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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 4

CSI

Chapter 4 – After the calamity, renewed life

The storm finally passed, the sea was once again tranquil, like nothing ever happened, but no one knows how many innocent lives had been swallowed by it.

Pieces of the broken ship floated on the surface of the sea, along with many other unimaginable things, like the ship was spitting out the bones after it ate the contents. It looked unspeakably tragic and a total despair.

After a long time, a man slowly floated up. Lu Xiaofeng. He was still alive.

It was not because his luck was especially good, but because he has been through ‘thousands hammer, hundreds refining (by fire)’ early on. His ability to endure the pain and to strike back, others simply could not imagine.

A sparkling object floated in front of his eyes. He reached out to grab it. Unexpectedly it was a bronze chamber pot.

He laughed. In this kind of situation he was still able to laugh. This is also something that others simply could not imagine.

But if he did not laugh, what else can he do? If he cried, what good would it bring? If he could bring back to life those who have been through trials and tribulations with him, then he would cry from now until the end of the days.

Now, not a single person was in sight, not even a dead person. Even if everyone had died in the disaster, their remains should still float in the vicinity.

“Perhaps they have not floated up yet!”

Lu Xiaofeng also hoped that he could find a few surviving people, he wished to find the Old Fox, Beef Soup, Yue Yang …

But he could not find anybody. It was like all the people on the ship had been completely swallowed by the sea; even their bones were swallowed.

Just now he happened to bump into wood plank, a remnant of the hull, just before he lost his consciousness. Could it be that in that short period of time everybody else had been rescued?

He wished that it were so. He would rather he was the only one dying. Too bad he also realized that it was impossible.

No one could have expected the storm approaching, no one could have expected the ship to perish.

In a storm like that, no one could have stayed on the sea nearby, waiting to rescue them.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly remembered Yue Yang, he remembered the strange expression in his eyes, “You should now by now, why I insisted on not letting you ride on this ship?”

Could it be that he really knew beforehand that this ship was going to capsize? And so he wanted to save Lu Xiaofeng, because Lu Xiaofeng had also saved him. But why did he insist on getting on board this ship? Could it be that he wished to court death? If he really wanted to die, he had already been dead; at least he would have been dead eight times.

Perhaps no one would ever be able to answer these questions. Lu Xiaofeng could only explain to himself, “That kid must have said those things to piss me off; he is not a deity, how would he know that in three days the ship would capsize?”

Right now Lu Xiaofeng was able to think clearly, because he was sitting on something that was completely reliable. He sat on a wooden statue of Buddha.

A zhang high [approx. 3m/10ft] Buddha statue, coincidentally the biggest Maitreya Buddha, lying on the sea just like a boat.

Unfortunately, not only this boat did not have yellow wine and beef, it did not even have any plain hard-boiled eggs.

“Next time you fall into the water, I am afraid you’ll have only one thing to eat:Your own flesh.”

Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to cut a piece of his own flesh to have a taste; he suddenly found he was hungry as hell.

Looking to the distance where the sky and the sea merged, he saw vast haziness. It was a very beautiful day. Too bad that no matter how beautiful, it was not enough to fill his belly.

After the storm, there was not a single fish in the vicinity. The only fish he could see was the wooden fish, big and small, all kinds of wooden fish, everything floated forward brought by the current.

It’s a pity that he did not have any desire to chant the scripture.

If the monks saw these wooden fish, what would they feel? He wondered. Would they wish, just like he did right now, that these fish were real fish with flesh and blood?

There seemed to be an undercurrent in the sea, carrying these wooden fish and the Buddha statues floating forward.

What kind of place was in front?

In front of him was still the sea, an endless and relentless ocean. Even if the sea stayed tranquil without any wave like this, even if this smiling Buddha Maitreya could cross to the other side, Lu Xiaofeng could not make it, for sure.

He was not carved from wood, he wanted to eat; if he did not, he would die of starvation. If he did not die of starvation, he would die of thirst.

