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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 3

CSI

Chapter 3 – Panic at Sea

“Weigh anchor!”

“Sail away!”

“Bon voyage!”

Loud shouts rose and fell in succession. Finally the Old Fox’s ship left the beach by sunset.

The hull was deep in the water, apparently the ship was loaded full of cargo. The foxes’ only weakness is greed, hence it was easy for the hunters to catch them.

It seemed that the Old Fox was just the same.

Lu Xiaofeng wanted to catch this Old Fox very much, he wanted to ask: what kind of cargo was this ship carrying? If the load was too heavy, wouldn’t it be dangerous? Before he could catch the Old Fox, he nearly knocked over the Beef Soup.

The main cabin door was ajar, while he was walking in from the outside, Beef Soup happened to walk out from the inside.

Lu Xiaofeng was shocked to see her, “Why are you on board?”

Beef Soup winked, “Because all of you are on board?”

“So because we went on board, you also wanted to come on board?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Beef Soup said, “Let me ask you: when you are on board, do you still want to eat?”

Naturally they did. As long as one is alive, no matter where they are, they still need to eat. If they still need to eat, then someone has to cook for them.

Beef Soup pointed to her own nose, “When I cook, not only I can cook other dishes, I can cook beef too.”

Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Since when did you change your profession?”

Beef Soup laugh. Her laughter sounded very sweet. “Actually, my original profession is a chef, only occasionally I change profession to do other things; that’s all!”

There were a total of eight cabins on the main deck; each cabin door was decorated with carved pattern and a bronze knob, it looked luxurious and elegant.

Beef Soup said, “I heard that the people on board this ship are all men of great status.”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. With a bitter laugh he said, “I should have thought of that; otherwise, how could they afford to pay the Old Fox’s ship fare.”

Beef Soup cast him a glance with the corner of her eye, “So do you have any status?” she asked.

“I don’t!” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You only have money?” Beef Soup asked.

“I don’t have that either,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “After paying the ship fare, I am almost completely broke.”

He was telling the truth.

Beef Soup laughed, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money, if occasionally you take the wrong medicine, I can still occasionally change profession.”

Lu Xiaofeng only sighed; in all honesty he could not figure out how this kind of girl would be able to cook some meals.

Beef Soup pointed to the third cabin on the left, “That cabin is yours,” she said, “That b@stard who only eat boiled egg is in the first cabin on the right.”

“Can I change cabin?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Nope!” Beef Soup replied.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Beef Soup said, “Because other cabins are all occupied.”

Lu Xiaofeng exclaimed, “That Old Fox advised me to charter the ship, but now each room is occupied?”

Beef Soup said drily, “Not only the eight cabins here are all occupied, all the sixteen cabins on the deck below are also occupied. The Old Fox always loves excitement, the more people he has, the happier he is.”

She laughed. And then she said, “But those who occupied the upper cabins are all distinguished guests. The Old Fox especially ordered me to cook several good dishes for you. What do you want to eat tonight?”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I want to eat roast fox, an old fox with crisp roasted bones.”

Although there was no roast fox at dinnertime, the dishes were sumptuous; surprisingly, Beef Soup indeed knew how to cook good dishes.

“Because my (maternal) grandmother often said, to win a man’s heart, the fastest route is through his stomach. Only women who can cook good food can marry good husband.”

When she said that, all the distinguished guests broke into laughter, only Lu Xiaofeng was unable to laugh.

He was unable to figure out where the Old Fox found these distinguished guests; one was more annoying than the next. All along Yue Yang did not appear at all, as soon as he entered his cabin, he never came out again.

After dinner, which felt like it would go on forever, finally the night was deep the people quiet. Lu Xiaofeng stood alone by the ship’s railing, looking at the vast ocean and glittering starlight. It felt as if between the heaven and the earth, he was the only man remained; only then did he finally feel somewhat free.

‘Loneliness’, sometimes it was something to enjoy, yet it was also the time when people remembered things that they were not supposed to remember.

Too many sad memories, not only will make people age faster, oftentimes it will also change people.

Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng has not changed too much. Lu Xiaofeng was still passionate, impulsive, sometimes annoyingly foolish, yet sometimes extremely intelligent. He is the Lu Xiaofeng who did not care about anything, yet clearly loved to meddle into other people’s business.

What kind of person was Yue Yang? The clothes he wore, not only the material was top quality, the cut was also very exquisite. He did not care about money, and he could afford to give five hundred taels casually to other people. Although his pair of arms was long and powerful, he did not look like people who were used to menial labor. His every movement carried an imposing manner, as if everybody else in the world should jump at his command.

