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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 6

CSI

Chapter 6 – Wooden Men Formation

Those several people walked over to this side, only one person’s footsteps sounded heavier than the rest, presumably he was loaded with the gold, pearl and jewels, and banknotes.

Lu Xiaofeng was dying to see who this person was, but he could not even lift his head; he only heard Beef Soup said, “They are coming only to see Ninth Brother’s new attendant, his name is Mu Yiban, he seems to be a disciple of Hainan’s Lone Wlid Goose. Ninth brother sent him here especially to deliver quite a lot of gifts for me.”

Her voice was brimming with delight. Immediately someone asked, “Where have Ol’ Ninth been these days? When is he coming back? Has he been well recently? Did he get drunk?”

Immediately Mu Yiban answered all those questions respectfully, one by one; but as for this Ninth Master’s whereabouts, even he himself was unclear.

Hearing that the Ninth Master’s return was uncertain, everyone seemed to be very disappointed; hearing that he was well, everyone seemed to be very happy.

Toward this wanderer, who was far away at the end of the world, whose whereabouts was unclear, everyone seemed to show unspeakable concern; but toward the man who had just gambled with them, who right now was lying on the ground in front of them, nobody even cared to ask. Whether Lu Xiaofeng was alive or dead, they did not care at all.

Even Sha Man did not cast him a single glance. Beef Soup was asking her, “What did Ninth Brother get you this time?”

Sha Man replied indifferently, “He knew that I have never had any interest in these mere worldly possessions, why bother?”

“You don’t have any interest in his worldly possessions?” Beef Soup asked, “You only have interest in him, don’t you?”

Unexpectedly Sha Man did not deny.

With a cold laugh Beef Soup said, “Too bad he will never give himself to you.”

The exchange between these two women seemed to be thick with vinegar [i.e. jealousy]. The more Lu Xiaofeng listened to them, the worse he felt. All along he was always the darling of the Jianghu, those who knew him were very proud of themselves, wherever he went, he was always well-received. The Master of Crouching Cloud Building’s collection of aged famous wine, only he could get access to it. Even reclusive and haughty Kugua Dashi [Great Master (usually Buddhist) Bitter Melon], when he knew of his arrival, would personally go to the kitchen to cook some vegetarian dishes just for him. When girls saw him, they were simply unable to resist; even iceberg would melt.

But here, he seemed to suddenly turn into a worthless person, a nobody who was not even worthy to wipe that Ninth Master’s shoes.

When one lived to such an extent, he might as well die; but Honest Monk definitely was not going to make his move.

It also seemed like Beef Soup was unwilling to continue talking to Sha Man; she turned around and glowered at Honest Monk. “You haven’t made your move?” she said.

“Make what move?” Honest Monk asked.

Beef Soup said, “Make you move to kill.”

“You all really want to kill him?” Honest Monk asked.

“Of course we do,” Beef Soup replied.

“Alright,” Honest Monk said, “Just find any person to kill him. As long as Monk won by one move or half a stance, it’s enough; Monk won’t kill people.”

He clapped his hands, stood up, and left. In the blink of an eye he crossed the nine-bend winding bridge; unexpectedly, no one stopped him. It seems that although the people in this place were secretive, they were warriors who kept their words.

With a cold laugh Beef Soup said, “Finding someone who’d kill is not easy. Whoever willing to kill him, I’ll give you ten thousand taels.”

Lu Xiaofeng was lying on the ground, he did not seem to have any inclination of standing up. Killing this kind of man did not seem to be difficult at all, yet Beef Soup offered ten thousand taels, not because her money came too easily to her, but because to have someone killed in this place one must pay that price.

Someone casually offered ten thousand taels to kill him, Lu Xiaofeng originally thought that there would be a lot of people who would scramble to do it.

Who would have thought that nobody even showed any reaction?

Sha Man coldly said, “You want to kill people, why don’t you do it yourself? Could it be that you have never killed anybody?”

Beef Soup ignored her; staring at the Kunlun slaves who brought the chests over, she said, “You worked hard for several days carrying these chests around, at most you only earned about a hundred or so; killing someone you’ll earn ten thousand taels. This kind of good business, you don’t want to do it?”

Each and every one of the Kunlun slaves was just standing silently like wooden statue; turned out they did not even understand what she was speaking about.

Beef Soup said, “Mu Yiban, how about you?”

Mu Yiban sighed and said, “Actually, I wanted to earn this ten-thousand taels, it’s just a pity that Ninth Master instructed me that every day I can only kill one person at most. I do not dare to disobey Ninth Master’s order.”

Clearly Beef Soup did not dare to disobey Ninth Master’s order either. She said coldly, “I know all of you don’t like it that my offer is too little. Alright, fifty thousand taels, paid in advance.”

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sprang up. “I’ll do it,” he said.

“You’ll do what?” Beef Soup asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Anybody who’d kill me, you agree to pay him fifty thousand taels, right?”

“That’s right,” Beef Soup replied.

“I want to earn this fifty thousand taels,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You want to kill yourself?” Beef Soup asked.

“Killing oneself is not a difficult matter,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But fifty thousand taels is not a small amount.”

“After you die, what do you want the money for?” Beef Soup asked.

“To settle the debt,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

He sighed and said, “Right now I owe too much debt, if I don’t pay in full, even becoming ghost I won’t be at ease.”

Beef Soup looked at him with cold eyes; suddenly she said coldly, “Very well, I’ll let you have the fifty thousand taels.”

From her bosom she casually took out a stack of banknotes, the smallest denomination was at least five thousand taels.

Lu Xiaofeng picked several sheets, the total was exactly fifty thousand taels. He gave the little old man one and said, “Here’s fifteen thousand taels; ten thousand to pay your money back, five thousand is the interest.”

The little old man beamed from ear to ear, “The interest is indeed not small,” he said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “That’s why you ought to give me loans a bit more often. I am the kind of guy who is always generous.”

The little old man sighed and said, “You are indeed generous, extremely generous.”

Lu Xiaofeng turned to Sha Man and said, “Here is five thousand and five hundred taels; five hundred taels to redeem the knife, five thousand taels is the interest!”

“Five-hundred-tael yields five-thousand-tael interest?” Sha Man asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Five hundred taels loss is no different than ten thousand taels loss anyway, it’s only natural that the interest is the same!”

Sha Man stared at him. There was a hint of smile in her cold and detached eyes. “Now I know why you are this poor,” she said, “If that’s the way you spend money, how could you not being poor?”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “The money came easy anyway. Now I know that to make money, perhaps nothing in the world is easier than killing people.”

