The laughter of the Sword God is a wuxia novel by Gu Long in his Lu Xiaofeng series.
Ximen Chuixue seeks Lu Xiaofeng’s help in tracking down a swordsman, Liǔ Chéngfēng. Lu Xiaofeng travels to a town near the desert, where he discovers Liu Chengfeng’s dead body. He soon realises that the town is full of lurking dangers, and also traces clues from Liu Chengfeng’s death to a former imperial consort, Gōng Sùsù. After exploring the area, he locates a hidden treasure in the desert. The villains in the town have secretly followed him there and they attack him.
Lu Xiaofeng is apparently stabbed and killed. Just then, Ximen Chuixue shows up and reveals that Lu Xiaofeng is still alive, and they have set a trap for the villains, whom they team up to defeat and kill. At the end of the story, for the first time ever, the seemingly cold and unfeeling Ximen Chuixue bursts into laughter.
The laughter of the Sword God
Preface: Sword and the Sword God
Sword, it is a kind of weapon, and also one of the eighteen arms. However, it is different than the rest of the weapons. We can even say that compared to the other weapons, there was a significant distance in term of status.
The first and foremost function of a weapon is no more than to kill and attack the enemy. But sword is some kind of a symbol of identity and honor. Monarch, generals, ministers, nobilities and scholars often use sword as elegant decoration.
This fact can already illustrate the special status of the sword in people’s mind.
Even more special is that sword and scholar and poetry and literature have extremely close relationship.
Li Bai [701-762, famous Tang Dynasty poet] wielded a sword.
He was a poetry-immortal, and also a sword-knight. Evidently his swordsmanship was not as good as his poetry. Therefore, he was known for his poetry, and not for his swordsmanship.
In the ancient China, the first person famous for his swordsmanship also happened to be surnamed Li. The Great Li General’s swordsmanship not only dazzled and stunned people of his era, making them sigh and hold their breath, but also brought about endless fantasy to the generations after him.
But the first person who combined the word ‘sword’ and ‘god’ [or divine], these two characters together, was the ‘grass-script sage’ Zhang Xu [probably early 8th century, Tang Dynasty poet and calligrapher, most famous for his grass script].
Zhang Xu was also a Tang poet. In Li Zhao’s [c. 800, Tang dynasty scholar and official] ‘National History Supplement’, there was a segment:
I began to hear about the Princess and the porter [referring to ‘carrying burden with shoulder poles’] striving for the road, like the meaning behind a brushwork [referring to calligraphy]; later on watching Gongsun Clan brandishing a sword-device [剑器 –jian qi, with ‘qi’ means device/tool/utensil] like a deity.
Some say that the sword-device mentioned was not really a sword, but a kind of dance props. Some other say that sword-device was some kind of colored ribbon [streamer] tied onto a dagger, the kind of props women during the Jin and Tang Dynasties used for dancing. But some say that it was really a weapon.
Concerning this, Mr. Jin Yong and I have had some correspondence discussion. Even a very-learned and well-informed man like Mr. Jin Yong was unable to make a definitive statement. Since this sort of thing was from a distant past of the Jin and Tang dynasties, most of it cannot be verified in our present age. Every school of thoughts has its own opinion, which other school of thoughts cannot confirm.
We can only say that if sword-device was a kind of sword, then undoubtedly the Young Lady Gongsun was the first person who was called the Sword God.
Or perhaps it was the origin of the word ‘Divine Sword’.
A person that could be called Sword God or Sword Immortal, other than their swordsmanship must already reach perfection, there must be some other conditions he must meet.
That’s is: his integrity and moral quality.
Because a sword’s standing among the weapons is unique and transcendent, because it is different than any ordinary weapon.
Therefore, if someone could win the accolade of others as a Sword God, his moral quality and integrity must be a lot higher than most ordinary people.
Naturally the number of people who could achieve this state can’t be too many. In every three, five hundred years period, there were no more than three, five people.
Even in the martial art novels that people considered most absurd, this kind of people are not many. In a bit more conservative works, these people are few and far between.
Because ‘Sword God’ and ‘Sword Immortal’ [剑神 and剑仙, respectively] are not the same, ‘Sword Immortal’ appears a lot more in martial art novels.
