworms said, “By the time Wooden Taoist wanted to deal with him, it was already too late. In less than three months after Third Mistress Shen died, he went insane, he crashed his own head against the rock garden at the back of his house, his head was thoroughly mashed.”

    “If someone had his head thoroughly mashed, naturally nobody would recognize his true identity, hence nobody can prove whether the man who died was really him.”

    All along Liu Qingqing was holding her breath, finally she started breathing again, and immediately asked, “After he died, why didn’t anybody move these cases away?”

    The man who dug earthworms said, “Because the people who wanted to move these cases away are now lying inside cases.”

    “What kind of cases?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    The man who dug earthworms replied, “Something long, made of wood, usually designed to contain dead people. Most people, when they are dead, will be lying in a case like these.”

    Liu Qingqing forced a chuckle and then said, “At least it is much better than being inside a crystal case like this.”

    The man who dug earthworms said, “Unfortunately, not too much.”

    “Why?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    The man who dug earthworms replied, “Because being strangled alive by a pair of ghost’s hands did not feel pleasant at all.”

    Liu Qingqing said, “But you said it yourself a moment ago that there is not a single ghost in this place.”

    The man who dug earthworms said, “Indeed there is not a single ghost in here, but this place has at least forty-nine ghosts. Moreover, they all are ghosts who died of injustice.”

    “How many people were here originally?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Forty-nine,” the earthworm-digger man replied.

    “And now all these people have died?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “If there is an eyeball inside a crystal case staring at you every day, can you stand it?” the man who dug earthworms asked.

    “I can’t stand it,” Liu Qingqing replied, “I will definitely go crazy.”

    “If you can’t stand it, others won’t be able to stand it either,” the earthworm-digger said, “Therefore, everybody wanted to remove these cases. However, no matter who, as soon as he touched the case, his tongue would stuck out half a chi [Chinese foot, approx. 1 foot or 1/3 of a meter] long, and instantly his breathing would stop. Just like this.”

    He stuck his own tongue out, and it was very long indeed. His face was completely covered in black mud, but his tongue was as red as blood. Only someone who was strangled to death would have that kind of appearance.

    Liu Qingqing looked away immediately, she did not dare to even take a glance; yet she still could not resist asking, “What about you? Have you tried to move these cases?”

    The man who dug earthworms shook his head, and then nodded. His tongue was still stuck out, basically he could not speak.

    “All the people in here have died,” Liu Qingqing said, “How come you are still alive? You are not ghost, are you?”

    The earthworm-digger suddenly took out his hand from his bosom, and tossed something full of blackish-green stuffs toward Liu Qingqing. These stuffs were surprisingly alive, they were warm, soft, and slippery. They were live earthworms!

    Liu Qingqing screamed; she was so scared that she almost fainted.

    She was actually not a kind of woman who get easily scared, but these moist, soft and slippery earthworms were just too much.

    By the time she was dodging these worms, the earthworm-digger has already disappeared. The light flickered a couple of times, all the lanterns in the room suddenly went out.

    She turned around. Lu Xiaofeng and the others were gone, she was all alone.

    Fortunately, there was still light in the room next door. She rushed over, but the lantern in that room suddenly went out as well.

    Although there were still lights in the rooms ahead, but by the time she rushed over, the lanterns went out one after another. In this way, all seven rooms she saw earlier had turned into complete darkness. Suddenly she could not see anything, not even the hand she stretched out in front of her eyes.

    -- Was the eyeball in the crystal case still staring at her?

    -- How about those forty-nine people who died in injustice, whose tongues were sticking out? Were they also staring at her in the dark?

    She could not see them.

    She was not the Divine Eyes.

    -- That damned Lu Xiaofeng, where did he die?

    “Hey old man, dead old man, the old man surnamed Lu, aren’t you going to come out?” She shouted, but there was no response.

    There was not a single response; Housekeeper, Hook, Cousin, wonder where they went?

    -- Have they all been strangled to death by a pair of invisible ghost hands?

    -- Could it be that this was all a deathly trap?

    She wanted to rush out, but three times she tried, she always hit the wall. Her entire body was drenched in cold sweats.

    Her last attempt resulted in she tripped and fell down. Her legs went weak, she nearly did not have any strength to crawl back up.

    Suddenly a hand was reaching out to her in the dark, pulling her up.

    -- Was it Lu Xiaofeng?

    It wasn’t.

    Ice-cold and dry hand, with nails at least a cun [1 cun is approx. 1 inch] long.

    She couldn’t help screaming at the top of her lungs, “Who are you?”

    “You can’t see me, but I can see you,” a voice was sort of laughing in the dark, “I am the Divine Eyes.”

    It was a female voice.

    Was this hand reaching out from inside a crystal case?

    The laughter continued, she tried with all her strength to grope forward. She pounced an empty space.

    That ice-cold and dry hand reached out from behind her and caressed her neck lightly.

    She really was not the kind of woman who got scared so easily to the point of passing out, but right now she fainted for real.

    The tenth day of the fourth month. Clear.

    When Liu Qingqing woke up, the sun was shining outside her window.

    The window was moving, the trees outside were also moving – as if they were flying backwards.

    She rubbed her eyes, and suddenly found herself to be in the carriage again. Lu Xiaofeng was sitting opposite her, he was staring at her with a wide grin on his face.

    She bit her lower lip. It hurt, very much.

    It was not a dream.

    She sprang up, and glowered at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “Morning,” he said.

    “Morning?” Liu Qingqing said, “Is it morning?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Actually, it can’t be considered morning anymore. Last night you slept like a dead person.”

    Liu Qingqing clenched her teeth, “What about you?” she asked.

    “I also slept a bit,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Liu Qingqing suddenly jumped up and pounced; she pounced on him, and strangled him on the neck, while saying ferociously, “Speak up, speak up quickly, what is this all about?”

    “What it’s all about?” Lu Xiaofeng asked back.

    “About last night,” Liu Qingqing replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “I was about to ask you,” he said, “What’s the matter with you? Why did you bump your head against the wall without any good reason and passed out just like that?”

    Liu Qingqing shrieked; she said, “I am not crazy, why would I want to bump my own head against the wall?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you yourself did not know, how in the world would I know?”

    “I ask you,” Liu Qingqing said, “Those lanterns in the room, how could they go out together like that?”

    “The lanterns ran out of oil,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Naturally they went out.”

    “What about that man who dug earthworms?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When the lanterns went out, naturally he wanted to find more oil.”

    “Did he find some?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “It was precisely because he found some oil that we were able to find you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Is he really a human?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Not only he is a human, he is also a good human,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Not only he found oil for the lanterns, he cooked a big pot of rice porridge, each of us had eaten several bowls.”

    Liu Qingqing stared blankly; she stared blankly for half a day before asking, “When the lanterns went out, where were you?”

    “In the back,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “I was at the front,” Liu Qingqing said, “What did you do in the back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You were at the front, why must we also be at the front? We are not your shadow [orig. bum beetle], why can’t we go to the back to look around?”

    Liu Qingqing suddenly shouted, “Housekeeper, Housemaid, Good Son, all of you, come in!”

    The carriage stopped, all the people she called came over. She asked them the same question she had just asked Lu Xiaofeng, but their answer was the same. They did not understand why she bumped her head against the wall with no good reason and passed out.

    Liu Qingqing was so mad that she almost passed out again, yet she could not resist asking, “Didn’t you all see the hand?”

    “What hand?” Housekeeper asked.

    “The ghost hand strangling my neck,” Liu Qingqing said.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. “Yes, I saw that,” he said.

    His smile was very mysterious, “Not only I saw it, I brought it with me,” he said.

    Immediately Liu Qingqing’s eyes brightened, “Where is it?” she asked.

    “Right here,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    He smiled, and from his pocket he took a hanging curtains cord, on the cord there were several cun-long hooks, the hooks looked like fingernails. “Aren’t these the ghost hand that wrapped around your neck?”

    Liu Qingqing was speechless.

    Hai Qikuo suddenly roared in laughter and said, “I can’t believe the Jiangnan Heroine with grand reputation Liu Qingqing could be scared and fainted by a string of window curtain cord.”

    “Actually, you should have thought about it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because she is a woman, plus her age cannot be considered young.”

    He sighed, and then with a wry smile said, “If a woman reaches her age, it is often very difficult not to be paranoid.”

    The eleventh day of the fourth month. Clear.

    Dusk.

    From yesterday morning until now, the number of sentences Liu Qingqing spoke put together was still less than what she usually said during one mealtime.

    Her countenance was also very unsightly. It was unclear whether it was because she was still scared and her heart has not calmed down, or whether it was because the D-day was getting closer?

    At the moment they were only half a day away from Mount Wudang. Old Sabre Honcho did not leave any message, nor did he give them any final instructions. Therefore, not only she changed, others were a bit nervous and tense as well.

    Nobody knew what their chance of success would be in this operation.

    Shi He (sic), Tie Jian, Wang Shidai, Gao Xingkong … these people could be considered the elites, the very top of Wulin experts. [Translator’s note: I could have sworn earlier it was Shi Yan …]

    Moreover, in addition to those seven people, nobody knew for sure how many more martial art experts have arrived on Mount Wudang.

    “Do you think Ximen Chuixue would come too?”

    “He wouldn’t.”

    “Why?”

    “Because the one he is looking for is Lu Xiaofeng, he can’t possibly think that Lu Xiaofeng is on Mount Wudang.”

    Naturally the one who said those words was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Perhaps the reason he said it was because in his heart he himself was hoping it was so.

    Evenings was the time when the city was most bustling with activities. Their carriage was passing through the city center.

    “Even if Ximen Chuixue is not coming, Wooden Taoist will definitely be there. Although for the last several years he has almost completely retired, but in such an important event of Sect Leader inauguration like this, he can’t possibly not get involved.”

    “Of course.”

    “If Wooden Taoist is here, then presumably Ancient Pine Hermit will also be here. Just these two, it’s already not easy to deal with.”

    “I think Old Sabre Honcho must have had a way to deal with them, otherwise, why didn’t he include these two in the list?”

    “No matter what, we shouldn’t even think about this matter now,” Lu Xiaofeng opened his mouth.

    “What should we think about then?”

    “We should think about where are we going to eat?”

    At the moment Cousin, Housekeeper, Hai Qikuo were all riding in the carriage. They seemed to be about to open their mouth, but suddenly all of them shut up at the same time. Six eyes were looking at the doorway of a restaurant across the street.

    The carriage was traveling very slowly, by the time they passed, there were three people entering the restaurant.

    One man had red face and bald head, his gaze was sharp like an eagle’s. Another man was as tall like a bamboo pole, and he was as thin as a bamboo pole. He swayed to the left and wobbled to the right, as if a gust of wind would be able to knock him down.

    The third person was holding on these two people’s shoulders, as if he was drunk; yet he dressed as a Taoist priest whose hair was completely white.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew all these three; Cousin, Housekeeper and Hai Qikuo also knew them.

    The one with the eagle’s eyes was Ying Yan Laoqi [lit. Hawk Eye the seventh], the Zongpiaobazi [head honcho/big boss] of the Twelve-Dock Alliance.

    The one that looked like his walk was unsteady was actually the Yandang Mountain Lord, Gao Xingkong, whose qinggong had shaken both sides of the Yangtze River.

    The old Taoist priest who looked totally drunk was the person they were just talking about, the famous senior of Wudang, Wooden Taoist.

    Although Cousin’s eyes were fixed on these three, in his heart he was hoping the carriage would travel a little faster.

    Who would have thought that suddenly Lu Xiaofeng said, “Order the driver to stop.”

    Cousin jumped in fright. “Why?” he asked.

    “Because we are going to eat at this restaurant,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Cousin was even more shocked, “Don’t you recognize those three people?”

    “I recognize them,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “But they don’t recognize me.”

    “In case they recognize you?” Cousin asked.

    “If they can recognize us right now, then when we arrived at Wudang, they will also recognize us,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Cousin pondered over it. Finally he understood what he meant, “You want to test whether they could recognize us?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nonchalantly said, “In any case we need to take a risk of being recognized by them. If we are being recognized here, at least it would be much better than if we are being recognized in Wudang.”

    He had just finished speaking, Liu Qingqing had already knocked the carriage loudly and called out, “Stop the carriage.”

    Until then, everybody thought Lu Xiaofeng’s plan was obviously a great idea, hence nobody raised any objection.

    Because by that time they had not entered the restaurant yet.

    But when they went up, it was already too late to regret. And the one who regretted his decision the most was, unexpectedly, Lu Xiaofeng.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 08:52 AM.

  2. #62
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 13

    Chapter 13 – Success is the only option
    Translated by Foxs


    The style of this restaurant was very exquisite, the size was also very big, but the business was not so good. Although right now was dinner time, there were only three occupied tables in that spacious restaurant floor. [Translator’s note: the original character indicates second floor.]

    Gao Xingkong and the others’ party did not consist of only three people, there was already someone waiting for them in one of the tables.

    This person was tall and majestic, with grand appearance. Looking at his imposing manner and his attire, he must be a famous Wulin character.

    But Lu Xiaofeng obviously did not recognize him; so much so that he did not even remember seeing this person.

    The number of well-known Wulin characters that Lu Xiaofeng had never seen was indeed not many.

    The table with the most number of people was also the table with most wine on it; it had men and women sitting around it.

    The men were wearing gorgeous and expensive looking clothes; they must be either rich salt merchants from Yangzhou, or off-duty minor government officials in civilian clothes. The women were wearing provocative dress, they acted in loose and coquettish manner; undoubtedly they were women of windblown dust [i.e. prostitute].

    The table with the least number of people only had one person sitting on it.

    A man wearing white clothes, as white as snow.

    Seeing this person, Lu Xiaofeng immediately felt the palm of his hands wet with cold sweats. He really never expected that he would see this person in this place. Otherwise, even if there was someone behind him with a whip in his hand, he would never want to climb up the stairs.

    Yet since he was already upstairs, he could not go back down.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only brace himself and find a place to sit. Liu Qingqing was looking at him with cold eyes; she could almost see the beads of perspiration behind his human-skin mask were ready to pop out.

    But the man in white did not look at them, not even a sidelong glance with the corner of his eyes.

    His face was ashen.

    His sword was lying on the table.

    He drank only water. Plain clear water. Not wine.

    Evidently he was always ready to kill.

    Wooden Taoist greeted him, but he acted as if he did not see him. This senior character from Wudang, whose reputation in Jianghu was resounding, seemed like an invisible character in his eyes.

    The fact is: he had never considered anybody worthy to look at.

    But Wooden Taoist simply laughed; he shook his head while muttering with a smile, “I don’t blame him. No matter how rude he is, I simply cannot blame him.”

    The big and tall, majestic looking old man could not help asking, “Why?”

    Wooden Taoist said, “Because he is Ximen Chuixue.”

    The heaven above, the earth below, the one and only Ximen Chuixue!

    The heaven above, the earth below, the unique and unmatched sword!

    As long as there was a sword in his hand, he had the right not to consider anybody worthy to look at!

    Perhaps right now he had his eyes on Lu Xiaofeng alone.

    Hatred is like some kind of exotic poisonous weeds. Although its nature is to inflict harm, it can also bring out one’s full potential, so that his willpower will be more staunch, his reaction more keen.

    Moreover, once this kind of sword attacked, it would not miss even a hundredth of hair width, it had the sharpness of a pair of eagle or falcon eyes.

    Right now it never occurred to him that Lu Xiaofeng was right in front of him, but if Lu Xiaofeng exposed the least bit of flaw, he would never be able to escape this pair of sharp eyes.

    The dishes have been served, the waiter was asking, “Master guests, which wine would you like to drink?”

    Liu Qingqing immediately said, “We don’t drink wine today, not the least bit of wine.”

    Wine could easily make people to be careless, and the smallest negligence could be fatal.

    However, wine could also make people relax; it could calm people’s nerve.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Today we do not drink a bit of wine, we will drink a lot.”

    He smiled while patting Cousin’s shoulder, “Today is my son’s birthday; how can a propitious day be without any wine? Give us a jar of Green Bamboo Leaf first.”

    Liu Qingqing shot a malicious look at him, but he seemed to be completely oblivious; he continued with a smile, “By nature men and wine are fated together, cautious words of a woman, we must not listen. Come, you two also sit down and accompany me several cups.”

    Housekeeper and Hai Qikuo had no choice but to sit down.

    Listening from the side, Wooden Taoist laughed aloud while stroking his beard, “Good one! Cautious words of a woman, we must not listen; if we listen, it’s superfluous and the words belong to the three great vanities[1].”

    The wine was really fine, they drank it even faster. After three cups of wine entered his belly, Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance naturally became brighter, his eyes were shining.

    Finally he has come out of Ximen Chuixue’s shadow; in fact, he seemed to forget that there was such person in that restaurant right now.

    Suddenly Ximen Chuixue fixed his blade-sharp gaze on him. Wooden Taoist was also staring at him. Suddenly he raised his cup and laughed, “Friend who is fated to be with wine, could the old Taoist toast you one cup?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Deference is no substitute for obedience, this old man [orig. ‘old rotten’, a humble way to refer to self] must also toast Priest three cups.”

    Wooden Taoist roared in laughter. Suddenly he came over; his razor-like eyes were also fixed on Lu Xiaofeng as he said, “What’s your respected surname?”

    “It’s Xiong,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Xiong from ‘bear and tiger’ [xiong means bear].”

    Wooden Taoist said, “Strangers coming together by chance, I should have not bothered you, but the heroic way Xiong Xiong [brother bear] drinks his wine reminds me a lot of a friend of mine.”

    Liu Qingqing’s heart skipped a beat. Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng was still able to laugh very cheerfully; he said, “And where is this friend of the Priest?”

    Wooden Taoist replied, “Far away at the ends of the earth, yet so close in front of my eyes.”

    Liu Qingqing’s heart almost jumped out of her throat. Lu Xiaofeng almost spilled the wine in his cup as well.

    But Wooden Taoist looked up and heaved a deep sigh; he continued, “Heaven is jealous of the braves and the talented. Although this friend of mine has gone far away to the Western Paradise (i.e. dead), but here we have wine, and we have old friends, perhaps his brave soul has returned in front of my eyes.”

    Liu Qingqing relaxed, Lu Xiaofeng also felt relieved, because they did not look at Ximen Chuixue.

    Ximen Chuixue’s pale face grew even paler that it almost appeared transparent; his hand already rested on the hilt of his sword.

    Suddenly there was a clear ringing sound from outside the window, clear like the sound of dragon cry.

    Only a very sharp sword being pulled out of its scabbard would make such a clear and resonant sound like a dragon cry.

    The pupil of Ximen Chuixue’s eyes contracted immediately.

    In that same split second, there seemed to be a flash of lightning in the night sky, a streak of cold ray flashed through the window, straight toward Ximen Chuixue.

    Ximen Chuixue’s sword was still on the table, it was still inside the sheath. But a cup containing fresh water sitting next to the sword scabbard suddenly shot out to meet the sword ray.

    ‘Ding!’ the cup shattered into a million pieces, with millions of water droplets, like cold mist filling the air.

    The sword ray disappeared, but a man appeared in the midst of the cold mist.

    A man wearing black, even his face was covered in black cloth, only his eyes were visible, a pair of luminous and bright eyes.

    On the table there was no more sword, the sword was already in hand.

    The man in black stared at him and said, “Draw your sword.”

    Ximen Chuixue coldly said, “Seven people is too little, why do you have to die?”

    The men in black did not understand, “Seven people?”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Under the heavens, the number people who are fit to use sword is only seven, including you. Mastering sword like this is not easy at all.”

    He waved his hand, “Go.”

    “And if I don’t go I die?” the man in black said.

    “Yes,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    The man in black let out a cold laugh, “I am afraid the one to die is not me, it’s you!”

    His sword flew again.

    Wooden Taoist knitted his brows, “This sword is not inferior to Ye Gucheng’s Immortal Flying to the Outer Heaven; who is this man?”

    Only Lu Xiaofeng knew who this man was.

    He remembered the steel rope bridge bordering life and death outside the Mansion of Spirits, the sword that was able to penetrate the rock.

    Shi He, the man with no face.

    He was bent on deciding superiority between Ximen Chuixue and him.

    Another clear ringing dragon cry sound, Ximen Chuixue’s sword was out of its sheath.

    Nobody could describe the changes and the speed of these two swords.

    Nobody could describe the battle between these two men.

    Sword aura criss-crossing the air, all cups, bowls and plates in the restaurant were shattered, the sword wind split the air, forcing everybody present to hold their breath.

    Surprisingly the countenance of the four richly dressed old men did not change, while the women accompanying them scrambled away like flying orioles, scattering swallows; their heavily made-up faces turned deathly pale.

    Suddenly a sword ray flew up and struck down from the sky, the man in black slanted his body sideways to evade, but he happened to fall onto the old men’s table.

    Ximen Chuixue’s sword continued striking down from above, the man in black was completely enveloped by the sword.

    He had lost the crucial momentum, while there was no way to retreat.

    Who would have thought that right that moment the restaurant floor suddenly gave up?

    -- The table fell down, the man in black fell down along with the table, the four richly dressed old men, who were sitting motionless around the table, also fell down.

    A large gaping hole suddenly appeared on the restaurant floor. It was like the earth suddenly split up,

    Ximen Chuixue’s sword flitted pass above the hole, clearly he had never anticipated this change.

    He was thinking of going down the hole to pursue, who would have thought that this piece of floor suddenly flew back up. ‘Crack!’ it just happened to restore the hole on the floor.

    The table was still standing on this piece of floor, the four richly dressed old men were still sitting motionless around the table.

    It appeared that these four men had used the soles of their feet to ‘suck’ the floor back up, but the man in black has disappeared from the table!

    Sword ray has also disappeared, the sword has returned to its sheath.

    Ximen Chuixue stared at them with his cold eyes, but in his cold gaze there was a hint of surprise and amazement.

    Gao Xingkong, Ying Yan Laoqi, Wooden Taoist, also could not refrain from looking at each other, their smiles faded.

    Obviously by now they had seen clearly that these four richly dressed old men were not salt merchants with ten thousand strings of cash in their money belt, neither were they off-duty government officials in civilian clothes, but they were martial art experts of the Wulin world whose power was unfathomably deep.

    They had used their internal power to break the piece of the floor, and again used their internal energy to suck the floor back to its original place. Just how many people in Wulin had skill that has reached this level?

    “Three people,” Ximen Chuixue suddenly said.

    The richly dressed old men looked at him calmly and quietly, waiting for him to continue.

    Ximen Chuixue continued, “Those who are able to receive the forty-nine sword strike of mine, there are only three people.”

    That was because in just a short battle a moment ago, he had thrust his sword seven by seven, forty nine times.

    Indeed he had never used forty-nine strikes to kill anybody before.

    The oldest among the four richly dressed old men finally opened his mouth, “What do you say, which one is he?”

    “Neither one,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Oh?” the richly dressed old man said.

    Ximen Chuixue coldly said, “Those three people have already reached the status of leaders of a sect or a school, even if their blood splashes under the sword, they would never run away.”

    The richly dressed old man said indifferently, “In that case he must have been the fourth person.”

    “There is no fourth person!” Ximen Chuixue stated.

    The richly dressed old man said, “Sire still have a sword in your hand, why not try it, see if we can receive forty-nine strike of Sire’s sword?”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Even if you can receive it, I am afraid from the four of you, only three will be left alive.”

    “What about you?” the richly dressed old man asked.

    Ximen Chuixue shut his mouth up.

    Dealing with these four men, he really did not have any confidence.

    The richly dressed old men also shut their mouths. Because dealing with Ximen Chuixue, they did not have any confidence either.

    From among the four young women in fancy dress who accompanied the old men, one girl wearing emerald green colored light gown suddenly called out, “Jiujiu [maternal uncle]!” She was calling out to Lu Xiaofeng, while rushing toward him, “I finally found you, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

    He has always been a bachelor, an official single man; but now, not only he had a son, he had also suddenly become someone else’s maternal uncle.

    The young woman had already kneeled in front of him with tears streaming down her cheeks, “Uncle, don’t you recognize me? I am Xiao Cui, your own sister’s daughter, Xiao Cui.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly wrapped his arms around her, “How could I not recognize you? Where is your Mom?”

    Xiao Cui said, “I … I had no choice, they … they …” Before she could finish, she has already burst into tears again.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up and charged toward the richly dressed old men, and cursed them, “You must have bullied her; otherwise, why would she cry in such a grief-stricken manner?”

    He grabbed the lapel of an old man’s clothes, “You look older than I am, yet you bullied a lone and poor little girl; aren’t you human? I’ll stake my life against you.”

    He forcefully pulled the old man. Xiao Cui rushed over as well, and pulled him from behind.

    Suddenly, ‘crash!’ the floor gave up again, the three of them fell one upon another.

    Ximen Chuixue was stunned.

    The ones he was about to deal with just now, they were most probably the most terrifying adversaries he had ever faced in his life.

    But now all of a sudden what he was facing was no more than a big gaping hole.

    He could only walk away.

    When he passed Wooden Taoist’s table, he suddenly paused and said, “How are you?”

    Wooden Taoist was taken aback. He then laughed heartily and said, “Good, I am very good. I did not expect you to know me.”

    “Have you seen Lu Xiaofeng?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    Wooden Taoist stopped laughing; he sighed and said, “I haven’t. Nobody has ever seen him.”

    Ximen Chuixue let out a cold laugh.

    Wooden Taoist changed the subject, “Are you going to Wudang?” he asked.

    “No,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Why?” Wooden Taoist asked.

    “Because I have sword,” Ximen Chuixue replied, “And Wudang has the Shedding-sword Rock.”

    “You never want to part with your sword?” Wooden Taoist asked.

    “That’s right,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    The big and tall, majestic looking old man suddenly let out a cold laugh and said, “You don’t dare to bring a sword up to Wudang?”

    Ximen Chuixue replied coldly, “I only dare to kill. If you say another word, I am going to kill you!”

    Nobody said another word.

    Ximen Chuixue still had a sword in his hand.

    He took his sword and headed down the stairs, and walked out without ever looking back.

    Lu Xiaofeng was still bickering with the richly dressed old men, he did not even cast them a single glance.

    The city center was still bright from the lanterns.

    Watching him walking toward the brightly lit street, watching him walking far away, the big and tall, majestic looking old man sighed. “Is it true that there are only three people in the world who can take his forty-nine sword strikes?”

    “It is,” Wooden Taoist replied.

    “Nobody else can take his sword?” the old man asked.

    “Nobody,” Wooden Taoist replied.

    “Is he really unequalled under the heavens?” Gao Xingkong asked.

    The big and tall old man suddenly laughed and said, “Maybe there is nobody who can take his sword, but there is somebody who can kill him!”

    “Who?” Gao Xingkong and Yingyan Laoqi asked simultaneously.

    The big and tall, majestic looking old man laughed. His laughter seemed very mysterious, as he said slowly, “As long as you have the patience to wait, sooner or later this person will appear.”

    Conflict that occurs suddenly oftentimes also ends abruptly. Others seemed to be baffled by it, although in their hearts they have their own outlook.

    As soon as Ximen Chuixue left, Lu Xiaofeng also walked away. Naturally the richly-dressed old men could not stop him. Everybody acted like all these things had never happened.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng was sitting comfortably in his carriage, and the carriage was beginning to move forward.

    His ‘niece’, who was wearing emerald green colored light gown, who looked very attractive and cute, was sitting right in front of him. Although her face still had tears that have not dried out yet, there was no grief-stricken expression on it at all; instead, there was a hint of smile in her eyes, as if she found that all these things were quite amusing.

    Lu Xiaofeng himself also appeared to be amused. He suddenly asked, “So, you are my niece?”

    “Uh huh,” Xiao Cui said.

    “Your Mama is my (younger) sister?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Uh huh,” Xiao Cui said.

    “And she is already dead?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Uh huh,” Xiao Cui said.

    “Are you going to take us to your home now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Uh huh,” Xiao Cui said.

    “Who else is going to be at your house?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Cui suddenly giggled, “Some people that I am sure you’ll like,” she said.

    “How do you know what kind of people I like?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Cui winked, “Naturally I know,” she said.

    “How many people are ‘some’?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Not a few,” Xiao Cui replied.

    Her smile appeared to be very mysterious. Suddenly she stuck her head out the window and ordered the driver in loud voice, “Turn left on the alley just ahead, the third house on the right with red door.”

    The alley was paved with dark green flagstones, with high walls on either side; inside the wall, the red apricot trees were just blooming. The color of springs was so thick that even the high walls could not contain it.

    The red third door on the right was already open, over the door quite a few pink palace-style lanterns were hung.

    As soon as Xiao Cui stepped over the door, she called out loudly, “Everybody, come out quickly, our Jiujiu is here.”

    Before she even finished shouting, there were seventeen, eighteen girls thronged out into the courtyard. They were all young, and were as graceful and beautiful as swallows, and as noisy as sparrows, chirping ‘zhi zhi cha cha’ incessantly.

    Which young girl did not like their (maternal) uncle? They swarmed toward Lu Xiaofeng, some pulled his hands, some tugged on his sleeves, everybody greeted him, “Jiujiu.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned again, “They are all my nieces?”

    Xiao Cui nodded. “Don’t you like them?” she asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng could only admit, “I like every single one of them.”

    Xiao Cui laughed, “I knew you’d like all of them,” she said.

    Turning to the girls, Xiao Cui said, “You all must be a bit more careful, our Jiujiu is good in everything, it’s just that he is a bit dishonest; when he hugs you, he’d hug you so tight that you can’t even breathe.”

    The girls’ laughter became even more endearing, their chatter became even more intense. “You have been hugged by him?” “Jiujiu is not fair, you hugged her, why don’t you hug me?” “I want to be hugged by Jiujiu too.” “Me too, me too …”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked to the left with interest; he looked to the right with longing. In fact, he really wanted to reach to the left and embrace to the right.

    Liu Qingqing was standing on the side, staring at him with cold eyes; she was thinking of a way to wake him up, to warn him so that this extreme joy would not turn into sorrow.

    Who would have thought that Xiao Cui was moving faster than she? She already pulled Lu Xiaofeng’s hand and had him out of the girls.

    “You called us out, telling Jiujiu is here, why did you take him away now?” the girls protested loudly, “He is not just your Jiujiu, you know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng agreed instantly, “Since everybody here is my niece, I ought to spend time with them too.”

    Xiao Cui ignored him, she kept pulling him toward the promenade at the back. Only then did she let him go, and then with a barely perceptible smile, she looked at him with the corner of her eye and said, “Looks like your wild schemes are really not small, those peasant girls are all as fierce as tigers; aren’t you afraid they might break your old bones?”

    It was definitely not the way a niece would talk to her uncle. Who was she, actually? Why did she call Lu Xiaofeng her uncle? Why did she bring Lu Xiaofeng to this place?

    Lu Xiaofeng blinked. He pretended ignorance, “So you want to be alone with me?”

    Xiao Cui laughed. She giggled tenderly and said, “I don’t have such big guts, just now you nearly broke all my bones. If I am alone with you, won’t I be finished?”

    “Sometimes I can be very gentle,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Especially when there’s nobody else around.”

    Xiao Cui sighed theatrically, “No wonder people call you an old wolf [i.e. lecher], even with your own niece you still have ideas.”

    “Who said I am an old wolf?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Someone did,” Xiao Cui replied.

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng pressed.

    “Naturally someone that you will also like,” Xiao Cui said, “I guarantee that as soon as you see him, you will forget everybody else.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes brightened. “Where is he now?” he asked.

    Xiao Cui pointed to a door at the end of the long corridor. “He is waiting for you inside that room,” she said, “He has been waiting for a long time, why don’t you go quickly?”

    “What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Cui giggled tenderly again; she said, “I am the matchmaker who just delivered the letter; it’s not my job to bring anyone into the bridal chamber.”

    [Translator’s note: it would be more exciting if Xiao Cui was saying ‘she’ and ‘her’, but one, in Chinese, ‘he’ and ‘she’ are of the same pronunciation, ‘ta’; two, in my source, the original Chinese text indicate masculine ‘he’, not feminine ‘she’. Besides, the ‘bridal chamber’ above can also be translated as ‘secret inner room’.]

    Quite a few pink palace-style lanterns were also hanging along the corridor, the lanterns were gentler and softer than the moonlight. Surprisingly none of those peasant girls came after him; unexpectedly Liu Qingqing did not come after him either.

    The door was plain.

    He could hear nothing from behind the door, no noise, no voices.

    -- Who was waiting for him inside? Would there be a gentle and soft trap inside the door? Or would it be a deadly trap?

    Lu Xiaofeng was hesitant. Xiao Cui gave him a push on his back, forcing him to enter the door.

    The lantern inside was even gentler and softer, the embroidered curtain was drooping, the beads on the hanging curtain were flickering under the light. The atmosphere did indeed resemble that of a bridal chamber.

    Now the groom has entered the chamber, but where was the bride?

    There was no sound from behind the bed curtain either, as if there was no one in bed. But there were dishes arranged on the table, plus a pot of wine.

    All the dishes were Lu Xiaofeng’s favorites; the wine was also his preferred drink, the Green Bamboo Leaf.

    This person was undoubtedly someone who knew him; more than that, this person understood him very well.

    -- Could it be that Ye Ling had rushed ahead of him and was trying to scare him out of his wits?

    -- If not Ye Ling, who else would know that he was Lu Xiaofeng?

    He tried to recall all the women he could think of, but he felt it couldn’t be any of them.

    Therefore, he simply stopped thinking and just sat down to finish the dinner he started at the restaurant.

    Suddenly there was a voice from behind the bed curtain. “There is no harm in you drinking to your heart’s content today; you may also have whoever you wish to accompany you drinking. There is also no harm even if you really get drunk tonight, because we have nothing going on tomorrow.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. All those ‘pink’ fantasies just now had all of a sudden turned into grey ones. Ash grey plain and simple clothing, ash grey plain and simple voice.

    The voice of the Old Sabre Honcho.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said with a bitter smile, “Obviously there are many ways with which you could see me, but why did you choose to give me a vain hope?”

    “Because what I am going to say to you, there is absolutely no second person who can hear it,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    At last he appeared, wearing the same ash grey plain and simple clothes, the same deep-basket like bamboo rain hat, so that he looked completely out of place in this room.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not even finish his drink. With a bitter laugh he said, “Aren’t you going to lambast me? [orig. ‘pour dogs blood on me’]”

    “What you did just now was indeed very dangerous,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “If I did not prepare it well in advance, not only there is a good possibility that Wooden Taoist would recognize you, I am afraid Ximen Chuixue would also recognize you.”

    Unexpectedly, the tone of his voice was very relaxed, “But that’s all in the past, on the whole it did not adversely affect our endeavor.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “You already know about all that happened just now? Were you there?”

    “I wasn’t,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “But I know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again, “The thing that I admire you the most is not because you know everything,” he said.

    “So what do you admire the most?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “To my surprise, you could think about getting Wu Hu, Wu Bao, those old monks to drink wine with women. Just based on this fact alone, I don’t have any choice but to admire you.”

    Acting like big boss, drinking with prostitutes, wearing fancy clothes, were actually the habit of those senior Shaolin monks in the olden days. Other than Old Sabre Honcho, who would have thought about this?

    As a result, although Ximen Chuixue and the others might think that their martial art movements were suspicious, they would never suspect that those old men were Wu Hu brothers, who had died but came back to live.

    After all, in Jianghu, there were so many talented individuals in the vicissitudes of life who mastered supreme feats, yet were deeply hidden away and were never spoken of by others.

    Old Sabre Honcho said nonchalantly, “Exactly because nobody suspected anything that it did not adversely affect our endeavor.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But on the thirteenth of the fourth month, when they reappeared in Wudang …”

    “By that time they will turn into Taoist priests from faraway place who go up Mount Wudang on pilgrimage,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Nobody would pay them any attention.”

    “What about me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What will I turn to that day?”

    “You will be a Taoist priest, a kitchen helper who will be able to come and go the main hall to serve the distinguished guests from everywhere,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “That will be a good assignment indeed,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a wry smile.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “That day Mount Wudang will be teeming with dignitaries, absolutely no one will pay any attention to a Taoist kitchen helper.”

    “What is my real assignment?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Is it to deal with Shi Yan? Or Wooden Taoist?”

    “Not at all,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “I have already prepared other people to deal with them.”

    “What about me then?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “You have me come here, it can’t be for the sole purpose of serving those distinguished guests, can it?”

    “Of course you have other things to do,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “In fact, the success or failure of this project is resting on your shoulders.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help drinking a cup of wine. Thinking that such a heavy responsibility was resting on his shoulders, he could not help but drinking another cup of wine.

    The fact was that he was a bit nervous.

    Unexpectedly, Old Sabre Honcho also poured a cup of wine, which he sipped slowly before continuing, just as slowly, “What I want you to do is not to kill, I just want you get an account book for me.”

    “Whose account book?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Originally it belonged to Mei Zhenren,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “After his death, it was passed on to Shi Yan.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand, “Those magnificent Wudang Sect Leaders, did they do their own bookkeeping?”

    “Every single pen stroke was personally written by them,” Old Sabre Honcho confirmed.

    Lu Xiaofeng tried to probe him further, “The account they are writing, naturally it’s not about firewood, rice, oil and salt [fig. life’s daily necessities], is it?”

    “Of course not,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng was more curious, “What is it about then?”

    To his surprise, Old Sabre Honcho raised his cup and finished the wine in one gulp before replying in gloomy tone, “Written on it are the lives of hundreds and thousands of people!”

    “Who are they?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “They are all people with status, famous people, wealthy people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was more confused than ever, “What do their lives have to do with Shi Yan’s account book?”

    Old Sabre Honcho explained, “The things written on the account book are those people’s private businesses and secrets.”

    “Shameful secrets?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded. “If Shi Yan ever reveals these secrets to the public, not only henceforth those people cannot stand in Jianghu anymore, I am afraid they would have their reputation swept away immediately, and they would die without burial site!”

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved a very deep sigh. “Magnificent Wudang Sect Leader ought not to blackmail anybody,” he said.

    “They really shouldn’t,” Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “Yet they clearly did.”

    His voice was suddenly filled with grievance and hatred, “If not because they blackmailed people by holding on to their secret, how could Shi He destroy his own face on the eve of his inauguration as Wudang Sect Leader? Gu Feiyun, Gao Tao, Liu Qingqing, Zhong Wugu and the others; how could their secrets be publicly known?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help exhaling. “Those secrets are revealed by Mei Zhenren and Shi Yan,” he said.

    Old Sabre Honcho hatefully said, “Because they failed to blackmail these people, they forced these people to their death; even if that individual has washed his heart and renewed his face, and wanted to make a fresh start, they did not want to give him the opportunity.”

    “But you gave them the opportunity,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I only give them one chance,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Not an opportunity.”

    “What’s the difference?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “They want to make a fresh start, not to be dead,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    -- What’s the difference between living in the Mansion of Spirits and being dead?

    -- Only by destroying that account book would those people really have the opportunity of making a fresh start.

    Old Sabre Honcho clenched both fists and said, “This is the main objective of this operation. We can only succeed, we must not fail!”

    ‘Crack!’ the wine cup in his hand was crushed, a streak of blood flowed out from between his fingers.

    Looking at the bright red blood, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly became silent.

    Because in his heart he was asking himself …

    Was Old Sabre Honcho doing the right thing?

    If he was, should a righteous man help him accomplish his goal with all his might?

    Wudang was a famous orthodox school, Mei Zhenren and Shi Yan have always been respected by others; he had never doubted their integrity.

    But now he had to reconsider everything.

    Old Sabre Honcho fixed his gaze on him, as if he was able to penetrate the deepest thought in his heart.

    Actually, what was in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind? Who would know?

    Old Sabre Honcho slowly said, “I understand very well, if you don’t really want to do something, nobody can force you. That’s the reason I wanted you to know the truth of the matter.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked, “If your intention is to save lives, why must you kill?”

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Those I want to kill are people who must be killed!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Wang Shidai, Gao Xingkong, Shuishang Fei, these men have to be killed?”

    With a cold laugh Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Let me ask you, just relying on Mei Zhenren and Shi Yan’s disciples and trusted aides, would they be able to find out that many secrets?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Are you saying that those people you want to kill are their spies?”

    Old Sabre Honcho nodded. “Because these people also have secrets, so they are also under their grip,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng also clenched his fists. Finally he asked, “So where’s the book?”

    “It’s hidden inside the Taoist crown that Shi Yan is wearing,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank.

    When he was young, Shi Yan of Wudang already had reputation as top swordsman in Jianghu. For the past few years he had trained hard that his skill has progressed tremendously. Although very seldom did he personally fight, it was estimated that his sword skill was already above Wooden Taoist’s.

    The three people Ximen Chuixue mentioned, he was undoubtedly one of those three.

    The Taoist crown of Wudang Sect Leader, not only it was the symbol of Wudang’s honor, it was also a priceless treasure, not to mention such a great secret was hidden inside the Taoist crown?

    “I also realize that taking the crown from his head is not an easy matter at all,” Old Sabre Honcho continued, “In fact, it is a lot more than ‘not easy’; it is practically more difficult than ascending the heaven to pick the moon.”

    “Why do we have to make our move while he is wearing the crown on his head?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because it is our only chance,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    He had a very good reason, “Because other than he himself, nobody else knows where he usually hides the Taoist crown.”

    Lu Xiaofeng heaved a very deep sigh, “I don’t think I can do it,” he said.

    On that day, the main hall of Wudang Monastery would be brightly lit, martial art experts would be as abundant as the cloud. Snatching the Taoist crown from Wudang Sect Leader Zhenren’s head under the stares of those people, who could possibly accomplish that?

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Only you, you can do it!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Let’s say I can snatch it off, there is absolutely no way I can escape with it under those people’s stare.”

    “Not under those people’s stare,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “When you are making your move, nobody will be able to see you.”

    “Why can’t they see me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Because at that time all seventy-two altar lamps, inside and outside the main hall, will be extinguished at the same time.”

    -- When the oil in the lamp is dry, naturally the lamp will be extinguished.

    “We have conducted the experiment at least 800 times,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “We calculated that if the lamp only have one tael and three qian [1 tael ~ 50g, 1 qian = 1/10 of a tael], it will run out of oil right when he is announcing his successor. Our mole in Wudang will make sure that every lamp will only have one tael and three qian that night.”

    It was a well-thought plan indeed. “But there must be some lit candles in the main hall.”

    “Hua Kui is responsible for that,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Nobody can surpass his secret projectile skill ‘Rain of Flowers Filling the Sky’.”

    Looked like the plan was almost flawless.

    When the lanterns went out, the main hall would be in total darkness, everybody must be thrown into confusion, in that moment, Lu Xiaofeng would make his move to snatch the Taoist crown, Shi He would kill Shi Yan, Wu Hu brothers would kill Tie Jian, Cousin killed Priest Xiao Gu, Housekeeper killed Yingyan Laoqi, Hai Qikuo killed Shuishang Fei, Guan Tianwu killed Gao Xingkong, Du Tiexin killed Wang Shidai!

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Whether they will succeed or not, by the time the lanterns are lighted again, they will have to withdraw.”

    Just one strike, and then withdraw immediately!

    “Same thing with you,” Old Sabre Honcho continued, “If you fail to get the Taoist crown, you must leave immediately. Because in that kind of situation, there won’t be any second chance for anybody.”

    He added an explanation, “Whether you succeed or not, you must immediately withdraw to this place. Because when the lamps are lighted, everybody will definitely try to look after their injured colleagues and fellow disciples of their schools; nobody will pay any attention if there are a few people less in the main hall, hence even less chance they will pursue you.”

    Not to mention at that time there would not be anybody who knew how this thing happened!

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from letting out a long sigh. “I admire you!” he said.

    In all his life, he had been involved in many conspiracies, so many that he lost track; yet absolutely none of those plots could match this one.

    This plan was almost completely foolproof.

    But he still had several questions to ask, “Why don’t we kill Shi Yan first, and then take the Taoist crown from his head?”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Because we don’t have any confidence that we will succeed in one strike!”

    This plan simply had to succeed, failure was not an option! To plan this, he had indeed used up his life’s heart and blood.

    Lu Xiaofeng asked again, “If you didn’t have me, who would do my job?”

    “Ye Xue!” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng forced a laugh, “Why her?” he asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Her qinggong is extremely high, plus she was born with a pair of night eyes. If Shi Yan is caught by surprise, she has at least seventy-percent chance of success.”

    He suddenly reached out and gripped Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, “But you have ninety-percent chance of success, I can even say that your chance is more than ninety-percent. I know that you also have the skill to see clearly the downy feather of autumn[2] in the dark. Plus you have a pair of hands that is unequalled in the world!”

    The way he held Lu Xiaofeng’s hands was like he was holding priceless treasure.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng took this opportunity to examine Old Sabre Honcho’s hands.

    His hands were slim, steady, and dry. His fingers were long and powerful. If this hand was holding a suitable sword, could this hand be more terrifying than Ximen Chuixue’s hand?

    Who was he, actually?

    If right now Lu Xiaofeng flipped his hand and grabbed the main artery in his wrist, and then snatched away the bamboo rain hat from his head, he would immediately find out who he really was.

    Although the chance was indeed slim, at least he ought to try.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not try.

    This had made him so angry with himself; he suddenly asked in a loud voice, “Don’t you even care if she is dead or alive?”

    “Who are you talking about?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “You daughter, Ye Xue,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Even if I care, it’s no use,” Old Sabre Honcho said matter-of-factly, “Why bother thinking about it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Do you know that after her death, her mother was still …”

    Immediately Old Sabre Honcho cut him off, with a blade-like stare he glowered at Lu Xiaofeng from behind the bamboo rain hat, “You can ask me to do anything for you, but from now on you must never mention this woman in front of me.”

    -- Why?

    -- Third Mistress Shen was Ye Lingfeng’s wife, but she bore him a daughter; the one she offended was Ye Lingfeng, it was not him at all.

    -- Why did he hate her like that?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not get it. He pondered for a long time, but he still did not get it.

    Old Sabre Honcho quickly suppressed his anger, “Nothing is planned during the day tomorrow, whatever you want to do is fine. Before dawn the day after tomorrow, I will make arrangement for you to go to Wudang.”

    He stood up, apparently he was ready to end the discussion, “The priest in charge of burning incense in the monastery over there is Peng Changjing, when you get to the back of the mountain, he will be able to help you with anything you need.”

    “And then what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “And then you only have to wait there,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    “Waiting for the lamps to go out?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Waiting for the lamps to go out.”

    He walked out. But then he looked back, “Starting from now, you will move alone, there is no need to make any contact with anyone, and there won’t be anybody contacting you either.”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “Starting from now, I can’t even see my wife and son.”

    “But you won’t be lonely,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “You still have a lot of nieces.”

    [1] Three great vanities: It is a Chinese idiom that implies a penalty for losing a bet - 3 cups of wine. There is a long story behind the words 大白 being related to wine drinking.
    My rough translation: "One should not listen to the advice (or words) of a woman heedlessly; if you so much as to listen to only one word, you should punish yourself with 3 cups of wine." (Courtesy of Lu DongBin)

    [2] An idiom form Mencius, meaning ‘sensitive to the finest detail’ or ‘distinguishing right and wrong with acuity’.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 08:55 AM.

  3. #63
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 14

    Chapter 14 – Jolly Uncle
    Translated by Foxs


    The thirteenth of the fourth month, before dawn. The back of Mount Wudang was a complete darkness, above the midway up the mountain, there was a chill in the breeze.

    Quiet night on an empty mountain, streaks of white smoke rising from below his feet; perhaps it was the cloud? Or was it the fog?

    Looking to the distance, he could see the faint silhouette of the stately, majestic ancient Taoist monastery.

    Right about here, the man who took him left him, “You wait here, very soon someone will come to fetch you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ask too much, he did not want to know who this man was either. Although today was a big day, his mood was not good at all.

    His nieces were indeed too many.

    Luckily he did not have to wait long at all, for in the dark, someone had already asked him in low voice, “What are you doing here?”

    It was their pre-arranged secret signal, the answer should be, “Looking for beans, thirteen beans.”

    Immediately a man appeared from the dark. Lu Xiaofeng then asked, “Who are you?”

    “Peng Changjing.”

    Peng Changjing really looked a bit like a bean; round, small, but his eyes were so bright, his movements were so agile. He quickly looked up and down twice, sizing Lu Xiaofeng up, and then with a straight face said, “You just drank wine!”

    Of course Lu Xiaofeng just drank wine, he drank quite a bit of wine.

    Peng Changjing said, “Here, you must not drink, you must not swear, you must not look at women. When walking, you must not walk too fast, when talking, you must not talk too loud.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Here, can we fart?”

    Peng Changjing’s countenance sank, he said coldly, “I don’t know what you do, and I don’t want to know, but here, you must follow the rules.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stopped laughing, he could not laugh anymore.

    He knew he has met a man who was hard to deal with.

    Peng Changjing said, “There’s one more thing you’d best remember.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Peng Changjing said, “Up the mountain, you must sleep with your head covered, you must never speak with anybody. In case anybody ask, just tell him I have you here to help.”

    He paused for a moment, and then added, “My Shidi [younger martial brother] Changqing is quite formidable, just in case you come across him, you must be even more careful.”

    “I will be very careful, I promise,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Alright,” Peng Changjing said, “Come, follow me.”

    Not only his movements were very agile, his qinggong was quite good.

    Lu Xiaofeng had no idea that a Taoist priest, the manager of the kitchen helpers, could have such a good skill.

    Peng Changjing was even more surprised, because Lu Xiaofeng was able to keep up with him. No matter how fast he went, Lu Xiaofeng was able to maintain the same distance throughout the short trip.

    Obviously Old Sabre Honcho did not tell Peng Changjing about Lu Xiaofeng’s background. Other than Old Sabre Honcho himself, what everybody knew seemed to be not much. Therefore, even if there was one or two people failed, what they knew would not be enough to jeopardize their operation.

    The day has not yet brightened, the kitchen at the back of the mountain was already bustling with activities: people rinsing rice, making a fire, washing vegetables, cooking porridge, etc. Everybody was working quietly, minding their own business, very few people open their mouths to talk.

    Compared to his treatment to Lu Xiaofeng, this Manager Peng was actually more blunt toward other people.

    Behind the pantry and the kitchen, there were two rows of wooden huts, in the room at the end of the row, there were piles of baskets full of salted white radish, which have not completely been dried in the sun. And in the corner of this room, there was a row of shabby bamboo beds.

    “You may sleep here,” Peng Changjing said.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “Sleep until what time?”

    “Sleep until I come to get you,” Peng Changjing replied, “Anyway, there are plenty to eat in here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, “Eat this salted white radish?” he asked.

    “Salted white radish is also fit for human consumption,” Peng Changjing coldly said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a wry smile he muttered to himself, “I am afraid if I ate too much white radish I would fart a lot.”

    “You are free not to eat,” Peng Changjing said, “Even if you are fasting for a day, you won’t die of starvation.”

    He was ready to leave. “Is there anything else you are not clear about?” he asked.

    “Just one thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Speak up,” Peng Changjing said.

    “I was just wondering,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why didn’t you change profession to be a prison warden?” As soon as he finished speaking, he lay down on the bamboo bed and covered his head with the thin, worn out blanket, no longer cared about anything, even a dead person.

    ‘Bang!’ he heard the loud noise as Peng Changjing could only vent his anger against the wooden plank door.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Dealing with this kind of person, you can only think of a way to piss him off; as long as there is the slightest chance to make him angry, you must never pass it, it would be best if you could make him so angry that he is half-dead.

    But the quilt was so stinky that it made Lu Xiaofeng half-dead first. He uncovered his head, trying to catch his breath, but the stink from the white radish was not much better than the smell of the quilt. Perhaps only people with congested nose could sleep in here.

    The first light of dawn was starting to appear on the eastern horizon, painting the paper window covering white, and then the sunlight started to illuminate the window frame.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly at the only window on that room. Telling him to just lie there, staring blankly at the window, waiting for the sun to go down, would be the same as asking for his life.

    What’s more, right now his tummy was hungry as hell. Telling him to eat salted white radish would also be the same as asking for his life.

    With that many things that were asking for his life, if he were able to stay still and do nothing, then he would not be Lu Xiaofeng.

    Even if what Peng Changjing told him was an imperial edict, Lu Xiaofeng did not care. Good or bad, he simply must go to the kitchen first to find something to eat.

    With so many distinguish guests coming to the Mountain, there must be some mushroom soup and other fine vegetarian dishes in the kitchen. Although he would rather eat dishes with generous amounts of meat and fish, he would, on occasions, have no objection over eating vegetarian dishes.

    The only objection he had was against going hungry.

    In fact, he believed that everyone ought to have freedom from hunger, freedom from want.

    The sun had risen very high, the people in the kitchen were ready to put porridge, vegetarian dishes and light refreshments into red-laquered food containers, to be delivered out of the kitchen.

    Although breakfast food are usually a bit simpler, the vegetarian dishes were exquisitely prepared. Evidently these containers were meant to be for the distinguished guests.

    Lu Xiaofeng was just thinking about how to have one food case delivered to his room so that he could enjoy it, when he suddenly heard a loud voice calling, “Hey you, come here!”

    The speaker was a middle-aged Taoist priest, with a sour-looking long face like that of a horse; it looked very unattractive.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked to the east, he looked to the west, he looked to the front, to the back, left and right, but he did not see anybody else. Evidently the horse-faced Taoist priest was calling him.

    He had no choice but to walk over to him.

    It appeared that he was not the only temporary help hired by the kitchen. The Taoist priest did not even question his background, he only wanted him to deliver the biggest food case to the Tingzhu [lit. listening to the bamboo] Courtyard, and told him to hurry up.

    Lu Xiaofeng took the food container and left. He looked at the contents of the case and saw a dish of well-cooked and tender bamboo shoot in mushroom oil, a dish of flat, pointy green soy bean, a dish of marinated Shiitake mushroom, a dish of Luohan plate, plus a big bowl of savory round-grained rice congee.

    These food were prepared to his taste, he really would like to eat it first and talk about it later.

    But if he really did that, he would not be Lu Xiaofeng either.

    The way Lu Xiaofeng worked was not totally without any sense of propriety, he really did not want to spoil the big plan.

    Since the food case contained such a fine food, the guest staying at the Tingzhu Courtyard must be a particularly distinguished guest.

    Right now his only problem was: he had no idea where in the world was this Tingzhu Courtyard?

    He was just thinking of looking for a bit more pleasant looking person to ask for direction, but the one he saw was the most unpleasant one.

    Peng Changjing was staring at him with cold eyes. Suddenly he asked in low voice, “Do you know who is staying at the Tingzhu Courtyard?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

    Peng Changjing said, “It’s Tie Jian of Shaolin.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s palms seemed to start sweating.

    He knew Tie Jian; not only this old monk had a pair of keen eyes, but before leaving home [to become a monk], he was a famous detective. Not a single one of the ways of the criminal world he was not familiar with. It was said that the one he was most familiar with was precisely disguising skill. Even the most famous ‘flying burglar’ [i.e. burglar who gains entrance by scaling walls] in Jianghu of the olden days, the ‘Man with Thousand Faces’, had fallen under his hands.

    Peng Changjing coldly said, “If he sees your disguise, you are done.”

    “Can I not go?” Lu Xiaofeng asked with a wry smile.

    “Cannot,” Peng Changjing replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because,” Peng Changjing explained, “The one who sent you on this errand is precisely Song Changqing, and he already has his eyes on you.”

    Fortunately the Tingzhu Courtyard was really not difficult to find. According to Peng Changjing’s direction, he just had to follow the gravel path, and soon he would see a verdant bamboo forest.

    When he reached the path, there was someone walking ahead of him. The blue clothes he was wearing had been washed out that it turned white, plus there were seventeen, eighteen patches sewn onto it.

    He knew this man, he did not need to look at his face to recognize him.

    According to the Beggar Clan’s most important bylaws, the hemp cloth sack that the Beggar Clan disciples wore on their back was called the rank pouch. If you have the rank as a seven-pouch disciple, then you would carry seven pouches on your back; no more, no less. Practically this rule was more strict than the imperial court regulation concerning the distinction in ranks among the government officials.

    Seven-pouch disciples were elders with specific duties, only the Bangzhu [Clan Leader] was entitled to wear nine pouches on his back.

    The man walking in front of Lu Xiaofeng unexpectedly had ten pouches on his back.

    Over the last several hundred years of the Beggar Clan’s establishment, this was the only exception. Because this man’s meritorious deed to the Beggar Clan was indeed too big, yet he flatly refused to flaunt his achievement; he even refused to be made the Clan Leader.

    In order to show him respect and gratitude, every single one of the several thousands Beggar Clan disciples, from top to bottom, cut off a piece of his own pouch and sewed the pieces together to make a pouch for him, to be a symbol of his privilege and special rank.

    This man was indeed Wang Shidai [lit. Wang (surname) the ten-pouch].

    Lu Xiaofeng lowered his head and deliberately slowed down his pace.

    This year Wang Shidai was approaching eighty, he had reached the age in Jianghu where he could not get even older; not many matters in Jianghu would be able to fool him anymore.

    Lu Xiaofeng really did not wish to be seen by him, yet obviously he could not hide anymore. He seemed to also be going to the Tingzhu Courtyard; perhaps there were many of his friends already waiting for him over there, and his friends were obviously extremely important characters of the Wulin world.

    Wooden Taoist, Gao Xingkong and Yingyan Laoqi were present, and then there was that big and tall, majestic looking old man – who was this man, actually? What was his rank?

    There was also a middle-aged Taoist priest who dressed neatly, whose face was full of beard; it was Xiao Gu of Mount Ba.

    The last person wore a plain and simple clothes, a quiet young man whose life has always been full of confidence and love for life, the friend whom Lu Xiaofeng has not seen for a long time, Hua Manlou.

    Although he could not use his eyes to see, but he could use his heart to see clearly, to understand, to emphatise, to care for others.

    That was the reason he was always full of life.

    Every time Lu Xiaofeng saw him, there was always a burst of inexplicable warmth bubbling up in his heart.

    It was not just because of their friendship, but it grew from the genuine respect from the bottom of his heart.

    The Cloud Room looked refined, elegant and serene. When Lu Xiaofeng entered, they were talking about Wooden Taoist’s experience at the restaurant that day.

    Undoubtedly Lu Xiaofeng was very interested on this subject, hence he intentionally did everything very slowly, while trying not to show his face to these people. But they were ignoring him completely, the conversation did not pause at all.

    “Ximen Chuixue was speaking the truth,” Wooden Taoist’s judgement has always been valued by everybody else, “The number of people who can take a round of his rapid attacks definitely can’t be more than five people.”

    “You can’t tell the background of that masked swordsman in black either?” This question was asked by Xiao Gu of Mount Ba.

    Himself was a renowned expert in swordsmanship, his ‘seven by seven, forty-nine hands turning-the-wind, dancing-the-willow sword’ that was handed down from generation to generation, along with Wudang’s ‘heaven and earth [or ‘yin and yang’] divine sword’, and Kunlun’s ‘flying dragon’s great nine-style’, were known as The Three Great Sword Techniques of the Mysterious School.

    “That man’s movements were quick and skillful, a sign that he is a seasoned swordsman, his power was so deep that he did not seem to be inferior to Lao Gu in the past.” [Translator’s note: same character ‘Gu’ from Xiao Gu of Bashan; in fact, in Chinese, ‘lao’ and ‘xiao’ (old and young) are often used to denote relation, i.e. perhaps it was ‘Old Gu’ and ‘Young Gu’ of Mount Ba.]

    Wooden Taoist’s eyes showed that he was deep in thought, “The strangest thing was, he seemed to be using Wudang sword technique, but compared to Wudang sword technique, it was sharper and more sinister.”

    “What would you say his skill compared to yours?” This question was asked by Wang Shidai; only he could ask that kind of question.

    Wooden Taoist chuckled and said, “My pair of hands has not held a sword for at least ten years.”

    “Aren’t your hands itching?”

    “When my hands itch I simply pick up chess pieces and wine cup.” Wooden Taoist laughed and said, “Not only it is more relaxing and fun than holding a sword, it is also a lot safer.”

    “So that day you’ve been watching with folded arms all along.”

    “I could only watch with folded arms, because not only I had wine cup in my hand, I also had a wine pot in my other hand.”

    “Who was the friend who was fated to be with wine you mentioned earlier?”

    “That man said he was a government official from the Capital who was ‘announcing old age and returning home’; I say he was a bit suspicious.” Yingyan Laoqi opened his mouth to join the discussion.

    “Suspicious?”

    “Although he was trying hard to act senile to divert other people’s attention, his foot skill was by no means weak; falling down from the upstairs, unexpectedly he did not show the slightest bit of problem. Looking at his appearance, he reminded me of an old acquaintance.”

    On hearing this, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart nearly jumped out of his throat; he immediately thought about slipping away as soon as he can.

    “Who did he look like?”

    “Sikong Zhaixing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was relieved instantly; now he did not want to leave.

    They were starting to talk about those four old men whose actions were shrouded in mystery.

    “Those four men, not only their power was extremely deep, their style looked very close to each other.” Wooden Taoist said with a wry smile, “That kind of people, even one is very hard to find, but that day four of them suddenly appeared together; it’s like all of a sudden they fell out of the sky.”

    Gao Xingkong was deep in thought for a moment, and then he slowly said, “Stranger still, their expressions and movements looked more or less the same, even their faces seemed a bit similar to each other, as if they were brothers.”

    “Brothers?” Tie Jian knitted his brows, “Brothers like that, I only know …”

    He did not continue; he has never been a man who pass judgement easily, based on his status and capacity, he would never pass judgement easily.

    But the other men present were all seasoned Jianghu veterans, they understood clearly whom he was referring to. “Are you talking about Tiger and Panther brothers?”

