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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 21

CSI

Chapter 21 – The Search

Just like the last time, there was the sound of melodious flute.

Just like the last time, he sat opposite of Ximen Chuixue.

Just like the last time, he sat on the same seat, with the dark green Zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaf] wine in his cup.

The difference was: this time Lu Xiaofeng was not arriving, he was leaving.

The wine was still in the cup, the heroic spirit was still there.

Lu Xiaofeng could still feel it in his heart, a heroic passion, not the sadness of separation.

But Ximen Chuixue felt the sadness of separation, “You are not waiting for Xiao Yu to get well and then leave together?”

Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, “She can recuperate here with you, this is the safest place for her.”

“Are you handing this hot sweet potato over to me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

“She is not sweet potato,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even more, she is not sweet potato that will scald your hand.”

“Then what is she?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“A beauty,” Lu Xiaofeng answered, “An injured beauty. Such an opportunity to get close to a beauty like this, if it were not for an emergency, I am not going to hand it over to you.”

Ximen Chuixue said, “I only need to holler, and then a bunch of living, hopping beauties will be by my side. Why would I want to take this opportunity?”

“Because you are Ximen Chuixue,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I don’t get it,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“Do you know what other people call you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“What do they call me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“They said,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Ximen Chuixue is not blowing snow, but blood.” [See Chapter 18 on ‘xue’ (snow) vs ‘xue’ (blood).]

“Does it have anything to do with Xiao Yu?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Of course it does,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “It is highly related!”

“Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

“The injury Xiao Yu suffers, her blood is flowing,” Lu Xiaofeng explained, “Only you, this ‘blowing blood’ Ximen ‘blowing snow’ can blow the blood of her injury away, and turn her into a living, hopping beauty.”

“You want me to take care of her until when?” Ximen Chuixue said.

“Until she can get up by herself and walk away,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Or …”

“Or what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Or until she wants to leave,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Or …”

“There’s something else?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Of course there is,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Or what else?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Or,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Until you want her to leave.”

“Do I have a reason not to want her to leave?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“It’s hard to say,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because she is a very easy-going and witty beauty.”

Ximen Chuixue said, “You want me to take care of her, I will definitely take a good care of her; but, who do you think Ximen Chuixue is?”

“A man who can take a joke,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Why do you want to joke with me?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Because you have a parting sorrow in your heart,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Oh?” Ximen Chuixue said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am joking with you, it’s nothing more than to dilute the parting sorrow in your heart.”

“What about you?” Ximen Chuixue said, “Don’t you have the least bit of parting sorrow?”

“I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You are a person without feeling,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“I have a feeling,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What kind of feeling?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Heroic feeling,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“I don’t understand you,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“You want to understand me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Yes,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

Lu Xiaofeng raised the wine cup in his hand and said, “Let’s drink it up first.”

After Ximen Chuixue downed his cup, he saw Lu Xiaofeng standing up. “You want to leave?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Then how am I going to understand you?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

Lu Xiaofeng picked up the chopsticks and bowl from the table and used the chopstick to tap the bowl, while he sang loudly,

“Vowing to go, to enter the mountain of sabers!

Strong noble spirit, going through hundreds of thousands!

Heroic feeling unbounded, haughtiness of men, coming and going alone, returning to the underworld!

Deliberately charge into tiger and leopard den; going today, wonder when one can return?

Dealing with the problem of thousand days of the delight of wine, how unbearable it is that as we sit face to face right now it is already late.

How I wish that together with you, we can finish another cup!

Meeting and separating, cherish it in the heart!

Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

The song ended, the wine cup was empty. Lu Xiaofeng put down the bowl and the chopsticks, he turned around and left.

“Hold on!” Ximen Chuixue bellowed while standing up, he strode over, and turned around to face Lu Xiaofeng.

Ximen Chuixue did not say anything, he merely extended both hands. His hands grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s wrists. Lu Xiaofeng’s hands also grabbed Ximen Chuixue’s wrists.

Moved by emotion, Ximen Chuixue softly recited, “Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

Ximen Chuixue’s eyes were moist. Lu Xiaofeng released Ximen Chuixue’s wrists and strode out.

He heard Lu Xiaofeng’s bold and unconstrained singing, as if it lingered freely in the night, “Do not forget our friendship, the eternal heroic spirit, someday we’ll meet again, it won’t be too late.”

