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Thread: Lu Xiaofeng - Unabridged

  1. #81
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 14

    Chapter 14 – Smooth negotiation

    Honest Monk woke up, Lu Xiaofeng left, and Beef Soup was in the chest.

    Now it was time to commence their operation, yet Sha Man still did not want to go.

    She looked at Xiao Yu, her eyes were full of gratitude. She said gently, “You have been with them, brother and sister, since you were young?”

    “Since I was seven,” Xiao Yu replied, “I am an orphan, if not for Old Master rescuing me, I would have drown in the ocean long ago.”

    “Hence you have been very loyal to Gong family members?” Sha Man said.

    Xiao Yu blinked; she said, “If Miss Man wants to chat with me, when we are on the lifeboat, we will definitely have a lot of time to talk.”

    Sha Man did not seem to hear that; she continued, “What kind of man Ninth Young Master is, naturally you know very well, don’t you?”

    Xiao Yu only nodded.

    Sha Man said, “Right now Lu Xiaofeng is looking for him; this time there is a very good chance he won’t come back.”

    Xiao Yu said, “But …”

    Sha Man cut her off, “If he died, Gong Zhu [princess] will also die, none of us will be able to live. Therefore …” Suddenly she pulled Xiao Yu’s hand and said, “Therefore, there is something I must tell you.”

    “Must Miss Man tell me that right now?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Sha Man nodded. “It’s only three characters,” she said.

    “Three characters?” Xiao Yu asked, “Which three characters?”

    “Thank you [xie xie ni],” Sha Man said.

    Xiao Yu looked at her, the rim of her eyes turned red.

    Sha Man continued, “Right now we are in the face of danger, but if it wasn’t for you, we would not even have this chance. Therefore, if we can survive this time, I hope you can always be together with us.”

    Xiao Yu lowered her head, her face blushed. Of course she understood Sha Man very well. Of course by ‘us’ Sha Man was talking about Lu Xiaofeng and she, two people.

    In a tender voice Sha Man said, “I am a very jealous woman, but this time I am sincere.”

    Finally Xiao Yu said quietly, “I turned sixteen this year.”

    Sixteen-year old was the age where girls usually experience their first awakening of love.

    Xiao Yu said, “Lu Xiaofeng is a very attractive man, I believe there are a lot of girls who like him.”

    “And you?” Sha Man asked.

    Xiao Yu blushed; her voice grew even softer, “Of course I cannot say that I don’t like him, but …” Suddenly she looked up and gazed directly on Sha Man’s face, “But I am doing all these not because of him.”

    “It’s not?” Sha Man asked.

    “Absolutely not,” Xiao Yu replied.

    Her voice was sincere but very firm, anybody could hear that she was not lying.

    “Could it be because of me?” Sha Man asked.

    “It’s not,” Xiao Yu said. There was a strange look on her eyes. “I am doing it for me.”

    Sha Man was caught by surprise. “But you did not need to take such a risk?” she said.

    “I have my reason,” Xiao Yu said.

    “Can you tell me?” Sha Man asked.

    “Not now,” Xiao Yu said. She let out a forced laugh, and then slowly continued, “If Lu Xiaofeng can come back alive, I will definitely tell you. Even if you do not wish the listen, you simply have to.”

    Midnight, the breeze was still, the waves were quiet. The ship was sailing, fast and steady. At this rate, the ship would land by nightfall the day after tomorrow.

    There were two boatmen on the ship, those who were not on duty were asleep. If you go to the bottom deck, you would hear them snoring.

    It doesn’t matter who, snores are never pleasant to the ears, especially if the one snoring was sleepig right next to you. Some people’s snores even make you wish that you were deaf.

    But right now Lu Xiaofeng actually thought that their snore was very pleasant to his ears, because this kind of snore not only made him feel safe, it could also help him to stay awake.

    Was Gong Jiu also asleep?

    Of course not. Even if he were, he could not possibly slumber this deep.

    He was an extraordinary man, a super human. His abilities, everything he had, was not anything other people would even dream of obtaining.

    It was as if he was able to stay awake forever.

    Soon he was about to face such man, how would Lu Xiaofeng feel?

    He had heard too many legends about this individual, but meeting face to face was a completely different matter.

    -- Were those legends, which were approaching fairy tales, true?

    In the cool night like this, a night as cool as water in jade container, what was he doing?

    Was he sitting alone in meditation? Or was he enjoying his time alone?

    The sailors on duty were working, every man was on his assigned station, nobody dared to wander even for half a step.

    There was no guard on duty outside the main cabin.

    With the Ninth Young Master here, who dared to recklessly step out of line?

    It had given Lu Xiaofeng not a few convenience, it was very easy for him to find the main cabin. The cabin door was closed, outside the door there was no footprints at all. No one dared to disturb the Ninth Young Master’s tranquility, especially when the time showed that it was the middle of the night. Other than Gong Zhu, nobody was allowed to linger around the cabin or spying on him.

    It was at this time that Lu Xiaofeng arrived.

    He neither lingered nor spied on him, he just knew that the Ninth Young Master was inside the cabin!

    He had not knocked on the door when he heard weird noises coming from inside.

    It sounded like someone was moaning, was gasping for breath; it sounded like a dying animal struggling in pain.

    Lu Xiaofeng stiffened. Was there someone else inside? Was the Ninth Young Master torturing him?

    Aren’t there people in the world who love to abuse other people for their enjoyment?

    From behind the door suddenly came a low groan, “Quickly come and save me, I can’t bear it anymore!”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear it either, he has always hated madmen who love to abuse other people for their enjoyment. With all his might he broke the door and rushed in.

    There was only one person in the cabin, a young man whose hair was in a mess, whose complexion pale, who was struggling and rolling around on the floor, half naked.

    His body was pale and thin, full of bloodstain, which actually the result of he pricking himself with a needle. There was a needle in his hand.

    The cabin was decorated in sophisticated, elegant and magnificent manners, the clothing items scattered on the floor were also of high-quality, the material and workmanship were top-notch.

    This was, no doubt, Gong Jiu’s cabin.

    Nobody tortured him, why did he torture himself?

    Seeing Lu Xiaofeng came in, although he was shocked, intolerable pain and desire has made him completely losing mind.

    He called again in low voice, “Whip … whip …”

    There was indeed a whip hanging on the wooden frame of the headboard of the bed.

    “Whip me … whip me hard …”

    Lu Xiaofeng saw the whip, but he did not move, he only looked at him coldly.

    The man was also looking at him, his eyes were begging for pity. “Have mercy … quickly get the whip!” he pleaded.

    Lu Xiaofeng sat down. He sat as far away as possible from the man.

    Now he started to think that most likely this man was Gong Jiu; he knew that there are people in the world who love to torture themselves.

    Although self-inflicted pain is a kind of perversion, it is also a kind of sexual release.

    Lu Xiaofeng could never understand this kind of people, yet seeing Gong Jiu, he had a sudden realization.

    -- The things he had achieved were simply too much, and he achieved it too easily. Therefore, the desire in his heart could only be truly satisfied by this self-inflicted pain.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him coldly. “You are waiting for Gong Zhu, aren’t you?” he said, “She loves to whip people, I don’t.”

    The pleading eyes of this man suddenly turned into hatred and enmity. Gasping for breath, he said, “So what do you like? Sha Man?”

    Suddenly he roared in laughter, a laughter like that of a madman, “If you think that woman is a wise and virtuous woman, you are wrong. She is a wh0re.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s hand tightened into a fist.

    The man laughed maniacally, “She is a hundred-percent wh0re, for a piece of fatty meat she is willing to go to bed with anybody. She already went to bed with a man when she was thirteen.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly rushed over and picked up the whip. Others insulted him, he might not be this angry; but when people insulted the one he loved, he absolutely could not stand it! No one can.

    The man laughed aloud, “Are you angry?” he said, “Because you know that I am telling you the truth?”

    Lu Xiaofeng gnashed his teeth. Suddenly the whip lashed down, lashing down on his pale and skinny chest.

    The first lash came down, the second lash was not so difficult. The man’s eyes shone, but his mouth was still cursing constantly. The harder the whip, the brighter his eyes, and the filthier the curse from his mouth. It was a double-venting.

    His body suddenly curled up, and stretched out, and then he just lay there, unmoving. His desire has been met.

    Lu Xiaofeng staggered back and sat down. His clothes were wet. His anger has been vented.

    He suddenly found himself to have some strange, almost evil, satisfaction in his heart.

    This kind of feeling made him sick in the stomach, he nearly could not stop himself from vomiting.

    He closed his eyes, and forced himself to calm down. When he opened his eyes again, the person on the floor had disappeared.

    The cabin eerily quiet. If not for the whip in his hand, he would think that what happened just now was a nightmare.

    Just then, a man walked out slowly from the inner room. His jet-black hair in a tidy bun, not a single strand was off. His snow-white outfit had no wrinkle at all. His handsome, almost like exquisitely carved statue, face was cold and arrogant; it also carried a determined expression. His gaze was as sharp as a blade.

    Was this the same man? Who would believe it? But Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to believe.

    This was neither a miracle nor a nightmare. This was something real. Sometimes the truth was far more bizarre, more dreadful, and more disgusting than a nightmare.

    The man’s blade-like eyes were staring at Lu Xiaofeng’s face. Suddenly he said, “I am Gong Jiu.”

    “I know!” Lu Xiaofeng was indifferent.

    At last he found out what kind of person Gong Jiu really was.

    -- He was not a deity, he was not a superhuman either, he was no more than a snail.

    Because he was always hiding inside his superhuman shell, just like a snail. Only when there was no one else around did he come out for some fresh air!

    Maybe because he was cooped up inside the shell for a long time that the desire in his heart must be vented.

    He chose the most disgusting way of venting, only this kind of way would really satisfy his desire!

    Now that he was satisfied, he was again hiding inside his cold, hard, and shiny shell. But Lu Xiaofeng was no longer afraid of him.

    If a man can really have a good look at the other man, he will never again have to fear him.

    “So you are Gong Jiu?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I am,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “I am sure you never expected that I would come to find you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “There are indeed too many people who are unafraid of death,” Gong Jiu coldly said, “You are not the only one.”

    “But I am afraid of death,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “And so you must have regretted it,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Regret?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You regret why didn’t you kill me just now,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “Just now I did have the opportunity to kill you, didn’t I?” he said.

    “You did not,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. He looked at the whip in his hand, and started to laugh again.

    But there was not a hint of shame on Gong Jiu’s face, as if a moment ago the whip has never lashed on his body!

    “I didn’t kill you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s my own mistake, I don’t need your gratitude. But you …”

    He stopped; because suddenly Gong Jiu did a very strange thing. He suddenly shed off his own clothes, revealing his chest and back. His skin was just as smooth and white as jade.

    Lu Xiaofeng stiffened again.

    -- Where did the whip marks and bloodstains on this man’s body go?

    He did not understand! Although he had also heard a legend about mysterious martial art skill, which when trained to a certain level, the practitioner would have some fantastic regeneration power, they would be able to heal and close up any wound and scar in the twinkling of an eye. But he had always thought that it was just some kind of absurd legend.

    Gong Jiu put on his clothes again; he looked at him calmly, “Do you understand it now?” he asked.

    “Understand what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Just now you didn’t make any mistake,” Gong Jiu said, “Because practically you did not have any opportunity.”

    “Therefore,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You really don’t need to thank me.”

    “Therefore,” Gong Jiu said, “Now you have to die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again.

    Gong Jiu continued, “Anybody who had done something they are not supposed to do will have to die.”

    “Much less I have just seen something I am not supposed to see,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu suddenly let out a soft sigh. “Too bad right now I can’t kill you,” he said.

    “Because you have never killed anybody for free?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “For you, I can always make an exception,” Gong Jiu said.

    “So why don’t you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu stared at him for a long time. Suddenly he asked, “Where is she?”

    It was a really weird question, he did not even explain which ‘she’ he was talking about.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not show the slightest bit of hesitation. “In the chest,” he replied.

    “Do you know who am I talking about?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Yet he could not help asking, “You also knew that she has fallen into our hands?”

    Gong Jiu said, “You are afraid of death, yet you came here. Naturally you did not come to deliver your life.”

    The two of them stared at each other, there was some kind of strange expression in their eyes.

    It does not matter what kind of expression, but there was, more-or-less, some respect in it!

    Sometimes, this kind of respect between enemies can far surpass solemn respect between friends.

    Another long time passed. Finally Gong Jiu said slowly, “You want to use her life in exchange of your two lives?”

    “Not two lives,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Four.”

    Gong Jiu said, “The other two belong to Honest Monk and Xiao Yu?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not deny that this person indeed had some superhuman qualities.

    Gong Jiu said, “And you want …”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I only want one sichen [two hours].” He explained further, “I’ll take her go, your ship turned around, one sichen later, I’ll let her go.”

    “You have seized both lifeboats from the ships?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I know Xiao Yu is not going to let me down,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “One sichen,” Gong Jiu said, “And then you’ll let her to be with me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Four people do not need two lifeboats. One boat is exactly to for her.”

    “You are very thorough,” Gong Jiu said.

    “And I can also keep my words,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Only those who don’t talk too much will be able to keep their words,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Do you think I look like someone who talks too much?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    No, you don’t!

    “Can you forget what happened these past few days?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I cannot,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Nobody could forget these things!

    “Can you keep a secret for us?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, he said, “Your business, even if I told it, who would believe?”

    Gong Jiu stared at him, there was a hint of satisfaction in his eyes. “Looks like you never easily agree to promise anything to anybody,” he said.

    “That’s correct!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Those who don’t make a promise easily won’t break their promise easily either,” Gong Jiu said.

    “I always strive to fulfill my promise,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “In that case, I am sure that when she returns, she will be safe and sound,” Gong Jiu said.

    “That’s a promise,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I am also sure that by this time the lifeboats have been put down,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Very likely,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu slowly stood up and said, “In that case, as soon as you leave, you will see that this ship has turned around.”

    He stood up, signaling that this meeting has ended.

    Lu Xiaofeng also stood up. He looked at him, smiled, and said, “Doing business with you is indeed a pleasant thing.”

    “Same here,” Gong Jiu replied flatly.

    Lu Xiaofeng strode out, and pulled the cabin door open.

    Looking at his back, Gong Jiu suddenly said, “I only hope that this is the last time.”

    “The last time we see each other?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu slowly nodded. “Next time you see me, I believe it won’t be too enjoyable for both of us,” he said.

    “I believe the same thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Dark ocean, rising waves. The small boat was adrift on the waves, just like a single grain of rice in a pot of boiling water.

    Lu Xiaofeng and Honest Monk sat side-by-side, rowing together; Xiao Yu held the rudder.

    Gong Jiu’s ship had already turned around; they had been sailing in the dark for a long time.

    Suddenly Honest Monk asked, “Did you really see Gong Jiu?”

    “Uh huh,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Actually, what kind of man is he?” Honest Monk asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng was deep in thought. He had asked the same question to many people, and now suddenly someone was asking him the same question. He pondered over his reply, but the final result was, “I don’t know.”

    The longer he mulled it over, the more he thought that those three words ‘I don’t know’ were the best answer.

    Because essentially he did not understand the man.

    “You have seen the man face to face, yet you still don’t know?” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “I only know one thing.”

    “Which one?” Honest Monk asked.

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I absolutely don’t want to see him again, and I absolutely do not wish to fight with him.”

    From the aft, Xiao Yu suddenly sighed and said, “Unfortunately, there are things that although you do not wish to do, in the end you will have no choice but to do it.”

    “Are you saying that I may see him again?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Xiao Yu was silent. She looked at the boundless dark ocean, unexpectedly she did not seem to hear the question.

    -- Did the little girl hide a secret in her heart?

    The other small boat was tied with a rope behind the first boat. She suddenly let go of the rudder, and pulled the other small boat over. “The time must have arrived,” she said, “We ought to let her go.”

    Sha Man silently opened the chest. Beef Soup, still naked, was still curling inside the chest; she did not even move.

    Under the faint starlight, her naked body looked as smooth and as bright as the wave.

    “You still don’t want to leave?” Sha Man asked.

    “Why would I want to leave?” Beef Soup said, “This chest is warm and comfortable.”

    “Don’t you want to see your Jiu Ge?” Sha Man said.

    Beef Soup said, “If I don’t come back, sooner or later he’ll catch up with me. I’m in no hurry at all.”

    Suddenly she stood up. In the dark of the night, her naked body seemed to be glowing. She happened to stand in front of Honest Monk.

    Winking at him, she asked, “How long has it been since Monk saw a naked woman?”

    Honest Monk hung his head low. “Seems like … seems like it has been several hundred years,” he stammered.

    Beef Soup laughed and said, “Buddhists pay particular attention to color in the eye, but no color in the heart; why Monk does not dare to look at me?”

    “Monk’s spiritual cultivation is still not enough,” Honest Monk replied.

    Beef Soup said, “Could it be that there is a ghost in Monk’s heart?”

    “There is a little,” Honest Monk replied.

    Beef Soup giggled. Suddenly she plopped her naked butts on Honest Monk’s bosom; she said, “Sitting in Monk’s bosom is much more comfortable than lying in a chest.”

    Continuous sweats appeared on Honest Monk’s head. Of course he knew that she was deliberately provoking him, so that this small boat could not move fast. If she did not come back, Gong Jiu would definitely turn around to pursue them.

    Unfortunately, although Honest Monk understood the situation, he was totally helpless. Not only he did not dare to put out his hand to push her, he practically did not have the courage to move.

    Beef Soup rolled her eyes. She suddenly asked, “How long has it been since Monk touched a woman?”

    “I … I don’t know,” Honest Monk replied.

    “You don’t know, or you don’t remember?” Beef Soup asked.

    “I … I don’t remember,” Honest Monk replied.

    Beef Soup laughed. “I am sure Monk don’t even remember what it feels like to touch a woman,” she said, “Let me remind you.”

    She suddenly grabbed Honest Monk’s hand …

    Honest Monk was so scared that it looked like he was about to scream. Fortunately, right this moment a hand suddenly reached out, grabbed Beef Soup’s wrist, and flung her away. Beef Soup’s body flew. ‘Splosh!’ she landed in the water.

    Lu Xiaofeng clapped his hands and said, “Cut the mooring ropes. Whether she wants to get on it or not, it’s none of our business.”

    Xiao Yu said, “But if she wants to drown herself, what do we do?”

    “We can only watch,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Xiao Yu said sweetly, “Good plan, good idea.”

    To deal with a woman like Beef Soup, it was indeed the best idea.

    Beef Soup did not stop jumping around in the water; she bawled out at the top of her lungs, “Lu Xiaofeng, you [email protected]! There will come a day I am going to chop you and cook you for a meal!”

  2. #82
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 15

    Chapter 15 – Saving people for the sake of loyalty

    She was cursing loudly, but Lu Xiaofeng did not hear her, not even one word.

    Honest Monk wiped his sweats; he sighed and said with a bitter laugh, “Apparently, this is called the natural treatment.”

    ‘Boom!’ suddenly the wave crashed onto the small boat, the stars in the sky disappeared rapidly behind black clouds. Was there a storm coming in?

    The sea was getting darker, the small boat rocked more violently. When the stars disappeared completely, they could not even distinguish direction.

    Honest Monk gripped the edge of the boat tightly with both hands, blood has been drained from his face; he did not stop mumbling, “What should we do? Monk is afraid to even look at the water in the bath tub, I don’t even dare to take a bath.”

    Xiao Yu chuckled. “Turns out …” she started. But before she could finish, the crashing wave hit her heavily, throwing her to the floor of the boat.

    Lu Xiaofeng rushed to hold the rudder; but even if he could control the rudder, what good would it do, since he could not even tell direction?

    Honest Monk sighed. With a bitter laugh he said, “Now Monk finally understands.”

    “Understand what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk replied, “Understand why Gong Jiu readily agreed to your conditions.” He sighed again before continuing, “That kid must have figured out early on that there would be a storm at the sea; he already knew that we won’t pass this hurdle.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Don’t forget that his little sister is also on a small boat; her boat is no bigger than ours.”

    Honest Monk said, “Don’t forget that that girl is a fox-spirit, while we are a bunch of land-dwellers.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent. He could not help sighing as well, “If the Old Fox is here, that would be nice,” he said.

    “Who is the Old Fox?” Honest Monk asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “He can’t be considered anybody special, but if in this world there were 300 ways to prevent a boat from capsizing, he would know at least 299 of them.”

    Suddenly they heard someone said, “I know all 300 ways.”

    One of the plank of the small boat suddenly raised up, a head appeared from below; a head full of ash grey hair, but his eyes were deep blue like the seawater.

    “The Old Fox!” Lu Xiaofeng cried out, “How come you are not dead yet?”

    The Old Fox winked and said, “Have you seen a fish drowned in the water?”

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Fish may die in the water, but definitely not from drowning.

    The Old Fox laughed and said, “On land, I am an old fox; in the water, I am a fish.”

    “What kind of fish?” Xiao Yu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “An old turtle, of course!” he said. [Orig. 甲鱼 jia yu, lit. shell/shield/armor fish.]

    The storm was over.

    No matter how small the boat, no matter how big the storm, with an expert at the helms, surely it would go over it.

    Old Fox’s hand was as steady as a rock.

    “These days, where did you hide?”

    “In the water, of course,” the Old Fox replied.

    If one can hide under water, it was indeed the safest place.

    “What did you eat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Big fish eats small fish, old fish eats big fish.”

    The nutrition of raw fish far surpasses simmer-fried fish, steamed fish or deep-fried fish. Therefore, his hand was still very steady, his physical strength had not disappeared.

    “How did you get to this boat?”

    “I saw this boat is loaded with fresh water, so I knew it was going to sail away.” He laughed, a very proud laugh, “I also knew that if it was not an emergency, nobody would move the lifeboat.”

    Xiao Yu had been listening all along. Now she could not help sighing and said, “Apparently this man is indeed an old fox.”

    Honest Monk also could not help sighing and said, “There will come a day, you will also turn into an old fox.”

    Xiao Yu stared at him. She suddenly asked, “You really never take a bath?”

    “Who said that?” Honest Monk asked.

    “You said it yourself just now,” Xiao Yu said, “You said you are afraid to look at water, how can you take a bath?”

    “I am clean,” Honest Monk said.

    The setting sun faded away.

    The Old Fox’s eyes were just as exciting as the sunset.

    “Where are we heading?”

    “Naturally the Old Fox is returning to the Fox Den.”

    He laughed even more delightedly, because he knew that with him on the helm, even if other people did not want to go, they simply could not refuse.

    “What kind of place is the Fox Den?”

    “It’s the kind of place where, if you have been there once, you will want to go back.”

    “Have you been there?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. His eyes were also shining.

    In that low and dark building, there were always rooms lost in boundless mists of smoke; with rough and blunt men, downing cup after cup of strong wine, strong enough to make them shed their tears; and then there were those bathrooms, with wooden partition full of holes …

    For an unknown reason, when he thought about those things, there was an unspeakable warmth in his heart.

    Narrowing his eyes, the Old Fox stared at him. “Is your heart the same as mine, you want to come back?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not deny. “A little bit,” he said.

    The Old Fox said, “Only a little bit, or you are dying to come back?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “I am dying to come back,” he said.

    The Old Fox chuckled. Casually he pointed forward and said, “Do you know what that is?”

    Lu Xiaofeng turned his head around. He saw land. Great and lovely land, finally they were back.

    There is no doubt that they would be back, because their faith and courage had not disappeared.

    The Old Fox was as excited as a little child.

    This coast, the sandy beach, even that piece of rock, he was very familiar with.

    No matter where he was, as long as he closed his eyes, he could see everything clearly.

    Yet as soon as he came ashore, he was stunned. The coast, the sandy beach, the rock, had not changed. But his Fox Den had.

    The low, shabby single-story building has changed beyond recognition. The windows have snow-white paper covering, there was no more rough and blunt laughter coming from the inside. His Fox Den has unexpectedly turned into a tomb.

    Lu Xiaofeng was also taken by surprise. He could not help asking, “Are you sure you did not land on the wrong place?”

    Actually, he should have known that the Old Fox can’t possibly land on the wrong place. In the world, there has never been any fox who cannot find its way back to its den.

    But then, in the world there is nothing that cannot change; including a fox den.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “When you left, who was in charge of the Fox Den?”

    Xiao Yu interrupted, “When the old fox is out, the mother fox is naturally in charge of the fox den.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “I get it,” he said.

    “You get what?” the Old Fox asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “That mother fox of yours must be a fox-spirit too. Fox-spirits do not like to be a widow too long, she must have thought that you were buried at the bottom of the sea, so most likely your Fox Den now has a new master.”

    With a cold laugh the Old Fox said, “Whoever dare to take that fox-spirit, I really admire his guts.”

    They were standing behind the big rock, and were able to see the Fox Den’s newly painted front door.

    The door suddenly opened, a man swaggered out. He had hawk nose and high cheekbones, his eyes like eagle.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Other people perhaps won’t dare, but this man definitely dare.”

    “You know him?” the Old Fox asked.

    “Not only I know him,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I also know that there are very few things in the world that he does not dare to do.”

    “Who is he?” the Old Fox asked.

    “Ying Yan Laoqi, the Zongpiaobazi [see chapter 1] of the Twelve-Dock Alliance,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The Old Fox’s countenance changed a little.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I won’t be surprised if he seized anybody’s den, but I am surprised that he came here.”

    “Why don’t you go and ask him?” Xiao Yu said.

    “This is my territory,” the Old Fox said, “I’ll go and ask him.”

    He left as soon as he said he would go. As soon as he rounded the big rock, Ying Yan Laoqi’s bright, shining eyes were already staring at him.

    The Old Fox looked at him. His eyes narrowed.

    Ying Yan Laoqi suddenly said, “Hey, come here.”

    “I am indeed going there,” the Old Fox said.

    Ying Yan Laoqi pointed to the small boat and asked, “Is that boat yours?”

    “At first it wasn’t, but now it is,” the Old Fox replied.

    “Aren’t there four, five people on the boat?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Mm,” the Old Fox mumbled.

    “Where are the others?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    Grinning, the Old Fox asked, “Are you an officer from the yamen?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi shook his head.

    The Old Fox said, “Do you know who was originally in charge in this place?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi shook his head. “Who?” he asked.

    The Old Fox pointed to his own nose, “Me,” he said.

    “You are the Old Fox?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    The Old Fox laughed. He said, “Therefore, I should be the one doing the questioning, not you.”

    And then he started the interrogation. “Who are you? What are you doing here? Altogether, how many of you? Where are the others?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi coldly said, “Why don’t you turn around to see?”

    When the Old Fox looked back, he saw two men, clad in black tight clothes, were already standing noiselessly behind his back. Before he even turned around, these two men had moved in lightning speed, trussing his body up.

    With a cold laugh Ying Yan Laoqi said, “Now, who should do the questioning?”

    With a bitter smile the Old Fox replied, “You.”

    With a cold laugh Ying Yan Laoqi turned around, and entered the door in large strides. “Bring him in,” he said.

    ‘Bang!’ the door was shut.

    The two men in black brought the Old Fox in. There were moving shadows on the corners, as well as on the roof ridges. At least seven, eight similarly-dressed-in-black men were guarding and lying in ambush all around the Fox Den.

    From the distance came the sound of hoot beats, there were twenty some riders going back and forth patrolling the area; surprisingly, they were dressed in the uniform of the seven-pin rank military officer.

    Lu Xiaofeng frowned. “Since when did Hu Laoqi [lit. Ol’ Hu the seventh] show such a grand style like this?” he mumbled to himself.

    Those two men who apprehended the Old Fox just now had swift footwork, the way they move was also very fast.

    Those who lay in ambush on the roof ridges and behind the corners also had martial art skill not inferior to these two; all these people could be considered top-ranking martial art experts.

    The number of people who were able to employ these many martial art experts as security guards was really a few; Ying Yan Laoqi actually did not have this kind of pomp.

    From among the riders patrolling in the distance, suddenly one galloped his horse over. Promptly from behind the corner of the building a man in black stepped out to meet him.

    Immediately the rider dismounted and bowed to pay his respect.

    Although he was wearing a seven-pin rank military officer uniform, he was very respectful toward this man in black, as if he was in the presence of his immediate supervisor.

    Xiao Yu said, “It appears not only he has a grand style, his subordinates’ style is not shabby either.”

    Sha Man said, “These men in black are definitely not Twelve-Dock Alliance people.”

    “How do you know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “I have heard about the Twelve-Dock Alliance. Although it is not a den of robbers, but it is not a good place either.”

    “Are you saying that those friends in black are good people?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Actually, he also knew in his heart that these people were not under Twelve-Dock Alliance. Twelve-Dock Alliance had never had dealings with government officials.

    But right now he was in a nasty mood, he just wanted to find someone to fight. Oftentimes it was an effective way to stabilize his emotions.

    Yet Sha Man ignored him.

    Lu Xiaofeng pinched her nose playfully and said, “How did you suddenly become mute?”

    Sha Man deliberately put on a straight face. “What do you want me to say?” she said.

    Lu Xiaofeng pinched her cheek. “I know that you must have seen what kind of people they are.”

    “Naturally they are not good people,” Sha Man said.

    “Why not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because you said so,” Sha Man replied.

    “So you’ll listen to whatever I say?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “If I don’t listen to you, whom should I listen to?” Sha Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Suddenly he put his arms around her waist and planted a kiss on her lips.

    Sha Man could not maintain her straight face much longer. Her entire body turned into jelly in his arms.

    Xiao Yu sighed. “Can you two do me a favor?” she said, “If you want to display some affection, you should at least look at the time, look at the place.”

    Sha Man said, “If you cannot stand watching, I can have him kiss you as well.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Too bad my mouth is busy right now.”

    Indeed their mouths were very busy, while on the other side, the two men’s mouths were not idle either.

    The man wearing seven-pin rank uniform, the military officer whose body was clad in shining armor, has been bowing respectively while talking to the man clad in black. His voice was very low, his expression was grave yet respectful, as if he was reporting a top-secret military intelligence.

    The man in black, on the other hand, looked a little impatient; he already waved his hand to dismiss the officer.

    Sha Man said in low voice, “This man must be a Tian Long Nan Zong [lit. celestial dragon southern school] disciple.”

    “Did you see that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “Tian Long Nan Zong’s qinggong is very particular. The two men who seized the Old Fox just now were also using Tian Long Nan Zong’s unique qinna [grab and capture, grappling] technique. That’s why I said they are definitely not Twelve-Dock Alliance people.”

    This time Lu Xiaofeng was silent, but Xiao Yu asked, “Why?”

    Sha Man said, “Tian Long Nan Zong’s first disciple is a castrate [orig. 天阉 – heaven castrate. I don’t understand the ‘heaven’ part, perhaps birth defect?]; hence he went all out and purified himself to become a eunuch in the Palace. I heard for the last few years he grew to be very powerful, hence he recommended his younger martial brothers to enter the Palace. As a result, among the Tian Long Nan Zong disciples, nine out of ten are internal Imperial Bodyguards.”

    “And thus even these military officers, when they see them, they have to bow their heads?” Xiao Yu asked.

    “Even those with higher rank, when they see them, they would bow their heads,” Sha Man said.

    “But why did these internal Imperial Bodyguards come here?” Xiao Yu asked, “How could they become Ying Yan Laoqi’s subordinates?”

    Sha Man intentionally provoked her, “Why don’t you go and ask him yourself?” she said.

    Xiao Yu blinked. “If Miss Man really wants me to go, I’ll go,” she said.

    She did not go.

    Because the military officer, who all along had his head down, suddenly raised his head up; while the man in black, who all along had been haughty, suddenly hung his head down.

    Lu Xiaofeng seemed to see the flicker of a blade in the military officer’s hand as it penetrated the man in black’s waist. The men in black’s body immediately slumped, but the military officer propped him up, and brought him toward the Fox Den. His face was still wearing a smile, while his mouth was still busy talking; too bad the man in black already could not hear him.

    From Lu Xiaofeng’s point of view, he could see the clothes around the soft spot underneath the man in black’s ribs was already red with blood.

    That spot was a fatal spot on human’s body. The blade was vicious and accurate.

    A lowly seven-pin rank military officer, how could he have such a fast blade? Why would he kill an internal Imperial Bodyguard?

    Who were these people in the Fox Den? What was their secret?

    Lu Xiaofeng relaxed his embrace on Sha Man. Xiao Yu was not watching them either.

    What was happening before their very eyes this moment was not only exciting, but very mysterious as well; it had completely captured their attention.

    Right now, the military officer had almost reached Fox Den’s back door. The other riders quietly urged their horses to come over.

    From behind the corner another man in black appeared. The military officer seemed to greet him. It was not clear what he was saying, but the man in black suddenly turned around and fled in big strides. Another flicker of blade appeared in the military officer’s hand as he pierced the man’s waist.

    The blade was even more accurate, even faster; with so much as a grunt the man in black collapsed to the ground.

    It seemed that not only this seven-pin rank military officer was a martial art master, his experience in assassination was very rich.

    But finally he reached a restricted area, the guards lying ambush all around the building were alerted. A dozen or so men in similar black clothing appeared, with unsheathed weapons in their hands.

    The rest of the riders, which were still some distant away, suddenly whipped their mounts to rush over. The riders on the front row had long spears and long halberds in their hands; their horsemanship was superb, evidently these men were seasoned veterans of the battlefields. The riders on the back row were using short weapons commonly seen in Jianghu, some even uncovered secret projectile sacks hanging form their waist.

    The military officer already flung the man in black’s dead body away and said in stern voice, “We receive arrest order from the Prince, anybody dare to resist will be kill without questioning.”

    Among the men in black, someone also said in stern voice, “We are the Prince’s Imperial Bodyguards; what kind of ‘thing’ are you?”

    By the time he finished speaking, the riders already charged. The front row’s spears and halberds fluttered, the power was incredible. The riders on the back row suddenly leaped up from their saddle, looking for an opportunity to charge into the Fox Den. Each and every one’s qinggong was not weak, their secret projectiles were even more vicious. Tian Long Nan Zong was also known for their qinggong and secret projectiles. Hence both sides were opposing each other with equal harshness, the way they made their moves was without mercy.

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck, he really did not understand what was going on. But he has seen one thing.

    -- Tian Long Nan Zong’s martial art was not as superior as the hearsay in Jianghu. Those men wearing seven-pin rank military officer were, on the other hand, first-class martial art experts.

    Because in that split second, five or six of the men in black already fell, three or four windows of the Fox Den have already broken, and seven or eight men have already charged in.

    The military officer with a blade in his hand who had just killed two men in black, in another split second had already killed two more. He was the first one to break into Fox Den.

    Watching this man kill, Lu Xiaofeng remembered the cook in his house. When he was little, he often sneaked into the kitchen, just to watch the cook peeled cucumber or chopped Chinese cabbage.

    The way this man killed was just like the cook chopped the melon and sliced the vegetables. His blade never missed.

    -- Who were inside the building?

    At least there were the Old Fox and Ying Yan Laoqi. Lu Xiaofeng could not say that they were not his friends.

    -- Friends. What a lovely word. Can a man be without any friend?

    Cannot.

    -- Can a man watch their friends being chopped off like cucumber and Chinese cabbage?

    Cannot.

    -- Can a man hear his friends’ miserable cry and pretend that he did not hear anything?

    Cannot.

    At least not Lu Xiaofeng.

    He had heard the Old Fox’ miserable cry, a very strange kind of cry, like a shrill cry of a little girl being raped.

    A very, very young little girl.

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to pretend that he did not hear it. But he could not.

    Sha Man stared at him. She suddenly asked, “Is the Old Fox your friend or not?”

    “He is not,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Do you want to save him or not?” Sha man asked again.

    “I don’t want to,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    He really did not want to, because in all honesty he did not have any confidence that he would be able to deal with that military officer who actually was not a military officer.

    But he had already rushed out.

    If there is pain in your heart and you get drunk, would you be able to forget?

    No!

    -- Why?

    Because when your head is clear, you will feel more painful.

    -- Therefore, getting drunk won’t do you any good.

    Absolutely not.

    -- So why do you want to get drunk?

    I don’t know.

    Why is a man always had to do things he did not want to do?

    I don’t know.

    The situation inside the building was very tragic. Those high and mighty men in black, most of them had fallen by now, some were lying in pools of their own blood, some were hanging on window frames like dead fish. All the military officers’ blades were bloody.

    Three blood-stained blades protruded from the Old Fox’s neck, four more blades stuck on Ying Yan Laoqi’s throat. When the men in black saw Lu Xiaofeng bursting in, it was as if they saw a savior dropping in from the Heaven. But when the military officers saw him bursting in, they saw him like a bird that foolishly walks straight into the trap.

    Only Lu Xiaofeng knew which one he really was.

    -- Lu Xiaofeng was Lu Xiaofeng. A man that cannot be considered too good, but cannot be considered too bad either. Sometimes he was very clever, sometimes he was very stupid. Sometimes very impulsive, sometimes very calm.

    As soon as he entered the building, he suddenly became very calm. Because he was, after all, here to save lives, not to deliver his own life.

    First thing Lu Xiaofeng did was to prepare a way out for himself.

    -- Because if he could not save anyone, he must save himself first.

    The military officers looked at him with cold gaze.

    But he was smiling, a polite and courteous smile, while with a cupped fist he said, “Gentlemen spent so much energy, coming from afar, is it to arrest these two men?”

    Nobody answered, nobody reacted.

    “What crime did they commit?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Still nobody answered, nobody reacted.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt his stomach contracting, just like after he was dead drunk, early the next morning someone kicked him in the stomach.

    The people lying on pools of blood suddenly stood up, the dead fish hanging on window frames suddenly became lively dragons and animated tigers.

    Lu Xiaofeng had become a fish, a fish caught in the net.

    When a fish fell into the net, it may struggle, it may fight to get out of the net.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not a fish; therefore, he did not move at all.

    -- As soon as he moved, the seven blades resting on chest and throat would immediately take his life.

    -- How could he move?

    He suddenly became even calmer. He stood up calmly; calm like a sturdy mountain.

    In time of crisis, Lu Xiaofeng was able to stay calm. But someone else was not able to.

    -- Who?

    Sha Man.

    Lu Xiaofeng has been inside for a long time, why hasn’t he come out?

    Sha Man had seen the men in black and the Imperial Bodyguards’ martial art skill. She believed that Lu Xiaofeng could definitely overcome them.

    -- However, why hasn’t Lu Xiaofeng come out?

    He must have met something. But what is it?

    ‘What’ can have a lot of explanations.

    To Sha Man who was in love, ‘what’ can only mean one thing: a crisis.

    Therefore, she could not be calm.

    She stood up and was about to charge inside. But there was someone who did not want her to rush in.

    -- Who?

    Honest Monk.

    So, Honest Monk caught Sha Man’s sleeve.

    Of course Sha Man would never let Honest Monk grabbed her sleeve. Therefore, Honest Monk was forced to block in front of Sha Man.

    “Why do you stop me?” Sha Man asked.

    “It isn’t me who’s stopping you,” Honest Monk said.

    Pointing to Honest Monk, Sha Man said, “Are you saying that the person standing in front of me is not you?”

    “This is only my body,” Honest Monk said.

    “You mean, someone wanted you to stop me?” Sha Man asked.

    Honest Monk nodded.

    “Who?” Sha Man asked.

    “Lu Xiaofeng,” Honest Monk replied.

    “I don’t understand,” Sha Man said, “When did he tell you to stop me?”

    “He did not tell me to stop you at all,” Honest Monk said.

    Sha Man was stunned. She stared blankly at Honest Monk.

    “I know that he definitely does not wish you to come in,” Honest Monk said.

    “Why?” Sha Man asked.

    “Because in there, they must be talking about a top secret matter,” Honest Monk replied.

    “How do you know?” Sha Man asked.

    “I just know,” Honest Monk replied.

    Sha Man said, “What if …”

    “Don’t worry,” Honest Monk cut her off, “I guarantee that Lu Xiaofeng will not be in danger at all.”

    Was Lu Xiaofeng really not in danger? Could it be that the seven blades threatening his chest and throat were not real blades?

    The blades were naturally real blades. But before long, the blades on Lu Xiaofeng’s chest and throat were suddenly withdrawn.

    Ying Yan Laoqi suddenly roared in laughter, “Lu Xiaofeng is indeed Lu Xiaofeng,” he said, “In the most dangerous situation, he’s still this calm.”

    The Old Fox also laughed and said, “Lu Xiaofeng is calm under water, he is even calmer on dry land. My utmost admiration!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The two gentlemen’s joke is a bit too much. If I wasn’t calm, wouldn’t I lose my life under your blades early on?”

    Ying Yan Laoqi said, “If we didn’t do it, they would not believe in Lu Xiaofeng’s unique skill. The situation is urgent, please extend much forgiveness.”

    “Why do they have to believe in my skill?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I need you to do me a favor,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied.

    “Does the favor require something like this?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ying Yan Laoqi said, “This matter is not only bizarre, it is very mysterious. Not only mysterious, it is brimming with crises.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “This matter involves thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels,” Ying Yan Laoqi said.

    “And what else?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “And a hundred and three astute, capable and experienced Wulin martial art masters, all disappeared in one night,” Ying Yan Laoqi said.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes already grew big, because such a huge amount of treasure, so many Wulin masters, unexpectedly disappeared in one night. This matter must be very mysterious, very dangerous, but must also be very interesting.

    Mysterious, dangerous, interesting. Only one of these three, Lu Xiaofeng would be attracted to it; not to mention there were all three?

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng quietly listened to Ying Yan Laoqi narrating the entire incident.

    At the end, Ying Yan Laoqi added something, “This matter not only concerns the Central Plains’ thirteen biggest escort agencies’ survival, as well as their honor and disgrace, there are also at least seventy or eighty distinguished men of Jianghu that very soon would have their families bankrupt, ruined and have their reputation swept away.”

    Lu Xiaofeng listened to the entire story quietly; he did not say a single word. All around him, nobody made any noise; not the least bit of noise.

    Because they were afraid that a least bit of noise would disturb Lu Xiaofeng’s concentration.

    Therefore, all of them were holding their breath and did not move, they all looked at this four-eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Ying Yan Laoqi, “Three teams investigated this matter without any result?” he asked.

    “No,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied, “Not the least bit.”

    “Not even anything remotely suspicious?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “There was something suspicious,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied, “Just the morning of the day before this thing happened, there was a group of carpenters passing through that place, transporting several large carts of wood. They said it was to make Buddha statues and wooden fish.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes shone brighter. “Buddha statues and wooden fish?” he pursued.

    “That’s right,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied.

    “Why didn’t you pursue the trail?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “We did,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied, “That night this group of men left. Furthermore, we found out that they were Taiping Wangfu’s [Prince’s mansion] carpenters. There was not the least bit of suspicion there.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s four eyebrows seemed to gather together. It was his appearance when he was very deep in thought.

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his head up, he looked at the men in black and the military officers surrounding them. “Are these gentlemen handling this case?” he asked Ying Yan Laoqi.

    “That’s right,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied, “If further investigation did not come up with anything, we have only one way to go.”

    “Dead end,” the Old Fox said.

    “What do you have to do with this matter?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “At first, not the least bit,” the Old Fox replied, “Too bad someone suddenly came to my Fox Den.”

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You,” the Old Fox replied.

    “Me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Old Fox said, “Because I did not die, Ying Yan Laoqi deduced that you must be alive as well; therefore, we have been waiting for you here for five days.”

    “Your wait is over,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The wait was over, but what’s the use?

    The fifteenth day of the sixth month was the deadline set by Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent. Today was already the fourteenth day of the sixth month; hence Ying Yan Laoqi’s countenance did not look any better.

    “Is Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent a person who can listen to reason?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Absolutely,” Ying Yan Laoqi replied.

    “In that case,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Tell him that someone has seen one of those hundred and three people, moreover, he has also seen the missing treasure.”

    Everybody looked at Lu Xiaofeng’s face with wide eyes. Ying Yan Laoqi’s eyes were the biggest.

    “Is that true?” It was everybody’s question with different mouths, same voice. There was excitement, but also nervousness in their voices.

    “After all, Lu Xiaofeng is Lu Xiaofeng!”

    It was Ying Yan Laoqi’s gasp of admiration.

    He did not know that to see those more than a hundred Buddha statues, Lu Xiaofeng had gone through countless dangers, storms and perilous situations.

    Lu Xiaofeng nearly died in the ocean. Lu Xiaofeng nearly died because of a sentence spoken by Beef Soup. Lu Xiaofeng was almost killed by Minister He.

    But he managed to turn peril into safety, not only that, he managed to see those wooden fish in that secret room, and the treasure inside the wooden fish, plus the ‘Titan Hawk’ Ge Tong, who ‘lived inside the Buddha statue’.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered when he was knocked down by the storm and fell into the sea, he saw some kind of fish.

    -- Wooden fish.

    And then the Buddha statue he sat on.

    Thereupon Lu Xiaofeng said to the Old Fox, “You were the one transporting those things.”

    Naturally the Old Fox was not the only one being shocked.

    -- There were also Ying Yan Laoqi and those men in black and the military officers.

    They suddenly surrounded the Old Fox.

    The Old Fox wanted let out a wry laugh, but he could not even put out a bleak smile.

    “But you did not know the inside story at all,” Lu Xiaofeng continued.

    The Old Fox let out a long sigh.

    “Where are those things now?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Do you trust me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ying Yan Laoqi said, “As soon as this case broke out, I immediately thought that only you can solve it, hence I went out to look for you. Just think, do I trust you?”

    “Very well,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Go tell Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent, ask him to give you fifteen more days allowance. In fifteen days, I will definitely bring everything back to you.”

    “Can I go with you?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “You can’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Because that place is really too dangerous,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng would never let anybody else risked danger. In time of crisis, he could only dash on bravely with no thought of personal safety to solve the problem. This is Lu Xiaofeng’s character.

    Ying Yan Laoqi understood Lu Xiaofeng’s character. Hence he did not insist.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “And now I need a big ship, and the Old Fox’s help.”

    The Old Fox suddenly felt very happy.

    Even Ying Yan Laoqi and the others were not allowed to participate in this adventure, yet he, the Old Fox, could. Wouldn’t it be a great pleasure in one’s time on earth?

  3. #83
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 16

    Chapter 16 – Back on the Island

    The Old Fox’s happiness did not last very long.

    Because when they reached the place where they met the storm last time, Lu Xiaofeng got onto the little boat alone, bringing a bottle of fresh water and a pouch of dry rations, and rowed the boat away.

    This time they did not meet any storm. Lu Xiaofeng decided to go alone, letting the little boat drifted on the wave.

    He remembered when he was on the island, the little old man told him, “It was also because of this warm current that you could come here.”

    Therefore, he continually put his hand into the water to feel the water temperature.

    He had already tested the water 276 times, but the water was still cold, not warm at all.

    He started to get anxious.

    He started to doubt whether he could drift to the island following the current.

    He started to regret, regretting the fact that he repeatedly forbade Sha Man from coming with him.

    If Sha Man were by his side, why would he care about drifting on the current? Why would he care about where they were drifting? It would be best if they could drift to the end of the world, drift to a blessed country, drift to the legendary Penglai[1], the island of the immortals.

    He longed to have Sha Man by his side.

    The sun was so bright, the sea was so blue, the waves rocked the boat up and down, occasionally rippled into a flash of silver.

    If Sha Man was by his side, this would be a very beautiful setting!

    Sha Man! Sha Man! Did he really love Sha Man?

    He laughed.

    By this time, has the Old Fox’s ship returned to port?

    Sha Man was on the Old Fox’s ship. Was she thinking about him too? Did she tell Xiao Yu that she missed him? Or probably she was joking around with Honest Monk?

    Thinking about Honest Monk, Lu Xiaofeng sat up immediately.

    What if Honest Monk was not really honest?

    ‘Slap! Slap!’ It was the sound of Lu Xiaofeng slapping himself left and right.

    Could Honest Monk be dishonest? Perhaps he would swindle other people, but could Lu Xiaofeng doubt him? Didn’t he rescue Lu Xiaofeng and Sha Man?

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his palm again, ready to give himself two more slaps, when suddenly he stopped his hand midair.

    Because he saw a faint grey small dot ahead.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart jumped. Was that the island he went last time?

    Stars. The sky was full of stars. Twinkling stars. Bright and clear stars. Gazing at stars from the ocean was indeed a very pleasant thing.

    Of course, if Sha Man was around, it would be even better.

    However, Lu Xiaofeng had no regret at all.

    Because, before sunrise, he had to be clear about one thing.

    One thing pertaining to Yue Yang, pertaining to the Little Old Man, pertaining to Gong Jiu, pertaining to Beef Soup, pertaining to the missing treasure, pertaining to the 103 missing Wulin’s martial art masters.

    When he was approaching the edge of solution to a problem, Lu Xiaofeng’s action has always been that of a man of character.

    -- The issue at hand, he could not afford to put down.

    -- The most important things was: he was able to be unruffled by sentiment, he was able to relinquish love.

    It was the character of a real hero.

    In the face of the enemy, if one was still wishy-washy, still reluctant to leave feelings and romantic love behind, one would definitely suffer defeat in the hands of the enemy.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been undefeated.

    Lu Xiaofeng would only talk about love when it’s time to talk about love. He only made love when it’s time to make love.

    And now it’s time to analyze the situation of the enemy.

    Therefore, although Sha Man was not by his side, Lu Xiaofeng did not have any regret.

    He thought about the 103 missing people.

    These 103 people must be on the island; however, they must have lost their ability to move.

    When one can only drink a spoon of beef soup every day, can their hands and feet still have the strength to move?

    Beef Soup treated them like that, for what reason?

    Why didn’t she just go ahead and kill them?

    Letting them struggling on whilst at the death’s door, what was her purpose?

    He thought about that thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels.

    What a huge sum!

    Such a big robbery!

    It was very clear that the mastermind behind this heist must be the Little Old Man.

    Yue Yang was just a small pawn whose role was to escort the transport of the treasure. In his robbery, he was not a significant player.

    There were only two significant players.

    The Little Old Man and Gong Jiu.

    The Little Old Man was the mastermind, Gong Jiu was the operator.

    Relying on the cloud of martial art masters on the island, robbing this treasure was not a difficult matter at all.

    However, the most important issue was not that.

    The most important issue was: who killed Cui Cheng?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly recalled something.

    Something that the Little Old Man said.

    -- There was only one way to kill.

    -- After the killing, not only the killer must be able to get away, he must not leave any trace at all. Therefore, although there are many tools that can be used in murder, there is absolutely only one proper method to do it.

    -- This not only required great skill, it also required an extremely precise planning, enormous intelligence and great patience.

    Was the Little Old Man Cui Cheng’s killer?

    He couldn’t be.

    The Little Old Man did not need to act personally.

    Was it Gong Jiu?

    He ought to be. But … how did he kill Cui Cheng?

    Outside Cui Cheng’s secret room, there were five layers of tightly guarded iron gates. Those with free access to his room were only Cheng Zhong and Xiao Hongzu.

    Did Gong Jiu bribe Cheng Zhong and Xiao Hongzu?

    It was possble.

    But why did when they enter the secret room, Cheng Zhong and Xiao Hongzu were already dead?

    They couldn’t possibly kill themselves!

    Moreover, the four walls of the room were blocks of granite. Not only the iron doors were guarded day and night, they were fitted with large padlocks manufactured by famous craftsmen.

    Such a tight security, who could enter and kill?

    Even the Little Old Man could not enter!

    Only one kind of men can go in!

    The invisible men!

    That’s right, an invisible man!

    Lu Xiaofeng was excited! He knew that only the Little Old Man knew how these people can be invisible. Therefore, his first order of business tomorrow morning was to find the Little Old Man.

    Right now, he only needed plenty of sleep.

    The morning sun was rising.

    Sunshine pierced Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes. He stood up, stretched out his muscles and bones, and felt that he had slept very well last night. This morning he was in great spirits.

    He started by walking toward the vine-covered cliff. Pushing aside the vines, he entered the small path, and walked along the grassy ground.

    Green grass, running water, everything was the same as the last time. Except one.

    -- There was no Yue Yang meeting him this time. Not only there was no Yue Yang, he did not see not even a human shadow.

    Quiet. Extraordinarily quiet.

    Amidst the gurgling sound of water, Lu Xiaofeng could almost hear the sound of the grass growing and the flowers blooming.

    “Quiet enough to hear the sound of the grass growing and the flowers blooming, isn’t it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng jumped in fright.

    He turned around and saw the person speaking.

    Still with a round face, half-bald head, his face still had that kind of kind and gentle smile, his body still wore that kind of high-quality clothing.

    -- The Little Old Man.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the Little Old Man and said with a smile, “Do you always appear abruptly like that?”

    The Little Old Man said, “Last time you were on this island and saw all those things; do you think that was very strange?”

