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Phantoms’ Mountain Manor Chapter 6

CSI

Chapter 6 – Embattled on all sides

The next morning, the mountain valley was still covered in thick mist and the little hut seemed to be floating in the cloud heap; opening the door, one could even feel like one was drifting, as though a duckweed floating on the water surface.

There were many people like this in the world, people with no concerns, no roots.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed and closed the door heavily, his spirits so low that it was as though he’d seen his lover get on someone else’s wedding sedan chair.

The only sound that cheered him up a little was the knocking sound indicating that food had arrived.

The delivery person had pockmarks all over the face, along with a dull expression and a mouth full of yellow teeth. The only happy thing about him was that he was carrying a large food box.

There were six dishes and a soup in that food box, along with white rice. Those dishes actually contained what Lu Xiaofeng had ordered last night.

However, it was only a bite-sized portion of each dish; one might have missed if one had bad eyesight, and if the breeze got any bigger, the food would be blown away.

The best of it all was that Sanxian duck[1], which had only one bone, a piece of skin and a duck feather.

“That’s Sanxian duck?” Lu Xiaofeng yelped.

Pockmarks actually glared and said: “If that’s not duck, what is? A person?”

“Even so, where the Sanxian part?”

“The duck feather was freshly plucked, duck skin freshly peeled off, and the duck bone is very fresh too. If that’s not freshness, what is?”

Lu Xiaofeng shut his mouth.

Pockmarks had already flounced off, slamming the door on the way out.

Lu Xiaofeng gazed at the six dishes, then at the single grain of rice in the bowl, not knowing whether he should weep or laugh.

Now he finally understood why that Mister Wandering Soul was so interested in chicken bones.

He picked up the chopsticks, then set them down, and suddenly heard someone sighing from the little back window: “Your piece of braised pork shanks is bigger than the one I had yesterday, at least twice.”

Lu Xiaofeng didn’t need to turn around to know that Mister Wandering Soul had returned, and couldn’t help asking: “How long have you been eating such meals?”

“Three months,” Wandering Soul said.

He tunneled through the window and his eyes fixed on the six dishes on the table, said: “There’s a trick to eating such meals.”

“What trick?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Savor every dish very slowly,” Wandering Soul said, “best if you use your front teeth to gnaw at it, then lick it with your tongue, so as to get the full taste.”

“But you’re still not dead,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“That’s because I don’t want to die yet,” Wandering Soul said. “The more other people want me to die, the more I want to live on, just to show them.”

Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help a sigh too, and said: “It mustn’t have been easy for you to survive until now.”

Wandering Soul nodded slowly, two tear droplets rolling down from the corner of his eyes.

Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t bear to look, so he lay down on the bed and covered his head with the pillow.

“The food is here, aren’t you going to eat?” Wandering Soul asked.

“You go ahead, I’m not hungry,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Because you have to live too!” Wandering Soul said.

Suddenly, he yanked the pillow off Lu Xiaofeng and yelled: “If you want to die, you might as well let me bash you to death now since the flesh on your body can still sustain me for a few happy meals.”

Lu Xiaofeng gazed at him, then at the bony face that was barely covered by skin, then suddenly said: “My name is Lu Xiaofeng.”

“I know,” Wandering Soul said.

“What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “Who are you? How did you come to be here?”

This time, Wandering Soul didn’t get agitated, he merely stared at Lu Xiaofeng with socket-like eyes and countered: “And how did you end up here?”

“Because…”

Wandering Soul interrupted: “Because you did something wrong and were forced into a corner, so you ended up on the path of no return.”

Lu Xiaofeng had to admit to that.

“Now every one in the martial arts fraternity must be thinking you’re dead, Ximen Chuixue too, that’s why you can continue living here.”

“What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Me too,” Wandering Soul said. He added: “General, Cousin, Hook, Housekeeper… these people are all in the same situation.”

“But I’m not afraid of letting them know my background,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“They are afraid of you,” Wandering Soul said.

“Why?”

“They still don’t trust you. They cannot let anyone know they are still alive, otherwise…”

“Otherwise their enemies will most probably turn up here.”

“Indeed.”

“What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “You don’t trust me either?”

“Even if I do, I can’t tell you anything about me,” Wandering Soul said.

“Why not?”

An odd look entered Wandering Soul’s eyes; was it fear or agony?

“I can’t say, definitely not…”

He was muttering to himself, as though warning himself, and his body began floating up again.

