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The Vast Desert Chapter 24


Chapter 24 – Prophesying with Supernatural Accuracy

Grieved, Hu Tiehua said, “Human beings will die for riches, just as birds will die for food [idiom]; but this … is it worth it?”

The person in white spoke unhurriedly, “Are you scared?”

Opening his eyes wide, Hu Tiehua said, “What am I scared for?”

The person in white replied, “Naturally scared that I am going to kill you?”

Hu Tiehua laughed aloud and said, “Did you see me as someone who is afraid of death?”

The person in white replied, “I see that although on the surface you are full of heroic spirit, in his heart you are still somewhat afraid.”

Without listening to Hu Tiehua’s answer, she turned around and clapped her hands. Immediately several big men jumped down from that ‘ghost ship’ and transferred the gold and pearls from the camelback aboard.

“Hey!” Hu Tiehua called loudly, “Don’t forget that these things are to be exchanged with your ‘Star of Happiness’.”

The person in white turned around and asked, “You want to take the Star of Happiness back?”

“Of course I do,” Hu Tiehua replied.

The person in white laughed coldly and said, “What makes you think I’m not going to kill you?”

Hu Tiehua shouted loudly, “Even if I die I must bring the Star of Happiness back.”

“That’s strange,” the person in white coldly said, “How could a dead person bring anything back?”

Hu Tiehua’s eyes grew big, he was speechless.

When Hu Tiehua was waiting to die, not even in his dream would he think that Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan might be nearby, watching him – Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan were unexpectedly on board the ghost ship that was parked about a dozen of zhang away.

They were transferred from another ship to this ship, only because the Stone Guanyin wanted to ‘take a good care of them’. But they actually had never seen the Stone Guanyin at all.

Hu Tiehua thought that this person in white was the Stone Guanyin, but she was actually only a disciple in the Stone Guanyin’s school. The Stone Guanyin herself had long gone.

Her whereabouts was indeed extremely secretive; not only she always come and go hurriedly, no one has ever known where she came from, and where she was going.

Now, Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan were inside the hold of this ship; not only that, they were actually sitting at the mouth of the hold, and were looking outside from behind the curtain, hence they were able to see Hu Tiehua.

However, naturally they could not move, and they did not dare to call loudly either, because they knew that Hu Tiehua had no way of rescuing them. In fact, the person in white already warned them, “Even if you call loudly, it won’t do you any good at all, it will only make Hu Tiehua die a bit sooner. Therefore, you’d better keep your mouth shut.”

Actually, she did not need to tell them this at all, because Chu Liuxiang had been very clear about this.

But they did not keep their mouth shut at all.

When they saw the state that Hu Tiehua was in, they were really discouraged. Chu Liuxiang could not help sighing and said, “Looking at the situation, I am afraid he is harmed by the wine.”

Ji Bingyan said, “It would be strange indeed if he is not dead because of wine.”

“But he is very good,” Yidian Hong said, “He is not afraid to die.”

Ji Bingyan said with a cold laugh, “Not afraid to die is very good? Both fools and idiots are not afraid to die either.”

Yidian Hong coldly replied, “Not afraid to die is always better than being afraid of death.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “What are you two arguing about? This time he is not going to die.”

Ji Bingyan asked, “What makes you think others won’t dare to kill him?”

When he said that, it was nearly the same time when the person in white spoke. The two persons, not only they were speaking the same sentence, the tone of their voice was more or less the same.

Chu Liuxiang said, “If she killed Xiao Hu [little Hu], who would bring the Star of Happiness back?”

Hearing the person in white outside spoke similar sentence, he laughed and said, “Did you hear that? Dead person has no way of bringing anything back.”

Ji Bingyan said, “How do you know she wants Xiao Hu take that thing back?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “If nobody bring the Star of Happiness back, how could they swindle that muddleheaded king to reveal the secret?”

Although Ji Bingyan still a bit incredulous, he had no choice but to believe Chu Liuxiang, just because this moment he saw the person in white was walking back, and Hu Tiehua was still alive.

Chu Liuxiang sighed. He muttered, “If only that muddleheaded king would not be so muddleheaded that he reveals the secret; otherwise, not only he would send his life away, I am afraid Xiao Hu would also accompany him sending his life away.”

Ji Bingyan could not help asking, “Why?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Currently perhaps Shi Guanyin herself knew that she has no way to make that King of Qiuci to reveal the secret, but she thinks that the King of Qiuci might tell Xiao Hu, because the King of Qiuci might ask for Xiao Hu’s help. Since she thinks that right now Xiao Hu is very useful, naturally she is really hesitant to kill him.”

Ji Bingyan no longer speak, but in his heart he uttered a silent prayer, “I hope that King of Qiuci will not tell the secret.”

The person in white went away, the boat went away as well.

