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Thread: Adventures of Lu Xiao Feng, Book 3, Before and After the Duel

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    Default Adventures of Lu Xiao Feng, Book 3, Before and After the Duel

    As some people pointed out, it made more sense to start a new thread.

    Chapter 1
    Urgent Message from a Strange Man

    Autumn. The maple on the mountains have already turned into various shades of red, the glint of the road was now covered by a layer of white. The dead of Autumn was approaching.

    The 13th of September. Just before dawn. Li Yan Bei walked out of office number 12 of his 30 offices as he made his way quickly down the still fog covered street. The jug of Bamboo Green and an hour worth of fooling around did not seem to have any tiring effect on him.

    He well over 2 meters tall with a huge and strong build that was brimming with expectant energy. On that serious, dark browed, sharp eyed, eagle-nosed face of his was always an expression that was bordering on cruelty, just like that of an ancient leopard that had just leapt out of the bushes.

    Anybody, no matter who he or she might be, would have a little bit of respect and fear when they come across him, and he would never carry himself lightly either.

    Even ten years ago, he was already one of the most powerful man in this ancient city. A group of men followed him about 5 meters behind him, seemingly having to run just to keep up with him. Within this group of men was the head and the individual escorts of the 3 biggest escort services in all of the capital city, as well as the heads of the underground organizations within the cities just outside of the capital, not to mention the wardens and bosses of the most successful businesses and loan sharks within the city.

    There were also several people who had settled down in the city more than 10 years ago but about whose background nobody had any clues about.

    They were all rich and successful middle aged men, and none of them wanted to leave the warmth of their home to walk about on this bitterly cold street this early in the day. But they had to make a walk like this every morning.

    Because Li Yan Bei particularly liked to walk along this set path for at least an hour every morning before dawn. This place could practically be called his kingdom. During this walk, his head would always be particularly sharp and his assesements would always be particularly accurate. He liked to have his most trusted men following right behind him so he could give them instructions on the fly. Besides, this had been a habit of his for many years now. Just like the moring court that the Emperor holds, it does not matter if you like it or not, you could not miss it.

    Ever since the Head Escort of the "World Shaking Escort", "Golden Sabre" Feng Kun, was dragged by him out of his bed and into a frozen river one particularly cold morning, nobody has missed one of these walks even once.

    The light of the morning sun have not yet arisen, the wind still carried with it the chilling fragrance of the night, the branches on the trees on the side of the road had long been stripped bare of leaves, and the dew on the fallen leaves had already turned into a layer of thin Autumn frost.

    Li Yan Bei's fists were tight as he had already walked from the outer walls of the city all the way to the center of the city just outside of the front gate.

    "Sun Chong!" He suddenly yelled out. Immediately, a middle aged man in a gentry outfit and a slight whisker came running out among the men behind him and caught up to him. This was one of the best and most famous men under the command of Li Yan Bei, none other than the head of the "Hall of Satisfaction", the same hall whose weapons making was known throughout all of China.

    "Did I not instruct you 15 years ago to never ever take Da Zong's business again?" Li Yan Bei asked with a grave voice. He did not slow down and wait for him to catch up, nor did he even look at him.

    "Yes, sir."

    "Then why is it that last night, you sold 66 sabres, 50 swords, and all of the bow and arrows from your weapon's arsenal?"

    Sun Chong's head dipped as his expression dropped. Obviously, he did not think that Li Yan Bei could have found out about this so soon.

    "This deal's intake was huge, practically paying for itself," he stammered, "besides...."

    "Besides, business is still just business, right?" Li Yan Bei sneered.

    Sun Chong did not answer but instead only held his head even lower.

    Li Yan Bei's fists were even tighter as the look of anger appeared on his face.

    "Do you know who is the man behind all those purchases?" He suddenly asked.

    Sun Chong hesitantly shook his head. But his eyes were sneaking peeks at the surrounding. At this time, they had just made their way onto a very narrow street with cherry trees on the side that was off angle with the other streets. The shops and vendors on the side of the street were not yet open. But at this precise moment, two huge covered horse drawn carts charged out of the narrow alleys on either side of the street and cut them off in the middle of the street.

    Next, the black cloth covering the cart were suddenly lifted as well -- revealing about a dozen men in black on both carts, each with a bow in hand, each of the bows already drawn in full, each with an arrow aimed at Li Yan Bei. Sun Chong had wanted to jump onto a cart, but Li Yan Bei had already grabbed his wrist.

    His face suddenly turned deadly pale as he tried to scream.

    "Cease...." was all he could get out before the vibrations from the bows drawned out his voice as the arrows filled the sky.

    Li Yan Bei widened his stance and, with a simple flick of his arm, spun Sun Chong up in the air and right into the oncoming arrows. In an instant Sun Chong's body was covered with arrows like a hedgehog. Li Yan Bei let out a yell and was prepared to charge onto the carts. But unexpectedly, as soon as this group of shooters let loose their arrows, they immediately fell down onto the floor of the car only to be replaced with another shift of archers behind them.

    Twenty eight bows were fully drawn, arrows awaiting release. Li Yan Bei froze.

    That crowd of people following him was already cut off by a third cart. Even if his body was fashioned out of iron, there was no way he could survive rounds after rounds of this kind of assault!

    After 20 years of struggles, several hundreds of battles and fights, he still could not avoid falling into his enemies' traps.

    Li Yan Bei's eyes were blood filled as he looked like a wolf that had fallen into the hunter's trap. Just one twang of the bow and even this proud and mighty leader of the capital city would be hard pressed to avoid having his heart pierced by an arrow.

    But it was precisely at that instant, a sudden and sharp sound of something flying through the air could be heard coming from the roof on the left.

    Flash! Two streaks of green flew across the bows.

    "Zeng!" "Zeng!" "Zeng!"

    With a string of sounds like marbles dropped on the floor, the strings of all 28 bows were instantly cut in half by the two streaks of light! Then came a loud but flat thud as those two streaks smashed against the door on the right. They turned out to be nothing more than two bronze coins.

    Who could be so strong as to be able to cut 28 bows in half with just two coins? The faces of the archers were deathly pale as they all began to tumble off of the cart and running towards the narrow alleys. But Li Yan Bei did not chase after them.

    These men were not his opponents, they were not worthy to be his foe. Besides, he had learned quite a long time ago that killing could not make people truly respect you.

    Instead, he just took a deep breath and announced in a grave voice: "Slow down, no need to rush everyone. Go back and tell your master that since Li Yan Bei did not die today, he will surely find him one of these days!"

    Someone began clapping on top of the roof on the left.

    "Great stuff! Such composure! Such dignity! Truly fitting of the famed Li Yan Bei!" That person shouted with a hint of laughter.

    Li Yan Bei began to laugh as well.

    "Pity even if the famed Li Yan Bei had three heads and six arms, he would still not be a match for Lu Xiao Feng's two fingers!"

    With a hearty laugh, that person jumped down from the roof. His round and chiselled face was covered with dust and wear from travel, but his eyes were still bright, and his eye brows were still shiny black.

    Four eyebrows. Other than him, who else in this world could grow a mustache as pretty as his eyebrows?

    "You figured out who I am?"

    "Golden Coin Flick takes strength in one's fingers," Li Yan Bei observed. "Other than Lu Xiao Feng, who else could slice the strings of 28 bows in half?"

    ______________________________

    The sun had already risen. Under the sunlight, the steam that poured out from the frying pan looked like a morning fog.

    Lu Xiao Feng had a fuming piece of pork in one hand and a bowl of fermented bean soup in the other, his third bowl. Only after draining this third bowl did he finally let out a drawn out sigh and wipe the sweat off of his forehead.

    "In the three years since I've been back at the capital, you know what I've missed the most?" He asked with a smile.

    "Bean soup?" Li Yan Bei answered with a smile.

    Lu Xiao Feng threw his head back and laughed.

    "The thing I missed the most is indeed bean soup, and the second most is fried liver, especially the fire fried liver of Gathering Gods Inn, not to mention Shiny Glow Pavilion northern roast and Meat Pie Street's meat pie."

    "What about me?" asked an amused Li Yan Bei.

    "Well, when I'm not hungry, only then would I think of you," replied a smiling Lu Xiao Feng.

    "But you probably didn't think that there would come a day when I would almost perish in the hands of another."

    Lu Xiao Feng had to admit that was true.

    "I didn't think you were going to let them go either!"

    "You think I like killing?"

    A smile appeared on Lu Xiao Feng's face again.

    "If you did like killing, then I'm afraid you wouldn't have lived until today."

    "Yet you...."

    "Yet you still should have at least asked who sent them!" Lu Xiao Feng cut him off.

    A smile appeared on Li Yan Bei's face as well.

    "I didn't need to ask.

    "You already figured it out?"

    The smile on Li Yan Bei's face did not exactly look happy.

    "Other than Old Du from the southern half of the city, who else would have enough guts to try to pull a move like that?" He casually stated.

    "Du Tong Xuan?"

    Li Yan Bei nodded, but the small boiled clam shell that he had just picked up was already squeezed to dust.

    "The two of you have not meddled with each other for the last ten years, and he should have known a long time ago that you are not an easily dealt with person. Why would he take a risk like this?"

    "For six hundred thousand taels of silver and his territories in the south of the city."

    Lu Xiao Feng did not understand.

    "I've a bet with him, and the wager is six hundred thousand taels of silver and all of his territory."

    That was truly quite a wager. Even Lu Xiao Feng could not help but take a deep breath.

    "So what are you two betting on?"

    "The duel on September 15th!"

    -Night of full moon, peak of Zi Jin, a sword from the west, an angel from the outter heavens!

    "The duel was originally scheduled for August 15th on top of Mount Zi Jin. But Xi Men Chui Xue insisted on delaying the date for a month and changing its location to here."

    "I know."

    "Ever since that day of August 15th, nobody in the world has seen or heard of Xi Men Chui Xue!"

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed again. Of course, he knew about that as well. He was also trying to find Xi Men Chui Xue, trying very hard.

    "That's the reason why everyone thinks that Xi Men Chui Xue is afraid of Ye Gu Cheng," Li Yan Bei continued, "that he must have already gone into hiding."

    "But you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's not that kind of a man!"

    Li Yan Bei nodded.

    "That's why even though others think he'd surely lose, I'm still betting on him to win! No matter how much the wager."

    "Of course, Du Tong Xuan can't let an opportunity like this slip away."

    "So he made a bet with me."

    "Using his territory as a wager against your territory?"

    "And if he loses, he has to pay an extra six hundred thousand taels of silver on top."

    "I know, even a month ago, people were willing to take two to three odds that Ye Gu Cheng would win!"

    "The bookies' odds reached two to one a couple of days ago. Everyone still thinks that Ye Gu Cheng would win. Up until yesterday morning, Du Tong Xuan still believed that he had a nine in ten chance of winning."

    "Up until yesterday morning?"

    "Because the situation had completely changed yesterday afternoon!"

    "Oh?"

    Li Yan Bei stared at Lu Xiao Feng in almost disbelief.

    "Have you really not heard of the news that Ye Gu Cheng has been injured?"

    Lu Xiao Feng shook his head, obviously shocked by the news.

    "How could he be injured? Who could injure him?"

    "Tang Tian Yi."

    "The Tang Family's eldest son?" Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    "Correct."

    "Rumour has it that for some unknown reason or another, the two of them got into a confrontation near Zhang Jia Kou. Even though Ye Gu Cheng's move, Outter Heaven Angel, badly injured Tang Tian Yi, he was also hit by a handful of Tang Tian Yi's Poison Sand."

    The Tang Family poisons could only be cured by the descedents of the Tang Family. When someone is hit by their poison, no matter who it is, even if he did not die right away, he still does not have much longer to live.

    "Once this news reached here, those men who placed their bets on Ye Gu Cheng have been like ants on a frying pan, some have considered suicide, other have tried to figure out a way to have the bet called off."

    "And of course, if the other bettor is dead, then the bet is off!" Lu Xiao Feng concluded.

    Li Yan Bei let out a colder snicker.

    "That's why Du Tong Xuan would take such a risk to try and kill me!" Li Yan Bei finished the thought for him.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed. He finally understood the wherefor and why of this event.

    "Rumour has it that just last night alone, there has been at least 30 deaths in the city because of this. Even the West Imperial Palace's warden, "Iron Palm Turns the Sky", was ambushed by someone in the alley behind Iron Lion Lane because he placed an eight thousand tael bet on Xi Men Chui Xue."

    "Didn't think eight thousand taels of silver was enough to buy Iron Palm Zhao's life!" Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "Sometimes, even eighty taels of silver is more than enough to buy a life!"

    Lu Xiao Feng looked down at the food in front of him and discovered that, suddenly, he was not that hungry anymore.

    "Did anybody actually see the duel between Ye Gu Cheng and Tang Tian Yi with his own eyes?" He suddenly asked.

    "No."

    "Well if nobody saw it, then how are we so sure that this news is reliable?" Lu Xiao Feng asked.

    "Because everyone believes that the source of this news would never lie!"

    "Who's the source?"

    "Honest Monk!"

    Lu Xiao Feng could not say anything more. Not for the first time, nobody could find anything to say with regards to Honest Monk's credibility.

    "Honest Monk arrived in the city around noon yesterday," Li Yan Bei explained, "the first thing he did was go over to 'Ear Eyes' and ordered stewed dumplings. He ate one dumpling, and let out a sigh!"

    By this time, the oil on the pork had already froze in the September winds of the North. At a glance, it looked like a layer of frost.

    "The Four Swords of Heaven just happened to be eating there at the time, so they asked him why did he sigh," Li Yan Bei continued. "That's when Honest Monk broke the news."

    Of course, the Four Swords of Heaven were not the only ones who heard the news.

    "Other than Honest Monk and the Four Swords of Heaven, at least four or five hundred men of honour have made their way to the city in the last half a month."

    Lu Xiao Feng looked down at the oil on the meat, he suddenly felt the urge to puke.

    "From what I heard, there should be at least three to four hundred more famous men from the martial world who will arrive before the 15th, among them are at least five heads of sects, ten clan leaders, and twenty three escort masters. Even Wu Dang's Wooden Taoist and Shao Lin's Master Abbot will travel here. Nobody wants to miss this duel."

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly slammed his palm down onto the table.

    "What do they think Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng are? Two circus monkeys doing tricks? Two dogs fighting over a discarded bone in the street?" He sneered.

    The meat and the fire pan jumped up from the table when he slammed his palm down and eventually rolled to a stop on the ground.

    Li Yan Bei looked at Lu Xiao Feng in shock. He had never seen Lu Xiao Feng so emotional, nor could he figure out what made Lu Xiao Feng so angry.

    "Aren't you here to watch the duel too?" He had to ask.

    Lu Xiao Feng's fists were clenched tight.

    "I only hope to never see this duel!"

    "But now that Ye Gu Cheng has been injured, there's no way that Xi Men Chui Xue would lose!"

    "It doesn't matter who wins or loses, it's all the same!"