But Lu Xiaofeng was determined not to let him get away this time, and with lightning speed, caught hold of his arm and asked again: “Why not?”

“Because…” Wandering Soul gritted his teeth and said determinedly: “Because if I tell you, we definitely won’t be able to become friends.”

Lu Xiaofeng still didn’t understand and wanted to press on, but Wandering Soul’s emaciated, wizened hand suddenly turned soft as silk and slipped from his grasp.

Nobody had been able to slip away from Lu Xiaofeng’s grasp before.

He reached out once more, but Wandering Soul had already tunneled through the window, just like the wispy wandering souls.

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

He’d never seen anyone who had perfected flexibility to such an extent; perhaps he’d once heard Sikong Zhaixing mention it but even this memory itself was hazy.

All his memories were becoming hazy; Lu Xiaofeng had been shut inside this wooden hut for two or three days.

Was it two days? Three days? Or four days? He couldn’t remember clearly.

So hunger not only causes memory to deteriorate, it could also hurt brainpower and let one remember things that one should forget, but forget things that one should remember.

A person lying all alone and starving in a tiny hut the size of a pigeon cage is agony that nobody can endure.

However, he still couldn’t resist leaping up excitedly after hearing the sound of a bell outside the hut.

“If the bell doesn’t ring, you cannot come out.”

So now the bell had sounded, he leapt up and dashed outside, even without his boots.

It was still foggy outside and right now it was dusk.

The setting sun in the misty fog shone like a seven-colored halo.

This world was still beautiful after all, and it was a pleasurable thing to be alive.

There were still thirty six or seven people in the hall, but Lu Xiaofeng did not know any of them.

The people he’d met before were all not here; the Soul Collector, General, Wandering Soul, Ye Ling… why did they not come? And Dugu Mei, why had he disappeared once he entered this mountain valley?

Lu Xiaofeng settled down in one corner and nobody paid him any attention, not even to spare him a glance. Everyone looked stern and the mood seemed heavy.

Maybe it was like that for people living here.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed privately and raised his head for a look, only to realize that the high dais, on which the huge pot of meat had rested, was now holding up a coffin.

A brand new coffin, with the lid not yet nailed shut.

Who had died? Was it General? Had they asked Lu Xiaofeng here to avenge General’s death?

Lu Xiaofeng was feeling a little uneasy when he saw Ye Ling rush in.

This smiling girl who was fond of wearing red was now dressed in white mourning clothes, and was crying bitterly.

The moment she rushed in, she collapsed onto the coffin crying uncontrollably.

Lu Xiaofeng could never have imagined that she would weep so for someone else. She was still young, lively and beautiful, these sad and unfortunate events had seemed they would never happen to her.

How was the deceased related to her? How had the person died?

Lu Xiaofeng was just preparing to find an opportunity to comfort her later, but she’d already begun hollering: “Lu Xiaofeng, come here!”

He had no choice but to go over.

He couldn’t figure out why Ye Ling would summon him over, he didn’t want to get too near.

But Ye Ling wouldn’t stop hurrying him, telling him to walk faster, to come nearer and get up onto the stone dais.

He lifted his head and realized she was glaring at him with teary eyes, her gaze full of animosity.

Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help asking: “You want me to come up?”

Ye Ling nodded.

“What for?” he asked.

“Come up and look at him!” she said.

“Him” was of course the person lying in the coffin, and what was so interesting about looking at a person already in a coffin?

But she was insistent, as though she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Lu Xiaofeng had to go.

Ye Ling lifted the coffin lid and a mixture of fragrance and stench immediately wafted up, the person in the coffin had evidently turned swollen and rotten, so why did she want Lu Xiaofeng to come and see this?

Lu Xiaofeng only took one look before he felt like puking.

This person was evidently Ye Guhong, the one who had died in that man-eating forest!

Ye Ling gritted her teeth and glared at Lu Xiaofeng, said: “You know who he is?”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

“He is my brother,” Ye Ling said. “My real brother. If he hadn’t saved me, I’d have died in the ditch.”

Her eyes were full of grief and hatred. “Now he’s dead, you tell me, shouldn’t I avenge him?”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded again.

He never wished to argue with women, and besides, there was no room for argument in this matter.

Ye Ling said: “Do you know how he died?”

Lu Xiaofeng could neither nod nor shake his head, or explain or deny; he couldn’t help wishing there would be another coffin nearby so that he could hide in there.

