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Phantoms’ Mountain Manor Chapter 8

CSI

Chapter 8 – Lu Xiaofeng commissioned

There was no grass on this mountain rock, the towering peak was as sharp as blade.

Widow Hua suddenly came to a halt; she looked down at her feet. There was a trace of blood flowing from the soles of her slender, delicate, and tender feet.

“You did not wear shoes?”

“No.” Widow Hua was still laughing, “I rarely walked.”

She was following him without wearing any shoes. In fact, she left without taking anything with her.

“You did not ask for anything, as long as I am coming with you, what else do I want?” Although her face was white because of the pain, her laughter was still very gentle and soft. “In this world, what could be more valuable than true love?”

Looking at her, Lu Xiaofeng felt a surge of tenderness welling up in his heart like warm spring torrent. He lifted her up and carried her through the mountain rock. She whispered in his ear, “Ximen Chuixue must be thinking that you are dead by now. If you want, I am sure we can find a quiet place to live, and I am sure we can live for more than one day.”

“Originally I was determined to die for Old Sabre Honcho, but then I met you.” She continued, “And he did not try to stop me either; therefore, I hope from now on you will forget this person Widow Hua, my surname is Liu, Liu Qingqing.” [qing means green/dark green]

The grass ahead was green, the trees and leaves were also green.

Lu Xiaofeng did not walk directly ahead; he did not forget that that was the man-eating forest.

They sat down on the hillside outside the forest. On the lush, green grass, he saw dead leaves.

It was still spring, how could there be dead leaves?

Lu Xiaofeng picked up a dead leaf. As soon as he looked at it, his palm was suddenly wet with cold sweat.

Liu Qingqing immediately saw his peculiar expression; she immediately asked, “What is it?”

Lu Xiaofeng pointed to the stem of the leaf, “This leaf was not blown by the wind,” he said.

The stem of the leaf was cut, clean and tidy.

Liu Qingqing frowned. “Not by the wind, could it be sword blade?” she said.

“Not sword blade either,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s sword aura!”

Liu Qingqing’s countenance changed.

— Whose sword could emit such a sharp sword aura?

Lu Xiaofeng picked up a piece of feather from the grass; it was also cut by a sword aura.

There were birds outside the forest. Birds can also allay one’s hunger. But how many people in the world were able to shoot down a bird just by using sword aura? Other than Ximen Chuixue, who else had that kind of ability?

Liu Qingqing no longer smiled, “He has not left?”

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “He has always been known as a man who doesn’t give up easily.”

Liu Qingqing looked down and said, “I know what kind of man he is; I have seen him.”

She suddenly looked up again, “But we don’t need to fear him, with the two of us joining hands, could it be that we can’t handle him, one person?”

Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.

“You are afraid of him?” Liu Qingqing asked, “Why?”

Lu Xiaofeng looked down. “Because there is shame in my heart,” he sadly said.

“Did you really do that sort of thing?” Liu Qingqing asked.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “There is time when anybody can make a mistake,” he replied.

“But you are not a fool,” Liu Qingqing said.

“Sometimes someone who is not a fool cannot avoid being a fool,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Liu Qingqing’s expression grew even bleaker, “You think we have no chance in getting out of this forest alive?”

“That’s why now we only have one way to go,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Which way?” Liu Qingqing asked.

“The way back,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Liu Qingqing looked at him in shock, “You mean back to the Mansion of Spirits?” she asked.

With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter what is waiting for me there, it is always better than to die in this forest.”

The valley was still shrouded in clouds and mist, dreary and hazy; going back was similarly not easy as coming out.

On the mountain rock directly ahead, someone was flying toward them as if he was riding on the wind; it was precisely the Soul Collector.

Although he had no face and no name, yet he had hands, he had sword.

The sword was already in his hand, the sword was already unsheathed.

He looked coldly at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Since you already left, why come back?”

Lu Xiaofeng chuckled, “Because I am homesick.”

“This is not your home,” Soul Collector said.

“Originally it was not, but now it is,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I have nowhere else to go.”

“Do you see what’s in my hand?” Soul Collector asked.

“It looks like a sword,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“If you can defeat the sword in my hand, I’ll let you pass,” Soul Collector said.

“I advise you not to try,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

With a cold laugh Soul Collector said, “You have confidence that you can defeat me?”