Surrounded by water, a man could die of thirst, wouldn’t it be some kind of a ridiculous irony?

Yet Lu Xiaofeng could not even laugh. His lips were completely dry, he almost succumbed to the temptation of drinking sea water.

The dusk came and went, the night fell, finally the long night also passed, the sun rose again. No one knew how long, he was almost completely delirious. He could not help drinking seawater, only to vomit it again. No one knew how long he has been vomiting, it seemed like even his intestines had been completely spitted out.

In this kind of half awake, half asleep condition, he felt as if he had fallen into a large net, a very, very large net, which was slowly tightening around him, hoisted him up that he felt that he was hanging in the air, and then he really fainted.

It was indeed beyond his imagination that he would wake up again after losing his consciousness; he could not imagine even more where he would be when he woke up.

When Lu Xiaofeng woke up, he was in a fairyland.

The sun was shining brightly, the sand on the beach was white, soft and very fine, the bluish green seawater looked like jade, the place where the gentle waves lapped the beach was foamy white. Clear and boundless sky with no clouds in sight, the land filled his eyes with emerald green.

If this was not fairyland, then what kind of place was it? How could living person reach this fairyland?

Lu Xiaofeng was still alive, there was indeed a fairyland among the world of the living. But he was having a hard time believing that it was real. From the moment he was thrown out of his bed to what has just happened right now, everything felt like it was a nightmare.

The smiling Buddha Maitreya was also lying on the beach. After going through so many disasters, its arms were still hugging its own round belly, its mouth was still wide open in laughter.

Lu Xiaofeng stared at the statue hatefully, “The people who rode the same boat as you all have died completely, yet you lie down in here smiling widely, what kind of Bodhisattva are you?”

Although that Bodhisattva was a Bodhisattva, it was carved out of wood, whether other people live or die, it was unable to do anything about it; other people cursed it, it could not hear.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed, “Although you have shown injustice toward others, but you have saved my life, I should have not cursed you.”

The disaster was over, he alone was the only survivor; should he be grateful, or should he be sad? Since others did not know, while he did not have any way of telling them, it seemed that this wooden puppet was the only friend with whom he went through trials and tribulations together.

If you have ever experienced these things, you would change just like him too.

Right now he was still alive, but whether he would be able to continue living, he himself was not too sure.

The world is boundless, alone he arrived at this completely foreign land, even if this place was a fairyland, he was unable to bear it.

He struggled up. Surprisingly he was still able to stand. The first thing that came into his mind was water. If there were no water, the fairyland would turn into hell.

Patting the Buddha Maitreya’s belly, he said, “You must be thirsty too, I’ll go find water for everybody.”

It looked like this place was an island. Among the trees, flowers and plants on the island, a lot of them he had never seen before. The Japanese banana [musa basjoo] tree was full of banana. Each one looked like a large mantou [steamed bun].

After eating several bananas, the thirst was even more unbearable. He snapped a branch and used it as a stick as he walked passed the banana tree. Unexpectedly he found a pond of clear spring.

He did not know until now, that water actually tastes so sweet, far surpassed the best green-bamboo-leaf wine.

It was only after he finished eating and drinking that he remembered a terrible matter.

“If there is no ship pass by, do I have to spend the rest of my life on this deserted island?”

No ship passed by.

He chose the largest rock on the shore and sat on top of it to watch the sea for a few days. Not even a single ship’s shadow was to be seen.

This deserted island was definitely not on the ship route. He could only looked at the Buddha Maitreya with a bitter laugh, “It looks like we’ll have to stay in this place for a while. We can’t keep on living like a wild dog like this, we should at least try to look decent.”

He had never carried saber, sword, or any sharp weapon. Luckily that copper chamber pot also followed him, floating onto the island. Cutting the chamber pot open, using a stone he flattened it and clamped it between two pieces of wood to make the handle, and then he ground it by the spring water for one or two sichen. Actually it became a knife that he could use.