    Tie Jian neither confirmed nor denied.

    Wooden Taoist laughed again and said, “Even if they were still alive, they would never take the House of Blues’ girls out to drink.” [OK, OK, I admit, it’s a stretch … the original was Man Cui Lou, man – full, as in Hua Manlou’s name, cui – bluish-green, as in Xiao Cui earlier, lou is also in Hua Manlou’s name, lit. multi-storied building.]

    “House of Blues’ girls?” Wang Shidai interrupted, “You seem to be knowledgeable about these things; I take it that you have been to the House of Blues?”

    “Of course I have,” Wooden Taoist laughed without any care, “As long as there are wine, I’ll go anywhere.”

    Wang Shidai also roared in laughter, “This old Taoist’s manner of speaking is almost exactly like Lu Xiaofeng.”

    The topic seemed to be back to Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was ready to leave again.

    Yingyan Laoqi suddenly said, “There is one thing I can’t quite figure out.”

    “What is it?” Wooden Taoist asked.

    Yingyan Laoqi said, “How can a government official from the Capital who was ‘announcing old age and returning home’ suddenly turn into a Taoist kitchen helper?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s hands and feet turned icy-cold; even if he wanted to leave, now it was already too late.

    Yingyan Laoqi flew up and was already blocking his exit. “You can’t leave,” he coldly said.

    Lu Xiaofeng acted surprised, “Why can’t I leave?”

    Yingyan Laoqi replied, “Because that thing that I can’t quite figure out, only you can explain to me.”

    Gao Xingkong also sprang up. “That’s right, he is that friend who is fated to be with wine,” he said, “How can he be here?”

    The refined, elegant and serene Cloud Room was suddenly filled with murderous aura.

    No matter who, anybody who became the Big Boss of the Twelve-dock Alliance would be hard to avoid killing three, five people in a month.

    Gao Xingkong, the ‘callous and grim bird of prey’, was also a renowned formidable character in Jianghu.

    As soon as these two started to move, it could only mean one thing: death.

    One in front, the other behind, Lu Xiaofeng’s escape route has been completely sealed. Even if he could grow ten pair of wings, it would be very difficult for Lu Xiaofeng to fly out of this room.

    But if there was one person in the world who could escape from this room, this person must be Lu Xiaofeng.

    He suddenly burst out laughing, “Looks like I lose.”

    “Your loss is decided,” Yingyan Laoqi said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “In all my life I have made a bet with others no less than 800 times, but this time it’s the worst loss.”

    “Bet? What bet?” Yingyan Laoqi asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Someone bet me that if I could stay in this room for the time needed to drink a cup of tea without being recognized, he would owe me a round of fine wine, otherwise, from now on he would call me an a$$h01e [orig’ ‘muddled egg’].”

    Yingyan Laoqi let out a cold laugh.

    He did not believe this stuff, yet he could not refrain from asking this question, “Who are you betting against?”

    “He himself is certainly an a$$h01e,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not only that, he is a super big a$$h01e.”

    “Who?” Yingyan Laoqi asked.

    “Lu Xiaofeng,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    As soon as this name was mentioned, everybody could not help being excited, “He is not dead?”

    “How could a dead man make a bet with me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Where is he?” Yingyan Laoqi asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked up and beckoned toward the window on the opposite side of the room. “Why haven’t you come out?” he said.

    Naturally everybody could not resist looking that direction, while he himself seized the opportunity to fly out from the other direction.

    The windows on both sides were open, like an arrow he flew out, and kicked the eaves with one foot.

    By the time the eaves collapsed, he had flown five more zhang [1 zhang ~ 3m/10ft] by borrowing the momentum.

    Behind him the people shouted. None of those people’s qinggong was weak, although the collapsed eaves delayed them for a moment, very soon they would be able to catch up with him.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even dare to look back.

    The Taoist monastery buildings were ancient, tall, open and spacious; although there were a lot of hiding places, he did not dare to take chances.

    Today was already the thirteenth, those who ought to arrive have arrived, and all the guests were martial art experts.

    No matter where he was hiding, he was bound to be found; and no matter who found him, it would be very difficult for him to escape.

    Naturally he should not escape down the mountain, because he should not miss today’s events, nor did he want to miss it.

    After three, five twists and turns, he saw some people went up the roof ahead, while he had no doubt that there were people running after him from behind; left and right he saw shadows appearing, practically he was surrounded on all four sides, there was nowhere to go.

    He could only jump down.

    But there seemed to be more people on the ground, he heard footsteps coming from all directions.

    Rounding two, three corners later, he suddenly saw ahead of him someone looking at him with cold eyes, the horse-face was completely devoid of any emotions; it was none other than Peng Changjing’s younger martial brother, the Vice Manager of kitchen helpers, the Taoist Changqing.

    Lu Xiaofeng was startled. Forcing a laugh he said, “How are you?” [orig. ‘ni hao’ – lit. are you well/good?]

    Changqing coldly replied, “I am not good, you are even worse. I only have to shout, everybody will rush over here. Even if you can knock me down, it will be useless.”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “So what do you want?”

    Changqing said, “I just want to make you understand one thing.”

    “I already understand,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “In that case,” Changqing said, “You’d better let me capture you, it would be better for you in the long run.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Alright,” he said, “Sooner or later I won’t be able to escape anyway, I might as well obtain your friendship.”

    Changqing’s eyes brightened, he rushed over in big strides.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Please be lenient to me, alright?”

    Changqing replied, “Alright.”

    He has just started to talk, in fact, he could only speak one word, suddenly he felt something was stuffed into his mouth. He swung his fists randomly trying to repel the attack, but the acupoints on the side of his body were already sealed. Lu Xiaofeng already turned another corner ahead, but he could only stand still and look on helplessly.

    Yet he knew that Lu Xiaofeng would not be able to escape, because around the corner ahead was the main hall.

    And right now Wudang Sect Leader happened to be in the main hall.

    In front of the main hall, there was an open and spacious courtyard, nobody could hide in there. Inside the main hall, the light was dim, smoke from burning incense curled up; all the dispute and worries of the secular world were isolated outside the doorstep.

    Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng fled inside.

    Obviously he was already planning on hiding inside.

    He knew that human beings always have a blind spot, often times hiding in the most obvious place would be more difficult to find instead.

    Right now the morning worship time has already passed, and if there were still people inside, they must have been alerted by the commotion outside and went out to investigate.

    He really never expected that there was indeed someone in the main hall.

    A Taoist priest with an erect stature like jade, was standing silently in front of the altar; it was unclear whether he was praying for the peace and safety of mankind, or he was quietly pondering his own shortcomings.

    On the altar in front of him, a sword was laid.

    A symbol of honor, glory, and power, the Seven-star Sword.

    This man was, surprisingly, Shi Yan.

    Lu Xiaofeng was even more shocked. With the tip of his toe he kicked the ground, his body immediately flew up.

    But the beam of the main hall was ten zhang [about 30m/100ft] above the ground!

    Nobody could leap ten zhang.

    When he leaped up, the tip of his left toes lightly pushed the tip of his right toes, unexpectedly he was unleashing the ‘cloud ladder step’, the ultimate lightness skill, which had disappeared from Wulin for a long time.

    Unexpectedly he managed to reach the beam.

    Shi Yan was still standing there in silence, as if he had already reached the ‘out-of-body’ experience.

    Lu Xiaofeng had just exhaled in relief, Wang Shidai, Gao Xingkong, Yingyan Laoqi, and Xiao Gu of Mount Ba were rushing in.

    “Has anybody come in just now?”

    Shi Yan slowly turned around and said, “Yes.”

    As he heard this single word ‘yes’, Lu Xiaofeng felt like a criminal who had just heard that he had been sentenced to death.

    “Where is he?”

    “Right here,” Shi Yan smiled, “I have just come in.”

    Everybody left. Even Shi Yan also left.

    If Wudang Sect Leader said that no one came here, even if there was someone who saw Lu Xiaofeng in there, he must have thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him.

    There were a lot of people who thought that what Wudang Sect Leader said was even more reliable than their own eyes.

    Naturally Shi Yan would never lie; with his eyes and ears, how could he not know if there was anybody coming in?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered children playing hide-and-seek.

    -- A kid was hiding behind his uncle’s chair, another kid came in to look for him, the uncle would say, “No one here.”

    Shi Yan was not his uncle, why did he cover for him?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to think about it.

    The accumulation of dust on the beam was very thick, he was still lying down, hoping to get some sleep. Now he definitely could not show his face again, all he could do was to wait in here.

    “Wait till the lamps go out.”

    When that time came, he could make his move from the beam just the same. That was the reason he picked this place to hide, at least there was no salted white radish smell in here.

    Too bad he still could not sleep. He was afraid of falling down.

    Not only he was afraid he might fall, he was also afraid the dust on the beam would fall down, hence he simply did not dare to move at all.

    And then he started to remember that he was hungry, he began to regret; he regretted why he did not just wait in that room quietly? Surely the smell of salted white radish was not as bad as he imagined?

    At this moment there were a lot of people coming into the main hall, sweeping the floor, arranging the chairs, etc. And then he heard someone asking, “Who is in charge of the oil lamps?”

    “Disciple, Changshen.”

    “Have you filled up the oil in the lamps?”

    “I did, this morning. Disciple has checked once through.”

    Apparently the person asking the question was very satisfied with the answer, presumably Changshen has always worked prudently.

    The strange this was, how could Wudang disciples be bought by Old Sabre Honcho? How could he know Wudang situation this clearly?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to think about it either.

    Recently, he seemed to have been unwilling to use his brains to think about anything.

    Most of the people cleaning up had already left, only a few remained in the main hall, perhaps they were on guard duty or needed to finish tidying up.

    Then, after a long time, Lu Xiaofeng heard them talking among themselves in low voices, commenting about that ‘spy’, who impersonate Taoist priest kitchen helper.

    “I don’t get it, there is no secret here, why did the spy come over here?”

    “Maybe he wanted to steal something.”

    “Stealing from us, impoverished Taoist priests?”

    “Don’t forget that these past couple of days a lot of distinguished guests are coming up the mountain.”

    “Maybe he is not a thief, and he is not a spy either.”

    “What is he then?”

    “An assassin! He came to kill those guests.”

    “We haven’t caught him by now?”

    “Not yet.”

    “I think he has already gone down the mountain. He is not stupid, why would he stay on the mountain waiting for death?”

    “The one with the worst luck is Changjing; I hear it was he who brought the man up the mountain. Right now the Chief of the Twelve-dock Alliance is interrogating him personally.”

    “They say Yingyan Laoqi’s ‘separating tendon, dislocating bones’ skill has other usage; under his ministration, even a dead man cannot keep his mouth shut.”

    Could Changjing keep the secret? But how much did he actually know?

    Lu Xiaofeng was starting to get anxious. Suddenly he heard footsteps, two people rushing into the hall; while gasping for breath, they announced the startling news, “Peng Changjing is dead!”

    “How did he die?”

    “Second Martial Uncle and the others were interrogating him, suddenly a bamboo pole flew in from the outside and nailed him to the chair.”

    “Did they catch the assassin?”

    “They didn’t, Great Martial Uncle has already led Second Martial Uncle and the other on a chase.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He was not surprised at all. Killing people to shut their mouth has always been their usual style.

    It’s just that the number of people who could nail someone to the chair with a bamboo pole was indeed not many. Even Cousin, Housekeeper, and the other definitely did not have that kind of profound strength.

    Other than Lu Xiaofeng, who else had inflitrated Wudang?

    Wu Hu brothers and Shi He would not dare to go up the mountain this early. Could it be Old Sabre Honcho himself?

    What identity did he assume? Did he also disguise himself as a Taoist priest kitchen helper?

    Suddenly someone down below asked, “Changjing is dead, it has nothing to do with us, why did you have to rush here to deliver the news?”

    “Although it has nothing to do with you, it definitely has something to do with Martial [older] Brother Changshen …”

    “I get it,” another voice interrupted, “Changjing is dead, Changqing is being punished, naturally Martial Brother Changshen will become our new manager; hence you rushed over here to deliver the news.”

    Apparently these six Taoist priest kitchen workers did not have pure heart either; they still scrambled for power and profit, just like common people.

    Lu Xiaofeng was sighing inwardly. Suddenly he heard a sharp, strange sound coming from the outside.

    Even he could not tell clearly what kind of noise was that, he only felt that it pierced his ears and that it was difficult to bear.

    Right in that instant, the main hall was filled with a chain of short, tragic shriek, “It’s you …” The sentence was not finished, all the voices were abruptly cut off.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist craning out his neck to look down quietly. Only one look, his hands and feet turned cold.

    There were originally nine people in the main hall; nine living people, but in that split second nine living people had turned into nine dead people.

    Nine people’s throat had been slit, undoubtedly they all died under a sword blade.

    A deadly sword!

    All Wudang disciples had some martial art foundation, yet they were all killed in a flash.

    The sharp, strange sound he heard just now was the sound of sword blade splitting the air.

    What a fast sword! What a deadly sword!

    Even Ximen Chuixue’s sword, which could roam the world unhindered, may not necessarily surpass this sword!

    Who was the assailant?

    Why would he want to kill these insignificant Taoist priest kitchen workers?

    “Because of Changshen,” Lu Xiaofeng suddenly understood, “He already knew that with Changjing’s death, other people would certainly question Changshen; hence he rushed over here to kill Changshen to silence him.”

    Changjing’s killer must be him as well!

    This person unexpectedly was able to come and go into Wudang headquarter and kill people at will; who was this person? What was his capacity?

    “It’s you …”

    Before his death Changshen was still able to say those two words, obviously he knew the person’s identity, but he never expected that this man would be the assassin.

    Lu Xiaofeng started to regret again, he regretted that as soon as the noise was heard, he did not stick out his head to see.

    It could very well be his only chance to see this person’s real identity. A lost opportunity, perhaps it would never come again.

    Dead men tell no tales. It did not matter if Yingyan Laoqi’s ‘separating tendon, dislocating bones’ skill was even more formidable, dead men simply would not talk.

    Therefore, the operation would certainly proceed as planned.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng still had to wait, to wait for the sky to turn dark, to wait for the lamps to be lit, and then to wait for the lamps to go out.

    Waiting is definitely not the most comfortable feeling.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-13-14 at 09:00 AM.

  4. #64
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 15

    Chapter 15 – Scheming under heavy siege
    Translated by Foxs


    The thirteenth of the fourth month, dusk.

    The sky gradually turned dark, the lamps in the main hall have been lit.

    But above the beam was still dark, sunlight could not reach there, lamp light could not reach that place either. Actually, there are a lot of places in the world that are just like that, i.e. in perpetual darkness.

    Some people are like that, too.

    Could it be that Lu Xiaofeng has turned into that kind of person? Could it be that he would not get another chance to stick his head out, and could only hide in the dark like a mouse, hiding from Ximen Chuixue?

    Perhaps he still had a chance. Perhaps this operation was his only chance; therefore, he simply must not fail.

    But he did not have any confidence.

    To be fair, who would have confidence of snatching the Taoist crown from Shi Yan’s head? He could not think of anyone.

    He heard other footsteps coming into the main hall. The one on the head of the procession had very light footsteps, although he was walking in such haste, because all his chi, his blood, his muscles, were already linked together. Although he still had flesh and blood, he was unlike everybody else.

    Nothing was wasted from his body.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist peeking out from atop the beam, sneakily looking down. A procession of Taoist priests wearing purple robes and black hats was entering the main hall. The one leading the procession was, unexpectedly, Wooden Taoist.

    He had known Wooden Taoist for many years, but not until now did he realize that this senior Wudang swordsman’s power was actually a lot higher than everybody had always thought.

    Shi Yan has not arrived. The first chair on the host side was still empty. Wooden Taoist could only sit on the second chair.

    Although he was a person of virtue and prestige, his seniority was extremely high, but when the Sect Leader was present, he would have to occupy the second position.

    It was Wudang’s law, but it was also the established standard in Jianghu; no one could change it.

    The main hall was brightly lit. And then there was the sound of gong. Wooden Taoist stepped down the stairs to welcome the guests. One after another all the honored guests arrived.

    Everybody looked very serious, Yingyan Laoqi and the others looked especially grim; obviously they still could not forget what had happened earlier that day.

    That big and tall, majestic looking old man also came. Unexpectedly his seat was above the Chief of the Twelve-dock Alliance’s.

    Who was he? How come he never showed his face in Jianghu before? Why did he appear this time?

    From the moment he arrived, Lu Xiaofeng has been fixing his eyes on him; he had a vague feeling that he ought to know this man, but he just could not figure it out.

    The number of chairs in the main hall was really not too many; the number of people with enough qualifications to sit in this hall was indeed not too many. But the number of guests was quite a lot. Those who did not have seat could only stand.

    Tie Jian, Shi Yan, Wang Shidai, Shuishang Fei, Gao Xingkong, Xiao Gu of Mount Ba, Yingyan Laoqi, and the others had people standing behind them; anybody could be the one waiting for an opportunity to take their lives.

    Among those people, how many were those who had died once and were resurrected? Which one was Du Tiexin? Which one was Guan Tianwu? Which one was Old Lady Lou?

    Lu Xiaofeng was trying to identify them.

    After they had their appearances changed, other than Old Sabre Honcho and Canine Master, Lu Xiaofeng was the only one who knew.

    Canine Master had made a portrait drawing of everyone’s new appearance, and had given the drawings to Lu Xiaofeng.

    -- In all the first-class inns, the lavatory has always been fairly spacious. Other than going to the bathroom, people could do a lot of other things.

    Hai Qikuo killed the dog. But since it was a real dog, where did Canine Master go?

    Could it be that this secret was also known only to Lu Xiaofeng?

    Very soon he was able to find them. Even the man-without-a-face, Shi He, now had a face.

    Obviously every one of them had their eyes fixed on their respective target, all they were waiting for was for the lamps to go out, and then they would immediately make their move.

    It seemed that the only one without anybody dealing with was Wooden Taoist. Was it because he has not paid any attention to Jianghu matters for a long time that Old Sabre Honcho practically did not consider him as a target?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ponder over this question too far, because right that moment his own target has appeared.

    Wearing purple and gold Taoist crown on his head, the Wudang Sect Leader slowly walked in, followed by four law enforcement escorts.

    This Taoist priest Shi Yan’s name was known throughout the present age, not only because of his deep spiritual cultivation and numerous meritorious deeds, but also because since he was young he had been a veteran of a hundred battles; his swordsmanship and internal energy cultivation were also at the level that very few people could accomplish.

    But now unexpectedly he looked very tired, he looked very old and weak, he looked a bit nervous even.

    Shi Yan was indeed a bit nervous.

    Facing so many honored guests and distinguish visitors, although he had to put on a smiling face to welcome the guests, in his heart he was actually very tense and jittery.

    For the last ten years, he very rarely had this kind of feeling.

    However, today he seemed to have some kind of of ominous feeling, a premonition that something bad was about to happen.

    “Maybe I should retire,” he said to himself, “I’ll go find a peaceful and remote place, build two wooden cabins, and henceforth no longer care about the right and wrong in the Jianghu, and no longer see any Jianghu people either.”

    Unfortunately, up to now, this thought was no more than a fantasy; whether he could really escape unscathed from the Jianghu’s right and wrong, even he himself was not quite sure. If he failed to seize the opportunity, there was a very good chance that it would be too late.

    Every time he was tired, the back of his neck would feel stiff, and then his old ailment, a severe headache, would flare-up.

    Especially now, when he had to wear the heavy purple and gold Taoist crown, which felt like a saucepan lid pressing down his head.

    All the distinguished guests stood up to welcome him.

    Although he knew that they only respected him because he was the Sect Leader of Wudang, although he did not completely like this people, he still had to put on the warmest smile on his face, while he greeted the guests one by one to return the courtesy.

    -- Wasn’t it just like acting in a play?

    -- Since you have the role as the leader of this Sect, it doesn’t matter if your neck is stiff, if your head is aching, the show must go on, you simply must continue acting.

    The lamps in the main hall were blazing.

    Under the bright light, Tie Jian and Wang Shidai definitely looked more tired than he, they looked even older and weaker than he.

    As a matter of fact, they should have had retired and returned to their native place to live in seclusion a long time ago; they did not need to come here at all.

    He did not wish to see them, especially Wang Shidai. “An obvious narrow-minded man who always keep others’ offense and want to pay back, yet acted like a man enduring the hardships of life and put on an appearance of despising worldly conventions.”

    And then there was that Xiao Gu of Mount Ba, who always love to look in the mirror; he really ought to open a brothel, why did he leave home [to become Buddhist monk or Taoist priest] instead?

    Why is it that there are so many people in the world that are not able to do what they really want to do?

    The ceremony was underway. Every step of the program, Shi Yan himself was unclear how many times he had performed; every word he had to say, he did not remember how many times he had spoken those same words.

    It did not matter what he thought, he would not make a single mistake; everything seemed to be going without a hitch.

    And then he had to announce the name of his successor.

    With the corner of his eye he looked at several of his most important disciples, those who were most promising, but also those who appeared most nervous.

    If the name he announced did not belong to one of these people, what would their expression look like? How would the other people react?

    Wouldn’t it be very interesting to see?

    Thinking about this, he could not stop a smile from appearing on the corners of his mouth, he nearly could not even resist from laughing.

    But he quickly controlled himself and braced himself to continue with the most important segment of the ceremony.

    Just then, the altar lamps in the main hall, which had never stop burning day and night, unexpectedly went out suddenly.

    Instantly there was a danger sign appearing in his heart, he knew right then that the ominous feeling, the premonition in his heart has already come true.

    Almost at the same instant, all seventy-two altar lamps inside and outside the main hall went out together.

    Several sharp, swishing noise was heard in the dark, the candles on the incense burning table were also being struck and went out together.

    The brightly lit main hall suddenly turned into a blanket of darkness.

    Suddenly a series of miserable cry was heard in the dark, followed by even sharper gust of wind, coming from the beam blowing toward his head, blowing the Taoist crown off the top of his head; it sounded like the brushing of sleeve of a night walker.

    By the time he reached up to hold the Taoist crown, the Taoist crown had disappeared.

    “Qiang!” the Seven-Star Sword on his waist was unsheathed, but it was not he who pulled it out.

    Instantly he pulled back, but the ribs on his flank suddenly felt icy-cold, as if a sword blade has just swept across.

    All these things seemed to happen at the same moment.

    Most of the people there did not even know what was going on, naturally they would not know what to do to meet this contingency.

    Those mournful, miserable cry had made these turns of events seem even more mysterious and frightening.

    Surprisingly, the voices of Tie Jian and Wang Shidai, those top-ranking martial art experts, seemed to be among those miserable cries. And then Wooden Taoist’s shout was heard, “Who has fire paper? Quickly light the lamps.”

    Unexpectedly, his voice was still very calm, although Shi Yan could hear the pain in it.

    Could it be that he was also injured?

    Although it all happened very fast, everyone there felt as if it were forever.

    What had happened in that split second, no one would ever forget.

    At last the lamps were re-lit, everybody was even more shocked, even more terrified. No one could believe his own eyes, yet these things were real.

    -- Tie Jian, Wang Shidai, Xiao Gu of Mount Ba, Shuishang Fei, Gao Xingkong, Yingyan Laoqi, and several most important disciples of Wudang, were down; they fell down in pools of blood.

    Wang Shidai even had a sword still sticking out from his waist, the sword’s blade has pierced his fatal point until only the sword hilt was visible outside.

    Wooden Taoist also had some bloodstain on his body; but although he was injured, he was still the most calm.

    “The assailants must still be here, before the truth is known, it would be best if everybody remains here.”

    It was an extraordinary incident, the tone of his voice became very grave, “No matter who, whoever leaves this main hall a single step will not be able to wash off the suspicion of being the murderer; in that case, please do not blame our School’s disciples for being rude to the honored guests.”

    No one dared to leave, no one dared to even move.

    The situation was indeed too grave, no one was willing to bear the slightest risk of being a suspect.

    The strange thing was, nobody remaining in the main hall had any weapons in them; where did the saber and sword used for killing come from? And where did they go?

    Although Shi Yan’s injury was not heavy, he appeared to be more grieved, more angry, and more dispirited than others.

    Wooden Taoist lowered his voice, “The assailants can’t be just one person. As soon as they finished striking, most likely they used the darkness as a cover to walk away, but they can’t possibly all leave Wudang’s premise.”

    Shi Yan could not resist asking, “Since we all have to stay in the main hall, who is going to go after them?”

    “I’ll go,” Wooden Taoist said.

    He looked around at the Wudang disciples who were waiting for orders, “I have to bring several capable people.”

    Shi Yan said, “Our School’s disciples are at Shishu’s [martial (younger) uncle] disposal.”

    Wooden Taoist left immediately, taking along ten people; obviously these people were all elites disciples of Wudang School.

    Watching him leaving in a hurry, Shi Yan’s eyes suddenly revealed some kind of odd look.

    The big, tall, and majestic looking old man quietly came over to him and said in very low voice, “It indeed happened.”

    Shi Yan nodded. Suddenly he pulled himself together and raised his spirit, “It was an extraordinary incident, I am obliged to ask everybody to wait here a bit longer. Wu Gou, lead the disciples under your command to take the Seniors died for a just cause to the Ting Zhu Courtyard first. Wu Jing, Wu Se, lead your disciples to search everywhere, as soon as you find any weapon, report immediately.”

    “You might as well let them search me first,” the big, tall, and majestic looking old man said.

    Shi Yan let out a wry smile and said, “If you want to kill, would you need any saber or sword?”

    The old man said, “In that case, I want to accompany your Shishu to go after the killers.”

    “Please,” Shi Yan said.

    The old man cupped his fist, bent his waist, and then shot out like an arrow.

    Instantly some people in the crowd of heroes voiced their dissatisfaction, “We are not allowed to leave, why is he allowed to leave?”

    “Because his status is different than any other people.”

    “Who is he?”

    “He is …” A loud commotion drowned his man’s voice, two Taoist priests in purple robes rushed in in big strides, carrying a sword with both hands. Surprisingly, it was Wudang Sect Leader’s own Seven-star Sword.

    But the other treasure that he wore, the purple and gold Taoist crown, was like a yellow crane flying away without leaving any trace.

    The thirteenth of the fourth month, midnight.

    The night was as cool as water.

    At this moment, only one person knew where the gold and purple Taoist crown had gone. This person was, naturally, Lu Xiaofeng.

    Nobody knew where he bought a giant round, sun-patterned, felt-lined, bamboo rain hat, which he wore on his had, covering more than half of his face.

    The gold and purple crown was on his head, also covered by the felt-lined bamboo rain hat.

    It was snatched away from Shi Yan’s head using the priceless two fingers of his; he had not failed.

    But in that split second when he made his move, the clothes on his whole body was soaked with cold sweats.

    He knew the entire operation had succeeded, because as he swept out of the main hall, he heard miserable cry of Tie Jian and the others.

    His clothes had already dried out. He had been circling around the dark alleys several times, making sure that he was not being followed, and then from the corner gate of the rear courtyard he slipped into the House of Blues.

    The rear courtyard was awfully quiet, he neither heard anybody nor saw any lantern light.

    “Those people are not back yet?”

    He was just thinking of finding anybody to ask when suddenly from the hexagonal pavilion at the edge of the flower garden he heard a hiss, “Here.”

    It was Liu Qingqing’s voice.

    When she saw Lu Xiaofeng, her expression looked very strange, as if she was very surprised, but was very happy as well, “You succeeded too?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “The others?” he asked.

    “More or less,” Liu Qingqing replied, “We are all here, just waiting for Old Sabre Honcho.”

    She bit her lip and looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of her eye, “I just didn’t think that we would be really successful this time,” she said.

    “Why not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I was always a little suspicious of you,” Liu Qingqing said, “Especially with what happened to Canine Master, and that waiter who took the dog for a walk for you, and then that man who dug worms at the Ye family house.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “That just proves one thing: you are ten times more paranoid than other people.”

    Liu Qingqing also laughed. She was just going to pull his hand when suddenly a shaft of light shot out from within the cluster of flowers. Xiao Cui was standing behind the lantern, staring at them, “Alright, alright, everybody is downstairs waiting, but the two of you are holding hands and whispering sweet nothing to each other in here.”

    It was only then did Lu Xiaofeng find out that their secret gathering room was right underneath a clump of Chinese rose flowers.

    Every detail of this scheme has been carefully set up, but up to the last minute, other than Old Sabre Honcho, no one else had a full understanding of what was going on.

    Even now, no one has ever seen his true identity. “But he will definitely come very soon.”

    It was a spacious room, and the ventilation was very good, although everybody was still panting for breath from the excitement. The people who took part in this operation have all arrived; surprisingly, it went without any glitch, no one was injured or suffered any damage.

    It was just a split second of intense moment and thrill, which subsided very quickly, but everybody still appeared very excited, but almost nobody talked.

    Some people had bloodstain on the front of their robes, presumably when they made their move, they used too much strength that their victim’s blood splashed on their body, so much so that some even had their faces splattered with blood.

    They ought to be happy, because what they did tonight would surely change the Wulin world’s history and destiny.

    “Why aren’t there any wine here? Our mission was accomplished, why can’t we drink a cup or two to celebrate?”

    “Because Old Sabre Honcho has not come back.”

    “Why hasn’t he come back?”

    “Because he still had a lot to do,” a voice from the outside replied, “He still had to block the pursuing troops from you, and checked the outcome of the battle.”

    Old Sabre Honcho finally appeared. Undoubtedly it was a very glorious outcome, because his voice sounded a bit hoarse from excitement.

    And then he formally declared, “The strike hit its target, the chief offenders have been completely punished, Operation Thunder is a complete success!”

    Careful and thorough plans, speedy and accurate execution, as long as anybody is able to accomplish these two factors, no matter what operation, success is guaranteed.

    But Old Sabre Honcho seemed to have forgotten something, he did not ask Lu Xiaofeng at all, whether he was successful or not; how did he know that the operation was a complete success?

    Unless by the time the lamps were lit he was still in the main hall, and saw that the purple and gold crown was no longer on Shi Yan’s head.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “Aren’t you forgetting to ask something from me?”

    He suddenly took off the felt-lined bamboo rain hat, the purple and gold crown immediately sent out a glorious and beautiful sparkle under the lantern light.

    But Old Sabre Honcho only took one look and said, “I am in no hurry.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Of course you are in no hurry, because what you really wanted was not this purple and gold crown, but that Seven-star Sword.”

    He did not really want to say those words, but all of a sudden he had the unstoppable urge to say it anyway, “When I snatched the purple and gold crown away, Shi Yan must’ve reached up to hold it down, hence you have the opportunity to seize the sword on his waist.”

    Old Sabre Honcho was staring at him with cold eyes, waiting for him to continue.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “All along that secret has been hidden in the sword hilt, but Shi Yan has never used it to blackmail anybody. Yet you are still worried, because the biggest secret of all belongs to you. That’s why you have to personally seize the sword, so that this secret will not fall into the second person’s hands.”

    Surprisingly, Old Sabre Honcho did not deny at all, “But his hand has always been holding the sword hilt, that’s why I could use you. Later on he will definitely think that the mastermind of this operation is precisely you.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Because when you strike, you must have used a lot of power, the purple and gold crown must have been pinched by your two fingers and thus leave two finger marks. The person who is able to snatch away the Taoist crown from his head, other than Lu Xiaofeng, I am afraid there is no second person. It will be the best evidence against you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed; he said, “Turns out not only you wanted me to distract his attention, you also want me to be the scapegoat.”

    “This is called ‘killing two birds with one stone’ scheme,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    It was the most crucial key of the entire operation, Lu Xiaofeng did not fully understand it. Until now. He could only laughed bitterly and said, “But I still don’t understand, since you managed to seize his sword away, why didn’t you kill him as well?”

    “Because he doesn’t have long to live anyway,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “Why?” he asked.

    “Because he had an incurable disease,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “He has at most only two to three months to live.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “No wonder he was eager to shift the announcement on who will be his successor to an earlier date.”

    Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “Too bad that the capable Wudang disciples who will be able to take the leadership have all died in our hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng fixed his gaze on him, “That’s why now he could only hand over the Sect Leader position to you.”

    Old Sabre Honcho’s fists suddenly tightened; he said with a cold laugh, “You are a smart man, you shouldn’t have said those words.”

    With a rueful smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “Too bad I can’t help saying it.”

    Old Sabre Honcho suddenly raised his voice, “Madame Lou [orig. ‘madame Lou of Jin Clan’ (i.e. her maiden name was Jin], Guan Tianwu, Du Tiexin, Gao Tao, Hai Qikuo, Gu Feiyun.”

    As he called out each name, the person immediately stood up and stared at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Old Sabre Honcho coldly said, “Do you think these six people will be able to subdue you?”

    “Two or three of them will be enough,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    With a cold laugh Old Sabre Honcho said, “You still want them to make their move?”

    “I don’t want them to make their move,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “Then why haven’t you put out your hands to be tied up?”

    “Because I know that they will not make their move,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Get him!” Old Sabre Honcho said sternly.

    Although his voice was rather loud, these six people seemed to have suddenly become deaf, nobody even moved.

    The pupil of Old Sabre Honcho’s eyes shrank, while Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    He said with a smile, “If they made their move right now, they would only get one person.”

    “Who?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “You,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Six people really did turn around to face Old Sabre Honcho, and then they said in chorus, “Are you waiting for us to make our move?”

    Old Sabre Honcho’s body stiffened, “If it was not for me, your bones would have been rotten by now,” he said, “How dare you betray me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng interrupted, “It’s not that they want to betray you, you have only yourself to blame for doing something wrong.”

    The underground room suddenly became very quiet. Other than Liu Qingqing and Xiao Cui, everybody else seemed to be unusually calm, it was as if they had already anticipated this shocking change.

    Could it be that all these people have betrayed him?

    Old Sabre Honcho clenched his fists even more tightly, “What did I do wrong?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Your plan was meticulous and ingenious, but it had a fatal flaw.”

    Old Sabre Honcho did not believe him.

    He really could not believe him, because he had considered this plan over and over repeatedly in his head.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The most ingenious part of your plan was precisely the people you sent out on this mission were all dead people, and then you changed them into other people who practically do not exist; naturally no one in Jianghu would pay any attention to their actions.”

    He chuckled, and then continued, “Too bad that this part is also the biggest vulnerability of your plan.”

    Old Sabre Honcho did not understand.

    This explanation was really not easy to understand.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “If you had changed Gao Tao into Shuishang Fei, even if Canine Master really had the ultimate disguising skill in the world, there would still be people who recognize him; at least Shuishang Fei’s friends and close relatives would.”

    He patted ‘the’ Housekeeper’s shoulder, “But the way you changed them, practically there is no such person in the world, naturally there won’t be anybody in the world who would recognize them.”

    This part was relatively easier to understand.

    Naturally Old Sabre Honcho also understood, it was the most basic idea of his plan.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But you missed a point.”

    Old Sabre Honcho could not resist asking, “Which point?”

    Lu Xiaofeng pointed to Housekeeper’s face, “Gao Tao could become like this, naturally other people could also become like this.”

    Old Sabre Honcho admitted. As long as there was an elaborately made human-skin mask, coupled with a master in disguising art, anybody could become like that.

    “After Gao Tao became like this, no one could recognize him,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “And when other people also became like this, naturally there won’t be anybody who could recognize him either.”

    Because basically there was no such person existed, therefore, no one would pay any attention to him. Old Sabre Honcho was no exception.

    Suddenly Old Sabre Honcho’s hands trembled. “Are you saying that this is not Gao Tao?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Finally you understand what I am talking about,” he said.

    This ‘Housekeeper’ also laughed, and then he tore off the human-skin mask from his face. Unexpectedly ‘he’ was a woman who did not look too old.

    Naturally this person was not Gao Tao.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “This Miss is the good sister of First Lady Gongsun of the past, she also happens to be my good friend. All along I had a hard time finding any housekeeper who is neither man nor a woman like Gao Tao, hence I had to turn to her for help.”

    Old Sabre Honcho was stumped for words.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You can disguise Gao Tao to look like this, naturally I can also ask others to disguise her to look like this.”

    Old Sabre Honcho gnashed his teeth, “Did Canine Master betray me?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. He said, “Because he is also a human, and not a dog at all. Even a dog, when you push it against the wall, it will jump over; let alone a human?”

    “He is not dead?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “If he were,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “How could we disguise this Miss to look exactly like Housekeeper’s disguise so that even you could not tell it apart?”

    “And the mask is also Gao Tao’s?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “It was peeled off his face,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “What about Gao Tao?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “The things he managed have already been too much,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “He ought to take a rest long ago.” [Translator’s note: in Chinese, ‘housekeeper’ is ‘manager of the house’, hence it was a play on words.]

    Liu Qingqing suddenly said, “It’s that night, at Ye Lingfeng’s mansion; you played your trick!”

    Now that she thought about it, when the lamps went out that night, why didn’t she find a single one of them? Lu Xiaofeng took advantage of the darkness to subdue Gao Tao, Gu Feiyun, and Hai Qikuo, and then had three other persons to assume their disguise, so much so that they were using the very same human-skin mask, and were disguised by the same hands that disguised them in the first place.

    “That day Canine Master was also there?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “He had been waiting there,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He smiled and said, “When we go down the mountain, the very next day I have already asked people to find the same dog, and then when the dog was taken out for a walk, the two dogs were swapped.”

    Dogs’ appearances are more or like the same, other than the people who are very close to it, certainly no one can tell the difference.

    Liu Qingqing sighed, “I have already felt that the waiter who took the dog out for a walk for you was a bit suspicious.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Your paranoia has always been heavier than other people’s.”

    “And that man who dig earthworms?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “He was the waiter who took the dog out for me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Who is he, actually?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Sikong Zhaixing!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Of course it was Sikong Zhaixing. This world famous lone thief; not only his qinggong had reached the peak, his resourcefulness surpassed others, he was also an expert in disguising skill.

    “Are all the people here not the same persons they originally were?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Only two persons are still the same,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Which two?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “One is me, the other you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why didn’t you deal with me that day?” Liu Qingqing asked.

    “Because you are too close to Old Sabre Honcho,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “We were afraid he might see the flaw …”

    Liu Qingqing bit her lip. Suddenly she sent a punch toward his nose.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not duck, she did not continue punching either. Because just as quick she pulled her fist back. But her eyes were still glowering at Lu Xiaofeng.

    “I just want you to understand one thing,” she shouted.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Liu Qingqing said, “The only person who is closest to me right now is you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng felt a bit of bitterness, and a bit of ache, in his heart.

    But if anyone wanted to do something for the good of a lot of people, he must be ready to make a little sacrifice.

    He struggled hard to pretend that he did not see the tears in her eyes, he fought himself hard not to think about this thing.

    Even if he wanted to show remorse and shed some tears, he had to wait until tomorrow, because right now he still had a lot of things to do.

    Because he was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Someone trimmed the wick of the lamp, the underground room grew brighter.

    Old Sabre Honcho calmed down instead; he asked, “Since you already seized control of the situation, why did you proceed according to my plan?”

    “Because we still don’t know who Old Sabre Honcho really is,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, we need to lure you into the net.”

    It was the critical phase of his plan, because even now, he still has not seen Old Sabre Honcho’s true identity.

    In fact, no one has.

    Old Sabre Honcho let out a cold laugh and said, “Now finally you will soon see who I am. Too bad Tie Jian and the others will never know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly chuckled again and said, “You really think they are all dead? Look again, who are they?”

    The entrance to the underground room suddenly opened, a group of people slowly came in one by one. They were precisely the people who were lying in pools of blood a moment ago; Tie Jian, Wang Shidai, Gao Xingkong, Shuishang Fei, Xiao Gu of Mount Ba, Yingyan Laoqi, and the five top experts of Wudang School.

    Surprisingly the big, tall, majestic looking old man was also among them.

    Shi Yan was the last.

    As he walked down, the door to the underground room was still open.

    Lu Xiaofeng was just speaking, “With disguising experts like Wang Laoqianbei [old senior], Sikong Zhaixing and Canine Master, pretending to be dead is not a very difficult thing to do; besides …”

    He had not finished speaking, Old Sabre Honcho suddenly leaped up, and then like an arrow he flew out. A sword appeared in his palm, a sword that was out of its sheath.

    His body and his sword seemed to blend into a single entity, as with lightning-fast speed he attacked Shi Yan.

    Shi Yan also had a sword.

    The secret inside the hilt has been removed, but the Seven-star Sword had returned to his hand.

    He wanted to draw the sword, but suddenly he felt a stab of pain below his ribs; the new wound and the old ailment flared-up simultaneously.

    Old Sabre Honcho’s sword had reached his throat, the person himself had also arrived behind Shi Yan’s back; and then with one hand he twisted Shi Yan’s arm and said, “Anybody dares to move, I’ll kill him immediately!”

    No one dared to move.

    Although he had an incurable disease, no one could see this Sect Leader of Wudang, this honest, considerate and upright senior, die under the sword.

    Therefore, everybody could only watch Old Sabre Honcho stepped backwards.

    With a cold laugh Old Sabre Honcho said, “Although my plan is not successful, your plan seems to fail at the final moment as well.”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “If we agree to let you go, will you let us see your true identity?”

    “I won’t,” Old Sabre Honcho replied.

    He laughed aloud, and then said, “No one can ever see my true identity, not ever.”

    His laughter stopped abruptly.

    His body suddenly lunged forward, and then rolled down along seven, eight stone steps, until he finally stopped face down on the ground, with blood gushing out of his back like a fountain.

    His bamboo rain hat also rolled away.

    A man slowly descended the stone steps; there was a sword in his hand, the tip of the sword was still dripping blood.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance suddenly changed.

    If it were not for the fact that he was still wearing a mask, everybody would have been greatly shocked.

    Because his countenance has become too terrifying.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-20-14 at 10:55 PM.

  5. #65
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 16

    Chapter 16 – To be one step ahead of the opponent
    Translated by Foxs


    The last one descending the stone steps was not Ximen Chuixue at all, it was Wooden Taoist. He was the actual person who entered last; obviously Old Sabre Honcho did not expect anybody else behind Shi Yan. The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind [idiom from Taoist classic Zhuangzi]; indeed there are many things in the world just like that.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not seem to think that he would come either; he looked at him in shock, and then he turned his gaze toward the Old Sabre Honcho, who was lying in a pool of blood. Suddenly he asked, “Why did you kill him? Why didn’t you leave him alive to get information from him?”

    “We already found out his secret,” Wooden Taoist replied, “Even if we asked again, we won’t get anything more. Although my hand was a bit too heavy, we definitely got rid of future trouble.”

    “But we have not seen his true identity,” Lu Xiaofeng objected.

    Wooden Taoist chuckled and said, “After he died, we can still see his true identity.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was taken aback, and then he laughed, “The past few days I am indeed too tired; my head is also so tired that I cannot even think.”

    Wooden Taoist laughed and said, “There are times when we all cannot think. What I am afraid of is having no head with which to think.”

    -- When anybody dies, his true identity can still be seen.

    -- What we are afraid of is if the dead man has no face to be seen.

    Lu Xiaofeng turned Old Sabre Honcho over to look at his face. He was stunned again.

    Because what he saw was a head without a face. The black holes where the eyes were carried an indescribeable mockery, as if he was saying, “No one will ever see my face again, never …”

    Everybody was stunned, even Liu Qingqing was stunned.

    Shi Yan let out a long breath; he said, “Although he has no face, I still recognize him.”

    “Of course you recognize him,” Wooden Taoist said, “I recognize him too.”

    He looked up. In that instant, he seemed to be aging a lot, “This man was our School’s renegade, Shi He.”

    “Wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not Shi He.”

    His voice was firm and full of confidence; he seemed to be very sure of what he had just said.

    If he was not, he would not say it in front of these people in that room.

    It was an elegant and quiet study room, located in a very secure and secret place.

    Anybody who wished to enter this study room must go through seven tightly guarded doors.

    Nearly every one of the men who guarded the room was a top-ranking Wulin expert, they consisted of the most outstanding disciples of Wudang, Shaolin, Yandang, and Mount Ba schools, plus several most astute, capable and experienced helm-masters of the Yangtze River’s Water Fort and the Twelve-dock Alliance.

    Without these people’s permission, absolutely no one could burst into the room.

    Even the news of their presence in the building was a completely guarded information.

    They called this place ‘the Eagle’s Nest’. The plan to deal with ‘the Mansion of Spirits’ this time was decided just three months ago in this ‘Eagle’s Nest’.

    It was a top secret plan.

    The first step of the plan was to convince Ximen Chuixue to create a conflict and hatred between he and Lu Xiaofeng, so that Jianghu people would think that he simply must kill Lu Xiaofeng.

    It was not an easy task, Ximen Chuixue was not a man who could be easily persuaded.

    Who would have thought that this time Ximen Chuixue did not refuse at all? Obviously he thought that hunting and killing Lu Xiaofeng would be interesting. His only condition was …

    “You must run away for real, because I am going to pursue you for real too. If I overtake you, I might kill you for real.”

    Therefore, when he was running away, Lu Xiaofeng was running in cold sweat all the time.

    The second step of the plan was to arrange Lu Xiaofeng’s escape route; he must ‘unintentionally’ make contact with people from the ‘Mansion of Spirits’, and he must not be suspected at all.

    During his flight, he still had to cope with all difficulties on his own, and must not make any contact with anybody else.

    Whether Lu Xiaofeng could really sneak into the Mansion of Spirits, they did not have any confidence at all.

    But he was willing to take this risk.

    Actually, they had learned about this Mansion of Spirits organization for quite some time, but all along they failed to grab the least bit of clue. Except that from the mouth of a dying stranger they learned that this organization was going to do some earth-shattering thing very soon.

    So they did not have any choice but to start their own operation.

    Because they found out that this dying stranger was the real Gu Feiyun, who was supposed to die under Ximen Chuixue’s sword many years ago.

    He escaped from the Mansion of Spirits, and was forced by Shi He to jump into ten-thousand zhang deep ravine. Although luckily he did not die, both his legs were broken. Relying only on his pair of hands and a strong will, he crawled out of the valley for five days and four nights, before by chance he met a Taoist priest who was out to gather herbs deep in the mountains.

    The Taoist priest happened to be a Wudang disciple. Gu Feiyun managed to live to tell the Mansion of Spirits’ secret. Too bad his knowledge was really limited, plus he was at his last breath.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng had already known from the start that ‘Cousin’ was not Gu Feiyun.

    Actually, Shi Yan of Wudang was the initiator of this plan. The first person he looked for was precisely Lu Xiaofeng.

    -- If there was one person in the world able to accomplish this arduous task, that person was, without a doubt, Lu Xiaofeng.

    But Lu Xiaofeng also realized that relying on his strength alone, he would definitely fail. Hence he insisted on getting a few good men to help him. And he believed that among these few, he simply could not lack Sikong Zhaixing.

    To convince Sikong Zhaixing was more difficult than persuading Ximen Chuixue. Luckily he had a weakness.

    He loved to bet. Especially betting against Lu Xiaofeng; he did not care what it was that he was betting, as long as it was against Lu Xiaofeng.

    So Lu Xiaofeng told him, “If I fail, you must dig earthworms for me.”

    By the time Sikong Zhaixing realized it was a trap, it was already too late. Hence, in order not to lose, he simply must help Lu Xiaofeng to succeed with all his might.

    He had always been a man of his word.

    But he also insisted to have another helper that they must not go without; he wanted Lu Xiaofeng to find Hua Manlou for him.

    Nobody could surpass Hua Manlou’s meticulous thought; maybe exactly because he could not see that he spent more time in thought than anyone else.

    The original plan was for the four of them to reach decision in the ‘Eagle’s nest’.

    But four people’s power was naturally still not enough; therefore, they pulled in six more people.

    They were Tie Jian of Shaolin, Wang Shidai of Beggar Clan, Shuishang Fei of Yangtze River, Gao Xingkong of Yandang, Xiao Gu of Mount Ba, and Yingyan Laoqi of the Twelve-dock Alliance.

    Because each one of all these six people had a disciple of their school in the Mansion of Spirits.

    Their territories also happened to be spread out between Mansion of Spirits and Wudang.

    But the most important factor was that they all men who absolutely guarded their mouth like a closed bottle, they would never leak the secret of this operation to anybody.

    From the outside, this building was a very ordinary-looking two-story building in the downtown area. It was bought using the name of a helm master under Yingyan Laoqi’s command. The three storefronts downstairs were used to open a drugstore, a wine shop, and a coffin shop.

    The three shops’ proprietors were naturally the most loyal, as well as capable and experienced, disciples of their schools.

    The number of people who were privy of this plan was only ten. The rest of the people merely took orders from these ten.

    Right now, out of ten people, eight were present.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at them, and repeated what he just said with a renewed emphasis, “Not Shi He. Definitely not him.”

    Shi Yan was not present, apparently his illness was serious. The only other person who had seen Shi He was Tie Jian.

    That day when Wudang was about to inaugurate a new sect leader, when Shi He destroyed his own face, this senior monk from Shaolin was also present.

    He had seen this ‘face without a face’. Anybody who had seen it once will never forget.

    Therefore, he objected, “I have seen his face, I am absolutely sure that he was Shi He.”

    “The one died under Wooden Taoist’s hand was of course Shi He,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But Shi He was not Old Sabre Honcho. Absolutely not.”

    “How can you be so sure?” Sikong Zhaixing asked.

    “Because I know who Old Sabre Honcho really is,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Who?” Sikong Zhaixing asked.

    “Wooden Taoist,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sikong Zhaixing was shocked, and so was everyone else there.

    After a long time, Tie Jian slowly shook his head and said, “No, it can’t be him.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Tie Jian replied, “Many years ago he could have become Wudang Sect Leader, but he gave the Sect Leader position to his Shidi [martial (younger) brother] Mei Zhenren. From this, it can be seen that he did not regard fame and profit, power and position as important at all; how could he do such thing?”

    “At first I did not believe it either,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “At first I also wanted to pull him into the Eagle’s nest.”

    “Coud it be that someone opposed?” Tie Jian asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “Shi Yan opposed,” he said, “Hua Manlou also disapproved.”

    “Why?” Tie Jian asked.

    This time he asked Hua Manlou.

    Hua Manlou hesitated, and then he said slowly, “At that time I did not suspect him at all, I just felt that he was too close to Ancient Pine Hermit; it would be very difficult for him to keep secret from Ancient Pine.”

    “Did you suspect Ancient Pine?” Tie Jian asked.

    Hua Manlou said, “His martial art skill is extremely high, but about his school and family history, there has never been anybody with any knowledge of it.”

    “He is a hermit,” Tie Jian said, “Hermits are usually like that.”

    Hua Manlou said, “Before becoming a hermit, one ought to have a past, but he did not. It was as if as soon as he was born he has already become a hermit.”

    “Why did Shi Yan oppose Wooden Taoist?” Tie Jian hesitantly asked.

    “Because he knew that Wooden Taoist did not yield to Mei Zhenren willingly,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Tie Jian frowned, “Could it be that he was just like Shi He, that he did something contrary to the religious rules and hence was forced to step aside?”

    “Probably yes,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What did he do?” Tie Jian asked.

    “Shi Yan refused to say,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Family shames must not be spread abroad; no matter what, Wooden Taoist was his martial uncle, plus he was an elder of Wudang, one of the few great Wudang disiples.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Although Shi Yan is unwilling to explain, but now I can guess more or less what had happened.”

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba could not resist asking, “What did Wooden Taoist do in the past that was contrary to the religious rules?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not only he took a wife on the outside, he also sire a child.”

    Tie Jian’s countenance fell; he said, “Hearsay must not be trusted. This matter concerns his reputation and integrity, it must not be easily trusted even more, and must not be easily spoken out either.”

    “Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “But since he already spoke out, he must be sure of it,” Sikong Zhaixing interrupted.

    “Not only he must be sure, he must have evidence,” Tie Jian said.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have any evidence.

    But his analysis and conclusion, even Grand Master Tie Jian could not not admit that it made a lot of sense.

    -- Third Mistress Shen was Ye Lingfeng’s wife, yet she gave birth to Old Sabre Honcho’s daughter. The one she let down was Ye Lingfeng, not Old Sabre Honcho at all; why did he hate her instead? Moreover, he murdered Ye Lingfeng.

    Because Old Sabre Honcho was Wooden Taoist, he was the (older male) cousin of Third Mistress Shen, but also Third Mistress Shen’s real husband.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “At that time Wooden Taoist was at the prime of his life, Third Mistress Shen was also a budding beauty …”

    In front of Grand Master Tie Jian, he spoke in a very reserved manner, but his meaning was very clear.

    No doubt there was an affair happening between these two [maternal] cousins. But at that time Wooden Taoist was already a prominent Wudang disciple, naturally he could not become husband and wife with her formally and openly.

    “Hence he came up with a substituting scheme [orig. the plum tree withers in place of the peach tree], he had Third Mistress Shen marry Ye Lingfeng, and had Ye Lingfeng be the father of his child.”

    “Why did he pick Ye Lingfeng?”

    “Because Ye Lingfeng had trained swordsmanship in Wudang; moreover, it was he who personally trained him. In order to repay the master’s benevolence, the disciple naturally cannot refuse to sacrifice himself.”

    But then Wooden Taoist grew old, plus he wandered outside all year long, Third Mistress Shen had nothing to do and was lonely, hence the pretense had turned into reality, she had an affair with Ye Lingfeng.

    When Wooden Taoist discovered that she had given birth to a daughter, whom she was not supposed to have, plus he discovered that they were having an affair, it was only natural that he hated them to the bone.

    “But he hated Wudang even more, because his disciple Shi He had also suffered similar fate, i.e. he was forced to give up the Sect Leader position.”

    Originally he put his hope on Shi He, but now all hopes had become a pie in the sky. Therefore, he could only take one path.

    ‘Revenge’ and ‘power’; either one of these two things was enough to make people go with total abandon, disregarding risk and danger, by hook or by crook, to accomplish it.

    “But this is not enough proof that Wooden Taoist is Old Sabre Honcho.”

    “I can still enumerate several facts as a proof.”

    When the ceremony was in progress, only he could stay and come close to Shi Yan, and only he knew the secret inside the sword hilt.

    “There’s great possibility that the secret is concerning why he was forced to step down that year, hence the reason he was determined to get it.”

    Concerning Wudang’s internal situation, only he was most familiar with it; hence he was able to arrange safe passage for the people to retreat after the operation was completed. Moreover, he had the authority to keep the crowd of heroes inside the main hall, so that even if they wanted to pursue, they simply were not able to.

    Changjing and Changqing were both disciples under his direct supervision, only he could buy them.

    Shi He had always been reclusive and arrogant, again, only he would be able to control him.

    Although these several points were no more than just speculation, but they were enough to be strung together into clues.

    What’s more, Lu Xiaofeng still hold an important link in his hands, “Although I have already known that Cousin is not Gu Feiyun, but all along I was not able to figure out his true identity.”

    Tie Jian could not help asking, “And now you have figured it out?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, “Cousin is Ancient Pine.”

    As soon as he said those words, everybody was stunned.

    “For the past few years,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Wooden Taoist and Ancient Pine were as inseparable as form and shadow, they often wandered together and their whereabouts was uncertain; it’s because they often had to go back to the Mansion of Spirits.”

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba said, “In the big event at Wudang this time, everybody thought Ancient Pine would certainly come, but he just did not show up.”

    “That’s because he has been imprisoned in the cellar of the Ye Family Mansion,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Do you have evidence to prove that he is Ancient Pine?” Tie Jian asked.

    “I have seen his hands,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “His swordsmanship is not only very fine, it is also very profound; very close to Ancient Pine’s swordsmanship. His stature and facial features are even more similar to Ancient Pine’s. Just add a little beard, a few strands of grey hair, add a yellowish complexion, he would look exactly the same as Ancient Pine.”

    Sikong Zhaixing said, “No wonder I always felt that Ancient Pine’s appearance is a little mystifying, turns out he never really reveal his true colors to the public.”

    Tie Jian was deep in thought. He suddenly said, “There is one hole in your arguments.”

    “Which one?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Tie Jian said, “If Wooden Taoist is really Old Sabre Honcho, why didn’t he keep his promise to meet up with you all at the House of Blues?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “It’s because he knew that things had changed, somebody has leaked our secret.”

    “Who leaked our secret?” Tie Jian asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a bitter laugh, “Without a doubt it’s that extra man who came from the empty sky.”

    The extra man was, naturally, that big, tall, majestic looking old man.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “This matter is an absolute secret that is known only to the ten of us, why did you all bring an extra person in?”

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba asked him back, “Do you know who that man is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know.

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba said, “Do you know that I have a martial uncle, the Cave Master of the Thirty-Six Caves of Miao [ethnic group of southwest China] Mountain at the edge of Yunnan? He is also a hereditary tribal chieftain of Miao people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up. “Are you talking about Long Meng the flying lion?” [Other than a surname, ‘long’ also means dragon, while ‘meng’ means fierce or ferocious.]

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba smiled and said, “He has not set foot on the Central Plains for a long time, no wonder even you did not recognize him.”

    “And you let him in into our secret?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba said, “For generations he had been overseeing the southern sky, his nobility is comparable to kings and marquis[1]; in terms of wealth, honor and glory, no one in Jianghu could surpass him. You think he would betray us? He would leak our secret?”

    Lu Xiaofeng closed his mouth.

    But he finally remembered who this man was; he also remembered why he always had a feeling that he had seen this man somewhere before.

    He suddenly felt his mouth tasted sour and bitter, as if he had just eaten a big pot of rotten meat.

    Tie Jian said, “Now we only have one way to prove whether your theory is correct.”

    “Which way?” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba asked.

    Tie Jian said, “Ask Shi Yan to tell us the secret in the sword hilt.”

    Everybody agreed. “If Wooden Taoist really stepped down because of his affair with Third Mistress Shen, it would also be the proof that he is Old Sabre Honcho.”

    Tie Jian said, “Even if Shi Yan is reluctant to divulge his elder’s private business, under the circumstances, he cannot refuse to speak anymore.”

    “Has he gone back to Wudang?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He left before dawn,” Tie Jian replied.

    “Isn’t Wooden Taoist still at Wudang?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Tie Jian said, “We figured as well that there might be people who mean to harm him, hence we have Wang Shidai coming with him.”

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba said, “In that case, we must hurry to Wudang and ask him to explain everything clearly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He muttered as if he was talking to himself, “I just hope that we won’t be too late.”

    Suddenly there was a voice outside answering him, “Now it is too late.”

    Wang Shidai sat down first, wiped the perspiration from his face, caught his breath, and then slowly said, “Wudang’s thirteenth generation Sect Leader Shi Yan has passed away a moment before noon today, the fourteenth of the fourth month, at the age of forty-seven.”

    Nobody moved, nobody talked.

    Everyone’s heart sank. After a long time, someone asked, “How did he die?”

    Wang Shidai said, “He had a chronic ailment, and it was very serious.”

    “What was it?” Tie Jian asked.

    Wang Shidai replied, “It was an infection in his liver. Wooden Taoist has already figured out that he only had about a hundred days left of his life.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was emotionally touched. “So Wooden Taoist examined him?” he asked.

    Wang Shidai said, “Wooden Taoist’s medical knowledge is quite profound, I also have a bit of medical expertise.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “In your opinion, did he really die because of his illness?”

    “I have no doubt,” Wang Shidai replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly sat down again, he seemed to be unable to stand.

    Tie Jian’s countenance looked very heavy as well, “Did he leave any last message, any will as for who would succeed him as Wudang Sect Leader?”

    Wang Shidai said, “We originally thought that he would leave any posthumous writing, but found none.”

    Tie Jian’s countenance looked even heavier.

    He was well aware that according to Wudang’s bylaws, when the Sect Leader died due to particular accident and did not leave any will, the Sect Leader position would be assumed by the most senior person of the School.

    And the most senior person in Wudang right now was Wooden Taoist.

    Tie Jian heaved a long sigh. “I can’t believe that thirty years later, he can still become Wudang Sect Leader,” he said.

    With a rueful smile Lu Xiaofeng responded, “I am afraid he had already expected it.”

    In their hearts they all understood that without a definite proof, there was nothing they could do to him.

    Wudang Sect Leader was not someone who could be easily offended.

    Now that they did not even have the least bit of evidence, even if Wooden Taoist was indeed Old Sabre Honcho, they were powerless to deal with him.

    Wang Shidai dejectedly said, “Even though Shi Yan himself knew that his days were numbered, he had never expected that things would happened so suddenly like this.”

    “He did not even say anything before his death?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He only said one sentence,” Wang Shidai replied.

    “What did he say?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Wang Shidai said, “He wanted me to tell you, your guess was not incorrect.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up, but then he slowly sat back down. “It’s no use,” he muttered, “Even if my guess was correct, it’s no use.”

    He had asked Shi Yan whether Wooden Taoist was forced to step aside that year because of personal affair.

    At that time Shi Yan did not answer. Now he gave his answer, but it was already too late.

    The secret inside the sword hilt has, undoubtedly, fallen into the hands of Wooden Taoist, and they had no way of obtaining the evidence.

    “Although your guess was not wrong, you did something wrong,” Tie Jian said.

    “What did I do wrong?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Tie Jian said, “Since you knew that someone was going to snatch the sword away, you shouldn’t let Shi Yan kept that secret inside the sword hilt.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “We did what we did, because we wanted to lure him to keep the appointment at the House of Blues, so that we could unmask him there. If the secret in the sword hilt was not the original, he would have seen it right away and would be suspicious.”

    He sighed again before continuing, “How could we now that at that time the secret has already leaked and he suddenly changed his mind?”

    Tie Jian also sighed and said, “No matter who he is, he is really an extraordinary man. Although his plans failed and wiped over the floor, until the last minute he is not defeated yet.”

    They all sat in silence, feeling very depressed.

