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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 17


Chapter 17 – Gong Jiu’s Conspiracy

It was a sunny and clear day.

At first Lu Xiaofeng thought that the weather would turn unusually nasty. At the bottom of his heart he really hoped that the weather would turn nasty.

Because he was hoping that the Little Old Man’s premonition of ‘sinister outlook’ was pointing to the weather. The Little Old Man was well-versed in astronomy and geography; therefore, he thought the Little Old Man was pointing to the danger of the weather.

But the sky was as blue as the glassy sea.

If the Little Old Man was not pointing to the nasty weather, then he must be pointing to a sinister conspiracy waiting for Lu Xiaofeng on the main land.

It was enough to make Lu Xiaofeng anxious. Human’s heart has always been more difficult to deal with than the weather; especially if the heart you are going to deal with was a sinister heart.

The Little Old Man couldn’t possibly plot against him.

The one who wanted to beat Lu Xiaofeng was, undoubtedly, only one.

— Gong Jiu.

The mysterious Gong Jiu.

When Lu Xiaofeng pondered over this big heist, he suspected that it was Gong Jiu who murdered Cui Cheng; but he could not figure out how Gong Jiu could go pass five iron gates and entered the secret chamber to kill Cui Cheng, Xiao Hongzhu and Cheng Zhong.

He did not bring it up in front of Ying Yan Laoqi, because he did not wish to beat the grass to scare the snake.

He simply must find out who Cui Cheng’s killer was. Besides, seeing the treasure did not equal to solving the case at all.

Although the beach was very small, the sand was white, find and soft. With the sun shining on it, the sand looked like snow.

Lu Xiaofeng expected to see someone on the beach. Someone waiting for him.

— Sha Man.

Sha Man ought to wait for him on the beach, but why didn’t he see her shadow?

Although when he separated with Sha Man they did not have any agreement that she would be waiting for him here, Lu Xiaofeng really thought that Sha Man would wait for him here. And then together they would sit down on the beach, talking to each other’s ears, watching the fiery sun setting down below the water line, watching the clouds filling the sky, red with the reflection of the sun over the horizon. And then they would walk hand-in-hand to see Xiao Yu and Honest Monk together.

However, other than the waves gently lapping the shore, other than slight sea breeze brushing his skin, he did not see any trace of other human beings on the shore.

He did not even see a single pair of footprints.

— Did Sha Man and the others meet some mishaps?

Lu Xiaofeng quickened his steps.

Beyond the beach, there was a giant dark brown boulder. This place was an exceptionally beautiful coastline. Yet Lu Xiaofeng was in no mood to enjoy it.

Walking past the long stretch of rocky beach, he reached an overhanging cliff. With a leap Lu Xiaofeng flew to the top of the cliff.

There was no trace of Sha Man at the top of the cliff.

— Could it be that Sha Man is not anxious to see me?

— Why wasn’t she waiting for my return here?

Lu Xiaofeng saw the wooden house where Honest Monk and the others were staying. But he did not dare to walk forward.

— What if the house is already empty? What if …

Lu Xiaofeng halted his steps in front of the house, doubt arose in his heart.

The wooden door was closed, there was not the least bit of sound inside the house. With heavy steps Lu Xiaofeng forced his feet to move forward. Lu Xiaofeng’s hand stopped short of pushing the door open.

Finally he pushed the door open.

Lu Xiaofeng saw three people sitting inside.

Honest Monk, Sha Man, Xiao Yu.

The three of them also looked at Lu Xiaofeng, yet there was not the slightest bit of happiness on their faces.

— Although they only parted for a few days, not even Sha Man was happy to see him back?

Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng’s heart was beating faster. ‘Thump! Thump!’

— What had happpened?

Lu Xiaofeng’s questioning gaze swept their faces, finally his gaze stopped at Sha Man’s face.

Sha Man laughed. A wry laugh.

Lu Xiaofeng could not bear it anymore. “What happened to you?” he asked in loud voice, “Even if you don’t welcome me, you shouldn’t look at me with that kind of expression.”

Honest Monk stared at Lu Xiaofeng. “What do you want us to do?” he asked.

“At least you should have smiled at me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You should have greeted me with some pleasant words.”

Honest Monk bared his teeth, giving Lu Xiaofeng a perfunctory smile, and then he laughed a bitter laugh and said, “How are you? Was the sea stormy?”

Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk. “Is that all?” he asked.

