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The Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens Chapter 18


Chapter 18 – Cat catching mouse

If a cat and a mouse were having a race, which one would run faster?

When Lu Xiaofeng was running, he suddenly thought about this question.

The cat should be able to run faster, right? Lu Xiaofeng thought. But the mouse is able to get into a hole, and it can also hide inside a gutter, which definitely some things that the cat cannot do.

Lu Xiaofeng was not a mouse, but he did not think that he was a mouse either.

Although Gong Jiu thought so, Lu Xiaofeng did not agree.

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng did not enter a hole, nor he hid in some shameful places.

Lu Xiaofeng believed in his own qinggong, even if it was not number one under the heavens, he was convinced that it was at least superior to Gong Jiu’s.

Therefore, he did not make any other effort except running along a major road.

Running on major road, although it was highly conspicuous, it was much better than being sneaky; besides, at the speed he was running, who would notice that he was Lu Xiaofeng?


The lanterns in this small town starting to brighten the hazy sunset glow. Even if Lu Xiaofeng’s endurance was better, after running for a day and a night without either eating or drinking anything, he simply had to stop.

Besides, by running in complete disregard of his own life like this, Lu Xiaofeng thought that forget Gong Jiu, even a hungry lion would not be able to outrun him.

Lu Xiaofeng believed that this small town was a totally safe place to stop and have a meal.

He slowed down, and entered the small town.

Noodle shop. A nondescript noodle shop. Although he was convinced that this was a safe place, Lu Xiaofeng still selected a small noodle shop at the corner of the street to stop and eat.

He did not wish to attract anybody’s attention, he only wished to eat a bowl of hot noodle, and then found any good place he could sleep, restoring the strength of his feet, breaking away from Gong Jiu’s pursue, so he could see Sha Man bit earlier.

The noodle shop’s proprietor was an old man. His hair was grey, his clothes were greasy, his face was wrinkly; his overall appearance was that of a man who had succumbed to fate.

The proprietor greeted Lu Xiaofeng amiably. “Mister Guest,” he said, “What would you like to eat?”

“A big bowl of beef noodle soup,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

The proprietor laughed, “Coming right up,” he said, “Would you also like some pickled vegetable or a pot of warm wine?”

“No need,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Just add two salted egg on the noodle, it should be enough.”

A bowl of steaming and savory noodle was brought out. Lu Xiaofeng could smell the delicious smell of the beef; his tummy immediately growled.

In no time at all he finished the noodle completely. He picked up the bowl to finish the soup as well. But as he held the bowl in his hands, a four-horse carriage sped over from the direction of the town gate.

Lu Xiaofeng held the bowl in front of his face while looking at this luxurious carriage.

When the carriage reached the noodle shop, the driver pulled the reins, the carriage came to an abrupt stop.

From inside the carriage came a sweet voice, “Why are you drinking beef soup prepared by someone else?”

Again, it was Beef Soup’s voice.

Beef Soup in the carriage, naturally Gong Jiu was also in it.

Lu Xiaofeng lost his appetite to drink the soup.

With face full of smiles, Beef Soup walked in with a bowl of beef soup in her hands, which she gracefully placed in front of Lu Xiaofeng.

“Don’t you like my beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

Lu Xiaofeng did not answer. Picking the bowl of Beef Soup’s beef soup, ‘Glug! Glug! Glug!’ he drank the soup dry.

Gong Jiu already sat down at the table right next to Lu Xiaofeng’s. Facing the proprietor, he said, “A pot of warm Nu’erhong [blushing young maiden].”

The noodle shop’s proprietor did not seem to be surprised with this sudden change of events, as if it was a common occurrence that he was already quite used to. Before long, he put the wine in front of Gong Jiu.

Gong Jiu poured two cups, with his left hand he picked one cup and handed it over to Lu Xiaofeng.

“Come,” Gong Jiu said, “Bottoms up!”

Lu Xiaofeng received the cup; he looked at Gong Jiu and asked, “Why must I bottoms up?”

“The cat catches the mouse, it must tease the mouse a little,” Gong Jiu said, “Now the kitten tells the mouse to drink, can the mouse be disobedient?”

With a bitter laugh Lu Xiaofeng downed the wine.

Gong Jiu sipped his wine slowly. When he finished, he said, “Good wine!”