He did not want to use this knife to kill at all.

Now he knew that other that to kill people, a knife actually has so many other uses.

Cutting branches as the frame, and using the leaves from palm tree and banana tree as the roof, he built a thatched house, which cannot be considered too ugly, by the spring. And then he gathered some soft grass and leaves and spread it on the ground. He let his only friend, the Buddha Maitreya, to lie down first. And then he lay down next to it. Looking at the moonlight leaking down through the banana leaves, and listening to the distant sound of waves lapping on the shore, he suddenly felt his eyes were moist, a drop of tear flowed down his cheek.

In the past two years, this was the first time he shed some tears.

No matter what kind of disaster or suffering, he had never been afraid. But he suddenly realized that the most frightening thing in the world is loneliness.

He determined not to let himself thinking toward that direction again, he still had a lot of things to do.

The next day at dawn he walked along the beach looking for everything that he could bring back. There were Buddha statues, wooden fish, and all kinds of shells.

In the afternoon, his luck was better, during the low tide, he found a camphor wood chest.

Very carefully he carried it over his shoulder. He ate some banana first and drank some water before conducting the opening ceremony.

When the box is opened, he felt his heart was like a little deer, jumping around in his breast; he had never been as nervous and as excited as right now.

Inside the chest, there was a small jewelry box, filled to the brim with pearls and jewels; too bad it was completely useless right now. The most useful item was a comb, and some golden hairpins, and then there were two books of popular fiction that were produced by carving stone printing by a local bookshop, one was ‘Jade Pear Romance’, the other was ‘Chronicle or Chivalrous Tales’.

Naturally the chest was also full of clothes, but all were brightly colored women’s clothes.

Ordinarily, Lu Xiaofeng would not even cast a glance toward these things, but now he was as excited as a little child who had just received the most beloved toy. He was so excited that he could not sleep that night.

The wooden fish could be cut open as bowl, so that he did not need to use his hand to hold water. The gold hairpins could be used as needles, with some hemp that he rolled between his hands, he could make some thread, and then he could convert these clothes into window and door curtains. He could now comb his unkempt hair that looked like rice straw. And then those two books, if he read them slowly, it would help him pass a lot of empty, lonely days.

Lying on the bed made of grass, he tossed and turned all night, thinking about these things. Suddenly he sprang up and gave himself two hard slaps on the face.

If the ever-smiling Maitreya knew, it must have thought that this man had been taking a wrong medicine again.

Giving himself two hard slaps on the face was not enough, ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’, he slapped himself everywhere, while pointing toward his own nose and cursed, “Lu Xiaofeng, oh Lu Xiaofeng, since when did you turn into such a worthless kid, thinking and planning all these mundane things like a woman? Are you really going to spend the rest of your life like this?”

The day has not been brightened, he already selected the biggest wooden fish, knocked a hole on top, and fill it up with water. Using a strip of colorful silk gown he wrapped a couple of banana, and fastened everything onto his back. Patting the Maitreya’s belly, he said, “I am not like you, who lie down here all day. From now on, I can’t keep you company all day every day.”

He had decided to go on an expedition, to see if there was anybody else on the island, if there was a way out of here.

Although he was fully aware that in the dense jungle there was danger everywhere, it would not change his determination.

He went out every day in the morning, and came back at night. The soles of his feet were broken, his body was pricked and cut by the thistles and thorns.

The jungle was full of deadly vipers and bugs, there were even carnivorous plants out there. On several occasions he nearly delivered his life, but he did not care. He believed that as long as one was determined, no matter where, one would always find a way out.

Time went on, quickly a month has passed, and he had explored almost every inch on this island.

Other than a pair of sore and swollen feet and a body full of scar, he found nothing. Not only was this island was uninhabited, it was devoid of even foxes, rabbits and all kinds of small critters. If he were someone else, he would be in despair long ago. But he was not.