Sha Man’s face became cold again, cold and completely emotionless. Taking out his chamber pot knife, she said, “Are you going to kill yourself with this?”

Lu Xiaofeng immediately shook his head, “It won’t do,” he said, “This knife has a bit of smelly aura around it.”

Looking at the banknotes in his hand, he muttered to himself, “After paying back twenty thousand five hundred taels, I still have twenty-nine thousand five hundred taels. Money has not been spent, won’t I die in vain?”

“Then quickly spend it all,” Beef Soup said.

Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, and then he went to the little old man and said, “Didn’t you say that there’s the best wine in the world in this place, but the price is very high?”

“I did,” the little old man replied, “But I also said that today you are my guest; all drinks are free.”

With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Your daughter paid people to kill me, you expect me to drink your wine? Come, take these nine thousand five hundred taels, I want the best wine. I want all the wine this money can buy.”

The moustache suddenly laughed and said, “You just spent another nine thousand five hundred taels; seems like you still have twenty thousand taels left?”

“How much did you lose just now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

The moustache said, “I am the big winner.”

“How about we have another round?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “You might as well eat ‘em all and be delighted.”

The moustache laughed aloud and said, “Alright, I like a delightful man like you.”

Beef Soup coldly said, “Not only he is delightful, very soon he will be painful[1]. Whether he swipe his neck or cut his head, it will be very painful.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I know a kind of death that is not painful at all.”

“What kind of death?” Beef Soup asked.

“Death by losing [in gambling],” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

The dice were back in the bowl, the wine has also been delivered. Ten full jars of wine, there was Nu’erhong [blushing young maiden], there was also Zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaf].

Nine thousand five hundred taels for ten jars of wine, the price was rather too expensive, but Lu Xiaofeng did not care. He opened a jar of Green Bamboo Leaf and poured almost half a jar into his mouth. “Good wine,’ he loudly exclaimed.

The moustache laughed and said, “You drink like cattle, but still able to tell whether the wine is good or bad; that is indeed not easy.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, I can’t necessarily tell, it’s just that expensive wine is always good. And good wine, no matter how much you drink, the next day your head won’t be aching.”

Beef Soup coldly said, “If the head is already fallen, you won’t care whether it is aching or not.”

Lu Xiaofeng ignored her. Picking up the dice, he tapped the edge of the bowl and said, “How much do you want to bet?”

“How about ten thousand taels?” the moustache said.

“Ten thousand is too little,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “It would be best if we bet twenty thousand. With one throw we decide the winner and loser.”

“Alright, that will be delightful,” the moustache said.

He had not even taken the banknote out, Lu Xiaofeng had already tossed the dice into the bowl. They rolled only twice and stopped immediately. All three dice showed six dots, the banker eat ‘em all, there was not even a chance to catch up.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud and said, “When someone is going to die soon, a change of fortune always comes.”

The moustache still had the banknote in his hand, “But I haven’t put down my bet,” he cried out.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “That’s alright, I trust you. Besides, I am going to die soon, I am sure you won’t renege a debt to a dead person.”

Although the moustache did not agree ten thousand times, his mouth did not utter a single word.

Lu Xiaofeng took his banknote and asked, “You still want to bet?”

The moustache replied, “Naturally I still want to bet, but this time let me be the banker.”

“Alright,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “We can always take turn in being the banker. As long as you can throw three sixes, you can eat ‘em all, no need to be polite.”

He even put down the twenty thousand taels he had just won and said with a laugh, “You won’t be able to throw three sixes anyway.”

The moustache’s eyes brightened. He grabbed the dice, but turned his head around to the white-haired old pedant, who had been standing by his side all along, “Do you think I can throw three sixes this time?”

The white-haired old man smiled and said, “I think you ought to be able to. If you could not, now that would be strange.”

The moustache’s spirit was trembling with excitement; with a loud shout the dice were thrown into the bowl. Very soon you can tell that there were six dots showing at the top. Who would have thought that one die suddenly jumped, flipped in the air, bounced several chi more, and then when it fell, it turned into a pile of dust.

The other two dice in the bowl had stopped; it was two sixes.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly asked Sha Man, “Two sixes, plus one dot, how many dots are there?”

Sha Man said, “Still one dot, because whatever the last die produces, that is the one that counts.”

“The last die, what if it does not have any dots?” Lu Xiaofeng asked again.

“No dots means no dots,” Sha Man answered.

“Which one is bigger, no dots or one dot?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Naturally one dot is bigger,” Sha Man replied.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Since one dot is even bigger than no dot at all, and the banker does not have any dots, what’s to be done?”

Sha Man said, “The banker pay ‘em all.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud and said, “Thirty years reversal of wheel of fortune; I couldn’t believe this time you threw a no-dot.”

The moustache did not utter a single word, immediately he paid Lu Xiaofeng’s forty thousand taels. He pushed the bowl to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “This time it’s your turn to be the banker. I just hope you won’t throw a no-dot.”

Although his mouth was saying that, in his heart he said, “It would be strange if this time you did not throw a no-dot.”

Naturally other people’s thoughts were the same as his. Even if Lu Xiaofeng was using three metal dice, if they wanted to pinch one, it would be as easy as pinching an ant.

Trickery and fraud in gambling was originally a sneaky thing, a shameful matter; however, now it seemed to be a just and honorable matter.

The snow-white-haired old pedant scrambled forward to put down thirty-thousand-tael bet; he said, “Too bad the banker’s capital is only eighty thousand.”

The moustache said, “I am the loser here, he has to pay me in full first, and then you all can have your share.”

He already took out all banknotes from his pocket. One person’s bet was already more than eighty thousand taels. This time, only if he neither win nor lose other people would have any share. However, everybody seemed to believe that Lu Xiaofeng would definitely lose.

The old pedant sighed and said, “It seems that this time we can only drink the soup.”

When the banker failed to compensate for his loss, the winner was said to be ‘drinking the soup’. In the gamblers’ eyes, apparently there is nothing more terrible than ‘drinking the soup’.

He was just thinking to taking his thirty thousand taels back when suddenly someone said, “This time I’ll help the banker. Just put down whatever you want to bet. Pay ‘em all or eat ‘em all.”

Unexpectedly the speaker was the little old man. He had a stack of banknotes in his hand. ‘Slap!’ he tossed it in front of Lu Xiaofeng, saying, “Here I have one million three hundred and fifty taels. Just consider it my loan to you. If it is not enough, just ask; you’ll get whatever amount you want.”