“Is it better than my beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

“Those two cannot be compared to each other,” Gong Jiu said.

“Why?” Beef Soup asked.

“Can the mouse be compared to the cat?” Gong Jiu asked.

Beef Soup said, “Are you saying that cat must drink wine, mouse must drink soup; therefore, they cannot be compared?”

Gong Jiu guffawed. “Cat can ride the carriage, but mouse must walk on foot,” he said, “Cat can sleep on the carriage, mouse must force himself to hasten on with his journey. Can they be compared?”

Beef Soup’s laughter was very cheerful.

Lu Xiaofeng clapped. “Good speech,” he said, “The two of you can come up with such a good banter, why don’t you do something?”

Gong Jiu laughed and said, “What thing?”

“Comedy routine[1],” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu could not laugh anymore. “I really admire you,” he said.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because in time like this, you are still in the mood for jokes,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Perhaps this is a way for the mouse to find amusement in his own way,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu coldly said, “In that case, you should go and enjoy yourself.”

“Are you kicking me out?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Don’t you want to get away from me?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Can I ask a question before I go?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“What question?” Gong Jiu asked.

“I really want to know, how did you pursue me to this place?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Very simple,” Gong Jiu said, “Only one word.”

“Only one word?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That’s right,” Gong Jiu replied, “Only one word.”

“What word?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Money,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Money?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Money will make the devil turn millstones,” Gong Jiu replied, “Much less people?”

“You bribed people to follow my track?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Wrong,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Why is it wrong?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu said, “Even I cannot run after you, who on earth would be able to chase after you? Even if there was people like that, can such people be bribed?”

“That’s why I don’t understand,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Even if you spent money to bribe people, you wouldn’t necessarily know my whereabouts.”

Gong Jiu said, “I spend money to bribe not only one person, but a lot of people.”

“A lot?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Just how many?”

“I don’t know the exact number either,” Gong Jiu said.

Lu Xiaofeng showed a perplexed expression.

Gong Jiu laughed and said, “Do you really want to know my secret?”

“If you don’t want to reveal it, I have no way of forcing you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu stood up, and walked over to the signboard of the noodle shop.

Lu Xiaofeng followed Gong Jiu with his eyes. Gong Jiu’s finger pointed to the signboard and Lu Xiaofeng was surprised to see a triangle marking on the signboard.

“What marking is that?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“It means Lu Xiaofeng is here,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Do you know how much money I have to spend for this pot of wine?” Gong Jiu asked.

“How much?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu did not reply, he took out a gold ingot from his pocket and gave it to the noodle shop’s proprietor. The noodle shop’s proprietor laughed that his eyes narrowed into a couple of slits.

Gong Jiu turned to Lu Xiaofeng and said, “Do you understand it now?”

“I understand half,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Let me tell you then,” Gong Jiu said, “I have already spread the word, whoever see a man with four eyebrows shall make an arrow indicating the direction he is going, whoever see the man with four eyebrows staying for the night or having a meal, shall make a triangle mark. When I see these markings, I bestow rewards. Just think, where can you go?”

Gong Jiu laughed aloud, he was very proud of himself.

But Lu Xiaofeng was frowning. With his fingers he gently stroked the moustache above his lips. He recalled Honest Monk said, ‘You had better shave your real eyebrows, and then nobody would recognize you.’

— Shave his eyebrows? How ridiculous!

Lu Xiaofeng could not help laughing aloud as well.

Gong Jiu was surprised, “What are you laughing at?”

“I am laughing at myself,” Lu Xiaofeng replied, “I am just too dumb.”

“Why?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Since I cannot get away, why would I want to go?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You won’t leave?” Gong Jiu asked.

“I am not leaving,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Actually,” Gong Jiu said, “You won’t go, I don’t have any objection. But …” Gong Jiu laughed his gloomy, sinister laugh again.

“But what?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu pulled Beef Soup in his arms and said, “It’s not a big deal for me to keep you company in here, I have wine, I have beauty, but what about you? What about Sha Man?”

Gong Jiu laughed heartily.

Lu Xiaofeng stared at Gong Jiu. Without saying anything, he turned around and walked away.

“Where are you going?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Sleep,” Lu Xiaofeng said without even looking back.

Lu Xiaofeng walked several steps; suddenly he turned around and walked back to Gong Jiu with palm turned up.

