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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 20


Chapter 20 – Honest Monk is not honest

Saber. The saber flickered under the bright morning sun.

Lu Xiaofeng had the saber in his hand.

Lu Xiaofeng was toying with the saber in his hand. It caught the sun light at just the right angle and shot a blinding light to Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes.

He held the saber flat, vertical, in an angle, and tried fifteen, sixteen different angles, and found fourteen of them could reflect light.

He suddenly laughed, he laughed at what he found from this experiment.

If someday he had to use saber in dealing with the enemy, he might try using this technique of reflecting light first to disturb the enemy’s eyes. If the enemy was disturbed, he would undoubtedly win. Therefore, he was grateful to Ying Yan Laoqi.

Were it not for Ying Yan Laoqi carrying the saber, were it not for Ying Yan Laoqi got drunk and crouched on the table, were it not for Lu Xiaofeng leaving a brief note to Ying Yan Laoqi, he would have not taken Ying Yan Laoqi’s saber, and thus he would have not discovered this principle.

Gently running his fingers along the blade, Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt very proud of himself and laughed.

— If I did not leave the note, if I did not pick his saber, if I did not play with the saber under the sun, would I discover this fact?

— Therefore, I should be proud of myself, why would I be grateful to Ying Yan Laoqi?

Lu Xiaofeng laughed even more complacently.

— Right now, Ying Yan Laoqi should be leading his men pursuing to Chang’an, shouldn’t he?

Ying Yan Laoqi had no reason not to go to Chang’an. Anybody in his situation would surely go to Chang’an.

If he believed the note, he would go.

If he did not believe the note, he would still go.

Because the person leaving the note was able to take his life anytime, how could he not go?

Besides, Lu Xiaofeng did not deceive him, because Lu Xiaofeng only wrote ‘Ximen Chuixue Chang’an’, with a space between the words ‘Ximen Chuixue’ and ‘Chang’an’.

The space could have three words, ‘is not in’.

— Ximen Chuixue ‘is not in’ Chang’an.

The space could also hold two words.

— Ximen Chuixue ‘maybe in’ Chang’an.

That was the beauty of space.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly thought of ancient paintings, why were there so many blank spaces? Turned out those blank spaces had even more layers of explanation, everybody can admire the paintings according to their own interpretation, their own criticism, their own guess as to the creative concept behind the paintings.

But there was only one creative concept behind Lu Xiaofeng’s note:

— Ximen Chuixue practically is not in Chang’an.

— Ximen Chuixue should be going to Sha Man and the others’ hiding place, shouldn’t he?

Lu Xiaofeng counted the date. Ximen Chuixue should have found Sha Man by now.

But Ximen Chuixue did not find Sha Man.

The first thing that Ximen Chuixue saw as an overhanging cliff, and the angry waves crashing the shore under the overhanging cliff, the foam of water splashing into the overhanging cliff.

And then he saw the wooden cabin Lu Xiaofeng told him about. He loved this place.

When he saw the overhanging cliff and the splashing waves, he recalled Su Dongpo’s[1] poem.

— Raging waves beating the shore, rolling up thousand piles of snow. Picturesque rivers and mountains, coupled with many heroes.

This was the perfect place to live in seclusion.

Now Ximen Chuixue regretted why he promised Lu Xiaofeng that he would bring Sha Man back to him.

— Why didn’t he promise Lu Xiaofeng that he would stay here to protect them? That way he could stay here, he could enjoy the sea breeze, enjoy the scene of the splashing waves here.

Although he had regrets, he still walked toward the wooden cabin, without the slightest hesitation.

Wherever Ximen Chuixue went, he would never forget his noble character, his elegance.

Although there was only a single wooden cabin on the overhanging cliff, he would still remember to display his noble character.

Therefore, although the door to the wooden cabin was half-closed, he still knocked on the door.

Although he would always wait for someone to answer the door, or perhaps to invite him in before he would enter in, this time he had to make an exception.

There are always exceptions to everything.

For example, if he knocked the door several dozen times without anybody answering the door.

Or perhaps if he suddenly smell blood.

Not only has Ximen Chuixue knocked the door fifty, sixty times, without any response, he also smelled the reeking of blood.

Therefore, he had to make an exception.

Therefore, he pushed the door open. Stealthily like a cat he slipped inside.

In the hall, apart from a wooden table, some wooden chairs, tea cups, tea pot, he saw nothing else.

Ximen Chuixue had not even broken into the rooms. He called out twice, “Anyone here?” And only then he burst into the inner rooms.

In the first room, he saw wooden bed, quilt, pillow, but nothing else.

The second room was just a duplicate of the first room.

The third room had one person in it. A dead person. And the dead person was a woman.

Ximen Chuixue burst in. He turned the woman over, and to his surprise, he discovered two things.