    “Extremely strange,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Isn’t this island very mysterious?” the Little Old Man asked.

    “Very mysterious,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “I am the master of this island,” the Little Old Man said.

    “Therefore,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “By rights, you should be able to reveal the mystery?”

    “Absolutely right,” the Little Old Man replied.

    “This time I am back on the island, do you know what my purpose is?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course I do,” the Little Old Man replied, “You have a lot of questions, and you need me to give you answers.”

    “Will you give me the answers?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “What do you think?” the Little Old Man asked.

    “You will,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why?” the Little Old Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Based on your martial art skill, based on your intelligence, you should not need to conceal anything.”

    “You are very right,” the Little Old Man said, “But I also have another hope.”

    “What hope?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I hope this time you come back here to tell me one thing,” the Little Old Man said.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That you agree to join me in this line of business,” the Little Old Man replied.

    “Then I’ll have to disappoint you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I know,” the Little Old Man said.

    “How do you know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man said, “Because you come back alone.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The Little Old Man said, “If you were willing to join me in this business, you would bring Sha Man back. But you did not.” With a slight disappointment on his face, he continued, “I hope that my disappointment is temporary.”

    “In regard to your disappointment,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am so sorry that I cannot give you any promises.”

    The Little Old Man nodded, “I know,” he said.

    “You do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man said, “Because you are not someone else, you are Lu Xiaofeng. Lu Xiaofeng always put his promise in the highest regard.”

    In his heart Lu Xiaofeng was thrilled. If it were some other people appreciating him, he would not give it too much thought. But this incomparably extraordinary talent, the Little Old Man, said those words, how could Lu Xiaofeng not be happy?

    The Little Old Man said, “You were able to escape Gong Jiu’s attack on the ship, I believe that your intelligent is absolutely higher than mine. I am convinced that in the case of those stolen treasure, you must already have a lot of clues.”

    “I only know one thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Which one?” the Little Old Man asked.

    “That you are the mastermind behind this heist,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Those missing treasures and the missing people are all on this island.”

    “You’re only half-right,” the Little Old Man said.

    “Which half?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The first half,” the Little Old Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “You mean, treasures and people are no longer on the island?” he said.

    “That’s right,” the Little Old Man said.

    “Gong Jiu already removed the treasures and the people back?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man said, “People, Gong Jiu has other ideas. Treasures, he can always spend it.”

    “How can one person spend that much?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Not one person, a lot of persons,” the Little Old Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized, “No wonder there is no one remains in here,” he said, “Turns out they all left to spend the money.”

    “Therefore,” the Little Old Man said, “In my mind, my ideal successor, there is only one.”

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You!” the Little Old Man said.

    “Why only me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The Little Old Man replied, “Because they all won’t be content with solitude. People who love to eat, to drink, to play and to make commotion are very easy to fall under other people’s control.”

    “Based on what you said,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Aren’t those people ideal?”

    “They are,” the Little Old Man replied, “But I also like solitude.”

    “Because you can’t find people who meet your work ethic and be the leader of your people?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “And that’s why I like you very much,” the Little Old Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled, but he did not respond.

    “Concerning this heist, what questions do you have for me?” the Little Old Man asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Based on your manpower and their martial art skills, I know that stealing these treasures was a piece of cake. Therefore, I only have one question I don’t have the answer.”

    “What problem?” the Little Old Man asked.

    “Cui Cheng’s death,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The Little Old Man laughed and said, “Do you remember what I told you about the invisible man?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “What I mean is,” he said, “The man who killed Cui Cheng, how did he become invisible?”

    The Little Old Man did not answer.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not press either.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that people like the Little Old Man, if he was willing to tell the answer, he would not give it any consideration and would just answer it. If he was not willing to answer, no matter how you ask, he would not give you the answer.

    Therefore, he stayed with the Little Old Man, drinking and chatting.

    The boat slowly departed, Lu Xiaofeng stood on the aft, watching his clothes and sleeves fluttering in the sea breeze.

    [1] Penglai, one of the three fabled islands in Eastern sea, abode of immortals, fairyland.

  4. #84
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 17

    Chapter 17 – Gong Jiu’s Conspiracy

    It was a sunny and clear day.

    At first Lu Xiaofeng thought that the weather would turn unusually nasty. At the bottom of his heart he really hoped that the weather would turn nasty.

    Because he was hoping that the Little Old Man’s premonition of ‘sinister outlook’ was pointing to the weather. The Little Old Man was well-versed in astronomy and geography; therefore, he thought the Little Old Man was pointing to the danger of the weather.

    But the sky was as blue as the glassy sea.

    If the Little Old Man was not pointing to the nasty weather, then he must be pointing to a sinister conspiracy waiting for Lu Xiaofeng on the main land.

    It was enough to make Lu Xiaofeng anxious. Human’s heart has always been more difficult to deal with than the weather; especially if the heart you are going to deal with was a sinister heart.

    The Little Old Man couldn’t possibly plot against him.

    The one who wanted to beat Lu Xiaofeng was, undoubtedly, only one.

    -- Gong Jiu.

    The mysterious Gong Jiu.

    When Lu Xiaofeng pondered over this big heist, he suspected that it was Gong Jiu who murdered Cui Cheng; but he could not figure out how Gong Jiu could go pass five iron gates and entered the secret chamber to kill Cui Cheng, Xiao Hongzhu and Cheng Zhong.

    He did not bring it up in front of Ying Yan Laoqi, because he did not wish to beat the grass to scare the snake.

    He simply must find out who Cui Cheng’s killer was. Besides, seeing the treasure did not equal to solving the case at all.

    Although the beach was very small, the sand was white, find and soft. With the sun shining on it, the sand looked like snow.

    Lu Xiaofeng expected to see someone on the beach. Someone waiting for him.

    -- Sha Man.

    Sha Man ought to wait for him on the beach, but why didn’t he see her shadow?

    Although when he separated with Sha Man they did not have any agreement that she would be waiting for him here, Lu Xiaofeng really thought that Sha Man would wait for him here. And then together they would sit down on the beach, talking to each other’s ears, watching the fiery sun setting down below the water line, watching the clouds filling the sky, red with the reflection of the sun over the horizon. And then they would walk hand-in-hand to see Xiao Yu and Honest Monk together.

    However, other than the waves gently lapping the shore, other than slight sea breeze brushing his skin, he did not see any trace of other human beings on the shore.

    He did not even see a single pair of footprints.

    -- Did Sha Man and the others meet some mishaps?

    Lu Xiaofeng quickened his steps.

    Beyond the beach, there was a giant dark brown boulder. This place was an exceptionally beautiful coastline. Yet Lu Xiaofeng was in no mood to enjoy it.

    Walking past the long stretch of rocky beach, he reached an overhanging cliff. With a leap Lu Xiaofeng flew to the top of the cliff.

    There was no trace of Sha Man at the top of the cliff.

    -- Could it be that Sha Man is not anxious to see me?

    -- Why wasn’t she waiting for my return here?

    Lu Xiaofeng saw the wooden house where Honest Monk and the others were staying. But he did not dare to walk forward.

    -- What if the house is already empty? What if …

    Lu Xiaofeng halted his steps in front of the house, doubt arose in his heart.

    The wooden door was closed, there was not the least bit of sound inside the house. With heavy steps Lu Xiaofeng forced his feet to move forward. Lu Xiaofeng’s hand stopped short of pushing the door open.

    Finally he pushed the door open.

    Lu Xiaofeng saw three people sitting inside.

    Honest Monk, Sha Man, Xiao Yu.

    The three of them also looked at Lu Xiaofeng, yet there was not the slightest bit of happiness on their faces.

    -- Although they only parted for a few days, not even Sha Man was happy to see him back?

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was beating faster. ‘Thump! Thump!’

    -- What had happpened?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s questioning gaze swept their faces, finally his gaze stopped at Sha Man’s face.

    Sha Man laughed. A wry laugh.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not bear it anymore. “What happened to you?” he asked in loud voice, “Even if you don’t welcome me, you shouldn’t look at me with that kind of expression.”

    Honest Monk stared at Lu Xiaofeng. “What do you want us to do?” he asked.

    “At least you should have smiled at me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You should have greeted me with some pleasant words.”

    Honest Monk bared his teeth, giving Lu Xiaofeng a perfunctory smile, and then he laughed a bitter laugh and said, “How are you? Was the sea stormy?”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk. “Is that all?” he asked.

    “That’s all,” Honest Monk replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his voice, “Don’t you all have anything else you want to say to me?”

    Honest Monk, Sha Man, Xiao Yu, three people fixed their gaze at Lu Xiaofeng. “We do,” they said, almost in unison.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Sha Man. “You first,” he said.

    Sha Man said, “Do you know why I didn’t wait for you at the beach, nor did I wait for you at the cliff?”

    “I was going to ask,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sha Man said, “Because you are in trouble.”

    “I am in trouble?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Trouble is my business, it has nothing to do with whether you came to meet me or not.”

    “But it does,” Sha Man said.

    “Tell me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Sha Man said, “First, you are in trouble, I am not in the mood.”

    “And the second?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Sha Man said, “Just before you came, we were just discussing your trouble.”

    “Sounds to me, my trouble is very big?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Very big,” Xiao Yu replied, “It’s as big as something.”

    “As big as what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “With your head,” Xiao Yu replied.

    “But my head is not that big,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Xiao Yu said, “By the time you find out about your trouble, I guarantee your head will swell three times its current size.”

    Lu Xiaofeng has started to feel that his head was swelling up.

    Just then, Honest Monk suddenly popped up a question, “This time you came back to the island, you didn’t get any result, did you?”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him with a strange expression on his eyes, “How did you know?” he asked.

    Honest Monk said, “When you were on the island, something happened on the main land.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “From those missing treasures, several most expensive pieces have been traded.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Not only that,” Honest Monk continued, “Some people found Chen Ping, Li Dazhong, Sun Wutong …”

    “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Who are Chen Ping, Li Dazhong, Sun Wutong?”

    “They were not anybody special,” Honest Monk replied, “Except that they happen to participate in the escorting of these missing treasures this time.”

    “Are you saying that they have been found?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “It’s not that,” Honest Monk replied.

    “It’s not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “It’s not that they have been found, but they bodies have.”

    “Bodies?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can’t say it’s their bodies either,” Honest Monk said, “Because when they were found, they could still say something.”

    “Something?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What is it?”

    “Something that will bring you endless trouble,” Honest Monk replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Honest Monk, waiting for him to continue. But Honest Monk suddenly did not want to continue. Lu Xiaofeng looked at Xiao Yu.

    Xiao Yu said, “Just before his death, Chen Ping said that the treasures were stolen by Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

    Sha Man said, “Li Dazhong also said the same thing.”

    “And so did Sun Wutong,” Honest Monk added.

    Xiao Yu said, “It is called ‘multitude of mouths will melt gold’ [i.e. if you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.]”

    “Except my mouth,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Too bad they would never listen to your explanation,” Sha Man said.

    “They?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Who’s ‘they’?”

    “Troops,” Sha Man replied, “The martial art experts sent by Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent.”

    “To catch me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Catch you and bring you to trial,” Sha Man said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When those three, Chen Ping, Li Dazhong and Sun Wutong were found, were they together?”

    “Not only they were not together, they were several hundred li apart from each other,” Sha Man said.

    “It’s awful,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What’s awful?” Sha Man asked.

    “Gong Jiu’s scheme,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Are you sure this is Gong Jiu’s scheme?” Sha Man asked.

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I have seen Chen Ping, Li Dazhong and those bunch of people on the island.”

    Honest Monk suddenly stared at Lu Xiaofeng’s four eyebrows.

    “What’s on my four eyebrows?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am afraid you have to shave two,” Honest Monk said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because,” Honest Monk said, “Everybody knows Lu Xiaofeng has four eyebrows. Everybody knows Lu Xiaofeng stole the treasure; hence everybody wants to arrest Lu Xiaofeng. If you still have four eyebrows, won’t the target become very obvious?”

    Lu Xiaofeng stroked the two eyebrows above his lips. He said, “Shave it, huh? Won’t it be a pity?”

    “I was not talking about those two,” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. “You want to shave my real eyebrows?” he asked.

    “That way I guarantee no one would recognize you,” Honest Monk said.

    “Why don’t you just kill me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why would I want to kill you?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Because you wanted to shave my eyebrows,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “It was just an idea,” Honest Monk said.

    “I think it would be best if you never mention it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Then I won’t,” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng held out his hand; he wanted to shake Honest Monk’s hand, while saying, “Friends!”

    But Honest Monk pulled back his hand, “Good friends or old friends, you can’t shake my hand.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk replied, “Because Monk’s hands are vegetarian-fed flesh, while your hands are meat-fed flesh.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

    “Pfft!” Xiao Yu and Sha Man stifled their laughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng was going to pull his outstretched hand, but Honest Monk reached out and grabbed his hand.

    “Why do you want to shake my hand now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I suddenly realize a truth,” Honest Monk replied, “When I was kid, I also ate meat, so my hands are also meat-fed flesh.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s expression made Xiao Yu and Sha Man roared in laughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook Honest Monk’s hand and said, “Tell me, what should we do now?”

    Honest Monk said, “There are things that we can see clearly, but are unable to understand. There are things that we can’t see, yet we can figure out the whys and wherefores [orig. ‘mountain has a connecting pulse throughout like a dragon’, an idiom from fengshui] of it. Therefore, I advise you to see someone.”

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Your good friend,” Honest Monk replied.

    “My good friend?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Concerning this heist, we are like blind men although we can see,” Honest Monk said, “Therefore, I think a real blind man would be able to see it more clearly than we do.”

    “Hua Manlou?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Hua Manlou!” Honest Monk said.

    A building filled with fresh flowers[1].

    When Lu Xiaofeng smelled the fragrance of the fresh flowers, immediately his heart was filled with warmth, just like the warmth of his friendship with Hua Manlou.

    -- Is there any warmth on earth warmer that friendship?

    Lu Xiaofeng remembered Sha Man.

    -- Love? The feeling of love, it ought to be sweet. Warmth, it is absolutely the feeling of friendship.

    Lu Xiaofeng was quite satisfied with his conclusion, so when he treaded on the stairs, his steps felt unusually light.

    He was guessing that since his steps today were unusually light, Hua Manlou’s sense of hearing ought not to detect his presence.

    Therefore, with a cheerful voice he loudly greeted, “No need to guess, it’s me, Lu Xiaofeng!”

    No response, no Hua Manlou’s frank and cheerful laughter either.

    Lu Xiaofeng pushed the door open. The fresh flowers were still there, the fixtures and furnishing of the room was still as before.

    Only one detail was different. The chair in front of the window did not have someone in it. Someone who loved life.

    Twilight like this, beautiful weather like this, Hua Manlou ought to sit on the chair in front of the window; quietly listening to the sound of sunset, quietly enjoying the beauty of life. Why wasn’t he here?

    Myriads of questions floating around Lu Xiaofeng’s mind. Where did Hua Manlou go? He sat on the chair in front of the window.

    Sound of footsteps, coming suddenly from the stairs. Lu Xiaofeng did not move at all, even his breathing suddenly became very light.

    -- Was it Hua Manlou?

    He did not know, because he had never heard Hua Manlou’s footsteps when he was treading the stairs. Not that Hua Manlou never went upstairs or downstairs, but they were always going up and down the stairs together, chatting and joking; hence he basically has never paid any attention to the sound of Hua Manlou’s footsteps.

    The footsteps were already in front of the door. The door opened. “Who’s there?”

    It was Hua Manlou’s voice.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Hua Manlou was indeed Hua Manlou. Lu Xiaofeng was sitting motionless, yet he was able to sense someone in the room.

    Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to say, “I have no choice but admiring you.”

    “You don’t need to admire me.”

    “Why?”

    “Because this is my way of survival.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at his good friend, his face showed even more admiration.

    “I just find it very strange,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What’s so strange?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “This time of the day, yet you have just come in from the outside?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I can’t come in from the outside?” Hua Manlou said.

    “Aren’t you always sitting on the chair at this time, enjoying a quiet evening?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “There’s time when a man can change,” Hua Manlou said.

    “You mean, you already changed your habit?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “What about you?” Hua Manlou asked in return, “Why did you change your habit?”

    “Me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked in surprise, “I have not changed.”

    “You have not changed?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Why would I change?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You stole thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearl and jewels,” Hua Manlou said.

    “You also heard?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Who told you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Wu Biao,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Who’s Wu Biao?” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You don’t know?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “How should I know?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Because Wu Biao was one of the escorts,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Did he personally tell you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “And you believe him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hua Manlou said, “When a man is at the death’s door, would he tell a lie?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer.

    “Why don’t you say something?” Hua Manlou said.

    “What can I say?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You’d rather believe a dead man, you don’t believe your own friend. What do you want me to say?”

    “Did I say that I don’t believe you?” Hua Manlou said.

    Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Didn’t you say …”

    Hua Manlou said, “I only said: ‘When a man is at the death’s door, would he tell a lie?’ That’s all.”

    “Aren’t you saying that …” Lu Xiaofeng started again.

    “That was a question,” Hua Manlou cut if off again.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt strange, “You ask me to answer?” he asked.

    “Yes,” Hua Manlou said.

    “Because you are not sure whether before he died Wu Biao told you the truth or a lie?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Hua Manlou replied, “That’s the reason I went out to take a walk; that’s the reason I did not sit here enjoying the delight of the dusk; that’s the reason I just came in from the outside at the best time of the day; that’s the reason you are able to sit on my chair, enjoying the beauty of the sunset.”

    “You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Oh?” Hua Manlou said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I sit on your chair, not enjoying the beauty of the sunset at all.”

    “Why?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Because I was worried about you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    With a cheerful laugh Hua Manlou said, “Therefore, we are indeed a pair of close friends.”

    “What you said is extremely true,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Hua Manlou said, “You came to me, it must be for this case?”

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Did you find any result from your walking around?”

    “I only found one thing,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The subordinates of Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent are looking everywhere to arrest and bring you to trial,” Hua Manlou said.

    With a wry laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “This is a conspiracy.”

    “Whose conspiracy?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Gong Jiu’s conspiracy,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Who’s Gong Jiu?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Gong Jiu is a very formidable person,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng finished narrating his strange tale of going out to sea, the sky has turned dark.

    Hua Manlou sat on his chair, deep in thought.

    Lu Xiaofeng lighted the oil lamp, the light shone on Hua Manlou’s deep concentration face. Lu Xiaofeng stood quietly, fixing his gaze on Hua Manlou.

    After a long time, Hua Manlou exhaled slowly. He said, “According to your information, it is very clear that the Little Old Man and Gong Jiu are the masterminds of this case. However, this is not important, what’s really important is you must find out who murdered Cui Cheng.”

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s the invisible man.”

    Hua Manlou said, “Didn’t the Little Old Man tell you of several ways to make a person invisible?”

    “Quite a few,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Hua Manlou said, “Did he mention that suicide is also a way to be invisible?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sprang on his feet.

    -- True, why can’t Cui Cheng commit suicide?

    Yet, Lu Xiaofeng still had to ask, “Why would Cui Cheng commit suicide?”

    Hua Manlou said, “If he killed himself, his family would live a very good life.”

    “However,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Did you know Ye Xingshi’s autopsy report?”

    According to Ye Xingshi’s observation:

    -- They had been dead for at least 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.

    -- The fatal stab undoubtedly 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.

    Hua Manlou suddenly remembered something. “No,” he said, “Cui Cheng did not commit suicide.”

    “I thought so too,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because he had no ability to do so.”

    Hua Manlou said, “The one committing suicide was either Xiao Hongzhu or Cheng Zhong; or else both of them committed suicide.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Are you saying that they had been bought or perhaps threatened? And thus after killing Cui Cheng, they committed suicide?”

    Hua Manlou said, “Don’t you think my reasoning makes sense?”

    “So now I just need to find one person,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Ye Xingshi,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What do you want from him?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “I want to ask him,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Was the wound on Cui Cheng and the others, three people, really as he described it?”

    “Why do you doubt?” Hua Manlou asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “In case the wound on those three people was really as he said, i.e. was caused by fast blade, then among them, no one committed suicide.”

    “Why?” Hua Manlou asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “None of them had the ability to employ such a fast blade, especially when they were about to commit suicide.”

    It was supposed to be full moon, but there was no full moon in the sky. There was only black cloud; the black cloud that drift along the strong wind. The wind was indeed very strong.

    Standing outside the door of Ye Xingshi’s residence, the sleeves of Lu Xiaofeng’s clothes were rustling in the wind.

    Ye Xingshi’s family servant opened the door, and said in a loud voice, “It’s late, Master does not see patients anymore.”

    “Even if it is an emergency?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Is it you who wants to see Master?” the servant asked.

    “Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You don’t look like someone who is sick,” the servant said, “Unless …”

    “Unless what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Unless you have mental disorder,” the servant said. As soon as he finished speaking, ‘Bang!’ the door was slammed.

    Lu Xiaofeng pushed with both hands and the door opened again.

    The servant glowered at him ferociously and angrily said, “What are you doing?”

    “I just want to tell you something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What is it?” the servant asked.

    “If I can’t see your Master tonight, there will be someone who will have mental disorder,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who?” the servant asked.

    “Me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You are making fun of me!” the servant angrily said.

    “Not at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am telling you the truth. Because ‘thirty-five millions taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels’ very soon will drive me crazy.”

    The servant stared at him blankly.

    “Now can I see your master?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The servant suddenly stared at Lu Xiaofeng’s face; there was fear on his face. “You … you are Lu Xiaofeng!”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    The servant did not say anything. Suddenly he raised his hand to slap Lu Xiaofeng. Lu Xiaofeng only struck him lightly, the servant was knocked down to the ground.

    The lantern looked like a sacrificial vessel. It was sitting on a table in the middle of the main hall. Behind the table a man was sitting on a chair. On the table lay some papers, pen and ink.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked toward the middle of the hall. “Ye Xingshi?” he said.

    The man nodded. Raising his right hand, he motioned Lu Xiaofeng to sit down. So Lu Xiaofeng sat down.

    The man picked up a pen, dipped it in the ink, and wrote down on a piece of paper, “Is there something you want to see me about? ”

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

    -- Since when did Ye Xingshi become a mute?

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at Ye Xingshi.

    Ye Xingshi laughed and pointed to his own ears.

    “You can hear?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Xingshi nodded.

    Lu Xiaofeng was about to ask him a question, suddenly he felt that Ye Xingshi’s gaze looked very familiar.

    He remembered the saying, “Just find Ge Tong, all roads will be clear.” [See Chapter 7.]

    He recalled something that happened on the island:

    -- Someone from inside the Buddha statue pounced on him, an ice-cold hand clutched his throat.

    -- The ice-cold hand suddenly lost its strength, hence he was able to calm himself, and looked at the man clutching his throat.

    And the man he saw was precisely Ge Tong. He would never forget Ge Tong’s gaze as he looked at Lu Xiaofeng. The gaze that was precisely like this.

    Right now Ye Xingshi’s gaze was exactly the same as Ge Tong’s. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are not Ye Xingshi.”

    Ye Xingshi was shocked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are Ge Tong!”

    Ge Tong suddenly sprang up and attacked Lu Xiaofeng. Not only he was the third-generation Eagle Claw’s adopted son, he was also the Wang Family’s ideal son-in-law. His nickname was ‘Titan Hawk’, naturally the power of Eagle Claw martial art of his hand was not weak.

    However, Lu Xiaofeng was already prepared. He waited until Ge Tong’s Eagle Claw swept pass, and then lightning fast the edge of his palm chopped on Ge Tong’s wrist. ‘Crack!’ Ge Tong’s right wrist was broken by Lu Xiaofeng’s chop.

    Ge Tong collapsed, his wrist broken. But why did Ge Tong collapse?

    Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. He lifted up Ge Tong’s neck, and to his surprise he saw three white, shiny needles on a neat row on the back of Ge Tong’s neck.

    Lu Xiaofeng lunged forward in one big jump toward a shadow that had just disappeared behind a wall. Unleashing his qinggong, Lu Xiaofeng ran after the shadow.

    A temple. A broken down mountain temple. The shadow reached the open space in front of the temple, and suddenly it stopped.

    Lu Xiaofeng also stopped. He stood motionless in full alert.

    The shadow turned around. Suddenly the black cloud opened a slit, revealing a weak light of the full moon.

    Lu Xiaofeng jumped in fright. Because he saw that the shadow’s appearance was completely identical to the one Ge Tong was trying to masquerade.

    -- Was the shadow the real Ye Xingshi? Before Lu Xiaofeng could ask any question, the shadow suddenly laughed aloud.

    Finished laughing, the shadow said, “Lu Xiaofeng’s martial art skill is indeed a fully justified reputation!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Compared to your skill in releasing secret projectiles, I am afraid it is still far too inferior.”

    The shadow laughed and said, “And don’t forget, there is still my skill in changing appearance.”

    “Did you change Ge Tong’s appearance?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” the shadow replied.

    “I did not expect the disciple of Shaolin’s Tie Jian Dashi [see Chapter 1] is also adept at changing appearance,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    With a gloomy voice the shadow said, “My Shifu only taught me martial arts, you must not dishonor my Shifu’s good reputation.”

    “So you are the real Ye Xingshi?”

    “Replacement guaranteed if not genuine!” the shadow replied. [oh, I know that a simple ‘authentic’ will do, but I am always fascinated by these idioms.]

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Ye Xingshi has enjoyed flourishing reputation in Jianghu for a long time as one of the four famous doctors; not only his medical expertise exquisite, he has a profound mastery of the martial arts handed down personally by Tie Jian Dashi. In all his life he treads the path of chivalry [‘xia’] and practices medicine in help of the people of the world. How could he kill people for no reason?”

    “Whom did I kill?” the shadow asked.

    “Ge Tong!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “How do you know that it was me who killed Ge Tong?” the shadow said, “Did you see me killed Ge Tong with your own eyes?”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “’Silver needle piercing the acupoints, entering the seventy percent of the brain’, that is the internal strength of Shaolin’s unique internal energy technique.”

    “Good eyesight!” the shadow said, “Excellent judgment.”

    “So you admit that you killed Ge Tong?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “What if I do? And what if I don’t?” the shadow said.

    “If you admit,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Then I’ll say that although Ye Xingshi has changed, he is still a real man.”

    Ye Xingshi said, “I did not expect Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth to be this formidable.”

    “I am simply telling the truth,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Ye Xingshi only coldly snorted twice, but did not answer.

    “You seemed to know that I was coming to look for you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I know that you would definitely come to look for me,” Ye Xingshi said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because the one who knows the real reason of their deaths, other than me, there is no second person,” Ye Xingshi said.

    “Were they really killed by a fast blade?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Ye Xingshi replied.

    “Is it true that they have been dead for at least an hour?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ye Xingshi did not respond. There was a painful look on his face.

    “How long have they been dead actually?” Lu Xiaofeng pressed on, “When you came in, did they just die?”

    Ye Xingshi opened his mouth, he seemed to be reluctant to talk, yet he wanted to talk. “They …”

    Lu Xiaofeng knew it was a critical juncture in Ye Xingshi’s mind; if he talked, it means he was abandoning the people controlling him from behind, if he did not talk, that means he resigned the rest of his life to become a puppet.

    Ye Xingshi suddenly made up his mind. He shouted, “They died …” before he could finish, he tumbled down.

    When Ye Xingshi was talking, Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were already looking to four sides, his ears were listening to eight directions, closely watching for any activity around them. But he did not see anything, and yet Ye Xingshi has fallen.

    Lu Xiaofeng was about to stoop down to look at the cause of Ye Xingshi’s death when his eyes suddenly caught lantern light inside the broken-down mountain temple.

    At first the light was very weak, and then, the entire temple was brightly lit.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that he did not need to examine Ye Xingshi anymore. The secret he wanted to find out was inside the temple. Therefore, he walked toward the mountain temple.

    The temple’s gate was half-closed. The light was shining from inside through the door gap.

    Lu Xiaofeng stood at the door. He was contemplating whether he should push the door open and come in, or he should slip through the door gap. Which move would carry greater risk? Lu Xiaofeng did not know.

    Actually, Lu Xiaofeng did not need to know. He had already gone through fire and water countless times, so what if he goes through it one more time?

    So Lu Xiaofeng simply reached out and pushed the door.

    But the door did not open, because as soon as his hand touched the wood, an image of smiling Sha Man suddenly appeared in his mind.

    A man in love could have apprehension.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not afraid to die, but that was before. Previously, when he confronted death, he did not have love in his heart. Now he did, he remembered Sha Man, he thought about how Sha Man must be worried over him, he thought about how Sha Man would have to wander alone and miserable in Jianghu.

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng did not continue pushing the door, he pulled his hand instead.

    The temple was very quiet.

    The people instead the temple must be very formidable. People who can wait patiently won’t be too-ordinary people.

    Lu Xiaofeng was in a totally defensive mode. He stood outside the door. Even when a strong wind blew the sleeves of his clothing, he did not move.

    He seemed to have figured out that the best way was to have a patience match; whoever loses patience will reveal weak points. If he could not endure it, there were only two paths he could take: risking his life by charging in, or leave without finding out the secret behind Ye Xingshi’s murder.

    If the people inside could not endure, they would either talk, or burst out to find out the outcome. Either way, it would be beneficial to Lu Xiaofeng.

    If they talked, Lu Xiaofeng would be able to determine the direction of their hiding place, he could even find out who the speaker was.

    If they burst out, it would be even more advantageous to Lu Xiaofeng, because then Lu Xiaofeng would not have any apprehension whatsoever.

    Unless the person’s martial art skill was a lot higher than Lu Xiaofeng’s. But Lu Xiaofeng was never worried about this point.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that there was more than one person inside the temple. Because he heard whispers; too bad the wind was simply too strong outside that he was unable to hear what the people inside were saying, he could not hear whether the speaker was a male or a female, young or old.

    He could only be certain of one thing: the people inside were already a bit impatient.

    To this fact, Lu Xiaofeng did not feel proud at all. He always thought that he was the most patient man. Otherwise, Lu Xiaofeng would have turned into a pile of bones early on, a pile of dried up bones buried in the ground. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was still standing motionless.

    The people inside really could not endure anymore. A sweet and tender voice of a woman said, “Aren’t you feeling the cold wind outside? It’s not only cold, it’s also strong and bone-chilling.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    -- Beef Soup.

    Hearing Beef Soup’s voice, how could he not laugh?

    Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “Cold, strong and bone-chilling wind is always more enjoyable than sabers that pose danger on every side.”

    A male voice said, “How do you know I am going to use saber and not sword?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s smile froze on his face.

    -- Gong Jiu.

    Hearing Gong Jiu’s voice, how could Lu Xiaofeng’s smile not freeze?

    Lu Xiaofeng did not speak, he simply reached out and very gently pushed the half-closed door until it was fully opened.

    Before Lu Xiaofeng entered, the strong wind outside has already blowing in, blowing the solitary lantern inside that the flame was flickering erratically.

    Under the flickering light, Gong Jiu and Beef Soup’s faces were also flashing between light and darkness, just like their personality, sometimes gloomy sometimes sunny erratically.

    Seeing old friends, Lu Xiaofeng has always laughed. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng smiled at Gong Jiu and Beef Soup and said, “Pardon me for keeping the two of you waiting.”

    It was supposed to be a humor, and Gong Jiu really feel like laughing, but he wasn’t laughing.

    Yet Beef Soup was laughing cheerfully. “So cold outside,” she said, “Why didn’t you come in earlier to have a bowl of beef soup?”

    “I was afraid if I came in earlier, I would not have had beef soup,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “So what did you think you would have?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Yan Wang [King of Hell] Soup,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Beef Soup laughed, “We are old friends,” she said, “How could we serve you Yan Wang Soup?”

    “Perhaps you wouldn’t,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But your Jiu Ge might.”

    With a sinister voice Gong Jiu said, “You are wrong.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu said, “If I wanted to kill you, I could have killed you at Ye Xingshi’s house.”

    “So you knew that I was going to look for Ye Xingshi?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I did not dare to be presumptuous at all,” Gong Jiu said, “I merely guessed that you may, therefore, I have been staying at Ye Xingshi’s house.”

    “What for?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “To wait for you,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “I am here,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why don’t you kill me?”

    “Right now I do not want to kill you,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because you are alone,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “You want to kill Sha Man too?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “And Xiao Yu, and Honest Monk,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Do you have to kill all four of us?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu nodded.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu coldly said, “Because I hate all of you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You may hate me, you may hate Sha Man, you may hate Xiao Yu, but why do hate Honest Monk?”

    Gong Jiu replied, “Without him, you would have been dead on the island long ago.”

    “What if you can’t find them for the rest of your life?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I will definitely find them,” said Gong Jiu.

    “You are so confident?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu coldly snorted.

    “Can you tell me the reason of your confidence?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “If I can’t find them for the rest of my life, then you cannot hope to see them for the rest of your life either,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. “Why?” he asked.

    “Because,” Gong Jiu said, “From now on I will follow you. Unless you won’t see them anymore. Otherwise, I will also see them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart turned cold. “Was that the reason you stayed at Ye Xingshi’s house to wait for me?”

    “No,” Gong Jiu said.

    “No?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu said, “I originally thought that all four of you would come to Ye Xingshi’s house together, then I could catch everything in one net. I didn’t expect you to come alone; hence I had to lure you here.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You lured me here just so can tell me that you are going to follow me?”

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu said.

    “If you just follow me secretly, won’t you also find them?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    With a cold laugh Gong Jiu said, “I simply want you to know.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Have you seen a cat catching a mouse?” Gong Jiu asked, “Will the cat immediately eat the mouse?”

    There was a cold stream flowing in the depth of Lu Xiaofeng’s heart; he did not answer.

    Gong Jiu continued, “I simply want to let you know that I am following you, I want you to be anxious, I want you to wanting to see Sha Man, yet you do not dare to meet her. I want to see you wasting away, to see you suffer from the torture of your own yearning.” Gong Jiu laughed maniacally.

    Lu Xiaofeng calmly said, “If I am dead, won’t you also can’t find them?”

    Gong Jiu said, “Are you saying that before you die, you don’t want to see Sha Man even once?”

    Lu Xiaofeng remained silent. A dark shadow suddenly crept into his heart; it was not clear whether it was a shadow of death, or because she could not find him, Sha Man was concerned and thus was wasting away with each passing day. Lu Xiaofeng started to feel afraid.

    Gong Jiu could see the panic on Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes; his grim and cold laughter suddenly turned into a cheerful and proud laughter.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu, and then he turned his attention to Beef Soup. Suddenly he said, “Don’t you have some beef soup to entertain me with?”

    Beef Soup was taken aback. She stared at Lu Xiaofeng and asked, “You want to drink beef soup?”

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You are still in the mood to drink beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Life is hard and we are destined to die; don’t you think being a full ghost is much more comfortable than a hungry ghost? Besides …”

    “Besides what?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Besides, if I didn’t drink a bowl of beef soup, how could I find the strength to play this game of hide-and-seek?”

    Beef Soup stared at Lu Xiaofeng for a moment. Without saying anything, she turned around and went inside.

    By the time Beef Soup reappeared, there was a bowl of piping hot beef soup in her hands.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not being polite at all. ‘Glug! Glug! Glug!’ he drank the beef soup and turned the bowl upside down. Wiping his mouth, he said, “I have a question.”

    “What question?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter where you go, do you always bring real beef soup with you?”

    “Not necessarily,” Beef Soup replied.

    “Then why is it that every time I meet you, you always have beef soup ready to drink?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I prepared it for you,” Beef Soup replied.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Didn’t you say that being a full ghost is much more comfortable than a hungry ghost?” Beef Soup said.

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “That’s exactly the reason why I always prepare beef soup for you,” Beef Soup said.

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “In that case, I should be really grateful to you.”

    “I don’t need your gratitude,” Beef Soup said, “I just hope that after you become a full ghost, it would be nice if you don’t come to entangle me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Now that I have had my beef soup, would the two of you allow me to withdraw?”

    “You may leave at any time,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “This time, how much time will you give me to have a head start?”

    Gong Jiu said, “Until I feel that I won’t be able to catch up with you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “You have never fought a battle that you have no confidence in winning, haven’t you?”

    “If I don’t have any confidence, why fight?” Gong Jiu said.

    “In that case, I’ll leave now. So long,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    As soon as he finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng unleashed his qinggong and flew away.

    [1] The name ‘Hua Man Lou’ literally means ‘flowers filling the building’. ‘Lou’ refers to multi-story building.

  5. #85
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 18

    Chapter 18 – Cat catching mouse

    If a cat and a mouse were having a race, which one would run faster?

    When Lu Xiaofeng was running, he suddenly thought about this question.

    The cat should be able to run faster, right? Lu Xiaofeng thought. But the mouse is able to get into a hole, and it can also hide inside a gutter, which definitely some things that the cat cannot do.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not a mouse, but he did not think that he was a mouse either.

    Although Gong Jiu thought so, Lu Xiaofeng did not agree.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng did not enter a hole, nor he hid in some shameful places.

    Lu Xiaofeng believed in his own qinggong, even if it was not number one under the heavens, he was convinced that it was at least superior to Gong Jiu’s.

    Therefore, he did not make any other effort except running along a major road.

    Running on major road, although it was highly conspicuous, it was much better than being sneaky; besides, at the speed he was running, who would notice that he was Lu Xiaofeng?

    Dusk.

    The lanterns in this small town starting to brighten the hazy sunset glow. Even if Lu Xiaofeng’s endurance was better, after running for a day and a night without either eating or drinking anything, he simply had to stop.

    Besides, by running in complete disregard of his own life like this, Lu Xiaofeng thought that forget Gong Jiu, even a hungry lion would not be able to outrun him.

    Lu Xiaofeng believed that this small town was a totally safe place to stop and have a meal.

    He slowed down, and entered the small town.

    Noodle shop. A nondescript noodle shop. Although he was convinced that this was a safe place, Lu Xiaofeng still selected a small noodle shop at the corner of the street to stop and eat.

    He did not wish to attract anybody’s attention, he only wished to eat a bowl of hot noodle, and then found any good place he could sleep, restoring the strength of his feet, breaking away from Gong Jiu’s pursue, so he could see Sha Man bit earlier.

    The noodle shop’s proprietor was an old man. His hair was grey, his clothes were greasy, his face was wrinkly; his overall appearance was that of a man who had succumbed to fate.

    The proprietor greeted Lu Xiaofeng amiably. “Mister Guest,” he said, “What would you like to eat?”

    “A big bowl of beef noodle soup,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    The proprietor laughed, “Coming right up,” he said, “Would you also like some pickled vegetable or a pot of warm wine?”

    “No need,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Just add two salted egg on the noodle, it should be enough.”

    A bowl of steaming and savory noodle was brought out. Lu Xiaofeng could smell the delicious smell of the beef; his tummy immediately growled.

    In no time at all he finished the noodle completely. He picked up the bowl to finish the soup as well. But as he held the bowl in his hands, a four-horse carriage sped over from the direction of the town gate.

    Lu Xiaofeng held the bowl in front of his face while looking at this luxurious carriage.

    When the carriage reached the noodle shop, the driver pulled the reins, the carriage came to an abrupt stop.

    From inside the carriage came a sweet voice, “Why are you drinking beef soup prepared by someone else?”

    Again, it was Beef Soup’s voice.

    Beef Soup in the carriage, naturally Gong Jiu was also in it.

    Lu Xiaofeng lost his appetite to drink the soup.

    With face full of smiles, Beef Soup walked in with a bowl of beef soup in her hands, which she gracefully placed in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

    “Don’t you like my beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer. Picking the bowl of Beef Soup’s beef soup, ‘Glug! Glug! Glug!’ he drank the soup dry.

    Gong Jiu already sat down at the table right next to Lu Xiaofeng’s. Facing the proprietor, he said, “A pot of warm Nu’erhong [blushing young maiden].”

    The noodle shop’s proprietor did not seem to be surprised with this sudden change of events, as if it was a common occurrence that he was already quite used to. Before long, he put the wine in front of Gong Jiu.

    Gong Jiu poured two cups, with his left hand he picked one cup and handed it over to Lu Xiaofeng.

    “Come,” Gong Jiu said, “Bottoms up!”

    Lu Xiaofeng received the cup; he looked at Gong Jiu and asked, “Why must I bottoms up?”

    “The cat catches the mouse, it must tease the mouse a little,” Gong Jiu said, “Now the kitten tells the mouse to drink, can the mouse be disobedient?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng downed the wine.

    Gong Jiu sipped his wine slowly. When he finished, he said, “Good wine!”

    “Is it better than my beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Those two cannot be compared to each other,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Why?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Can the mouse be compared to the cat?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Beef Soup said, “Are you saying that cat must drink wine, mouse must drink soup; therefore, they cannot be compared?”

    Gong Jiu guffawed. “Cat can ride the carriage, but mouse must walk on foot,” he said, “Cat can sleep on the carriage, mouse must force himself to hasten on with his journey. Can they be compared?”

    Beef Soup’s laughter was very cheerful.

    Lu Xiaofeng clapped. “Good speech,” he said, “The two of you can come up with such a good banter, why don’t you do something?”

    Gong Jiu laughed and said, “What thing?”

    “Comedy routine[1],” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu could not laugh anymore. “I really admire you,” he said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because in time like this, you are still in the mood for jokes,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Perhaps this is a way for the mouse to find amusement in his own way,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu coldly said, “In that case, you should go and enjoy yourself.”

    “Are you kicking me out?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Don’t you want to get away from me?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Can I ask a question before I go?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “What question?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I really want to know, how did you pursue me to this place?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Very simple,” Gong Jiu said, “Only one word.”

    “Only one word?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu replied, “Only one word.”

    “What word?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Money,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Money?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Money will make the devil turn millstones,” Gong Jiu replied, “Much less people?”

    “You bribed people to follow my track?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Wrong,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Why is it wrong?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu said, “Even I cannot run after you, who on earth would be able to chase after you? Even if there was people like that, can such people be bribed?”

    “That’s why I don’t understand,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even if you spent money to bribe people, you wouldn’t necessarily know my whereabouts.”

    Gong Jiu said, “I spend money to bribe not only one person, but a lot of people.”

    “A lot?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Just how many?”

    “I don’t know the exact number either,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng showed a perplexed expression.

    Gong Jiu laughed and said, “Do you really want to know my secret?”

    “If you don’t want to reveal it, I have no way of forcing you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu stood up, and walked over to the signboard of the noodle shop.

    Lu Xiaofeng followed Gong Jiu with his eyes. Gong Jiu’s finger pointed to the signboard and Lu Xiaofeng was surprised to see a triangle marking on the signboard.

    “What marking is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “It means Lu Xiaofeng is here,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Do you know how much money I have to spend for this pot of wine?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “How much?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu did not reply, he took out a gold ingot from his pocket and gave it to the noodle shop’s proprietor. The noodle shop’s proprietor laughed that his eyes narrowed into a couple of slits.

    Gong Jiu turned to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Do you understand it now?”

    “I understand half,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Let me tell you then,” Gong Jiu said, “I have already spread the word, whoever see a man with four eyebrows shall make an arrow indicating the direction he is going, whoever see the man with four eyebrows staying for the night or having a meal, shall make a triangle mark. When I see these markings, I bestow rewards. Just think, where can you go?”

    Gong Jiu laughed aloud, he was very proud of himself.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was frowning. With his fingers he gently stroked the moustache above his lips. He recalled Honest Monk said, ‘You had better shave your real eyebrows, and then nobody would recognize you.’

    -- Shave his eyebrows? How ridiculous!

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help laughing aloud as well.

    Gong Jiu was surprised, “What are you laughing at?”

    “I am laughing at myself,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I am just too dumb.”

    “Why?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Since I cannot get away, why would I want to go?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You won’t leave?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I am not leaving,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Actually,” Gong Jiu said, “You won’t go, I don’t have any objection. But …” Gong Jiu laughed his gloomy, sinister laugh again.

    “But what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu pulled Beef Soup in his arms and said, “It’s not a big deal for me to keep you company in here, I have wine, I have beauty, but what about you? What about Sha Man?”

    Gong Jiu laughed heartily.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at Gong Jiu. Without saying anything, he turned around and walked away.

    “Where are you going?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Sleep,” Lu Xiaofeng said without even looking back.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked several steps; suddenly he turned around and walked back to Gong Jiu with palm turned up.

    With a puzzled look Gong Jiu asked, “What do you want?”

    “I want gold,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why would I want to give you gold?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Because I am going to draw a triangle marking in front of the hotel I am going to spend the night at,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, you have to keep your promise.”

    Gong Jiu was dumbstruck.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed a very complacent laugh; raising his voice, he said, “Give it to me!”

    Gong Jiu paled.

    “You want people to distrust you?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu took out a gold ingot and gave it to Lu Xiaofeng.

    Very proud of himself, Lu Xiaofeng played with the gold ingot in his hands, he tossed it up to the air and caught it back, twice, and then he walked out.

    He only took two steps, suddenly he looked back and laughed. “Early morning tomorrow,” he told Gong Jiu, “I may make another triangle at the place where I have breakfast.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed heartily. His voice gradually faded away.

    Lu Xiaofeng loved to drink wine, his favorite was drinking wine while lying in bed.

    When he was lying in bed, usually he loved to have a big bowl of wine on his chest, and then, just like a dead man, not moving at all, when he wanted to drink the wine, he would take a deep breath, sucking the air, along with the wine from the cup, so that it entered his mouth, and then with a ‘glug’ the wine finally entered his belly.

    Right now he was lying in bed just like that. And then there was also a big bowl filled to the brim with wine on his chest. Only, he lay down unmoving like a dead man for a long time, yet he had not sucked the wine at all.

    Because, the first time he drank wine like this, the Boss’ Wife was sitting by his side. As soon as the wine cup was empty, the Boss’ Wife immediately poured some more wine for him[2].

    And now, since the Boss’ Wife was not around, he treasured this cup of wine very much; if he finished the wine, who would pour the wine for him? He did not want to get up to pour the wine for himself; only people who do not enjoy life would do things like that.

    Hence, suddenly Lu Xiaofeng missed the Boss’ Wife.

    The ‘Boss’ Wife’ was a woman, a very, very beautiful woman.

    Beautiful women usually marry very early. The ‘Boss’ Wife’ was no exception.

    In fact, the reason she was called ‘The Boss’ Wife’ was because she married to ‘The Boss’.

    The Boss was Zhu Ting. Zhu Ting was an old friend of Lu Xiaofeng, they have known each other since they were both in diapers [orig. ‘opened pants’].

    Therefore, the relationship between Lu Xiaofeng and the Boss’ Wife was a clean one.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng missed those days of drinking wine while lying down.

    He missed Zhu Ting even more.

    Zhu Ting was fat. Fat people appear that they have good fortune, and only people with good fortune can be a boss. Therefore, everybody started to call Zhu Ting ‘the Boss’.

    The fact was, Zhu Ting has never opened any shop, yet his days were very comfortable. Because he had a pair of exceptionally skillful hands, he was able to make all kinds of weird and wonderful things. One time, he even made a wooden man that can walk on its own.

    Lu Xiaofeng cherished the memory of Zhu Ting’s pair of hands. If Zhu Ting could make a wooden Lu Xiaofeng that could walk on its own, Lu Xiaofeng’s problem would be solved.

    But Zhu Ting was not around.

    Sha Man was not around either.

    If Sha Man were around, even if the two of them had to die together, he felt that his life would not be in vain.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sat up, the wine in the bowl splashed onto his body.

    He knocked his own noggin forcefully, while in his heart he cursed himself, “So stupid!”

    Since he was willing to die together with Sha Man, why would he be afraid of Gong Jiu chasing after him? Why not go back directly to Sha Man? Perhaps relying on his and Sha Man’s martial art skills, they could defeat Gong Jiu! Who knows?

    As soon as he had this thought, Lu Xiaofeng rushed toward the door.

    When he opened the door he found out a pair of eyes that was originally watching over his door, and was quickly looking away.

    From the eyes, Lu Xiaofeng looked at the face, and he saw an unfamiliar face. The one that was not unfamiliar was the clothing.

    The clothing that everyone knew.

    -- The uniform of government official.

    And there were more than one government official. Because just opposite of the man watching over Lu Xiaofeng’s door, there was another government official, sleeping on a table.

    Evidently they were sleeping in shifts, taking turn to monitor Lu Xiaofeng’s movement.

    Why government officials?

    Were they doing this to get Gong Jiu’s reward? Or perhaps they were under order from the Prince of Taiping’s Heir Apparent to arrest him?

    Lu Xiaofeng rushed to the window. Opening the window, he also saw a pair of government officials, one sleeping, one standing.

    Lu Xiaofeng laugh, a wry laugh.

    He was already at a loss in dealing with a cat, and now there were a big bunch of kittens. As the mouse, Lu Xiaofeng could only laugh a wry laugh.

    Therefore, with no other choice, he lay in bed again, with a filled-to-the-brim wine cup on his chest.

    The first rays of morning sun appeared on the horizon.

    The government official guarding under the window saw the dawn. He stood up and stretched, happy that the long night was finally over.

    He was really relieved.

    Lu Xiaofeng had helped him to be relieved.

    When he was stretching, just like the ray of sun, Lu Xiaofeng flew toward him and sealed the major acupoint on his body; he was immediately relieved.

    Of course the one asleep was also relieved.

    Lu Xiaofeng ran his fingers along the saber hanging on his waist, he could not help laughing. It was the first time that he dressed up as a government official.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not help admiring Gong Jiu. Only Gong Jiu could force him to disguise himself as someone else.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the real government official lying on his bed, checked his full attire one more time, and then turned around to leave.

    The door. Lu Xiaofeng did not do it, but the door was pushed open.

    The one pushing the door and coming in was, surprisingly, Beef Soup.

    Beef Soup held a tray in her hands, on the tray was a bowl of steaming hot beef soup, plus four snow white mantou [steamed buns].

    Beef Soup put the tray on the table, and gracefully saluted Lu Xiaofeng.

    Beef Soup said, “Master Lu of the Yamen, please eat breakfast.”

    Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng was overwhelmed with a weird feeling, he did not know whether he should laugh or cry. Quickly he took off the government official uniform and said loudly, “I am not Master Lu of the Yamen!”

    Beef Soup laughed. “That’s right,” she said, “In that case, would Lu Xiaofeng, Master Lu, please have some breakfast?”

    Lu Xiaofeng still maintain the loud voice, “I don’t want to eat!”

    “I think it would be better if you eat,” Beef Soup said.

    “Why do I have to eat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because Jiu Ge says that he doesn’t want to pay you for marking the place you are going to eat breakfast,” Beef Soup said.

    “He stole that much money,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What’s the big deal of spending a bit more?”

    “Don’t you know one thing?” Beef Soup asked.

    “What thing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Beef Soup said, “The richer you are, the less you are willing to spend money.”

    “Hasn’t he spent a lot of money to track me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That was because he had no choice,” Beef Soup said, “It was because he simply had to spend some money.”

    “In that case,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I only have one thing to say.”

    “What is it?” Beef Soup asked.

    “This breakfast, I simply must eat,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Lu Xiaofeng swallowed the last bite of the mantou, he made a show of eating with gusto. “I want to ask you to do something,” he said to Beef Soup.

    “You want another bowl of beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

    “No,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “So what do you want me to do?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Take me to see Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Beef Soup was hesitant. “Whatever you want to say, you can say to me,” she said.

    “What I want to say, I have to say it to Gong Jiu in person,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why?” Beef Soup asked.

    “Because that way I can have enjoy a bit of life’s pleasure,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Without saying anything, Beef Soup turned around and led him out.

    Gong Jiu was not in the hotel. He has never stayed in a hotel.

    Gong Jiu was in the carriage.

    Gong Jiu lived his daily life within the luxury of his carriage.

    He loathed sleeping on the bed other people have slept on, he loathed drinking and eating with the wine cups, chopsticks and bowls that other people have used.

    When Lu Xiaofeng entered Gong Jiu’s carriage, Gong Jiu was sitting on the driver’s seat, meditating.

    Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, Gong Jiu did not make any effort to stand up or showing any signs of welcoming him.

    He only stared coldly at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng was also silently staring at Gong Jiu.

    And thus these two men were looking at each other like that, as if they were having a martial art match using their gaze.

    The first to open his mouth to break the silence was not Gong Jiu.

    It was not Lu Xiaofeng either.

    It was Beef Soup.

    Beef Soup only said six words, “He has something to tell you.” And then she walked into the carriage, and pulled the curtains down.

    With questioning eyes Gong Jiu fixed his gaze on Lu Xiaofeng.

    Finally Lu Xiaofeng opened his mouth. “I have something I want to say to you in person,” he said.

    “I know,” Gong Jiu said.

    “You do?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Beef Soup has just told me that,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Aren’t you going to ask what I wanted to say?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I won’t,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You are here,” Gong Jiu said, “You will say it.”