Especially in martial art novels 还珠楼主 [huan zhu luo zhu], 平江不肖生 [ping jiang bu xiao sheng], even in 朱贞木 [zhu zhen mu] there are quite a number of Sword Immortal’s appearances; all could use sword aura as defense mechanism, defensive sword kills people thousand li away. [I do not have enough literary knowledge to translate all those titles, I don’t even know who the authors were.]
It’s just that they were not Sword Gods.
Because they all lacked one kind of air, the air of arrogance.
I always feel that to become a Sword God, this air of arrogance is absolutely indispensable. Just with this air of arrogance, they can even consider their own lives as worthless.
Because they have already given their lives to the way [of life] they loved ardently.
Their way [of life] is the sword.
Since they are looking for neither immortality nor enlightenment [lit. Buddhism], the success or failure, fame and profit of the secular world, are even less worthy for them to look after, are not worthy of their laughter.
All they wanted was the honor and glory when they brandished their swords, which, in their view, a split second was eternal.
In order to attain this split second peak, they did not hesitate to sacrifice their life.
In the world of martial art novels, a few are qualified to be called Sword Gods.
I dare not to be unduly humble, I always thought that Ximen Chuixue can be considered one of them.
Sword God’s laughter.
Ximen Chuixue is also a man with blood, tears, and laughter, as well as all kinds of emotion common to mankind. It’s just that he never expressed those emotions.
He can go riding alone to places thousands of li away, to fight a life or death battle in the wink of an eye with another martial art expert, simply to avenge or redress an injustice for someone who was a total stranger to him.
But if he thought that it was not worth doing, even if his only friend in the world, Lu Xiaofeng, begged him to go, he simply won’t go.
He even has a little bit of sense of humor.
There was one time, he obviously had the intention of doing something on Lu Xiaofeng’s behalf, yet he insisted on Lu Xiaofeng having this two mustache, that did not look like mustache but looked like eyebrows, shaved.
In short, this man was totally unpredictable and unthinkable.
This man’s sword has never been defeated.
To develop such an undefeated state, naturally one must undergo an unimaginably arduous and difficult training. To cultivate this kind of arrogant character, naturally one must undergo an unimaginably difficult process.
Bitter tears and miserable hardship of the past, he would never mention it in front of anybody else. Naturally others must not know.
But everybody knows one thing. Ximen Chuixue has never laughed.
A flesh and blood with emotion, how come he never laugh? Could it be that he really does not laugh?
I don’t believe it.
At least I know that he did laugh, once. In an exceptionally fantastic matter, in an extremely unusual situation, he once laughed.
I have always wanted to write about this fantastic situation, because I believe that after reading about this matter, anybody would be like Ximen Chuixue, anybody won’t be able to refrain from laughing.
To be able to make everybody laugh, is probably one of the two main reasons I write.
Earning money is, of course, the other main reason I write.
Chapter 1 – A stab of pain of the finger on yellow soil
A piece of land, a yellow sandy soil land.
Clear sky. The sun was about to set.
Lu Xiaofeng walked along a yellow sandy soil land under the setting sun. Under the glow of the setting sun, the yellow soil looked red, as red as blood.
The blood has already dried up and coagulated like the yellow soil.
Lu Xiaofeng, using his world-renowned two fingers, jabbed the yellow soil. This pair of fingers had broken countless sabers and swords belonging to famous heroes of the Wulin world. Yet he suddenly felt a stab of pain.
Because he knew that on the soil was his friend’s blood.
The last time Lu Xiaofeng and ‘One Sword Riding the Wind’ Liu Rugang [Liu – willow, Ru Gang – like/similar to steel] drank together was already seven months ago.
When Liu Rugang was slightly drunk, he suddenly poured two large bowls of wine and insisted that Lu Xiaofeng drank the toast with him.
He had his reasons.
“We get drunk tonight, henceforth we part. There’s a good possibility that we won’t see each other for thirty-five months.” He said, “There’s also a good possibility we won’t see each other ever again.”
“Why?” Lu Xiaofeng urgently asked.
“Because early in the morning tomorrow, I am going to a place where the flowers are not fragrant, the birds do not sing, the fowls do not fly, the dogs do not jump, and the hares do not defecate.”