Ye Ling gave a cold laugh. “Even if you don’t say, I already know.”

“Know what?” Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help asking.

“He died in that patch of forest out there,” she said. “Died for three days, and during those three days, only you had been in that forest.”

Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile. “You think I killed him?”

“Indeed!”

“Wrong. There were other people besides him in that forest during those three days.”

The person who had spoken up for Lu Xiaofeng turned out to be Dugu Mei, who had previously been on a disappearing act. “At least I’d been there. I came from there too.”

“Can you be considered a person?” Ye Ling yelled. “You had the ability to kill my brother?”

Dugu Mei sighed: “Even if I wasn’t a person, there would still be others.”

“Others?” Ye Ling asked.

Dugu Mei nodded and said: “Even if I weren’t your brother’s match, it wouldn’t be too difficult for this person to kill your brother.”

Ye Ling was outraged. “Whom are you referring to?”

“Ximen Chuixue!”

His eyes were smiling just like those of an old fox, as he said: “Have you heard of this name?”

Ye Ling’s face changed; she had indeed heard of this name.

Ximen Chuixue!

The mystical sword among swords, the sword god!

Whoever had heard of this name once would not forget it.

Dugu Mei eyed her and said: “Moreover, Lu Xiaofeng was rather seriously injured then, he was at most half a Lu Xiaofeng, so how could half a Lu Xiaofeng be a match for Wudang’s Little White Dragon?”

“You lie!” Ye Ling yelled again.

Dugu Mei sighed again and said: “Why would a man who doesn’t give a damn about kinship lie for another person?”

Foggy night, narrow road.

They walked shoulder to shoulder along the narrow road; they had walked like this for a long stretch of road.

That road was far narrower than this one, for it was a dead end.

Lu Xiaofeng finally opened his mouth: “Why would an old man who doesn’t give a damn about kinship lie for me?”

Dugu Mei laughed and said: “Because this old man likes you.”

He continued: “Fortunately this old man doesn’t have Pink Swallow’s habit, so you need not worry at all.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed too, laughed loudly: “Does this old man have wine?”

Dugu Mei said: “Not only wine, I have meat as well.”

Even Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were smiling: “Really?”

Dugu Mei said: “I not only have meat, I have a friend too.”

Lu Xiaofeng asked: “Your friend, or mine?”

Dugu Mei said: “My friends are your friends.”

The wine was good, and so was the friend.

To someone who enjoys drinking, the meaning of a good friend usually means one who can hold his liquor.

This friend not only enjoyed drinking to his heart’s content, he was forthright as well. After a few cups, he suddenly asked: “I know you are Lu Xiaofeng. Do you know who I am?”

“I don’t.”

“Why don’t you ask?”

Lu Xiaofeng only gave a resigned smile: “Because I have learnt my lesson.”

“You asked others and they refused to say?”

“Mm.”

“But I am not others, I am just me.” He downed the wine he held in his left hand, and used his right hand to hook a piece of meat.

The meat was hooked up because his right hand was not a hand, it was a hook. A steel hook.

“You are Hook?” Lu Xiaofeng finally recalled.

Hook admitted that!

“I know you have heard others talk about me, but there is something you definitely don’t know.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve wanted to make friends with you since the day you came.” He patted Dugu Mei’s shoulder and said: “That’s because your friend is my friend, your enemy is my enemy.”

“He is our friend, but who is our enemy?”

“Ximen Chuixue!”

Lu Xiaofeng was startled: “You are…”

Hook said: “I am Hai Qikuo!”

Lu Xiaofeng was even more surprised: “The ‘One-armed Divine Dragon’ Hai Qikuo who rode roughshod over the seven seas years ago?”

Hai Qikuo threw his head back and roared with laughter: “So Lu Xiaofeng does know my name after all.”

Lu Xiaofeng gazed at him, the shock in his eyes turning into suspicion, and suddenly shook his head. “You are not,” he said. “Hai Qikuo already drowned at sea.”

Hai Qikuo’s laughter was even merrier: “It was someone else who died, a scapegoat who wore my Rolling Dragon Robe, carried my Rolling Dragon Sabre, and who resembled me.”

He continued explaining: “Every one here has already died once outside. Is that not the same for you as well?”

Lu Xiaofeng finally understood: “This is the Mansion of Spirits, and only dead people can come here.”