Only now did Hu Tiehua start to feel afraid.

Honestly, he himself did not believe that he would be alive.

The ‘Stone Guanyin’ really had no reason not to kill him.

Yet the Stone Guanyin clearly did not kill him. Not only she did not kill him, she really left the Star of Happiness behind instead – could it be that the Stone Guanyin was really a person who keep her promises?

Hu Tiehua really did not believe, yet he had no choice but to believe.

The night was getting deeper, the nip in the air was getting heavier. And Hu Tiehua was so cold that his entire body shivered.

Now, although gradually the effect of the drug was dissipating, although gradually he was able to move about again, but his body still felt weak, while the camels had long gone because they were scared.

Hu Tiehua knew that he was absolutely incapable to cross this fifty-li of desert to go back.

In the daytime, when he had his full strength, whether or not he could walk back would still be a question; let alone this moment the night was so deep and his strength was almost completely gone.

With the ‘Star of Happiness’ in his possession, he could not take any chances.

Later on, the cold was really unbearable, so he went around to look for some brambles and bushes, and a place among the rocks where he could take shelter from the wind and where he could build the fire.

There was also a benefit of being in the desert, which was that it was very easy to make a fire, simply because the vegetation that grew in the desert must be already completely dry.

“Perhaps this is the only benefit,” Hu Tiehua muttered to himself.

He suddenly stopped talking and slowly stood up, but then slowly squatted down again, while his eyes were fixed on the piece of rock directly in front of him. Even if standing in front of him right now was a naked beauty, perhaps he would not even be as spellbound as looking at the rock.

But it was nothing more than a weathered rock.

As the flame flickered, his eyes were also brightened.

Turned out this piece of rock was unexpectedly dyed with some black and yellow pigments, with several drops of already frozen impurities, just like a piece of top-quality cowhide. This was actually not a strange thing, but what was strange was discovering such things in the most desolate and hidden corner of such a desolate desert.

Besides, after all is said and done, he was a Jianghu veteran; although he himself did not have any disguising skill, he knew that these substances were used in disguising technique.

Who might use such disguising technique in a place like this?

Chu Liuxiang has always carried this kind of things with him. Hu Tiehua exhaled slowly. He muttered, “Turns out the Old Stinky Bug was here. But why did he need to disguise himself? Looking at the color he used is yellow and black, could it be that he was scared from being chased by women, hence he disguised himself as an ugly person?”

Thinking about it, he could not help laughing at his own joke.

But this matter was not funny at all. Chu Liuxiang must be in danger; otherwise he would not need to disguise himself, not to mention that after he put on the disguise, there was no news about him.

Hu Tiehua knitted his brows. He tried to move the rock. This piece of rock was dead; he could not move it. But his heart did not die; he tried to move another piece of rock.

Unexpectedly this piece of rock could be moved away by him. The sand underneath was so loose that he was able to dig using his bare hands, and soon afterwards he dug out a large bundle, which made him surprised and happy at the same time.

Inside the bundle, there was a headscarf, with a character ‘Qu’ [surname Qu, crooked, a song] embroidered on one of the corners. There was also a small wooden bottle. Pulling the cork out, he smelled a burst of faint tulip scent.

‘The Bandit Chief Leaving Fragrance in the Night’; turned out Chu Liuxiang always brought this fragrance anywhere he went.

In addition to this, there was a black pearl, a pair of judge pens, a bundle of gold and pearls, a big string of keys, a jadeite snuff bottle, and a small silver knife. The strangest thing was that inside the bundle, surprisingly there was also a pair scarlet women bedroom slippers embroidered with twin lotus flowers of one stalk [fig. a devoted married couple], and a pink women’s dudou [undergarment covering the chest and abdomen] embroidered with tree peony.

Hu Tiehua smiled and said, “Small wooden bottle, black pearl and headscarf are obviously the Old Stinky Bug’s. But the character ‘Qu’ embroidered on the scarf, who is it? Could it be … could it be … that passionate princess lady’s chamber name …? Ha! Old Stinky Bug really have some skills; quickly and effortlessly he already had a girl exchanging love tokens with him.”

The judge pens were flickering under the illumination of the fire. This pair of judge pens was not only heavier than the ones usually seen in Wulin, it was also exceptionally delicately crafted.

Hu Tiehua murmured, “The judge pens, snuff bottle, keys, silver knife and the gold and pearls must be the Dead Rooster’s. This man is as overly careful as women; he even carries the keys with him. Could it be that he is afraid that after he left, others might open his door and steal his stuffs … hey, hey! Looks like he ought to change his name into Xiao Qi Gui [miser/penny-pincher]”

He himself had never brought any key, so when he saw someone carrying keys, he felt it was extremely ridiculous. Thinking that finally Chu Liuxiang was able to find Ji Bingyan, he was even happier.