With a puzzled look Gong Jiu asked, “What do you want?”

“I want gold,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Why would I want to give you gold?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Because I am going to draw a triangle marking in front of the hotel I am going to spend the night at,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Therefore, you have to keep your promise.”

Gong Jiu was dumbstruck.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed a very complacent laugh; raising his voice, he said, “Give it to me!”

Gong Jiu paled.

“You want people to distrust you?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu took out a gold ingot and gave it to Lu Xiaofeng.

Very proud of himself, Lu Xiaofeng played with the gold ingot in his hands, he tossed it up to the air and caught it back, twice, and then he walked out.

He only took two steps, suddenly he looked back and laughed. “Early morning tomorrow,” he told Gong Jiu, “I may make another triangle at the place where I have breakfast.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed heartily. His voice gradually faded away.

Lu Xiaofeng loved to drink wine, his favorite was drinking wine while lying in bed.

When he was lying in bed, usually he loved to have a big bowl of wine on his chest, and then, just like a dead man, not moving at all, when he wanted to drink the wine, he would take a deep breath, sucking the air, along with the wine from the cup, so that it entered his mouth, and then with a ‘glug’ the wine finally entered his belly.

Right now he was lying in bed just like that. And then there was also a big bowl filled to the brim with wine on his chest. Only, he lay down unmoving like a dead man for a long time, yet he had not sucked the wine at all.

Because, the first time he drank wine like this, the Boss’ Wife was sitting by his side. As soon as the wine cup was empty, the Boss’ Wife immediately poured some more wine for him[2].

And now, since the Boss’ Wife was not around, he treasured this cup of wine very much; if he finished the wine, who would pour the wine for him? He did not want to get up to pour the wine for himself; only people who do not enjoy life would do things like that.

Hence, suddenly Lu Xiaofeng missed the Boss’ Wife.

The ‘Boss’ Wife’ was a woman, a very, very beautiful woman.

Beautiful women usually marry very early. The ‘Boss’ Wife’ was no exception.

In fact, the reason she was called ‘The Boss’ Wife’ was because she married to ‘The Boss’.

The Boss was Zhu Ting. Zhu Ting was an old friend of Lu Xiaofeng, they have known each other since they were both in diapers [orig. ‘opened pants’].

Therefore, the relationship between Lu Xiaofeng and the Boss’ Wife was a clean one.

Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng missed those days of drinking wine while lying down.

He missed Zhu Ting even more.

Zhu Ting was fat. Fat people appear that they have good fortune, and only people with good fortune can be a boss. Therefore, everybody started to call Zhu Ting ‘the Boss’.

The fact was, Zhu Ting has never opened any shop, yet his days were very comfortable. Because he had a pair of exceptionally skillful hands, he was able to make all kinds of weird and wonderful things. One time, he even made a wooden man that can walk on its own.

Lu Xiaofeng cherished the memory of Zhu Ting’s pair of hands. If Zhu Ting could make a wooden Lu Xiaofeng that could walk on its own, Lu Xiaofeng’s problem would be solved.

But Zhu Ting was not around.

Sha Man was not around either.

If Sha Man were around, even if the two of them had to die together, he felt that his life would not be in vain.

Lu Xiaofeng suddenly sat up, the wine in the bowl splashed onto his body.

He knocked his own noggin forcefully, while in his heart he cursed himself, “So stupid!”

Since he was willing to die together with Sha Man, why would he be afraid of Gong Jiu chasing after him? Why not go back directly to Sha Man? Perhaps relying on his and Sha Man’s martial art skills, they could defeat Gong Jiu! Who knows?

As soon as he had this thought, Lu Xiaofeng rushed toward the door.

When he opened the door he found out a pair of eyes that was originally watching over his door, and was quickly looking away.

From the eyes, Lu Xiaofeng looked at the face, and he saw an unfamiliar face. The one that was not unfamiliar was the clothing.

The clothing that everyone knew.

— The uniform of government official.

And there were more than one government official. Because just opposite of the man watching over Lu Xiaofeng’s door, there was another government official, sleeping on a table.

Evidently they were sleeping in shifts, taking turn to monitor Lu Xiaofeng’s movement.

Why government officials?

Were they doing this to get Gong Jiu’s reward? Or perhaps they were under order from the Prince of Taiping’s Heir Apparent to arrest him?