    Despite the ingenuity and the meticulous plan, they did not expect their operation to fail at the last moment.

    “Are we really powerless against him right now?” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba asked no one in particular.

    In an uncertain tone Lu Xiaofeng said slowly, “Perhaps I can still think of a way or two.”

    “What is it?” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba asked.

    “Isn’t your Shishu [martial uncle] still at Wudang?” Lu Xiaofeng asked him back.

    “No, he isn’t,” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba replied.

    “Do you know where he is?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Gu of Mount Ba said, “All I know is the owner of Lucky Plaza is an old friend of his; he butchered a fat cow especially for him to gorge himself. He wouldn’t miss this kind of opportunity.” [Again, it’s a stretch, my tribute to my Singaporean readers. The original was ‘quan fu lou’, quan – complete, fu – happiness/luck, lou – two-story building.]

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes brightened. “Does he like to eat meat?” he asked.

    “Practically he cannot miss one day without eating meat,” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba replied.

    “Does he eat a lot?” Lu Xiaofeng asked again.

    “Like the devil,” Xiao Gu of Mount Ba replied.

    Fourteenth day of the fourth month, afternoon.

    A piece of red paper was pasted on the door of Lucky Plaza, “Closed for the day, private party with distinguished guest.”

    Although it was closed for business, the door was not closed. As soon as he entered, he saw the big and tall, majestic looking Long Meng, Long the flying lion, eating an entire cow.

    Three tables were put together, with a large cauldron full of meat sitting on top of it.

    He did not like to eat his meat finely chopped or thinly sliced, or even garnished with anything. When he ate meat, he ate it a large chunk by a large chunk.

    In such a big hall, there was only one waiter, who was standing afar off, to serve him. Even the owner was not there. When he ate meat, he did not like to be disturbed, he did not like to talk either.

    But he did not ask anybody to stop Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng strode over, dragged a chair, sat down in front of him, and said with a smile, “How are you?”

    “Good,” Long Meng replied.

    “I know you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I also know you,” Long Meng replied, “You are Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “But I don’t know Long Meng,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just know you.”

    Long Meng laughed heartily, “Am I not Long Meng?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are Tribal Chief Flying Lion, but aren’t you also the meat-eating General?”

    Long Meng stopped laughing. His pair of big, round eyes shot arrows at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “General did not die at all, General still eats meat.”

    “Meat is delicious,” Long Meng said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If Canine Master could disguise you as General, naturally he could also disguise other people the same way. Much less when people die, their appearance will be more or less the same.”

    “How could General die?” Long Meng said.

    “Because I came there,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You came and General had to die?” Long Meng asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because General mattered a great deal; other than Old Sabre Honcho, nobody else is allowed to see his real face. The earlier he died, the safer it would be.”

    “That’s right,” Long Meng said, “Dead person is always the safest, no one would ever suspect a dead person.”

    “Too bad lately dead people often came back alive,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Long Meng held out a ladle of meat in front of him; suddenly he asked, “You eat meat?”

    “Eat,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Eat a lot?” Long Meng asked.

    “Lots,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Good, you eat!” Long Meng said.

    He put a ladle of meat inside his mouth first, and then he handed over the wooden ladle to Lu Xiaofeng, “Quickly eat, eat a lot, meat is delicious.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also scooped out a ladle of meat, “Meat is indeed delicious, extremely delicious; too bad sometimes it is so delicious that it really take someone’s life.” [Translator’s note: play of words here. The phrase I translated as ‘extremely’ was 要命 – yaoming, lit. wants (someone’s) life; it could also mean annoying, desperate, awful, terrible, etc. (See also Chapter 9)]?”

    Long Meng said, “General eats meat, you also eat meat, everybody eats meat, those who eat meat are not necessarily General.”

    Lu Xiaofeng concurred.

    Long Meng’s eyes shone with some kind of weird expression. Suddenly he lowered his voice and said, “Therefore, you can never prove that I am General.” He roared in laughter, “Therefore, you can only eat meat.”

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to laugh, but he simply could not laugh.

    He could only eat meat.

    It was indeed a hearty meat stew, but he only took a bit, his countenance immediately changed.

    Long Meng laughed and said, “Today you seem to eat slowly, you don’t eat much either.”

    “How much did you eat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “A lot,” Long Meng replied, “Extremely [‘yaoming’] a lot.” [See my note above.]

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a bitter laugh and said, “I am afraid this time it will really take a life.”

    “Whose life?” Long Meng asked.

    “Yours,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    His pressed the table lightly, his body flitted across the table, as fast as lightning he sealed the acupoints around Long Meng’s heart.

    Too bad he forgot that there was a pot of meat in the middle. A ‘life-killing’ [yaoming] pot of meat.

    General’s movement was also very fast. Suddenly he lifted this pot of meat, the meat soup splashed; it was still scalding hot.

    Lu Xiaofeng only dodged sideways. “Sit down, don’t move!” he shouted.

    Naturally Long Meng did not want to listen to him; his body leaped up, he wanted to flee outside.

    Not only he did move, he moved very fast, very strenuous.

    Hence the poison that had already been hiding inside his stomach and intestine immediately rushed toward his heart.

    He fell instantly.

    Lu Xiaofeng called out, “There is poison in the meat, as soon as you move …”

    He did not continue, because he had seen that Long Meng could no longer hear him.

    This pot of meat really took his life [again, yaoming].

    When he went down, his face turned black; and as his face turned black, he had already turned into dead person.

    The dead person was no longer Chief Flying Lion; he was not General either.

    A dead person is a dead person.

    Who cooked this pot of meat? Who was the owner of this place?

    The waiter who was standing afar off was so scared that he stood there as if his feet were nailed to the floor. Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and said, “Take me to the kitchen.”

    The person cooking the meat ought to be in the kitchen.

    But there was only meat in the kitchen; there was nobody there.

    A large pot of meat was still cooking on the stove, a very large pot, like the one on Mount Wudang, the large pot that was used to cook a large amount of food. The pot was full with meat that has not been fully cooked.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance changed again; he could not help wanting to vomit.

    He suddenly discovered a very terrifying thing.

    -- The meat was inside the pot; could it be that the cook was also inside the pot?

    Right now from among those who could still bear witness to Lu Xiaofeng, quite probably only one person left.

    It does not matter whether he was Cousin or Ancient Pine, Lu Xiaofeng only hoped that he was still alive.

    Where was that man now? Luckily, only Lu Xiaofeng knew.

    Naturally the basement of the Ye Family Manor was not the safest place. He had already moved them to a secret place where nobody would ever guess.

    -- The game was about to end, this was his last trump card. Naturally he wanted to leave himself a little secret.

    Late spring afternoon, the sun was still shining brightly; he walked slowly along the long street, as if he did not have any purpose at all.

    All kinds of shops lined up both sides of the street, all kinds of people were inside those shops. He could see them, and they could see him as well, but he did not know how many of those people were actually watching him in secret.

    At the end of the street suddenly there was a carriage came galloping and almost knocked him down. There seemed to be someone in the carriage sticking out his head out of the window and gave him a quick glance, he seemed to have a pair of very bright eyes.

    If he were able to take a closer look, he was sure he could recognize that person; unfortunately as he looked up, the carriage was already too far.

    But even after he left this long street, he seemed to be thinking about those bright eyes still, so much so that he seemed to be troubled by it.

    A hurried glance from a stranger, why did he let it troubled him and sent him on edge?

    Could it be that the person was not a stranger at all?

    He tried hard to chase this matter out of his mind. When he walked past a fruit stand at the corner of the street, he bought two pears. He gave one to a kid who was standing next to the fruit stand and was staring blankly at the distance, and slowly nibbled the one in his hand.

    Right now he only wanted to grab Wooden Taoist’s fatal point, but didn’t Wooden Taoist also want to kill him right now?

    The pot of meat just now, although he only had two bites, up to this moment he still felt his stomach was a bit unwell.

    Luckily the dose of poison in the meat was not heavy at all. If the dose were too heavy, it would be easier to detect.

    Long Meng was not a slow-witted man, it’s just that the amount of meat he ate was a bit too much.

    Too much that it took his life! [yaoming]

    If he also ate a few more pieces of the meat, by this time Wooden Taoist would not have to worry about anything anymore, he himself would not have to worry about anything either.

    -- The person behind that carriage window just now seemed to be a woman; the mouth of the horses pulling the carriage was foamy. It seemed like they have been traveling far, and in such haste.

    -- Who was she? Where did she come from?

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was trying hard not to think about it, he just couldn’t keep this matter out of his mind.

    He seemed to have a strange premonition in his heart, a feeling that this person was very important to him.

    But the person who was really important to him right now was, naturally, not her; it was Ancient Pine.

    When the lights went out that day, it was he who personally subdued him; and he had Hai Qikuo and Gao Tao imprisoned in the basement at the back.

    Right now all the people who had come from the Mansion of Spirits have been imprisoned in that basement. The first day they went down the mountain, Lu Xiaofeng had already handed the drawing of these people’s appearance to the ‘waiter who took the dog out for a walk’. The people of the Eagle’s nest immediately sprang into action; they caught everybody in one net. And then Canine Master, Sikong Zhaixing and Wang Shidai had their own people disguised to assume their appearance.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not overly concerned about their life or death; they would never know ‘Old Sabre Honcho’s’ true identity anyway, they were people who ought to be dead long ago anyway.

    But what about ‘Cousin’?

    Where did he send Cousin? How did he send him out? Practically he did not seem to have any opportunity to bring along such a big, living human being.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help chuckling at himself as he passed through an alley kitty-cornered from the street, leading back to the inn – the inn where they stayed when they first arrived in this town on the eleventh of the fourth month.

    They unloaded their luggage first, arranged for a place for the carriage and horses, and then they went out for a drink. It was when they were having a drink that he met his niece, and was subsequently brought to the House of Blues. The horses and the carriage, as well as their luggage, were still in this inn. Even the driver whom they hired along the way was still waiting here for the money.

    He seemed to have forgotten about it, and did not remember it until now.

    After paying double, he still seemed to feel a bit bad; hence he instructed the driver to harness the horses, “The weather is so good today, I am thinking of taking a tour around this area. Why don’t you take me around for the last time, I’ll buy you a drink.”

    The weather was indeed very good, the man driving the carriage, as well as the horses pulling the carriage, were in good spirit, they walked along the street with vigor.

    Not only this town was on the road one must follow to go to Wudang, it was also the town closest to Mount Wudang. As soon as they left the downtown area, the scenery was fresh and green, the world-famous Mount Wudang seemed to be right in front of their eyes.

    They stopped in a forest at the foot of the hill. Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered that they forgot to bring the wine.

    “I promised to buy you a drink.” He gave the driver an ingot of silver, “Go buy some. Buy a bit more, you can have the rest.”

    Naturally this place was quite far from the place that sold wine, but looking at the silver, the driver happily took the money and walked away.

    By this time it was already late afternoon, the light of the setting sun filled the sky, the sunset glow was gorgeous. Under the setting sun, this famous Taoist mountain, the wonder place of the Wulin world, looked even more elegant, grand, and wonderful.

    It’s just that there was no road going up the mountain from here, the Taoist monastery and scenic spots were far away. Therefore, no matter which direction he looked, he did not see a single person. Lu Xiaofeng suddenly crawled under the carriage.

    There was nothing to see under the carriage, why did he crawl into it? Could it be he wanted to get some sleep under there?

    But he did not close his eyes at all, instead, it looked like he was muttering to himself, “Going hungry for just two, three days, nobody will die of starvation; not to mention hermits usually don’t eat too much.”

    But he did not seem to be mumbling to himself either. Could it be that there was someone else underneath the carriage?

    Where is it?

    He knocked the baseboard of the carriage, it sounded like the inside was empty. Turned out there was a space between the boards.

    When government officials from the Capital announced old age and returned home, they usually brought quite a bit of things, naturally the big carriages they hired would be especially big. If the carriage had a storage room under the baseboard, naturally it would not be small either; putting a person inside would not be a very difficult thing to do.

    That day at the Ye Family Mansion, before Liu Qingqing awoke and the others were busy with changing their appearance, he took ‘Cousin’ and hid him in here.

    Although sealing his acupoint and stuffing him into this place was a bit cruel, Lu Xiaofeng thought that some people deserved to be treated like that for their crime.

    “Although you have to suffer right now, but as long as you are willing to help me out, I guarantee that I won’t give you any trouble; you may continue being a hermit.”

    He removed the wooden board covering the storage space. Someone fell from the inside.

    A living person.

    You do not need to check his pulse and breathing to know that the person was still alive.

    Because as soon as he fell down, his whole body moved. Not only that, the changes of his movement were quite a lot.

    After the person fell, another person fell from the inside, and then another.

    Lu Xiaofeng was pretty sure he only hid one person inside, how could it suddenly become three?

    All three people were alive, and all three people were moving. Their move was very fast, and the changes were a lot.

    The space underneath the carriage was not big, the range of motion was even smaller. With Lu Xiaofeng alone in there, he already felt cramped, and now there were three more people crowding onto him.

    His entire body was already unable to move, because these three people, like three octopuses, were pinning him down and were tightly wrapped themselves around him, while five hands simulatenously sealed his acupoints.

    How could three people only have five hands? Was it because one of them only had one hand?

    Could this one-handed man be Hai Qikuo?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not even see their faces, because he was immediately lifted up and heavily thrown into the carriage, just like a dead fish was thrown into a deep fryer.



    [1] Kings and marquis – referring to nobility rank in imperial China, namely Wang (king), Gong (duke), Hou (marquis), Bo (count), Zi (viscount) and Nan (baron).
    Last edited by foxs; 05-28-14 at 10:58 PM.

  6. #66
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 17

    Chapter 17 – Ambushed by the captives
    Translated by Foxs


    The strong horses let out long neigh and dashed forward.

    The three people had sat down, while looking coldly at Lu Xiaofeng. One was Gao Tao, one was Hai Qikuo.

    But the third person was not Cousin, it was Du Tiexin.

    Lu Xiaofeng was sure he only put Cousin, one person, in the storage hold under the carriage, but now that one particular person was missing instead.

    Where did he go?

    Where did these three come from? Who was driving the carriage in the front? Was it the driver who was supposed to go to buy some wine?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. He wanted to talk, but was unable to.

    They sealed his acupoints really hard, the muscles on his face were stiff and numb; not only he was unable to speak, he could not even laugh.

    Clearly they did not want to listen to him talking at all, they did not want to see him laugh either. But by the time they wanted him to talk, he simply could not close his mouth.

    Du Tiexin stretched out his fingers and then clenched his hands into fists again, his knuckles made cracking noise like a string of firecrackers.

    Gao Tao looked at his hands; suddenly he asked, “How many years altogether you were the Hall Master of the Torture Chamber?”

    “Nineteen years,” Du Tiexin replied.

    “Under your hands, was there anybody who dared not to speak the truth?” Gao Tao asked.

    “No,” Du Tiexin replied.

    “I hear that you had many opportunities to become the Zongpiao Bazi [chief, big boss],” Gao Tao continued, “Why didn’t you take it?”

    “Because Torture Chamber was more interesting,” Du Tiexin replied.

    “You like to watch people being tortured?” Gao Tao asked.

    “That’s right,” Du Tiexin replied.

    Gao Tao laughted, Hai Qikuo also laughed. These two people’s laughter sounded like rusty metal grating against each other, making those who heard it felt the root of their teeth ached.

    Hai Qikuo said with a laugh, “I really want to see your technique of the past.”

    “You will see it soon,” Gao Tao said.

    “Is the Torture Chamber ready?”

    Gao Tao nodded.

    Hai Qikuo said, “I heard that in the past, the traitors of the Thirty-Six Strongholds would rather go into a deep fryer than going into his Torture Chamber.”

    “Absolutely correct,” Gao Tao said.

    “Is it true that you have a special method to deal with traitors?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Gao Tao laughed mysteriously, “Not only special, it’s also very fascinating.”

    Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes; he really wished he could close his ears as well, because what he heard was really unpleasant to the ears, but he knew that it was the truth.

    Gao Tao suddenly spoke in a sing-song voice, “Entering the Torture Chamber, grieving and heart-broken. Entering the Torture Chamber, crying for dad, crying for mom.” [Translator’s note: the original Chinese rhymes, ‘torture chamber’ – xingtang, ‘heart-broken’ – duanchang, ‘mom’ – niang.]

    Hai Qikuo winked; he deliberately asked, “What about exiting the Torture Chamber?”

    Gao Tao said, “Exiting the Torture Chamber, see the King of Hell [yan wang].”

    “Entering the Torture Chamber is the same as seeing the King of Hell,” Du Tiexin coldly said.

    “There is the King of Hell in the Torture Chamber?” Gao Tao asked.

    “I am the King of Hell,” Du Tiexin said.

    Suddenly outside the carriage window became dark, even starlight and moonlight were not visible. The rumbling of the carriage’s wheels became deafening. The carriage appeared to be driven into a deep cave. It continued traveling in the cave for a short while before coming to a halt.

    Gao Tao heaved a deep sigh and said, “We are here.”

    “Is this the Black-Heart Old Du’s Torture Chamber?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Gao Tao cackled hysterically, “This is precisely the Old Yanwang’s Yama’s Palace.”

    They lifted Lu Xiaofeng off the carriage and dragged him off like carrying a torn sack; recklessly and without any care. First they banged him against the carriage door, and then they banged him against the mountain wall; they banged him really hard that Lu Xiaofeng’s head was dizzy, he even felt that his bones were falling apart.

    Gao Tao deliberately sighed and said, “What you have in your hand is a living person, not a torn sack; why don’t you be a bit more careful?”

    “I can’t see,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    He was not lying; the cave was indeed very dark, they literally could not see the fingers of their own hands.

    After walking for a short moment, the path was getting narrower and narrower, the chance of getting banged onto the wall was getting higher and higher.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng himself even felt that he had really turned into a torn sack.

    Fortunately, right that moment the mountain wall in front of them made a loud creaking noise and suddenly flipped up, revealing a cave inside. Unexpectedly there was light inside.

    Not only it had light, it also had table and chairs. On the table there was a white candle, like the one usually found in funeral hall. The candle was already burnt more than half.

    The flame of the candle flickered due to the breeze blowing from a crack on the cave wall, as if it was designed to provide ventilation of this cave.

    Hai Qikuo casually tossed Lu Xiaofeng in front of the table. “This is a very good place,” he said with a sigh.

    Gao Tao said, “Even if there are ten thousand people looking around for three years and six months, they won’t find him in here.”

    With his hook Hai Qikuo tapped Lu Xiaofeng’s head. “If they can’t find him, who’d save him?” he said.

    Gao Tao laughed and said, “Even if he’s really crying for dad, crying for mom, no one would come to rescue him.”

    “In that case, won’t he be dead for sure?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    “He won’t die so fast,” Du Tiexin said.

    “Why?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    Du Tiexin coldly replied, “Because I am going to let him die slowly; very, very slowly!”

    “So if he wanted to die a bit faster he can’t?” Hai Qikuo asked.

    “Definitely not,” Du Tiexin replied.

    Hai Qikuo laughed. Noticing that Gao Tao was looking down, as if he was studying Lu Xiaofeng’s body, he immediately asked, “If you are to do it yourself, which part would you cut first?”

    Gao Tao patted Lu Xiaofeng’s hand; he said, “Naturally from these two precious fingers.”

    “If it were me,” Hai Qikuo said, “I would start with his two strips of eyebrows.”

    “Which two?” Gao Tao asked.

    “Naturally the ones above his lips,” Hai Qikuo replied.

    The more they talked, the more they sounded very pleased with themselves, just like butchers discussing a lamb they were about to slaughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng has always been an open-minded person, and he had always been very calm under any circumstances, but right now the feeling in his heart was like his entire body was already inside a deep fryer.

    It appeared that he was really without the least bit of hope; if he could die a bit faster, it would be good luck indeed.

    Who would have thought that at this moment, a cold laugh was heard in the darkness outside.

    “Who’s there?”

    Gao Tao, Hai Qikuo, and Du Tiexin, all three of them quickly rushed out.

    These three were first-class martial art experts of Wulin world; not only their reaction quick, their movement fast, they were all veterans of a hundred battles. The number of people who could block their joint attack was indeed not many.

    It appeared that the person coming outside sounded was alone. This person practically came to deliver his life.

    As soon as they rushed out, they spread out in a fan formation; no matter who this person was, they would never let him walk out of this place alive.

    Hai Qikuo was dauntless and violent, the iron hook on his hand was an extremely potent weapon; with ‘five nails splitting the mountain’ power, he was the first to charge forward.

    With one palm protecting his chest, Du Tiexin brandished his right fist, following closely behind him.

    There was another cold laugh, suddenly there was a sword flash in the darkness, just like the wrath of a thunder, with the power of lightning. But it was even faster, even more terrifying than lightning.

    There was a clear ringing sound, ‘Ding!’ the hook struck the rock wall, sparks flew everywhere. The hook seemed to carry a severed arm.

    Du Tiexin fell backward with his face up, a splash of blood pouring out of his throat like a bubbling spring.

    Without even letting out miserable cry these two had breathed their last.

    What a fast sword!

    The blade of the sword was still flickering in the dark; under the flash of the sword, there seemed to be a shadowy figure.

    As soon as Gao Tao saw this person, he withdrew step by step backwards.

    His face was completely twisted, just like he saw a malicious spirit suddenly appeared. After a few steps, he dropped down, with tears, nasal mucus, saliva, urine and feces flowed out of his orifices; his entire body crumpled like mud. Unexpectedly he died of extreme fear.

    Who could scare him that bad?

    Who had such a fast sword?

    Was it Ximen Chuixue?

    A man slowly came out of the darkness, wearing grey robe and a deep-basket like bamboo rain hat.

    It was not Ximen Chuixue, it was Old Sabre Honcho!

    Lu Xiaofeng had just come out of a deep fryer, but then he fell into an icehouse; his whole body felt icy-cold.

    He wanted to grab this man’s fatal point; this man naturally also wanted to take his life!

    Even if he would rather enter a deep fryer than the Torture Chamber, but right now he would rather enter the Torture Chamber than fall into Old Sabre Honcho’s hands.

    To his surprise, Old Sabre Honcho’s voice was very gentle, as he asked, “Were they being rude to you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a rueful smile.

    Because he was banged around so much a moment ago, finally the blood in his vessels was able to flow relatively smoothly, so that right now he was able to speak.

    But at this very moment, what could he say?

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “No matter what, I can’t let you suffer under their hands; they are not worthy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist saying, “I know now, that all along you have been planning on killing them after the operation succeeded.”

    Old Sabre Honcho did not deny at all, “Wipe them all out, not a single one is allowed to remain,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Perhaps the basement of the House of Blues was meant to be their burial ground.”

    “Lingfeng Mansion is the same thing,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    -- Damp and dark basement, the cry of people trying to run for their lives, badly mangled corpses.

    Lu Xiaofeng tried hard not to throw up; he said, “They were going to die anyway; even if they did not kill Tie Jian and the others, your plan has not failed.”

    Old Sabre Honcho chuckled and said, “I have already told you, I won’t fail.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only concede; it looked like the final victory currently belonged to him indeed.

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “It’s just like when you are besieging a city; even if you have broken nine layers of wall, even if the blood outside is flowing like a river, I am still lying down in peace and quiet inside the city wall.” He smiled and said, “Because my planning is more thorough than yours. You were able to break nine layers of wall, I have already established the tenth layer. By the time you reached this last layer, your spirit already weary, your strength exhausted; in the end you still fall down outside the city.”

    “You believe I have no way of exposing your true identity?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Right now there is no one in the world who can vouch for you,” Old Sabre Honcho replied, “Tell me, who’d believe you?”

    “There is one,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

    “You,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Old Sabre Honcho laughed heartily.

    “Only you know that I am telling the truth,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, you must kill me to close my mouth.”

    “What about you?” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Are you absolutely sure that what you think is correct?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I …”

    Old Sabre Honcho said, “I know that you are not absolutely sure either. Unless you can take off my bamboo rain hat and see my face with your own eyes.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was unable to deny.

    “There is one more thing that you are wrong,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I don’t have any thought to kill you at all,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

    “You don’t?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Old Sabre Honcho chuckled again and said, “Why would I want to kill you? What’s the difference between you and a dead person anyway?”

    He smiled and turned around. As he confidently walked out, he said, “If one is unworthy to be killed by me, I would never do it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking in loud voice, “Now can you show me who you really are?”

    Without even looking back, Old Sabre Honcho said, “No.”

    Candlelight flickered, it was about to go off.

    Old Sabre Honcho has left. There was a huge boulder at the entrance of the cave, and it was closed tight. Even if could go freely, he would never leave this place alive.

    Right now this place was like a sealed jar, even a fly could not go out.

    -- Why would I want to kill you? What’s the difference between you and a dead person anyway?

    There was none. This sealed jar would be his grave.

    Sooner or later everybody would have to enter the grave, it’s just that he would prefer to die early than sitting inside the grave, waiting for death.

    The sad thing was that even if he wanted to die now, he simply could not die.

    The candle was burned completely; wasn’t his life just like this candle?

    He had never realized that he was not an invicible, an omnipotent superhuman. Until now.

    He was always able to get out of previous crises; perhaps that was no more than a bit of luck?

    And now that he met Old Sabre Honcho, such a fearsome opponent, his luck had run out.

    -- I know that you are not absolutely sure either. Unless you can see my face with your own eyes.

    And now he would never see that face, he could only take this question to the underworld.

    -- Would he go to the underworld?

    -- Even he himself was not sure. But if he did not go to the underworld, where would he go?

    The candle has died, but he was still alive.

    In the world, only one thing is worse than sitting in the grave waiting for death; it’s waiting for death in the dark.

    He recalled a lot of things. A lot of people came into his mind. So much so that he even remembered that pair of bright eyes in the carriage window.

    This moment, why did he still think about her?

    Could it be that this woman with a pair of bright eyes, who crossed path with him on the street, had some kind of strange and mysterious relationship with him?

    The room suddenly became very stuffy; he already started to sweat. Beads of perspiration crawled down his face, just like ants.

    Suddenly he discovered that he could move his hands.

    -- You have a pair of hands, which is unequalled under the heavens; your two fingers are your priceless treasure.

    Everybody said the same thing, but right now the only thing these two fingers could do was to pinch his legs as hard as he could, to keep him awake, to remind him that he was not special at all.

    It’s just that on the contrary, being awake was more painful.

    “It would be better if I could sleep some more.”

    If by the time he wake up he found himself alreay in the underworld, wouldn’t that be delightful?

    He could not sleep.

    Along with darkness and stuffiness, came tiredness and hunger and thirst. The thirst was the hardest to endure.

    How long would he have to suffer for his sins?

    Until he die!

    But when would he die?

    He suddenly sang loudly; the very same nursery rhyme he had always sung:

    “Little girl carrying a clay doll,
    Came to the garden to admire the flowers…”

    Golden childhood, sweet memories; even the pain of the past has not become very sweet.

    Life is so beautiful, why is it that people always wait until they are dying to know and treasure it?

    Suddenly there was a rumbling noise as the huge mountain wall opened.

    Fire light shone through, followed by a large group of people swarming in. Included among these were Tie Jian, Wang Shidai, and Hua Manlou. At the very front was a white-haired old Taoist. To Lu Xiaofeng’s shock, it was none other than Wooden Taoist!

    At the death door he was suddenly rescued, it ought to be the happiest moment of his life. But Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt a wave of anger bubbling up in his chest; to everybody’s surprise he fainted from anger.

    The fifteenth of the fourth month, afternoon.

    Late afternoon, almost dusk. The Cloud Room was cool and quiet. Outside the rustling of bamboo sounded like rippling waves. The room was in the Tingzhu Courtyard, where Wudang Sect Leader received distinguished guests.

    This time the distinguished guest was Lu Xiaofeng.

    He lay on the bed, unmoving, with eyes fixed on the ceiling; he really appeared to be no different to a dead person.

    “If it were not for Mu Zhenren[1] remembered a cave like that at the back of the mountain, you’d be really dead this time.”

    The speaker was Tie Jian, “That was the place Wudang disciples used to use to face the wall and ponder about his misdeeds. But now their rules are not as strict as in the olden days, so that place has been abandoned for quite a long time. This time you are really lucky.”

    -- Lucky? To he!! with luck!

    “But you must not thank only your lucky star, because the one who took us to that place to look for you was precisely Mu Zhenren.”

    This senior monk from Shaolin did not speak openly, but the implied meaning was clear. Obviously he no longer suspected that Wooden Taoist was Old Sabre Honcho; “Otherwise, why would he take us there to look for you?”

    Other people’s thought was, naturally, the same. This logic was as simple as ‘one plus one equals two’.

    Therefore, Wooden Taoist [Mu Daoren, see footnote] has now become Mu Zhenren.

    But Lu Xiaofeng understood the real story behind it.

    If Wooden Taoist killed him to shut his mouth, even if nobody could prove it, inevitably they would have a bit a suspicion in their hearts.

    But now that he saved Lu Xiaofeng, not only it proved that he was not Old Sabre Honcho, he also won everybody’s gratitude and respect.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only have to admit that it was the most crafty and well-planned scheme he had ever seen in his entire life. Wooden Taoist was indeed the most fearsome opponent he had ever faced.

    No doubt it was also the biggest setback Lu Xiaofeng had ever experience in his whole life. Right now he had no choice but to admit defeat.

    Although in his heart he understood the truth of the matter very well, he could never tell anybody about it. Because even if he did, nobody would believe him.

    Therefore, he only had one question to ask, “How did you know I was in danger?”

    “In this case, we only knew that you would never disappear without any rhyme or reason; plus we also found the carriage under a dangerous slope at the back of Mount Wudang. In that carriage we found your outer clothes, with the front part torn; and then there were some traces of a fight on the dirt.”

    These several points were sufficient to draw a conclusion that he was in danger; therefore, he did not say a word.

    Evening slowly came, suddenly there was clear and joyful ringing of the bells outside.

    “Today is the grand ceremony of Mu Zhenren formally takes office; no matter what, you ought to go to congratulate him.”

    Looking at a man who should be punished, but obtaining honor and authority instead, naturally this sort of thing would not make him feel good.

    But still he could not absent.

    He did not want to shirk this responsibility.

    He wanted Wooden Taoist to understand although his defeat this time was bitter, he had not knocked Lu Xiaofeng down.

    Even if he did not have any choice but to admit defeat, he wanted to admit defeat standing up, face to face with his opponent.

    The wind blew the bamboo leaves outside, darkness suddenly blanketed mother earth. But in the main hall the lanterns were ablaze.

    Under the bright light, the wearing purple and gold Taoist crown, wearing the Seven-Star Sword on his waist, Mu Zhenren looked even more dignified and grand.

    The Wooden Taoist of the past, who wandered along windblown dust, who was carefree and uninhibited, basically no longer existed.

    Standing here at the moment, was the fourteenth generation Wudang Sect Leader, Mu Zhenren; not someone who could be easily mocked.

    Lu Xiaofeng reminded himself that he must not forget this fact.

    When his turn came, he tidied up his clothes, went up in big strides, cupped his fist and bowed, “Congratulation Daozhang[2] on reaching the top to this grand position, Lu Xiaofeng came especially to offer his congratulations.”

    Mu Zhenren smiled and reached out to hold Lu Xiaofeng’s arms, “Lu Daxia [great hero] must not be overly courteous,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng also smiled and said, “Daozhang has been through difficult times, finally you have your wish fulfilled. But Lu Xiaofeng is still Lu Xiaofeng, not Lu Daxia.”

    Although his manner was respectful, the tone of his voice was courteous, his words carried sarcasm as sharp as a needle.

    Especially the four words ‘have your wish fulfilled’.

    He could not resist letting Mu Zhenren know that although he had lost, he was not a fool.

    Mu Zhenren said, “Since Lu Xiaofeng is still Lu Xiaofeng, the old Taoist priest is also still an old Taoist priest; hence we are still friends, aren’t we?”

    Although he was laughing, his eyes also shot a needle-sharp gaze.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt an irresistible force coming from his hands pushing him upwards.

    In that instant, the honorable, dignified Wudang Sect Leader ceased to exist; in his place was the dark predator, the haughty, the great strategist, the most ambitious and ruthless character of their generation, the Old Sabre Honcho. It was as if he also wanted Lu Xiaofeng to know, “Even if I let you know who I am, what’s the harm in that? What can you do to me?”

    His hands were holding on to Lu Xiaofeng’s upper arms, between his shoulder and elbow; the upward push suddenly became downward pull. This crushing force would likely result in one of two things – either the bones on both arms were crushed, or he would be forced to kneel down.

    Lu Xiaofeng would rather have a hundred bones on his body broken than kneeling down in front of this man.

    Fortunately his bones were not broken, because he had already concentrated his ‘true strength’ on his arms.

    Using force to counter force, the weaker force will lose; there was absolutely no leeway to back off quickly.

    In martial art, there are many type of techniques used to gain control over the opponent; some use ‘chi’ to score victory, some use ‘strength’, some use ‘style’, some use ‘opportunity’. The flexibility and variability of Lu Xiaofeng’s martial art skill was really deep and unfathomable; originally he belonged to the last category.

    But right now his internal strength has been released; it’s just like an arrow on the strung bow, or riding on a tiger’s back; it would be too late even if he wanted to withdraw.

    Because the opponent’s power was indeed too strong; if he withdrew his internal strength, it would be hard to avoid having his body torn and his bones crushed.

    ‘Crack!’ the slab of stone on which he stood was crushed, sweats as big as beans started to appear on his face.

    The faces of the people standing nearby changed, but they could only watch without being able to do anything.

    These two people’s strength was opposing each other with equal harshness; if a third party came betweeen them, as long as there was the sligtest bit of deviation, there was great possibility that at least one of them would be harmed; there was also great possibility that their power flowing in reverse would cause a lot of damage to themselves.

    Who would dare to take such a risk?

    Actually, Lu Xiaofeng did not need to take such a risk; in the split second where Mu Zhenren was reversing direction, he had already sensed it. It was his best opportunity to withdraw easily.

    But he has withdrawn once, he was unwilling to withdraw again.

    At the moment he felt his breathing was getting heavier, his heart was beating faster, so much so that his eyeballs were starting to bulge out.

    The only reason he carry on was that he could also see that Wooden Taoist was having a hard time as well.

    In this battle, regardless of who would win, the victory would be achieved at a very high price.

    Actually, Wooden Taoist did not have to take this risk either; perhaps he did not expect Lu Xiaofeng would have such an unyielding spirit, that he would rather have his bones broken than surrender. Perhaps right now he started to regret too.

    Just then, there was a young Taoist from the outside rushing into the main hall, looking very anxious. If not for an extremely grave matter, he would never dare to intrude to the main hall like this.

    Mu Zhenren suddenly laughed and took two steps backward. The thousand-jin load on Lu Xiaofeng’s arms suddenly disappeared without a trace; this has caused his body felt like he almost flew up.

    He really did not expect that in such situation, his opponent was able to withdraw his internal energy easily like that. It appeared that in this battle he has lost.

    He had not completely regulated his breathing, Mu Zhenren was already able to speak. He was asking the young disciple, “What’s the matter?”

    “Ximen Chuixue is here!”

    “Respected guest honors us with his presence, why haven’t you invited him up?”

    “He insists on carry his sword up the mountain.” The young Taoist priest’s hands were still shaking, “Disciples were not able to make him shed his sword. Martial (older) brothers who were trying to have him leave his sword at the pond rock were all injured under his sword.”

    It was indeed a very serious matter; for the last several hundred years, there had never been anybody who dared to make light of Wudang.

    “Where is he now?”

    “Still at the bank of Shedding-sword Pond, Eighth Martial (younger) Uncle is trying to hold him.”

    Mu Zhenren’s hand already gripped the hilt of his sword.

    His hand was slim, dry, and steady; his fingers were long and powerful.

    -- If he was holding a suitable sword, would this hand be more terrifying than Ximen Chuixue’s hand?

    He suddenly walked out in large strides.

    Watching him going out, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt an unspeakable dread in his heart.

    He was the only one who had seen this man’s sword; if there was someone on earth who would be able to defeat Ximen Chuixue, no doubt this was the man.

    The water in the Shedding-sword Pond would be dyed red with blood very soon.

    Whose blood?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have any confidence to predict the outcome. He simply could not let Ximen Chuixue die in here. He simply must try to think of a way to stop this battle.

    Wooden Taoist had already passed the wide courtyard, he was about to step out of the monastery’s main gate. Lu Xiaofeng immediately ran after him.

    Outside the Taoist monastery, the beautiful forest was verdant and lush, the spring grass was deep. In the middle of the bushes, there seemed to be a pair of bright, shiny eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart jumped; someone in white coarse mourning clothes suddenly leaped out from the bushes, with an unsheathed sword in her hand, the tip of the sword was aimed at the pit of Mu Zhenren’s stomach.

    Mu Zhenren’s hand was still on the hilt of his sword; he could have easily drew his sword to defeat the assassin, it would have been very easy for him to have her die under his sword.

    But for some reason, he did not pull his sword.

    Seeing the woman in white coarse mourning attire, he seemed to be suddenly caught off-guard.

    In that split second, the sword in the hand of the woman in white, like a viper, has already entered his heart.

    He did not fall down right away, he still looked at the woman in shock, as if he still did not believe it really happened.

    The expression on his face was not only surprised, but there were also all kinds of unspeakable grief and pain.

    “You … you kill me?”

    “You killed my father, naturally I want to kill you!”

    “Your father?”

    “My father died under your sword, he is the Old Sabre Honcho.”

    Mu Zhenren’s face suddenly twisted; this sentence was like a needle piercing his heart, it was even sharper than the deadly sword stab.

    Some kind of unspeakable dread suddenly appeared on his face.

    It was not the fear of dying.

    He was afraid, because all the inconceivable things in the world, all the inexplicable matters, right this moment suddenly everything had the answer; all the things that he would never believe, in this instant he simply could not refuse to believe.

    He suddenly sighed, and then mumbled to himself, “Very good, very good …”

    Those were the last four words he had ever spoken.

    And then he fell.

    Lu Xiaofeng watched as the sword pierced his heart, he also saw him as he fell; he only felt that his entire body turned icy-cold. Some kind of unspeakable dread also appeared on his face.

    Heaven’s net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it [idiom from Laozi].

    Unexpectedly there seemed to be a mysterious power really working in the dark, controlling the destiny of mankind. There won’t be any person, who ought to be punished, able to escape ‘its’ justice.

    Although this kind of force is invisible, and it cannot be touched, anybody could always feel its presence at any time.

    Wooden Taoist’s dread was precisely because he had already felt its presence.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng also felt its presence, he was feeling full of awe, and nearly could not stop himself from kneeling down, kneeling in the dark, under the vault of heaven.

    Everybody else also seemed to be in shock; it was only after a long time later that the Wudang disciples rushed over to surround the assassin in white.

    She immediately shouted, “All of you, backoff, I alone did it, I alone will resolve it.”

    In the dim light of the night, her pale face appeared incomparably beautiful and stately; just like the goddess of vengeance, “I am Ye Xue, the daughter of Old Sabre Honcho. If anybody thinks that I should not avenge my father, go ahead and kill me.”

    She suddenly ripped apart the front part of her clothes, revealing sparkling and translucent, spotlessly white, pair of breasts.

    But nobody came forward to make their move.

    Everybody seemed to be overawed by her divine and stately beauty; most of all Lu Xiaofeng.

    Only he knew who her real father was, because –

    “Wooden Taoist is Old Sabre Honcho.”

    But he could not speak; he could not bear to speak, nor was he willing to speak.

    -- Besides, even if he did, nobody would believe him anyway.

    It was the result of Wooden Taoist’s own action, now he reaped the bitter fruit of what he sowed. Although his plan was well thought-out, he did not expect that there was more well thought-out Heaven’s net waiting for him!

    “I was supposed to die in the swamp, but I did not die.”

    She was a cheetah woman, she was far better than anyone in enduring pain and difficulty; she had learned long ago to wait, hence she was able to wait for the best opportunity to strike!

    “I did not die, just because the Heavens wanted me to remain alive for revenge.” Her voice was cool and calm, “And now my wish has been fulfilled. I won’t wait for you to make your move, because …”

    It was only now did she finally look at Lu Xiaofeng. There was some kind of emotion in her eyes, something that no one could explain; it was not grief, nor was it pain. But whoever saw this expression on her eyes, their heart would be broken.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was already broken.

    She raised her head high so that she could give him another look, as if it was her last wish.

    Now her wish was fulfilled, she would definitely not wait for anybody else to make their move.

    “Because in all my life, there is only one man. Other than he, no one can touch me!”



    [1] So far Wooden Taoist was called ‘Mu Daoren’, here, he was called ‘Mu Zhenren’; ‘Zhenren’ is a term of respect to address Taoist priest, much like ‘His Holiness’. I feel awkward to translate this into English, for it literally means ‘Wooden Real Man’. As a side note: his martial younger brother, the former Sect Leader of Wudang was ‘Mei Zhenren’, ‘Mei’ means plum.

    [2] Daozhang is also a term of respect to address a Taoist priest, but in term of rank/respect it is not as high as Zhenren.
    Last edited by foxs; 06-06-14 at 10:27 PM.

  7. #67
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    Default Book 5 - Epilogue

    Epilogue – The song finished, the people dispersed
    Translated by Foxs


    The blood that was supposed to flow had already flowed dry, the pond water under the Shedding-word Rock was as clear as before. Mount Wudang was still standing majestically as before; and just as before, it was still admired as the famous mountain of the Taoism, as the holy land of the Wulin world.

    The only thing that changed was the people. People were born, people died, there was new, followed by old. Sometimes the transformation between these course of events happened so suddenly.

    All the love, all the hatred, all the gratitude and grudges, and all the secrets, were now buried forever along with this sudden change; buried in Lu Xiaofeng’s heart.

    Right now he only wanted to find a place where he could be alone, where he could quietly pass his days, let those things that had been buried to be buried even deeper.

    He was thinking of going down the mountain while the long night has not gone, but he did not expect that someone was waiting for him down the mountain.

    A lone figure standing by the Shedding-word Rock, wearing clothes as white as the snow.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly walked over and said, “Now is the time when the song finished, the people dispersed; why are you still here?”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Although the people have dispersed, the song is not yet finished.”

    “What song are you going to blow?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I followed a trail for eight thousand li just to kill a man,” Ximen Chuixue said, “Now this man is not dead yet, I am ready to blow a song to carry him through to his death, using my sword.”

    “Are you talking about me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Precisely you!” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Aren’t you forgetting that you are not supposed to really kill me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ximen Chuixue coldly replied, “I only know that Jianghu people have never distinguished between the truth and the false; if you are still alive, that means it’s my disgrace.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him. Suddenly he laughed and said, “Aren’t you trying to force me to fight? You want to see whether I can really break your matchless-under-the-heavens sword strike?”

    Ximen Chuixue did not deny.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “I know you are dying to know the answer to this question; I also know that this is the best opportunity for you, but unfortunately you still cannot try it.”

    “Why?” Ximen Chuixue could not resist asking.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile looked tired and haggard; he said indifferently, “As soon as your sword is unsheathed, you will find out the reason; why do you still ask?”

    Was he ready to fight back or evade? Did he really consider life or death, honor or disgrace, even more tasteless than the vast and deep clear water in the Shedding-sword Pond?

    Ximen Chuixue stared at him for a long, long time. The fog started to rise from the pond, suddenly he turned around and walked into the fog.

    “Why don’t you make your move?” Lu Xiaofeng called out.

    Ximen Chuixue did not even look back, he simply said coldly, “Because your heart is dead, you are already a dead man!”

    “Is my heart really dead?” Lu Xiaofeng asked himself, “Am I really like the dead who can’t accomplish anything anymore?”

    These questions, only he knew the answer as well.

    The morning fog was dreary and hazy, but light has started to illuminate the eastern horizon. He suddenly puffed out his chest and walked in large strides toward the light.
    Last edited by foxs; 06-06-14 at 10:28 PM.

  8. #68
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 1

    Lu Xiaofeng Book 6: The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens
    [凤舞九天 Fengwu Jiutian]
    By Gu Long
    Translated by Foxs

    Chapter 1 – Thin Blade


    A hundred and three astute, capable and experienced Wulin [martial art world] martial art masters, plus thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels, unexpectedly all mysteriously disappeared in one night.

    The repercussion of this matter reached far and wide, not only it affected the honor and disgrace, as well as the survival, of Central Plains’ thirteen biggest escort agencies, there were at least seventy or eighty distinguished men that very soon would have their families bankrupt, ruined and have their reputation swept away.

    What had actually happened that night?

    In this whole wide world, only one person knew this secret!

    If Cui Cheng knew that now he had become this important, certainly he would have felt that his life was not in vain.

    But he did not know at all. He has been unconscious for three whole days.

    These hundred and three men were the elite warriors of the Central Plains’ escort agencies; they were escorting the biggest shipment since the beginning of history. From Taihang, out of Tongguan, but suddenly disappeared in a small town at the foot of Taihang Mountains [on the border of Hebei and Shanxi].

    Cui Cheng was a helper[1] during the trip of these escort agencies’ warriors; he was also the only survivor in this particular incident.

    According to Xiong Tianjian, the head of search party team, which was sent out a day after the emergency call, “We found him holed up in a local inn, he was already unconscious and was dying.”

    According to Ye Xingshi, a famous doctor who accompanied the search team to Taihang, “He has on his body a total of six saber cuts. Although he is unconscious due to excessive bleeding, fortunately his injury is not life-threatening; as long as we can find a safe place for him to recuperate three to five days, I guarantee he will recover and be awake.”

    According to Ying Yan Laoqi [lit. Hawk Eye the seventh], “Right now he has been taken to an absolutely safe place to recuperate, without our approval, even a housefly cannot fly in.”

    Xiong Tianjian was a hero of the Central Plains, he also happened to be the maternal uncle of Situ Gang, the Zongbiaotou [Head Escort] of the Qunying [lit. crowd of warriors] Escort Agency. He was chivalrous and upright, people of Jianghu [lit. rivers and lakes, martial art community] had always looked up to him.

    Ye Xingshi was the sole lay disciple of Tiejian Dashi [lit. (grand) master (usually Buddhist) iron shoulder] of Shaolin, also one of the four famous doctors who had enjoyed flourishing reputation in Jianghu for a long time. His medical expertise was publicly known throughout the land under the heavens.

    Ying Yan Laoqi was the Zongpiaobazi [head honcho/big boss] of the Twelve-Dock Alliance. Twelve-Dock Alliance’s influence reached far beyond the Great Wall, even in both ‘black and white’ ways [referring to criminal/underground and legitimate worlds] there were disciples and subordinates of his. In the escort job this time, among the forty or so escort warriors, there were at least five or six men that were either his disciples or had been working under him in the past.

    They were incriminated in this matter just because they were the guarantors of the thirteen escort agencies.

    The origin of this escort job was indeed not a small matter, so much so that even the power that be had heard about it. If they could not find it back, not only all guarantors would be difficult to escape from criminal charge, even the Taiping Wangfu [prince’s mansion] who entrusted this escort job to them would not be able to avoid responsibility.

    Naturally all guarantors were public figures with high standing in Jianghu. Among the members of the nine big clans [bang] and seven big sects [pai] of the wulin world of Central Plains, nearly each one had people who were involved in this matter.

    The day they found Cui Cheng was a day before the Duanyang [dragon boat festival, fifth day of the fifth month of lunar calendar], and today was the eighth of the fifth month.

    According to Cheng Zhaizhu [lit. stronghold/fort’s master], the leader of the third stronghold of the Twelve-Dock Alliance, who was responsible for taking care of Cui Cheng, “Last night he has been waking up once, drank half a bowl of ginseng soup, and defecated once. After we replaced his medication, he went back to sleep.”

    According to Xiao Hongzhu, a concubine of Ying Yan Laoqi, “There is already no trace of blood in his stool, this morning he was already able to talk, asking for water to drink, and when he saw me he smiled.”

    Cheng Zhong and Xiao Hongzhu were Ying Yan Laoqi’s most trusted people, they were the only ones who could get close to Cui Cheng.

    Based on the condition of Cui Cheng’s injury, although now was not the right time to tire him, but this matter was a lot more important than his well-being; as long as he could talk, they could not afford to wait any longer.

    Therefore, right now, everybody who had any connection in this matter had already arrived at the Twelve-Dock Alliance headquarter, even Taiping Wang’s [king/prince of Taiping] heir apparent, accompanied by his personal guards, had come.

    Of course now Cui Cheng must not die!

    Almost no one in Jianghu has ever truly understood what kind of place this Twelve-Dock Alliance was. Actually, it was not only a place, but an enormous organization.

    This organization’s power spread over a vast region, its structure was very complex, they even had influence in both black and white ways; but all of them had always adhered strictly to one principle:

    “Do not offend Heaven and reason; do not take advantage of people in danger; do not bully the elderly, women and children; do not harm the poor, the sick, widows and orphans.”

    This was perhaps the biggest reason why they could exist thus far.

    The Twelve-Dock Alliance had twelve strongholds, from the outside they did not look any different than ordinary village or mansion, while in fact their security was extremely tight, their organization was even more structured; without any badge [orig. ‘tablet/medal hanging on the waist’] and password, nobody, no matter who, would find it difficult to enter their mountain area.

    The Zongpiaobazi Ying Yan Laoqi’s headquarter was called ‘Ying Yan’ [Hawk Eye], the operation of, as well as commands to, the Twelve-Dock Alliance’s subordinates were directly controlled and issued from this ‘Hawk Eye’.

    By Duanyang day, at noon, Cui Cheng had already been delivered to a secret chamber inside the ‘Hawk Eye’. To enter this secret room, one must go through five heavily guarded iron gates. Only Cheng Zhong and Xiao Hongzhu had free access to this room. Right now the two of them happened to be in the room to accompany Cui Cheng.

    Cheng Zhong was experienced and knowledgeable, plus he had some medical expertise. Xiao Hongzhu was gentle and soft, as well as smart and meticulous. All four sides of the secret chamber were walls, not ordinary walls, but blocks of granite. Not only the iron door was heavily guarded around the clock, the lock was large iron lock specially manufactured by a famous craftsman. Other than with the two keys kept inside the inner pocket of Xiao Hongzhu and Ying Yan Laoqi, two people, nobody else would be able to open the door.

    This kind of security, even Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent could not feel dissatisfied; he laughed and said to Ying Yan Laoqi, “You were right, even a housefly cannot fly into this place.”

    However, after passing through five iron gates and entering the secret chamber, they discovered that Cui Cheng had already died!

    Xiao Hongzhu and Cheng Zhong were also dead!

    There was no scar nor any trace of blood on their bodies, yet the bodies were ice-cold and stiff.

    According to Ye Xingshi’s observation, “They had died at least for an hour, they were killed by a very thin and fast blade; one stab and their lives were gone!”

    “Because the blade was extremely thin, the movement was extremely fast, it did not even leave any wound.”

    “Undoubtedly the fatal stab went into the lower end of the lung. The blade penetrated in, immediately the blood burst into the thoracic cavity; therefore, no blood flowed outside.”

    What an accurate blade, what a fast blade!

    Obviously not only the murderer was an expert in fast blade, he must have had a very rich experience.

    The people who guarded the secret chamber have been working under Ying Yan Laoqi for ten years or more; they all were his extremely trusted aides.

    They pointed to the sky and swear by the sun, “Within the last four hours, other than Madame Xiao and Cheng Zhaizhu, definitely there was not a third person coming in and out.”

    There were thirty-six men on guard duty; thirty-six men all said the same thing, definitely it was not a lie.

    In that case, how did the murderer come in?

    With a cold laugh Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent said, “Based on what you said, he must be an invisible man!”

    High noon.

    The exquisitely-decorated main hall was oppressively warm, even the breeze had seemingly refused to blow, the messy hair drooped down from their heads, as if it was glued together by perspiration. Although there was a continuous supply of drinks, everybody still felt their lips parched, their mouths tasted bitter.

    Ying Yan Laoqi looked even more haggard, he looked sad and weary.

    Originally he was a vibrant person, someone who appeared to be very young. But in this short moment, he seemed to have aged a lot.

    “How did the murderer get in? There is no such thing as an invisible man in the world.”

    He did not understand. In fact, nobody did.

    They all only knew one thing: if they could not recover this thirty-five million taels worth of escorted goods, they would have to compensate.

    It was enough to make each and every one of them to lose their family fortune! Even after losing their family fortune, they might not necessarily be able to compensate in full!

    Based on their status and reputation, naturally they must not renege on a debt.

    Fortunately, Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent was not an unreasonable man at all, “I may give you a forty-day deadline, to let you recover these jewels, otherwise …”

    He did not continue, but he did not need to. The serious consequences, everybody understood clearly in their hearts.

    Finished speaking, he took his personal guards and left. No matter what, forty-day deadline cannot be considered short.

    It’s just too bad that in this matter they did not have the least bit of clue.

    Ying Yan Laoqi stood up and sat back down. He sat down and stood back up. Xiong Tianjian was sweating all over, three layers of his clothes, inside and outside, were drenched. For some people, when they were sweating, only their nose was wet; drops of sweat were trickling down from the tip of their noses.

    All these people were great wulin warriors who were the leader of their respective regions, normally they gave orders and made decisions at will, yet this moment they were all at a loss, unexpectedly nobody was able to come up with the least bit of idea on how to deal with this situation.

    Ye Xingshi suddenly said, “This is not the first time.”

    Nobody understood what he was talking about; they could only wait for him to continue.

    Ye Xingshi said, “End of last month, Changjiang Sui Shang Fei [flying over the Yangtze River] suddenly died under water during one his routine daily patrols. I was invited by his Clan’s disciples to help determining the cause of his death.”

    Xiong Tianjian immediately asked, “The cause of his death is the same as Cui Cheng’s?”

    Ye Xingshi nodded. He said, “His body was completely without scar or bloodstain. I spent three whole days before finding out the blade cut at the bottom of his lung. Same thing, one stab is all it takes to take his life!”

    “He was stabbed under water?” Xiong Tianjian asked.

    “Correct,” Ye Xingshi replied.

    Xiong Tianjian’s countenance turned even heavier. Sui Shang Fei’s water skill was known to be the first under the heavens. The assailant was able to stab his vital point under water, his water skill must be even more exquisite than Sui Shang Fei’s.

    He was deep in thought for a long time before finally said slowly, “I also remembered something.”

    “What is it?” Wang Yi, the young master of the family head of Huainan wulin community, whose eagle-claw power was widely known, quickly asked.

    Xiong Tianjian said, “At the beginning of this year, when the old master of Iron Sword Manor in Song Yang was training his sword in a secret sword room, he died suddenly, and until today nobody knew the cause of his death.”

    He heaved a deep sigh, “Only now that I thought about it, there is a good chance that he was murdered by the same assailant!”

    Song Yang’s Guo Family’s sword technique has always been passed on in secret. When the Old Manor Master Guo practiced his sword, he would never allow any outsiders to peek.

    His secret sword room was built just like ‘copper wall, iron bastion’, no matter who, it would be difficult to come close even for one step. Much less his swordsmanship was superb, when he was unleashing the Iron Sword technique handed down in his family for generations, absolutely nobody would be able to get close to him.

    Knitting his brows, Ye Xingshi said, “If he really was stabbed to death when practicing the sword, the assassin’s blade is indeed too frightening.”

    Suddenly Ying Yan Laoqi let out a cold laugh and said, “In that case, shouldn’t we just sit here and wait for him to come and kill us all one by one?”

    Nobody argued with him, his most beloved woman had just been assassinated, no matter who would not be in a good mood.

    Ying Yan Laoqi clenched his fists, the blue veins on his forehead were bulging as he said in a loud voice, “Even if this assassin really has three heads and six arms, really is an invisible man, I am going to find him!”

    Question is: how would he find him?

    After thorough deliberation, everybody finally agreed on three countermeasures for dealing with this situation. The available manpower would be divided into three groups, and each group would separately handle one task.

    The first group, under Xiong Tianjian’s leadership, would return to the little town at the foot of Mount Taihang, to investigate the inn where the escort warriors spent the night, to see if there was any ‘spider thread and horse track’ remained. Their main task was to carefully question every local house and family, to see if by any chance they saw any suspicious stranger visited the place within a few days before the incident.

    They also made a list of wulin experts, who were adept at using blades, and the second team under Ye Xingshi’s leadership was tasked to investigate. The most important task was to find out between the early morning of the fifth month’s Duanyang until noon that day, a period of four hours, where were these people?

    The third group was led by Wang Yi; they were to go everywhere to raise funds, to find a way to scrape together thirty-five million taels.

    These things were obviously very difficult to do; they all could not refrain from asking Ying Yan Laoqi, “And what are you going to do?”

    “I am going to look for Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “You mean the Four Eyebrows Lu Xiaofeng?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi nodded, “If there is anybody in this world who could find that assassin for us, it must be Lu Xiaofeng.”

    He spoke with confidence. After going through the case of the Mansion of Spirits, he had full confidence of Lu Xiaofeng’s resourcefulness and capability.

    “I hear that this man is a wanderer, he roams about to the other end of the world, regarding all four corners of the world as home. Where are you going to look for him?”

    “Where there is the best zongzi[2], that is where I am going to go to look for him.”

    About this little fact, he was also very confident.

    He knew that not only Lu Xiaofeng loved to eat, Lu Xiaofeng also knew how to eat. If he did not eat zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival, wouldn’t it be like ‘damaging beautiful scenery?

    Rumor has it that the owner of Wo Yun Lou [Crouching Cloud Building (‘lou’ usually refer to two-story building)] employed a master chef whose Huzhou zongzi was exceptionally good, that each year local authorities always sent some to the Capital via urgent courier using ‘eight-hundred li fast horse’. Plus, he also heard that the owner of Crouching Cloud Building was an old friend of Lu Xiaofeng’s.

    “I am going there.” Ying Yan Laoqi stood up, “The master of Crouching Cloud Building has always been hospitable. Duanyang was only three days ago; he can’t possibly let Lu Xiaofeng go yet.”

    Too bad he was still one step too late.

    In the old days, the master of Crouching Cloud Building was widely known in jianghu as a handsome man; presumably because for the past few years he had eaten too much of a good food, his belly was gradually bulging outward. No doubt that this fact had been disturbing him very much; therefore, while talking, he would often unconsciously pat his own belly.

    “Lu Xiaofeng indeed came here. Almost every year before and after Duanyang he would stay for a few days.”

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building personally accompanied Ying Yan Laoqi drinking wine. “This is the Green Bamboo Leaf wine that I picked especially for him; what do you think?”

    Although Ying Yan Laoqi did not come to drink wine, he still downed the cup of wine in one gulp. “And now where is he?” he immediately asked.

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building sighed and said, “It seems to me that this year his mood is not as good as in previous years. He seemed to be a little preoccupied; without even finishing this jar of wine, he insisted on leaving. Even I can’t hold him back!”

    Apparently he was very concerned over Lu Xiaofeng. Shaking his head, he sighed again before saying, “He always meddled with everybody’s business, even when he ought not to meddle he still loved to meddle, but he always forget about his own business. When a man reached the age of thirty and has not settled down and got married, how could his mood be good?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi could only laugh wryly. Then he asked, “Do you happen to know where he is heading?”

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building thought for a moment before saying, “I think I heard him saying that he wanted to go to the sea to relieve his boredom.”

    Instantly Ying Yan Laoqi’s countenance turned yellowish like a candle, “Did you say he is going out to sea?”

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building looked out the window toward a distant white cloud; he said slowly, “I think by this time he is already out at sea.”

    Ying Yan Laoqi picked up his wine and started drinking. In one breath he drank eight big bowls of wine, and then he stood up and left.

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building did not try to hold him back; he only walked him off to the door. “He might return late autumn, and he always comes here to eat my moon cake. If you have anything, I can pass it on to him.”

    “By that time,” Ying Yan Laoqi said, “I’ll only have one thing I want him to do.”

    “What is it?” the master of Crouching Cloud Building asked.

    “I want him to carry a coffin,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied.

    The master of Crouching Cloud Building knitted his brows, “Whose coffin?” he asked.

    Ying Yan Laoqi replied, “Mine.”

    [1] Orig. ‘tang zi shou’, a helper who acted as a herald in front of the traveling party.

    [2] Zongzi - glutinous rice and choice of filling wrapped in bamboo leaves and boiled.

  9. #69
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 – Fox Den

    Lu Xiaofeng had not gone out to sea, he was afraid of seasickness, he picked the largest and the most stable ship, and right now the ship was being loaded.

    The captain of the ship had received his five hundred taels of silver, a sly old fox, his eloquence was especially good!

    “The more goods on the ship, the more stable it will be. Even if you have never been out to sea, you won’t be seasick. You are not in a hurry anyway, so what is two more days of wait?”

    With his full-of-calluses hand, he whacked Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder. “I may take you to a good place. When you get there, perhaps you won’t want to leave.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask, “What’s in that place?”

    Squinting his eyes, the Old Fox looked at him, “As long as you can think about it, that place has it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “That place, did you or did you not open it?”

    The Old Fox also laugh, a big hearty laugh, he said, “You are a smart person. That’s why when I first saw you, I have already liked you.”

    Naturally it was he who opened that place, that’s why it was called ‘The Fox Den’.

    And so Lu Xiaofeng was waiting in ‘The Fox Den’ for him to finish loading the ship. He had already been waiting for three whole days.

    In people’s mind, fox is the most intelligent, cunning animal, but very selfish; therefore, their den ought to be a bit more comfortable than other animal’s.

    Actually, it was a fact.

    People who spent their lives on the sea all year long, as soon as they heard ‘the Fox Den’, three words, their face would reveal a mysterious smile, their heart might be burning hot, as if they had just drank a cup of strong liquor.

    Whatever men could think of, they could find it at the Fox Den.

    The things that men could think, usually are not good things.