“That’s all,” Honest Monk replied.

Lu Xiaofeng raised his voice, “Don’t you all have anything else you want to say to me?”

Honest Monk, Sha Man, Xiao Yu, three people fixed their gaze at Lu Xiaofeng. “We do,” they said, almost in unison.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at Sha Man. “You first,” he said.

Sha Man said, “Do you know why I didn’t wait for you at the beach, nor did I wait for you at the cliff?”

“I was going to ask,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Sha Man said, “Because you are in trouble.”

“I am in trouble?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Trouble is my business, it has nothing to do with whether you came to meet me or not.”

“But it does,” Sha Man said.

“Tell me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Sha Man said, “First, you are in trouble, I am not in the mood.”

“And the second?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Sha Man said, “Just before you came, we were just discussing your trouble.”

“Sounds to me, my trouble is very big?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Very big,” Xiao Yu replied, “It’s as big as something.”

“As big as what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“With your head,” Xiao Yu replied.

“But my head is not that big,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Xiao Yu said, “By the time you find out about your trouble, I guarantee your head will swell three times its current size.”

Lu Xiaofeng has started to feel that his head was swelling up.

Just then, Honest Monk suddenly popped up a question, “This time you came back to the island, you didn’t get any result, did you?”

Lu Xiaofeng looked at him with a strange expression on his eyes, “How did you know?” he asked.

Honest Monk said, “When you were on the island, something happened on the main land.”

“What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk said, “From those missing treasures, several most expensive pieces have been traded.”

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Not only that,” Honest Monk continued, “Some people found Chen Ping, Li Dazhong, Sun Wutong …”

“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Who are Chen Ping, Li Dazhong, Sun Wutong?”

“They were not anybody special,” Honest Monk replied, “Except that they happen to participate in the escorting of these missing treasures this time.”

“Are you saying that they have been found?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“It’s not that,” Honest Monk replied.

“It’s not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk said, “It’s not that they have been found, but they bodies have.”

“Bodies?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I can’t say it’s their bodies either,” Honest Monk said, “Because when they were found, they could still say something.”

“Something?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What is it?”

“Something that will bring you endless trouble,” Honest Monk replied.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at Honest Monk, waiting for him to continue. But Honest Monk suddenly did not want to continue. Lu Xiaofeng looked at Xiao Yu.

Xiao Yu said, “Just before his death, Chen Ping said that the treasures were stolen by Lu Xiaofeng.”

Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

Sha Man said, “Li Dazhong also said the same thing.”

“And so did Sun Wutong,” Honest Monk added.

Xiao Yu said, “It is called ‘multitude of mouths will melt gold’ [i.e. if you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.]”

“Except my mouth,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Too bad they would never listen to your explanation,” Sha Man said.

“They?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Who’s ‘they’?”

“Troops,” Sha Man replied, “The martial art experts sent by Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent.”

“To catch me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Catch you and bring you to trial,” Sha Man said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “When those three, Chen Ping, Li Dazhong and Sun Wutong were found, were they together?”

“Not only they were not together, they were several hundred li apart from each other,” Sha Man said.

“It’s awful,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What’s awful?” Sha Man asked.

“Gong Jiu’s scheme,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Are you sure this is Gong Jiu’s scheme?” Sha Man asked.

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I have seen Chen Ping, Li Dazhong and those bunch of people on the island.”

Honest Monk suddenly stared at Lu Xiaofeng’s four eyebrows.

“What’s on my four eyebrows?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I am afraid you have to shave two,” Honest Monk said.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because,” Honest Monk said, “Everybody knows Lu Xiaofeng has four eyebrows. Everybody knows Lu Xiaofeng stole the treasure; hence everybody wants to arrest Lu Xiaofeng. If you still have four eyebrows, won’t the target become very obvious?”

Lu Xiaofeng stroked the two eyebrows above his lips. He said, “Shave it, huh? Won’t it be a pity?”

“I was not talking about those two,” Honest Monk said.

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. “You want to shave my real eyebrows?” he asked.

“That way I guarantee no one would recognize you,” Honest Monk said.

“Why don’t you just kill me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why would I want to kill you?” Honest Monk asked.

“Because you wanted to shave my eyebrows,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“It was just an idea,” Honest Monk said.

“I think it would be best if you never mention it,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Then I won’t,” Honest Monk said.