Although his body was weary, his strength exhausted, he never lose heart. On the thirty-third evening, he suddenly seemed to hear the sound of running water from behind a cliff wall, which was covered with radish vine.

Pushing aside the vines, unexpectedly he found a crevice behind it, barely enough for one person to squeeze himself sideways. But as he walked farther in, the gap gradually widened, and he seemed to see light on the other end, while the sound of running water, which was originally very faint, became gradually clearer.

Finally he found an even clearer spring. Walking upstream, he suddenly saw something floating downstream; it was nothing more than a stem of wilted orchids.

But he still fished the orchids out of the water. He had never seen orchids in this place before, and whenever he found anything unusual, he simply would not let it off. This time he was indeed not disappointed.

Although the orchids were already withered, he could still see the remaining vestige that human hands had trimmed the leaves.

He was so excited that his hands were trembling; there must be people other than him on this island! He suddenly remembered Tao Yuanming’s[1] note on the Garden of the Peaches of Immortality.

After continuing for an hour non-stop, the mountainous terrain indeed suddenly opened up to a wide panorama, the valley was verdant in sweet smelling emerald green foliage, just like a huge, giant garden, adorned with a cluster of pavilions and multi-story buildings.

He dropped down on the soft grass, with heart filled with joy and gratitude, thankful to the Heavens for letting him seeing people once again. As long as he could see people, even if these people killed him, he was most willing. Besides, people who lived in this kind of Garden of the Peaches of Immortality couldn’t possibly kill other people!

Now anybody would be convinced that there were people on this island, but perhaps nobody would ever imagine that the very first person Lu Xiaofeng would ever see on this island was unexpectedly Yue Yang.

Not only Yue Yang did not die, he was richly dressed, looked radiant, and seemed to be even more proud than before.

Under the verdant hillside, there was a small pathway made of colorful stone steps. Yue Yang was standing right there, looking coldly at Lu Xiaofeng.

As soon as Lu Xiaofeng saw Yue Yang, he jumped in fright, as if he was seeing a ghost in a bright sunny day. “How can you be here?” he asked in shrill voice.

“If I am not here, where am I supposed to be?” Yue Yang replied in cold voice.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “When the ship capsized, where did you go? How come I could not find you?”

Yue yang said, “When the ship capsized, where did you go? How come I could not find you?”

His question was exactly the same as Lu Xiaofeng’s. Indeed when the ship capsized, Lu Xiaofeng did not immediately float up.

Lu Xiaofeng did not have any choice but asking different question, “Who rescued you?”

Yue Yang asked, “Who rescued you?”

Lu Xiaofeng asked, “These days, have you always been here?”

Yue Yang asked, “These days, have you always been here?”

He still did not change even one word, asking Lu Xiaofeng the exact question Lu Xiaofeng has been asking him.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Yet Yue Yang did not laugh.

They had just escaped from calamity, and met again. It was actually a very rare occurrence. But he did not show the least bit of joy. Unexpectedly he seemed to feel that it would be better if Lu Xiaofeng was dead.

Luckily Lu Xiaofeng did not care at all, he was already aware that this young man was an eccentric person.

“Isn’t it true that this place was your destination all along? You were not going to Fusang Islands at all, weren’t you? But how did you know that the Old Fox’s ship was going to perish right here? How did you get here?”

Even if these questions were asked, he wouldn’t get any answer anyway; hence Lu Xiaofeng did not even bother to ask.

Right now he was most concerned about one thing, “Who else are here? The Old Fox, Beef Soup, and the others, are they here?”

Yue Yang coldly said, “You don’t need to ask those questions.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since I am already here, why can’t I ask?”

Yue Yang said, “You can return the way you came here, it’s not too late.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Even if you kill me, I will never return!”

Yue Yang’s face fell; he said, “In that case I’ll kill you!”

His right palm flipped over upward, left palm slashed diagonally down in a circle, right palm suddenly shot out from inside the circle, swiftly chopped down on Lu Xiaofeng’s neck.