    "Isn't Xi Men Chui Xue your friend?"

    "Precisely because he is my friend, that's why I don't want to see him like a dog chasing after an unseen bone!"

    "What unseen bone?" Li Yan Bei still did not understand.

    "Reputation." - What other people think of you is precisely that piece of unseen bone.

    "If he does win this duel, it'll let you win Du Tong Xuan's territory, and those self-aggrandizing self-righteous swordsmen would all get to see a good show, not to mention they get to see their moves as well as the flaws and weaknesses of their techniques. But what about himself?" Lu Xiao Feng coldly continued.

    Would he not have won? But even if he did win, what good would it do him? Could anyone really understand the loneliness of the victor? Li Yan Bei had finally understood Lu Xiao Feng.

    He quietly stared at Lu Xiao Feng, stared at him for a long time.

    "This duel of theirs, they wanted to fight themselves," he finally said, slowly. "Nobody forced them to do this!"

    Of course not. There was absolutely nobody in this world that could force those two men to do anything.

    "I am also Xi Men Chui Xue's friend," Li Yan Bei continued. "I don't want to see him take this risk either, nor do I ever intended to use him to get Du Tong Xuan's territory. But if he wanted this fight himself, then I can't do anything to stop him!"

    He looked Lu Xiao Feng in the eye and continued, emphasizing every word.

    "Even you can't do anything to stop him!"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not want to admit it, but he could not deny it either.

    "Even more importantly, even the two of them themselves can't do anything to stop it either!" Li Yan Bei concluded.

    Many things in this world are like that. There are just some things that a man has to do in this world, and it does not really matter if he wants to or not.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly let out a gentle sigh.

    "I'm tired, I want to go take a warm bath!"

    ______________________________

    The bath was carved out of limestone and the water was very hot. Lu Xiao Feng submerged himself entirely under the hot water and tried his best to relax his arms and legs. He was truly exhausted, the kind of mental and physical exhaustion that originates from deep within one's heart.

    Anytime he finish something big, or solve a huge case, he would always feel like this. But never as deep as this.

    The Embroidery Bandit, Jin Jiu Ling, Lu Shao Hua, First Madame Gong Sun, Jiang Chong Wei, Ou Yang Qing, Xue Bing... he never wanted to think of these people again, especially Xue Bing.

    Everytime he thinks of Xue Bing, his heart would feel like it was being stabbed - stabbed by a sewing needle, a long, sharp, burning, and poisonous needle. In order to escape the pain, he went so far as to try and avoid First Madame Gong Sun. That's why as soon as he reached Jin Ling, he found a way and quietly left her.

    Pity that some things in this world he could not escape from, nor could they be avoided. Xi Men Chui Xue, Ye Gu Cheng, Du Tong Xuan, Honest Monk....

    He did not want to think anymore.

    "Xi Men Chui Xue must have already arrived here!" He suddenly declared.

    "How can you be so sure?" Li Yan Bei was lying on the side of the bath. A burly looking topless man was busy washing his back for him. This place was inside of his territory. He was as safe here as royalties in their own castles.

    "Xi Men Chui Xue always had this quirky concept."

    "What concept is that?"

    "He had always felt that killing or being killed is a very holy event!"

    Oh?"

    "So matter who he is dueling, he would always arrive a couple of days early, fast for three days, and then take a ceremonial bath to clense himself."

    Li Yan Bei suddenly let out a little laugh.

    "And you think that he's weird for doing that?"

    "You don't think he's weird for doing that?"

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    "Because if I was him, I would do the same thing!"

    He raised his hand to signal to the burly fellow to put scrub harder. More than ten years worth of enjoying the finest wine and women have not yet left its mark on his body. He stomach was still washboard flat and the muscles on his body were still as prominent as they were in the old days. These daily baths and power massages really have helped him immensely.

    "Fasting and clensing can clear a man's mind and help him concentrate. Arriving several days ahead of time at the location of the duel would help acclimate one to the place, making it possible to gain a positional advantage during the duel. That's why I have always believed that Xi Men Chui Xue is not a man who's easily defeated. Because if he wasn't 70% sure of winning, he would never fight to begin with."

    "So you think he has already arrived as well?"

    "Mmhmm."

    "But even until today, you still have not found a trace of him."

    "No."

    Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    "Two people who attracts attention as much as them arrived here and you didn't hear a thing? That's truly amazing."

    Li Yan Bei frowned as well.

    "Two? Who's the other person?"

    "Sun Xiu Qing."

    {Note: Lu Xiao Feng actually replied Sun Xiu Zhen, I changed it to keep it consistent with the rest of the book.}

    "A woman?"

    "A very beautiful woman!"

    "He's keeping a woman at his side this close to the duel?"

    "He would never let other women be at his side, but she's different."

    Li Yan Bei frowned even deeper and thought for a long time before letting out a loud sigh.

    "Fortunately, Ye Gu Cheng's already injured, else...."

    He turned over and suddenly stopped talking. Outside of the steam fogged room, a ghostly shape of a man suddenly appeared.

    "Who is it?" Li Yan Bei demanded in a fierce voice.

    That man did not answer, instead there came a sinister laugh.

    "You shouldn't have came here for a bath today!"

    "Why not?" Li Yan Bei demanded again.

    "Because if Du Tong Xuan could buy Sun Chong, he could definitely buy the man who washes your back for you!"

    The man's expression changed dramatically as he suddenly made a break for the door. But Li Yan Bei had already grabbed a hold of his arm. He was normally strong man, but under Li Yan Bei's grasp, he suddenly did not even have the strength the fight back. He tried to struggle, but only heard the sound of his own wrist snapping.

    "The poison is on the towel, if you want the antidote, go wait in the Oriental Spring Pavilion outside."

    The ghostly man moved like a ghost as well, with a mere flick of his sleeve, he was gone. But his voice could still be heard from far away.

    "Once you get to Oriental Spring Pavilion, you'd find out who I am, you can still come after me then!"

    By the time he finished, he sounded at least 200 meters away.

    Li Yan Bei tore the towel away from the man's hand. That man was still screaming from the pain as Li Yan Bei stuffed the towel into his open mouth. His scream suddenly stopped as his body twitched violently. His entire body literally shriveled up as he curled up and fell onto the floor, not moving anymore. There really was poison on this towel!

    When that man was scrubbing his back, the poison on the towel soak through his skin. Suddenly, every muscle on Li Yan Bei's body began to twitch and jump uncontrollably.

    Even Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback by the sight before him.

    "Du Tong Xuan! What a sinister move!"

    "And who was that man just then?" Li Yan Bei asked, fist clenched tightly as he tried to control himself. "How did he know about Du Tong Xuan's plan? And why would he safe me?"

    To find the answers, there was only one thing to do.

    "To the Oriental Spring Pavilion!"

    Oriental Spring Pavilion was also in Li Yan Bei's territory. They rode there on a carriage even though Li Yan Bei liked to walk. However, because he was afraid that the poison would break out, he did not want to exert any more strength than necessary.

    Those who seen him were as polite and courteous as they normally were towards him, bowing deeply as a sign of respect as soon as they saw him approach. Nobody could tell that this tiger of a man's life was in danger. Of course, Li Yan Bei was not as polite and courteous as he normally would be towards these people -- nobody with a sack of explosive that could go off at any moment inside of them would be in that good of a mood.

    The Oriental Spring Pavilion was huge and had a thriving business. At the time that they arrived, there was no table open, but everywhere Li Yan Bei goes there would inevitably be someone getting up and yielding the table to him. They picked a table in the center of the room, facing the stairs so they could immediately see everyone came up the stairs. There was nobody coming upstairs, only people going down.

    Seeing the vicious look on Li Yan Bei's face, those who knew better were already getting ready to leave, some were quietly making payment and some others were secretly discussing the situation.

    Suddenly, all the noise and sound in the building stopped. Every eye were glued on one single person, a person who had just walked the stairs.

    This man was very tall, and very thin. His clothing were obviously very meticulously picked out and his mannerisms were exceedingly refined. Even though he was not that old, his sideburns were already turning white. His skinny and green face always seemed to be carrying not only at least some signs of illness but also a definite feeling of power and authority, making it impossible for people to take him lightly.

    He was wearing a jade blue outfit made of the highest quality of cloth and color, on his effeminate and well preserved pair of hands was a priceless white jade ring. Even on his silk belt was a huge piece of flawless jade. From his appearence, he looked just like an official from the Imperial Court or a scholar from the Imperial Academy.

    In truth, quite a number of people do call him Scholar, and he really enjoyed being called that. But he was not a real scholar.

    He was smiling when he walked up the stairs, but everybody who saw him walking up was finding it difficult to smile, especially Li Yan Bei, his expression turned even sicker.

    Nobody could have imagined that Du Tong Xuan would suddenly appear inside of Li Yan Bei's territory the same way that nobody could imagine that a wolf would walk into a tiger's cave. In the last ten years, Du Tong Xuan did not set foot outside of the south of the city even once.

    Scholar Du was always a very careful and cautious person, what made him change today?

    Even more unimaginable for everyone present, he walked straight up to Li Yan Bei.

    "I hope General Li is doing well today?" He asked with a smile as he cupped his fist.

    He liked it when other people call him Scholar Du, but Li Yan Bei hated it when being referred to as General Li. Lu Xiao Feng laughed. To him, be it Scholar or General, the two names were both quite humourous.

    "And might you be the Quick Heart Quick Mind Hero Lu Xiao Feng?" Du Tong Xuan looked over at him and smiled back.

    "You are no scholar, he's no general, and I'm no hero, I say let's we should just forego all these polite pleasantries." Lu Xiao Feng replied with a laugh.

    Du Tong Xuan's expression did not even change as his mannerisms still remained as refined and dignified as ever. Lu Xiao Feng was finding it hard to see that this was the same unblinking killer that was Old Man Du of the city south.

    Li Yan Bei's stares were like knives, staring at him.

    "If I were you, I would never have came here!" He suddenly declared.

    "I'm not you, so I did!"

    "You shouldn't have!"

    "I already have!"

    "If you want to come here, you can." Li Yan Bei snickered. "But I'm afraid leaving might not be as easy!"

    Du Tong Xuan actually smiled.

    "Is this the way that General Li repays someone for saving his life?"

    The reply shocked Li Yan Bei.

    Du Tong Xuan, using that pair of jade ring wearing hand of his, pulled out a chair and sat down at the table.

    "I had thought that you would at least invite me to a drink." He continued with a smile.

    "Was that person who just saved me really you?" Li Yan Bei finally asked despite of himself.

    Du Tong Xuan nodded.

    Li Yan Bei stared back.

    "Just today, there have been two attempts on my life, that's also you?"

    "Sometimes I find it very easy to change my mind!" Du Tong Xuan noted matter of factly.

    "What made you change your mind?"

    Du Tong Xuan did not answer that question; instead, he suddenly shouted: "The antidote!"

    Almost before he finished shouting, a man was there behind him. A short and skinny man wearing all black. His deathly pale complexion was completely devoid of all emotion and expression, but his eyes were deeply sunken and dark as abyss. If not for his eyes, he could have easily been mistaken for a corpse.

    All these people here in the room, yet amazingly nobody saw how he had gotten there. A corpse-like face, a ghost-like quickness -- Li Yan Bei quickly discerned that he was none other than the man who mysteriously appeared and disappeared outside of the bath earlier. With a demon claw like hand, he had already placed a deathly green colored wooden flask on the table.

    "This is the antidote, I suggest it would be best if you take it as soon as possible, before the effects of the poison breaks out!"

    Li Yan Bei's fist remained clenched. For him to take this antidote in front of all these people would truly be an enormous embarrasement.

    But he just could not refuse either.

    And Du Tong Xuan knew he could not refuse.

    "I was just going to come here to deliever the antidote, but now...." He casually declared.

    "You changed your mind again?"

    Du Tong Xuan smiled.

    "I only just thought something else to ask of you!"

    "What?"

    "Don't know if you are interested in adding a little bit more to our wager!"

    Li Yan Bei was taken aback once again.

    "You want to raise the wager?"

    "You are scared?"

    "How much more do you want to raise?"

    "How much more can you wager?"

    Li Yan Bei's fists underneath the table were clenched again.

    "In my four bookies, there are still stored more than eight hundred thousand more taels of silver!"

    "Then I'll place another one million two hundred thousand taels of silver in them first thing tomorrow!" His eyes were glowing. "I don't want to take advantage of you, so we are still wagering on two to three odds!"

    Li Yan Bei's eyes were glowing as well, he stared Du Tong Xuan in the face and declared, word for word: "If I lose, I would immediately leave the capital. As long as you live, I would never set foot inside the capital again!"

    "If I lose, I would immediately leave the country, as long as you live, I would never set foot inside the Great Wall again!"

    "That settles it then?"

    "Hit palms to cement the deal!"

    The two men slowly raised their hands, eyes never leaving the other's eyes. Suddenly, not a sound could be heard anywhere in the building. The wagers in this bet was beyond anyone's imagination, they had literally wagered the lives of their entire families on the line.

    Everyone was staring at the two palms, their own palms covered in a layer of cold sweat.

    "Pa!" The sound of the two palms meeting ringed out, but for whom does the bell toll?

    Li Yan Bei's expression was very grave, only after a long while did he finally put his hand down.

    But Du Tong Xuan was smiling rather proudly.

    "You must find this strange, why would I raise the bet when I know that Ye Gu Cheng is injured?"

    Li Yan Bei did not refute the statement, for he really was finding all this very strange. Everybody was. Du Tong Xuan had always been a cautious man and would never do anything he was not sure of. Why would he be so sure about this? The answer to this question would come very quickly!

    ______________________________

    The wind breezed by outside the window. Suddenly, everyone became aware of a strange flowery fragrance. Six young maidens with ebony black hair down to their shoulders and clad in white came walking up the stairs all the while tossing flowers from the baskets on their hands onto the floor, creating a literal floral carpet of chrysanthemums up the stairs.

    A man, stepping on the flower petals, slowly walked up the stairs. His face was white, not a colorless white or a pale white but a kind of vibrant and glowing kind of white, like a white piece of jade.

    His eyes were not completely black, but were frighteningly bright, like two cold stars. A top of his pitch black hair sat a pearl crown made of white sandwood. The clothes he was wearing were also as white as the driven snow. He took his time when he walked up like how a king would walk into his own court, or like an angel, coming to visit this world.

    Li Yan Bei did not recognize this man, he had never seen this man before in his life. But he knew who this man was!

    "A sword from the west, an angel from the outter heavens!" Master of White Cloud Castle Ye Gu Cheng had actually showed up! He was still alive!

    There was a glow that almost made one squint eminating from his body. Nobody in his right mind would say that he looked like a man carrying an injury.

    When Li Yan Bei saw him, even his breathing almost stopped, but his heart did sink. Ye Gu Cheng did not see him, instead, those cold, starry eyes of his were staring at Lu Xiao Feng. Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    "You came as well!" Ye Gu Cheng said.

    "I came as well!" Lu Xiao Feng replied.