“What are you going to do?”
Liu Chengfeng [riding the wind, see his title above] laughed. “You know what I do, you also ought to know what I am going to do.”
Liu Chengfeng was the first Sect Leader-disciple of Ba Shan [Mt. Ba in eastern Sichuan], a direct disciple of the founder. His ‘seven by seven, forty-nine hands turning-the-wind, dancing-the-willow sword’ may not be considered number one in Jianghu, but it could not be outside the big five either.
This kind of sword technique absolutely needs qinggong [lightness skill] to supplement it. His sword technique and qinggong were equally respected and admired by the people of the Wulin world.
Yet the reason people admired him the most was not his martial art skill, but his personality.
Throughout history, there were countless nouns people used to describe the ‘willow’ [Liu]. Some say willows are like silk, some say willows are like snow. But whether it was silk or snow, in people’s eyes, willows have always carried ‘soft/flexible’ connotation.
Naturally our Mr. ‘Willow’ also had his ‘soft’ side like silk or snow. His thorough thought was like silk, his anger was like snow, i.e. it would be dissolved in the blink of an eye.
But his character was as strong as steel.
Naturally Lu Xiaofeng knew what kind of man he was.
“What you are going to do must be a very dangerous business, so you say such thing.”
Liu Rugang did not answer. Not answering oftentimes equal to silently agree.
“Can you tell me what you are going to do?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
Mr. Liu still did not say anything.
In this case, not talking means he really did not want Lu Xiaofeng to know what he was going to do.
No doubt it was a highly classified secret.
No doubt Lu Xiaofeng could be considered his best friend; if he was unwilling to speak in front of Lu Xiaofeng, no doubt that he would also be unwilling to speak in front of any other person.
Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng no longer asked.
Lu Xiaofeng only asked, “The place you are going, where even rabbits do not defecate, what kind of place is that?”
Liu Chengfeng was silent for a long time before he finally said, “Even if I told you, you wouldn’t know that place, but I can still tell you.” He said, “It is a small town faraway near the northwest border. The town is called Huangshi [lit. yellow stone], ‘huang’ from ‘huangjin’ [yellow gold], ‘shi’ from ‘shitou’ [rock/stone].”
Ever since they parted, Liu Chengfeng vanished from the face of the earth; seven, eight months passed, nobody saw his shadow. Nobody knew where he went.
Only Lu Xiaofeng knew. Because Liu Rugang always considered Lu Xiaofeng a friend with whom he could share a secret, a friend with whom he could share trials and tribulations.
But Lu Xiaofeng did not know what happened to him in that small town? Why did he suddenly disappear?
Lu Xiaofeng was a friend with enough yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood], plus he loved to meddle in other people’s business. Coming across this kind of mystery, what do you say he would do?
He, of course, hastened to the small town.
Chapter 2 – An extremely poor man
Plateau, yellow sandy soil, sand storm.
The town of Huangshi was located in this sand storm-prone plateau. From a distance, rolling waves of yellow sandy soil looked like rolling waves of golden sand.
In this small town, there has always been a legend. Around here somewhere, there was a huge amount of buried treasure. There was nothing else in this treasure, except gold; a lot of gold, that nobody could even estimate how much there was.
Regrettably, nobody could find it, nobody has ever seen these gold. All they could see was the continually rolling waves of golden sand, blown by eternal wind on this plateau.
Gold is everybody’s dream, but boundless golden sand was like nightmare. The dream of gold died out, the people who looked for gold have left. Over time, the small town slowly sank, so that nowadays it was a desolate town, with almost nobody ever travelled to it.
The only people left as inhabitants of this town were those who had nowhere else to go; they were already prepared to grow old and die in this place. Seeing an unfamiliar visitor from afar, they would always feel very happy and excited.
When Lu Xiaofeng arrived in this town, their attitude towards him was exactly like that.
Upon entering the town, Lu Xiaofeng felt that he had never seen such warmth and excitement. But the first thing he saw was a very poor street, and an extremely poor man.
Actually, this man could not be considered a man yet, because he was still a half grownup, but not a little child anymore. His clothes could not be considered clothes, it was no more than tattered rags. He was wearing an extremely languid posture as he sat under the eaves of a house on the corner of the street.