Wind. Sea breeze.

The sea breeze caressed Lu Xiaofeng’s body. Lu Xiaofeng was standing on the overhanging cliff.

The waves lapped the shore. The sound of the waves rising and falling rhythmically entered Lu Xiaofeng’s ears. It reminded him of some kind of sound. The breathing sound.

— Sha Man’s gentle and even breathing when she was sleeping soundly.

He suddenly understood one thing.

He understood why lovers love to go to the seaside, gazing at the boundless sea, recalling the fond memories of the past; turned out the sound waves gently careesing the rocks and the sandy shore was similar to the voice of the lover whispering on the ears.

The memories conjured at the beach are oftentimes the most unforgetable memories, as well as the sweetest memories. Lu Xiaofeng made a decision.

— When he settled down, he wanted to settle down with Sha Man by the seaside.

But where was Sha Man?

— Sha Man, Sha Man, where could you be?

Lantern.

The lantern was lighted. The lantern was in Lu Xiaofeng’s hand. The lantern light was moving, because Lu Xiaofeng’s feet were moving.

Nothing, not a single thing.

Assisted by the lantern, Lu Xiaofeng has already searched every nook and corner of the house, yet he did not find the least bit of clue.

— Did Honest Monk really not leave any clue at all?

Lu Xiaofeng thought it was inconceivable.

With thousand ways, a hundred plans they were trying to force Lu Xiaofeng to give in; abducting Sha Man was undoubtedly to threaten Lu Xiaofeng.

The time has come for everybody to finally lay his cards on the table; but without being able to see your opponent, how can you lay your cards on the table?

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was convinced that Honest Monk must have left a clue somewhere for him to find, so that he could lay his cards on the table.

Yet, Lu Xiaofeng did not find anything. When he set down the lantern, he suddenly felt a chill in the air.

— Could it be that Honest Monk abducting Sha Man has nothing to do with the Little Old Man?

— Could it be that Honest Monk abducting Sha Man because he wanted to do something ‘dishonest’ to her?

Lu Xiaofeng’s fear very soon disappeared; not because he believed Honest Monk was not a lecher, but because he found one thing.

Actually, what he found was not one thing, rather, it was two characters.

— Gong Jiu.

These two characters were not written with ink, but it was carved onto the wooden table by finger strength.

Lu Xiaofeng was preoccupied with picking up the lantern and looked everywhere, but neglected to look the table underneath the lantern. Turned out these two characters were carved right there.

Although he had already guessed that this matter was related to Gong Jiu, seeing Honest Monk carved these two characters with his finger, Lu Xiaofeng felt relieved instead. Because all along there was this dark shadow in his heart, he was very afraid that Sha Man’s disappearance had nothing to do with Gong Jiu.

Now all doubts were gone. The only one he had to deal with, was Gong Jiu. If he wanted to find Gong Jiu, he must find Ying Yan Laoqi. To find Ying Yan Laoqi, he must go to Chang’an.

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng rode his mount under the moonlight on the road to Chang’an.

Wine. The wine in the bowl.

The bowl, with the wine in it, was in Ying Yan Laoqi’s hand. It was his twenty-fourth bowl of wine tonight.

Just like the first twenty three bowls of wine, in one gulp he downed the wine into his belly.

By the time he downed the twenty-sixth bowl, Ying Yan Laoqi thought that he was drunk.

Because he suddenly discovered that on the table right where the bowl was, a saber suddenly appeared. He rubbed his eyes vigorously.

“No need to rub your eyes, you are not drunk,” a voice came from behind him.

Ying Yan Laoqi looked back, but he did not see anybody.

Turning his gaze back to the saber, Ying Yan Laoqi said, “How do you know I am not drunk?”

“Because the saber you are looking at is a real, solid saber, and not a figment of your imagination.” The voice was still coming from behind him.

Before the voice finished speaking, Ying Yan Laoqi turned his head abruptly, but still he did not see anything, and the voice finished the sentence, still sounded as if it came from behind him.

Ying Yan Laoqi suddenly turned around, picked the saber from the table and asked, “Is this my own saber?”

“It was yours,” the voice replied.

“And now?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“It is still yours.”