Clapping his hands, he said with a laugh, “These two are already together, even if the sky falls they will be able to catch it; why would I be worried for them?”

But who did that red slippers and embroidered dudou belong to? Frowning, Hu Tiehua said, “Could it be that the Old Stinky Bug has found a new woman? Even so, he could not possibly ask for other’s dudou! How could the Old Stinky Bug become this maudlin?”

He pulled the dudou and sniffed it. Scrunching his nose and sticking out his tongue, he said, “Smells good.”

He suddenly felt that the scent smelled very familiar. Immediately he remembered that night, when he kidnapped those two pretty concubines from Ji Bingyan’s home. Turned out Ji Bingyan unexpectedly always kept his beloved concubine’s personal items close to him, to rely on these things for comfort – Hu Tiehua could not help laughing heartily and said, “Turns out our dignified Ji Xiansheng is a passionate kind!”

Suddenly he heard someone said, “It’s always better to be passionate [duoqing, lit. lots of feeling] than to be heartless [wuqing, lit. no feeling], isn’t it?”

‘Being passionate is always better than being heartless’. It was such an elegant and sentimental [or passionate, same characters] words. And these words were spoken in black-naped-oriole like melodious and mellow voice, wouldn’t it make people feel overwhelming joy even more?

However, here and now, when Hu Tiehua heard this voice, he was shocked. “Who’s there?” he blurted out.

Just now that person in white’s voice was also very charming, but when she killed people, it was not charming at all. Hu Tiehua only felt that this kind of voice was more unpleasant-to-hear and more terrifying than a Poluo [no idea, Baike Baidu says some kind of soul monster].

The cute voice laughed and said, “The grand Hu Da Yingxiong [big hero], how could he become this timid?”

Along with the voice, someone came out from behind the rock. Unexpectedly it was Princess Pipa.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Hu Tiehua said with a wry smile, “Turns out it is you. You are not at home plucking pipa, what are you doing running away to this place?”

Princess Pipa quietly said, “If a pipa has no intimate friend to enjoy it, it is still better not to play.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Not plucking pipa, don’t you have anything else to do?”

Staring at him, Princess Pipa said, “Don’t think that I am coming out to play because I have nothing else to do; this time of the day, do you think I don’t want to be at home, sleeping? But Wangfei told me, ‘That Hu Zhuangshi [hero/warrior], although he is highly skilled, it’s a pity that he is a straw bag [i.e. an idiot]; perhaps he would fall into other people’s trap. You’d better go after him to look after him!’ Therefore, I had no choice but to come.”

Perhaps if Hu Tiehua did not fall into other people’s trap, he would not be too angry; but he did fall into other people’s trap. Having someone else telling him that was just akin to have his scar uncovered. Before Princess Pipa finished speaking, his face already turned red from anger; his neck bulging, he said, “I am a straw bag, what are you? An embroidered pillow?”

Princess Pipa spoke indifferently, “No need to show off your prowess to me. It wasn’t me who made that remark. If you are not satisfied, can’t you go to the person who said it and settle the account?”

She chuckled and went on, “I am afraid that when you see her, you can’t even say anything.”

Hu Tiehua was so angry that his breathing became ragged; he really could not even say anything.

Princess Pipa continued, “I was heading westward, but all along I could not find you. Braving the night I went around in circles before I saw a fire in here. Afraid that it might be someone else, I told my men to wait for me far away, and came here quietly, alone.”

Hu Tiehua spoke loudly, “You don’t have to explain; in any case, I know you have this problem; every time you want to see people, you always sneak up.”

Princess Pipa also spoke loudly, “You don’t have to show off your prowess either; what is it that you have against me? Have I ever provoked you?”

“Humph!” Hu Tiehua replied.

Princess Pipa stared at him for half a day. Suddenly she laughed and spoke softly, “Even if I did not marry you, you shouldn’t be angry every time you see me!”

Hu Tiehua’s face was turning red again; his neck was bulging again.

Princess Pipa spoke sweetly, “If you always treat me like this, it is a clear proof that you secretly love me; therefore, because I did not marry you, you became angry, you drank that Old Stinky Bug’s vinegar [drink vinegar = jealous].”

Hu Tiehua stared at her. Suddenly he also laughed loudly and said, “A woman like you, if you are really married to me, it will be strange indeed if you won’t infuriate me to death.”

Pursing her lips at him, Princess Pipa said, “Cannot eat grapes, you say that grapes are sour [from Aesop’s Fables]. Really worthless.”

The tale of the ‘Sour Grapes’ originally came from a fable from various countries of their Western Region; Hu Tiehua practically did not understand, therefore, he did not get angry. However, he originally wanted to talk about the process of returning the ‘Star of Happiness’, but now he did not say anything. Originally he wanted to leave at once, but now he did not leave either.

