Thanks for the kind words you guys.
Someone to Care for
September 14th, morning. Li Yan Bei came out of the 13th out of his 30 residences and began walking down the mist covered fog. Even though his stride was still that long, they also seemed very heavy. Even though he was still standing as tall as he was, his eyes belied a tiredness. He did not sleep last night.
In the last 11 years, there would be a huge entourage following him on these daily morning walks amid the mists. But today was different. Not a single person was there.
The Sun had not risen yet, frost covered the leaves and trees. Today was even colder than yesterday, it would not be too long until snow flakes begin to fill the sky.
The winter in the northern countries would always come early, especially to Li Yan Bei. To him, winter had already arrived in his heart.
In the thick mist, a person came walking up to him on the street. Before Li Yan Bei saw his face, he noticed that pair of shining eyes.
"Lu Xiao Feng?"
"It's me." Lu Xiao Feng had stopped underneath a withered tree, waiting for him. "If someone could have a morning walk everyday, he would be assured of good health and a long life."
He was smiling, but it was not exactly a cheerful smile.
"How long have you been walking around out here?" Li Yan Bei asked.
"It felt like around an hour or so!"
"Why didn't you come in?"
Lu Xiao Feng smiled again, this time even more forced.
Li Yan Bei looked at him in shock.
"You're scared? You get scared too?"
"Of course, and very often."
"What are you scared of?" Li Yan Bei did not wait for Lu Xiao Feng to reply before asking another question. "Are you scared to see Ou Yang?"
Lu Xiao Feng nodded.
"She's still alive," Li Yan Bei patted him on the shoulder. "It seems like the poison was not as deadly as it looks on the surface!"
Lu Xiao Feng let out a long, relieved, sigh.
"Just you today?" He suddenly asked.
Li Yan Bei nodded, suddenly looking very tired.
"They all have something to take care of today!"
"Then you shouldn't have come out!"
Li Yan Bei let out a little laugh, his laugh was not exactly cheerful either.
"After what happened yesterday, you should be more careful."
Li Yan Bei walked along by Lu Xiao Feng's side, not saying anything.
"In the last 11 years, I would always take a walk around this area in the morning," he suddenly stated after they walked a good distance. "Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, rain or snow, I've never missed a day."
This area was his. Whenever he walked through these old but wide streets, his heart would always be filled with pride and satisfaction, just like a general inspecting his troops, or an Emperor looking over his land.
"If I were you, I would probably take walks like that everyday as well." Lu Xiao Feng understood how he must have felt.
"You absolutely would have!"
"Nevertheless, I would make an exception today!"
"You absolutely would not!"
"Especially today, you would not have missed it!"
Li Yan Bei hesitated, scanning the old but refined shops that lined both side of the street, his eyes seemingly filled sadness and nostalgia. After a long pause, he finally answered.
"Because today would be the last time for me!"
"Last time?" Lu Xiao Feng looked at him in shock. "Why would it be the last time?"
Li Yan Bei did not answer this question, instead he remained quiet for a long time before asking a question of his own: "Have you ever met my sons?"
Lu Xiao Feng shook his head. He never had, nor did he understand why Li Yan Bei would suddenly ask this question.
"I have 19 sons, the youngest is only 2." Li Yan Bei slowly continued. "They are all my sons, my very own flesh and blood."
Lu Xiao Feng did not say anything and listened to what he had to say.
"I turn 50 this year, even though I look strong, in reality, I'm an old man."
"You are not old," Lu Xiao Feng tried to force a laugh. "Some people say that men only really start living after they turn 50!"
"But I can't afford to lose it." Li Yan Bei tried to force a laugh as well, but failed miserably. "Because I would not be able to stand seeing my children suffer."
"Did you actually sold off all this land?" Lu Xiao Feng finally understood what he meant.
"I didn't want to do it," Li Yan Bei hung his head as he gravely replied. "But they gave me too good of a deal to pass up!"
"What deal is that?"
"Not only are they willing to assume the responsibility for the debt, they also guaranteed the safety for my entire family to move to the South!" He finally laughed, but it was a melancholy laugh. "I know that the South of the Yangtze is a great place. Every spring, the birds would fill the sky, the peaches would be ripe for the picking, the willows would sway. If the childrens grew up there, they would never grow up to be an old ruffians like me."
Lu Xiao Feng looked at him.
"You really are an old ruffian!" He sighed.
"You don't have kids, so maybe you don't understand what it feels like to be a father!" Li Yan Bei smiled exasperatingly.
"If you do, then you should know why I would do something like this!"