    “What I wanted to say is,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I want you to get rid of your driver.”

    Gong Jiu’s countenance changed a bit. “Why?” he asked.

    “You don’t need any driver,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “No need any driver, who’s going to drive?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Gong Jiu was surprised, “You?” he asked.

    “Me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why do you want to be my driver?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I want to break away from your pursuit.”

    Gong Jiu said, “But …”

    Lu Xiaofeng cut him off, “With me being your driver, it means not you following me, but I am taking you out.”

    “Where do you want to take me?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I don’t know either,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu was puzzled, “You don’t know?” he asked.

    “Perhaps I’ll think of some place along the way,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What place?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you want to know the place, you just let me be your driver, and then when along the way I think of the place, I’ll immediately let you know.”

    Gong Jiu did not reply; he picked the horsewhip, and tossed it to Lu Xiaofeng. Pushing the curtain aside, he entered the carriage.

    The sun has climbed very high, so high that it nearly reached the zenith.

    The midday sun baked the people down on the earth.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng was as calm as the water in a deep lake.

    The horsewhip in his hand fluttered lightly over the deep throb of the horses’ hooves, the rhythm was extremely lively, not at all like a carriage that was speeding along under the hot sun.

    -- Why?

    Because Lu Xiaofeng already figured out a way to break away from the evil cat.

    The carriage suddenly went very fast.

    Inside the carriage, Gong Jiu could not help sticking out his head and asked, “Are you in a hurry?”

    Without even looking back, Lu Xiaofeng flicked the horsewhip and said, “That’s right.”

    “Why must you be in a hurry?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Because I want to see someone,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Do you urgently have to see him?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Not urgent,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “If not urgent, why hurry?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Because I have to reach his place before night fall,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “And you still say it’s not urgent?” Gong Jiu said.

    “I am in no hurry,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “He is.”

    “He is in a hurry?” Gong Jiu was bewildered.

    “Because he has a habit,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “As soon as it is dark, he does not see any visitor anymore.”

    “Not even you?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Not even the old emperor of the heavens,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “And that’s why you have to see him before dark?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “So the one in a hurry is still you,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because he is the one making the rules, so the one in a hurry to receive guests before dark is him, not me.”

    The sun gradually grew weaker. The carriage was slowing down. The light breeze carried with it a sweet floral scent.

    Inside the carriage, Gong Jiu asked, “The person you are going to see loves flowers?”

    “Extremely,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Is the place where he lives covered with flowers?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “All kinds and sorts of flowers,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “What kind of place is that?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Ten-thousand Plum Mountain Villa,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Ximen Chuixue?” Gong Jiu said, “The person you want to see is Ximen Chuixue?”

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Although oftentimes he does not blow snow, but blood, but he is indeed called Ximen Chuixue.” [Reminder: chui xue means ‘blowing snow’; reminder part 2: in Chinese the character for ‘snow’ is ‘雪 - xue’, the character for ‘blood’ is ‘血 - xue’, of course, these two characters have different strokes and different pronunciation.]

    “What do you want to see him for?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Just to say a few words,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Words that I must not hear?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “When he is talking to a friend, he never liked to have any stranger listening on the side,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Are you going to ask him a favor?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Maybe,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You want him to send words to Sha Man?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer.

    The carriage was parked next to a cluster of flowers.

    Lu Xiaofeng put down the horsewhip, and jumped down the carriage. Knocking on the curtain he said, “Do you want to come in?”

    Gong Jiu replied, “Since he does not like strangers, why would I want to come in? Besides, the scent of flowers is overflowing in here; I am enjoying the beauty of the evening here, won’t it be more pleasant?”

    “You sure are a smart man,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You flatter me,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Since you admitted that you are a smart man, can you guess what am I going to borrow from you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu did not say anything.

    Because he could not guess.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I want to borrow a razorblade from you.”

    Amidst Lu Xiaofeng’s loud laughter, a razorblade flew out from behind the curtain.

    Gong Jiu’s voice was as cold as a solid block of ice, “You can have it.”

    When Gong Jiu stuck his head out, Lu Xiaofeng was shaving, his expression was that of a complete bliss.

    Gong Jiu could not help asking coldly, “Didn’t you say Ximen Chuixue does not receive visitors after dark?”

    “Right-o,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “And yet you still leisurely shave like that?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “In all my life I only shave occasionally, hence I want to make sure that I shave comfortably, so that I won’t let my moustache down. Furthermore, don’t worry, the sun has not disappeared behind the mountain, I guarantee I will finish shaving by then.”

    “I just want to give you an advice,” Gong Jiu said.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “In my opinion, your four eyebrows look all right,” Gong Jiu said, “So I advise you not to shave it.”

    “But I have to shave,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Because I have to see Ximen Chuixue,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Do you have to see him?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I don’t see him, I can’t see Sha Man.”

    “Even if you don’t see him, you can still see Sha Man,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu. “Oh?” he said.

    “You don’t believe me?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But I do not dare.”

    “You don’t?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am afraid that will be the last time I can see Sha Man, or perhaps …”

    “Perhaps what?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Perhaps that will be the last time she can see me.”

    Gong Jiu laughed. “It’s possible that I won’t kill both of you,” he said.

    “Is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “It is possible,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “And the conditions?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You are very smart,” Gong Jiu said.

    “That’s why I am still alive,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I want you to join us,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Is that your own idea?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Is it the Little Old Man’s idea?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Correct,” Gong Jiu replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. He put the razor down, wiped his face dry with a piece of cloth, and then said, “Don’t you think I look elegant and unconventional now?”

    Gong Jiu looked at him, but he did not say anything.

    Lu Xiaofeng lifted up the carriage’s curtain and called out, “Beef Soup.”

    Beef Soup stuck her head out.

    Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Don’t you think I look better this way compared to before?”

    Beef Soup looked at him, she also looked at Gong Jiu. She did not say anything.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “You both must be overwhelmed by how handsome I look, that’s why you are speechless. Since I look more elegant and unconventional than before, I think I’d better go see Ximen Chuixue.”

    The sun disappeared behind the mountain. The evening breeze carried the scent of the flowers, it also caressed Lu Xiaofeng’s skin and made him feeling very comfortable.

    He took a very deep breath, and then sighed and said, “Such a beautiful day, why must we be locked in constant strife, and insist that the other side must die?”

    Gong Jiu snorted coldly.

    Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Life is beautiful, why do you persistently force me into a corner? Why don’t you hold hand with Beef Soup by the flowers, enjoying a bit of life?”

    Gong Jiu’s countenance changed a little, he stiffly said, “The sky is turning black.”

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why didn’t Ximen Chuixue come out to welcome you?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Perhaps he is preparing some fine small side dishes to welcome me!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Are you going to eat dinner inside?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I might spend the night inside,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Then you should hurry up,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Before I go in, I also want to offer you a bit of advice,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Speak up,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Quickly cook your dinner,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Lest you smell the aroma, and cannot endure it.”

    Gong Jiu smiled and said, “I am not a glutton, you need not provoke me. Just enjoy your meal, enjoy your sleep, tomorrow get ready to leave.”

    “Why do I have to leave?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Because I may decide that I don’t want to use you as my driver,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Actually,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Tomorrow I don’t want to be your driver anymore.”

    “Oh?” Gong Jiu said.

    “Tomorrow you will find out,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That I am a free person, I won’t have any shadow of the cat’s claw behind my back.”

    “Well, you can see it for yourself tomorrow,” Gong Jiu said.

    Lu Xiaofeng slowly walked toward the gate, while he happily said, “Tomorrow, what a word full of hope!”

    Inside the house, there was no flower, yet it was filled with the fragrance of flowers, light, faint; just like the person of Ximen Chuixue.

    Lu Xiaofeng reclined on a couch made of soft dark green velvet, his eyes were fixed on Ximen Chuixue.

    Ximen Chuixue’s cup was filled with light green jade colored wine, his body was clad in snow white, light and soft clothes.

    Like bursts of spring breeze, soft flute sound drifted in, sometimes it seemed so near, sometimes it seemed so far, yet the flute player was unseen.

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “In your life, do you ever have anything to trouble you?” he asked.

    “You asked me that same question before,” Ximen Chuixue pointed out.

    “Then, your answer was no,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You have a very good memory,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “How about now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I do,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “What trouble?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Moustache,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Ximen Chuixue’s clean and smooth face. “You are troubled because you don’t have a beard?”

    “No,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “No?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am troubled because you don’t have any moustache,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why?”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Because last time you begged me to do you a favor, I said that if you shave your moustache, I’d go with you and do whatever you want me to do.”

    “I remember,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That was the first time I shaved for someone else’s sake.”

    “And now you are clean-shaven again,” Ximen Chuixue said, “That’s why I know that my trouble has come again.”

    Lu Xiaofeng downed his wine in one gulp, and then he looked at Ximen Chuixue.

    Ximen Chuixue slowly drank the light green jade colored wine in his cup. “This wine ought to be drunk slowly,” he said.

    “I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Then why did you drink it up in one gulp?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Because I am waiting for you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Waiting for me? Waiting for what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Waiting for you to say something,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Say what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Say something to remove my trouble,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Ximen Chuixue finished his wine in one gulp. Setting down his wine cup, he said, “Whatever you want to do, I’d go with you and do whatever you want me to do.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Now you can pour two cups, we can drink slowly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his cup and said, “For your words.”

    Ximen Chuixue also raised his cup and said, “For your moustache.”

    The two of them roared in laughter, then they slowly sipped their wine.

    The flute sound disappeared, the clear, bright sound of guqin[3] appeared in its place.

    “Has your preference changed?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “It hasn’t,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Then why guqin?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The flute is melodious,” Ximen Chuixue explained, “Its washing power is not as strong as guqin’s strong sound.”

    “Washing power?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Washing what?”

    “Murderous aura,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Washing murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ximen Chuixue nodded.

    “Whose murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The person on the carriage,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “You can feel his murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “A very thick murderous aura,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Do you know whom he is going to kill?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Definitely not me,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “It’s not me either,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who else then?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “There is Honest Monk, and then there is Sha Man, and Xiao Yu too,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “I have two questions,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “What questions?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “First,” Ximen Chuixue said, “Why did he want to kill Honest Monk?”

    “And the second question?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Who are Sha Man and Xiao Yu?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng finished narrating his experience, the wine pot on the table was empty, the dishes have been cleared up.

    Ximen Chuixue stared at Lu Xiaofeng; there was a look of reproach in his eyes.

    “You get in trouble a lot,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “That’s why I came to find you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “I know how to deal with it,” Ximen Chuixue said, “You’d better have a good sleep tonight, so that you can hasten on your journey in the morning.”

    “Can I say just two words?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No, you can’t,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I already know which two words you are going to say,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “You do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I do,” Ximen Chuixue replied. After taking another sip at his wine he said, “I’d rather you keep those two words in your heart.”

    “In that case, I’ll keep the two words ‘many thanks’ in my heart!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed while raising his cup and finished off his wine.

    [1] Comic dialog, sketches, crosstalk, as in performing on stage.

    [2] See Lu Xiao Feng, Book 1 - The Golden Roc Empire, translated by Moinllieon.


    [3] Guqin (from dictionary): a long zither with 5 or 7 strings, plucked with a plectrum / the ancestor of the long zither family, dating back to pre-classical times (playing it was an essential accomplishment of a Confucian gentleman).

  6. #86
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 19

    Chapter 19 – How to escape from a trap.

    Early morning.

    Fog, light fog.

    Smelling the fragrance of flowers in the morning breeze, watching the hazy silhouette of flowers in the fog, was a very invigorating thing. Too bad those who wake up early are not many.

    Lu Xiaofeng usually woke up early, but he did not have time to leisurely go to the flower garden to watch the flowers, to smell the flowers, in the fog.

    Gong Jiu was a man who knew how to enjoy life, but he did not know how to enjoy life in good taste, he would rather have more sleep to restore his energy, so he was unwilling to enjoy the refreshing mist.

    Beef Soup was a woman, and women usually love flowers under the moon, love sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately, the man she was with was Gong Jiu, a man who loved to sleep until the sky is bright. The woman by his side had no choice but stay with him in bed until the sky was bright.

    Therefore, there was only one person who can enjoy the beauty of the early morning.

    Clothes as white as snow, in white misty fog, like a stone statue Ximen Chuixue stood by the flowers.

    The fog dispersed. The sun gave up its warmth. The birds started to sing.

    Ximen Chuixue no longer stood by the flowers.

    He stood by the carriage, Gong Jiu’s carriage.

    A burst of murderous aura suddenly entered the carriage, Gong Jiu suddenly sat up.

    Pushing the curtain aside, Gong Jiu saw Ximen Chuixue.

    The Ximen Chuixue, who was standing coldly and eerily.

    And then, Gong Jiu saw Lu Xiaofeng.

    The Lu Xiaofeng, who was giggling and waving his hand as he went away.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not go fast at all, but in no time at all Lu Xiaofeng’s shadow was getting smaller and smaller.

    Gong Jiu pulled the rope, but the carriage did not move.

    Ximen Chuixue drew his sword, stabbed the horse, and put the sword back into its sheathe; quick as lightning.

    It was the first time Gong Jiu saw such a fast sword.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s shadow was getting smaller. Ximen Chuixue’s murderous aura was getting thicker.

    Gong Jiu did not look at Lu Xiaofeng, he looked at Ximen Chuixue’s eyes.

    Ximen Chuixue’s eyes were also fixed at Gong Jiu’s eyes.

    “Why did you kill my horse?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “I don’t want your horse to pursue my friend,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “What if I want to pursue him?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “You may end up just like your horse,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Humph,” Gong Jiu snorted, “You have confidence?”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Ximen Chuixue is the most confident person in Jianghu.”

    “Really?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “You want to try?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    Gong Jiu did not answer, he was overwhlemed by Ximen Chuixue’s murderous aura that he broke into a cold silence.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt that this world was actually very lovely. The singing of the birds was bright and refreshing, the breeze caressing his body felt really nice, even the weeds growing by the road looked beautiful.

    Friends. It was the most delightful thing in the world.

    Friendship. It was the most essential thing in the world.

    The friendship between Lu Xiaofeng and Ximen Chuixue was merely a friendship between gentlemen, it was as insipid as the water; yet, when Lu Xiaofeng was in trouble, Ximen Chuixue was always willing to lend his blade to help.

    Although he might ask Lu Xiaofeng to shave his moustache, what’s the big deal about shaving moustache anyway? After the moustache was shaved, won’t the man become more clear and bright? Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was still grateful toward Ximen Chuixue.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that Gong Jiu would definitely be unable to catch up with him.

    He stopped, took a deep breath to fill his lungs with the cool early morning mountain air. Stroking his fingers over the place above his lips where his moustache used to be, he laughed.

    Because he remembered Sha Man. When Sha Man saw that he only had two eyebrows left, she must be shocked.

    But the one who would be shocked the most ought to be Honest Monk. Because he would never expect that Lu Xiaofeng would really shave his moustache; moreover, that he did it to escape from the chase, although the one pursuing him was not the government officers under Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent command.

    Gong Jiu was a lot more formidable than Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent. Lu Xiaofeng would never be afraid of a hundred government officers, yet he was afraid of one Gong Jiu.

    Gong Jiu’s martial art and intelligence were simply frightening. Could Ximen Chuixue hold Gong Jiu back? Could Ximen Chuixue defeat Gong Jiu?

    Lu Xiaofeng had just started to move his feet, moving forward, but he suddenly stopped again.

    What if Ximen Chuixue was not Gong Jiu’s match?

    There was a faint uneasy feeling floating in the depth of Lu Xiaofeng’s heart.

    -- If Ximen Chuixue met some mishaps, won’t I be guilty?

    The more Lu Xiaofeng thought about it, the stronger the uneasy feeling in his guts.

    -- Ximen Chuixue faced Gong Jiu for my sake, why did I avoid the problem by running away from it? Either a friend is willing to sacrifice his life, or both sides are perishing together, how can I let Ximen Chuixue sacrifice his life alone?

    Thinking to this point, like an arrow, Lu Xiaofeng flew.

    Not a flying forward arrow, but a flying backward arrow.

    It was noon.

    The sun was shining high in the sky. There was no wind.

    Butterflies were flying among the clusters of flowers.

    But the one flying outside the clusters of flowers was not a butterfly; it was a fly.

    Not just a regular housefly, but a big fly with a green head, the one making buzzing noise.

    Seeing the fly, Lu Xiaofeng smelled the scent of blood.

    The horse was not there, the carriage was not there, the people were not there either.

    Lu Xiaofeng dashed into Ximen Chuixue’s house.

    The furniture in the house was still as tidy as usual, everything was as spotless as before. But where was Ximen Chuixue?

    In that entire house, other than Lu Xiaofeng, no one was in sight.

    A gust of wind suddenly blew into the room, Lu Xiaofeng could not help shivering a little bit.

    Has the big mistake really happened?

    Lu Xiaofeng walked out of the house, he walked toward the bloodstained ground, and reached out with his palm to slap repeatedly.

    The buzzing flies suddenly did not make any noise, one after another the flies dropped dead in the pool of blood.

    Only the butterflies remained. The butterflies were still fluttering among the flowers, they fluttered erratically up, down, left and right.

    The flowers were no longer fragrant, the butterflies were no longer beautiful.

    Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly at the pool of blood on the ground, as if he had lost his soul.

    “Are you paying homage to your dead horse?”

    By the time this sentence entered Lu Xiaofeng’s ears, a hand also landed on his shoulder.

    The voice belonged to Ximen Chuixue. The hand was also the exceptionally well-groomed hand belonging to Ximen Chuixue. Lu Xiaofeng looked at him with a blank look on his face.

    To Lu Xiaofeng, Ximen Chuixue’s smile was a lot warmer than the sun.

    “It’s not your blood?”

    “If it was, would I still be able to stand right here?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Oh, right. This must be the horse’s blood,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why did you hurry back?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “I was afraid,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You were afraid I would fall into Gong Jiu’s evil scheme?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

    Ximen Chuixue put both hands on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder, and shook him vigorously several times. “Just because of this, next time you come to me for a favor, I don’t want you to shave your moustache anymore.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a wry laugh. This was the true value of friendship!

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the blood on the ground. “You really gave me a fright,” he said.

    “You thought I died?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Because you are a man who loves cleanliness,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Why would you let a pool of blood remain in front of your house?”

    Ximen Chuixue laughed and said, “Naturally I cannot stand it either, but I did not have time to clean up.”

    “You don’t have time?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Ximen Chuixue replied, “I did not have time to cleanup, and you already arrived.”

    “And before I came?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I went to the riverbank to throw up,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Throw up?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “As in vomiting?”

    Ximen Chuixue nodded.

    “Why did you throw up?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I saw someone,” Ximen Chuixue replied, “His action was so nauseating that it made me sick.”

    “Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Gong Jiu,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Gong Jiu?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What did he do?”

    “He begged me to beat him up,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Did you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No,” Ximen Chuixue replied, “When martial art masters are facing each other, they cannot be careless at all. I thought he intentionally wanted to break my concentration.”

    “And then what happened?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “And then he suddenly raised his own hand to strike his own face,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “And you still ignored him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You are right,” Ximen Chuixue said, “I was still staring at him like before.”

    “And then what did he do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He pulled a whip,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Whose whip?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Beef Soup’s,” Ximen Chuixue replied, “Beef Soup beat him incessantly, he rolled around on the ground, shouting in glee.”

    “And what did you do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I ran to the riverbank at once,” Ximen Chuixue said, “I threw up big time. Otherwise …”

    “Otherwise what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Otherwise I would throw up on the ground, and then I could not live here anymore,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “I am afraid I will have to pay for your house then,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Do you know how much this house of mine is worth?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “How much?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Do you know Huo Xiu?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    How could he not know Huo Xiu? How could he not know the richest person in the world, but loved to pass life like a hermit, the reclusive old fellow Huo? [See Lu Xiaofeng Book 1, The Golden Roc Empire, translated by Moinllieon.]

    He still remembered it clearly, one time he was lying in bed comfortably, drinking wine; suddenly he was visited by three strange, yet very famous men of Jianghu. One was someone who thought about ‘feelings are always like leftover hatred, no point in bring up past matters’ all day long, the ‘Jade-faced Gentleman’ Liu Yuhen. Next was someone who thought about ‘the autumn rains and autumn winds brings worries’ all day long, the 'Intestine Breaking Swordsman’ Xiao Qiuyu. And the last one was the ‘Thousand-li Loner’ Dugu Fang.

    Actually, it was very rare that these three men were together, what was more surprising was that not only they were together, but they had become Princess Danfeng’s bodyguards.

    When Princess Danfeng also entered his room, and suddenly kneeled down in front of him, he crashed through the roof to run away. The place where he decided to hide from Princess Danfeng was precisely Huo Xiu’s residence. It was a wooden cabin, yet priceless.

    Because it was originally the summer retreat of the famous poet Lu Fangweng, the walls still had some of his poems, which he penned with his own hand.

    But in an instant the house was demolished by Liu Yuhen, Xiao Qiuyu and Dugu Fang.

    Princess Danfeng immediately took action; she compensated Huo Xiu with fifty taels of gold.

    Fifty taels of gold could buy quite a few houses!

    But Lu Xiaofeng believed that the wooden cabin worth thirty, forty thousand taels of gold.

    Right now Ximen Chuixue suddenly brought up this matter, could it be that he also believed that his house worth that much gold?

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng expressed what was in his mind, “Are you saying that your house is comparable to the old man Huo’s residence?”

    But Ximen Chuixue shook his head, “You are wrong.”

    “I am?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ximen Chuixue said, “I only said that any house could be priceless.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ximen Chuixue replied, “Because the people in the house maybe one day shake the four corners of the world.”

    “You are absolutely right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That wooden cabin of old man Huo’s, when it was still Lu Fangweng’s residence, it was no more than a pile of lumber put together to make a house. But after Lu Fangweng’s poems received the acclamation of the world, by the time it became the old man Huo’s residence, it became priceless.”

    “Therefore,” Ximen Chuixue said, “Even if I cannot live here, you can’t afford to compensate for my loss.”

    “You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I can afford it.”

    “Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because practically I do not need to pay you right now; hundreds of years later, later generation’s people would know that during Ximen Chuixue’s time, I have already become as light as a feather and ascend to heaven, I have become an immortal.”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “Now I know that you can act unreasonably and shamelessly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Even if that is true, it won’t implicate you at all, because right now you won’t move out.”

    “This time you are wrong,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I am about to move away,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because,” Ximen Chuixue said, “You are going to live here.”

    “I am?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ximen Chuixue explained, “Gong Jiu must have thought that you were gone, he would never expect that you came back. Therefore, no matter how many eyes and ears he sends out, no matter where his eyes and ears are, he will never find your whereabouts.”

    “Because I already have my head on your pillow here without any worry,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Absolutely right,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “But what about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am leaving,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Where?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am studying Buddhism,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Studying Buddhism?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “With whom?”

    “Naturally with a monk,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Which monk?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Honest Monk!” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Does Honest Monk understand Buddhism?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I don’t know,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “You don’t know?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Yet you still want to study Buddhism from him?”

    “I just want to learn one trick from him,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Which trick?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Meditation,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Meditation?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What for?”

    “So that when I am with two great beauties, my heart won’t be like a frisky monkey, my mind won’t be like a cantering horse,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    “Who are those two great beauties?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “One is called Sha Man, the other Xiao Yu,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Are you saying that you want to pick them up and bring them here?” he asked.

    “Do you have any other safer and better way?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Please enlighten me,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “But momentarily we cannot do it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What is it?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Kill Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng had high confidence in Ximen Chuixue’s character, he had high confidence in his capability, he had high confidence in his martial art skill. Therefore, he peacefully and cozily lay in front of the house, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers, the sunshine, the light breeze, and the elegantly fluttering butterflies.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s mind was also fluttering up and down like the butterflies, until it finally landed on Sha Man.

    He longed to see Sha Man.

    He suddenly felt a strong urge to retire from Jianghu.

    He had been in Jianghu for a long time, indeed too long. Although he was still young, and his heart was still burning with passion, but suddenly he felt that Jianghu was sinister and deceitful, the smell of fierce, bloody rivalry was becoming too thick.

    He only hoped to be together with Sha Man, find a small island, perhaps return to the Little Old Man’s island, and live in Sha Man’s former house, no longer care about right and wrong, gratitude and grudges, no longer carry a sword.

    He looked at his hand.

    -- If not carrying a sword, what should he carry?

    -- Eyebrow pencil?

    He could not help laughing.

    And then he heard noises.

    Not the sound of his laughter, but the sound of horses’ hooves on the ground.

    Not just one horse, not even two, three, or four horses, but the sound of a dozen, maybe more than twenty horses, galloping on the ground.

    He sprang up.

    By the time the sound of galloping horses was getting clearer and clearer, it was getting more and more resounding, Lu Xiaofeng had made a decision.

    Therefore, ‘whoosh!’ he hid himself into a cluster of flowers.

    -- Who were these people?

    That was the first question popping out in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind as he was hiding in the cluster of flowers.

    -- Did Ximen Chuixue betray him?

    That was the second question in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind in the cluster of flowers.

    Out of these two questions, he would find out the answer to at least one question very soon.

    Because the galloping horses had stopped in front of Ximen Chuixue’s door.

    Exactly twenty horses, twenty riders.

    Twenty riders who had just jumped down their horses. Twenty big, burly men in black.

    Lu Xiaofeng recognized one of them. The leader.

    Ying Yan Laoqi!

    The leader was precisely the Zongpiaobazi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance, Ying Yan Laoqi.

    -- Who was Ying Yan Laoqi looking for?

    -- Did he look for Ximen Chuixue or Lu Xiaofeng?

    -- What for?

    Lu Xiaofeng only knew one thing: the one Ying Yan Laoqi was looking for, was not him, but Ximen Chuixue.

    Because when he knocked the door, Ying Yan Laoqi said, “Ying Yan Laoqi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance is seeking audience with Ximen Gongzi.”

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng got the answer to his second question: Ximen Chuixue did not betray him.

    He suddenly felt ashamed.

    He repeatedly admonished himself in his heart, “Toward a friend, you must have trust, you must have confidence.”

    Therefore, he took a very deep breath to suck the scent of the flowers.

    He still had some reservation in his heart that he did not feel comfortable in sitting or lying back down. Instead, unleashing his qinggong, he flew toward the direction Ying Yan Laoqi disappeared.

    Because he still had one big question.

    -- Why did Ying Yan Laoqi look for Ximen Chuixue?

    Ying Yan Laoqi was the Zongpiaobazi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance. The Twelve-Dock Alliance’s power reached far and wide, even beyond the Great Wall. He had subordinates from both the ‘white and black’ ways. No matter where he went, Ying Yan Laoqi would always have a secure place to stay, he would be warmly greeted by local people of both the ‘white and black’ ways.

    Therefore, the place Ying Yan Laoqi picked to rest ought to be a large town or perhaps a large village.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was wrong this time. Big mistake, very peculiar mistake.

    Because as Lu Xiaofeng followed the horses’ track, he suddenly realized that the direction Ying Yan Laoqi and his people took was not a big town at all.

    The place where they stopped was nowhere in particular, it was as if as soon as they felt tired, they found a random place where they could sit down and rest.

    It was no more than a rather spacious, open space among the twists and turns of the road.

    They all dismounted and gathered into a group. Watched from afar, it appeared that they were talking about some confidential matter.

    Once again Lu Xiaofeng found out that he was mistaken. They did not talk about anything at all, but they gathered around a pot-stewed dish, eating and drinking as much as they liked.

    The sun had already passed the zenith. Lu Xiaofeng found out that his own stomach was grumbling. But he could not sit down to eat.

    Not that he was afraid they might detect his presence, and not that he did not have time to eat either; rather, he did not bring anything to eat.

    The only thing he brought was silver to buy things to eat.

    On this remote mountain path, silver had no use at all. Therefore, he could only hide nearby, watching them eating.

    Nor only he was able to see them stuffing themselves, he could even hear the sound of their conversation.

    “What do you say tonight, the two of us brothers, doubling our capital, and then go to find Chun Hong and Tao Niang to have some fun?”

    “Double your big ghost head!”

    “Hey, what’s wrong with you?”

    “Do you know what I am most afraid of in all my life?”

    “What is it?”

    “Caressing door’s nail. There was one time I was on mission, I did not find the person I was looking for, as a result, when I pushed several Paijiu [pai gow] tiles, ha! Do you know what happened? For twenty-seven times in a row, all I picked was ‘departing ten’ [i.e. ‘zero’].”

    “So when you did not find Ximen Chuixue today, you don’t want to gamble?”

    “Absolutely not.”

    “I’ll say you’d better gamble still.”

    “Why?”

    “Because if you saw Ximen Chuixue, I am afraid you may not necessarily have any chance to gamble anymore.”

    “You think we can’t kill him?”

    “I am afraid that’s just not possible.”

    “Impossible.”

    “You are so confident?”

    “Of course; there are twenty of us, while he does not guard against us. Suddenly we launch twenty different secret projectiles, I’ll say even an immortal will find it difficult to dodge, much less just an ordinary person.”

    Lu Xiaofeng knew what was going on.

    Because Ximen Chuixue blocked Gong Jiu, Lu Xiaofeng was able to escape his grip. Therefore, Gong Jiu harbored hard feelings against Ximen Chuixue, and sent Ying Yan Laoqi to plot against Ximen Chuixue.

    It was the most likely scenario. And it also proved one thing.

    Gong Jiu was really unable to trace Lu Xiaofeng’s whereabouts, i.e. because Lu Xiaofeng went back to check on Ximen Chuixue, he was able to break away from Gong Jiu’s pursuit.

    It also proved another thing.

    During his journey, nobody recognized Ximen Chuixue.

    Lu Xiaofeng was relieved. He knew that he only need to do one more thing, and then he could sit back and relax outside Ximen Chuixue’s door, waiting for Ximen Chuixue fetching Sha Man and the others.

    Although Ying Yan Laoqi was not addicted to gambling, sometimes he also satisfied his cravings by placing a few high stakes.

    But tonight, he only opened his eyes wide, staring at his subordinates having a few rounds of gambling. He did not have the slightest moods to partake the game.

    Although his wine capacity could not be considered very good, sometimes he drank ten to twenty bowls brimming to the edge with shaodaozi [lit. burning knife; not sure, probably type of wine] without getting drunk.

    But tonight he only drank two bowls, and he already felt tipsy.

    People with a load in their mind usually get drunk rather easily.

    People with a load in their mind usually don’t have the mood to gamble.

    Ying Yan Laoqi was actually a very open-minded man; no matter what happened, he rarely took it to heart.

    But tonight he had a load in his mind; not only tonight, but these days he had a load in his mind.

    Ever since he took the wrong step, he had been having a load in his mind. This worry has depressed him.

    He was already the Zongpiaobazi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance, why did he accept Gong Jiu’s provocation?

    He worried that one day, his fate would be the same as Ye Xingshi.

    Because in this earth, he was the only person remained who knew Gong Jiu’s secret.

    Actually, he was not supposed to know Gong Jiu’s secret.

    Based on his advanced years, based on his family’s wealth, he should not be worried about anything. Why is it that in that moment he could not resist the temptation of vast amount of money and thus he fell under Gong Jiu’s control?

    That much money, what good would it bring? Did he really want to bring everything in his coffin after he died?

    Lu Xiaofeng has always been a warm hearted man, always attached importance to yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood], always emphasized benevolence. When this heist broke out, the first person came into Ying Yan Laoqi’s mind he wanted to ask for help was precisely Lu Xiaofeng.

    But now, Ying Yan Laoqi had to take his order from Gong Jiu, he had to track Lu Xiaofeng’s whereabouts; and when Gong Jiu said to kill, he vehemently must kill such a hero.

    Although Ximen Chuixue was not a man of great benevolence, great valor, he had never killed the innocent. Based on this fact alone, it was enough for him to receive admiration from Jianghu people.

    But now, Ying Yan Laoqi had received order to kill Ximen Chuixue.

    Therefore, he lifted his bowl again, and downed the wine in one gulp.

    Therefore, he did not even know when the gambling was over, not the slightest idea.

    When he awoke, he found that he was crouching on the table. The huge tavern was completely deserted, and he was awake with some kind of drowsiness.

    And then, he realized that his saber was missing.

    And then, he found out that there was a piece of paper in front of him.

    The piece of paper said:

    Ximen Chuixue Chang’an. [Ancient name of Xi’an, the capital of China during Tang Dynasty.]

  7. #87
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 20

    Chapter 20 – Honest Monk is not honest

    Saber. The saber flickered under the bright morning sun.

    Lu Xiaofeng had the saber in his hand.

    Lu Xiaofeng was toying with the saber in his hand. It caught the sun light at just the right angle and shot a blinding light to Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes.

    He held the saber flat, vertical, in an angle, and tried fifteen, sixteen different angles, and found fourteen of them could reflect light.

    He suddenly laughed, he laughed at what he found from this experiment.

    If someday he had to use saber in dealing with the enemy, he might try using this technique of reflecting light first to disturb the enemy’s eyes. If the enemy was disturbed, he would undoubtedly win. Therefore, he was grateful to Ying Yan Laoqi.

    Were it not for Ying Yan Laoqi carrying the saber, were it not for Ying Yan Laoqi got drunk and crouched on the table, were it not for Lu Xiaofeng leaving a brief note to Ying Yan Laoqi, he would have not taken Ying Yan Laoqi’s saber, and thus he would have not discovered this principle.

    Gently running his fingers along the blade, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt very proud of himself and laughed.

    -- If I did not leave the note, if I did not pick his saber, if I did not play with the saber under the sun, would I discover this fact?

    -- Therefore, I should be proud of myself, why would I be grateful to Ying Yan Laoqi?

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed even more complacently.

    -- Right now, Ying Yan Laoqi should be leading his men pursuing to Chang’an, shouldn’t he?

    Ying Yan Laoqi had no reason not to go to Chang’an. Anybody in his situation would surely go to Chang’an.

    If he believed the note, he would go.

    If he did not believe the note, he would still go.

    Because the person leaving the note was able to take his life anytime, how could he not go?

    Besides, Lu Xiaofeng did not deceive him, because Lu Xiaofeng only wrote ‘Ximen Chuixue Chang’an’, with a space between the words ‘Ximen Chuixue’ and ‘Chang’an’.

    The space could have three words, ‘is not in’.

    -- Ximen Chuixue ‘is not in’ Chang’an.

    The space could also hold two words.

    -- Ximen Chuixue ‘maybe in’ Chang’an.

    That was the beauty of space.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly thought of ancient paintings, why were there so many blank spaces? Turned out those blank spaces had even more layers of explanation, everybody can admire the paintings according to their own interpretation, their own criticism, their own guess as to the creative concept behind the paintings.

    But there was only one creative concept behind Lu Xiaofeng’s note:

    -- Ximen Chuixue practically is not in Chang’an.

    -- Ximen Chuixue should be going to Sha Man and the others’ hiding place, shouldn’t he?

    Lu Xiaofeng counted the date. Ximen Chuixue should have found Sha Man by now.

    But Ximen Chuixue did not find Sha Man.

    The first thing that Ximen Chuixue saw as an overhanging cliff, and the angry waves crashing the shore under the overhanging cliff, the foam of water splashing into the overhanging cliff.

    And then he saw the wooden cabin Lu Xiaofeng told him about. He loved this place.

    When he saw the overhanging cliff and the splashing waves, he recalled Su Dongpo’s[1] poem.

    -- Raging waves beating the shore, rolling up thousand piles of snow. Picturesque rivers and mountains, coupled with many heroes.

    This was the perfect place to live in seclusion.

    Now Ximen Chuixue regretted why he promised Lu Xiaofeng that he would bring Sha Man back to him.

    -- Why didn’t he promise Lu Xiaofeng that he would stay here to protect them? That way he could stay here, he could enjoy the sea breeze, enjoy the scene of the splashing waves here.

    Although he had regrets, he still walked toward the wooden cabin, without the slightest hesitation.

    Wherever Ximen Chuixue went, he would never forget his noble character, his elegance.

    Although there was only a single wooden cabin on the overhanging cliff, he would still remember to display his noble character.

    Therefore, although the door to the wooden cabin was half-closed, he still knocked on the door.

    Although he would always wait for someone to answer the door, or perhaps to invite him in before he would enter in, this time he had to make an exception.

    There are always exceptions to everything.

    For example, if he knocked the door several dozen times without anybody answering the door.

    Or perhaps if he suddenly smell blood.

    Not only has Ximen Chuixue knocked the door fifty, sixty times, without any response, he also smelled the reeking of blood.

    Therefore, he had to make an exception.

    Therefore, he pushed the door open. Stealthily like a cat he slipped inside.

    In the hall, apart from a wooden table, some wooden chairs, tea cups, tea pot, he saw nothing else.

    Ximen Chuixue had not even broken into the rooms. He called out twice, “Anyone here?” And only then he burst into the inner rooms.

    In the first room, he saw wooden bed, quilt, pillow, but nothing else.

    The second room was just a duplicate of the first room.

    The third room had one person in it. A dead person. And the dead person was a woman.

    Ximen Chuixue burst in. He turned the woman over, and to his surprise, he discovered two things.

    -- This woman was Xiao Yu, because Lu Xiaofeng described Sha Man’s appearance to him, and this woman’s appearance did not match that description.

    -- This woman did not die, because there was a very weak moan coming from her throat.

    By the time Ximen Chuixue brought Xiao Yu back to his carriage, he discovered another thing.

    -- Xiao Yu’s right hand was curled into a tight fist.

    He pried Xiao Yu’s right hand open. A ball of crumpled paper fell down. The piece of paper had seven characters written on it. Seven characters written in blood.

    - Lao shi he shang bu lao shi [Honest Monk is not honest].

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know a misfortune has happened in the wooden cabin on the overhanging cliff.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know Sha Man and Honest Monk had disappeared.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know Xiao Yu was stabbed and was seriously injured.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know that in order to save Xiao Yu, Ximen Chuixue did not hurry back. Not only he did not hurry, he had to find a small town where he could stay and invite a physician to treat Xiao Yu’s injury. Therefore, by the time Ximen Chuixue was supposed to be back, he did not even see any shadow of a horse carriage. A dark shadow started to creep into his heart.

    -- Could it be that Ximen Chuixue has met some mishaps?

    -- Could it be that Sha Man has met some mishaps?

    -- Could it be that all of them have met some mishaps?

    From its zenith, the sun slowly crawled down to the west, and then it slowly disappeared beyond the western horizon. Lu Xiaofeng was still shrouded under the blanket of questions.

    The crescent moon slowly climbed to the middle of the sky, Lu Xiaofeng was still sitting in front of the door, anxiously craning his neck to look at the distance.

    He was fidgety with anxiety and was burning with angst. Only one person understood the extent of Lu Xiaofeng’s concern.

    Ximen Chuixue understood Lu Xiaofeng’s concern. Because he knew Lu Xiaofeng’s expectation.

    But he really had no way of hurrying back. Not that he did not want to hurry back, but he practically could not hurry back.

    Xiao Yu had lost a lot of blood, she needed time to recuperate; she must not suffer the hardship of the tossing and turning of traveling with the carriage.

    Therefore, although Ximen Chuixue understood Lu Xiaofeng’s anxiety, in all honesty there was absolutely nothing he could do about it; not that he himself was not in a hurry to get back.

    The meaning of the seven characters that Xiao Yu held tight in her hand, ‘Honest Monk is not honest’, was very clear; Sha Man’s disappearance, Xiao Yu’s injury, must be deeply related to Honest Monk. But what was it? Where was Honest Monk?

    Ximen Chuixue really wanted to see Lu Xiaofeng as soon as possible, he wanted to hand over all these questions in his mind to Lu Xiaofeng, and let him deal with it himself. However, Xiao Yu’s countenance was deathly pale; even lying motionless in bed, she was continuously groaning in pain, how could Ximen Chuixue have the heart to go?

    Besides, he really did not dare to leave Xiao Yu alone and let the doctor took care of her.

    Therefore, he only had one option – waiting.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been waiting impatiently for three days. Three days ago, he was already dying to go and look for them. Because three days ago he thought that at the latest, Ximen Chuixue should have been back three days previously.

    To be able to wait for six days, Lu Xiaofeng’s patience was really not bad. About this fact, he could not help but admiring himself.

    Therefore, by the time he was ready to move his feet, he had made a decision.

    He decided to admire himself one more day. Because admiring himself was not an easy thing to do.

    Today was the last day Lu Xiaofeng admiring his own patience.

    Today was the ninth day, not the seventh day. Because Lu Xiaofeng had waited two more days.

    In these two days he had attempted to leave a hundred and twenty four times. But all hundred and twenty four times attempts were not successful.

    Because every time he wanted to leave, a dreadful thought emerged in his mind.

    -- What if he had just left and Ximen Chuixue arrived with Sha Man?

    -- What would happen if Sha Man arrived and did not see him?

    Therefore, he stayed. Waiting. Waiting painfully.

    Dusk. Dusk has always been a very pleasant time.

    Because dusk has always been the time when love ones are going to see each other.

    The farmers tilling the soil went home with hoes on their shoulder, facing the fiery sunsets, walking along the raised path between the rice field, going home to be with their family.

    People from all walks of life, when they saw the setting sun, they all would know that it was time to rest. One day of weariness was finally going to get relief.

    Lovers who were going to meet each other would also begin to dress up in preparation to meet their sweetheart later on that evening.

    Only one type of person was not happy when the night falls.

    -- One who has to wait.

    Lu Xiaofeng was waiting. But under the sunset glow, a smile suddenly appeared on his face.

    Because his wait was over.

    Because he heard the sound of speeding carriage.

    Because he saw that the speeding carriage was Ximen Chuixue’s.

    Therefore, the dusk this time was the kind of dusk that brought delight in Lu Xiaofeng’s heart.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s happiness was comparable to the splendid red sunset clouds on the horizon, which stayed in the sky for a while, and then gradually faded away.

    Because what he saw were a hardened face of Ximen Chuixue’s, and a pale face of Xiao Yu’s.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng was anxious, he did not want to rush Xiao Yu; he merely endure patiently while with a weak voice Xiao Yu narrated the story of Honest Monk was not honest.

    -- One day, Honest Monk suddenly said that he had a business he had to take care of for a few days; hence leaving me and Sha Man in that wooden cottage he went out.

    -- And then after seven, eight days, Honest Monk returned.

    -- When he returned, I was not there, because I was out collecting shells.

    -- I came back, happy and excited, with shells in my hand, and called out Sha Man’s name in loud voice.

    -- Sha Man did not respond.

    -- I saw Honest Monk carrying Sha Man.

    -- Sha Man did not even struggle. My guess is that she was caught off guard and had her acupoints sealed by Honest Monk.

    -- I shouted to Honest Monk, asking him what he was doing.

    -- He said nothing, but flashed a lewd smile instead.

    -- I rushed toward him.

    -- Suddenly he dropped Sha Man, fetched the sword hanging on the wall, and stabbed me.

    -- His martial art skill was frightening.

    -- He probably thought he had killed me.

    -- I also thought that I was going to die.

    -- That’s why before I die, I wrote those seven characters.

    “And then what happened?” Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask.

    “And then I woke up here,” said Xiao Yu.

    Among the ‘Four Great Monks’, Honest Monk ranked third.

    Whether Honest Monk was really honest or not, nobody knew. But everybody knew that his martial art skill was high; it was definitely not a fake. Anybody who provoked him would suddenly die in the night, without any rhyme or reason.

    Honest Monk had disappeared from the Jianghu for half a year, not a single person knew what he was doing.

    The first time Lu Xiaofeng saw Honest Monk in the last half year was precisely on the island, when Honest Monk suddenly popped out from the chest.

    Lu Xiaofeng began to suspect something.

    -- Did Honest Monk get caught and was stuffed into the chest?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly recalled the conversation he had with Honest Monk on the island:

    “Why hasn’t Monk left yet?”

    “Why haven’t you left?”

    “I cannot find my way out.”

    “If even you cannot find your way out, what hope does Monk have?”

    “Why did Monk come here?”

    “If Monk does not enter hell, who would enter hell?”

    “So you knew this place is hell? What are you doing in hell? What kind of man is that Ninth Master? How did he put you inside the chest?”

    Honest Monk did not answer.

    “Since you knew, why didn’t you say anything?”

    Honest Monk mumbled, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed. Buddha said: must not speak, must not speak.”

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that Honest Monk must know the island’s secret very well.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered something:

    -- Has Honest Monk been bought by the Little Old Man and has become an invisible man?

    Lu Xiaofeng also recalled two more things:

    -- Honest Monk was hiding under Sha Man’s bed, and he taught Sha Man and him how to escape from the island.

    -- On the ship Honest Monk has saved them once.

    A question floated up in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind:

    -- Why was it that the escape that Lu Xiaofeng had planned did not work, but the one that Honest Monk had planned did?

    A dark shadow flitted across Lu Xiaofeng’s heart:

    -- Was it a conspiracy between Honest Monk and Gong Jiu?

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately thought about the key question:

    -- For what reason?

    If Gong Jiu wanted to kill him, he could have killed him on the island.

    Based on the way Gong Jiu handled his affairs, it was impossible for him to be careless and let Lu Xiaofeng and Sha Man and the others escaped to the ship. It was even more impossible for him to let them escaped from the ship and back to the Mainland!

    It was absolutely impossible!

    Another similar question emerged in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind:

    -- In the end, what is his real objective?

    Since Gong Jiu deliberately let him return to the Mainland, why did he scheme to frame Lu Xiaofeng up, and press him to a corner?

    -- Honest Monk this time abducted Sha Man, what for?

    Lu Xiaofeng looked up at the blue dome of the sky, he felt as if his heart was tied knot after knot.

    Clouds floating in, clouds floating away, the sky was still as blue as always.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt a burst of great waves arose in his heart. In his shock, he found a great truth:

    -- The sky has never changed, but the clouds are always changing.

    -- This matter was similar: Honest Monk and Gong Jiu, they were like the cloud, they simply wanted to change the appearance of the sky.

    -- If Honest Monk and Gong Jiu were set aside, the sky would have its original appearance back.

    -- The Little Old Man was the sky.

    Lu Xiaofeng recalled what the Little Old Man told him:

    -- If Lu Xiaofeng agreed to join the Little Old Man in his business, he could take as long as he wanted to think it over, there would not be the least bit of restriction of his movement; he could do anything, he could go anywhere.

    But this would not happen. Because Lu Xiaofeng practically did not wish to join.

    This fact, the Little Old Man should know.

    Therefore, letting him go, letting him and Sha Man go together, was nothing more than to let the romance between Sha Man and he to grow deeper, to grow more unforgettable. Therefore, the scheme to frame him up, was no more than to make it even more difficult, even more distressing, for Lu Xiaofeng to walk the Jianghu.

    All these only had one goal. The Little Old Man’s goal.

    -- To join them.

    If Lu Xiaofeng joined them, he knew that the robbery of the escorted goods would be clarified immediately. Not only that, Lu Xiaofeng would be the one solving the case, hence he would win back his innocence.

    If this happened, his prestige would rise even higher, nobody would ever suspect that he could do bad deeds, then probably he would be an invisible man without precedence and never be duplicated in the future.

    If Lu Xiaofeng joined their business, he knew that Sha Man would appear right away, and he would not suffer the pining of love anymore.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng still had lingering doubt.

    -- Why did the Little Old Man insist on having Lu Xiaofeng in his organization?

    -- They were already able to hijack thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels, what else did they want him to do?

    There was only one possible answer to these questions:

    -- The Little Old Man was going to carry out an unusually big plot. This plot would definitely be a plot that will shake the Jianghu.

    -- Hence the Little Old Man needed him.

    -- Hence with thousand ways, a hundred plans the Little Old Man laid out a trap to implicate him.

    Lu Xiaofeng felt very sorry for the Little Old Man. Because the Little Old Man did not understand him.

    Would he be willing to suffer unredressed injustice from the disdain of the Jianghu people by joining them doing shady business?

    Would he abandon his life principle for the sake of avoiding heartache due to romantic love?

    If he would, he was not Lu Xiaofeng.

    If there was no Lu Xiaofeng, Jianghu would have been overcome by evil forces, perhaps from the ‘black and white’ ways, only one remained. The ‘black’ way.

    Although it was possible for evil forces to establish their dominance for a period of time, a hero would always appear to rectify the situation, an uncompromising hero, a hero who did not succumb to temptation, who was undeterred by confusion of emotions, who disregarded life or death, gratitude and grudges.

    Lu Xiaofeng was definitely this kind of hero. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was grieved, the kind of grief from being misunderstood.

    In Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, the Little Old Man was an eccentric man.

    Lu Xiaofeng himself was also an eccentric man.

    An eccentric man ought to understand other eccentric men. But the Little Old Man did not understand Lu Xiaofeng.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng recalled something:

    -- Perhaps the Little Old Man was a perfect man.

    In Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, there were three things about the perfect man:

    -- First, perfect man was not an ordinary man.

    -- Second, perfect man was not ‘fun’. [Play on words: perfect man - 完人 (wan ren), fun -好玩 (hao wan).]

    -- Third, perfect man is ‘finished’. [The 完 of 完人 means ‘finish/over/complete’.]

    The Little Old Man’s intellect, the number of talents he accumulated on the island, his scheming ability on the heist, all of these are not the things that an ordinary man can accomplish.

    In talking with the Little Old Man, it was clear that he only had one focus: to get you to join his line of business. Take Lu Xiaofeng for example, with thousand ways, a hundred plans, the Little Old Man wanted to force Lu Xiaofeng to join him. This matter was definitely not ‘fun’.

    Dealing with such people, Lu Xiaofeng had only one way. A rather complicated, but very effective way:

    -- Do not compromise, do not get trapped by emotion, brave the Little Old Man and Gong Jiu to the very end, investigate the robberies and murders, do not rest until this matter is cleared, do not give up.

    When Lu Xiaofeng decided on doing something, he usually was able to accomplish it. Therefore, the Little Old Man could be considered ‘finished’.

    After making up his mind, Lu Xiaofeng knew that he had to do two things.

    -- He must go back to that wooden cabin over the cliff to see if Honest Monk left some clues for him to find.

    Honest Monk could not possibly just kidnap Sha Man and disappeared, he must have figured out a way to let Lu Xiaofeng know what he was doing, and where to go to find him and Sha Man.

    If he returned to the wooden cabin and ended up empty-handed, then he had to do the other thing:

    -- Go to Chang’an.

    Lu Xiaofeng had led Ying Yan Laoqi to Chang’an. Ying Yan Laoqi would definitely go to Chang’an to find Ximen Chuixue’s whereabouts.

    Therefore, as long as Lu Xiaofeng went to Chang’an, he would be able to find Ying Yan Laoqi.

    And if he found Ying Yan Laoqi, he would find Gong Jiu, and most probably he would find Honest Monk and Sha Man as well.

    But before he could do these two things, he must do one other thing first.

    If he did not do this one thing, he could forget about doing other things later.

    This thing was:

    -- He had to say goodbye to Ximen Chuixue.

    [1] Su Dongpo, also known as Su Shi (1037-1101), northern Song writer and calligrapher.

  8. #88
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 21

    Chapter 21 – The Search

    Just like the last time, there was the sound of melodious flute.

    Just like the last time, he sat opposite of Ximen Chuixue.

    Just like the last time, he sat on the same seat, with the dark green Zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaf] wine in his cup.

    The difference was: this time Lu Xiaofeng was not arriving, he was leaving.

    The wine was still in the cup, the heroic spirit was still there.

    Lu Xiaofeng could still feel it in his heart, a heroic passion, not the sadness of separation.

    But Ximen Chuixue felt the sadness of separation, “You are not waiting for Xiao Yu to get well and then leave together?”

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, “She can recuperate here with you, this is the safest place for her.”

    “Are you handing this hot sweet potato over to me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “She is not sweet potato,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even more, she is not sweet potato that will scald your hand.”

    “Then what is she?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “A beauty,” Lu Xiaofeng answered, “An injured beauty. Such an opportunity to get close to a beauty like this, if it were not for an emergency, I am not going to hand it over to you.”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “I only need to holler, and then a bunch of living, hopping beauties will be by my side. Why would I want to take this opportunity?”

    “Because you are Ximen Chuixue,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I don’t get it,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Do you know what other people call you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “What do they call me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “They said,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Ximen Chuixue is not blowing snow, but blood.” [See Chapter 18 on ‘xue’ (snow) vs ‘xue’ (blood).]

    “Does it have anything to do with Xiao Yu?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Of course it does,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “It is highly related!”

    “Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “The injury Xiao Yu suffers, her blood is flowing,” Lu Xiaofeng explained, “Only you, this ‘blowing blood’ Ximen ‘blowing snow’ can blow the blood of her injury away, and turn her into a living, hopping beauty.”