Princess Pipa did not ask either, and neither did she leave; instead, she sat on the rock. Taking out a silver wine bottle from her bosom, she used the bottle cap as a wine cup, and poured some for herself, while muttering, “Such a cold day, if I don’t drink a cup of wine to block the chill, I am afraid I will freeze into a dead fish.”

Hu Tiehua’s mouth was grumbling as well; he muttered, “If someone wants to use wine to anger me, that is a big and a particularly bad mistake. I had just fallen into a wine trap, and now practically seeing wine already gives me headache.”

Although his mouth said so, his head actually did not hurt at all; on the contrary, his heart was itching really bad, all the wine bugs in his belly were crawling out in full force.

But he was just quarreling with her, how could he have the face to ask for a drink from her?

Hu Tiehua could only endure silently; he deliberately did not want to look at her.

Not only Princess Pipa drank noisily, her mouth also did not stop muttering, “This wine is really not bad; once I drank it, it warms my body.”

Hu Tiehua could not help shouting, “A girl unexpectedly drinks so noisily; it is indeed very impolite.”

Princess Pipa sweetly said, “I don’t want to be polite. Only this way will I be able to infuriate polite people to death.”

Hu Tiehua was about to be infuriated to death. Rolling his eyes, he suddenly saw the headscarf. His eyes lit up instantly, he picked up the headscarf and unfolded it in front of the fire, while muttering, “This rag is ideal to blow my nose.”

Before he even finished speaking, Princess Pipa already sprang up and rushed over, while shouting, “You … Where did you get that handkerchief from?”

Hu Tiehua calmly laughed and said, “I found it.”

Princess Pipa’s voice was trembling, “Quick … quickly give it back to me.”

“Give it back to you?” Hu Tiehua asked, “Why would I want to give it back to you? Is it yours?”

This time it was Princess Pipa’s turn to blush, “It …” she said, “It is mine. So what?”

“That’s strange,” Hu Tiehua said.

“What’s strange?” Princess Pipa asked.

Hu Tiehua replied, “I clearly heard that Old Stinky Bug said, ‘That vixen imagined that her love is reciprocated, she also thought that I am going to cherish this rag well!’ Could it be that you are actually the vixen he is talking about?”

Even the socket of her eye turned red, Princess Pipa stomped her feet and said, “Fart! You … you are practically not a human.”

Hu Tiehua unhurriedly said, “No need to show off your prowess to me. It wasn’t me who made that remark. If you are not satisfied, can’t you go to the person who said it and settle the account?”

He laughed aloud and said, “I am afraid that when you see that person, you can’t even say anything.”

Princess Pipa suddenly collapsed on the ground and burst into tears.

On the contrary, Hu Tiehua was stunned. Originally he was just trying to anger her; seeing her unexpectedly really this heart-broken, Hu Tiehua could only walk over and said with an apologetic smile, “You must not grieve like this, I was just teasing you.”

Princess Pipa was simply covering her face with both hands and crying bitterly; she completely ignored him.

“It’s my bad,” Hu Tiehua said, “I deserve to die. That Old Stinky Bug practically had never said that you are a ‘vixen’; he never said that you imagined that your love is reciprocated even more. This is all me, big muddled egg [b@stard] speaking nonsense.”

Still crying bitterly, Princess Pipa said, “But he … why did he casually and randomly throw away something that I gave to him?”

“That is only because …” Hu Tiehua started.

Hu Tiehua spoke until his tongue was about to fall off before he was finally able to clear this matter. He heaved a sigh, and then said, “Now, I don’t care how you want to scold me, I am just asking that you won’t cry anymore, all right?”

Rubbing her eyes, Princess Pipa said, “If you admit that you are a special grade b@stard, then I won’t cry anymore.”

Smiling ruefully, Hu Tiehua said, “Didn’t I already admit it? Ay …!”

Biting her lip, Princess Pipa said, “Since you admit it, why sigh? Could it be that you are unwilling?”

Rubbing his nose, Hu Tiehua mumbled, “I am most willing to admit that I am a big muddled-egg; is that all right …? Ha! Going back and forth, the fault always lies on the men. When a man scolded a woman, he is a muddled-egg, but if a woman scolded a man as a straw-bag, it is perfectly fine, because women can cry. This skill is really not easy for men to learn.”

Glaring at him, Princess Pipa said, “What did you say? Say that again!”

Smiling bitterly, Hu Tiehua said, “I … I said that men are muddled-eggs, women are good-eggs … all are good.”

Princess Pipa broke into laughter and said, “That’s good enough.”

She smiled and stuffed the wine bottle into Hu Tiehua’s hand, but when her eyes fell onto that pile of stuffs, her smile immediately disappeared and her countenance turned heavy.

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