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The Silver Hook Gambling House Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – Locust and Dragonfly Catch Cicada

The darkest time of the day is the time nearest dawn.

Life is just like that.

As long as you can survive the darkest and the most difficult times, your life henceforth will be brimming with bright prospects and hope. The first streak of light penetrated the darkness shone on Lu Xiaofeng’s body.

The sunshine felt as warm and gentle as a lover’s tender gaze; Chuchu and Chen Jingjing’s tender gaze also felt warm and gentle on his body. Only their eyes also carried a bit of anxiety and confusion. They did not understand why Lu Xiaofeng dragged them here this early in the morning.

Under the morning light, the frozen river looked so glorious and spectacular. Leng Hong’er’s body had been carried away, even the bloodstains had disappeared, but what they had seen would be very difficult to forget.

Chen Jingjing leaned on Lu Xiaofeng, her face was still pale. Only then she was finally able to open her mouth. “I have heard there are bears around here, but I have never thought they would be this vicious!” she said with a sigh.

Lu Xiaofeng: “So you think she died under the bear’s claw?”

Chen Jingjing: “Only        the most vicious beast would have such big strength, among the wild beasts, only bears can stand up like human and assault people with their front paws!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Make sense.”

Chen Jingjing quietly said, “If you did not happen to wander around here, I am afraid not even her bones would have remained. Among the four of us, she was the only one I could talk to, I …”

Her voice broke, her eyes reddened, and suddenly she buried her face on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulder and wept softly.

Lu Xiaofeng could not help but wrap his arm around her waist. When a man and a woman have had a special and intimate relation between them, it would be like dust under the bright sunlight, it would be difficult to hide from other people’s eyes.

Chuchu stared at them then she laughed coldly and said, “I didn’t come here to watch the two of you making out. Goodbye!”

And she left just like that. Only after she was quite some distance away did Lu Xiaofeng indifferently say, “So what do you want to see? Don’t you want to see Luocha Tablet?”

His words were like a lasso catching Chuchu’s feet. “Luocha Tablet? Have you found the Luocha Tablet? Where is it?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Right here!”

By ‘here’ he meant the place where he found Leng Hong’er, that is, the place where Leng Hong’er was trying to dig the solid ice with her bare hands.

The ice was ten zhang thick, solid like a slab of steel. Not only she would not be able to dig with her bare hands, even if she had used iron spade and steel pick, she should forget the idea of moving only a fraction of the ice.

Chuchu: “Are you saying it is below the frozen river?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Not only that, it is exactly within a zhang circumference of this place.”

Chuchu: “Can your eyes see through the ice? Can see what’s inside the frozen river?”

That place was very near the river bank, the color of the ice was somewhat darker compared to other parts of the river; naturally nobody with normal vision would be able to see through the ice. There was only a section of a dead tree visible by the surface of the ice, presumably it fell down when the river started to freeze. Nobody knew who scraped the branches, but the short section of the tree trunk above the ice was like a bench; coincidentally, those who sit on this short trunk could see the snow covered mountain peak on the distance and a temple on the other side of the river.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Although I cannot see through the ice, I can feel it.”

Chuchu sneered: “In any case, you cannot prove it. Even if the Luocha Tablet was indeed inside the ice, you have no way of digging it out.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “When I was very young, I have heard two very useful sayings!”

Chuchu coldly said, “It’s just too bad that no matter how useful those sayings are, they cannot move the frozen river!”

Ignoring her remark, Lu Xiaofeng continued, “The first one is: ‘There is nothing impossible in this world for people with resolution.’ The second one is: ‘To do things right, you need the right tools.’ I am sure you also know the meaning of these two sayings.”

Chuchu: “I do not understand the least bit!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “In other words, if you have a strong will and the right tools, there is nothing in this world unachievable to you!”

Chuchu: “Too bad I cannot see your strong will, and I don’t see you have any tools either!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed again, “You’ll see.”

Chuchu stood on the side, watching.

Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng’s tools were only about a dozen bamboo tubes and one small bottle?

Chuchu laughed, “Is that all you have?”

Lu Xiaofeng did not seem to hear what she said, his face suddenly turned serious as he pulled the cork of the bottle and carefully poured the contents of the bottle one drop at a time. As a drop of dull yellow liquid dripped on the ice, there was a hissing noise, accompanied by a whiff of blue smoke. Surprisingly, it was as if the solid ice, as solid as steel, was drilled by the liquid that a hole appeared on the ice.

Before the smoke completely dissipated, he had already inserted the bamboo tube into the hole. With one hand pouring the liquid from the bottle and the other hand inserting the bamboo tubes, in a short moment the dozen or so bamboo tubes were all inserted into the ice, forming a circle of approximately one zhang in diameter.

Each bamboo tube had a fuse about two, three chi long. He lighted an incense stick, then like a flash his shadow moved as he lighted the dozen or so fuses together. Suddenly he shouted, “Back off! Hurry up and back off!”

The three of them leaped about five zhang back, and then a loud ‘Boom!’ was heard. The earth shook as millions of ice chips flew up, along with the debris from the dead tree, filling the air like rain falling down onto the surface of the river. They also heard another indeterminate noise, like a hollow metal being struck, or zither string being pulled, or like the sound of pearls falling onto a piece of jade, followed by a blackish object shot up from the explosion and ‘Dang!’, it fell down amidst the rain of ice and wood chips on the surface of the frozen river. Turned out it was a steel cylinder.