“Why did you take it away for several days?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“Because I wanted to steal the saber to establish my prestige.”

“Why do you have to do that?”

“So that you’d go to Chang’an.”

“You understand me very well. Who are you?”

“I don’t understand you, I am Lu Xiaofeng.” By the time he finished speaking, Lu Xiaofeng has already sat in front of Ying Yan Laoqi.

“Why did you make me to go to Chang’an?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“Because I want to pass my days in comfort,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Does this matter have anything to do with how you pass your days?” Ying Yan Laoqi said.

“It does,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because when you were looking for Ximen Chuixue, the one staying at his house happens to be me. If I did not lead you away, you would come back and bother me for half a day for nothing; would I be able to pass my day in peace?”

“Why did you stay at Ximen Chuixue’s house?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“Because I was waiting for him to come back,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Where did he go?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“Pick up Sha Man,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“And where is Sha Man?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“He could not find her,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“He could not find her?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“That’s why I came to Chang’an,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Is Sha Man in Chang’an?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“I don’t know,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Why are you in Chang’an then?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

“Looking for you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Looking for me?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked, “Looking for me for what? I don’t know where Sha Man is either.”

“You do,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I do?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked, “Even I don’t know that I know, yet you know that I know?”

“I just know that you know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Ying Yan Laoqi was bewildered.

“I also know that actually you do not know where Sha Man is,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Ying Yan Laoqi was even more baffled.

“But,” Lu Xiaofeng continued, “I do know that you know where someone else is.”

Ying Yan Laoqi’s eyes lit up. “And this person knows where Sha Man is?” he asked.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed. Too bad he was two ‘eyebrows’ short. “Didn’t I tell you that you were not drunk at all?” he said.

“Who is this person?” Ying Yan Laoqi asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said word by word, “Gong Jiu.”

When Ying Yan Laoqi finished his sixteenth bowl of wine, he was the only person remaining in the main hall of the inn.

When Lu Xiaofeng saw him, he was drinking his twenty-fourth bowl. At that time, there was no one else in the hall but the two of them.

Now, there was no one else either, but suddenly there was some kind of noise.

The noise of a lot of secret projectiles splitting the air.

Although Lu Xiaofeng’s reaction was very quick, he was still a tiny bit too slow. Actually, he was not slow, Ying Yan Laoqi was.

Because although Ying Yan Laoqi was not drunk, but after drinking twenty six bowls of hot and spicy Shaodaozi wine, his reaction slowed down considerably.

Therefore, when Lu Xiaofeng pulled Ying Yan Laoqi’s hand and he tried to jump up, he was already too slow.

Naturally Lu Xiaofeng was not injured, the one injured was Ying Yan Laoqi. Because the target of the secret projectiles was not Lu Xiaofeng, but all of them were shot at Ying Yan Laoqi.

The one they wanted to kill was precisely Ying Yan Laoqi.

Lu Xiaofeng did not break through the roof or dash to the street; he was not chasing after the people who released the secret projectiles at all. He had two reasons for not doing just that.

— After those people released the secret projectiles, they would definitely flee separately; they definitely would not wait to see if the target of their secret projectiles died or not. Because they knew who they were dealing with. If they waited to see, there would be only one way they could take to escape: death.

— The one they wanted to kill was not Lu Xiaofeng, but Ying Yan Laoqi. It was clear that they had been trailing Ying Yan Laoqi all along. The reason they wanted to kill him was nothing more than to shut his mouth. Therefore, the most urgent business Lu Xiaofeng was facing currently was to have Ying Yan Laoqi spill out Gong Jiu’s secret.

But Lu Xiaofeng did not hear Ying Yan Laoqi spilling out Gong Jiu’s secret at all; rather, he was listening to Ying Yan Laoqi’s confession.

Although he knew that the secret projectile hitting Ying Yan Laoqi was highly poisonous, and that he would not live for long, he did not interrupt Ying Yan Laoqi stammering his confession.

The confession made at the death’s door was a way to obtain the last few moments of peace; how could Lu Xiaofeng interrupt him?

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng only listened calmly, attentively.

The pain on Ying Yan Laoqi’s face gradually turned into a peaceful expression. He looked at Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Will you forgive me?”

Lu Xiaofeng nodded. His eyes were brimming with tears.