Lu Xiaofeng held out his hand; he wanted to shake Honest Monk’s hand, while saying, “Friends!”

But Honest Monk pulled back his hand, “Good friends or old friends, you can’t shake my hand.”

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk replied, “Because Monk’s hands are vegetarian-fed flesh, while your hands are meat-fed flesh.”

Lu Xiaofeng was dumbstruck.

“Pfft!” Xiao Yu and Sha Man stifled their laughter.

Lu Xiaofeng was going to pull his outstretched hand, but Honest Monk reached out and grabbed his hand.

“Why do you want to shake my hand now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I suddenly realize a truth,” Honest Monk replied, “When I was kid, I also ate meat, so my hands are also meat-fed flesh.”

Lu Xiaofeng’s expression made Xiao Yu and Sha Man roared in laughter.

Lu Xiaofeng shook Honest Monk’s hand and said, “Tell me, what should we do now?”

Honest Monk said, “There are things that we can see clearly, but are unable to understand. There are things that we can’t see, yet we can figure out the whys and wherefores [orig. ‘mountain has a connecting pulse throughout like a dragon’, an idiom from fengshui] of it. Therefore, I advise you to see someone.”

“Who?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Your good friend,” Honest Monk replied.

“My good friend?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Concerning this heist, we are like blind men although we can see,” Honest Monk said, “Therefore, I think a real blind man would be able to see it more clearly than we do.”

“Hua Manlou?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Hua Manlou!” Honest Monk said.

A building filled with fresh flowers[1].

When Lu Xiaofeng smelled the fragrance of the fresh flowers, immediately his heart was filled with warmth, just like the warmth of his friendship with Hua Manlou.

— Is there any warmth on earth warmer that friendship?

Lu Xiaofeng remembered Sha Man.

— Love? The feeling of love, it ought to be sweet. Warmth, it is absolutely the feeling of friendship.

Lu Xiaofeng was quite satisfied with his conclusion, so when he treaded on the stairs, his steps felt unusually light.

He was guessing that since his steps today were unusually light, Hua Manlou’s sense of hearing ought not to detect his presence.

Therefore, with a cheerful voice he loudly greeted, “No need to guess, it’s me, Lu Xiaofeng!”

No response, no Hua Manlou’s frank and cheerful laughter either.

Lu Xiaofeng pushed the door open. The fresh flowers were still there, the fixtures and furnishing of the room was still as before.

Only one detail was different. The chair in front of the window did not have someone in it. Someone who loved life.

Twilight like this, beautiful weather like this, Hua Manlou ought to sit on the chair in front of the window; quietly listening to the sound of sunset, quietly enjoying the beauty of life. Why wasn’t he here?

Myriads of questions floating around Lu Xiaofeng’s mind. Where did Hua Manlou go? He sat on the chair in front of the window.

Sound of footsteps, coming suddenly from the stairs. Lu Xiaofeng did not move at all, even his breathing suddenly became very light.

— Was it Hua Manlou?

He did not know, because he had never heard Hua Manlou’s footsteps when he was treading the stairs. Not that Hua Manlou never went upstairs or downstairs, but they were always going up and down the stairs together, chatting and joking; hence he basically has never paid any attention to the sound of Hua Manlou’s footsteps.

The footsteps were already in front of the door. The door opened. “Who’s there?”

It was Hua Manlou’s voice.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Hua Manlou was indeed Hua Manlou. Lu Xiaofeng was sitting motionless, yet he was able to sense someone in the room.

Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to say, “I have no choice but admiring you.”

“You don’t need to admire me.”


“Because this is my way of survival.”

Lu Xiaofeng looked at his good friend, his face showed even more admiration.

“I just find it very strange,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What’s so strange?” Hua Manlou asked.

“This time of the day, yet you have just come in from the outside?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I can’t come in from the outside?” Hua Manlou said.

“Aren’t you always sitting on the chair at this time, enjoying a quiet evening?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“There’s time when a man can change,” Hua Manlou said.

“You mean, you already changed your habit?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“What about you?” Hua Manlou asked in return, “Why did you change your habit?”

“Me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked in surprise, “I have not changed.”

“You have not changed?” Hua Manlou asked.

“Why would I change?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You stole thirty-five million taels worth of gold, pearl and jewels,” Hua Manlou said.

“You also heard?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

“Who told you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Wu Biao,” Hua Manlou replied.

“Who’s Wu Biao?” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You don’t know?” Hua Manlou asked.