“I don’t have any confidence,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Not even a bit. But I have confidence that I can at least take ten moves of yours.”

“And what if you can take ten moves of mine?” Soul Collector asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I have confidence that within ten moves I can tell your martial art background.” He chuckled again before continuing, “I believe you won’t want anybody to find out your martial art background.”

Soul Collector closed his mouth. The veins on the back of his hand that was holding the sword were bulging like vipers.

Yet Lu Xiaofeng did not even cast him a single glance, he simply walked forward confidently under his sword, Liu Qingqing could only follow.

The viper-like veins on his hand twitched, the tip of his sword also trembled with a cold light.

Lu Xiaofeng did not look back. Liu Qingqing could feel her neck was wet; she noticed that all over Lu Xiaofeng’s body, from top to bottom, there was not the least bit sign of alertness. If this sword was thrust forward, the tip that was trembling with cold light would be enough to take his life.

Yet the Soul Collector did not seem to realize that; he simply watched Lu Xiaofeng walked away until he was far, and only then did the sword in his hand fell. In the midst of a loud dragon-like roar sparks flew everywhere as a large rock split into four pieces under his sword.

Liu Qingqing stole a glance backward; she saw his back was drenched in sweat.

On this mountain, each piece of rock was as hard as refined steel. Even using iron hammer or sharp axe, one might not necessarily be able to chip the rock, yet this sword’s sharpness and power were simply too frightening.

It was not until they were out of sight did she finally breathe again. “Did you see that sword?” she asked.

“Nothing remarkable,” Lu Xiaofeng indifferently replied.

Liu Qingqing could not help asking, “What kind of swordsmanship would you consider remarkable then?”

“If he were able to calmly retract his sword, that would be considered remarkable,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Just now in furious rage the Soul Collector transmitted all his power onto the tip of his sword; just like a fully-drawn bow, he had no choice but to release it. Therefore, as the sword struck, naturally the power was astonishing. However, it also proved that he was not able to control his own anger; he was not able to release and retract his power freely. If he were able to retract his sword calmly, then he would have reached perfection [orig. the stove fire has turned bright green].

Liu Qingqing came from prestigious school; naturally she understood this principle. Yet she still could not resist asking, “Even if there is nothing remarkable about that sword, but if it was used against you, do you have any confidence that you would be able to evade?”

“No,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“So you are confident that he won’t kill you?” Liu Qingqing asked.

“Again, no,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Yet you appeared to be totally unfazed?” Liu Qingqing asked.

Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “When a man is at the end of his tether, he should always take a little risk.”

Liu Qingqing sighed. But before she said anything, they saw a man in grey clothes and a bamboo rain hat on his head, walking leisurely ahead of them, with his hands behind his back.

“Old Sabre Honcho!”

Lu Xiaofeng called out, and without waiting for an answer he tried to catch up. Yet although the man in grey walked in strolling pace, he just could not catch up.

He was about to give up when the man in grey ahead suddenly said, “Clearly you are not the kind of person who casually takes risk with your life; you were certain that he would not kill you, you had confidence in this matter.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not deny; he could not deny. He suddenly realized that no matter what, it would be very difficult to conceal anything from Old Sabre Honcho.

Old Sabre Honcho continued, “What gives you such confidence?”

Lu Xiaofeng could only tell the truth, “I could see clearly that his face was cut off with sword blade. Based on his swordsmanship, there is only one person in the world who was able to cut his face like that.”

“Who?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

“He himself,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Old Sabre Honcho let out a cold laugh.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “He would rather destroy his own face than letting others recognizing him; naturally he would not let me recognizing his background. Therefore, I was certain that he would not make his move.”

Old Sabre Honcho suddenly turned around to stare at him; even under the bamboo rain hat, his eyes were still as sharp as blade. “You have such confidence, was it because you have already figured out who he is?”

Lu Xiaofeng forced a laugh. “I just happen to remember something,” he said.

“Speak up!” Old Sabre Honcho said.