— This woman was Xiao Yu, because Lu Xiaofeng described Sha Man’s appearance to him, and this woman’s appearance did not match that description.

— This woman did not die, because there was a very weak moan coming from her throat.

By the time Ximen Chuixue brought Xiao Yu back to his carriage, he discovered another thing.

— Xiao Yu’s right hand was curled into a tight fist.

He pried Xiao Yu’s right hand open. A ball of crumpled paper fell down. The piece of paper had seven characters written on it. Seven characters written in blood.

– Lao shi he shang bu lao shi [Honest Monk is not honest].

Lu Xiaofeng did not know a misfortune has happened in the wooden cabin on the overhanging cliff.

Lu Xiaofeng did not know Sha Man and Honest Monk had disappeared.

Lu Xiaofeng did not know Xiao Yu was stabbed and was seriously injured.

Lu Xiaofeng did not know that in order to save Xiao Yu, Ximen Chuixue did not hurry back. Not only he did not hurry, he had to find a small town where he could stay and invite a physician to treat Xiao Yu’s injury. Therefore, by the time Ximen Chuixue was supposed to be back, he did not even see any shadow of a horse carriage. A dark shadow started to creep into his heart.

— Could it be that Ximen Chuixue has met some mishaps?

— Could it be that Sha Man has met some mishaps?

— Could it be that all of them have met some mishaps?

From its zenith, the sun slowly crawled down to the west, and then it slowly disappeared beyond the western horizon. Lu Xiaofeng was still shrouded under the blanket of questions.

The crescent moon slowly climbed to the middle of the sky, Lu Xiaofeng was still sitting in front of the door, anxiously craning his neck to look at the distance.

He was fidgety with anxiety and was burning with angst. Only one person understood the extent of Lu Xiaofeng’s concern.

Ximen Chuixue understood Lu Xiaofeng’s concern. Because he knew Lu Xiaofeng’s expectation.

But he really had no way of hurrying back. Not that he did not want to hurry back, but he practically could not hurry back.

Xiao Yu had lost a lot of blood, she needed time to recuperate; she must not suffer the hardship of the tossing and turning of traveling with the carriage.

Therefore, although Ximen Chuixue understood Lu Xiaofeng’s anxiety, in all honesty there was absolutely nothing he could do about it; not that he himself was not in a hurry to get back.

The meaning of the seven characters that Xiao Yu held tight in her hand, ‘Honest Monk is not honest’, was very clear; Sha Man’s disappearance, Xiao Yu’s injury, must be deeply related to Honest Monk. But what was it? Where was Honest Monk?

Ximen Chuixue really wanted to see Lu Xiaofeng as soon as possible, he wanted to hand over all these questions in his mind to Lu Xiaofeng, and let him deal with it himself. However, Xiao Yu’s countenance was deathly pale; even lying motionless in bed, she was continuously groaning in pain, how could Ximen Chuixue have the heart to go?

Besides, he really did not dare to leave Xiao Yu alone and let the doctor took care of her.

Therefore, he only had one option – waiting.

Lu Xiaofeng had been waiting impatiently for three days. Three days ago, he was already dying to go and look for them. Because three days ago he thought that at the latest, Ximen Chuixue should have been back three days previously.

To be able to wait for six days, Lu Xiaofeng’s patience was really not bad. About this fact, he could not help but admiring himself.

Therefore, by the time he was ready to move his feet, he had made a decision.

He decided to admire himself one more day. Because admiring himself was not an easy thing to do.

Today was the last day Lu Xiaofeng admiring his own patience.

Today was the ninth day, not the seventh day. Because Lu Xiaofeng had waited two more days.

In these two days he had attempted to leave a hundred and twenty four times. But all hundred and twenty four times attempts were not successful.

Because every time he wanted to leave, a dreadful thought emerged in his mind.

— What if he had just left and Ximen Chuixue arrived with Sha Man?

— What would happen if Sha Man arrived and did not see him?

Therefore, he stayed. Waiting. Waiting painfully.

Dusk. Dusk has always been a very pleasant time.

Because dusk has always been the time when love ones are going to see each other.

The farmers tilling the soil went home with hoes on their shoulder, facing the fiery sunsets, walking along the raised path between the rice field, going home to be with their family.

People from all walks of life, when they saw the setting sun, they all would know that it was time to rest. One day of weariness was finally going to get relief.

Lovers who were going to meet each other would also begin to dress up in preparation to meet their sweetheart later on that evening.

Only one type of person was not happy when the night falls.

— One who has to wait.

Lu Xiaofeng was waiting. But under the sunset glow, a smile suddenly appeared on his face.

Because his wait was over.

Because he heard the sound of speeding carriage.

Because he saw that the speeding carriage was Ximen Chuixue’s.