When the cap of this steel cylinder was ripped open, a piece of sparkling and translucent jade tablet slipped out. Sure enough, it was the Luocha Tablet.

Chuchu could only stare in disbelief. Chen Jingjing was also dumbstruck. They stood motionless as the ice chips rained on their bodies, as if they did not even feel the sting.

Lu Xiaofeng heaved a long and deep sigh as he smiled and said, “This is my tool. What do you think?”

Chuchu forced a smile and said, “This kind of weird method, I am afraid can only come from you.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “If there was no gunpowder made by Pi Lei Tang [lit. Thunderbolt Hall] of Jiangnan, even a better method would be useless.”

Chuchu: “Where did you get the Thunderbolt Hall of Jiangnan’s gunpowder?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I stole it?”

Chuchu: “From where?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “From the water barrel.”

Chuchu: “Whose water barrel?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Li Xia’s.”

After discovering Leng Hong’er’s body, Lu Xiaofeng had a hunch that the Luocha Tablet was hidden in that place, but he was not a hundred percent sure.

Lu Xiaofeng: “And then when I found these things inside Li Xia’s water barrel, I knew I have guessed correctly. Because she had always handled matters prudently, in whatever she did, she must have prepared a good way out. If she dared to hide the Luocha Tablet in the frozen river, she must have prepared a way to retrieve it. “

Since this kind of extremely strong solvent and extremely powerful gunpowder could break open a mountain, naturally it could also shatter the frozen river.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Since she had already prepared this kind of powerful tool, it is only natural to deduce that she had hidden the Luocha Tablet inside the frozen river. This logic is as simple as ‘one and one equal two’.”

Actually, this logic was not simple at all; he arrived at the conclusion after going over countless hypotheses and numerous proofs.

Suddenly Chuchu sighed and said, “Actually, I was going to curse you some more, but I have to admit that in my heart I am a bit impressed by you!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Actually, in my heart I am also very impressed by myself!”

Chuchu rolled her eyes: “But your ability cannot be considered great yet; if you can find the assailant who murdered Li Xia, then I can say that your ability is truly amazing.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “I do not wish other people to call me amazing, I also do not wish to find someone else’s murderer, the one I want is only the Luocha Tablet.”

All this time Chen Jingjing was staring at him. She suddenly said, “And now since you have found what you are after, I presume you are going to leave soon?”

She said those words very softly, perhaps with a pang of hidden bitterness and heartache?

Lu Xiaofeng could not help but sighing. He slowly said, “Perhaps I should have left earlier.”

With a rueful smile Chen Jingjing said, “No matter what, I can be considered the host in here. Today at noon, I am going to hold a farewell dinner for you, both of you must grace it with your presence.”

Chuchu quickly said, “He will certainly come, but I won’t.”

Chen Jingjing: “Why?”

Chuchu: “Because your wine and dishes will definitely have a lot of vinegar in it. If I consume too much vinegar, I will have a stomachache!”

She also sighed, and then looked at Lu Xiaofeng with the corner of her eye. “Not only stomachache, I might have heartache as well. Therefore, I’d rather not go!”

As soon as he returned to the Eternal Heaven Restaurant, Lu Xiaofeng went straight to bed, and he did sleep very well.

However, he told himself: “At the most I can sleep only for four hours.”

Sure enough, before the four hours were over, he had woken up.

His body seemed to have a built-in internal alarm clock, whatever time he set his clock, it would go off at the appointed time — actually, everybody subconsciously has this kind of alarm clock, it’s just that Lu Xiaofeng’s alarm clock was particularly sharp.

When he opened his eyes, Chuchu was standing at the door, watching him. “I have been waiting for you for a long time!”

Lu Xiaofeng rubbed his eyes, “Why are you waiting for me?”

Chuchu: “I want to say goodbye to you!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Goodbye? You want to leave now?”

Chuchu drily said, “Since you have found the Luocha Tablet, I figure my debt is settled. You want to go drinking wine, I don’t want to drink vinegar; why shouldn’t I leave now?”

She did not give Lu Xiaofeng any chance to open his mouth, she asked, “I just want to know one thing, how did you suddenly become that close to her? Furthermore, you two seemed to have had sex!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “The reason is very simple: because I am a normal man, and she is a normal woman!”

Chuchu: “What about me? Am I not a woman? Am I not normal?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You are a normal woman all right, too bad you are a little bit too normal!”

Chuchu fixed her gaze at him. Suddenly she lunged forward, lifted his blanket up, and pressed his body down with hers.

Lu Xiaofeng: “What are you doing?”

Chuchu: “I just want to tell you: as long as I am willing, whatever she can do, I can also do, moreover, I can do it better than she does!”

Her fiery hot torso did not stop twisting and swaying, caressing and rubbing his body, she nibbled on his ears and panted for breath. “I was ready for you, but you did not want me. And now aren’t you starting to regret your decision?”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He could not but admit that this girl was a little demon who could raise a dead man.

Chuchu actually leaped up and dashed out the door without even turning her head. She shouted, “So then you’d better lie on your bed alone and regret slowly.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not have to lie on his bed alone for too long, because Chuchu had just left when Chen Jingjing showed up with two small wine cups and a pot of wine. She chuckled and said, “Why did that Miss who loves to drink vinegar and afraid to have stomachache leave first?”

With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng replied, “Because if she did not leave first, my head would hurt more than her stomach.”