“Twenty years ago,” Lu Xiaofeng began, “The most prestigious swordsman in Wudang was Shi He, the most promising candidate to succeed Wudang unification effort was also him. Yet on the eve of him receiving the Sect Leadership, there was news spreading in Jianghu that he died suddenly …”

“At that time he was at the prime of his life; a middle-aged man with such internal and external cultivation like him, how could he die suddenly?” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Therefore, inevitably Jianghu people were doubtful about the news of his death. At that time rumors were abound; some even went too far by saying that because he did not keep his purity in following the rules, he was expelled from his school, and thus he killed himself in anger. But all along I suspected that he is still alive; it’s just that no one has ever seen him.”

Old Sabre Honcho was listening calmly. Only after Lu Xiaofeng finished did he laugh coldly and said, “You are not supposed to come back to see me either.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “But I also know for sure that you are not going to kill me.”

“What makes you think that?” Old Sabre Honcho asked sternly.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I know that right now you are looking for people, and you ought to know that I am a very useful person.”

“Why would I want to use you?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “To accomplish big things, you must employ useful people.”

“How do you know I want to accomplish big things?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “To establish a base like this, I don’t know how much manpower and resources you have already spent; maintaining it is even more difficult. Even if you charged everybody here with a hundred-thousand taels contract, you may not necessarily be able to deal with your friends. Even if you can make a bit of money, based on your character, I doubt it that you would spend so much effort just to make an insignificant amount of money.”

“Go on,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “So I conclude that by doing all this, you must have a plan. Based on your ability and wisdom, naturally you want to accomplish big things.”

Old Sabre Honcho stared at him with cold eyes; his gaze was even more piercing. Suddenly he turned around and said, “Follow me.”

At the end of winding path was a stone building that looked ancient and austere; the furnishing inside was equally simple and unadorned, so much so that it had a gloomy forest feeling, obviously this house was rarely inhabited. But right now there were three people waiting inside; three people that were supposed to be dead.

Hook, Cousin, and Housekeeper, three people were standing next to a sacrificial table under a drooping yellow curtain. All three were wearing some kind of malicious, crafty smile on their faces, as they looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of their eyes.

Although Lu Xiaofeng struggled hard to maintain his composure, he could not refrain from looking shocked.

“Do you understand it now?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand at all.”

Old Sabre Honcho said, “From start to finish, this is actually a trap.”

Lu Xiaofeng still did not understand.

Old Sabre Honcho said, “Everything they did, it was my doing, I only wanted to test you.”

“You suspected that I am an undercover spy?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I suspected everybody,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Everybody here has to go through some kind of test. Those whom Gu Feiyun killed were those who did not pass the test.”

At last Lu Xiaofeng understood, “You intentionally let me go, it was also part of the test, to see whether I was really driven by Ximen Chuixue and had nowhere to go.”

“If you did not come back,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “by this time you must have been dead in that man-eating forest.”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “You have already anticipated that I might take Liu Qingqing with me, hence you prepared to have her kill me.”

“That was actually unexpected,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “If you did not come back, she would have died with you!”

Lu Xiaofeng could not resist turning around, Liu Qingqing was staring at him. Neither of them say anything, because whatever it was they wanted to say, they have said it all through their eyes.

She did not blame him, he did not feel guilty either.

It was the most wonderful feeling in the world: no need to blame, no need to feel guilty.

Old Sabre Honcho quietly watched them. He waited until Lu Xiaofeng turned back again before he said slowly, “Now do you understand why I had to do what I did?”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded. “You wanted to see whether I am worthy to be used by you,” he said.

“You are absolutely right,” Old Sabre Honcho said.

The tone of his voice suddenly became very gentle, “Both your martial art skill and resourcefulness are not bad, but the most important thing is that you did not lie in front of me.”

With a wry laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since I know for sure that I cannot lie to you, why bother lying?”

“You are a smart man, and I like smart people,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “Therefore, from now on, you are my partner. As long as you don’t leave this Mansion, you may do whatever you want. I believe such a smart man like you would never do anything stupid.” [The word ‘Mansion’ here actually carries a lot broader meaning: a village, a building complex, a cluster of houses, etc. Not just a single ‘mansion’.]

He turned toward Housekeeper, “Pass it down, arrange a banquet tonight to welcome him.”

Housekeeper withdrew, Cousin and Hook also withdrew.

Old Sabre Honcho suddenly said, “Your house is torn down, starting today you may stay at Qingqing’s place.”