Lu Xiaofeng rushed to the window. Opening the window, he also saw a pair of government officials, one sleeping, one standing.

Lu Xiaofeng laugh, a wry laugh.

He was already at a loss in dealing with a cat, and now there were a big bunch of kittens. As the mouse, Lu Xiaofeng could only laugh a wry laugh.

Therefore, with no other choice, he lay in bed again, with a filled-to-the-brim wine cup on his chest.

The first rays of morning sun appeared on the horizon.

The government official guarding under the window saw the dawn. He stood up and stretched, happy that the long night was finally over.

He was really relieved.

Lu Xiaofeng had helped him to be relieved.

When he was stretching, just like the ray of sun, Lu Xiaofeng flew toward him and sealed the major acupoint on his body; he was immediately relieved.

Of course the one asleep was also relieved.

Lu Xiaofeng ran his fingers along the saber hanging on his waist, he could not help laughing. It was the first time that he dressed up as a government official.

Lu Xiaofeng could not help admiring Gong Jiu. Only Gong Jiu could force him to disguise himself as someone else.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at the real government official lying on his bed, checked his full attire one more time, and then turned around to leave.

The door. Lu Xiaofeng did not do it, but the door was pushed open.

The one pushing the door and coming in was, surprisingly, Beef Soup.

Beef Soup held a tray in her hands, on the tray was a bowl of steaming hot beef soup, plus four snow white mantou [steamed buns].

Beef Soup put the tray on the table, and gracefully saluted Lu Xiaofeng.

Beef Soup said, “Master Lu of the Yamen, please eat breakfast.”

Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng was overwhelmed with a weird feeling, he did not know whether he should laugh or cry. Quickly he took off the government official uniform and said loudly, “I am not Master Lu of the Yamen!”

Beef Soup laughed. “That’s right,” she said, “In that case, would Lu Xiaofeng, Master Lu, please have some breakfast?”

Lu Xiaofeng still maintain the loud voice, “I don’t want to eat!”

“I think it would be better if you eat,” Beef Soup said.

“Why do I have to eat?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because Jiu Ge says that he doesn’t want to pay you for marking the place you are going to eat breakfast,” Beef Soup said.

“He stole that much money,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “What’s the big deal of spending a bit more?”

“Don’t you know one thing?” Beef Soup asked.

“What thing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Beef Soup said, “The richer you are, the less you are willing to spend money.”

“Hasn’t he spent a lot of money to track me?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“That was because he had no choice,” Beef Soup said, “It was because he simply had to spend some money.”

“In that case,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I only have one thing to say.”

“What is it?” Beef Soup asked.

“This breakfast, I simply must eat,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Lu Xiaofeng swallowed the last bite of the mantou, he made a show of eating with gusto. “I want to ask you to do something,” he said to Beef Soup.

“You want another bowl of beef soup?” Beef Soup asked.

“No,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“So what do you want me to do?” Beef Soup asked.

“Take me to see Gong Jiu,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Beef Soup was hesitant. “Whatever you want to say, you can say to me,” she said.

“What I want to say, I have to say it to Gong Jiu in person,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why?” Beef Soup asked.

“Because that way I can have enjoy a bit of life’s pleasure,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Without saying anything, Beef Soup turned around and led him out.

Gong Jiu was not in the hotel. He has never stayed in a hotel.

Gong Jiu was in the carriage.

Gong Jiu lived his daily life within the luxury of his carriage.

He loathed sleeping on the bed other people have slept on, he loathed drinking and eating with the wine cups, chopsticks and bowls that other people have used.

When Lu Xiaofeng entered Gong Jiu’s carriage, Gong Jiu was sitting on the driver’s seat, meditating.

Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, Gong Jiu did not make any effort to stand up or showing any signs of welcoming him.

He only stared coldly at Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng was also silently staring at Gong Jiu.

And thus these two men were looking at each other like that, as if they were having a martial art match using their gaze.

The first to open his mouth to break the silence was not Gong Jiu.

It was not Lu Xiaofeng either.

It was Beef Soup.

Beef Soup only said six words, “He has something to tell you.” And then she walked into the carriage, and pulled the curtains down.

With questioning eyes Gong Jiu fixed his gaze on Lu Xiaofeng.