Actually, he could not be considered sitting either, rather, he curled up, just like a caterpillar curling up right there, or a small turtle curling up in its shell.
He had no money, he had no family, he had no friend, and had no future. He had nothing.
He was afraid.
He was afraid of everything. Therefore, he could only curl up in a ball, withdrawing into his shell, hiding from the most terrifying poverty, hunger, contempt and setback.
Because he was a kid, he actually did not know that he should be afraid of these things. No matter how he hid in his shell, he would never escape these things.
But when he saw Lu Xiaofeng, his eyes suddenly lit up. His pair of shiny eyes turned out to be a pair of big, lovely eyes.
When this pair of eyes saw Lu Xiaofeng, it simply looked like a hungry dog seeing a pile of dung, or a tortoise seeing a grain of mung bean. Fortunately Lu Xiaofeng was neither a mung bean nor a dog poo. When Lu Xiaofeng walked over to him, Lu Xiaofeng only wanted to ask a question.
When someone came to a strange place, and he was planning on staying in this place for a day, the first thing he wanted to ask was naturally where the inn around this place was, he wanted to find out where he could meet his most basic necessity of board and lodging.
“Inn?” the kid laughed until even his nose was wrinkly. “You want to know where the inn is? This place is so poor that even rabbits won’t come here to crap, so poor that even flies and rats are dying of hunger; how could there be any inn?”
“Not even one inn in this place?”
“Not even half an inn in this place.”
“Then what happen if there is a traveler passing through and wants to spend the night?”
“Nothing.” The little beggar said, “Because basically nobody wants to pass through here. Even if they have to travel several dozen li farther, they would rather not pass through this place.”
Lu Xiaofeng stared at this dirty, annoying, lazy, and talkative little beggar for half a day. [Translator’s note: this is literal translation, I leave it to the readers to interpret it as 12 hours or simply as a figure of speech.] He could not help but asking, “Is this place really that poor?”
The little beggar sighed. “Not only poor,” he said, “It will practically drag the people to die in poverty. Not only it will drag me down to die in poverty, even if there are other people who won’t be dragged down to die in poverty, they will be dragged down to at least half dead in poverty.”
“But it looks like you are not dead yet,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
“It’s because I still have a bit of skill to survive.”
“What kind of skill?”
“I am a little beggar, I don’t need much rice to survive. Poor people like me, no matter where we are, we will be able to survive.”
Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “I seem to remember you saying that the people in this place are so poor that they are going to die in poverty, how could they have any leftovers to feed you?”
The little beggar also laughed, “Da Shaoye [big young master], you look like a real Da Shaoye; the affair of a little beggar like me, naturally you won’t understand.”
“A little beggar like me, in a poor place where I am almost butchered and made into soup daily, yet I am still able to survive, naturally I have side business.”
“Side business?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “What side business?”
“Speaking about this kind of things, it really involves a great deal of knowledge.” The little beggar suddenly sat up straight and puffed his chest out, “In this aspect, I can be considered an expert.”
Lu Xiaofeng seemed to have more and more interest toward this little beggar.
The little beggar said, “To tell you the truth, I have more than one side businesses. Too bad from among seventy, eighty businesses, only two can really be used to earn money.”
“The first and most profitable is running into people like you, an outsider with more money than sense, who come to this place.” He pointed to Lu Xiaofeng and continued, “People with more money than sense like you, if I don’t cheat some money, then I am not cheating in vain, but if I cheat your money, I am also cheating in vain.”
“You are damn right,” Lu Xiaofeng said with a wry smile, “And now I seem to admire you a little bit.”
He asked the little beggar again, “But if there is no sucker like me, what do you do?”
“Then I will have to rely on my second side business.” The little beggar continued, “My second side business is stealing; if there is any opportunity to steal, I steal, if I see money, I steal. There is no friend or relative, no matter what, no matter how much, I steal everything, leave nothing.”
It was the little beggar’s doctrine of survival. But Lu Xiaofeng did not feel any disdain toward him at all, neither did he have any desire to curl his fist and give a big punch on his face; he felt a gut-wrenching grief instead.