Lu Xiaofeng was both surprised and delighted at the same time. “Since when did you become so generous?” he asked.

The little old man laughed and said, “Not only you are a trustworthy debtor, the interest you pay is also high. If I don’t lend money to you, whom should I lend it to?”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “This time, if I lose, and then I die, where are you going to collect the debt?”

The little old man said, “No matter what kind of business you are doing, you must be willing to take some risk!”

Beef Soup said, “This time the risk is a bit too much. I am afraid you would lose your life savings.”

The little old man said drily, “My money has long ago become moldy; even if I lose my life savings, it’s not a big deal.”

His gambling capital suddenly increased by one million three hundred and fifty taels, not only Lu Xiaofeng’s spirit received a big boost, other people were also beaming with joy; it was as if they already had the banknotes in their money purse. Seven, eight hands were outstretched at once, gold, jewels and banknotes immediately filled the table, the total amount was at least a million taels.

On the side stood a carton box where dozens of brand new dice were stacked neatly inside.

Lu Xiaofeng grabbed three dice. He was about to throw, suddenly he shook his head and mumbled, “The dice in this place is a bit possessed; just like fleas, for no rhyme or reason they like to jump, even bigger dots cannot stop it from jumping. I have to think of a better idea.”

Suddenly he picked up a golden cup from behind, and drank the wine inside the cup in one gulp. While his right hand threw the dice, his left hand immediately dropped the golden cup down. They heard the tinkling of the rolling dice underneath the golden cup. “I want to see if this time you can jump or not,” he said.

The old pedant and the moustache ‘you look at me, I look at you’, neither one guarded against Lu Xiaofeng’s move. When the golden cup was raised, the three dice had stopped. Sure enough, it was three sixes.

Lu Xiaofeng roared in laughter, “Three by six, eighteen dots. Eat ‘em all!”

As soon as he finished speaking those eight words, he swept the gold, jewels and banknotes from the table.

The moustache sighed. He said with a bitter laugh, “This time you really eat ‘em all, you even cleaned up all my capital and profit.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “As long as we can still gamble, you can’t be considered losing. Come again.”

The moustache sighed and said, “Today we don’t have any gambling capital anymore, how can we gamble?”

He looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of his eye, his sigh was also particularly heavy; although he did not say it, his meaning was very clear.

Such a generous person like Lu Xiaofeng, in this kind of situation, he ought to take his winning and lend everybody a little bit, so that they all could continue gambling.

Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng seemed to be completely oblivious? As soon as he finished sweeping everything from the table, he stood up and said with a laugh, “Today we can’t gamble, there’s still tomorrow. As long as I am not dead, you will always have the opportunity to recover your capital.”

The moustache said, “And if you die?”

Lu Xiaofeng also sighed and said, “If I die, I am afraid all these banknotes will follow me into the coffin.”

He took out one million four hundred taels and handed it over to the little old man. Counting the remainder, he still had more than nine hundred thousand taels.

The little old man was beaming from ear to ear. “In just a short while I made fifty thousand taels profit. We can do this kind of business again next time.”

Lu Xiaofeng counted the rest of the banknotes again. Suddenly he asked, “If you have nine hundred thirty thousand taels, would you be willing to kill people for fifty thousand taels?”

The little old man replied, “It depends on whom you are going to kill.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you have to kill yourself?”

The little old man replied, “That kind of matter, no one would be willing to do.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, I also am not willing to do!”

He had already had a piece of banknote worth fifty thousand taels in his hand, which he handed to Beef Soup and said, “You’d better find somebody better qualified than me!”

Before he even finished speaking, his body had already at the head of the bridge; laughing heartily he said, “Whether you want my money, or you want my life, you can always find me any time; I cannot escape anyway.”

By the time he finished speaking, he had already entered the cluster of flowers, and was out of sight.

Everybody watched him shaking his sleeve and leaving helplessly, surprisingly no one tried to stop him.

The setting sun filled the sky, all kinds of flowers showed their brilliance. Lu Xiaofeng was very happy. Today he finally returned from a rewarding journey after all.

Would other people still be able to find him later? Would he be able to escape? These were questions for later. Just like when eating flat bread there is a good chance of choking to death later, who would want to worry about this matter too much now?

He had observed the surrounding and made sure of the way out, but after going around the clusters of flowers seven, eight times, making about ten circles, he still could not find the path among the clusters of flowers from which he came. Looking up, he saw the twilight was turning deeper into the night, the setting sun has long ago disappeared behind the western hills, the valley turned into a piece of darkness; he could not even see the nine-bend winding bridge anymore.

He stopped, calmed his nerves, and tried to find his bearings. After walking for another hour, he was still among the clusters of flowers. Jumping on top of a cluster of flowers and looking around, he saw that outside this cluster of flowers there were still flowers. Other than flowers, he could see nothing else. Even the shadow of the flowers gradually was beginning to blur.

Surprisingly, not a single lantern light was seen in the valley, the moon and the stars did not give their light either. The flowers were fragrant, but after a while, the sweet fragrance even made his head a little dizzy. Were the people in this place never lighted any lantern at night?

If he forced his way through the clusters of flowers, wouldn’t it be like a blind man riding a blind horse, without knowing when they would suddenly fall into a trap, and then their death would be for nothing.

Anybody could see that this place was not the kind of place where people could come and go as they please. When he wanted to go, others let him go, perhaps it was simply because other people had already known that he would not be able to leave.

The people in this place, other than that little old man, each and every one of them was Wulin experts with consummate martial art skills, yet they obviously had never exposed their faces in Jianghu. Even if they walked among the people of Jianghu, no one could see their martial art clearly.

Lu Xiaofeng had always had good eyesight, but when he met Beef Soup this time, his eyes failed to see.

That one-eyed old fisherman and the horse-faced man, there was a very good chance that they died under Beef Soup’s hands!

After the horse-face died in the sea, when Lu Xiaofeng was taking a bath, didn’t Beef Soup also take a bath at the same time?

The Old Fox’s ship could set sail any minute, even if the passengers had spare time to slip out of the ship, they could not possibly spend that time to take a bath, otherwise she happened to just kill someone in the sea.

When the one-eyed old fisherman died, it was also Beef Soup who happened to have the opportunity to kill him.

Although now Lu Xiaofeng finally was able to understand a lot of things, there were still many more things that he did not understand.

Why did she kill those two men? Why did those two men plot against Yue Yang? What was the relationship between Yue Yang and her? How did they know the Old Fox’s ship was going to capsize?

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He suddenly felt that the pickled radish in the firewood storeroom at the back of Wudang Mountain smelled a bit better than the flowers in this place.