    "Excellent, I knew you would come!"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not responde, for Ye Gu Cheng's eyes suddenly looked away.

    "Who among you is Tang Tian Rong?" He suddenly asked.

    By the time he asked this questions, his eyes had already settled upon a man in the left corner.

    This man's face was originally very handsome, but by now it suddenly seemed frozen in a twist. He had been sitting quietly in the corner all this time, even Lu Xiao Feng had not noticed him when he arrived. He was still very young but his outfit was very ornate and elegant, but there was vulture like glint of cruelty in his eyes.

    Those eyes were staring straight back at Ye Gu Cheng as well.

    "I am Tang Tian Rong!" He answered, emphasizing each word.

    The people sitting at seven or eight tables between him and Ye Gu Cheng suddenly scattered into the other two corners of the room.

    "Do you know who I am?" Ye Gu Cheng asked.

    Tang Tian Rong nodded.

    "Are you wondering right now exactly how I'm still alive?"

    The corner of Tang Tian Rong's mouth seemed to be flinching involutarily.

    "Who gave you the antidote?"

    Only now did everybody know that, this time, Honest Monk had still not lied. Ye gu Cheng really was injured, injured by the Poison Sand of the Tang Family. But yet how could this poison that had long frightened anybody and everybody in all of the martial world until this day not have had any ill effects on Ye Gu Cheng? Who indeed gave him the antidote?

    Everybody wanted to hear Ye Gu Cheng's answer, but yet he just would not answer this question.

    Instead, he casually replied: "There was no poison to begin with, why bother with an antidote?"

    "No poison to begin with?"

    "Where's the poison in a bit of dust?"

    Tang Tian Rong's face dropped.

    "My family's Flying Sand is nothing but a bit of dust in your eyes?"

    Ye Gu Cheng nodded. Tang Tian Rong did not talk anymore, instead, he slowly stood up and loosened his robe to reveal the shirt he wore inside.

    His shirt was not strange, nor scary. What was frightening was two leopard skin pouches that were held tightly around his hips along with a pair of fish-skin gloves on his belt!

    The entire pavilion suddenly became deathly quiet again. Everybody wanted leave, but nobody was willing to leave. For everybody knew that right here, right now, an incredible battle was about to ensue.

    Tang Tian Rong took off his robe and put on his gloves. Those fish skin gloves had an eerie green glow, his face seemed to be a sickly green as well.

    Ye Gu Cheng quietly stood there, watching. A boy in white walked up from behind him and offered an ancient and elegant sword in black sheath. Sword was now in hand!

    Tang Tian Rong's eyes did not leave the sword in his hand.

    "Anybody else here thinks that my family's Flying Sand is nothing more than a bit of dust?" He suddenly shouted.

    Of course nobody answered!

    "If nobody else thinks so, then it would be best if everybody could please go down stairs so as to avoid accidents!"

    Those who were unwilling to leave had to leave now. The Tang Family's Poison Sands, in the eyes of those in the martial world, was even more frightening than the Black Plague. Nobody wanted to risk touching even one.

    "No need to leave!" Ye Gu Cheng suddenly declared.

    "No need?"

    "I guarantee that you could not even release the Flying Sand out of your hand!" He matter of factly answered.

    Tang Tian Rong's expression changed again.

    The Tang Family Poison Sand was not just frightening because of the poison it contained, but also because that the Tang Family disciples were extremely fast!

    Even those who had witnessed their attack first hand could not describe just how they attacked. But this time Tang Tian Rong really was not even able to release the poisonous sands. As soon as his hands moved, the glow of a sword took flight!

    Nobody can describe how spectacular and mesmerizing this strike was, and even less can describe its speed! This was not just a sword, but an angry rumblem from the god of thunder. Like a bolt of lightning, it flashed, and disappeared.

    Ye Gu Cheng had already returned onto the floral carpet. But Tang Tian Rong was still standing there, not moving one bit, his arms had fallen to his side, and his face frozen stiff.

    It was only then that everyone saw the blood suddenly spewing out from underneath his collarbone on both shoulders. Tears flooded out with the blood. He knew, at this moment, that in his life he would never be able to use the poison again. To a member of the Tang family, it was a fate more frightening and cruel than death itself!

    But now Ye Gu Cheng's attention had returned to Lu Xiao Feng.

    "What an extraordinary strike of Outter Heaven Angel!" Even Lu Xiao Feng had to praise the strike.

    "It is indeed a strike peerless in all of the world!" Ye Gu Cheng declared.

    "I won't deny that!" Lu Xiao Feng agreed.

    A strange emotion suddenly surfaced in Ye Gu Cheng's eyes and he asked a very strange question.

    "What about Xi Men Chui Xue?"

    "I'm not Xi Men Chui Xue?" Lu Xiao Feng answered. A strange question could only be answered with a strange reply.

    Ye Gu Cheng smiled and stared back at Lu Xiao Feng.

    "Good thing you are not." He slowly replied. Still smiling, he turned around and walked down the stairs.

    As soon as he left, the entire pavilion suddenly exploded. Some people were loudly debating, while others were scrambling out to be the first to spread the news. Not only was Ye Gu Cheng not dead, he was not even injured. Everybody had seen his strike! His peerless, matchless strike! Li Yan Bei saw it too, saw it very clearly. That was why he looked like he was staring into space.

    Du Tong Xuan looked over at him and suddenly smiled.

    "I'm sure you realize now why I changed my mind!"

    Li Yan Bei did not answer, and he did not need to answer.

    "Usually, I only kill people, I don't save them, but this time I'll make an exception." Du Tong Xuan continued. "Because I don't want you to die!"

    Still smiling, he stood up.

    "Because a corpse can't pay up a debt, a gambling debt!"

    ______________________________

    Gambling debt. Only a corpse can reneg on such a debt. As long as Li Yan Bei was alive, then he would have to pay up. A man who goes back on his words would never be able to live in a place like this!

    Now, even though that battle still had not began, everyone was sure that Li Yan Bei would lose. But if he really lost this bet, being alive was not much better than being dead.

    Slowly, hesitantly, Li Yan Bei picked up the antitode that Du Tong Xuan left on the table. He suddenly laughed.

    "No matter what, at least Du Tong Xuan saved my life this once!"

    His laugh looked very forced. The hand he picked up the antidote from seemed to be slightly shaking.

    "No matter what, at least you are still alive right now, and haven't lost!" Lu Xiao Feng tried to comfort him.

    "At least not yet," Li Yan Bei nodded.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared Li Yan Bei in the face.

    "But you don't seem to be nearly as confident as before."

    Li Yan Bei did not refute this notion, nor could he. Only after a long silence did he finally let out a long, drawn out, exhausted sigh.

    "That truly was a strike peerless in this world!"

    "A peerless strike doesn't necessarily mean a must-win strike!" Lu Xiao Feng declared.

    "Oh?"

    "There is no must-win strike in this world!"

    "I know that Xi Men Chui Xue has never lost before, he should have at least a half a chance to win, but now...."

    "Now what?"

    Li Yan Bei smiled again, once again, an even more forced smile.

    "If he had arrived in the city, at least I would have known it by now!"

    "So if you don't know about it, then that means he hasn't arrived?"

    "You could say that!"

    "And if he hadn't arrived here yet, does that convey that he doesn't have confidence in himself?"

    "What do you think?" Li Yan Bei threw the question back at him.

    "I don't know, I don't like to speculate too much on things that have yet to happen!"

    Upon hearing that comment, Li Yan Bei became silent again.

    "Did you recognize that guy who came with Du Tong Xuan?" He suddenly asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng shook his head.

    "But you probably noticed that his lightness kungfu wasn't shabby at all!"

    "Far from shabby. Right now, the people who are better than him probably number less than 10!"

    "You have traveled far and wide and seen many things, don't you at least have an idea on who he is?"

    "If not for his small and skinny stature, I would have probably mistook him for Si Kong Zhai Xing!" Lu Xiao Feng said, in deep thought.

    "He isn't?"

    "Absolutely not!"

    "Is that why you can't figure out who he is?"

    "But I can't shake the feeling that something's not right!"

    "What's bothering you?"

    "No matter who he is, based on his skills, there's no way he should be a servant of a man like that!"

    Li Yan Bei did not say anything more for a long time.

    "You just arrived here at the capital, I know you must really want to tour the city a bit. I'm sure you'll meet up with a lot of friends."

    Lu Xiao Feng did not refute this claim.

    He really did want to see what kind of people had showed up here, and he also wanted to go find Honest Monk.

    "Tonight, I'll go to Lasting Happiness Hall in Gold Fish Alley and order us a couple of dishes and have them delievered to my house. We'll celebrate at my house tonight!"

    "Great!" Lu Xiao Feng replied before suddenly bursting out laughing. "Which one of your houses is that?"

    Li Yan Bei laughed too.

    "Today is the 13th? I'm supposed to dine at 13th Mistress' place tonight. Besides, she's wanted to see you for a while now and find out why you have 4 eye brows."

    "I have wanted to meet her too, heard she's a very famouse beauty!" Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    "Great!" Li Yan Bei laughed. "When dinner time rolls around, I'll order a couple of guys to wait here for you to take you to my place!"

    "If I happen to run into Hua Man Lou, I might have to drag him along as well!"

    "No problem!"

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly sighed.

    "The strange thing is that, he seemed to have disappeared along with Xi Men Chui Xue. If I could find him, I might be able to find Xi Men Chui Xue too!"

    "Why?"

    "He has this weird ability to find people, even I can't begin to explain how exactly he does it!"

    "If you go take a walk outside, he might find you instead!"

    "Very possible."

    "Then what are you waiting here for?"

    Lu Xiao Feng looked Li Yan Bei in the face and slowly replied: "Waiting for you to drink the antidote!"

    "You want to watch me take the antidote before you leave?"

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    Li Yan Bei suddenly threw his head back and laughed.

    "Don't worry, I don't want to die just yet. I can't bear to make 30 women turn into widows all at once!"
    Last edited by Moinllieon; 07-01-04 at 08:10 AM.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  2. #2

    Default

    Bleh, sorry for taking so long, my momentum was killed when the file that I saved this chapter in became corrupted and I had to start all over from scratch. (Mental note: backing up files = good!)

    Chapter 2
    Dead Men Tell No Tales

    September 13th, just past noon. After Lu Xiao Feng walked down Oriental Spring Pavilion, he began to make his way briskly down the street. The sun had already risen.

    He decided that this was truly a beautiful city, its streets were wide and flat, its buildings were neatly kept and clean, every single store front was more refined and delicate than those found in other cities.

    But he also knew that the most beautiful thing about this city was not its bustling streets or its beautiful architure, nor was it those world famous scenery and landmarks, but its people. No matter where you came from, no matter where you go, once you have visited this city, you will never forget it.

    Once past midday, the wind would start to blow. As soon as the wind would blow, the air would be filled with dust. But no dust storm in this world, no matter how large, could cover up the beauty of this city. Even though Lu Xiao Feng was walking at a brisk pace, he had no destination in mind what so ever.

    Of the people he wanted to see, he saw none, but of the people he did not want to see, he saw quite a few. The first one he saw was Ou Yang Qing.

    Ou Yang Qing was roaming through the jewelery shops outside, standing next to a seemingly elegantly dressed madame with a headful of pearls.

    The lady was probably very beautiful, but Lu Xiao Feng dared not to take a second glance. As soon as he saw Ou Yang Qing, he turned his head in the other direction. -- He thought of Xue Bing again. Ou Yang Qing obviously saw him as well, but also pretended not to notice. Suddenly, she grabbed the madame's hand and boarded an ebony black carriage.

    Only after the carriage rumbled out of sight did Lu Xiao Feng turn his head around as he stared numbly at the dust the carriage stirred up as it rumbled away, not sure how he was feeling inside himself.

    On the other side of the street, several people were waving at him, but a couple steps away from him was a young man staring at him, hand on sword.

    He recognized those men, among them were two master escorts from the Sichuan and Hunan areas, a disciple of Wudang, and a helsman of a bandit group from around Sichuan. But he did not recognize that young man who was staring at him.

    The stare was quite a vicious one as well, and it was coupled with an expression that was just looking for trouble. But Lu Xiao Feng did not want any trouble, so he only lightly nodded towards those men before quickly turning around and walking eastward.

    Suddenly, a hand reached out from an antique art store on the side of the street and patted him on the shoulder.

    "You are here! I knew you would come!"

    A old taoist with a headful of a silvery white hair and a barely patched together robe walked out from the store, laughing; behind him was a thin but healthy looking old man with clean and neat clothes. They were none other than the Wooden Taoist and Ancient Pine Hermit.

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was return the smile.

    "I knew you would come too!"

    The Wooden Taoist threw his head back in laughter. Despite his advancing age, his face was still bursting red with energy and still had a glint of mischieve. Very few people could tell that he was none other than one of the three most celebrated swordsmen in the world.

    "I can't miss this duel!" He patted Lu Xiao Feng on the shoulder again and smiled. "Even if I'm too old to walk here, I would crawl!"

    "Is it because you want to see where the weaknesses are in their techniques so you can challenge them later?" Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly countered.

    The Wooden Taoist was not offended, instead he sighed.

    "I'm old, getting into sword duels or drinking contests no longer interests me. But I'm still always up for a game of chess with anybody who wants to challenge me!"

    "Actually, we were just looking for you!" Ancient Pine Hermit suddenly declared.

    "Me? What for?"

    "We have arranged a meeting with someone this afternoon and wanted to invite you along!" Ancient Pine Hermit answered.

    "What do I have to do with the meeting?"

    "Because you would certainly want to meet this person as well!" The Wooden Taoist answered before Ancient Pine Hermit was able to. The smile on his face seemingly very mysterious.

    "Who is this person?" Lu Xiao Feng had to ask.

    The smile on the Wooden Taoist's face became even more mysterious.

    "If you really want to know who this person is, why don't you come to the meeting?"

    Of course Lu Xiao Feng went. He had always been susceptible to temptation, not to mention his unmatched curiosity.

    The location of the meeting was a strange one. It was actually in a long been abandoned kiln yard outside of the city. All the dust covered kilns looked just like mound after mound of graves.

    "So many great places inside the city, why did you guys pick here for the meeting?" Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    "Because we are meeting a weirdo!" Ancient Pine Hermit replied.

    "Strictly speaking, we are meeting three weirdos. One slacker who has never done a day of honest work in his life, and two old men even weirder than I am!" The Wooden Taoist clarified.

    "But these two old men aren't just your average old men, it's been rumoured that there is nothing that they don't know and no problems they can't solve." Ancient Pine Hermit added.

    The Wooden Taoist shot a look at Lu Xiao Feng.

    "I'm sure by now you have figured out who we have arranged to meet here!" He smiled.

    Of course Lu Xiao Feng knew. At this precise moment, a short and skinny man with a huge head slowly approached on a mule. He was not yet close, but the stench of alcohol was already noticeable. This person seemed to have never had a sober moment in all of his life. Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Everytime he meet Mister Big Shot Son of a Turtle, he could not help but laugh a little.