Aren’t there many, many reputable people in this world whose survival doctrine is exactly the same as this shameless little beggar?
This small town was indeed very poor. Lu Xiaofeng has travelled everywhere, even to the other end of the world, yet has never seen any place more desolate and more impoverished that this place.
He really could not imagine why someone like Liu Chengfeng would come to a place like this? Even more difficult to understand: how could anything happen in this kind of place, something deserving Liu Chengfeng’s attention that disregarding the distance of a thousand li he came here? Not only that, whatever it was, it made Liu Chengfeng felt that there was a life or death danger in it.
A small, unknown town. A world renowned master swordsman. These two are not supposed to mix together.
The strange thing was that Liu Chengfeng seemed to have some kind of mysterious and strange relationship with this little town.
Stranger still, Liu Chengfeng seemed to really disappear from this little mysterious world.
Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng was determined to find the relationship between the little town and his good friend.
Unfortunately, the only person he met so far was this wretched, pitiful, yet a bit endearing, little beggar.
Lu Xiaofeng had been to a lot of places, he had wandered to the ends of the earth, he had roamed big and small, all kinds and sorts, of cities, towns, villages, and desolate places. No matter where he went, there must be a least one grocery store.
Even if that place did not have any hotel, no brothel, no linen and silk fabric shop, no bakery and pastry shop, no horse and mule market, no grain store, but at least there must be a grocery store.
Because grocery store is where people find supplies of their most basic needs.
Throughout his life, Lu Xiaofeng has seen countless strange, curious grocery stores. Some grocery stores could even supply some unusual, special requests. But Lu Xiaofeng has never seen any grocery store as peculiar as this grocery store.
Naturally this grocery store was located in this small town, yet the name of the grocery store was ‘Big Eye’. Naturally it was that little-turtle-like little beggar who brought him to this store.
The signboard above the store has already become like a piece of gravestone by the wind, the sand and the soot. It was engraved with a large eye. ‘Big Eye’, the ‘Big Eye Grocery Store’.
Lu Xiaofeng shook his head, “The name of this store is very strange.”
“It’s not strange at all.” The little beggar said, “The owner of the store is called Wang Dayan [lit. big eye], it’s only natural that his grocery store is called the ‘Big Eye’.”
Even after hearing this explanation, Lu Xiaofeng still did not understand it.
In fact, anybody who has not seen Wang Dayan would never fully understand the meaning of those words.
Because people like Wang Dayan were indeed rarely seen.
Chapter 3 – Wang Dayan’s Grocery Store
Every day when the evening arrived, there were always a lot of people in Wang Dayan’s grocery store.
Because not only this store sold all kinds of daily necessities, it also carried miscellaneous goods from north and south, also served pot-stewed dish, and wine. Outside, underneath a thatched awning, there were three wooden tables with seven, eight wooden benches.
Everybody sat down, left hand holding half-eaten piece of duck head or a piece of dried tofu, right hand holding a half bowl of aged wine, while chatting and babbling with each other on all kinds of topics, from north to south and east to west. Even if they have had a bad day, after drinking and chatting like that, they would inevitably feel deliriously happy.
This place was probably the only place in town where people find entertainment.
Wang Dayan always acted like the most gracious host, always laughing and joking around with these people. Not only they were his patrons, they have already become his friends.
But the number of people who saw him for the first time and was not startled by his appearance was probably not many.
Wang Dayan was tall and big and thick and fat, plus he was a hunchback. His left eye probably did not differ too much from ordinary people’s eyes, but his right eye looked like a chicken egg protruding outside the socket of his eye.
Later on someone asked Lu Xiaofeng, “When you first see him, how did you feel?”
Lu Xiaofeng’s feeling toward him was: “At that time, I only felt that this man was ugly, the kind of ugliness that it’s rarely seen in the world. But after you talk to him for about an hour, you will immediately forget that he is ugly.”
Lu Xiaofeng then added, “That’s why he was able to marry a s1utty wife who, when most men see her, they would want to take her to bed.”
Behind the grocery store, there was a small wooden cabin, most probably it was originally a firewood storage shed, but now a wooden bed was put in there. It even had a white bed sheet on it. At least some time in the past the bed sheet was really made of plain white cotton cloth.