    “You want me to take care of her until when?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “Until she can get up by herself and walk away,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Or …”

    “Or what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Or until she wants to leave,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Or …”

    “There’s something else?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Of course there is,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Or what else?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Or,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Until you want her to leave.”

    “Do I have a reason not to want her to leave?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “It’s hard to say,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because she is a very easy-going and witty beauty.”

    Ximen Chuixue said, “You want me to take care of her, I will definitely take a good care of her; but, who do you think Ximen Chuixue is?”

    “A man who can take a joke,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why do you want to joke with me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Because you have a parting sorrow in your heart,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am joking with you, it’s nothing more than to dilute the parting sorrow in your heart.”

    “What about you?” Ximen Chuixue said, “Don’t you have the least bit of parting sorrow?”

    “I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “You are a person without feeling,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “I have a feeling,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What kind of feeling?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    “Heroic feeling,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “I don’t understand you,” Ximen Chuixue said.

    “You want to understand me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng raised the wine cup in his hand and said, “Let’s drink it up first.”

    After Ximen Chuixue downed his cup, he saw Lu Xiaofeng standing up. “You want to leave?” he asked.

    “Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Then how am I going to understand you?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng picked up the chopsticks and bowl from the table and used the chopstick to tap the bowl, while he sang loudly,

    “Vowing to go, to enter the mountain of sabers!

    Strong noble spirit, going through hundreds of thousands!

    Heroic feeling unbounded, haughtiness of men, coming and going alone, returning to the underworld!

    Deliberately charge into tiger and leopard den; going today, wonder when one can return?

    Dealing with the problem of thousand days of the delight of wine, how unbearable it is that as we sit face to face right now it is already late.

    How I wish that together with you, we can finish another cup!

    Meeting and separating, cherish it in the heart!

    Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

    The song ended, the wine cup was empty. Lu Xiaofeng put down the bowl and the chopsticks, he turned around and left.

    “Hold on!” Ximen Chuixue bellowed while standing up, he strode over, and turned around to face Lu Xiaofeng.

    Ximen Chuixue did not say anything, he merely extended both hands. His hands grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s wrists. Lu Xiaofeng’s hands also grabbed Ximen Chuixue’s wrists.

    Moved by emotion, Ximen Chuixue softly recited, “Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

    Ximen Chuixue’s eyes were moist. Lu Xiaofeng released Ximen Chuixue’s wrists and strode out.

    He heard Lu Xiaofeng’s bold and unconstrained singing, as if it lingered freely in the night, “Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

    Wind. Sea breeze.

    The sea breeze caressed Lu Xiaofeng’s body. Lu Xiaofeng was standing on the overhanging cliff.

    The waves lapped the shore. The sound of the waves rising and falling rhythmically entered Lu Xiaofeng’s ears. It reminded him of some kind of sound. The breathing sound.

    -- Sha Man’s gentle and even breathing when she was sleeping soundly.

    He suddenly understood one thing.

    He understood why lovers love to go to the seaside, gazing at the boundless sea, recalling the fond memories of the past; turned out the sound waves gently careesing the rocks and the sandy shore was similar to the voice of the lover whispering on the ears.

    The memories conjured at the beach are oftentimes the most unforgetable memories, as well as the sweetest memories. Lu Xiaofeng made a decision.

    -- When he settled down, he wanted to settle down with Sha Man by the seaside.

    But where was Sha Man?

    -- Sha Man, Sha Man, where could you be?

    Lantern.

    The lantern was lighted. The lantern was in Lu Xiaofeng’s hand. The lantern light was moving, because Lu Xiaofeng’s feet were moving.

    Nothing, not a single thing.

    Assisted by the lantern, Lu Xiaofeng has already searched every nook and corner of the house, yet he did not find the least bit of clue.

    -- Did Honest Monk really not leave any clue at all?

    Lu Xiaofeng thought it was inconceivable.

    With thousand ways, a hundred plans they were trying to force Lu Xiaofeng to give in; abducting Sha Man was undoubtedly to threaten Lu Xiaofeng.

    The time has come for everybody to finally lay his cards on the table; but without being able to see your opponent, how can you lay your cards on the table?

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was convinced that Honest Monk must have left a clue somewhere for him to find, so that he could lay his cards on the table.

    Yet, Lu Xiaofeng did not find anything. When he set down the lantern, he suddenly felt a chill in the air.

    -- Could it be that Honest Monk abducting Sha Man has nothing to do with the Little Old Man?

    -- Could it be that Honest Monk abducting Sha Man because he wanted to do something ‘dishonest’ to her?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s fear very soon disappeared; not because he believed Honest Monk was not a lecher, but because he found one thing.

    Actually, what he found was not one thing, rather, it was two characters.

    -- Gong Jiu.

    These two characters were not written with ink, but it was carved onto the wooden table by finger strength.

    Lu Xiaofeng was preoccupied with picking up the lantern and looked everywhere, but neglected to look the table underneath the lantern. Turned out these two characters were carved right there.

    Although he had already guessed that this matter was related to Gong Jiu, seeing Honest Monk carved these two characters with his finger, Lu Xiaofeng felt relieved instead. Because all along there was this dark shadow in his heart, he was very afraid that Sha Man’s disappearance had nothing to do with Gong Jiu.

    Now all doubts were gone. The only one he had to deal with, was Gong Jiu. If he wanted to find Gong Jiu, he must find Ying Yan Laoqi. To find Ying Yan Laoqi, he must go to Chang’an.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng rode his mount under the moonlight on the road to Chang’an.

    Wine. The wine in the bowl.

    The bowl, with the wine in it, was in Ying Yan Laoqi’s hand. It was his twenty-fourth bowl of wine tonight.

    Just like the first twenty three bowls of wine, in one gulp he downed the wine into his belly.

    By the time he downed the twenty-sixth bowl, Ying Yan Laoqi thought that he was drunk.

    Because he suddenly discovered that on the table right where the bowl was, a saber suddenly appeared. He rubbed his eyes vigorously.

    “No need to rub your eyes, you are not drunk,” a voice came from behind him.

    Ying Yan Laoqi looked back, but he did not see anybody.

    Turning his gaze back to the saber, Ying Yan Laoqi said, “How do you know I am not drunk?”

    “Because the saber you are looking at is a real, solid saber, and not a figment of your imagination.” The voice was still coming from behind him.

    Before the voice finished speaking, Ying Yan Laoqi turned his head abruptly, but still he did not see anything, and the voice finished the sentence, still sounded as if it came from behind him.

    Ying Yan Laoqi suddenly turned around, picked the saber from the table and asked, “Is this my own saber?”

    “It was yours,” the voice replied.

    “And now?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “It is still yours.”

    “Why did you take it away for several days?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Because I wanted to steal the saber to establish my prestige.”

    “Why do you have to do that?”

    “So that you’d go to Chang’an.”

    “You understand me very well. Who are you?”

    “I don’t understand you, I am Lu Xiaofeng.” By the time he finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng has already sat in front of Ying Yan Laoqi.

    “Why did you make me to go to Chang’an?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Because I want to pass my days in comfort,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Does this matter have anything to do with how you pass your days?” Ying Yan Laoqi said.

    “It does,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because when you were looking for Ximen Chuixue, the one staying at his house happens to be me. If I did not lead you away, you would come back and bother me for half a day for nothing; would I be able to pass my day in peace?”

    “Why did you stay at Ximen Chuixue’s house?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Because I was waiting for him to come back,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Where did he go?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Pick up Sha Man,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “And where is Sha Man?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “He could not find her,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “He could not find her?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “That’s why I came to Chang’an,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Is Sha Man in Chang’an?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Why are you in Chang’an then?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    “Looking for you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Looking for me?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked, “Looking for me for what? I don’t know where Sha Man is either.”

    “You do,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I do?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked, “Even I don’t know that I know, yet you know that I know?”

    “I just know that you know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Ying Yan Laoqi was bewildered.

    “I also know that actually you do not know where Sha Man is,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Ying Yan Laoqi was even more baffled.

    “But,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “I do know that you know where someone else is.”

    Ying Yan Laoqi’s eyes lit up. “And this person knows where Sha Man is?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Too bad he was two ‘eyebrows’ short. “Didn’t I tell you that you were not drunk at all?” he said.

    “Who is this person?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said word by word, “Gong Jiu.”

    When Ying Yan Laoqi finished his sixteenth bowl of wine, he was the only person remaining in the main hall of the inn.

    When Lu Xiaofeng saw him, he was drinking his twenty-fourth bowl. At that time, there was no one else in the hall but the two of them.

    Now, there was no one else either, but suddenly there was some kind of noise.

    The noise of a lot of secret projectiles splitting the air.

    Although Lu Xiaofeng’s reaction was very quick, he was still a tiny bit too slow. Actually, he was not slow, Ying Yan Laoqi was.

    Because although Ying Yan Laoqi was not drunk, but after drinking twenty six bowls of hot and spicy Shaodaozi wine, his reaction slowed down considerably.

    Therefore, when Lu Xiaofeng pulled Ying Yan Laoqi’s hand and he tried to jump up, he was already too slow.

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng was not injured, the one injured was Ying Yan Laoqi. Because the target of the secret projectiles was not Lu Xiaofeng, but all of them were shot at Ying Yan Laoqi.

    The one they wanted to kill was precisely Ying Yan Laoqi.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not break through the roof or dash to the street; he was not chasing after the people who released the secret projectiles at all. He had two reasons for not doing just that.

    -- After those people released the secret projectiles, they would definitely flee separately; they definitely would not wait to see if the target of their secret projectiles died or not. Because they knew who they were dealing with. If they waited to see, there would be only one way they could take to escape: death.

    -- The one they wanted to kill was not Lu Xiaofeng, but Ying Yan Laoqi. It was clear that they had been trailing Ying Yan Laoqi all along. The reason they wanted to kill him was nothing more than to shut his mouth. Therefore, the most urgent business Lu Xiaofeng was facing currently was to have Ying Yan Laoqi spill out Gong Jiu’s secret.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not hear Ying Yan Laoqi spilling out Gong Jiu’s secret at all; rather, he was listening to Ying Yan Laoqi’s confession.

    Although he knew that the secret projectile hitting Ying Yan Laoqi was highly poisonous, and that he would not live for long, he did not interrupt Ying Yan Laoqi stammering his confession.

    The confession made at the death’s door was a way to obtain the last few moments of peace; how could Lu Xiaofeng interrupt him?

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng only listened calmly, attentively.

    The pain on Ying Yan Laoqi’s face gradually turned into a peaceful expression. He looked at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Will you forgive me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded. His eyes were brimming with tears.

    The Zongpiaobazi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance, the Ying Yan Laoqi, whose fame shook the whole world, whose reputation nobody else could even dream of achieving, unexpectedly just to get some more money he ended up like this? Not only that, those additional wealth was not in the least useful to Ying Yan Laoqi anyway. Because the wealth he had already amassed, he could not even spend it all in his lifetime.

    Seeing Lu Xiaofeng nodded his head, Ying Yan Laoqi knew that he was forgiven. A smile appeared on his face as he feebly said, “I … I … have a … a secret … I … want … to … tell … you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not say anything. He immediately put his ear to Ying Yan Laoqi’s mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng heard three words. Ying Yan Laoqi’s last three words, “Gong Jiu Tai …” [Tai means ‘highest/greatest/too (much)/very/extremely.]

    -- Gong Jiu too …?

    -- Gong Jiu too what?

    Lu Xiaofeng stood in front of a pile of yellow dirt [i.e. new grave], thinking hard about the unfinished secret that Ying Yan Laoqi was trying to tell him just before he died.

    -- Gong Jiu has gone too far?

    -- Gong Jiu is too aggressive?

    -- Gong Jiu has too much power?

    -- Gong Jiu is too formidable? [Translator’s note: in Chinese, all these sentences have the word ‘too’ right after the words Gong Jiu.]

    -- Did he say ‘too’ [太], or ‘grand’ [泰, as in ‘Mount Tai’ (Taishan)]?

    -- Gong Jiu on Mount Tai?

    -- Gong Jiu’s secret is on Mount Tai?

    -- Gong Jiu’s base of operation is on Mount Tai?

    -- Gong Jiu hid all those stolen treasures on Mount Tai?

    Lu Xiaofeng gave up.

    To Ying Yan Laoqi, he died in peace. It could even be said that he died a timely death. But to Lu Xiaofeng, Ying Yan Laoqi failed to reveal Gong Jiu’s secret. His death seemed to be a bit not worth it.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sighed with a realization:

    -- With death, all one’s troubles are solved. Those who remain could not even make head or tail of the Jianghu’s gratitude and grudges, love and hate!

    -- In Jianghu, there is no such thing as ‘freedom to act independently’!

    Lu Xiaofeng thought back to his desire to retire.

    Thinking about retirement, he thought about he wanted to have somebody by his side.

    Thinking about the person he wanted to have by his side, he thought about Sha Man.

    Thinking about Sha Man, suddenly his heartbeat accelerated.

    -- Where was Sha Man?

    -- Where was Honest Monk?

    -- Where was Gong Jiu?

    -- Where could he find any trace of Sha Man?

    -- If only he knew where to look, he would be able to find traces of Sha Man.

    Problem is: he did not know.

    He only knew one thing: he had to find her, he must look for her.

    Since they had disappeared without a trace, there was only one way: he had to reveal his own whereabouts, and let Gong Jiu come looking for him.

    Therefore, he decided to do one thing.

    -- Go to Chang’an’s downtown.

    Downtown. Bustling downtown. Downtown at dusk.

    People come and people go, horses come and carriages go. Lu Xiaofeng mingled into the crowd.

    Restaurant. Chang’an’s restaurant.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked past thirty-eight restaurants before he selected one. It was Chang’an’s biggest restaurant, the cleanest, and the most crowded.

    The most important fact he found was that this Chang’an’s restaurant was already full.

    Stepping into the door of the restaurant, even all the waiters were too busy to greet him. He was very happy instead, because it was exactly what he was hoping for.

    He swept the hall with his gaze, and saw a square table with three men sitting around it. Three big men with thick eyebrows, rough eyes, and rugged muscles.

    Lu Xiaofeng decided to make these three men his target.

    Lu Xiaofeng stood in front of these three men’s table, just by the fourth, empty side.

    Lu Xiaofeng waited until the three men looked up at him. “May I sit here?” he asked.

    “You may not,” one of the three men replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng pulled a chair and sat down.

    The three men's six eyes stared at him in disbelief.

    "I said you may not. Are you deaf?"

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the speaker and laughed. "I am not deaf," he said.

    "Then why haven't you get lost?" the man's voice was growing louder.

    "I cannot get lost, because although I am not deaf, but I am a human."

    "Who are you?"

    "I am Lu Xiaofeng."

    The three men stared blankly at him. And then all three of them looked up and roared in laughter.

    One of them even reached out to stroke the place above Lu Xiaofeng's lip where the mustache has been shaved. "You are Lu Xiaofeng?" he asked.

    "I am Lu Xiaofeng," Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “In that case,” the man said, “Do you know who I am?”

    “Who are you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am also surnamed Lu,” the man replied.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The man said, “I am Lu Dalong.” [Translator’s note: ‘xiaofeng’ – little phoenix, ‘dalong’ – big dragon.]

    Lu Xiaofeng clapped. “Good,” he said, “Good name.”

    With bewildered eyes the man looked at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng picked the wine cup in front of the man who professed to be Lu Dalong, and said, “Come, I toast you one cup.”

    ‘Lu Dalong’ was dumstruck.

    Lu Xiaofeng downed the wine in one gulp and said, “You are called ‘big dragon’ and I am called ‘little phoenix’; we happened to be a pair[1].”

    ‘Lu Dalong’ slapped the table and bellowed, “Precisely, like an old man and his son, Dalong and Xiaofeng; I thought you didn’t get it.”

    “How could I not get it?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s just that there is a little detail that I don’t quite get it.”

    “What is it?” the man asked.

    “Who is the old man, and who is the son?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The three men roared in laughter, as if it was the funniest joke they ever heard in their lives. They laughed throwing their heads back or doubling over, attracting the attention of everybody else in the entire hall, even the food and drink on their table was shaken.

    Amidst the laughter, one of the big man pointed to Lu Xiaofeng and asked, “You really don’t know?”

    With a solemn expression Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I really don’t know.”

    The big man who asked suddenly stopped laughing. The other two men no longer laughed either, in an instant their laughing expression became awkward smile; a very ugly awkward smile.

    Because they saw Lu Xiaofeng ran his hand gently on the edge of the table, and the wood immediately turned into sawdust, which then rained gently to the floor.

    They could not laugh anymore. There was only one thought popping out in their mind:

    -- This person may actually be Lu Xiaofeng.

    Therefore, all of them immediately assumed contrite manners, a very anxious manner; their big eyes turned into small eyes as they looked at Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng chuckled.

    Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “You haven’t answered my question.”

    With a choking voice, as if he was ready to cry, ‘Lu Dalong’ asked, “Which question?”

    “Who is the old man, and who is the son?” Lu Xiaofeng repeated.

    ‘Lu Dalong’ suddenly raised his hand and slapped his own face, saying, “You are the old man, I am your turtle son [i.e. [email protected]/s.o.b.].”

    ‘Slap, slap!’ finished speaking he slapped his face again.

    But Lu Xiaofeng shook his head and said, “Wrong answer.”

    ‘Lu Dalong’ expression turned even more awkward, it looked like he was about to cry for real. “Wrong answer?” he said, “Are you saying you want to be my turtle son?”

    ‘Slap, slap!’ this time the big man standing next to ‘Lu Dalong’ gave him a couple of slaps on his face.

    “Please forgive us, Master Lu,” the big man said, “He is stupid, he doesn’t know how to talk. Daren[2] please be magnanimous and let us go.”

    “I haven’t said anything about what I am going to do with you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It was you who made things difficult for me. Tell me then, who is the old man, and who is the son?”

    The three men immediately dropped on their knees together and kowtowed, “You are the old man, we are your turtle sons.”

    “How could you make the same mistake again?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    The three men stared blankly at Lu Xiaofeng.

    “Can the phoenix in the sky give birth to turtles?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Speaking in unison, the three men replied, “No.”

    “Then where did the turtle sons come from?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    ‘Slap, slap!’ there were six ringing slaps, because each man smacked his own face twice.

    And thus the three characters ‘Lu Xiao Feng’ spread out loud and clear around the Chang’an’s downtown area.

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that before long, the people of Jianghu would find out that Lu Xiaofeng was in Chang’an.

    This, of course, included Gong Jiu and Honest Monk. If Gong Jiu wanted to find Lu Xiaofeng, he would go to Chang’an.

    Time. It was a peculiar thing. To a hardworking man, time always flies like an arrow, he can never find enough of it. To a lazy man, time always walks slowly like a snail, it is always too much. Happy man always wishes the time would stop, lonely man always wishes it would pass quickly.

    In the same period of time, people are born, people die, some are happy, some are anxious.

    Thinking about ‘time’, Lu Xiaofeng had a single thought.

    -- Right this moment, what was Sha Man thinking?

    Sha Man was thinking about Lu Xiaofeng, no doubt about it.

    Ever since Lu Xiaofeng left that day, she had begun to miss Lu Xiaofeng. Being brought by Honest Monk to this place, she missed Lu Xiaofeng even more.

    Every day, she was hoping for a miracle: that Lu Xiaofeng would suddenly appear in front of her.

    Quite several time she almost succumbed to the impulse of going out to look for Lu Xiaofeng; but she knew that she simply must not do that.

    Her life in this place has been very good, a maid took care of her every day need, not only that, she had total freedom to roam around the garden. She knew that Honest Monk was not afraid that she would escape. She had lived on the island for too long, she has forgotten everything on the mainland; even if she escaped from this government-official residence-type building, where could she go? She had recognized this fact early on; therefore, she felt at-ease in living in this place, waiting patiently, waiting for destiny to arrange what her next step would be.

    She did not want to think about anything, her thought was focused on Lu Xiaofeng. She fondly recalled the time she spent with Lu Xiaofeng, she thought about the happiness of being with Lu Xiaofeng later. And that was how she passed her days.

    Every day Honest Monk would visit Sha Man once. Every time both of them were silent without saying anything.

    Except today.

    Honest Monk came in with a smile on his face. As soon as he saw Sha Man, he exclaimed, “Good news.”

    Sha Man maintained her languid appearance. “What good news?” she asked.

    “The good news that you are dying to hear,” Honest Monk replied.

    -- Lu Xiaofeng!

    Very quickly she suppressed the delight in her heart; with the most indifferent tone she could muster she said, “You guys have news about Lu Xiaofeng?”

    “He is in Chang’an,” Honest Monk said.

    “Chang’an?” Sha Man asked, “Is Chang’an far from here?”

    “Three days journey,” Honest Monk replied.

    Sha Man did not say anything.

    “I beg you not to entertain that idea,” Honest Monk said.

    “What idea are you talking about,” Sha Man shockingly asked.

    Honest Monk said, “You want to get out of here and go to look for Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “You are really the worm in my belly,” Sha Man said.

    Amituofo,” Honest Monk said, “Monk has a bit of perception, that’s all.”

    Honest Monk looked at Sha Man, and then he continued, “I advise you not to plan on running away. This is for your own good.”

    Sha Man was puzzled. “Why is it for my own good?” she asked.

    Honest Monk replied, “Because if you leave, if you go to Chang’an, you might not see Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “Why?” Sha Man asked, “Didn’t you say he is in Chang’an?”

    “That was three days ago,” Honest Monk replied.

    “And now?” Sha Man asked.

    “And now he might be here,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Here?” Sha Man asked.

    “What I mean by ‘here’ is around here somewhere, not ‘here’ in this place,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Why?” Sha Man asked.

    “Because we don’t want him to see you yet,” Honest Monk replied.

    “When are you going to let me see him?” Sha Man asked.

    “There is only one answer to your question, and the answer only has three words,” Honest Monk said.

    “Which three words?” Sha Man asked.

    “When the time comes,” Honest Monk replied [Oh, I know it’s four words, but I am too lazy to make things up, so I simply translate it as it is; the original was ‘到时候’.]

    Probably the so-called ‘When the time comes’ can also means ‘forever’.

    Because, if Lu Xiaofeng refused to agree to Gong Jiu and the other’s demand, by the time Lu Xiaofeng could see Sha Man, probably what he saw would be a dead Sha Man.

    Therefore, when Honest Monk sent people to pick Lu Xiaofeng up and brought him to stay in this luxury residence, when he asked Honest Monk when he could see Sha Man, and Honest Monk responded with ‘When the time comes’, Lu Xiaofeng knew that he had to rely on himself.

    He knew Gong Jiu’s intention in picking him up was merely to tell him that Sha Man was nearby, but Lu Xiaofeng could not see her. Knowing that Sha Man was nearby but he could not see her, Lu Xiaofeng might be more impatient, Lu Xiaofeng might be more anxious, and then perhaps he would be easier to persuade.

    Lu Xiaofeng understood this logic. He also knew that the longer he stayed in this place, the more difficult he would be to manipulate.

    Therefore, as soon as he entered the place where Honest Monk had arranged for him to stay, he was not bashful to eat and drink as much as he liked, and then he covered his head and took a nap.

    Human’s willpower is really fantastic; when he willed himself to wake up at certain time, he did indeed sleep up that time and then woke up.

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng woke up, it was midnight. It was precisely the time he wanted to start his operation.

    There was no moon, but the stars filled the sky. Sucking a breath of cold air, Lu Xiaofeng felt his entire body was invigorated.

    Standing on the roof, borrowing the light from the stars, Lu Xiaofeng took a quick glance of his surrounding. The buildings were spread out neatly. He found out that the building where he stayed was the smallest building in this complex.

    He knew that Sha Man did not stay in this complex. Because based on Gong Jiu’s loftiness, he would not stay in such a small building; he must have stayed in a large mansion.

    Lu Xiaofeng only needed to find the largest building, and then most probably he would find Sha Man too.

    Lu Xiaofeng had already thought about all these things when Honest Monk told him ‘when the time comes’. He could not possibly just sit and wait, he must go out and look. He believed he would be able to find Sha Man, he had that kind of confidence.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not miscalculate. Unfortunately, Gong Jiu was able to calculate even faster than he did.

    Therefore, when he found the big mansion, the place where Sha Man originally stayed, Sha Man had already gone.

    But Honest Monk was there.

    Honest Monk was wearing an expression that said that he already knew Lu Xiaofeng would come. “You are very smart,” he said.

    “Too bad someone is even smarter,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “That person is not smarter than you are at all,” Honest Monk said.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “That person merely received report that you are not in bed, hence he hurriedly took Sha Man away and left me here,” Honest Monk said.

    “Leave you here?” Lu Xiaofeng shouted, “Why would he leave you here? I was not looking for you.”

    “Amituofo,” Honest Monk said with a laugh, “Appearance is empty. Sha Man is Honest Monk. You found me, it’s the same as you found Sha Man.”

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to laugh, but he simply could not laugh.

    Therefore, he had no choice but stepping forward, stepping toward Honest Monk, and spread his arms wide.

    “What are you doing?” Honest Monk asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Didn’t you say that finding you is just the same as finding Sha Man?”

    “That’s right,” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “When I found Sha Man, the first thing I want to do is to embrace her. Therefore, I want to embrace you.”

    Honest Monk stepped back while waving his hands. “That’s a big no-no,” he said.

    “Why not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because Monk is also a man,” Honest Monk said, “Man cannot embrace another man.”

    “Didn’t you say you are Sha Man?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “That is a very mysterious matter,” Honest Monk said, “Let’s talk about something else.”

    “Something else?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What other matter?”

    With a very serious face Honest Monk said, “A very big matter.”

    “Big matter?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What big matter?”

    “The matter concerning the life and death of two people,” Honest Monk repled.

    “The life and death of two people?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Is one of those two happen to be me?”

    “You see,” Honest Monk said, “Didn’t I say you are very smart?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “And the other person is Sha Man?”

    “Ay,” Honest Monk sighed, “You are such a smart man, how come you can’t figure it out at all?”

    “I can’t figure it out?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What is it that I can’t figure out?”

    Honest Monk said, “Concerning the Little Old Man’s proposal, why are you so persistent? What’s holding you up?”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk for a moment. He shook his head and said, “Although all along I did not understand you, but all along I always thought that you are a man of principle; what made you change? What made you agree to the Little Old Man to be his subordinate, to be an invisible man?”

    “Because I got over it,” Honest Monk said.

    “Get over it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Get over what?”

    “Life,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Life?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Do you understand life?”

    “I do,” Honest Monk replied.

    “What do you think life is?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Life is to seek pleasure,” Honest Monk replied, “I, Honest Monk, painstakingly cultivate penance for a lifetime, in the end, what do I achieve? Life quickly passes several dozen winters and summers, why should I mistreat myself? The Little Old Man is right, seize the day, don’t wait till the young head turns white, because at that time regret will be too late.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk again. With a bitter laugh he said, “Is that your understanding of life? In order to seek pleasure you entered the Little Old Man’s line of business?”

    “Am I wrong?” Honest Monk asked.

    “You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You know what else is there to life?”

    “What else?” Honest Monk asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng spoke word-by-word, “Morality, compassion, conscience.”

    Honest Monk laughed. He said, “You are holding on to those things? Are those the reason you are not open-minded?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “It’s exactly because I am open-minded that I hold on to those things. Don’t you understand?”

    Honest Monk shook his head, “I don’t,” he said.

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you understand or not. What matters is: you and I have different views of life.”

    Honest Monk said, “This means that there must be a conflict between us, and this is the reason we have to fight each other.”

    “Then you are doomed to be the loser,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Why?” Honest Monk asked.

    “Because evil will never prevail over righteousness,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Honest Monk laughed. He said, “Don’t forget there is another saying.”

    “What saying?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Virtue is one chi [approx. 1 foot], devil is one zhang [approx. 10 feet; i.e. it takes constant vigilance to stave off evil.]

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. He said, “You do know that devil and virtue are not the same, don’t you?”

    “Of course the two are not the same,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Therefore,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The scales of virtue and devil are not the same either. Virtue’s one chi might be equal to ten zhang, while devil’s one zhang might be only one cun [approx. 1 inch].”

    Honest Monk was speechless.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Actually, I still don’t understand one thing.”

    Honest Monk looked at Lu Xiaofeng with questioning eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “The Little Old Man already has martial art masters such as Gong Jiu and yourself, why must he insist on having me as well?”

    “Because you are the most useful,” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was puzzled. “Me?” he said, “I am the most useful? I am afraid Gong Jiu’s martial art skill is higher than mine; can I be more useful than him?”

    “Absolutely,” Honest Monk replied confidently.

    This time Lu Xiaofeng was speechless.

    Honest Monk said, “Because the thing that the Little Old Man wants to accomplish, only you can do it.”

    “Other people cannot do it? You cannot do it? Gong Jiu cannot do it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk replied word-by-word, “Only you can do it.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk said, “Because in that situation, only you can be really, really invisible. In that situation, only you can make other people let down their vigilance.”

    “What kind of situation is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Honest Monk did not answer.

    “You can’t tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Then why don’t you tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “I can tell you,” Honest Monk said, “But not here.”

    “Where then?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Must be where Gong Jiu is,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Why must it be where Gong Jiu is before you can tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because this is a big secret that will shake the world,” Honest Monk said, “After I tell you, you will only have two paths to take.”

    “Which two paths?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “One is the path of life, which is you agree to become an invisible man,” Honest Monk said.

    “And the other is the path of death?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Correct, it’s the path of death” Honest Monk replied, “Because you cannot be let alive after you know the big secret; therefore, Gong Jiu must be present before I can tell you.”

    “Because Gong Jiu can kill me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You are right again,” Honest Monk said.

    “All right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Let’s go!”

    “Go?” Honest Monk asked, “Go where?”

    “Go to Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Go to Gong Jiu?” Honest Monk asked, “Go right now?”

    “Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I want to know this earth-shaterring secret right away.”

    “You do realize that after you know the secret you only have two paths to take, don’t you?” Honest Monk asked.

    “I do,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Which path are you going to take?” Honest Monk asked, “The path to death? The path of life?”

    “Do you want to die?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course not!” Honest Monk replied, “Who would want to die?”

    “That’s right!” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You think I want to die?”

    “Are you saying,” Honest Monk said excitedly, “That you agree to be an invisible man?”

    “If I do not become an invisible man I cannot live?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    ‘Chopping the nail and slicing the iron’ [i.e. resolutely and decisively] Honest Monk said, “You can’t.”

    With the same resolution and decision Lu Xiaofeng said, “I will show you that I can.”

    [1] In Chinese mythology and culture, dragon and phoenix are complements to each other, e.g. Emperor (dragon) and Empress (phoenix), yang and yin, groom and bride, etc.

    [2] Daren - lit. ‘big person’, a term of respect to address superior or government officers.

  9. #89
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 22

    Chapter 22 – The Invisible Man

    A gigantic door. An open giant door. The number of persons entering the giant door was only one.

    Standing outside the door, Honest Monk said to Lu Xiaofeng, “You go in. In the front courtyard there are three rooms, inside these three rooms there are three different persons, they all are waiting for you.”

    “Three persons?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can tell you the names of the two persons,” Honest Monk said, “One is Gong Jiu, the other is the one you are yearning for day and night, Sha Man.”

    “Why can’t you tell me who the other one is?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No reason,” Honest Monk replied, “It’s just that you may never see this person again.”

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Honest Monk said, “It depends on your good luck. If the one inside the first room you are entering happens to be Sha Man, you may have a crazy, hot love before your death. If you meet Gong Jiu first, that’s too bad, you may tell the world these two words.”

    “Which two words?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Goodbye [再见],” Honest Monk replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “And if I enter the room of the person you cannot tell me?” he asked.

    “Maybe you’ll fall dead without knowing rhyme or reason, maybe you’ll be very happy,” Honest Monk said.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s interest was piqued, “I can be happy?” he asked.

    “If you do not fall dead without knowing rhyme or reason, I guarantee that you will be very happy,” Honest Monk replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered something; he asked, “Can I give a shout outside each door?”

    “You can’t,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because if you call, you’d find a very amusing thing,” Honest Monk replied.

    “How much amusing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You will find a lot of people sending you things,” Honest Monk replied.

    “What things?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Secret projectiles,” Honest Monk replied, “Deadly secret projectiles. I guarantee that those secret projectiles will definitely take your life.”

    “And after I enter the room?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You may speak, you may laugh, you may do anything,” Honest Monk replied.

    “In that case, may I say two words to you now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You may,” Honest Monk replied.

    “Goodbye,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Although the stars were still hanging in the sky, the spacious courtyard was completely dark.

    Apart from the dim silhouettes of the rooms, the shrubbery and the garden rocks, Lu Xiaofeng could not see anything. He only knew something.

    -- The three rooms were not connected to each other. There was one on his left, one on his right, and one in the middle.

    He had to choose one. He went straight ahead.

    His steps were very light, he was confident that the person inside has not detected his presence. He was already standing in front of the door.

    He did not immediately push the door open. He stood outside the door for approximately the time needed to burn a quarter of incense stick, but all along he did not hear the least bit of noise from the inside.

    A thought arose in his heart.

    -- The person inside could not be Sha Man. Because if it was Sha Man, she would let out some noise even in her sleep.

    He was about to leave this room and select another one when another thought arose.

    -- What if Sha Man was sleeping soundly?

    Therefore, he stood for another quarter of incense stick.

    Quiet. A death-like stillness. No sound of rustling wind, no pitter-patter of a mouse’s feet across the floor, no sound of people talking in their sleep, not even the sound of someone turning on his bed.

    Lu Xiaofeng decided to push open the door.

    The door was opened with just one push. Quick and stealthy like a fox he rushed in. As soon as he stopped to get his bearings, he found something:

    -- The door automatically closed behind him.

    Therefore, he could not see anything. But he felt that someone was inside the room.

    -- A man.

    And then he felt sharp wind of a palm, as sharp as blade, went straight toward his heart.

    ‘Screech, screech!’ Lu Xiaofeng’s body instantly slid backwards, away from the wind.

    But before Lu Xiaofeng steadied himself, the palm wind struck toward his heart again. He could not evade further.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not fall dead without knowing rhyme or reason. The one who saved him was not other people, it was he, himself. Not his martial art skill, but his quick thinking.

    The blade-like palm wind stopped not even two cun in front of his heart. Because Lu Xiaofeng blurted out three words.

    Three words that saved his life.

    -- Hua Manlou.

    Other than Hua Manlou, who can ‘see’ in total darkness and not miss even a hairsbreadth on the position of the opponent’s heart?

    Therefore, the hand that was filled with murderous aura suddenly became gentle, the gentle hand grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s hand.

    Two hands. Two hands grabbing each other, representing the most precious feeling on earth.

    -- Friendship.

    “How can you be here?”

    It was the question that both Lu Xiaofeng and Hua Manlou asked simultaneously.

    In the darkness, although Lu Xiaofeng could not see Hua Manlou’s face, he knew that Hua Manlou must be ‘staring’ at him. And then both of them burst out in laughter.

    Hua Manlou pulled Lu Xiaofeng’s arm and brought him to the table. “Please sit down,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng sat down. Hua Manlou also sat down. “I don’t have any lantern in here,” he said.

    “We’ll talk in the dark then,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Shall we talk about how I ended up here first, or about how you came to this place?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Let’s talk about you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “It was Honest Monk who brought me here,” Hua Manlou said.

    “How could he bring you here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I have been investigating the invisible man behind the scenes for you,” Hua Manlou said, “Yet I did not find the slightest clue. Instead, I discovered another matter.”

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Do you know that His Majesty is currently looking for Imperial Bodyguards?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “I am a Jianghu man,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I have never been interested in this kind of things.”

    “Actually, I did not care about this matter either,” Hua Manlou said, “But I heard a rumor that His Majesty is looking for you.”

    “Looking for me?” Lu Xiaofeng was shocked.

    “Are you surprised?” Hua Manlou said, “When I heard that news, I was also stunned, hence I follow the trail to investigate it further.”

    “And what’s the result?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The result is: the rumor turns out to be true,” Hua Manlou said.

    “His Majesty is looking for me to become an Imperial Bodyguard?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Absolutely correct,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because someone recommended you,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Someone recommended me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Who?”

    “Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent,” Hua Manlou replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s jaw dropped. It was quite a while before he found his voice back, “Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent? Even if I use eight poles I would not be able to reach to where he is; why would he recommend me?”

    “I don’t know,” Hua Manlou said.

    “Besides,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent has had some dealings with Jianghu people, how could he not know that I am like a wild crane leisurely flying over the clouds, how could I become an Imperial Bodyguard?”

    “I can’t think of any intelligent answer either,” Hua Manlou said.

    “Did you continue your investigation?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Hua Manlou replied, “I did continue my investigation.”

    “And what did you find?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Nothing,” Hua Manlou replied, “But I do know that one time Honest Monk went to see Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent.”

    “Oh!” Lu Xiaofeng was shocked.

    “That’s why I went to visit Honest Monk,” Hua Manlou said.

    “And then he brought you here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “What did he tell you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He wanted to bring me here, saying that I would see you very soon,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Why did you attack me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Hua Manlou said, “These past several nights, someone always sneaked in to attack me, I don’t know who he is, I asked Honest Monk, Honest Monk said he did not know either, he only told me to be careful, that it would be best if I could catch the person who attacked me sneakily alive, and then I would find out the truth.”

    “But your attack to me was a killer attack,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “First,” Hua Manlou said, “I didn’t know it was you. Second, that man’s martial art skill was unusually high, plus he always came around the same time as you did. Other than launching killer attack, my chance is indeed not good. Luckily you suddenly recognized me.”

    “Otherwise, the Lu Xiaofeng you saw would be a dead Lu Xiaofeng,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Hua Manlou laughed. He said, “Your luck has always been good.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent, because he suddenly remembered something.

    -- Before his death, Ying Yan Laoqi said one word ‘Tai’.

    -- Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent? Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent! [Orig. ‘tai ping wang shi zi’]

    -- Could it be that Ying Yan Laoqi wanted to tell him about Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent? Could it be that he wanted to tell Lu Xiaofeng about the secret behind Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent’s recommendation to the current Emperor?

    Hua Manlou noticed Lu Xiaofeng’s silence. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

    “I am thinking about someone,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “What kind of person?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “A dead person,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Who?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Ying Yan Laoqi,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Ying Yan Laoqi is dead?”

    “That’s right?”

    “Before his death, what did he tell you?”

    “One word, ‘Tai’.”

    “Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “I was thinking the same thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Now Hua Manlou was silent. He was in deep thought.

    “Do you know this person, Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I know nothing,” Hua Manlou replied, “What about you? Have you met this man?”

    “I have never met him.”

    “That’s odd. Why did he recommend you? What’s his purpose?”

    “We must find someone,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Honest Monk?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “This question, he must have the answer.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered another person; so he said, “No, we’d better find someone else.”

    “Who?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Gong Jiu? Do you know where Gong Jiu is?”

    “I came here, because Honest Monk brought me here. He said that there are three rooms here, one of them has Gong Jiu inside.”

    “Let’s go to look for him then,” Hua Manlou said.

    “No need,” a deep and low voice came from the outside.

    Lanterns. Eight bright lanterns. Lanterns in the hands of eight gorgeous women, coming slowly from the outside into the room.

    The man who talked was walking behind these eight beautiful women. Cold and proud; precisely such was the speaker’s expression.

    It was Gong Jiu.

    “It’s you?” Hua Manlou suddenly said.

    “It’s me,” Gong Jiu replied, “You must have heard my footsteps clearly.”

    “You are Gong Jiu?” Hua Manlou asked, “The one who attacked sneakily every night was you? Why?”

    “Because I want you to develop a habit of trying to kill me,” Gong Jiu replied, “And then …” Gong Jiu laughed a very conceited laugh.

    “And then,” Lu Xiaofeng continued for him, “The one’s going to be killed would be me.”

    “Absolutely right,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Brilliant ‘murder-with-borrowed-knife’ scheme,” Hua Manlou said.

    “Too bad the god of luck always takes care of Lu Xiaofeng,” Gong Jiu said, “It’s just that …” speaking to this point, Gong Jiu humphed several times.

    “It’s just that right now I am running out of luck?” Lu Xiaofeng probed.

    “Luck,” Gong Jiu said, “There’s always a limit to ‘luck’.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer. The reason he did not answer was not that he did not have anything to say. Not at all. Rather, he believed that Gong Jiu had this kind of mentality, which was kind of beneficial to him, because it would mean that Gong Jiu was looking down on him, he was belittling him, and this characteristic would tend to make a person careless. And carelessness would often lead to failure.

    To Lu Xiaofeng, the more Gong Jiu was looking down on him the better. In all honesty, he was rather afraid of Gong Jiu’s martial art skill. If Gong Jiu was looking down on him, he might have a chance to find a weak point in Gong Jiu’s carelessness, and then he would have a chance of victory.

    It was Hua Manlou who opened his mouth. What he said was a question.

    He asked, “Do you know Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent?”

    Gong Jiu’s response was very peculiar. His answer was, “I know Honest Monk.”

    “Oh?” Hua Manlou said.

    Gong Jiu continued, “Honest Monk knows Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent, you think I don’t know him?”

    “Not necessary,” Hua Manlou replied.

    “Why not?” Gong Jiu asked.

    Hua Manlou said, “Lu Xiaofeng knows Sha Man, but until now I have not seen Sha Man.”

    Gong Jiu laughed and said, “You will definitely see her.”

    “When?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “When the time comes,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Where?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “On the way,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “On the way?” Hua Manlou asked, “Which way?”

    “On the way to the Yellow Springs[1],” Gong Jiu replied.

    “You are going to kill us all?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Maybe,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Do we have any choice in the matter?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Only one person does,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Who?” Hua Manlou asked.

    “Lu Xiaofeng,” Gong Jiu replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu. “I have a choice?” he asked.

    “Yes,” Gong Jiu nodded.

    “What choice?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Be an invisible man, or be a ghost,” Gong Jiu said.

    “If I don’t want to be an invisible man, must I become a ghost?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I can guarantee it, yes, you will,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Are you always that confident?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “But failed to run after me at Ximen Chuixue’s place,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    With a cold laugh Gong Jiu said, “Aren’t you in my hand right now?”

    “It was me who voluntarily took the bait,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Gong Jiu said, “If I don’t have the trump card, Sha Man, in my hand, would you come to take the bait?”

    “With thousand ways, a hundred plans you lured me to this place, what is it that you want, actually?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Didn’t I tell you?” Gong Jiu replied, “Be an invisible man, or be a ghost.”

    “Why is it that if I don’t want to be an invisible man, I must become a ghost?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because you may spoil my plan,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “And those that may spoil your plan, you want them dead?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “What if I promise you that I won’t spoil your plan?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “I am still going to kill you,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I don’t believe you,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Why don’t you believe me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because you are Lu Xiaofeng,” Gong Jiu replied, “If you do not interfere with this earth-shattering Wulin sensation, Lu Xiaofeng is not Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “Contrary to my expectation, you know me very well,” he said.

    “I don’t,” Gong Jiu said, “Someone else does.”

    “The Little Old Man?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “All these are the Little Old Man’s idea?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Only he can think of these many brilliant schemes, and only you can complete his masterpiece,” Gong Jiu said.

    “If I don’t agree, and you kill me, this masterpiece cannot be completed?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Won’t that be a shame?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “It is indeed regrettable,” Gong Jiu admitted, “That’s why all along we did not kill you, we are hoping that you will agree.”

    “What’s in it for me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “A lot,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Why don’t you tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Do your best to persuade me.”

    “You can have Sha Man,” Gong Jiu said.

    “That’s it?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You can enjoy endless glory, splendor, wealth and rank,” Gong Jiu said.

    “I don’t want endless glory, splendor, wealth and rank,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You can live a carefree and worry-free live, you can follow whatever your heart desires,” Gong Jiu said.

    “How come?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because if you complete this mission, whatever you want, as long as you open your mouth, you can have it,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Anything?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “As long as there is such thing in the world, you can have it,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “How can it be?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because the one giving it to you is the Emperor,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “The current Emperor?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “It isn’t,” Gong Jiu replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng was puzzled. “It isn’t?” he asked.

    “It’s the next Emperor,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Why would it be the next Emperor?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because at that time the current Emperor will be no more,” Gong Jiu said.

    “What do you mean ‘no more’?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Dead,” Gong Jiu replied indifferently, “When one is dead, of course he will be no more.”

    “How can the Emperor die?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Anybody can die, why can’t the Emperor die?” Gong Jiu said.

    “And the next Emperor, would it be the Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “No wonder the Little Old Man never stop praising you,” Gong Jiu said, “You are indeed very smart.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent recommended me, so that I will have the opportunity to be in the Emperor’s presence?”

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu answered.

    “You want me to become an invisible man so that when the time comes I can assassinate the Emperor?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Absolutely correct,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Wrong?” Gong Jiu said.

    “The Little Old Man is wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “And I am also wrong. I thought the Little Old Man knew me very well, turns out he did not.”

    “Why not?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “He practically did not understand me,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “This kind of business, how can I do it? I can’t wait to stop it, how can I do it?”

    “The Little Old Man is not necessarily wrong, but you are definitely wrong,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Where am I wrong?”

    “You overlooked something,” Gong Jiu said.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Human nature,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Human nature?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu said, “You overlooked that in human nature, there is love, there is fear, there is innate desire to seek riches and pleasure.”

    “Did I overlook all those?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You did,” Gong Jiu said, “That’s the reason the Little Old Man told us to keep reminding you.”

    “And the way you reminding me is by kidnapping Sha Man?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You use intimidation and profit to catch my attention?”

    “Don’t you want Sha Man?” Gong Jiu asked, “Don’t you want to live together with Sha Man? Don’t you want to live a carefree and worry-free live, follow whatever your heart desires with Sha Man, living the rest of your lives like deities?”

    “Those are the desires of everybody on earth,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But, to achieve those things with hands that are reeking of blood, I believe there three people on this earth who definitely would not want to do it.”

    “Which three people?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Him,” Lu Xiaofeng pointed to Hua Manlou.

    “And who else?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Ximen Chuixue and me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    “Very well,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Very well?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What do you mean ‘very well’?”

    “What I mean by ‘very well’ is that I lured you to this place is a very good thing for us,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “But in term of the Little Old Man’s plan, won’t it be a very bad thing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That is an inevitable regret,” Gong Jiu said.

    “May I ask you a bit of question?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course you may,” Gong Jiu replied, “I have never concealed anything to anybody who is going to depart this earth very soon.”

    “Is the Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent also an invisible man?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Yes,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Was Cui Cheng killed by him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Xiao Hongzhu and Cheng Zhong were also killed by him,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Did he kill them when he entered the secret chamber?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu nodded, “That’s right,” he said, “Hence he had to spend money to bribe Ye Xingshi, so that he would say that Cui Cheng and the others have been killed for half a sichen [1 hour].”

    “And all these things have been arranged well in advance?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That’s right,” Gong Jiu replied, “Except you.”

    “I was an incidental party-crasher,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Due to your sudden appearance on the island, the Little Old Man had an idea of using you as an invisible man, to have you assassinate the Emperor,” Gong Jiu said.

    “The most powerful invisible man today, is it Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He has already courted a lot of capable helpers,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Why didn’t he go assassinating the Emperor himself?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “He can’t do that,” Gong Jiu replied, “If he did the job himself, how can he win everybody’s support to be the successor of the throne?”

    “Do you know Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent very well?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “There’s nobody on earth know him better than I do,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Did you know him since childhood?”

    “Before he came out of his mother’s womb, I already knew him,” Gong Jiu said.

    “How come?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because I am the Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent,” Gong Jiu said.

    Everyone was shocked. It was indeed a shocking news. Lu Xiaofeng stared at Gong Jiu in disbelief, he was speechless.

    Gong Jiu looked at Lu Xiaofeng with a very proud expression on his face; he laughed and said, “Are you surprised by this secret?”

    “I have not even dreamed about it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “There is another thing that you have never dreamed about,” Gong Jiu said.

    “What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “You are going to die very soon,” Gong Jiu said.

    Finished speaking, Gong Jiu pointed his finger outside.

    Torches. Burning-bright torches.

    Fifty torches in the hands of fifty big, burly, bare-chested men. Fifty men standing in a large circle.

    “What does this mean?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “This is defined in four characters,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Which four characters?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Ru di nan dun [入地难遁 lit. entering the earth hard to escape],” Gong Jiu said.

    As soon as he finished speaking, Gong Jiu clapped his hands.

    More torches. More burning-bright torches.

    Fifty more torches in the hands of fifty more big, burly, bare-chested men. Only these fifty men were not standing on the ground.

    They were standing on the roof.

    “And what does that mean?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Another set of four characters,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Which four characters?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Cha chi nan fei [插翅难飞 lit. even given wings, you couldn’t fly],” Gong Jiu replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Looks like you are determined to kill me.”

    “What you said is absolutely correct,” Gong Jiu said.

    “Can I ask you another question?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Of course you can,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “My question is: have you heard a saying?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Which saying?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “This saying has one character less than your two sayings,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “Seven characters?” Gong Jiu asked, “Which seven characters?”

    Zhi zhu si di er hou sheng [置诸死地而后生 lit. life after various deaths],” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Gong Jiu let out a very condescending laugh. He said, “You don’t have a chance. Not the least bit of chance!”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you insist like that, it looks like I really don’t have the least bit of chance. Since I am going to die, can I ask a favor from you?”

    “What is it?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Let Hua Manlou and Sha Man go,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “So be it,” Gong Jiu did not hesitate at all.

    “I am thinking of another thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “The Little Old Man told me,” Gong Jiu said, “That I grant whatever request you may have before your death as much as possible. You may speak!”

    “I’d like to see Sha Man,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “You will definitely see her,” Gong Jiu said.

    “But not now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “But not now,” Gong Jiu asserted.

    “When?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Gong Jiu waved his hand and pointed outside. “You stand outside,” he said, “When you are facing me.”

    “You are very formidable,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You want to divide my attention?”

    Gong Jiu said, “Don’t forget that the Little Old Man always thinks highly of you. I absolutely must not lower my guard against you. To be honest, when facing a powerful enemy, I will do anything to weaken my enemy’s willpower. This is my way of ensuring my victory.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu with profound respect; he really admired him, he realized that his previous view about Gong Jiu was wrong.

    And then, Lu Xiaofeng held out his hand and said, “After you.”

    “You ought to go first,” Gong Jiu replied.

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Because this is the way to the gates of hell,” Gong Jiu replied.

    Dawn. The first light of dawn already appeared.

    If daytime symbolizes life, then the coming of dawn symbolizes the birth of a new life. Yet how come the dawn Lu Xiaofeng was facing was actually a shadow of death?

    What kind of formidable trump card did Gong Jiu have in his sleeve? Why did he look so confident and calm?

    Very soon these questions were answered.

    When Lu Xiaofeng was concentrating his entire mind’s willpower, summoning the energy of his entire body, standing face to face in front of Gong Jiu, Gong Jiu suddenly clapped his hands lightly, and then Lu Xiaofeng saw the one he thought during the day, the one in his mind at night, Sha Man.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s willpower melted, in its place was his love toward Sha Man. The entire attention he has been focusing was now turned to Sha Man.

    If right now Gong Jiu attacked Lu Xiaofeng, definitely Lu Xiaofeng would be defeated.

    But Gong Jiu did not attack, he showed a very conceited expression, just like a cat looking at a dying mouse in its claw, the mouse was looking at a clump of cheese that it could not eat anymore.

    Lu Xiaofeng fixed his gaze at Sha Man. Sha Man was also staring at Lu Xiaofeng, but oddly there was not the least bit distressed look on her eyes; rather, there was tranquility, there was serenity, just like the tranquil water surrounding a natural harbor.

    It has taken Lu Xiaofeng by surprise. Even Gong Jiu was also taken aback.

    Why did Sha Man look so peaceful? Didn’t she know that Lu Xiaofeng was at critical moment where he was about to die?

    Sha Man walked in steady steps, she walked slowly toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    When she was near him, she suddenly turned around toward Gong Jiu. “Can I say something to him?” Sha Man asked Gong Jiu.

    Without waiting for Gong Jiu’s response, Sha Man added, “I only want to say two words.”

    Gong Jiu laughed and said, “Are you going to say ‘goodbye’ [再见], or is it ‘we’ll part forever’ [永别]?”

    Sha Man smiled. “The two words that I am going to say, only he and I will know,” she replied.

    “Please do as you wish!” Gong Jiu said.

    Sha Man put her mouth close to Lu Xiaofeng’s ears and spoke those two words.

    What could those two words be?

    Finished speaking, Sha Man slowly walked away. She stopped and stood behind Lu Xiaofeng, facing Gong Jiu.