Not only his style was strange, it was swift and fierce; in this short period of just a bit more than 30 days, his martial art skill seemed to have made tremendous progress.

Actually, there is no fluke in martial art training, but his progress was indeed too quick, just like a miracle. Just this one move, Lu Xiaofeng found it hard to strike back.

In all his life, Lu Xiaofeng has met no one knows how many martial art experts; he really can be considered a veteran of a hundred battles, he had been going through fierce combats for a long time, yet he very seldom see anybody whose martial art skill was higher than this young man.

To his amazement, he had never seen any style with strange variation like this before. He leaped up and made a somersault in the air, and thus retreated eight feet back.

Unexpectedly, Yue Yang did not pursue and attack. “You go back, I won’t kill you,” he said coldly.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You kill me, I won’t go back.”

“You won’t regret it?” Yue Yang asked.

“I already told you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “In all my life, I never have any regret.”

Yue Yang laughed coldly, he made his move again, and soon discovered that Lu Xiaofeng’s martial art skill was also much higher than he had ever imagined.

No matter how strange the style he used, he always failed to touch even the corner of Lu Xiaofeng’s clothes. Occasionally he was so sure that he would succeed, but to his surprise, Lu Xiaofeng’s body flashed, and his attack missed!

Lu Xiaofeng had several obvious opportunities to knock him down, but all along he did not take the opportunity, it seemed like he wanted to know the background of Yue Yang’s martial art, but it also seemed like he did not have any intention to hurt him.

Yet Yue Yang did not seem to understand, his attacks grew in intensity. Suddenly they heard someone at the end of the flowery path laughed and said, “Honorable guest graces us with his presence, how come you are so inhospitable like this?”

Obviously, there were flowers at the end of the flowery path, one man with his hands behind his back was standing in the middle of the multi-colored cluster of flowers. His face was round, the top of his head was half bald, his face carried a very friendly smile. If he was not wearing exquisite clothing, he would appear like a gardener.

At the sight of this man, Yue Yang immediately halted and retreated step by step. There were also flowers on either side of the flowery path, he retreated to the middle of a cluster of flowers, turned around, and disappeared.

The polite and amiable little old man slowly came forward; he said with a smile, “Young people are lacking in manners, Sire must never place the blame on him.”

Lu Xiaofeng also smiled, “It’s all right, he and I are old friends.”

The little old man clapped his hands and said, “Old friends meet again, nothing’s better than that, at least I will have to prepare some wine for the two of you to celebrate.”

He laughed again and said, “Mountain residence is lonely, guests are rare, as soon as there is a little matter to celebrate, we will not miss it; not to mention such a thing like this?”

The way he downplayed the situation unconsciously revealed the peace, happiness, security and contentment in his speech. In Lu Xiaofeng’s ears, who have experienced much suffering, it created deep envy.

The little old man asked again, “But I do not know the honored guest’s respected surname and great given name.”

Lu Xiaofeng immediately introduced himself truthfully. In front of this polite and amiable little old man, nobody could be suspicious.

The little old man nodded and said, “Turns out it’s Lu Gongzi [young master], it’s a big honor to meet you at last.”

Although with his mouth he said that it was an honor to meet him, but it was clear that he did not have the least bit of that sentiment. Lu Xiaofeng has made his name since he was very young, his name was renowned throughout the world, but in the little old man’s ears, it was no different than Zhang San or Li Si [Zhang the third or Li the fourth, respectively], or Ah Mao, Ah Gou [Ol’ cat, ol’ dog; i.e. Tom, Dick and Harry]. This, Lu Xiaofeng had also never met before.

The little old man again said with a laugh, “We happen to have a little celebration today, I was wondering if honored guest would like to honor us with your presence?”

Of course Lu Xiaofeng would like to come, but he still could not bear not to ask, “What are you celebrating today?”