The Zongpiaobazi of the Twelve-Dock Alliance, the Ying Yan Laoqi, whose fame shook the whole world, whose reputation nobody else could even dream of achieving, unexpectedly just to get some more money he ended up like this? Not only that, those additional wealth was not in the least useful to Ying Yan Laoqi anyway. Because the wealth he had already amassed, he could not even spend it all in his lifetime.

Seeing Lu Xiaofeng nodded his head, Ying Yan Laoqi knew that he was forgiven. A smile appeared on his face as he feebly said, “I … I … have a … a secret … I … want … to … tell … you.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not say anything. He immediately put his ear to Ying Yan Laoqi’s mouth.

Lu Xiaofeng heard three words. Ying Yan Laoqi’s last three words, “Gong Jiu Tai …” [Tai means ‘highest/greatest/too (much)/very/extremely.]

— Gong Jiu too …?

— Gong Jiu too what?

Lu Xiaofeng stood in front of a pile of yellow dirt [i.e. new grave], thinking hard about the unfinished secret that Ying Yan Laoqi was trying to tell him just before he died.

— Gong Jiu has gone too far?

— Gong Jiu is too aggressive?

— Gong Jiu has too much power?

— Gong Jiu is too formidable? [Translator’s note: in Chinese, all these sentences have the word ‘too’ right after the words Gong Jiu.]

— Did he say ‘too’ [太], or ‘grand’ [泰, as in ‘Mount Tai’ (Taishan)]?

— Gong Jiu on Mount Tai?

— Gong Jiu’s secret is on Mount Tai?

— Gong Jiu’s base of operation is on Mount Tai?

— Gong Jiu hid all those stolen treasures on Mount Tai?

Lu Xiaofeng gave up.

To Ying Yan Laoqi, he died in peace. It could even be said that he died a timely death. But to Lu Xiaofeng, Ying Yan Laoqi failed to reveal Gong Jiu’s secret. His death seemed to be a bit not worth it.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sighed with a realization:

— With death, all one’s troubles are solved. Those who remain could not even make head or tail of the Jianghu’s gratitude and grudges, love and hate!

— In Jianghu, there is no such thing as ‘freedom to act independently’!

Lu Xiaofeng thought back to his desire to retire.

Thinking about retirement, he thought about he wanted to have somebody by his side.

Thinking about the person he wanted to have by his side, he thought about Sha Man.

Thinking about Sha Man, suddenly his heartbeat accelerated.

— Where was Sha Man?

— Where was Honest Monk?

— Where was Gong Jiu?

— Where could he find any trace of Sha Man?

— If only he knew where to look, he would be able to find traces of Sha Man.

Problem is: he did not know.

He only knew one thing: he had to find her, he must look for her.

Since they had disappeared without a trace, there was only one way: he had to reveal his own whereabouts, and let Gong Jiu come looking for him.

Therefore, he decided to do one thing.

— Go to Chang’an’s downtown.

Downtown. Bustling downtown. Downtown at dusk.

People come and people go, horses come and carriages go. Lu Xiaofeng mingled into the crowd.

Restaurant. Chang’an’s restaurant.

Lu Xiaofeng walked past thirty-eight restaurants before he selected one. It was Chang’an’s biggest restaurant, the cleanest, and the most crowded.

The most important fact he found was that this Chang’an’s restaurant was already full.

Stepping into the door of the restaurant, even all the waiters were too busy to greet him. He was very happy instead, because it was exactly what he was hoping for.

He swept the hall with his gaze, and saw a square table with three men sitting around it. Three big men with thick eyebrows, rough eyes, and rugged muscles.

Lu Xiaofeng decided to make these three men his target.

Lu Xiaofeng stood in front of these three men’s table, just by the fourth, empty side.

Lu Xiaofeng waited until the three men looked up at him. “May I sit here?” he asked.

“You may not,” one of the three men replied.

Lu Xiaofeng pulled a chair and sat down.

The three men’s six eyes stared at him in disbelief.

“I said you may not. Are you deaf?”

Lu Xiaofeng looked at the speaker and laughed. “I am not deaf,” he said.

“Then why haven’t you get lost?” the man’s voice was growing louder.

“I cannot get lost, because although I am not deaf, but I am a human.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Lu Xiaofeng.”