Hai Qikuo laughed loudly and said: “If Ximen Chuixue knew we’re still enjoying wine and food here, he’d probably explode in fury.”

Lu Xiaofeng smiled: “It seems I do have quite a few friends here.”

Hai Qikuo said: “You are very right. There are at least sixteen people here who were forced by Ximen Chuixue to seek refuge in the Mansion.”

Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes shone and asked: “Are there a few who were forced here by me?”

Hai Qikuo said: “Even if there are, you don’t have to worry.” He laughed and raised his cup, but suddenly lowered his voice: “There is only one person you have to beware of.”

“Who is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Hai Qikuo said: “Actually, he can’t be considered a person, he’s just a wandering soul, that’s all.”

“Wandering Soul?” Lu Xiaofeng cried out involuntarily.

“You’ve met him?” Hai Qikuo asked.

Lu Xiaofeng did not deny.

Hai Qikuo said: “Do you know what kind of a person he is?”

“I would love to know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Hai Qikuo said: “There is a very strange organization here called Council of Elders. When Old Sabre Honcho is away, this council takes care of everything here.”

Lu Xiaofeng said: “Naturally the people in the Council of Elders are all elder statesmen. You are one of them, of course.”

“Besides me, there are eight others,” Hai Qikuo said. “However, the true elder statesmen are only two.”

“Which two?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“One is Wandering Soul, the other is Soul Collector. They and the Ye sisters’ father were the ones who helped Old Sabre Honcho with the Mansion set-up years ago. Now that Old Ye has died, there is no one else more senior than them.”

Lu Xiaofeng said: “So because of this, I should beware of him?”

“There is one more thing,” Hai Qikuo said.

Lu Xiaofeng picked up his wine cup and waited for him to go on.

Hai Qikuo said: “He’s the elder statesman here, so if he wants to kill you, he can find a chance anytime and you won’t be able to avoid it!”

Lu Xiaofeng asked: “He has reason to kill me?”

“Yes,” Hai Qikuo said.

“What reason?”

“You killed his son.”

“Who is his son?”

“Flying Jade Tiger.”

Lu Xiaofeng breathed in deeply and suddenly felt that the wine he’d just drunk had all turned sour.

Hai Qikuo said: “He set up Black Tiger Sect, but just as the foundation of the sect was becoming stable, he had to come here with Old Sabre Honcho. He had offended someone he couldn’t afford to offend, so he was at his wits’ end.”

“Whom did he offend?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Hai Qikuo said: “The Wooden Taoist, the most famous and respected member of Wudang.”

Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t help breathing in deeply again. Now he finally understood why Wandering Soul had refused all along to talk about his background.

Hai Qikuo said: “You destroyed Black Tiger Sect, and coincidentally the Wooden Taoist is your friend. So wouldn’t you say he has enough reason to kill you?”

Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile and said: “He does.”

Hai Qikuo said: “The worst thing is that you know he wants to kill you, but you can’t make a move.”

Lu Xiaofeng said: “Because he’s the most senior in the council.”

Hai Qikuo nodded and said: “Besides him, there are eight others in the council. If you kill him, these eight people will not let you off.”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “So I can only wait for him to strike.”

Hai Qikuo said: “He won’t strike unless he can kill you with one blow. Since he hasn’t done anything, he’s probably waiting for an opportunity.”

Although Lu Xiaofeng was not talking, he had not shut his mouth.

He was busy drinking.

Hai Qikuo sighed and said: “If you are drunk, that’d give him the chance to strike.”

“I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“And you still continue drinking?” Hai Qikuo asked.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly smiled and said: “Since he’s part of the council, he’ll get his chance. I might as well drink more while I’m still alive.”

Drinking is not the same as eating.

A person who usually eats three bowls of rice would definitely not be able to finish thirty, but a person who does not get drunk easily might sometimes be drunk only after a few cups.

Was Lu Xiaofeng already drunk?

“I’m not drunk yet.” He pushed away Dugu Mei and Hai Qikuo: “I still recognize the way home, you two don’t have to see me back.”

Indeed, he knew his way back.

Sometimes, even when a person is dead drunk, he still knows his way home and only after he reaches home will he collapse.

If you are a drinker, you would definitely have had such an experience.

Lu Xiaofeng had had such an experience, and very often too.

“This is my home,

We all love it,

There’s fish in front,

And flowers at the back.”

Although this little hut had neither fish nor flowers, it was still his home.