Chen Jingjing sweetly said, “It is best that she is gone. I have already closed the Casino with the intention of spending time with you in here.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “It’s a pity the wine you bring is only enough for me to rinse my mouth.”

Chen Jingjing tenderly said, “The wine does not need to be plenty. As long as it is drunk with sincerity, one cup is already enough.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “All right, you pour, I drink!”

Chen Jingjing slowly poured two cups of wine. She quietly said, “I toast you one cup, to bid you farewell, to wish you have a pleasant journey. You may also toast me one cup, to bid me farewell, for henceforth we will go our separate ways!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You are also leaving?”

Chen Jingjing sighed, “The five of us came together to this place; now, I am the only one left, why would I want to stay here?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You … do you know where you are going?”

Chen Jingjing: “I do. Somewhere.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Since we both are going to leave, why can’t we travel together?”

Chen Jingjing smiled ruefully, “Because I know you are not being sincere in inviting me, I also know that the number of women by your side must be many. I have never known any woman who does not drink vinegar, I am also a woman, I …”

She did not continue, but simply drained her cup, then slowly put the cup down, slowly turned around, and slowly walked away.

She did not turn her head, as if she was afraid that once she did, she would never have the ability to leave.

Lu Xiaofeng also did not stop her. He simply looked silently at her back. Looking at his face, he looked like someone who had just drank a cup of bitter wine.

Right that moment, suddenly he heard someone on the outside say, “Congratulations! At last you succeed!”

The voice sounded old, naturally it came from Sui Han San You.

Lu Xiaofeng had already seen their hands before he even saw the people.

“Hand it over!” The old man Gu Song had not entered the room, his hand had been stretched out. “You hand the stuff over then you may go. The gratitude and grudges between us henceforth are written off.”

Lu Xiaofeng did not open his mouth, he did not even move, he was just looking at them with a wide stupid grin on his face.

The old man Gu Song’s face sank. “Don’t you understand what I just said?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I understand.”

The old man Gu Song: “Luocha Tablet?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “It’s gone!”

The old man Gu Song’s countenance changed abruptly. “What did you say?” he said in stern voice.

Lu Xiaofeng was still smiling, “What you said, I understood. How come you do not understand what I said?”

The old man Gu Song: “Are you saying you do not have the Luocha Tablet?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I did have it.”

The old man Gu Song: “And now?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “And now somebody has stolen it.”

The old man Gu Song: “Who stole it?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “By the person who had just pressed me and rolled around on my body.”

The old man Gu Song: “By the woman whom you brought in here?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Of course it was a woman, if it was a man pressing me and rolling around my body, I would have fainted early on!”

The old man Gu Song was furious. “You clearly knew she has stolen your Luocha Tablet, and yet you let her go free?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I have to let her go free.”

The old man Gu Song: “Why?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Because the Luocha Tablet she has stolen is a fake one.”

The frigid wind, dark clouds and murky sky, snow covered road, a solitary woman riding a thin and weak little donkey, with a faint cold and lonely sound of Qiang flute [vertical flute used by the Qiang – an ethnic group of Chinese people] coming from a distance, and a large temple looming silently like a dark cloud.

She was at the ends of the earth, but her heart was even farther, at the outer space [Translator’s note: ends of the earth – ‘tian ya’, outer space – ‘tian wai’].

“A lonely life, an endless journey, gazing into the infinite road toward the horizon, where is the way back home …?”

She travelled very slowly. Since she did not know where the way back home was, why should she hasten on her journey?

Suddenly from the fork of the road a large horse-drawn carriage came over. The driver was a large man wearing a fur cap on his head, with a long whip in his hand. When the carriage caught up with her, the man unexpectedly smiled to her.

And she smiled back.

What harm would a little smile between two travelers while journeying together at the ends of the earth and meeting each other by chance be, although they were not acquainted with each other?

Suddenly the man driving the carriage asked, “Miss, are you or are you not cold?”

Chen Jingjing: “Cold.”

The man driving the carriage: “You won’t be cold if you sit inside the carriage!”

Chen Jingjing: “I know!”

The man driving the carriage: “Then why haven’t you boarded the carriage?”

Chen Jingjing thought for a moment then slowly dismounted the donkey. The carriage had also stopped — Since she dared to go down even a deep fryer, why not board a carriage?

Seeing she boarded the carriage, the driver suddenly lashed his whip at the donkey’s behind.

Feeling the pain, the donkey fled like an arrow, leaving behind the desolate land.

A smile appeared at the corner of the driver’s mouth. Leisurely he hummed a tune, a folk song: “In the Hei Wu La by the Song River there was a beautiful and tender girl; from among a million of rich families she chose me. I embraced her by the waist, not because of my family’s riches, but because she is so tender!”

The song was melodious; it seemed to bring a joyous rhythm to the bland snow and ice covered road.

Afterwards, the carriage travelled far away.

This Hei Wu La was not the Hei Wu La by the Song River.

The Hei Wu La by the Song River was a town by the Song Hua River, a big river.

This Hei Wu La was not a big town, but on this extremely cold and desolate place in the middle of nowhere, it cannot be considered too small either.

More than two hours later, the large horse-drawn carriage had reached Hei Wu La. After going through two large streets, it turned into a small alley and stopped in front of a small hut.

The man driving the carriage turned his head around and smiled, “We have arrived at my house. Would Miss care to come in and sit down?”