Therefore, the dusk this time was the kind of dusk that brought delight in Lu Xiaofeng’s heart.

Lu Xiaofeng’s happiness was comparable to the splendid red sunset clouds on the horizon, which stayed in the sky for a while, and then gradually faded away.

Because what he saw were a hardened face of Ximen Chuixue’s, and a pale face of Xiao Yu’s.

Although Lu Xiaofeng was anxious, he did not want to rush Xiao Yu; he merely endure patiently while with a weak voice Xiao Yu narrated the story of Honest Monk was not honest.

— One day, Honest Monk suddenly said that he had a business he had to take care of for a few days; hence leaving me and Sha Man in that wooden cottage he went out.

— And then after seven, eight days, Honest Monk returned.

— When he returned, I was not there, because I was out collecting shells.

— I came back, happy and excited, with shells in my hand, and called out Sha Man’s name in loud voice.

— Sha Man did not respond.

— I saw Honest Monk carrying Sha Man.

— Sha Man did not even struggle. My guess is that she was caught off guard and had her acupoints sealed by Honest Monk.

— I shouted to Honest Monk, asking him what he was doing.

— He said nothing, but flashed a lewd smile instead.

— I rushed toward him.

— Suddenly he dropped Sha Man, fetched the sword hanging on the wall, and stabbed me.

— His martial art skill was frightening.

— He probably thought he had killed me.

— I also thought that I was going to die.

— That’s why before I die, I wrote those seven characters.

“And then what happened?” Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to ask.

“And then I woke up here,” said Xiao Yu.

Among the ‘Four Great Monks’, Honest Monk ranked third.

Whether Honest Monk was really honest or not, nobody knew. But everybody knew that his martial art skill was high; it was definitely not a fake. Anybody who provoked him would suddenly die in the night, without any rhyme or reason.

Honest Monk had disappeared from the Jianghu for half a year, not a single person knew what he was doing.

The first time Lu Xiaofeng saw Honest Monk in the last half year was precisely on the island, when Honest Monk suddenly popped out from the chest.

Lu Xiaofeng began to suspect something.

— Did Honest Monk get caught and was stuffed into the chest?

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly recalled the conversation he had with Honest Monk on the island:

“Why hasn’t Monk left yet?”

“Why haven’t you left?”

“I cannot find my way out.”

“If even you cannot find your way out, what hope does Monk have?”

“Why did Monk come here?”

“If Monk does not enter hell, who would enter hell?”

“So you knew this place is hell? What are you doing in hell? What kind of man is that Ninth Master? How did he put you inside the chest?”

Honest Monk did not answer.

“Since you knew, why didn’t you say anything?”

Honest Monk mumbled, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed. Buddha said: must not speak, must not speak.”

Lu Xiaofeng knew that Honest Monk must know the island’s secret very well.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered something:

— Has Honest Monk been bought by the Little Old Man and has become an invisible man?

Lu Xiaofeng also recalled two more things:

— Honest Monk was hiding under Sha Man’s bed, and he taught Sha Man and him how to escape from the island.

— On the ship Honest Monk has saved them once.

A question floated up in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind:

— Why was it that the escape that Lu Xiaofeng had planned did not work, but the one that Honest Monk had planned did?

A dark shadow flitted across Lu Xiaofeng’s heart:

— Was it a conspiracy between Honest Monk and Gong Jiu?

Lu Xiaofeng immediately thought about the key question:

— For what reason?

If Gong Jiu wanted to kill him, he could have killed him on the island.

Based on the way Gong Jiu handled his affairs, it was impossible for him to be careless and let Lu Xiaofeng and Sha Man and the others escaped to the ship. It was even more impossible for him to let them escaped from the ship and back to the Mainland!

It was absolutely impossible!

Another similar question emerged in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind:

— In the end, what is his real objective?

Since Gong Jiu deliberately let him return to the Mainland, why did he scheme to frame Lu Xiaofeng up, and press him to a corner?

— Honest Monk this time abducted Sha Man, what for?

Lu Xiaofeng looked up at the blue dome of the sky, he felt as if his heart was tied knot after knot.

Clouds floating in, clouds floating away, the sky was still as blue as always.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt a burst of great waves arose in his heart. In his shock, he found a great truth:

— The sky has never changed, but the clouds are always changing.

— This matter was similar: Honest Monk and Gong Jiu, they were like the cloud, they simply wanted to change the appearance of the sky.

— If Honest Monk and Gong Jiu were set aside, the sky would have its original appearance back.

— The Little Old Man was the sky.

Lu Xiaofeng recalled what the Little Old Man told him:

— If Lu Xiaofeng agreed to join the Little Old Man in his business, he could take as long as he wanted to think it over, there would not be the least bit of restriction of his movement; he could do anything, he could go anywhere.