"If Xi Men Chui Xue should lose, then I would immediately have no where and no place to go, and there's nothing I could do about it."
Lu Xiao Feng also knew this. Nobody with 19 sons has that many things he can do to begin with.
"After I saw Ye Gu Cheng yesterday, I knew I did not have a chance to win."
"Not you, Xi Men Chui Xue!"
"But if he does lose, I would actually lose more than him!"
"Then you shouldn't blame me for doing this."
"I'm not blaming you," Lu Xiao Feng answered. "I'm just feeling that it's quite a shame for you."
"Quite a shame? What do you mean?"
Lu Xiao Feng did not answer this question, but asked another question: "Who did you sell your land to?"
"Gu Qing Feng."
"Who is Gu Qing Feng?"
"A Taoist monk."
"Taoist Monk?" Lu Xiao Feng was shocked at the answer.
"There are many different kinds of Taoist monks."
"What kind is he?"
"The rich and powerful kind." Li Yan Bei went on to explain. "There are two sects of Taoism, the leader of the Southern Sect is Father Zhang of Dragon Tiger Mountain and the leader of the Northern Sect is the Master of White Cloud Outlook!"
"He is Master of White Cloud Outlook?"
Li Yan Bei nodded: "White Cloud Outlook is just outside of the city. Many of the officials are frequent guests of the outlook, some even had become his disciple!"
"So even though he is a Taoist monk in name, he's actually just the richest and most powerful landlord around here." Lu Xiao Feng sneered.
"If he wasn't someone like that, would I have gave him my land?" Li Yan Bei smiled miserably.
"Could you stil reneg on this?"
"I have already accepted his offer and have given all my deeds to him."
"Are all those people who were under your command now also his?"
"The real control of these territories is not in my hands but in the Commission."
"Is he already the head of the Commission now?"
"The head position of the Commision is his too now," Li Yan Bei sighed. "I have already handed him the Dragon Flag Tally that was handed to me by the previous head in front of several witnesses!"
"Who found these witnesses?"
"He did, but they are all martial art masters and statesmen that I have always respected."
"One was the Wooden Taoist from Wutang, another was Ancient Pine Hermit from Mt. Huang, and the last was Honest Monk!"
Lu Xiao Feng was shocked. So shocked that he stopped walking.
"No wonder I couldn't find them!" His facial color seemed to have changed as well. "I left and they came!"
"I didn't mention you to them!"
"Well, if they are the witnesses, then you really can't go back on this anymore!"
"I didn't want to go back on the deal, I had made this decision myself!" He stared at Lu Xiao Feng's face. "But you seem like you want to say something."
Lu Xiao Feng was silent for a long time.
"I do have something to tell you." He finally nodded ever so slightly.
"The South of the Yangtze is not only a great place, but also just crawling with beautiful women. You better behave once you get down there." He laughed. "There's only 30 days in a month, if you marry another 30 women, your head would get split open!"
Li Yan Bei laughed too, patting Lu Xiao Feng's shoulder and laughing: "Don't worry. I was going to leave all those pretty gals there to you anyways!"
Lu Xiao Feng threw his head back and laughed.
"Then I better come visit you soon, lest you change your mind!"
He did not say anything about Ye Gu Cheng. He had wanted to several times, but decided against it everytime. Li Yan Bei was his friend. If a friend was leaving, why not let him leave smiling? If a friend could be smiling, then never make him suffer or regret. -- This was another principle of Lu Xiao Feng's. But he must clearly distinguish who was a friend and who was a foe first.
"What do you plan to leave?" He suddenly asked.
"Probably after tomorrow." Facing this ancient but endearing city, Li Yan Bei's eyes was suddenly filled with an indescribable sadness and nostalgia. "Even though I'm already an unconcerned spectator, I would still like to know the result of this duel."
Lu Xiao Feng slowly nodded, he understood what Li Yan Bei felt at this moment.
"When you leave, I might not be able to send you on your way. But if you were to come again, no matter how hard the rain, how bad the wind, I will definitely be there to welcome you!" He forced a smile onto his face. "I never liked goodbyes."
Goodbyes always made people sad, even though he did not care much for life or death, he placed great importance to goodbyes.
"I know." Li Yan Bei also forced a smile onto his face. "Even though I'm never going to return once I leave, I would always welcome you whenever you come venture south."
Lu Xiao Feng did not say anything more and just simply walked along with him for a while.
"The Wooden Taoist and the gang, did they leave with Gu Qing Feng?"
"Where do you think they went?"
"White Cloud Outlook. Their vegetable dishes and wine are famous."