The three men stared blankly at him. And then all three of them looked up and roared in laughter.

One of them even reached out to stroke the place above Lu Xiaofeng’s lip where the mustache has been shaved. “You are Lu Xiaofeng?” he asked.

“I am Lu Xiaofeng,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“In that case,” the man said, “Do you know who I am?”

“Who are you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I am also surnamed Lu,” the man replied.

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

The man said, “I am Lu Dalong.” [Translator’s note: ‘xiaofeng’ – little phoenix, ‘dalong’ – big dragon.]

Lu Xiaofeng clapped. “Good,” he said, “Good name.”

With bewildered eyes the man looked at Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng picked the wine cup in front of the man who professed to be Lu Dalong, and said, “Come, I toast you one cup.”

‘Lu Dalong’ was dumstruck.

Lu Xiaofeng downed the wine in one gulp and said, “You are called ‘big dragon’ and I am called ‘little phoenix’; we happened to be a pair[1].”

‘Lu Dalong’ slapped the table and bellowed, “Precisely, like an old man and his son, Dalong and Xiaofeng; I thought you didn’t get it.”

“How could I not get it?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s just that there is a little detail that I don’t quite get it.”

“What is it?” the man asked.

“Who is the old man, and who is the son?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

The three men roared in laughter, as if it was the funniest joke they ever heard in their lives. They laughed throwing their heads back or doubling over, attracting the attention of everybody else in the entire hall, even the food and drink on their table was shaken.

Amidst the laughter, one of the big man pointed to Lu Xiaofeng and asked, “You really don’t know?”

With a solemn expression Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I really don’t know.”

The big man who asked suddenly stopped laughing. The other two men no longer laughed either, in an instant their laughing expression became awkward smile; a very ugly awkward smile.

Because they saw Lu Xiaofeng ran his hand gently on the edge of the table, and the wood immediately turned into sawdust, which then rained gently to the floor.

They could not laugh anymore. There was only one thought popping out in their mind:

— This person may actually be Lu Xiaofeng.

Therefore, all of them immediately assumed contrite manners, a very anxious manner; their big eyes turned into small eyes as they looked at Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng chuckled.

Lu Xiaofeng said with a laugh, “You haven’t answered my question.”

With a choking voice, as if he was ready to cry, ‘Lu Dalong’ asked, “Which question?”

“Who is the old man, and who is the son?” Lu Xiaofeng repeated.

‘Lu Dalong’ suddenly raised his hand and slapped his own face, saying, “You are the old man, I am your turtle son [i.e. b@stard/s.o.b.].”

‘Slap, slap!’ finished speaking he slapped his face again.

But Lu Xiaofeng shook his head and said, “Wrong answer.”

‘Lu Dalong’ expression turned even more awkward, it looked like he was about to cry for real. “Wrong answer?” he said, “Are you saying you want to be my turtle son?”

‘Slap, slap!’ this time the big man standing next to ‘Lu Dalong’ gave him a couple of slaps on his face.

“Please forgive us, Master Lu,” the big man said, “He is stupid, he doesn’t know how to talk. Daren[2] please be magnanimous and let us go.”

“I haven’t said anything about what I am going to do with you,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It was you who made things difficult for me. Tell me then, who is the old man, and who is the son?”

The three men immediately dropped on their knees together and kowtowed, “You are the old man, we are your turtle sons.”

“How could you make the same mistake again?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

The three men stared blankly at Lu Xiaofeng.

“Can the phoenix in the sky give birth to turtles?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Speaking in unison, the three men replied, “No.”

“Then where did the turtle sons come from?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

‘Slap, slap!’ there were six ringing slaps, because each man smacked his own face twice.

And thus the three characters ‘Lu Xiao Feng’ spread out loud and clear around the Chang’an’s downtown area.

Lu Xiaofeng knew that before long, the people of Jianghu would find out that Lu Xiaofeng was in Chang’an.

This, of course, included Gong Jiu and Honest Monk. If Gong Jiu wanted to find Lu Xiaofeng, he would go to Chang’an.

Time. It was a peculiar thing. To a hardworking man, time always flies like an arrow, he can never find enough of it. To a lazy man, time always walks slowly like a snail, it is always too much. Happy man always wishes the time would stop, lonely man always wishes it would pass quickly.