Lu Xiaofeng hesitated; forcing a smile he said, “You …”

Old Sabre Honcho did not allow him to finish, he said, “I am already old; it is always easy for an old man to forget a lot of things.”

He stood up and turned around to face the shrine underneath the drooping yellow curtain. “Only one thing I still cannot forget,” he slowly said, “When this all ends, I will tell you.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not ask, he knew that Old Sabre Honcho’s word was a command!

Not only the food and wine were abundant, they were of the finest quality. There were twelve kinds of wine, the format of the banquet was an ancient format, eighteen long tables were arranged in ‘U’ shape [orig. half a character ‘口’ – kou, mouth], Old Sabre Honcho sat in the middle, and on his left sat Lu Xiaofeng.

Naturally everyone’s view on Lu Xiaofeng was not the same as two days ago; not only because he was the honorary guest of the banquet, but also because he had suddenly become Old Sabre Honcho’s trusted aide.

The first one to stand up and offer him a toast was the Hook, Hai Qikuo, followed by Cousin, Housekeeper, and Dugu Mei.

All along Ye Ling was the only one who never cast him a single glance, because the one sitting next to him was Liu Qingqing. This man-eating widow also seemed to have changed; becoming quiet and gentle.

Old Sabre Honcho was still wearing that odd-looking bamboo rain hat, so that even Lu Xiaofeng, who sat right next to him could not see his face clearly.

He ate very little, he drank even less, and did not say too much either; yet whoever looked at him did so with absolute obedience and total respect.

The number of people attending the banquet was more than the last one, altogether there were fifty-nine people. Although Lu Xiaofeng did not know most of them, it was not difficult for him to imagine that in the old days these people must have had glorious history; if not the son or disciple of filthy-rich families, they must have been towering hero who dominated the Wulin world in the past. Not only people of high status, their martial art skill must be pretty good; otherwise they would not be qualified to enter this Mansion of Spirits.

“Are all people present?” Lu Xiaofeng asked quietly.

“Only two are not here,” Liu Qingqing replied equally quietly, “One is the Soul Collector; he never mingles with other people.”

“And who is the other one?”

“Ye Ling’s older sister, Ye Xue [lit. snow],” Liu Qingqing said, “She is fond of hunting, oftentimes she went out for more than ten days in a stretch.”

“How did she have free access to come and go?”

“The Old Sabre Honcho made a concession with her,” Liu Qingqing laughed coldly, “That woman is a freak, whatever she wants to do, nobody can stop her. Even when she is here, she never speaks with anybody.”

“Why?”

“Because she always think that she is much stronger than anybody.” It was obvious that Liu Qingqing was very reluctant to talk about her, she was even more reluctant to talk about her with Lu Xiaofeng. As a matter of fact, they were not able to continue talking about her; because they had just been talking about Cao Cao, Cao Cao[1] has arrived.

Suddenly, a leopard flew in from outside the door, and landed heavily in front of their table. Ye Xue came in right behind this leopard. As soon as the leopard landed, Lu Xiaofeng immediately saw her.

She looked just like the leopard; beautiful, agile, cold and cruel. The only difference was that the leopard was already dead; it died in her hands.

It was the thirteenth leopard that died in her hands. Nearly all leopards in the vicinity of the valley died in her hands.

She loved to hunt; even more, she loved to hunt leopards.

Why do people always love to hunt and kill those which are similar to them?

Among the beasts, the most agile and ferocious, the most difficult to deal with is precisely the leopard. Even hunters with extremely vast experience may not necessarily be daring enough to hunt leopard single-handedly; very few people actually dared to do such a foolish and dangerous thing.

Yet not only she dared to do it, she was successful in doing it.

She was a quiet and reserved woman, yet she was able to hunt leopard. She looked beautiful and delicate, yet she had a leopard-like agility and coldness.

These different kinds of complex and contradictory character brought up a kind of strange charm about her. Even Lu Xiaofeng has never seen this kind of woman. When he saw her, he nearly forgot Liu Qingqing, who was sitting by his side.

Ye Xue kept her gaze toward the Old Sabre Honcho; with her pale face, her pale lips, she suddenly said, “Do you know that my cousin (sic) is dead?” [Translator’s note: Earlier Ye Ling said Ye Guhong was her big brother, but if Ye Xue was her big sister, it would mean Ye Xue and Ye Guhong were siblings.]