    "Seems like your great self didn't have to be bailed out of debt by somebody else this time! Truly a rare event!"

    Big Shot Sun shot a look at him and exasperratingly rolled his eyes in disgust.

    "You are here too, huh? I...."

    "You knew I was going to come long ago, right?" Lu Xiao Feng cut him off with a laugh.

    Big Shot Sun sighed and mumbled under this breath: "Those who shouldn't be here are all here, yet those who should be here are not...."

    He threw his leg over the mule's back and jumped down. But his legs were weak and he wobbled, almost making him fall flat onto the ground.

    Even the Wooden Taoist could not resist laughing.

    "Honestly now, have you ever been sober for one day in your life?"

    "No!" Big Shot Sun's answer was, not very surprisingly, quite straight forward.

    "There's one good thing about this guy," Wooden Taoist joked. "Sometimes he is literally even more honest than Honest Monk!"

    "The way of the wine village is steady on long, other places can't compare..." In response, Big Shot Sun mumbled. "In wine the heavens are large, the days are long, why would I want to be sober?"

    "You really are a very fortunate man, more fortunate than the rest of us!" The Wooden Taoist laughed and replied.

    "Because I'm smarter than the rest of you!"

    "Oh?"

    "At least I won't spend 50 taels of silver to ask some questions that should never be asked!"

    "Where is Mr. Smart Guy and Mr. Know-It-All?" Ancient Pine Hermit asked with a straight face, he never did like to laugh too much.

    "Since I arranged to meet you guys here, of course they're here too!" Big Shot Sun answered.

    "Where?"

    "Over there!" Big Shot Sun casually pointed at a kiln hole ahead of him.

    "What are they doing inside a kiln?" Ancient Pine Hermit frowned.

    Big Shot Sun rolled his eyes towards him as well.

    "Why do you ask them yourself?"

    "And that question would be worth 50 taels of silver?" Lu Xiao Feng asked, trying hard to hold back his laughter.

    "Of course! Any question, every question, 50 taels of silver, and also...."

    "And also the old rules still apply, we can only wait outside and not go in!" Lu Xiao Feng finished for him.

    "Seems like there's some intelligence in you after all!" Big Shot Sun sighed.

    The hole into the kiln was small and ominously dark, even a man as small as Big Shot Sun had to bend down to work his way inside. At first Lu Xiao Feng was worried that his head was bigger than the hold itself. But eventually he did crawl in, looking much like a corpse crawling into his own grave, very humurous and frightening at the same time.

    After a little bit of silence, his shouted from inside: "Begin!"

    The first one to ask was Wooden Taoist, obviously he was the one who arranged this meeting. But before he even asked, Lu Xiao Feng knew what he was going to ask.

    "The duel on September 15th between Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng, who do you think will win?"

    That was the question that everyone was asking and quite a few people would be willing to pay 50 times more than the 50 taels of silver to know the answer.

    "You want to get the answer to that for only 50 taels of silver? A little cheap don't you think?" The one who answered was Smart Guy, Lu Xiao Feng heard him talk before.

    "Nevertheless, I might as well tell you!" He continued. "Neither one of them will win!"

    "Why?" That was the second question, the Wooden Taoist tossed in another 50 taels of silver.

    "The old saying goes that when two tigers fight, one must lose, but that's wrong." Smart Guy continued to answer. "More often than not, the result of a fight between two tigers is that both are injured. The real winner is the hunter spectating on the side."

    Quietly listening, Lu Xiao Feng's eyes flashed a glint of approval. This "Smart Guy" was truly a "smart guy", only men of real wit and intelligence could understand to answer that question in such a clever way.

    "Has Xi Men Chui Xue already arrived here in the capital?" The Wooden Taoist asked again.

    "He has."

    "Where is he?"

    "In a place that's very difficult to find, because he does not want to see anyone before September 15th."

    That was another very clever answer, but nobody could say the answer was wrong. The Wooden Taoist sighed, seemingly feeling that those 200 taels of silver was not so well spent.

    "Was Ye Gu Cheng really injured by the Tang Family Poison Sands?" This time it was Ancient Pine Hermit who asked the question.

    "He was."

    "Other than the Tang family's unique antidote, is there any other way to combat the poison?"

    "Yes." This time it was Know-It-All who answered. He knew the ins and outs of every weapon or projectile in the world.

    Ancient Pine Hermit sighed as well, as if he was happy for Ye Gu Cheng. But Lu Xiao Feng knew he was not Ye Gu Cheng's friend, Ye Gu Cheng did not have that many friends.

    "Why don't you two ever want to meet anyone?" The Wooden Taoist suddenly asked.

    "Because there is nobody in this world who's worth meeting!"

    The Wooden Taoist laughed exasperratingly, that last 50 taels of silver was even more of a waste. He turned to Lu Xiao Feng: "Do you have anything you want to ask?"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not really have any questions that he could not explain away himself, but after seeing Ou Yang Qing in the city, he was suddenly reminded of a couple of strange coincidences. Hopefully Smart Guy could help explain all of this to him.

    "Is Ou Yang Qing really a virgin?" This was a very strange question. For the life of him, the Wooden Taoist could not figure out why he would ask this kind of question at this moment.

    "Yes!" The answer came from inside the kiln, but only after a prolonged period of silence.

    "Is Honest Monk really that honest?"

    "Yes."

    A puzzled look appeared over Lu Xiao Feng's face.

    "What was he before he became a monk? What was his name back then? Where did he come from?"

    "Nobody knows where he came from!" This was almost not an answer anymore. An exasperrated smile appeared on Lu Xiao Feng's face as well.

    Even though he was pretty much wasting money, he still had a few questions: "Do you know who that man with Du Tong Xuan was?"

    "He is...." Know-It-All's answer was suddenly interrupted by a very strange sounding flute. Thankfully, even though the pitch was very high and piercing, it was very short as well, just a distance toot, and then it was gone.

    "Who was that man in black with Du Tong Xuan?" Lu Xiao Feng asked again. No answer came. He waited a long time and then asked again. Still no answer. Taking the silver and not answering, this was the first time that has ever happened.

    Lu Xiao Feng frowned and was just about to ask again before, suddenly, a blood red little snake shot out like an arrow from the kiln hole, straight into a bush and disappeared. Even though the snake was small, its movements were lightning fast and the direction it shot out at was precisely the direction the sound of the flute came from.

    Lu Xiao Feng's expression changed dramatically.

    "Big Shot Sun! Mr. Big Shot Son of a Turtle!" He shouted.

    Still no answers. Not even a sound was coming from inside the kiln. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly jumped up and viciously stumped on the kiln. The dilapidated kiln instantly caved in to reveal a huge hole on the side.

    The moon light poured through the hole and right upon Big Shot Sun's face. His face was twisted stiff; his eyes, filled with horror, bulged out like those of a dead fish. His tongue was stuck out of his mouth, but it had already turned a deathly grey, as if somebody had suddenly snapped his neck.

    But his neck was not snapped, on his throat were two puncture wounds, the little bit of blood trailing out from them were black.

    "That snake just then!" The Wooden Taoist conjectured.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded. Any fool could tell that Big Shot Sun was poisoned to death by that snake. Once a snake like that bit you, you were as good as dead. That was not the strange thing, the strange thing was that Big Shot Sun was the only one inside the kiln.

    "Where's Know-It-All and Smart Guy?" The Wooden Taoist asked in surprise.

    Lu Xiao Feng thought for a long time, the slowly replied: "There was never a Know-It-All or a Smart Guy."

    The Wooden Taoist was shocked. He did actually understand, but it was just at the moment, it was not clicking in his mind.

    "Know-It-All was Big Shot Sun, so was Smart Guy." Lu Xiao Feng explained.

    "The three of them was just him all along?"

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    "But their voices...."

    "A number of people could change their voices, some could even simulate the rockus of dozens of men fighting a crowd of cats and dogs at the same time."

    The Wooden Taoist did not ask anymore, he had seen more than his own share of weird people and strange happenings in the martial world.

    But Ancient Pine Hermit frowned.

    "So Big Shot Sun created these two men to cheat other people out of their money?"

    "He didn't cheat anybody!" Lu Xiao Feng coldly rebuked.

    "He didn't?"

    "He did take other people's money, but at the same time he solved a lot of their problems. His knowledge and intelligence are worth a lot more than this little bit of silver." A hint of anger appeared on Lu Xiao Feng's face. Big Shot Sun was his friend, he did not like other people belittling his friends.

    Ancient Pine Hermit obviously noticed the anger on his face too. He immediately changed his tone and sighed: "I'm only finding it strange that a man as gifted and intelligent as he would use a fake name instead of making a name for himself?"

    Lu Xiao Feng's expression turned sad. "Because he was a good man and never placed much importance on fame and fortune!"

    --And also because he was afraid, afraid of trouble, of responsability. That was why he was always running, always hiding. Lu Xiao Feng did not say the rest, he had always liked Big Shot Sun.

    "No matter what, his doing this only hurt himself, nobody else."

    The Wooden Taoist sighed.

    "A man like this should not have died so soon."

    "He should have known there were poisonous snakes around here." Ancient Pine Hermit sighed as well.

    "But that snake was not here by himself!" Lu Xiao Feng said.

    "Why not?"

    "Because only snakes that have been trained would go for the throat."

    "So you think that snake was purposefully placed here to kill him?" The Wooden Taoist was surprised at that assertion.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded, anger appearing on his face again: "The snake had obviously been trained to attack only once it hears the flute!"

    Naturally, inside the kiln was very dark, and that snake was truly too tiny for Big Shot Sun, who had walked in from the light, to see.

    The Wooden Taoist thought back to the sound: "So you think the one who played the flute was the one who killed Big Shot Sun?"

    "Mm."

    "Why would he kill Big Shot Sun?"

    "Because he was afraid that Big Shot Sun would spill his secret!"

    "Who is he? What secret?"

    "I don't care who he is, I don't care what his secret is," Lu Xiao Feng's fists were clenched tight as he slowly declared. "I will find him and his secret!"

    The Wooden Taoist sighed again. Only now did he completely understand why only Big Shot Sun could find Know-It-All and Smart Guy, and why they would never meet other people.

    But he could never understand how many secrets Big Shot Sun knew that people wanted to keep a secret, nor could he understand how he came to know these secrets. Big Shot Sun would probably take the answers to all these mysterious to the grave with him. Could Lu Xiao Feng really dig them out?

    The fragrance of freshly cut flowers permeated the undertaker's shop. It was supposed to be an clean and refreshing smell, but inside an undertaker's shop, it had a way of making everybody uncomfortable.

    There were two very high quality caskets made out of nanmu, they looked as if a fresh layer of lacquer was applied on them as well.

    "I want this one." Lu Xiao Feng picked one of the two. When picking things for his friend, he always went of the best, even caskets.

    "These two caskets were already reserved." The owner of the store was named Cheng. Maybe it was because he had worked here for too long, but even when he smiles, it looked unnervingly sinister.

    "People reserve caskets?"

    Boss Cheng nodded: "A customer reserved these two caskets for the night of September 15th. I thought it was a bit strange too, he seemed to know that two people must die on that night!"

    September 15th! Two people must die!

    "Who reserved them?" Lu Xiao Feng's expression noticeably changed.

    "He had already paid for both caskets, but he didn't leave his name."

    "What did he look like?"

    "An old man with a hump back."

    Lu Xiao Feng did not ask anymore, anybody could be disguised as an old man with a hump back. He picked another casket and was getting ready to leave.

    But Boss Cheng suddenly remembered something: "But that customer di leave two names for me to carve onto the caskets!"

    "What are they?" Lu Xiao Feng snapped around.

    "Two very unique names. One is Ye Gu Cheng, another was Xi Men Cui Xue!"

    The Wooden Taoist was a very happy-go-lucky man, but now even his expression was one of extreme worry.

    "Neither one will win... the real winner is the hunter spectating on the side."

    Apparently now, one of the hunters actually went ahead and reserved two caskets for them.

    "Maybe this is all just a prank." The Wooden Taoist tried to lighten the mood a little.

    Lu Xiao Feng forced a smile: "Most likely."

    With smiles on their faces, they walked along underneath the light of the setting sun. The gentle winds breezed along, stirring their sleeves and shirts. Those who saw them on the street could think only of how proud and stately they looked. But inside of them the shadow of death overshadowed everything. Of course, all of them knew that this was not a prank.

    The Wooden Taoist looked up at a puff of white cloud on the blue, distance sky.

    "Have you already seen Ye Gu Cheng?" He suddenly asked.

    "Mm."

    "Does he look injured to you?"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not answer his question directly.

    Instead, he casually replied: "With one move, he struck through both of Tang Tian Rong's collar bones."

    An injured man would never he able to do such a thing to one of the masters of the Tang Family and Tang Tian Rong was one of the four top masters of the Tang Family.

    The Wooden Taoist thought for a while.

    "But Honest Monk would never lie, and he was indeed injured. So who helped cure him?"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not answer, nor could he. Instead he also stared up at that cloud far far away.

    "I've wanted to visit White Cloud Castle a long long time ago, but still haven't had the chance to go." He suddenly stated.

    "I have been there." The Wooden Taoist declared.

    "I imagine it to be a beautiful place. Come the right time in Spring and Autumn, the scene would surely be vibrant and colorful with all the blooming flowers!"

    "There's not that many flowers there, Ye Gu Cheng was not someone who liked to drink wine or enjoy flowers!"

    "Does he like women?"

    The Wooden Taoist laughed a little, seemingly at Lu Xiao Feng's naivette.

    "Someone who likes women could not possibly achieve the level of swordsmanship that Ye Gu Cheng has!"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not continue to ask, but a very puzzling look appeared on his face. Anytime that expression appears on his face, it would mean that he was thinking abotu a very puzzlng matter.

    After a long pause, the Wooden Taoist spoke up again: "Since he'd already arrived here, he must have found a place to stay!"

    "He's not like Xi Men Chui Xue, it can't be that hard to find where he is staying!" Lu Xiao Feng observed.

    "I want to go find him!"

    "I know that you are old friends."

    "What about you?"

    Lu Xiao Feng looked up at the sky: "I have a dinner with someone tonight, there's probably already somebody waiting for me at Oriental Spring Pavilion!"

    "Then it seems like we'll have to part here and now!"

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded but then paused.

    "If a person who did not like flowers or women suddenly had 6 or 7 girls walk in front of him paving his path with flower petals, what would you think of that?" He suddenly asked.

    "This kind of man would never do that kind of thing!" The Wooden Taoist replied.

    "But suppose he did?"

    "Then he must be crazy!" The Wooden Taoist laughed.

    For the life of him, Lu Xiao Feng could not figure out why Ye Gu Cheng would do that either. But he knew at least one thing - Ye Gu Cheng was not crazy.