From these several points, it appeared that he came from a rich and powerful family. But obviously he was too smart, too callous; usually sons of rich and powerful families were not like that.

Repeatedly he fell under other people’s harming plots, each one nearly took his life; yet not only he did not care, he did not want to know either.

That one-eyed old fisherman obviously wanted to poison him to death, and he obviously knew about it, yet he feigned ignorance. Was it because he was on the run, and he already knew who he was dealing with?

But clearly he was not trying to hide; he did not act like he was trying to cover his track or run away from someone. Instead, he acted like he was running away from Lu Xiaofeng, he did not want to be on the same ship with Lu Xiaofeng, while Lu Xiaofeng did not have the slightest intention of harming him; on the contrary, Lu Xiaofeng just wanted to make friends with him.

These questions, Lu Xiaofeng did not know the answer.

He was thinking about these things when suddenly, ‘Crack!’ a plank of wood pressed down on him, followed by a strong gust of wind, an oar swept across toward his waist.

He was standing by the ship’s railing, the only way out was to escape downward. But down there was the ocean. By the time he heard a ‘Splosh!’ he was already landed into the ocean.

The ice-cold seawater, the salty seawater.

He moved his legs underwater; his first thought was he wanted to kick on the water to try to pull himself up the hull. But above him the oar struck down on his head again.

The body of the ship was high above his head, he could not see the person above. The sea reflected the starlight, so the person above could see him.

The only thing he could do was to step back; but the ship was moving forward, the distance between him and the ship was growing farther and farther away. Even if he had water skill like ‘flying over the water’, there was no way he would be able to catch up. Even if for the time being he would not drown, but how long would he last? When the sun rose in the morning, he would be drowning for sure.

Always resourceful, no matter what difficulty he faced, Lu Xiaofeng was always able to resolve it; how could he drown to death without any rhyme or reason just like that?

Definitely he would not drown that easy. But when someone falls into the sea, not drowning is not an option.

In that split second, he had already come up with several different ways to get out of this crisis.

One, to relax his whole body as much as possible, to let himself float on the water. As long as he could make it through the night, in the morning, there was great possibility that another ship would pass by. This place was not too far from the harbor, plus it was a busy maritime route.

Two, try to catch fish, use the raw fish meat to replenish his physical strength, and use the puffed fish to increase buoyancy.

Although these ideas might not necessarily work, but he was at least going to try, as long as there is a glimmer of hope, he would never want to miss it.

He believed that his own tolerance for pain and his power in meeting a contingency was better than average people.

The most important thing was that he had an unyielding will to live. Perhaps it was exactly due to this kind of staunch determination that he was able to get through countless crises, and was able to stay alive until now. He simply had to keep on living.

Who would have thought that he had not even executed any of these ideas when there was a ‘Splash!’ on the surface of the sea? Something was thrown from the ship to him. Unexpectedly it was a life boat.

The person who struck him into the water did not want him to die in the sea at all, he just wanted to force him out of the ship.

Other than Yue Yang, who could have done such thing?

The small skiff fell quite some distance down, yet it did not capsize at all. The person who threw it must have used his power in such an ingenious way.

From the water Lu Xiaofeng pulled himself up and rolled over into the skiff, he was even more convinced that the person must be Yue Yang.

There were a pot of water and ten hard-boiled eggs in the skiff, and there was also a very heavy bundle. It was the bundle that Yue Yang pushed to him on the table the other day, which, of course, contained the five hundred taels to compensate his ship fare.

This young man was definitely a straightforward man, not only he did not try to conceal anything, he also seemed to specifically tell Lu Xiaofeng, “I simply don’t want you to get on this ship; what are you going to do about it?”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed, but also could not help laughing.

He liked this young man, he liked the way he worked. But now it looked as if he would never see this young man anymore.

Vast and obscure ocean, looking at four direction, he did not see any boundary. Should he try to chase the Old Fox’s ship with all his might, or should he return to the direction they were coming from?

Naturally he would try to catch up with everything he had.

It was only six or eight hours[1] ago that their ship went out to sea; if he was willing to row with all his might, plus a little bit of luck, come daybreak, he might be able to sit in the Fox Den, drinking wine.

Too bad he forgot two things: One, when the ship left the port, they had tail wind, the power of two oars can’t possibly compete with the wind on the sail. Two, lately his luck has not been so good.

Before the sun was up, his arms were already stiff and numb from hard rowing. Unexpectedly, doing this kind of easy and monotonous motion entailed more strenuous effort than anything else.