    Gong Jiu followed Sha Man with his eyes, and then he shifted his gaze to Lu Xiaofeng’s face.

    “Do you have anything to say?” he asked.

    “Nothing,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “And you?”

    Gong Jiu tossed his head back and roared in wild laughter, “Please remember,” he said, “You are the one who is going to die. Not me!”

    Lu Xiaofeng calmly asked, “Are we going to fight bare-handed?”

    “No,” Gong Jiu replied, “You may pick your weapon.”

    “Whatever weapon I choose, will you give it to me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Any weapon,” Gong Jiu said, “I have everything.”

    “Very well,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “What weapon do you want?” Gong Jiu asked.

    “Long whip,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Gong Jiu’s countenance changed greatly. “Long whip?” he asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “That’s right, long whip!”

    Gong Jiu sucked a few mouthfuls of cold air. Calming himself down, he clapped his hands.

    Lu Xiaofeng already had the long whip in his hand.

    “Are you going to fight empty-handed?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “My pair of hands is enough,” Gong Jiu proudly declared.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook the whip in his hand. “Very well,” he said.

    The whip emitted an ear piercing ‘shua, shua’ sound.

    Gong Jiu’ face suddenly changed, his eyes gradually turned red, as he stared at something behind Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng discovered that the eyes that were staring at something behind him were not limited to Gong Jiu’s pair of eyes. The men standing on the roof, as well as those standing around them, every pair of eyes was staring at something behind Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng already knew what happened. He also understood why Sha Man said those two words, ‘use whip’, to him.

    Sha Man actually did not do anything, she simply stripped the clothes off her body.

    Stripping her clothes is actually not a big deal, she was merely exposing her naked body; that’s all. When a human being was born, wasn’t he naked?

    It’s just that the kind of feeling a naked baby invokes in people’s heart is one of wonder of the new life, while the kind of feeling a naked grown woman stirs up in people’s heart is one of lust.

    Lust is human’s weak point. Especially for those who are about to fight, lust must not arises.

    Especially for Gong Jiu. This was Gong Jiu’s weak point.

    Sha Man understood Gong Jiu, she understood especially Gong Jiu’s weak point. Therefore, she wanted Lu Xiaofeng to use whip, while she sacrificed her sex appeal to stir up Gong Jiu’s lust.

    The ‘shua, shua’ noise of the whip, plus the jade-like fair skin of Sha Man under the morning sun, made Gong Jiu panting for breath like a rogue ox who had just run several dozen li.

    When Sha Man started to twist her waist and made all kinds of erotic movement, like a mad man Gong Jiu tore apart his own clothes. He gasped for breath while cried out madly, “Hit me! Hit me!”

    Lu Xiaofeng pulled his whip back. With a compassion on his eyes he looked at Gong Jiu.

    But with a pleading look Gong Jiu stared at Lu Xiaofeng and at the whip in his hand, and cried out, “Whip me! Quick! Quick!”

    Sha Man also cried out, “Quick!”

    However, Lu Xiaofeng did not whip Gong Jiu. He stabbed him. Channeling his internal energy toward the whip, he turned the flexible whip into a straight and stiff whip.

    Lu Xiaofeng used this kind of stiff whip, the whip pierced Gong Jiu’s heart.

    Silence fell.

    Only the rising sun shed its light on the courtyard and the walls surrounding it, and the ground, the flowers, the trees, and the people in it.

    A boat. A small boat.

    A small boat floating on the sea, floating along the waves. A pair of feet was dangling from the edge of the boat. Lu Xiaofeng’s feet.

    Lu Xiaofeng was lying comfortable on the boat. There was a cup of dark green wine resting on Lu Xiaofeng’s stomach.

    He was feeling very happy. Because Sha Man’s soft and tender body, as soft and tender as a Persian cat, was lying by his side.

    Sha Man picked up the wine cup on Lu Xiaofeng’s stomach. She bit Lu Xiaofeng’s lip and spoke in a gentle voice, “You know what?”

    “What?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “The current Emperor really want to see you now,” Sha Man replied.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “You know what?” he asked.

    “What?” Sha Man asked.

    “I really want to be an invisible man now,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

    Sha Man jumped in fright. “Why?” she asked, “Are you going to assassinate the Emperor now?”

    Lu Xiaofeng scrutinized Sha Man’s face. “Are you really that stupid?” he asked.

    “I am indeed stupid,” Sha Man said, “If you don’t like it, just toss me to the bottom of the ocean and be done with it.”

    But Lu Xiaofeng hugged Sha Man even tighter. He said, “Xiao Yu ran away, Ximen Chuixue and Hua Manlou have also returned to their peaceful and quiet world. Jianghu is peace and quiet once again. If I don’t take advantage of this opportunity to live in seclusion with you, becoming a couple of immortals, invisible from Jianghu, can I still be considered a human being?”

    Sha Man sighed. “You are not a human to begin with!” she exclaimed.

    “Are you saying I am not a human?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What am I? A pig?”

    Sha Man said, “You are not a human, you are not a pig either. You are a phoenix [Feng from Lu Xiaofeng’s name], you are Lu Xiaofeng, the Lu Xiaofeng who is flying blissfully in nine [Jiu, from Gong Jiu’s name] layers of heaven.”

    [1] Yellow Springs – the underworld, equivalent of Hades or Hell in Chinese mythology.

  10. #90
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Preface

    Lu Xiaofeng Book 7: Laughter of the Sword God
    [剑神一笑 Jian Shen Yi Xiao]
    Written By Gu Long
    Translated by Foxs


    Preface: Sword and the Sword God


    Sword, it is a kind of weapon, and also one of the eighteen arms. However, it is different than the rest of the weapons. We can even say that compared to the other weapons, there was a significant distance in term of status.

    The first and foremost function of a weapon is no more than to kill and attack the enemy. But sword is some kind of a symbol of identity and honor. Monarch, generals, ministers, nobilities and scholars often use sword as elegant decoration.

    This fact can already illustrate the special status of the sword in people’s mind.

    Even more special is that sword and scholar and poetry and literature have extremely close relationship.

    Li Bai [701-762, famous Tang Dynasty poet] wielded a sword.

    He was a poetry-immortal, and also a sword-knight. Evidently his swordsmanship was not as good as his poetry. Therefore, he was known for his poetry, and not for his swordsmanship.

    In the ancient China, the first person famous for his swordsmanship also happened to be surnamed Li. The Great Li General’s swordsmanship not only dazzled and stunned people of his era, making them sigh and hold their breath, but also brought about endless fantasy to the generations after him.

    But the first person who combined the word ‘sword’ and ‘god’ [or divine], these two characters together, was the ‘grass-script sage’ Zhang Xu [probably early 8th century, Tang Dynasty poet and calligrapher, most famous for his grass script].

    Zhang Xu was also a Tang poet. In Li Zhao’s [c. 800, Tang dynasty scholar and official] ‘National History Supplement’, there was a segment:

    I began to hear about the Princess and the porter [referring to ‘carrying burden with shoulder poles’] striving for the road, like the meaning behind a brushwork [referring to calligraphy]; later on watching Gongsun Clan brandishing a sword-device [剑器 –jian qi, with ‘qi’ means device/tool/utensil] like a deity.

    Some say that the sword-device mentioned was not really a sword, but a kind of dance props. Some other say that sword-device was some kind of colored ribbon [streamer] tied onto a dagger, the kind of props women during the Jin and Tang Dynasties used for dancing. But some say that it was really a weapon.

    Concerning this, Mr. Jin Yong and I have had some correspondence discussion. Even a very-learned and well-informed man like Mr. Jin Yong was unable to make a definitive statement. Since this sort of thing was from a distant past of the Jin and Tang dynasties, most of it cannot be verified in our present age. Every school of thoughts has its own opinion, which other school of thoughts cannot confirm.

    We can only say that if sword-device was a kind of sword, then undoubtedly the Young Lady Gongsun was the first person who was called the Sword God.

    Or perhaps it was the origin of the word ‘Divine Sword’.

    A person that could be called Sword God or Sword Immortal, other than their swordsmanship must already reach perfection, there must be some other conditions he must meet.

    That’s is: his integrity and moral quality.

    Because a sword’s standing among the weapons is unique and transcendent, because it is different than any ordinary weapon.

    Therefore, if someone could win the accolade of others as a Sword God, his moral quality and integrity must be a lot higher than most ordinary people.

    Naturally the number of people who could achieve this state can’t be too many. In every three, five hundred years period, there were no more than three, five people.

    Even in the martial art novels that people considered most absurd, this kind of people are not many. In a bit more conservative works, these people are few and far between.

    Because ‘Sword God’ and ‘Sword Immortal’ [剑神 and剑仙, respectively] are not the same, ‘Sword Immortal’ appears a lot more in martial art novels.

    Especially in martial art novels 还珠楼主 [huan zhu luo zhu], 平江不肖生 [ping jiang bu xiao sheng], even in 朱贞木 [zhu zhen mu] there are quite a number of Sword Immortal’s appearances; all could use sword aura as defense mechanism, defensive sword kills people thousand li away. [I do not have enough literary knowledge to translate all those titles, I don’t even know who the authors were.]

    It’s just that they were not Sword Gods.

    Because they all lacked one kind of air, the air of arrogance.

    I always feel that to become a Sword God, this air of arrogance is absolutely indispensable. Just with this air of arrogance, they can even consider their own lives as worthless.

    Because they have already given their lives to the way [of life] they loved ardently.

    Their way [of life] is the sword.

    Since they are looking for neither immortality nor enlightenment [lit. Buddhism], the success or failure, fame and profit of the secular world, are even less worthy for them to look after, are not worthy of their laughter.

    All they wanted was the honor and glory when they brandished their swords, which, in their view, a split second was eternal.

    In order to attain this split second peak, they did not hesitate to sacrifice their life.

    In the world of martial art novels, a few are qualified to be called Sword Gods.

    I dare not to be unduly humble, I always thought that Ximen Chuixue can be considered one of them.

    Sword God’s laughter.

    Ximen Chuixue is also a man with blood, tears, and laughter, as well as all kinds of emotion common to mankind. It’s just that he never expressed those emotions.

    He can go riding alone to places thousands of li away, to fight a life or death battle in the wink of an eye with another martial art expert, simply to avenge or redress an injustice for someone who was a total stranger to him.

    But if he thought that it was not worth doing, even if his only friend in the world, Lu Xiaofeng, begged him to go, he simply won’t go.

    He even has a little bit of sense of humor.

    There was one time, he obviously had the intention of doing something on Lu Xiaofeng’s behalf, yet he insisted on Lu Xiaofeng having this two mustache, that did not look like mustache but looked like eyebrows, shaved.

    In short, this man was totally unpredictable and unthinkable.

    This man’s sword has never been defeated.

    To develop such an undefeated state, naturally one must undergo an unimaginably arduous and difficult training. To cultivate this kind of arrogant character, naturally one must undergo an unimaginably difficult process.

    Bitter tears and miserable hardship of the past, he would never mention it in front of anybody else. Naturally others must not know.

    But everybody knows one thing. Ximen Chuixue has never laughed.

    A flesh and blood with emotion, how come he never laugh? Could it be that he really does not laugh?

    I don’t believe it.

    At least I know that he did laugh, once. In an exceptionally fantastic matter, in an extremely unusual situation, he once laughed.

    I have always wanted to write about this fantastic situation, because I believe that after reading about this matter, anybody would be like Ximen Chuixue, anybody won’t be able to refrain from laughing.

    To be able to make everybody laugh, is probably one of the two main reasons I write.

    Earning money is, of course, the other main reason I write.

    Gu Long.

    70[1], 5, 2 between very late at night and very early in the morning, with wine without a sword.

    [1] Wuxiapedia says Gu Long wrote this book in 1981, so I don’t know what these numbers are referring to.

  11. #91
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 1

    Part I – Lu Xiaofeng

    Chapter 1 – A stab of pain of the finger on yellow soil
    [1]

    (One)

    A piece of land, a yellow sandy soil land.

    Clear sky. The sun was about to set.

    Lu Xiaofeng walked along a yellow sandy soil land under the setting sun. Under the glow of the setting sun, the yellow soil looked red, as red as blood.

    The blood has already dried up and coagulated like the yellow soil.

    Lu Xiaofeng, using his world-renowned two fingers, jabbed the yellow soil. This pair of fingers had broken countless sabers and swords belonging to famous heroes of the Wulin world. Yet he suddenly felt a stab of pain.

    Because he knew that on the soil was his friend’s blood.

    (Two)

    The last time Lu Xiaofeng and ‘One Sword Riding the Wind’ Liu Rugang [Liu – willow, Ru Gang – like/similar to steel] drank together was already seven months ago.

    When Liu Rugang was slightly drunk, he suddenly poured two large bowls of wine and insisted that Lu Xiaofeng drank the toast with him.

    He had his reasons.

    “We get drunk tonight, henceforth we part. There’s a good possibility that we won’t see each other for thirty-five months.” He said, “There’s also a good possibility we won’t see each other ever again.”

    “Why?” Lu Xiaofeng urgently asked.

    “Because early in the morning tomorrow, I am going to a place where the flowers are not fragrant, the birds do not sing, the fowls do not fly, the dogs do not jump, and the hares do not defecate.”

    “What are you going to do?”

    Liu Chengfeng [riding the wind, see his title above] laughed. “You know what I do, you also ought to know what I am going to do.”

    Liu Chengfeng was the first Sect Leader-disciple[2] of Ba Shan [Mt. Ba in eastern Sichuan], a direct disciple of the founder. His ‘seven by seven, forty-nine hands turning-the-wind, dancing-the-willow sword’ may not be considered number one in Jianghu, but it could not be outside the big five either.

    This kind of sword technique absolutely needs qinggong [lightness skill] to supplement it. His sword technique and qinggong were equally respected and admired by the people of the Wulin world.

    Yet the reason people admired him the most was not his martial art skill, but his personality.

    Throughout history, there were countless nouns people used to describe the ‘willow’ [Liu]. Some say willows are like silk, some say willows are like snow. But whether it was silk or snow, in people’s eyes, willows have always carried ‘soft/flexible’ connotation.

    Naturally our Mr. ‘Willow’ also had his ‘soft’ side like silk or snow. His thorough thought was like silk, his anger was like snow, i.e. it would be dissolved in the blink of an eye.

    But his character was as strong as steel.

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng knew what kind of man he was.

    “What you are going to do must be a very dangerous business, so you say such thing.”

    Liu Rugang did not answer. Not answering oftentimes equal to silently agree.

    “Can you tell me what you are going to do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    Mr. Liu still did not say anything.

    In this case, not talking means he really did not want Lu Xiaofeng to know what he was going to do.

    No doubt it was a highly classified secret.

    No doubt Lu Xiaofeng could be considered his best friend; if he was unwilling to speak in front of Lu Xiaofeng, no doubt that he would also be unwilling to speak in front of any other person.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng no longer asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng only asked, “The place you are going, where even rabbits do not defecate, what kind of place is that?”

    Liu Chengfeng was silent for a long time before he finally said, “Even if I told you, you wouldn’t know that place, but I can still tell you.” He said, “It is a small town faraway near the northwest border. The town is called Huangshi [lit. yellow stone], ‘huang’ from ‘huangjin’ [yellow gold], ‘shi’ from ‘shitou’ [rock/stone].”

    (Three)

    Ever since they parted, Liu Chengfeng vanished from the face of the earth; seven, eight months passed, nobody saw his shadow. Nobody knew where he went.

    Only Lu Xiaofeng knew. Because Liu Rugang always considered Lu Xiaofeng a friend with whom he could share a secret, a friend with whom he could share trials and tribulations.

    But Lu Xiaofeng did not know what happened to him in that small town? Why did he suddenly disappear?

    Lu Xiaofeng was a friend with enough yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood], plus he loved to meddle in other people’s business. Coming across this kind of mystery, what do you say he would do?

    He, of course, hastened to the small town.

    [1] Yellow sandy soil typical of north China.

    [2] Orig. 掌门弟子 – zhang men dizi, referring to a sect leader who still has ‘elders/seniors’ in his sect. Zhuo Yihang of White Hair Demoness was a Sect Leader-disciple of Wudang Pai, i.e. he still had his martial uncles in Wudang, although he was the Sect Leader.

  12. #92
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 – An extremely poor man

    (One)

    Plateau, yellow sandy soil, sand storm.

    The town of Huangshi was located in this sand storm-prone plateau. From a distance, rolling waves of yellow sandy soil looked like rolling waves of golden sand.

    In this small town, there has always been a legend. Around here somewhere, there was a huge amount of buried treasure. There was nothing else in this treasure, except gold; a lot of gold, that nobody could even estimate how much there was.

    Regrettably, nobody could find it, nobody has ever seen these gold. All they could see was the continually rolling waves of golden sand, blown by eternal wind on this plateau.

    Gold is everybody’s dream, but boundless golden sand was like nightmare. The dream of gold died out, the people who looked for gold have left. Over time, the small town slowly sank, so that nowadays it was a desolate town, with almost nobody ever travelled to it.

    The only people left as inhabitants of this town were those who had nowhere else to go; they were already prepared to grow old and die in this place. Seeing an unfamiliar visitor from afar, they would always feel very happy and excited.

    When Lu Xiaofeng arrived in this town, their attitude towards him was exactly like that.

    Upon entering the town, Lu Xiaofeng felt that he had never seen such warmth and excitement. But the first thing he saw was a very poor street, and an extremely poor man.

    Actually, this man could not be considered a man yet, because he was still a half grownup, but not a little child anymore. His clothes could not be considered clothes, it was no more than tattered rags. He was wearing an extremely languid posture as he sat under the eaves of a house on the corner of the street.

    Actually, he could not be considered sitting either, rather, he curled up, just like a caterpillar curling up right there, or a small turtle curling up in its shell.

    He had no money, he had no family, he had no friend, and had no future. He had nothing.

    He was afraid.

    He was afraid of everything. Therefore, he could only curl up in a ball, withdrawing into his shell, hiding from the most terrifying poverty, hunger, contempt and setback.

    Because he was a kid, he actually did not know that he should be afraid of these things. No matter how he hid in his shell, he would never escape these things.

    But when he saw Lu Xiaofeng, his eyes suddenly lit up. His pair of shiny eyes turned out to be a pair of big, lovely eyes.

    When this pair of eyes saw Lu Xiaofeng, it simply looked like a hungry dog seeing a pile of dung, or a tortoise seeing a grain of mung bean. Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng was neither a mung bean nor a dog poo. When Lu Xiaofeng walked over to him, Lu Xiaofeng only wanted to ask a question.

    When someone came to a strange place, and he was planning on staying in this place for a day, the first thing he wanted to ask was naturally where the inn around this place was, he wanted to find out where he could meet his most basic necessity of board and lodging.

    “Inn?” the kid laughed until even his nose was wrinkly. “You want to know where the inn is? This place is so poor that even rabbits won’t come here to crap, so poor that even flies and rats are dying of hunger; how could there be any inn?”

    “Not even one inn in this place?”

    “Not even half an inn in this place.”

    “Then what happen if there is a traveler passing through and wants to spend the night?”

    “Nothing.” The little beggar said, “Because basically nobody wants to pass through here. Even if they have to travel several dozen li farther, they would rather not pass through this place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared at this dirty, annoying, lazy, and talkative little beggar for half a day. [Translator’s note: this is literal translation, I leave it to the readers to interpret it as 12 hours or simply as a figure of speech.] He could not help but asking, “Is this place really that poor?”

    The little beggar sighed. “Not only poor,” he said, “It will practically drag the people to die in poverty. Not only it will drag me down to die in poverty, even if there are other people who won’t be dragged down to die in poverty, they will be dragged down to at least half dead in poverty.”

    “But it looks like you are not dead yet,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “It’s because I still have a bit of skill to survive.”

    “What kind of skill?”

    “I am a little beggar, I don’t need much rice to survive. Poor people like me, no matter where we are, we will be able to survive.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “I seem to remember you saying that the people in this place are so poor that they are going to die in poverty, how could they have any leftovers to feed you?”

    The little beggar also laughed, “Da Shaoye [big young master], you look like a real Da Shaoye; the affair of a little beggar like me, naturally you won’t understand.”

    “Oh?”

    “A little beggar like me, in a poor place where I am almost butchered and made into soup daily, yet I am still able to survive, naturally I have side business.”

    “Side business?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What side business?”

    “Speaking about this kind of things, it really involves a great deal of knowledge.” The little beggar suddenly sat up straight and puffed his chest out, “In this aspect, I can be considered an expert.”

    Lu Xiaofeng seemed to have more and more interest toward this little beggar.

    The little beggar said, “To tell you the truth, I have more than one side businesses. Too bad from among seventy, eighty businesses, only two can really be used to earn money.”

    “Which two?”

    “The first and most profitable is running into people like you, an outsider with more money than sense, who come to this place.” He pointed to Lu Xiaofeng and continued, “People with more money than sense like you, if I don’t cheat some money, then I am not cheating in vain, but if I cheat your money, I am also cheating in vain.”

    “You are damn right,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a wry smile, “And now I seem to admire you a little bit.”

    He asked the little beggar again, “But if there is no sucker like me, what do you do?”

    “Then I will have to rely on my second side business.” The little beggar continued, “My second side business is stealing; if there is any opportunity to steal, I steal, if I see money, I steal. There is no friend or relative, no matter what, no matter how much, I steal everything, leave nothing.”

    It was the little beggar’s doctrine of survival. But Lu Xiaofeng did not feel any disdain toward him at all, neither did he have any desire to curl his fist and give a big punch on his face; he felt a gut-wrenching grief instead.

    Aren’t there many, many reputable people in this world whose survival doctrine is exactly the same as this shameless little beggar?

    (Two)

    This small town was indeed very poor. Lu Xiaofeng has travelled everywhere, even to the other end of the world, yet has never seen any place more desolate and more impoverished that this place.

    He really could not imagine why someone like Liu Chengfeng would come to a place like this? Even more difficult to understand: how could anything happen in this kind of place, something deserving Liu Chengfeng’s attention that disregarding the distance of a thousand li he came here? Not only that, whatever it was, it made Liu Chengfeng felt that there was a life or death danger in it.

    A small, unknown town. A world renowned master swordsman. These two are not supposed to mix together.

    The strange thing was that Liu Chengfeng seemed to have some kind of mysterious and strange relationship with this little town.

    Stranger still, Liu Chengfeng seemed to really disappear from this little mysterious world.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was determined to find the relationship between the little town and his good friend.

    Unfortunately, the only person he met so far was this wretched, pitiful, yet a bit endearing, little beggar.

    Lu Xiaofeng had been to a lot of places, he had wandered to the ends of the earth, he had roamed big and small, all kinds and sorts, of cities, towns, villages, and desolate places. No matter where he went, there must be a least one grocery store.

    Even if that place did not have any hotel, no brothel, no linen and silk fabric shop, no bakery and pastry shop, no horse and mule market, no grain store, but at least there must be a grocery store.

    Because grocery store is where people find supplies of their most basic needs.

    Throughout his life, Lu Xiaofeng has seen countless strange, curious grocery stores. Some grocery stores could even supply some unusual, special requests. But Lu Xiaofeng has never seen any grocery store as peculiar as this grocery store.

    Naturally this grocery store was located in this small town, yet the name of the grocery store was ‘Big Eye’. Naturally it was that little-turtle-like little beggar who brought him to this store.

    The signboard above the store has already become like a piece of gravestone by the wind, the sand and the soot. It was engraved with a large eye. ‘Big Eye’, the ‘Big Eye Grocery Store’.

    Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, “The name of this store is very strange.”

    “It’s not strange at all.” The little beggar said, “The owner of the store is called Wang Dayan [lit. big eye], it’s only natural that his grocery store is called the ‘Big Eye’.”

    Even after hearing this explanation, Lu Xiaofeng still did not understand it.

    In fact, anybody who has not seen Wang Dayan would never fully understand the meaning of those words.

    Because people like Wang Dayan were indeed rarely seen.

  13. #93
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 - Wang Dayan’s Grocery Store

    (One)

    Every day when the evening arrived, there were always a lot of people in Wang Dayan’s grocery store.

    Because not only this store sold all kinds of daily necessities, it also carried miscellaneous goods from north and south, also served pot-stewed dish, and wine. Outside, underneath a thatched awning, there were three wooden tables with seven, eight wooden benches.

    Everybody sat down, left hand holding half-eaten piece of duck head or a piece of dried tofu, right hand holding a half bowl of aged wine, while chatting and babbling with each other on all kinds of topics, from north to south and east to west. Even if they have had a bad day, after drinking and chatting like that, they would inevitably feel deliriously happy.

    This place was probably the only place in town where people find entertainment.

    Wang Dayan always acted like the most gracious host, always laughing and joking around with these people. Not only they were his patrons, they have already become his friends.

    But the number of people who saw him for the first time and was not startled by his appearance was probably not many.

    Wang Dayan was tall and big and thick and fat, plus he was a hunchback. His left eye probably did not differ too much from ordinary people’s eyes, but his right eye looked like a chicken egg protruding outside the socket of his eye.

    Later on someone asked Lu Xiaofeng, “When you first see him, how did you feel?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s feeling toward him was: “At that time, I only felt that this man was ugly, the kind of ugliness that it’s rarely seen in the world. But after you talk to him for about an hour, you will immediately forget that he is ugly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng then added, “That’s why he was able to marry a s1utty wife who, when most men see her, they would want to take her to bed.”

    Behind the grocery store, there was a small wooden cabin, most probably it was originally a firewood storage shed, but now a wooden bed was put in there. It even had a white bed sheet on it. At least some time in the past the bed sheet was really made of plain white cotton cloth.

    A sheet of red paper was pasted above the headboard of the bed. The paper said:

    “Lodging rate: Single person, fifty qian per night. One diao[1] per month. Two persons, eighty qian per night.”

    It was the lady boss, who could not stop swaying her hip, who brought Lu Xiaofeng here. With narrowed eyes she looked at Lu Xiaofeng and said with a laugh, “Gongzi Ye [basically it also means ‘young master’], I seemed to hear just now from that old son of a b1tch of our house that you are surnamed Lu.”

    “Correct, I am surnamed Lu.”

    “Lu Gongzi, that litle beggar son of a b1tch brought you to our place here, he really brought you to the right place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. He looked at the tariff pasted on the wall above the bed and laughed.

    “But I really thought that I have come to the wrong place. Looking at your price, I thought I have come to a black inn [inn that kills and robs guests].”

    “Lu Gongzi, then you are greatly mistaken. Here, not only we can take care of your food and lodging, we can also take a good care of your other needs. Would you still say that this price is expensive?”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at the wooden bed, which looked like it would collapse at any time, and at the bed sheet, which looked somewhat yellow, somewhat grey, and somewhat black, practically it was impossible to tell what the original color was; with a wry laugh he said, “No matter what, if I have to spend fifty qian every night to sleep in this kind of bed, I will slightly feel that I am indeed someone with more money than sense.”

    As if it was an afterthought, the lady boss used her unexpectedly pretty and slim finger to point to the two characters ‘two persons’ on the red paper, while her pair of coquettish eyes was smiling like silk, “What if I want you to spend eighty qian a night?”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her eyes, he looked at her hands, he looked at her waist; suddenly he sighed gently. “In that kind of circumstance, even spending eight hundred qian, it is still worth it,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s just too bad …”

    “Too bad what?” the lady boss inquired.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not reply, he did not open his mouth at all. The lady boss fixed her gaze at him, her silk-like pair of coquettish eyes suddenly opened wide like apricots.

    “Lu Gongzi, I shouldn’t ask you this, but my heart could not bear not to ask.”

    “Then by all means, ask.”

    “Such a rundown place like ours, a man of your stature, why did you come here?”

    “So what kind of man would come here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “Usually there are two kinds of men,” the lady boss replied, “The first kind are money grubbers, who believe that around this place somewhere, there is indeed a very large silver treasure, so they come here wanting to make a fortune. This kind of men is our most welcomed guests. Because although they cannot make a fortune, they always make us make a small fortune.”

    She sighed, “Too bad for the past few years this kind of men is getting more and more rare,” she added.

    Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “And the second kind?”

    The lady boss fixed her gaze at him, “The second kind are those that are on the run and cannot find any other place to hide. They are wanted by the authority or being pursued by avenging family to be killed, and could not find any other way to run, hence they come here to lie low for a while.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared back at her, “And to which group do you think I belong to?” he asked.

    The lady boss sighed again, “I think you don’t look like you belong to either group, but after careful consideration, you also look like you belong to both groups.”

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at her again, from head to toe, from toe back to head, he swept his gaze over her one more time, while shaking his head, and ran his fingers over his moustache that looked like a pair of eyebrows.

    “Lady Boss,” he said, “I know that you are a woman who understands men very well. But this time you are mistaken.”

    “Oh?”

    “Whether I belong to one of those two groups you are talking about, even if I originally belonged to one of those, now I have become the third kind.”

    “The third kind?” the lady boss asked, “Tell me, which third kind is that?”

    “The third kind is naturally also some kind of criminals.”

    “What kind of crime do they usually commit?” the lady boss asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng deliberately did not look anywhere else on her body or her face, he stared intently at her legs. “What’s your guess?” Lu Xiaofeng deliberately narrowed his eyes as he asked again, “What’s your guess on which crime they did?”

    A tint of blush seemed to suddenly appeared on the lady boss’ face, coupled with a seemingly unstoppable urge to clamp her legs together, her long, thick, sturdy, yet well-proportioned legs.

    “That kind of person,” she said, “I do not like.” Her eyes shone coquettishly, “I believe you are not that kind of person.”

    Most men know that there are a lot of times women would say something contrary to what they were thinking in their hearts. When they say they did not like it, there’s a good chance that they actually like it; not only that, they might like it so much.

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng was not the kind of man who did not understand women. If he said that he did not understand the real meaning behind what a woman told him, his friends would absolutely refuse to believe.

    Yet right now he just seemed not to understand at all; moreover, his expression suddenly became very serious.

    “That kind of person,” he said, “I don’t like them either. I assure you that I am definitely not that kind of person.”

    “Oh?”

    “I came here, simply to look for a friend.” Lu Xiaofeng went on, “… a money grubber friend.”

    “You have money grubber friend too?” the lady boss asked.

    “Everybody wants to get rich, of course I have some money grubber friends; who don’t want to get rich?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That friend of mine also heard the legend that there are treasure around this place, he asked me to finance his endeavor five hundred taels of silver. Who would have thought that as soon as he came here, his shadow disappeared?”

    “And you are looking for him?”

    “Not only I want to look for him, I want to retrieve the five hundred taels as well.” Lu Xiaofeng stared at the lady boss’ legs again, “Five hundred taels, even if I used it to sleep on the double bed, I can sleep well for several hundred nights.”

    The lady boss suddenly turned around; without looking back she walked away. It was as if she did not even feel like giving Lu Xiaofeng one more look.

    Lu Xiaofeng was about to run after her when suddenly he realized a big eye was looking at him.

    (Two)

    If one had not seen Wang Dayan but only know his manners toward people and his voice with which he spoke to other people, one would certainly think that he was a jovial gentleman.

    “Lu Gongzi, I know whom you are looking for.” Wang Dayan said, “The friend that you are looking for, wasn’t he surnamed Liu, Liu Daxia [great hero]?”

    “How do you know?”

    “Before you came here, the one staying in this room was precisely Liu Daxia.”

    “And where is he now?”

    Although Wang Dayan’s as-big-as-crystal-ball eye did not show any emotion, the other eye was brimming with sorrow and regret.

    “Liu Daxia was indeed a real man; he was magnanimous, and full of yiqi. Too bad you are one step too late.”

    “One step too late?” Lu Xiaofeng struggled hard to maintain his composure. “Is he dead?”

    “Uh huh.”

    With a very gentle and polite voice Boss Wang said, “Lu Gongzi, you are a sensible person, you ought to know that no matter who, when one died, his body is usually kept inside a coffin.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a long time. “In that case, I came here this time, most probably I won’t be able to see him.”

    “You are most probably right.”

    “I wonder, is it possible for me to see his body and his coffin?”

    “Of course it’s possible.”

    “Where is his coffin?”

    Wang Dayan’s voice was even more gentle, even more polite, “It seems to me that coffins should be located in a coffin shop.”

    (Three)

    Naturally a coffin shop is not as ubiquitous as a grocery store, unexpectedly a Godforsaken little town like this also had a coffin shop. As soon as Lu Xiaofeng went to the town’s main street, its only street, he saw the coffin shop.

    There was an old and worn out large high-back chair outside the coffin shop, and on that bench lay a dead man.

    Later on Lu Xiaofeng found out that that man was not dead, moreover, he was the owner of the coffin shop. Perhaps he had taken care of too many dead men, so that he had sixty, seventy, or eighty percent appearance of a dead man.

    His name was very weird as well.

    This coffin shop was located right opposite to the grocery store. The owner of the grocery store was called Wang Dayan, the coffin shop’s owner was called Zhao Xiazi [lit. ‘blind man’].

    All along he was sitting quietly like a dead man on the chair, as if he did not dare to expect anybody would visit his business. Such a small town, maybe the number of living persons was already dwindling, naturally the number of dead persons couldn’t be much. Therefore, seeing Lu Xiaofeng, he immediately sprang out of his chair.

    “This young master, who died in your honorable home? What kind of coffin do you need?”

    His face also looked like a dead man, completely without any trace of blood, without any emotion, yet he was making an attempt to fawn on the customer, albeit without any success at all. As a result, his face looked even more mysterious and creepy.

    Lu Xiaofeng could only smile wryly, “These days there is no more people that can die in my home,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just want to see someone.”

    Zhao Xiazi’s face was downcast, he returned to his seat. Even his voice became cold and indifferent. “In that case, I am afraid you have come to the wrong place.” He said, “Here, apart from me, everybody else is dead.”

    “In that case, I have not come to the wrong place.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The one I wanted to see is a dead man.”

    Zhao Xiazi even closed his eyes, the eyes that looked more like belonging to dead people than living people, with more white than black. “Too bad that even dead people, only one remains here right now.”

    “Most probably the one I wanted to see is him,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    Zhao Xiazi suddenly sprang on his feet again, “You knew Liu Daye [big master], are you going to retrieve his remains?”

    Lu Xiaofeng nodded, “Yes.”

    Zhao Xiazi heaved a very long sigh, as if a very heavy burden has just been removed from his shoulder.

    “I’ll take you to see him,” Zhao Xiazi said, “Follow me.”

    The chair where Zhao Xiazi sat was situated outside the coffin shop, in the shade under the eaves. Inside the door, the room was filled with coffins. There were two that were already painted, and five, six others that have not been painted. Passing through this room, there was a small courtyard with piles of logs of wood. There were bent nails everywhere, and curly wood shavings from the carpenter’s plane. There was also an exceptionally big saw leaning against a strange looking wooden shelf. This saw looked like one that would be used by a giant. Next to the saw there was an unfinished coffin.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s interest was piqued; he could not resist asking, “Such a big saw, only people with big strength can use it, right?”

    “Must be so.”

    “Where is he? How come I haven’t seen him?”

    “You have already seen him.” Zhao Xiazi pointed to his own nose, “That person is me.” He casually said, “Each coffin sold in this place, I personally make them all.”

    Lu Xiaofeng discovered that although the boss of this coffin shop spent his days like a dead man outside the shop, that although his face looked like a dead man, and his appearance was ugly, he was actually a big and tall man. Although he was a bit slouching, but comparatively speaking, he was still a head taller than ordinary men, plus the muscles on his entire body looked solid and springy. Only a man who is used to physical labor would have such muscles.

    The first time you saw him, you may think that he looked like a dead man; but the longer you look at him, the more he did not look like a dead man.

    Behind the courtyard there were two rows of rooms, the row on the left had two rooms, the row on the right also had two rooms. The rooms on the left looked like a kitchen and a firewood storage, the kind of room a servant would use. The rooms on the right looked gloomy and dark, even the window-covering papers were very dark green, almost black. The two rooms appeared to be enveloped in some kind of black hue, even on a bright day like today the rooms gave a man some kind of gloomy and eerie feeling.

    “This is where we put the coffin before burial.” Zhao Xiazi lighted a fire, “When people in here died, before burial the body is usually placed in this room, that’s the reason I call these two rooms ‘haunted house’.”

    “Haunted house?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “So the house is haunted?”

    Under the light from the fire, Zhao Xiazi’s pale face looked a bit like a ghost’s face; but he shook his head and said, “Coffin shop does not have any ghost in it, coffin shop takes care of dead people. Dead people become ghosts, taking care dead people means taking care of ghosts. I am taking care of them, how can they come to haunt this place?”

    What he said was actually very reasonable and fair, even if Lu Xiaofeng wanted to disagree, he simply could not. But as Lu Xiaofeng walked toward the two rooms, he felt a dark cold chill creeping up from his back to his head, and then down to the soles of his feet.

    Lu Xiaofeng was certainly not a faint-hearted man, his guts was big; practically these four characters ‘dan da bao tian’ [lit. guts so big it wraps the sky; definition: reckless/extremely daring] can be used to describe him, even his enemy had to admit. In this world, there was nothing Lu Xiaofeng did not dare to do.

    Yet led by Zhao Xiazi, with torch in his hand, into one of these two rooms on the right, he felt as if the arch of his feet was clammy with cold sweats.

    The light of the torch was dimmer than candle light. Under the glow of this kind of light, the interior of the room simply looked like the inside of a tomb.

    When he walked inside, his feeling was like walking into a grave.

    Naturally there was no coffin in the grave, but this room had one coffin in it. The coffin was supported by a set of dark purple bricks like a stage. In front of the stage, there was a simple memorial tablet. The writing on the memorial tablet simply said, ‘A friend, Liu Rugang’.

    Seeing this memorial tablet, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart died within him. Whoever saw this memorial tablet would definitely believe that Liu Chengfeng, Liu Rugang was really dead.

    The strange thing was, perhaps driven by the gloomy, eerie and bleak atmosphere, or perhaps Lu Xiaofeng had some weird, mysterious, almost supernatural feeling in his heart that Liu Chengfeng might jump out of the coffin at any time and be resurrected, he said, “Please open the coffin lid.”

    “What did you say?” Zhao Xiazi shouted in disbelief, “You want me to open the coffin lid? Whatever for?”

    “Because I already told you, I want to see a dead man, not a coffin.”

    (Four)

    When the coffin was opened, Lu Xiaofeng immediately saw Liu Chengfeng.

    Although the face of a dead person is not the same as the face of a living person, in one glance Lu Xiaofeng was able to ascertain that this dead man was indeed Liu Chengfeng; not only that, he could see clearly the remaining expression Liu Chengfeng had on his face at the moment of his death, an expression of shock and fear.

    “Is he the friend you are looking for?” Zhao Xiazi asked.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not reply, because he already identified the fatal wound that took Liu Chengfeng’s life.

    The wound was located on the chest, just above the pit of the stomach, a blade wound. One fatal blade, neat and tidy.

    Lu Xiaofeng was absolutely certain of this fact.

    He has seen a lot of dead people, his experience in this matter was quite extensive. In fact, no one could see more clearly than he did in this kind of situation. If he was unsure of this fact, no one else could.

    Yet the expression on his face was that of an extremely strange and confused one; moreover, he kept shaking his head while his mouth did not stop mumbling, “This is impossible, this is absolutely impossible.” He even repeated those words over and over.

    Undoubtedly Zhao Xiazi was a very patient man, if he was not patient, how could he deal with dead people? Therefore, all along he waited until Lu Xiaofeng had repeated those sentences five, six times before asking, “What’s impossible? Why is it impossible?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not answer that question; he asked him instead, “Do you know who is this dead man in the coffin?” Without waiting for Zhao Xiazi to answer, he answered his own question, “He was the ‘One Sword Riding the Wind’ Liu Rugang. His qinggong and swordsmanship, even if can’t compare with Ximen Chuixue, he was not too far behind. If you say that someone was able to stab him to death head-on, without any chance to fight back at all, even if you chop my head I won’t believe you.”

    However, the fact in front of his eyes was exactly that.

    The body inside the coffin has already fixed with burial clothes, the cut wound has also been dealt with very well. The length of this cut wound more or less was only about one cun and three fen [1 cun is approx. 1 inch, I am not sure how much 1 fen is]. Undoubtedly the blade that killed him was a very narrow blade; furthermore, it ‘pierced’ directly from the front, if the blade was ‘chopped’, the cut wound would lengthen.

    That was the reason Lu Xiaofeng thought it was impossible; because on this earth, there was no one who was able to use the blade like that, able to pierce Liu Chengfeng’s heart in one stab, unless this person was Liu Chengfeng’s friend, whom he was very familiar with, so that Liu Chengfeng practically did not guard against him at all.

    How could Liu Chengfeng have friends in a small town like this?

    Lu Xiaofeng’s gaze finally moved from the wound to Zhao Xiazi’s face. “Do you know where he died?”

    “Of course I do,” Zhao Xiazi answered, “It is a very dark alley. When he died, it was already after the third watch of the night [between 11pm-1am], by that time, there was not a single lantern in that alley.”

    “Who was the first person to find him?”

    “It’s the little beggar, with whom you already talked.”

    “What time was his body found?”

    “At that time the sky has not completely brightened yet.”

    “The sky has not completely brightened, why did that little beggar go that alley? What was he doing?”

    “That, I am not too clear.”

    “Who moved the body here?”

    “It was me. I personally carried the body here.” Zhao Xiazi went on, “Liu Daxia was a very good man, he was also generous, he had always treated me as his friend.”

    He added, “Although Liu Daxia had not been here too long, he had already made quite a few good friends.”

    Only a good friend, one with whom he was very familiar, could take the opportunity when he did not expect at all, to stab him dead directly from the front.

    Who was this good friend?

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. He asked Zhao Xiazi, “When you brought him here, wasn’t the murder blade still stuck on his chest?”

    “How did you know?” Zhao Xiazi appeared to be greatly astonished, “How did you know that the blade was still stuck on his body?”

    “The wound is between the sixth and seventh ribs. These two ribs are very close to each other. Once the blade went in, it would be very difficult to pull it out.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The murderer took advantage when Liu Chengfeng was careless and stabbed him dead, he must be both excited and scared; besides, he must be unsure whether this famous swordsman had really died under his blade. He would try pulling the blade with trepidation; if the first time he failed to pull the blade, he might try the second time. If the second time he still could not pull the blade, he would not try the third time.”

    With an exceptionally calm voice Lu Xiaofeng continued, “This kind of blade, I am sure only a coffin shop owner like you, in a very peace and quiet situation, can pull it out quite easily.”

    Zhao Xiazi sighed. “Until a moment ago I still did not know who you are. But now I know. You must be a very extraordinary man.”

    “Did it really happen like that?”

    “That’s right.”

    “Did you pull the blade out?”

    “I did.” Zhao Xiazi said, “I pulled it out with my own hand.”

    “Where’s the blade?”

    “Blade?” Zhao Xiazi seemed to all of a sudden forget what they had just talked about, “What blade?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Naturally he understood people like Zhao Xiazi very well; even more, he understood the only way to deal with this kind of people.

    To deal with this kind of people, only one word is enough.

    -- Money.

    After a silver ingot was stuffed into Zhao Xiazi’s hand, Lu Xiaofeng asked the same question he had just asked a moment ago. Zhao Xiazi’s answer was already completely different from his response just a moment ago.

    “Where’s the blade?”

    “Naturally I have hidden the blade.”

    “Where did you hide it?”

    Zhao Xiazi’s originally stiff and bloodless face finally revealed a trace of a smile; at least it looked like a trace of smile, “When I want to hide something, naturally I would hide it in a place where nobody else can find it.”

    The coffin was supported by purple bricks, forming a low platform that looked like a sacrificial offering platform. Unexpectedly a few pieces of bricks were moveable.

    Pulling these movable bricks out, inside was a secret hiding place. If other people did not know that the platform had some moveable bricks, and they did not know which bricks were moveable, naturally it would be really difficult to find the object that was hidden inside.

    Zhao Xiazi already reached into the hole in the platform; by the time he pulled his hand out, undoubtedly he would have a blade in his hand.

    Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to know what kind of blade was able to stab Liu Chengfeng to his death head-on?

    Yet all along Zhao Xiazi had not pulled his hand out, it was as if a viper inside the hole had suddenly grabbed his hand.

    His originally pale and completely bloodless face now seemed to turn into a wretched greenish color.

    Lu Xiaofeng looked at him, the pupils of his eyes gradually narrowed. “Where’s the blade?”

    This time unexpectedly Zhao Xiazi’s reply was the same as his first answer, “Blade? What blade?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was seriously thinking of giving him whack plus a heavy kick. But to his surprise Zhao Xiazi already kneeled down and cried out in distress, “I swear, I really hid the blade in here, but now the inside is empty, the blade has already gone.”

    Looking at his appearance, Lu Xiaofeng’s palm did not continue going down, his leg did not kick out. Suppressing his anger, he asked, “Think hard, other than you, who else knew that you hid the blade in there?”

    Zhao Xiazi already knocked his head against the floor, but hearing this question, he suddenly looked up, his dead eyes seemed to lit up.

    “I remember, there is someone else who knew about this matter; not only he is the only one who knew, he had also seen it for himself.”

    Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and lifted him up the floor, “Who’s that person?” he asked in stern voice.”

    Gasping for breath, Zhao Xiazi said, “His surname is …”

    Zhao Xiazi did not finish this sentence, when he said the next word, his mouth was open, but no sound came out.

    Because he had just opened his mouth, from the outside twenty, thirty rays of light shot in.

    In this split second, by Lu Xiaofeng’s estimate, there were at least twenty-three rays of light, in three different colors: green, violet, and shining like silver.

    This time he was incorrect, because there was a secret projectile that was nearly transparent. The transparent one was almost invisible. Therefore, the number of secret projectiles shooting inside the room from three different windows was not twenty-three, but twenty-four. Because one of them was transparent.

    The target of these twenty-four secret projectiles was not Lu Xiaofeng, but Zhao Xiazi.

    Luckily all these secret projectiles missed their target, even the invisible projectile did not hit its target.

    Because Zhao Xiazi already crashed through the roof, he flew out.

    Naturally he could not fly out on his own. He was crouching on the ground, Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and lifted him up. It was when Lu Xiaofeng was still carrying him that the secret projectiles shot in. In this moment, where even a split second delay was unacceptable, Lu Xiaofeng already threw him out with all the strength he had, creating a large hole on the roof, and flew out from the hole.

    And then Lu Xiaofeng flew out from the window where the cold rays shot in.

    In that instant, the change and speed of his movement nearly exceeded the limit of human capability, it even surpassed the limit of his own physical capability.

    The reason one is capable to reach success, oftentimes it is because he can unleash the superhuman willpower and survival instinct that is beyond his own physical limitation.

    The same the principle applies to someone, who in the eyes of other people may die anytime and anywhere, could avoid death.

    (Five)

    By the time Lu Xiaofeng reached the courtyard, Zhao Xiazi had just landed from the air into the midst of fluttering roof tiles.

    From behind a pile of lumber, another flash of cold ray shot out. The target was still Zhao Xiazi. No doubt the intention was to kill Zhao Xiazi to shut his mouth.

    While his body was still in the air, Lu Xiaofeng had picked a piece of wood. His left toes pressed on the ground, his body shot up again, the wood piece in his hand flew and struck the flash of cold ray down. With a series of light popping noise, the secret projectiles were nailed onto a wooden plank.

    Zhao Xiazi had landed on the roof, and slipped and fell back into the room via the hole on the roof.

    From behind the pile of lumber, someone shouted in low voice, “Good Lu Xiaofeng, good qinggong.”

    “Who are you?” Lu Xiaofeng shouted back. He was going to pounce toward the pile of wood, unexpectedly a flicker of saber, like a flash of rainbow arching in the sky, as swift as an arrow, already swept toward him from the roof of the opposite building.

    The saber was fast and deadly, it was meant to kill him with one chop, therefore, the saber did not leave him any room to maneuver.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not shrink back to evade, instead, he charged toward the saber light head-on. Apparently the attacker was taken aback. The saber light trembled, it changed direction to sweep across Lu Xiaofeng’s throat; however, the momentum was already decreasing.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly stretched out his fingers, his two fingers, and in a flash he pinched the blade of the saber, and pushed it forward. A burst of internal energy flowed from the blade down to the hilt. The hollow of the assailant’s palm was jolted. His hand grip was barely loosened, the hilt of his own saber already struck the pit of his stomach. ‘Crack!’ two of his ribs were broken.

    It was Lu Xiaofeng’s consummate skill, which prestige shook the Jianghu, which had no equal throughout the world. All these changes happened in a flash. Other than Lu Xiaofeng, no other human being would be able to utilize this opportunity, where even a split second delay would be fatal, to pinch the blade of the saber.

    When the assailant tumbled down from the air onto the ground, he could not help grunting like a dying beast. His saber had already moved into Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, with the blade already pressed on his throat.

    Actually, his saber technique and qinggong were undoubtedly first class; so Lu Xiaofeng had to admit, “I did not expect this place has such a martial art expert like you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng asked the assailant, who was clad in black skintight nightwalker attire and black cloth mask, “Who are you? Who sent you here? Why do you want to kill Zhao Xiazi to shut his mouth?”

    The man looked at Lu Xiaofeng in shock, he was startled and scared that the pupil of his eyes shrank.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly saw on his eyes a shadow and a flash of a sword.

    He was not mistaken. And his reaction was fast enough, that’s why he did not die under this sword. Because he had already twisted his body around and brandished the saber.

    Although his reaction was that fast, the front piece of his garment was still cut open by the cold and dense sword aura.

    Amidst the flashing sword ray, he saw an old woman in violet garment, whose head was covered in white hair, but he did not see her face clearly. Because in the split second that it happened, he simply could not afford to observe clearly.

    The sword pierced, he turned around and brandished the saber, the assailant whose ribs he broke already rolled away. The sword flashed again, Lu Xiaofeng was forced to step back, he withdrew toward the pile of wood. He seemed to have thought of a way to strike back, or at least a good way to escape.

    But he did not strike back, neither did he escape. His countenance suddenly changed, because he suddenly discovered that the sword in this old woman’s hand was surprisingly the sword that Liu Chengfeng used to use.

    This moment, the tip of the sword nearly pierced his heart. Lu Xiaofeng’s situation was so dire that even if he wanted to escape, he simply could not.

    A heart is, undoubtedly, a fatal organ in human’s body. The strange thing is that later on Lu Xiaofeng told someone, “Fortunately, her sword was piercing my heart, or else I would definitely die.”

    Why?

    Because at that instant, his right hand happened to be near his heart, so that although the blade of the sword had already penetrated his clothes right in front of his chest, if it went half a fen farther, Lu Xiaofeng would be finished. Too bad in that instant, the sword was unable to move even half a fen farther, because the tip of this sword was suddenly clamped by Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers.

    Later someone asked him, “We know that your two fingers are like they have gods or ghosts’ charms on them, so much so that those fingers seem to be completely interlinked to your mind; as soon as your mind moves, the opponent’s sword will be clamped down. Because no matter how fast the sword is, it cannot possibly be faster than your mind.”

    This fact, nobody in Jianghu would be able to refute.

    “But how come at that time your hand happened to be near your heart? Is it possible that you have already calculated that the opponent’s sword was going to stab your heart?”

    Lu Xiaofeng only laughed, he did not answer.

    In this kind of things, there is simply no answer.

    The instant when one is facing a matter of life and death, there are so many things that cannot be explained logically. Maybe it was the crystallization of his life-long experience and wisdom, maybe it was a split second inspiration, maybe it was no more than just plain luck.

    When a swordsman has his sword clamped, it is tantamount to have his hands and feet bound; the psychological blow to him is even harder.

    Yet this old woman in purple was undoubtedly a first-class swordsman, a super martial art expert. Not only her sword could move fast, her reaction was even faster. Not only her reaction was fast, her judgment was even more accurate. Therefore, as soon as Lu Xiaofeng caught her sword, she let go, while with an unbelievable speed her body immediately slipped away.

    Naturally she slipped upward, the angle at which she slipped away was very unusual. In order to evade the opponent’s follow-up attack, undoubtedly the angle was very effective. But it was not enough for her, undoubtedly she was a very cautious person, someone who extremely cherished her own life. Therefore, as soon as she slipped away, she made another somersault high in the air, toward an even more secure angle.

    Her attire was a skintight white pomegranate long skirt, it looked exactly like a heavy hanging curtain. When a woman was wearing this kind of long skirt, usually she did not need to wear long pants on the inside. But when she was doing somersault high in the air, her long legs also flipped in the air, just like heavy waves rolling in the air.

    When Lu Xiaofeng looked up, he was able to see her legs. The legs definitely did not belong to an old woman.

    The legs that Lu Xiaofeng saw were snow white, slender and firm. The legs, with the head full of white hair and the face full of wrinkles definitely did not belong to the same person.