Old Sabre Honcho nodded.

“Do you know who killed him?” Ye Xue asked.

Old Sabre Honcho nodded again.

“Who is it?” Ye Xue asked.

Lu Xiaofeng’s heart skipped a beat. A woman who hunted leopards, if she wanted to exact revenge, would not stop at anything.

And right now he did not want to be the leopard she hunted.

But Old Sabre Honcho’s reply was totally beyond his expectation, “It was Ximen Chuixue!”

Ye Xue’s countenance became even paler, her hands suddenly clenched into fists.

Old Sabre Honcho said slowly, “You must remember what your Gege [older brother] had told you, if he died under Ximen Chuixue’s hands, you must never seek revenge against him, because it was definitely a fair duel.”

— It was also because he did not wish anybody who avenged him should die under Ximen Chuixue’s sword!

Ye Xue’s lips trembled, her clenched fists were also trembling. Suddenly she sat down. She sat down on the floor. “Give me wine!” she said.

The one delivering the drink to her was the Housekeeper; it was an earthen jar of wine, which seal has just been broken.

Ye Xue did not even look at him; she said coldly, “You’d better go away, the farther the better!”

Unexpectedly Housekeeper did indeed go away, he went very far away.

“Who’d want to drink with me?” Ye Xue asked.

“Me,” Hai Qikuo scrambled to answer.

“You are not fit,” Ye Xue said.

Old Sabre Honcho suddenly tapped Lu Xiaofeng. Lu Xiaofeng slowly stood up and walked over to her.

Finally Ye Xue gave him a look, “You are Lu Xiaofeng?”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

“Can you drink?” Ye Xue asked.

“I can,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Alright,” Ye Xue said, “Get some bowls, big bowls.”

The bowls were very big. She drank one bowl, Lu Xiaofeng drank one bowl. She did not say anything, Lu Xiaofeng also did not open his mouth. She no longer looked at Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Xiaofeng did not look at her either.

Thus the two of them sat face to face on the ground like that; you drink one bowl, I drink one bowl.

One bowl was at least eight taels. [one tael is approx. 50grams.] After a dozen or so bowls, surprisingly her countenance did not even change.

When the jar was empty, she stood up; without even looking back she walked out the door. She did not say anything; not even one word.

When Lu Xiaofeng stood up, his head was a bit dizzy.

“How was it?” Old Sabre Honcho asked.

With a wry smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “I did not expect she has such a good wine capacity, really unexpected.”

Old Sabre Honcho suddenly sighed. “I did not expect it either,” he said, “I have never seen her drink.”

Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. “You have not seen her drink?”

“Nobody has ever seen her drink,” Old Sabre Honcho said, “In all her life, this was the first time she drank wine.”

For someone who was drunk, there is absolutely nothing in the world more enticing than a bed. Especially if the bed was very big, and very comfortable.

Too bad there was someone who clearly did not want him to lie down comfortably in the bed.

As soon as he entered the room, Liu Qingqing was already sitting on the floor with an earthen jar of wine, “Who’d want to drink with me?” she asked.

Lu Xiaofeng looked forward, he looked backward, he looked to the right, he looked to the left, and then with a bitter laugh said, “It seems like I am the only one in this room.”

“Can you drink?” Liu Qingqing asked.

“Can I not drink?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“You can’t,” Liu Qingqing replied.

Lu Xiaofeng could only sit down to drink with her. When he sat down, he was already drunk.

He was really drunk.

When he woke up, Liu Qingqing was no longer in the room, he was lying on the bed, alone. Even his boots were still on. His head hurt so much that he felt as if it may burst at any moment.

He did not want to get up; he could not get up. But clearly someone was calling out to him from outside the window.

The window was pushed open. The man outside was Dugu Mei. “I’ve come here three times, watching you sleeping so well, I did not dare to wake you up.”

“Why did you want to see me?”

“Nothing, just that I haven’t seen you for a while, I wanted to chat with you.”

No matter what, he was a friend. When a friend came to chat with Lu Xiaofeng, even if his head really burst open, he simply could not refuse.

“We’d better go out and talk. I am afraid to see that Widow Hua.”

Outside was still foggy, cold and damp fog, but it was very effective to cure hangover. Although Dugu Mei’s injury has been healing very well, he seemed to be a bit worried.