In the same period of time, people are born, people die, some are happy, some are anxious.

Thinking about ‘time’, Lu Xiaofeng had a single thought.

— Right this moment, what was Sha Man thinking?

Sha Man was thinking about Lu Xiaofeng, no doubt about it.

Ever since Lu Xiaofeng left that day, she had begun to miss Lu Xiaofeng. Being brought by Honest Monk to this place, she missed Lu Xiaofeng even more.

Every day, she was hoping for a miracle: that Lu Xiaofeng would suddenly appear in front of her.

Quite several time she almost succumbed to the impulse of going out to look for Lu Xiaofeng; but she knew that she simply must not do that.

Her life in this place has been very good, a maid took care of her every day need, not only that, she had total freedom to roam around the garden. She knew that Honest Monk was not afraid that she would escape. She had lived on the island for too long, she has forgotten everything on the mainland; even if she escaped from this government-official residence-type building, where could she go? She had recognized this fact early on; therefore, she felt at-ease in living in this place, waiting patiently, waiting for destiny to arrange what her next step would be.

She did not want to think about anything, her thought was focused on Lu Xiaofeng. She fondly recalled the time she spent with Lu Xiaofeng, she thought about the happiness of being with Lu Xiaofeng later. And that was how she passed her days.

Every day Honest Monk would visit Sha Man once. Every time both of them were silent without saying anything.

Except today.

Honest Monk came in with a smile on his face. As soon as he saw Sha Man, he exclaimed, “Good news.”

Sha Man maintained her languid appearance. “What good news?” she asked.

“The good news that you are dying to hear,” Honest Monk replied.

— Lu Xiaofeng!

Very quickly she suppressed the delight in her heart; with the most indifferent tone she could muster she said, “You guys have news about Lu Xiaofeng?”

“He is in Chang’an,” Honest Monk said.

“Chang’an?” Sha Man asked, “Is Chang’an far from here?”

“Three days journey,” Honest Monk replied.

Sha Man did not say anything.

“I beg you not to entertain that idea,” Honest Monk said.

“What idea are you talking about,” Sha Man shockingly asked.

Honest Monk said, “You want to get out of here and go to look for Lu Xiaofeng.”

“You are really the worm in my belly,” Sha Man said.

Amituofo,” Honest Monk said, “Monk has a bit of perception, that’s all.”

Honest Monk looked at Sha Man, and then he continued, “I advise you not to plan on running away. This is for your own good.”

Sha Man was puzzled. “Why is it for my own good?” she asked.

Honest Monk replied, “Because if you leave, if you go to Chang’an, you might not see Lu Xiaofeng.”

“Why?” Sha Man asked, “Didn’t you say he is in Chang’an?”

“That was three days ago,” Honest Monk replied.

“And now?” Sha Man asked.

“And now he might be here,” Honest Monk replied.

“Here?” Sha Man asked.

“What I mean by ‘here’ is around here somewhere, not ‘here’ in this place,” Honest Monk replied.

“Why?” Sha Man asked.

“Because we don’t want him to see you yet,” Honest Monk replied.

“When are you going to let me see him?” Sha Man asked.

“There is only one answer to your question, and the answer only has three words,” Honest Monk said.

“Which three words?” Sha Man asked.

“When the time comes,” Honest Monk replied [Oh, I know it’s four words, but I am too lazy to make things up, so I simply translate it as it is; the original was ‘到时候’.]

Probably the so-called ‘When the time comes’  can also means ‘forever’.

Because, if Lu Xiaofeng refused to agree to Gong Jiu and the other’s demand, by the time Lu Xiaofeng could see Sha Man, probably what he saw would be a dead Sha Man.

Therefore, when Honest Monk sent people to pick Lu Xiaofeng up and brought him to stay in this luxury residence, when he asked Honest Monk when he could see Sha Man, and Honest Monk responded with ‘When the time comes’, Lu Xiaofeng knew that he had to rely on himself.

He knew Gong Jiu’s intention in picking him up was merely to tell him that Sha Man was nearby, but Lu Xiaofeng could not see her. Knowing that Sha Man was nearby but he could not see her, Lu Xiaofeng might be more impatient, Lu Xiaofeng might be more anxious, and then perhaps he would be easier to persuade.