The little old man said, “Today is the day my daughter can eat a meal on her own for the first time, therefore, we all gather here to eat the food she has eaten in the past once again.”

If even such trivial matter [orig. ‘chicken feather, garlic skin’] was celebrated, unavoidably there would be too many things in the world worth celebrating.

Although in his heart Lu Xiaofeng was having this thought, he did not say anything. He only wished that the food that his daughter had eaten was not rice porridge. These days his mouth was really as tasteless as bird’s feed.

The little old man laughed and said, “In your heart Lu Gongzi must have felt funny, if even such trivial matter was celebrated, unavoidably there would be too many things in the world worth celebrating; but let me tell you this: since childhood my daughter is a glutton, therefore, the first time she can eat by herself, she is asking for a tableful or food and drink.”

Although he was echoing what’s in Lu Xiaofeng’s mind, Lu Xiaofeng was not surprised at all. His thought was natural and normal, anybody who heard such thing would inevitably have the same thought as his.

The little old man laughed again and said, “For many years we have never had a guest who is an outsider in here, today Lu Gongzi suddenly honors us with your presence; apparently it is my daughter’s good fortune.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “When I finish your wine and meat, you will know that this is not a good fortune.”

The little old man roared in laughter. He cupped his fist to salute the guest.

“Master host is too polite,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “If even Master host’s respected surname and great given name is not known to me, how can I be called a welcomed guest?”

The little old man said, “I am surnamed Wu, my name is Wu Ming. Wu [吴] of a mouth [口] and a sky [天], Ming [明 – brightness] of the sun [日] and the moon [月].” He laughed aloud again and said, “Actually, at most I only have a mouth that loves to talk and eat good food; I do not have the least bit of the brightness of the sun and the moon.”

He laughed, Lu Xiaofeng also laughed.

After going through those difficult days, it was indeed his good fortune to meet such a hospitable, polite, friendly and witty host. Lu Xiaofeng was really happy, even if he did not want to laugh, he simply must laugh.

When the flowery path ended, they turned into another flowery path, passing through a cluster of flowers, they entered another cluster of flowers. On all sides the mountain peaks were green, the clear sky above was blue as if it had just been washed. Ahead, at the end of the nine-bend winding bridge on top of a half qing [approx. 3.5 hectares or 8.25 acres] lotus pond, there was a water pavilion with vermillion railings and green roof tiles.

When they came near, Lu Xiaofeng saw that there were about a dozen or so people already inside the pavilion. Some were standing, some were sitting, some were old, some were young, some were male, some were female, some were dressed in formal and gorgeous ancient attire, some casually draped oversize gown on their bodies.

Everybody was very relaxed, they all looked happy, as if all worries and grieves of the world of mortals were isolated outside the surrounding green hills.

This was life; these were people who understand how to enjoy life. In his heart Lu Xiaofeng was deeply moved, he was overcome with envy, and could only stare in awe.

The little old man said, “People in here do not confine ourselves to ceremony, Lu Gongzi must never be too polite.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since everybody here does not confine himself to ceremony, why do you call me Lu Gongzi?”

The little old man roared in laughter. Pulling Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, he took him to the nine-bend winding bridge.

A middle-aged man in Tang Dynasty court dress, with a white jade belt around his waist and amethyst and gold court hat on his head, with a cup of wine in his hand, swaggered toward them. He gave the golden cup to Lu Xiaofeng before swaggering away.

The little old man laughed and said, “He is surnamed He. Each time he drinks just a little wine, he would insist that he was the reincarnation of He Zhizhang [659-744, Tang dynasty poet]; hence we might as well call him He Shangshu [high official/government minister]. He loves to call himself Si Ming Kuang Ke [not sure; 四明狂客 lit. four brightness mad guest].”

Lu Xiaofeng also laughed and said, “No wonder he is always drunk; since he is one of the drunken Eight Immortals, not being drunk is wrong.”

While his mouth was talking, his eyes were fixed on a woman.