“How should I know?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Because Wu Biao was one of the escorts,” Hua Manlou replied.

“Did he personally tell you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That’s right,” Hua Manlou replied.

“And you believe him?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Hua Manlou said, “When a man is at the death’s door, would he tell a lie?”

Lu Xiaofeng did not answer.

“Why don’t you say something?” Hua Manlou said.

“What can I say?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You’d rather believe a dead man, you don’t believe your own friend. What do you want me to say?”

“Did I say that I don’t believe you?” Hua Manlou said.

Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Didn’t you say …”

Hua Manlou said, “I only said: ‘When a man is at the death’s door, would he tell a lie?’ That’s all.”

“Aren’t you saying that …” Lu Xiaofeng started again.

“That was a question,” Hua Manlou cut if off again.

Lu Xiaofeng felt strange, “You ask me to answer?” he asked.

“Yes,” Hua Manlou said.

“Because you are not sure whether before he died Wu Biao told you the truth or a lie?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Yes,” Hua Manlou replied, “That’s the reason I went out to take a walk; that’s the reason I did not sit here enjoying the delight of the dusk; that’s the reason I just came in from the outside at the best time of the day; that’s the reason you are able to sit on my chair, enjoying the beauty of the sunset.”

“You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Oh?” Hua Manlou said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I sit on your chair, not enjoying the beauty of the sunset at all.”

“Why?” Hua Manlou asked.

“Because I was worried about you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

With a cheerful laugh Hua Manlou said, “Therefore, we are indeed a pair of close friends.”

“What you said is extremely true,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Hua Manlou said, “You came to me, it must be for this case?”

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Did you find any result from your walking around?”

“I only found one thing,” Hua Manlou replied.

“What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“The subordinates of Prince Taiping’s Heir Apparent are looking everywhere to arrest and bring you to trial,” Hua Manlou said.

With a wry laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “This is a conspiracy.”

“Whose conspiracy?” Hua Manlou asked.

“Gong Jiu’s conspiracy,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Who’s Gong Jiu?” Hua Manlou asked.

“Gong Jiu is a very formidable person,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

By the time Lu Xiaofeng finished narrating his strange tale of going out to sea, the sky has turned dark.

Hua Manlou sat on his chair, deep in thought.

Lu Xiaofeng lighted the oil lamp, the light shone on Hua Manlou’s deep concentration face. Lu Xiaofeng stood quietly, fixing his gaze on Hua Manlou.

After a long time, Hua Manlou exhaled slowly. He said, “According to your information, it is very clear that the Little Old Man and Gong Jiu are the masterminds of this case. However, this is not important, what’s really important is you must find out who murdered Cui Cheng.”

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s the invisible man.”

Hua Manlou said, “Didn’t the Little Old Man tell you of several ways to make a person invisible?”

“Quite a few,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Hua Manlou said, “Did he mention that suicide is also a way to be invisible?”

Lu Xiaofeng sprang on his feet.

— True, why can’t Cui Cheng commit suicide?

Yet, Lu Xiaofeng still had to ask, “Why would Cui Cheng commit suicide?”

Hua Manlou said, “If he killed himself, his family would live a very good life.”

“However,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Did you know Ye Xingshi’s autopsy report?”

According to Ye Xingshi’s observation:

— They had been dead for at least an hour, they were killed by a very thin and fast blade; one stab and their lives were gone.

— Because the blade was extremely thin, the movement was extremely fast, it did not even leave any wound.

— The fatal stab undoubtedly went into the lower end of the lung. The blade penetrated in, immediately the blood burst into the thoracic cavity; therefore, no blood flowed outside.

Hua Manlou suddenly remembered something. “No,” he said, “Cui Cheng did not commit suicide.”

“I thought so too,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because he had no ability to do so.”

Hua Manlou said, “The one committing suicide was either Xiao Hongzhu or Cheng Zhong; or else both of them committed suicide.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Are you saying that they had been bought or perhaps threatened? And thus after killing Cui Cheng, they committed suicide?”

Hua Manlou said, “Don’t you think my reasoning makes sense?”

“So now I just need to find one person,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Who?” Hua Manlou asked.

“Ye Xingshi,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What do you want from him?” Hua Manlou asked.

“I want to ask him,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Was the wound on Cui Cheng and the others, three people, really as he described it?”