    Lu Xiaofeng was a man with a very good taste, plus he was especially interested in women’s legs, and he had done some research. He could even tell that this pair of legs’ muscle as they moved, their firmness, their length, their beauty, was something that even Lu Xiaofeng rarely saw.

    The sword in the old woman in purple’s hand was Liu Chengfeng’s sword, her partner’s saber was very fast and accurate. Even if Lu Xiaofeng did not have any preconceived idea, he would definitely be able to tell that they must be closely related to Liu Chengfeng’s death. Undoubtedly these two people had always lived in this small town. Right now, although they all came, he still had no idea about this matter.

    How could he investigate this matter?

    The saber-wielding man had his face covered in black cloth, the old woman’s face was undoubtedly not her real face. Right now the only real thing Lu Xiaofeng saw was a pair of legs; which were definitely not an old-lady-whose-head-was-covered-in-white-hair’s legs. If he could find the owner of these legs, then he might also find the assassin who killed Liu Chengfeng.

    It was Lu Xiaofeng’s only clue, it was also the only thing Lu Xiaofeng could do.

    What could he do?

    Could it be that he had to lift the skirt of every woman in this town and look at their legs?

    Honestly speaking, Lu Xiaofeng did not wish to do that either, it’s just too bad that he did not have any other idea.

    He’d better go find Zhao Xiazi.

    But even if he was killed, Zhao Xiazi refused to say another word; he was so scared that his pants were drenched.

    The city of Beijing was not built in a day, naturally investigating this kind of mysterious and odd murder case also cannot be accomplished in just one day or two. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to come back and sleep.

    Who would have thought that as he returned to that crappy hut, he saw a leg protruding from underneath his bed?

    A filthy and black, thin leg; a leg that was covered in mud. By Lu Xiaofeng’s most conservative estimate, the leg has not been washed for at least seven or eight months. However, compared to the foot at the end of the leg, the leg looked extremely clean.

    That foot, practically it looked like a pile of dog poo was dumped on it.

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled wryly and shook his head. He pulled a chair and sat down opposite of the bed.

    The person under the bed finally crawled out slowly. A pile of hair that looked like a pile of bird’s nest, covering a head that looked like bird’s egg.

    Lu Xiaofeng coughed lightly, “Little beggar,” he called.

    The little beggar jumped in fright, his head nearly hit the beam, but when he saw that it was Lu Xiaofeng, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Da Shaoye, this time you really scared the hell out of me, my soul almost left me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately put on a very apologetic expression on his face, “Did I really scare the hell out of you?”

    “Of course you did.” The little beggar patted his chest, “I came so close to being scared to death by you.”

    “I am truly sorry,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It seems like I ought to apologize to you, and compensate you somehow.”

    “That is not necessary,” the little beggar put on a very magnanimous air, “All you have to do is give me a bit of compensation in one area, and then I will definitely forgive you.”

    “A bit of compensation?” Lu Xiaofeng deliberately asked, “What kind of compensation?”

    “For instance, a tiny bit of gold, a tiny bit of good wine, one or two good-looking young misses.” The little beggar squinted, “Of course you also know that those things can suppress shock.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Actually, he did not want to laugh, but he could not resist laughing. It’s just that when he started laughing, he had already grabbed the front of the little beggar’s clothes. And when he grabbed the front of the little beggar’s clothes, the little beggar looked like a small turtle being carried away.

    With a wooden face Lu Xiaofeng said, “You sneaked into my room in the middle of the night. Turning over the chest and flipping over the basket [i.e. searching everywhere] is not a big deal, but you crawled underneath my bed. What do you want?”

    “I …”

    “Worse yet, you still say that I scared you and had to pay you.”

    With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng went on, “I’ll say it is you who ought to pay me. Otherwise, I will definitely come up with a good way to deal with you.”

    The little beggar quickly broke into crying.

    “I am not here to steal your things, I am a Beggar Clan’s disciple, how could I steal from Lu Xiaofeng, how could I dare?” He continued with miserable scowl on his face, “Who in the world does not know that Lu Xiaofeng is a good friend of the Beggar Clan? Tens of thousands Beggar Clan brothers, from top to bottom, which one dares to attempt vainly to move a single strand of Lu Xiaofeng’s hair?”

    “Are you really Beggar Clan’s disciple?”

    “Not in the least bit fake.”

    Lu Xiaofeng let go, the little beggar fell down, and instantly saluted Lu Xiaofeng in a very beautiful stance. “Beggar Clan’s twenty-third generation disciple Huang Xiaochong pays his respect to Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Daxia, Lu Dashu [great hero, great (younger) uncle, respectively].”

    “Which hall do you belong to, which helmsman?”

    “Xuangui [lit. mysterious turtle] Hall, Wang Laoyezi [old master], under the jurisdiction of Chang Jiang [Yangzte river] district’s twenty-seventh cabin. I was sent here only three years ago.”

    “How can Chang Jiang district’s disciple be sent here?”

    The little beggar sighed and said, “No matter which Clan, which Sect, there are always a few disciples with a rather bad luck.”

    The relationship between Beggar Clan and Lu Xiaofeng was very deep, all Beggar Clan’s disciples could be considered Lu Xiaofeng’s friends. And the words of a friend, Lu Xiaofeng always had little doubt.

    From the mouth of this little beggar Lu Xiaofeng was able to confirm several things.

    Liu Chengfeng indeed died in a dark alley, and Zhao Xiazi was indeed the one who brought him back. At that time the murder weapon was indeed still stuck on Liu Chengfeng’s dead body.

    Question is –

    “But the first person who discovered Liu Daye’s dead body was not me.” The little beggar spoke with a very convincing tone, “People in our line of work, although we love to roam to the east and stroll to the west in the middle of the night, but when I got to that dark alley that night, there were at least two people ahead of me.”

    “Oh?”

    “I wasn’t going to go to that alley, it was because I heard Liu Daye’s miserable cry that I rushed there.”

    “And when you got there, you saw two people already there?”

    “Right.”

    “What kind of people?”

    “It was in the depth of the night, I could not see their faces clearly, plus as soon as they saw me, they quickly ran away.” The little beggar went on, “But I can tell that those two people, one was a man, the other a woman.”

    “One man and one woman?”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately thought about the masked assassin and the woman who masqueraded as an old woman but have a pair of nice legs whom he came across at Zhao Xiazi’s rear courtyard.

    (Six)

    The room was of a very simple construction, the furnishing was only a broken-down wooden table which paint has peeled off long ago, the bed was a worn out bed.

    All of these were not a big deal. The big deal was that in the room there was no friend, on the table there was no wine, and on the bed there was one person less.

    In this kind of room, Lu Xiaofeng actually did not want to stay, even more, he would definitely not want to sleep on the bed.

    But right now Lu Xiaofeng has already lay on the bed. Liu Chengfeng was his friend. Liu Chengfeng’s death was indeed too strange.

    Sleeping so far away in a desolate little town also seemed to be unspeakably odd.

    If Lu Xiaofeng did not care of even these kinds of things, what other things would he care?

    If Lu Xiaofeng did not care of even these kinds of things, then Lu Xiaofeng would not be Lu Xiaofeng either.

    To deal with this matter, he had to think about a lot of other things first.

    Up to now, all the clues that Lu Xiaofeng had come from the little beggar and Zhao Xiazi. These two did not seem to lie, yet the strange thing was, there seemed to be a contradiction between the two.

    But what was the contradiction? Lu Xiaofeng was unable to explain. There are a lot of things he was unable to understand, he could not even see the shadow, he could not even see the door.

    It was the moment where he wanted his head to be as big as three heads when he suddenly heard a strange noise.

    His heart suddenly jumped.

    Everyone knew that Lu Xiaofeng was by no means a person who could be easily excited, but right now his heart was thumping really wild.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart had always been beating, it’s just that right now the beating of his heart was a lot faster than usual. Because he suddenly heard someone else’s heart beating, ‘thump, thump, thump’; on top of that, he also heard a light labored breathing, and the noise came from outside the thin wooden door, and the noise was a very seductive female voice.

    More importantly, Lu Xiaofeng immediately recognized the woman making this sound was the slim-waisted, slender-legged lady boss, the lady boss who, when she walked on the street, her whole body was twisting and turning like a snake.

    She was rushing from across the courtyard, she ran onto the door with elevated heartrate and heavy, labored breathing.

    Second watch of the night [between 9-11pm] she ran toward the room of an unknown traveler, what did she want? Lu Xiaofeng did not even dare to think about.

    As a traveler who went far from home, if he thought too much about this kind of matter all night long, how could he get some sleep? Tonight naturally Lu Xiaofeng would not get any sleep, because the lady boss has already pushed the door and came in.

    The door was not bolted, that’s why the lady boss was able to push the door and walk in. But as she came in, she closed the door and bolted it.

    Lu Xiaofeng lay in bed like a dead man, he did not move at all. But his heart was moved.

    A healthy, normal man, a solitary, lonely traveler, if in this situation he was able to prevent his heart from being moved, then he was really dead.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not move, only because he wanted to see what this charming, flirtatious lady boss would do by coming here in the dead of the night.

    Could it be that she came to search his luggage? Was it to kill him? Or was it to seduce him?

    As a man, naturally Lu Xiaofeng was hoping that the reason she came here was the last one.

    This was man’s vanity and pride. It’s possible to any man to entertain such hope.

    Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng also entertained different idea.

    If this crafty lady boss was coming to kill him, at least he would get the proof that she was related to Liu Chengfeng’s murder case; in which case the scope of Lu Xiaofeng’s investigation could be narrowed somewhat.

    Unfortunately, the lady boss did not even have the slightest idea of killing him.

    The lantern in the room had already been extinguished. From outside the window, there was a lantern light of unknown origin, dimly illuminated the lady boss’ waist and her pair of slender legs, the curves of the legs were clearly visible under the thin and soft long gown.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly opened his mouth, “You should know where the lantern is, go light it.”

    The lady boss seemed surprised, her pair of snow-white hands went up to gently pat her ample breasts.

    “You scared me to death, you really scared me out of my skin.” She asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Isn’t this very good? Why do you want me to light the lantern?”

    It was Lu Xiaofeng’s answer that would really scare most women out of their skin, “Because I want to see your legs,” he said.

    The lady boss giggled. “What’s so good about my legs? I won’t show it to you.”

    Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng put on an act like a spoiled brat, “I like to see, I want to see, I cannot not see it.”

    The lady boss sighed, “Ay, you. You are really annoying; do you know that?” Although her mouth said those words, yet the lantern on the broken-down wooden table was lit by her.

    The lady boss turned her body that it faced the light, and then she threw her charming and fluid glance toward Lu Xiaofeng, “Will this do?”

    “Not enough.”

    “Not enough?” the lady boss asked, “Why not enough?”

    “Because now I see only your skirt, I haven’t seen your legs.”

    “What do you want?” the lady boss’ fluid glance seemed to ripple, “Could it be that you want me to pull up my skirt?”

    “Exactly right,” Lu Xiaofeng said with malicious smile, “That’s exactly what I have in mind.”

    With fine and white teeth the lady boss bit her lower lip gently, “Ay, you; you are indeed my destined love [in opera].”

    If a woman calls you her destined love, then you may rest assure that womenfolk definitely will not refuse a request from a destined love. Therefore, very soon Lu Xiaofeng was able to see the lady boss’ legs.

    This pair of legs did not give anybody any reason to complain; even the most picky man ought to feel very satisfied.

    However, he was sighing in his heart, so much so that his disappointment showed on his face.

    Because this pair of legs was not the one he wanted to see.

    The one he wanted to see was the pair of legs that was revealed under the flipping purple skirt, the one with sturdy muscles, the one that looked supple and flexible, the one full of youthful vitality.

    Although the lady boss’ legs looked fine and delicate, the muscles were already not as tight; although they could still arouse desire in a man’s heart, they already lacked firmness.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not hide his disappointment very well, but the lady boss did not pay any attention; she merely asked in a sultry voice, “And now what do you want me to do?”

    To her surprise, Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes, “And now I want you to put your skirt on, blow out the lamp on the table, and with your two big, fat legs, get out of here.”

    The lady boss was furious, this time she was really enraged, she was so angry that she wanted to strangle this vile moustache to his death. “What do you mean?” she screamed her question toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    “I believe I have already made my meaning very clear just now,” Lu Xiaofeng flatly said, “And I believe you have heard it very clearly.”

    Lu Xiaofeng thought that she would be so angry that perhaps she would pounce on him and beat him several times, or bite him several times.

    But he did not care.

    Dealing with a crazy woman, Mr. Lu Xiaofeng knew at least a hundred ways.

    The unthinkable thing was: not only our lady boss did not go crazy, she broke into giggles instead.

    “Ay, you! You are indeed not a good thing, you are basically not a human being.” It sounded as if she was laughing in glee, “Fortunately I still have a way to deal with a man who is really not a man like you.”

    “Oh?”

    “I can guarantee that if you let me walk out of that door today, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

    Surprisingly, there was not the least bit of anger in her voice. Even a ‘veteran of a hundred battles’ like Lu Xiaofeng could not help thinking that it was very strange. Therefore, he could not resist asking, “Are you telling me that if I do not keep you here tonight, I will regret it for the rest of my life?”

    The lady boss smiled sweetly, revealing a row of fine, white teeth, “I believe I have already made my meaning very clear just now,” she said, “And I believe you have heard it very clearly.”

    “Alright, just consider I lose this time.” He even went as far as raising both hands high in the air, “And now, can you tell me why I would regret it for the rest of my life?”

    “Because I am the only one who can tell you how your friend Liu Chengfeng died.”

    This sentence was like a whip; it was as if Lu Xiaofeng was being whipped. He sprang up from the bed and asked, “You know who killed him?”

    “I think I probably know a little.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stiffened, but his voice turned gentler, “In that case, can you tell me now?”

    “Of course I can, you are my destined love, no matter what you want me to do, I’ll do it,” the lady boss said, “But it is only proper if you’ll let me have you do something first.”

    “What is it?”

    The lady boss looked straight at him, softly but flatly she said, “Take off your pants and let me look at your legs.”

    Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly, as if he was so terrified that he turned silly. But suddenly he grinned from ear to ear, “It’s so easy,” he smiled delightedly, “What could be easier in the world than a woman asking a man to take off his pants? As long as I can make you happy, whatever you want me to take off, I don’t care.”

    He did not lie. Before he even finished speaking, his pants had already left his legs.

    “And now what do you want me to do?”

    The lady boss’ fluid glance seemed to ripple again, “And now I want you to throw away your pants, blow out the lamp on the table, and with your two small, thin legs, come over here and hug me.”

    In order to do something, much less that something simply must be done, one always has to pay a small price.

    In order to do something for a real friend, whatever price one has to pay, it is always worth it.

    Lu Xiaofeng has always been a man of principle, and that was his principle.

    Therefore, the light went out.

    (Seven)

    One man one woman, one small room, one bed. After the light went out, there were so many things could happen.

    One man one woman, one small room, one bed. After the light went out, it is also possible that nothing happened.

    What has actually happened? After all these things, anything that happened, other than these two people, who would know?

    The only thing that we can be sure is that Lu Xiaofeng definitely asked the lady boss, “How did you know who killed Liu Chengfeng?”

    “Because in this small town of ours, where even the birds do not lay eggs, only one person has the capability to kill him.”

    Naturally this answer needed some explanation. The lady boss’ explanation was that the town of Huangshi was an extremely desolate, out-of-the-way small town. Since the legend that said that there were gold buried somewhere in the vicinity of this town was confirmed to be just a rumor, even regular travelers no longer journey pass this town, because this town was basically not located on a major trading route.

    The inhabitants of this town were born here and grew roots here, they were already accustomed to a life of poverty, yet a very peaceful and quiet life. They already lost their ability to adapt to a competitive and bustling life in the world outside their small town.

    The lady boss said, “Take that dead fatty of our family for example; he clings obstinately to this small grocery store, which has already been in his family for several generations. If right now you want him to move out to earn fistful after fistful of silver, he won’t have the guts to do it.” She went on, “As soon as he leaves this town for a single step, his legs will turn weak.”

    Most other people in this town were also like that. They lived in poverty, but the peaceful and quiet life had completely stripped them off of the will to fight, and they had absolutely no vanity.

    Because they practically did not know what kind of sensual splendor the people on the outside were enjoying.

    These people had already distanced themselves from the world as far back as a hundred of years ago, they lived and took root in this small town, every family understood each other, just like a man understands himself. “Only one person is an exception,” the lady boss said, “In our town, he is the only exception.”

    “Who is this person?”

    “His surname is Sha, almost nobody remembers his given name, because everybody simply calls him Sha Dahu.” [Dahu means great family/rich family/big landlord, etc.]

    “Sha Dahu? Why would everybody call him Sha Dahu?” Lu Xiaofeng asked the lady boss.

    “Even several fresh water wells in the town of Huangshi belong to him; if people don’t call him Sha Dahu, what should we call him?”

    “Why would this Sha Dahu want to kill Liu Chengfeng?”

    “I did not say that he wanted to kill Liu Chengfeng,” the lady boss said, “I just said that if anybody in the town of Huangshi is able to kill Liu Chengfeng, this person must be Sha Dahu.”

    “Why?”

    “Because I also know that Liu Daye [big master] was a first class martial art master of Jianghu, while our people here, as soon as we saw other people moving their sabers, they would pee in their pants and become the grandsons of a turtle.”

    The lady boss went on, “Other than big boss Sha, nobody in the town of Huangshi dares to move a single strand of Liu Daye’s hair.” She added for emphasis, “Other than big boss Sha, nobody has that kind of ability either.”

    “What ability does he have?”

    “Actually, he himself does not have any bird egg ability, what he has is no more than a belly full of sh1t.”

    The lady boss had brought an earthen jar of wine along, which she now drank with Lu Xiaofeng. No doubt it was one of the most delightful things in the world. Therefore, this lady boss of ours, who had a pair of white hands and a pair of long legs plus an amorous heart, found it hard not to get drunk even if she did not want to. Hence the reason now she started to talk a little nonsense.

    “It’s just that our Big Boss Sha is a bit stronger than those turtle grandsons,” the lady boss said, “Because other than a belly full of sh1t, he also has a house full of gold, silver, pearls and jewels.”

    “What does it have to do with Liu Chengfeng’s death?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    The lady boss grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s neck and patted his cheek just like patting a little child’s cheek.

    Xiao Shaoye [little young master], do you know that there are a lot of people who are like fly? When they see sh1t, they disregard their own lives and immediately fly over.” Her eyes narrowed, “Gold, silver, pearls and jewels are their sh1t.”

    “So what kind of people are these flies?”

    “The flies are some good-for-nothing, men who are not humans.” The lady boss said, “Robbers, fugitives, murderer, scoundrels, serial rapists, and animals who sell their friends. They were on the run and had nowhere else to go, hence they turn into flies, buzzing over a large pile of sh1t. Naturally, the farther this pile of sh1t is the better.”

    She drank the last mouthful of wine from the earthen jar, “The pile of sh1t in this town of Huangshi is naturally the farthest.”

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that very soon this woman would become a drunken female cat, because he knew that the wine in that earthen jar was a strong wine; therefore, he took advantage to ask a few more questions before she got drunk.

    “Are you saying that among these flies, there are some first-class martial art masters?”

    “Probably there are.”

    “Could it be that among these robbers and murderers who seek shelter under Sha Dahu you recognize some people who can kill Liu Chengfeng?”

    “I don’t know either.” The lady boss’ eyes already closed, “If you want to know, why don’t you go and see it for yourself?”

    Finished speaking that sentence, the lady boss’ eyes would not open anymore, she was totally drunk, and had become a sleeping woman that Lu Xiaofeng had no way of waking her up.

    Other that going straight to Sha Dahu, he had no other way at all.

    [1] 1 qian is approx. 1/10 of a tael, or 5 grams (of silver). 1 diao is a string of 100 coins, not sure the equivalent value.

  14. #94
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 – The killer in the rich family’s[1] household

    Naturally Sha Dahu’s original name was not ‘Dahu’ [see footnote], it’s just that his surname was really ‘Sha’; his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and all his ancestors were surnamed ‘Sha’, furthermore, they were all called ‘Sha Dahu’.

    Speaking about their family, practically no other appellation is more appropriate than ‘Dahu’.

    Sha Man’ge, alias[2] Guan Yun, was a studious scholar, by the age of thirteen he entered school, by the age of seventeen he passed the provincial level of imperial exam, by the age of eighteen he was one of the leading finalists in the Capital Imperial Examination, entered Hanlin [Imperial Academy]. He was amiable, and was a romantic young man; even if he did not want to be a distinguished man, he simply could not. But being distinguished has its own price. [Translator’s note: Additional info on Hanlin Academy was provided by Lu DongBin.]

    Being distinguished he was frivolous, being distinguished he became indifferent, being distinguished led him to poverty, being distinguished led to untimely death.

    Why would a talented, peerless literary talent have the heart of blowing away his discretion and exchanging it with an empty reputation?

    It’s just the price of being distinguished.

    Throughout the ages, distinguish persons knew that gains and losses are insignifant, so why would they want to achieve it? So what if they fail? So what if they live? So what if they die? A tiny mustard seed is no different than the world, an instant is no different than an eternity.

    Sha Man’ge’s outstanding career has taken its toll, their entire Sha family was banished forever to the border area as a penal sentence, they became refugees.

    But as refugees, they lived an aristocratic life in the town of Huangshi.

    Because Sha Man’ge was an intellectual. Less than a year after his arrival in the town of Huangshi, he managed to unearth gold in a mine on the nearby mountain.

    In the world, there is nothing more real, more valuable than gold.

    People of the lower class of society, women and children, rough men and peasants, may not know pearl, agate, emerald, jasper, literary treasure, famous painting, ancient jade sculpture, and fine china, but what about gold?

    If there is anyone in the world who does not know the value of gold, that would be strange indeed.

    Ever since the Sha family struck a fortune, the town of Huangshi and its vicinity started to see gold rush, people who wanted to get rich flocked from four sides, eight directions. Overnight the town of Huangshi became prosperous.

    Too bad in the booming economy this town experience did not last long. Because other than Sha Dahu, the number of people who manage to find gold was pathetically low.

    Most people left in disappointment. Only Sha Dahu was still Sha Dahu. Huangshi town also remained as depressing as ever.

    (Two)

    Lu Xiaofeng visited Sha Dahu on the second day after his arrival in the town of Huangshi. At that moment Sha Dahu was drinking his first cup of wine of the day. During lunch, he usually drank a relatively softer wine.

    That particular day, he was drinking a good home brewed wine shipped from far away Shaoxing [prefecture, Zhejiang]. This kind of wine is easy to enter the mouth, but the effect afterwards was quite powerful. Accompanying him, sitting right next to him was a distinguished guest, one Mr. Sun. It was said that he was an ex-county head magistrate, a seemingly polite, refined, and gentle scholar.

    The guard on duty at the gate, whose job was to announce the incoming guest and guard the courtyard, that day, was Yang Wu [lit. Yang the fifth].

    Sha Dahu had a wine cup in one hand, and a pair of chopstick in the other; his eyes were fixed on the feet of a ‘wind chicken’ dish in front of him. With a cold voice he asked Yang Wu, “Do you know that when I am eating, I don’t want to see any visitor?”

    “I know.”

    “Then why haven’t you told that man outside to get the hell out of here?”

    “Actually, not only I wanted him to get the hell out of here, I also wanted to grab his neck and throw him out,” Yang Wu said.

    “And why haven’t you done so?”

    “Because I am not able to throw this man out.” Yang Wu said, “He did not throw me out, I am already very happy.”

    Sha Dahu turned his head around, with narrowed eyes he looked at him and said, “I have always thought that you are a man with guts, how could you turn into such a coward?”

    In front of his boss, Yang Wu did not seem to be too polite. “I am not a coward at all,” he said, “I just don’t want to provoke that man, that’s all.”

    Mr. Sun interrupted, “What kind of person is that gentleman, actually?”

    With a deliberate coldness Yang Wu replied, “Actually, there is nothing extraordinary about that man, he is only the four-eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Sha Dahu’s arrogance has always been big, annoyingly big; but as soon as he heard the three characters Lu Xiao Feng, instantly he seemed to change into another person.

    This three-character name in itself seemed to have a particularly strong twisting power.

    Lu Xiaofeng himself also understood this fact. Therefore, although he was standing outside the door, waiting for half a day, he was still confident that when Sha Dahu heard his name, he would definitely come out personally to welcome him, and would use the best wine and dishes to entertain him, he would even have the best looking people to accompany him.

    To this fact, he was very confident.

    Once, when he was drunk, he asked one of his good friends; he asked Honest Monk, “Do you know what kind of person I am?”

    Without waiting for Honest Monk, he answered his own question, “I am an expert in swindling my food and drink; just by using my name, I can eat anywhere in the world.”

    Honest Monk laughed and said, “This time you have spoken honest words.”

    Good wine, good dishes had already been set on the table; sure enough, the extremely arrogant Big Boss Sha came out personally to greet and lead him in, the reception hall was already packed with people. Who would want to miss the opportunity to see a man like Lu Xiaofeng?

    Deeply apologetic, Sha Dahu toasted Lu Xiaofeng, “Lu Xiong [brother, generic term], look at this place. Don’t you think it looks like a food market?”

    “It is, kind of.”

    Sha Dahu roared in laughter, “Actually, this is a quiet place in the wilderness, culturally, we are not people with compass and set square. But as everyone heard that Lu Xiaofeng has arrived, the one who can pinch blades with his two fingers, the one with four eyebrows, everybody wanted to see what kind of man this Lu Xiaofeng is. I cannot stop them.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed theatrically, “Indeed, it can’t be helped. Who told me to be such a famous person?” Actually, he did not show the least bit of modesty at all. “A celebrity oftentimes has to encounter this kind of situation.”

    Everybody laughed. Except one, a man who wore a dark blue scholar gown, who looked like a settled guest of this house[3], a smallish middle-aged man. Although his face was smiling, his eyes were completely devoid of any laughter, even the laughter on his face looked strained.

    Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng had not noticed him, he only laughed and said to Sha Dahu, “My poverty, my laziness, are very well-known; I am sure you also know about it.”

    “I have heard.”

    “Then why didn’t you ask me, why would a man like me acted like a mule, foolishly taking thousands of li journey, rolling and crawling to reach this place?”

    With a rueful sigh Sha Dahu said, “This place is really getting poorer and poorer, and the number people coming to live here is getting fewer and fewer.” He went on, “Such a big celebrity like Lu Xiaofeng unexpectedly can come here, even in our dream we would not expect that.”

    Just like Lu Xiaofeng, a mischievous smile suddenly appeared on his originally very dignified ‘guo’ [country] shaped face [i.e. square face], “Fortunately even when I am not dreaming I can still see it.”

    Lu Xiaofeng raised his four eyebrows, “You really know?”

    “Really.”

    “So what do you know?”

    “I know that you come here for your friend’s sake, your friend was very unfortunate and met his demise in this place.”

    “What you know is indeed not a few.”

    “Although this place is poor, I am not.” Sha Dahu said, “A rich man like me, there are always a lot of people sneakily come to me to report about a lot of things.” His laughter was unusually cheerful, “Rich people are like famous people, no matter what, we always do things a bit more conveniently than other people.”

    Indeed this fact cannot be refuted.

    Whenever Lu Xiaofeng heard something reasonable, he always showed admiration, “It appears that you indeed have a bit learning.”

    Sha Dahu laughed aloud, “I am afraid my learning is indeed no more than just a bit.” Similarly, he did not show the least bit of modesty at all.

    “Other than that, what else do you know?” Lu Xiaofeng asked this man, who seemingly had multiple personalities. “Do you know that I come to you for the sake of a blade?”

    “That kind of thing, how could I not know?” Sha Dahu deliberately spoke in cold and indifferent manner, “How could there be anything happening in this small town that I do not know about?”

    Lu Xiaofeng fixed his gaze at his face; with the same cold and indifferent tone he said, “In that case, you must also know who those two people are.”

    “Two people?” Sha Dahu knitted his brows, “What kind of two people?”

    “You don’t know the two people I am talking about?”

    “How could I know?” Sha Dahu said, “Although this place is small, the people are not a few, how could I know which two people you are talking about?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed; he shook his head and said, “Turns out there are still things in this small town that you don’t know about.”

    This sentence was a bit confusing.

    He said that he was looking for two people, yet he did not mention anything about these two people’s name, surname, and origin; neither did he mention their stature and appearance. If there was anybody who understood what he was talking about, now that would be strange indeed.

    Yet he obviously said those things. Perhaps only Mr. Lu Xiaofeng could say such thing.

    He was sure Sha Dahu would be angry; Mr. Lu’s words often made people die of anger, even Honest Monk, who possessed such self-restraint, nearly died of anger in the gutter because of him, let alone such a big boss like Sha Dahu.

    “What kind of two people are you looking for, actually?” suppressing his anger, Sha Dahu asked Lu Xiaofeng.

    “It’s a man and a woman.”

    “So you are looking for a man and a woman? Wonderful! Really wonderful!”

    Sha Dahu laughed angrily, “It so happens that in this world half of the people are men, the other half are women and you said you are looking for a man and a woman. Tell me, isn’t that a coincidence or what?”

    He was angry, but Lu Xiaofeng was not angry. Mr. Lu was always able to make people angry, but he would not get angry himself.

    Looking at his delighted expression, Sha Dahu, who was originally very angry, suddenly laughed, “Turns out I have fallen into your trap.”

    “You have fallen into what trap?”

    “You deliberately wanted to make me angry, and unexpectedly I really got angry.” Sha Dahu said, “I simply looked like a fool.”

    In reality, he did not like a fool at all, Lu Xiaofeng made him angry for no rhyme or reason.

    Ever since these two men met, none of each sentence they said made any sense. Just like two martial art masters of wulin exchanging blows, each one trying to outdo the other. “I can see clearly that you are just like me, a very competitive person.” Sha Dahu said, “I always like this kind of man.”

    “Too bad you have grown beard,” Lu Xiaofeng deliberately sighed, “You probably also know that Mr. Lu has always liked beautiful women.”

    This time Big Boss Sha did not get angry. Oftentimes anger is not a good thing, especially anger that brings adverse effect to one’s health.

    Big bosses usually take a good care of their bodies. Therefore, he asked Lu Xiaofeng again, “Those man and woman that you are looking for, is there anything in particular that is different than other people?”

    “The man is very good at using blade.”

    Big Boss Sha laughed, “Our family’s cook is also very good at using blade.” [Translator’s note: in Chinese, the word ‘dao’ can mean saber, blade, knife, single-edge sword, etc. which can be difficult to transfer into English.]

    “He uses blade to slice meat, the slices are thinner than paper.” He then asked Lu Xiaofeng deliberately, “Are you looking for my cook?”

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng would not get angry; he asked in return, “Can your cook kill people?”

    “I only know that he can only slice meat.”

    “What kind of meat?”

    “Pork, beed, mutton, dog meat, mule meat, horse meat, fish, crane, goose, rabbit, deep pool meat [潭子, I don’t know what it is]; he can slice any meat, he has even sliced tiger meat.” Sha Dahu continued, “Only one kind of meat he does not slice.”

    “Human meat?”

    “You got it.” Sha Dahu was still laughing, “Human meat is sour, more sour than horse meat, I definitely won’t allow my cook to slice human meat.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed again, “How could people who have never eaten human flesh know that human meat is sour? So strange.”

    Sha Dahu did not pay him any attention; otherwise he would get angry again.

    Other people trying to make you mad, but you did not get mad, that is a lofty quality. If as a big boss one does not have one or two lofty qualities, how could one succeed in his role as a big boss?

    “So the man is adept in using blade, how about the woman?” he asked.

    “The woman is even more strange.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Her head is covered in completely white hair, just like a sixty, seventy-year old woman. But her legs were like sixteen, seventeen-year old young woman.”

    Such a pair of legs, if someone can forget it as soon as he sees it, that person must not be a man.

    Not to be able to see it, undoubtedly Big Boss Sha was filled with regret. Although he was starting to get old, he was, after all, still a man. The older a man gets, the more he loves to see women’s legs. Even if he could just take a glance, it was all right.

    Big Boss Sha sighed, while reviewing in his mind all the beautiful legs he had seen in his life one by one. It was not until he felt that he was a bit younger again that he asked, “Did you see her face?”

    “I did not.” At that time Lu Xiaofeng practically did not have any chance to see her face. Besides, even if he did, it would be useless, since the hair was fake, the face could also be altered. The sky was getting darker, life and death was in between breaths.

    Naturally it was not that Big Boss Sha did not understand this kind of circumstances, yet he still had to ask, “Why didn’t you just look at her face?”

    “Because I am a man,” Lu Xiaofeng said drily, “A man seeing that kind of pair of legs, who would have time to look at her face?”

    The question did not make any sense, the respond definitely did; the whole building roared into laughter.

    “Now I understand your trouble,” he laughed aloud and said, “Practically you won’t find this woman, unless you lift up the skirt of every woman in this place and take a look.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not deny, on the contrary, lowering his voice, he said in deadpan manner, “To tell you the truth, I was thinking the same thing.”

    “Who wouldn’t?” Sha Dahu also deliberately lowered his voice, “If you are really going to do it, you simply must tell me, so that I can follow you and take a look as well.”

    Even after these two talked for half a day, nobody knew whether they were bickering, or whether it was a battle of wits?

    The Four-Eyebrowed Lu Xiaofeng has appeared, it seemed that there is nothing really special about him. The people crowding the main hall starting to feel that there was not much point for them to stay, hence one by one they slipped away.

    Originally the scholar wearing blue cotton gown could not laugh, and now naturally he could not stay either.

    Suddenly in a loud voice Lu Xiaofeng said, “Jin Laoqi [lit. old Jin (gold) the seventh], other people may leave, you must not leave.”

    Who was Jin Laoqi? Nobody knew whom he was calling. Therefore, without exception, everybody was startled.

    When one is suddenly startled, one would definitely halt his step. Everybody was looking around at everybody else, they wanted to know whom this Lu Xiaofeng, a gentleman with grad reputation, was calling? Why did he call him?

    The scholar was no exception. Unfortunately, by now everybody was able to see that the person Lu Xiaofeng was calling was indeed himself.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were already fixed on him like nails, even he himself could feel it. Therefore, suppressing his emotion, he asked, “Lu Daxia [great hero], who do you call?”

    “I am not a great hero, just like you are not a scholar.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The one I called was precisely the only Jianghu character who can ‘trespass a thousand houses in one night, rob a hundred mansions in one day’, Jin Qiliang [lit. seven taels].”

    “I don’t know that man.”

    “You don’t know that man, but I do.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are Jin Qiliang, Jin Qiliang is precisely you.”

    [1] Reminder: Dahu of Sha Dahu’s name [see Chapter 3] means great family / rich family / large landlord.

    [2] Alias – courtesy or style name traditionally given to males aged 20 in dynastic China.

    [3] When translating Jin Yong’s Deer and Cauldron, I had the following note: I seem to remember reading about rich families in ancient China who had guests staying in their homes for an extended period of times. Interestingly, Bing Translator gives this definition: protégés of the powerful who stay with their benefactors like parasites.

  15. #95
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 – Seven taels of cotton, one sheet of mask.

    (One)

    The name Jin Qiliang was not without origin. Of course it was not his real name, but it was his nickname.

    Oftentimes people of Jianghu have nicknames. Original names may be dog fart and make no sense, but nicknames have to have a bit of justification.

    Lu Xiaofeng was neither little nor a phoenix [reminder: Xiao Feng means little phoenix], he did not even know what a phoenix or a phoenix’s wife [凰 – huang] look like, since has never seen them.

    Naturally Ximen Chuixue [reminder: chui xue means blowing snow] did not go around and blow snow either. The only thing Li Xunhuan [xun huan means searching happiness] could find was usually trouble. Li Huai [huai means bad/spoiled] was not bad at all. Between Hu Tiehua [tie hua means iron/metal flower] and a real metal flower, even using eight bamboo poles, one will not find the least bit of relationship.

    But Sha Dahu was Sha ‘Rich Family’ [see Chapter 4], Little Beggar was a little beggar, Wangbadan [lit. turtle egg, i.e. [email protected], s.o.b.] was definitely not a stinky fish.

    In that case, how did other people call Jin Qiliang seven taels of gold [see Chapter 4]?

    Jin Qiliang’s original name was Jin Mantang [‘fill the hall’, i.e. fullhouse, sell-out, jam-packed], if one is able to fill a large hall [tang] with a pile of gold [jin], that would be vey delightful.

    Too bad the gold in his house cannot fill even a chamber pot.

    Therefore, since he was little he learned martial art. His favorite was qinggong and technique to jump vertically upward.

    After his qinggong was trained well, he was able to jump to high places unhindered, taking other people’s belongings and their women as easy as picking stuff from his own pocket. It was more delightful than filling the hall with gold.

    Just because since childhood he had this kind of ‘grand ambition’, he trained his qinggong really well, so much so that people in Jianghu said that if Jin Mantang unleashed the full extent of his qinggong, he was able to land on the ground noiselessly, as light as flying cotton wadding, just like seven tael-cotton [1 tael is approx. 50 grams]. Hence other people called him Jin Qiliang.

    Staturewise, Jin Qiliang did not look tall or impressive, he look delicate, almost pretty, with white teeth and red lips, ever since he was little he attracted a lot of people’s affection. Otherwise, there would not be that many big robbers and ‘flying thief’ [burglar who gains entrance by scaling walls] taught him tricks and secrets of qinggong.

    How could this old scholar with yellow face and emaciated body be Jin Qiliang? Could it be that Lu Xiaofeng misidentified him?

    “I can’t possibly misidentified you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are wearing a human skin mask on your face, although it is not a bad craftmanship at all, at least it costs you several hundred taels of silver, but don’t you ever think that you could deceive me.” He walked over.

    The scholar stared at him, suddenly the old man sighed, “Lu Xiaofeng, I wonder, until today, you haven’t died yet. Could it be that you really won’t die forever?” Jin Qiliang was definitely a smart man.

    A smart man knew that if he could not deceive someone, he would not continue his deceit. He even took off the mask covering his face.

    “Lu Xiaofeng, you have the ability to recognize me; I have nothing to say.” Jin Qiliang said, “But you said that this human-skin mask cost me several hundred taels of silver, you are just a bit too far off.”

    “Oh?”

    Jin Qiliang gently caressed the cicada’s wing thin skin mask, as gentle and tender as an old man gently caressing a young woman.

    “This is a ‘Red Pavilion’ genuine article, I traded a Wu Daozi painting and a four-chi [approx. four feet] tall coral for this.” He said, “Those are at least worth several thousand taels.”

    “Really?”

    “Of course it’s real.”

    All four of Lu Xiaofeng’s eyebrows drooped down, he looked as if he was about to cry. “If you really traded in those two things for this mask of yours, you might as well hurry up and hang yourself.”

    “Why?” Jin Qiliang urgently asked, “Are you saying that this mask is a fake?”

    “If this mask is not a fake, I will go and hang myself.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “If in the evening you are wearing a Red Pavilion mask, I am afraid even the gods would find it difficult to recognize you.”

    Hongge [‘Red Pavilion’] was Zhu Ting’s alias. Zhu Ting was a very, very extraordinary person, and he was also an old friend of Lu Xiaofeng.

    I emphasized this matter, because it is a very important crucial point in this story.

    (Two)

    And now Jin Qiliang’s face also looked like he was about to cry. Being swindled sometimes feels like eating sh1t; since the sh1t has already entered the belly, how could he vomit it up?

    He wanted to cry, yet he could not cry, he wanted to throw up, yet he could not throw up, Jin Qiliang only felt his mouth dry and stinky.

    With a very sympathetic look Lu Xiaofeng stared at him, with a very warm hand he patted his shoulder, “Don’t be angry, and don’t feel sad either; as long as you are willing to tell me the truth, I will definitely get you a genuine ‘Hongge’.”

    “If you want me to tell you who that woman is, you are asking the wrong person,” Jin Qiliang said, “Practically I never look at women’s legs.”

    “I know you don’t!” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You always prefer to look at men.”

    The tone of his voice was not condescending at all. In some periods of history, men liked men and women like women was a very common occurrence. Especially in time of peace and prosperity, within the upper class of scholar officials society, this kind of matter was even more widespread.

    Jin Qiliang’s attitude suddenly changed. Hongge’s genuine article did not move his heart, but Lu Xiaofeng’s view on this matter has moved him, it took away his feeling of inferiority, while at the time awakened an unspeakable feeling in his heart that he had met an intimate friend.

    This kind of feeling was very difficult to conceal, naturally Lu Xiaofeng was able to see it right away; therefore, he immediately asked, “I believe you know this man Liu Chengfeng?”

    “I do.” Jin Qiliang said, “He came here last year, and he also died here.”

    “How did he die?”

    “He was stabbed to death in a dark alley.” Jin Qiliang’s expression suddenly became grim, “Just like when I stabbed Eighth Master Tian’s grandson to death in a dark alley, there was no reason behind it.”

    “Was it because you killed Young Master Tian that you fled to this place?”

    “After killing someone that I must not kill, my only option is to flee.” Jin Qiliang sadly said, “Fugitive’s days are not easy, inevitably there will be a day the avenger of blood will catch up with me.”

    “Why?”

    “After murdering a man, my heart is in turmoil, it’s hard to avoid leaving behind some trails.” Jin Qiliang said, “It doesn’t matter how high your qinggong is, it doesn’t matter how fast you can run, as long as there is a little bit of trail, others will be able to find you.”

    “The person who killed Liu Chengfeng, what kind of trail did he leave?”

    “He left a blade.” Jin Qiliang said, “A very unique blade.”

    In Jianghu people’s eyes, a blade is a blade, just like a man is a man. Any man can be killed, any blade can kill a man. Men use a blade, blade kills a man, a man is killed. Just like chicken produce eggs, eggs produce chicken, in turn chicken produce other eggs; it’s just natural. Just like one is one, two is two, three is three; it’s that simple.

    Jianghu’s logic was just as simple. If they say that a blade was very unique, that the blade must be very special indeed.

    Jin Qiliang was a hundred per cent Jianghu man. Since he said so, it was only natural that Lu Xiaofeng asked him, “What’s so special about the blade?”

    Jin Qiliang’s answer was very strange, his answer did not sound like something a Jianghu man would say. “Practically that blade is not a blade,” he said.

    Lu Xiaofeng was not deaf, his mind was also very clear; to this day, he had not even drunk a drop of wine. He heard every word of it, not a single word was missed.

    “Practically that blade is not a blade.” That was what Jin Qiliang had said.

    Jin Qiliang did not lie at all, that blade indeed could not be considered a ‘saber’ [reminder: in Chinese, the word ‘dao’ can be translated as blade, knife, dagger, single-edged sword, and saber], it was no more than a dagger. Not only the design was very intricate, undoubtedly the value was extremely high.

    The hilt was carved from a genuine elephant trunk, in the shape of a naked woman, the curves were exquisite, very vivid and lifelike. If you stare at her, her eyes seemed to stare back at you with desire, as if she was going to throw herself into your embrace.

    The color of ivory was as warm, as soft, and as smooth as the skin of a young woman. But if you lightly press her breasts, a dagger suddenly shot out of the hilt. The body of the blade seemed to gleam with a dark red color, similar to the color of blood when it is dry. There was no doubt whatsoever that every part of this dagger was the masterpiece of a very skilled artisan. Moreover, the age must be very old.

    Sha Dahu pulled this dagger out from a small cabinet in a secret compartment behind a bookshelf in his study room. He lightly tapped the mechanism, the dagger popped up, the tip flickered just like flashing blood.

    “This is the murder weapon used to assassinate Liu Daxia,” Sha Dahu said, “A sharp blade like this, naturally I wanted to keep it personally so that I won’t have any worry. At least this place of mine is a lot safer than a coffin shop.”

    He added, “I really do not wish for it to fall into other people’s hands, because all along I wanted to personally give it to you.”

    It was not a lie, and now it was done.

    Lu Xiaofeng held the ivory hilt in his hand. Suddenly he sighed, “It appears that you are a good person. At least you are much better than me.” He said to Sha Dahu, “If I were you, I won’t hand over this kind of weapon to other people.” He then laughed and went on, “If you knew the value and origin of this blade, probably you won’t hand it over to me either.”

    “Oh?”

    “This is an antique dagger! Its age is probably a lot older than my grandfather’s grandfather.”

    “I can see that.”

    “People have history, daggers do too.” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Can you see its origin?”

    “I can’t.”

    “This dagger shot out of the hilt, very few Central Earth’s master craftsmen are able to make this kind of weapon, and if it was not a master craftsman, nobody could refine such a sharp blade.” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Therefore, I can tell that it came from Persia.”

    “Persia?” Sha Dahu asked, “Don’t Persians use curved sabers?”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, “Isn’t this a saber?” [See my note on ‘dao’ above.]

    It was not a saber, it was no more than a dagger. Sha Dahu could only smile wryly.

    Why did this damn little bird love to make people pick a stone and smash their own foot?

    “I have spent some time in the sea, I knew a bunch of friends, who, as long as there is water around it, they have been to that place. The farthest place they have reached is the end of the earth.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I believe what they say, although these fellows are not good people, they are both vicious and fierce, bullies who don’t talk reasons, but they would never tell a lie to a friend.”

    These fellows were not pirates. Lu Xiaofeng did have some pirates as friends, but it should not come as a surprise. If his friends were all gentlemen, that should be surprising.

    “One of these people was an old skipper, so old that he did not even remember his own surname, given name, and his own age.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “This old fellow had this kind of dagger.”

    Naturally this old skipper was not a fishing boat captain, on the Persian seas, ships carrying imperial family’s flags were not uncommon; inevitably these ships would sometimes come across a pirate ship.

    Where did the old skipper get his dagger from? Probably it’s not hard to imagine.

    Even he himself did not deny, “These kinds of daggers are usually seen only in the imperial court.”

    (Three)

    In imperial courts, princes struggled for power, courtiers strived for favor, ministers defamed each other for advancement. Throughout all ages, every royal family could not escape such circumstances, regardless of geographic location, regardless of the country.

    In order to struggle for power, strive for favor, any method had been used; assassination, poisoning, and so on were common things.

    If a certain prince suddenly died, or a certain courtier suddenly went missing, immediately the ministers privy to this information would do everything in their power to suppress it, there must be absolutely no leak, the emperor must be prevented from knowing the inside story, there must be no scandal in the imperial household.

    If someone wanted to investigate, not only he would violate the biggest taboo, he would also provoke others’ wrath.

    In order to protect themselves, it was often a necessity to make the move first in dealing with other people. Most princes with power and high-ranking ministers employed some kind of strategic advisors, bodyguards and assassins by their sides.

    “However, it was only natural that weapons are prohibited in the imperial palaces; therefore, this kind of dagger that looks like a toy became the assassins’ weapon of choice,” the old skipper said.

    Naturally this kind of weapon was not easy to obtain. The skipper continued, “During the time when the situation in Persian royal court was most unstable, this kind of dagger could fetch price as high as five thousand five hundred taels of gold.”

    He also told Lu Xiaofeng, “In the slave market at that time, stunning blonde girls were the most expensive, yet at most they were only seven or eight taels of gold; if not a virgin, the value was reduced by half.”

    Five thousand taels of gold for one dagger; how could this kind of invaluable Persian antique appear in this kind of a remote and desolate place? Who owned it? In this kind of small town, who have such qualification? Who had such ability?

    In the Persian imperial court, how many people had this kind of qualifications?

    Only one kind of person had such qualifications. Only one kind of person was worthy enough to wield such sharp weapon.

    But which kind of person?

    Naturally, it was the kind of person who was able to use the dagger most effectively, one who could grasp the best timing, and one who once made his move would never fail.

    Such persons usually had personality traits and characteristics that other people could not imitate, or even learn to mimic, which differ from the fast blade ordinary people used to stab others in the marketplace.

    Because they usually move about in the imperial court.

    Hence, their manners were usually very elegant. People who were able cultivate this kind of manners, naturally had considerable scholarly knowledge, self-cultivation, and character. The people they were in contact with would certainly be people with exceptional aristocracy.

    Only this kind of assassin could move freely within the heavily guarded imperial family community. They were able to kill in a flash and got away imperceptibly.

    This kind of assassins was completely different to the Jianghu’s professional killers.

    Jianghu killers must have ordinary appearance, they must not have any characteristic that when people took a glance it would be hard to forget; they must not have any personality traits and individuality that stood out among the masses. Other people must simply forget that they existed.

    If you do not think that such people exist, how can you guard against them?

    On this matter, there was once a senior who made a famous remark, “If the one you want to kill was a tortoise, then you ought to become a tortoise first to succeed.”

    (Four)

    “Now we have this dagger, what we know it not a few.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “First, we know its worth is invaluable, plus it is an antique from Persian royal court; even in Persia I am afraid it is already very difficult to find, the number of people from the Central Earth who are able to obtain it can’t be too many.”

    Even with his extensive knowledge and vast network of friends, so far he had only seen two such daggers.

    “The person who can use it, his status must not be low, his martial art skill cannot be weak, plus the way he made his move must be very fast.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “If he did not have the confidence that with one strike he would hit his target, yet he still used it to kill people, that is practically the same as revealing this treasure to the world.”

    With an indifferent tone he asked Sha Dahu, “In your opinion: in here, who has enough qualifications to use this kind of weapon?”

    “In my opinion, in here there seems to be only one who has enough qualifications to use it.” With a bitter smile Sha Dahu said, “This person seems to be me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “What you say is not wrong, it seems to be so. It’s a pity that it’s nothing more than ‘seems to be’.”

    “Why?” Sha Dahu’s big boss temperament started to flare-up, “You think I don’t have enough qualifications?”

    “Speaking about using this dagger, your qualifications are certainly enough; I’ll say you can afford to buy it.” Lu Xiaofeng went on, “But speaking about using it to murder Liu Chengfeng in an instant, then I am sorry.”

    “What do you mean you are sorry?” Sha Dahu’s big boss temper was really aroused, “You don’t think I can do it?”

    “It’s not that you can’t do it, but nobody can.” Lu Xiaofeng’s voice was brimming with confidence, “In all the world, there is absolutely no one who could kill Liu Chengfeng head-on with one stab of a blade.”

    Big Boss Sha stared at him for a good part of half a day. Suddenly, quick as lightning he made his move, he seized the dagger in Lu Xiaofeng’s hand. Lu Xiaofeng was caught off guard. Sha Dahu roared in laughter, “Lu Xiaofeng, this time you are wrong, Liu Chengfeng was killed by me with this dagger. Do you believe me?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s countenance changed, as if he suddenly saw a morning glory flower sprouted out of the man’s nose.

    This kind of expression only made the big boss’ temper flare up even higher. Letting out an angry shout, he thrust the dagger in his hand like a lightning toward the pit of Lu Xiaofeng’s stomach.

    Of course his speed was a bit slower than real lightning, but considering the short distance he had to cover, it was an easy thing to do.

    Apparently Lu Xiaofeng did not expect this move either, it appeared that very soon the tip of the blade would enter his heart.

    Right this instant, suddenly two fingers appeared. Nobody could see clearly where these two fingers came from, it seemed that the fingers suddenly appeared directly from Lu Xiaofeng’s heart, and immediately stuck onto the blade.

    Another blink of an eye, the dagger already moved into Lu Xiaofeng’s hand.

    This time it was Big Boss Sha’s countenance that underwent a big change, and it was Lu Xiaofeng who roared in laughter.

    “Just now you asked me whether I believe that Liu Chengfeng was killed by you, and now I can give you the answer.”

    The answer was, “I don’t believe it.”

    “If you said that you can kill Liu Chengfeng with one stab of the blade, then when I blow my horn, I can also blow the horn in Persia.”

    Big Boss Sha stared at him for another half a day; originally he was so angry that his face turned purple, but suddenly he smiled, “Lu Xiaofeng, you are all right, I submit to you.”

    He went on, “Only in one thing I disagree with you.”

    “Which is?”

    “You said that there is no one in the world who could kill Liu Chengfeng head-on with one stab of a blade, yet Liu Chengfeng was obviously killed head-on with one stab of a blade.” Sha Dahu asked Lu Xiaofeng, “How do you explain that?”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even have to think to answer, “That was because the person who killed him was someone that he definitely never guarded against, a friend that was very close to him.”


    “I was also his friend.”

    “But you were not close enough to him.”

    “What kind of friend would you consider close enough to him?” Big Boss Sha asked.

    “Actually, you should also know that people who can make a man did not guard against the most are usually not his friends, usually are not men either.”

    “If not friends then what are they?”

    “A man’s lover, usually is not a man.”

    Big Boss Sha incredulously asked, “Are you saying that you think Liu Chengfeng had a secret lover in here?”