In his heart he already started to have slight regret; perhaps he really should have heeded Yue Yang’s warning not to get on board the Old Fox’s ship, then perhaps by this time he was already on the Fusang Islands, embracing the tender and obedient girls, while drinking top quality sake.

He heard that the ‘laurel crown’ and ‘great name’, these two types of wine, were really not bad, just like the girls over there, whose mouths were pleasantly sweet, yet the strength of whose backs was more than enough.

Lu Xiaofeng could not help heaving a deep sigh. He was thinking of finding a nice place to sleep among the clusters of flowers before doing anything else when suddenly he saw a bright lantern ahead.

In the endless darkness suddenly there was a bright lantern light, it was indeed a lot warmer to his heart compared to the sixes on the dice. Like a moth drawn to light Lu Xiaofeng immediately went toward the lantern light. Even if he would be burned to death by the lantern’s flame, he did not care.

At least dying in the light was a lot better than forever living in the darkness.

The lantern light came from an ornately decorated window!

If there is a window, naturally there is also a house.

It was a ‘three-brightness two-darkness’ ornamented pavilion [not sure what it is, 三明两暗], with vermillion railings and winding corridor, the construction was extremely magnificent and exquisite.

There was a window at an oblique angle from where he stood, looking from a distance, he could see that there were nine people inside; one was sitting, the other eight were standing.

The sitting man had white face and small beard, wearing brocade gown and pearl-studded hat, he was looking at a scroll under the lantern light.

The eight standing men carried respectful and solemn bearing, they were standing quietly, obviously they were the sitting man’s attendants.

These nine men were not among those in the water pavilion earlier. Looking at their attire and manner, apparently they were a lot more noble than those people. But Lu Xiaofeng was not able to figure out their background, hence it was only natural that he did not dare to rush in recklessly.

There was a pond in the courtyard, the water was so clear that he could see the bottom. The lantern light shone outside, reflected by the rippling water. There seemed to be someone lying down motionless at the bottom of the pond.

Lu Xiaofeng could not help walking over to take a closer look. There was indeed someone under water, only the white of his eyes was visible, looking straight up.

Other than dead fish, no one would look at people like that!

Lu Xiaofeng was shocked, but relieved at the same time. This man was a dead man!

“Who is he? How did he die in here?”

Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, he suddenly felt something was amiss. A dead man would definitely float up, how could he stay sunk underwater?

Apparently the number of strange things in this place was indeed not small.

“I don’t care whether he is dead or alive, he has nothing to do with me.”

Lu Xiaofeng decided not to concern himself with this matter. While he was about to leave, suddenly he heard a splash, something was flying over from a distance and fell into the pond. Unexpectedly it was a black cat.

As soon as the splash arose, the man at the bottom of the pond suddenly swam up like a fish. Unexpectedly there was a thin blade in his hand; without speaking without noise he paddled up the water. The blade flashed, it entered the black cat’s underbelly.

Before the cat could even cry out ‘Meow!’ it already lost its life. The man dived back into the bottom of the pond, lying down motionless; he appeared to be like a dead man again!

Although killing the cat could not be considered too extraordinary, but this man’s movement was indeed too fast. Not only that, the way he moved was too strange, too mysterious. Watching him, Lu Xiaofeng could not help but was shocked and shivered with cold sweats.

Once again the pair of dead-fish like eyes stared at him, as if considering him another black cat.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly turned around and charged into the room through the window.

No matter what, a man sitting under the lantern looking at a scroll must be a bit more agreeable than a man lying in wait to kill a cat at the bottom of the pond.

The lantern was not too bright, this man was still sitting on the same place with the same concentration looking at the same scroll!

Actually, Lu Xiaofeng had been wanting to see what kind of painting was on that scroll; something that could make a man focused his attention on it for so long must be worth seeing.

He had already aimed for a position; as soon as he entered through the window, he would made somersault in the air, and landed exactly in front of the table opposite to the man.

He had also prepared some pleasant words of politeness to start a conversation, hoping to make this man happy, so that not only the man would not drive him away, he might also take out some good wine to entertain him.

Who would have known that he did not have any chance to speak even one word? He did not even have a chance to open his mouth, because in the split second when his body landed, the eight standing man immediately pounced on him together.

Eight men. Although their movement was not particularly swift, but the coordination among them was like seamless net of heavens, not one drop of water can leak out.

These eight men used their fists, their legs, their palms, their arms, from four sides eight directions attacked together. In the blink of an eye Lu Xiaofeng was surrounded in the middle. Eight attacks with eight different moves, each move was a killer strike.

Lu Xiaofeng dodged six strikes, then a fist and a palm; he was thinking to explain, to ask them to stop, but as he was parrying someone’s palm strike, he discovered that any explanation would be completely useless, because these eight men would definitely not hear anything he said!

To his astonishment, these eight men were wooden men.

There were many kinds of wooden men, some wooden men were even more frightening than real men. Although Lu Xiaofeng had never fought at the Shaolin Temple’s Wooden Men Alley, he had seen the wounded and crippled Shaolin disciples that have been through the Wooden Men Alley; many of those disciples’ martial art skill were not bad at all.

He had been wondering all along, how could real people be injured under the wooden men’s hands? If not for Reverend Iron Shoulder [see Chapter 1] urged him over and over not to do it, he would have gone to Shaolin Temple to have firsthand experience of how formidable those wooden men were.

Now he finally experienced it.

These eight men, no doubt they were designed based on the Wooden Men Alley principle, which was more complicated, as well as more powerful, than the wooden ox and wooden horse used by Zhuge (Liang) during the military expedition against the barbarians. Not only these wooden men had copper arms and iron bones, their moves and strength were profound. Furthermore, once the mechanism was activated, unexpectedly they unleashed Shaolin’s divine fist according to the Luohan Formation principle.

The Luohan Formation was actually Shaolin’s consummate skill. In the past Devil Cult’s Xueshen Zi went up Mount Song alone, consecutively defeated seven Shaolin’s senior monks, but he was trapped in the middle of the Luohan Formation. He fought fiercely for three days and nights but failed to make any breakthrough, in the end his body was weary, his strength gone, and so he died of exhaustion.

Since then, Luohan Formation’s fighting prowess was well-known throughout the world, and no Jianghu people dared to carelessly oppose Shaolin.

When the same formation principle was applied to the wooden men, its power was even greater, because wooden men cannot be struck dead; even if you break one of its arms, or twist one of its legs, it won’t fall down, and the formation won’t be adversely affected either.