    There were altogether more than twenty rooms constructed with wooden-board walls. The four bungalows at the front were comparatively bigger than the rest, they could be considered front lobbies.

    Although the rooms were shabby, nobody cared. People came here not to look at the building.

    Warm and humid breeze was blowing from the window facing the sea, carrying with it a kind of pleasant saltiness, just like the old Papa’s sweat.

    The room was foggy with smoke, the wood shavings oil fragrance on the women’s hair mixed with the smell of broiled fish, enough to arouse all kinds of desire in the men’s hearts.

    Everybody was gambling very hard, they were also drinking very hard, those who were there for women looked even more like hungry tigers.

    Except for one person.

    He was still very young, with a dark and handsome face. There was a bit of haughtiness, but also a bit of feral air; his eyes black, his hair dark blue, his thin lips appeared strong and cruel.

    At first the women were very interested in him, but very soon they discovered that although his appearance was like a vigorous leopard, he was actually as cold as a block of ice.

    As soon as Lu Xiaofeng walked in, he saw him; he was peeling the shell of a hard-boiled egg.

    He only ate hard-boiled egg, and drank only plain water.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not blame him at all, both of them came from the same background. Lu Xiaofeng had personally experienced how in a short period of half a day he almost delivered his life three times. If not for his exceptionally fast reaction, by now he had died three times.

    Naturally he could not be not especially careful.

    A very young-looking girl with well-endowed chest and very slim waist passed by him, carrying a tray with a bowl of beef soup on it. With eyes brimming with passion, she said gently, “Beef are hard to come by in this place; eat some.”

    Without looking at her, he simply shook his head.

    She was still unwilling to give up, “I am giving this to you, no need to pay, you have no choice but to eat it.”

    It looked like she may be young, but her experience in dealing with men was not shallow. Suddenly a very professional-looking enchanting smile appeared on her face. With two fingers, which cannot be considered ugly at all, she picked up a piece of beef and stuffed it onto his mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately knew that it was a bad move. Dealing with this youngster, she simply could not use the technique she used to deal with other men.

    He had just had this thought when the whole tray of beef had covered her face.

    The beef was still hot, the soup was dripping on her erect breasts, just like a volcano discharging smoke.

    The men in the room roared in laughter, some yelled, but the girl burst into tears.

    The young man was still sitting coldly, all along he did not even cast a single glance toward her.

    Two strong-looking men, with face full of water rust, obviously wanted to come to the aid of this damsel in distress; but then perhaps they were driven by 30% drunkenness.

    Lu Xiaofeng also knew that things would turn bad. And just like last time, as soon as he had that thought, those two walrus-like big men already flew out; one flew straight out the window and landed heavily on the ground, while it seems like the other was about to crash onto Lu Xiaofeng’s table.

    Lu Xiaofeng lightly stretched out his hand to push, sending this man also flying out of the window.

    Finally the young man raised his head and shot him a cold look. Lu Xiaofeng smiled; he was thinking of walking over to eat eggs with him when the young man’s countenance fell and he started to peel the second egg’s shell.

    Lu Xiaofeng has always been easy to make friends, but toward this young man, it seemed as if he was bumping into a wall; there was not the least bit of response.

    Undoubtedly, Lu Xiaofeng himself was a man who could arouse women’s interest. As soon as he found a seat, two women dressed like ‘swaying flowering branches’ came over. The wood shavings oil on their heads emitted strong fragrance, so strong that it made people sick.

    It’s just that Lu Xiaofeng has always been a gentleman; a gentleman would never make a woman feel bad about herself.

    However, he did not wish to smell the wood shavings oil mixed with wine either. He only need to ‘graft flowers onto a tree’, by changing the subject, “Who was that girl?”

    “There are several dozen girls in that place; how do I know which one you are asking about?”

    “The one who got beef soup on her face.”

    After paying a little bit of ‘hush up money’, those two women with wood shavings oil were replaced by the one with beef soup on her face. Obviously there was no more beef soup on her face, but there was no smile either. Toward this man, whose moustache looked like a pair of eyebrows, apparently she did not have too much interest.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng’s interest was not on her either. After several sentences of as meaningless as the ones he talked with the two wood shavings oil women, Lu Xiaofeng finally brought the conversation to his topic of interest.

    “Who is that young guy who ate hard-boiled eggs? What’s his surname? What’s his given name?”

    According to the inn’s register, the young man’s name was Yue Yang, the ‘yue’ [peak] of ‘shan yue’ [mountain peak], the ‘yang’ [ocean] of ‘hai yang’ [also ‘ocean’].

    “I wish he would choke to death by the eggs.” This was her final conclusion about the young man.

    Unfortunately, for the time being he would not choke to death, because right now he was not eating boiled eggs anymore. He stood up and was ready to go.

    Right this moment, suddenly there was ‘crack’ sound from the window, a row of nine cross-bow arrows flew in, straight toward his back.

    The sound of arrows splitting the air was very intense, naturally the power behind the arrows was very strong.

    Lu Xiaofeng was drinking, two of his fingers flicked, the cup in his hand flew out, one cup suddenly shattered into six, seven pieces; all pieces happened to strike the arrows, one piece of wine cup fragment knocked one arrow down.

    A series of ‘ding, ding, ding’ was heard, seven arrows fell to the floor. Naturally the remaining two arrows were not able to harm the young man either.

    Like an arrow Lu Xiaofeng also shot out, in fact, he was even faster than an arrow. But when he was outside the window, he did not even see a shadow. When he got back, the young man Yue Yang was also gone.

    “He’s gone back to his room to sleep. He slept very early every day.” The one who talked was the girl whose face did not have any beef soup. She seemed to have a sudden interest toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    Young girls, how many of them did not adore a hero?

    She looked at Lu Xiaofeng, there was passion in her eyes. Suddenly she asked in tender voice, “Do you want to eat beef?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed; he also lowered his voice as he said softly, “I want to go to sleep too.”

    The more than twenty rooms at the back were even worn out, but people who came here did not care.

    For these men, who drifted in the sea all year round, as long as there is a bed, it is enough.

    Niuroutang [lit. beef soup] pulled Lu Xiaofeng’s hand. “My (maternal) grandmother often said, to win a man’s heart, the fastest route is through his stomach.” She sighed, “But why is it that the two of you did not have any interest, even toward food?”

    “It’s because I am afraid to get fat.”

    They stopped in front of a room. She did not open the door though.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask, “We are not coming in?”

    “Right now there are still people inside, we must wait a while.” With contempt on her face, she continued, “But these men are just like hungry dogs, we won’t have to wait long.”

    Naturally using the bed that had just been used by a hungry dog gnawing a bone won’t feel good.

    Lu Xiaofeng was ready to leave, but then she told him that that Yue Yang’s room was exactly next door, he immediately changed his mind.

    He was very interested in that young man; this young man’s style was almost the same as his own when he was young. The only difference was that he would never shove a tray of beef onto a girl’s face.

    Sure enough, very soon afterwards the door opened, a big burly man that looked like an orangutan, followed by a girl that looked like a chick, came out.

    Funny thing is, the chick looked fresh and alive, with springs in her steps, while the orangutan looked like his legs had turned to jelly.

    The two girls giggled and secretly exchanged winks.

    “Those things above your mouth, are they eyebrows? Or moustache?” The chick looked like she was having a strong urge to touch his face.

    Lu Xiaofeng hurriedly pushed her hand. Suddenly they heard ‘bang!’ the door of the next room was pushed open, followed by ‘smack’ something was thrown heavily to the ground. To everybody’s shock, it was a viper.

    The girls screamed and ran away. Lu Xiaofeng flew over. He saw Yue Yang stood on the doorway, his countenance was a bit pale.

    The quilt on the bed was raised; obviously he had just snatched the viper away from inside the quilt.

    This was the fifth time someone was trying to take his life.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help sighing. “What did you do exactly?” he asked, “Did you rob someone’s rice bowl? Or did you steal someone’s wife?”

    Yue Yang looked at him coldly, while still standing on the doorway, as if he was determined not to let him in.

    Lu Xiaofeng was also standing at the door, determined not to let him shut it. “Others want to take your life, you don’t care at all?”

    Yue Yang still looked at him coldly, he did not open his mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Don’t you want to know who are the people who plot against you?”

    Yue Yang suddenly said, “I only care about one thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What is it?”

    Yue Yang replied, “If there is someone who likes to meddle in my business, I really want to deal with him so that in the future he won’t be able to meddle in other people’s business forever.”

    Suddenly he made his move, as if he wanted to slice Lu Xiaofeng’s throat, but then his hand turned and his fingertips already reached the space between Lu Xiaofeng’s eyebrows. Lu Xiaofeng only sidestepped, and was forced to take a half step back, ‘bang!’ the door was shut.

    And then there was another ‘bang!’ inside the room. It seemed that he also closed the window.

    Lu Xiaofeng stood in front of the door, while staring blankly for half a day. Suddenly he turned around, picked the dead snake from the ground, and examined it carefully for half a day under the lantern hanging on the corridor, before he finally put it down gently on the ground again.

    Seven inches of the snake was broken, it was pinched by two fingers. This type of snake was not only unusually poisonous, the skin was extremely hard, ordinary blade may not necessarily able to cut it off. This young man’s two-finger skill was unexpectedly similar to Lu Xiaofeng’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only smiled wryly, “Fortunately he is also approximately twenty, otherwise, won’t others think that he is my son?”

    Perhaps he himself thought that this young man was his son.

    Finally the night arrived.

    Just now someone was knocking on his door. Lu Xiaofeng pretended to be asleep. After a long time knocking, finally he heard that passionate little girl gave a hateful kick on the door, and with a hateful voice said, “Turns out these two men are dead men.” And then her footsteps died away.

    Right now the only noise left outside was the sound of the waves lapping the beach; from the opposite room came the sound of a man’s snoring, from the room on the left came the sound of a woman gasping for breath, from the room on the right, where Yue Yang stayed, however, not the least bit of sound was heard.

    Not only this young man had a very high martial art skill, the way he moved was also very strange; not only his movement was weird, his temperament was even more weird.

    Actually, what was his background? Why did those people want to kill him?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s interest was greatly aroused, even sleep had left him.

    For people who can’t sleep, it is very easy to feel hungry; he suddenly discovered that he was hungry as hell.

    Although the night was deep, in this kind of place, there would always the be the possibility of finding something to eat. Who would have thought that his door was locked by the Beef Soup. Fortunately the room still had window.

    Such a warm weather, naturally he would not want to sleep with closed window like the young man next door.

    Since there was nobody else in the room, he did not feel like tiptoeing toward the window either. With one turn of his body, he already flew out of the window.

    The crescent moon of the early days of the month hung high in the sky, bathing the big waves of the sea with silvery glitter.

    Suddenly he realized that someone was crouching outside Yue Yang’s window, with something that looked like a red-crowned crane’s beak in his hand. The beak of that thing was directed inward; he was blowing something into the room.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been roaming the Jianghu since he was a teenager, naturally he knew that the thing that the man was holding was the ‘Soul Fragrance Rooster Cry of the Fifth Watch [between 3-5am]’ that only the bottom five schools of Jianghu would ever use.

    This person also realized that there was someone else; he turned his head, and the moonlight happened to shine on his face.

    It was a long and narrow horse face, with an unusually long and big eagle-beak nose; no matter who, once one sees him, it will be difficult to forget.

    Lu Xiaofeng leaped high and pounced at him.

    Who would have thought that not only this person’s reaction was very fast, his qing gong [lightness skill] was also exceptionally superb. Once his arms flapped, like light smoke he flitted across the roof ridge.

    A fifth class little thief, how could he possess such a high level of qing gong?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not give this fact a careful consideration, right now he was only worried that Yue Yang had been knocked unconscious by the fragrance.

    Yue Yang was not unconscious. When Lu Xiaofeng landed on the ground, he found the window open, Yue Yang was standing at the window, while looking at him coldly.

    Someone blew knock-out incense into his window, yet unexpectedly this young man was able to stay calm; he simply waited until the person left and then he opened the window.

    Lu Xiaofeng really did not understand what kind of man he is.

    Suddenly with a cold laugh Yue Yang said, “I really don’t understand what kind of man are you? In the depth of the night, why haven’t you slept?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only smile bitterly, “Because I took the wrong medicine.”

    The night had not passed, Lu Xiaofeng’s trouble had not passed either. When he returned to his room, he found that the Beef Soup was sitting on his bed, waiting for him!

    “What wrong medicine did you take? Aphrodisiac?” She stared at Lu Xiaofeng, “Even if you took aphrodisiac, you should have come looking for me; why did you look for a man? Do you have some kind of sickness?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only smile wryly, “My sickness is not only one.”

    “What other sickness do you have?”

    “Hunger!”

    “This kind of sickness is not a problem.” She already broke into laughter, “I happen to have the exact drug to cure this kind of sickness.”

    “Beef?”

    “Beef-filled mantou [steamed bun], plus a large pot of ice-cold glutinous rice wine that was cooled in the seawater to send it down your tummy. What do you think?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “I think there is no better medicine on earth than that.”

    Drinking too much, sleeping too little, Lu Xiaofeng woke up with bloated feeling in his belly, plus he had a splitting headache.

    It was not even noon, the front lobby was empty. The newly swept hall looked like a newly-washed broken pot. Although the soot and ash remnant had already been washed clean, it looked even more shabby and ugly.

    He thought of getting a pot of boiled water and brewed some tea. He had just had two mouthfuls when he saw Yue Yang and another man came out into the fresh, bright sun.

    The two men were chatting, Yue Yang looked very happy, he seemed to be doing most of the talking.

    The man who made him this happy was surprisingly the one who dealt with him the ‘Soul Fragrance Rooster Cry of the Fifth Watch’ the previous night; the one with a long and narrow horse-face. Lu Xiaofeng remembered him very clearly.

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck. Who is the one with real sickness here? As a matter of fact, he had never seen anybody with more sickness than this young man.

    Catching a glimpse of Lu Xiaofeng, Yue Yang’s countenance immediately fell. The two men whispered a few words. Yue Yang then unexpectedly came over and sat down opposite of him.

    Lu Xiaofeng was a little flattered; he could not help asking, “That man is your friend?”

    Of course, he was asking about that long-face, who, at this moment, was walking along the beach to the west; he was walking very fast, as if afraid Lu Xiaofeng might catch up wth him.

    “He is not my friend,” Yue Yang replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng exhaled; this young man, after all, was still able to distinguish good from bad, virtue from evil, he still knew who was his friend, and who was not.

    “He is my big brother,” Yue Yang continued.

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng felt foolish. He was about to ask further: I wonder what was this big brother doing last night? Yet Yue Yang was not interested in talking about this matter. He suddenly asked, “You also want to go out to sea?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    “You also want to ride on the Old Fox’s ship?” Yue Yang asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded again. It was only then did he find ou that that this young was also a passenger on that boat.

    Yue Yang maintained a calm and collected expression, he said coldly, “It would be best for you to find another ship.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Yue Yang said, “Because I have paid five hundred taels to charter that ship.”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “I really wish I can change the ship, too bad I have also paid five hundred taels to charter the ship.”

    Yue Yang’s countenance changed. Right this moment, the not-sober-yet, barely-wake-up Old Fox happened to appear. Immediately Yue Yang went over to ask the Old Fox: what the hell is going on?

    In the Old Fox’s mind, this matter was very simple. “That is a big ship, one extra person riding on it will not make it sink. Besides, both of you, gentlemen, are in a hurry to go to the sea.”

    Again, with his full-of-calluses hand, he whacked the young man’s shoulder, “The more people we have on board, the more exciting will it be. Besides, being able to cross the ocean together is the cultivation of five-hundred year karma. If you want to change ship, I can refund your money to you, but at most I can only pay you back four hundred taels.”

    Yue Yang did not say a word; he turned around and left.

    The Old Fox looked at Lu Xiaofeng with squinted eyes; he giggled and said, “What?”

    Holding his head in his hands, Lu Xiaofeng replied with a sigh, “Nothing.”

    The Old Fox roared in laughter, “I think you must have drunk too much beef soup.”

    When lunch time arrived, Lu Xiaofeng forced himself to get something down his tummy. Unexpectedly Yue Yang came back for him. He put down a large bundle on the table and pushed it toward Lu Xiaofeng, “Here is five hundred taels, just consider I refund the money you used to hire the ship. You must find another ship.”

    He would rather pay Lu Xiaofeng five hundred taels than taking a hundred taels loss by accepting the four hundred taels from the Old Fox. Why is that?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not understand, “So you are determined to take the Old Fox’s ship? And you are determined not to let me go on board?”

    Yue Yang’s response was very blunt, “Yes.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I don’t like people who meddle in other people’s business,” Yue Yang replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him. He stretched out his finger and pushed the bundle on the table back to him.

    Yue Yang’s countenance changed, “You won’t take it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s response was equally blunt, “Yes!”

    “Why?” Yue Yang asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. He suddenly said, “Because that is a big ship, one extra person riding on it will not make it sink!”

    Yue Yang stared at him. Suddenly his eyes revealed a strange expression, “You won’t regret it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng indifferently said, “In all my life I have never had any regret. Not even once.”

    In all he did, indeed he had never had any regret, but this time perhaps he would regret it. It’s just that naturally it was a matter of the distant future.

    From noon until that evening, the day dragged on ever so slowly, everything seemed to be very boring.

    When one had too much drink one night, one would always feel especially bad the next day. The only exciting thing that happened was when the Old Fox suddenly announced, “The goods have been loaded, we will set sail early tomorrow.”

    Very early in the morning the next day, Lu Xiaofeng got up before dawn. Surprisingly, for the entire night the Beef Soup did not come to harass him; indeed it was quite beyond his expectation.

    Although he did not sleep well that night, his head did not ache, instead, his spirit was trembling with excitement, his heart was filled with anticipation.

    Such a wide and spectacular ocean, such a mysterious and enchanting ocean scenery, just waiting for him to discover and admire.

    After so many dangerous, frightening, and complicated matters, at long last not only he was alive, he was able to break away from everything. And now he was about to go out to sea.

    His destination, the island nation Fusang[1], what kind place it actually is? The people on the islands, are they the same as the people on the Central Earth? Is it true that they are the descendants of four hundreds virgin boys and girls brought from the Central Earth by the Court Scholar Xu Fu[2] who was sent by Qin Shi Huang [first emperor of unified China] to find the elixir of life?

    They say that the girls in that place, not only they were beautiful and passionate, they were even more tender to men; when the husband was about to go out the door, the wife would always kneel at the door to send him off, when the husband returned home, the wife was already kneeling at the door, waiting to take his shoes off.

    Thinking about it, Lu Xiaofeng was so excited that all worries and care in his mind was tossed beyond the topmost clouds.

    A whole new world was waiting for him to discover, a new life has just begun.

    Although the sun had not brightened the day, by the time he pushed the door to go out, he saw Yue Yang was already standing at the beach, facing the sea in deep thought.

    What was the concern loading this young man’s mind? Why did he want to go to sea?

    The first thread of sunlight broke through the cloud, the surface of the sea resplendent with golden ray; it was indeed a glorious sight.

    He suddenly turned around and walked away slowly following the water line.

    At first Lu Xiaofeng was thinking of catching up with him, but after another thought he changed his mind. They were going to ride on the same ship, crossing the ocean together anyway; there would be plenty of opportunity later on.

    Amidst the morning breeze, he seemed to smell the aroma of beef soup. Lu Xiaofeng could not restrain smile from forming on the corner of his mouth. Before boarding the ship, it would be a really pleasant thing if he could drink a bowl of hot beef soup.

    Yue Yang was still walking slowly along the beach. The waves crashed onto the beach, the water wet his shoes, wet his trousers, yet he seemed to be oblivious of it all.

    There was indeed something in his mind. He was much more excited than Lu Xiaofeng, he was much more nervous as well.

    This time he went out to sea the changes in him would be great, just last night he nearly changed his mind, he wanted to give up, to leave in the middle of the night and go home, to be a filial son who was content with his lot in life, to enjoy the worldly glory, splendor, wealth and rank.

    As long as he was being obedient, he would get whatever he wanted.

    Too bad what he wanted was not a life of pleasure; rather, he wanted a full and independent life, a full and independent personality.

    Thinking about his gentle and virtuous mother, who has suffered enough grievances in her life, when he woke up this morning, there were tears in his eyes.

    But now, everything is too late.

    He had made up his mind not to think about things that he was unable to change. Looking up, he saw Hu Sheng was waiting for him under a big rock ahead.

    Under the light of the rising run, Hu Sheng’s long and narrow face looked bright.

    Looking at this young man walking over, he had an unspeakable delight mixed with pride in his heart.

    This was an outstanding young man; intelligent, strong, cool-headed, plus an almost-animal instinct, who was able to feel disaster in advance and smell where the danger is.

    He knew that this young man would definitely become a flawless expert, who will be extremely valuable to him, as well as to his friends.

    Young people nowadays increasingly prefer life’s enjoyment; those who can be trained to be experts are not many anymore.

    With praise in his eyes, he fixed his gaze on this young man as he stopped in front of him, “Did you sleep well last night?”

    “Not good, I did not sleep well,” Yue Yang replied.

    He was telling the truth. In front of his big brother, he has always been telling the truth. Usually those who are truthful are the ones who can earn people’s respect.

    To this fact, obviously Hu Sheng was also very pleased, “Did that four eyebrows come to harass you?”

    “He did not,” Yue Yang replied.

    Hu Sheng said, “Actually, you don’t have to worry about him, he is simply a nobody.”

    “I know,” Yue Yang replied.

    In other people’s eyes, Lu Xiaofeng has turned into a nobody; perhaps this was the first time this thing ever happened.

    From his pocket Hu Sheng took out a sealed envelope and handed it over to Yue Yang, “This is the last directive for you before you board the ship. As soon as it is accomplished, you can get on the boat.”

    Yue Yang took it, opened the envelope, read it, and suddenly terror appeared on his handsome face, his hands also started to tremble.

    “What is the directive telling you to do?” Hu Sheng asked.

    Yue Yang did not reply. After a long time, gradually he restored his calm. Tearing down the envelope and the paper, piece by piece he put it into his mouth, which he chewed and slowly swallowed it down into his belly.

    Hu Sheng’s eyes showed approval. The directives are meant to be for one person only. Apart from this man and the recipient himself, no third person was to be allowed to know.

    Yue Yang undoubtedly had accomplished that.

    Hu Sheng asked again, “What are you supposed to do this time?”

    Yue Yang looked straight at him. After another long while, he spoke word by word, “I must kill you.”

    Hu Sheng’s face suddenly twitched, as if he had just been whipped, “You can be who you are today, who brought you to this day?”

    “It’s you!” Yue Yang replied.

    “Yet you want to kill me!” Hu Sheng said.

    Yue Yang’s eyes was brimming with pain, yet his voice was still as calm as ever, “I don’t want to kill you at all, but I simply cannot not kill you!”

    “Nobody will find out anyway,” Hu Sheng said, “Can’t you just defy the order just once?”

    “I can’t,” Yue Yang replied.

    Hu Sheng looked at him; his gaze became as cold as blade. He slowly said, “In that case, you should not have told me.”

    “Why?” Yue Yang asked.

    Hu Sheng coldly said, “If you seized the opportunity to strike surreptitiously, perhaps you still have a chance of success, but now that I know, the one who die will be you.”

    Yue Yang closed his mouth, his thin lips looked even more cruel; suddenly, like a leopard, he pounced.

    He knew that the opponent was capable of even more vicious and cruel move, only by close hand-to-hand combat he would be able to subdue the opponent.

    Obviously Hu Sheng did not expect this move. When martial art experts fought, they would not have used this kind of method.

    By the time he was on guard, Yue Yang had already pounced on him. The two men immediately rolled around together, from the sharp and lofty rock rolled down into the sea, tearing and biting at each other like beasts.

    Hu Sheng had begun to gasp for breath; he was a lot older than this young man, unavoidably his physical strength was somewhat worse, and apparently his movement was not as good as this young savage.

    He wanted to clutch the opponent’s neck, but Yue Yang’s elbow suddenly struck the softest part of his flank, and then backhandedly he struck Hu Sheng’s throat, followed by a roll of his body so that now he was riding on him. His fist was punching toward the bridge of Hu Sheng’s nose.

    Before this punch arrived, Hu Sheng suddenly cried out, “Wait, read the other directive I have first!”

    Yue Yang hesitated only so slightly, the punch still continued. When Hu Sheng’s face splattered with blood and he was powerless to fight him anymore, he groped Hu Sheng’s pocket and took out another sealed envelope. Still riding on Hu Sheng’s body he tore the envelope using only one hand and read.

    His countenance changed again. Slowly he stood up; it was not clear from his expression whether he was grateful or sorrowful?

    Hu Sheng also struggled to sit up; still gasping for breath he said, “Thi is just to test you, to see whether you can absolutely follow the orders.”

    His face was bloody, the bridge of his nose was broken, making his face appeared crooked and awful.

    Yet he was laughing, “Now you have passed the test, and are fully qualified. Go aboard the ship.”

    Yue Yang immediately turned around and left in large strides.

    When he turned around, there seemed to be glistening tears in his eyes, but he steeled himself to show restraint.

    He made a vow never to shed tears again. Everything was of his own choosing, he must not complain, and he must not be sad either.

    To him, ‘feeling’ has become a luxury. Not only a luxury, but it was dangerous as well. Dangerous enough that it may be fatal to him!

    He must stay alive. If someone must die, it can’t possibly be him!

    The departure time was changed, now it was scheduled to be afternoon, because the last batch of goods had not made its way to the ship yet.

    Already the boatmen and sailors who were ready to set sail went back to gamble, drink wine, and took liberties with women; taking the last opportunity before going out to sea, to have as much merriment as possible, because after this, they would have to pass their days like monks or the ascetics, when waking up in the middle of the night with lust, they could only resolve the problem manually.

    The beef soup in Lu Xiaofeng’s stomach has been completely digested; while he was thinking of finding something fun to pass the time, he saw Yue Yang, whose clothes were smashed to pieces, whose face was covered all over with blood, was walking over from the beach.

    How did he become like this? What did he do just now? Did he fight to the death with others? If so, with who? Could it be with that big brother with long face like a horse?

    This time surprisingly Lu Xiaofeng was able to restrain himself and did not ask, he even did not show the least bit of astonishment, as if he did not see anything.

    Yue Yang was looking for water to drink. No matter who, anybody who had just swallowed two pieces of paper would want to drink some water.

    Fortunately there was a pot of water on the counter. Originally, that place was where the teacups and kettle were arranged, it’s just that so few people were actually using it; people in this place preferred to drink wine.

    This pot of water had just been brought out by a one-eyed old fisherman, all along nobody else has touched it.

    Right now Yue Yang was in dire needof this kind of a pot full of water, so much so that he did not care to find a tea cup, he wanted to drink the water straight from the spout.

    When one had just been through a life and death fight, his spirit, as well as his physical strength, were in exhausted state, inevitably his vigilance was a bit relaxed. Much less he felt that he was absolutely safe.

    Lu Xiaofeng, however, suddenly remembered something.

    In the last two days, that one-eyed old fisherman did not even drink a drop of water, why did he bring the pot out?

    This thought also made Lu Xiaofeng noted something else: in the Fox Den, only this young man drank water. His drinking was not worth watching, yet all along the one-eyed old fisherman has been secretly watching him. The expression on his face seemed like he was itching to have Yue Yang drink the entire pot of water at once.

    Yue Yang’s mouth had already been in contact with the spout of the pot. Lu Xiaofeng’s arm suddenly reached into his pocket, his two fingers flicked, a silver ingot shot out, ‘Ding!’ it struck the water pot.

    The spout was struck askew, and was flattened.

    Yue Yang only felt a jolt on his hand, the pot fell to the floor, water sploshed out, several beads of water splashed onto his hand. He brought his hand to his nose to smell, his countenance immediately changed.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not need to ask, he knew the water must be poisoned.

    The one-eyed old fisherman turned around, he wanted to slip out quietly. Lu Xiaofeng already swept pass. The old fisherman sent out a punch to strike back, his movement was very fast, the power behind the strike was also very strong, too bad his opponent this time was Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was even faster, with one stretch of his hand he already twisted the old fisherman’s arm, and with the other hand he caught his entire body and pushed it in front of Yue Yang. “This man is yours!”

    Yue Yang looked at him, seemingly oblivious of what Lu Xiaofeng was talking about. He said coldly, “Why do I want this man?”

    “Don’t you want to know who wanted to harm you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I don’t need to ask, I know who wanted to harm me!” Yue Yang replied.

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You!” Yue Yang replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt foolish.

    Yue Yang coldly said, “I wanted to drink, but you knocked down my water pot. If it wasn’t you who wanted to harm me, who else?”

    The old fisherman slowly stood up; he said, “Not only you harmed him, you also harmed me. You twisted my upper arm that it almost broke. I want you to pay me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. “I’ll pay, I’ll pay. Just consider I give this silver ingot to you to pay for your drink!”

    Unexpectedly the old fisherman was not polite at all, he picked up the silver from the floor and left; he did not even cast a single glance toward Yue Yang.

    Unexpectedly Yue Yang did not look at him either; he stared hard at Lu Xiaofeng. Suddenly he asked, “Can I ask you a favor?”

    “Speak!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Yue Yang said, “Leave me alone. The father the better.”

    Yue Yang sat down. Right now Lu Xiaofeng had left him very far away. In fact, Yue Yang did not even see Lu Xiaofeng’s shadow. This man, who by nature loved to meddle in other people’s business, whose business he was meddling this time?

    The one-eyed old fisherman had also vanished without any trace.

    Yue Yang suddenly sprang up and rushed out.

    He must stop Lu Xiaofeng, he must block Lu Xiaofeng from questioning the old fisherman.

    His guess was not incorrect, Lu Xiaofeng was indeed looking for that old fisherman. They found him almost at the exact same time.

    Because they heard a scream from the beach over there. By the time they got there, the old fisherman, who spent most of his life on the sea, had been drowned alive.

    If even good swimmers can drown in water, then anybody can drown.

    However, he was going to drink wine, how come for no rhyme or reason, fully dressed, neat and tidy, suddenly jumped into the sea?

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Yue Yang. Yue Yang looked at Lu Xiaofeng. Suddenly they heard someone shouting in the distance, “Set sail, set sail!”

    [1] Fusang, mythical island of ancient literature, often interpreted as Japan.

    [2] Xu Fu, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Fu

  10. #70
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 – Panic at Sea

    "Weigh anchor!”

    "Sail away!”

    “Bon voyage!”

    Loud shouts rose and fell in succession. Finally the Old Fox’s ship left the beach by sunset.

    The hull was deep in the water, apparently the ship was loaded full of cargo. The foxes’ only weakness is greed, hence it was easy for the hunters to catch them.

    It seemed that the Old Fox was just the same.

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to catch this Old Fox very much, he wanted to ask: what kind of cargo was this ship carrying? If the load was too heavy, wouldn’t it be dangerous? Before he could catch the Old Fox, he nearly knocked over the Beef Soup.

    The main cabin door was ajar, while he was walking in from the outside, Beef Soup happened to walk out from the inside.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked to see her, “Why are you on board?”

    Beef Soup winked, “Because all of you are on board?”

    “So because we went on board, you also wanted to come on board?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Let me ask you: when you are on board, do you still want to eat?”

    Naturally they did. As long as one is alive, no matter where they are, they still need to eat. If they still need to eat, then someone has to cook for them.

    Beef Soup pointed to her own nose, “When I cook, not only I can cook other dishes, I can cook beef too.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Since when did you change your profession?”

    Beef Soup laugh. Her laughter sounded very sweet. “Actually, my original profession is a chef, only occasionally I change profession to do other things; that’s all!”

    There were a total of eight cabins on the main deck; each cabin door was decorated with carved pattern and a bronze knob, it looked luxurious and elegant.

    Beef Soup said, “I heard that the people on board this ship are all men of great status.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a bitter laugh he said, “I should have thought of that; otherwise, how could they afford to pay the Old Fox’s ship fare.”

    Beef Soup cast him a glance with the corner of her eye, “So do you have any status?” she asked.

    “I don’t!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You only have money?” Beef Soup asked.

    “I don’t have that either,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “After paying the ship fare, I am almost completely broke.”

    He was telling the truth.

    Beef Soup laughed, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money, if occasionally you take the wrong medicine, I can still occasionally change profession.”

    Lu Xiaofeng only sighed; in all honesty he could not figure out how this kind of girl would be able to cook some meals.

    Beef Soup pointed to the third cabin on the left, “That cabin is yours,” she said, “That [email protected] who only eat boiled egg is in the first cabin on the right.”

    “Can I change cabin?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Nope!” Beef Soup replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Because other cabins are all occupied.”

    Lu Xiaofeng exclaimed, “That Old Fox advised me to charter the ship, but now each room is occupied?”

    Beef Soup said drily, “Not only the eight cabins here are all occupied, all the sixteen cabins on the deck below are also occupied. The Old Fox always loves excitement, the more people he has, the happier he is.”

    She laughed. And then she said, “But those who occupied the upper cabins are all distinguished guests. The Old Fox especially ordered me to cook several good dishes for you. What do you want to eat tonight?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I want to eat roast fox, an old fox with crisp roasted bones.”

    Although there was no roast fox at dinnertime, the dishes were sumptuous; surprisingly, Beef Soup indeed knew how to cook good dishes.

    “Because my (maternal) grandmother often said, to win a man’s heart, the fastest route is through his stomach. Only women who can cook good food can marry good husband.”

    When she said that, all the distinguished guests broke into laughter, only Lu Xiaofeng was unable to laugh.

    He was unable to figure out where the Old Fox found these distinguished guests; one was more annoying than the next. All along Yue Yang did not appear at all, as soon as he entered his cabin, he never came out again.

    After dinner, which felt like it would go on forever, finally the night was deep the people quiet. Lu Xiaofeng stood alone by the ship’s railing, looking at the vast ocean and glittering starlight. It felt as if between the heaven and the earth, he was the only man remained; only then did he finally feel somewhat free.

    ‘Loneliness’, sometimes it was something to enjoy, yet it was also the time when people remembered things that they were not supposed to remember.

    Too many sad memories, not only will make people age faster, oftentimes it will also change people.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng has not changed too much. Lu Xiaofeng was still passionate, impulsive, sometimes annoyingly foolish, yet sometimes extremely intelligent. He is the Lu Xiaofeng who did not care about anything, yet clearly loved to meddle into other people’s business.

    What kind of person was Yue Yang? The clothes he wore, not only the material was top quality, the cut was also very exquisite. He did not care about money, and he could afford to give five hundred taels casually to other people. Although his pair of arms was long and powerful, he did not look like people who were used to menial labor. His every movement carried an imposing manner, as if everybody else in the world should jump at his command.

    From these several points, it appeared that he came from a rich and powerful family. But obviously he was too smart, too callous; usually sons of rich and powerful families were not like that.

    Repeatedly he fell under other people’s harming plots, each one nearly took his life; yet not only he did not care, he did not want to know either.

    That one-eyed old fisherman obviously wanted to poison him to death, and he obviously knew about it, yet he feigned ignorance. Was it because he was on the run, and he already knew who he was dealing with?

    But clearly he was not trying to hide; he did not act like he was trying to cover his track or run away from someone. Instead, he acted like he was running away from Lu Xiaofeng, he did not want to be on the same ship with Lu Xiaofeng, while Lu Xiaofeng did not have the slightest intention of harming him; on the contrary, Lu Xiaofeng just wanted to make friends with him.

    These questions, Lu Xiaofeng did not know the answer.

    He was thinking about these things when suddenly, ‘Crack!’ a plank of wood pressed down on him, followed by a strong gust of wind, an oar swept across toward his waist.

    He was standing by the ship’s railing, the only way out was to escape downward. But down there was the ocean. By the time he heard a ‘Splosh!’ he was already landed into the ocean.

    The ice-cold seawater, the salty seawater.

    He moved his legs underwater; his first thought was he wanted to kick on the water to try to pull himself up the hull. But above him the oar struck down on his head again.

    The body of the ship was high above his head, he could not see the person above. The sea reflected the starlight, so the person above could see him.

    The only thing he could do was to step back; but the ship was moving forward, the distance between him and the ship was growing farther and farther away. Even if he had water skill like ‘flying over the water’, there was no way he would be able to catch up. Even if for the time being he would not drown, but how long would he last? When the sun rose in the morning, he would be drowning for sure.

    Always resourceful, no matter what difficulty he faced, Lu Xiaofeng was always able to resolve it; how could he drown to death without any rhyme or reason just like that?

    Definitely he would not drown that easy. But when someone falls into the sea, not drowning is not an option.

    In that split second, he had already come up with several different ways to get out of this crisis.

    One, to relax his whole body as much as possible, to let himself float on the water. As long as he could make it through the night, in the morning, there was great possibility that another ship would pass by. This place was not too far from the harbor, plus it was a busy maritime route.

    Two, try to catch fish, use the raw fish meat to replenish his physical strength, and use the puffed fish to increase buoyancy.

    Although these ideas might not necessarily work, but he was at least going to try, as long as there is a glimmer of hope, he would never want to miss it.

    He believed that his own tolerance for pain and his power in meeting a contingency was better than average people.

    The most important thing was that he had an unyielding will to live. Perhaps it was exactly due to this kind of staunch determination that he was able to get through countless crises, and was able to stay alive until now. He simply had to keep on living.

    Who would have thought that he had not even executed any of these ideas when there was a ‘Splash!’ on the surface of the sea? Something was thrown from the ship to him. Unexpectedly it was a life boat.

    The person who struck him into the water did not want him to die in the sea at all, he just wanted to force him out of the ship.

    Other than Yue Yang, who could have done such thing?

    The small skiff fell quite some distance down, yet it did not capsize at all. The person who threw it must have used his power in such an ingenious way.

    From the water Lu Xiaofeng pulled himself up and rolled over into the skiff, he was even more convinced that the person must be Yue Yang.

    There were a pot of water and ten hard-boiled eggs in the skiff, and there was also a very heavy bundle. It was the bundle that Yue Yang pushed to him on the table the other day, which, of course, contained the five hundred taels to compensate his ship fare.

    This young man was definitely a straightforward man, not only he did not try to conceal anything, he also seemed to specifically tell Lu Xiaofeng, “I simply don’t want you to get on this ship; what are you going to do about it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, but also could not help laughing.

    He liked this young man, he liked the way he worked. But now it looked as if he would never see this young man anymore.

    Vast and obscure ocean, looking at four direction, he did not see any boundary. Should he try to chase the Old Fox’s ship with all his might, or should he return to the direction they were coming from?

    Naturally he would try to catch up with everything he had.

    It was only six or eight hours[1] ago that their ship went out to sea; if he was willing to row with all his might, plus a little bit of luck, come daybreak, he might be able to sit in the Fox Den, drinking wine.

    Too bad he forgot two things: One, when the ship left the port, they had tail wind, the power of two oars can’t possibly compete with the wind on the sail. Two, lately his luck has not been so good.

    Before the sun was up, his arms were already stiff and numb from hard rowing. Unexpectedly, doing this kind of easy and monotonous motion entailed more strenuous effort than anything else.

    He ate several eggs and drank some water, but his mouth felt bitter. He just wanted to lie down to rest for a little bit, but as soon as he lay down, he fell asleep. By the time he woke up, his eyes were blinded by the glaring sun, which, by this time was already high in the sky. In his sleep, unexpectedly he knocked over the pot of water, which was more valuable than gold juice; the water splashed and had already been dried by the sun.

    His lips were chapped by the sun. Everywhere he looked, the sky and the sea were connected to each other, there was not even a shadow of land.

    But he did see a tiny shadow of a sail, and the sail was moving in his direction.

    He almost could not stop himself from making eighty-seven somersaults on the little skiff to express his delight. Even a beggar who just saw a big piece of yuanbao[2] falling down from the sky would not be as happy as he was right now.

    The ship was coming fast. Suddenly he had a feeling of déjà vu, since he knew the ship. The one standing on the bow looked even more familiar, because it was none other than the Old Fox.

    The Old Fox also had a pair of sharp eyes, he had already waved his arms and shouted from a distant. When the ship was getting closer to the small skiff, Lu Xiaofeng was even able to see all the wrinkles on his face.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that the Old Fox’s weather-beaten face was actually more adorable than a young girl.

    He almost could not help but jumping up and down and yelling at the top of his lungs, but he steeled himself to stay calm and deliberately lay down on the small skiff, putting up a very relaxed manner.

    The Old Fox shouted, “We looked for you everywhere, what are you doing in here all alone?”

    Lu Xiaofeng unhurriedly said, “I can’t stand those dishes that the Beef Soup made, so I wanted to catch some fish to accompany my wine.”

    The Old Fox was stumped. “Did you catch any?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Fish, I did not catch any, but I managed to catch an old fox.”

    He could not bear not to ask, “You have obviously been far away at sea, why did you go back?”

    The Old Fox laughed, and then putting up an official face of an old fox he said, “I am coming back to catch some fish.”

    “So there’s no fish over there?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Old Fox laughed and said, “There are some over there, it’s just that none is willing to pay me five hundred taels for the ship fare.”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately said, “The fish in here is not willing to pay either, last time I have already paid.”

    “Last time was last time, this time is this time,” the Old Fox said, “Last time you wanted to board the ship on your own, I did not force you to get out either; therefore, if you want to board the ship this time, you must pay me another five hundred taels!”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to cry out, “Exactly how black is your heart?”

    The Old Fox laughed again and unhurriedly said, “Just a little bit darker than the old fox you caught from the sea.”

    Naturally he did not come back to catch some fish.

    The cargo loaded onto the ship was too much that they forgot to load fresh water. On the ocean, even an old fox was helpless to find a drop of drinkable fresh water.

    They only came back to fetch water.

    Perhaps this is fate, Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be decreed by fate to ride on this ship. Is this good luck? Or bad luck?

    Who knows?

    The ship reached the shore. Lu Xiaofeng and the Old Fox stood on the bow. No matter what, to be able to see land again was always a good feeling.

    Next to a rock in the distance, a man was looking this direction. His long and narrow horse-face showed a kind of surprised expression.

    Lu Xiaofeng pretended not to see him, he quietly went to other side and got off the ship. The man by the rock was watching the ship’s activity with rapt attention, but he did not notice Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng went around in circle and quietly crept toward him. Suddenly he appeared in front of the man and loudly said, “How are you?”

    He thought this man must be greatly surprised; who would have thought that the man simply blinked, his gaze still carried the same cool and callous look as he looked back at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “How are you?”

    This man, every single nerve on his body seemed to be made of iron wire.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt a bit uncomfortable instead; with a forced laugh he said, “Aren’t you surprised that we came back?”

    Hu Sheng did not deny at all.

    “We came back for you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why for me?” Hu Sheng asked.

    “Because the cargo you sent is too heavy,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “We are afraid the ship might capsize, so we came back to return it to you!”

    He was putting up a proverbial spear to elicit the man’s reaction to find out his actual intention.

    Who would have thought that this time Hu Sheng did not even blink? He coldly said, “The goods is not mine, the ship is not yours. This matter has nothing to do with either me or you. Why are you looking for me?”

    Apparently Lu Xiaofeng’s proverbial spear had bumped against a stone wall, but he was unwilling to give up. “If it is not yours,” he asked again, “What are you doing standing in here? Is it to use the ‘Soul Fragrance Rooster Cry of the Fifth Watch [see Chapter 2]’ to deal with your brother?”

    Hu Sheng’s cold and as sharp-as-blade gaze was fixed on Lu Xiaofeng’s face, but his body suddenly leaped up like a scallion being pulled up from dry ground, like a sparrow hawk flipping in the air, like an osprey diving into the water. In a blink of an eye he displayed three different qinggong [lightness skill] techniques, ‘splash!’ and disappeared into the water. Unexpectedly his qinggong was not inferior to the Lone Thief Sikong Zhaixing.

    No matter who, anybody who possessed this kind of qinggong must be a person of great background.

    Lx looked at the waves, rolling up and crashing down on the beach, there were hundreds of questions in his heart. When he turned around, he saw Yue Yang’s cold and as sharp-as-blade gaze was fixed on him.

    He simply walked over and said with a smile, “Surprised? Unexpectedly we meet again.”

    Yue Yang coldly said, “I am surprised that you can’t even finish ten hard-boiled eggs.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “So, next time you are thinking of striking me into the water, it would be best if you remember one thing.”

    “What thing?” Yue Yang asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I don’t like plain hard-boiled eggs, I like yellow wine and beef.”

    Yue Yang said, “Next time you fall into the water, I am afraid you’ll have only one thing to eat.”

    “What thing?” lx asked.

    “Your own flesh,” Yue Yang replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng roared in laugher. But people on the beach were crying out in alarm, a body was washed away to the beach by the waves; to their shock, it was a dead body.

    They rushed over, and immediately discovered that this dead body belonged to the friend who had just jumped into the water. His qinggong was so high, yet his water skill was this bad? How could he drown as soon as he jumped into the water?

    “This man is not drowned,” the fisherman who found his body said with confidence, “Because there is no water in his stomach.”

    Yet not even a scratch of blood was found on his body.

    “How did he die?”

    Lu Xiaofeng turned his head toward Yue Yang, “He seemed to die just like that one-eyed old man.”

    But Yue Yang simply turned around and walked away, while hanging his head down; he seemed to be unspeakably tired and sad.

    To kill Hu Sheng was not easy at all.

    Naturally the murderer was not Yue Yang.

    There must be some terrifying killer in the area, using the same terrifying technique to kill Hu Sheng and the old fisherman.

    There was only one similarity between these two men: both of them at one time tried to kill Yue Yang.

    Could it be that this was the reason of their death?

    In that case, what relationship did the killer have with Yue Yang?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He refused to give this matter another thought. Right now he just want to take a bath immediately.

    Anybody who has been soaked in salt water for a while will definitely want to take a bath.

    It does not matter whether he had just killed somebody or not.

    The bath area was very simple and crude, it was nothing more than a few broken down boards put together to form a row of three stalls. If one had the thought of peeping someone taking a bath, one would easily find quite a few good holes on any board.

    Other than these big holes and small holes, there was nothing inside. Those who wanted to take a bath must carry their own water in.

    Lu Xiaofeng carried a bucket of water into one of the stall, to his surprise, someone was taking a bath in the next stall, while humming a tune in low voice. Unexpectedly it was a woman’s voice.

    Usually not many people came here to bathe, the number of women who had the courage to take a bath was even smaller, knowing that when they were bathing, there was a good chance someone would peep at any time. Obviously this kind of feeling would not be pleasant.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng did not have such habit, so that he also did not expect that from a small hole on the board a pair of eyes was peeping at him.

    Immediately he turned his back. The person that was peeping at him squealed in laughter. Unexpectedly her laughter was very sweet.

    “Beef soup!” Lu Xiaofeng called out. Naturally he was familiar with Beef Soup’s voice.

    Still giggling, Beef Soup said, “I did not expect you like cleanliness, surprisingly you even came alone to bathe.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I don’t come alone to bathe, could it be that I must look for someone else to bathe me?”

    Beef Soup said, “Isn’t it because you wanted to peep on me bathing that you came here to bathe?”

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “The one who loves to peep on someone else bathing, I don’t think that’s me.”

    Beef Soup said, “I can peep on you, but you must not peep on me …”

    She has not even finished her sentence when the boards suddenly collapsed. Beef Soup was originally leaning on the board, this time the person and the board fell down together on Lu Xiaofeng. The amount of material covering those two bodies right now, added together still not even enough to make a baby’s diaper.

    So now they did not need to argue who was peeping on whom.

    A long time passed before Beef Soup finally sighed gently and said, “You really are not a good thing.”

    “How about you?”

    “I think neither am I!”

    Two people who were not good thing, crowded together in a small room that could collapse at any time, the situation was indeed not good.

    Worse yet, right this moment they heard someone shouting in the distance, “Set sail, set sail!”

    The ship has been sailing for three days. These three days were, surprisingly, very calm. There was moderate wind, beautiful sun on the sea. Other than those boring dinner time with the ‘distinguished guests’, Lu Xiaofeng almost have nothing else to worry about.

    All his troubles seemed to be blown away by the sea breeze, the reeking of blood was also blown dry by the wind.

    Even Yue Yang did not seem to have any intention to knock him down into the sea anymore; but he would not give Yue Yang another chance either.

    The cargo on board was just some wooden image of Buddha, plus some wooden fish to be used while chanting Buddhist scripture. He had asked the Old Fox, and had personally seen the cargo.

    “Fusang Island people have recently put their faith in Buddha, therefore, Buddha statues and wooden fish are best-seller,” the Old Fox explained, “Although they have people who can carve images of Buddha over there, but the craftsmanship is not as good.”

    The carving of these Buddha statues was indeed very fine. Carving was actually a kind of ancient art. Naturally it was not something that those prejudiced, narrow-minded dwarves[3] were able to comprehend.

    They loved these fine arts, perhaps it was only because of deep-rooted ethnic inferiority complex, they would feel it was an honor and glory, as well as a delight, if they could obtain a bit of thing from the hands of the descendants of the Fiery Emperor and Yellow Emperor (i.e. Han Chinese people), be it by buying, stealing, or robbing.

    This kind of matter, Lu Xiaofeng did not quite understand, but he did not really want to know either, because at that time there was no one consider those ‘shrinking shoulder, short legged, pretentious’ nouveau riche as important.

    The owners of this cargo of Buddha statues and wooden fish were exactly those ‘vulgar, unbearable’ distinguished guests, who wished to come into contact with the newly rich people, who were obviously not very likeable themselves.

    Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng could simply ignore them; if he wanted to chat, he would rather go to the Old Fox and the Beef Soup. When he did not want to chat, he would lie down in his cabin alone, enjoying the tranquility that he rarely had the pleasure to enjoy.

    It was when he was enjoying the most tranquil time like this when the ship suddenly became very un-tranquil.

    He was originally lying down peacefully in his bed, but all of a sudden he was thrown up and almost crash against the board wall.

    The ship suddenly became like a sieve, the people on board became like the rice in the sieve.

    With a lot of difficulty Lu Xiaofeng finally was able to stand, but soon he was thrown against the other wall. He had to grab the handle first, and then slowly opened the door. Immediately he heard the noise of people running around and crying out in alarm.

    The calm glassy sea suddenly became a stormy sea. It would be very difficult for people who have never personally experienced it to imagine such a dreadful storm.

    The water rolled up like mountain peaks and came crashing down, with mournful shriek it struck the hull of the ship like a giant iron hammer beating the drum. As soon as the water found a crevice, it would immediately flowed in. The people were like the soup boiling on a huge stove.

    The large sturdy ship, in this kind of storm had become like a children’s toy!

    No matter what kind of man, no matter how much accomplishment he achieved, in this kind of gale would become humble and fragile, a man who had completely lost his mind and his confidence in himself.

    Lu Xiaofeng tried to grab on anything he could grab. Finally he reached the Old Fox.

    “Will this ship survive?”

    The Old Fox did not answer. It was definitely the first time that he did not have any answer to someone else’s question.

    But lx already knew the answer. The despair in the Old Fox’s eyes already said it all.

    “You’d better try to hold on a piece of board,” that was the last thing he heard the Old Fox said.

    Another burst of waves billowed in, the Old Fox was unexpectedly thrown out the ship like a bullet, in a blink of an eye even his shadow could not be seen anymore.

    Too bad Lu Xiaofeng did not remember what he said either.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng was not grabbing a plank of wood. Rather, he grabbed someone’s hand, because he suddenly saw Yue Yang.

    Yue Yang also looked at him coldly, with a hard-to-understand feeling on his eyes. Suddenly he said something very strange, “You should now by now, why I insisted on not letting you ride on this ship?”

    “Are you saying that you already knew this ship is going to sink?”

    Yue Yang did not answer, because right this moment the ship’s main mast was coming down, a layer of gigantic mountain peak like of waves came crashing down, the ship was smashed just like a toy.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly could not see anything, and then he discovered that he was sinking into the sea.

    A pitch-black sea.

    [1] Orig. 3 or 4 sichen; a sichen is one of the twelve 2-hour periods of the day.

    [2] Yuanbao – silver or gold ingot, shaped like a boat.

    [3] Dwarf, dictionary says ‘old derogatory term for Japanese’.
    Last edited by foxs; 06-06-14 at 11:09 PM.

  11. #71
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 – After the calamity, renewed life

    The storm finally passed, the sea was once again tranquil, like nothing ever happened, but no one knows how many innocent lives had been swallowed by it.

    Pieces of the broken ship floated on the surface of the sea, along with many other unimaginable things, like the ship was spitting out the bones after it ate the contents. It looked unspeakably tragic and a total despair.

    After a long time, a man slowly floated up. Lu Xiaofeng. He was still alive.

    It was not because his luck was especially good, but because he has been through ‘thousands hammer, hundreds refining (by fire)’ early on. His ability to endure the pain and to strike back, others simply could not imagine.

    A sparkling object floated in front of his eyes. He reached out to grab it. Unexpectedly it was a bronze chamber pot.

    He laughed. In this kind of situation he was still able to laugh. This is also something that others simply could not imagine.

    But if he did not laugh, what else can he do? If he cried, what good would it bring? If he could bring back to life those who have been through trials and tribulations with him, then he would cry from now until the end of the days.

    Now, not a single person was in sight, not even a dead person. Even if everyone had died in the disaster, their remains should still float in the vicinity.

    “Perhaps they have not floated up yet!”

    Lu Xiaofeng also hoped that he could find a few surviving people, he wished to find the Old Fox, Beef Soup, Yue Yang …

    But he could not find anybody. It was like all the people on the ship had been completely swallowed by the sea; even their bones were swallowed.

    Just now he happened to bump into wood plank, a remnant of the hull, just before he lost his consciousness. Could it be that in that short period of time everybody else had been rescued?

    He wished that it were so. He would rather he was the only one dying. Too bad he also realized that it was impossible.

    No one could have expected the storm approaching, no one could have expected the ship to perish.

    In a storm like that, no one could have stayed on the sea nearby, waiting to rescue them.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered Yue Yang, he remembered the strange expression in his eyes, “You should now by now, why I insisted on not letting you ride on this ship?”

    Could it be that he really knew beforehand that this ship was going to capsize? And so he wanted to save Lu Xiaofeng, because Lu Xiaofeng had also saved him. But why did he insist on getting on board this ship? Could it be that he wished to court death? If he really wanted to die, he had already been dead; at least he would have been dead eight times.

    Perhaps no one would ever be able to answer these questions. Lu Xiaofeng could only explain to himself, “That kid must have said those things to piss me off; he is not a deity, how would he know that in three days the ship would capsize?”

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng was able to think clearly, because he was sitting on something that was completely reliable. He sat on a wooden statue of Buddha.

    A zhang high [approx. 3m/10ft] Buddha statue, coincidentally the biggest Maitreya Buddha, lying on the sea just like a boat.

    Unfortunately, not only this boat did not have yellow wine and beef, it did not even have any plain hard-boiled eggs.

    “Next time you fall into the water, I am afraid you’ll have only one thing to eat:Your own flesh.”

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to cut a piece of his own flesh to have a taste; he suddenly found he was hungry as hell.

    Looking to the distance where the sky and the sea merged, he saw vast haziness. It was a very beautiful day. Too bad that no matter how beautiful, it was not enough to fill his belly.

    After the storm, there was not a single fish in the vicinity. The only fish he could see was the wooden fish, big and small, all kinds of wooden fish, everything floated forward brought by the current.

    It’s a pity that he did not have any desire to chant the scripture.

    If the monks saw these wooden fish, what would they feel? He wondered. Would they wish, just like he did right now, that these fish were real fish with flesh and blood?

    There seemed to be an undercurrent in the sea, carrying these wooden fish and the Buddha statues floating forward.

    What kind of place was in front?

    In front of him was still the sea, an endless and relentless ocean. Even if the sea stayed tranquil without any wave like this, even if this smiling Buddha Maitreya could cross to the other side, Lu Xiaofeng could not make it, for sure.

    He was not carved from wood, he wanted to eat; if he did not, he would die of starvation. If he did not die of starvation, he would die of thirst.

    Surrounded by water, a man could die of thirst, wouldn’t it be some kind of a ridiculous irony?

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng could not even laugh. His lips were completely dry, he almost succumbed to the temptation of drinking sea water.

    The dusk came and went, the night fell, finally the long night also passed, the sun rose again. No one knew how long, he was almost completely delirious. He could not help drinking seawater, only to vomit it again. No one knew how long he has been vomiting, it seemed like even his intestines had been completely spitted out.

    In this kind of half awake, half asleep condition, he felt as if he had fallen into a large net, a very, very large net, which was slowly tightening around him, hoisted him up that he felt that he was hanging in the air, and then he really fainted.

    It was indeed beyond his imagination that he would wake up again after losing his consciousness; he could not imagine even more where he would be when he woke up.

    When Lu Xiaofeng woke up, he was in a fairyland.

    The sun was shining brightly, the sand on the beach was white, soft and very fine, the bluish green seawater looked like jade, the place where the gentle waves lapped the beach was foamy white. Clear and boundless sky with no clouds in sight, the land filled his eyes with emerald green.

    If this was not fairyland, then what kind of place was it? How could living person reach this fairyland?

    Lu Xiaofeng was still alive, there was indeed a fairyland among the world of the living. But he was having a hard time believing that it was real. From the moment he was thrown out of his bed to what has just happened right now, everything felt like it was a nightmare.

    The smiling Buddha Maitreya was also lying on the beach. After going through so many disasters, its arms were still hugging its own round belly, its mouth was still wide open in laughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at the statue hatefully, “The people who rode the same boat as you all have died completely, yet you lie down in here smiling widely, what kind of Bodhisattva are you?”

    Although that Bodhisattva was a Bodhisattva, it was carved out of wood, whether other people live or die, it was unable to do anything about it; other people cursed it, it could not hear.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “Although you have shown injustice toward others, but you have saved my life, I should have not cursed you.”

    The disaster was over, he alone was the only survivor; should he be grateful, or should he be sad? Since others did not know, while he did not have any way of telling them, it seemed that this wooden puppet was the only friend with whom he went through trials and tribulations together.

    If you have ever experienced these things, you would change just like him too.

    Right now he was still alive, but whether he would be able to continue living, he himself was not too sure.

    The world is boundless, alone he arrived at this completely foreign land, even if this place was a fairyland, he was unable to bear it.

    He struggled up. Surprisingly he was still able to stand. The first thing that came into his mind was water. If there were no water, the fairyland would turn into hell.

    Patting the Buddha Maitreya’s belly, he said, “You must be thirsty too, I’ll go find water for everybody.”

    It looked like this place was an island. Among the trees, flowers and plants on the island, a lot of them he had never seen before. The Japanese banana [musa basjoo] tree was full of banana. Each one looked like a large mantou [steamed bun].

    After eating several bananas, the thirst was even more unbearable. He snapped a branch and used it as a stick as he walked passed the banana tree. Unexpectedly he found a pond of clear spring.

    He did not know until now, that water actually tastes so sweet, far surpassed the best green-bamboo-leaf wine.

    It was only after he finished eating and drinking that he remembered a terrible matter.

    “If there is no ship pass by, do I have to spend the rest of my life on this deserted island?”

    No ship passed by.

    He chose the largest rock on the shore and sat on top of it to watch the sea for a few days. Not even a single ship’s shadow was to be seen.

    This deserted island was definitely not on the ship route. He could only looked at the Buddha Maitreya with a bitter laugh, “It looks like we’ll have to stay in this place for a while. We can’t keep on living like a wild dog like this, we should at least try to look decent.”

    He had never carried saber, sword, or any sharp weapon. Luckily that copper chamber pot also followed him, floating onto the island. Cutting the chamber pot open, using a stone he flattened it and clamped it between two pieces of wood to make the handle, and then he ground it by the spring water for one or two sichen. Actually it became a knife that he could use.

    He did not want to use this knife to kill at all.

    Now he knew that other that to kill people, a knife actually has so many other uses.

    Cutting branches as the frame, and using the leaves from palm tree and banana tree as the roof, he built a thatched house, which cannot be considered too ugly, by the spring. And then he gathered some soft grass and leaves and spread it on the ground. He let his only friend, the Buddha Maitreya, to lie down first. And then he lay down next to it. Looking at the moonlight leaking down through the banana leaves, and listening to the distant sound of waves lapping on the shore, he suddenly felt his eyes were moist, a drop of tear flowed down his cheek.

    In the past two years, this was the first time he shed some tears.

    No matter what kind of disaster or suffering, he had never been afraid. But he suddenly realized that the most frightening thing in the world is loneliness.

    He determined not to let himself thinking toward that direction again, he still had a lot of things to do.

    The next day at dawn he walked along the beach looking for everything that he could bring back. There were Buddha statues, wooden fish, and all kinds of shells.

    In the afternoon, his luck was better, during the low tide, he found a camphor wood chest.

    Very carefully he carried it over his shoulder. He ate some banana first and drank some water before conducting the opening ceremony.

    When the box is opened, he felt his heart was like a little deer, jumping around in his breast; he had never been as nervous and as excited as right now.

    Inside the chest, there was a small jewelry box, filled to the brim with pearls and jewels; too bad it was completely useless right now. The most useful item was a comb, and some golden hairpins, and then there were two books of popular fiction that were produced by carving stone printing by a local bookshop, one was ‘Jade Pear Romance’, the other was ‘Chronicle or Chivalrous Tales’.

    Naturally the chest was also full of clothes, but all were brightly colored women’s clothes.

    Ordinarily, Lu Xiaofeng would not even cast a glance toward these things, but now he was as excited as a little child who had just received the most beloved toy. He was so excited that he could not sleep that night.