A wanderer with no roots discovering he actually has a home to return to after he’s drunk –

This is such a wonderful feeling. Except us wanderers, who else would understand?

Lu Xiaofeng started singing again, in a very loud voice, because he suddenly realized his own voice was sounding better and better.

There was no light in the hut, but once he pushed open the door, he felt a presence there.

“I know who you are, even if you don’t speak a word.” Lu Xiaofeng was laughing, very loudly too: “You’re Wandering Soul, one of the Elders here. Are you going to kill me since you’re waiting here for me?”

The person in the hut still did not speak.

Lu Xiaofeng roared with laughter: “Even if you want to kill me, you would not do it behind my back, right? It’s because you’re the most famous among Wudang’s secular disciples, because you’re Mister Zhong. Boneless Zhong.”

He went inside, shut the door and started searching for some flint: “Actually you were Wooden Taoist’s old friend, but you shouldn’t have secretly set up Black Tiger Clan outside. Otherwise, why would Wooden Taoist need to deal with you?”

There was still no sound, but there was light.

The flint had lit up to cast light on a person’s face, one that was all skin and bones. That pair of sunken eyes was staring at Lu Xiaofeng unflinchingly.

Lu Xiaofeng said: “Now that we’re both dead people, why continue to bear old grudges? Besides…”

He didn’t continue.

His voice suddenly broke up, and the flint in his hand stopped burning.

He suddenly realized that this Mister Zhong was really a dead man!

The hut was pitch black. Lu Xiaofeng stood in the dark, unmoving, his limbs and body icy cold, as though he’d suddenly fallen into an icy pit.

But this was no icy pit; it was a trap.

He’d already realized it, but he had no way of escaping from it.

He had nowhere to run!

So he sat down instead. He’d just done so when he heard footsteps outside, and then someone knocking on the door.

“Are you asleep? I have something to tell you!” The voice was gentle – it was Ye Ling’s.

Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes.

“I know you’re not sleeping yet, why won’t you open the door?” Ye Ling’s voice turned fierce. “Are you hiding a woman in there?”

Lu Xiaofeng finally sighed: “There’s not even half a woman here, though there’s a half-dead man.”

Ye Ling sounded even fiercer: “I said before: if you dare to let women enter your house, I’ll kill you. Doesn’t matter if they’re dead or alive.”

“Bang”, and the door slammed open.

“The women here are all dead anyway.”

“This dead person is male, actually.”

The flint was lit up again and Ye Ling finally saw the dead man: “And where’s the other half?”

Lu Xiaofeng gave her a resigned smile: “That would be me!”

Ye Ling gazed at him, and then the dead man, then suddenly jumped up: “You killed him? How could you? Don’t you know who he is?”

Lu Xiaofeng didn’t open his mouth. He didn’t need to, since someone outside answered on his behalf: “He knows.”

The hut was small, the window was tiny as well. Ye Ling was blocking the doorway, so the person outside had no way of walking in.

But they had other methods.

Suddenly, another there was another banging sound. He didn’t reach a hand out to block, not even when the roof crashed down and the people in the hut suddenly found themselves out in the open.

Lu Xiaofeng didn’t move.

The roof crashed down on him, but he neither stuck a hand out to cover himself nor escaped, he only let out a sigh.

This was his first time having a home, and it was very likely his last.

“So there are not only unlucky people in this world, there are unlucky houses too.” Lu Xiaofeng lamented: “The hut was unlucky because it chose the wrong owner. People are unlucky because they befriend the wrong people.”

“You’re unlucky because you did something wrong.”

“You can do anything, but why did you have to kill him?”

“I already told you, even if you know he wants to kill you, you can’t kill him or even I wouldn’t let you off.”

That last was said by Hai Qikuo. As for the other two, one had a pale and beardless face and was well-dressed, while the other was tall and thin, with a hooked nose and hunched back. One was always smiling, as though he admired even himself, while the other was always frowning and unappreciative of himself.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked: “Which one is Cousin?”

Cousin’s shiny face was still wearing a smile, but he purposely let out a sigh. “Fortunately I’m not your cousin, or even I would be in trouble thanks to you.”

Lu Xiaofeng purposely sighed as well and said: “Fortunately you’re not my cousin, or I’d definitely bang my head and die!”

Cousin laughed. “I guarantee you don’t have to bang your head and die, we’ll think of many ways to let you die.”