Women who took his attention usually were not ugly.

She may be a bit tall, but the lines on her slender body were soft; her entire body seemed to exude some kind of irresistible charm, the contour of her face was clear, her pair of cat-like eyes seemed to emit some bluish green light just like the ocean. She appeared cold and indifferent, yet smart; there was also an inexplicable laziness around her, as if she had already grown weary toward life.

Right now she was just leaving the crowd in the water pavilion, and was walking toward them. She was not even close yet, Lu Xiaofeng already felt his throat and his hair dry, a surge of heat rising up from his lower abdomen.

She seemed to also cast him a glance, her cat-like eyes were smiling with contempt and cynical expression.

And then just as quick she turned her head around toward the little old man, and slowly stretched out her hand.

The little old man sighed and said, “You lost everything?”

She nodded. Her jet-black soft and long hair slightly bobbed up and down, just like the waves in the night.

The little old man asked, “How much do you want?”

She held out five fingers, long, slender and powerful fingers, showing off the strength of her innermost being.

“When are you going to pay me back?” the little old man asked.

“Next time,” she replied.

“Alright,” the little old man said, “Use your jewelry as collateral, when you pay me back you have to add interest.”

She agreed immediately, using her two fingers she took a banknote from the little old man’s hand, and promptly left without even a single glance toward Lu Xiaofeng.

But the little old man looked at Lu Xiaofeng and smiled. He said, “We have no rules here, but everybody follows one principle strictly.”

His eyes still staring at the woman’s back, Lu Xiaofeng absent-mindedly asked, “What principle?”

“Earn his own living,” the little old man replied.

He went on to explain, “In here we have the best wine and the best cook in the world, no matter which, any enjoyment in here is first-class. But the fee is also very high, people who have no ability to earn a fortune will find it difficult to continue living here.”

Lu Xiaofeng’s attention has moved away from her body; suddenly he realized that the only property he had was that chamber pot knife.

The little old man laughed and said, “Naturally today you are a guest; as long as you don’t gamble with them, you don’t need a single wen.[2]”

Today he was a guest, but what about tomorrow?

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked, “What are they playing?”

“They are playing dice,” the little old man replied, “They love to gamble.”

“Can I take a look?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Of course you can,” the little old man replied. He laughed even more delightfully, “It’s just that if you want to bet, you must be careful toward Sha Man.”

Sha Man, what a strange name.

Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Sha Man, is that the one who just borrowed money from you?”

The little old man laughed and said, “She loses fast, but also wins fast. If you are not careful, maybe you’ll even lose yourself to her.”

Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. Losing himself to a girl like that would not be bad, but naturally he planned on winning.

Gold, pearls and banknotes piled up on the table. The pile in front of Sha Man was the largest, as soon as Lu Xiaofeng came over, she started to win.

Their betting was really simple and delightful, using only three dice, they count the number of dots. ‘Leopard six’ naturally ‘eat ‘em all’, ‘four five six’ is also not small, ‘one two three’ would definitely lose.

If the first two dice were identical, and the third had six dots, it was almost a guaranteed win.

Unexpectedly she had thrown six dots five times in a row. Her cat-like eyes were shining with jade-green light.

The banker who lost money was a man who started to get fat, he looked no different than any other man you may find in a teahouse or wine shop on any given day. But he was exceptionally calm and collected; although he lost five times in a row, his countenance did not change at all, not even a single bead of sweat was seen on his face.

Their bet was a lot larger than what Lu Xiaofeng had imagined, but the way they gambled was not too sophisticated. They used neither technique nor trick.

Anyone who knew a little bit of trick and came here to gamble was guaranteed to ‘return from a rewarding journey’.

Lu Xiaofeng’s hand already started to itch.

[1] Tao Yuanming (c. 365-427), Jin dynasty writer and poet.

[2] Wen – copper coin, lowest denomination of money, worth about 1/2g or 1/60 ounce of silver.

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