He ate several eggs and drank some water, but his mouth felt bitter. He just wanted to lie down to rest for a little bit, but as soon as he lay down, he fell asleep. By the time he woke up, his eyes were blinded by the glaring sun, which, by this time was already high in the sky. In his sleep, unexpectedly he knocked over the pot of water, which was more valuable than gold juice; the water splashed and had already been dried by the sun.

His lips were chapped by the sun. Everywhere he looked, the sky and the sea were connected to each other, there was not even a shadow of land.

But he did see a tiny shadow of a sail, and the sail was moving in his direction.

He almost could not stop himself from making eighty-seven somersaults on the little skiff to express his delight. Even a beggar who just saw a big piece of yuanbao[2] falling down from the sky would not be as happy as he was right now.

The ship was coming fast. Suddenly he had a feeling of déjà vu, since he knew the ship. The one standing on the bow looked even more familiar, because it was none other than the Old Fox.

The Old Fox also had a pair of sharp eyes, he had already waved his arms and shouted from a distant. When the ship was getting closer to the small skiff, Lu Xiaofeng was even able to see all the wrinkles on his face.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that the Old Fox’s weather-beaten face was actually more adorable than a young girl.

He almost could not help but jumping up and down and yelling at the top of his lungs, but he steeled himself to stay calm and deliberately lay down on the small skiff, putting up a very relaxed manner.

The Old Fox shouted, “We looked for you everywhere, what are you doing in here all alone?”

Lu Xiaofeng unhurriedly said, “I can’t stand those dishes that the Beef Soup made, so I wanted to catch some fish to accompany my wine.”

The Old Fox was stumped. “Did you catch any?” he asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Fish, I did not catch any, but I managed to catch an old fox.”

He could not bear not to ask, “You have obviously been far away at sea, why did you go back?”

The Old Fox laughed, and then putting up an official face of an old fox he said, “I am coming back to catch some fish.”

“So there’s no fish over there?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

The Old Fox laughed and said, “There are some over there, it’s just that none is willing to pay me five hundred taels for the ship fare.”

Lu Xiaofeng immediately said, “The fish in here is not willing to pay either, last time I have already paid.”

“Last time was last time, this time is this time,” the Old Fox said, “Last time you wanted to board the ship on your own, I did not force you to get out either; therefore, if you want to board the ship this time, you must pay me another five hundred taels!”

Lu Xiaofeng could not bear not to cry out, “Exactly how black is your heart?”

The Old Fox laughed again and unhurriedly said, “Just a little bit darker than the old fox you caught from the sea.”

Naturally he did not come back to catch some fish.

The cargo loaded onto the ship was too much that they forgot to load fresh water. On the ocean, even an old fox was helpless to find a drop of drinkable fresh water.

They only came back to fetch water.

Perhaps this is fate, Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be decreed by fate to ride on this ship. Is this good luck? Or bad luck?

Who knows?

The ship reached the shore. Lu Xiaofeng and the Old Fox stood on the bow. No matter what, to be able to see land again was always a good feeling.

Next to a rock in the distance, a man was looking this direction. His long and narrow horse-face showed a kind of surprised expression.

Lu Xiaofeng pretended not to see him, he quietly went to other side and got off the ship. The man by the rock was watching the ship’s activity with rapt attention, but he did not notice Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng went around in circle and quietly crept toward him. Suddenly he appeared in front of the man and loudly said, “How are you?”

He thought this man must be greatly surprised; who would have thought that the man simply blinked, his gaze still carried the same cool and callous look as he looked back at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “How are you?”

This man, every single nerve on his body seemed to be made of iron wire.

Lu Xiaofeng felt a bit uncomfortable instead; with a forced laugh he said, “Aren’t you surprised that we came back?”

Hu Sheng did not deny at all.

“We came back for you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why for me?” Hu Sheng asked.

“Because the cargo you sent is too heavy,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “We are afraid the ship might capsize, so we came back to return it to you!”

He was putting up a proverbial spear to elicit the man’s reaction to find out his actual intention.

Who would have thought that this time Hu Sheng did not even blink? He coldly said, “The goods is not mine, the ship is not yours. This matter has nothing to do with either me or you. Why are you looking for me?”

Apparently Lu Xiaofeng’s proverbial spear had bumped against a stone wall, but he was unwilling to give up. “If it is not yours,” he asked again, “What are you doing standing in here? Is it to use the ‘Soul Fragrance Rooster Cry of the Fifth Watch [see Chapter 2]’ to deal with your brother?”