    ______________________________

    Dusk, just before dusk. The dinner crowd at Oriental Spring had not gathered yet. Lu Xiao Feng found a seat on one of the scattered chairs downstairs, ordered a flask of the favorite tea amongst the citizens of the capital, and waited for Li Yan Bei's man to arrive.

    It was still quite early, he probably should have been wandering around outside, for he still had a lot of people he wanted to find. Hua Man Lou, Xi Men Cui Xue, Honest Monk....

    He needed to find all these people, yet he suddenly felt the urge to sit down and quietly think things out. He also had a lot of things to sort out.

    The light from the setting sun poured in through the door, taking with them a long and narrow shadow of a man. Seeing the shadow on the floor, Lu Xiao Feng looked up and saw that young man who was angrily staring at him earlier.

    The young lad was staring at him again, his long and slender hands still tightly grapsing the handle of his sword. A layer of soft silk was tightly rolled around the handle, probably to make it easier for the user to handle the sword with greater force and also to keep the user's palm dry by absorbing the sweat. Only those who really understood how to use a sword would know to do this.

    With a glance, Lu Xiao Feng instantly recognized that this young man's swordsmanship was very good, but he still could not recognize him.

    He would never forget a face once he had seen it before. But this young man seemed to recognize him. Suddenly, the young man walked directly up to him and stopped directly in front of him. The expression of his face was even scarier than the one Du Tong Xuan had on his face as he walked up to Li Yan Bei. Could this young man possibly have some kind of vendetta or unsettled issue with Lu Xiao Feng?

    Lu Xiao Feng could not figure it out, so he just let out a little laugh: "You...."

    But the young man interrupted him.

    "Are you that four eye-browed Lu Xiao Feng?" He asked ferociously.

    "And you are...."

    "I know you don't recognize me, but I recognize you!" The young man sneered. "I've been trying to find you for a long time now!"

    "Find me? What for?"

    The young man answered in the most direct way possible. Not with words, but with a sword. Suddenly, his sword was unsheathed, and just as suddenly, the ice cold and sharp blade arrived at Lu Xiao Feng's throat.

    Lu Xiao Feng laughed. In response, he did not parry, nor dodge, instead he laughed.

    "Think I'm afraid to kill you?" The young man demanded, his face turning a steely green.

    Even though he had not struck, the move he used was indeed a killing move, fast, agile, and quick. Lu Xiao Feng had seen this kind of moves before. Four months ago, in Yan Tie Shan's Pearl and Diamond Pavilion, Su Shao Ying, who died under Xi Men Chui Xue's sword, used the exact same type of techniques.

    This young man must be one of the "Three Heroes and Four Beauties" who trained under Du Gu Yi He.

    "I won't kill you, only because I still have a question to ask you." The edge of his sword inched even closer.

    "Are you Zhang Ying Feng or Yan Ren Ying?" Lu Xiao Feng asked a question in return.

    The young man's expression changed for an instant before returning back to what it was. He had to admire Lu Xiao Feng's powers of recognition just a little bit despite of himself.

    "Yan Ren Ying."

    "And you want to know where Xi Men Chui Xue is?"

    The veins on Yan Ren Ying's hand bulged out and red blood vessels appeared in his eyes.

    "He killed my master, abducted my martial sister, the seventy disciples of our sect all want to capture him and take him back to E'Mei to sacrifice him to honour our master's spirit!"

    "But you guys don't know where he is."

    "So I'm asking you!"

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed and smiled ironically: "Pity you asked the wrong person!"

    "If you don't know, then who does?" Yan Ren Ying demanded.

    "Nobody knows."

    Yan Ren Ying stared into his eyes.

    "Out!" He suddenly commanded.

    "Out?"

    "I don't want to kill you in here!"

    "I don't want to die here either, but I also don't want to go outside."

    Yan Ren Ying's hand flicked, a flower with sword petals appeared and, in an instant, struck 7 times, none of them missed Lu Xiao Feng's throat by more than an inch. Lu Xiao Feng laughed again.

    Again, he neither parried nor dodged, but instead smiled: "You can't kill me."

    Yan Ren Ying's palm was covered in sweat, his forehead was as well. In fact, his entire being seemed to become a fully drawn bow, really to explode.

    Anybody could see that he was almost nervous to the limit of his own self-restraint. The tip of his sword was no more than three inches away from Lu Xiao Feng's throat.

    The waiters, janitors, and owner of Oriental Spring Pavilion were all visibly shaking, yet Lu Xiao Feng was absolutely still. It was as if every one of his nerves were made from steel strands.

    At this precise moment, a rockus suddenly exploded on the street.

    "Dead... he's dead...." Someone shouted.

    Yan Ren Ying wanted to turn his head around to see but stopped himself, yet his eyes still involuntarily rolled in that direction for a moment. In that slight instant that his eyes were off of him, the Lu Xiao Feng who was steadily sitting in that chair in front of him had suddenly vanished!

    This man's movements were even faster than his strikes. Yan Ren Ying's expression changed again as he jumped up, somersaulted, and landed outside. Lu Xiao Feng was standing in the middle of the street with his hand behind his back. Nobody else was on street.

    All the others had already hid themselves underneath the overhangs at either side of the street. A white horse was galloping this way from the head of street, on the horse was a person. That person looked like a empty brown cloth bag from a distance, lying on top of the horse.

    "Dead! He's dead!" But who was he? How did he die? As soon as he saw this person's outfit, Yan Ren Ying's face turned a deathily pale as he shot towards the horse and grabbed its reins to stop it.

    This person's outfit was almost exactly the same as what Yan Ren Ying had on. Lu Xiao Feng had already figured out who this person was -- but how did he die? Yan Ren Ying took the cold body off of the horse's back. There was almost no wound on the body at all, only a slight trace of a wound on his throat -- like the puncture wounds from a snake bite.

    Only that this wound was not left by a snake bite but by the blade of a sword, a very sharp and very frightening sword. Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    "Zhang Ying Feng?"

    Yan Ren Ying gritted his teeth and nodded.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "Can you tell whose sword killed him?" Yan Ren Ying suddenly asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed again and nodded. I could tell. In this world there was probably only one person who with such a sharp and frightening sword. Not Ye Gu Cheng could do this. His killer strikes could never be this tidy and efficient.

    Yan Ren Ying was staring down at the wound on his martial brother's throat.

    "Xi Men Chui Xue... only Xi Men Chui Xue...." He mumbled.

    "He probably found Xi Men Chui Xue," Lu Xiao Feng sighed. "Shame that...."

    Shame that he could not tell where Xi Men Chui Xue was now. Lu Xiao Feng did not need to say the rest, but Yan Ren Ying still understood.

    "Another life! Another debt!" He screamed at the top of his lungs, his pale face suddenly covered with tears.

    "Xi Men Chui Xue! If you can kill, why don't you come out!" His screams were desperate.

    It was in this desperate scream that dusk suddenly enveloped the world.

    And with it the world was suddenly filled with an unspeakable sad and cold feel of death. The dust storms picked up again. Yan Ren Ying, his martial brother's body still in his arms, jumped onto the horse and furiously galloped away. The horse came from the west.

    Yan Ren Ying galloped off towards the west, obviously, he was trying to find where Xi Men Chui Xue was from this horse.

    Facing the northwestern winds from the deep Autumns of the northern countries, Lu Xiao Feng saw off the horse and its riders with his eyes.

    "I know that horse!" A man behind him suddenly said quietly.

    Lu Xiao Feng quickly turned around. The man who spoke was dressed in a green outfit. Even though it was simple, he still had that air of authority about him. He was none other than one of those men who was following Li Yan Bei around this morning.

    "I'm Zhao Zheng Wo, from the east of the city, 'Gan-Er Shang De', everybody calls me 'Gan-Er Zhao'."

    "Gan-Er Shang De" was just another slang for head master, meaning that he was the leader of all the beggars around here. In a city, it meant a great deal of power and control.

    Of course, Lu Xiao Feng recognized who this man was and what position he held, yet he could not be bothered with pleasantries right now.

    "You recognize that horse?" He immediately asked.

    "Only the Imperial Palace could have such a well groomed white horse." Gan-Er Zhao's voice was even lower. "It doesn't matter how much power other people have, nobody dares to violate this pact!"

    White horses symbolized respect and riches, only the royal family could lay claim to be the most respected and most rich.

    "So that horse was from the Forbidden City?" Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    --Could Xi Men Chui Xue be hiding inside the Imperial Palace? That would explain why nobody could find him. But with the number of guards and security inside the Imperial Palace, how could anyone hide within it? Gan-Er Zhao did not say anything in response to his question. This was one of the most forbidden things in the imperial capital, he dared not to say anything more.

    Lu Xiao Feng thought silently for a while.

    "Could you ask your men to go find out where this horse came from and who was the first to saw it?" He asked.

    Gan-Er Zhao hesitated for a while before finally nodding: "That would not be too hard. But I've received orders to take you to 13th Mistress' place."

    "This is more important, you can just tell me where it is and I'll go find it myself!"

    Again, Gan-Er Zhao hesitated for a while.

    "Ok, I'll tell Xiao-Song, the driver to take you to Rolled Curtain Alley. 13th Mistress' place is last one on the left."

    Once he got on the carriage, Lu Xiao Feng's mind was in chaos again. The puzzling questions seemed to multiply on ends. Who killed Big Shot Sun? What for? Why was Xi Men Chui Xue's actions so mysterious?"

    ______________________________

    Rolled Curtain Alley was actually a very quiet and serene lane with a lot of large households. Not a sound was coming from within the tall walls. The wind carried with them the sweet fragrance of pomegranate flowers. The color of dusk had darkened, night was near.

    But this day was not over yet. The last household on the left had the tightest gate as well. Every one of Li Yan Bei's 30 houses were all very secured, no stragglers could be found in front of any of them. Lu Xiao Feng did not knock, instead he lept over the walls and in.

    He trusted that Li Yan Bei would not blame him for this, for such was their friendship. The yard was very big with pomegranate trees and goldfishes swimming about in its ponds. The shades for sunbathing were all taken down and the furnace had been put outside for cleaning. Not long from now, the furnace would be put in use inside.

    The light were lit brightly in guest hall up ahead. The flower hall on the left was lit as well. Li Yan Bei was sitting inside, sighing.

    On the cherry wood table in front of him, there was several layers of balance sheets. His sighs were very heavy, because his heart was heavy.

    But he still heart Lu Xiao Feng. He was already a very sensitive person, and Lu Xiao Feng was not exactly being careful with his own movements. When Li Yan Bei pushed open the door to the room, Lu Xiao Feng was on the other side.

    "You knew it was me?"

    Li Yan Bei forced a meek smile on his face: "Other than you, who else would have the guts to barge in like this?"

    Lu Xiao Feng smiled in return. Looking at that layer upon layers of balance sheets and accounts, his heart suddenly turned sour. In this city, Li Yan Bei had battled hard and spilled blood and sweat for 20 years up to now.

    To be able to find a place to stand in a city as filled with men and dangers as this was hard, but to fall down was easy.

    Why did he place all of his life's work down on a wager against someone? Was it worth it?

    Li Yan Bei's smile became even more forced.

    "I'm not conceding defeat, but a little preparation can't hurt, it has to be better than jumping the cliff at the last moment. Besides...." -- Besides, if Xi Men Chui Xue loses, he would have to leave immediately, he would have to leave everything immediately! And this was not easy to leave behind!

    Lu Xiao Feng understood what he meant and knew what he felt.

    "Xi Men Chui Xue had arrived." He suddenly declared.

    "Have you seen him?" Li Yan Bei's eyes lit up.

    Lu Xiao Feng shook his head. "But I do know that his sword is still sharp and he kills as tidy and efficient as he did in the past."

    The light in Li Yan Bei's eyes dimmed. He turned around and began putting away the balance sheets on the table.

    "Killer moves aren't unbeatable moves." He slowly declared.

    "I've already said, there is no unbeatable move in the world, and by the same token, there is no unwinnable moves either."

    Li Yan Bei paused for a long time at that statement.

    "That's why we should go drink first!" He suddeny laughed as he turned around and patted Lu Xiao Feng on the shoulder. "The dishes to help the wine go down should be ready. The special guest I invited to keep you company is here too."

    "Special guest? Who?" Lu Xiao Feng was caught by that statement.

    Li Yan Bei's smile seemed very mysterious: "Of course it's someone that you would never find annoying!"

    On the table were already 4 dishes of fruit, 4 dishes of appetizers, and 8 dishes of entrees to eat with the wine -- a dish of smoked fish, a dish of pickled duck, a dish of crystal pig feet, a dish of roasted goose, a dish of pheasant, a dish of diced donkey, a dish of meat from the inside of the goats horns, a dish of goat intestines, and lastly a dish of singed goat head that had been just brought up.

    Lu Xiao Feng blinked.

    "Are you trying to stuff me to death?" He joked.

    Li Yan Bei laughed again. While he was laughing, a graceful lady dressed in elegant clothing walked in, swing her hips as she did. Lu Xiao Feng seemed to take a step back when he saw her.

    "This is that four eye-browed Lu Xiao Feng," Li Yan Bei said, still laughing. "Didn't you say you wanted to meet him for a while now?"

    The 13th Mistress bowed politely before suddenly letting out a peal of laughter.

    "I saw him before."

    "When did you see him?" Li Yan Bei was a bit surprised too.

    "When I went out with Ou Yang to buy some pearls earlier," the 13th Mistress coquettishly continued. "Ou Yang pointed him out to me."

    Lu Xiao Feng managed a meek smile.

    "That special guest of yours is her?" He had to ask.

    "You know Ou Yang too?" Li Yan Bei asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded. Li Yan Bei threw his head back in laughter.

    "Of course you do, I should have guessed. If you don't even a beauty like that, what kind of a hero would Lu Xiao Feng be?"

    "Where is she?"

    "She's still in the kitchen, making you some of her best desserts: butter soaked snails."

    Ou Yang Qing was actually making desserts for Lu Xiao Feng?

    Lu Xiao Feng could not help but let out an ironic laugh: "Is she trying to poison me?"

    "You think she wants to poison you?" 13th Mistress asked.

    "I offended her once, some people you can't offend even once, or else they'll hate you for the rest of your life!"

    "And you think she is one of them?"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this. 13th Mistress stared at him, not even blinking one bit. Women should not look at men like this, especially in front of her own husband. Even Lu Xiao Feng was getting a little embarrased, but 13th Mistress did not seem to mind at all.

    "What are you looking at?" Li Yan Bei finally asked.

    "I'm looking to see if he is really an idiot."

    "Absolutely not!"

    "I know he doesn't look like it, but he really is a full-on idiot!"

    "Really?"

    13th Mistress sighed.

    "If someone was going to leave a long time ago, but suddenly changed her mind when she found out he was going to come; if someone always hated to work in the kitchen, but worked in the kitchen all day when she found out he was coming here for dinner. If there was a women treating you that way, do you know what that means?"

    "I know that at least she doesn't hate me!"

    "Even you understand, yet he could not!" 13th Mistress sighed. "If he isn't an idiot then what is he?"