But if its punch landed on you, you would definitely be unable to bear it; therefore, it was able to launch attack completely without any apprehension. You will find it difficult to dodge, and you can’t fight brute force against brute force either. If you want to break out of their encirclement, it would be as difficult as ascending the heavens.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly realized that he could only take a beating until he was dead.

You hit it, it won’t feel any pain, but if it hits you, you will feel unbearable pain. You cannot strike it dead, but it can strike you dead.

This kind of fighting was indeed not a good business deal, just like a bandit filing a lawsuit against the victim; you can only lose and cannot win at all.

Besides, even if he won, it could not be considered a spectacular victory. Even if he managed to break the eight wooden men to pieces, chop and turn them into firewood, it did not mean anything. This kind of stupid business, Lu Xiaofeng had never wanted to do; too bad that right now, even if he did not want to fight, he still had to fight.

The wooden men’s punches created whooshing gust of wind, the flame of the lantern on the table was flickering erratically, it could go out at any time. Fighting desperately with the wooden men in the dark was an even more stupid thing.

The brocade-gowned, white-faced scholar with pearl-inlaid hat did not stop rolling his eyes, as if he could not help laughing at this situation.

This man was also a wooden man. But how could a wooden man’s eyes rolled around? Moreover, it seemed to follow its eight attendants’ punches and kicks. Could it be that it also understood Shaolin’s fighting technique?

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned; he was lost in thought, without realizing it, his eyes were also rolling around, following the wooden man’s eyes. Suddenly, ‘bang!’ his head received a punch; even his brains were nearly knocked out.

Although his brains were not knocked out, he suddenly had a brainwave.

When the fist landed on his head, the wooden scholar’s eyes unexpectedly stopped; when the fist started to move again, its eyes also followed.

Between the eight wooden men’s fists and eyes there seemed to be an invisible string.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly made his move, using his two fingers he pinched and broke two sections of wooden fingers. ‘Zip!’ the two sections of wooden fingers shot out from his fingers, ‘pop, pop!’ they hit the wooden scholar’s pair of eyes.

Naturally wooden men cannot cry out in pain, it was still sitting there nicely, it did not even make the slightest move, but all eight wooden men suddenly fell down.

Lu Xiaofeng flew out the window. Eight wooden men came crashing down, but he did not even turn his head to look back.

He did not have any wish to see his own glorious victory. Even if he knocked down eight thousand or eighty thousand wooden men, there was not the least bit of glory in it. As long as he was able to escape unscathed from this room, he felt he was extremely lucky already.

In the battle this time, he was lucky not to lose anything, although he ended up with several other things:

Several bruises on his shoulders and back, and several bumps on his head.

Other than that, this matter had given him a very good lesson:

In the split second when he was flying out of the window, he swore to himself several hundred times: when he had no choice but to fight in the future, he would at least see first what kind of person he was dealing with. If it was a living person, he would at least shout his greeting; but if it was a wooden man, he would immediately run far away into a desolate place.

While he was still thinking about this first lesson, the second lesson has arrived.

He suddenly discovered that his feet were at the lotus pond.

While it’s true that being beaten by wooden men till he got bloody nose and swollen face was unpleasant, but being stabbed in the chest by a man like he was stabbing a cat, wouldn’t it mean that he died in vain?

He had not looked down yet, but he sense that those dead fish-like eyes were staring at him.

And then there was that thinner-than-paper fast blade.

When one was already falling down, it did not matter whether it was his body that was falling down, or it was his spirit that was falling down, it would be very difficult to pull himself up.

Right now he was already out of breath, by the time he took a breath, he would have been fallen into the pond.

In the split second when he was taking a breath, the blade would have pierced his lung.

By the time the blade was pulled out, he would have been floating up like the dead cat, or like the one-eyed old fisherman or the horse-faced man. There would have not been any bloodstain on his entire body, other people would have thought that he was drunk and fell into the pond and drowned to his death.

Although this kind of death was quick, as well as painless, his death would still be very much in vain.

Who would have thought that before he fell into the water, someone had already come out of the water? Cold light flashed in his hand, it was a short blade; a short blade that was as thin as paper.

Not only was this person able to move fast and vicious, he was able to lay down motionless under water with eyes open as he stared at people. His water skill was, no doubt, very good.

If it were on dry ground, Lu Xiaofeng might still be able to deal with his blade; but under water, Lu Xiaofeng was completely helpless.

Unfortunately, he moved a bit too fast this time.

Although Lu Xiaofeng had no way of leaping up, but if he wanted to sink a bit quicker, to sink a bit deeper, it was not too hard to do. With a loud ‘splash!’ he fell into the pond, and sank straight to the bottom. With the ‘flipping carp’ move, he wrapped his arms around the man’s legs as hard as he could.

To his surprise, the man did not struggle at all, the blade did not turn around and stab down.

Although under water Lu Xiaofeng’s movement slowed down a bit, but it could not be considered too slow. In this split second, he had already pinched the vital acupoints on this man’s legs, and dragged him back into the water.

Light from above faintly penetrated the surface of the water, this man’s distorted face twitched, his eyes bulged out, unexpectedly he had been strangled to death by someone else.

A moment ago Lu Xiaofeng thought that he was dead, but he was actually alive. Now Lu Xiaofeng thought that he was alive, but he was actually dead.

He spent this much effort, unexpectedly the one he was dealing with was a dead man. This really made him not know whether he should laugh or cry.

Luckily there was no other people in the pond to witness this. He quickly released the man’s legs and splashed his head out of the water. Immediately he heard someone clapping and laughing heartily. “Good skill; even a dead man is drowned by you. My utmost admiration.”

Someone was sitting by the pond, his head shiny, his feet bare; unexpectedly he was the Honest Monk.

There were still drops of water on his bald head, his tattered monk’s clothes were still dripping wet; obviously he was just out of the water as well.

Lu Xiaofeng glowered at him. “Turns out Monk can also kill,” he said.

Honest Monk laughed and said, “Monk does not kill, it’s just that he mistook him for a fish, therefore, he killed him by mistake.”

“And it was also an honest statement?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk sighed and said, “Looks like it was not.”

Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. He jumped out of the pond and sat down next to him. “Why hasn’t Monk left yet?” he asked.

“Why haven’t you left?” Honest Monk asked.

“I cannot find my way out,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

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

“Why did Monk come here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

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

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

Honest Monk did not say anything.

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

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

Lu Xiaofeng was anxious. He suddenly sprang up, reached out, and pinched Honest Monk’s nose. “You really won’t speak?” he asked.