A sheet of red paper was pasted above the headboard of the bed. The paper said:
“Lodging rate: Single person, fifty qian per night. One diao per month. Two persons, eighty qian per night.”
It was the lady boss, who could not stop swaying her hip, who brought Lu Xiaofeng here. With narrowed eyes she looked at Lu Xiaofeng and said with a laugh, “Gongzi Ye [basically it also means ‘young master’], I seemed to hear just now from that old son of a b1tch of our house that you are surnamed Lu.”
“Correct, I am surnamed Lu.”
“Lu Gongzi, that litle beggar son of a b1tch brought you to our place here, he really brought you to the right place.”
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. He looked at the tariff pasted on the wall above the bed and laughed.
“But I really thought that I have come to the wrong place. Looking at your price, I thought I have come to a black inn [inn that kills and robs guests].”
“Lu Gongzi, then you are greatly mistaken. Here, not only we can take care of your food and lodging, we can also take a good care of your other needs. Would you still say that this price is expensive?”
Lu Xiaofeng looked at the wooden bed, which looked like it would collapse at any time, and at the bed sheet, which looked somewhat yellow, somewhat grey, and somewhat black, practically it was impossible to tell what the original color was; with a wry laugh he said, “No matter what, if I have to spend fifty qian every night to sleep in this kind of bed, I will slightly feel that I am indeed someone with more money than sense.”
As if it was an afterthought, the lady boss used her unexpectedly pretty and slim finger to point to the two characters ‘two persons’ on the red paper, while her pair of coquettish eyes was smiling like silk, “What if I want you to spend eighty qian a night?”
Lu Xiaofeng looked at her eyes, he looked at her hands, he looked at her waist; suddenly he sighed gently. “In that kind of circumstance, even spending eight hundred qian, it is still worth it,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It’s just too bad …”
“Too bad what?” the lady boss inquired.
Lu Xiaofeng did not reply, he did not open his mouth at all. The lady boss fixed her gaze at him, her silk-like pair of coquettish eyes suddenly opened wide like apricots.
“Lu Gongzi, I shouldn’t ask you this, but my heart could not bear not to ask.”
“Then by all means, ask.”
“Such a rundown place like ours, a man of your stature, why did you come here?”
“So what kind of man would come here?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
“Usually there are two kinds of men,” the lady boss replied, “The first kind are money grubbers, who believe that around this place somewhere, there is indeed a very large silver treasure, so they come here wanting to make a fortune. This kind of men is our most welcomed guests. Because although they cannot make a fortune, they always make us make a small fortune.”
She sighed, “Too bad for the past few years this kind of men is getting more and more rare,” she added.
Lu Xiaofeng could not resist asking, “And the second kind?”
The lady boss fixed her gaze at him, “The second kind are those that are on the run and cannot find any other place to hide. They are wanted by the authority or being pursued by avenging family to be killed, and could not find any other way to run, hence they come here to lie low for a while.”
Lu Xiaofeng stared back at her, “And to which group do you think I belong to?” he asked.
The lady boss sighed again, “I think you don’t look like you belong to either group, but after careful consideration, you also look like you belong to both groups.”
Lu Xiaofeng looked at her again, from head to toe, from toe back to head, he swept his gaze over her one more time, while shaking his head, and ran his fingers over his moustache that looked like a pair of eyebrows.
“Lady Boss,” he said, “I know that you are a woman who understands men very well. But this time you are mistaken.”
“Whether I belong to one of those two groups you are talking about, even if I originally belonged to one of those, now I have become the third kind.”
“The third kind?” the lady boss asked, “Tell me, which third kind is that?”
“The third kind is naturally also some kind of criminals.”
“What kind of crime do they usually commit?” the lady boss asked.
Lu Xiaofeng deliberately did not look anywhere else on her body or her face, he stared intently at her legs. “What’s your guess?” Lu Xiaofeng deliberately narrowed his eyes as he asked again, “What’s your guess on which crime they did?”
A tint of blush seemed to suddenly appeared on the lady boss’ face, coupled with a seemingly unstoppable urge to clamp her legs together, her long, thick, sturdy, yet well-proportioned legs.