Finally Lu Xiaofeng opened his mouth. “I have something I want to say to you in person,” he said.

“I know,” Gong Jiu said.

“You do?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Beef Soup has just told me that,” Gong Jiu said.

“Aren’t you going to ask what I wanted to say?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I won’t,” Gong Jiu said.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“You are here,” Gong Jiu said, “You will say it.”

“What I wanted to say is,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I want you to get rid of your driver.”

Gong Jiu’s countenance changed a bit. “Why?” he asked.

“You don’t need any driver,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“No need any driver, who’s going to drive?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Me,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Gong Jiu was surprised, “You?” he asked.

“Me,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why do you want to be my driver?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because I want to break away from your pursuit.”

Gong Jiu said, “But …”

Lu Xiaofeng cut him off, “With me being your driver, it means not you following me, but I am taking you out.”

“Where do you want to take me?” Gong Jiu asked.

“I don’t know either,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Gong Jiu was puzzled, “You don’t know?” he asked.

“Perhaps I’ll think of some place along the way,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“What place?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “If you want to know the place, you just let me be your driver, and then when along the way I think of the place, I’ll immediately let you know.”

Gong Jiu did not reply; he picked the horsewhip, and tossed it to Lu Xiaofeng. Pushing the curtain aside, he entered the carriage.

The sun has climbed very high, so high that it nearly reached the zenith.

The midday sun baked the people down on the earth.

Yet Lu Xiaofeng was as calm as the water in a deep lake.

The horsewhip in his hand fluttered lightly over the deep throb of the horses’ hooves, the rhythm was extremely lively, not at all like a carriage that was speeding along under the hot sun.

— Why?

Because Lu Xiaofeng already figured out a way to break away from the evil cat.

The carriage suddenly went very fast.

Inside the carriage, Gong Jiu could not help sticking out his head and asked, “Are you in a hurry?”

Without even looking back, Lu Xiaofeng flicked the horsewhip and said, “That’s right.”

“Why must you be in a hurry?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Because I want to see someone,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Do you urgently have to see him?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Not urgent,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“If not urgent, why hurry?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Because I have to reach his place before night fall,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“And you still say it’s not urgent?” Gong Jiu said.

“I am in no hurry,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “He is.”

“He is in a hurry?” Gong Jiu was bewildered.

“Because he has a habit,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “As soon as it is dark, he does not see any visitor anymore.”

“Not even you?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Not even the old emperor of the heavens,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“And that’s why you have to see him before dark?” Gong Jiu asked.

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“So the one in a hurry is still you,” Gong Jiu said.

“Wrong,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Because he is the one making the rules, so the one in a hurry to receive guests before dark is him, not me.”

The sun gradually grew weaker. The carriage was slowing down. The light breeze carried with it a sweet floral scent.

Inside the carriage, Gong Jiu asked, “The person you are going to see loves flowers?”

“Extremely,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Is the place where he lives covered with flowers?” Gong Jiu asked.

“All kinds and sorts of flowers,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“What kind of place is that?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Ten-thousand Plum Mountain Villa,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Ximen Chuixue?” Gong Jiu said, “The person you want to see is Ximen Chuixue?”

“That’s right,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Although oftentimes he does not blow snow, but blood, but he is indeed called Ximen Chuixue.” [Reminder: chui xue means ‘blowing snow’; reminder part 2: in Chinese the character for ‘snow’ is ‘雪 – xue’, the character for ‘blood’ is ‘血 – xue’, of course, these two characters have different strokes and different pronunciation.]

“What do you want to see him for?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Just to say a few words,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Words that I must not hear?” Gong Jiu asked.

“When he is talking to a friend, he never liked to have any stranger listening on the side,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Are you going to ask him a favor?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Maybe,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“You want him to send words to Sha Man?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng did not answer.

The carriage was parked next to a cluster of flowers.

Lu Xiaofeng put down the horsewhip, and jumped down the carriage. Knocking on the curtain he said, “Do you want to come in?”

Gong Jiu replied, “Since he does not like strangers, why would I want to come in? Besides, the scent of flowers is overflowing in here; I am enjoying the beauty of the evening here, won’t it be more pleasant?”

“You sure are a smart man,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You flatter me,” Gong Jiu said.

“Since you admitted that you are a smart man, can you guess what am I going to borrow from you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Gong Jiu did not say anything.