It was not until half a day later that Chen Jingjing’s unenthusiastic voice replied from inside the carriage, “Since I am already here, there is no harm for me to come in and sit down.”

She had just got out of the carriage when the shabby wooden door opened with a creaking noise and a foolish looking and filthy boy stood at the threshold, looking at her with a grin and giggle on his face.

Chen Jingjing’s face did not show any emotion. She patted the dust from her clothes, and then slowly walked in.

Inside the door was a very crude small living room, situated at the middle of the wall there was an offering table with an idol of the God of Wealth, holding a gold ingot in his hand. There was another leafed door toward the back, where a cotton cloth curtain was hung; it was faded blue in color from too much washing. There was a large red ‘happiness’ character made of paper pasted above the opening. Whoever entered this room would be able to see immediately that the owner of this place must be a poor peasant who dreamed about gaining sudden wealth all day long.

One poor peasant, one filthy kid, a broken down house with two, maybe three, unstable rooms, which felt like it was ready to fall down to the east and lean to the west anytime, four, maybe five, broken down and tattered wooden furniture, the ‘happiness’ character above the door, which, whoever sees it would not be able to say that it was pleasing to the eyes, and the idol of the God of Wealth on the wall, which looked more like a newly rich person.

Actually, it was the kind of place where Chen Jingjing would not stay even for a moment; she liked tidiness, she liked elegant furniture, but unexpectedly, this time she did not look like she was about to leave soon.

Could it be that she had nowhere else to go?

The poor kid was still looking at her with smile on his face; her face still did not show any emotion. She looked around the room; unexpectedly she then raised the faded blue cotton curtain and entered other people’s bedroom.

Naturally, there would be a bed in a bedroom. The bed was unexpectedly very big; moreover, it looked brand new. The mattress and the quilt also looked brand new, not only that, it was also exquisitely embroidered with expensive yarn in the shape of four big scarlet flowers and a pair of mandarin ducks playing on the water.

Behind the bed piled four, five brand new chests made of camphor-wood, and a dressing table with a water chestnut-shaped mirror. The wall all around was white-washed that the room felt like a snowy cave. Apparently, it was a newly-wed couple’s bridal chamber.

Chen Jingjing frowned, her eyes revealed a disgusted look; but when her gaze fell on those camphor-wood chests, her eyes immediately shone.

And then she did the most unthinkable thing: she jumped into somebody else’s bed, and then she took a string of keys from her bosom and opened up the large padlock on somebody else’s camphor-wood chest.

Suddenly, a dazzling golden ray burst out from the camphor-wood chest, for surprisingly, the chest was full of ingots of pure gold [orig. ‘yuan bao’ – gold ingots in the shape of boat].

The golden ray also shone on her face, the face that revealed a smile for the very first time. She ran the tip of her finger gently on the row after row of neatly stacked golden ingots, just like a mother gently caressed her newborn baby.

To gain this gold was not an easy matter at all, it was a lot more difficult than for a mother giving birth to a child.

But right now all hardship and misery had passed, so she sighed with contentment. When she looked up, she saw the man driving the carriage has just entered the room. He smiled and said, “What do you think of my play acting?”

Chen Jingjing smiled sweetly, “Good, it was very good, truly deserving the title ‘Number One Child Prodigy in the World’.”

The man driving the carriage exploded in laughter. He took off the fur cap, which was pressing low to his eyebrows, to reveal a somewhat boyish face. He was none other than Li Shentong.

After taking out the red gown and the green hat he wore earlier to feign insanity, this man did not look the least bit crazy on the contrary, he did not look ugly at all.

Chen Jingjing looked at him with her eyes brimming with tender and happy feelings, “These last two days must be very hard on you.”

Li Shentong laughed, “It was not that hard, it was just a bit nerve-wrecking; that four-eyebrowed son of a b**tch truly was not a tasty and well-cooked rice!”

Suddenly he also asked, “When you left, did he ask you about me?”

Chen Jingjing shook her head, “He thinks you are really crazy, so basically he does not even think about you!”

Li Shentong laughed, “That’s why although that guy is like a ghost, he still drank the water you used to wash your feet in.”

Chen Jingjing: “Wasn’t it entirely because of you? When you pretended to be crazy, even I almost believed it!”

Li Shentong: “That’s not difficult at all; I only had to pretend that Hong’er was you. You should have known that I directed those words to you.”

He looked at her as if he was entranced by her, just like a baby desiring to drink his mother’s milk. After a long time, he laughed and said, “What do you think of the way I decorated this room?”

Chen Jingjing sweetly said, “Very good, it simply looks like a bridal chamber!”

She lied down with a smile on her face; lied down with that pair of eyes that can melt ice into water looking at Li Shentong. “Do you think I look like a bride?” she asked in husky voice.

Li Shentong’s adam’s apple went up and down; he looked too nervous to even breathe. Suddenly he pounced to the bed and pressed her down. With a gasping breath he said, “I want you, I have been holding myself crazy … It has been three months since we …”

While his mouth was busy talking, his hands were also busy pulling her clothes.

Chen Jingjing did not push him away at all, she was also panting slightly, her hot breath was blowing onto Li Shentong’s ear that he felt the bones in his entire body had turned into jelly. She also wrapped her arms around his neck.

Li Shentong gasped even harder that his voice turned raspy, “I can’t take it anymore, hurry up …”

Suddenly there was a ‘Crack!’ noise, just like the sound of breaking bones. He leaped high into the air from Chen Jingjing’s body but his head hang limply on his shoulders. His entire body crumpled like a lump of mud as ‘Crash!’ he fell back onto the floor. His eyes bulged out, his breathing stopped.