“Why do you doubt?” Hua Manlou asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “In case the wound on those three people was really as he said, i.e. was caused by fast blade, then among them, no one committed suicide.”

“Why?” Hua Manlou asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “None of them had the ability to employ such a fast blade, especially when they were about to commit suicide.”

It was supposed to be full moon, but there was no full moon in the sky. There was only black cloud; the black cloud that drift along the strong wind. The wind was indeed very strong.

Standing outside the door of Ye Xingshi’s residence, the sleeves of Lu Xiaofeng’s clothes were rustling in the wind.

Ye Xingshi’s family servant opened the door, and said in a loud voice, “It’s late, Master does not see patients anymore.”

“Even if it is an emergency?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Is it you who wants to see Master?” the servant asked.

“Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You don’t look like someone who is sick,” the servant said, “Unless …”

“Unless what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Unless you have mental disorder,” the servant said. As soon as he finished speaking, ‘Bang!’ the door was slammed.

Lu Xiaofeng pushed with both hands and the door opened again.

The servant glowered at him ferociously and angrily said, “What are you doing?”

“I just want to tell you something,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What is it?” the servant asked.

“If I can’t see your Master tonight, there will be someone who will have mental disorder,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Who?” the servant asked.

“Me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You are making fun of me!” the servant angrily said.

“Not at all,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am telling you the truth. Because ‘thirty-five millions taels worth of gold, pearls and jewels’ very soon will drive me crazy.”

The servant stared at him blankly.

“Now can I see your master?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

The servant suddenly stared at Lu Xiaofeng’s face; there was fear on his face. “You … you are Lu Xiaofeng!”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded.

The servant did not say anything. Suddenly he raised his hand to slap Lu Xiaofeng. Lu Xiaofeng only struck him lightly, the servant was knocked down to the ground.

The lantern looked like a sacrificial vessel. It was sitting on a table in the middle of the main hall. Behind the table a man was sitting on a chair. On the table lay some papers, pen and ink.

Lu Xiaofeng walked toward the middle of the hall. “Ye Xingshi?” he said.

The man nodded. Raising his right hand, he motioned Lu Xiaofeng to sit down. So Lu Xiaofeng sat down.

The man picked up a pen, dipped it in the ink, and wrote down on a piece of paper, “Is there something you want to see me about? ”

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned.

— Since when did Ye Xingshi become a mute?

Lu Xiaofeng stared at Ye Xingshi.

Ye Xingshi laughed and pointed to his own ears.

“You can hear?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Ye Xingshi nodded.

Lu Xiaofeng was about to ask him a question, suddenly he felt that Ye Xingshi’s gaze looked very familiar.

He remembered the saying, “Just find Ge Tong, all roads will be clear.” [See Chapter 7.]

He recalled something that happened on the island:

— Someone from inside the Buddha statue pounced on him, an ice-cold hand clutched his throat.

— The ice-cold hand suddenly lost its strength, hence he was able to calm himself, and looked at the man clutching his throat.

And the man he saw was precisely Ge Tong. He would never forget Ge Tong’s gaze as he looked at Lu Xiaofeng. The gaze that was precisely like this.

Right now Ye Xingshi’s gaze was exactly the same as Ge Tong’s. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are not Ye Xingshi.”

Ye Xingshi was shocked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are Ge Tong!”

Ge Tong suddenly sprang up and attacked Lu Xiaofeng. Not only he was the third-generation Eagle Claw’s adopted son, he was also the Wang Family’s ideal son-in-law. His nickname was ‘Titan Hawk’, naturally the power of Eagle Claw martial art of his hand was not weak.

However, Lu Xiaofeng was already prepared. He waited until Ge Tong’s Eagle Claw swept pass, and then lightning fast the edge of his palm chopped on Ge Tong’s wrist. ‘Crack!’ Ge Tong’s right wrist was broken by Lu Xiaofeng’s chop.

Ge Tong collapsed, his wrist broken. But why did Ge Tong collapse?

Lu Xiaofeng was shocked. He lifted up Ge Tong’s neck, and to his surprise he saw three white, shiny needles on a neat row on the back of Ge Tong’s neck.

Lu Xiaofeng lunged forward in one big jump toward a shadow that had just disappeared behind a wall. Unleashing his qinggong, Lu Xiaofeng ran after the shadow.

A temple. A broken down mountain temple. The shadow reached the open space in front of the temple, and suddenly it stopped.