Because he could not guess.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “I want to borrow a razorblade from you.”

Amidst Lu Xiaofeng’s loud laughter, a razorblade flew out from behind the curtain.

Gong Jiu’s voice was as cold as a solid block of ice, “You can have it.”

When Gong Jiu stuck his head out, Lu Xiaofeng was shaving, his expression was that of a complete bliss.

Gong Jiu could not help asking coldly, “Didn’t you say Ximen Chuixue does not receive visitors after dark?”

“Right-o,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“And yet you still leisurely shave like that?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “In all my life I only shave occasionally, hence I want to make sure that I shave comfortably, so that I won’t let my moustache down. Furthermore, don’t worry, the sun has not disappeared behind the mountain, I guarantee I will finish shaving by then.”

“I just want to give you an advice,” Gong Jiu said.

“What is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“In my opinion, your four eyebrows look all right,” Gong Jiu said, “So I advise you not to shave it.”

“But I have to shave,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Because I have to see Ximen Chuixue,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Do you have to see him?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “If I don’t see him, I can’t see Sha Man.”

“Even if you don’t see him, you can still see Sha Man,” Gong Jiu said.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at Gong Jiu. “Oh?” he said.

“You don’t believe me?” Gong Jiu asked.

“I do,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “But I do not dare.”

“You don’t?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am afraid that will be the last time I can see Sha Man, or perhaps …”

“Perhaps what?” Gong Jiu asked.

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Perhaps that will be the last time she can see me.”

Gong Jiu laughed. “It’s possible that I won’t kill both of you,” he said.

“Is it?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“It is possible,” Gong Jiu replied.

“And the conditions?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“You are very smart,” Gong Jiu said.

“That’s why I am still alive,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“I want you to join us,” Gong Jiu said.

“Is that your own idea?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“No,” Gong Jiu replied.

“Is it the Little Old Man’s idea?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Correct,” Gong Jiu replied.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed. He put the razor down, wiped his face dry with a piece of cloth, and then said, “Don’t you think I look elegant and unconventional now?”

Gong Jiu looked at him, but he did not say anything.

Lu Xiaofeng lifted up the carriage’s curtain and called out, “Beef Soup.”

Beef Soup stuck her head out.

Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Don’t you think I look better this way compared to before?”

Beef Soup looked at him, she also looked at Gong Jiu. She did not say anything.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed and said, “You both must be overwhelmed by how handsome I look, that’s why you are speechless. Since I look more elegant and unconventional than before, I think I’d better go see Ximen Chuixue.”

The sun disappeared behind the mountain. The evening breeze carried the scent of the flowers, it also caressed Lu Xiaofeng’s skin and made him feeling very comfortable.

He took a very deep breath, and then sighed and said, “Such a beautiful day, why must we be locked in constant strife, and insist that the other side must die?”

Gong Jiu snorted coldly.

Lu Xiaofeng continued, “Life is beautiful, why do you persistently force me into a corner? Why don’t you hold hand with Beef Soup by the flowers, enjoying a bit of life?”

Gong Jiu’s countenance changed a little, he stiffly said, “The sky is turning black.”

“I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Why didn’t Ximen Chuixue come out to welcome you?” Gong Jiu asked.

“Perhaps he is preparing some fine small side dishes to welcome me!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Are you going to eat dinner inside?” Gong Jiu asked.

“I might spend the night inside,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Then you should hurry up,” Gong Jiu said.

“Before I go in, I also want to offer you a bit of advice,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Speak up,” Gong Jiu said.

“Quickly cook your dinner,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Lest you smell the aroma, and cannot endure it.”

Gong Jiu smiled and said, “I am not a glutton, you need not provoke me. Just enjoy your meal, enjoy your sleep, tomorrow get ready to leave.”

“Why do I have to leave?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Because I may decide that I don’t want to use you as my driver,” Gong Jiu said.

“Actually,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Tomorrow I don’t want to be your driver anymore.”

“Oh?” Gong Jiu said.

“Tomorrow you will find out,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That I am a free person, I won’t have any shadow of the cat’s claw behind my back.”

“Well, you can see it for yourself tomorrow,” Gong Jiu said.

Lu Xiaofeng slowly walked toward the gate, while he happily said, “Tomorrow, what a word full of hope!”

