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The Vast Desert Chapter 29


Chapter 29 – Broken Arm Debate

Chu Liuxiang said with a sigh, “Look closely at their faces.”

Ji Bingyan shook his head; he said, “I don’t like looking at women; even when they are alive, I don’t look at them, forget about the dead ones.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “If you take a closer look, you’d find that although the way they were killed was different, but there is one thing that is identical.”

Ji Bingyan finally could not bear not to look; his countenance suddenly changed greatly, he blurted out, “That’s right; all these girls have no eyebrows.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Of course they used to have eyebrows, but someone shaved them.”

Ji Bingyan sucked in a mouthful of cold air; he said, “Could it be that before he killed them, he shaved their eyebrows first?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “This, I am afraid, is Huamei Niao’s trademark in killing people; it seems like not only he kills for pleasure, he also wanted other people to know that it was he who killed these people.”

Ji Bingyan was silent for half a day; he spoke slowly, “But this time he killed for you; good or bad, he is doing you a favor, right?”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang replied, “Hmm!”

“Why would he do you a favor?” Ji Bingyan asked, “Do you know him?”

“I don’t,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Ji Bingyan said, “It can’t be that with no cause, no reason he came for a killing spree, and then after killing he just left?”

“Of course, there must be a reason behind it,” Chu Liuxiang said.

“What reason?” Ji Bingyan asked.

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sighed. He said, “So far, I can’t even guess the slightest bit of clue. But I believe that whether his intentions are good or bad, he can’t possibly avoid a problem by walking away from it at this point.”

Ji Bingyan said, “You think … he will show up soon?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Maybe he is waiting for me all along, it’s just that we cannot see him.”

Ji Bingyan suddenly felt a chill creeping up his back; he could not help sighing, “A man like this, I would rather not see him, ever,” he said.

He suddenly chuckled and said, “But whatever the case, now Shi Guanyin’s disciples are all dead, we can go out confidently.”

He would never think that there was a deadly saber out there, waiting for them!

Leading the way at the very front was Qu Wurong.

But it was not because she was afraid Chu Liuxiang and the others would lose their way in the valley; she just wanted to get out of this place as quickly as possible. This place was brimming with bitter memories, brimming with the reek of blood.

She was walking in a daze, her blank stare was looking straight ahead, her entire body seemed to be completely numb, her comrades were all dead, but she was still alive.

Perhaps she did not feel bad for their death, but she was remorseful for not being dead; she seemed to feel that she ought to have died in here too.

Following right behind her was Yidian Hong, and then Ji Bingyan, with Chu Liuxiang bringing up the rear. They were able to leave this place alive, they indeed deserved to be joyful.

Yet somehow, everybody’s mood was extremely heavy.

Right this moment, suddenly they saw a saber flashed; it hacked down straight toward Qu Wurong.

Unexpectedly Qu Wurong turned a blind eye to it; she neither fled nor dodged.

Greatly shocked, Yidian Hong pounced forward and pulled her away.

The One Red Dot of the Central Plains, his shenfa swift, his reaction fast; it could be considered walking alone [fig. outstanding] in the Central Plains. But this saber’s momentum was pressing, no words could describe it even more.

In the end, Yidian Hong was still one step too late.

He only managed to pull Qu Wurong down to the ground, while he himself leaped up, trying to protect her with his own body, while sending his hand back to meet the blade.

They heard a ‘Crack!’ followed by blood shooting out like arrow.

His left arm was chopped off clean.

Greatly shocked, Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan pounced forward together.

The saw the saber blade, like golden lightning, was chopping at them again.

Chu Liuxiang bent his waist and flashed, he already entered the saber light, caught the attacker’s arm, twisted it, and the saber immediately moved to his hand.

The speed, accuracy, and agility of this move has indeed reached the pinnacle of martial art study.

Ji Bingyan’s hand, in the shape of a palm chop, was slicing down on the person’s throat.

Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan, two men working together, their cooperation was like seamless heavenly clothes. In this move their hands were flying in pairs [fig. close union as husband and wife], perhaps no one in the world would be able to evade it.

As his first strike went smoothly, Hu Tiehua wanted to follow up a victory and press home the attack, but suddenly he felt a strong wind hitting him on the face, someone already entered his line of defense, in a risky move that he unexpectedly had never seen in all his life.

In all the world, who could possibly seize control on Hu Tiehua in just one move? Hu Tiehua’s heart was moved, he blurted out, “Old Stinky Bug!”

As soon as this ‘Old Stinky Bug’ came out, Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan were shocked.

‘Crash! Clang!’ The saber in Chu Liuxiang’s hand fell to the ground. Ji Bingyan’s slicing palm chop also stiffly stopped in the air, “Xiao Hu, it’s you?” he cackled.

Hu Tiehua replied, “Other than me, this hapless ghost, who else?”

Stamping their feet, Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan let their hands off.

Standing up, Hu Tiehua heaved a sigh of relief and said with a laugh, “Oh man! You, Old Stinky Bug, really have some skill; but if I was not half-dead tired, you guys could forget about succeeding that quickly.”

Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan’s countenance was heavy, they did not say anything.

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “You did not kill me, you ought to thank the heaven and thank the earth, why …”

He suddenly felt that the atmosphere was heavy, and only then did he remember his own saber strike just now. Immediately his laughter stopped, he cleared his throat a couple of times, and stammered, “Just now … just now … just now …”

He could only spoke the words ‘just now’ repeatedly, but he seemed to be striking the wall.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Just now you are indeed striking a disaster.”

Rubbing his nose, Hu Tiehua quietly asked, “Who’s hurt?”

Chu Liuxiang had not answered, Liu Yanfei already lit up fire paper. At this time, without needing Chu Liuxiang to answer, Hu Tiehua could already see who the injured person was.

He saw in middle of a pool of blood, a woman in white was sitting in daze, not moving at all. Although blood was splashing all over her body, the one injured was not her at all.

A slender, dark, hard like iron, cold like ice – man in black, was slowly standing up from the pool of blood. The wound on his left arm was still dripping blood, but his pale face was completely expressionless; his body was unexpectedly also as straight as a spear. It seemed like even if you chop off both of his legs, he would definitely not fall down.

Hu Tiehua looked at him; he really did not know what to say.

Yidian Hong was also looking at him. Suddenly he laughed and said, “Good saber technique.”

If he were blaming him or cursing in rage, no matter how vicious he was cursing, Hu Tiehua would feel a bit better. But this compliment, it really made Hu Tiehua blush until his neck was turning red.

Yidian Hong slowly said, “You don’t need to feel bad. I can’t blame you at all; if I were you, I would also chop that saber.”

The more he did not blame Hu Tiehua, the more Hu Tiehua felt bad. This was definitely not Hu Tiehua’s fault, but now Hu Tiehua felt that he had made a really big mistake.

Ji Bingyan suddenly came over, patted his shoulder, and said, “Do you know who he is?”

Heaving a long sigh, Hu Tiehua replied, “I only know that he is a good man [the same words could also mean ‘hero’ or ‘strong and courageous person’], a good man that is rarely seen in the world.”

“He is Yidian Hong,” Ji Bingyan said.

Shaken, Hu Tiehua said, “Zhongyuan Yidian Hong?”

“Precisely,” Ji Bingyan replied.

Stomping his feet, Hu Tiehua said, “I really deserve to die! Deserve to die! Deserve to die!”

He looked at the cut arm on the ground; he nearly cried. Just because this was not an ordinary hand; the number one fast sword in the Central Plains, was precisely produced by this hand.

There were a few such hands in the world. But now that this hand has been cut off by him, what could possibly replace it? What could possibly compensate for this lost?

Hu Tiehua suddenly picked up the saber from the ground and chopped it down his own arm. But Ji Bingyan pulled him back and said, “You need not do this.”

“Let go of me,” Hu Tiehua hissed, “I don’t need you to care about me.”