    The wooden fish could be cut open as bowl, so that he did not need to use his hand to hold water. The gold hairpins could be used as needles, with some hemp that he rolled between his hands, he could make some thread, and then he could convert these clothes into window and door curtains. He could now comb his unkempt hair that looked like rice straw. And then those two books, if he read them slowly, it would help him pass a lot of empty, lonely days.

    Lying on the bed made of grass, he tossed and turned all night, thinking about these things. Suddenly he sprang up and gave himself two hard slaps on the face.

    If the ever-smiling Maitreya knew, it must have thought that this man had been taking a wrong medicine again.

    Giving himself two hard slaps on the face was not enough, ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’, he slapped himself everywhere, while pointing toward his own nose and cursed, “Lu Xiaofeng, oh Lu Xiaofeng, since when did you turn into such a worthless kid, thinking and planning all these mundane things like a woman? Are you really going to spend the rest of your life like this?”

    The day has not been brightened, he already selected the biggest wooden fish, knocked a hole on top, and fill it up with water. Using a strip of colorful silk gown he wrapped a couple of banana, and fastened everything onto his back. Patting the Maitreya’s belly, he said, “I am not like you, who lie down here all day. From now on, I can’t keep you company all day every day.”

    He had decided to go on an expedition, to see if there was anybody else on the island, if there was a way out of here.

    Although he was fully aware that in the dense jungle there was danger everywhere, it would not change his determination.

    He went out every day in the morning, and came back at night. The soles of his feet were broken, his body was pricked and cut by the thistles and thorns.

    The jungle was full of deadly vipers and bugs, there were even carnivorous plants out there. On several occasions he nearly delivered his life, but he did not care. He believed that as long as one was determined, no matter where, one would always find a way out.

    Time went on, quickly a month has passed, and he had explored almost every inch on this island.

    Other than a pair of sore and swollen feet and a body full of scar, he found nothing. Not only was this island was uninhabited, it was devoid of even foxes, rabbits and all kinds of small critters. If he were someone else, he would be in despair long ago. But he was not.

    Although his body was weary, his strength exhausted, he never lose heart. On the thirty-third evening, he suddenly seemed to hear the sound of running water from behind a cliff wall, which was covered with radish vine.

    Pushing aside the vines, unexpectedly he found a crevice behind it, barely enough for one person to squeeze himself sideways. But as he walked farther in, the gap gradually widened, and he seemed to see light on the other end, while the sound of running water, which was originally very faint, became gradually clearer.

    Finally he found an even clearer spring. Walking upstream, he suddenly saw something floating downstream; it was nothing more than a stem of wilted orchids.

    But he still fished the orchids out of the water. He had never seen orchids in this place before, and whenever he found anything unusual, he simply would not let it off. This time he was indeed not disappointed.

    Although the orchids were already withered, he could still see the remaining vestige that human hands had trimmed the leaves.

    He was so excited that his hands were trembling; there must be people other than him on this island! He suddenly remembered Tao Yuanming’s[1] note on the Garden of the Peaches of Immortality.

    After continuing for an hour non-stop, the mountainous terrain indeed suddenly opened up to a wide panorama, the valley was verdant in sweet smelling emerald green foliage, just like a huge, giant garden, adorned with a cluster of pavilions and multi-story buildings.

    He dropped down on the soft grass, with heart filled with joy and gratitude, thankful to the Heavens for letting him seeing people once again. As long as he could see people, even if these people killed him, he was most willing. Besides, people who lived in this kind of Garden of the Peaches of Immortality couldn’t possibly kill other people!

    Now anybody would be convinced that there were people on this island, but perhaps nobody would ever imagine that the very first person Lu Xiaofeng would ever see on this island was unexpectedly Yue Yang.

    Not only Yue Yang did not die, he was richly dressed, looked radiant, and seemed to be even more proud than before.

    Under the verdant hillside, there was a small pathway made of colorful stone steps. Yue Yang was standing right there, looking coldly at Lu Xiaofeng.

    As soon as Lu Xiaofeng saw Yue Yang, he jumped in fright, as if he was seeing a ghost in a bright sunny day. “How can you be here?” he asked in shrill voice.

    “If I am not here, where am I supposed to be?” Yue Yang replied in cold voice.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When the ship capsized, where did you go? How come I could not find you?”

    Yue yang said, “When the ship capsized, where did you go? How come I could not find you?”

    His question was exactly the same as Lu Xiaofeng’s. Indeed when the ship capsized, Lu Xiaofeng did not immediately float up.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have any choice but asking different question, “Who rescued you?”

    Yue Yang asked, “Who rescued you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “These days, have you always been here?”

    Yue Yang asked, “These days, have you always been here?”

    He still did not change even one word, asking Lu Xiaofeng the exact question Lu Xiaofeng has been asking him.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Yet Yue Yang did not laugh.

    They had just escaped from calamity, and met again. It was actually a very rare occurrence. But he did not show the least bit of joy. Unexpectedly he seemed to feel that it would be better if Lu Xiaofeng was dead.

    Luckily Lu Xiaofeng did not care at all, he was already aware that this young man was an eccentric person.

    “Isn’t it true that this place was your destination all along? You were not going to Fusang Islands at all, weren’t you? But how did you know that the Old Fox’s ship was going to perish right here? How did you get here?”

    Even if these questions were asked, he wouldn’t get any answer anyway; hence Lu Xiaofeng did not even bother to ask.

    Right now he was most concerned about one thing, “Who else are here? The Old Fox, Beef Soup, and the others, are they here?”

    Yue Yang coldly said, “You don’t need to ask those questions.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since I am already here, why can’t I ask?”

    Yue Yang said, “You can return the way you came here, it’s not too late.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Even if you kill me, I will never return!”

    Yue Yang’s face fell; he said, “In that case I’ll kill you!”

    His right palm flipped over upward, left palm slashed diagonally down in a circle, right palm suddenly shot out from inside the circle, swiftly chopped down on Lu Xiaofeng’s neck.

    Not only his style was strange, it was swift and fierce; in this short period of just a bit more than 30 days, his martial art skill seemed to have made tremendous progress.

    Actually, there is no fluke in martial art training, but his progress was indeed too quick, just like a miracle. Just this one move, Lu Xiaofeng found it hard to strike back.

    In all his life, Lu Xiaofeng has met no one knows how many martial art experts; he really can be considered a veteran of a hundred battles, he had been going through fierce combats for a long time, yet he very seldom see anybody whose martial art skill was higher than this young man.

    To his amazement, he had never seen any style with strange variation like this before. He leaped up and made a somersault in the air, and thus retreated eight feet back.

    Unexpectedly, Yue Yang did not pursue and attack. “You go back, I won’t kill you,” he said coldly.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You kill me, I won’t go back.”

    “You won’t regret it?” Yue Yang asked.

    “I already told you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “In all my life, I never have any regret.”

    Yue Yang laughed coldly, he made his move again, and soon discovered that Lu Xiaofeng’s martial art skill was also much higher than he had ever imagined.

    No matter how strange the style he used, he always failed to touch even the corner of Lu Xiaofeng’s clothes. Occasionally he was so sure that he would succeed, but to his surprise, Lu Xiaofeng’s body flashed, and his attack missed!

    Lu Xiaofeng had several obvious opportunities to knock him down, but all along he did not take the opportunity, it seemed like he wanted to know the background of Yue Yang’s martial art, but it also seemed like he did not have any intention to hurt him.

    Yet Yue Yang did not seem to understand, his attacks grew in intensity. Suddenly they heard someone at the end of the flowery path laughed and said, “Honorable guest graces us with his presence, how come you are so inhospitable like this?”

    Obviously, there were flowers at the end of the flowery path, one man with his hands behind his back was standing in the middle of the multi-colored cluster of flowers. His face was round, the top of his head was half bald, his face carried a very friendly smile. If he was not wearing exquisite clothing, he would appear like a gardener.

    At the sight of this man, Yue Yang immediately halted and retreated step by step. There were also flowers on either side of the flowery path, he retreated to the middle of a cluster of flowers, turned around, and disappeared.

    The polite and amiable little old man slowly came forward; he said with a smile, “Young people are lacking in manners, Sire must never place the blame on him.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also smiled, “It’s all right, he and I are old friends.”

    The little old man clapped his hands and said, “Old friends meet again, nothing’s better than that, at least I will have to prepare some wine for the two of you to celebrate.”

    He laughed again and said, “Mountain residence is lonely, guests are rare, as soon as there is a little matter to celebrate, we will not miss it; not to mention such a thing like this?”

    The way he downplayed the situation unconsciously revealed the peace, happiness, security and contentment in his speech. In Lu Xiaofeng’s ears, who have experienced much suffering, it created deep envy.

    The little old man asked again, “But I do not know the honored guest’s respected surname and great given name.”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately introduced himself truthfully. In front of this polite and amiable little old man, nobody could be suspicious.

    The little old man nodded and said, “Turns out it’s Lu Gongzi [young master], it’s a big honor to meet you at last.”

    Although with his mouth he said that it was an honor to meet him, but it was clear that he did not have the least bit of that sentiment. Lu Xiaofeng has made his name since he was very young, his name was renowned throughout the world, but in the little old man’s ears, it was no different than Zhang San or Li Si [Zhang the third or Li the fourth, respectively], or Ah Mao, Ah Gou [Ol’ cat, ol’ dog; i.e. Tom, Dick and Harry]. This, Lu Xiaofeng had also never met before.

    The little old man again said with a laugh, “We happen to have a little celebration today, I was wondering if honored guest would like to honor us with your presence?”

    Of course Lu Xiaofeng would like to come, but he still could not bear not to ask, “What are you celebrating today?”

    The little old man said, “Today is the day my daughter can eat a meal on her own for the first time, therefore, we all gather here to eat the food she has eaten in the past once again.”

    If even such trivial matter [orig. ‘chicken feather, garlic skin’] was celebrated, unavoidably there would be too many things in the world worth celebrating.

    Although in his heart Lu Xiaofeng was having this thought, he did not say anything. He only wished that the food that his daughter had eaten was not rice porridge. These days his mouth was really as tasteless as bird’s feed.

    The little old man laughed and said, “In your heart Lu Gongzi must have felt funny, if even such trivial matter was celebrated, unavoidably there would be too many things in the world worth celebrating; but let me tell you this: since childhood my daughter is a glutton, therefore, the first time she can eat by herself, she is asking for a tableful or food and drink.”

    Although he was echoing what’s in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind, Lu Xiaofeng was not surprised at all. His thought was natural and normal, anybody who heard such thing would inevitably have the same thought as his.

    The little old man laughed again and said, “For many years we have never had a guest who is an outsider in here, today Lu Gongzi suddenly honors us with your presence; apparently it is my daughter’s good fortune.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “When I finish your wine and meat, you will know that this is not a good fortune.”

    The little old man roared in laughter. He cupped his fist to salute the guest.

    “Master host is too polite,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “If even Master host’s respected surname and great given name is not known to me, how can I be called a welcomed guest?”

    The little old man said, “I am surnamed Wu, my name is Wu Ming. Wu [吴] of a mouth [口] and a sky [天], Ming [明 - brightness] of the sun [日] and the moon [月].” He laughed aloud again and said, “Actually, at most I only have a mouth that loves to talk and eat good food; I do not have the least bit of the brightness of the sun and the moon.”

    He laughed, Lu Xiaofeng also laughed.

    After going through those difficult days, it was indeed his good fortune to meet such a hospitable, polite, friendly and witty host. Lu Xiaofeng was really happy, even if he did not want to laugh, he simply must laugh.

    When the flowery path ended, they turned into another flowery path, passing through a cluster of flowers, they entered another cluster of flowers. On all sides the mountain peaks were green, the clear sky above was blue as if it had just been washed. Ahead, at the end of the nine-bend winding bridge on top of a half qing [approx. 3.5 hectares or 8.25 acres] lotus pond, there was a water pavilion with vermillion railings and green roof tiles.

    When they came near, Lu Xiaofeng saw that there were about a dozen or so people already inside the pavilion. Some were standing, some were sitting, some were old, some were young, some were male, some were female, some were dressed in formal and gorgeous ancient attire, some casually draped oversize gown on their bodies.

    Everybody was very relaxed, they all looked happy, as if all worries and grieves of the world of mortals were isolated outside the surrounding green hills.

    This was life; these were people who understand how to enjoy life. In his heart Lu Xiaofeng was deeply moved, he was overcome with envy, and could only stare in awe.

    The little old man said, “People in here do not confine ourselves to ceremony, Lu Gongzi must never be too polite.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since everybody here does not confine himself to ceremony, why do you call me Lu Gongzi?”

    The little old man roared in laughter. Pulling Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, he took him to the nine-bend winding bridge.

    A middle-aged man in Tang Dynasty court dress, with a white jade belt around his waist and amethyst and gold court hat on his head, with a cup of wine in his hand, swaggered toward them. He gave the golden cup to Lu Xiaofeng before swaggering away.

    The little old man laughed and said, “He is surnamed He. Each time he drinks just a little wine, he would insist that he was the reincarnation of He Zhizhang [659-744, Tang dynasty poet]; hence we might as well call him He Shangshu [high official/government minister]. He loves to call himself Si Ming Kuang Ke [not sure; 四明狂客 lit. four brightness mad guest].”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed and said, “No wonder he is always drunk; since he is one of the drunken Eight Immortals, not being drunk is wrong.”

    While his mouth was talking, his eyes were fixed on a woman.

    Women who took his attention usually were not ugly.

    She may be a bit tall, but the lines on her slender body were soft; her entire body seemed to exude some kind of irresistible charm, the contour of her face was clear, her pair of cat-like eyes seemed to emit some bluish green light just like the ocean. She appeared cold and indifferent, yet smart; there was also an inexplicable laziness around her, as if she had already grown weary toward life.

    Right now she was just leaving the crowd in the water pavilion, and was walking toward them. She was not even close yet, Lu Xiaofeng already felt his throat and his hair dry, a surge of heat rising up from his lower abdomen.

    She seemed to also cast him a glance, her cat-like eyes were smiling with contempt and cynical expression.

    And then just as quick she turned her head around toward the little old man, and slowly stretched out her hand.

    The little old man sighed and said, “You lost everything?”

    She nodded. Her jet-black soft and long hair slightly bobbed up and down, just like the waves in the night.

    The little old man asked, “How much do you want?”

    She held out five fingers, long, slender and powerful fingers, showing off the strength of her innermost being.

    “When are you going to pay me back?” the little old man asked.

    “Next time,” she replied.

    “Alright,” the little old man said, “Use your jewelry as collateral, when you pay me back you have to add interest.”

    She agreed immediately, using her two fingers she took a banknote from the little old man’s hand, and promptly left without even a single glance toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    But the little old man looked at Lu Xiaofeng and smiled. He said, “We have no rules here, but everybody follows one principle strictly.”

    His eyes still staring at the woman’s back, Lu Xiaofeng absent-mindedly asked, “What principle?”

    “Earn his own living,” the little old man replied.

    He went on to explain, “In here we have the best wine and the best cook in the world, no matter which, any enjoyment in here is first-class. But the fee is also very high, people who have no ability to earn a fortune will find it difficult to continue living here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s attention has moved away from her body; suddenly he realized that the only property he had was that chamber pot knife.

    The little old man laughed and said, “Naturally today you are a guest; as long as you don’t gamble with them, you don’t need a single wen.[2]”

    Today he was a guest, but what about tomorrow?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked, “What are they playing?”

    “They are playing dice,” the little old man replied, “They love to gamble.”

    “Can I take a look?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course you can,” the little old man replied. He laughed even more delightfully, “It’s just that if you want to bet, you must be careful toward Sha Man.”

    Sha Man, what a strange name.

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Sha Man, is that the one who just borrowed money from you?”

    The little old man laughed and said, “She loses fast, but also wins fast. If you are not careful, maybe you’ll even lose yourself to her.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. Losing himself to a girl like that would not be bad, but naturally he planned on winning.

    Gold, pearls and banknotes piled up on the table. The pile in front of Sha Man was the largest, as soon as Lu Xiaofeng came over, she started to win.

    Their betting was really simple and delightful, using only three dice, they count the number of dots. ‘Leopard six’ naturally ‘eat ‘em all’, ‘four five six’ is also not small, ‘one two three’ would definitely lose.

    If the first two dice were identical, and the third had six dots, it was almost a guaranteed win.

    Unexpectedly she had thrown six dots five times in a row. Her cat-like eyes were shining with jade-green light.

    The banker who lost money was a man who started to get fat, he looked no different than any other man you may find in a teahouse or wine shop on any given day. But he was exceptionally calm and collected; although he lost five times in a row, his countenance did not change at all, not even a single bead of sweat was seen on his face.

    Their bet was a lot larger than what Lu Xiaofeng had imagined, but the way they gambled was not too sophisticated. They used neither technique nor trick.

    Anyone who knew a little bit of trick and came here to gamble was guaranteed to ‘return from a rewarding journey’.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s hand already started to itch.

    [1] Tao Yuanming (c. 365-427), Jin dynasty writer and poet.

    [2] Wen – copper coin, lowest denomination of money, worth about 1/2g or 1/60 ounce of silver.

  12. #72
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 – Return from a rewarding journey

    For the last several years, Lu Xiaofeng had not gambled for money. Originally, he was a gambler, when he was six or seven years old, he already knew how to play with dice. By the time he was sixteen or seventeen, not a single gimmick in gambling that he did not know.

    Lead-loaded dice, mercury-loaded dice, iron dice with magnet underneath the bowl, in his eyes, all these tricks were merely a child’s plaything.

    In his hands, ordinary six-sided dice could become like living objects, which were very obedient to him. If he wanted the dice to show red dots, the dice would not dare to show a single black dot.

    Gambling is just the same as drinking wine, to a wanderer like him, not only it was a way of venting off his emotion, it was also a way to earn a living.

    He had not been gambling recently, not because he had won too much and thus nobody dared to gamble against him, but because he himself had completely lost his interest!

    Naturally he no longer had to do it for a living, so he was able to look for more excitement in life.

    But now the situation was different; he wanted to stay here, hence he had to have a skill to earn a fortune.

    Now it looked like he simply had to stay here, but the only opportunity to earn a lot of money in this place seemed to be in those three dice.

    The banker grabbed the dice and knocked it at the edge of a large bowl, creating ‘ding, ding’ sound. “Place your bet,” he shouted, “The bigger the better.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly said, “I bet five hundred taels.”

    Although he did not have five hundred taels, he was confident that he would not lose.

    It’s a pity that others did not have any confidence in him. The banker cast him a cold glance and said, “How come I did not see your five hundred taels?”

    “Because I have not taken it out,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “We have a rule here,” the banker said, “Only money that can be seen that counts.”

    Lu Xiaofeng took something out, but it was the knife he made from the chamber pot.

    The banker said, “You use this knife to put down five hundred taels?”

    “Uh huh,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The banker said, “I fail to see how this knife could worth five hundred taels.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You fail to see, because you have never seen this kind of knife.”

    “So this knife is special?” the banker asked.

    “Very special,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “What’s so special?” the banker asked.

    “This knife is made of a chamber pot,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He could not help laughing on his own joke, but nobody else did. The six people gambled in here, although in term of status, gender and age they were all different, they all had one thing in common; they all appeared amazingly cold, they did not even laugh.

    Right now they all looked at Lu Xiaofeng, with gaze that looked like they were looking at a clown.

    ‘It’s hard to put an ashamed blade back into its sheath’. Lu Xiaofeng also felt that taking the knife back was very difficult.

    While he was still thinking of how to recover from this awkwardness, suddenly he saw a hand pushing five hundred taels his way, and picked up his knife.

    A very nice looking hand, long and slender, yet powerful fingers; although it was a bit like a man’s hand, it was still very beautiful.

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a breath, he cast her a grateful glance as he said with a laugh, “Finally someone who knows what’s good and what’s not.”

    Sha Man coldly said, “If I know what’s good, I won’t lend you five hundred taels.”

    Her face did not show any emotion, “I give you a loan, just because you seem to bring a bit of good luck to me. This time my stake is a bit high, therefore, I won’t let you leave.”

    Gamblers are usually realistic; she seemed to be a typical gambler.

    The banker let out a low shout, “Make a kill!” and threw the dice into the bowl. Two dice stopped at six, the third was still rolling incessantly.

    The banker shouted, “Six”, other people called, “One”, but Lu Xiaofeng knew that the die would stop at ‘three’.

    Because he had two fingers pressed on the bottom surface of the table. He had a very high confidence on his two fingers.

    He hoped the banker would lose a bit. This man apparently can afford to lose.

    The die stop, it was indeed three dots.

    Three dots cannot be considered too low, unexpectedly two people could not even beat three dots. When it was Sha Man’s turn, she threw a six.

    She could not afford to lose, even her jewelry had been pawned out.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers, not only they were able to catch a stab of lightning-fast sword, sometimes they could be used to stop the dice at any dots he wanted it to stop.

    He was not ashamed of the way he dealt with this matter at all! Let those who could afford to lose lost a bit to those who could not afford to lose. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about it.

    Now the dice were in his hand. He wanted a pair of three and a four. Four dots beats three, the winning was just right, plus it would not raise any suspicion.

    Of course he did not need other people’s hand under the table to help him, although he had not practiced for a long time, he was sure the dice would obey his command.

    He was sure, absolutely sure.

    ‘Ding, dang!’ the dice fell into the bowl. The first die stopped at three, the second also stopped at three, the third would definitely be a four.

    He looked at the continuously rolling die, just like a father or a mother looking at an obedient child. And now he could already see the four dots on the face of the die, flashing re, alluring and beautiful red, as beautiful as the shining white five hundred taels of silver.

    When the dice stopped, the silver would be in hands.

    Who would have thought that at the last second, the die jumped and landed on two dots?

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck. Even in his dream he would never imagine that there were martial art experts on this table, whose skill was most probably even higher than his.

    Sha Man gave him a cold look, “Although you brought me good luck, your own luck is not good.”

    The person who played trick on the dice just now, definitely was not her; she had already lost a lot, and Lu Xiaofeng was helping her to get it back.

    The banker was collecting the winning,

    Not only this man has lost, he had lost a lot; if he was capable of controlling the dice, he would not have lost.

    It did not look like anybody else either, Lu Xiaofeng really could not see who the expert was.

    He was like a mute eating Chinese goldthread [coptis chinensis], unspeakably bitter; or like a blind eating wonton, who let the belly did the counting.

    If only he could do it one more time, he was confident he would be able to see it. If only he paid a bit more attention, he was confident he would not lose.

    He was very confident. It’s a pity he did not have any gambling capital anymore, that polite and friendly little old man had suddenly disappeared, as if he was afraid Lu Xiaofeng would come to him to borrow money.

    A very young man, but kept two strips of moustache above his lips, suddenly laughed and said, “Both of us have moustache, let us be friends.”

    Unexpectedly, he really did ‘help a lame dog over a stile’ by handing him out a five hundred taels banknote.

    Lu Xiaofeng was greatly delighted; he was about to take the banknote, when the moustache’s hand pull it back, “Where’s the knife?”

    “What knife?”

    “Like the one you had just now.”

    No knife, no silver; therefore, Lu Xiaofeng could only force a smile, “A knife like that, even if you search everywhere in the whole world, I am afraid there is only one.”

    The moustache sighed, he placed the banknote on the table. The banker had already tossed the dice. Unexpectedly it was a ‘one two three’, he had to pay everybody.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only feel the bitter taste in his mouth. While he was thinking of getting some wine and thinking about his next step, he turned around and saw the little old man was standing by the wine and food table, looking at him with a smile on his face.

    There were all kinds of wine on the table. Lu Xiaofeng picked up a Green Bamboo Leaf and poured some for himself. He intentionally did not want to look at the little old man.

    But the little old man asked him, “How’s your luck?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said indifferently, “Can’t be considered too bad, it’s just that when I ought to win I did not win, when I ought not to lose, yet I lost.”

    The little old man sighed and said, “In this world, there are a lot of things just like that. If one has too much confidence in certain matter, one would be careless instead; hence one lost when he ought to win. But as long as there is a second chance, one would have everything under control.”

    It was exactly what Lu Xiaofeng had in mind, but he said it first.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes brightened; he said, “If you agree to invest, let me play again, we’ll split the win.”

    The little old man said, “But what if you lose?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I lose I’ll pay you.”

    “How are you going to pay?” the little old man asked, “Using that incomparably unique chamber pot knife of yours? Too bad that chamber pot knife is not even yours anymore.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter what, I can’t possibly lose anyway. Please lend me ten thousand taels, after this round, I will definitely give you back fifteen thousand taels.”

    Basically, he was not this kind of poor, terrible and extremely greedy gambling demon, who would sell his own wife just to be able to gamble, but right now he was too fired up and definitely did not accept his lost. Besides, in his eyes, ten thousand taels was nothing much, he has always squandered money like dirt, and has never had any regards for wealth.

    Funny thing is, the more he acted like that, the easier it was for him to borrow money instead. Even the little old man’s heart was a bit moved. He said hesitantly, “If by any chance you still lose, then what?”

    “Then I will belong to you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Unexpectedly the little old man no longer say anything, immediately he handed him ten thousand taels.

    Lu Xiaofeng was greatly delighted, “Don’t worry, I won’t make you regret it.”

    The little old man sighed. “I am afraid it will be you who regret it,” he said.

    The banker had not changed. After Lu Xiaofeng left, he repeatedly threw several big dots, and managed to pull back his capital somewhat.

    But Sha Man was on a steady decline, she lost nearly everything. Seeing Lu Xiaofeng came back, unexpectedly a smile appeared on her as-cold-as-ice-and-frost face, “That old man lent you some gambling capital? Did he trust you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “He did not trust me as a person, he just believed that this time I will have a change of fortune.”

    Sha Man said, “I also want you to have a change of fortune, and thus redeem your knife. This knife, nobody wants it even for five fen.”

    The banker has called the bets, Lu Xiaofeng said, “Let me win this one first, and then we’ll talk.”

    At first he wanted to fold the banknote on the corner to denote a thousand taels bet, but at the last second he suddenly put the entire banknote down as his stake.

    Gambling demons who lose money, usually lost all at once like this.

    The banker gave him a cold look, and then threw the dice. He got two dots, but unexpectedly his countenance still did not change.

    Several people took turns throwing the dice, some won, some lost; Sha Man threw a six, she could not help looking at Lu Xiaofeng and said with a laugh, “You seem to bring me good luck again.”

    When she was not laughing, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was already moved; as soon as she laughed, Lu Xiaofeng was even more ‘spirit and soul upside-down’. Suddenly he reached out to grab her hand and said, “Since I brought you good luck, I wonder if you could lend me some?”

    She wanted to shake her hand free, but Lu Xiaofeng was holding her too tightly; her countenance immediately fell, “My hand is not the dice, why are you pulling me?”

    Although she was speaking with a straight face, everybody could see that she was not really angry.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly let her hand go, he grabbed the dice. Originally he only had eighty percent confidence, but now he was a hundred percent confident. “Leopard,” he shouted.

    To defeat a two-dot, a leopard was really unnecessary. Indeed, when an expert wanted to beat a two-dot, at most he would only need a four-dot. Even without any trick, to beat a two-dot is not difficult. But right now Lu Xiaofeng seemed to suddenly turn into a child; when someone whom he liked was standing at the side, without any rhyme or reason a child would do a double somersault.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng’s mood was more or less the same, wholeheartedly he wanted to show off in front of her by throwing three sixes, a leopard.

    With a ‘ding-a-ling’ the dice were thrown into the bowl, his hand already reached the table. This time, even if someone was playing a trick, he was confident that he would be able to turn the dice back.

    Two dice had already stopped; naturally both showed a six-dot. The third one was still rolling in the bowl. The banker’s eyes were fixed at the dice, he coldly said, “The die is possessed.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Where’s the ghost? Let us all try to find it.” Exerting his strength, the table suddenly rose up from the floor.

    The man with a moustache who wanted to make friends with Lu Xiaofeng earlier originally had his hands pressed on the table. As the table was lifted up, suddenly there was a ‘poof’, two pieces of palm-shaped wood fell to the ground, unexpectedly his pair of hands went through the table.

    The bowl was still on the table, the die was still rolling inside the bowl.

    A gust of wind blew, two pieces of wood that fell to the ground unexpectedly turned into small bits like cotton wadding. In a blink of an eye it was blown away by the wind.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were originally fixed onto the dice, yet he could not help looking at the moustache’s eyes. He really could not see that this young man, who was dressed in fancy clothes like a rich man, his hands unexpectedly mastered the ‘Bone-transforming Cotton Palm’, a long-lost martial art skill of the wulin world.

    ‘Cotton Palm’ was Wudang’s consummate skill, an internal, orthodox school martial art, but the addition of the two words ‘Bone-transforming’ in front of the ‘Cotton Palm’ made it a completely different martial art.

    This kind of palm force was not only sinister and frightening, it was very difficult to master. After it was trained to perfection, when the palm hit a human body, the person hit would lose consciousness, but four hours later the palm force flared up, the bones in his entire body would turn soft like cotton, even a deity would not be able to save him. Compared to Tibetan Tantra’s ‘Big Hand Print’ or western region’s Xingxiuhai’s ‘Heaven-Destroying-Earth-Decimating Hand’, it was a lot more formidable.

    Ever since the death of Hua Gu Xian Ren [Bone Transforming Daoist Immortal], who in the past had solitarily broken into Xingxiuhai, entered the Chao Tian Gong [imperial heaven palace] in the night, forcefully killed the Great Lama of the Yellow Hat, this kind of palm power had never appeared in Jianghu, but somehow this moustache was able to master the skill.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not figure it out, he did not have time to think about it either.

    The die was still rolling inside the bowl, every time it nearly stopped, an old man with white hair, who had been sitting to Lu Xiaofeng’s left, flicked his finger lightly, the die would roll even faster.

    This man’s hair was completely white, his manner dignified manner; he looked just like an old pedant who intensively read books of poetry and history. All along he had been sitting formally next to Lu Xiaofeng. Among those present, he was the only one who never look at Sha Man in the eye.

    In all his life Lu Xiaofeng was most afraid of dealing with this kind of scholarly gentleman; thereupon all along he never paid him any attention either.

    Until now. When the die was about to stop, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly heard a ‘chi’, a gust of sharp breeze streaked pass his ear. Unexpectedly the wind came from the old man’s middle finger.

    His hands were thin and yellow like dried candle, he kept his fingernails more than a cun [approx. an inch] long. Presumably because they were soaked in some liquid drug, the ten fingernails were always curled in, but as soon as he flicked, the curled fingernail suddenly turned straight as a ramrod, sparkling and translucent, and spotlessly white, shiny like the blade of a knife.

    Could it be the ‘Finger Blade’, the combination of Zhang Bianyin Clan’s ‘One Yang Finger’ and Huashan’s ‘Divine Flicking Finger Skill’? It was also a long-lost martial art skill of the wulin, so much so that even Lu Xiaofeng had never seen it.

    His own ‘Lingxi Finger’ [lit. supernaturally sharp] was also a consummate skill without equal throughout the world. Suddenly he stretched out his two fingers and made a clipping motion in the air toward the die. The continuously rolling die suddenly stopped, the top surface appeared dark, it seemed to produce at least a five-dot.

    Who would have thought that in that split second, before anybody could see clearly the number of dots on the top surface, the banker suddenly puckered his lips and sucked the air? The die suddenly jumped up from the bowl.

    The white-haired old man flicked his middle finger again, ‘poof!’ the die was unexpectedly exploded; fine powder rained down, and it still fell into the bowl, but nobody could see how many points were there.

    Lu Xiaofeng has been gambling here and there, he did not even know how many times he had gambled, but it was the first time that he ever saw this kind of thing. Now how did they decide winning or losing? Could the banker be considered losing? Even he did not know how to handle this matter.

    Sha Man suddenly turned toward Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Two sixes, plus one dot, how many dots are there?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Still one dot.”

    ‘Why is it still one dot?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because whatever the last die produces, that is the one that counts.”

    “What if the last die does not have any dots?” Sha Man asked again.

    “No dots means no dots,” Lu Xiaofeng answered.

    “Which one is bigger, no dots or one dot?” Sha Man asked.

    “Naturally one dot is bigger,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Isn’t two-dot bigger than one-dot?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “Two-dot is bigger than one-dot, it is also bigger than no-dot.”

    Actually, as soon as she asked the first question, he already understood where she was going. If it were someone else who asked, he would have had at least several dozen way of coping with this problem.

    Lu Xiaofeng was resourceful, witty and full of clever tricks; a lot of people in Jianghu got a headache just by meeting him. But in front of this girl with long, cat-like pair of eyes, he was unable to come out with the least bit of trick.

    Because basically he did not want to play trick in front of her. If she wanted him to lose, then so be it. What’s the harm in him losing?

    A trifling ten thousand taels, how can it be compared to just one smile of hers?

    Sha Man did indeed smile, “Since two-dot is bigger than no-dot, you lost this ten thousand taels.”

    “I did lose,” Lu Xiaofeng admitted.

    “Are you feeling bad of losing?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Forget ten thousand taels, even a hundred thousand, eighty thousand, I won’t feel bad.”

    He was not bragging. But as soon as he said that, he realized that right now he could not afford to lose even ten or eight taels.

    Unfortunately, the banker had already swept away his banknote. Still with unchanged countenance he coldly said, “If you have money, place your bet; otherwise, go away.”

    Lu Xiaofeng had to go away.

    The little old man did not seem to pay any attention of what was going on at the gambling table on this side. He was still sitting on that side, sipping his wine quietly. His face showed contentment, as if he was happily thinking that very soon he would receive Lu Xiaofeng’s fifteen thousand taels.

    Lu Xiaofeng braced himself and came over. “What are you drinking?” he tried to strike a conversation,

    “Green Bamboo Leaf,” the little old man replied.

    “You like Green Bamboo Leaf too?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Actually, I don’t drink too often,” the little old man replied, “But now I seem to be infected by you.”

    “Good,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Let me toast you three cups.”

    “I am afraid three cups are enough to make me drunk,” the little old man said.

    “One drunkenness dissolves a thousand worries,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “There are too few opportunities in this life to get drunk. Come, drink!”

    “You are still very young,” the little old man said, “What worry do you have?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just lost someone else’s money, inevitably my heart is a bit uncomfortable.”

    The little old man chuckled and said, “It’s not someone else’s money, it’s yours.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was astonished and delighted at the same time, “Is it really mine?” he asked.

    The little old man said, “Since I already loaned it to you, naturally it is yours.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was greatly delighted, “I can’t believe that you are such a generous person.”

    The little old man laughed and said, “Actually, such generosity can’t be considered a big deal, it’s just that …” he continued very slowly, “Although the money belongs to you, but you belong to me.”

    “My surname is Lu, yours is Wu,” Lu Xiaofeng cried out, “You are not my son, and I am not your old man; how can I belong to you?”

    The little old man spoke matter-of-factly, “Because you haven’t given me fifteen thousand taels, you have no choice but to pay me with yourself; a real man gives his words, it’s like fast horse being whipped. In order for you to keep your reputation, I think you cannot not do it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck. With a bitter laugh he said, “I am a drunkard, and a lecher, and a glutton, and a gambler. I spend money like flowing water. If I belong to you, you will have to feed me.”

    The little old man said, “I can afford it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “But I still don’t understand, what do you want a big bad egg like me for?”

    The little old man laughed and said, “I have too much money, I was looking for someone to help me spending it, so that I won’t have to suffer alone.”

    “You think spending money is a suffering?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    With a grim expression the little old man said, “Why is it not a suffering? If you drink too much, the next day you’ll have a splitting headache, just like if you have a serious illness. If you gamble too much, not only it’s nerve-wrecking, as if sitting on pins and needles, when your luck is not good, you may very well be very angry that it’ll kill you. If you indulge on sensual pleasure too much …”

    He sighed, and then continued, “This kind of activity can damage your body. For old people like me, I do not dare to even mention it.”

    “Other than spending money,” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What else do you want me to do?”

    The little old man said, “You are still young, your body is strong, your martial art skill is not bad; the number of things I want you to do can be uncountable.”

    When he spoke the sentence ‘your martial art skill is not bad’, his voice seemed to carry a hint of unspeakable contempt. It does not matter whether he really had that kind of feeling or it was only in Lu Xiaofeng’s imagination; it did not mean much anyway.

    Lu Xiaofeng had made his name since he was a teenager, he was able to roam the Jianghu unhindered; although it cannot be said that he was unequalled under the heavens, he had never met anybody who can really defeat him. Just like he had never suffered any loss in gambling, if anybody told him that he was no good, of course he would ten-thousand times refuse to accept.

    But today he threw the dice twice, and suffered losses twice. If he said that it was only because other people were playing trick, then why didn’t he play trick himself?

    The moustache’s ‘Bone-transforming Cotton Palm’ and the old man’s ‘Finger Blade’ were consummate martial art skill, which were rarely seen. Finally the banker who puckered his lips and sucked a die seven chi [approx. 7 ft/2 m] away, while the other two dice next to it did not move the slightest bit. This kind of qigong [chikung] ability was even more incredible.

    This place looked like an auspicious and peaceful Garden of the Peaches of Immortality, unexpectedly it was a place of hidden dragons and crouching tigers.

    And then there was this polite and amiable little old man. He looked like a sincere and naïve man, while in fact he was able to penetrate other people’s mind in just one glance; it was indeed ‘great intelligence may appear to be stupidity’, the kind of person who ‘disguises himself as a pig to eat a tiger’. Perhaps this game of chance was a trap that he had carefully prepared beforehand and now Lu Xiaofeng had fallen into it. It was still unclear what kind of strange things he would want Lu Xiaofeng to do.

    Whatever it was, certainly it could not be a good thing.

    Lu Xiaofeng thought about it over and over; the more he thought, the more he felt uneasy. He even started to think that he should have not been here at all.

    The little old man laughed and said, “Now in your heart you must feel regret, you feel that you should not have come here; yet because you obviously cannot guess what trick we are playing, and you are unavoidably dying to find out, you will hate yourself if you just leave.”

    He hit the nail on the head, he accurately spelled out what was in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind. But Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said in a loud voice, “You’re wrong, totally wrong.”

    “What do you mean ‘wrong’?” the little old man asked.

    “What you just said is totally wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. He downed a cup of wine, and picked a piece of beef and munched happily. And then he said with a laugh, “Here we have wine and we have meat, we also have fairy-like beautiful women, plus you already prepared money for me to spend. Why would I be dissatisfied? Why would I regret it?”

    With a smile on his face the little old man looked at him and said, “Because in your heart you are still wondering, what exactly do I want you to do?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud and said, “People like me, what can’t I do? Even if you wanted me to kill, I’d kill one stab at a time, I won’t even bother to bury him.”

    “Is that right?” the little old man said.

    “Of course it’s true!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The little old man stared at him. His eyes suddenly revealed some kind of strange expression. He smiled and said, “As long as you can remember what you said today, I guarantee a life time of peace and happiness for you.”

    Although he was laughing again, the tone of his voice was very serious, as if he really wanted Lu Xiaofeng to kill for him.

    But there were hidden dragons and crouching tigers in here, martial art experts were as numerous as the clouds. That ‘Bone-transforming Cotton Palm’ and ‘Finger Blade’ were extremely insidious; to kill people, nothing could be better that these, why would he want to ‘abandon the near but seek the far’ and looked for someone else?

    Lu Xiaofeng finally decided not to think about it. He already sampled three different dishes: a plate of thin cut beef, a bowl of slow-cooked stew of beef brisket braised in soy sauce, and a dish of stir-fried tender beef in oyster sauce. Who would have thought that as his chopsticks picked another piece, the fourth dish was still beef? It was a hot and spicy orange beef.

    The soup was a whole beef brisket steamed in its own broth, the meat was braised beef tripe, tender but not soft, the cooking heat was controlled just right; and then there was moist thin-cut beef, simmered in sweet fat, mixed well with the seasoning, and stirred into the soup, sprinkled with pepper just before it was served. The soup and the meat were tender; these were seldom-seen kind of food.

    The rest of the dishes were simmer-fried ox tongue, raw-sautéed beef tripe, roast beef heart, beef meatballs, ox head stewed in red sauce, stewed ox tail, wolfberry [lycium chinense] bull’s penis, and then egg-shaped deep-fired beef brain. All were tasty dishes. It’s just that everything was beef, so that even if they were tastier, after a while it became boring.

    “Is beef here as abundant as silver?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The little old man said, “Today’s feast is entirely beef, because my daughter especially loves to eat beef.”

    Lu Xiaofeng finally remembered that the dishes today were all the food that his daughter has eaten until the first day she was able to eat by herself. At that time she was at most three or five years old, how could they prepare such a big table full of beef dishes?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. It seemed that this little old man was a monster.

    The little old man said, “Actually, she does not have any other peculiarity. It’s just that each meal she has to have beef. Even after several dozen years, she won’t get tired of eating beef. If anyone thinks that she is a monster, it would be a mistake.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him hard; he could not bear not to ask, “Whatever I am thinking, you know everything?”

    The little old man laughed and said, “This kind of ‘observing someone’s words and gestures’ skill, I do not dare to be unduly humble.”

    Lu Xiaofeng rolled his eyes. He said, “Do you know what I am thinking right now?”

    The little old man said, “Actually, you are trying to think about some bizarre thing to stump me on purpose, but in all honesty you are dying to take a look at my beef-eating daughter.”

    “Wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are not marrying your daughter to me; why would I want to see her?” While his mouth denied it, in his heart he could not help admiring him. Against his will, he asked, “The feast today is for her, why is it that all along she did not appear?”

    “Who’s ‘she’?” the little old man asked.

    “Naturally your daughter,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Since you didn’t even want to see her, why did you ask?” the little old man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was speechless.

    Although this little old man was friendly and looked honest on the outside, he was actually a wily old fox. Compared to the Old Fox, he was several hundred times more cunning.

    The little old man continued, “Too bad that even if you really don’t want to see her, sooner or later you will still see her.”

    “So I cannot not see her even if I want to?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You can’t,” the little old man replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The little old man said, “Because if you turn around right now, you will see her.”

    Lu Xiaofeng turned around, and saw Beef Soup.

    Naturally there was no beef soup on her face right now. Had it not been for Lu Xiaofeng has looked at her carefully, he could never have seen her as a miserable Beef Soup, who had been bullied around by other people.

    She has now completely changed her appearance; from a little servant girl who cooks meals for others, she was now a little princess who makes people want to cook meals for her. Not only that, she was the Princess among many princesses. Anybody who saw her would feel that if they were given the opportunity to cook for her, it would be a huge honor.

    People can change.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that a lot of people changed. Some changed from abject poverty into rich and powerful. Some changed from being a gentleman to a lowly person. Some changed from being a hero to a coward. Yet some others changed from wealth to dirt poor, from lowly person to a gentleman, from coward to a hero. But he has never seen anybody who changed so fast, so much, like her.

    Practically she seemed to completely shed her mortal body and exchange her bones.

    If not because Lu Xiaofeng had seen her up, close and personal; even parts of her body that other people were not supposed to see, he would not have believed that she was indeed the Beef Soup.

    Beef Soup stared at him coldly, as if she had never seen him before.

    “Do you know her?” the little old man asked.

    “At first I thought I knew her,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “And now?” the little old man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Now it looks like she does not know me, and I don’t know her either.”

    Beef Soup neither confirmed nor denied. She seemed to hear this exchange, yet she also seemed not to hear anything.

    The little old man no longer paid any attention to Lu Xiaofeng, he walked over and pulled her hand; his eyes were brimming with love. “I told you to go to sleep a bit early,” he said, “Why did you slip out again?”

    Beef Soup said, “I heard the maids said that just now someone is coming back; I wonder if there is any news of the Ninth (older) Brother?”

    The little old man winked. “What do you think?” he asked.

    Beef Soup’s eyes brightened immediately. “I knew it,” she said, “Ninth Brother will never forget me.”

    “I was going to tell you tomorrow,” the little old man said, “Not only Ol’ Ninth sent some news, he had his new assistant, Mu Yiban [Mu – wood, Yiban – one half], brought some gifts for you.”

    Beef Soup’s expression brightened like blooming flower, her eyes shone, as if she had just turned into somebody else. “Where’s this man Mu Yiban?” she asked, “Quickly tell him to come, bring the Ninth Brother’s gift as well.”

    The little old man smiled; he waved his hand and snapped his fingers. Immediately sixteen bare-chested, bald men, wearing only leather pants in Kunlun-slave style, crossed the nine-bend winding bridge, carrying eight huge wooden chests. In front of them was a man, with one arm, one leg, walking with the help of a steel cane. His right leg was cut at the base, his right arm was cut from the shoulder, there was a long blade scar on his face, from the right eye all the way down to his cheek. Not only his right eye was gone, even his nose was cut in half, and one of his ears was gone.

    It was unclear whether this man was originally ugly or handsome, but now he looked unspeakably mysterious and terrifying.

    But when Beef Soup saw him, she looked very happy; she said with a laugh, “Ninth Brother has told me about you, you must be Mu Yiban.”

    Mu Yiban bent his left knee in respectful salute and said, “Xiaoren [lit. little/lowly one] Mu Yiban pays his respect to the Princess.”

    Before he could kneel down, Beef Soup has already reached out to help him up. She was a lot more polite toward this ugly and strange handicapped man compared to toward Lu Xiaofeng, presumably because she was looking at her Ninth Brother’s face; ‘love the house and its crow’.

    Lu Xiaofeng watched from afar, he had a bad feeling in his heart. He saw under the sunshine her hands were spotlessly white, soft and beautiful, totally different from the greased-covered hands he had seen before. Thinking about what happened in the bathroom of the Fox Den the other day, he could not stop his heart from beating a bit faster.

    Mu Yiban had already supervised the shiny-black clothed Kunlun slaves opening five chests. The chests were full of silk and satin, rouge and face powder. When the fifth chest was opened, pearls and jewels dazzled the eyes; unexpectedly inside the chest was all kinds of emeralds, agate, gold, pearls, jewels and jade.

    Not a single one of these things was not women’s favorite, when ordinary girl saw this, perhaps she would have fainted with joy early on.

    But Beef Soup did not even cast a single glance; instead, she pouted and said, “Ninth Brother is not unaware that I do not cherish these things, so why did he deliberately order you to send them here?”

    Mu Yiban laughed and said, “Princess, look at what’s inside these three chests?”

    His laugh seemed to be very mysterious, so that even Lu Xiaofeng could not help feeling curious. What could possibly make a girl’s heart happier than pearls and jewels?

    When the three chests were opened, Lu Xiaofeng almost could not refrain from crying out.

    The chests unexpectedly contained people, one chest contained one person. Out of the three people, Lu Xiaofeng recognized two.

    The first had gray hair, with majestic appearance; although he was stuffed inside the chest for a long time, when he stood up he was still as straight as a ramrod. Unexpectedly he was the Zongbiaotou [head escort] of the Qunying [lit. crowd of heroes] Escort Agency, the ‘Iron Palm Golden Saber’ Situ Gang [see also Chapter 1]. This man’s Iron Sand Palm has been trained to near perfection. His ‘Golden-backed Mountain-splitting Saber’, with the ‘Five-Tiger Gate-breaking’ saber technique, had even less opponents in Jianghu. How could he be caught and stuffed inside a chest?

    The second person was a slim, heroic-looking man, the Taiyang acupoints on both sides of his temples were bulging out; apparently he was a prominent Wulin character expert in both internal and external martial arts.

    The one that really surprised Lu Xiaofeng was the third person.

    This man’s bare feet only wore straw sandals, his attire consisted of old, worn and greasy kasaya[1]. His round face unexpectedly was still smiling. To Lu Xiaofeng’s shock, this person was one of the ‘Four Great Monks’, in fact, he ranked the third; he was none other than the Honest Monk.

    Nobody knew for sure whether this monk’s honesty was real or fake, but everybody knew that his martial art skill was very high; this fact was definitely not a fake. If any Jianghu bandits provoked him, although he would always show a smiling face without the slightest hint of anger, this man would often go in the middle of the night and take the offender’s life.

    Therefore, the number of people in Jianghu who dared to mess with this monk have recently become less and less. Even Lu Xiaofeng would have headache every time he saw him.

    For the last half a year or so, he suddenly disappeared, nobody knew what he was doing, yet against all expectation he suddenly appeared from inside the chest. The man who could put him into the chest must have had a shockingly high-level of martial art skill. If Lu Xiaofeng did not see it with his own eyes, he would definitely not believe it.

    Honest Monk did not seem to see him, putting his palms together, he giggled while looking at Beef Soup.

    Seeing these three men, Beef Soup was extremely amused; she also laughed and said, “Strange things happen every year, but it happens especially a lot this year; how could a monk suddenly appear from inside the chest?”

    Honest monk said, “Little Miss vents off the anger from your breast, big monk is stuffed into the chest. Amituofo! Shanzai, shanzai![2]”

    Mu Yiban said, “Ninth Young Master knew that these three men have offended Princess; therefore, he ordered Xiaoren to deliver them here pronto, so that Princess can vent off your anger.”

    He kept calling Princess this and Princess that, Beef Soup unexpectedly felt no qualms in accepting the appellation, just as if she was really a Princess[3].

    Mu Yiban continued, “But I wonder how is Princess going to vent off your anger?”

    Beef Soup winked and said, “I haven’t thought about it, how about you give me an idea?”

    Mu Yiban said, “It depends on whether Princess wants to vent your anger in a big way or in a small way.”

    Beef Soup seemed to think that his idea was very amusing. “Pfft,” she broke into giggle and asked, “How do I vent in a small way?”

    Mu Yiban said, “Take off their pants and flog them heavily seventy, eighty times, and that’s it.”

    “How about big way?” Beef Soup asked.

    Mu Yiban said, “Cut their heads, dry them in the sun, and then give them to Xiaoren to accompany my wine.”

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “Good idea, really good idea. No wonder Ninth Brother likes you.”

    Mu Yiban’s ideas were indeed sinister; having their heads cut was all right, having their heads cut, dried in the sun, and eaten to down the wine was already very bad, but having their pants pulled down and spanked, it was even more difficult to bear than death.

    The tall and slim, with heroic appearance, black-clothed man’s face was already devoid of any color; the Honest Monk was still giggling without showing any care. Situ Gang was like a raging inferno, his temper was the worst; he said in stern voice, “Since we have already fallen into your hands, you want to kill, you want to cut, I won’t knit a single eyebrow; but if you deliberately humiliate me, I … even in my death I won’t let you go!”

    Situ Gang was able to move unhindered in Jianghu, he was not the kind of people who would easily give up, but his last sentence, ‘even in my death I won’t let you go’, was spoken with total despair. It was obvious that he knew that he was not Beef Soup’s match, and would rather die.

    In a very sweet voice Beef Soup said, “When you are alive you are helpless to do anything to me, when you are dead, how are you going to not letting me go? Are you telling me that you want to be a big-headed ghost and come in the middle of the night to strangle my neck?”

    Situ Gang gnashed his teeth, cold sweats dripped down his head like rain, suddenly he let out a roar and his palm smashed down heavily on his own tianling [heaven spirit] acupoint on the top of his head.

    The five fingers on his hand were of almost the same length, his fingernails were cut short, there was a faint darkness at the hollow of his palm. His Iron Sand Palm has been trained to at least 80% perfection, when this palm smashed down, although it was smashed on his own head, it was equally deadly.

    Who would have thought that Beef Soup flashed forward, like an orchid her fine, long, tender and beautiful fingers lightly brushed, Situ Gang’s arm immediately drooped down, and was unable to move at all.

    Mu Yiban immediately cheered in loud voice, “Good martial art skill!”

    Beef Soup said drily, “This is just the simplest move of the ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’, can’t be considered any good martial art skill!”

    She spoke it lightly, but Lu Xiaofeng who heard it was shocked. This ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’, although the name was beautiful, it was actually one of the most terrifying martial art skills of the Wulin world. It dislocated the tendon and separating the arteries and veins, and caused invisible injury to its victim. Situ Gang’s injury did not look serious, but actually his arm was crippled forever, once the wound flared up, the pain would be unbearable. Other than chopping off the arm from the base, there was no second way to provide relief.

    Situ Gang’s face already turned deathly grey; he shouted, “You … you won’t even let me die?”

    Although he shouted loudly, his voice was trembling; obviously in his heart he was extremely frightened.

    Beef Soup sighed; she said, “A live dog is better off than a dead lion; why do you want to die? Even if you are aware that you have offended me, you are guilty of capital crimes; you can always find someone else to die in your place.”

    Situ Gang was startled; he could not help but asked, “What do you mean die in my place?”

    Beef Soup said, “You may choose anybody in here, as long as you can win over him by one move or half a stance, I will kill him in your place.”

    Mu Yiban said, “In my opinion, among the people in here, he won’t dare to find a single one.”

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “A single person he won’t dare to find; how about half a person?”

    Mu Yiban sighed. He said, “Thinking back and forth, I think at the most he would only dare to find me, half a person.”

    Situ Gang roared, “That’s right, I definitely am looking for you.” Amidst the sound of his shout, his palm already shot out.

    Qunying Escort Agency’s prowess reached out far and wide, the Head Escort’s annual salary was fifty-thousand shi [not sure what it is], approximately the same as a one-pin rank high-ranking official of the imperial court. [See Deer and Cauldron, translated by yours truly, for more information on ‘pin’ ranks.]

    His virtuous wife was tender and sweet, just before his departure they enjoyed an evening of passion together just like newlywed. His sons and daughters were intelligent and filial, his eldest daughter was already betrothed to the eldest grandson of his maternal uncle, the great hero of the Central Plains, Xiong Tianjian. The two families were well-matched in terms of social status, the two people were matched made in heaven. As long as he could stay alive, naturally he did not want to die. Although his right arm could not move, fortunately the skill he trained could be used with just one arm. This one palm strike carried profound and ferocious force; he was indeed worthy of his title, ‘Golden Saber Hundred Victory, Iron Palm Without Rival’.

    Mu Yiban only had half a person left, slanting his body slightly, the steel cane under his ribs shot upward. Unexpectedly he was using the steel cane like a sword. The move ‘Laughing toward the Southern Sky’ was the sword technique of Hainan Pai [Sect], handed down directly from their founder.

    Hainan sword style was derived from the horizontal brush stroke in calligraphy, since he was just half a person, coincidentally he was able to execute the essence of Hainan sword style vividly and thoroughly. A series of ‘swish, swish, swish’ was heard, followed by a miserable scream. Four chi long [1 chi is approx. 1 foot/30 cm] steel cane penetrated Situ Gang’s left ribs, and came out from his right ribs. A stream of blood shot out like an arrow, painting the air around him red with his blood.

    Beef Soup clapped her hands and said with a laugh, “Good sword technique.”

    Mu Yiban laughed and said, “This is just the simplest three moves of the ‘Thirteen-Style Destroying the Heaven’, can’t be considered any good sword technique.”

    He copied Beef Soup’s tone a while ago, deliberately speaking it lightly, but Lu Xiaofeng was shocked again.

    The ‘Thirteen-Style Destroying the Heaven’ was originally Hainan Pai mountainous region’s sword technique, unfortunately it disappeared thirty years ago that even the current Sect Leader only mastered two styles. Yet this half a person conveniently executed three moves and Situ Gang met a violent death under his swordplay.

    Where did this half-person come from? Based on his martial art skill and sword technique, how come he was willing to be a slave, to be that Ninth Young Master’s attendant?

    Obviously the tall and slim, heroic-looking, black-clothed man also recognized the sword technique; he started at him in shock, his eyes were brimming with fear.

    Mu Yiban laughed and said, “With your ‘Swallow Flying across the Clouds’ and your move ‘Flying Swallow Coming Over’ Fort Master Luo ran amuck all over the world, killing countless people; I was very looking forward to meeting you. But I wonder if Fort Master Luo would also have any regard of me, a half person?”

    This man in black was unexpectedly the stronghold master of the first stronghold of the Twelve-Dock Alliance [see Chapter 1], the Black Swallow Luo Fei. This man made his name by his qinggong [lightness skill]; his move ‘Flying Swallow Coming Over’ was indeed a killer move that was rarely seen in the Wulin world.

    His eyes were looking at Mu Yiban, but his feet were stepping backward. Suddenly he turned around and flew; he pounced toward a drunk who was lying under the railings of the nine-bend winding bridge. This move was exactly his consummate skill, the ‘Flying Swallow Coming Over’; his stance was ingenious, his posture was graceful. Even if this strike missed, he would still be able to escape.

    The person under the railings was as drunk as mud, the amethyst and gold court hat on his head nearly fell off, his drool flowed down from the corner of his mouth; he looked exactly like a dead man. Obviously dealing with a dead man was a lot better than dealing with a half man. Apparently Luo Fei had already had his eyes on him early on.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. No matter what, just now this gentleman, Minister He [He Shangshu, see Chapter 4] had given him a cup of wine. If right now without any rhyme or reason he died while still dreaming in his drunkenness, Lu Xiaofeng could not bear to watch.

    He heard a miserable cry, followed by a ‘splosh!’ water splashed everywhere; someone had fallen into the pond, and disappeared under water. After a long time, a thin stream of blood appeared amidst the lotus leaves, followed by a face appeared like a petal of flower among the lotus leaves. It was none other than Luo Fei.

    Minister He turned around and went back to sleep, finally the amethyst and gold court hat on his head fell off.

    Mu Yiban immediately walked over and respectfully put the hat back on his head while saying, “Drunken Lying-down Flowing Cloud Seven-Killer Hand, authentic handed-down techniques of drinkers. Minister He has a very good martial art.”

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “Mu Yiban has a very good pair of eyes; you can even recognize the Drunken Seven-Killer Hand, which has been extinct for eighty years.”

    Honest Monk sighed and said, “Just one killer hand is enough to take people’s life, why must use seven-killer hands?”

    “Monk wants to try it?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Monk is still clear-headed, why would I want to mess with drunkards?” Honest Monk replied.

    “So who are you going to look for?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Do you want to look for me?” Mu Yiban asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Monk is at least a whole person, I must not fight half a person.”

    “I am a whole person,” Beef Soup said.

    Honest Monk said, “Monk is at least a man, I must not fight a woman.”

    “My Dad is a man,” Beef Soup said.

    Honest Monk said, “Monk is still young and vigorous, I must not fight an old man.”

    On that side, the people were still absorbed in throwing the dice; on this side two people already died, they did not even cast a single glance. It was as if this kind of matter was a common occurrence to them. It appeared that in their eyes, other people’s lives were not as important as dice.

    Beef Soup said, “What do you think of those people?”

    Honest Monk said, “To Monk, this world is an illusion [orig. ‘four elements are vanity’], I am scared of gambling demons.”

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “You pick left choose right, yet selected no one. Why don’t I select one for you?”

    “Who?” Honest Monk asked.

    Beef Soup carelessly pointed ahead, “What do you think of him?”

    Her slim, lily-white hand was pointing at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart jumped. Honest Monk turned his head around to look at him; he laughed and said, “Monk tells you the truth, if Monk wants to live, it seems like I must pick him.”

    Beef Soup laughed aloud. “Monk’s eyesight is not bad [orig. ‘not lacking’],” she said.

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately shook his head; he said in loud voice, “Lacking, lacking. He lacks by 108,000 li.” [1 li is approx. 0.5 km or 1/3 of a mile]

    “Where does he lack?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Monk and I are friends, he would never want to take my life, and I don’t want to take his life.”

    Honest Monk said, “Monk actually does not wish to take your life, it’s just that now …”

    He sighed, and then continued, “Even if other people’s life is important, it can never be more important than my own life. Even if Monk’s life is of little value, good or bad it is Monk’s own life.”

    It was indeed an honest statement. Honest Monk always made honest statements.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since to Monk this world is an illusion, if you still want to take a friend’s life, won’t it mean you are gravely mistaken, you are desperately lacking?”

    Honest Monk said, “A live dog is better off than a dead lion, a live dog can bite the dead lion; when it’s a life-and-death situation, lacking a little bit is not a big deal.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Why didn’t you go look for someone else, but you looked for me instead?”

    “Because you are lacking,” Honest Monk said.

    “Where do I lack?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Well, you don’t know ‘Thirteen-Style Destroying the Heaven’, and you don’t know ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’, won’t it mean you are desperately lacking?”

    “But I don’t want to take your life at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Honest Monk said, “You don’t want to take Monk’s life, but Monk wants to take your life, that means you are seriously lacking; you deserve to die.”

    Beef Soup coldly said, “This kind of people, one died means we have one less of them; you still haven’t made your move?”

    Honest Monk said, “Miss is right. Monk is going to make his move.”

    Unexpectedly he did make his move as soon as he said he was going to make his move. Rolling the big, raggedy sleeve of his kasaya, he shot the roll forward, a strong gust of wind assailed Lu Xiaofeng’s face.

    Turns out he was still scared of Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers; he was afraid that any part of his body would be pinched. Even if he did not die, the pinch would be unbearable. But if the sleeve of his kasaya were pinched, then it would not matter. Much less he concentrated his internal power on the tip of his sleeve that it was as sharp as a blade. The number of people in Jianghu who were able to pinch this sleeve of his was indeed not many.

    All along the little old man was watching with folded arms; suddenly he said, “Lu Xiaofeng, are you going to die in this monk’s place, or are you going to preserve your own life? You have to think about it carefully.”

    Actually, Lu Xiaofeng has been thinking about this exact same question countless times in his mind; although he could not bear to see Honest Monk die in here, but he did not wish for Honest Monk to see him die in here either.

    The little old man had just finished speaking, suddenly there was a ‘rip’, Honest Monk’s sleeve was torn, exposing an arm that was even whiter than women’s arm. Evidently the arm had not seen the sun for many years.

    Human shadows flashing here and there, as if there were countless butterfly fluttering about. In the blink of an eye Honest Monk’s raggedy kasaya was torn to shreds.

    Lu Xiaofeng loudly said, “If Monk does not stop, I am afraid little monk will soon show itself.”