Chen Jingjing did not even give him another look, she quietly lied down on the bed and shut her eyes.

Right this moment, from outside came a tender laugh, as clear as the sound of a silver bell. Obviously it was a melodious laughter of a woman. She clapped and laughed: “Good, very good! No wonder ever since we were little, Little Ding has always said that you are the most ruthless-hearted woman; she really has not misread you!”

Chen Jingjing’s countenance changed suddenly, but by the time she stood up, her face had already wore that kind of gentle and touching smile, “My heart might be ruthless, but it is still not too black. What about you?”

“My heart has been eaten by the wild dog a long time ago!”

A young woman wearing a fur cap and a five-flower pattern dress, walked in with a smile on her face. Her smiling countenance was as beautiful as the fresh blooming flowers in the late spring; she was none other than that really cute and moving Chuchu.

Behind her followed three men: one man dressed in black wielding a sword, one man looked nimble and strong like an ape, one man was old with long white hair; they followed her closely as if they were her shadow.

Chen Jingjing had already walked toward her to welcome her, she said sweetly, “I really did not expect you might come over here, otherwise, I would have prepared a few dishes of your favorite delicacies to accompany you drinking a couple of cups of your favorite Rose Nectar Wine!”

Chuchu smiled even sweeter, “I did not expect you would still remember my favorite dishes?”

Chen Jingjing: “After all, we grew up together. Even if you have forgotten me, I would definitely still remember you.”

Chuchu: “Really?”

Chen Jingjing: “Of course. These past couple of days I had always wanted to look for an opportunity to visit you, but I was afraid it might raise someone else’s suspicions.”

Chuchu: “Same with me, that lowly four-eyebrowed sex maniac is truly not a good thing.”

The two women were smiling to each other, their smiles were brimming with warm friendship.

With a tender voice Chen Jingjing said, “You haven’t change a bit!”

Chuchu: “Neither have you.”

Chen Jingjing: “I have missed you so much these past few years.

Chuchu: “I have missed you even more.”

Both women were walking toward each other with arms open wide, as if they wanted to hug the other to express their love. But before they reached each other, Chen Jingjing’s smile suddenly disappeared, her tender gaze became a fierce stare filled with a murderous look; her hands also changed, from open palms into eagle claws. Like a lightning one claw struck toward Chuchu’s main artery, while the other claw maliciously grabbed Chuchu’s abdomen below her left ribs.

It was a very sharp and vicious attack, and was executed exactly in the same way as Leng Hong’er’s ‘spraining the muscle dislocating the bones’ technique. If Chuchu was grabbed by her, Chuchu would not be able to die easily even if she wanted to.

But although her action was fast, Chuchu was even faster; she had just made a move when a light ‘Ding!’ was heard, two thin dark rays, as thin as a cow’s hair, shot out from both of Chuchu’s long sleeves.

She only felt tingling sensation on both knees, just like as if she was bitten by a mosquito; her strength immediately drained out and her legs gave up. ‘Plop!’ she fell on her knees, she knelt right in front of Chuchu.

Chuchu laughed again, with laughter as clear as the silver bell, “We have been sisters for many years, why be overly courteous?”

Amidst the melodious laughter, another cold ray flashed, striking Chen Jingjing’s laughter acupoint on her waist.

Chen Jingjing started to laugh, she could not stop giggling, but there was not the least bit of laughter in her eyes. Her pretty face contorted in pain, with beads of cold sweat the size of soy beans rolled down her face.

Chuchu winked and laughed. “I get it. You must have been pricked by your own conscience that you have wronged me, and so you come to me to apologize. But why must you kneel down? As long as you hand that thing over to me, I won’t blame you anymore!”

Chen Jingjing was still laughing hysterically while the cold sweats were still flowing profusely; she struggled to say, “What thing?”

Chuchu: “You don’t know?”

Chen Jingjing shook her head; her whole body was weakened from the laughter that this shake of the head seemed to entail a very strenuous effort on her part.

Chuchu’s countenance fell; she coldly said, “Even among brothers all accounts must be settled clearly. We, sisters, are no different. Jia Leshan was willing to spend four hundred thousand taels of gold for Li Xia’s Luocha Tablet. You have promised me that as long as I can come up with a hundred thousand taels of gold, you would guarantee that the Luocha Tablet would be mine, right?”

Chen Jingjing: “But … hasn’t the Luocha Tablet already been taken by the man you brought along?”

Chuchu took out a piece of jade tablet. “Are you talking about this?”

Chen Jingjing nodded.

Chuchu suddenly walked over and slapped her with the back of her palm, while with a cold laugh said, “Do you really believe I can’t see a fake article?”

Suddenly she forcefully flung the jade tablet toward Li Shentong’s head and said, “You regarded this fellow as a clown, you think that his counterfeit goods may fool others, it’s just too bad that his engraving of all those demons and deities are worse than Zhu Bajie [the pig-like character in Journey to the West]!”

Chen Jingjing struggled hard to bite her own lip, trying to stop her laughter, but even after her lip was torn her laughter did not stop.

Chuchu: “Actually, I have suspected you for a long time. You are obviously aware that the Luocha Tablet is a priceless treasure, yet you were willing to sell it to others? Usually your heart is blacker than anybody; when you eat someone, you won’t even spit the bones out. That’s why I ordered Xin Lao’er to observe you closely. Even if you hide underground, I will have a way to drag you out!”