Ji Bingyan sighed and said, “You ought to know, not only you owe him a hand, I also owe him a leg. But we do not need to pay him in a hurry now, we could wait until he needs it later to pay him back; wouldn’t it be much better?”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh. He said, “This debt, I wish you can still settle it clearly.”

Yidian Hong suddenly said, “There is no debt, no one need to pay back.”

Picking up his own broken arm, he looked at it for half a day; suddenly he chuckled and said, “This hand had killed too many people anyway, it would be good to let it rest.”

When his words were over, his body finally fell down.

Princess Pipa saw Chu Liuxiang. Ji Bingyan saw ‘Shi Tuo’. Naturally both were pleasantly surprised. Naturally they wanted to talk about what happened after they parted.

By this time they already left the secret valley. Qu Wurong was sitting by the exhausted and losing his consciousness Yidian Hong. She stared at him in a daze, as if she had just seen him for the first time.

Hu Tiehua had not spoken for a very long time either, but this moment he finally could not help asking, “Huamei Niao, who actually this kid is? He is really vicious and merciless.”

Princess Pipa said, “He likes to kill people, why didn’t he just kill Shi Guanyin at the same time?”

Ji Bingyan said, “Perhaps coincidentally he did not meet Shi Guanyin; or perhaps he is setting Shi Guanyin aside for Chu Liuxiang.”

“How could Shi Guanyin happen not to be there?” Princess Pipa asked.

Casting a glance toward Qu Wurong, Ji Bingyan said, “According to this Qu Guniang, Shi Guanyin is not always there, especially recently; she went away a lot more often than she is there.”

Frowning, Princess Pipa asked, “In that case, I wonder where she usually is?”

Nobody could answer this question. “Why aren’t you speaking?” Princess Pipa said.

Naturally this question was directed to Chu Liuxiang. It was only now did everybody find out that has been sitting quietly with eyes closed, just like a monk entering a meditative state. Nobody knew what he was thinking.

They only heard him muttering something; perhaps he was reciting some sutra? But what he said was actually, ‘Huashan Seven Swords … Huangshan aristocratic family … Huangfu Gao … Shi Guanyin …’

Nobody quite understood what he was saying. But they saw that his face gradually brightened.

Princess Pipa could not help giving him a light push. She asked, “Do you know where Shi Guanyin is?”

Chu Liuxiang finally opened his eyes. The divine light in his eyes flared out, but he was laughing. “Shi Guanyin? Who is Shi Guanyin?” he said.

Princess Pipa was taken aback. Blurting out laughing, she said, “Whatever you are thinking, it made you stupid, you even forgot about Shi Guanyin.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “If there is Shi Guanyin then there is no Shi Guanyin; if there is no Shi Guanyin then there is Shi Guanyin … if I never remember something, how could I forget that something?”

Princess Pipa was startled; she laughed again and said, “What are you talking about? I don’t understand.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Of course you don’t understand, this is Buddhist allegory.”

“What Buddhist allegory?” Princess Pipa asked.

Chu Liuxiang shook his head and said, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed. Buddha said: must not tell, must not tell.”

Princess Pipa laughed and said, “What game are you playing? Do you want to be a monk all of a sudden?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I am precisely thinking of a Buddhist monk right now.”

“Who?” Princess Pipa asked.

Chu Liuxiang smiled, but did not say anything.

Princess Pipa looked at Hu Tiehua, she laughed and said, “You are right; sometimes this man can be very detestable.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly said, “Where is the Star of Happiness now?”

Hu Tiehua replied, “I originally gave it to her, but then she gave it back to me.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If you really find out the secret of this Star of Happiness, then what?”

Hu Tiehua replied, “Since I already promised Wangfei, naturally I must tell her.”

“Very good!” Chu Liuxiang said, “Let’s go find her now!”

Princess Pipa said, “But … but what about Shi Guanyin?”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled, “Shi Guanyin? Who is Shi Guanyin?”