Lu Xiaofeng also stopped. He stood motionless in full alert.

The shadow turned around. Suddenly the black cloud opened a slit, revealing a weak light of the full moon.

Lu Xiaofeng jumped in fright. Because he saw that the shadow’s appearance was completely identical to the one Ge Tong was trying to masquerade.

— Was the shadow the real Ye Xingshi? Before Lu Xiaofeng could ask any question, the shadow suddenly laughed aloud.

Finished laughing, the shadow said, “Lu Xiaofeng’s martial art skill is indeed a fully justified reputation!”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Compared to your skill in releasing secret projectiles, I am afraid it is still far too inferior.”

The shadow laughed and said, “And don’t forget, there is still my skill in changing appearance.”

“Did you change Ge Tong’s appearance?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That’s right,” the shadow replied.

“I did not expect the disciple of Shaolin’s Tie Jian Dashi [see Chapter 1] is also adept at changing appearance,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

With a gloomy voice the shadow said, “My Shifu only taught me martial arts, you must not dishonor my Shifu’s good reputation.”

“So you are the real Ye Xingshi?”

“Replacement guaranteed if not genuine!” the shadow replied. [oh, I know that a simple ‘authentic’ will do, but I am always fascinated by these idioms.]

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Ye Xingshi has enjoyed flourishing reputation in Jianghu for a long time as one of the four famous doctors; not only his medical expertise exquisite, he has a profound mastery of the martial arts handed down personally by Tie Jian Dashi. In all his life he treads the path of chivalry [‘xia’] and practices medicine in help of the people of the world. How could he kill people for no reason?”

“Whom did I kill?” the shadow asked.

“Ge Tong!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“How do you know that it was me who killed Ge Tong?” the shadow said, “Did you see me killed Ge Tong with your own eyes?”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “’Silver needle piercing the acupoints, entering the seventy percent of the brain’, that is the internal strength of Shaolin’s unique internal energy technique.”

“Good eyesight!” the shadow said, “Excellent judgment.”

“So you admit that you killed Ge Tong?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“What if I do? And what if I don’t?” the shadow said.

“If you admit,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Then I’ll say that although Ye Xingshi has changed, he is still a real man.”

Ye Xingshi said, “I did not expect Lu Xiaofeng’s mouth to be this formidable.”

“I am simply telling the truth,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Ye Xingshi only coldly snorted twice, but did not answer.

“You seemed to know that I was coming to look for you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I know that you would definitely come to look for me,” Ye Xingshi said.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because the one who knows the real reason of their deaths, other than me, there is no second person,” Ye Xingshi said.

“Were they really killed by a fast blade?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Yes,” Ye Xingshi replied.

“Is it true that they have been dead for at least an hour?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Ye Xingshi did not respond. There was a painful look on his face.

“How long have they been dead actually?” Lu Xiaofeng pressed on, “When you came in, did they just die?”

Ye Xingshi opened his mouth, he seemed to be reluctant to talk, yet he wanted to talk. “They …”

Lu Xiaofeng knew it was a critical juncture in Ye Xingshi’s mind; if he talked, it means he was abandoning the people controlling him from behind, if he did not talk, that means he resigned the rest of his life to become a puppet.

Ye Xingshi suddenly made up his mind. He shouted, “They died …” before he could finish, he tumbled down.

When Ye Xingshi was talking, Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes were already looking to four sides, his ears were listening to eight directions, closely watching for any activity around them. But he did not see anything, and yet Ye Xingshi has fallen.

Lu Xiaofeng was about to stoop down to look at the cause of Ye Xingshi’s death when his eyes suddenly caught lantern light inside the broken-down mountain temple.

At first the light was very weak, and then, the entire temple was brightly lit.

Lu Xiaofeng knew that he did not need to examine Ye Xingshi anymore. The secret he wanted to find out was inside the temple. Therefore, he walked toward the mountain temple.

The temple’s gate was half-closed. The light was shining from inside through the door gap.

Lu Xiaofeng stood at the door. He was contemplating whether he should push the door open and come in, or he should slip through the door gap. Which move would carry greater risk? Lu Xiaofeng did not know.

Actually, Lu Xiaofeng did not need to know. He had already gone through fire and water countless times, so what if he goes through it one more time?

So Lu Xiaofeng simply reached out and pushed the door.

But the door did not open, because as soon as his hand touched the wood, an image of smiling Sha Man suddenly appeared in his mind.