Chen Jingjing: “You … you think I took away the real Luocha Tablet?”

Chuchu: “Before Li Xia hid the Luocha Tablet in the frozen river, apparently you have already swapped it with the fake one. Although we originally …”

Originally, their plan was …

The amount of gold as the payment: if Chuchu would pay a quarter of the selling price, as long as three out of twelve chests were filled with gold, the other nine could be filled with rocks.

Because Chen Jingjing would personally receive the payment, as soon as the twelve chests were submitted, she would immediately notify Li Xia to deliver the goods.

She was Li Xia’s most trusted aide, naturally Li Xia would not suspect any foul play. Li Xia was prepared to use the explosive to blast open the ice on the following day to get the Luocha Tablet out. All she wanted was just gold and men, she did not have the slightest interest toward the throne of the Cult Leader of the Western Region’s Demon Cult.

Chuchu: “But you knew that as soon as she discovered the Luocha Tablet was fake, she would realize you had a part in it, because other than you and herself, there was no third person who knew about this secret. Therefore, that very evening you had to kill her, and then deliberately froze her, along with the Old Goat, inside the ice to divert other people’s attention, because nobody would have guessed a woman like you would be able to commit such madness!”

She immediately continued, “You see, your secret is totally open before me, why would you still feign innocence?”

Chen Jingjing’s entire body was twisting in convulsions; not only she was wet from cold sweat and tears, but even her pants were also completely soaked. Her knees felt like they had just been cut by steel blade, with the sharp edge of the blade lingering on the incisions; but she was still laughing continuously as if she had just picked up three hundred gold ingots from the street.

Chuchu: “You still don’t want to get it out? Do you know what the outcome would be if you keep laughing like this?”

Chen Jingjing struggled with all her strength to close her mouth, but even her jaw refused to follow her command.

Chuchu: “When you first laugh, only sweat and tears came out; now, presumably your urine and feces are already out. Two or four hours later, the joints in your entire body would disintegrate, you will crumple on the ground like spilt mud. I don’t care who, but if anybody would just touch you with the tip of his finger, I guarantee that you would scream like a pig being slaughtered!”

Chen Jingjing: “You … you …”

Chuchu: “If you think I do not have the heart to do this kind of ruthless act, you are wrong! Just like Jia Leshan did not believe I could kill him!”

Chen Jingjing: “You killed him?”

Chuchu: “He had money, he had power. Although he was no longer young, his stamina was excellent; he was still able to rock the bed, not the least inferior to any young man. His charm against women was several folds better than a young man. He was even more gentle and considerate toward me. Nobody would believe that I was capable of killing him!”

She continued drily, “Yet I have killed him. Since I can kill him, what other things I won’t be able to do?”

Exhausting her entire strength, Chen Jingjing croaked, “The Luocha Tablet is in my sanitary cloth, please spare me!”

The sound of laughter had stopped, Chen Jingjing was paralyzed, she sprawled on the floor like a lump of mud.

Naturally the Luocha Tablet was already in Chuchu’s hand. She held this piece of sparkling and translucent jade on the palm of her hands, just like a royalty holding the jade seal, the symbol of his authority. She was delighted, proud and also feeling smug, and could not restrain from shouting and laughing loudly.

Just when her laughter reached the happiest moment, suddenly a long whip flew in quietly from outside the window. The tip of the whip coiled itself around the jade tablet on her hand and just as quick, like a snake it flew back out the window.

Chuchu could not laugh anymore, the expression on her face was like someone whose nose had just been cut by somebody else.

She heard someone outside say with a laugh, “No need to chase me out, because I am coming in. I appreciate your help in getting this Luocha Tablet back for me, the least I can do is express my gratitude personally!”

Lu Xiaofeng!

Chuchu bit her lip: “I knew it must be you. Why don’t you come in?”

She had just stopped talking when with a chuckle Lu Xiaofeng suddenly appeared in front of her, with a long whip in one hand and the jade tablet in the other.

Seeing Lu Xiaofeng, she unexpectedly also laughed, “I didn’t know you still have a hidden skill in whip technique!”

Lu Xiaofeng smiled, “I stole it!”

Chuchu: “Stole it? Stole what?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I stole this whip from the horse-drawn carriage outside, I stole the whip technique from the Shadowless Divine Whip [‘wu ying shen bian’]. Speaking about stealing, although my skill is a far cry from the King of Thieves, I might say that it is a lot higher than yours.”

Chuchu sighed, “But I already knew about your stealing skill. You almost stole my heart away, much less other things?”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Didn’t you say your heart had already been eaten by some stray dogs?”

With eyes wide open Chuchu said, “You came here pretty quick, actually!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You have never guessed?”

Chuchu: “How did you find it out?”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “Because when I lay on my bed alone, I had so many things to think about, that’s why I was able to solve a lot of mysteries.”

Chuchu pouted: “Who told you to let your imagination runs wild alone? Why didn’t you rape me?”

She seemed to be resentful that other people did not rape her. “You are not even a gentleman. If you could rape others, why couldn’t you rape me?”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “Because at that time I was not desperate yet. Since you withheld my desire, I also want to withhold yours!”

Chuchu blinked her eyes several times. “Since when did you change your mind?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Since the rocks spilled out from the chest.”