“Actually, I had been wanting to see you, I was afraid you might be angry with me.”

“Why am I angry?”

“Because I was the one who introduced Hook and the others to you, I really did not know that they were going to harm you.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Of course you didn’t, you are my friend, all along you have been doing me a favor.”

Dugu Mei hesitated; finally he found his courage and said, “But last night I did something wrong.”

“What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Dugu Mei said, “Last night I was also drunk, in my stupor I divulged the secret, and now those three knew that Ye Guhong died under your hands.”

‘Those three’ were, naturally, Cousin, Hook, and Housekeeper.

Lu Xiaofeng could not laugh anymore.

Although they only met once, Lu Xiaofeng understood a person like Ye Xue very well; naturally he understood Ye Ling even better.

“They say that in this place, the most difficult people to be provoked are precisely those two sisters. If they knew this matter, they would definitely find you and staking everything they have to fight you.” Dugu Mei was trying to be very tactful, “I know you are not afraid of them, but it’s easy to dodge the spear in the open, but hard to avoid a stab in the dark; therefore …”

“Therefore what?”

“Therefore it would be best if you’d think of something to shut their mouths.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, he understood Dugu Mei’s intention, “You want me to be a bit friendlier with them, and not set myself against them. If they want me to do something, it would be best if I don’t refuse.”

Dugu Mei stared at him; suddenly he grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s hand rather hard and said, “I am sorry.”

After speaking those five words [我对不起你 – wo dui bu qi ni], he simply left.

Looking at his stooped back disappearing, Lu Xiaofeng really did not know whether this man was his friend, or someone who at any time could sell his friend?

But right now he only know one thing for sure:

— Hook and the others would find him and have him doing something very soon.

But what were they going to have him do? He could not think about it, he did not even dare to think about it, and he did not have time to think about it either, because right this time, a flash of sword, a lightning fast sword, was stabbing him.

By this time Dugu Mei had already left for some time, and Lu Xiaofeng was walking along a path, which very soon would lead him to the cottage where Liu Qingqing lived.

The sword flash came precisely from behind the eaves. Not only it was swift, it was also accurate and vicious too.

He had never expected that someone would ambush him at this place; he nearly did not have any leeway to parry or to evade.

Fortunately, he was Lu Xiaofeng. Fortunately, he still had his hands.

Suddenly he extended his two fingers and clamped.

— There were thousands upon thousands of people on earth, each one had a pair of hands, each pair of hands had fingers.

But these two fingers of him were undoubtedly the most valuable; because these two fingers had saved him countless times.

This time was no exception.

Once the fingers clamped, the blade of the sword was caught between his fingers.

The ice-cold sword blade was strong and powerful, yet it was unable to struggle free from these two fingers. He looked up and saw a pair of cold, yet beautiful eyes.

— Ye Xue was staring at him.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. With a wry smile he said, “You knew?”

Ye Xue stared at him for a very long time before she slowly nodded and said, “Now I know that Lu Xiaofeng is worthy to be Lu Xiaofeng; finally I found the right person.”

There was no hatred in her voice at all. Immediately Lu Xiaofeng tried to probe her out, “Did you come here looking for me, or did you come here to kill me?”

Ye Xue said, “I just want to see your world-famous consummate skill; if you can catch my sword, you are the person I have been looking for.”

“And if I die under your hands?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“You deserve it,” Ye Xue replied.

Lu Xiaofeng could not refrain from forcing a laugh. Since he had not died, naturally he could not help but ask, “So now I am the one you have been looking for?”

Ye Xue nodded. “Come with me,” she said.

Walking along a winding path, passing through secluded and secret forest, and then over a short hillside, they heard the sound of running water.

The water was not flowing fast at all, by this time it was already collected into a small lake, surrounded by lush, green mountain; even the fog was light in this place. If one could sit quietly by the lakeside for half a day, one would forget a lot of worries in his mind.

“I never thought there is such a quiet, beautiful place within the Mansion of Spirits.”

Oftentimes children have their own secret little world. This little world clearly belonged to Ye Xue. Why did she bring Lu Xiaofeng here?

“Actually, what is it that you want me to do?” Lu Xiaofeng could not help asking.

Ye Xue stood by the lake, while lifting her eyes onto the distant mountain, letting her soft hair, like a spring of water, loose on her back.