Because his nose was pinched, Honest Monk was unable to shake his head, he was unable to speak either; he could only pointing toward his own nose and breathed deeply.

With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “You are greedy for life, afraid of death; you sell you your friend; you have done things that indicated that you don’t need your nose. I might as well pinch your nose off and be done with it.”

Although his mouth was speaking harshly, his hand was getting a bit lighter. Finally Honest Monk was able to gasp; with a bitter laugh he said, “Although Monk is afraid of death, selling out friends is something that I do not dare to do.”

“Why did you want me to die in your place?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because I knew you will definitely not die,” Honest Monk replied.

“Why is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk answered, “I could clearly see that the Big Boss has a mind to take you as his son-in-law.”

“Who’s the Big Boss?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk said, “Look over there; if that is not the Big Boss, then who is he?”

He casually pointed forward. Lu Xiaofeng could not help following his finger; but like an arrow his body suddenly shot backward. He made a somersault in the air and ran into the darkness.

Honest Monk’s qinggong could be reckoned to be the first or second best in Jianghu. But Lu Xiaofeng was not someone who was easy to deal with. With a twist of his waist he flew to give a chase.

Although the night was very dark, and although he was one step late, he was still able to vaguely see Honest Monk’s shadow flying ahead of him.

Actually, he did not really want to pinch Honest Monk’s nose off, it’s just that in a strange place like this, he would feel a bit more comfortable if he could grab an acquaintance and keep him by his side; just like a man falling into the water, if he saw a piece of wooden board, he would definitely hold on to it tightly.

Although Honest Monk was flying very fast, Lu Xiaofeng speed in chasing him was not slow either. Very soon the distance between the two people was getting closer and closer.

Unexpectedly there was another lantern light ahead.

The light was coming from a big and tall building, with high ridge and flying eaves; it looked like a temple or Daoist monastery, but it also looked like a very big yamen [feudal government office] building.

Naturally there was no yamen in this place. Like a flying swallow seeking refuge in the woods Honest Monk suddenly dived into the temple.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed in his heart, “This time it’s really ‘the monk can run away, but the temple won’t run with him [i.e. I’ll get you sooner or later].”

He threw all cautions to the wind [orig. ‘did not care if three by seven is twenty-one’] and pursued in. The courtyard was cold and deserted, but the main hall was bright with lantern light. A big, imposing high-ranking official in all his regalia was sitting behind a big, imposing official table. On either side of him several banner guardians solemnly stood in a row, tall and majestic, with hands hanging down on their sides. And then there were also several feudal yamen bailiffs, wearing red tassell in their hats, carrying demon-head saber on their waists.

Surprisingly, this place was not a temple; it was a yamen. But how could there be a high-ranking government official stationed in this kind of place? This yamen must be fake; these people were, of course, wooden men.

At the sight of wooden men, Lu Xiaofeng already had big headache; it didn’t matter whether Honest Monk was really hiding inside or not, he simply wanted to sneak out.

Who would have thought that the high-ranking official behind the magistrate table suddenly slammed down his gavel[2] and said in a loud voice, “Lu Xiaofeng, since you are already here, where do you think you are going?”

Immediately the guards and bailiffs on his either side also shouted together, “Where do you think you are going?”

Turned out not a single one of these men was a wooden man. Lu Xiaofeng felt relieved instead. In his view, living men were not as scary as wooden men. Unexpectedly he really decided to stay; he strode in while looking around carefully. The high-ranking official behind the table’s attire was Tang era’s one-pin rank imperial court dress, his head wore purple and golden hat; unexpectedly he was Minister He who was very fond of the wine cups. It’s just that at this moment there was no wine cup in his hand, but a block of gavel.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Turns out it is Four Brightness Mad Guest Mr. He [see chapter 4]; are you thinking of inviting me for a drink?”

Although Minister He’s eyes were still glazing with drunkenness, his expression was very serious. With a wooden face he said, “You have arrived at the Hall of the Ministry of Justice; yet you still dare to be this brazen?”

“This the Hall of the Ministry of Justice?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Correct,” Minister He replied.

Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “Not only you are wrong, you are gravely mistaken.”

“What’s wrong?” Minister He asked.

“He Zhizang was the Director of Board of Rites, how could he sit in the Hall of the Ministry of Justice?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Actually, about He Zhizang’s past achievement, he was not too clear either; he was just bluffing. Who would have thought that he had actually succeeded by a lucky stroke?

The fact was: during He Zhizang’s lifetime, the highest official position he ever achieved was the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Rites, while simultaneously held the title of Jixian Institution Scholar. Afterwards, from his office in the Ministry of Transport & Irrigation, when Su Zong was still the Crown Prince, he was transferred to be a guest instructor to the secretarial supervisors. When he was old, he became a Daoist priest at the Thousand-Autumn Monastery. Even the title of Director of the Board of Rites was bestowed to him posthumously.

However, the fact that he had never been in the Ministry of Justice was actually a hundred percent true.

Sure enough, the fake Minister He’s countenance turned awkward. Unexpectedly, from shame he became angry. Slamming the gavel forcefully on the table, he shouted, “I, Minister He, insist on sitting in the Hall of the Ministry of Justice; so what?”

“Nothing,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a wry smile, “You are free to sit wherever you want to sit; it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

“Of course it does!” Minister He said.

“So? What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Minister He said, “I came here precisely to interrogate you!”

Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “I did not commit any crime, what are you going to interrogate? What do you want to ask?” he said.

Minister He slammed the gavel again. “Now that you are here, you still don’t admit your guilt?” he said sternly.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “The only mistake that I know of is that I came to the wrong place, and that I made a wrong friend.”

Minister He angrily said, “You obtained someone’s money, yet went back on your words, you cheated in gambling, swindled the money and ran away. Are you telling me you don’t know your own crimes?”

Lu Xiaofeng thought for a moment, and then said, “Obtaining someone’s money, yet went back on my words. That sounds familiar.”

“Of course,” Minister He said, “You received other people’s fifty thousand taels, you ought to honor your promise. This is irrefutable evidence; you can’t deny it even if you want to.”

“I don’t want to deny it,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “But isn’t the crime of inciting people to commit murder is greater than mine? Why didn’t you arrest her first and have her interrogated in here?”

Minister He said, “I want to interrogate you first, what can you do about it?”

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “When a drunkard sits in the criminal court, naturally I am being robbed of my case; I can only lose with no chance of winning.”