    It was really a vulgar language, but if he wanted Honest Monk to stop, Lu Xiaofeng had to say something that Honest Monk would find it difficult to bear.

    Who would have thought that Honest Monk did not give a damn; his mouth muttered, “Little monk shows itself is always better than the big monk being stiff dead.”

    He had not even finished speaking, his feet suddenly tripped on Situ Gang’s body, he almost stumbled.

    This was exactly a very good opportunity for Lu Xiaofeng, but Lu Xiaofeng was still considering whether he should seize the chance to make his move.

    Honest Monk, however, did not need to consider; taking the opportunity while he was tripping, suddenly he grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s waist and brought him down to the ground, rolled over, and pinned Lu Xiaofeng’s body down.

    Beef Soup clapped her hands and said with a laugh, “I didn’t know Monk knew Mongolian wrestling.”

    “This is not Mongolian wrestling,” Honest Monk replied, “This is Fusang Islands’ Judo. Other than the Monk, really not many people knew this technique. Perhaps Lu Xiaofeng himself has never seen it, and that’s why Monk was able to control him.”

    It was also an honest statement, Lu Xiaofeng was really under his control that he was unable to move at all. But the little old man said, “This is not an honest word.”

    “Honest Monk had never said any dishonest words.”

    The little old man said, “Even if he had never seen this kind of technique, you would not have been able to control him; if not for the fact that he could not bear to kill you, I am afraid right now Honest Monk could not even speak honest words.”

    Honest Monk thought for a while, and then said, “Even if he was really yielding to the Monk, Monk can always pretend not to know.”

    The little old man sighed and said, “That’s an honest statement.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was lying face down on the ground, with Honest Monk’s knee on the small of his back, his arm was also twisted behind his back; thinking about he had just missed a golden opportunity, and now he had to listen to this kind of honest words, he almost died of anger.

    He was so angry that now he did not even know how to die.

    On that side the gambling was finally over. He seemed to hear someone asking, “I lost seventy thousand taels; how about you?”

    “I am a lot worse than you are.”

    Since there were people who lost that much, naturally there were also people who returned from a rewarding journey. Too bad he was not one of those people.

    Not only his own self had been lost early on, now he seemed to have lost even his own life!

    [1] Kasaya, a patchwork outer vestment worn by Buddhist monks.

    [2] I don’t know how to translate this, but I believe it is better stay un-translated. Amituofo – calling the name of Buddha. Shanzai – peace, good, excellent.

    [3] A bit of explanation here: the word ‘Princess’ [公主] is usually reserved for princess of royal blood.

  13. #73
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 – Wooden Men Formation

    Those several people walked over to this side, only one person’s footsteps sounded heavier than the rest, presumably he was loaded with the gold, pearl and jewels, and banknotes.

    Lu Xiaofeng was dying to see who this person was, but he could not even lift his head; he only heard Beef Soup said, “They are coming only to see Ninth Brother’s new attendant, his name is Mu Yiban, he seems to be a disciple of Hainan’s Lone Wlid Goose. Ninth brother sent him here especially to deliver quite a lot of gifts for me.”

    Her voice was brimming with delight. Immediately someone asked, “Where have Ol’ Ninth been these days? When is he coming back? Has he been well recently? Did he get drunk?”

    Immediately Mu Yiban answered all those questions respectfully, one by one; but as for this Ninth Master’s whereabouts, even he himself was unclear.

    Hearing that the Ninth Master’s return was uncertain, everyone seemed to be very disappointed; hearing that he was well, everyone seemed to be very happy.

    Toward this wanderer, who was far away at the end of the world, whose whereabouts was unclear, everyone seemed to show unspeakable concern; but toward the man who had just gambled with them, who right now was lying on the ground in front of them, nobody even cared to ask. Whether Lu Xiaofeng was alive or dead, they did not care at all.

    Even Sha Man did not cast him a single glance. Beef Soup was asking her, “What did Ninth Brother get you this time?”

    Sha Man replied indifferently, “He knew that I have never had any interest in these mere worldly possessions, why bother?”

    “You don’t have any interest in his worldly possessions?” Beef Soup asked, “You only have interest in him, don’t you?”

    Unexpectedly Sha Man did not deny.

    With a cold laugh Beef Soup said, “Too bad he will never give himself to you.”

    The exchange between these two women seemed to be thick with vinegar [i.e. jealousy]. The more Lu Xiaofeng listened to them, the worse he felt. All along he was always the darling of the Jianghu, those who knew him were very proud of themselves, wherever he went, he was always well-received. The Master of Crouching Cloud Building’s collection of aged famous wine, only he could get access to it. Even reclusive and haughty Kugua Dashi [Great Master (usually Buddhist) Bitter Melon], when he knew of his arrival, would personally go to the kitchen to cook some vegetarian dishes just for him. When girls saw him, they were simply unable to resist; even iceberg would melt.

    But here, he seemed to suddenly turn into a worthless person, a nobody who was not even worthy to wipe that Ninth Master’s shoes.

    When one lived to such an extent, he might as well die; but Honest Monk definitely was not going to make his move.

    It also seemed like Beef Soup was unwilling to continue talking to Sha Man; she turned around and glowered at Honest Monk. “You haven’t made your move?” she said.

    “Make what move?” Honest Monk asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Make you move to kill.”

    “You all really want to kill him?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Of course we do,” Beef Soup replied.

    “Alright,” Honest Monk said, “Just find any person to kill him. As long as Monk won by one move or half a stance, it’s enough; Monk won’t kill people.”

    He clapped his hands, stood up, and left. In the blink of an eye he crossed the nine-bend winding bridge; unexpectedly, no one stopped him. It seems that although the people in this place were secretive, they were warriors who kept their words.

    With a cold laugh Beef Soup said, “Finding someone who’d kill is not easy. Whoever willing to kill him, I’ll give you ten thousand taels.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was lying on the ground, he did not seem to have any inclination of standing up. Killing this kind of man did not seem to be difficult at all, yet Beef Soup offered ten thousand taels, not because her money came too easily to her, but because to have someone killed in this place one must pay that price.

    Someone casually offered ten thousand taels to kill him, Lu Xiaofeng originally thought that there would be a lot of people who would scramble to do it.

    Who would have thought that nobody even showed any reaction?

    Sha Man coldly said, “You want to kill people, why don’t you do it yourself? Could it be that you have never killed anybody?”

    Beef Soup ignored her; staring at the Kunlun slaves who brought the chests over, she said, “You worked hard for several days carrying these chests around, at most you only earned about a hundred or so; killing someone you’ll earn ten thousand taels. This kind of good business, you don’t want to do it?”

    Each and every one of the Kunlun slaves was just standing silently like wooden statue; turned out they did not even understand what she was speaking about.

    Beef Soup said, “Mu Yiban, how about you?”

    Mu Yiban sighed and said, “Actually, I wanted to earn this ten-thousand taels, it’s just a pity that Ninth Master instructed me that every day I can only kill one person at most. I do not dare to disobey Ninth Master’s order.”

    Clearly Beef Soup did not dare to disobey Ninth Master’s order either. She said coldly, “I know all of you don’t like it that my offer is too little. Alright, fifty thousand taels, paid in advance.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up. “I’ll do it,” he said.

    “You’ll do what?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Anybody who’d kill me, you agree to pay him fifty thousand taels, right?”

    “That’s right,” Beef Soup replied.

    “I want to earn this fifty thousand taels,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You want to kill yourself?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Killing oneself is not a difficult matter,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But fifty thousand taels is not a small amount.”

    “After you die, what do you want the money for?” Beef Soup asked.

    “To settle the debt,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He sighed and said, “Right now I owe too much debt, if I don’t pay in full, even becoming ghost I won’t be at ease.”

    Beef Soup looked at him with cold eyes; suddenly she said coldly, “Very well, I’ll let you have the fifty thousand taels.”

    From her bosom she casually took out a stack of banknotes, the smallest denomination was at least five thousand taels.

    Lu Xiaofeng picked several sheets, the total was exactly fifty thousand taels. He gave the little old man one and said, “Here’s fifteen thousand taels; ten thousand to pay your money back, five thousand is the interest.”

    The little old man beamed from ear to ear, “The interest is indeed not small,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “That’s why you ought to give me loans a bit more often. I am the kind of guy who is always generous.”

    The little old man sighed and said, “You are indeed generous, extremely generous.”

    Lu Xiaofeng turned to Sha Man and said, “Here is five thousand and five hundred taels; five hundred taels to redeem the knife, five thousand taels is the interest!”

    “Five-hundred-tael yields five-thousand-tael interest?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Five hundred taels loss is no different than ten thousand taels loss anyway, it’s only natural that the interest is the same!”

    Sha Man stared at him. There was a hint of smile in her cold and detached eyes. “Now I know why you are this poor,” she said, “If that’s the way you spend money, how could you not being poor?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “The money came easy anyway. Now I know that to make money, perhaps nothing in the world is easier than killing people.”

    Sha Man’s face became cold again, cold and completely emotionless. Taking out his chamber pot knife, she said, “Are you going to kill yourself with this?”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately shook his head, “It won’t do,” he said, “This knife has a bit of smelly aura around it.”

    Looking at the banknotes in his hand, he muttered to himself, “After paying back twenty thousand five hundred taels, I still have twenty-nine thousand five hundred taels. Money has not been spent, won’t I die in vain?”

    “Then quickly spend it all,” Beef Soup said.

    Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, and then he went to the little old man and said, “Didn’t you say that there’s the best wine in the world in this place, but the price is very high?”

    “I did,” the little old man replied, “But I also said that today you are my guest; all drinks are free.”

    With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Your daughter paid people to kill me, you expect me to drink your wine? Come, take these nine thousand five hundred taels, I want the best wine. I want all the wine this money can buy.”

    The moustache suddenly laughed and said, “You just spent another nine thousand five hundred taels; seems like you still have twenty thousand taels left?”

    “How much did you lose just now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The moustache said, “I am the big winner.”

    “How about we have another round?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “You might as well eat ‘em all and be delighted.”

    The moustache laughed aloud and said, “Alright, I like a delightful man like you.”

    Beef Soup coldly said, “Not only he is delightful, very soon he will be painful[1]. Whether he swipe his neck or cut his head, it will be very painful.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I know a kind of death that is not painful at all.”

    “What kind of death?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Death by losing [in gambling],” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The dice were back in the bowl, the wine has also been delivered. Ten full jars of wine, there was Nu’erhong [blushing young maiden], there was also Zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaf].

    Nine thousand five hundred taels for ten jars of wine, the price was rather too expensive, but Lu Xiaofeng did not care. He opened a jar of Green Bamboo Leaf and poured almost half a jar into his mouth. “Good wine,’ he loudly exclaimed.

    The moustache laughed and said, “You drink like cattle, but still able to tell whether the wine is good or bad; that is indeed not easy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, I can’t necessarily tell, it’s just that expensive wine is always good. And good wine, no matter how much you drink, the next day your head won’t be aching.”

    Beef Soup coldly said, “If the head is already fallen, you won’t care whether it is aching or not.”

    Lu Xiaofeng ignored her. Picking up the dice, he tapped the edge of the bowl and said, “How much do you want to bet?”

    “How about ten thousand taels?” the moustache said.

    “Ten thousand is too little,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “It would be best if we bet twenty thousand. With one throw we decide the winner and loser.”

    “Alright, that will be delightful,” the moustache said.

    He had not even taken the banknote out, Lu Xiaofeng had already tossed the dice into the bowl. They rolled only twice and stopped immediately. All three dice showed six dots, the banker eat ‘em all, there was not even a chance to catch up.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud and said, “When someone is going to die soon, a change of fortune always comes.”

    The moustache still had the banknote in his hand, “But I haven’t put down my bet,” he cried out.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “That’s alright, I trust you. Besides, I am going to die soon, I am sure you won’t renege a debt to a dead person.”

    Although the moustache did not agree ten thousand times, his mouth did not utter a single word.

    Lu Xiaofeng took his banknote and asked, “You still want to bet?”

    The moustache replied, “Naturally I still want to bet, but this time let me be the banker.”

    “Alright,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “We can always take turn in being the banker. As long as you can throw three sixes, you can eat ‘em all, no need to be polite.”

    He even put down the twenty thousand taels he had just won and said with a laugh, “You won’t be able to throw three sixes anyway.”

    The moustache’s eyes brightened. He grabbed the dice, but turned his head around to the white-haired old pedant, who had been standing by his side all along, “Do you think I can throw three sixes this time?”

    The white-haired old man smiled and said, “I think you ought to be able to. If you could not, now that would be strange.”

    The moustache’s spirit was trembling with excitement; with a loud shout the dice were thrown into the bowl. Very soon you can tell that there were six dots showing at the top. Who would have thought that one die suddenly jumped, flipped in the air, bounced several chi more, and then when it fell, it turned into a pile of dust.

    The other two dice in the bowl had stopped; it was two sixes.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked Sha Man, “Two sixes, plus one dot, how many dots are there?”

    Sha Man said, “Still one dot, because whatever the last die produces, that is the one that counts.”

    “The last die, what if it does not have any dots?” Lu Xiaofeng asked again.

    “No dots means no dots,” Sha Man answered.

    “Which one is bigger, no dots or one dot?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Naturally one dot is bigger,” Sha Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since one dot is even bigger than no dot at all, and the banker does not have any dots, what’s to be done?”

    Sha Man said, “The banker pay ‘em all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud and said, “Thirty years reversal of wheel of fortune; I couldn’t believe this time you threw a no-dot.”

    The moustache did not utter a single word, immediately he paid Lu Xiaofeng’s forty thousand taels. He pushed the bowl to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “This time it’s your turn to be the banker. I just hope you won’t throw a no-dot.”

    Although his mouth was saying that, in his heart he said, “It would be strange if this time you did not throw a no-dot.”

    Naturally other people’s thoughts were the same as his. Even if Lu Xiaofeng was using three metal dice, if they wanted to pinch one, it would be as easy as pinching an ant.

    Trickery and fraud in gambling was originally a sneaky thing, a shameful matter; however, now it seemed to be a just and honorable matter.

    The snow-white-haired old pedant scrambled forward to put down thirty-thousand-tael bet; he said, “Too bad the banker’s capital is only eighty thousand.”

    The moustache said, “I am the loser here, he has to pay me in full first, and then you all can have your share.”

    He already took out all banknotes from his pocket. One person’s bet was already more than eighty thousand taels. This time, only if he neither win nor lose other people would have any share. However, everybody seemed to believe that Lu Xiaofeng would definitely lose.

    The old pedant sighed and said, “It seems that this time we can only drink the soup.”

    When the banker failed to compensate for his loss, the winner was said to be ‘drinking the soup’. In the gamblers’ eyes, apparently there is nothing more terrible than ‘drinking the soup’.

    He was just thinking to taking his thirty thousand taels back when suddenly someone said, “This time I’ll help the banker. Just put down whatever you want to bet. Pay ‘em all or eat ‘em all.”

    Unexpectedly the speaker was the little old man. He had a stack of banknotes in his hand. ‘Slap!’ he tossed it in front of Lu Xiaofeng, saying, “Here I have one million three hundred and fifty taels. Just consider it my loan to you. If it is not enough, just ask; you’ll get whatever amount you want.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was both surprised and delighted at the same time. “Since when did you become so generous?” he asked.

    The little old man laughed and said, “Not only you are a trustworthy debtor, the interest you pay is also high. If I don’t lend money to you, whom should I lend it to?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “This time, if I lose, and then I die, where are you going to collect the debt?”

    The little old man said, “No matter what kind of business you are doing, you must be willing to take some risk!”

    Beef Soup said, “This time the risk is a bit too much. I am afraid you would lose your life savings.”

    The little old man said drily, “My money has long ago become moldy; even if I lose my life savings, it’s not a big deal.”

    His gambling capital suddenly increased by one million three hundred and fifty taels, not only Lu Xiaofeng’s spirit received a big boost, other people were also beaming with joy; it was as if they already had the banknotes in their money purse. Seven, eight hands were outstretched at once, gold, jewels and banknotes immediately filled the table, the total amount was at least a million taels.

    On the side stood a carton box where dozens of brand new dice were stacked neatly inside.

    Lu Xiaofeng grabbed three dice. He was about to throw, suddenly he shook his head and mumbled, “The dice in this place is a bit possessed; just like fleas, for no rhyme or reason they like to jump, even bigger dots cannot stop it from jumping. I have to think of a better idea.”

    Suddenly he picked up a golden cup from behind, and drank the wine inside the cup in one gulp. While his right hand threw the dice, his left hand immediately dropped the golden cup down. They heard the tinkling of the rolling dice underneath the golden cup. “I want to see if this time you can jump or not,” he said.

    The old pedant and the moustache ‘you look at me, I look at you’, neither one guarded against Lu Xiaofeng’s move. When the golden cup was raised, the three dice had stopped. Sure enough, it was three sixes.

    Lu Xiaofeng roared in laughter, “Three by six, eighteen dots. Eat ‘em all!”

    As soon as he finished speaking those eight words, he swept the gold, jewels and banknotes from the table.

    The moustache sighed. He said with a bitter laugh, “This time you really eat ‘em all, you even cleaned up all my capital and profit.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “As long as we can still gamble, you can’t be considered losing. Come again.”

    The moustache sighed and said, “Today we don’t have any gambling capital anymore, how can we gamble?”

    He looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of his eye, his sigh was also particularly heavy; although he did not say it, his meaning was very clear.

    Such a generous person like Lu Xiaofeng, in this kind of situation, he ought to take his winning and lend everybody a little bit, so that they all could continue gambling.

    Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be completely oblivious? As soon as he finished sweeping everything from the table, he stood up and said with a laugh, “Today we can’t gamble, there’s still tomorrow. As long as I am not dead, you will always have the opportunity to recover your capital.”

    The moustache said, “And if you die?”

    Lu Xiaofeng also sighed and said, “If I die, I am afraid all these banknotes will follow me into the coffin.”

    He took out one million four hundred taels and handed it over to the little old man. Counting the remainder, he still had more than nine hundred thousand taels.

    The little old man was beaming from ear to ear. “In just a short while I made fifty thousand taels profit. We can do this kind of business again next time.”

    Lu Xiaofeng counted the rest of the banknotes again. Suddenly he asked, “If you have nine hundred thirty thousand taels, would you be willing to kill people for fifty thousand taels?”

    The little old man replied, “It depends on whom you are going to kill.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you have to kill yourself?”

    The little old man replied, “That kind of matter, no one would be willing to do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, I also am not willing to do!”

    He had already had a piece of banknote worth fifty thousand taels in his hand, which he handed to Beef Soup and said, “You’d better find somebody better qualified than me!”

    Before he even finished speaking, his body had already at the head of the bridge; laughing heartily he said, “Whether you want my money, or you want my life, you can always find me any time; I cannot escape anyway.”

    By the time he finished speaking, he had already entered the cluster of flowers, and was out of sight.

    Everybody watched him shaking his sleeve and leaving helplessly, surprisingly no one tried to stop him.

    The setting sun filled the sky, all kinds of flowers showed their brilliance. Lu Xiaofeng was very happy. Today he finally returned from a rewarding journey after all.

    Would other people still be able to find him later? Would he be able to escape? These were questions for later. Just like when eating flat bread there is a good chance of choking to death later, who would want to worry about this matter too much now?

    He had observed the surrounding and made sure of the way out, but after going around the clusters of flowers seven, eight times, making about ten circles, he still could not find the path among the clusters of flowers from which he came. Looking up, he saw the twilight was turning deeper into the night, the setting sun has long ago disappeared behind the western hills, the valley turned into a piece of darkness; he could not even see the nine-bend winding bridge anymore.

    He stopped, calmed his nerves, and tried to find his bearings. After walking for another hour, he was still among the clusters of flowers. Jumping on top of a cluster of flowers and looking around, he saw that outside this cluster of flowers there were still flowers. Other than flowers, he could see nothing else. Even the shadow of the flowers gradually was beginning to blur.

    Surprisingly, not a single lantern light was seen in the valley, the moon and the stars did not give their light either. The flowers were fragrant, but after a while, the sweet fragrance even made his head a little dizzy. Were the people in this place never lighted any lantern at night?

    If he forced his way through the clusters of flowers, wouldn’t it be like a blind man riding a blind horse, without knowing when they would suddenly fall into a trap, and then their death would be for nothing.

    Anybody could see that this place was not the kind of place where people could come and go as they please. When he wanted to go, others let him go, perhaps it was simply because other people had already known that he would not be able to leave.

    The people in this place, other than that little old man, each and every one of them was Wulin experts with consummate martial art skills, yet they obviously had never exposed their faces in Jianghu. Even if they walked among the people of Jianghu, no one could see their martial art clearly.

    Lu Xiaofeng had always had good eyesight, but when he met Beef Soup this time, his eyes failed to see.

    That one-eyed old fisherman and the horse-faced man, there was a very good chance that they died under Beef Soup’s hands!

    After the horse-face died in the sea, when Lu Xiaofeng was taking a bath, didn’t Beef Soup also take a bath at the same time?

    The Old Fox’s ship could set sail any minute, even if the passengers had spare time to slip out of the ship, they could not possibly spend that time to take a bath, otherwise she happened to just kill someone in the sea.

    When the one-eyed old fisherman died, it was also Beef Soup who happened to have the opportunity to kill him.

    Although now Lu Xiaofeng finally was able to understand a lot of things, there were still many more things that he did not understand.

    Why did she kill those two men? Why did those two men plot against Yue Yang? What was the relationship between Yue Yang and her? How did they know the Old Fox’s ship was going to capsize?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He suddenly felt that the pickled radish in the firewood storeroom at the back of Wudang Mountain smelled a bit better than the flowers in this place.

    In his heart he already started to have slight regret; perhaps he really should have heeded Yue Yang’s warning not to get on board the Old Fox’s ship, then perhaps by this time he was already on the Fusang Islands, embracing the tender and obedient girls, while drinking top quality sake.

    He heard that the ‘laurel crown’ and ‘great name’, these two types of wine, were really not bad, just like the girls over there, whose mouths were pleasantly sweet, yet the strength of whose backs was more than enough.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help heaving a deep sigh. He was thinking of finding a nice place to sleep among the clusters of flowers before doing anything else when suddenly he saw a bright lantern ahead.

    In the endless darkness suddenly there was a bright lantern light, it was indeed a lot warmer to his heart compared to the sixes on the dice. Like a moth drawn to light Lu Xiaofeng immediately went toward the lantern light. Even if he would be burned to death by the lantern’s flame, he did not care.

    At least dying in the light was a lot better than forever living in the darkness.

    The lantern light came from an ornately decorated window!

    If there is a window, naturally there is also a house.

    It was a ‘three-brightness two-darkness’ ornamented pavilion [not sure what it is, 三明两暗], with vermillion railings and winding corridor, the construction was extremely magnificent and exquisite.

    There was a window at an oblique angle from where he stood, looking from a distance, he could see that there were nine people inside; one was sitting, the other eight were standing.

    The sitting man had white face and small beard, wearing brocade gown and pearl-studded hat, he was looking at a scroll under the lantern light.

    The eight standing men carried respectful and solemn bearing, they were standing quietly, obviously they were the sitting man’s attendants.

    These nine men were not among those in the water pavilion earlier. Looking at their attire and manner, apparently they were a lot more noble than those people. But Lu Xiaofeng was not able to figure out their background, hence it was only natural that he did not dare to rush in recklessly.

    There was a pond in the courtyard, the water was so clear that he could see the bottom. The lantern light shone outside, reflected by the rippling water. There seemed to be someone lying down motionless at the bottom of the pond.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help walking over to take a closer look. There was indeed someone under water, only the white of his eyes was visible, looking straight up.

    Other than dead fish, no one would look at people like that!

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, but relieved at the same time. This man was a dead man!

    “Who is he? How did he die in here?”

    Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, he suddenly felt something was amiss. A dead man would definitely float up, how could he stay sunk underwater?

    Apparently the number of strange things in this place was indeed not small.

    “I don’t care whether he is dead or alive, he has nothing to do with me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng decided not to concern himself with this matter. While he was about to leave, suddenly he heard a splash, something was flying over from a distance and fell into the pond. Unexpectedly it was a black cat.

    As soon as the splash arose, the man at the bottom of the pond suddenly swam up like a fish. Unexpectedly there was a thin blade in his hand; without speaking without noise he paddled up the water. The blade flashed, it entered the black cat’s underbelly.

    Before the cat could even cry out ‘Meow!’ it already lost its life. The man dived back into the bottom of the pond, lying down motionless; he appeared to be like a dead man again!

    Although killing the cat could not be considered too extraordinary, but this man’s movement was indeed too fast. Not only that, the way he moved was too strange, too mysterious. Watching him, Lu Xiaofeng could not help but was shocked and shivered with cold sweats.

    Once again the pair of dead-fish like eyes stared at him, as if considering him another black cat.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly turned around and charged into the room through the window.

    No matter what, a man sitting under the lantern looking at a scroll must be a bit more agreeable than a man lying in wait to kill a cat at the bottom of the pond.

    The lantern was not too bright, this man was still sitting on the same place with the same concentration looking at the same scroll!

    Actually, Lu Xiaofeng had been wanting to see what kind of painting was on that scroll; something that could make a man focused his attention on it for so long must be worth seeing.

    He had already aimed for a position; as soon as he entered through the window, he would made somersault in the air, and landed exactly in front of the table opposite to the man.

    He had also prepared some pleasant words of politeness to start a conversation, hoping to make this man happy, so that not only the man would not drive him away, he might also take out some good wine to entertain him.

    Who would have known that he did not have any chance to speak even one word? He did not even have a chance to open his mouth, because in the split second when his body landed, the eight standing man immediately pounced on him together.

    Eight men. Although their movement was not particularly swift, but the coordination among them was like seamless net of heavens, not one drop of water can leak out.

    These eight men used their fists, their legs, their palms, their arms, from four sides eight directions attacked together. In the blink of an eye Lu Xiaofeng was surrounded in the middle. Eight attacks with eight different moves, each move was a killer strike.

    Lu Xiaofeng dodged six strikes, then a fist and a palm; he was thinking to explain, to ask them to stop, but as he was parrying someone’s palm strike, he discovered that any explanation would be completely useless, because these eight men would definitely not hear anything he said!

    To his astonishment, these eight men were wooden men.

    There were many kinds of wooden men, some wooden men were even more frightening than real men. Although Lu Xiaofeng had never fought at the Shaolin Temple’s Wooden Men Alley, he had seen the wounded and crippled Shaolin disciples that have been through the Wooden Men Alley; many of those disciples’ martial art skill were not bad at all.

    He had been wondering all along, how could real people be injured under the wooden men’s hands? If not for Reverend Iron Shoulder [see Chapter 1] urged him over and over not to do it, he would have gone to Shaolin Temple to have firsthand experience of how formidable those wooden men were.

    Now he finally experienced it.

    These eight men, no doubt they were designed based on the Wooden Men Alley principle, which was more complicated, as well as more powerful, than the wooden ox and wooden horse used by Zhuge (Liang) during the military expedition against the barbarians. Not only these wooden men had copper arms and iron bones, their moves and strength were profound. Furthermore, once the mechanism was activated, unexpectedly they unleashed Shaolin’s divine fist according to the Luohan Formation principle.

    The Luohan Formation was actually Shaolin’s consummate skill. In the past Devil Cult’s Xueshen Zi went up Mount Song alone, consecutively defeated seven Shaolin’s senior monks, but he was trapped in the middle of the Luohan Formation. He fought fiercely for three days and nights but failed to make any breakthrough, in the end his body was weary, his strength gone, and so he died of exhaustion.

    Since then, Luohan Formation’s fighting prowess was well-known throughout the world, and no Jianghu people dared to carelessly oppose Shaolin.

    When the same formation principle was applied to the wooden men, its power was even greater, because wooden men cannot be struck dead; even if you break one of its arms, or twist one of its legs, it won’t fall down, and the formation won’t be adversely affected either.

    But if its punch landed on you, you would definitely be unable to bear it; therefore, it was able to launch attack completely without any apprehension. You will find it difficult to dodge, and you can’t fight brute force against brute force either. If you want to break out of their encirclement, it would be as difficult as ascending the heavens.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that he could only take a beating until he was dead.

    You hit it, it won’t feel any pain, but if it hits you, you will feel unbearable pain. You cannot strike it dead, but it can strike you dead.

    This kind of fighting was indeed not a good business deal, just like a bandit filing a lawsuit against the victim; you can only lose and cannot win at all.

    Besides, even if he won, it could not be considered a spectacular victory. Even if he managed to break the eight wooden men to pieces, chop and turn them into firewood, it did not mean anything. This kind of stupid business, Lu Xiaofeng had never wanted to do; too bad that right now, even if he did not want to fight, he still had to fight.

    The wooden men’s punches created whooshing gust of wind, the flame of the lantern on the table was flickering erratically, it could go out at any time. Fighting desperately with the wooden men in the dark was an even more stupid thing.

    The brocade-gowned, white-faced scholar with pearl-inlaid hat did not stop rolling his eyes, as if he could not help laughing at this situation.

    This man was also a wooden man. But how could a wooden man’s eyes rolled around? Moreover, it seemed to follow its eight attendants’ punches and kicks. Could it be that it also understood Shaolin’s fighting technique?

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned; he was lost in thought, without realizing it, his eyes were also rolling around, following the wooden man’s eyes. Suddenly, ‘bang!’ his head received a punch; even his brains were nearly knocked out.

    Although his brains were not knocked out, he suddenly had a brainwave.

    When the fist landed on his head, the wooden scholar’s eyes unexpectedly stopped; when the fist started to move again, its eyes also followed.

    Between the eight wooden men’s fists and eyes there seemed to be an invisible string.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly made his move, using his two fingers he pinched and broke two sections of wooden fingers. ‘Zip!’ the two sections of wooden fingers shot out from his fingers, ‘pop, pop!’ they hit the wooden scholar’s pair of eyes.

    Naturally wooden men cannot cry out in pain, it was still sitting there nicely, it did not even make the slightest move, but all eight wooden men suddenly fell down.

    Lu Xiaofeng flew out the window. Eight wooden men came crashing down, but he did not even turn his head to look back.

    He did not have any wish to see his own glorious victory. Even if he knocked down eight thousand or eighty thousand wooden men, there was not the least bit of glory in it. As long as he was able to escape unscathed from this room, he felt he was extremely lucky already.

    In the battle this time, he was lucky not to lose anything, although he ended up with several other things:

    Several bruises on his shoulders and back, and several bumps on his head.

    Other than that, this matter had given him a very good lesson:

    In the split second when he was flying out of the window, he swore to himself several hundred times: when he had no choice but to fight in the future, he would at least see first what kind of person he was dealing with. If it was a living person, he would at least shout his greeting; but if it was a wooden man, he would immediately run far away into a desolate place.

    While he was still thinking about this first lesson, the second lesson has arrived.

    He suddenly discovered that his feet were at the lotus pond.

    While it’s true that being beaten by wooden men till he got bloody nose and swollen face was unpleasant, but being stabbed in the chest by a man like he was stabbing a cat, wouldn’t it mean that he died in vain?

    He had not looked down yet, but he sense that those dead fish-like eyes were staring at him.

    And then there was that thinner-than-paper fast blade.

    When one was already falling down, it did not matter whether it was his body that was falling down, or it was his spirit that was falling down, it would be very difficult to pull himself up.

    Right now he was already out of breath, by the time he took a breath, he would have been fallen into the pond.

    In the split second when he was taking a breath, the blade would have pierced his lung.

    By the time the blade was pulled out, he would have been floating up like the dead cat, or like the one-eyed old fisherman or the horse-faced man. There would have not been any bloodstain on his entire body, other people would have thought that he was drunk and fell into the pond and drowned to his death.

    Although this kind of death was quick, as well as painless, his death would still be very much in vain.

    Who would have thought that before he fell into the water, someone had already come out of the water? Cold light flashed in his hand, it was a short blade; a short blade that was as thin as paper.

    Not only was this person able to move fast and vicious, he was able to lay down motionless under water with eyes open as he stared at people. His water skill was, no doubt, very good.

    If it were on dry ground, Lu Xiaofeng might still be able to deal with his blade; but under water, Lu Xiaofeng was completely helpless.

    Unfortunately, he moved a bit too fast this time.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng had no way of leaping up, but if he wanted to sink a bit quicker, to sink a bit deeper, it was not too hard to do. With a loud ‘splash!’ he fell into the pond, and sank straight to the bottom. With the ‘flipping carp’ move, he wrapped his arms around the man’s legs as hard as he could.

    To his surprise, the man did not struggle at all, the blade did not turn around and stab down.

    Although under water Lu Xiaofeng’s movement slowed down a bit, but it could not be considered too slow. In this split second, he had already pinched the vital acupoints on this man’s legs, and dragged him back into the water.

    Light from above faintly penetrated the surface of the water, this man’s distorted face twitched, his eyes bulged out, unexpectedly he had been strangled to death by someone else.

    A moment ago Lu Xiaofeng thought that he was dead, but he was actually alive. Now Lu Xiaofeng thought that he was alive, but he was actually dead.

    He spent this much effort, unexpectedly the one he was dealing with was a dead man. This really made him not know whether he should laugh or cry.

    Luckily there was no other people in the pond to witness this. He quickly released the man’s legs and splashed his head out of the water. Immediately he heard someone clapping and laughing heartily. “Good skill; even a dead man is drowned by you. My utmost admiration.”

    Someone was sitting by the pond, his head shiny, his feet bare; unexpectedly he was the Honest Monk.

    There were still drops of water on his bald head, his tattered monk’s clothes were still dripping wet; obviously he was just out of the water as well.

    Lu Xiaofeng glowered at him. “Turns out Monk can also kill,” he said.

    Honest Monk laughed and said, “Monk does not kill, it’s just that he mistook him for a fish, therefore, he killed him by mistake.”

    “And it was also an honest statement?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk sighed and said, “Looks like it was not.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. He jumped out of the pond and sat down next to him. “Why hasn’t Monk left yet?” he asked.

    “Why haven’t you left?” Honest Monk asked.

    “I cannot find my way out,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Honest Monk sighed and said, “If even you cannot find your way out, what hope does Monk have?”

    “Why did Monk come here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “If Monk does not enter hell, who would enter hell?”

    “So you knew this place is hell?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What are you doing in hell? What kind of man is that Ninth Master? How could he put you inside the chest?”

    Honest Monk did not say anything.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Since you knew, why didn’t you say anything?”

    Honest Monk shook his head. “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed,” he mumbled, “Buddha said: must not speak, must not speak.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was anxious. He suddenly sprang up, reached out, and pinched Honest Monk’s nose. “You really won’t speak?” he asked.

    Because his nose was pinched, Honest Monk was unable to shake his head, he was unable to speak either; he could only pointing toward his own nose and breathed deeply.

    With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are greedy for life, afraid of death; you sell you your friend; you have done things that indicated that you don’t need your nose. I might as well pinch your nose off and be done with it.”

    Although his mouth was speaking harshly, his hand was getting a bit lighter. Finally Honest Monk was able to gasp; with a bitter laugh he said, “Although Monk is afraid of death, selling out friends is something that I do not dare to do.”

    “Why did you want me to die in your place?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I knew you will definitely not die,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Why is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk answered, “I could clearly see that the Big Boss has a mind to take you as his son-in-law.”

    “Who’s the Big Boss?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Look over there; if that is not the Big Boss, then who is he?”

    He casually pointed forward. Lu Xiaofeng could not help following his finger; but like an arrow his body suddenly shot backward. He made a somersault in the air and ran into the darkness.

    Honest Monk’s qinggong could be reckoned to be the first or second best in Jianghu. But Lu Xiaofeng was not someone who was easy to deal with. With a twist of his waist he flew to give a chase.

    Although the night was very dark, and although he was one step late, he was still able to vaguely see Honest Monk’s shadow flying ahead of him.

    Actually, he did not really want to pinch Honest Monk’s nose off, it’s just that in a strange place like this, he would feel a bit more comfortable if he could grab an acquaintance and keep him by his side; just like a man falling into the water, if he saw a piece of wooden board, he would definitely hold on to it tightly.

    Although Honest Monk was flying very fast, Lu Xiaofeng speed in chasing him was not slow either. Very soon the distance between the two people was getting closer and closer.

    Unexpectedly there was another lantern light ahead.

    The light was coming from a big and tall building, with high ridge and flying eaves; it looked like a temple or Daoist monastery, but it also looked like a very big yamen [feudal government office] building.

    Naturally there was no yamen in this place. Like a flying swallow seeking refuge in the woods Honest Monk suddenly dived into the temple.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed in his heart, “This time it’s really ‘the monk can run away, but the temple won’t run with him [i.e. I’ll get you sooner or later].”

    He threw all cautions to the wind [orig. ‘did not care if three by seven is twenty-one’] and pursued in. The courtyard was cold and deserted, but the main hall was bright with lantern light. A big, imposing high-ranking official in all his regalia was sitting behind a big, imposing official table. On either side of him several banner guardians solemnly stood in a row, tall and majestic, with hands hanging down on their sides. And then there were also several feudal yamen bailiffs, wearing red tassell in their hats, carrying demon-head saber on their waists.

    Surprisingly, this place was not a temple; it was a yamen. But how could there be a high-ranking government official stationed in this kind of place? This yamen must be fake; these people were, of course, wooden men.

    At the sight of wooden men, Lu Xiaofeng already had big headache; it didn’t matter whether Honest Monk was really hiding inside or not, he simply wanted to sneak out.

    Who would have thought that the high-ranking official behind the magistrate table suddenly slammed down his gavel[2] and said in a loud voice, “Lu Xiaofeng, since you are already here, where do you think you are going?”

    Immediately the guards and bailiffs on his either side also shouted together, “Where do you think you are going?”

    Turned out not a single one of these men was a wooden man. Lu Xiaofeng felt relieved instead. In his view, living men were not as scary as wooden men. Unexpectedly he really decided to stay; he strode in while looking around carefully. The high-ranking official behind the table’s attire was Tang era’s one-pin rank imperial court dress, his head wore purple and golden hat; unexpectedly he was Minister He who was very fond of the wine cups. It’s just that at this moment there was no wine cup in his hand, but a block of gavel.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Turns out it is Four Brightness Mad Guest Mr. He [see chapter 4]; are you thinking of inviting me for a drink?”

    Although Minister He’s eyes were still glazing with drunkenness, his expression was very serious. With a wooden face he said, “You have arrived at the Hall of the Ministry of Justice; yet you still dare to be this brazen?”

    “This the Hall of the Ministry of Justice?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Correct,” Minister He replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “Not only you are wrong, you are gravely mistaken.”

    “What’s wrong?” Minister He asked.

    “He Zhizang was the Director of Board of Rites, how could he sit in the Hall of the Ministry of Justice?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Actually, about He Zhizang’s past achievement, he was not too clear either; he was just bluffing. Who would have thought that he had actually succeeded by a lucky stroke?

    The fact was: during He Zhizang’s lifetime, the highest official position he ever achieved was the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Rites, while simultaneously held the title of Jixian Institution Scholar. Afterwards, from his office in the Ministry of Transport & Irrigation, when Su Zong was still the Crown Prince, he was transferred to be a guest instructor to the secretarial supervisors. When he was old, he became a Daoist priest at the Thousand-Autumn Monastery. Even the title of Director of the Board of Rites was bestowed to him posthumously.

    However, the fact that he had never been in the Ministry of Justice was actually a hundred percent true.

    Sure enough, the fake Minister He’s countenance turned awkward. Unexpectedly, from shame he became angry. Slamming the gavel forcefully on the table, he shouted, “I, Minister He, insist on sitting in the Hall of the Ministry of Justice; so what?”


    “Nothing,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a wry smile, “You are free to sit wherever you want to sit; it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

    “Of course it does!” Minister He said.

    “So? What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Minister He said, “I came here precisely to interrogate you!”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “I did not commit any crime, what are you going to interrogate? What do you want to ask?” he said.

    Minister He slammed the gavel again. “Now that you are here, you still don’t admit your guilt?” he said sternly.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The only mistake that I know of is that I came to the wrong place, and that I made a wrong friend.”

    Minister He angrily said, “You obtained someone’s money, yet went back on your words, you cheated in gambling, swindled the money and ran away. Are you telling me you don’t know your own crimes?”

    Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, and then said, “Obtaining someone’s money, yet went back on my words. That sounds familiar.”

    “Of course,” Minister He said, “You received other people’s fifty thousand taels, you ought to honor your promise. This is irrefutable evidence; you can’t deny it even if you want to.”

    “I don’t want to deny it,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “But isn’t the crime of inciting people to commit murder is greater than mine? Why didn’t you arrest her first and have her interrogated in here?”

    Minister He said, “I want to interrogate you first, what can you do about it?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “When a drunkard sits in the criminal court, naturally I am being robbed of my case; I can only lose with no chance of winning.”

    Minister He said, “You went back on your words, that was your fist crime. You cheated in public gambling, that was your second crime. You held contempt toward the court of law, that is your third crime. Now that the three crimes have been stated, do you want to take the flogging, or do you want to accept punishment?”

    “What if I take the flogging?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “If you take the flogging,” Minister He replied, “Then I’ll have people flog you to your death.”

    “And what if I accept punishment?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Minister He said, “Then I’ll sentence you to 30 years of hard labor. Whatever I tell you to do, you have to do it!”

    “What if I neither want to take the flogging nor accept punishment?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Minister He was taken aback; apparently he did not expect Lu Xiaofeng would ask such question.

    Lu Xiaofeng helped him making the decision, “In that case, I’d better anoint oil to my feet and slip out of here at once.”

    Self-established court of law, self-appointed minister; it was actually a ridiculous thing. But Lu Xiaofeng knew that no matter how ridiculous things in this place may appear to be, they could turn into very serious matters. If you think that they were joking when they told you that they were going to sentence you to 30 years of hard labor, then you are wrong.

    But he could also see that dealing with living people was not necessarily easier than dealing with wooden men. Although this Four Brightness Mad Guest was acting like a fool, no doubt he was also a martial art expert with some hidden consummate skill.

    The only way to deal with him was to get away as fast as possible, as far as possible.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s qinggong, even Sikong Zhaixing may not necessarily beat him. In this regard, he always had a very high confidence in himself.

    In just a few backward leaps, he was already out of the Court Hall. Twenty or thirty zhang [1 zhang is approx. 10 ft/3 m] later, just as he was thinking of taking a breather, he heard someone behind him talking coldly, “Your qinggong is really not bad, it’s a pity that even if you really can sprout wings, you won’t be able to escape.” He could hear clearly, it was indeed Minister He’s voice.

    Unexpectedly Minister He was able to follow him just like his shadow; the distance between them was less than a zhang. This deranged Four Brightness Mad Guest’s qinggong was a lot higher than he thought.

    He performed every trick he knew, but no matter where he went, Minister He was still following him like a shadow.

    Ahead the rippling water looked like a mirror. Suddenly he discovered that he had come back to the pond he left a while ago. The corpse in the water had disappeared; did the man really die and then came back to life? Or all along he did not die?

    The people in this place, whether alive or dead, whether real or dummies, were actually not too easy to tell.

    Minister He suddenly said, “Even if you jump into the pond, I will still catch up with you. Even if you enter the Palace of the Dragon King, you won’t be able to escape.”

    Lu Xiaofeng originally did not have any intention of jumping into the pond; there might be another man with fish-like eyes and a thin blade in his hand, waiting for him at the bottom of the pond. But as soon as he heard Minister He said so, he jumped down instead. Like an osprey diving into the water, he dived to the bottom of the pool, and waited there for a long time. Sure enough, there was not the least bit of movement up there.

    When two people are having a row, if one says, ‘If you have guts, let’s fight; do you think I am afraid of you?’ it means he is scared to death. If he is not scared, he would have already fought. It is exactly because he is afraid that he said those words.

    If Minister He was not afraid Lu Xiaofeng would jump into the water, he could not possibly say those words all of a sudden. This logic, naturally Lu Xiaofeng understood very well.

    It was not after waiting for a long time did he dare to stick out his head above the water to take a breath. Immediately he found Minister He was still waiting for him by the edge of the pool. He even managed to get a bottle of wine, and was drinking merrily. He even muttered, “You soak yourself in the cold water, I am sitting up here drinking wine; no matter how much time you want to spend, I will gladly accompany you here.”

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng stuck out his head to take a breath for the second time, he saw that somehow Minister He had found a fishing rod. He was sitting there drinking wine and fishing; he indeed looked very elegant.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was not a very patient man, but Minister He was sitting right there drinking and fishing, even if he wanted to fish for three days and three nights, Lu Xiaofeng did not have any problem with it. It’s just too bad Minister He was not fishing for fish, sooner or later Lu Xiaofeng would be caught like a fish. To make matter worse, obviously Lu Xiaofeng could not breathe under water like a fish.

    When Lu Xiaofeng took a breath for the third time, a fishing line, complete with the hook, flew toward his face. If he did not duck fast enough, granted that he might not be hooked away, but a piece of flesh from his face would definitely be hooked.

    Apparently not only this Minister He had a superior qinggong, his internal strength was extremely deep as well; unexpectedly he was able to concentrate his true strength on the fishing line, hence he would be able to injure people from more than a hundred steps away.

    This pond was neither too deep nor too wide, no matter where Lu Xiaofeng stuck out his head, the fishing line would be able to reach him.

    The fish hook at the end of the line was glittering; it was indeed a very powerful, unorthodox weapon. Although this time he was able to hide, but next time he might not have such good luck.

    If a man could only stick out his head out of the water, he would be just like a target [in archery], because the rest of his body was under water, with only his head moving, no matter what he would not be able to move fast enough.

    Luckily Lu Xiaofeng had trained qigong, so that he was able to hold his breath longer than other people.

    Just as he nearly could not hold much longer, he suddenly saw someone else in the pond. The water surface was not disturbed, he did not hear any splashing either; this person definitely did not jump into the water from above.

    So where did he come from?

    Lu Xiaofeng was hiding behind a rock inside the pond. Unexpectedly the man did not see him. It seemed that he did not even realize that there was someone else in the water. He straightened up his legs and came out of the water. His movement was nimble, his posture graceful; obviously his water skill was also very good.

    But Lu Xiaofeng knew, as soon as his head is out of the water, he would suffer some pain.

    The surface of the water suddenly separated, sure enough, from above the water came a scream. The legs of this full-of-life, vigorous man, who could swim like a fish, suddenly went straight. Obviously his neck was wrapped by the fishing line.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have time to sympathize with him, he immediately swam toward the direction where the man was coming from. As expected, he found a cave, which seemed big enough for a man to squeeze through. Above the cave, a large rock was moving down. As soon as the rock was down, the cave would disappear.

    What exactly was inside the cave? Why was it constructed in such a secret? Were there other people inside?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not have time to ponder over these things either. With everything he had, he swam forward and slipped into the cave.

    ‘Clack!’ suddenly he was enveloped in darkness. He could not even see his own fingers. At first Lu Xiaofeng thought that he had finally found a way out; who would have thought that although he was out of the dragon pool, he now entered the hell.

    Right now he really had regret, too bad it was too late for regrets. Although this hell did not have any flame to burn people, but all around him was water. No matter where he swam, he could not even find a place where he could take a breath. Rather than suffocated to death in the water like this, burned to death in hell might be a bit more delighted.

    While he was almost losing his mind from anxiety, suddenly there was another ‘Clack!’ above him, followed by a shaft of light shot down; unexpectedly it was a sliding door.

    Even if this door led straight to hell, he did not care. He went up as fast as he could. Unexpectedly above was a tunnel made of stones, there was not even a single drop of water in it.

    Although the tunnel also frighteningly gloomy, in his mind it was tantamount to paradise.

    The things that he had seen tonight were just like a dream. He had seen dead person who was actually alive, a living person who was actually dead, real people who were actually wooden men, dummies that were actually living people. He was simply confised and disoriented, and now finally he was able to take a breath.

    There were lanterns in the tunnel, but there was no one else.

    He wrung his wet clothes first before starting to move forward. For each step he took, he paused to think things over. No matter where his steps would lead him, he would simply submit himself to the will of heaven.

    There was an iron door at the end of the tunnel. Unexpectedly the door was not locked.

    After gingerly knocked the door and there was no response, he forcefully pulled the door and walked in. Inside was a very spacious room with stone walls. To his surprise, all kinds of Buddhist statues and wooden fish, large and small, were piled up in the room.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. Such a secret place, surprisingly it only contained piles of wooden fish; if he told this story to other people, who would believe him?

    Even more difficut to believe, these wooden fish and Buddha statues were actually the Old Fox’s cargo. He had seen all these. When the ship sank, how did these wooden fish and Buddha statues end up in this place?

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a deep breath. He warned himself that he had better leave this place, he had better go as far as he could, he had better forget that he had ever been in this place, and he had better forget that he had ever seen these wooden fish.

    He believed that in these wooden fish and Buddha statues, there lies a great secret.

    At first he thought that he still might be able to get out of this place alive, but if other people knew that he had found this secret, perhaps they would not give him another chance to talk.

    His thinking was correct, too bad right now he was basically caught in a dead end. Besides, his curiosity has been aroused, if he quit now, in all honesty he would not be able to forgive himself.

    What, exactly, was the secret behind these wooden fish?

    He knew that the wooden fish was empty, he had picked a few from the beach, and he had cut them open into two halves, and used them as wooden bowl and wooden scoop.

    Yet anybody with brains in their heads would never painstakingly salvage these empty wooden fish from the shipwreck, and then painstakingly brought everything to this place, and hid them in such a secret place like this one, and still had people with eyes wide open hiding in the pond outside to guard, and to have whoever entered the pond, whether it was people or cats, be stabbed with a blade.

    The people in this place seemed to be people with perfectly good brains; how could they do such thing?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not stop himself from picking up a wooden fish, and knocking. Inside sounded empty; but when he tried to shake it, the wooden fish seemed to produce a series of very pleasant noise.

    He still had the chamber-pot knife in his possession. Immediately he took it out and cut this wooden fish into halves. He heard clattering noise, a dozen or so objects fell from the wooden fish; unexpectedly the objects were brilliant, dazzling gems, emeralds and jades.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned again.

    He was always quite knowledgeable; naturally he could see that these gems, emeralds and jades were of considerable worth.

    You can casually pick any of these, and casually give it to any girl, she would definitely turn into an obedient girl. After all, a girl like Beef Soup who did not like jewels like this was quite rare.

    He cut another wooden fish open. Inside was full of pearls, as big as the fingernail of his little fingers.

    There were at least three, four hundred wooden fish in that stone room. If all o them contained gems, pearls and jades, how much money would all of these worth?

    Lu Xiaofeng simply did not even dare to calculate. He was not a greedy man, but if such wealth suddenly appear in front of him, anybody would be unavoidably a bit flustered.

    If the wooden fish contained jewels, what did the Buddha statues contain?

    The Buddha statues were also empty. He looked for a Buddha statue bigger than a man. With his chamber pot knife he pry open the seam between the two halves first. In his heart he really wished that inside was really empty.

    If such a revered Buddha was also filled with jewels, it would be preposterous beyond the most absurd dream.

    ‘Crack!’ he managed to open a crack on the Buddha statue, there was no jewels leaking out from the inside.

    He sighed. But it was not clear whether it was a sigh of relieve? Or disappointment?

    Suddenly the Buddha statue also sounded like it was sighing.

    This Buddha statue was made of wood, how could it heave a sigh?

    Although the strange things he had seen tonight were already a lot more than someone else saw in his eighty years of lifetime, hearing the sound of the sigh, he still could not help but was startled.

    Right this moment, someone from inside the Buddha statue already pounced on him, all of a sudden he clutched Lu Xiaofeng’s throat. His pair of hands was icy cold, perhaps it was a monster, or perhaps a zombie?

    Although Lu Xiaofeng had a gargantuan guts, he was still so scared that he almost fainted.

    But he did not faint, just because as soon as these hands grabbed his throat, they became soft and mushy, without any strength at all.

    Calming his nerves, Lu Xiaofeng opened his eyes wide, and saw another pair of eyes was looking at him. It’s only natural that under the eyes there was a nose, under the nose there would be a mouth.

    The man’s lips quivered, suddenly he said three words, “Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Unexpectedly there was a man hidden inside the Buddha statue. It was already an inconceivably strange occurrence. These Buddha statues were part of the Old Fox’s cargo, when the ship sank, they were transported here, from beginning to end there have been at least thirty, forty days. The man that was hidden inside the Buddha statue, unexpectedly he had not died, unexpectedly he was still able to speak, unexpectedly he recognized him as Lu Xiaofeng!

    All the strange things Lu Xiaofeng had seen tonight combined were not as strange as this one. Even stranger still, Lu Xiaofeng unexpectedly also know this man.

    Unexpectedly, within the escort industry, compared to ‘Iron Palm Golden Saber’ Situ Gang, this man had more senior qualifications, his reputation was more resounding. He was none other than the Datong [district, Huainan, Anhui] Escort Agency’s Zongbiaotou [head escort], the ‘Titan Hawk’ Ge Tong.

    The Mighty Eagle Claw Skill of Huainan’s Eagle Claw School has never been taught to anybody with different surname; Ge Tong was the only exception.

    [1] It’s a play on word: the word I translated ‘delighted/delightful’ was 痛快 (tong kuai), Beef Soup was saying ‘soon’ (快), he will be ‘painful’ (痛).

    [2] The ‘gavel’ here is not hammer-like gavels of modern judge, rather, it looked like a rectangular, blackboard eraser, block of wood.

  14. #74
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7 – So that’s what happened.

    Because not only he was the third-generation Eagle Claw Wang’s [lit. ‘king’] adopted son, but he was the Wang Family’s ideal son-in-law. He was cordial, sincere and honest; in his work he always followed the compass and went with the set square. At the age of 18 he entered the Datong Escort Agency, by the age of 31 he already risen to the position of Head Escort. The goods under his escort, not even once has there be any slip-up.

    “Just find Ge Tong, all roads will be clear[1].”

    Some people would rather pay double to have Ge Tong personally escort their goods.

    Not in his wildest dream would Lu Xiaofeng imagine that such a character would be hidden inside a Buddha statue.

    Ge Tong was even more surprised to see him. His lips moved a few times, as if he wanted to talk about a lot of things, it’s a pity that he was much too weak, his lips were dry and chapped that he could not utter a single word.

    Lu Xiaofeng also had a lot of questions he wanted to ask him. He was hidden inside a Buddha statue; what was the reason?

    Lu Xiaofeng could not ask even a single question, because Ge Tong has completely collapsed.

    Although a big bowl of nutritious, well-cooked and thick beef soup would restore his strength, but at this moment, trying to find such soup would be as difficult as ascending to the heavens.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him for a long time, lost in thought; in his heart he suddenly remembered something even more frightening:

    There were at least more than a hundred Buddha statues in here; if each Buddha statue hid one person, then what could he do?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not dare to even think about it; he did not have enough courage to look at the second Buddha statue.

    Right this moment, suddenly he heard very light footsteps in the tunnel. Lu Xiaofeng’s heart jumped.

    Who was coming?

    When he came in, he was dripping wet, surely the tunnel had not dried yet; whoever the newcomer was, he would definitely know that there was an uninvited guest inside the room. Naturally Minister He would know who this uninvited guest was.

    Since this person dared to come, naturally he had a way to deal with Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He might as well sit down and wait.

    The footsteps were getting closer. Someone carrying a large pot of piping hot beef soup came in. Surprisingly, it was Beef Soup.

    The beef soup in the pot was hot, but the Beef Soup who carried the pot, her face was icy cold, without any emotion at all.

    Right now not only it looked like she did not recognize Lu Xiaofeng, she did not even seem to see that in that stone room there was any Lu Xiaofeng at all. She slowly walked in, put the pot of soup on the floor, used a long-handled spoon to scoop a spoonful of soup, and then slowly poured the soup into the mouth of a subduing-tiger Luohan statue.

    Unexpectedly a wooden Buddha statue could drink beef soup!

    Beef Soup muttered, “Not only beef soup tastes good, it is nourishing. You drink it well, it may prolong your life a little bit.”

    The spoonful of beef soup was finished, unexpectedly the Buddha statue let out a soft moan.

    Beef Soup said, “I know you don’t like getting too little, but there is only one pot of beef soup, just one spoonful per person; even the big-bellied Buddha Maitreya also get only one spoonful.”

    Just one spoonful per person, could it be that there was a person inside each Buddha statue?

    Of course by now Lu Xiaofeng was able to see that the person’s mouth inside the Buddha statue happened to be right where the Buddha statue’s mouth was; so not only they were able to drink soup, they were able to breathe as well.

    These people were able to live up until now, it was exactly because of a spoonful of beef soup every day.

    They were tightly confined inside the nailed-down Buddha statues; they could not move even a little finger, and were able to survive relying only on a spoonful of beef soup every day. Such life, yet they have spent thirty, forty days of it. Thinking about the wrong they suffered, Lu Xiaofeng could not bear it any longer. Suddenly he sprang up and rushed over; quick as lightning he made his move.

    He really wished he could confine Beef Soup in a Buddha statue, to let her taste this kind of suffering.

    Beef Soup did not turn her head, she did not dodge either. Suddenly there was a ‘swish!’ as something was splitting the air; a fishing line, with a fishing hook at the end of the line, was flying in from the outside. The flickering, shiny fish hook was flying toward Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, as if it was going to hook his eyeball out.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng was not in the water at the moment. Fortunately, his hands were able to move. Suddenly he turned around, stretched out his two fingers to pinch, and was able to catch the fish hook.

    Beef Soup coldly said, “Those two fingers are indeed a bit useful; let me also give you a spoonful of beef soup!”

    The long-handled spoon suddenly arrived in front of Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth, it went straight toward the yingxiang [lit. ‘welcoming sweet fragrance’] acupoint above his lip, below his nose. The soup in the spoon was shaken, it splashed onto Lu Xiaofeng’s face.

    She executed the move casually, but actually it was a very vicious attack; not only the spoon threatened his acupoint, the soup in the spoon also turned into an extremely powerful secret projectile, so that it was difficult for Lu Xiaofeng to evade it. Moreover, he was only holding the fish hook and not Minister He’s hand. A shadow flashed before his eyes, Minister He had already cast the fishing line, light as a feather it swept forward.

    Minister He’s qinggong enabled him to move like a ghost, yet his attack was very vicious; his palm struck down on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder. The move he used was unexpectedly the Tantric’s Big Hand Print martial art.

    Lu Xiaofeng was facing enemies from both sides, right away he would suffer a calamity; against expectation, suddenly he opened his mouth wide and sucked the splashing beef soup into his mouth, followed by closing his mouth quickly to bite the soup spoon.

    Minister He’s palm was striking down, suddenly he saw some kind of flickering, shiny object scratching toward the artery on his wrist. Unexpectedly it was his own fish hook that he had just used to hook Lu Xiaofeng’s eyeball.

    These moves were executed in succession, they were clever, free and at ease; other than Lu Xiaofeng, nobody else could execute it.

    Too bad his teeth only bit the soup spoon and not Beef Soup’s hand at all. Like an orchid, his lily-white hand already brushed toward Lu Xiaofeng’s left ear. ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’ separated tendons and dislocating arteries and veins. Not only its yin-natured energy malicious, the variation and changes of the technique was even more mysterious and very fast.

    Lu Xiaofeng twisted his waist to evade, suddenly her hand already threatened the yuzhen [lit. jade pillow] acupoint at the back of his head.

    Yuzhen acupoint is the most important among vital acupoints on human bodies. Even if it was hit by ordinary person, the effect would be unbearable. Lu Xiaofeng sighed silently; he concentrated his strength on both arms, ready to strike the formidable enemy so that both sides would perish together.

    Who would have thought that in that indescribable split second, Beef Soup suddenly cried out in surprise? Her whole body flew backward and hit the stone wall, Minister He’s body also flew out of the door, only after a long while did they finally heard a crash. Apparently he also crashed against the stone wall, and the crash was a lot heavier.

    Someone appeared in front of Lu Xiaofeng, his smiling expression was cordial and kind; surprisingly, it was the Little Old Man.

    What move did he use that in a split second he was able to fling Beef Soup and Minister He away like that? Even Lu Xiaofeng, who had keen eyes, could not see it clearly. It was only now that Lu Xiaofeng realized that this Little Old Man was such a martial art expert that he had never seen in his life before.

    Beef Soup already stood up. She seemed to be astonished, but was also very angry.

    The Little Old Man smiled and asked tenderly, “Are you hurt?”

    Beef Soup shook her head.

    The Little Old Man said, “In that case, you must be drunk just like Minister He, way too drunk. Otherwise, how could you forget what I told you?”

    His voice was even gentler, but Beef Soup’s eyes suddenly showed fear.

    The Little Old Man said, “Drunk people should be lying in bed, you also ought to go to bed.”

    Immediately Beef Soup left with her head hung low. When she walked past Lu Xiaofeng, she suddenly smiled. Her smile was very sweet. Anybody who saw her smiling would never have imagined that she was the same person who just now was bent on putting Lu Xiaofeng to death.

    Even Lu Xiaofeng himself could not imagine that.

    Watching her walked out, the Little Old Man suddenly asked, “Do you know what her nickname is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know. Naturally her nickname was not ‘Beef Soup’.

    The Little Old Man said, “She is called ‘Honeybee’!”

    “Honeybee?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Exactly,” the Little Old Man said, “The Honeybee who after mating with the male would swallow her lover into her tummy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng blushed.

    But the Little Old Man’s laughter was very cheerful, “I know that as a father, I should not criticize my daughter like that,” he said, “But I want you to know why she is bent on killing you.” He patted Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder, “You should understand by now that all these were not my idea.”

    Lu Xiaofeng probed further, “So it was because these were not your idea that I am able to make it this far?”

    The Little Old Man did not deny at all; he said with a smile, “Killing people is not a difficult matter, but killing people using sophisticated technique, now that’s not an easy thing to do.”