    "I think he's starting to look like one to me too now." Li Yan Bei smiled.

    Lu Xiao Feng was speechless, of course he understood what that meant, but he could never have dreamt it in his life.

    "Actually, you can't really blame him," Li Yan Bei added with a smile. "The matters of a woman's heart is something that men just can't figure out. Not to mention he is involved and doesn't see clearly like those of us on the side."

    "I'm not blaming him, I'm just sticking up for little Ou Yang, that's all." 13th Mistress coldly replied.

    Li Yan Bei threw his head back in laughter again and patted Lu Xiao Feng on his shoulders.

    "If I were you, when little Ou Yang comes in later, I would make sure to treat her...."

    Before he finished, a strange flute sound could suddenly be heard enminating in with the wind. It was the same sound that Lu Xiao Feng heard at the kiln yard earlier in the afternoon.

    Lu Xiao Feng's face suddenly dropped.

    "Going to save Ou Yang...." He shouted. Before he even finished, he was already outside of the window, another flash and he was more than 30 meters away!

    The flute came from the southwest, not too far away. After jumping over the western walls of this yard and a small alley way, there was what looked like a long deserted garden.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  3. #3
    atlantean0208
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    a millions thanx from me for continuing -

  4. #4
    Senior Member JigSta's Avatar
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    Beautiful!
    Thanks Moinllieon! Much appreciated
    All that's needed to say have been said, why say anything more? The man is drunk, why stay any longer?....
    Quote Originally Posted by Question
    if CarMAN Lee hair is green, then am sure carMAN #$%@ a dog to give birth to you.

  5. #5
    atlantean0208
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    need to read back book 2 or probably also book 1 to get back all the connection and relationship

  6. #6
    Senior Member Xiao Feng's Avatar
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    Lovely, just lovely

    Thanks Moin!

  7. #7
    Senior Member rourou's Avatar
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    Thanx a bunch!!! was looking forward for this!!!

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Well, I was wondering where do I find the chapters missing in the first book. I would like to start reading A.o Lu Xiao Feng when I saw that in the Gu Long reading room there were missing the chapters of first book and it goes directly to the second book in the forums so I will need to jump for the second book before finish the first. So I would be very grateful if someone could tell me where to find the rest of 1st book since nobody like to have a gap of some chapters in the reading. Please me.

    Thank you for the attention,
    Felipe.

  9. #9
    Senior Member TigerWong's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Felipe
    Well, I was wondering where do I find the chapters missing in the first book. I would like to start reading A.o Lu Xiao Feng when I saw that in the Gu Long reading room there were missing the chapters of first book and it goes directly to the second book in the forums so I will need to jump for the second book before finish the first. So I would be very grateful if someone could tell me where to find the rest of 1st book since nobody like to have a gap of some chapters in the reading. Please me.

    Thank you for the attention,
    Felipe.
    Moinllieon's page http://people.clemson.edu/~hmingle/novels/index.html

  10. #10
    Senior Member Du Gu seeking a win's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Felipe
    Well, I was wondering where do I find the chapters missing in the first book. I would like to start reading A.o Lu Xiao Feng when I saw that in the Gu Long reading room there were missing the chapters of first book and it goes directly to the second book in the forums so I will need to jump for the second book before finish the first. So I would be very grateful if someone could tell me where to find the rest of 1st book since nobody like to have a gap of some chapters in the reading. Please me.

    Thank you for the attention,
    Felipe.


    All translation links are here:

    http://www.spcnet.tv/forums/showthre...&threadid=6435

  11. #11
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    TigerWong and Du Gu seeking a win, I'm really thankful.

  12. #12

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    Chapter 3
    Catching Snake, Saving Beauty

    Night. Darkness has fallen, dark like the ink. The Autumn winds, the unkept grass, the lonely white poplar tree. The cold, unfeeling moon rose and shone down upon this cold and desolate garden. No human could be seen, not even ghosts.

    Even if there were ghost, one could not see them. Facing the on coming Autumn winds, even Lu Xiao Feng had to shudder involuntarily.

    Just before bad things happen, he would always get this strange feeling. He had that strange feeling right now. No light, no stars, even the moon was cold and sinister.

    Under the moonlight, the withered trees shook in the wind, looking just like a ghostly shadow. Suddenly another toot of the whistle came from within the shadows.

    Lu Xiao Feng shot off in the direction of the sound. Finally, he caught a glimpse of the person playing the flute, underneath the withered tree just ahead. But Lu Xiao Feng suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. He seemed shocked again. The person playing the flute was just a kid who could not have been over 10 years old.

    The kid was not tall and wore a torn outfit. On his round face were a pair of huge, bright eyes. Intermittenly, he was shaking and wiping his nose, obvious he was freezing and frightened. Yet in his hand was strangely shaped bamboo whistle.

    Eyes never leaving him, Lu Xiao Feng slowly walked up to him. The kid never noticed him, looking left a bit, then looking over to the right. Suddenly the kid noticed a shadow moving on the ground, he yelped and immediately tried to run away. He did not get away, of course.

    After only a few steps, Lu Xiao Feng grabbed a hold of his arm. The kid immediately began screaming like a skinned pig.

    Only when he stopped screaming did Lu Xiao Feng speak: "I'm not a ghost."

    The kid looked up at his face. Even though he knew that he was not a ghost, fear remained on his face.

    "Are you... you really not a ghost?" His nose was running again.

    "Ghosts don't have shadows, I have a shadow."

    The kid, finally convinced, sighed, and then immediately began to pout.

    "Then why did you grab me?"

    "Because there's several questions I want to ask you!"

    The kid hesitated.

    "Will you let me go after you asked me?"

    "Not only will I let you go, I'll give you two strings of money!" Lu Xiao Feng did not really feel like smiling, but he could not really keep a straight face in front of a kid either.

    Seeing his smile, the kid calmed down quite a bit.

    "What do you want to ask?" He asked, blinking his eyes.

    "What's your name, where's your home?" Lu Xiao Feng asked gently.

    "My name is Poor Little Thing, I don't have a home!"

    Of course Poor Little Thing did not have a home, only homeless kids would be named Poor Little Thing.

    Not only does the kid look very sympathetic, he looked honest too, as if he did not know how to lie.

    "It's very late, aren't you scared to be out here all by yourself?" Lu Xiao Feng's voice became even more gentle.

    "I'm not scared! I go where I please!" Poor Little Thing stuck out his chest. But those who say they are not scared are often much more scared than anybody else.

    "Do you think this is a fun place to be?"

    "Not at all!"

    "If not, then why did you come here to blow that whistle?"

    "An old man with a hump back told me to do it, and he gave me two strings of money."

    The old man with a hump back again. It was he who reserved the caskets for Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng, it was also he who killed Big Shot Sun. What was he?

    "Did he give you the whistle too?"

    Poor Little Thing nodded.

    "This whistle is alot more fun than those they sell on the street, and it's really loud too!"

    He obviously really liked the whistle as he could not help but bring it up to his lips and gave it another toot. All other sounds were muted out once the high pitched whistle was blown. Lu Xiao Feng did not hear any other noises, but still, he was hit with an urge to turn around and check behind him.

    Where did he get this urge from? Why did he get it? Even he could not explain it to himself. But in that instant that he turned around, he saw a blood red shadow shoot up from the ground. It was like an arrow, only much much faster than an arrow could ever be shot.

    Almost faster than lightning! With just a flash, the red shadow had arrived at Lu Xiao Feng's throat. It was also at that precise moment that Lu Xiao Feng reached out and clamped his fingers together.

    He caught something between his fingers. Something cold, sticky, and slick. A blood red snake!

    Its fangs were already out and were almost able to touch Lu Xiao Feng's throat. But it could not move anymore, Lu Xiao Feng caught it right about seven inches down from its head. Had Lu Xiao Feng's movement been just a bit slower, had where his fingers clamped down on the snake been a bit off, had he used slightly less strength when he clamped his fingers together....

    Then he would be a dead man by now! Since he appeared in the martial world, Lu Xiao Feng could truly be described has having stared death in the face.

    He had walked that tightrope between life and death countless times and met countless rutherless murders and monsters.

    But he had never ran into anything so dangerous and deadly as this moment was for him. In his hands was a freezing cold snake, but his entire body felt freezing cold as well. He suddenly had to fight off the urge to throw up.

    "Snake... there's snakes here!" Poor Little Thing screamed and ran.

    Lu Xiao Feng took a deep breath and threw the snake as hard as he could against a huge rock by his side. When he looked up again, that honest and poor little kid was nowhere to be seen.

    The wind whistled through the grass, the withered trees shook. Standing still in the middle of this Autumn night, Lu Xiao Feng took several more deep breaths before his heart beat finally returned to normal. But at this moment another scream came through the darkness. This scream coming from that very kid!

    Poor Little Thing had fainted. By the time Lu Xiao Feng got there, the little kid had collapsed on the ground. On a night like this, in a place like this, how could a little kid like that not be frightened when he suddenly sees a dead man?

    The dead man was right in front of the kid. It was an old man with a hump back. He had a head of bushy white hair, but he was choked to death with a bright red silk sash. He reserved those caskets, he killed Big Shot Sun! So how did he die in the hands of another? Who killed him? Why?

    In the night, the silk sash looked almost glowing red, blood red. Lu Xiao Feng had seen the exact same kind of silk sash before, and he had also seen another man choked to death with this exact same kind of sash.

    First Madame Gong Sun's daggers were tied to this kind of sash, the Snake King was also choked to death by this kind of sash. Who was the killer this time? Could it be First Madame Gong Sun?

    It was indeed very likely that First Madame Gong Sun had already arrived in the capital. She would not want to miss the duel either. But then who was this old man? Why did he kill Big Shot Sun? And why did First Madame Gong Sun kill him?

    Lu Xiao Feng had never heard of an old man like this in the martial world before. He hesitated. Finally he bent down -- there could be something that could identify the old man on his body.

    But there could also very likely be more snakes! Lu Xiao Feng's finger tips felt cold as ice as he used those two finger tips to flip open the old man's shirt. No snakes, snakes would have moved in this situation.

    Lu Xiao Feng reached in but suddenly stopped in shock. In front of his eyes was the forehead of an old, white haired man. But his hand was feeling something different -- this old man was a woman!

    In his hands were the smooth skin of a woman. The white hair was fake, and the face was cleverly disguised. After removing the hair and tearing off the mask, Lu Xiao Feng saw a frozen stiff but still very beautiful face!

    He recognized this face! This old man with a humped back was none other than First Madame Gong Sun!

    Lu Xiao Feng knew first hand the mastery of First Madame Gong Sun's skill when it comes to disguises. In his mind, there were not that many people who could have seen through her disguises.

    He also knew first hand just how good of a martial arts master she was. Who in the world could actually choke her to death? The killer's skills must be even better. Lu Xiao Feng involuntarily shuddered.

    He had been in the capital for only one day, but in this one day, he had ran into way too many puzzling and unexplained happenings. He could not figure out why First Madame Gong Sun would kill Big Shot Sun, nor could he understand how First Madame Gong Sun died here.

    If there were too many things one could not figure out, then all that was left was not to try and figure them out; if the more thinking one did the more confused one became, then it would be better to not thing at all. This had always been one of Lu Xiao Feng's guiding principles.

    But even if he tried not to think, he still could feel that, lurking in a corner somewere in this ancient city, there was a pair of eyes, even more cunning the the shrewdest of foxes, even more poisonous than the most poisonous of snakes, staring at him, waiting to take his life!

    No matter who this person was, without a doubt it would be the most frightening and most powerful foe he had ever faced in his life. He seemed to also have faintly figured out who this foe could be!

    The light was dim and ghastly. The ghastly dim light shone upon Ou Yang Qing's deathly pale face. There was nary a sign of life to be found on her beautiful face, her beautiful eyes were tightly shut, her jaw also tightly shut.

    Could she open her eyes again? Could she still speak? Silently, Lu Xiao Feng stood at the head of the bed, staring at her, hoping against hope that somehow she could shoot him a look like the ones she gave him before or hurl several insults as before. Li Yan Bei and 13th Mistress were by his side, their expressions just as grave.

    "By the time we made it to the kitchen, she'd already passed out!"

    Lu Xiao Feng stared intently at her throat, he could not find any trace of a wound.

    "Where was she bit?"

    "On her hand, her left hand."

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed in relief. When the snake shot towards her, she probably reacted the same way Lu Xiao Feng did and tried to catch it. Even though her reflexes were not on par with Lu Xiao Feng's, they were still better than Big Shot Sun's. Big Shot Sun really had too much to drink.

    "Luckily you told us to check on her, so we weren't too late!" Li Yan Bei explained.

    After discovering Ou Yang Qing's wound, he immediately sealed the pressure points on her shoulder to slow the spread of the poison.

    "So the person who really saved her was not me, but you!" He continued.

    "But I'm still confused, how did you know she would be targetted?" 13th Mistress asked.

    "Honestly, I didn't know!"

    "Yet you still managed to save her life!"

    "I have done a lot of things that even I'm not too sure how I did them," Lu Xiao Feng replied with a forced smile. "If you asked me what happened or why it happened, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I don't know."

    "Even though you didn't know, you still did it," 13th Mistress countered. "A lot of people wouldn't be able to do it even if they knew."

    "That's why Lu Xiao Feng really is Lu Xiao Feng, the one and only Lu Xiao Feng in this world." Li Yan Bei concluded.

    13th Mistress gently sighed.

    "No wonder she would be so head over heels for you!"

    Was Ou Yang Qing really head over heels for him?

    "Even though she had been bitten on her left hand and was passed out, her right hand was still clutching onto that plate of butter soaked snails." 13th Mistress continued. "She wouldn't let go even if she died, because she made them for you, because...."

    She did not go on, because she had already said enough. Just this alone was enough to prove Ou Yang Qing's feelings for him.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at Ou Yang Qing's face, his heart suddenly flooded with an describable feeling. He could not let Ou Yang Qing die, absolutely not! Xue Bing's death had already given him enough grief and regret to last until his death.

    There was a question on Li Yan Bei's mind all this time, he finally could not hold back anymore.

    "Did you find that person who was whistling?"

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    "Who was it?"

    "It was a kid!"

    Li Yan Bei was taken aback by that as well.

    "Is there a mastermind behind all of this?" He immediately asked. He was indeed an experienced man of the martial world, his observations always seemed to be a bit more accurate and a bit deeper than other's.

    "According to the kid, it was an old man with a humped back who told him to do it!"

    "Did you find that old man?"

    "There probably never was an old man like that in this world, I found one, but it was First Madame Gong Sun in disguise!"

    "Who is First Madame Gong Sun?"

    "She's Ou Yang Qing's elder sister, and also my friend."

    Li Yan Bei was speechless.

    13th Mistress could not help but coldly snicker a little.

    "At least she has quite a sister, and you have quite a friend!"

    Not responding immediately, Lu Xiao Feng quietly thought about the situation for a while.

    "First Madame Gong Sun really was quite a sister, and also quite a friend."

    "You think so even now?"