He chuckled, and continued, “Although I am not accustomed to ‘going on the line to open and dig out, stepping on the tray’, but whether a chest is made of iron? Or is it gold? I think I can still clearly tell!”

‘Going on the line to open and dig out’ means stopping someone on the road and robbing him. ‘Stepping on the tray’ means looking at the appearance of the goods, looking at the wind and the water. It was said that the experts of the underground world, just by looking at the rising dust when a carriage passed by, would be able to tell what kind of cargo that carriage was hauling, plus the amount of the goods.

Chuchu sighed again: “Turns out not only you can steal, you also have this kind of ability. Actually it is too bad that a man like you does not become a robber.”

Lu Xiaofeng also sighed in exasperation: “Frankly speaking, sometimes I also feel displeased with myself. Several times I almost change profession!”

Chuchu sweetly said, “If you did change your profession, definitely I would have been your chief’s wife who’s keeping the stronghold under control.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, “If I became the chief of any gang, I would definitely ask you to become the Hall Leader of one of the three Internal Halls, just like your old friend, Ding Xiangyi!”

Chuchu’s eyes grew big: “You knew I know her?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Because as soon as we arrived at Rahasu, it was like you were home, you are very familiar with everything and everybody. At that time I already had my suspicions; it was very possible that you also grew up here, it was very possible that you already knew Chen Jingjing and Ding Xiangyi.”

Chuchu stared hard at him. “Since you know Little Ding, you must be very close to her. I know her very well, seeing a man like you, it is impossible for her to let you off!”

Lu Xiaofeng neither denied nor admitted.

Chuchu pouted again. “Among the three of us, you have slept with two. Why did you neglect me?”

The two of them were talking and joking, flirting with each other; while the faces of the three men behind her had already changed. Suddenly they leaped out to surround Lu Xiaofeng with glowering looks.

Lu Xiaofeng acted as if he had just noticed them. He smiled, “Last time gentlemen withdrew without any fight; this time you all want to try again?”

The white-haired old man coldly said, “Last time we should have killed you!”

Xin Lao’er: “Last time we spared you because she still wanted to use you as her puppet!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed aloud, “If I am her puppet, then what are you? I need only to nod, and she will come with me, but you?”

The three men’s countenance grew even more terrifying, they turned their heads toward Chuchu, but Chuchu stepped aside, as if saying that this matter had nothing to do with her.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Actually, I have recognized Huashan disciple ‘Solitary Finger Penetrates the Heaven’, Hua Shaokun, the Wulin master of Jiangbei [in Sichuan province] ‘Multi-hand Wolf Immortal’, Hu Xin, and Cloaked Sword School’s ‘Divine Sword in Black’, Du Bai, long ago; but I did not dare to announce it to the world, because I did not believe three famous experts of such famous schools would be willing to be a woman’s slaves.”

The three men’s countenance turned from green to white. They had assumed their given names as surnames, but Lu Xiaofeng was still able to recognize their real identity and origin.

The hunched body of the white-haired old man slowly straightened up. He cupped his fists and said, “That’s right. I am Hua Shaokun. Please!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You want to fight me alone?”

Hua Shaokun: “If you did not know my real identity, I would definitely join hands with them and battle you together, but now …”

Suddenly his expression became very solemn as he sternly said, “My own life and death, honor and disgrace, is not worth mentioning; but Huashan Pai’s reputation must not be destroyed in my hands!”

Although Huashan was not the top or even the second rank Sect of the Wulin world, they were after all, a noble and respectable school. It was very rare that their disciples turned into a scum of the community, it was even rarer that their disciples turned into a coward!

Lu Xiaofeng’s expression also turned solemn – one who can respect oneself is also worthy of other people’s respect.

Hua Shaokun: “I have long heard Lu Daxia’s [great hero] special finger skill is number one in the world; coincidentally, Zaixia [humble one, lit. under/below] also trained this kind of skill. I beg Lu Daxia to grant me some pointers!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Very well!”

He took a very deep breath, put the Luocha Tablet securely in his pocket, and lay down the long whip. Suddenly there was a whooshing noise of a sharp gust of wind. Hua Shaokun’s finger, as sharp as a sword, swiftly piercing the ‘jian jing’ [shoulder well] acupoint on Lu Xiaofeng’s shoulders.

In this one move he had attacked two places, all along his power did not diminish at all, the second attack was as powerful as the first; he was truly worthy to be called a famous school’s disciple.

But in this one move, although Lu Xiaofeng had to admit that this old man’s skill was profound, his style actually lacked variation; his movement seemed to be too old-fashioned and somewhat stiff, which was exactly the shortcoming the famous schools’ disciples usually have.

Although he only looked once, Lu Xiaofeng was confident that in two, three stances he would score a victory.

Yet he could not help but ask himself in his heart — Once I make my move, should I defeat him? Should I give him a little more face? — If one was in love, regardless of whom he loved, he should not be blamed, should he? Especially when he is already old; once he fell down, it would not be easy for him to stand back up.

While these thoughts flashed in his mind, Hua Shaokun’s fingertip was already less than half a chi from his acupoint. He could feel the strong wind penetrating his clothes; he did not have the luxury of pondering his options away.

His only option was to make a move, make a move like a lightning, using his own fingertip to meet the old man’s fingertip.

Hua Shaokun felt a burst of heat from his fingertip spreading into his entire body, while his own force suddenly faded away.