A man in love could have apprehension.

Lu Xiaofeng was not afraid to die, but that was before. Previously, when he confronted death, he did not have love in his heart. Now he did, he remembered Sha Man, he thought about how Sha Man must be worried over him, he thought about how Sha Man would have to wander alone and miserable in Jianghu.

Not only Lu Xiaofeng did not continue pushing the door, he pulled his hand instead.

The temple was very quiet.

The people instead the temple must be very formidable. People who can wait patiently won’t be too-ordinary people.

Lu Xiaofeng was in a totally defensive mode. He stood outside the door. Even when a strong wind blew the sleeves of his clothing, he did not move.

He seemed to have figured out that the best way was to have a patience match; whoever loses patience will reveal weak points. If he could not endure it, there were only two paths he could take: risking his life by charging in, or leave without finding out the secret behind Ye Xingshi’s murder.

If the people inside could not endure, they would either talk, or burst out to find out the outcome. Either way, it would be beneficial to Lu Xiaofeng.

If they talked, Lu Xiaofeng would be able to determine the direction of their hiding place, he could even find out who the speaker was.

If they burst out, it would be even more advantageous to Lu Xiaofeng, because then Lu Xiaofeng would not have any apprehension whatsoever.

Unless the person’s martial art skill was a lot higher than Lu Xiaofeng’s. But Lu Xiaofeng was never worried about this point.

Lu Xiaofeng knew that there was more than one person inside the temple. Because he heard whispers; too bad the wind was simply too strong outside that he was unable to hear what the people inside were saying, he could not hear whether the speaker was a male or a female, young or old.

He could only be certain of one thing: the people inside were already a bit impatient.

To this fact, Lu Xiaofeng did not feel proud at all. He always thought that he was the most patient man. Otherwise, Lu Xiaofeng would have turned into a pile of bones early on, a pile of dried up bones buried in the ground. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was still standing motionless.

The people inside really could not endure anymore. A sweet and tender voice of a woman said, “Aren’t you feeling the cold wind outside? It’s not only cold, it’s also strong and bone-chilling.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

— Beef Soup.

Hearing Beef Soup’s voice, how could he not laugh?

Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “Cold, strong and bone-chilling wind is always more enjoyable than sabers that pose danger on every side.”

A male voice said, “How do you know I am going to use saber and not sword?”

Lu Xiaofeng’s smile froze on his face.

— Gong Jiu.

Hearing Gong Jiu’s voice, how could Lu Xiaofeng’s smile not freeze?

Lu Xiaofeng did not speak, he simply reached out and very gently pushed the half-closed door until it was fully opened.

Before Lu Xiaofeng entered, the strong wind outside has already blowing in, blowing the solitary lantern inside that the flame was flickering erratically.

Under the flickering light, Gong Jiu and Beef Soup’s faces were also flashing between light and darkness, just like their personality, sometimes gloomy sometimes sunny erratically.

Seeing old friends, Lu Xiaofeng has always laughed. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng smiled at Gong Jiu and Beef Soup and said, “Pardon me for keeping the two of you waiting.”

It was supposed to be a humor, and Gong Jiu really feel like laughing, but he wasn’t laughing.

Yet Beef Soup was laughing cheerfully. “So cold outside,” she said, “Why didn’t you come in earlier to have a bowl of beef soup?”

“I was afraid if I came in earlier, I would not have had beef soup,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“So what did you think you would have?” Beef Soup asked.

“Yan Wang [King of Hell] Soup,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Beef Soup laughed, “We are old friends,” she said, “How could we serve you Yan Wang Soup?”

“Perhaps you wouldn’t,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But your Jiu Ge might.”

With a sinister voice Gong Jiu said, “You are wrong.”

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu said, “If I wanted to kill you, I could have killed you at Ye Xingshi’s house.”

“So you knew that I was going to look for Ye Xingshi?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I did not dare to be presumptuous at all,” Gong Jiu said, “I merely guessed that you may, therefore, I have been staying at Ye Xingshi’s house.”

“What for?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“To wait for you,” Gong Jiu replied.

“I am here,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why don’t you kill me?”

“Right now I do not want to kill you,” Gong Jiu said.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because you are alone,” Gong Jiu replied.

“You want to kill Sha Man too?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“And Xiao Yu, and Honest Monk,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Do you have to kill all four of us?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu nodded.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu coldly said, “Because I hate all of you.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You may hate me, you may hate Sha Man, you may hate Xiao Yu, but why do hate Honest Monk?”