He was laughing even more merrily. He took pleasure in whatever he was saying and was very pleased with it.

The other person suddenly said: “I’m a housekeeper anyway, so I definitely have to concern myself with this.”

He sighed gloomily and said: “Actually I really do not like poking my nose into other people’s business one bit. I have not had a good night’s sleep for many months now, and my back has been hurting me lately. The pain in my teeth is even worse…”

He kept on grumbling and nagging; he was evidently not pleased with his own life or that of other people’s.

Lu Xiaofeng gave a resigned smile. “So three of the Council of Elders have appeared.”

Ye Ling suddenly said: “Four.”

Lu Xiaofeng was startled. “You too?”

Ye Ling made a face and said coldly: “Elder refers to seniority in rank, not in age.”

Cousin smiled and said: “Well said.”

Housekeeper added: “Old Sabre Honcho isn’t here, so if the majority of the Elders agree on something, then that decides things.”

“What things?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Anything,” Cousin replied.

“How many people is the majority?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“How many are there in the Council?” Housekeeper said. “Majority means five people.”

Lu Xiaofeng let out a sigh of relief and said: “There are only four of you here.”

“Five,” Housekeeper said.

“The dead are counted too?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Every one is dead here,” Cousin said. “Mister Zhong merely died again.”

“So you can now reach a consensus on something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You are very clever,” Cousin said idly. “Surely you must know what we are going to decide on.”

Housekeeper said: “We are going to decide whether you should die.”

“Don’t I have the chance to defend myself?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“No,” Housekeeper replied.

Lu Xiaofeng could only give a resigned smile.

“So have you decided he should die?” Hai Qikuo asked.

“Of course he should,” Housekeeper said.

“Definitely he must die,” Cousin added.

Hai Qikuo sighed again and said: “I believe Mister Zhong is of like mind.”

“Now it only remains for Miss Ye to decide,” said Cousin.

Ye Ling bit her lip and darted a glance at Lu Xiaofeng from the corner of her eye. It was as though she was like a cat that had already caught the mouse.

At this point, a voice suddenly floated over from the dark woods behind: “Why don’t you ask what I think?”

A streak of light burst through from the dark woods and a pair of well-dressed girls carrying gauze lanterns[2] walked over. A woman with extremely long hair lazily followed behind.

She was not particularly beautiful; her cheekbones were a little too high and her mouth a little too big, the misty look in eyes giving one the impression that she was not awake.

She was casually dressed in a very loose black night robe – it seemed like a man’s – that was only loosely held together by a sash. Her long hair flowing, she had come barefoot, not having even put on shoes.

But she was undoubtedly a very special woman. Most men would be attracted to her at first glance.

Watching her stroll over, Cousin’s brows knitted instead, while Ye Ling was pouting and Housekeeper forced a smile, asking: “Do you think he should die?”

Her reply was very succinct: “No.”

Ye Ling had not expressed her opinion, but now she suddenly jumped up and demanded: “Why not?”

This woman smiled lazily and said: “To sentence someone to death, you need evidence. What evidence do you have?”

“Mister Zhong’s corpse is evidence,” said Housekeeper.

The black-robed woman said: “Would you hide a body in your house after you’ve killed him?”

Housekeeper looked at Cousin, who looked at Hai Qikuo. The trio didn’t open their mouths.

Ye Ling leapt up again and said: “They have no evidence, but I do.”

“What do you have?” the black-robed woman asked.

“With my own eyes, I saw him strike,” Ye Ling said.

Not only was Lu Xiaofeng stunned by her words, Cousin and the others seemed rather surprised as well.

However, the black-robed woman’s face had no expression as she said lightly: “Even if you really did see that, it’s of no use.”

“Who says so?” Ye Ling asked.

“I did,” the woman said.

Lazily, she crossed over to stand in front of Lu Xiaofeng, used one hand to hook the sash and the other to tidy her hair. “If you aren’t satisfied, you are welcome to take me on.”

Hai Qikuo sighed and asked: “Must you do this? What for?”

“Because I can, because it’s none of your business,” the black-robed woman said.

Hai Qikuo stared at her: “Must you force us to strike?”

“You dare?” she asked.

Hai Qikuo glared at her, his eyes nearly spitting fire, but he did not even dare to lift a finger against her.

Cousin’s face had lost its smile and his expression was ghastly as he said: “Widow Hua, you’d better wise up. Hai is interested in you but I’m not.”