Minister He said, “You went back on your words, that was your fist crime. You cheated in public gambling, that was your second crime. You held contempt toward the court of law, that is your third crime. Now that the three crimes have been stated, do you want to take the flogging, or do you want to accept punishment?”

“What if I take the flogging?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“If you take the flogging,” Minister He replied, “Then I’ll have people flog you to your death.”

“And what if I accept punishment?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Minister He said, “Then I’ll sentence you to 30 years of hard labor. Whatever I tell you to do, you have to do it!”

“What if I neither want to take the flogging nor accept punishment?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Minister He was taken aback; apparently he did not expect Lu Xiaofeng would ask such question.

Lu Xiaofeng helped him making the decision, “In that case, I’d better anoint oil to my feet and slip out of here at once.”

Self-established court of law, self-appointed minister; it was actually a ridiculous thing. But Lu Xiaofeng knew that no matter how ridiculous things in this place may appear to be, they could turn into very serious matters. If you think that they were joking when they told you that they were going to sentence you to 30 years of hard labor, then you are wrong.

But he could also see that dealing with living people was not necessarily easier than dealing with wooden men. Although this Four Brightness Mad Guest was acting like a fool, no doubt he was also a martial art expert with some hidden consummate skill.

The only way to deal with him was to get away as fast as possible, as far as possible.

Lu Xiaofeng’s qinggong, even Sikong Zhaixing may not necessarily beat him. In this regard, he always had a very high confidence in himself.

In just a few backward leaps, he was already out of the Court Hall. Twenty or thirty zhang [1 zhang is approx. 10 ft/3 m] later, just as he was thinking of taking a breather, he heard someone behind him talking coldly, “Your qinggong is really not bad, it’s a pity that even if you really can sprout wings, you won’t be able to escape.” He could hear clearly, it was indeed Minister He’s voice.

Unexpectedly Minister He was able to follow him just like his shadow; the distance between them was less than a zhang. This deranged Four Brightness Mad Guest’s qinggong was a lot higher than he thought.

He performed every trick he knew, but no matter where he went, Minister He was still following him like a shadow.

Ahead the rippling water looked like a mirror. Suddenly he discovered that he had come back to the pond he left a while ago. The corpse in the water had disappeared; did the man really die and then came back to life? Or all along he did not die?

The people in this place, whether alive or dead, whether real or dummies, were actually not too easy to tell.

Minister He suddenly said, “Even if you jump into the pond, I will still catch up with you. Even if you enter the Palace of the Dragon King, you won’t be able to escape.”

Lu Xiaofeng originally did not have any intention of jumping into the pond; there might be another man with fish-like eyes and a thin blade in his hand, waiting for him at the bottom of the pond. But as soon as he heard Minister He said so, he jumped down instead. Like an osprey diving into the water, he dived to the bottom of the pool, and waited there for a long time. Sure enough, there was not the least bit of movement up there.

When two people are having a row, if one says, ‘If you have guts, let’s fight; do you think I am afraid of you?’ it means he is scared to death. If he is not scared, he would have already fought. It is exactly because he is afraid that he said those words.

If Minister He was not afraid Lu Xiaofeng would jump into the water, he could not possibly say those words all of a sudden. This logic, naturally Lu Xiaofeng understood very well.

It was not after waiting for a long time did he dare to stick out his head above the water to take a breath. Immediately he found Minister He was still waiting for him by the edge of the pool. He even managed to get a bottle of wine, and was drinking merrily. He even muttered, “You soak yourself in the cold water, I am sitting up here drinking wine; no matter how much time you want to spend, I will gladly accompany you here.”

By the time Lu Xiaofeng stuck out his head to take a breath for the second time, he saw that somehow Minister He had found a fishing rod. He was sitting there drinking wine and fishing; he indeed looked very elegant.

Although Lu Xiaofeng was not a very patient man, but Minister He was sitting right there drinking and fishing, even if he wanted to fish for three days and three nights, Lu Xiaofeng did not have any problem with it. It’s just too bad Minister He was not fishing for fish, sooner or later Lu Xiaofeng would be caught like a fish. To make matter worse, obviously Lu Xiaofeng could not breathe under water like a fish.

When Lu Xiaofeng took a breath for the third time, a fishing line, complete with the hook, flew toward his face. If he did not duck fast enough, granted that he might not be hooked away, but a piece of flesh from his face would definitely be hooked.

Apparently not only this Minister He had a superior qinggong, his internal strength was extremely deep as well; unexpectedly he was able to concentrate his true strength on the fishing line, hence he would be able to injure people from more than a hundred steps away.

This pond was neither too deep nor too wide, no matter where Lu Xiaofeng stuck out his head, the fishing line would be able to reach him.

The fish hook at the end of the line was glittering; it was indeed a very powerful, unorthodox weapon. Although this time he was able to hide, but next time he might not have such good luck.

If a man could only stick out his head out of the water, he would be just like a target [in archery], because the rest of his body was under water, with only his head moving, no matter what he would not be able to move fast enough.

Luckily Lu Xiaofeng had trained qigong, so that he was able to hold his breath longer than other people.

Just as he nearly could not hold much longer, he suddenly saw someone else in the pond. The water surface was not disturbed, he did not hear any splashing either; this person definitely did not jump into the water from above.

So where did he come from?

Lu Xiaofeng was hiding behind a rock inside the pond. Unexpectedly the man did not see him. It seemed that he did not even realize that there was someone else in the water. He straightened up his legs and came out of the water. His movement was nimble, his posture graceful; obviously his water skill was also very good.

But Lu Xiaofeng knew, as soon as his head is out of the water, he would suffer some pain.

The surface of the water suddenly separated, sure enough, from above the water came a scream. The legs of this full-of-life, vigorous man, who could swim like a fish, suddenly went straight. Obviously his neck was wrapped by the fishing line.

Lu Xiaofeng did not have time to sympathize with him, he immediately swam toward the direction where the man was coming from. As expected, he found a cave, which seemed big enough for a man to squeeze through. Above the cave, a large rock was moving down. As soon as the rock was down, the cave would disappear.

What exactly was inside the cave? Why was it constructed in such a secret? Were there other people inside?

Lu Xiaofeng did not have time to ponder over these things either. With everything he had, he swam forward and slipped into the cave.

‘Clack!’ suddenly he was enveloped in darkness. He could not even see his own fingers. At first Lu Xiaofeng thought that he had finally found a way out; who would have thought that although he was out of the dragon pool, he now entered the hell.

Right now he really had regret, too bad it was too late for regrets. Although this hell did not have any flame to burn people, but all around him was water. No matter where he swam, he could not even find a place where he could take a breath. Rather than suffocated to death in the water like this, burned to death in hell might be a bit more delighted.