    "Because I believe the real mastermind behind all of this is not First Madame Gong Sun!" Lu Xiao Feng explained.

    "If not her, then who?"

    "A person even more cunning and sinister than Huo Xiu, even more devious and heartless than Jin Jiu Ling," Lu Xiao Feng's fists were clenched tight. "And this person's martial art skill could be better than every person I've ever met!"

    At one time or another, he had thought that either Huo Xiu and Jin Jiu Ling was the toughest foe he had ever faced as both of them had almost taken his life. It was only after numerous close calls, countless hardships, and some sprinkles of luck that he was able to reveal both men as what they were. But this present foe was even more frightening!

    "How do you know that First Madame Gong Sun was not the real mastermind?" Li Yan Bei inquired.

    "I don't."

    "But you suspect that's the case, you feel that's the case?" 13th Mistress asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this.

    "You are not quite sure why you feel that way are you?"

    Lu Xiao Feng could not deny that either.

    "You really are a freak," 13th Mistress sighed. "No matter who your foe is, that person is really in trouble!"

    "But this time it's very likely that I'm the one that's in trouble!" An almost defeated smile appeared on Lu Xiao Feng's face.

    "So where is First Madame Gong Sun?" Li Yan Bei asked another question.

    "Dead!"

    "And that kid?...." 13th Mistress asked.

    "Still lying where he fainted!"

    "You didn't bring him back to save him?"

    "I left him there precisely in order to save him!"

    13th Mistress did not understand.

    "You think that kid was an accomplice?" Li Yan Bei asked instead.

    "A 10 year old kid would never go to that kind of place by himself at this time of night. Also the whistle was very strangely designed, a person who had not cultivated internal energy could never hope to make it make sound!" Lu Xiao Feng then smiled. "Besides, he didn't really faint anyways!"

    "Then why didn't you bring him back here to interrogate?" asked Li Yan Bei.

    "He wouldn't say anything, and I won't be able to interrogate a kid!"

    "Then you should have at least secretly followed him, maybe he would have led you to the real killer!"

    "If I followed him, then he's dead for sure!" Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "You think the real mastermind would kill him to shut him up?"

    "Mm."

    "My heart can no longer be considered cold, but I didn't expect that you would be even softer than me!" Li Yan bei sighed.

    Again, Lu Xiao Feng was silent for a long time.

    "Someone said to me before that even though my temper was like the stones in an outhouse, hard and stinky, my heart was as soft as tofu." He said slowly.

    "Forget tofu, it's almost like butter soaked snails!" 13th Mistress sighed before suddenly breaking out a smile. "That plate of butter soaked snails is still out, she made it especially for you, you should at least eat one."

    "I'll eat them when I get back!"

    "You're going out? Where to?" Li Yan Bei asked.

    "To find a person!"

    "Who?"

    "Ye Gu Cheng!"

    Li Yan Bei was speechless once again.

    "If he could cure the Tang Family Poison Sands and save himself, maybe he could save Ou Yang Qing as well!" Lu Xiao Feng explained.

    A frightening shade of pale white had appeared on Ou Yang Qing's face and the left side of her face was starting to swell somewhat. Li Yan Bei's pressure point hitting techniques were not very refined, the poison's progress had not been completely halted.

    "Would a person like Ye Gu Cheng be willing to save other people?" 13th Mistress frowned.

    "Even if he isn't, I still have to go, even if I have to get on my knees and beg, I will make him come here!"

    Staring at Ou Yang Qing's face, Lu Xiao Feng slowly continued, emphasizing each word: "No matter what, I will find a way to save her!"
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Yang Guo's Avatar
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    Good job! keep up the good work... or I'll keep nagging at ya j/k

    Much Appreciated

  14. #14
    Member kraal's Avatar
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    *weeps with joy and gratitude*

    Moin, you updated!

    *dances*

    Just wanted to let you know that your sterling efforts are much appreciated.
    "And the Bastard grant us, in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain's peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word. In darkness, understanding." -- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.

  15. #15
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    Wow, they just killed off First Madame like that? I rathered liked her.

    I think I am too programed by tv series, where characters never die so easily. I am still shocked XB died.

    P.S. way to cop a feel on her LXF lol

  16. #16

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    Demitre, I agree, I was surprised at how easily Gu Long killed off First Madame Gong Sun as well. But leave it to him to have his main character cop a feel for an almost legit reason. )

    The night was even deeper. Even in the busiest, most late closing night spot, the Bright Vernal Tea House, guests were starting to file out. From the looks of it, the house would have to close shop for the night soon. But Lu Xiao Feng was still sitting there, staring idlely at a freshly prepared flask of tea.

    He had already walked all over the city and visited many a hotels, yet he could not even find a hint of Ye Gu Cheng's shadow. A person with as conspicuous and famous as Ye Gu Cheng should have been a very easy person to find because no matter where he goes, he would always attract attention.

    But ever since that meeting at Oriental Spring Pavilion, he seemed to have disappeared into the city like Xi Men Chui Xue. There was not a single evidence that he was around afterwards.

    Lu Xiao Feng could not figure out the reason behind this. There was no reason for Ye Gu Cheng to go into hiding. Even Tang Tian Rong, the man whose collarbone he cut in half and would probably go through the rest of his life as a cripple, did not go into hiding.

    Tang Tian Rong was staying at a huge hotel by the name of "All Fortune Inn" off one of the major cities on the east side of the city. Rumours had it that a great number of doctors who specialized in bone injuries and other famous osteopaths. The reason that he was still staying in the city was not because of his injury, but because all of the masters of the Tang family were already poured out of their nest and have descended upon the city overnight to avenge their brothers.

    Of course, this would be yet another event that shakes the martial world to its very core. The other one was that even though Yan Ren Ying did not find Xi Men Chui Xue, he did find several very powerful helpers.

    Supposedly, among them were not only a lhama from Tibet, but also two mysterious swordsmen who trained for many years in the shadows of Mt. Goddess's Water. For some odd reason or another, these people were all willing to help out Yan Ren Ying.

    Neither of these developments would help Xi Men Chui Xue or Ye Gu Cheng. The first group of people wanted to find Ye Gu Cheng, the second was after Xi Men Chui Xue. So no matter what happens in the duel, neither one of them would have a comfortable life afterwards, whichever one of them survives, or if indeed both survives.Lu Xiao Fend did dig up quite a lot of news and information, but none of them was what he wanted to find. He could not even find the Wooden Taoist or Ancient Pine Hermit.

    The customers continued to file out. The man who made the tea had already put down the big flask of water in his hand and was endlessly shooting looks over at Lu Xiao Feng, obviously telling him to leave. The only thing Lu Xiao Feng could do was pretend to not see, he really did not have anywhere else to go.

    How could he go back to face Ou Yang Qing without finding Ye Gu Cheng? The newly made tea was already cold, the night was even colder.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed and lifted the cup up to his lips. But before the tea could touch his lips -- "Crash!" Suddenly, with a cold flash, the cup in his hand shattered.

    When the flash died down, it turned out to be a rather large three-pointed bone piercing dart! There was a lantern just out the door, holding it was a monk wearing a green robe, white sox, and shoes made from the awns of wheat. He was coldly snickering at Lu Xiao Feng. Of the martial artist in the north, northeast, almost none use this type of dart.

    Yet this monk's throw was accurate and fast. From this one throw Lu Xiao Feng could tell he was unquestionably one of the best in the world in this practice. Yet he did not recognize the monk, nor could he figure out why he would suddenly attack. The strangest thing, however, was that even though he misfired, he did not run away but instead remained standing outside.

    Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Not only did he not chase the monk, he actually smiled towards him. He already had enough problems to deal with and was not in the mood for anymore. Unfortunately, the monk would not let it go at that and, with a flick of his arm, launched two more darts. The little bit of cloth tied as tal to the dars flapped loudly as it pierced through the air; obviously, the power behind these darts were very strong.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed again. He had already figured out that this monk was determined to cause him some problems. Now, even if he did not want to go outside, he still had to.

    Even before the darts arrived, he was already outside. But unexpectedly, the monk, as soon as saw he was coming out, turned around and began to run. And when Lu Xiao Feng stopped chasing him, this monk would actually stop and wave back.

    The strange happenings were coming fast and furious now, and it seemed like Lu Xiao Feng had ran into every single one of them.

    He did not want to continue chasing, yet he could not stop chasing either. After passing two more streets, the monk suddenly stopped at the entrance of a dark alley.

    "Lu Xiao Feng, do you dare come in here?" He mocked.

    Of course Lu Xiao Feng dared, there was not that many things in the world he did not dare to do. Even though he knew that he was walking into a dark alley, that the monk could attack at any time, that there could very well be countless traps that he could not see in the alley, or that this monk could very well have a killer move that he had not heard about.

    But he still walked in. Incredibly, as soon as he walked in, the monk suddenly dropped onto his knees and kowtowed to him three times!

    Lu Xiao Feng was shocked once again.

    Smiling, the monk looked up at him.

    "Do you recognize me?"

    Lu Xiao Feng shook his head, he had never seen the monk before in his life.

    "Then do you recognize the 3 pointed bone piercing dart?"

    Lu Xiao Feng's eyes lit up.

    "You are one the 'Flying Dart' Sheng's from central China?"

    "I am none other than Sheng Tong."

    Lu Xiao Feng was not familiar with the name either. The Flying Dart Sheng's was not among the most famous families in the martial world.

    "I am here to repay a debt!" Sheng Tong continued.

    "Repay a debt?" Lu Xiao Feng was caught even more off guard.

    "The entire Sheng family owes the Great Hero Lu a huge debt!"

    "You must be mistaken, I never owe anyone else anything, nor does anybody ever owe anything to me!"

    "I'm not mistaken." Sheng Tong seemed very sure of his claim as his spirit turned more solemn as well. "Six years ago, all 11 people of our family lost in the hands of Huo Tian Qing as our entire family was chased out from our home. Even since then, my parents have been separated, my brothers have lost contact with each other, and I was forced to become a monk. Even though the debt was written in blood, Huo Tian Qing's martial arts was so strong that I could not hope to avenge it!"

    "You think that I killed Huo Tian Qing and avenged for you, so you are here to repay that debt?"

    "Correct!"

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was laugh at his own misery. Huo Tian Qing did not die in his hands, nor did Du Gu Yi He and Su Shao Ying. Yet people still seemed to hold him responsible for their deaths, be it those who came for revenge or to repay him. Could it really be this difficult to sort out the web of revenge and debt in the martial world?

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "Huo Tian Qing did not...."

    Sheng Tong seemed completely disinterested in hearing his explanation and cut him off: "No matter what, had the Great Hero Lu not been there, Huo Tian Qing would probably be enjoying a life of endless fame and fortune and in the Pearl and Diamond Pavilion instead of where he is now!"

    That statement was not necessarily wrong. Again, all Lu Xiao Feng could do was laugh at his own misery.

    "Ok, let's just say that you did owe me, you already repaid it just then!"

    "Kowtows are only a show of respect, how could that count as repaying a debt?"

    "It doesn't count?"

    "Absolutely not!"

    "Then what does count?"

    Sheng Tong suddenly took out a bundle of very finely wrapped oil cloth and held it up with both hands.

    "This is what I've come all the way here to give to the Great Hero Lu!"

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was to accept it. He suddenly realized that being forced to accept repayment did not feel much better than being forced to accept revenge.

    He had never thought much about this before, but even more unthinkable for him, was the fact that inside this bundle was actually just a piece of white cloth with streaks of blood and yellow puss all over it. As soon as he opened it, a unbearable stench filled the air.

    Now Lu Xiao Feng could not even force himself to laugh.

    "You came here to give me this piece of cloth?"

    "Yes."

    "And you are giving me this to repay a debt you owe me?"

    "Correct."

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at the mixture of puss and blood on the cloth, not quite sure if he wanted to laugh or cry. This monk fired off 5 darts at him before giving him this stinking piece of cloth, all in the name of repaying a debt. This had to be the first time he had ever heard this being called that!

    --Luckily, he came to repay a debt, what would Lu Xiao Feng had done if he was here for revenge?

    Lu Xiao Feng's only wish right now was to get rid of this monk as quick as possible.

    "Well, now I guess you have indeed repaid your debt!"

    Amazingly, Sheng Tong did not refute this claim. But he was still reluctant to leave.

    "This piece of cloth might look normal, maybe even worthless, but at this moment, it's worth cities!" He quietly whispered.

    Nobody would agree that this cloth was some priceless treasure, no matter how they look at it. Yet when this monk said it, he was as solemn as can be, not a trace of humour could be found in his voice.

    Even Lu Xiao Feng's interest became piqued.

    "Does this cloth has anything special about it?"

    "Only one thing."

    "What one thing?"

    Sheng Tong's expression became even more cautious as he lowered his voice even more.

    "This cloth was taken off of Ye Gu Cheng's body!"

    Lu Xiao Feng's eyes immediately lit up. This filthy and stinky cloth, in his eyes, was indeed a treasure that worthed more than solid gold and diamonds.

    "In trying to hide from Huo Tian Qing as well as being too shamed to see the world, I settled down in an ignored and neglected monastery. After the old monk there died, I became the only one who lived there!"

    "Is Ye Gu Cheng there too?"

    "He came in today afternoon, there's only two bedrooms in the entire monastery. Nobody had stayed in the old monk's room after the old monk died and forget about alms givers or pilgrimagers. So the arrival of some people today was a great surprise to me!"

    "He was alone?"

    Sheng Tong nodded: "When he arrived, I had no idea that he could have been the world famous Master of White Cloud Castle!"

    "Then how did you find out?"

    "Since he arrived, he locked himself in his room and asked me for a tub of clean water to be deliever into his room every hour, on the hour...."

    He was originally a man of the martial world as well, when he ran into someone behaving suspiciously, he would naturally pay him extra attention.

    "Other than the clean water, he also asked me to go and buy a roll of white fabric and gave me this bundle, instructing me to bury it."

    Of course, there was no way that Ye Gu Cheng could have suspected that in this broken down monastery lived a man of the martial world. So he was not nearly as careful.

    "It was when I went into the city to buy the fabric that I heard the news of Ye Gu Cheng's injury by the Tang Family Poison Sands at Zhang Jia Kou only to return and severely injure Tang Tian Rong at Oriental Spring Pavilion."

    Therefore he immediately asking for a description of what this Master of White Cloud Castle looked like.

    "It was only after comparing the descriptions did I know that this strange guest in my monastery was none other than the Master of White Cloud Castle that had shook the capital to its foundations!"

    Lu Xiao Feng let out a long, exhausted sigh. He had finally figured out two puzzles that had stumped him this entire time.

    -- Ye Gu Cheng, who did not like flowers and never bothered with women, had beautiful girls paving a carpet of flowers for him to walk on was only doing so to cover up the stench eminating from his wound.

    -- Lu Xiao Feng could not find him inside the city because he simply did not stay in the city and actually settled down in a neglected monastery.

    -- Of course, he could not let others find out that not only had his injuries not healed, but have worsened.