    Actually, his question did not need to be asked. As long as a man stays in one place for at least one night, there is good chance that he will have a secret lover. All men are just like that, Liu Chengfeng was not an exception.

    The question is: who was his lover? Was it the ‘anybody-could-fool-around-with’, the grocery store lady boss?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable in his heart; if he had thought about this early on, even if a saber was pressed against the major artery on the back and left of his neck, he would never touch a single strand of her hair.

    The Big Boss Sha unexpectedly also looked about the same as he did.

    -- Was it because he had also had some entanglement with that flirtatious lady boss?

    Thinking about it, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart became even more uncomfortable, because he had already discovered that his (male) cousin had gone far more than he has ever imagined. [Translator’s note: I don’t understand it either; could he be referring to Liu Chengfeng, i.e. Liu Chengfeng was actually his (maternal) cousin? I don’t think it was explained earlier.]

    Concerning Liu Chengfeng’s death, the clues that he unearthed were far less than he had expected.

    He had originally thought that he would find suspects here and there, and from each one he could hopefully trace the bits of clues back to the real killer.

    But the suspects were contradicting each other.

    When he arrived at this small town, the first one he saw was the Little Beggar. The Little Beggar’s surname was unclear, his given name was unclear, his martial art skill unclear, his appearance was sneaky, and had always been sneakily doing some sneaky things. He even sneaked into Lu Xiaofeng’s room and hid under Lu Xiaofeng’s bed, and it was unclear what he was looking for.

    He was first one Lu Xiaofeng saw when he entered this town, he was also the first one who found Liu Chengfeng’s dead body. Hence he would have been a major suspect; although he might not be the real killer, he ought to be an accomplice. Yet he ended up to be a direct disciple of the Beggar Clan, with which Lu Xiaofeng had a very close relation.

    Liu Chengfeng’s body was kept in a coffin shop. The murder weapon was also kept in the same coffin shop. How could he not consider the coffin shop owner as a suspect?

    But the murder weapon already disappeared, and his expression when others wanted to kill him to close his mouth did not look like he was the real killer.

    The lady boss looked like she wanted to hook up with everybody she met, anybody could fool around with her, but having affair are not the same as committing murder. Plus her legs were not that pair of legs.

    Wang Dayan [reminder: ‘da yan’ means ‘big eye’] was no more than a blind person with opened eyes, his wife was having affairs with other people yet he did not see anything. If somebody said that this man was able to kill Liu Chengfeng head on with one stab, now that would be strange indeed.

    Big Boss Sha had enough qualifications to kill Liu Chengfeng: he was wealthy, he knew martial art, and he had people who were willing to sell their lives for him, plus the murder weapon was also in his possession. Too bad he had a bit too much of big boss mentality.

    The most important thing was: these people were born and raised in this place; not only they had the slightest amount of gratitude and grudges with Liu Chengfeng, practically they did not have anything to do with him at all. They had neither a motive nor reason to kill him. It was unfortunate that Liu Chengfeng just died here.

    Who killed him? And why?

    Lu Xiaofeng knew that there must be a mysterious crucial point that no one was able to obtain. Hidden in one of the corners of the human mind.

    His rationale was not wrong.

    Too bad that his train of thought had reached a dead end.

    By the time he found this crucial point, he had already died.

    But how could Lu Xiaofeng die?

  16. #96
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 – The nest the fake big robber fled to

    (One)

    Spring came late. Although spring has arrived in Jiangnan, it was unclear when the spring would arrive in this place. But at least the earth has more or less shown the beginning of spring.

    From Sha Dahu’s mansion back to the Old Wang’s grocery store, was a long yellow sandy soil street. Due to the melting snow, the sandy soil became mud. People walking on mud, each step meant a foot full of mud.

    Naturally this feeling was very unpleasant.

    Lu Xiaofeng was unwilling to show off his qinggong. He really wished to have a taste of this somewhat desolate, barren spring scenery. The cool and crisp air would be helpful to his thinking.

    Very quickly he found a way to get the best of both worlds.

    He looked for two rather coarse twigs, and using a dagger, he turned the twigs onto some kind of short walking sticks, which he fastened onto his feet and used the sticks as stilts. Hence he was able to walk happily on the mud.

    It was the first time he used the dagger.

    Right now it must have been around noon [orig. ‘wu’ hour, between 11am-1pm]. The breeze blowing his body seemed a little warm. Although he had so many questions in his heart that he did not have the answer, he still felt very comfortable.

    He was not the kind of person who held on to worldly riches. Not at all. He never bothered to hold on to it.

    He often said, “Worries are just like wealth, it is best to scatter them as soon as possible.”

    (Two)

    A gust of wind blew, the row of stumps by the street had not sprouted any new leaves, the vegetation was still bare.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not stop to look at all, he simply called out, “Jin Qiliang.”

    “Lu Xiaofeng.”

    Perched atop a barren tree, Jin Qiliang did indeed look like seven taels of cotton [See Chapter 5 for explanation on Jin Qiliang’s name].

    He looked down on Lu Xiaofeng and giggled, “Actually, I shouldn’t call you ‘Lu Xiaofeng’, you don’t look like a bird at all.” [Reminder: ‘xiao feng’ means ‘little phoenix’.]

    “You look like a little chicken,” Jin Qiliang said.

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. He agreed that the pair of wooden sticks under his feet looked very much like chicken feet.

    “Jin Qiliang, what are you doing here? Are you running after me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked with a laugh.

    “If I want to run after something, I would have run after a hen; why would I want to run after a little rooster like you?” Jin Qiliang said, “I can’t help it, I was forced to run.”

    “Who forced you?”

    “People can’t force me, only temper can force me to leave.”

    “Whose temper?”

    “Of course it’s the Big Boss’.” Jin Qiliang said, “Only Big Boss’ temper can force people.”

    “The Big Boss is mad?”

    “Not only is he mad, he is extremely furious.”

    “What made him mad?”

    “Of course he is mad at you.” Jin Qiliang said, “He has already taken care of the kitchen, wine and dishes are prepared well, yet you absolutely refused to stay and eat with him. If you were him, wouldn’t you be mad as well?”

    “I won’t be mad,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not only I won’t be mad, I would jump in joy instead.”

    “In joy?”

    “I did not stay in his place to eat, his wine would be saved a bit, his dish would also be saved a bit; why wouldn’t I jump in joy? Why would I be angry?”

    Jin Qiliang let out a bitter laugh, “Probably because you are not him that you can say such things. That Big Boss of ours is someone who values his face more than his life. Since Lu Xiaofeng has already entered his territory, yet was not willing to eat a bowl of rice at his place, to him, it was practically an extraordinary shame and humiliation, it was practically worse than stealing away his wife. Therefore, I could not swallow my rice either.”

    “Therefore, you had no choice but to sneak out and look for me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Are you thinking of asking me to treat you for lunch?”

    Jin Qiliang laughed, “Originally I was thinking of treating you, but since you insist, I cannot not give you any face.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed, “Originally I was seriously thinking of treating you; too bad there is not a single restaurant in this place, even if I wanted to treat you, I can do nothing.”

    “There is a way,” Jin Qiliang quickly said, “As long as you are willing to pay, I have a way. If I can’t even spend other people’s money, then my name is not Jin Qiliang, but Jin Tugou [lit. dirt dog, a mole cricket/ Gryllotalpa].”

    He did have a way. By handing over ten taels of silver to Wang Dayan, in less than two hours wine and dishes were set up on the table in Lu Xiaofeng’s room.

    (Three)

    Although there was nothing special with the wine, but the dishes were done very well, especially the simmer-fried chicken, the chicken was cooked very fresh, tender and tasty. Even Lu Xiaofeng, who was usually very picky with his food, was very satisfied, “I did not expect the lady boss actually has such a good culinary skill.”

    “This is not the lady boss’ handiwork, it’s Boss Wang’s handiwork.”

    With a warm, yet mysterious expression Jin Qiliang looked at Lu Xiaofeng, “What’s more, he seems to eat anything.”

    Lu Xiaofeng had his eyes fixed on the chicken.

    Jin Qiliang looked at him. At first he seemed to be nearly smiling, but in the end he sighed deliberately and said, “When others stole one egg in his shop, he could see it clearly, but when others stole his wife, he did not even notice.” Jin Qiliang went on, “Do you know that there is a very popular old joke in this town?”

    Although Lu Xiaofeng really wished that he was deaf at the moment, he could not ignore him, “What joke?”

    “Zhao Xiazi [lit. blind, see Chapter 3] has a pair of shifty eyes that can see everything, Wang Dayan [again, see Chapter 3] has a blind open-wide eye.”

    Jin Qiliang deliberately laughed aloud again, as if he had just told the funniest joke on earth. Too bad before he could laugh too long, he already had to stop laughing. Because Lu Xiaofeng stuffed his mouth with a piece of chicken drumstick.

    Whenever lady boss was mentioned, Lu Xiaofeng immediately wished to change the subject; to his dismay, however, this time the one changing the subject was not him, but Jin Qiliang.

    “Lu Xiaofeng, let me be honest with you, although the number of times we met is not many, but I always regard you as my friend,” Jin Qiliang said, “Even if you don’t consider me as a friend, I still consider you as my friend.”

    His drinking capacity did not seem to be too big, after drinking a few cups, he already appeared a bit tipsy.

    “I know you must be wondering, you feel strange that I would flee to this place,” Jin Qiliang said, “The world is big, I, Jin Qiliang can go to any place, anywhere I go, people would treat me as honored guest, would regard me as a wealthy man; why would I want to come over here to take shelter under that arrogant and conceited alive mole cricket who would rather die than lose face?”

    Several cups of wine entered his tummy, a burst of heroic spirit arose in his breast; all of a sudden the Big Boss became ‘alive mole cricket’. Lu Xiaofeng had heard about it many times before, Lu Xiaofeng had seen things like this too many times before.

    However, the question Jin Qiliang had just asked him, even if he did not want to comment, he had to ask, “So why did you come here?”

    “Because of a snake, a viper that is a hundred times more poisonous than scarlet-line serpent,” Jin Qiliang replied.

    Obviously this snake was not a real snake, because there is simply no snake in the world that is a hundred times more poisonous than scarlet-line snake; therefore, Lu Xiaofeng immediately thought of something, “The snake you are talking about, most probably is not a real snake, but a person.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The person you are talking about, most probably is the Snake Cavalier.”

    (Four)

    Snake Cavalier should not be young anymore, twenty-five years ago, seven southern and sixty-three northern provinces’ escort agency alliance’s Head Escort ‘Steady As Mount Tai’ Kong Taishan already issued a call to the wulin world to hunt and capture him, more than that, to kill him at all cost.

    This matter was widely known around Jianghu. What they did not know was: why was Old Chief Kong so angry toward a young man who had just made his debut?

    But people believed that someone like Old Chief Kong would not take any action without a strong reason. Anybody who managed to reach the ‘Old Chief’ position like him would not do anything without any strong reason. If he wanted to kill Snake Cavalier, it must be that Snake Cavalier really deserved to die.

    “Not only this person is most venomous than snakes, he is even more slippery than snakes. I have been trying to track him down for seven, eight months, until finally I learned that he appeared on this road.” Jin Qiliang said, “I also heard that this place is Big Boss Sha’s territory, as long as it is a friend who has a bit of name in Jianghu, as long as he came here, it did not matter how big the criminal case against him, Big Boss Sha would definitely offer shelter.”

    “Hence you deduced that that snake must be hiding is Sha Dahu’s place to seek refuge from the enemy.”

    “Anybody would think the same thing.” Jin Qiliang said, “You must also be thinking that those two people, one man, one woman, must be fugitives who seek shelter under Big Boss Sha’s roof.”

    “That’s right.”

    “But you are wrong.”

    Lu Xiaofeng immediately asked, “How did you know I was wrong? How did you know that the people I am looking for are not fugitives in that place?”

    “Because they really believe that I killed Little Tian, they all believe that Eighth Grand Master Tian absolutely wanted my life; therefore, they did not conceal anything from me.” Jin Qiliang said, “They already consider me as one of them, nobody has any idea that it is just a front.”

    “The one you want to kill is a [email protected], so you have to become a [email protected] first. You want to sneak into a pile of turtles to pry into their secret, naturally you have to become a turtle first.”

    “Big Boss Sha has always loved to be told about other people’s deepest secret, in his house he shelters a number of big robbers, fugitives of the Jianghu, occasionally he would pretend to be careless and leak out several names.” Jin Qiliang said, “The names he mentioned are indeed sensational.”

    He continued, “Watching the reaction of other people when he mentioned those names, Big Boss Sha always feels very happy.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “To be able to provide shelter to those big caliber criminals with impressive reputation in his house, it is indeed a serious matter.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not only he himself gets a kick out of it, other people would also feel that he has a serious face.”

    Jin Qiliang sighed, “Big bosses always want a lot of face, it’s just that this Big Boss Sha’s craving for a face is a bit excessive.”

    “How excessive?”

    “The way he wants a face is almost as if he has no face.”

    “Why?”

    “Because those big caliber criminals he is harboring are all fake goods.” Jin Qiliang said, “Those people knew the Big Boss’ temper, therefore, they adapt to his taste. Some claimed they have run amuck around such-and-such places around Huai River, some said they killed people like scything flax under so-and-so’s banner.”

    “And the truth is?”

    With a wry smile Jin Qiliang said, “The truth is that they all are no more than some third-rate small-time thieves; not only there is no character of the Snake Cavalier’s caliber, basically there is no one with crime worth mentioning at all.” And then he asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Among those small sons of a b1tch who talk nonsense and eat and drink indolently, how could there be the persons you are looking for?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

    Hearing this kind of matters, of course he found it to be funny, yet right now he could not even laugh.

    These fugitives were originally his biggest suspects, as well as his most important clue; but now it was broken.

    The killer who murdered lcf seemed to have completely disappeared, so much so that they did not seem to exist at all.

    Evidently Jin Qiliang understood his mood very well; he picked up the cup and downed the wine first, “Lu Xiaofeng, you don’t have to feel bad. Speaking about feeling bad, I feel worse than you do.” He poured a cup for Lu Xiaofeng, “We seem to be in the same boat, this time we tool a wasted trip; we’d better go home together now!”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed, “This place is so fun, how could I bear to leave?”

    This time it was Jin Qiliang’s turn to be dumbstruck. “You said this place is fun?”

    “Of course it is fun.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It is very fun.”

    He did not lie. The more dangerous the situation, the more fun it was for him. The more unexplainable the problem, the more interesting it was to Lu Xiaofeng.

    It was Lu Xiaofeng’s usual style.

    But when he said those words, perhaps even in his dream he would not expect that very soon he would die in that place.

    By this time, however, Lu Xiaofeng did not know that he would die, and he had not given up all hope either.

    “Other than those bunch of fake big bandits, others are born and bred in this place?”

    “Seems like it.” Jin Qiliang thought for a moment before adding, “I think only one person is not.”

    “Who? Who is not?”

    “Gong Susu.”

    This was the first time Lu Xiaofeng heard this name. The name was clearly a very noble, elegant and beautiful name, it can definitely arouse men’s interest, anybody would not associate this name with a lady who sells pork at the market. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng immediately asked, “What kind of person is she?”

    “She is a woman whose elegant demeanor is extraordinarily well, her scholarly knowledge is also unusually good, her view is distinct, her style of conversation is also very graceful. Not only that, she lacks none of the four arts of the Chinese Scholar [i.e. zither, Go, calligraphy, painting].” Jin Qiliang deliberately sighed, “Only in one area she is lacking.”

    “Which area?” Lu Xiaofeng eagerly asked.

    “She likes to drink,” Jin Qiliang slowly and deliberately said, “There was one time I saw it with my own eyes, during meal she drank a whole jar of white wine. Finished drinking, her face did not even change color.”

    Lowering his voice, he continued spoke to Lu Xiaofeng very mysteriously, “If you ask me, someone like her, why would she want to live in this kind of place?” Jin Qiliang went on, “Well, I’ll tell you, she did not come here on her own account, rather, she can’t leave even if she wanted to.”

    “Why?”

    Jin Qiliang lowered his voice even more, “Because she was originally a beloved concubine of a prince of the reigning royal family; because she committed a crime, offending the Prince, she was banished to this place.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s four eyebrows started to droop. He sighed and said, “I know it, I know you are trying to harm me.”

    “I’m harming you?” Jin Qiliang appeared to be deeply hurt, “How could I harm you?”

    “You obviously know that when I found out that there is such woman in this place, if I don’t see her, I won’t be able to sleep well tonight.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “And now, what do you want me to do?”

    “What to do? It’s very easy.” Jin Qiliang said, “You want to see her, I’ll take you there. Not only that, I’ll ask her to invite you for a drink.”

    When they left the grocery store, the lady boss’ countenance looked like a piece of iron panel, she looked at Lu Xiaofeng with cold eyes, as if she wished to strangle him right then and there.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not even look at her.

  17. #97
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7 – Fairy of the Ninth Heaven descending to mundane world

    (One)

    Bamboo fence, a gate made of twigs, half a courtyard of plum blossom. Looking past the bamboo and plum blossom, Lu Xiaofeng could vaguely see three or two pomegranate wood buildings.

    In his imagination, even though an imperial concubine has fallen from grace, her residence ought to be a lot more lordly from this place.

    Evidently this prince’s concubine was not someone who paid particular attention to show of extravagance, unlike that Big Boss Sha who valued face more than his life. As long as she could pass her days in peace and comfort, she was perfectly contended.

    Therefore, before Lu Xiaofeng even saw her, he already had an extremely favorable impression on her.

    An exiled prince’s concubine, a plum-blossom-like body with flesh of ice and bones of jade, a past that no one knew about, unforgetable old dreams flowed in her bosom; how mysterious, how romantic.

    Even though Lu Xiaofeng was not drunk, he seemed to be drunk. All along Jin Qiliang paid a close attention to his expression; he suddenly sighed. “Now I realize that I should not have brought you here,” Jin Qiliang said.

    “Why?”

    “I am really afraid that as soon as you see her, you’ll forget your manners.” Jin Qiliang said, “In front of someone like her, you need to say only one wrong word for someone to die.”

    Lu Xiaofeng patted his shoulder, “Don’t worry, what kind of person have I not seen?”

    Yet Jin Qiliang was not convinced, he still sighed, “I know that you have met not a few people, all kinds and sorts of people you have seen. It’s a pity that the one you are about to see is practically not a person.”

    “Not a person? Then what is she?”

    “A fairy of the ninth heaven being banished down into the mundane world.”

    (Two)

    There was a string of bells hanging on the underside of the eaves above the door. The bells have been rung for a long time before someone came out to answer the door.

    The one answering the door was not a boy, but an old woman, the entire hair on her head was white, in fact, her entire body has withered, the number of teeth remaining inside her mouth was at most only three or five. Yet Jin Qiliang spoke to her in a very respectful manner, “Popo [grandma], I am surnamed Jin, I have been here before, I am sure you still remember me. Last time it was also you who opened the door for me.”

    The old woman looked at him with squinted eyes; it was not clear whether she still remembered this kind of man, it was not clear either whether she even heard what he said, so much so that perhaps she did not even see this man.

    But Jin Qiliang acted like he was very familiar with the old granny; pulling Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder he said to her, “This is my friend, his name is Lu Xiaofeng; I am taking him here to see your gongzhu [imperial empress/milady, see Book 6 Chapter 9 for more on ‘gong zhu’].”

    Jin Qiliang said, “I am sorry to trouble you, please tell your Gongzhu that she must invite him for a nice dinner, and some nice cups of wine.”

    The old lady who answered the door was still looking at him with a bewildered, totally-lost expression, yet Jin Qiliang acted as if he had accomplished great success. He actually said to Lu Xiaofeng, “Lu Xiaofeng, you must take a good care of yourself, pay attention to everything, I am sure we’ll meet again someday.”

    It was as if someone had just whipped Lu Xiaofeng on the buttocks with a chain; his entire body seemed to stiffen and was about to jump. “You mean, you are leaving now?” he asked Jin Qiliang.

    “That’s right.”

    “How can you go now?”

    “Why can’t I go now?” In a right and self-confident manners Jin Qiliang said, “You wanted to see Gong Susu, and now I have brought you here. Not only that, I have asked her to invite you for a dinner, for a drink.”

    He went on, “I have done everything I promised you; if I don’t go now, what am I waiting for?” He said he would go, and indeed he left; not only that, he left very quickly.

    With a bitter expression and squinted eyes the old lady was still standing at the door, she did not show the least bit of sign that she was going to let Lu Xiaofeng in.

    If the one blocking the door was an eight-feet tall, intimidating and powerful looking burly man, Lu Xiaofeng had at least eight hundred ways of how to deal with him; but toward an old lady, whose teeth were about to fall off completely, Lu Xiaofeng could not think of even one way to deal with her.

    The old woman seemed to be determined not to let Lu Xiaofeng in. It’s not that she did not hear Jin Qiliang, it’s just that she considered everything he said dog fart.

    Lu Xiaofeng understood this fact.

    In this kind of situation, any sensitive or tactful person would just leave. It’s not that Lu Xiaofeng was not sensitive or tactful, rather, he was a man who would not stop until he reached the Yellow River [idiom: persevere until reaching one’s goal].

    Moreover, he always considered himself as an expert in dealing with women. When women saw him, they would become like Zhu Bajie [pig-like character in Journey to the West] eating ginseng, became muddleheaded that they could not distinguish east, west, north and south. Women from the age of eight to eighty were just the same.

    Right now he raised his own spirit, ready to deal with this old woman, and he had high confidence in his heart.

    Dealing with an old woman, it would be best to consider her to be a little girl. Precisely like when you are facing a little girl, never say that she has not grown up yet.

    Naturally he had already thought about a plausible story to tell. But suddenly he discovered that there was another person standing at the end of the garden path, staring at him with fiery eyes.

    It was a woman, her age probably twenty-six or twenty-seven years. According to the norm at that time, she could not be considered a young woman anymore, the distance between her current age with the criteria of youthfulness of jade-maiden was already too far.

    But Lu Xiaofeng was convinced that when the woman was fifteen, sixteen years old, nobody would possibly consider her because of her character and mean demeanor; her face always carried an expression as if everybody in the world owed her money and did not pay.

    In all his life this kind of women was what Lu Xiaofeng fear the most; just at the sight of them was enough to make him wanted to fight.

    The woman was bent on staring at him; she looked at him from head to toe, from toe back to his head. Her pair of black and bright eyes looked like two charcoal briquettes that have just been scooped out from an icehouse.

    “Hey, you, what are you doing here?” she asked Lu Xiaofeng. Unexpectedly she spoke with a Beijing accent, it was very pleasant to the ears.

    Being stared at by her, Lu Xiaofeng already wanted to explode, yet he could not not answering her, “I came especially to pay my respect to Gongzhu, I have a friend who told me that Gongzhu will definitely see me.”

    “What kind of ‘thing’ is that friend of yours? And what kind of ‘thing’ are you? What made you think that you have a right to barge in here?”

    “I am not a ‘thing’, I am a man.” Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “I already told people this I don’t know how many times, why do people always fail to see this point?”

    “Fortunately, I have already seen it.”

    “You saw what?”

    “I saw that you are basically not a ‘thing’, therefore, you’d better hurry up and go away, lest I get angry.”

    “I was going to go away. If you are Gongzhu, I would have gone away.” Lu Xiaofeng flashed a very pleasant smile, “Fortunately, I have already seen it.”

    “You saw what?”

    “I saw that you are not Gongzhu.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “On your whole body, from top to bottom, there is not the least bit of Gongzhu quality at all.”

    The woman’s wooden, stiff face was unexpectedly now aglow with anger, her eyes shot fire, as if the charcoal briquette have been lit.

    Yet Lu Xiaofeng was still trying to annoy her more.

    “Actually, I don’t blame you at all, although all along you have been shouting and yelling at me, throwing tantrums at me, I can still forgive you.” Indeed Lu Xiaofeng’s voice seemed to be brimming with sympathy and understanding, “Because I know that if a woman your age has not yet married, the anger inside will be inevitably big.”

    If Lu Xiaofeng’s reaction was a bit slower, those words would be the very last words he said in his life.

    A split second more, a short dagger, one-chi three-cun long [about 15”/40cm], would have pierced his heart.

    This dagger came very fast, it was even faster than Lu Xiaofeng could ever imagined.

    The woman whom Lu Xiaofeng provoked to half-dead was originally standing on the flower path more than a zhang away [1 zhang is about 10ft/3m], but suddenly she had arrived in front of Lu Xiaofeng, and a dagger suddenly appeared in her hand, with the tip of the dagger suddenly arrived in front of the pit of Lu Xiaofeng’s stomach.

    The way she moved the blade was not only fast, but strange as well; the way she positioned the blade was also very unusual, very weird.

    Actually, very few people ever evaded this blade. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng did not even try to evade. He simply stretched out his two fingers and gently nipped the blade.

    After all, what kind of fingers were Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers? Weren’t the fingers blessed by deities and spirits in heaven, and cursed by demons? Wasn’t there some sort of unfathomable magical power on those fingers?

    No one knew.

    But everybody in Jianghu knew that these two fingers worth ten times the value of diamond of the same size as the fingers. It was said that once someone was willing to spend five-hundred-thousand taels to buy these two fingers.

    Because he only needed to stretch these two fingers and pinched lightly, absolutely nothing in the world that they could not clamp; even a lightning fast blade was no exception, it was clamped by these two fingers.

    It was said that these two fingers had completely interlinked with his heart and mind. Nobody knew how many killer weapons in the hands of wulin experts had been caught, nobody knew how many times these two fingers had saved his life.

    This time was no different. Naturally the blade was also caught.

    The woman wielding the dagger plainly saw that the blade was about to enter Lu Xiaofeng’s heart. She had always had high confidence in her skill and speed in using the blade, and originally this blade was not supposed to miss.

    Yet the fact was that the blade did not pierce its target, and could not be pulled back either. It was as if it suddenly pierced a piece of rock, and was suddenly got stuck inside.

    And then her face paled.

    In all her life she had never imagined that her blade would be caught by just two fingers, not only that, it happened only in an instant.

    This kind of thing would never have happened.

    She exerted her strength to pull the dagger out, but she could not. She exerted her strength to push it forward, yet it did not move even one tiny bit. Practically her blade seemed to grow roots in Lu Xiaofeng’s fingers.

    She raised her left foot to kick. When she kicked, her shoulder did not move, her eyes did not blink. Her kick did not give any warning at all; surprisingly, the kick she was using was the extremely-difficult-to-train ‘shadowless kick’. Therefore, her kick immediately went toward Lu Xiaofeng’s hand.

    Her feet were natural, they were not bound. The shoes she was wearing were embroidered satin that was as soft and as light as skin. When caught inside Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, it felt just like a bare foot. Therefore, her pale face suddenly blushed pink, even her breathing seemed to be a little bit shorter but faster.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt that she was not as ugly nor annoying as a moment ago, so much so that he started to feel that she was a bit alluring, a bit touching.

    But the tone of her voice was still as harsh, “What are you doing?” she asked Lu Xiaofeng.

    “I am not doing anything.”

    “Why did you catch my foot?”

    “Because you were kicking me.”

    “Let me go.”

    “I can’t.”

    “Why?”

    “Because I don’t want to be kicked to death by you.”

    The toothless old lady has been standing on the side, watching them with a wide grin on her face, as if she was watching an opera. At first Lu Xiaofeng thought that she was a mute; unexpectedly now she smiled wide and asked, “You can’t let her foot go, are you going to hold her foot in your hand like that for the rest of your life?”

    The pink face blushed deeper red now, the heart was beating even faster, the situation did not look too good.

    Right this moment, suddenly from the small house deep inside the flowers and trees came a voice, “Gong Ping, don’t fool around in front of Lu Gongzi [young master], quickly invite him in!”

    Not only the voice was noble and graceful, it was also gentle, soft and sweet; what kind of person had such voice? One could only imagine.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s face seemed to blush a little as well. Under any circumstances, holding a young woman’s foot in his hand was definitely not something that a gentleman would do.

    Yet the toothless old lady plainly took this exact moment to speak to him, still with a wide smile on her face, “Young man, if I were you, I would never let her go. I guarantee that as soon as you let go, your belly will be kicked.”

    Lu Xiaofeng still loosened his grip.

    To him, being kicked in the stomach was not a big deal, even if he was kicked seven, eight times, he would not die, but if he was being despised by a noble, beautiful, and a wine lover woman, he could really die.

    The old woman looked at him, she laughed that the wrinkles on the corner of her eyes grew even deeper, “Lu Xiaofeng, you are indeed not a ‘thing’, now even I, an old woman, who is not only old, but my eyes are almost blind, can see that.”

    Not only Gong Ping did not lift her leg to kick Lu Xiaofeng’s abdomen, it seemed that she did not even dare to look up. With her head down she walked away, leading him along the flowery path.

    Lu Xiaofeng followed behind her.

    There are two types of women in the world. The first type walks like a coffin on the move. The other type walks with their waists swaying like fresh, beautiful flower in the wind.

    Gong Ping belonged to the second type, but she deliberately trying to control herself, intentionally putting up a very rigid appearance, never letting her body parts below the waist to sway the least bit, never letting the person walking behind her to see any movement.

    Too bad no matter how hard one tries, one’s posture is very difficult to conceal; no matter what, one simply cannot turn a coffin into a flower, and vice versa, no one can change a flower into a coffin.

    Walking behind her, Lu Xiaofeng was extremely delighted. Ever since he came to this small town, which even bird did not lay eggs, his mood has never been better.

    But by the time he saw Gong Susu, he felt more unbearable than if his stomach was being kicked.

    There was neither flower nor burning incense inside the room, but there was a distinct smell of fragrance similar to the newly sawed wood deep in the mountains, clean and fresh. A woman wearing violet robe was standing with her back to the door. She stood in front of the painting ‘Ferocious Hunting in The Fall’.

    Drawn in the picture was a king, riding on a white tall steed, with a bow in his hand and arrows in the quiver, a hawk perched on his shoulder, while his entourage followed behind him, shouting and cheering, and the hunting dogs jumping and howling by the horse.

    A clear and boundless sky, blue sky, crisp autumn weather, the king was high-spirited and vigorous, the painting looked alive on paper.

    But the one looking at the painting was as thin as paper. Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly.

    Naturally he had already guessed who the king on the painting was, and the one looking at the painting was, of course, the Gong Susu that he wholeheartedly wanted to see.

    Those two people, one in the painting, one in a dream. Dreams are like smoke, lingering from the past, passion and enmity intertwined, love and hate intersect; even if the one in the painting could forget, how could the one looking at the painting deal with it?

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt that perhaps he should not have barged in on her at this kind of time, yet he could not bear not to see her just for a quick glance.

    This feeling made him really wanted to give himself a couple of heavy slaps on the face.

    When she turned around, Lu Xiaofeng only had one kind of feeling. He felt that he was a complete fool.

    This imperial lady was definitely not the person he was looking for.

    Although her hair was still jet-black and shiny, although her body was well-maintained, her facial features were also still as noble and graceful as before, but her prime years had passed long ago.

    Based on her age, she was old enough to be Lu Xiaofeng’s mother.

    A woman like her, nobody would ever associate her with a murder case.

    Like a confused man, Lu Xiaofeng has blindly come to this place, furthermore, he insisted on seeing her, as if he would die if he did not see her.

    But now Lu Xiaofeng did not even have the courage to take a glance toward her.

    Yet Gong Susu was looking at him. With some kind of extraordinary elegance she smiled and said, “Lu Gongzi, we have never met before, we have not had any dealings with each other either, yet you insist on seeing me; is there any particular reason?”

    “There isn’t,” Lu Xiaofeng hurriedly replied, “Not the least bit of reason.”

    “Why did you insist on seeing me then?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only laugh wryly. Naturally he could not tell her that ‘a friend’ has swindled him to come; he could not tell her even more that he was here to investigate a murder case, that he was following a clue. Sometimes he could not even tell a lie.

    He could only stand there with a foolish look on his face; just like a child that has just been caught doing something wrong by his teacher.

    Suddenly Gong Susu’s eyes were brimming with sympathy and understanding. “I understand your feeling. Right now you must be very disappointed in your heart, because you have never expected that I am this old.” Her laughter was extremely gentle and warm, “Women who are old are like wine that have been kept in the dark for a long time; Lu Gongzi can’t possibly interested in it.”

    Now Lu Xiaofeng really wished he could dig a hole and crawl into it, or perhaps find a place where there is no one else, and then crash his own head against the wall. If Jin Qiliang were around right now, he would definitely strung him with a very long rope, and hang him till he was dead.

    Gong Susu laughed again and said, “It’s just that Lu Gongzi’s illustrious name, I have long looked forward to meeting you. Since you are already here, I must ask you to stay and have a cup of wine.” She said, “But I also know that this cup of wine, you would drink it with very much difficulty.”

    She was a woman who understood men very well, plus she was very gentle. This kind of women was not too many then, and now it is getting less and less.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly raised his head to look straight at her; with much difficulty he said, “I really want to say a few words, but I am not sure if I should say it.”

    “Speak.”

    “No matter how old you are, you are the most gentle and the most lovely women that I have ever treasured in my life.” Lu Xiaofeng looked at her eyes, “I am telling you the truth, I don’t know if you believe me or not.”

    “I certainly believe you,” Gong Susu said. Suddenly she smiled sweetly, “Even if you said those words just to please me, I would rather believe it as the truth.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. With this laughter he reverted back to his unique, pleasant and bright personality. “I also hope that what Gongzhu said just now is also the truth; you really wanted me to stay and have a cup of wine.”

    “If it is the truth?”

    “Then I wish that Gongzhu will not give me just a cup of wine.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “To be able to drink wine with such a beautiful woman like Gongzhu, I want to at least drink three, five hundred cups.”

    On Gong Susu’s smiling face suddenly appeared a young-girl-like blush, even her eyes seemed to be brightened. “No wonder people say that Lu Xiaofeng is a lovely man, even an old woman like me is also fond of you, much less those young misses.”

    Drinking wine was undoubtedly a delight, therefore, since time immemorial, there are always people who drink wine, moreover, the number of those who drink is not necessarily less than those who don’t.

    People who drink can also be divided into two groups. The first group will be drunk as soon as they drink, once they are drunk they will vomit, speak mouthful of nonsense, crawl on the ground, run wildly around the house naked, so much so that they might set the house on fire; anything can happen.

    Some people are not easy to get drunk, or even if they are drunk, others are not able to see it. No matter how much they drink, not only they do not throw up, make noise or go wild, their faces do not even change. Sometimes after drinking a bit of wine, they are much more clear-headed than people who don’t drink; even their reaction becomes much faster than usual.

    Lu Xiaofeng was such a person.

    He himself did not deny that when he first came here, his brains was a bit not too clear.

    An invaluable Persian dagger, a bewildering murder case, plus a banished imperial lady very full with romantic fantasy. His head seemed to be stuffed full of confusing, mixed up matters. It was not until he downed seven, eight cups of zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaf (wine)] in one go that he felt that all these confusing things were flushed clean.

    His mind suddenly became clear again. Something that he did not notice a while ago, suddenly reappeared on his mind, and also suddenly became very important to him.

    First of all, he recalled Gong Ping’s feet and legs. When he grabbed her foot, he could feel the firmness of her leg, the strength and elasticity of her flesh and muscles. At that time he should have thought about the pair of long and firm legs underneath the purple long skirt. At that time he should have thought about trying to look at Gong Ping’s legs.

    The first time he met a woman, he should have looked at her legs; although he would be going a bit too far, for the sake of a good friend’s death, going a bit too far is excusable.

    Next, Lu Xiaofeng thought about Gong Susu’s voice. Her voice was gentle and graceful. Only an extremely educated lady of a prestigious family could be so touching.

    The first time Lu Xiaofeng heard her voice, he was still on the flower path in the courtyard, but her voice came from the wooden cabin, “Gong Ping, don’t fool around in front of Lu Gongzi, quickly invite him in.”

    At that time they have not met, how did she know that the visitor outside was Lu Xiaofeng?

    The little cabin was some distance away from the flower garden, the gentle, soft and sweet voice was definitely not a shout or scream. She spoke gently, yet from far away Lu Xiaofeng was able to hear every single word very clearly, as if the speaker was right next to him.

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that it was not a case of friend of a friend swindled him to come here, there was totally no reason behind it.

    Sometimes, although drinking a bit of wine can make people become more clear-headed and keen, unfortunately, this time it was not so much.

    Drinking till this time, one is usually not too far away from being drunk. Sometimes one would feel that he is as sober as Han Xin[1], who was able to move his troops like deity, whose prediction of enemy’s movement never missed; but then suddenly one would feel so drunk that he did not even know what nonsense he was talking about.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s condition was like that.

    All this time Gong Ping stayed by Gong Susu’s side, to wait upon her. All along Lu Xiaofeng was staring at her legs. Noticing his gaze, Gong Ping was so angry that her face paled, but like a leering thief Lu Xiaofeng was still staring at her, and he was giggling at her.

    “Miss Ping, I bet you look better wearing skirt than wearing trousers, and if you don’t wear any skirt at all, I bet you will look even better.”

    What kind of bulls1t was it?

    Gong Ping suddenly made her move. From the ribbon wrapped around her waist she suddenly pulled a blade forged from best quality Myanmar steel. Stirring the air around it, the blade vibrated into a random pattern, and was thrust into Lu Xiaofeng’s eye.

    A lot of people actually thought that Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes should be blinded.

    If he were blind, there would be no way he could use his two demon-possessed fingers to clamp other people’s weapon.

    If he were blind, a lot of other people’s secrets would be safe, because he would not be able to see a lot of things that other people did not want him to see.

    Too bad in this world, eight or nine out of ten matters did not go as one wish. Oftentimes God did not do as humans’ desire.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng did not go blind yet. Therefore, he saw that when Gong Ping pulled the dagger, a piece of jade pendant fell from her belt.

    Seeing this piece of jade pendant, immediately his countenance changed, as if he was really stabbed by the blade; furthermore, the blade was piercing his vital point.

    The blade was only seven cun, seven fen long [approx. 20cm/8”], a short dagger. The technique used was appropriate for this kind of dagger, the style and variation were very fast, the way she moved was very vicious. It was indeed the main principle of dagger technique.

    Gong Ping held the dagger in an upside-down manner, with her thumb inside the ring at the end of the hilt. As soon as her strike missed, the tip of the dagger slashed horizontally across Lu Xiaofeng’s face.

    Looking at the speed with which she changed the direction of the blade, making an ‘X’ on other people’s face seemed to be easy enough; piercing the enemy’s heart in one stab did not seem to be a too-difficult-matter either.

    Looking at the viciousness, efficient and straightforward way in which she moved, without the slightest degree of hesitation at all, it was obvious that it was not the first time she attempted to do this thing.

    Unfortunately, this time unexpectedly her blade failed to slash; in fact, she could not even move the blade half a cun. Because her blade was suddenly clamped by Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers.

    She has always been very wary of Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers. With the lesson she learned the previous time, she was confident that this time she would not ‘follow the track of an overturned cart’.

    Yet for an unknown reason these two fingers suddenly popped out of nowhere and caught her blade; as if the fingers suddenly materialized out of thin air.

    Worse yet, this time Lu Xiaofeng was not as polite as the last time.

    While his right hand’s thumb and index fingers clipped the tip of the dagger, his left hand clutched around her neck. In an instant his foot also stepped on hers, so that she was tightly under his control.

    Gong Ping was so angry that her eyes seemed to be shooting fire, yet she was absolutely unable to move.

    The imperial lady sighed, “Lu Gongzi, I always heard that you are a man with the most compassion toward fragrance and appreciation toward jade, but looking at your manner right now, you are really unworthy of the compliment.” She sighed and then added, “You are really disappointing.”

    Lu Xiaofeng also sighed, “To be honest with you, even I am a bit disappointed at myself.”

    “In my opinion, a man who carry [on a shoulder pole] manure for a living will have a bit better manners toward a girl than you do.”

    “In my opinion, most probably they are not just a bit better, but seventy, eighty, or even ninety percent better than I am.”

    “Then why did you do it?” Gong Susu asked, “Are you drunk?”

    “I am not.” Lu Xiaofeng replied in deadly earnest, “I can guarantee that I am at least seventy, eighty, or even ninety percent more sober than any manure carrier in the world.”

    “By doing that, what is it that you actually want?”

    With a devious chuckle Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, I don’t want anything; I just want to ask her trousers to leave her momentarily, so that I can take a look at her legs.”

    What kind of dog fart was that? Compared to the worst smelling dog fart in the world, it was at least seventy, eighty, or even ninety percent more stinky. Could it be that this man was crazy?

    He was not crazy. The one nearly went crazy from anger was Gong Ping.

    With a very shocked expression on her face Gong Susu looked at him, up and down from head to toe, for half a day, and then she sighed and said, “Now I finally know what this is all about.”

    “Oh?”

    “Lu Xiaofeng would never do such thing, yet you are doing it; hence, essentially you are not Lu Xiaofeng.”

    “I am not Lu Xiaofeng? What kind of toy am I?”

    “You are not much of a toy,” Gong Susu drily said, “You are no more than an anthomaniac.” [Translator’s note: not sure, 花痴. My dictionary did not give me any definition that makes sense, Bing translator gave me a simple ‘s1ut’, Google translator came up with ‘anthomaniac’, which, upon further search, yielded ‘a person who suffers an extravagant passion for flowers’. Additional note (courtesy of Lu DongBin): 花 (hua), flowers - allusion to women; 痴 (chi) pertaining to mind, something psychotic. Combined it means an unhealthy erotic appetite for women, a skirt chaser, womanizer.]

    She went on, “If a woman is an anthomaniac, perhaps men would love her. But anthomaniac men are different; when a woman sees an anthomaniac man, there is only one way to deal with him.”

    Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng acted like he was very interested, “Which way?” he asked.

    The imperial lady spelled out word by word, “This way.” [Orig. 就是这种法子 – ‘exactly this kind of way’.]

    This sentence only has six words. Before she even finished speaking all six words, five different objects already flew toward Lu Xiaofeng.

    A pair of chopsticks, a wine cup, a small dish of soy sauce, and a big bowl full of soup.

    The bowl was the first to fly. Because the bowl was still more than half full of winter bamboo shoots and chicken soup, when the bowl flew, the soup splashed. Even though it did not splash onto Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, it did obstruct his line of sight, so that as behind the bowl a series of attack came one after another, he could not see it clearly.

    This attack was textbook style ‘poti’ [‘po’ - break/defeat, ‘ti’ – topic/subject’; writing style in which the main subject is approached directly from the outset]. Those without learning won’t be able to break [po] this problem [ti].

    After that, the wine cup flew. When it was flying, it already disintegrated into seventy, eighty pieces, just like seventy, eighty pieces of irregularly shaped objects, some had sharp corners like sharp secret projectiles.

    The pair of chopsticks flew as two flying nails, one flew toward Lu Xiaofeng’s hand that was clamping the blade, the other toward the small of his back.

    The wide and flat soy sauce dish was spinning incessantly in the air, nobody knew the target of its attack, which part of Lu Xiaofeng’s body would it strike? The saucer was round, as it spun, how could anybody tell its direction?

    Lu Xiaofeng was not mistaken. This delicate, gentle and graceful dying king’s concubine was a martial art expert with consummate skills.

    Obviously she was able to speak from several zhang away, yet made the hearer felt as if she was speaking right next to his ear. It was a feat no ordinary people could do. The strike that she just launched, even less people would be able to accomplish.

    The five objects were plain utensils that people use daily during meals, yet in her hands, these objects have become deadly weapons. Moreover, with just one attack, she had completely sealed the opponent’s escape route.

    A prince’s concubine who had fallen from grace due to disfavor, how did she acquire this supreme feat that was able to kill people in an instant? How could her move be this accurate, experienced, carefully planned, and impenetrable?

    Is it because her killing experience was much richer than anybody could ever imagine?

    Looking at the way she made her move just now, most probably it was very seldom that she failed to kill her target. She made her move this time, naturally she was also confident that she would succeed.

    Every angle, every situation, had been very carefully considered. Only one thing that she did not consider.

    She did not consider the chicken soup.

    People may have different views on chicken soup, yet chicken soup treats everybody equally.

    Chicken soup in a bowl, you drink it, it is chicken soup; other people drink it, it is still chicken soup. Chicken soup splashed out, the liquid splashing onto people’s eyes is still chicken soup. While it is true that the chicken soup obstructed Lu Xiaofeng’s line of sight, Gong Susu was equally affected.

    By the time the chicken soup filled the air like droplets of rain, Gong Susu suddenly discovered that Lu Xiaofeng has disappeared.

    Lu Xiaofeng was gone, it was not a big deal, but even Gong Ping has also disappeared. So much so that the jade pendant that was falling on the floor just now also disappeared without a trace.

    To top it off, Lu Xiaofeng still wholeheartedly wanted to see the pair of legs belonging to Gong Ping.

    [1] Han Xin (-196BC), famous general of first Han emperor Liu Bang.

  18. #98
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 – Can a jade pendant run away?

    (One)

    When someone wants to go, there are a lot of things he does not need to bring; even his ears, nose, eyes, and arms he can leave behind, but he simply must bring his two legs along.

    With no legs, how can he go?

    This time naturally Gong Ping also had to take her legs along. However, the situation was a bit different. This time, even if she did not bring her legs, she would still be able to go.

    Because she was being carried away by Lu Xiaofeng.

    Lu Xiaofeng definitely would not leave her legs behind. He could have cared less if the rest of her body was left behind, but he absolutely must take this pair of legs along.

    For some women, their legs are more important than their heads. Although head is the most important body part, although on the head there are brains, face, eyes, nose, mouth and ears, in some women’s view, the most valuable part of her entire body was not the head.

    (Two)

    Gong Ping clamped her legs tight; she was determined to protect this place at all cost, she would rather die than to let others violate this place, she would rather die than to let others take off her pants.

    Too bad she already knew that the strength she could still use was not much.

    Because by the time she heard her imperial lady said ‘This way’ [see Chapter 7, original Chinese has six characters ‘jiu shi zhe zhong fa zi’], she found out that four or five of her acupoints, although not vital acupoints, but could cause unbearable pain, were already under Lu Xiaofeng’s control.

    To a woman like her, suddenly losing the power to fight back was a matter that was extremely difficult to accept.

    In fact, when she heard the first two words ‘jiu shi’, she was already under his control. By the time ‘zhe zhong fa zi’, four words were spoken, her body was already perched on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder.

    At that time, she felt as though she was sitting on a real phoenix, fluttering and soaring through the ninth heaven.

    She had heard people say that in Jianghu, the person with the best qinggong was the number one Divine Thief under the heavens, who was able to masquerade into any personality at any time, Sikong Zhaixing. She had also heard even more people say that Silver Fox of the Great Snowy Mountain, who enjoyed rising reputation in Jianghu recently, when he unleashed his unique school’s qinggong on a snow-covered mountain range, he was able to cover a thousand li [1 li is approx. ½ km or 1/3 mile] in one stretch, without leaving any footprints. Even flying immortals were no more than this.

    Of course there were other people who said that Wudang’s former famous character Wooden Taoist, Honest Monk who roamed the Jianghu, Hua Manlou whose eyes were blind but his heart was not, all had supreme qinggong skill, enough so that they could be considered Jianghu’s experts.

    Other than Ximen Chuixue, whose swordsmanship has reached ‘divine’ stage, so that basically he did not even have any need to fully unleash his qinggong anymore, there were at least thirteen people in Jianghu whose qinggong could be considered first class.

    Naturally these legends were not unfounded.

    But now Gong Ping knew that those legends, which she thought had a lot of basis behind them, were actually no more than that, a legend.

    Because right now she already knew who had the number one qinggong in the world; furthermore, she had experienced it firsthand, not based on listening to other people’s legend.

    When Lu Xiaofeng was flying in the air, she felt as if she was soaring in the cloud or riding the fog. Breaking through the window’s paper covering, flitting across the small courtyard, climbing over the twigs-gate, Gong Ping’s feeling was just like that.

    When her body moved swiftly, the sudden movement gave her the illusory feeling of loss of gravity; the blade-like cold wind assaulting her face felt like needles penetrating her bones and marrow. All these feelings were enough to excite an exhilarating feeling in her heart.

    A woman who originally was full of confidence of her own strength, suddenly losing all her power, it was like a sheep suddenly fell into a hungry wolf, which was the hands of this man; she was completely at his mercy.

    Naturally this kind of situation was very tragic, but sometimes it would stimulate certain women that they are shaking with excitement.

    Naturally speed was also some kind of stimulant.

    Resting on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder, riding along Lu Xiaofeng’s flight, every single feeling Gong Ping experienced was a new and odd stimulus. Each stimulus could give rise to an urge, until in the end it was enough to arouse urges in even the most arrogant, stubborn, and conservative woman.

    Each stimulus was enough to arouse her body’s primal desire.

    It was the kind of desire that usually women do not wish for other people to know; so much so that she herself refused to admit that she knew.

    (Three)

    Although Gong Ping was determined to keep her legs clamped tight, but even she herself could feel that her determination has collapsed.

    She was already twenty-nine years old. She was already a very mature woman. Every single part of her body has fully developed, moreover, she was maturing very well.

    Exactly because of this reason that oftentimes she used the most arduous way to temper herself, to exhaust her own physical strength.

    Naturally she also took cold baths in very cold nights.

    A twenty-year old woman, if she did not have a man, even though it was so easy for her to spend the days, once twilight started to settle, the curtain of the night began to go down, it would be very difficult for her to pass the day.

    This condition actually started to plague a woman when she was just sixteen years old. By the time she was twenty-one, it was the end of a phase. When she was twenty-nine, it was another end of a phase. Thirty-five was another phase. By the time she was forty-five, all the phases have settled down.

    If she did not have an understanding and sensitive man by her side, any phase would make a woman feel painful emptiness.

    A woman’s heart is indeed very difficult to fathom, it is really like searching for a needle at the bottom of the ocean. It was not merely men’s opinion, even women themselves also had more or less the same idea.

    Gong Ping had never thought that at a moment like this, she would think about such thing. She only felt an exhaustion spell that her mind drifted into a distant and indistinct state, creating a dream that she has not dreamed for a very long time.

    When she awoke, she found out Lu Xiaofeng was staring at her with a very peculiar expression. She suddenly also realized that her face was burning hot.

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed. A bit evil laugh. Gong Ping’s face grew even hotter, her heartbeat also quickened. Have this evil man already seen through my thought?

    What worried she more was: what did this evil want to do to her?

    “Miss Gong, if you think that I am going to do something unruly to you, then you are wrong.” Lu Xiaofeng smiled, “You must trust me, I am a man who has always followed rules.”

    At first Gong Ping was determined not to let this evil man speak, yet she simply could not control herself, “If you are really following rules, why did you kidnap me here?”

    ‘Here’ being a very warm and dark place, everywhere she looked, she did not see anybody else. The light was also very dim.

    If a man wanted to take advantage of a woman, nothing could be better than this kind of place. In this kind of situation, any woman would feel really scared.

    If it was only fear, it was not a big deal. The strange thing was: other than fear, there was also a bit of excitement and arousal.

    Only a man who understands women very well would know how much excitement this kind of situation would bring.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng laughed again.

    “Miss Gong, when I first saw you, I felt that there is really nothing great about you. But the more I see you, I always feel that each time you look different than the previous time. The more I see you, the more I feel that you are lovely.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “And I believe Mr. Liu must have shared my opinion.”

    “Who is Mr. Liu?”

    “Right now Mr. Liu is nothing but a dead man, but when he was alive, he was a very remarkable man,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

    “He was a very remarkable man?”

    “At least he would not have stabbed to death head-on in a dark alley; unless the killer was someone that he was very fond of.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “So much so that he even gave the jade pendant he always brought with him to her.”

    “When you said ‘her’, it seems to me that you are talking about a woman.”

    “It does seem that way.”

    “And the woman you are talking about, it seems to be me.”

    “It does seem that way.”

    “And the jade pendant you are talking about, it seems to be the piece that just fell from my body a moment ago.”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Miss Gong, it’s not that I am complimenting you, but you are indeed a lot smarter than I thought.”

    Gong Ping also sighed. “Lu Shaoye [young master], it’s not that I do not want to compliment you, but you are indeed a lot more stupid than I thought.”

    Erotic fantasy has always been easy to cool off and disappear, because it always comes quick, it also goes away fast.

    Gong Ping’s voice and demeanor have already become very cold.

    “I know that the Mr. Liu you were talking about was Liu Chengfeng, and you must thought that this jade pendant was given to me by him, therefore, he and I must have very close relationship, therefore, he could not possibly guard against me, therefore, I would be able to use my usual short dagger to kill him in dark alleys every day.”

    She asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Isn’t that what you are thinking?”

    “Yes.”