Hu Sheng’s cold and as sharp-as-blade gaze was fixed on Lu Xiaofeng’s face, but his body suddenly leaped up like a scallion being pulled up from dry ground, like a sparrow hawk flipping in the air, like an osprey diving into the water. In a blink of an eye he displayed three different qinggong [lightness skill] techniques, ‘splash!’ and disappeared into the water. Unexpectedly his qinggong was not inferior to the Lone Thief Sikong Zhaixing.

No matter who, anybody who possessed this kind of qinggong must be a person of great background.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at the waves, rolling up and crashing down on the beach, there were hundreds of questions in his heart. When he turned around, he saw Yue Yang’s cold and as sharp-as-blade gaze was fixed on him.

He simply walked over and said with a smile, “Surprised? Unexpectedly we meet again.”

Yue Yang coldly said, “I am surprised that you can’t even finish ten hard-boiled eggs.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “So, next time you are thinking of striking me into the water, it would be best if you remember one thing.”

“What thing?” Yue Yang asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I don’t like plain hard-boiled eggs, I like yellow wine and beef.”

Yue Yang said, “Next time you fall into the water, I am afraid you’ll have only one thing to eat.”

“What thing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Your own flesh,” Yue Yang replied.

Lu Xiaofeng roared in laugher. But people on the beach were crying out in alarm, a body was washed away to the beach by the waves; to their shock, it was a dead body.

They rushed over, and immediately discovered that this dead body belonged to the friend who had just jumped into the water. His qinggong was so high, yet his water skill was this bad? How could he drown as soon as he jumped into the water?

“This man is not drowned,” the fisherman who found his body said with confidence, “Because there is no water in his stomach.”

Yet not even a scratch of blood was found on his body.

“How did he die?”

Lu Xiaofeng turned his head toward Yue Yang, “He seemed to die just like that one-eyed old man.”

But Yue Yang simply turned around and walked away, while hanging his head down; he seemed to be unspeakably tired and sad.

To kill Hu Sheng was not easy at all.

Naturally the murderer was not Yue Yang.

There must be some terrifying killer in the area, using the same terrifying technique to kill Hu Sheng and the old fisherman.

There was only one similarity between these two men: both of them at one time tried to kill Yue Yang.

Could it be that this was the reason of their death?

In that case, what relationship did the killer have with Yue Yang?

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He refused to give this matter another thought. Right now he just want to take a bath immediately.

Anybody who has been soaked in salt water for a while will definitely want to take a bath.

It does not matter whether he had just killed somebody or not.

The bath area was very simple and crude, it was nothing more than a few broken down boards put together to form a row of three stalls. If one had the thought of peeping someone taking a bath, one would easily find quite a few good holes on any board.

Other than these big holes and small holes, there was nothing inside. Those who wanted to take a bath must carry their own water in.

Lu Xiaofeng carried a bucket of water into one of the stall, to his surprise, someone was taking a bath in the next stall, while humming a tune in low voice. Unexpectedly it was a woman’s voice.

Usually not many people came here to bathe, the number of women who had the courage to take a bath was even smaller, knowing that when they were bathing, there was a good chance someone would peep at any time. Obviously this kind of feeling would not be pleasant.

Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng did not have such habit, so that he also did not expect that from a small hole on the board a pair of eyes was peeping at him.

Immediately he turned his back. The person that was peeping at him squealed in laughter. Unexpectedly her laughter was very sweet.

“Beef soup!” Lu Xiaofeng called out. Naturally he was familiar with Beef Soup’s voice.

Still giggling, Beef Soup said, “I did not expect you like cleanliness, surprisingly you even came alone to bathe.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I don’t come alone to bathe, could it be that I must look for someone else to bathe me?”

Beef Soup said, “Isn’t it because you wanted to peep on me bathing that you came here to bathe?”

Lu Xiaofeng replied, “The one who loves to peep on someone else bathing, I don’t think that’s me.”

Beef Soup said, “I can peep on you, but you must not peep on me …”

She has not even finished her sentence when the boards suddenly collapsed. Beef Soup was originally leaning on the board, this time the person and the board fell down together on Lu Xiaofeng. The amount of material covering those two bodies right now, added together still not even enough to make a baby’s diaper.

So now they did not need to argue who was peeping on whom.

A long time passed before Beef Soup finally sighed gently and said, “You really are not a good thing.”

“How about you?”

“I think neither am I!”

Two people who were not good thing, crowded together in a small room that could collapse at any time, the situation was indeed not good.

Worse yet, right this moment they heard someone shouting in the distance, “Set sail, set sail!”