Lu Xiaofeng understood this logic. He also knew that the longer he stayed in this place, the more difficult he would be to manipulate.

Therefore, as soon as he entered the place where Honest Monk had arranged for him to stay, he was not bashful to eat and drink as much as he liked, and then he covered his head and took a nap.

Human’s willpower is really fantastic; when he willed himself to wake up at certain time, he did indeed sleep up that time and then woke up.

By the time Lu Xiaofeng woke up, it was midnight. It was precisely the time he wanted to start his operation.

There was no moon, but the stars filled the sky. Sucking a breath of cold air, Lu Xiaofeng felt his entire body was invigorated.

Standing on the roof, borrowing the light from the stars, Lu Xiaofeng took a quick glance of his surrounding. The buildings were spread out neatly. He found out that the building where he stayed was the smallest building in this complex.

He knew that Sha Man did not stay in this complex. Because based on Gong Jiu’s loftiness, he would not stay in such a small building; he must have stayed in a large mansion.

Lu Xiaofeng only needed to find the largest building, and then most probably he would find Sha Man too.

Lu Xiaofeng had already thought about all these things when Honest Monk told him ‘when the time comes’. He could not possibly just sit and wait, he must go out and look. He believed he would be able to find Sha Man, he had that kind of confidence.

Lu Xiaofeng did not miscalculate. Unfortunately, Gong Jiu was able to calculate even faster than he did.

Therefore, when he found the big mansion, the place where Sha Man originally stayed, Sha Man had already gone.

But Honest Monk was there.

Honest Monk was wearing an expression that said that he already knew Lu Xiaofeng would come. “You are very smart,” he said.

“Too bad someone is even smarter,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“That person is not smarter than you are at all,” Honest Monk said.

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“That person merely received report that you are not in bed, hence he hurriedly took Sha Man away and left me here,” Honest Monk said.

“Leave you here?” Lu Xiaofeng shouted, “Why would he leave you here? I was not looking for you.”

“Amituofo,” Honest Monk said with a laugh, “Appearance is empty. Sha Man is Honest Monk. You found me, it’s the same as you found Sha Man.”

Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to laugh, but he simply could not laugh.

Therefore, he had no choice but stepping forward, stepping toward Honest Monk, and spread his arms wide.

“What are you doing?” Honest Monk asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Didn’t you say that finding you is just the same as finding Sha Man?”

“That’s right,” Honest Monk said.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “When I found Sha Man, the first thing I want to do is to embrace her. Therefore, I want to embrace you.”

Honest Monk stepped back while waving his hands. “That’s a big no-no,” he said.

“Why not?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because Monk is also a man,” Honest Monk said, “Man cannot embrace another man.”

“Didn’t you say you are Sha Man?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“That is a very mysterious matter,” Honest Monk said, “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Something else?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What other matter?”

With a very serious face Honest Monk said, “A very big matter.”

“Big matter?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What big matter?”

“The matter concerning the life and death of two people,” Honest Monk repled.

“The life and death of two people?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Is one of those two happen to be me?”

“You see,” Honest Monk said, “Didn’t I say you are very smart?”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “And the other person is Sha Man?”

“Ay,” Honest Monk sighed, “You are such a smart man, how come you can’t figure it out at all?”

“I can’t figure it out?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What is it that I can’t figure out?”

Honest Monk said, “Concerning the Little Old Man’s proposal, why are you so persistent? What’s holding you up?”

Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk for a moment. He shook his head and said, “Although all along I did not understand you, but all along I always thought that you are a man of principle; what made you change? What made you agree to the Little Old Man to be his subordinate, to be an invisible man?”

“Because I got over it,” Honest Monk said.

“Get over it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Get over what?”

“Life,” Honest Monk replied.

“Life?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Do you understand life?”

“I do,” Honest Monk replied.

“What do you think life is?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Life is to seek pleasure,” Honest Monk replied, “I, Honest Monk, painstakingly cultivate penance for a lifetime, in the end, what do I achieve? Life quickly passes several dozen winters and summers, why should I mistreat myself? The Little Old Man is right, seize the day, don’t wait till the young head turns white, because at that time regret will be too late.”