    His hand lightly pushed the stone wall, immediately a door appeared, the furnishing inside the room was elegant and graceful. He led Lu Xiaofeng inside, took a crystal wine bottle from a cupboard hanging on the wall, and leisurely said, “Grape wine in luminous cup, this one I especially had people sent in from Persia, you try it.”

    He also took a flat-bottomed square goblet, inside was some kind of dark, blackish-colored thick paste; he said with a smile, “This is butterfly shark’s egg. North of Kunlun, a lot of people call it ‘Caviar’. The idea was to make fish eggs into thick paste and eat it to accompany the wine. The flavor is exceptionally good.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was unable to bear not to have a taste. His mouth only tasted something fishy and salty, not an especially good thing to eat.

    The Little Old Man said, “Butterfly sharks were super abundant ten million years ago, but recently extinct. It was mentioned in the ‘Mao Shi Yi Shu’ [don’t ask, I don’t know what it is. Mao – coarse/unfinished, Shi – poem, Yi – righteousness, Shu – commentary/annotation.]: ‘The big ones are King Tuna, the small ones are Tail Tuna, the proper fish to be drawn in the present day from rivers of the capital-level of all regions’. The ‘Compendium of Medical Herbs[2]’ and ‘Mr. Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals[3]’ also have written account related to this fish. Try it again, you’ll find out its different flavor.”

    Apparently not only this Little Old Man was extremely particular about fine food, he was also an elegant scholar who read extensively the Book of Songs and the Book of History.

    Lu Xiaofeng simply had to have another taste. Sure enough, other than the fishy and salty taste, there was another indescribable flavor, delicious and exquisite.

    The Little Old Man said, “I brought this back myself the last time I went to Fusang Islands. Not much is left. It seems that I will have to make another trip over there soon.”

    “Do you go there often?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man nodded and said, “Nowadays Fusang country is under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s rule[4]. This man is a formidable and ruthless character with enormous ambition; he has had the desire to lay his hands on our country and Korea for a long time.”

    His laughter was even more cheerful as he continued, “Those pearls and jewels outside are actually a special gift from an important person in our imperial court for him, but I intercepted it midway.”

    “Did you rig the Old Fox’s boat that it capsized?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man’s expression turned serious as he replied, “How can I do such a crude thing? I just happen to know that a storm would happen on the sea at that particular time.”

    Storms at sea can be predicted. It was clear that this Little Old Man also had done extensive study on astronomy and meteorology. Lu Xiaofeng felt more and more that not only this Little Old Man was a genius of the current age, his martial art and literature knowledge was also very deep and immeasurable. He could not help but probing him further, “Hence you intentionally delayed and prolonged the Old Fox’s ship-loading process so that his ship would be caught in that storm?”

    The Little Old Man said, “Unfortunately I still miscalculated by half a day so that I had no choice but to force him to come back to get fresh water.”

    All the sailors on the Old Fox’s ship were experienced veterans, how could they forget such an important matter like loading fresh water?

    It was only then did Lu Xiaofeng understand the peculiarity of this matter.

    The Little Old Man continued, “The hardest thing was to make the ship perished right at the emerging warm current.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man explained, “Because this warm current flowed toward our island, so that after the storm, it would transport the ship’s cargo here, basically we did not need to act at all.” He smiled, and then continued, “It was also because of this warm current that you could come here.”

    “Why did you have to take all those trouble?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Wouldn’t robbing the ship be a lot more convenient?”

    “Because I am not a robber,” the Little Old Man said matter-of-factly, “Robbing goods and boarding ships are the things that pirates do. For me, it’s not worth doing at all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. This seemingly inexplicable matter, now he finally understood half of it. Obviously Yue Yang was working for him; he knew early on that the ship would meet with danger, hence he repeatedly blocked Lu Xiaofeng, not letting Lu Xiaofeng to ride on the ship, so much so that he even beat Lu Xiaofeng off the ship.

    The Little Old Man laughed and said, “If those pearls and jewels were delivered to Fusang, there will be a big mess in our Central Earth. Although I have lived overseas for a long time, my heart is still with the old country. By doing this thing, I did not do it entirely for my own sake.”

    “How did you know about this matter?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Who’s the important person in our imperial court who’s in collusion with Toyotomi Hideyoshi?”

    The Little Old Man took his time sipping his wine, nibbled at the butterfly shark’s eggs, and then slowly said, “In our line of business, there are four words that we must not forget!”

    “And those four words are?” Lu Xiaofeng prompted.

    The Little Old Man said, “Guard your mouth like a closed bottle.” [Orig. shou kou ru ping – four characters]

    Lu Xiaofeng finally asked him the question he had been dying to ask, “What is actually your line of business?”

    “Murder!” the Little Old Man replied.

    He spoke plainly and was completely at ease. Although Lu Xiaofeng has had a vague guess, he still could not help but was shocked.

    The Little Old Man said, “This is the second oldest profession in the world, but it is far more stimulating, far more colorful, far more exciting than the oldest profession!” He laughed, and then said, “Also, the revenue in this line of business is definitely better.”

    “What is the oldest profession in the world?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Prostitution,” the Little Old Man replied. He laughed again before continuing, “Since time immemorial, women have mastered the skill of prostitution, they prostitute themselves using all kinds of methods, but murder can only be done using one method.”

    “There is only one?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Absolutely only one,” the Little Old Man replied.

    “Which one?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man replied, “The one that is absolutely safe.” And then he added, “After committing the murder, not only we have to escape unscathed, we must absolutely not leaving any trace either. Therefore, although there are many tools that can be used in murder, there is absolutely only one proper method to do it.”

    He used the word ‘absolutely’ three times in a row to emphasis the exactitude of this matter. And then he continued, “This matter not only requires a great deal of skill, it also requires a very precise plan, enormous intelligence and patience; therefore, for the last several years, the number of people qualified enough to join this line of business has become less and less.”

    “What qualification can be considered enough?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man replied, “First, their own lives must be clean.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “To be killer, why must they have a clean life?”

    The Little Old Man said, “Because if there is the slightest bit of bad record in his life, there will be people who will suspect him before and after the murder. Just in case someone investigates his movements, it will be hard for us to avoid being implicated.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Makes sense,” he said. It was only now that he understood that only those with clean lives are qualified enough to kill.

    The Little Old Man continued, “Second, naturally they must have enormous intelligence and patience. Third, they must be able to bear hardships and willing to work hard, enduring humiliation as part of an important mission. Those who love to enjoy the limelight absolutely cannot be in this line of business.”

    “Therefore,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Those in this line of business must be nameless people.”

    The Little Old Man said, “Not only they must be nameless, they must be invisible as well.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was moved, “Invisible? How can a person be invisible?”

    “There are many ways for a person to be invisible,” the Little Old Man replied, “It’s not magic at all.”

    “I don’t understand,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The Little Old Man raised his wine cup and said, “Can you see clearly, what’s inside this cup?”

    “It’s a cup of wine,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. Naturally he could see clearly that it was a cup of wine.

    The Little Old Man said, “If you cannot see clearly, won’t this cup of wine be invisible?”

    Lu Xiaofeng pondered deeply. He seemed to understand this logic, yet he was not completely clear.

    The Little Old Man said, “When the foam enter the ocean, the cup of wine is poured back into the wine pot, it’s the same as it is being invisible, because people cannot see it, they cannot find it even more. Some people are just like that.”

    He smiled before continuing, “As soon as these people blend into a sea of people, it will be the same as a grain of rice sneaking into a shi [unit of (dry) volume, approx. 100 liters/22.7 (dry) gallon] of rice. Anybody who wants to find them will find it super difficult. Won’t that be the same as being invisible?”

    “Phew!” Lu Xiaofeng whistled. With a bitter laugh he said, “In normal times, even if you walk back and forth in front of me, I will never see anything special about you.”

    The Little Old Man rubbed his palms together and said, “Exactly. I knew you would understand.”

    “Other than that,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “There is another way.”

    “Oh?” the Little Old Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you have another identity, for example, if you are a big hero of the river and ocean [i.e. the world], then you are tantamount to being invisible; because people would only see your identity as the big hero, they would never see you as a murderer or an assassin.”

    “I told you one and you understood three,” the Little Old Man exclaimed, “Like children who are open to instruction!” And then he continued, “But, even if someone meets all these qualifications, it is still not enough.”

    “What else must he have?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man said, “To be in this line of business, he must have a singular animal instinct, his reflex must be unusually quick; before the real danger arrives, he must already be prepared. Therefore, after I found such a man, I have to test him whether he has this kind of quality or not?”

    “What kind of test?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man replied, “Only in a life and death crisis would a man display his entire ability; hence I must let him meet all kinds of danger.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Are you saying that you need to have all kinds of people to plot against him?”

    “Correct,” the Little Old Man replied.

    At last Lu Xiaofeng understood. “Those people who plotted against Yue Yang, did you send them out to test him?” he asked.

    “That’s right,” the Little Old Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If he did not pass the test, won’t he die under those people’s hands?”

    The Little Old Man flatly said, “If he could not stand all those tests, and then later on he died in a mission, it would be better if he died early, so as to avoid implicating other people.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “That one-eyed old fisherman and that horse-faced man, were they your subordinates?”

    The Little Old Man said, “They were no more than the shell outside the walnut, the skin outside the fruit. They would never be able to come in contact with the core.”

    “Your daughter killed them,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It was because they revealed their identity in my presence?”

    The Little Old Man sighed and said, “My daughter is very talented, her only flaw is that she likes to kill people too much.”

    “What about Minister He?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man said, “I told you: she is very talented, especially in dealing with men.”

    Lu Xiaofeng finally understood. Minister He wanted to kill him, it was only to curry Beef Soup’s favor.

    The Little Old Man said with a bitter laugh, “It’s just that this kind of talent is purely an inborn talent; in some places she is not like me at all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “But her ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’ can’t be an inborn talent.”

    Adaptable Orchid Hand and Bone-transforming Cotton Palm are the same, both require long training where someone must pass on the secret theory behind it. Recently, not only nobody in Jianghu was able to use it, nobody has even seen it either.

    The Little Old Man took a sip of his wine again before replying unhurriedly, “Her aptitude in learning martial art is not bad, it’s just that her strength is a bit too weak; therefore, I only taught her one or two martial art skills.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was moved, “You taught her the Adaptable Orchid Hand?” he asked.

    The Little Old Man smiled and said, “This martial art skill is not difficult at all. Some people would never master it even if they train forever. But as long as you understand the key, plus a bit of intelligence and patience, you would be able to master it at most for five years.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s voice cracked, “Only five years and she already mastered it?”

    The Little Old Man said, “In the old days, when the Ruyi Fairy, who was equally famous with Huagu Deity[5], trained this martial art, she only spent three years. My daughter loves leisure and hates hard work, yet she only trained for five years.”

    Ruyi Fairy was an unequalled talent of the Wulin world; no matter which school or sect’s martial art, as long as she saw it twice, she would master it. But when her own daughter practiced this Adaptable Orchid Hand, she spent the whole thirty years, before finally she became both mentally and physically exhausted, threw up some blood, and died. Beef Soup only trained for five years to master it, it could already be considered a wonder.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help not to ask, “When you train this martial art, how long did you take to master it?”

    “I was a bit quicker,” the Little Old Man replied.

    “How much quicker?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man hesitated, as if he was reluctant to say it; however, Lu Xiaofeng was insistent, he simply must have the answer [orig. ‘smashing an earthenware pot, asking to the end’].

    Finally the Little Old Man laughed and said, “It took me only three months.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at him blankly.

    “The Bone-transforming Cotton Palm is a lot harder,” the Little Old Man said, “I had to train for more than a year before mastering it somewhat. Finger Blade and Hazy Strength Skill are not easy either. As for those martial art that rely on style variation to score a victory, all of those are no more than cheap trick that the children use.”

    He played down his achievements, but Lu Xiaofeng listened to him with his eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped.

    If a man was really proficient in those martial arts, it was indeed a miracle of miracles; it was simply inconceivable.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking, “Those martial arts that you mentioned, do you master all those?”

    “I can’t really say that I master them,” the little old man said, “I only know very little about them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Minister He, the moustache, and the others, did you teach them martial arts?”

    The little old man said, “They only know a bit of superficial skill, it can’t be considered anything.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed; forcing a smile, he said, “Their martial art skills, I have seen those. Any one of them can be considered a martial art expert in Jianghu. If even they cannot be considered anything, won’t those famous heroes in Jianghu become rubbish?”

    The little old man indifferently said, “Those people are indeed rubbish.”

    If other people said those words, Lu Xiaofeng would definitely think that he was an arrogant lunatic. But since those words came from the little old man’s mouth, Lu Xiaofeng could only keep his mouth shut.

    The little old man poured a cup of wine for him. He said, “I know that you made your name very early, and now you are even more famous. There is something I’ve always wanted to ask you.”

    “If I know the answer, I would definitely answer it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “In your opinion,” the little old man said, “If someone wants to be famous, is it extremely difficult?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not need to think; he immediately replied, “Not difficult.”

    The little old man asked, “People like you and me, if we want to stay nameless forever?”

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “That would have been very difficult.”

    Sometimes fame is just like disease, when it wants to come, nobody can resist it.

    The little old man chuckled and said, “You are a smart man, that’s why you are able to say that. Seeking fame is indeed not difficult; if I had that desire, I could have shaken the world before I was sixteen.”

    Lu Xiaofeng only listened in silence.

    The little old man continued, “By now you should have understood why I told you all these things.”

    Lu Xiaofeng took a deep breath. “You want me to join you in this line of business?” he said.

    The little old man said, “Your fame is precisely your cover. Just like you said, other people only see you as Lu Xiaofeng, nobody would see you as a murderer.”

    Without waiting for Lu Xiaofeng to reply, he added, “The people that I want to kill are all the people who deserve to die; I would never let you to have a guilty conscience. Your talent and intelligence far surpass Yue Yang’s. I do need people like you, but I never wish to force you against your will.”

    Lu Xiaofeng exhaled slowly. “Do I have a choice in this matter?” he asked.

    “Of course you do,” the little old man replied, “Not only that, you may take your time to consider it carefully. Once you are convinced, you may give me your answer.”

    He smiled, and then continued, “Right now you are a very wealthy person, I am sure you will enjoy living here. I can guarantee you that from now on, nobody will give you any trouble.”

    “Is it alright for me to take more time to consider?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The little old man replied, “Of course you may. I will not give you any time limit at all, I will not limit your movement either. Whatever you wish to do, wherever you wish to go, you may go.”

    He stood up, but suddenly laughed and said, “I only want to warn you of one thing.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The little old man said, “Beware of the honeybee.”

    [1] Another play on words. The character ‘tong’ in Ge Tong’s name means ‘go through/open/clear’.

    [2] Compendium of Medical Herbs, compiled by Li Shizen, 1596.

    [3] Mr. Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals, compiled ca. 239 BC under the patronage of Qin Dynasty Chancellor Lu Buwei.

    [4] Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), Japanese warlord, undisputed ruler of Japan, 1590-1598.

    [5] Ruyi means ‘as one wishes’, which I translated as ‘adaptable’ in the ‘Adaptable Orchid Hand’. Huagu means ‘bone transforming’. Actually, the original uses ‘Xianzi’ for Ruyi, and ‘Xianren’ for Huagu. Both means ‘deity’ or ‘celestial being’ or ‘Daoist immortal’.

  15. #75
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 – A beauty’s favor

    Eighth day of the sixth month, night.

    The main hall of the Twelve-Dock Alliance headquarter was brightly lit, the security outside the hall was very tight. After going the affair of the Duanyang Day of the fifth month, the number of guards and checkposts was doubled, especially today. The three different teams who were sent to investigate have returned, the leaders were now assembled in the main hall, one by one they reported the result of their investigation.

    The first to stand up was Xiong Tianjian. He led the first team back to the little town at the foot of Taihang Mountains. After spending thirty-tree days on open enquiries and secret search, this was the result:

    “The inn where the escort warriors spent the night is called Yue Lai [lit. ‘pleased to come’]. Because it is a remote area, land is of little value, hence the inn is built over a large tract of land. Altogether there are thirty nine rooms.”

    “We have carefully searched every inch of all thirty-nine rooms, there is no bloodstain at all, there isn’t any vestige of weapons or secret projectiles either. It can be said that there is nothing suspicious at all.”

    “The locals consist of a hundred and seventy-eight households. Most of them are native born and bred, we investigated every house and asked if there was any suspicious people in the vicinity a few days before and after the incident.”

    “The only thing that can be considered suspicious was that the morning before the incident, there was a group of carpenters arrived, with several large carts of wood. They said the wood was to make Buddha statues and wooden fish.”

    “But these people were gone by that evening. We followed this clue and found out that these people were actually the carpenters from the Taiping Prince’s Mansion; there is nothing suspicious at all. Hence, the result of this investigation is just like there is no result at all.”

    It was the same with the second team, led by Ye Xingshi, all the renowned experts of Jianghu who were adept at using blades, within the four hours [orig. ‘two sichen’] of the morning of Duanyang, no one was within five hundred li of the Twelve-Dock Alliance’s territory. Moreover, every single one of them had strong alibi.

    Finally the third team, led by Wang Yi, showed a bit of result, but the distance toward the thirty-five million taels was still very far away.

    Therefore, everyone’s hope was placed on Ying Yan Laoqi. Right now it was only seven days away from the time limit set by the Heir Apparent.

    Ying Yan Laoqi’s news was even more discouraging. “Lu Xiaofeng has gone out to sea on a long journey, I am afraid he’ll never come back.”

    After leaving the Crouching Cloud Building, he immediately went to the port in that coastal area to make inquiry.

    He found the Fox Den.

    But on the day of his visit, this place, which was a world-famous amorous place, was cold and cheerless.

    Because the news of their boss’ ship capsized has arrived. Reportedly everybody on board perished, not a single soul survived.

    Ying Yan Laoqi was unwilling to give up; he inquired further, “Have you seen any man with four-eyebrows?”

    They have, and they remembered.

    People whose moustache and eyebrows looked the same are not many. It has always been very easy for Lu Xiaofeng to leave deep impression of other people’s mind.

    “That man also boarded our boss’ ship.”

    “The ship that capsized?”

    “That’s right.”

    Unexpectedly, the result of the three teams was totally nothing. Those hundred and three astute, capable and experienced escorts, plus thirty-five million taels worth of goods, were just like a stone thrown into the ocean, it disappeared without a trace.

    The seven days deadline would pass in the blink of an eye. Everybody looked at each other in dismay, nobody knew what to do.

    Ying Yan Laoqi suddenly said, “There is one thing we can do.”

    “What is it?” everybody immediately asked.

    Ying Yan Laoqi stood up; he looked at the stone pillars outside the main hall, and slowly said, “We can strike our heads against the pillar over there.”

    When Lu Xiaofeng came out of the little old man’s private room, it was precisely early morning of the eighth day of the sixth month. The sky was sunny and cloudless, the sun was shining brightly, although the sea breeze was blocked by the mountain peaks on all sides, the weather was still cool and pleasant.

    He did not come out the same way he came in at all. Hence he did not go through the room full of wooden fish, and he did not need to swim through the pond.

    The exit of this tunnel was located near the lotus pond under the nine-bend winding bridge. When he was already out, he suddenly remembered that he forgot to ask the little old man one important question: “If I want to sleep, where should I go?”

    The little old man apparently believed that he would be able to deal with this kind of matter; hence he did not even mention it. Perhaps he did not realize that sleeping is just like eating, both are vital to living human beings.

    Right now Lu Xiaofeng only hoped that he could find Yue Yang. Although it was unlikely that Yue Yang would find him a place to sleep, he could at least lead him back to his own small thatched hut.

    Golden house or silver house, nothing is as good as his own dog house; besides, there was an old friend whose mouth was always wide open.

    Remembering this old friend, he suddenly remembered something else, “I wonder if there is also someone inside the old friend’s big tummy? This man did not have any beef soup; I wonder if he is already died.”

    Remembering this little fact, Lu Xiaofeng wanted to go back even more.

    Lu Xiaofeng was homesick. Thinking about it, he himself could not help feeling amused.

    Too bad that he could not find Yue Yang, but he saw Sha Man instead.

    Hundreds of flowers in full bloom, under the sunny sky it looked even more gorgeous. Sha Man was standing in the middle of a cluster of flowers, wearing a light and soft gown, without any makeup on her face. Next to her, the hundreds of flowers seemed to lose their splendor.

    She just stood there, without moving or opening her mouth.

    Unable to restrain his emotions, Lu Xiaofeng walked toward her.

    Suddenly she turned around and walked away. Lu Xiaofeng followed her involuntarily, through a flowery footpath paved with vermillion stones, ahead was a tall cluster of Chinese rose, almost like a canopy, and there was a tiny cabin in the middle.

    She pushed the door open and walked in. Undoubtedly this little cabin was the place where she stayed.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered the Mansion of Spirits. Form the look of it, this place seemed to have so many places that were similar to the Mansion of Spirits [see Book 5: Mansion of Spirits – still work in progress at the time of this writing], yet essentially it was completely different, Lu Xiaofeng’s experience were also different.

    Before he went to the Mansion of Spirits, he had had emotional preparation, he was aware early on what kind of place the place was.

    All the people in the Mansion of Spirits had been dead once, and then living incognito over there. But the people in this place were all virtually nameless.

    Although the Old Sabre Honcho was an amazing character, this little old man was a strange character without equal in this age, with a frighteningly sharp intelligence, so deep and immeasurable. Compared to him, the Old Sabre Honcho was no more than a small stream next to the ocean.

    The cabin door was still open, there was no sound at all from the inside.

    Lu Xiaofeng finally could not help walking in. Sha Man was waiting behind the door, she closed the door, and wrapped her arms around her.

    Her lips were burning hot, her body was fiery.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng awoke, it was almost dusk.

    She was standing at the window, with her back toward him. Her slim waist stretched down toward her well-rounded buttocks, her long, slender legs were perfectly straight.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not keep his eyes off of her; he nearly lost his mind.

    It felt like a dream, an absurd yet sweet dream; he could never have imagined why she would treat him like that.

    He wanted to sit up, to walk over and embrace her again, but his limbs felt weak and devoid of any strength, he could not even move.

    She did not turn around, but she must be aware that he was awake. Suddenly she asked a very strange question, “Did you kill Fei Tian Yu Hu?” [see Book 4: Silver Hook Casino, Flying Jade Tiger, lit. jade tiger flying to the sky.]

    At this moment, nobody could have imagined that she would ask such question.

    Fei Tian Yu Hu was crafty and cruel, in the battle at the Silver Hook Casino, Lu Xiaofeng were nearly killed under his hands. Lu Xiaofeng could not imagine that she would ask such question either. “You know him?” he could not help not to ask.

    Sha Man still has not turned around, but her shoulders were trembling, as if she was deeply shaken.

    After a long time, she finally said slowly, “His real name was Jiang Yufei, my original name is actually Jiang Shaman.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, “So you were brother and sister?” he asked.

    “That’s right,” Sha Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank. Suddenly he understood why she treated him like that. Turned out it was because she wanted to exact revenge for her older brother.

    But she did not have any confidence that she would be able to deal with Lu Xiaofeng, hence she could only use the women’s most primitive weapon.

    Such weapon has always been very effective.

    Right now his limbs were soft; presumably he had fallen into her evil scheme in his dream after his soul was captured in ecstasy by her charm.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only comfort himself in his heart, “I am able to make it this far, I am already lucky. To be able to die at the hands of such woman, it could be considered very lucky. What am I complaining about?”

    As long as one is free of worried thoughts, there is nothing in the world complaining or losing his sleep over.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly chuckled; he said, “Although I did not personally kill him, but he did die because of me. If I had a second chance, perhaps I’d kill him with my own hands.”

    Sha Man was silent for a long time before speaking slowly, “More than once I made an oath, no matter who killed him, I will give him my body as a reward. I have no other way to express my gratitude.”

    Her voice was brimming with sorrow and hate.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “Why?” he asked.

    Sha Man’s body shook again as she said, “Although he was my older brother, he had destroyed my life.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not ask further. He understood this kind of situation, people like Fei Tian Yu Hu are capable of committing any kind of despicable and disgraceful things.

    Sha Man still has not turned around. She continued, “I made a promise to myself, and now I have fulfilled it. You may go now.”

    “I am not leaving,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man suddenly turned around, the streak of tears on her pale face had not dried, but her beautiful eyes shone with rage, and became as sharp as blade. “What else do you want?” she asked coldly, “Could it be that you want one more time?”

    These words were also as sharp as blade.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that if he left now, next time they met, they would be like strangers. But if he hugged her, even though she might refuse him, perhaps he would not even have a chance to see her again.

    If he neither walk over nor embrace her, why would he stay here and just stare blankly at her?

    He felt he was such an idiot, really an idiot.

    Sha Man stared at him. Gradually her eyes turned gentle.

    If he was really like the fickle Dengtu Zi of the folklore[1], even if he did not leave right now, he may not necessarily take the opportunity to hug her again.

    Either way, he had already obtained her, why would he still want to have another opportunity to see her later on?

    She had seen the passionate, weak side of his heart, yet she still had to let him go.

    Suddenly someone shouted outside, “Ninth Young Master is back, Ninth Young Master is back!”

    Sha Man’s face suddenly carried a strange expression, like that of a little child’s when he did something and was suddenly caught by his parents.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng chuckled and said, “You might as well leave first, I’ll also leave very soon. What happened today, I will certainly forget it soon.”

    He laughed again, but anybody ought to be able to see that it was a forced laugh.

    Sha Man did not leave, she sat down instead, she sat down on the head of his bed.

    “Do you want me to leave first?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You don’t have to leave,” Sha Man replied.

    “You …” Lu Xiaofeng started.

    But Sha Man’s expression turned even stranger; she said, “I am not afraid other people will know what I did, no matter how long you want to stay here, I don’t care.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her; he gently reached out and grabbed her hand, as he slipped out of the bed and draped his clothes over his shoulders. Suddenly he laughed and said, “I have something I’d like to give you, but I am not sure if you’d accept it.”

    “What do you want to give me?” Sha Man asked.

    “My chamber pot knife,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man stared at him again, there was a hint of smile on her beautiful pair of eyes. Finally she really broke into laughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng has never seen her laugh.

    He laugh was just like a melting glacier, like spring returning to the earth, like the flower buds blooming under the sunshine.

    Lu Xiaofeng also broke into laughter. They laughed together. Nobody know how long they were laughing, but suddenly two drops of sparkling and translucent tears appeared on the corner of her eyes, and flowed down on her pale, beautiful cheeks.

    Suddenly she also stood up. She pulled Lu Xiaofeng’s hand rather forcefully, yet she spoke tenderly, “Please don’t go.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng’s voice was gruff.

    Sha Man said, “Because I … I don’t want you to go.”

    She embraced him again. Her lips were icy-cold, but it was as soft and sweet-smelling as a budding flower.

    This time they did not have flaming desire, there was only tender sentiments, as gentle and soft as water.

    A long, long time ago, there was a sage who once said something that other people would remember forever.

    The sage said: friendship is cultivated over a period of time, but love comes suddenly. Friendship will definitely stand the test of time, love is often fleeting.

    This fleeting time is such a splendid time, such a glorious time, such a beautiful time.

    This fleeting time is eternal.

    The wind was gently blowing outside the window, twilight has descended upon the earth.

    Midsummer days’ twilight, it was bright, and hazy, and strong …

    What a wonderful life, what a wonderful feeling.

    Whether the door was not bolted, or the window was not closed, nobody knows. Like a floating cloud someone flew in, and then like a cloud he floated out again.

    They did not see him; they did not even know that someone has come in and come back out.

    But they did see that he left a flower.

    An ice crystal flower.

    It was the middle of summer, the flower was carved out of a block of ice, the translucent petals have not started to melt.

    How far from here would a place have to be to have winter ice storehouse?

    How much painstaking effort would it take to carve this ice flower and bring it here?

    Although it was only a tiny ice crystal flower, who could possibly estimate its value?

    Who could tell how much tenderness this ice flower contains? How much love?

    Other than divine-dragon-like Ninth Young Master, who else could accomplish such thing?

    He knew that she never valued worldly possessions. He knew she hated the heat; on this island in the South China Sea, all year long she would never see ice and snow.

    Therefore, he brought this ice flower back just for her; he personally delivered this gift to his beloved.

    But when he came, she was in the arms of another man. He only left behind the ice flower, and quietly went away.

    [1] From the dictionary: Dengtu Zi, famous lecherous character, an idiom for ‘lecher’ or ‘skirt chaser’.

  16. #76
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 – Falling under an evil scheme

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the ice flower, suddenly an unspeakable bad feeling arose in his heart, but it was unclear whether he felt bad for the arrogant but sentimental man? Or was it for himself?

    He did not look at her expression.

    He was afraid to look.

    But he could not bear not to ask, “Is it him?”

    Sha Man slowly nodded. Unexpectedly her pale face was devoid of any emotions.

    “Actually, what kind of man is he?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man’s voice was equally emotionless, “Why must we talk about other people’s business? Why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

    She buttoned the front piece of Lu Xiaofeng’s gown, with a very sweet smile she said, “There is a tiny kitchen at the back, let me prepare some dishes for you. There’s a bit of wine in the cabinet, I may be able to accompany you for two cups.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her. Not only he saw her beauty, he also saw the feeling she had for him. His own heart felt like it was so full of emotions that it was about to burst; he could not help hugging her again.

    Suddenly a sound of knocking echoed from the outside, someone said in low voice, “This is Xiao Yu [little jade], Ninth Young Master sent me here specifically to invite Miss Man to dinner.”

    The smile immediately vanished from Sha Man’s face; she said coldly, “I am not going, I don’t have time.”

    Xiao Yu was still unwilling to leave; she implored from outside the door, “If Miss Man is not coming, Ninth Young Master is going to scold me.”

    Sha Man suddenly rushed toward the door and opened it. “Didn’t you see that I have a guest here?” she said.

    Xiao Yu looked up, and was shocked to see Lu Xiaofeng. “I … I …” she stammered.

    With a calm expression Sha Man said, “You should have seen it yourself, in fact, he has also seen it himself. If he really wanted to invite me to dinner, why didn’t he tell me himself just now?”

    Xiao Yu did not dare to speak anymore, with head hung low she walked away quietly; but while she was leaving, she could not resist stealing a glance toward Lu Xiaofeng. She seemed to be surprised, but also curious; as if she would never have imagined that she would see another man in Miss Man’s room.

    But Sha Man really was not afraid other people would see her actions, she was not afraid anybody would know. If Sha Man was determined to do something, she could not care less about what other people would think or what their opinion would be.

    Shutting the door, she suddenly turned around and asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Can you wait for me here? I am going out for a moment, and will be back soon.”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    She ought to go. After all, they had several years’ worth of feeling between them, not to mention he had just returned from a faraway journey.

    Sha Man could clearly see his thought; she said, “I am not going to have dinner at all, but there is something I must talk to him.”

    She quickly dressed, picked up the melting ice flower, and went out the door. She turned her head around and said to Lu Xiaofeng, “You must wait for me here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng found wine in the cabinet. Alone he sat down, but he could not even drink wine. He only felt that this elegant room has suddenly turned into an unspeakably hollow and lonesome place, forcing him to ask himself, “Actually, what kind of man am I? By doing what I did, am I harming others? Or myself?”

    Although the little old man told him that he ought to decide about everything himself, yet the fact was that his fate was completely under other people’s hands; right now he was powerless to even protect himself, how was he going to protect her?

    But right now he had no choice but to let her fall into difficulty. In this place, that Ninth Young Master definitely held the power to manipulate other people’s fate.

    He wanted to leave, but could not bear to go. He stood up, and sat back down. He poured a cup of wine and was about to drink when suddenly he heard someone said with a laugh, “Won’t it be too boring to drink alone? Why don’t you pour another cup for me?”

    Although he had not heard her laughter for a very long time, he still recognized her laughter clearly.

    With laughter as clear as silver bells, Beef Soup walked in. Her smile looked radiant. When she was laughing, she was a lot more mesmerizing than when she was not laughing.

    But Lu Xiaofeng only shot her a cold look. “And now you recognize me again?” he asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Even if you burn to ashes, I will still recognize you. It’s just that in front of other people, how can I show any affection to you?”

    She snatched the cup in Lu Xiaofeng’s hand and plopped herself down on his lap. In a tender voice she said, “But now we can show affection to each other. You may show your affection any way you want.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Your Ninth Brother has come back, why don’t you drink with him?”

    Beef Soup laughed. “Are you drinking vinegar [i.e. jealous]?” she asked, “Do you know what is he to me? He is my sibling.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was clearly taken aback; he could not help but ask, “What kind of man he really is?”

    He had asked this same question to Honest Monk, and he had asked Sha Man, but they did not give him any answer.

    Beef Soup let out a soft sigh, she said, “Actually, I myself can’t say for sure what kind of man he really is.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup replied, “Because in all honesty he is too complex, too strange; but even that treasured Papa of mine also said that he is such an amazing talent.”

    Speaking about this man, immediately her eyes shone. She continued, “Sometimes he seems to be very stupid, oftentimes he got lost, he could not even tell east from west. If you asked him: from a hundred people, seventeen died, how many left? Probably he is going to find a hundred people, kill seventeen, and count the remainder, before he could give you the answer.”

    She went on, “But no matter how difficult any martial art skill is, as soon as he trains, he will master it. No matter how tightly guarded any place is, he can come and go as he pleases. No matter what it is that you are thinking, before you say it, he already know. If you want him to kill someone, no matter where that person is hiding, no matter how many people are protecting him, he will not fail.”

    “Never fail?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup chuckled. “Perhaps you don’t believe me,” she said, “But certainly Honest Monk knows.”

    “Did they fight?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Someone with Honest Monk’s level of martial art skill, they would not last three moves under his hands.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent. He knew that she was not bragging at all, he had seen Honest Monk coming out of the chest with his own eyes.

    Beef Soup said, “He does not gamble, he does not drink, he does not like other things that men like to do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “Other than murder, what else does he do?”

    Beef Soup said, “When he is not doing anything, he usually sits alone on the beach, staring at the sea. Sometimes two, three days he did not say anything, sometimes he sat by the sea for three days, not only he did not eat a thing, he did not even drink a drop.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Maybe he secretly sate a few fish, it’s just that you did not see it.”

    Beef Soup said, “Maybe you won’t believe me, but his endurance is really something that nobody else can do; he is able to stay at the bottom of the ocean for a day and a night without coming out.”

    “Are you saying that he is a fish, who can breathe under water?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “He is just like someone who doesn’t need to breathe. One time for some reason my old man was very angry with him, he nailed him inside a coffin, and buried him four, five days. Later on other people could not bear it, they dug the coffin out and opened the lid to look inside.” She looked at Lu Xiaofeng, “Can you guess how he was?”

    With a straight face Lu Xiaofeng said, “He had turned into a zombie; perhaps all along he has always been a zombie.”

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “He simply stood up, patted his clothes, and walked away. He did not speak even one word.”

    Although with his mouth Lu Xiaofeng spoke sharp and unkind words, in his heart he actually could not help but admire this man.

    He also knew that it was not a myth, if someone practiced Indian Yoga to perfection, they could do some incredible things. He had personally seen an Indian fakir put into a metal trunk, and was drowned into the bottom of the sea. Three days later unexpectedly came out from the metal trunk, alive and well.

    Beef Soup said, “Although he is eccentric and reclusive, everybody here loves him very much, because he often did a lot of things for other people, while he himself never asked for a single thing. Concerning wealth, he did not have any regard at all. You only need to open your mouth, as long as he has it, doesn’t matter how much, he will give it all to you.”

    She said, “Girls are helplessly drawn to him, it’s a pity that other than that future sister-in-law of mine, he never has any regard to these girls.”

    “Who is that future sister-in-law of yours?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “It’s the woman you were together with just now.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. It was a long time later that he could not bear not to ask, “Are they engaged?”

    Beef Soup nodded and said, “Can you guess what kind of place my Gege [older brother] rescued her from?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was unwilling to guess.

    Beef Soup said, “From a shameful *****house.”

    She sighed softly before continuing, “At that time she was sold into the brothel by her own Gege; if not for my Gege, I don’t know what condition she would be wasted into.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt sick in his stomach and almost could not stop himself from vomiting.

    Beef Soup continued, “My Gege is that good to her, she ought to at least show a bit of appreciation; who would have thought that she always make my Gege the recipient of her anger. A man like my Gege, unexpectedly he loves a woman like her, don’t you think it’s strange?”

    “Not strange,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup stared at him with eyes opened wide.

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “She is a lovely woman, at least she won’t speak ill about anybody behind their back.”

    Beef Soup sighed, and then she said, “Turns out you also like her. This is a bit of a problem. I originally thought you were determined to go home; therefore, I secretly found a boat for you.”

    “What are you talking about?” Lu Xiaofeng cried out.

    Beef Soup flatly said, “Now since you like her, it’s only natural that you would want to stay here; what else can I say?”

    She slowly stood up, and to his surprise, started to walk away.

    Lu Xiaofeng grabbed her hand and said, “You … you really found me a boat?”

    Beef Soup said, “It’s not much of a boat, no big deal, it’s just that …”

    “It’s just what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “It’s just that people like you, even if there are twenty or thirty of you, the boat will still be able to take all of you home.”

    “Where is the boat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Since you don’t want to leave, why must you ask?”

    “I …” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “Since you like her, why must you go?”

    She flung Lu Xiaofeng’s hand and said coldly, “But I must go, otherwise, when other comes back and sees us, she will drink vinegar.”

    Lu Xiaofeng felt his mouth was both sour and bitter; watching her walking out of the door, he could not help rushing forward to grab her hand again.

    With a straight face Beef Soup said, “As a grown man, if you want to stay then stay, if you want to leave then leave. Why do you take my hand inappropriately like this?”

    “Alright,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I’ll come with you!”

    As soon as he said that, when he looked up, he saw Sha Man outside the door, looking at him.

    The night was deep, the silhouette of the flowers looked blurry. Sha Man was calmly standing in the middle of a cluster of flowers. Her pale face looked so white that it was almost transparent. Her beautiful eyes were brimming with sorrow.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng saw her, she already looked down as she slipped into her own room by their side. She did not cast even a single glance toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    She did not speak, not even a single word. What could Lu Xiaofeng say?

    Beef Soup looked at them; she said, “Since you want to leave, why haven’t you left?”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly rushed over, pulled Sha Man’s hand, and cried out, “Leave, let us go together!”

    Sha Man had her back toward Lu Xiaofeng, she did not turn her head, but he could feel that her body was trembling. Suddenly she said coldly, “Go, quickly go, I … I am getting married tomorrow, I must not see you anyway.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s hand suddenly felt icy-cold. It was a long time before he slowly let go of her hand. Suddenly he laughed aloud and said, “This is a happy occasion. Congratulations. Too bad I cannot drink your celebratory wine.”

    He fished out all the banknotes from his pocket and put it on the table. “This is a mere trifle, just consider it my wedding gift to you.”

    “Thank you,” Sha Man said.

    Thank you! Wonderful, just wonderful.

    A man was just willing to give everything to you, and now, because you gave her congratulatory gift on her wedding, she thanked you. Yet the gift that you gave her happened to be the thing that normally she did not have any regard. Won’t you say that this is just wonderful? So wonderful that it would make you feel lile banging your head to kill yourself?

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not bang his head and died. He followed Beef Soup to the seaside.

    This time indeed Beef Soup did not lie to him. Sure enough, there was a boat by the sea, and there were six, seven boatmen on the boat.

    Beef Soup pulled his hand and said, “Do you know why I let you go?”

    “I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Actually, I did not want to let you go,” Beef Soup said, “But now I cannot not let you go.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Do you really?” Beef Soup asked, “Or you still don’t know?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I know, but I don’t know.”

    Beef Soup sighed. She said, “I should have known.”

    “What did you know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “I know that in you heart you must be grieving, but if you stayed here, inevitably there will be a day that you die under my Ninth Brother’s hands.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “When you are home, please find a way to reward these boatmen; they are very reliable.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “If the old man knew that I let you go, he would be angry; perhaps he would bury me alive. But …”

    She sighed, and then continued, “But on the whole you and I have a period of deep affection. If it were me who killed you, I can’t bring myself to do it. If it was other people who killed you, I will certainly be very grieved.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup chuckled and said, “Now you seem to know everything.”

    “Actually, I don’t know anything,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    He really did not know anything. Because his heart was in a mess, a complete mess.

    He was intelligent, a free spirit, brave, staunch, and decisive. He loved life, he loved adventure. He was not a scoundrel like a lot of people think. But he had one great weakness.

    His heart was too soft.

    Why is it that the stronger the character a man has, the weaker he is?

    Why is it that the smarter a man is, the easier it is for him to do something stupid?

    And now finally Lu Xiaofeng was at the sea.

    The vast, spectacular ocean is always able to make a man forget all his sorrows.

    But Lu Xiaofeng has not forgotten.

    Right now it was the time when the night was deepest, dawn was just around the corner, but his mind wandered to the previous dusk.

    The dusk that he would never forget.

    Why would she do that to him? Why was it that at first she wanted him to leave, and then she did not want him to leave, finally she let him leave?

    Is one’s emotion really that easy to change?

    If the fact cannot be trusted, is there anything on earth that a man can put his trust in?

    To be able to go home, of course, it was an irresistible temptation.

    When he was back, he would be the world-famous Lu Xiaofeng again. On this barren island, he was considered a nobody.

    When he was back, he would receive the welcome of many, many people. Those people who did not want to open their wine bottle for others, they would open it for him. Matters that were impossible for other people to accomplish, he could accomplish.

    But if he went back, would he really be happy?

    For the last several years, his glory was already too much; anybody who mentioned the Four-Eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng would mentioned it with admiration, with envy, but also with jealousy.

    Whether he was really happy or not, only he alone knew.

    If one cannot be together with the one he really love, even if all the honor, glory wealth in all the earth was given to him, when the night was deep and the dream returned, inevitably it would turn into the time when sleep failed, the time when tears would flow.

    Even though he might not have any tears in his eyes, he could shed tears in his heart.

    If one can be together with the one he really love, even if he lived in a crowded room, it would feel better than a vast, thousand-acre mansion.

    This kind of feeling is definitely not one that smart people would understand.

    If you talk to a smart person about this kind of feeling, he would definitely laugh at you, calling you an idiot, an *******; why would you want to give up everything for a girl?

    Because they did not know that sometimes a girl was everything a man has.

    Even if all the treasure, all the wealth, all the power and and all the honor on the earth was given to him, it can’t compare to true happiness.

    This kind of feeling, only a genuine, sincere, and true to himself, man could understand.

    As long as he could understand, it did not matter if others insulted and sneered at him, saying that was an idiot, an *******; he would simply ignore them.

    Lu Xiaofeng was exactly this kind of idiot.

    Lu Xiaofeng was exactly this kind of *******.

    The night bleak and hazy, the ocean was boundless, yet ‘splash!’ he suddenly jumped into the sea.

    No matter what, he simply must go back and see her one more time. Even if after seeing her he had to quietly leave again, he would be most willing.

    Even if he could not leave again, he would be most willing.

    A man who was not stupid at all, a wanderer without root, a calm and cool-headed chivalrous man, a man who squandered money like dirt, a playboy who despise worldly conventions, a man who had already obtained the wealth, reputation, power and success that other people could only dream about, why would he do such thing?

    Because he was Lu Xiaofeng.

    If he did not do such thing, he would not be Lu Xiaofeng.

    He would be a dead man!

    The seawater was icy-cold.

    After jumping from the boat, he swam for quite a distance before remembering one thing, a terrible thing.

    When the boat set sail, it was deep into the night. Right now it was almost dawn, the boat has been sailing for at least two hours or so. If he wanted to swim back, who knows how long he has to swim? Perhaps six or ten hours; but perhaps even if he swam forever, he might never come back.

    If he turned around and tried to catch the boat, he might overtake it soon, or he might never catch it.

    He suddenly found that he was hanging between the heaven and the earth, going forward would be terrible, going back would be horrible.

    Right this moment, he heard a loud ‘Boom!’. When he looked back, he saw a green-blue flame was rising from the direction of the boat, blazing flame suddenly filled the sky.

    The seawater was icy-cold, but he felt his body was even colder than the seawater. He could only see the boat slowly sank into the water.

    If he were still on the boat, perhaps he had been blown into flying ash. This time he went through another narrow escape.

    It’s just too bad his situation right now was not much better. If he wanted to go back to the island, it would be as difficult as ascending the heavens. But if he wanted to sink into the bottom of the sea, it would be much more easier.

    Based on his current situation, it looked like sooner or later he would sink into the bottom of the sea.

    The boat he rode on also looked like sooner or later it would sink into the bottom of the sea.

    Beef Soup’s method was clearly very crude, much more crude than her father’s.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. Suddenly he felt that he had another weakness. He was always too easy to trust others, always considered others too good and honest, always did not believe that in this earth there was no such thing as truly evil person beyond cure. He had forgotten that a father would, of course, understand his own daughter better than anybody else.

    He thought that Beef Soup would be perfectly satisfied by driving him away, it had not occurred to him that she was determined to kill him.

    The long night was over, a streak of sunshine appeared on the eastern horizon, its golden light painted ten thousand ripples of waves; it was an enchanting and magnificent sight.

    Could he still see the sun tomorrow? Lu Xiaofeng himself did not have the slightest confidence.

    He relaxed his four limbs ss much as possible, floating along the sea current half floating, half sinking; he was hoping that the tide would bring him back to the island. At this point he did not even dream that there would be any boat passing through here.

    Who would have thought that there was indeed a boat on the surface of the ocean? It was just like the last time he fell into the sea, Yue Yang tossed him that life-saving skiff. On the skiff someone was rowing hard; obviously that person has never imagined that there was a living, breathing human being in the water.

    All of a sudden Lu Xiaofeng jumped out of the water and into the skiff. The person was so startled that he screamed, as if he had just seen a ghost.

    He seemed to be only a child, naturally his courage was not too big. He wore black clothing and his hair was tied under a dark green turban. He was none other than the little servant who did odd jobs on the boat.

    When he went on board, Lu Xiaofeng had already felt that this little servant was kind of sneaky, his appearance seemed a bit familiar. It’s just that at that time Lu Xiaofeng himself was a bit out of his wits that basically he did not pay close attention to this kind of matter.

    The little servant’s face was fair and clear, a bit delicate even, not at all like someone who was accustomed to rough work. When the boat sank, unexpectedly he was still able to get onto the lifeboat. His luck was indeed not bad.

    The little servant was so shocked to see Lu Xiaofeng, his lips turned white as he said, “You … you didn’t die?”

    “I am already dead,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am looking for the guy who killed me.”

    Half-believing, half-doubting, still afraid in his heart, the little servant said, “Why are you looking for me?”

    “Because you are the one who sank that boat,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Immediately the little servant denied in loud voice, “It wasn’t me, I don’t know anything.”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled; suddenly he rushed forward and grabbed the little servant, and pulled the lapel of his gown, exposing sparkling and translucent, fair and delicate chest, a pair of tiny, budding breasts. Unexpectedly, this child was Xiao Yu, who the previous night invited Sha Man on behalf of the Ninth Young Master.

    Naturally she was no longer a child, but a teenager whose amorous feeling had just been awakened. Suddenly a strong, grownup man undid her clothes and had her in his arms, her entire body went weak. In her heart she was scared, angered, but was also shy, and anxious. In a trembling voice she said, “You … you … what do you want?”

    “I don’t want anything,” Lu Xiaofeng drawled, “But I have always been known as a famous wolf [i.e. lecher]. Everybody knows that.”

    Xiao Yu was so scared that she almost pass out, yet there was also an unspeakably weird feeling in her heart that she did not pass out.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “My favorite is little miss who loves to tell lies. I don’t know if you can tell lies or not.”

    He deliberately squinted and grinned wickedly, putting up his best big wolf face, as if he wanted to swallow her whole in one bite.

    Instantly Xiao Yu shook her head. “I can’t tell lies,” she said, “I have never told lies.”

    “You really cannot tell lies?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Alright, let me test you. I ask you: how could the boat catch fire?”

    Xiao Yu looked as his hands, his hands did not look like the kind of hands that follow compass and set square; his expression really made other people’s skin crawl. In the end she let out a sigh and said, “At the bottom of the hold, there were barrels of Jiangnan Pi Li Tang’s [lit. hall of thunderbolt] gunpowder, there were also several barrels of black oil. As soon as the gunpowder’s fuse was lighted, the ship started to burn.”

    “And who lighted the fuse?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “It was not …”

    “It was not you?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    His hands suddenly did some scary things. Xiao Yu’s body turned even softer. “Not someone else,” she whispered.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not seem to quite understand. “Not someone else?” he said, “Are you saying that it was you?”

    Xiao Yu bit her lips. Finally she nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Who told you to do such thing? Was it your Ninth Young Master?”

    “Not him,” Xiao Yu replied, “It was the Princess [公主].”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Her old man is not the Emperor, why do you call her the Princess?”

    Xiao Yu said, “Not Princess [公主], but Gong Zhu [宫主], the ‘Gong’ of Huang Gong [皇宫, imperial palace][1].”

    “Why is she called ‘Gong Zhu’?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu replied, “Because her surname is actually Gong, and her name is Gong Zhu.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Previously, I also know a little old man [orig. xiao laotou 小老头, lit. ‘little old head’,” he said, “Can you guess his name?”

    “What was his name?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “His name is Lao Touzi, because his original surname is Lao [old], and his name is Touzi [man, boss, gang leader; together 老头子 (Laotouzi) means ‘old man’ (usually in vulgar/derogatory way)].”

    [1] The word Gong Zhu [宫主] literally means ‘master [主] of the palace [宫], or ‘imperial empress, milady’; however, so far, everybody has always called her Gongzhu [公主, Princess (usually of royal household)].

  17. #77
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 – Aware of imminent death

    Xiao Yu laughed. She seemed to forget that pair of scary hands already.

    But Lu Xiaofeng let her go. With a deliberate straight face he said, “Indeed you cannot tell lies. I don’t like you.”

    Xiao Yu looked at him; she rolled her eyes, and suddenly said, “You think I was really scared that you might like me?”

    “You aren’t scared?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu shook her head; she said unhurriedly, “I told you all those things, it was because I can’t tell lies to begin with.”

    Lu Xiaofeng guffawed.

    The sun had just risen, illuminating her apple-like face, it also illuminated her nicely budding breasts.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Whether you are telling the truth or not, you’d better put on your clothes now.”

    Xiao Yu blinked. She said, “You have looked at me anyway, why should I put on my clothes?”

    She untied the dark green turban on her head, letting her jet-black, soft and shiny long hair fell loose. Turning toward the sun, she said, “I have never basked in the sun here, I really want to strip naked and have a full-body sunbathing.”

    The sun was shining bright, the sea was deep blue; to be able to strip naked and bathing in the sun was a delightful thing indeed. But Lu Xiaofeng cried out, “You must not do that!”

    “Why?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because … because I am a wolf [i.e. lecher].”

    Xiao Yu said, “I am not afraid of wolf, could it be that the wolf is afraid of me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “The wolf is not afraid of you, but the wolf is afraid that he himself might …”

    He has not finished this sentence when suddenly his countenance changed, because he suddenly discovered that water has entered the bottom of the boat.

    “Can you swim?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can’t,” Xiao Yu replied.

    “This time it looks like we are finished,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What do you mean finished?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “That Gong Zhu [see Chapter 9] of yours, not only she wanted to kill me, she wanted to kill you to close your mouth as well.”

    “I know,” Xiao Yu drily said.

    “You do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “She bored two holes at the bottom of this boat and sealed them with wax. Soaked in seawater, the wax dissolves, seawater bubbling up, then this boat will sink.”

    Lu Xiaofeng cried out; he said, “Since you already knew it, why do you still want to ride on this boat?”

    Xiao Yu said, “Because I have been wondering for a long time, how does it feel to drown in the sea?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck. He had never imagined that this little girl, who appeared very clever and quick-witted, was actually a muddle-headed little ‘muddled egg’.

    Xiao Yu said, “I know that in your heart right now you are cursing me as little ‘muddled egg’. Actually, if you did not meet me, you would still be drowning in the sea. And now you have someone to accompany you; what’s not good about it?”

    With a wry smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just have a little regret.”

    “What is it?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “I regret that just now I did not like you for real,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Xiao Yu blushed; but she could not help giggling.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her. “What are you laughing at?”

    Xiao Yu did not answer. She fished out a large lump of yellow wax from a board on the bow, and cut it into two-halves, kneaded the wax until it turned soft, and used it to plug the holes at the bottom of the boat. “When this wax dissolves, what are we going to do?” she muttered to herself.

    “I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I know,” Xiao Yu said, “I have prepared seventeen, eighteen pieces of wax like this.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was pleasantly surprised. “Turns out you are not a little ‘muddled egg’, but a little fox,” he said.

    Xiao Yu made an exaggerated sigh and said, “Although I want to know what it feels like to drown in the sea, but I have never had anybody like me; if I die without rhyme or reason, don’t you think I’d die in vain?”

    Lu Xiaofeng roared in laughter and said, “If that Gong Zhu of yours see you back alive and well, I wonder if she will be scared to death?”

    “She won’t,” Xiao Yu said.

    “How do you know that she won’t?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “Because each time she sends me to do something for her, she always tries to kill me to shut my mouth; too bad each time I did not die. Each time she sees me back alive and well, she seems to be very happy instead, because she knows that she can send me to do something else for her.”

    “Since you knew that she always tries to kill you, why do you keep doing things for her?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu sighed. “Because if I don’t,” she said, “I will die for real very quickly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also could not help sighing. To be together with that Honeybee, it was really not easy to keep on living. He knew that when he was back on the island, the Honeybee would definitely come after him. He can’t even think of a place to hide.

    Xiao Yu stared at him. Suddenly she said, “You are a good man.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Finally; your vision is indeed not bad,” he said.

    Xiao Yu said, “Although your two strips of moustache that look like your eyebrows are a bit annoying, but all in all you cannot be considered ugly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When you grow up a bit, I can’t say for sure, but you might like my moustache.”

    Xiao Yu sighed again. She said, “Too bad you are Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “What’s so bad about me being Lu Xiaofeng?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “If you are not Lu Xiaofeng, I will definitely marry you. Even becoming your little concubine, I don’t care.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “So I am Lu Xiaofeng, why can’t you marry me?”

    “Because I don’t want to be a widow,” Xiao Yu said.

    “Marrying Lu Xiaofeng becomes a widow?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu sighed and said, “That Gong Zhu of mine is intent on taking your life, Ninth Young Master also does not necessarily want you to keep on living. If I married you, perhaps not even three days I would already become a widow.”

    Noon.

    The skiff finally reached the shore. The two of them were so tired that their muscles were weary and their strength exhausted; they lay down on the beach like dead people.

    Nobody knows how much time has passed. Suddenly Xiao Yu said, “Being a widow seems to be fun.”

    “It’s not fun,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not fun at all.”

    “It’s fun,” Xiao Yu insisted, “It must be very fun.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “Sooner or later a woman must get married. After she got married she’ll have a husband. But a widow does not. If one can live a free and easy life, with nobody to mind her business, and she can even steal someone else’s husband, won’t that be very fun?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck again. In all honesty he has never imagined that this little girl could have this kind of thought. That being a widow was very fun, this was the first time he had ever heard such concept.

    “Why don’t you say anything?” Xiao Yu asked, “Don’t you think what I said makes a lot of sense?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Turns out not only you are a little fox, you are a little ‘muddled egg’ as well.”

    Xiao Yu laughed. “But don’t you worry,” she said, “This little ‘muddled egg’ does not wish to marry you, a big ‘muddled egg’.”

    She sprang up and said, “I want to go home, what about you?”

    “I …” Lu Xiaofeng said. He was unable to continue, because he really did not know where to go.

    He was not afraid that someone would harm him, he was used to this kind of thing long ago. But today was the day Sha Man got married. To have him watch Sha Man was married to another man, he really cannot bear it.

    Wave after wave came crashing onto the beach; he suddenly realized that this was the beach he first landed on this island.

    Xiao Yu asked, “Are you going to come with me or not?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I have a very nice house around here, do you want to see?”

    “You are lying,” Xiao Yu said, “I don’t like men who lie.”

    “I also have a friend waiting for me in that house,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “His belly is big, not only he is very fun, he never tell lies either.”

    Xiao Yu doubled over in laughter. She said, “Turns out not only you can tell lies, you can toot your horn really loud as well. There are all kinds of men in the world, but men who don’t lie, I have never seen any.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you don’t believe me, why not see for yourself?”

    “Alright,” Xiao Yu said, “Going is going, what’s the big deal? Besides …” She puckered her lips and laughed, and then continued, “Besides, I am not afraid of you, it is you who are scared of me.”

    The spring was still bubbling with fresh water, his straw hut was still standing unharmed like before. There are actually a lot of things on this earth that is never going to change.

    Xiao Yu doubled over in laughter again. “Is this your very nice house?” she asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “This house is pleasantly cool and airy. Tell me, which part of it is not nice?”

    “Very … very … very shameful,” Xiao Yu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng guffawed. He pulled Xiao Yu’s hand and took her inside. The big-bellied Buddha Maitreya was still lying on its place, his mouth was still smiling wide.

    “And this must be your friend?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “You think he can tell lies?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He can’t,” Xiao Yu replied.

    “Therefore, I did not lie to you,” Lu Xiaofeng said. Stooping down, he patted the Buddha Maitreya’s belly, and said with a laugh, “Good friend, I knew that you will definitely wait for me here. Not only you can’t tell lies, you won’t sell out your friend either.”

    The Buddha Maitreya looked at him with a grin; suddenly he said, “But I can bite.”

    The sound was coming from the Buddha Maitreya’s mouth. Lu Xiaofeng was really shocked. Since when can this Buddha Maitreya speak?

    The Buddha Maitreya suddenly sighed and said, “Not only I can bite, I can also tell lies.”

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng jumped up, he grabbed the Buddha Maitreya and lifted him up. He was jumping up and down and laughing at the same time.

    Xiao Yu looked at him in shock; she thought he was sick.

    Lu Xiaofeng was indeed sick, the disease of happiness. Of course Buddha Maitreya cannot talk, but the person hiding inside him can. Lu Xiaofeng could hear this person’s voice clearly.

    This person was Sha Man.

    Sha Man’s face was still pale. Although she appeared more haggard than before, her eyes were shining with joy.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly at her. Nobody knew for how long. Finally he said, “How can you be here?”

    Sha Man winked. She said, “You can come to my house, why can’t I come to your house?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Of course you can come; you can come any time, it’s just that …”

    He suddenly felt sick in his stomach again. “Today you are not supposed to be here,” he continued.

    “Why?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to force a laugh, but he simply could not laugh. “Isn’t today the day you are getting married?” he asked.

    Sha Man chuckled. “Didn’t I just tell you?” she said, “Not only I can bite, I can also tell lies.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

    Xiao Yu could not resist from interrupting, “Now I understand why you like a girl who can tell lies, it is because you like Miss Man.” She winked, and then continued, “And now the two of you can really like each other, but I have to go. Otherwise, I am afraid you might catch up with me.”

    This little girl was very tactful. As soon as she said she wanted to leave, she just left. Of course this time Lu Xiaofeng did not try to hold her back.

    When Xiao Yu was out of their sight, Sha Man asked, “The two of us can really like each other; what did she mean by that?”

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Exactly like this.” And then he suddenly pounced forward, wrapped his arms around her, and the two of them rolled around on the soft leaves.

    The sea breeze was warm and moist, the waves gently lapped the beach, gentle and tender, just like a lover’s breath.

    But their breathing was not as gentle and tender as the sea breeze. Their breathing was short, and rapid. Just like the beating of their hearts.

    -- Why did you lie? Why did you kick me out?
    -- Because I wanted to test you, but I knew that you would come back.

    These questions, they did not need to ask, neither did they need to answer. There was no need to explain anything.

    What they were doing right now was the best explanation. In the deepest part of the hearts of two people who loved each other, there has never been any explanation better than this.

    The sea breeze was still as gentle as before, their breathing has become as gentle and tender as the sea breeze. This tiny thatched hut was their palace. In their palace, there was only peace, only love. All the cruel, evil things in the world, seemed to be very distant, very far away from them.

    But they were wrong. Just then, their palace – the Palace of Love, suddenly collapsed; the roof fell on top of their bodies.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not move. Sha Man did not move either. They were still embracing each other tightly, as if even the sky fell down on them, crushing them, they did not care. Because they have found the one thing that their hearts desired the most – real passion, real love.

    They have satisfied the other’s desire. They did not even seem to hear the voice outside.

    Actually, it was not that they did not hear it, but they did not wish to hear. It was the voice that they did not wish to hear the most. Because for them, there was nothing more unpleasant to hear than the sound of Beef Soup’s laughter.

    The sound from the outside right now was exactly the sound of Beef Soup’s cold laughter.

    Not only Beef Soup was sneering, she was also talking. The thing that she said was even sharper, even more ear-piercing, than the sound of her cold laughter. Not only that, she even clapped her hands!

    “Wonderful! Marvelous! If your martial art skills are half as good as what you have just done, absolutely nobody would be able to stand.”

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng sighed; with one hand he pushed aside the straw roof on top of their bodies.

    Beef Soup was standing above their heads, looking at him. Her eyes were brimming with hatred and jealousy.

    “How are you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. [Translator’s note: in Chinese ‘how are you?’ is ‘ni hao’ – are you well?’]

    “I am not good,” Beef Soup replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Now that’s a true statement, you are indeed not a good person.”

    Beef Soup’s cold laugh suddenly turned into an enchanting smile. “I just want an honest answer from you.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “In this kind of thing, am I better, or is she better?”