While he was almost losing his mind from anxiety, suddenly there was another ‘Clack!’ above him, followed by a shaft of light shot down; unexpectedly it was a sliding door.

Even if this door led straight to hell, he did not care. He went up as fast as he could. Unexpectedly above was a tunnel made of stones, there was not even a single drop of water in it.

Although the tunnel also frighteningly gloomy, in his mind it was tantamount to paradise.

The things that he had seen tonight were just like a dream. He had seen dead person who was actually alive, a living person who was actually dead, real people who were actually wooden men, dummies that were actually living people. He was simply confised and disoriented, and now finally he was able to take a breath.

There were lanterns in the tunnel, but there was no one else.

He wrung his wet clothes first before starting to move forward. For each step he took, he paused to think things over. No matter where his steps would lead him, he would simply submit himself to the will of heaven.

There was an iron door at the end of the tunnel. Unexpectedly the door was not locked.

After gingerly knocked the door and there was no response, he forcefully pulled the door and walked in. Inside was a very spacious room with stone walls. To his surprise, all kinds of Buddhist statues and wooden fish, large and small, were piled up in the room.

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned. Such a secret place, surprisingly it only contained piles of wooden fish; if he told this story to other people, who would believe him?

Even more difficut to believe, these wooden fish and Buddha statues were actually the Old Fox’s cargo. He had seen all these. When the ship sank, how did these wooden fish and Buddha statues end up in this place?

Lu Xiaofeng let out a deep breath. He warned himself that he had better leave this place, he had better go as far as he could, he had better forget that he had ever been in this place, and he had better forget that he had ever seen these wooden fish.

He believed that in these wooden fish and Buddha statues, there lies a great secret.

At first he thought that he still might be able to get out of this place alive, but if other people knew that he had found this secret, perhaps they would not give him another chance to talk.

His thinking was correct, too bad right now he was basically caught in a dead end. Besides, his curiosity has been aroused, if he quit now, in all honesty he would not be able to forgive himself.

What, exactly, was the secret behind these wooden fish?

He knew that the wooden fish was empty, he had picked a few from the beach, and he had cut them open into two halves, and used them as wooden bowl and wooden scoop.

Yet anybody with brains in their heads would never painstakingly salvage these empty wooden fish from the shipwreck, and then painstakingly brought everything to this place, and hid them in such a secret place like this one, and still had people with eyes wide open hiding in the pond outside to guard, and to have whoever entered the pond, whether it was people or cats, be stabbed with a blade.

The people in this place seemed to be people with perfectly good brains; how could they do such thing?

Lu Xiaofeng could not stop himself from picking up a wooden fish, and knocking. Inside sounded empty; but when he tried to shake it, the wooden fish seemed to produce a series of very pleasant noise.

He still had the chamber-pot knife in his possession. Immediately he took it out and cut this wooden fish into halves. He heard clattering noise, a dozen or so objects fell from the wooden fish; unexpectedly the objects were brilliant, dazzling gems, emeralds and jades.

Lu Xiaofeng was stunned again.

He was always quite knowledgeable; naturally he could see that these gems, emeralds and jades were of considerable worth.

You can casually pick any of these, and casually give it to any girl, she would definitely turn into an obedient girl. After all, a girl like Beef Soup who did not like jewels like this was quite rare.

He cut another wooden fish open. Inside was full of pearls, as big as the fingernail of his little fingers.

There were at least three, four hundred wooden fish in that stone room. If all o them contained gems, pearls and jades, how much money would all of these worth?

Lu Xiaofeng simply did not even dare to calculate. He was not a greedy man, but if such wealth suddenly appear in front of him, anybody would be unavoidably a bit flustered.

If the wooden fish contained jewels, what did the Buddha statues contain?

The Buddha statues were also empty. He looked for a Buddha statue bigger than a man. With his chamber pot knife he pry open the seam between the two halves first. In his heart he really wished that inside was really empty.

If such a revered Buddha was also filled with jewels, it would be preposterous beyond the most absurd dream.

‘Crack!’ he managed to open a crack on the Buddha statue, there was no jewels leaking out from the inside.

He sighed. But it was not clear whether it was a sigh of relieve? Or disappointment?

Suddenly the Buddha statue also sounded like it was sighing.

This Buddha statue was made of wood, how could it heave a sigh?

Although the strange things he had seen tonight were already a lot more than someone else saw in his eighty years of lifetime, hearing the sound of the sigh, he still could not help but was startled.

Right this moment, someone from inside the Buddha statue already pounced on him, all of a sudden he clutched Lu Xiaofeng’s throat. His pair of hands was icy cold, perhaps it was a monster, or perhaps a zombie?

Although Lu Xiaofeng had a gargantuan guts, he was still so scared that he almost fainted.

But he did not faint, just because as soon as these hands grabbed his throat, they became soft and mushy, without any strength at all.

Calming his nerves, Lu Xiaofeng opened his eyes wide, and saw another pair of eyes was looking at him. It’s only natural that under the eyes there was a nose, under the nose there would be a mouth.

The man’s lips quivered, suddenly he said three words, “Lu Xiaofeng.”

Unexpectedly there was a man hidden inside the Buddha statue. It was already an inconceivably strange occurrence. These Buddha statues were part of the Old Fox’s cargo, when the ship sank, they were transported here, from beginning to end there have been at least thirty, forty days. The man that was hidden inside the Buddha statue, unexpectedly he had not died, unexpectedly he was still able to speak, unexpectedly he recognized him as Lu Xiaofeng!

All the strange things Lu Xiaofeng had seen tonight combined were not as strange as this one. Even stranger still, Lu Xiaofeng unexpectedly also know this man.

Unexpectedly, within the escort industry, compared to ‘Iron Palm Golden Saber’ Situ Gang, this man had more senior qualifications, his reputation was more resounding. He was none other than the Datong [district, Huainan, Anhui] Escort Agency’s Zongbiaotou [head escort], the ‘Titan Hawk’ Ge Tong.

The Mighty Eagle Claw Skill of Huainan’s Eagle Claw School has never been taught to anybody with different surname; Ge Tong was the only exception.

[1] It’s a play on word: the word I translated ‘delighted/delightful’ was 痛快 (tong kuai), Beef Soup was saying ‘soon’ (快), he will be ‘painful’ (痛).

[2] The ‘gavel’ here is not hammer-like gavels of modern judge, rather, it looked like a rectangular, blackboard eraser, block of wood.

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