    -- When a lion is hurt, he would naturally hide out in the mountains by himself, for fears that the wild dogs might start coming after him.

    Lu Xiao Feng's heart sank. He had hoped that Ye Gu Cheng would be able to help with the poison in Ou Yang Qing's body. But now he had just found out that Ye Gu Cheng might not even be able to save himself, nevermind somebody else.

    "When I entered the city, about 8 or 9 out of 10 people were betting in favor of Ye Gu Cheng," Sheng Tong continued. "They are even taking on odds as high as 7 to 1 in his favour."

    That one demonstration of Outer Heaven Angels at Oriental Spring Pavilion had already rocked the city to its core.

    "If somebody, anybody, was to come across this news, to see this cloth, there could be...." Sheng Tong did not finish.

    If somebody was to find out about this, what would happen within the city was not only something that he could not say, but something that he could not even imagine.

    "You are right, this cloth is truly a priceless treasure," Lu Xiao Feng sighed. "I truly am not worthy to receive such a valuable gift."

    "Even though I'm a nobody, I also don't like owing people anything, just like the Great Hero Lu," a smile finally appeared on Sheng Tong's face. "As long as the Great Hero Lu accept this humble little gift, I will be more than satisfied."

    Instead of answering, Lu Xiao Feng quietly thought to himself for a second.

    "Where's your monastery?" He suddenly asked.

    "Does the Great Hero Lu want to come and meet the Master of White Cloud Castle?"

    Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    "It's not that I don't trust you, I really would like to go meet him." There was a hint of sadness and loneliness in his smile, slowly, he continued. "Even though we've only met twice briefly, I still think of him as a friend...."

    He understood that Ye Gu Cheng must be in need of friends at this moment, and he also knew that Ye Gu Cheng did not have that many friends. At this moment, to Ye Gu Cheng, a true friend might have been even harder to come by than antitodes.

    The room was dark and damp. Even though the room was not small, it only had a bed, a table, and a stool, making the room feel even more empty and desolate than it was. There was only one small lamp in the room providing a dim glow. The wall was covered with dust and spiderwebs dots the ceiling. There were scrolls of manuscripts beside the lone lamp, but they looked like they have not been touched for a long time.

    -- How lonely a life must the old monk who resided here before have led?

    -- To him, could death be seen as an escape? Ye Gu Cheng lied on his side on the that cold and hard bed. Even though he had started feeling exhausted a long time ago, he could not fall asleep no matter how much he tossed and turned.

    He had gotten used to loneliness a long time ago. Swordsmen like him are destined to be cut off from the world, just like wandering monks, unable to enjoy all of the joys of the mortal world.

    Throughout his entire life, loneliness had been his companion, his only companion. But he could not bear to suffer this type of coldness and neglect that was more frightening than any type of loneliness. Because before, even though his days were filled with loneliness, they were also filled with fame and glory.

    But now... The wind blew in through the window, causing the ripped and torn curtain to flap loudly like the falling leafs. The room was still filled with a stench that not even the wind could disperse. He knew by now that his wound had completely festered, as if it was a maggot-filled piece of meat.

    He was a proud man, but now he was hiding in some hole somewhere like a wild dog. This kind of torture and humiliation was something that he would rather die than face, but face it he must.

    Because he must live until September 15th! The wind breezed by, the night sounded cold. How could he possibly make it through these long nights?

    If he had a relative or a friend with him right now, the situation might be a lot better. But pity he was fated to be alone in his life, to always reject other people's overture for friendship. He suddenly discovered that this was the first time in his life he realized that he needed a friend too.

    He thought about a lot of stuff he never did before. He thought about how he would always train non-stop in the morning, the blood of his foes flowing out from underneath his sword, but he also thought of the ocean colored sky, the spectacularly bright sun, the beautiful, jade like clouds....

    He wanted to die, and at the same time did not want to die. Why must there be so much unresolvable conflicts in a person's life?

    Puss oozed out of his wounds again, as the stench intensified some more. He thought about getting up and cleaning the wound off a little and switch the bandage once again.

    Even though he knew that doing this would not help his wound, almost to the point of exacerbating it, but it was all he could do.

    -- Such powerful weapons, such frightening poisons. He finally got off the bed, as soon as his feet touched the ground, a gust of wind blew by outside the window -- it could not have been natural.

    The sword was on the table; with just a flick of the wrist, it was in his hands. His reaction was still fast, his movements were still quick.

    "No need to pull out your sword," A person said, smiling, from outside the window. "But if you have some wine, don't hesitate to pour a cup or two."

    The grip that Ye Gu Cheng had on his sword slowly relaxed. He recognized that voice: "Lu Xiao Feng?"

    Of course it was Lu Xiao Feng. Ye Gu Cheng struggled to stand up, stand up straight. He adjusted his shirt, wiped the frown off of his face, walked over to the door, and pulled it open.

    Lu Xiao Feng was smiling at him.

    "Didn't think I was going to show up?"

    Ye Gu Cheng did not answer, instead he turned around and sat down on the only stool.

    "You shouldn't have come, there's no wine here!" Only then did he slowly reply.

    "But there's a friend here."

    Friend! That word was like wine, a cup of warm, hot wine, as it poured into Ye Gu Cheng's throat, into his chest.

    He suddenly realized that the blood in his chest had turned warm, but his face remained cold and emotionless.

    "There is no friend here either, only a killer swordsman!"

    "Killer swordsman could still be a friend."

    The only stool was taken, but Lu Xiao Feng did not remain standing.

    He moved aside that kerosene lamp, also the scrolls and sword beside it, and sat down on the table.

    "If you didn't see me as a friend, then how could you have put your sword back down onto the table?"

    Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything and just stared back at Lu Xiao Feng. The frost on his face seemed to have melted a little. When a man come to the end of his rope and suddenly finds out that he still has a friend, it is a feeling that nothing else could hope to compare, maybe not even love.

    Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything for a long time.

    "I don't seem to recall you making friend with me before." He said slowly.

    "Because before you were the world famous, utterly matchless Master of White Cloud Castle!"

    "And now?" The corner of Ye Gu Cheng's mouth stiffened.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "Before a duel like that, you really shouldn't have gone up against a person like Tang Tian Yi, you should know that there's no antidote for their poison."

    Ye Gu Cheng's expression changed.

    "How much do you know?"

    "Maybe already too much!"

    Once again, Ye Gu Cheng did not say anthing for a long time.

    "I didn't want to get into it with him either!"

    "But you...."

    "But he came up to me and forced me to unsheath my sword." Ye Gu Cheng cut Lu Xiao Feng off. "He said that I... he claimed I tried to seduce his wife while he was away!"

    "Of course you didn't."

    Ye Gu Cheng smirked.

    "Since you didn't, then why didn't you try and explain it?"

    "If you were me, would you have tried to explain it?"

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed again. He had to admit he would not have bothered to explain anything if he ran into a situation like this. Because type of thing was not worth the trouble, nor could it be explained away.

    "So the only thing you could do was fight!"

    "All I could do was fight!"

    "But I still don't understand, with your skills, Tang Tian Yi shouldn't even have had the chance to move!"

    Again, Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything as his fist tightened.

    "I didn't want to say this, but the only reason he was able to make a move was because, just as I was about to unsheath my sword, I heard a strange whistle."

    Lu Xiao Feng's expression changed as well.

    "And then you immediately found a snake?...."

    "How did you know?" Ye Gu Cheng stood up in rage.

    "Just today, I've had two friends die from that type of snake, and another in bed, life hanging in the balance." Lu Xiao Feng's fist tightened as well.

    Ye Gu Cheng's pupil dilated as he slowly sat back down. Both men understood that there was somebody behind the scenes for all of this. But who could it be? And for what purpose?

    "The person who would benefit most from your injuries is Xi Men Chui Xue." Lu Xiao Feng observed, after a long period of silence.

    "But the person who did this to you could not be Xi Men Chui Xue!"

    "I know, I don't believe he is that low of a person!"

    "Do you really?"

    "A person as despicable as that could not possibly be able to attain such a high level of mastery of the sword!"

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    "Didn't think you would understand Xi Men Chui Xue so well!"

    Ye Gu Cheng stared down at the sword on the table.

    "I don't understand him, only his sword!" He slowly explianed.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared into his face.

    "Maybe because you two are the same type of person as well!"

    Although Ye Gu Cheng did not agree to that, he did not deny it either.

    Two unmatched swords, two peerless men, how could they not understand each other?

    "Looks like not only truly devoted friends who understands each other, but also truly devoted enemies who understand each other." Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Of course there is, just that the latter is so much harder to find than the former.

    "Supposedly a lot of people have placed bets for me to win!" Ye Gu Cheng suddenly said.

    "The odds at this moment is 7 to 1 for you!" Lu Xiao Feng said with a slightly condescending smile."But still, that means there are still some who put money on Xi Men Chui Xue to win!"

    "Yes."

    "If I should lose, then wouldn't those men make a killing?"

    "You think that the person who sabotaged you is one of those who placed bets on Xi Men Chui Xue?"

    "Don't you think so?"

    Lu Xiao Feng did not reply.

    Even though he did not say so, he knew in his heart that was not the case. Because that person not only injured Ye Gu Cheng, but also killed Big Shot Sun and First Madame Gong Sun as well as injured Ou Yang Qing. There must be an even bigger conspiracy, an even bigger targe behind all of this than just winning a huge bet.

    Ye Gu Cheng stood up again. He walked over to the window and pushed it open.

    "It's September 14th now...." He mumbled as he stared into the moonlight.

    "Are you still planning on going through with the duel?"

    "Do I look like someone who would go back on his words?" Ye Gu Cheng coldly answered.

    "But your wounds...."

    Ye Gu Cheng smiled, it was a sad and lonely smile.

    "Nobody can heal the wound, so the man is dead. If death is comign anyways, wouldn't dying under Xi Men Chui Xue's sword an honour in and of itself?"

    "You... you could postpone the duel again!"

    "No! Not possible!" Ye Gu Cheng dismissed that suggestion.

    "Why not?"

    "Because, in my life, I have never gone back on my word yet!"

    "Don't forget that you two have already changed the date once!"

    "There was a special reason!"

    "What reason is that?"

    "You don't need to know!" Ye Gu Cheng's face darkened.

    "I must know!"

    Ye Gu Cheng snickered coldly at that remark.

    "Not only am I Xi Men Chui Xue's friend, I'm also your friend. I have the right to know!" Lu Xiao Feng demanded.

    Ye Gu Cheng slowly closed the window only to push it open again. The moonlight poured in like before.

    He did not turn around, as if he did not want Lu Xiao Feng to see the expression on his face. The two men stayed like that for a long time.

    "Did you know that he has a child?" He suddenly said.

    "What did you say?" Lu Xiao Feng jumped off of the table.

    Ye Gu Cheng did not say any more, he knew that Lu Xiao Feng heard perfectly well the first time.

    Of course Lu Xiao Feng did, he just could not really believe it.

    "Are you telling me that Xi Men Chui Xue has a child now?"

    Ye Gu Cheng nodded.

    "You mean that Sun Xiu Qing is pregnant?" Lu Xiao Feng asked again. Again, Ye Gu Cheng nodded.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not say anymore. If a man, just before he was going into a life-or-death duel, suddenly discover that his love was pregnant, what should he do?

    "So it was he who went to you to ask for a postponement, because he had to make sure that Sun Xiu Qing was taken care off afterwards. Becuase he was not sure that he could beat you!" Lu Xiao Feng finally understood.

    "He's a responsible man, he knows that he has made too many enemies!"

    "And if he was to die in your hands, his enemies would not want his wife or child to live either!"

    "He never begged in his life, so even if he dies, he still does not want to beg other people to protect his wife!"

    "And that was why he asked you to postpone the duel for one month, so he could make sure that his family is taken care of!"

    "If you were me, would you have agreed to it?"

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Finally, he understood why Xi Men Chui Xue had suddenly disappeared. Of course he was going to find a secretive place where his wife could settle down so that she could give birth to the baby in peace. This kind of place was somewhere that nobody could know about.

    Ye Gu Cheng stared into the moon, it was already full: "Night of full moon, peak of Mt. Zi Jin...."

    "'Night of full moon' is still 'Night of full moon', but what did 'peak of Mt. Zi Jin' get changed to?" Lu Xiao Feng could not resist asking.

    "To just 'peak of Zi Jin'!" Ye Gu Cheng slowly replied after another long pause.

    "'Peak of Zi Jin'? As in Zi Jin Cheng? As in the Forbidden City?" Lu Xiao Feng was shocked.

    "Yes!"

    "You two are going to duel inside the Forbidden City, on the roof of the Hall of Supreme Harmony?" Even Lu Xiao Feng was having a hard time believing the location that was chosen.

    The Hall of Supreme Harmony was the biggest hall inside of the Forbidden City, so the peak of the Forbidden City was none other than on the roof of the Hall. The roof of the Hall was 27 meters high and covered with very slippery glass tiles, making just standing on it almost impossible, but not nearly as impossible as actually climbing to the top. On top of all of that, was the fact that this was where the Emperor himself holds court and conducts his business, making it the most highly guarded place within the world. And yet these two men had to pick this place for their duel.

    Even Lu Xiao Feng had to take a deep breath when he realized this.

    "Aren't you two getting a little too brave for your own good here?" He had to laugh.

    "If you are afraid, then don't come!" Ye Gu Cheng casually dismissed his concerns.

    "You picked this place because you knew that there would not be many spectators, if any?" Lu Xiao Feng suddenly realized.

    "To say the least, this duel is not for others to see!"

    "Then what is it for?" Lu Xiao Feng had to ask.

    "Because he is Xi Men Chui Xue, and I am Ye Gu Cheng!"

    This was not a real answer, but it was enough. Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng were destined to meet in their life to determine who was the best. No other reason is needed! Two unmatched, peerless swords masters are like two meteors, if they meet, they would surely result the most spectacular and explosive display. This explosion might disappear in an instant, but would pass down in legend forever!

    The moon was so bright that in its luster, only a few stars could be seen. The night deepened some more.

    "What you wanted to know, you have found out, so why aren't you leaving?" Ye Gu Cheng slowly asked.

    "Other than me, does anybody else know where the duel will take place?" Lu Xiao Feng was not quite ready to leave yet.

    "I didn't tell anybody else," Ye Gu Cheng coldly answered. "I don't have any other friends!"

    His voice might be cold, but his words were warm. He actually admitted that Lu Xiao Feng was his friend, his only friend.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  17. #17
    Senior Member xJadedx's Avatar
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    Yah! Another great update! Good Job, Moin!
    Because I'm somewhere in between,
    My love and my agony.

  18. #18
    Senior Member ClayPoT's Avatar
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    thanks for the translation
    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

  19. #19
    Member LiarLiar's Avatar
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    I want to write this comment because I also never comment. I read all of your LXF translations and they are all great. Keep up the good work.

  20. #20
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    Thanks for a great update. I really enjoy reading your translations.

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