Huashan’s Dan Zhi Shen Tong [divine flicking finger] was one among the seven major unique skills of the Wulin world, and his mastery of this skill was over forty years of hard training. But right now his strength vanished just like snow and ice melting under the bright sunlight and he was overcome by cold sweats all over his body.

Who would have thought that Lu Xiaofeng suddenly fell back two steps and said with a bitter smile, “Huashan’s divine finger truly deserves its reputation.”

Hua Shaokun: “But I … I lost!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You did not lose. Although I took your attack, and perhaps my movement was somewhat quicker than yours, your power is actually deeper than mine, why do you bother …”

He had not finished speaking when suddenly ‘Ding!’ dozens ray of cold stars like rain of flowers filling the sky threatened his back.

His back did not have eyes, also it did not have any hands.

Hua Shaokun’s countenance changed from shock, but Chuchu’s eyes actually shone.

In this split second, Lu Xiaofeng’s body suddenly swiveled on his feet, dozens of cold stars flew very close below his ribs and since Hua Shaokun was standing in front of him, unexpectedly all of the stars landed on Hua Shaokun’s chest.

Hua Shaokun’s eyes bulged out, staring at Hu Xin while step by step he walked over to him.

Hu Xin’s countenance also changed, as step by step he withdrew backward.

Hua Shaokun only managed to take two steps forward, when suddenly blood simultaneously gushing out from the corners of his eyes, his nostrils, and the corners of his mouth.

Hu Xin seemed to feel relieved, “I …”

He only said one word when blood suddenly gushed out from the pit of his stomach; along with the blood, the tip of a sword appeared.

With eyes full of shock Hu Xin looked at the tip of the sword protruding out from his chest, as if he could not believe it was really happening. Blood also gushed out from between his lips and then with a loud roar he fell forward, no longer moving.

It was not until after he collapsed that everybody could see Du Bai standing behind him with a sword held tight in his hand; blood was still dripping from the tip of his sword.

Looking at him, Hua Shaokun struggled hard to smile: “Thank you.”

Du Bai also forced a smile, but did not say anything.

Hua Shaokun turned toward Lu Xiaofeng, word by word he said, “Thank you even more!”

Du Bai avenged him, Lu Xiaofeng preserved his reputation. These were exactly the two most cherished believe in the Wulin world.

Hua Shaokun closed his eyes. The corners of his mouth seemed to show a smile; his last smile.

The wind blew in through the window, the nip in the air felt as if it was creeping into the bottom of their hearts.

After a long time, Lu Xiaofeng finally heaved a sigh while muttered softly, “Why? What are all these for …?”

Du Bai’s face was expressionless. He slowly said, “You should know what are all these for. I also know!”

Greed!

Greed over money, greed over power, greed over fame, and greed over sex!

Isn’t it a fact that all misery and disaster humankind are going through are all because of this greed?

Lu Xiaofeng could not help but heave a deep sigh again. He turned toward Du Bai and said, “You …”

Du Bai coldly said, “I am not your match!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed, a very hollow laugh. “In that case, you may leave,” he said, waving his hand.

The blood at the tip of the sword was dry. Du Bai slowly withdrew his sword. As the sword entered its sheathe, he was already standing in front of Chuchu. “Let’s go!” he said.

Chuchu: “Go? You want me to come with you?”

Du Bai: “Yes, I want you to come with me!”

Suddenly Chuchu laughed, she doubled over in laughter, she laughed so hard that tears seemed to flow from her eyes.

Seeing Chen Jingjing laugh, Lu Xiaofeng only then knew that laughing is sometimes more painful than crying. Seeing Chuchu laugh, Lu Xiaofeng only then knew that sometimes laughter can hurt people more than the sharp blade of a sword.

It was as if blood was completely drained from Du Bai’s face. His pair of originally very calm and steady hands trembled continuously. Yet he was unwilling to give up his hope; he asked again, “You don’t want to go?”

Chuchu’s laughter stopped abruptly. With cold eyes she looked at him, as if she did not recognize this man at all. After a long time she finally said with a frosty voice, “Get lost!”

These words were like a strip of merciless whip; a whip which cut through Du Bai’s skin and bones, split him in halves, and ripped his heart away, and tossed it in front of him, letting him trample it with his own feet.

Without saying anything he turned around to leave. But Chuchu suddenly leaped, pulled the sword hanging on his back, flew high and made a somersault, while throwing the sword backhandedly toward the middle of his back.

Du Bai did not evade, he let this sword penetrate his heart.

But he did not collapse; instead, he turned around to face Chuchu, and looked at her coldly.

Chuchu’s countenance also changed; forcing a laugh she said, “I know you cannot live without me, so I might as well let you die and that’s the end of it.”

Blood also gushed out of the corner of Du Bai’s mouth; he slowly nodded his head, “Good, very good …”

As the second ‘good’ came out of his mouth, suddenly he lunged forward and embraced Chuchu tightly, so tight that even in his death he did not let go.

The sword in his chest also pierced Chuchu’s chest. The blood from his chest also flowed into Chuchu’s chest.

Chuchu’s head hang on his shoulder, her eyes gradually bulged out, while her breathing was growing harder. She felt the body embracing her own was growing colder; growing colder and stiffer, but the arms still did not relax.

Then her own body also started to feel cold, so cold that it penetrated her bones and marrows, but her eyes actually shone brighter. Suddenly she turned toward Lu Xiaofeng and laughed, “Why didn’t you rape me? Why …?”

And those were the last words she ever said.

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