But this would not happen. Because Lu Xiaofeng practically did not wish to join.

This fact, the Little Old Man should know.

Therefore, letting him go, letting him and Sha Man go together, was nothing more than to let the romance between Sha Man and he to grow deeper, to grow more unforgettable. Therefore, the scheme to frame him up, was no more than to make it even more difficult, even more distressing, for Lu Xiaofeng to walk the Jianghu.

All these only had one goal. The Little Old Man’s goal.

— To join them.

If Lu Xiaofeng joined them, he knew that the robbery of the escorted goods would be clarified immediately. Not only that, Lu Xiaofeng would be the one solving the case, hence he would win back his innocence.

If this happened, his prestige would rise even higher, nobody would ever suspect that he could do bad deeds, then probably he would be an invisible man without precedence and never be duplicated in the future.

If Lu Xiaofeng joined their business, he knew that Sha Man would appear right away, and he would not suffer the pining of love anymore.

Yet Lu Xiaofeng still had lingering doubt.

— Why did the Little Old Man insist on having Lu Xiaofeng in his organization?

— They were already able to hijack thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels, what else did they want him to do?

There was only one possible answer to these questions:

— The Little Old Man was going to carry out an unusually big plot. This plot would definitely be a plot that will shake the Jianghu.

— Hence the Little Old Man needed him.

— Hence with thousand ways, a hundred plans the Little Old Man laid out a trap to implicate him.

Lu Xiaofeng felt very sorry for the Little Old Man. Because the Little Old Man did not understand him.

Would he be willing to suffer unredressed injustice from the disdain of the Jianghu people by joining them doing shady business?

Would he abandon his life principle for the sake of avoiding heartache due to romantic love?

If he would, he was not Lu Xiaofeng.

If there was no Lu Xiaofeng, Jianghu would have been overcome by evil forces, perhaps from the ‘black and white’ ways, only one remained. The ‘black’ way.

Although it was possible for evil forces to establish their dominance for a period of time, a hero would always appear to rectify the situation, an uncompromising hero, a hero who did not succumb to temptation, who was undeterred by confusion of emotions, who disregarded life or death, gratitude and grudges.

Lu Xiaofeng was definitely this kind of hero. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was grieved, the kind of grief from being misunderstood.

In Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, the Little Old Man was an eccentric man.

Lu Xiaofeng himself was also an eccentric man.

An eccentric man ought to understand other eccentric men. But the Little Old Man did not understand Lu Xiaofeng.

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng recalled something:

— Perhaps the Little Old Man was a perfect man.

In Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes, there were three things about the perfect man:

— First, perfect man was not an ordinary man.

— Second, perfect man was not ‘fun’. [Play on words: perfect man – 完人 (wan ren), fun -好玩 (hao wan).]

— Third, perfect man is ‘finished’. [The 完 of 完人 means ‘finish/over/complete’.]

The Little Old Man’s intellect, the number of talents he accumulated on the island, his scheming ability on the heist, all of these are not the things that an ordinary man can accomplish.

In talking with the Little Old Man, it was clear that he only had one focus: to get you to join his line of business. Take Lu Xiaofeng for example, with thousand ways, a hundred plans, the Little Old Man wanted to force Lu Xiaofeng to join him. This matter was definitely not ‘fun’.

Dealing with such people, Lu Xiaofeng had only one way. A rather complicated, but very effective way:

— Do not compromise, do not get trapped by emotion, brave the Little Old Man and Gong Jiu to the very end, investigate the robberies and murders, do not rest until this matter is cleared, do not give up.

When Lu Xiaofeng decided on doing something, he usually was able to accomplish it. Therefore, the Little Old Man could be considered ‘finished’.

After making up his mind, Lu Xiaofeng knew that he had to do two things.

— He must go back to that wooden cabin over the cliff to see if Honest Monk left some clues for him to find.

Honest Monk could not possibly just kidnap Sha Man and disappeared, he must have figured out a way to let Lu Xiaofeng know what he was doing, and where to go to find him and Sha Man.

If he returned to the wooden cabin and ended up empty-handed, then he had to do the other thing:

— Go to Chang’an.

Lu Xiaofeng had led Ying Yan Laoqi to Chang’an. Ying Yan Laoqi would definitely go to Chang’an to find Ximen Chuixue’s whereabouts.

Therefore, as long as Lu Xiaofeng went to Chang’an, he would be able to find Ying Yan Laoqi.

And if he found Ying Yan Laoqi, he would find Gong Jiu, and most probably he would find Honest Monk and Sha Man as well.

But before he could do these two things, he must do one other thing first.

If he did not do this one thing, he could forget about doing other things later.

This thing was:

— He had to say goodbye to Ximen Chuixue.

[1] Su Dongpo, also known as Su Shi (1037-1101), northern Song writer and calligrapher.

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