Inside the house, there was no flower, yet it was filled with the fragrance of flowers, light, faint; just like the person of Ximen Chuixue.

Lu Xiaofeng reclined on a couch made of soft dark green velvet, his eyes were fixed on Ximen Chuixue.

Ximen Chuixue’s cup was filled with light green jade colored wine, his body was clad in snow white, light and soft clothes.

Like bursts of spring breeze, soft flute sound drifted in, sometimes it seemed so near, sometimes it seemed so far, yet the flute player was unseen.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “In your life, do you ever have anything to trouble you?” he asked.

“You asked me that same question before,” Ximen Chuixue pointed out.

“Then, your answer was no,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“You have a very good memory,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“How about now?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I do,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“What trouble?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Moustache,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

Lu Xiaofeng looked at Ximen Chuixue’s clean and smooth face. “You are troubled because you don’t have a beard?”

“No,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“No?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I am troubled because you don’t have any moustache,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“Oh?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “Why?”

Ximen Chuixue said, “Because last time you begged me to do you a favor, I said that if you shave your moustache, I’d go with you and do whatever you want me to do.”

“I remember,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That was the first time I shaved for someone else’s sake.”

“And now you are clean-shaven again,” Ximen Chuixue said, “That’s why I know that my trouble has come again.”

Lu Xiaofeng downed his wine in one gulp, and then he looked at Ximen Chuixue.

Ximen Chuixue slowly drank the light green jade colored wine in his cup. “This wine ought to be drunk slowly,” he said.

“I know,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Then why did you drink it up in one gulp?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Because I am waiting for you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Waiting for me? Waiting for what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Waiting for you to say something,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“Say what?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“Say something to remove my trouble,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

Ximen Chuixue finished his wine in one gulp. Setting down his wine cup, he said, “Whatever you want to do, I’d go with you and do whatever you want me to do.”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “Now you can pour two cups, we can drink slowly.”

Lu Xiaofeng raised his cup and said, “For your words.”

Ximen Chuixue also raised his cup and said, “For your moustache.”

The two of them roared in laughter, then they slowly sipped their wine.

The flute sound disappeared, the clear, bright sound of guqin[3] appeared in its place.

“Has your preference changed?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“It hasn’t,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“Then why guqin?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“The flute is melodious,” Ximen Chuixue explained, “Its washing power is not as strong as guqin’s strong sound.”

“Washing power?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Washing what?”

“Murderous aura,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“Washing murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

Ximen Chuixue nodded.

“Whose murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“The person on the carriage,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“You can feel his murderous aura?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“A very thick murderous aura,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“Do you know whom he is going to kill?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Definitely not me,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“It’s not me either,” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Who else then?” Ximen Chuixue asked.

“There is Honest Monk, and then there is Sha Man, and Xiao Yu too,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“I have two questions,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“What questions?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“First,” Ximen Chuixue said, “Why did he want to kill Honest Monk?”

“And the second question?” Lu Xiaofeng said.

“Who are Sha Man and Xiao Yu?” Ximen Chuixue said.

By the time Lu Xiaofeng finished narrating his experience, the wine pot on the table was empty, the dishes have been cleared up.

Ximen Chuixue stared at Lu Xiaofeng; there was a look of reproach in his eyes.

“You get in trouble a lot,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“That’s why I came to find you,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.

“I know how to deal with it,” Ximen Chuixue said, “You’d better have a good sleep tonight, so that you can hasten on your journey in the morning.”

“Can I say just two words?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“No, you can’t,” Ximen Chuixue replied.

“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“Because I already know which two words you are going to say,” Ximen Chuixue said.

“You do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.

“I do,” Ximen Chuixue replied. After taking another sip at his wine he said, “I’d rather you keep those two words in your heart.”

“In that case, I’ll keep the two words ‘many thanks’ in my heart!” Lu Xiaofeng said.

Lu Xiaofeng laughed while raising his cup and finished off his wine.

[1] Comic dialog, sketches, crosstalk, as in performing on stage.

[2] See Lu Xiao Feng, Book 1 – The Golden Roc Empire, translated by Moinllieon.

[3] Guqin (from dictionary): a long zither with 5 or 7 strings, plucked with a plectrum / the ancestor of the long zither family, dating back to pre-classical times (playing it was an essential accomplishment of a Confucian gentleman).

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