    “The two of you cannot be compared,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Because there are two ways to do this kind of thing,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Which two?” Beef soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “One is as human, the other is as beasts.”

    Beef Soup’s enchanting smile turned into a cold laugh. “And if the human died after that?” she said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I remember someone said that ten thousand dead people can’t be compared to one live b1tch.”

    “It must be a very smart person who said that,” Beef Soup said.

    “Whether you are a human or a b1tch, maybe I am not too clear myself,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I only know one thing.”

    “What is it?” Beef Soup asked.

    “That we are still alive, at least right now we are still alive,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “For how much longer?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “As long as we can live one day, it will be better than you living for ten thousand years.”

    “You are wrong,” Beef Soup said.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “Perhaps the two of you can still live a day and a half.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “This is a very big island.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “In our estimate, there are at least 5,700 places where you can hide yourself.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “As long as you can hide for 18 sichen [36 hours], then you might be able to live for 180 years.” With a cold laugh she added, “Too bad that you won’t be able to hide.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Because the two of you are already considered two ants, he will be able to find you and squish you dead within half a sichen [1 hour].”

    “Is it he? Or you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He,” Beef Soup replied.

    “And by ‘he’ you mean your Ninth Brother?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Certainly is,” Beef Soup replied.

    Her eyes were brimming with conceit, “He is even willing to give you half a sichen advantage,” she said.

    “How?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Starting from now, in half a sichen he will absolutely not run after you.”

    “Absolutely not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Whatever he says, each word is like a nail on the wall, one nail one small hole.”

    “I believe you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup said, “Even if you don’t, at least the person who has just slept by your side should believe.”

    Suddenly her voice became very gentle and soft, “Because I seem to remember she has also slept by my Ninth Brother’s side.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was not offended at all.

    If there is complete trust between two people who have real feeling and real love to each other, there is nothing in the world worth their feeling offended.

    But if you said that Lu Xiaofeng was not mad at all, that is also not a true statement. At least his countenance has changed somewhat.

    Beef Soup was laughing. Lu Xiaofeng said, “Is that all you wanted to tell me?”

    Beef Soup nodded. Lu Xiaofeng said, “And now I have heard it all.”

    “Have you heard every word clearly?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Every word,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Do you want to bet with me?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Bet what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I want to bet than in less than three sichen [6 hours], Ninth Brother will be able to find you,” Beef Soup said.

    “And then he’ll squish me dead like squishing an ant?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Exactly right,” Beef Soup replied.

    The sea breeze was as gentle as before, their breathing was just as gentle, but their mood was totally different.

    Gong Jiu’s [‘jiu’ means nine] sword, Gong Jiu’s method of killing people, naturally Sha Man knew a lot better than Lu Xiaofeng.

    But right now, the matter she had in mind was nothing to do with Gong Jiu.

    She was thinking about what Beef Soup was saying a moment ago.

    -- In this kind of thing, am I better, or is she better?

    Up to this moment, unexpectedly she was still drinking vinegar [i.e. jealous].

    Actually, it was not surprising at all.

    No matter when, if you want a woman’s life, it is not a difficult matter at all, but if you want a woman not to drink vinegar, then you can simply keep on dreaming.

  18. #78
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 – Eluding pursuit

    Lu Xiaofeng also had a worry of his own. But what he was thinking was not Gong Jiu’s sword either.

    A matter of life and death, he had always been less concerned about. He should have been dead many times before.

    Sha Man suddenly asked, “What are you thinking about?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am thinking about you.”

    “Me?” Sha Man asked.

    “I am wondering if you are jealous,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sha Man bit her lips, “Why would I be jealous?” she asked.

    “Because you have reason to be jealous,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Because you have had a good time with her?” Sha Man asked.

    “I have had good time with a lot of girls,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “She was nothing more than one of them, and you …” He deliberately paused.

    Sha Man instantly continued for him, “I was also only one of them.”

    Although Lu Xiaofeng did not utter a single word of admission, he did not offer the least bit of rejection either.

    Sha Man looked at him; she stared at him for a long time. “Why didn’t you ask me whether I really slept with Gong Jiu or not?” she suddenly asked.

    “I don’t need to ask,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Because basically you don’t care about it,” Sha Man said.

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng did not deny, unexpectedly he even nodded.

    Again Sha Man stared at him for a long time. Finally she sighed softly and said, “If you still think that I don’t understand your intention, then you are wrong.”

    “What’s my intention?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “You intentionally want to make me angry so I’ll leave.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man said, “You think that if I leave you, I’ll be able to live for a hundred and eighty years?”

    This time, Lu Xiaofeng neither deny nor confirm.

    “Too bad you have forgotten a little something,” Sha Man said.

    He did not ask at all, she already continued on, “For a woman, even if she could really live for 180 years, there is not much meaning in life.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “At least it’s bit better than to only have 18 sichen to live.”

    “That’s what you think,” Sha Man said.

    “What do you think?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “As long as I can be with you, even living for one sichen I will be perfectly contented!”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up, pulled her hand, and said, “Let’s go.”

    Beyond the flat sandy beach, there was lofty and rugged rock, followed by deep jungle with lush trees and bushes. In a place like this, it would be easy even for a rabbit to evade the fox’s pursuit.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not a rabbit. But not only he had rabbit’s instinct and speed, he also had the cunning of a fox and the loyalty and bravery of a dog.

    Himself was a hunter, his survival skill in jungles and marshes was far superior than anyone could understand. As long as he could find a piece of twig, he was able to manufacture a deadly booby-trap in a very short period of time.

    On this kind of place, if he wanted to evade one man’s pursuit, it should not be a very difficult thing to do.

    “But that man is not a human,” Sha Man naturally was talking about Gong Jiu. “He is a viper, a fox, a devil.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “What exactly is he?” he asked.

    Sha Man said, “Some say he is made of nine different things.”

    “Which nine?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “The viper’s spit, the fox’s heart, the ice and snow of the north sea, the rock of Tianshan [Mt. Tian, between Xinjiang and Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan], the bravery and fierness of a lion, the viciousness of jackal and wolf, the patience of a camel, and the intelligence of a human, plus the spirit of the eighteenth level of hell’s ghost.”

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was laughing, anybody could see that his laugh was not a joyful one.

    Sha Man said, “On this island, there are indeed a lot of places one can hide.”

    “How many do you know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “Although what I know is no more than around five thousand places, it cannot be considered too few.”

    “How many does he know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He knows all of them,” Sha Man said.

    -- What I know, he also knows; those that I don’t know, he still knows.

    Sha Man continued, “Therefore, it doesn’t matter where we hide, he will definitely find us.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a moment. Suddenly he laughed again.

    Sha Man was not surprised; she knew that there are people in the world that are able to laugh in any circumstances. She liked this kind of people, but in all honesty she though that Lu Xiaofeng’s laugh was too happy. She could not help but ask, “What are you laughing at?”

    “I just remembered something funny,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “In our situation right now, what can possibly make you think of funny thing?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “We can hide in a very amusing place.”

    Sha Man said, “No matter how amusing that place is, if he can find it, it will become very boring.”

    “I guarantee that he won’t find that place,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Where is it?” Sha Man asked.

    “Inside the egg shell,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sha Man was a bit angry. At a time like this, he really shouldn’t crack a joke like that.

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng was laughing, his eyes were shining. Sha Man could not bear not to say, “Only an egg would hide inside the egg shell, only you are a muddled egg.”

    “You are forgetting something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Oh?” Sha Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Only an egg will have egg shell.”

    Sha Man did not understand.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Do you know the biggest muddled egg around here?”

    “It’s not you?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head. “I can’t be compared to him,” he said, “At most I am only made of six or seven different things.”

    “Are you talking about Gong Jiu?” Sha Man asked.

    “Correct,” Lu Xiaofeng said, and then he added, “Exactly because he is the biggest muddled egg that whoever is able to hide inside his shell will be very safe.”

    [Translator’s note: the word I translated as ‘muddled egg’ 混蛋 means ‘[email protected]/son of a b1tch/jerk, etc.’ But if I translated it, the exchange above would not make any sense. Besides, I feel that the word ‘muddled egg’ is very amusing …]

    Sha Man’s eyes also shone. Finally she was able to understand Lu Xiaofeng’s idea.

    -- Since Gong Jiu was going out to hunt and capture them, his own house must be empty.

    If they could hide inside Gong Jiu’s house, it would be a very safe place. Because nobody would even dream that they were hiding there; nobody, including Gong Jiu himself.

    Naturally the place where no one could think about was the safest place.

    Sha Man said, “Now only one question remains: how can we get in?”

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng also knew that it was the biggest question, but he was confident that they would find a way.

    In his eyes, nothing is absolutely impossible in the world.

    Sha Man said, “Do you already have the answer to this question?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Naturally you know where that egg shell is?”

    “Ehm,” Sha Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “In that case, the question is already answered.

    Sha Man said, “Do you think we can just swagger it, and hope that nobody would see us?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “We do not need to swagger in, we practically do not need to even take a single step.”

    “We don’t need to take a single step?” Sha Man said, “Are you telling me that you turn into a housefly and fly in?”

    “I cannot change,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even if I can, I won’t change into a housefly.”

    He laughed again. “The flight of a housefly is too tiresome,” he said, “I am thinking of sneaking in comfort and ease.”

    Sha Man opened her eyes wide, staring at him just like a child who had just listened to a fairy tale.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I know that in your heart you don’t believe me, but I guarantee that you don’t need to worry the least bit over this question.”

    “Are you telling me that there is something worth worrying?” Sha Man said.

    “There is one,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Tell me,” Sha Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I only have a way to hide in, I don’t have any way to get out.”

    “Hence even though we can hide for 18 sichen, he will still be able to find us,” Sha Man said.

    “By that time,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “If he wants to kill us, we …”

    “For that,” Sha Man cut him off, “You need not worry.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because,” Sha Man replied, “After 18 sichen, he will definitely not be here.”

    “He has to go?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He must go,” Sha Man said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because there is something outside waiting for him to attend to,” Sha Man replied.

    “Other than murder, what else would require his personal attention that he has to go?” Lu Xiaofeng wondered aloud.

    “Nothing,” Sha Man said.

    “This time, who is he going to kill?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Anybody deserving his personal attention, naturally is an extraordinary character,” Sha Man said.

    “Who is he?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I don’t know,” Sha Man replied.

    Perhaps she really did not know, but perhaps although she did, she was unwilling to tell him. Either way, Lu Xiaofeng did not press. He did not want any woman to betray her former lover for his sake.

    Sha Man stared at him. “And now, are you going to turn yourself to something?” she asked.

    “What do you think?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “In my opinion,” Sha Man said, “Only dead people can hide inside Gong Jiu’s room in comfort and ease.”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “You forgot something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Oh?” Sha Man said.

    “There are a lot of dead objects,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not necessarily humans.”

    Objects without life are dead objects. Trees have life, but if the tree is chopped off, sawed into boards, and made into a chest, then it becomes a dead object. Therefore, a wooden chest is a dead object.

    Along a remote, deep, winding mountain path, ten living persons carrying five big wooden chests trudged by. Apparently the chests were very heavy, everybody was struggling.

    Especially the last chest. The two big men carrying this chest were sweating profusely; they were already lagging some ways away. Fortunately, it was already not far from the mouth of the valley.

    Right this moment, they saw Sha Man.

    Just like a gust of wind, she suddenly appeared, blocking their way. “Do you know me?” she asked.

    Of course they did. People who have entered the valley, no matter who, would have stolen a glance toward her direction – at most they only dared to steal two glances on her. Because everybody knew that if the Ninth Young Master ever caught anybody stealing a glance toward her, the Ninth Young Master would be angry.

    And nobody dared to provoke the Ninth Young Master to anger.

    The two men hung their heads, “What order does Miss Man have?”

    “I don’t have any,” Sha Man said, “But the Ninth Young Master does.”

    The two men were listening. The Ninth Young Master’s order, no one dared not to listen.

    Sha Man said, “He sent me here to tell you to bring this chest into his room.”

    Although the order they received previously was definitely not that, nobody dared to doubt, let alone to defy the order.

    Everybody knew that whatever Miss Man said, it was no different than if it were the Ninth Young Master himself!

    Sha Man said, “Ninth Young Master likes cleanliness, so you’d better find a place where you could give your hands and feet some washing.”

    A small stream happened to be nearby, they quickly went over, and as quickly came back. The chest was still lying on the pathway, but Miss Man was gone.

    Although she has gone, what she said was still in effect.

    It was dark and quiet inside the chest; it had been set down gently.

    Outside was full of life and death dangers and crises, yet two persons were in each other’s embrace inside the chest. Have you ever wondered how did it feel?

    Perhaps very few people in the world knew how it feels; but Lu Xiaofeng definitely knew, and so did Sha Man.

    Because right now they were in each other’s tight embrace, breathing each other breathe.

    By the time they could speak up, Sha Man could not help asking, “How did you know he was going to have some chests delivered inland?”

    “I have seen clearly that he is a very meticulous person,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Moreover, he loves to use gifts to buy people’s hearts. He had not arrived, the chests had already been delivered; what would happen when he finally arrived?”

    Sha Man said, “He arrived yesterday, how did you know the chests would be delivered only today?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “After following him to the sea for many days, those people would quickly be stifled and felt like they were suffocating to death, they would be dying to come ashore. Even if they could not find women, they would be sure to have a good drink. And when they were drunk, they wouldn’t be able to crawl up early in the morning.”

    Sha Man said, “Therefore, you have anticipated that the chests would be delivered only this late in the day?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled and said, “Of course I was also relying on my luck.”

    Sha Man said, “Your luck is pretty good, perhaps it was because you can usually make accurate predictions.”

    People who are able to make accurate predictions usually do have good luck. Because only people who are able to make accurate predictions can grab the opportunity. And opportunity is equal to good luck.

    Sha Man’s voice was even gentler, “You even predicted that the men who brought the chest in would not know my affair, and that they would definitely obey my orders?”

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng had already predicted that. In this kind of matter, if Gong Jiu himself did not say anything, who would dare to talk?

    A proud and conceited man, if his own woman left him, would he announce it to the world? He would rather have other people think that it was he who abandoned the woman, he would rather have other people think that it was he who had a change of heart.

    He would rather die than to let other people know the pain of his suffering and the shame of his disgrace.

    Lu Xiaofeng understood this feeling, because he himself was also such a person.

    Sha Man asked, “But how did you know that the chest would be delivered here safely, that along the way, no one would even question?”

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because I can see that people in here don’t like to meddle in other people’s business, especially this kind of trivial matter.”

    Sha Man sighed. “Your opinion is correct,” she said, “People in here, no matter what business, everything does have a price.”

    Since during the delivery of the chest no one asked any question, now that it was here, naturally no one would ask.

    Since Gong Jiu was out hunting them, naturally he would not go back to his house.

    The chest has been opened only a crack, they were still in each other’s tight embrace.

    They were not eager to go out at all.

    “When I die, if Yan Wangye [King of Hell, from Sanskrit Yama Raja] asks me: what I want to be in the next life?”

    “You surely want to be a little chick.”

    “You got it.”

    This chest was really a lot like an egg shell. The egg shell was really safe, warm, and happy.

    “I believe that when the chicks were still in the egg shell, they wouldn’t be anxious to get out.”

    “Why?”

    “Because they knew that as soon as they get out, they would have to grow into big chicken.”

    “And usually big chicken soon will turn into crispy fried chicken, braised chicken, or stewed chicken soup.”

    “I heard only hens can be cooked into stewed chicken soup.”

    “You want to make me into stewed soup?”

    “I can’t bear to do that. But you smell much too delicious, much more delicious than crispy fried chicken.”

    “You want to eat me?”

    “I am dying to eat you.”

    The dusk arrived. Two little chicks finally came out of the egg shell.

    One male and one female.

    Of course the Ninth Young Master’s residence did not look like egg shell at all. It was a magnificent room, with sophisticated and elegant furnishing. The setting sun was shining on the snow-white paper window covering.

    “When he is not here, will anybody ever come in?”

    “Never.”

    These past several years, absolutely no one dared to break into the Ninth Young Master’s house, not even his old man.

    He has always been a reclusive man, so his most precious possession must be a mirror.

    “Why?”

    “Because the only person he truly likes is himself.”

    Sure enough, there was a very large mirror in the room. Clearly it was the handicraft of a master artisan, ground from the best bronze material.

    “He ground the bronze himself. He considers this as the ‘undoubtedly the best mirror in the world’.”

    Next to the mirror hung a sword. The blade was long and narrow, the shape was old, yet elegant.

    “This is his sword.”

    He was out to kill, but he left his sword behind. He did not need a sword to kill.

    Lu Xiaofeng lightly ran his fingertip along the blade of the sword; he slowly said, “I know only one other person whose swordsmanship has also been trained to ‘without sword’ realm.”

    “Ximen Chuixue?” Sha Man said.

    “You know him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man nonchalantly replied, “All I know is that the ‘without sword’ realm is not the highest realm of swordsmanship.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man said, “Since we are talking about sword training, why bother inventing the two characters, ‘without sword’?”

    Before Lu Xiaofeng could even open his mouth, they suddenly heard someone clapping under the bed.

    The clap was very light, but it was more shocking than a clap of thunder.

    Lu Xiaofeng quickly turned around. He saw a bald head sticking out from under the bed.

    “Honest Monk!”

    Lu Xiaofeng had just called out, a sword’s ray flashed, the shiny, flickering sword has already rested on Honest Monk’s neck.

    What a fast sword!

    The sword hanging by the bronze mirror has left its sheathe and landed in Sha Man’s hand. Her move was so fast that even Lu Xiaofeng was startled.

    Naturally Honest Monk was even more scared than him, his face turned deathly pale. With a forced laugh he said, “Actually, Miss did not need to make your move, Monk already knew that Miss is the Number One Swordswoman of this age.”

    “You knew?” Sha Man coldly asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Although Monk has never eaten pork, I have at least seen how a pig walks. Just now I heard Miss said those words, I already prostrated myself in utmost admiration.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Turns out Honest Monk also know how kiss @ss,” he said.

    Honest Monk said, “Monk did not kiss @ss at all, Monk always speaks the truth.”

    Sha Man did not laugh; with a straight face she said, “Too bad Miss always dislikes listening to the truth.”

    “What is it that Miss likes to hear?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Miss likes to hear people kissing @ss,” Sha Man replied.

    Honest Monk winked. He said, “Although Monk cannot kiss @ss, there are many other things that Monk can do.”

    “Such as?” Sha Man asked.

    Honest Monk said, “I can be the matchmaker, I can be the witness when two people decide to get married. Those are things that Monk is most capable of.”

    “Who is getting married? Who needs a matchmaker?” Sha Man asked.

    “It’s a couple of little chicks,” Honest Monk replied, “One male, one female.”

    Sha Man laughed.

    As soon as she laughed, like a slippery fish Honest Monk slipped out from under her sword, and as soon as he was out, he hid himself behind Lu Xiaofeng’s back. “If this little rooster will not marry the little hen, Monk will be the first to raise an objection.”

    “Who says I won’t?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You are really willing?” Honest Monk asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer him, he only looked at Sha Man quietly.

    ‘Ding!’ the sword in Sha Man’s hand fell, the two persons suddenly became one.

    Honest Monk looked at them. The expression on his face was so weird, it was as if he was about to cry. “Why didn’t Monk become a little rooster?” he muttered, “Why did Monk want to become a monk?”

    Surprisingly, there was no wine in that house, not even a drop.

    Honest Monk sighed and said, “If a man’s house does not have any wine in it, can the man still be considered a man?”

    “So those who don’t drink wine are not men?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Even if he himself does not drink, he should at least have a little wine to invite other people for a drink.”

    “So Monk also wants to drink?” Sha Man asked.

    “I only want to drink a certain kind of wine,” Honest Monk said.

    “Which one?” Sha Man asked.

    “Your celebratory wine,” Honest Monk replied. [Translator’s note: orig. 喜酒 (xi jiu), lit. happiness wine, the liquor drunk at wedding feasts.]

    Sha Man smiled sweetly. Lu Xiaofeng also chuckled. They suddenly discovered that this monk was really honest, as well as endearing.

    Honest Monk said, “Since there is no wine, Monk can swallow my own saliva, it can be considered drinking your celebratory wine.”

    He really swallowed his saliva before continuing, “And now, since Monk has already drunk your celebratory wine, if you are thinking of not becoming husband and wife, you can’t.”

    Sha Man looked up, she looked at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Would you say we can or we can’t?”

    “We can’t,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Immediately the two became one.

    Honest Monk’s turned into that weird expression again, the one that looked like he was about to cry. “If the two of you keep doing that, aren’t you forcing the Monk to return to secular life?” he said.

    The night was deep.

    There was lantern in the house, but it was not lighted, it did not need to be lighted.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not care. Sha Man did not care.

    -- If there are true feelings, no stars, no moon, it does not matter. Why would no lantern, no flame matter?

    Naturally Honest Monk did not care even more. He happened to be in the position where ‘what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’.

    The room was really pitch-black, they could not see anything.

    “What are you two doing?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Nothing,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Is your mouth free to talk?” Honest Monk asked.

    “It is,” Sha Man rushed to answer.

    “Since you are free,” Honest Monk said, “Can you accompany the Monk chatting? Can you talk?”

    “We can,” Sha Man responded.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “How did Monk hide under the bed?”

    Honest Monk said, “Because although the master of this place does not like to drink wine, he loves to drink vinegar [i.e. jealous].”

    “Monk is not stupid,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Monk is annoyingly smart,” Sha Man said.

    “But little chicks are not too smart,” Honest Monk said.

    “Which part is not too smart?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Little chicks could have ordered those two idiots to bring the chest back into the boat. Then after less than three to five days, the two chicks can both go home.”

  19. #79
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 12

    Chapter 12 – Monk’s magic trick

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck. Sha Man’s hands felt icy-cold.

    They immediately realized that that was the only chance for them to escape from this place.

    A lost opportunity, never to come again.

    Honest Monk sighed again and said, “Two little chicks, one bald donkey [derogatory term for Buddhist monk], if all of us die in here, then …”

    He suddenly closed his mouth. Lu Xiaofeng sprang up. Although Sha Man did not move, her heart was pounding; it was pounding really fast.

    They heard the sound of footsteps outside the door, like the footsteps of five or six people.

    The footsteps were coming toward this room. Soon they could see light penetrating the cracks on the door; the light was getting brighter and brighter.

    Lu Xiaofeng flashed toward the chest, lifting the lid, he said in the lowest possible voice, “Hide inside.”

    Sha Man fled into the chest, and then he himself entered in before gently putting the lid down.

    Just then, the door opened.

    He heard the sound of the opening door, he also heard footsteps coming in; altogether there were five people.

    The first to speak was a woman. Her voice was harsh, “Who told you to bring this chest here?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart jumped. He could hear clearly that this voice belonged to Xiao Yu.

    Xiao Yu herself was not infuriating, but what she said was really infuriating.

    “It was Miss Man.”

    Naturally the man who replied was one of the two men who brought the chest in a moment ago.

    “Miss Man?” Xiao Yu laughed coldly, “Are you obeying the Ninth Young Master’s order? Or Miss Man’s?”

    Nobody dared to respond.

    “Do you know that Miss Man does not belong to Ninth Young Master anymore?” Xiao Yu’s voice was even harsher.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank even deeper.

    He still did not understand, obviously no one investigated this matter, how did this little girl[1] find out?

    This girl has just been through mortal danger and escaped alive, why did she come to meddle in this kind of business?

    Lu Xiaofeng really wished he could sew this girl’s mouth shut.

    “Take it out.”

    Xiao Yu cried out loudly again, “Quickly take this chest out!”

    “Where?”

    “From wherever you took it out, take it back to that place.”

    As soon as she said that, Lu Xiaofeng immediately realized he was wrong.

    Such a lovely little mouth, how could he sew it shut? He ought to give this little mouth a little kiss. Even an extra kiss or two was fine, she deserved it.

    The chest was brought down from the ship, and in four more hours, the ship was going to set sail again. If the chest was sent back to the ship, then they would also leave with the ship.

    “Then after five days, the two chicks can both go home.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was so happy that he nearly could not refrain from shouting, “Long live Xiao Yu!”

    Only now did he realize that Xiao Yu was doing them a favor. This crafty little rascal must have known early on that they were hiding inside the chest.

    His heart was brimming with joy and gratitude; he believed Sha Man must be equally grateful.

    He could not help wanting to hold her hand in his.

    Although it was very dark inside the chest, he did not care, because even if he touched the wrong place, it did not matter.

    And he indeed touched the wrong place. A terribly wrong place; an annoying mistake, a mistake that made him wanted to die.

    He touched a bald head.

    The person hiding inside the chest with him was not Sha Man, it was Honest Monk!

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to cry out. Too bad that as soon as his hand touched the bald head, Honest Monk’s hand already sealed three of his acupoints; the three major acupoints.

    Not only he was unable to shout, he could not even move his finger.

    What about Sha Man? Where was Sha Man?

    The chest has been lifted up. Xiao Yu did not stop urging, “Quick, quick, quick!”

    Lu Xiaofeng was so anxious he felt he was going crazy.

    Seeing the chest was being carried away, Sha Man must be going crazy too, but like him, she could only watch helplessly.

    Thinking about it, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart broke to pieces.

    Sha Man’s heart must be broken to pieces too.

    But what good is a broken heart? Even if he crash his head and die, even if he crush his body to pieces, it was just as useless.

    He finally understood the real feeling of the four-word ‘have no way out’. The feeling was simply unbearable.

    Nobody knew what kind of drug these two men who carried the chest took, once they lifted the chest, they walked away very fast.

    Unexpectedly Honest Monk held Lu Xiaofeng’s hand in his, and he lightly patted him, as if Lu Xiaofeng was a little child and Honest Monk was comforting him, telling him to listen nicely.

    But Lu Xiaofeng only wanted to listen to one thing: he wanted to hear this monk’s bald head cracking open, just like an egg shell being cracked open.

    Too bad that not only the two men carrying the chest were walking very fast, they were walking very steady; as if they had been learning how to carry chest since they were in their mother’s womb.

    Honest monk sighed softly, as if he was very comfortable, and very pleased.

    “Thins monk is indeed fated to be my black star; as soon as I saw him, I knew that sooner or later I would meet some danger.”

    In term of cursing people, Lu Xiaofeng could not be considered an expert. Of all kinds of cussing words and swearing of seven southern, six northern, thirteen provinces in all, he only knew a little bit; added together, perhaps he only knew about six or seven hundred words.

    He had already used up all these six, seven hundred cussing words in his heart, it’s just too maddening that he was unable to curse out loud.

    -- What about Sha Man?

    -- Watching helplessly as she and her little rooster were being separated by other people, how did she feel?

    -- Was she going to die?
    -- Perhaps dying was better instead, because if she didn’t, how would she pass the time alone?

    -- Perhaps she would find a way to sneak into the ship; her ability was actually a lot better than what people think.

    -- If she could not get on board the ship, would she climb onto other people’s bed?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart felt like it was deep-fried in oil, the more he thought, the more painful it was, the more he thought, the more he felt the pain was unbearable.

    Originally he was not this kind of narrow-minded person, but meeting with Sha Man has changed him.

    When a man found his true love, why is it that he always changed that now he take everything too hard? Now he became narrow-minded?

    The two men carrying the chest suddenly opened their mouth in curses.

    “Curse this chest! We didn’t even have the chance to enjoy a good meal.”

    “Damn it, it’s just like meeting the big headed ghost in person.”

    “We might as well find a secluded place and throw it into the ocean, lest it creates more trouble for us.”

    It was only natural that these kind of veteran sailors, who had been through the wind and the waves for a long time, were not people of good moral character; there was a good chance that they would actually do that kind of thing.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not care at all, on the contrary, there was a little part of him that wished that they would really do it.

    Who would have thought that these men changed their mind?

    “But at least we have to look at the chest to see what the hell is inside.”

    On second thought, Lu Xiaofeng felt that this idea was not too bad either. Too bad Xiao Yu already put padlock on the chest.

    “Can you open this lock?”

    “I can’t.”

    “Do you dare to smash the lock open?”

    “Why not?”

    “If Ninth Young Master asked, who’s responsible?”

    “You.”

    “F*ck your mother.”

    The other man half-laughing half-cursing said, “I always knew you are a [email protected]

    “You are more or less the same.”

    “Therefore, we might as well bring this chest back nicely, dump it in the bottom hold, and then the whole world will be at peace.”

    ‘Thud!’ the two men unceremoniously dumped the chest on the floor; from the sound of it, underneath was a wooden floor.

    The two men heaved a deep sigh together. This place was obviously the bottom hold of Gong Jiu’s ship.

    Their task accomplished, finally the whole world will be at peace.

    Honest Monk also let out a sigh softly, as if saying, “In three, five days, the little rooster and the bald donkey will be home safe and sound.”

    And so his world will also be at peace.

    But what about Lu Xiaofeng?

    It seemed like Lu Xiaofeng did not even have any breath left. Putting his hand on his nostrils, Honest Monk indeed felt no breath.

    Honest Monk was shocked. “What’s going on?” he asked.

    No response, no breath. Can a person really die of anger?

    “You must not die,” Honest Monk said, “Monk does not wish to be stuffed inside the chest with a dead man.”

    Still no response, still no breath. Yet Honest Monk suddenly burst in laughter, “If you want to deceive me, so that I’ll unseal your acupoints, then you are dead wrong.”

    His laughed with even more glee, “Good people don’t live long, bad people last for a thousand years. I know you are not dead yet.”

    At last Lu Xiaofeng let out a breath. The chest was stuffy to begin with, holding his breath made it even more unpleasant. He did not want to really die of anger.

    Honest Monk’s laughter was even more cheerful, “Although I have no wish to fight you inside this chest, talking to myself is boring. As long as you promise to be nice, I’ll unseal your mute acupoint.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was very nice.

    If someone had his three vital acupoints sealed, even if he did not want to be nice, he could not.

    Indeed Honest Monk was a man who kept his words. Immediately he unsealed Lu Xiaofeng’s mute acupoint.

    “You, bald donkey, why didn’t you drop dead immediately?”

    It was actually the first thing Lu Xiaofeng wanted to say, but he decided not to.

    Sometimes he was also a profound man, he also had deep thoughts, he did not want Honest Monk to seal his mute acupoint at all. Even his voice did not show the least bit of anger.

    “Actually, you did not have to do that,” he said indifferently.

    “Did not have to do what?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Did not have to seal my acupoints,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “But Monk was afraid you might get angry,” Honest Monk said.

    “Why would I be angry?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Little hen suddenly turned into a bald donkey, inevitably little rooster would be angry.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. “You are wrong,” he said.

    “And I was wrong because …?” Honest Monk said.

    “Long ago the little rooster is not a little rooster anymore,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What is it then?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Old rooster,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “So what’s the difference between little rooster and old rooster?” Honest Monk asked.

    “There are a lot of differences,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The biggest one is, old rooster has seen no one knows how many hens, big and small, but he has only one bald donkey as a friend.”

    He spoke very sincerely, “What’s more, she is originally from here, so there’s no harm in her staying here. You, the bald donkey, on the other hand, if you stay, you may become dead bald donkey. I simply cannot watch a friend turns into dead bald donkey.”

    Honest Monk grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s hand again, apparently he was moved. “Indeed you are a good friend.”

    “You shoul have known early on,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Still, knowing now cannot be considered too late,” Honest Monk said.

    “If you unseal my acupoints now, it can’t be considered too late,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Honest Monk immediately agreed, “Indeed it is not not late.”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. He waited for him to make his move.

    But Honest Monk continued slowly, “Although it is not too late at all, but unfortunatey it is still a bit too early.”

    “Still too early?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Still too early,” Honest Monk replied.

    “What are you waiting for?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “At least until the ship sets sail.”

    Lu Xiaofeng shut his mouth tight; he was very afraid he could not stop himself from raining curses on Honest Monk, because he knew that no matter how he cursed, he could not curse this bald donkey to death.

    He could only keep cool, and waited.

    If you were Lu Xiaofeng, and you were locked inside the chest with this monk, would you find it bearable or unbearable?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly said, “I was wondering, would you do me a favor?”

    “Speak up,” Honest Monk said.

    “Could you seal one other acupoint of mine?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Is your qi blocked and you feel ill?” Honest Monk asked.

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “But you really want me to seal another acupoint?” Honest Monk asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Which acupoint?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Sleep acupoint,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    At this kind of moment, what on earth could be more pleasant than a good sleep?

    Honest Monk sighed. “Apparently your luck is not bad at all,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng almost could not refrain from shouting, “You still say my luck is not bad?”

    Honest Monk nodded. “At least you still have a friend who could seal your acupoint,” he said, “Monk does not have any.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly at him. Listening to that kind of words, he really did not know whether he should cry three times, or he ought to laugh three times.

    He neither did cry nor laugh. Because he had fallen asleep.

    Darkness.

    The dream in his sleep was a complete darkness. When he awoke, it was still darkness. The darkness in his sleep was a nightmare, the darkness after he awoke was still a nightmare.

    -- What happened to Sha Man?

    In his dream he seemed to see Sha Man on the run constantly, but he did not know where she was running to? He did not know either what was she running from?

    He wanted to run after her, yet the distance between them kept growing, until what’s left of her was a hazy shadow.

    When he woke up, he could not even see her shadow.

    He seemed to have a floating feeling; obviously this ship has set sail and they were now on the ocean.

    Surprisingly, he felt that he could move his limbs.

    But he did not move. He was thinking about how to pay Honest Monk back.

    In the end this bald donkey did keep his words; as soon as they were out to sea, he unsealed Lu Xiaofeng’s acupoints. But if it were not for this bald donkey, how could a pair of lovey-dopey little chicks get separated?

    Thinking about the nightmare just now, thinking about Sha Man’s plight right now, Lu Xiaofeng really wished he could put a big hole on that bald head.

    But even if he made seventy, eighty big holes, what good would that bring?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. No matter what, that bald donkey was his old friend, not only that, he could not be considered a bad person anyway.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng had to suffer a little bit of pain, he must not violate the big principle.

    The ship sailed very smoothly; apparently it was a day with moderate wind, beautiful sun.

    Lu Xiaofeng quietly stretched out his hand; he was thinking to seal Honest Monk’s acupoint to have him suffer a little bit of pain.

    But as soon as his hand was stretched out, Lu Xiaofeng instantly felt something was not right.

    This chest suddenly smelled very fragrant, it was inundated with the aroma that he was very familiar with.

    It was definitely not the smell of Honest Monk. No matter what, no matter which monk, his body odor could not possibly be like this.

    Even a Buddhist nun would not smell like this.

    When he reached out, he caught a hand. A smooth, soft and slender jade-like hand.

    It can’t possibly be Honest Monk’s hand.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was thumping like crazy; he suddenly heard a voice in the darkness, “Finally you are awake.”

    It was a gentle and beautiful voice, brimming with joy.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s voice was trembling due to excessive excitement; he almost could not stop his body from trembling as well. “Is it you? Is it really you?”

    “It’s really me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not believe it. He did not dare to believe it. It was as plain as day that Honest Monk was inside the chest; how could he suddenly become Sha Man?

    But this voice, it was really Sha Man’s voice.

    She took his hand away from her hand, she wanted him to stroke her face, her breasts. Her body also shivered.

    Such a shiver of ecstasy; it was also a feeling he was familiar with. He did not care about anything else anymore, with all his strength he embraced her tightly.

    Even if it was only a dream, it was a sweet dream. He really wished he would never wake up from this dream.

    He hugged her very tight.

    This time, he would never let her slip away from his bosom.

    She was also hugging him very tight. She was crying, and laughing, and kissing him. She kissed his entire face. Her lips were warm and soft.

    “This is not a dream. This is real.” She was in tears. “This is really not a dream, this is as real as it could be.”

    Yet this sort of thing was even stranger than the most absurd dream.

    “How did you get here?”

    “I don’t know?”

    “Where is Honest Monk?”

    “I don’t know.”

    She really did not know. “I was hiding under the bed, I saw them lifting the chest and taking it out. I was so anxious that I passed out.”

    “And then what happened?”

    “When I woke up, I am already back inside this chest. This really feels like a dream.”

    “But it’s not a dream!”

    “Absolutely not.”

    This was indeed not a dream. She bit his lips. It hurt. A kind of sweet pain.

    Could it be another miracle performed by Xiao Yu? Could she have that great of a power?

    Although they could not explain all these questions, it did not matter anymore. The only thing that mattered was that they were now together again.

    They were embracing each other tightly, as if they were determined to embrace each other for the rest of their lives.

    Right this moment, suddenly they heard a ‘thump!’ from the outside. It looked like someone was kicking the chest.

    The chest shook.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not move. Sha Man did not move either. They still embraced each other tightly. But he could feel that her lips were turning icy-cold.

    And then they heard another ‘thump!’ This time the chest shook even more violently.

    Who was kicking the chest?

    Sha Man licked her cold and dry lips. “It’s not Gong Jiu,” she said quietly.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man said, “He can’t possibly kick the chest. He can’t possibly do such a senseless thing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed coldly.

    Suddenly he felt a bit of anger in his heart, a bit sour.

    -- Why is it that when she mentioned this man, the tone of her voice was respectful?

    He suddenly straightened himself up, and forced the chest open.

    Who would have thought that the lock outside the chest has been removed? As soon as he straightened his waist up, he burst out of the chest.

    The dark hold was littered with messy piles of junks and several wooden chests.

    Surprisingly, there was no one outside their chest, but someone was hanging from the horizontal beam above, just like a dead fish hanging on the fishhook. Right now he was still swaying from the hook. Right now he was swinging, trying to kick the chest.

    “Honest Monk!” Lu Xiaofeng cried out. He almost could not believe his eyes.

    Sha Man suddenly entered the chest, while Honest Monk, who was in the chest, suddenly was hanging outside.

    What’s going on?

    Honest Monk’s mouth was full of bitter water. When Lu Xiaofeng took out the rags stuffed in his mouth, he threw up.

    “Only the Heaven knows what’s going on.” His astonishment and confusion did not look to be faked. “I was fully awake; for some reason, I suddenly felt very sleepy and fell asleep.”

    “And when you were awake, you were already hanging like this?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk sighed. “Fortunately you are still in the chest; otherwise, I don’t know how long I would have to hang like that?” he said.

    “And now you still don’t know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk was startled. Immediate he put out his most friendly smile as he said, “I know.”

    He smiled until the muscle on his face felt numb. “I know you will definitely help me down.”

    “I am not in a hurry,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “But I am a little anxious,” Honest Monk said.

    “So hanging like that does not feel comfortable?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk desperately shook his head.

    He was really anxious; cold sweats were flowing like crazy.

    Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng sat down. He sat on a wooden plank, looking up at him, and leisurely asked, “Is up there nicer and cooler than down here?”

    Honest Monk shook his head until it felt numb; he could not help shouting loudly, “It’s very nice and cool; it is simply extremely nice and cool.”

    “Then why are you sweating?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I am mad,” Honest Monk replied, “I am mad at myself, why did I make friends with such a good friend.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. A big laugh.

    Seeing Honest Monk was angry, his own anger dissipated by one half. He was prepared to take the monk down first and deal with him later.

    Who would have thought that right this moment, they heard a cough echoing outside the hold. It looked like someone was about to enter the hold.

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately got into the chest, gently lifted the lid, and slowly lowered it down.

    Before the lid was even fully closed, he saw the door to the hold was pushed open, two people walked in.

    The one in front looked like one of the men who brought the chest in a moment ago.

    Lu Xiaofeng was secretly praying, he hoped this time they were not going to take the chest away.

    Inside the chest was total darkness, not the least bit of noise was heard from the outside.

    Why did they come here?

    Suddenly seeing a monk hanging from the beam, how come there was no reaction at all?

    Lu Xiaofeng grabbed Sha Man’s hand. Her hand was icy-cold.

    His hand was not nice and warm either. He had already had regret; he should have had Honest Monk down just now.

    Only now did he finally understand, when one is always thinking of how to fix others, oftentimes the one who get fixed would be himself.

    After waiting for half a day, there was still nothing stirring outside. He grew more anxious; he almost could not restrain himself from opening the lid a crack, just to see what’s going on out there?

    Just then, suddenly someone was knocking on the chest. ‘Knock, knock, knock’, the knocking was very light. Obviously it was not a kick with a foot. Naturally it couldn’t be Honest Monk, whose hands and feet were bound.

    This kind of knocking sounded more like a very polite guest waiting outside the door.

    Too bad the host did not welcome the guest at all.

    The host actually wanted to open the door, but the hostess was adamant on holding his hand back.

    Since the host did not open the door, the guest did not have any choice but to open it himself. He only opened it a crack.

    A very little crack.

    Lu Xiaofeng wanted to look outside from the crack, but there was a whiff of steam blowing from the outside. A sweet-smelling and rich steam; it smelled so good that those who smell it will have their mouths water. Even people who had never had beef soup before would be absolutely certain that the aroma was that of the beef soup.

    [1] Little girl, orig. ‘yatou’ – girl or servant girl, may be derogatory or term of endearment.

  20. #80
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 13

    Chapter 13 – The wind and waves of the Sea of Vinegar

    Lu Xiaofeng has had beef soup.

    He has always liked eating beef soup, but now he wanted to vomit. Because his stomach contracted, and his heart was sinking.

    Could it be that everything was a game played by the ‘Beef Soup’? Like the kind of game a cat would play after it catches the mouse?

    Finally the steam gradually scattered.

    Lu Xiaofeng found a pair of eyes outside, looking in at them from the crack on the chest. The eyes were shining with some kind of mischievous smile.

    Unexpectedly someone was singing outside, “Knock, knock, knock, please open the door. Who’s there? I am the old rooster. What do you want? I am here to deliver beef soup, so that when the little chicks drink it, they will be strong, not afraid of wind, not afraid of waves.” [Translator’s note: in Chinese, the words ‘soup’, ‘strong’, and ‘waves’ rhyme.]

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned again. The singing voice did not belong to Beef Soup at all. Even when Lu Xiaofeng sang his nursery rhyme, his singing voice would be a bit better than this. Perhaps in the whole wide world, there was nobody who could sing worse than this man.

    Honest Monk!

    Lu Xiaofeng quickly pushed the lid open. Someone was squatting outside, holding a bowl of beef soup with both hands. It was indeed Honest Monk.

    Just now he was obviously bound and hung from the beam. How come now he was down there?

    Honest Monk winked. He said, “Monk is honest, Bodhisattva bless and protect Monk!”

    This kind of matter was indeed a bit mysterious, it really did not look like something within human’s power to do.

    Lu Xiaofeng also winked, “I wonder if Bodhisattva also kills cow?”

    Honest Monk instantly shook his head. “My Buddha abstains from killing life, how could Bodhisattva kill a cow?”

    “So Bodhisattva also can’t possibly give Monk some beef soup?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course not,” Honest Monk replied.

    “In that case,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Where did this beef soup come from?”

    Honest Monk suddenly chuckled. “Why don’t you guess?” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not want to guess.

    It was not the first time that he had seen the color and flavor of this bowl of beef soup, but he would rather see one big bowl of dog poo; he did not wish to see this sweet-smelling and rich beef soup.

    Because he knew that only one person could cook this kind of beef soup.

    -- Only ‘Beef Soup’ can cook this kind of beef soup.

    Honest Monk suddenly said, “This bowl of beef soup is from an old friend of yours, who asked the Monk to deliver it to you.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Honest Monk continued, “She said that these past two days the two of you must have toiled excessively, and that you must need something nourishing.” He seemed to blush a little, “This is not Monk’s words, Monk actually did not want to say it, but that friend of yours insisted that Monk pass it on to you.”

    “Where is she?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “She says she’ll be coming soon to see you, she says to tell you not to worry.”

    With a straight face Lu Xiaofeng said, “I also have some things I’d like you to pass on to her.”

    Honest Monk said, “Monk is all ears.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Tell her that I’d rather be with a b1tch [female dog] eating poo than seeing her, let alone drinking her beef soup.”

    Suddenly from behind a stack of crates at the corner of the room someone sighed and said, “Such a nice man, why would he want to be with a b1tch eating poo?”

    It was not Beef Soup’s voice either. The voice was very tender and lovely, it sounded like a very young girl’s voice.

    Just as she finished speaking, sure enough, a very young girl really jumped out from behind the crates.

    Lu Xiaofeng was immediately relieved. “Xiao Yu!” he cried out.

    Giggling, Xiao Yu looked at him, she blinked her big eyes several times, and said, “Can you not be with a b1tch? Can you be with a [male] dog instead?”

    “I can’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Because I want to be with you.” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Xiao Yu blushed.

    Honest Monk suddenly said, “Why must you prevent him from being with a b1tch?”

    “Because I was afraid Miss Man would drink vinegar,” Xiao Yu replied. [Reminder, ‘vinegar’ means jealousy.]

    Lu Xiaofeng snatched the bowl of beef soup from Honest Monk’s hand and said, “You want to drink vinegar, I am going to drink beef soup.”

    The beef soup was extremely tasty.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Turns out Beef Soup is not the only one in the world who can cook this kind of beef soup.”

    “Who else can?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “You,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I can only eat,” Xiao Yu said.

    “You did not make this?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Not only I can eat,” Xiao Yu replied, “I can also steal. I stole this from the kitchen.”

    “There is someone in the kitchen who can make this kind of beef soup?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Only one person,” Xiao Yu replied.

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Beef Soup,” Xiao Yu replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng shut his mouth up.

    Xiao Yu rolled her eyes and then said, “Actually, you ought to know, this time naturally she also get on board the ship.”

    “Why must she come?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I secretly hid a skiff,” Xiao Yu replied, “Therefore, she must knew that you are escaping on this ship; otherwise, how come they could not find you?” She sighed, and then continued, “It was because they could not find you that these past two days Ninth Young Master and Princess’ temper was really annoying. Fortunately they would never dream who did all these things.”

    “So who did all these things?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu pointed her forefinger toward her own nose.

    “It was you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “If not me, who else?” Xiao Yu said.

    “The one who sent Sha Man here was you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course it was me,” Xiao Yu said.

    “The one who hang Honest Monk was also you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The one who let him down was also me,” Xiao Yu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at her in disbelieve, as if she had just sprouted two horns on her head.

    Xiao Yu said, “You don’t believe I can do all those things?”

    Honestly, Lu Xiaofeng did not believe the least bit.

    Xiao Yu chuckled and said, “If even you do not believe, Ninth Young Master and Princess naturally do not believe even more.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, they did not suspect it to be you.”

    “Not even in their dream,” Xiao Yu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He felt that the saying ‘you can’t judge a person by appearance’ was really true.

    Right this moment, there was some strange gurgling noise somewhere in the hold. Everybody was startled, and then they found out that that ‘somewhere’ was actually Honest Monk’s tummy.

    Xiao Yu laughed. She looked at his tummy and giggling incessantly.

    With a red face Honest Monk said, “What’s so funny? Monk is also human, when the tummy is hungry, it can cry out.”

    Xiao Yu said sweetly, “But Monk’s tummy’s crying sounds especially pleasant to hear.”

    “But Monk does not like to hear it the least bit,” Honest Monk said.

    “So what does Monk like?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Monk only likes to watch,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Watch what?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Watching mantou [steamed bun], salted vegetabled, dried radish … As long as it can be eaten, Monk loves to watch.”

    “Is beef soup not nice to watch?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Monk does not eat non-vegetarian food,” Honest Monk replied.

    “In that case,” Xiao Yu said, “Monk can only have hungry tummy, can only listen to your tummy crying out.” And then she turned to Sha Man, “Miss Man does not eat beef soup too?”

    “I don’t,” Sha Man replied.

    “Miss Man is not hungry?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Not hungry,” Sha Man replied, “Even if I am, I won’t eat.”

    Xiao Yu laughed again, “Turns out Miss Man has eaten vinegar. Turns out eating vinegar can also make you full.”

    Honest Monk suddenly grabbed the beef soup and said, “She does not eat, I’ll eat.”

    “Since when did Monk start eating non-vegetarian food?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “When I am hungry like crazy,” Honest Monk replied.

    Mouthful by mouthful he ate. And when he was tired eating, he sighed and said, “Wine and meat already entered the intestines, Buddha sat in the heart. Monk ate a bit of beef soup, actually it doesn’t matter.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help laughing. “Indeed it doesn’t matter,” he said.

    Honest Monk suddenly sprang up and loudly said, “It does.”

    “What’s the matter?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “It frighteningly matters, Monk …” before he even finished, he fell face up on his back, with white foams appearing on the corners of his mouth.

    Immediately Lu Xiaofeng also felt that his head was a bit dizzy. With faltering voice he said, “There’s drug in the bowl of soup.”

    Xiao Yu’s countenance changed, “Who put the drug?” she asked.

    “I was just about to ask you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    He wanted to stand up and pounce on her, but unfortunately his limbs had turned numb and soft.

    Xiao Yu kept shaking her head, “I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me …” she said.

    Looking at Lu Xiaofeng’s fiendish expression, she was so scared that she wanted to run away. Too bad Sha Man had already blocked her way out.

    “If it wasn’t you, then who?” she coldly said.

    Xiao Yu did not know.

    But there was someone outside the door answering, “It wasn’t she, it was me.”

    On the earth, there was only one person who could cook this kind of beef soup. Naturally there was also only one person who could put drug in the soup. It was Beef Soup herself.

    The beef soup Beef Soup produced was very sweet-smelling and nice-looking. She herself was also very sweet-smelling, and very nice-looking. Especially today.

    It looked like she made special effort to dress-up today. She wore bright-colored and well-fitting clothes. The rouge on her face was neither thick nor tasteless. As it turned out, her makeup matched very well with her personality.

    It was only today that Lu Xiaofeng found out that not only she knew how to dress, she was also very adept at putting makeup on her face!

    Although Lu Xiaofeng did not drink the soup too much, right now his head was dizzy, his eyes shone with lewdness, as if he was drunk with wine. “I know you can’t possibly treat me like this,” he suddenly yelled.

    “Oh?” Beef Soup said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are dressing up especially for me to see, I’m sure you won’t do that to me.”

    With a grim expression Beef Soup said coldly, “Of course I won’t do that to you. I just want you to be with a b1tch eating poo.”

    Turned out she had been here for quite some time, perhaps she even came here with Xiao Yu. But looking at Xiao Yu, it was obvious that that was not the case.

    Xiao Yu appeared to be scared to death; practically, she looked like she was about to faint any time. She was thinking of sneaking out.

    Beef Soup simply ignored her.

    The ship was in the middle of the ocean. Those on the ship, where could they run to?

    Xiao Yu seemed to also understand this logic. Not only she did not slip out, she slammed the cabin door instead.

    Beef Soup quickly turned around, glowered at her, and said sternly, “What do you think you are doing?”

    “I am not doing anything,” Xiao Yu replied, “I just want you to accompany the Monk drinking the soup!”

    There was still half a bowl of beef soup.

    Xiao Yu said, “This beef soup is very good, it would be a pity if you don’t finish it.”

    Beef Soup’s countenance changed. Even if the rouge on her face was wiped off a little bit, other people would still be unable to see. Unfortunately the makeup on her face was neither too thick nor too thin. It was just enough for other people to see that her countenance had changed.

    Sha Man’s countenance did not change. Her face has always been pale, but her as-sharp-as-blade eyes were fixed on Beef Soup.

    Although Xiao Yu was smiling, her smile also concealed a blade in it.

    They understood Beef Soup very well. On the earth, very few people understood Beef Soup like they did. This fact, naturally Beef Soup herself also understood very well.

    She looked at Xiao Yu. “Do you dare?” she asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “Why don’t I?” She smiled before continuing, “I can see clearly that you are scared; because you originally thought that we are afraid of you. But we are not afraid; therefore, you are scared.”

    What she said sounded complicated, but the logic behind it was actually very simple.

    -- You are not afraid of me, I am scared of you.

    Interpersonal relationship is oftentimes like that.

    Sha Man slowly took out a very thin steel wire from the lining of the lapel of her gown, and she played with it in her hands.

    Steel wire was thin, but very tough and durable. The metal flickered under the light.

    Her hands were slender but powerful. Very soon the steel wire in Sha Man’s hand would turn into a silhouette of dancing swordswoman, the sharp end was the sword.

    Her finger plucked lightly, the sword style changed indeterminately.

    Xiao Yu sweetly said, “I can’t imagine Miss Man’s swordsmanship is this good.”

    Sha Man nonchalantly said, “The things that are unimaginable in this world are indeed too many.”

    Beef Soup no longer said anything. Immediately she walked over and drank the rest of the half-bowl of beef soup.

    The amount that she drank was not less than Honest Monk, but she did not show the least bit of reaction. Obviously she had taken the antidote.

    Xiao Yu laughed and said, “The beef soup is seasoned with the Monk’s spittle, I wonder if it tastes better?”

    Beef Soup shut her mouth.

    Xiao Yu said, “Actually, you should be happy. No matter what, Monk’s spittle has always been hard to find.”

    Beef Soup coldly said, “I am very happy, I am happy as hell.”

    Xiao Yu laughed and said, “It’s good that you are happy. I was afraid you might be unhappy.”

    “And now, are you going to let me go?” Beef Soup asked.

    “No,” Sha Man said.

    “What else do you want me to do?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Strip,” Sha Man said.

    “Strip?” Beef Soup said, “What do you mean strip?”

    “Strip all your clothes,” Sha Man said, “Anything that can be stripped must be stripped.”

    Beef Soup’s countenance changed again; she started at her hatefully. Sha Man remained emotionless. Her hands were still playing with the steel wire. In her slender hands, the tough and durable steel wire was as pliable as a strip of cotton yarn.

    Beef Soup turned her head toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was laughing; his laughter looked a bit like an idiot!

    Other than laughing, he seemed to have nothing better to do. Although he did not pass out, his response was very slow.

    Sha Man coldly said, “You don’t need to look at him, it’s not that he had never seen you naked.”

    She was still jealous. When a woman is jealous, usually she cannot speak reasons.

    Beef Soup began to strip.

    Xiao Yu laughed and said, “She strips very fast.”

    “Because she is used to doing it,” Sha Man said.

    Xiao Yu sighed deliberately; she said, “I just wondered why she has never caught cold.”

    Beef Soup did not seem to hear. When she was dressed, she was a good-looking woman, after she stripped, she looked even better.

    Her legs were very straight, exceptionally sturdy. Her skin was smooth and tight. When she put her legs together, not even a finger would be able to penetrate them!

    No doubt she was the kind of women who can make men lose their minds. To this fact, she was also very confident of herself.

    Xiao Yu sighed again. “Excellent body,” she said, “If I were a man, I would have been fainted by now.”

    “Too bad you are not a man,” Sha Man said.

    Xiao Yu laughed and said, “Fortunately I am not. But neither are you!”

    Beef Soup suddenly said, “But both of you are not women either.”

    “We are not?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Beef Soup said, “If you really want to be a woman, you still have a lot to learn.”

    “Can you teach us?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Beef Soup stared at her. Her eyes suddenly shone with strange expression, her eyes were brimming with some kind of unspeakable desire.

    For some unknown reason, Xiao Yu’s face suddenly blushed.

    Beef Soup softly said, “Why don’t you strip too? Let me teach you.”

    Xiao Yu felt her mouth dry; she could not even speak.

    Beef Soup walked toward her slowly, her hips swayed in some exotic, almost evil, cadence.

    Suddenly there was a flash of cold light, coming straight toward her breasts. The steel wire was stretched straight, just like a sword, but was sharper than a sword.

    Beef Soup leaped up and made a back flip in the air; her most secret place happened to flash right in front of Xiao Yu’s face.

    Her legs were straight, but an even more straight and strong steel wire suddenly turned into a whip, sweeping horizontally, coiling toward her legs. She pulled her legs in, suddenly she landed behind Lu Xiaofeng, her palm pressed on his Yuzhen [jade pillow] acupoint.

    “You move, he die.”

    Sha Man did not move.

    Xiao Yu did not move either. She stared at her naked body as if she was bewitched.

    Beef Soup laughed. Squinting, she looked at her and said with a laugh, “Xiao Yu [little jade], little darling, I like you, I always like you very much. Do you remember that when you were little, I used to carry you to bed?”

    Xiao Yu’s face was even redder, but she involuntarily nodded.

    Beef Soup said, “If you kill Sha Man for me now, I will like you even more.”

    Xiao Yu hesitated. She looked at her eyes. Her eyes were filled with evil, erotic charm.

    Suddenly Xiao Yu threw herself at Sha Man, lightning fast she made her move; she snatched the steel wire from Sha Man’s hand.

    Evidently Sha Man did not anticipate this move at all; she did not guard against her, even more, she did not imagine Xiao Yu would be able to move this fast.

    The steel wire immediately changed hands. With a flash of cold light it suddenly pierced toward Beef Soup’s throat.

    This move was even more unexpected, and was even faster. But Beef Soup was not taken by surprise at all. Pulling herself back, she hid behind Lu Xiaofeng!

    “You really want him dead?”

    Xiao Yu did not dare to move.

    Beef Soup slowly stood up, her laughter was even more joyful. “Now, can I have you do something for me?” she said.


    “What is it?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Strip,” Beef Soup said. Her eyes shone. “Both of you, strip all your clothes,” she said, “Anything that can be stripped must be stripped.”

    Xiao Yu turned her head toward Sha Man. Sha Man’s face was still pale.

    “I’ll count to ten,” Beef Soup said, “If you still have not stripped, there will be a dead person in here.”

    She started to count already. “One, two, three …”

    Xiao Yu already began to strip. Sha Man had no choice but to comply. Both knew that she dared to do what she dared to say.

    She was counting fast, their movement could not be not fast.

    Beef Souo giggled. “Turns out you also are used to stripping.”

    After saying that, she continued counting, “Four, five, six …”

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng reached back, with his fingers he pinched her wrist, and flung her over his shoulder. Just like a dead fish she fell heavily on the floor.

    He should not be able to do it so easily, but she was inevitably a bit too complacent.

    One should not be too complacent.

    Xiao Yu pounced on top of her. Using her knee she pinned her waist down, and then with a laugh she asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Why did you wait until now to make your move?”

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled and said, “I was going to wait until she counts to ten.”

    Sha Man pursed her lips; she glowered at Lu Xiaofeng, but her pale face was blushing a little.

    Perhaps Beef Soup was dizzy from the fall, it was half a day later that she finally opened her mouth. She laughed aloud and said, “Are you all going to rape me?”

    “I am not interested,” Xiao Yu said, “I don’t think he feels the need either.”

    “In that case,” Beef Soup said, “You’d better let me go now; otherwise, you won’t be able to escape either.”

    “Oh?” Xiao Yu said.

    Beef Soup said, “If he didn’t see me for a while, Jiu Ge would look for me everywhere. On this ship, where do you think you can escape to?”

    Xiao Yu looked at Sha Man. Both of them closed their mouths. They knew she was telling the truth.

    Beef Soup laughed again. With a tender voice she said, “Xiao Yu, little darling, quickly take your leg off, it tickles.”

    Xiao Yu could not see Sha Man’s reaction, she looked at Lu Xiaofeng instead.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly said, “Is there any lifeboat on this ship?”

    “There are two,” Xiao Yu said.

    “Are they guarded?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu said, “We can deal with the guards, but even if we manage to grab one, it will be useless.”

    -- Because none of them could deal with Ninth Young Master.

    She did not say it out loud, she did not need to.

    To get the small boat down to the sea, row it far away so that the big ship could not find it, it would need at least two hours.

    Gong Jiu could not possibly give them two hours.

    Lu Xiaofeng muttered irresolutely, “Right now the people upstairs do not know Xiao Yu has rebelled; if she wants to seize the boat, presumably it won’t be difficult.”

    Xiao Yu said, “But …”

    Lu Xiaofeng cut her off; he suddenly asked, “Around this time, where usually is Gong Jiu?”

    “In his cabin,” Xiao Yu replied.

    “Other than him,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Are there martial art experts on this ship?”

    Xiao Yu shook her head and said, “He always come and go alone.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “His cabin must be the main cabin on this ship.”

    Sha Man suddenly rushed forward, “You … you are not thinking of looking for him, are you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Actually, I did not want to go, but now I have no choice but go.”

    Sha Man was even more anxious. “Why?” she asked.

    “Because you have something you have no choice but to sell to him,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “And he does not seem to have any choice but to buy.”

    “What is it?” Sha Man asked.

    “A big bowl of sweet-smelling and rich beef soup,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sha Man’s eyes shone. “What do you think the price will be?” she asked.

    “My price is not high at all,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. He did not let Sha Man ask further, “First, put Beef Soup in the chest. As soon as I leave, you go seize the life boats. Both of them.”

    Sha Man looked at him. Her eyes were brimming with concern. “Perhaps Gong Jiu does not want this bowl of beef soup, perhaps he only wants your life.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “No matter doing what business, we always have to take some risk!” he said.

    His laughter was not joyous at all, “As soon as you see Gong Jiu alone on the deck and don’t see me …”

    “We’ll kill her right away?” Sha Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded slowly. He suddenly felt very uncomfortable in his heart.

    He did not wish to take Beef Soup’s life at all, he did not wish the situation would develop to that direction even more.

    Unfortunately, he did not have any leeway in this matter at all.

    Sha Man could not help grabbing his hand and said, “You … when do you think you’ll leave?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “As soon as Monk is awake.”

    Sha Man forced a laugh and said, “Naturally we must wait for him to wake up; we need a man to carry the chest!”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed, but his heart was jumbled.

    He knew that it was not what she wanted to say; he could see clearly the fear and anxiety in her eyes.

    But what else can she say right now?

    Even though she knew that most likely this time they would part forever, she could only let him go.

    Because Sha Man also realized that this time thet did not have any leeway in this matter at all.

    Xiao Yu looked at them. She suddenly said, “Right now Monk is not awake yet, the chest is still empty; are you going to let it stay empty?”

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