    “And because of that you kidnapped me and brought me to this place, as a result I found out that you are an idiot.”

    “Oh?”

    “If I really did kill Liu Chengfeng, why would I wear his jade pendant on me? Could it be that I was afraid you may not know that I was the assassin who murdered your good friend?”

    Lu Xiaofeng was speechless. What Gong Ping said was not completely unfounded. But the jade pendant that Liu Chengfeng used to wear was clearly in her possession.

    “Alright, I admit, I am an idiot. But can you tell me, how did this jade pendant from Liu Chengfeng’s body run away to you?”

    “You are wrong again.” With a tone that showed that she had gained the upper hand she said, “How can a jade pendant run away?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only force a laughter; naturally jade pendant cannot run away. “Then how did his jade pendant end up on your body?”

    “Naturally there is a reason behind it.”

    “What reason?”

    “Since the jade pendant cannot run away, and I can’t possibly steal it, then where did it come from?” Gong Ping said, “Actually, you ought to understand; as long as you think harder, it should be clear to you.”

    “Oh?”

    “A lovely woman oftentimes has something of unknown origin, do you know the reason?”

    Gong Ping answered her own question, “Because there are a lot of men, although they are miserly and stingy, who when you ask him to treat you to dinner would act as if you are asking for his life, but when he came across a woman that he likes, even if that woman asks for his life, he would gladly give it to her.”

    “I know what you mean.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “This jade pendant must be given to you as a gift.”

    “Men giving gifts to women, it has always been the heaven’s will and the earth’s intention.” Coldly and indifferently Gong Ping said, “I agreed to receive his gift, he was already very happy as hell.”

    “Right, right, right! Right, right, right! There are indeed a lot of men in the world who are just like that.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just want to know, who was the man who gave this jade pendant to you?”

    “You cannot know who he is.”

    “Why?”

    “Because I don’t want to tell you.”

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng did not act like he was about to force a confession from her, he did not show even the slightest sign of anger. “I understand, you don’t want to tell me, it’s because you are not willing, and you are not happy.” He asked Gong Ping, “Is that right?”

    “Right.”

    If a woman uses this kind of response to refuse a man, most men could only look at her helplessly.

    Gong Ping said, “The biggest reason cannot compare to this word, ‘happy’. If a woman really does not want to do something, nobody can do anything to her.”

    “You are wrong.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since there are such unreasonable women in the world, there are also men who specialize in dealing with that kind of women.”

    With a very pleased and proud look on his face he pointed to his own nose, “For example, I am such a man.”

    “You?” with a cold laugh Gong Ping said, “What can you do to me?”

    “Naturally I can’t do anything to you. At most I can only take your pants off of you.”

    It was an old trick, plus it was a bit vulgar, yet when used against women, it was ‘ten thousand tries, ten thousand successes’; it doesn’t matter what kind of woman.

    Gong Ping’s countenance already changed, but she still put up a cold look, “You don’t have to scare me, I won’t be intimidated by you.”

    “Oh?”

    “No matter what, at least you are a man who still wants to save your face; how could you do such thing?”

    She wanted to persuade Lu Xiaofeng using reasonable words; who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng’s words were a lot more reasonable than hers?

    “So what’s wrong with such thing?” In deadly earnest he asked Gong Ping, “If you are a physician, and you want to examine the wound on someone’s leg, won’t you take his pants off first?” The obvious answer to this question was ‘definitely’.

    “So do I,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I don’t take your pants off, how can I look at your legs?”

    Gong Ping suppressed her anger. She must use up all her power to suppress her anger. “But you are not a physician.” She said to Lu Xiaofeng.

    “I am not.”

    “Since you are not a physician, and my legs are not hurt, what gives you right to look at my legs?”

    Lu Xiaofeng smiled sadly and shook his head, as if a little child has just asked him a very childish question. He asked Gong Ping back, “I didn’t say that only physicians have the right to look at other people’s legs, did I?”

    He did not say such thing; furthermore, he would never say something like, “So let me ask you, did I say that someone must be injured first before he can let others see his legs?”

    He did not say such thing either, “Therefore, you ought to understand by now, that when a man wants to look at a woman’s legs, basically he does not need any reason.”

    Lu Xiaofeng cheerfully said, “Fortunately, I am not that kind of man without reason.”

    Practically Gong Ping nearly went mad of anger; she clenched her teeth and stared at him for half a day, still she could not resist asking, “Alright, let me ask you then, what reason do you have?”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s manners suddenly turned very solemn, “I must find the murderer who killed Liu Chengfeng. Too bad that so far, I only found two clues: this jade pendant is one, the other clue is a pair of woman’s legs.”

    He, of course, had to explain, “Because of this, I nearly lost my life yesterday, lost at the hands of a woman.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Her face can be easily changed, so practically other people cannot tell her true identity, but unintentionally she let me see her legs.”

    “And now, can you still recognize those legs?”

    “Of course I can,” Lu Xiaofeng said. “A leg like that, as long as a man took a glance, he would never forget, especially a man with experience like me.”

    His eyes started to stare at Gong Ping’s legs again, as if the pair of legs was completely naked.

    “Since you are unwilling to tell me the origin of the jade pendant, I have no choice but to look at your legs.” He asked Gong Ping, “If I did not take your pants off, how could I see your legs?”

    Gong Ping did not say anything. Right now she already understood that this seemingly deranged Lu Xiaofeng was actually not a madman, and he was not drunk either; he was not a sex maniac, and he was not joking either. What he was talking about was a murder, concerning a man’s life, not only he was an unusually important man, he was also his good friend.

    In this kind of situation, once a man like Lu Xiaofeng found a little bit of clue, he would never let go. All along Lu Xiaofeng has been watching the expression on her face, and now he suddenly said, “If you know what I mean, you ought to know that you simply have to take off your pants.”

    Surprisingly, this time Gong Ping did not get angry, she did not any sign of becoming hostile either; she said instead, “That’s right, I know what you mean. If you are not Lu Xiaofeng, I am afraid my trousers would have been taken off early on.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck, he did not seem to believe that those words have just come out from this woman’s mouth.

    Naturally Gong Ping could also see that his expression was different from what it was a moment ago; therefore, she could not bear not to ask, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

    “Because, I really could not believe that you are a woman with reason.”

    Gong Ping smiled sweetly, “Not all women are without reason.” She told Lu Xiaofeng, “As long as you are speaking reasonably, I am absolutely convinced.

    “That is wonderful, truly wonderful.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was really delighted to be able to find a woman with reason in the world; it was indeed a delightful matter.

    Therefore, he sincerely said to Gong Ping, “If you can help me finding Liu Chengfeng’s assassin, I will be forever grateful to you.”

    “I know.”

    Naturally Lu Xiaofeng immediately asked her, “The jade pendant in your possession, where did it come from?”

    Not even in his dream he would imagine that Gong Ping’s answer would be the same as her previous answer. She still said, “I don’t want to tell you. And I can’t tell you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng cried out, “But you have agreed to help me just now.”

    “Correct, I did say that, and I am surely will do it.”

    Using a voice that was as graceful as the imperial lady, Gong Ping said to Lu Xiaofeng, “Things have come to this, it seems to me that I will have to let you take my pants off.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck again. He suddenly discovered that this woman was not the same woman he first met. In this short period of time, she seemed to change seventy, eighty times already. Sometimes she turned into a crafty and unruly woman, sometimes very argumentative, sometimes she looked like an annoying old granny, sometimes she looked like a little fox.

    The first time Lu Xiaofeng saw her, he felt that no part of this woman was attractive to him, he only felt that the biggest strong point this woman possessed was to ‘fix’ a man, hence any man who saw her ought to spur the horse to full speed, to escape without a trace without delay.

    But now Lu Xiaofeng’s perception was completely changed. If, in a very short period of time a woman was able to change herself many times, plus she was able to completely change a man like Lu Xiaofeng’s perception toward her, what kind of woman was she, exactly?

    Later on Lu Xiaofeng told his friends, “All of you have never seen her, hence I can guarantee that you will never guess what kind of woman she is.”

    This woman was a bit different than other women; perhaps even more than a bit different.

    With a tone that sounded as if she understood Lu Xiaofeng’s pain she said, “Lu Xiaofeng, I know that you have been world famous since ten years ago. Other than your qinggong and those two fingers of yours, your reputation with women has been acclaimed much and criticized a little.” Gong Ping said, “Because everybody thought that you are a man who understood women very well.” She sighed and went on, “But now I know that the degree of your understanding of women is not much different than ordinary men.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s four eyebrows appeared to be a bit sticking out vertically; describing his appearance right now using the phrase ‘boasting mustache glowering eyes’ would not be considered excessive.

    If he had become like that, the reason cannot be overemphasized. In all his life, he had never had any woman say something like that in front of him.

    Yet Gong Ping plainly went on, “I know that certainly you’d refuse to accept it; a veteran of a hundred battles like Lu Xiaofeng, how could he not understand women?”

    Her voice suddenly became very sympathetic, “But toward women, you really do not have any understanding. I am not deceiving you. Otherwise, you would not have done something like this to me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from asking her, “What did I do to you?”

    Any man would not be able to refute what Gong Ping said next; she said, “When even with a dead threat I was unwilling to let you take my pants off, with thousand ways, a hundred plans you convinced me that you definitely must take my pants off.” Gong Ping went on, “I was convinced. Because I am a woman with reason. And I felt that you have spoken reasonably.”

    Lu Xiaofeng seemed to hear his own mumbling reply, “I am indeed a very reasonable man.”

    “Therefore, I am now willingly letting you take off my pants, yet you want to forget this matter instead.”

    Gong Ping imitated Lu Xiaofeng earlier; she smiled sadly and shook her head, “Tell me, what do you want?” She asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Have you ever thought that to a woman, this is a great insult?”

    This is also a fact that no man could ever refute.

    What he ought to do he could not do, what he ought not do he must do instead; what is this all about?

    When a woman spoke to a man like that, it was tantamount to giving him a big slap on the face.

    The strange thing is: not only Lu Xiaofeng’s expression did not seem like he had just taken a big slap on the face, he looked very happy instead, “Thank you.” He said to Gong Ping, “You are really adorable, I really have to thank you.”

    Gong Ping was baffled by this sudden change of attitude; therefore, she could not help asking either, “What do you mean? Why do you thank me?”

    “Because all along you have been encouraging me.”

    “I encouraged you?” Gong Ping asked, “How did I encourage you?”

    “You encouraged me to free your legs from inside your pants.”

    What kind of crap was that? It was basically ‘Wu Dalang knocked on the door, the cuckold has come home’.[1]

    But the real meaning of what he said could be understood by anybody; besides, no matter what, those words were at least more elegant than saying ‘I want to take off your pants’.

    To be able to say something vulgar in a very elegant manner also required some kind of great deal of knowledge.

    “Actually, I am not the kind of man who would do such thing, even you yourself admitted that I am a man who wants to save my face very much.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Bust since now you are encouraging me, the situation is of course different.”

    His hand had started moving to do that ‘different’ thing.

    In this kind of ‘different’ situation, every woman would feel a bit ‘different’; maybe even more than a bit.

    And now they have come to a definitely declicate and dangerous time; in this kind of situation, anything could happen. Anything that anybody could imagine, it could happen anytime.

    Can you imagine what could happen in this kind of situation? If you are someone who have rich and powerful imagination, when you are thinking about this kind of aituation, you will definitely feel very excited.

    But I am sure that you will not think of what kind of place Lu Xiaofeng and Gong Ping were at this moment.

    Because you will certainly think that two people like them, no matter where they are, it does not make any difference. No matter where they are, they could have been done the same thing.

    Therefore, the place is not an important factor. The important thing is, what did they actually do? What was the outcome?

    They did not do anything. Lu Xiaofeng only touched Gong Ping’s belt, and then he could not do anything else.

    Because right that moment, he heard someone spoke from the outside, “She cannot tell you where she got the jade pendant from, because the person giving that jade pendant to her was me.”

    ‘Me’, who was it?

    “By this time, I believe you must have found out who I am.” The person said, “Even though you have not seen me now, you ought to have recognized my voice.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could not deny. Under any circumstances, he would be able to recognize this voice.

    Because her voice was gentle, noble and graceful. As long as a man heard this voice once, he would not forget. Just like that pair of long, straight, firm and elastic legs, once a man saw it, he would never forget.

    The jade pendant that Liu Chengfeng always carried with him ended up in Gong Ping’s possession. The person who gave it to her was precisely the exiled wife of the king.

    The term ‘Gongzhu’ [lit. master of the palace] was no more than an appellation, there was no palace in this place. How can there be a palace in a place where the birds do not lay eggs like this? And if there is no palace, how can there be any ‘Gongzhu’.

    Yet ‘prince’s concubine’ was real.

    What was the relationship between a real ‘king’s wife’ and Liu Chengfeng, a wanderer who roamed to the ends of the earth, who was here today and gone tomorrow, whose real identity was closer to a myth?

    If there was any relationship between them, how did this relationship happen?

    Nobody knew the answer to these questions. It’s just that Lu Xiaofeng finally know one thing.

    Gong Ping adamantly refused to tell the jade pendant’s origin, it was only to protect her imperial lady. She did not want her imperial lady to be implicated in this murder case. No doubt between the two of them, there was some kind of ‘different’ relationship.

    As to what kind of relationship it was, not only Lu Xiaofeng did not want to ask, he simply did not even want to think about it.

    People who always love to expose other people’s private business are just like dogs who love to eat sh1t. Nobody knows which one of these people always love to pry other people’s personal matters, precisely like nobody knows which dog always love to eat sh1t.

    These kinds of people and these kinds of dogs were the kind that Lu Xiaofeng detested bitterly; therefore, he simply asked one thing, “Where exactly did this jade pendant come from?”

    He only asked this one question, because it was the murder case’s crucial point.

    It’s not that Gong Susu refused to answer this question, it’s just that her answer was something that Lu Xiaofeng had never expected.

    Unexpectedly, Gong Susu’s answer was identical to Gong Ping’s answer a moment ago, “It’s inevitable that woman has something of unknown origin.” She said, “Naturally these things were given by men.” She even had the same emphasis as Gong Ping did, “Men picking gifts for women, it has always been the heaven’s will and the earth’s intention. Even for a man like you, sometimes it is hard to avoid giving something to a woman.”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only laugh wryly.

    Naturally he could give gifts. Not he could give gifts, in fact, he often did. He could give a woman anything. Only one thing he would never give.

    He would never give anybody something that belonged to a dead person. Especially if the dead person died in his hands.

    If he gave this kind of thing to a lovely woman, not only it was rude, it was also disgraceful.

    If he gave this kind of thing to an annoying woman, it would be extremely stupid.

    Just how many women in the world are able to keep secret? Any man with experience ought to understand this fact. The person who killed Liu Chengfeng was definitely someone with experience.

    If this jade pendant was not given by him, then Gong Susu was lying.

    This seemed to be as simple as one plus one equal to two.

    Lu Xiaofeng very rarely exposed a woman’s lies, but today he really wanted to make exception just once. Unexpectedly, what Gong Susu said next shut his mouth.

    “Actually, even if you did not ask, I should have told you that this jade pendant was a gift which Liu Chengfeng personally gave me,” Gong Susu said.

    “Oh?”

    “When he arrived here, he already knew my origin, that day also happened to be my birthday, hence he sent some presents for me. In turn, I also invited him to drink a bit of wine.”

    Gong Susu smiled at Lu Xiaofeng, “Anyone who came to me for the first time, usually brought a little bit of gift for me. There seems to be very few exceptions.”

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng was rendered speechless, his face also blushed. Not only he came to her house to eat without bringing any gift, he also kidnapped someone from her household. Even someone who can be considered as having the thickest skin on his face would feel a bit embarrassed. Fortunately, this some someone was going to rescue him from embarrassment, because Gong Ping seemed to want to say a few good words on his behalf.

    Unfortunately, Gong Ping did not have any chance to speak up, because right this moment, from the outside dozens of cold rays broke through the window and flew in with different level of strengths, aimed at different places, came from different angles, separately attacking a dozen or so different vital points on her body.

    In term of shininess and shape, these secret projectiles were different from each other. The situation was almost identical to the attack to Zhao Xiazi in his coffin shop the other day.

    The only difference was that Gong Ping’s situation was more dangerous. She had fallen under his control, and she was unable to move at all.

    Fortunately, there was one more commonality between the two situations, both had Lu Xiaofeng by their sides.

    Gong Ping also knew that Lu Xiaofeng would never let her die. But even she could not imagine how Lu Xiaofeng was going to save her.

    She only felt a very strong wind rolling over from her side, and she seemed to see this wind actually came from a very strange looking flexible weapon. She did not see the weapon, but she knew that this weapon was very effective.

    From the extremely sharp noise of the projectiles splitting the air, there seemed to be about thirteen, fourteen secret projectiles shooting in from outside the window that were either rolled in or struck down by this flexible weapon. As for the remaining two or three projectiles, she only saw Lu Xiaofeng stretching out his two fingers and pinching the air like he was pinching houseflies. Soon all secret projectiles were caught between his fingers.

    And then she heard Lu Xiaofeng’s cold laugh, “Indeed the old trick from the coffin shop, playing with a bunch of broken copper and rusty iron.”

    Gong Ping did not understand; hence she asked, “You know who’s plotting against me?”

    “Probably a little.”

    “Are they the same two people who plotted against Zhao Xiazi?”

    “Probably they are.”

    “You have been tracking their whereabouts, since this time they appeared again, why didn’t you go out and pursue them?”

    Gong Ping’s question was very reasonable. Anybody would wonder about the same thing.

    Lu Xiaofeng should have had good answer. The strange thing is, he only replied indifferently, “Even if I did, it would be too late anyway.”

    This answer could be considered very reasonable as well, but it did not seem to be something that would come out of Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth.

    Lu Xiaofeng was definitely not such a person.

    Knowing that something was clearly impossible, he would still do it. He lost track of how many times he had done such things. Question is: what stopped him this time?

    Gong Ping did not pursue. Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she said shockingly, “What … what’s that in your hand?”

    Naturally she has recognized the object in Lu Xiaofeng’s hand; how could a woman not recognize her own belt?

    It was as if Lu Xiaofeng has suddenly turned into an idiot; he still explained to her, “This is a silk belt, it was wrapped around your waist just now.”

    Gong Ping also seemed like she has turned into an idiot as well, she looked as if she had just figured out that the odd-looking flexible weapon that rolled in the secret projectiles was this belt; therefore, her face turned beet-red.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s face also seemed to blush a little bit.

    No matter what, he had just taken this belt off of her. Regardless of the reason, this thing had really happened; ever wonder how these two felt in their hearts?

    Who could have thought that Gong Ping picked this exact moment to cry out, because she suddenly realized that there was one less person in the room? “Where’s Gongzhu?”

    “She seems to have left.”

    “When did she leave?”

    “Just now.”

    “Just now when?”

    “Just when …” Lu Xiaofeng looked at the belt in his hand, “Just that time.”

    This answer seemed vague, but it was very clear that he meant when the belt was taken off of her, that is, the split second when Gong Ping’s life and death was at stake.

    “Did you see her leaving?” Gong Ping asked.

    “Um …”

    “Do you know why she had to leave?”

    With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why did you ask me this question? How do I know?”

    Gong Ping sighed gently, “Of course you don’t know, but I do.” She looked at Lu Xiaofeng; her gaze suddenly became strangely gentle. After a long, long time she finally said with a tender voice, “Now I know everything.”

    What did Gong Ping know?

    (Four)

    Not only Gong Ping was not stupid, she was actually very intelligent. Therefore, what she knew was actually a lot more than Lu Xiaofeng could ever imagine.

    “You did not go after the people who were plotting against me, it was because you wanted to protect me. Not only because you were afraid they might come back and strike again, you were also afraid that someone else might harm me.”

    “Who’s this someone else?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

    “That someone else is naturally the one who has been treating me very well all these years, Gong Susu.” Gong Ping said, “At least I always thought that she treated me very well.”

    “How could she harm you?”

    Gong Ping sighed again, “I know you are deliberately asking me.” She said, “What you know ought to be a lot more than what I know.”

    Lu Xiaofeng neither deny nor confirm. Therefore, Gong Ping could only continue, “At first I also thought that she could not possibly harm me; but now …”

    Gong Ping hesitated for a long time before continuing, “And now I even suspect that the people who plotted against me just now might be related to her; it is even possible that they are actually assassins whom she hired.”

    “Do you think she has a reason to kill you?”

    “I do.”

    “What’s the reason?”

    “I am the only one who knows the person who gave that jade pendant to her.” Gong Ping said, “That’s why she wanted to kill me to shut my mouth.”

    Only dead people can keep a secret. From the ancient time, it was one of the strongest motivations for mankind to kill other people.

    Lu Xiaofeng still had a little bit of doubt. “Since she knew that it was highly possible that this piece of jade pendant would become the most important clue to the murder case, why did she give it to you?”

    Gong Ping’s answer was clear-cut and reasonable. “First, at that time she never expected that someone would make light of traveling a thousand li to come here and investigate this murder case; even more unexpected was that the person happened to be you.”

    She said, “Secondly, because she knew this piece of jade pendant was taken from a dead person, this is an inauspicious object. Coincidentally, when I saw it, I expressed my interest, hence she happily did this favor, which did not cost her anything.”

    Gong Ping said, “From this point, it is even clearer that not only she knew the origin of this jade pendant, she also has an unusually close relationship with the person who murdered Liu Chengfeng.”

    Only one question left: Where did this jade pendant come from?

    Things have come to this, it’s only natural that the answer to this question would come very soon.

    Gong Ping said, “Naturally Liu Chengfeng did not personally give this jade pendant to her; when he died, he still had the jade pendant on him.”

    “So who gave the jade pendant to her then?”

    “It was Sha Dahu.”

    Who would have thought that Jin Qiliang was a very honest man? It was the second time Lu Xiaofeng found the proof that he was telling the truth.

    Those super-scoundrels Big Boss Sha provided shelter for, indeed not one of them was useful, otherwise, Lu Xiaofeng wanting to enter Big Boss Sha’s personal chamber would not be an easy matter.

    Yet right now he was able to get in and out freely, as if he was entering a no-man’s land. Even if he wanted to sleep in Big Boss Sha’s bed, it would not be a difficult thing.

    However, our Mr. Lu Xiaofeng was a gentleman; at least he was a lot more of a gentleman than most people who pretend to be gentlemen.

    At least he still knew a little bit of courtesy, at least he understood that before entering someone else’s private chamber, he ought to knock first.

    Much less from Big Boss Sha’s bedroom he seemed to hear the heavy breathing of a man and a woman.

    Speaking about a man like Lu Xiaofeng, this kind of heavy breathing was not unfamiliar to him.

    Speaking about a man like Big Boss Sha, it would be strange if this kind of heavy breathing was not heard from his bedroom.

    Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng stood waiting outside the door for half a day. He waited until the heavy breathing subsided before he started knocking the door.

    He only knocked twice, from inside the bedroom Big Boss Sha already started swearing; he yelled all kinds of cussing words, the finale was of course, “Get lost! I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you want, you’d better get lost quickly, or else I’ll pinch your egg yolk out of you.”

    Lu Xiaofeng did not get lost; he still knocked the door, ‘knock, knock, knock’, rhythmically, it was very nice rhythm too.

    The bedroom door suddenly flung open, a stark naked Big Boss Sha suddenly appeared from behind the door.

    Nobody could describe his expression this very moment. But I believe there are a lot of people would be able to imagine it. Even if they did not see it, they ought to be able to imagine it.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not wish to imagine, yet he did not wish to look either. He only bowed with the most refined manners and smiled, “My apology.” He said, “I am truly sorry, but I swear to God that it was not my intention to disturb you.”

    Big Boss Sha’s mouth suddenly looked like a mouthful of dog poo had just been stuffed inside. Although he was thinking of spitting it all out toward Lu Xiaofeng’s face, truth be told, he was a bit afraid.

    “Awfully sorry still, I am not a chicken egg, neither am I a duck egg; therefore, I don’t have any egg yolks to be pinched out by you.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am coming here, just so I can ask you a question.”

    Big Boss Sha was finally able to spit out three words out of his mouth, “What’s the matter?”

    Lu Xiaofeng held out his hand, in between his two fingers, which fame has shaken the world, there was a piece of red cord, from the red cord dangled a piece of jade pendant, which color and luster, as well as its shape, was very nice.

    “I just want to ask you: have you seen such thing before?”

    Big Boss Sha’s response shocked Lu Xiaofeng; because without even thinking he replied, “Of course I have; moreover, it was me who presented it to Gongzhu Su Yun as a token of my respect.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

    For him, this was supposed to be a very important clue, a very crucial point, concerning a very mysterious murder case. Who would have thought that without even thinking Big Boss Sha just admitted it out? Furthermore, he did not seem to have the least bit of panicky expression on his face.

    But inevitably there was more than a bit of angry look on his face. He was practically so angry that his face looked like a stove ready to burst flames.

    “If you burst in here in the middle of the night just to ask that question, let me tell you this: I don’t care who you are, I am afraid you’ll have a very difficult time getting out of here still intact.”

    With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “In that case, I have no choice but to ask you something else.”

    “What is it?”

    “Was this jade pendant originally yours?”

    Surprisingly, Big Boss Sha did not hesitate at all, he answered, “No. The gift I give to someone, oftentimes I also receive it as a gift from someone else.” He glowered at Lu Xiaofeng, “Are you going to ask, who gave this to me?”

    “Yes.”

    “If I don’t tell you, what are you going to do?”

    Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “In that case, I am afraid it will be very bad.” Striking the calmest attitude he told Big Boss Sha, “If I let go right now, this jade pendant will immediately fall to the ground. By the time I finish speaking, I am going to let this go.”

    “So what?”

    “Nothing much.” Lu Xiaofeng let the jade pendant swing like a pendulum, “It’s just that by the time this jade pendant reaches the floor, I guarantee you will become a dead person.”

    Lu Xiaofeng has rarely used such words to intimidate others. If he did say such thing, he was not trying to intimidate anybody.

    Naturally Big Boss Sha knew about this fact. His countenance has already changed. The jade pendant has also left Lu Xiaofeng’s hand.

    Right this moment, the situation suddenly changed dramatically. Lu Xiaofeng suddenly heard a woman’s voice, “I gave that jade pendant to him.”

    A woman, stark naked, jumped out of Big Boss Sha’s bedroom. With arms akimbo she stood in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

    “It was given to me by my husband. I can give it to whoever I like to give. Other than that cuckold husband of mine, nobody has any right to interfere. Even if I stole it, it’s none of anybody else’s business.”

    She shot a sidelong coquettish glance toward Lu Xiaofeng. “Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Daxia, Lu Gongzi, what do you say? Don’t you agree? Is it your business?”

    Before she even finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng already walked away, and disappeared in an instant, as if he suddenly saw a demon.

    [1] Wu Dalang (Chinese: 武大郎) is a major character in the Chinese classic novel The Plum in the Golden Vase, and a minor character in the Water Margin, another classic. In both novels he is murdered by his adulterous wife Pan Jinlian. A well-known figure in Chinese culture, he represents the quintessential cuckold. (Wikipedia)

  19. #99
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 – What a fast blade

    (One)

    When Lu Xiaofeng found Wang Dayan, this grocery store boss, whose green hat[1] was as big as the mountain, was already as drunk as mud, so that his body was covered in vomit, his shoes were covered in mud. Yet he was lying in bed, sleeping soundly. The stench in his room was enough to kill people on the entire street.

    Such a good-for-nothing, careless person, how could he be a murderer? How could he kill Liu Chengfeng, a famous Jianghu hero?

    There is no way Lu Xiaofeng could believe it.

    Yet the lady boss, who came out stark naked from someone else’s bedroom, said that the jade pendant was given by her ‘husband’. Hence Lu Xiaofeng simply must ask this boss.

    No matter how many green hats the lady boss has given him, her ‘husband’ was, after all, only one.

    To wake a drunk-like-a-pig man up, the best way was to fetch a bucket of cold water and pour it on this head. Especially in this kind of weather. This method was guaranteed to work.

    But in all honestly, Lu Xiaofeng did not have the heart to do it. He also knew that pitiful people are not beyond doing repulsive things, but whenever he came across pitiful people, his heart always turned especially soft.

    Therefore, he spent a lot of time and wasting a lot of efforts before Big Master Wang finally woke up.

    At first he was thinking of waiting a bit longer until he was a bit more sober before he could ask about the origin of the jade pendant. Who would have thought that as soon as Wang Dayan saw the jade pendant, he cried out, “I gave that to my wife, how did it end up in your hands? You’d better tell me quickly, where did you get it?”

    Lu Xiaofeng could only let out a bitter laugh.

    He simply had no way of explaining, and he did not want to explain it. Therefore, he could only take a rather simple way, a way that he rarely used in dealing with pitiful people. This way was very effective in making people tell the truth.

    Sure enough, Wang Dayan quickly confessed the origin of the jade pendant. “I spent the whole three taels to buy it.”

    “Who sold it to you?”

    “Who else but that little [email protected]?” Wang Dayan went on, “Usually that little [email protected] was poor as hell, but as soon as Liu Daye [big master] died, he became rich. I always suspect that he is ‘seeing riches provokes evil designs’, that he ‘plot and kill someone for his property’.”

    Whether what he said was the truth or not, Lu Xiaofeng must find the little beggar to confirm. Besides, the trail has been investigated to this point, very soon it would reach the end, if he continued chasing the trail, he might find the main threads.

    Therefore, the little beggar must be found.

    Wang Dayan volunteered to take Lu Xiaofeng looking for him. “The places where that little [email protected] usually stays, nobody knew it better than I do. Allow me.”

    But he did not find him. They went to seven, eight places, still he was not found.

    This little [email protected] seemed to have vanished.

    (Two)

    How could someone suddenly disappear?

    Was it because someone wanted to make him the scapegoat, therefore, they killed him and destroy his body to eradicate any trace? Or was it because he knew that all clues had pointed to him, hence he had no choice but to disappear without any trace?

    Lu Xiaofeng was not sure.

    Up to now, he had not had any hard evidence, he had not been able to find anybody to corroborate his findings.

    Lu Xiaofeng had never made any careless decision, even if he knew for sure that someone was the murderer, before he found hard evidence, he would not make any move.

    In any case, he was unwilling to indict an innocent.

    There were a lot of people in Jianghu who said that he had a lot of similarity with Fragrant Commander Chu [i.e. Chu Liuxiang] of the past, who had become a legend while he was still alive. Actually, the similarities between them were not many.

    Practically, the two of them were two completely different persons.

    Chu Liuxiang was elegant, temperate and refined, Lu Xiaofeng was wild and jumpy; the two basically had totally different personalities, naturally the way they worked was also completely different.

    Only in one area these two were exactly the same.

    Both were rational men, they never expose other people’s private affair, they never make rash decision, never wronged the innocents. Therefore, all their lives they had a clear conscience, because they were able to look into their own hearts and find no shame.

    In any case, the little beggar has become one of the suspects in this murder case.

    If even someone like him could be a murderer, who in this little town can be trusted?

    However, in this little town, nobody had either the motivation or justification in murdering Liu Chengfeng; even more, nobody had the ability to do so.

    They all grew up here, in all their lives they had never left this place, they had never seen Liu Chengfeng before.

    Except maybe one person. Gong Susu.

    Thinking about Gong Susu, he remembered Gong Ping. Immediately Lu Xiaofeng became very nervous.

    When Gong Ping and he parted, he was a bit worried. She insisted on coming back to look for Gong Susu, while he must follow the trail of the jade pendant. He had no reason to stop her.

    At that time he was already worried, because he had a feeling that Gong Susu was a very dangerous person.

    So now he decided to look for Gong Susu.

    (Three)

    Looking for people is a very strange business. Sometimes you are not looking for someone, yet he always appears in front of you anytime, anywhere. But when you are looking for him, you simply cannot find him.

    The situation this time was similar.

    When Lu Xiaofeng arrived at Gong Susu’s residence, the place was already deserted. Not a shadow was to be seen. Not only Gong Susu was not there, Gong Ping was not there either; even the white-haired old granny who answered the door was gone.

    The house was originally decorated very elegantly and was very clean, but now everything was in disarray, as if there were seventy, eighty monkeys had just filled the house and somersaulted everywhere.

    Lu Xiaofeng’s heart sank, but his eyes suddenly lit up.

    He saw something. Although the house was a complete mess, this thing was very striking to his eyes.

    Lu Xiaofeng saw a clump of hair.

    A clump of disheveled hair tied with a piece of sackcloth. The original color of the sackcloth was brownish yellow, but now it has turned to almost black, perhaps because it had been used for a long time and had never been replaced.

    The hair was originally black, but now it has turned to brownish yellow because of dust, mud, grease, and sandy soil. It seemed that the last time the hair was washed was a lifetime ago.

    Lu Xiaofeng recognized the hair. This clump of hair ought to be on the little beggar’s head, but now it lay between the shattered flower vase and the crystal lampshade that had not been broken.

    Although the clump of hair was disheveled, the cut end was very neat.

    Naturally a clump of hair would not fall randomly from someone’s head.

    Undoubtedly it was cut by a blade and fell down.

    Lu Xiaofeng picked up the hair and fixed his gaze on the cut end. Suddenly the pupil of his eyes narrowed.

    “What a fast blade.”

    Such a fast blade, was it fast enough to pierce Liu Chengfeng’s heart in one stab?

    Whose blade was it?

    (Four)

    Have the little beggar been to Gong Susu’s place? Someone of unknown sex, age, and identity cut his mane with one swipe of the blade, and then nobody knew his life or death, as well as his whereabouts.

    Gong Ping and Gong Susu’s fate was equally unclear. Just what had happened here, other than the three of them, nobody knew.

    With the little beggar’s mane in his hand, Lu Xiaofeng just stood there with a blank stare for half a day. All of sudden he remembered something else.

    Not three people, but four.

    Other than Gong Ping, Gong Susu and the little beggar, there was also the old woman with completely white hair. How come she was not seen either?

    Such an old woman that she could not even straightened her back, could she be involved in this murder case?

    Although Lu Xiaofeng asked himself all these questions, he knew that he would never find out the answer.

    Right this moment, the pupil of his eyes suddenly narrowed again.

    This time, he did not see anything striking, rather, he heard a sound that was as piercing to the ears as piercing to the eyes.

    Actually, the sound Lu Xiaofeng heard could not be considered ear-piercing, because it was no more than a weak moan. But to his ears, it was more ear-piercing than the tip of a needle, because he could instantly recognize the sound as belonging to Gong Ping.

    Gong Ping was still here? Why did she make such a painful sound? Was she hurt?

    The only consolation was: as long as one could still make any noise, that means one is not dead yet.

    Lu Xiaofeng took a very deep breath. He controlled his own heartbeat and breathing.

    A quiet night.

    He managed to control his own heartbeat and breathing until it barely made any noise. Therefore, by the time the second moan, which was as weak as an ordinary person’s breathing, was heard, Lu Xiaofeng immediately knew the direction from which it came.

    (Five)

    The sky was very dark. Because it was the darkest time of the day, just before dawn arrived. Plus there was no star, no moon, and no lantern.

    The originally bright and beautiful small courtyard, now it was as black as if ink was splashed all over it. He could see nothing.

    But very quickly Lu Xiaofeng was able to find Gong Ping, in a place where no one else could find her.

    By the wall at the back of the courtyard, there stood seven, eight big jars to raise goldfish.

    Very few rich families in the Capital did not raise goldfish. It was one kind of habit, as well as a lifestyle. Although the flourish of the former days has passed like smoke, like a dream, some habit, some lifestyle, could not change.

    Too bad in such a place where the birds don’t lay eggs, where could one find goldfish? Where could one find water? Therefore, in our former imperial lady’s courtyard, there was no other choice but to let this row of goldfish tanks stood empty.

    Gong Ping was precisely inside the third empty goldfish tank from the left.

    Naturally she did not voluntarily hide herself inside, nobody wanted to be stuffed inside a goldfish tank.

    If she was able to fight back, she would not have been stuffed inside. Unfortunately, there were nine extra silver needles on her body, every single one was inserted into a very vital acupoint.

    The darkest time has passed. The sky already began to show a bit of light. Under the faint light the silver needle glistened.

    All four of Lu Xiaofeng’s eyebrows seemed to frown.

    He could see that these needles hit Gong Ping’s vital acupoints using a very-powerful secret projectile shooting technique.

    The one shooting secret projectiles toward the coffin shop boss was undoubtedly also the same person.

    It does not matter which era, such a secret projectile expert has always been rare.

    Who was this person?

    After the silver needle was pulled out, Gong Ping was able to speak, “I know you must be worried about me, but I am not worried at all, because I always thought Gong Susu would never do this to me.” Gong Ping said, “I never thought, even in my dream, that Old Lady Xu would be able to subdue me in just one move.”

    “Who is Old Lady Xu?”

    “It’s the old granny who opened the door for you the other day.”

    Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered someone.

    The Jianghu people who were able to execute such a formidable secret projectile technique to harm others, their number probably did not exceed ten. The number of women among them was no more than two or three. One of them was not only an expert in secret projectiles, she was also adept in changing her appearance, plus she was a divine thief. The ‘Three-hand Goddess’ Xu Ba. When she was still known as the ‘Fairy’[2], her fame already shook both sides of the Yangtze River.

    Could it be that the granny that was so old that she nearly withered away was the Fairy Xu of the olden days, whose skill was as divine as an immortal?

    How did she end up in a place like this? How did she become a slave in an exiled imperial concubine’s house? Based on both her reputation and her martial art skill, based on her standing and dignity in Jianghu, great majority of imperial concubines in the world were only fit to wash her feet.

    Nobody would ever expect that someone whose seven vital acupoints were sealed, and was stuffed into a goldfish bowl would be rescued by someone else.

    Gong Ping was supposed to be dead. Gong Susu did not kill her, she merely wanted her to suffer a bit of pain. But what about the little beggar?

    Lu Xiaofeng asked Gong Ping, “Did you see the little beggar?”

    Of course Gong Ping saw him. “But I have never expected that he was that kind of person; unexpectedly he took the risk to rescue me.”

    Lu Xiaofeng was clearly moved. He was silent for a long time before asking again, “Has he fallen under evil hands?”

    Gong Ping sighed sadly, “Even if he is still alive right now, I am afraid he won’t be alive for long.”

    “Why?”

    “Because he seemed to know a secret that others do not wish him to know.” Gong Ping said, “He seemed to have seen something that he is not supposed to see.”

    This ‘something’ and the secret must be closely related to Liu Chengfeng’s death. Lu Xiaofeng had no doubt about it. Therefore, he did not ask further.

    He only asked Gong Ping, “Where is the little beggar now?”

    “He was caught and brought away. Gong Susu and Old Lady Xu caught him and brought him away.”

    “Why are they taking him away?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “If they wanted to kill him to shut his mouth, why didn’t they kill him right here?”

    Gong Ping answered Lu Xiaofeng’s question with a question, “If you want to kill someone, would you like him to die in your own house?”

    “I won’t.”

    “Having someone walk to another place on his own, isn’t that a lot easier than dragging a dead body away?”

    “Right.”

    Now naturally Lu Xiaofeng understood, Gong Susu brought the little beggar away, because she wanted to wipe out the body, wipe out the mouth, wipe out any evidence.

    Naturally that place was somewhere other people would not able to find, because nobody knew where it was.

    Lu Xiaofeng did not know either.

    He was able to do a lot of things that were impossible for others. He drank wine like drinking tea, he gambled with his life like gambling with cards, he could clamp other people’s deadly weapons with his two fingers, as easy as a mischievous and romantic girl using her two fingers to pinch her sweetheart’s nose, while facing life and death situation, he could still recite the jokes going around in this place, where the birds do not lay eggs, to the fullest extent.

    But he was, after all, nothing more than a man; there are things that were beyond his ability to achieve.

    He had never thought that a kite would give him such enlightenment.

    In the cool, crisp breeze of the dawn, under the dim, pale crescent moon on the dark blue sky background, a kite was floating down.

    It was quite a big kite, as big as a large eagle soaring above the snowy mountain and the peak of the mountain range.

    Under the dim first glimmer of dawn, the kite suddenly flashed eight large characters that were written using bluish green phosphorous ink: ‘To find the root of disaster, break the fish bowl’. [要找祸秧打破鱼缸]

    These eight characters also looked like a joke from this birds-do-not-lay-eggs place.

    [1] ‘Wearing greet hat’ means a cuckold, someone whose spouse is cheating on him/her.

    [2] ‘Goddess’ and ‘Fairy’, orig. 仙姬 [xian ji] and 仙姑 [xian gu], ‘xian’ – immortal, ‘ji’ – woman (general term), usually refers to older or married women, ‘gu’ – aunt, the same ‘gu’ as in ‘gu niang’, Miss; usually refers to younger women.

  20. #100
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 – Breaking gold fish bowl.

    (One)

    If it said ‘To find the root [seed] of fish, break the fish bowl’, it would make sense; even if not even a shadow of fish could be found inside the fish bowl.

    But ‘To find the root of disaster, break the fish bowl’, the sentence was completely outrageous.

    Yet making such a big kite was not an easy matter at all; and then writing those eight big characters in phosphorous ink would require not a few amount of phosphorous ink, and phosphorous ink was not very cheap.

    Who would want to spend such big effort just to play a ridiculous joke to mock people without any benefit to self?

    Not only Lu Xiaofeng did not show the slightest bit of sign that he was amused, his expression became very serious.

    This joke was not a joke.

    Immediately he went over to the goldfish jars, eight goldfish jars with similar size, shape, material, color and luster. They were also similar to the goldfish jars that he often saw in the Capital. The only difference was that these jars were as dry as the old granny’s face, as if they were all wrinkly.

    He carefully inspected all eight jars, inside and outside. Other than they were covered in sandy soil and dust, nothing was out of ordinary.

    Gong Ping practically did not come over; she merely picked a stone from the ground, and threw it hard.

    In a way, sometimes women were much more direct and effective than men.

    ‘Bang!’ a goldfish jar shattered into pieces.

    When an empty goldfish jar shattered into pieces, what can you see? Oftentimes the only thing you discovered was that you should not have broken the goldfish jar in the first place.

    Lu Xiaofeng let out a wry laugh. He shook his head, “Women are like that, they always thought that they are so smart and divinely brave. If there was any woman who is able to do something that men would admire, perhaps that woman was not a woman.”

    Gong Ping did not retort him, she did not even cast a single glance at him, as if she simply did not hear him at all. All along her attention was fixed at the goldfish jar that she had just broken.

    What’s so special about an empty goldfish jar that was already broken?

    Moon.

    At first it was not there. But now it suddenly appeared.

    The goldfish jar shattered, the jar’s bottom suddenly sank down, revealing a hole.

    Gong Ping slowly turned her head toward Lu Xiaofeng. She looked at Lu Xiaofeng, who was swallowing his saliva, with her pair of big eyes, as big as ginkgo fruit, and asked, “What did you just say?”

    “What I just said? I didn’t say anything.”

    Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes also grew big. “Just now, I seemed to be farting.”

    (Two)

    Naturally the hole at the bottom of the goldfish jar was the entrance to a secret tunnel. It was either Gong Ping’s luck was particularly good that she found the entrance in just one shot, or there was such an entrance at the bottom of every goldfish jar. Because although the hole was small, going down, the place was very spacious, just like a small living room built with stone masonry.

    It’s just that there is nothing in this living room, except a door. A copper door.

    Pushing the copper door open, there was an equally-sized room, with another door. Except that other than the door, there were also some very ancient torture instruments. There was even a ‘burning frame’, which was considered the most cruel torture instrument from the era of King Zhou[1].

    Some of these instruments only existed in legends or hearsay, Lu Xiaofeng had never thought that he would be able to see them.

    His vision was really not bad. But he really wanted to throw-up; although it was only instrument without anybody being tortured, he still felt like he was going to throw up.

    Unexpectedly when he tried to push the door, it did not open. Fortunately there was a sign above the door. There were also eight characters written on the sign, ‘If you are a gentleman, please knock.’ [若是君子, 敬请敲门]. Thereupon, Lu Xiaofeng knocked the door.

    In a way, sometimes Lu Xiaofeng could be very obedient. When told to drink wine, he would drink wine, when told to knock the door, he would knock the door; especially if the door belonged to a pretty young girl, not only he would knock even quicker, he would also knock it harder.

    This time it was the same. As soon as the door was knocked, it opened. The one opening the door was, unexpectedly, really a beautiful girl. At least twenty years ago she must be a pretty young girl.

    The one opening the door turned out to be the lady boss.

    (Three)

    Lu Xiaofeng’s jaw dropped.

    This time he was not scared by the lady boss, rather, he was scared silly by what was inside the stone room.

    Whoever saw this kind of situation would stare blankly like an idiot.

    The first thing Lu Xiaofeng saw was precisely that little [email protected]

    He would never expect right now the little [email protected] was acting like a big master, splaying across a couch with his legs stretched out, his left hand held on to a head, his right hand also held on to another head.

    Not even in his wildest dream would Lu Xiaofeng ever imagine that these two people would have their heads caught under this little beggar’s control.

    These two people were surprisingly the rich and powerful Sha Dahu and the one whose name shook the Jianghu in the past, the ‘Three-hand Goddess’ Xu Ba, Old Lady Xu.

    And that was not the only strange thing.

    Even stranger was that the coffin shop boss Zhao Xiazi, the grocery store boss Wang Dayan, and the exiled imperial concubine Gong Susu were all here as well. Just like Sha Dahu, they all sat below the little beggar as his prisoners.

    Lu Xiaofeng knitted his four eyebrows; if he had eight eyebrows, he would knit all eight eyebrows as well.

    “What’s going on here?” He could not figure out.

    This matter was actually very simple.

    The little beggar was only laughing. He did not open his mouth. The lady boss was the one who spoke, “Liu Chengfeng was not only your friend, he was also our friend. There was too much injustice in his death; just like you, we want to find the murderer who killed him and avenge him.”

    By ‘we’, obviously she meant Gong Ping, the little beggar and she. Obviously, the rest of these people were, in their opinion, suspects in this murder case; at least one of these was the murderer.

    “Sha Dahu, Zhao Xiazi, Old Lady Xu, Gong Susu, and this husband of mine who does not live up to expectations, all are possible suspects to be Liu Chengfeng’s killer.” The lady boss told Lu Xiaofeng, “Today you saw me in Sha Dahu’s bed, it was because I always wanted to get clear information from him.”

    She sighed, “I am sure you understand that to trap a man like Sha Dahu, I must climb onto his bed first.”

    Actually, Lu Xiaofeng did not understand anything, until now. Now he started to understand bit by bit.

    The little beggar finally opened his mouth, “By going to bed, ten thousand things will be blown clear, even Sha Dahu has fallen into the trap, much less those [email protected]?” He pointed to Gong Susu and Xu Ba.

    “Although the way I dealt with these two grannies is a bit different, to some extent we still use a bit of handsome-man scheme.”

    Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

    Just as he started to laugh, he could not continue laughing anymore. Because he suddenly discovered two lethal weapons were striking two vital points on his body. One was the lady boss’ hand, the other was Gong Ping’s leg.

    The lady boss’ ten slim fingers, ten sharp fingertips, each fingernail was encased in some kind of thin copper finger cap, each one was as sharp as a sword.

    Gong Ping’s feet were wearing arrow boots [this is a literal translation, not sure what it is, but I think we can imagine]. One kick was able to crush stone into powder.

    These two kinds of weapon were specific weapons used by women, just like some women’s hearts, poisonous and fierce, and totally unpredictable.

    If Lu Xiaofeng was not Lu Xiaofeng, most probably his death was already decided.

    If Lu Xiaofeng was not Lu Xiaofeng, he did not have to wait until today to die. Up to date, he would have died three hundred seventy eight times.

    That’s why a lot of people believed Lu Xiaofeng could not die.

    A long time later Lu Xiaofeng was still saying, “Honestly speaking, in all my life I have been going through a lot of dangers, many times I was this close to being finished. But the most dangerous situation was still that particular time.” He said, “Because at that time I did not expect Gong Ping and the lady boss would kill me. Even more unexpected, their move was so vicious.”

    Lu Xiaofeng said, “If now you want me to rate the women in Jianghu whose martial art skill was the highest, the most terrifying, I would still consider them to be one of those women. Because right up to the present, there are indeed not many women in Jianghu who can surpass them.”

    He was telling the truth.

    That time he escaped those two deadly attack, it was indeed a ‘danger shaving his head’.

    But the one more shocked than Lu Xiaofeng that time was the lady boss.

    Her martial art skill was the result of hard training. Because of training martial art, the palm of her hands and the sole of her feet developed calluses. Because she wanted to look pretty, so that men would like her even more, she spent a lot of time using lotion to remove these calluses.

    Indeed she suffered not a few of hardship. Therefore, whenever she made a move, she had high confidence in herself. Although she knew that Lu Xiaofeng was a man that was very difficult to deal with, she was very confident of her own skill.

    But she soon found herself to be wrong.

    Because her strike was originally aimed at the small of Lu Xiaofeng’s back, using the thin-as-blade finger caps on her five fingers, to scratch Lu Xiaofeng’s xiaoyao [lit. laughter waist] acupoint. But the one she scratched was the waist of Gong Ping’s pants.

    It was not clear what technique Lu Xiaofeng has used, but suddenly he already slipped five, six chi [Chinese foot, about 1/3 of a meter] away.

    The waist of Gong Ping’s pants was ripped open, revealing a pair of legs.

    A pair of slender, firm, and elastic legs. A pair once-a-man-sees-it-he-will-never-forget kind of legs.

    Lu Xiaofeng had seen this pair of legs.

    At the rear courtyard of Zhao Xiazi’s coffin shop, beneath the flying violet long skirt. The legs he saw were precisely this pair of legs, he was absolutely sure about it.

    He stared blankly.

    Any man who suddenly saw this kind of legs, who saw the legs suddenly appeared behind ripped pants, he would certainly stare blankly as well. It’s just that the reason Lu Xiaofeng was staring blankly this time was a bit different to the great majority of other men in the universe. This time he was dumbfounded, because ever since he knew Gong Ping, he had never expected that the old lady who wanted to kill him, whose legs exposed underneath the violet long skirt, could be Gong Ping.

    Emotions sometimes can blind you, oftentimes it could cover the eyes, so that we cannot see what we ought to see.

    The fortunate thing was that now he has seen it. The unfortunate thing was also now he has seen it.

    Between the fortunate and unfortunate, oftentimes there was a blank space.

    During this blank space, one could stare blankly.

    The period when one was staring blankly, oftentimes it was other people’s good opportunity.

    Suddenly, all those people who were not supposed to move began to move. Sha Dahu, Zhao Xiazi, Wang Dayan, Gong Susu, and Xu Ba were clearly being immobilized, but in that instant all started to move. Not only that, their movement was very fast, very accurate, very vicious.

    This kind of fast, accurate, and vicious move, definitely was not something that people who grew up in this kind of desolate place were capable of achieving.

    If a person was able to move this fast, this accurate, and this vicious, it does not matter which criteria is being used, this person would definitely be considered one of the best martial art experts in Jianghu.

    ‘Fifty’. It seems to be a large number. But if you counted how many people there were mingling in Jianghu, how many people were struggling to make their names in Jianghu, and how many actually managed to ‘make it’ in Jianghu?

    In Jianghu, every day, every night, every moment, how many people were involved in decisive battle in order to seek survival, to preserve their lives? How many were actually defeated, how many met their death, and how many actually achieve victory?

    If you could think about these things, then you will know that the matter of life and death, the matter of victory or defeat, are tied up to some extent with a delicate split second.

    In such a delicate split second, Lu Xiaofeng fell.

    If in such a split second, after receiving so much well-planned all-out attack by so many martial art experts, one person was still able to stand, then nobody in this world could fall.

    To a person who had mingled in Jianghu for many years, who had been famous also for many years, making friends in countless number, and becoming enemies with also countless people, falling down could only mean one thing: death.

    How could Lu Xiaofeng die?

    (Four)

    No one believed Lu Xiaofeng could die. Even if someone saw with his own eyes that someone else has chopped Lu Xiaofeng’s neck, he still would not believe that the Lu Xiaofeng, who could not die, would actually give up his ghost and return to the western paradise.

    Yet this time Lu Xiaofeng really gave up his ghost and returned to the western paradise.

    What’s going on here?

    [1] King Zhou (紂王) - last king of the Shang Dynasty (or Yin Dynasty). Posthumous name given to Di Xin. Said to have invented this torture 炮烙 (‘burning frame’) to please his wife Daji (妲己). Mentioned in the Ming Dynasty's mythological novel, Investiture of the Gods (封神演義). For details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Di_Xin. Image of 炮烙 can be found here: http://www.zwbk.org/MyLemmaShow.aspx?lid=215398 (Courtesy of LuDongBin).

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