“That kind of person,” she said, “I do not like.” Her eyes shone coquettishly, “I believe you are not that kind of person.”
Most men know that there are a lot of times women would say something contrary to what they were thinking in their hearts. When they say they did not like it, there’s a good chance that they actually like it; not only that, they might like it so much.
Naturally Lu Xiaofeng was not the kind of man who did not understand women. If he said that he did not understand the real meaning behind what a woman told him, his friends would absolutely refuse to believe.
Yet right now he just seemed not to understand at all; moreover, his expression suddenly became very serious.
“That kind of person,” he said, “I don’t like them either. I assure you that I am definitely not that kind of person.”
“I came here, simply to look for a friend.” Lu Xiaofeng went on, “… a money grubber friend.”
“You have money grubber friend too?” the lady boss asked.
“Everybody wants to get rich, of course I have some money grubber friends; who don’t want to get rich?” Lu Xiaofeng said, “That friend of mine also heard the legend that there are treasure around this place, he asked me to finance his endeavor five hundred taels of silver. Who would have thought that as soon as he came here, his shadow disappeared?”
“And you are looking for him?”
“Not only I want to look for him, I want to retrieve the five hundred taels as well.” Lu Xiaofeng stared at the lady boss’ legs again, “Five hundred taels, even if I used it to sleep on the double bed, I can sleep well for several hundred nights.”
The lady boss suddenly turned around; without looking back she walked away. It was as if she did not even feel like giving Lu Xiaofeng one more look.
Lu Xiaofeng was about to run after her when suddenly he realized a big eye was looking at him.
If one had not seen Wang Dayan but only know his manners toward people and his voice with which he spoke to other people, one would certainly think that he was a jovial gentleman.
“Lu Gongzi, I know whom you are looking for.” Wang Dayan said, “The friend that you are looking for, wasn’t he surnamed Liu, Liu Daxia [great hero]?”
“How do you know?”
“Before you came here, the one staying in this room was precisely Liu Daxia.”
“And where is he now?”
Although Wang Dayan’s as-big-as-crystal-ball eye did not show any emotion, the other eye was brimming with sorrow and regret.
“Liu Daxia was indeed a real man; he was magnanimous, and full of yiqi. Too bad you are one step too late.”
“One step too late?” Lu Xiaofeng struggled hard to maintain his composure. “Is he dead?”
With a very gentle and polite voice Boss Wang said, “Lu Gongzi, you are a sensible person, you ought to know that no matter who, when one died, his body is usually kept inside a coffin.”
Lu Xiaofeng was silent for a long time. “In that case, I came here this time, most probably I won’t be able to see him.”
“You are most probably right.”
“I wonder, is it possible for me to see his body and his coffin?”
“Of course it’s possible.”
“Where is his coffin?”
Wang Dayan’s voice was even more gentle, even more polite, “It seems to me that coffins should be located in a coffin shop.”
Naturally a coffin shop is not as ubiquitous as a grocery store, unexpectedly a Godforsaken little town like this also had a coffin shop. As soon as Lu Xiaofeng went to the town’s main street, its only street, he saw the coffin shop.
There was an old and worn out large high-back chair outside the coffin shop, and on that bench lay a dead man.
Later on Lu Xiaofeng found out that that man was not dead, moreover, he was the owner of the coffin shop. Perhaps he had taken care of too many dead men, so that he had sixty, seventy, or eighty percent appearance of a dead man.
His name was very weird as well.
This coffin shop was located right opposite to the grocery store. The owner of the grocery store was called Wang Dayan, the coffin shop’s owner was called Zhao Xiazi [lit. ‘blind man’].
All along he was sitting quietly like a dead man on the chair, as if he did not dare to expect anybody would visit his business. Such a small town, maybe the number of living persons was already dwindling, naturally the number of dead persons couldn’t be much. Therefore, seeing Lu Xiaofeng, he immediately sprang out of his chair.
“This young master, who died in your honorable home? What kind of coffin do you need?”
His face also looked like a dead man, completely without any trace of blood, without any emotion, yet he was making an attempt to fawn on the customer, albeit without any success at all. As a result, his face looked even more mysterious and creepy.