Her voice was also as soft and as quiet as the spring of water, but what she said was actually shocking. She said, “I want you to be my husband.”

Lu Xiaofeng felt his breathing suddenly stopped.

She turned around to face him and fixed her gaze on him. Her eyes were clear and bright, just like the ripple of water on the middle of the lake.

“I am still a virgin,” she continued, “No man has ever touched me.”

She also guaranteed, “After I am marrying you, I won’t let anybody touch me.”

Lu Xiaofeng sucked a deep breath. “I believe you,” he said.

“So you agree?” Ye Xue asked.

Lu Xiaofeng forced himself to laugh. “I am sure there are other conditions you want me to agree on,” he said.

Ye Xue said, “The matter that I want you to do, it is also beneficial for you.”

“At least I have the right to know what it is first?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Ye Xue’s gentle and soft eyes suddenly shot a dagger; only deep hatred would produce that kind of sharp gaze. “I want you to help me killing Ximen Chuixue.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not respond; this request was not completely outside his expectation.

“If we can find him,” Ye Xue continued, “He will definitely make his move to kill you; because he won’t give you a second chance to escape.”

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Basically, we don’t need to go trying to find him. As soon as I leave this valley, he will immediately find me.”

“I know,” Ye Xue said, “If I go out trying to find him, it would be very difficult. If I want to find him, I must have him find me; that’s the reason why I picked you.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You want me to divert his attention, so that you have the opportunity to kill him.”

Ye Xue did not deny. “He will never pay any attention to me,” she said, “Because he hates you, and because he basically does not know who I am. As long as you can catch his sword blade, I definitely will be able to kill him.”

“And if I miss?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Ye Xue said, “Dealing with Ximen Chuixue is actually a very dangerous thing to do, but I have given this matter a lot of thought. As long as you agree, we have at least seventy-percent chance of succeeding.”

“Perhaps your chance is more than seventy-percent,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “because even if I miss, you can still take the opportunity to kill him while his sword is embedded in my chest.”

He chuckled again. But obviously the laughter was forced out. “I am sure you have also considered this point early on, that’s why you can give me guarantee that later on you won’t let anybody touching you, because you want me to die with peaceful heart.”

Ye Xue did not deny either, “Indeed I have thought about it. Although your chance is really not great, I also know that you have always been a gambler; as long as anything’s worth betting on, you will definitely lay down your bet.”

Her clear and bright eyes became even deeper, just like an ocean attracting Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes.

Only after a long, long time was he finally able to look away. Immediately he discovered that she was already stark naked.

The mountain peak was lush green, the lake was clear; she stood quietly over there, exuding an aura of unspeakable pride and beauty.

She deserved to be proud, because her virgin body was indeed completely flawless.

She just looked at Lu Xiaofeng, then, after a long time she slowly said, “As long as you agree, right now I am yours.”

Her voice was brimming with confidence, because she believed that there was absolutely no man in the world could refuse her.

Lu Xiaofeng’s breathing has stopped; it was a long, long time later that he was finally able to speak, “If I refuse you, I am sure there will be a lot of people who’d think that I am crazy. But I …”

Ye Xue’s eyes narrowed, “But you refuse?”

“I just want you to know one thing,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Speak up,” Ye Xue said.

“Your Gege did not die under Ximen Chuxue’s sword at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“How did you know?” Ye Xue was emotional.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “When he died, I was standing right in front of him; the blood spilled by the sword almost splashed on me.”

“Whose sword?” Ye Xue asked.

“His own!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Ye Xue suddenly screamed like crazy, “You lie, you lie …”

Lu Xiaofeng waited until the echo in the valley disappeared before saying, “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I actually am able to get you, why would I want to lie?”

His words was calm yet sharp, it went straight to penetrate her to the core.

And then he walked away. He went far, far away before looking back. From behind the willow branches he was still able to see her.

She was still standing motionlessly on the same place. It was as if the entire creation and this mysterious and beautiful creature had dissolved into one entity.

However, who would know the feeling in her heart?

[1] Cao Cao (155-220), famous statesman and general at the end of Han, noted poet and calligrapher, later warlord, founder and first king of Cao Wei, father of Emperor Cao Pi, the main villain of novel the Romance of Three Kingdoms.

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