Lu Xiaofeng stared at Honest Monk again. With a bitter laugh he said, “Is that your understanding of life? In order to seek pleasure you entered the Little Old Man’s line of business?”

“Am I wrong?” Honest Monk asked.

“You are wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “You know what else is there to life?”

“What else?” Honest Monk asked.

Lu Xiaofeng spoke word-by-word, “Morality, compassion, conscience.”

Honest Monk laughed. He said, “You are holding on to those things? Are those the reason you are not open-minded?”

Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said, “It’s exactly because I am open-minded that I hold on to those things. Don’t you understand?”

Honest Monk shook his head, “I don’t,” he said.

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you understand or not. What matters is: you and I have different views of life.”

Honest Monk said, “This means that there must be a conflict between us, and this is the reason we have to fight each other.”

“Then you are doomed to be the loser,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why?” Honest Monk asked.

“Because evil will never prevail over righteousness,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Honest Monk laughed. He said, “Don’t forget there is another saying.”

“What saying?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk said, “Virtue is one chi [approx. 1 foot], devil is one zhang [approx. 10 feet; i.e. it takes constant vigilance to stave off evil.]

Lu Xiaofeng also laughed. He said, “You do know that devil and virtue are not the same, don’t you?”

“Of course the two are not the same,” Honest Monk replied.

“Therefore,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The scales of virtue and devil are not the same either. Virtue’s one chi might be equal to ten zhang, while devil’s one zhang might be only one cun [approx. 1 inch].”

Honest Monk was speechless.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “Actually, I still don’t understand one thing.”

Honest Monk looked at Lu Xiaofeng with questioning eyes.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “The Little Old Man already has martial art masters such as Gong Jiu and yourself, why must he insist on having me as well?”

“Because you are the most useful,” Honest Monk said.

Lu Xiaofeng was puzzled. “Me?” he said, “I am the most useful? I am afraid Gong Jiu’s martial art skill is higher than mine; can I be more useful than him?”

“Absolutely,” Honest Monk replied confidently.

This time Lu Xiaofeng was speechless.

Honest Monk said, “Because the thing that the Little Old Man wants to accomplish, only you can do it.”

“Other people cannot do it? You cannot do it? Gong Jiu cannot do it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk replied word-by-word, “Only you can do it.”

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk said, “Because in that situation, only you can be really, really invisible. In that situation, only you can make other people let down their vigilance.”

“What kind of situation is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Honest Monk did not answer.

“You can’t tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I can,” Honest Monk replied.

“Then why don’t you tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I can tell you,” Honest Monk said, “But not here.”

“Where then?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Must be where Gong Jiu is,” Honest Monk replied.

“Why must it be where Gong Jiu is before you can tell me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because this is a big secret that will shake the world,” Honest Monk said, “After I tell you, you will only have two paths to take.”

“Which two paths?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“One is the path of life, which is you agree to become an invisible man,” Honest Monk said.

“And the other is the path of death?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Correct, it’s the path of death” Honest Monk replied, “Because you cannot be let alive after you know the big secret; therefore, Gong Jiu must be present before I can tell you.”

“Because Gong Jiu can kill me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“You are right again,” Honest Monk said.

“All right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Let’s go!”

“Go?” Honest Monk asked, “Go where?”

“Go to Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Go to Gong Jiu?” Honest Monk asked, “Go right now?”

“Yes,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I want to know this earth-shaterring secret right away.”

“You do realize that after you know the secret you only have two paths to take, don’t you?” Honest Monk asked.

“I do,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Which path are you going to take?” Honest Monk asked, “The path to death? The path of life?”

“Do you want to die?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Of course not!” Honest Monk replied, “Who would want to die?”

“That’s right!” Lu Xiaofeng said, “You think I want to die?”

“Are you saying,” Honest Monk said excitedly, “That you agree to be an invisible man?”

“If I do not become an invisible man I cannot live?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

‘Chopping the nail and slicing the iron’ [i.e. resolutely and decisively] Honest Monk said, “You can’t.”

With the same resolution and decision Lu Xiaofeng said, “I will show you that I can.”

[1] In Chinese mythology and culture, dragon and phoenix are complements to each other, e.g. Emperor (dragon) and Empress (phoenix), yang and yin, groom and bride, etc.

[2] Daren – lit. ‘big person’, a term of respect to address superior or government officers.

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