Widow Hua tossed him a glance and said coldly: “What can you do to me? Just because you learnt some swordplay from that old man Bashan, you dare to be rude to me?”

Cousin’s face turned bright red at that. Suddenly he roared and pulled out a sword, a soft one that had been attached at his waist.

The soft sword trembled slightly in the breeze and became as straight as an arrow. A flash of brilliance and he’d already struck.

Lu Xiaofeng had never in his dreams expected this somber, affected man would become so violent and rash when he was provoked.

Widow Hua had already anticipated this, however. The hand that was hooked on the sash moved and that soft piece of cloth suddenly straightened out as well. Like a poisonous snake, it had already wrapped itself around Cousin’s sword.

Only the best iron could fashion a soft sword, but alas, his sword could not even slice through a sash.

Widow Hua’s hand moved again and the sash flew out, slapped Cousin squarely in the face.

Cousin’s face turned red, and Lu Xiaofeng could also feel his face flaming.

He suddenly realized that Widow Hua was not wearing anything underneath her robe.

Without the sash holding the robe together, all the vital parts of her body were now exposed.

But she did not care in the least, and was still standing there lazily, asking: “Do you want to try again?”

Cousin indeed wished to have another go, but Housekeeper and Hai Qikuo were now holding him back.

Hai Qikuo worked his throat furiously, wanting to shift his gaze away from Widow Hua’s robe, but he was unable to move an inch.

Widow Hua was no longer young, but her body seemed as though it still was, except that it was even more alluring, more mature than that of a young girl’s.

Hai Qikuo sighed again and gave a resigned smile: “Can you please fasten that robe before you speak?”

Widow Hua’s reply was just as succinct: “No.”

“Why not?” Hai Qikuo asked.

“Because I like it, and because it’s none of your business.”

“So what exactly do you want?” Housekeeper interrupted.

“I don’t really want anything,” Widow Hua said. “But Old Sabre Honcho let Lu Xiaofeng in, so whoever wants to kill him, that person would have to wait until Old Sabre Honcho returns before doing anything.”

“And now?” Housekeeper asked.

“Now I’m taking him away, of course,” Widow Hua said.

Ye Ling leapt up again, even higher now. “What right do you have to take him away?”

“My sash,” Widow Hua said lightly.

“What can this sash do?” Ye Ling asked.

“It can’t do much,” Widow Hua said. “At most, it can tie you up, peel off your clothes and let Hook have his way with you.”

Ye Ling’s face flamed and her fists balled, but she was simply unable to strike back and could only stamp her foot. Savagely, she said: “If my sister were back, I’ll see if you dare to be this rude.”

Widow Hua smiled and said: “But your sister isn’t back, so you can only watch me take him away.”

She took Lu Xiaofeng’s hand and glanced back with a laugh: “I have an extra big bed at my place, enough for both of us to sleep very comfortably. Aren’t you going to hurry up and come with me?”

She really took Lu Xiaofeng away then, and every one else could only stand by and watch.

After a long while, Ye Ling suddenly said: “Old Hook, are you even a thing?”

“I’m not a thing, I’m a person,” Hai Qikuo replied.

Ye Ling laughed coldly. “A wretch like you is a person? Among us, only you could have handled that b!tch, so why didn’t you strike?”

“Because I still want her to sleep with me,” he said.

“Are you really that desperate for women?” she asked.

“Definitely.”

“Fine,” Ye Ling said. “If you kill her, I’ll sleep with you, for three days.”

Hai Qikuo laughed. “You’re jealous? You like Lu Xiaofeng too?”

Ye Ling gnashed her teeth and said savagely: “No matter whether I’m jealous, this time I mean what I say. I’m still young, but that b!tch is an old hag now. At least in this aspect, I’m superior to her.”

“But…” Hai Qikuo hesitated.

“Do you want to see the goods first?” Ye Ling asked. “Fine!”

She suddenly tore off her bottoms, revealing a pair of smooth legs.

Hai Qikuo’s eyes glazed over. “I can only see this much?”

“If you want to see the rest, kill that b!tch and we’ll talk.”

[1] Sanxian duck: 三鲜鸭子. The “Sanxian” part translates literally to “three freshness”.

[2] gauze lantern (纱灯, sha1 deng1): a kind of sheer lantern made from materials such as gauze, yarn, voile. See this image for an idea of what it looks like:

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