Gong Jiu replied, “Without him, you would have been dead on the island long ago.”

“What if you can’t find them for the rest of your life?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I will definitely find them,” said Gong Jiu.

“You are so confident?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu coldly snorted.

“Can you tell me the reason of your confidence?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“If I can’t find them for the rest of my life, then you cannot hope to see them for the rest of your life either,” Gong Jiu said.

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. “Why?” he asked.

“Because,” Gong Jiu said, “From now on I will follow you. Unless you won’t see them anymore. Otherwise, I will also see them.”

Lu Xiaofeng’s heart turned cold. “Was that the reason you stayed at Ye Xingshi’s house to wait for me?”

“No,” Gong Jiu said.

“No?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu said, “I originally thought that all four of you would come to Ye Xingshi’s house together, then I could catch everything in one net. I didn’t expect you to come alone; hence I had to lure you here.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You lured me here just so can tell me that you are going to follow me?”

“That’s right,” Gong Jiu said.

“If you just follow me secretly, won’t you also find them?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

With a cold laugh Gong Jiu said, “I simply want you to know.”

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Have you seen a cat catching a mouse?” Gong Jiu asked, “Will the cat immediately eat the mouse?”

There was a cold stream flowing in the depth of Lu Xiaofeng’s heart; he did not answer.

Gong Jiu continued, “I simply want to let you know that I am following you, I want you to be anxious, I want you to wanting to see Sha Man, yet you do not dare to meet her. I want to see you wasting away, to see you suffer from the torture of your own yearning.” Gong Jiu laughed maniacally.

Lu Xiaofeng calmly said, “If I am dead, won’t you also can’t find them?”

Gong Jiu said, “Are you saying that before you die, you don’t want to see Sha Man even once?”

Lu Xiaofeng remained silent. A dark shadow suddenly crept into his heart; it was not clear whether it was a shadow of death, or because she could not find him, Sha Man was concerned and thus was wasting away with each passing day. Lu Xiaofeng started to feel afraid.

Gong Jiu could see the panic on Lu Xiaofeng’s eyes; his grim and cold laughter suddenly turned into a cheerful and proud laughter.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu, and then he turned his attention to Beef Soup. Suddenly he said, “Don’t you have some beef soup to entertain me with?”

Beef Soup was taken aback. She stared at Lu Xiaofeng and asked, “You want to drink beef soup?”

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You are still in the mood to drink beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Life is hard and we are destined to die; don’t you think being a full ghost is much more comfortable than a hungry ghost? Besides …”

“Besides what?” Beef Soup asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Besides, if I didn’t drink a bowl of beef soup, how could I find the strength to play this game of hide-and-seek?”

Beef Soup stared at Lu Xiaofeng for a moment. Without saying anything, she turned around and went inside.

By the time Beef Soup reappeared, there was a bowl of piping hot beef soup in her hands.

Lu Xiaofeng was not being polite at all. ‘Glug! Glug! Glug!’ he drank the beef soup and turned the bowl upside down. Wiping his mouth, he said, “I have a question.”

“What question?” Beef Soup asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “No matter where you go, do you always bring real beef soup with you?”

“Not necessarily,” Beef Soup replied.

“Then why is it that every time I meet you, you always have beef soup ready to drink?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because I prepared it for you,” Beef Soup replied.

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Didn’t you say that being a full ghost is much more comfortable than a hungry ghost?” Beef Soup said.

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“That’s exactly the reason why I always prepare beef soup for you,” Beef Soup said.

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “In that case, I should be really grateful to you.”

“I don’t need your gratitude,” Beef Soup said, “I just hope that after you become a full ghost, it would be nice if you don’t come to entangle me.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Now that I have had my beef soup, would the two of you allow me to withdraw?”

“You may leave at any time,” Gong Jiu said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “This time, how much time will you give me to have a head start?”

Gong Jiu said, “Until I feel that I won’t be able to catch up with you.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You have never fought a battle that you have no confidence in winning, haven’t you?”

“If I don’t have any confidence, why fight?” Gong Jiu said.

“In that case, I’ll leave now. So long,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

As soon as he finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng unleashed his qinggong and flew away.

[1] The name ‘Hua Man Lou’ literally means ‘flowers filling the building’. ‘Lou’ refers to multi-story building.

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