The ship has been sailing for three days. These three days were, surprisingly, very calm. There was moderate wind, beautiful sun on the sea. Other than those boring dinner time with the ‘distinguished guests’, Lu Xiaofeng almost have nothing else to worry about.

All his troubles seemed to be blown away by the sea breeze, the reeking of blood was also blown dry by the wind.

Even Yue Yang did not seem to have any intention to knock him down into the sea anymore; but he would not give Yue Yang another chance either.

The cargo on board was just some wooden image of Buddha, plus some wooden fish to be used while chanting Buddhist scripture. He had asked the Old Fox, and had personally seen the cargo.

“Fusang Island people have recently put their faith in Buddha, therefore, Buddha statues and wooden fish are best-seller,” the Old Fox explained, “Although they have people who can carve images of Buddha over there, but the craftsmanship is not as good.”

The carving of these Buddha statues was indeed very fine. Carving was actually a kind of ancient art. Naturally it was not something that those prejudiced, narrow-minded dwarves[3] were able to comprehend.

They loved these fine arts, perhaps it was only because of deep-rooted ethnic inferiority complex, they would feel it was an honor and glory, as well as a delight, if they could obtain a bit of thing from the hands of the descendants of the Fiery Emperor and Yellow Emperor (i.e. Han Chinese people), be it by buying, stealing, or robbing.

This kind of matter, Lu Xiaofeng did not quite understand, but he did not really want to know either, because at that time there was no one consider those ‘shrinking shoulder, short legged, pretentious’ nouveau riche as important.

The owners of this cargo of Buddha statues and wooden fish were exactly those ‘vulgar, unbearable’ distinguished guests, who wished to come into contact with the newly rich people, who were obviously not very likeable themselves.

Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng could simply ignore them; if he wanted to chat, he would rather go to the Old Fox and the Beef Soup. When he did not want to chat, he would lie down in his cabin alone, enjoying the tranquility that he rarely had the pleasure to enjoy.

It was when he was enjoying the most tranquil time like this when the ship suddenly became very un-tranquil.

He was originally lying down peacefully in his bed, but all of a sudden he was thrown up and almost crash against the board wall.

The ship suddenly became like a sieve, the people on board became like the rice in the sieve.

With a lot of difficulty Lu Xiaofeng finally was able to stand, but soon he was thrown against the other wall. He had to grab the handle first, and then slowly opened the door. Immediately he heard the noise of people running around and crying out in alarm.

The calm glassy sea suddenly became a stormy sea. It would be very difficult for people who have never personally experienced it to imagine such a dreadful storm.

The water rolled up like mountain peaks and came crashing down, with mournful shriek it struck the hull of the ship like a giant iron hammer beating the drum. As soon as the water found a crevice, it would immediately flowed in. The people were like the soup boiling on a huge stove.

The large sturdy ship, in this kind of storm had become like a children’s toy!

No matter what kind of man, no matter how much accomplishment he achieved, in this kind of gale would become humble and fragile, a man who had completely lost his mind and his confidence in himself.

Lu Xiaofeng tried to grab on anything he could grab. Finally he reached the Old Fox.

“Will this ship survive?”

The Old Fox did not answer. It was definitely the first time that he did not have any answer to someone else’s question.

But Lu Xiaofeng already knew the answer. The despair in the Old Fox’s eyes already said it all.

“You’d better try to hold on a piece of board,” that was the last thing he heard the Old Fox said.

Another burst of waves billowed in, the Old Fox was unexpectedly thrown out the ship like a bullet, in a blink of an eye even his shadow could not be seen anymore.

Too bad Lu Xiaofeng did not remember what he said either.

Right now Lu Xiaofeng was not grabbing a plank of wood. Rather, he grabbed someone’s hand, because he suddenly saw Yue Yang.

Yue Yang also looked at him coldly, with a hard-to-understand feeling on his eyes. Suddenly he said something very strange, “You should know by now, why I insisted on not letting you ride on this ship?”

“Are you saying that you already knew this ship is going to sink?”

Yue Yang did not answer, because right this moment the ship’s main mast was coming down, a layer of gigantic mountain peak like of waves came crashing down, the ship was smashed just like a toy.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly could not see anything, and then he discovered that he was sinking into the sea.

A pitch-black sea.

[1] Orig. 3 or 4 sichen; a sichen is one of the twelve 2-hour periods of the day.

[2] Yuanbao – silver or gold ingot, shaped like a boat.

[3] Dwarf, dictionary says ‘old derogatory term for Japanese’.

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