Princess Pipa was so angry that her stomach nearly burst; but she could not help laughing. Biting her lip, she said, “What the hell are you thinking?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “You come with me, you’ll understand.”

Liu Yanfei coughed; he stammered, “Zaixia, brothers, have not been back to Mount Hua for more than ten years. Now that Chu Xiang Shuai needs to deal with something else, Zaixia, brothers, want to … want to take our leave.”

Chu Liuxiang’s expression suddenly turned heavy. He said, “Two gentlemen must not leave now.”

“Could it be that Xiang Shuai have another instruction for us?” Liu Yanfei asked.

Chu Liuxiang muttered to himself irresolutely for half a day; suddenly he chuckled and said, “Gentlemen can come with me, and then you’ll understand.”

Liu Yanfei also muttered to himself irresolutely for half a day; finally he said, “Zaixia only ask Chu Xiang Shuai to promise one thing.”

“What instruction does Liu Xiong have for me?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Liu Yanfei sighed and said, “Zaixia have no problem, but there are some things that my Huangfu Dage does not want to tell, he does not even want to mention it …”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “But if I do ask, you guys will have no choice but to tell me, is that right?”

Smiling wryly, Liu Yanfei said, “Exactly so. Therefore, Zaixia only ask Chu Xiang Shuai …”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You want me not to even ask, am I right?”

Liu Yanfei hung his head low, he stammered, “If Xiang Shuai is willing to promise, Zaixia will be really grateful.”

Chu Liuxiang said with a laugh, “But what did I ask?”

“You haven’t asked anything,” Liu Yanfei replied.

“Now, I haven’t asked anything, but later, can I ask?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Liu Yanfei was silent for half a day. He finally sighed and said, “That’s right, since Xiang Shuai did not ask now, later, you won’t ask even more.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “It’s good that you understand.”

Liu Yanfei suddenly said, “But these things, Xiang Shuai should have asked, why didn’t you ask?”

Chu Liuxiang replied indifferently, “Just because what I should have asked, I already know the answer.”

Princess Pipa really could not bear it any longer; she spoke loudly, “What is it that you should have asked? What is it that already know? Please, I beg you, don’t play dumb and confused, all right?”

Before Chu Liuxiang answered, suddenly they heard the sound of camel’s bell in the distance.

The intermittent ringing of the bell was brought by the wind; it sounded so desolate, so monotonous, but in Chu Liuxiang and the others’ ears, there was simply no sound in the world more sweet-sounding, more pleasant to hear – than this.

Hu Tiehua, Liu Yanfei, and the others’ spirit was shaken. Even Princess Pipa forgot to pursue what those ‘dumb and confused’ things were. She closed her eyes, and quietly listened for half a day. A hint of smile appeared on the corner of her mouth, she leisurely said, “Do you know what that sound is?”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “In the desert, I can be considered like a country bumpkin who had never seen a city, but I surely know that sound … that is camel’s bell, right?”

But Princess Pipa shook her head and said, “That’s not the sound of camel’s bell.”

Hu Tiehua was stunned. “If not camel’s bell, then what is it?” he asked.

Princess Pipa laughed and said, “In my ears, that is the practically the sound of water being poured into a cup, the sound of meat roasting on the fire …”

Princess Pipa was right. In the desert, this monotonous camel’s bell frequently representing fresh water, food, and warmth.

Because the pastoral people of the desert were mostly magnanimous, generous, and hospitable. And their tents, although simple and crude, were full of warm friendships.

They would never turn down any hungry traveler.

But this time, Princess Pipa seemed to be wrong.

By the time they rushed over, the camel caravan had stopped. Several dozens of camels had formed a circle, some people even started to erect their tents.

But everywhere, there was no busy voices, there was no happy laughter either. Several men with dagger-axes were patrolling outside the perimeter of the camp. Seeing someone was coming, they did not show the slightest welcome. On the contrary, bows were pulled taut, sabers left their scabbards; their solemn faces all showed cautious expression.

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