Lu Xiaofeng could only smile wryly, “These days there is no more people that can die in my home,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “I just want to see someone.”
Zhao Xiazi’s face was downcast, he returned to his seat. Even his voice became cold and indifferent. “In that case, I am afraid you have come to the wrong place.” He said, “Here, apart from me, everybody else is dead.”
“In that case, I have not come to the wrong place.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The one I wanted to see is a dead man.”
Zhao Xiazi even closed his eyes, the eyes that looked more like belonging to dead people than living people, with more white than black. “Too bad that even dead people, only one remains here right now.”
“Most probably the one I wanted to see is him,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
Zhao Xiazi suddenly sprang on his feet again, “You knew Liu Daye [big master], are you going to retrieve his remains?”
Lu Xiaofeng nodded, “Yes.”
Zhao Xiazi heaved a very long sigh, as if a very heavy burden has just been removed from his shoulder.
“I’ll take you to see him,” Zhao Xiazi said, “Follow me.”
The chair where Zhao Xiazi sat was situated outside the coffin shop, in the shade under the eaves. Inside the door, the room was filled with coffins. There were two that were already painted, and five, six others that have not been painted. Passing through this room, there was a small courtyard with piles of logs of wood. There were bent nails everywhere, and curly wood shavings from the carpenter’s plane. There was also an exceptionally big saw leaning against a strange looking wooden shelf. This saw looked like one that would be used by a giant. Next to the saw there was an unfinished coffin.
Lu Xiaofeng’s interest was piqued; he could not resist asking, “Such a big saw, only people with big strength can use it, right?”
“Must be so.”
“Where is he? How come I haven’t seen him?”
“You have already seen him.” Zhao Xiazi pointed to his own nose, “That person is me.” He casually said, “Each coffin sold in this place, I personally make them all.”
Lu Xiaofeng discovered that although the boss of this coffin shop spent his days like a dead man outside the shop, that although his face looked like a dead man, and his appearance was ugly, he was actually a big and tall man. Although he was a bit slouching, but comparatively speaking, he was still a head taller than ordinary men, plus the muscles on his entire body looked solid and springy. Only a man who is used to physical labor would have such muscles.
The first time you saw him, you may think that he looked like a dead man; but the longer you look at him, the more he did not look like a dead man.
Behind the courtyard there were two rows of rooms, the row on the left had two rooms, the row on the right also had two rooms. The rooms on the left looked like a kitchen and a firewood storage, the kind of room a servant would use. The rooms on the right looked gloomy and dark, even the window-covering papers were very dark green, almost black. The two rooms appeared to be enveloped in some kind of black hue, even on a bright day like today the rooms gave a man some kind of gloomy and eerie feeling.
“This is where we put the coffin before burial.” Zhao Xiazi lighted a fire, “When people in here died, before burial the body is usually placed in this room, that’s the reason I call these two rooms ‘haunted house’.”
“Haunted house?” Lu Xiaofeng asked, “So the house is haunted?”
Under the light from the fire, Zhao Xiazi’s pale face looked a bit like a ghost’s face; but he shook his head and said, “Coffin shop does not have any ghost in it, coffin shop takes care of dead people. Dead people become ghosts, taking care dead people means taking care of ghosts. I am taking care of them, how can they come to haunt this place?”
What he said was actually very reasonable and fair, even if Lu Xiaofeng wanted to disagree, he simply could not. But as Lu Xiaofeng walked toward the two rooms, he felt a dark cold chill creeping up from his back to his head, and then down to the soles of his feet.
Lu Xiaofeng was certainly not a faint-hearted man, his guts was big; practically these four characters ‘dan da bao tian’ [lit. guts so big it wraps the sky; definition: reckless/extremely daring] can be used to describe him, even his enemy had to admit. In this world, there was nothing Lu Xiaofeng did not dare to do.
Yet led by Zhao Xiazi, with torch in his hand, into one of these two rooms on the right, he felt as if the arch of his feet was clammy with cold sweats.
The light of the torch was dimmer than candle light. Under the glow of this kind of light, the interior of the room simply looked like the inside of a tomb.
When he walked inside, his feeling was like walking into a grave.
Naturally there was no coffin in the grave, but this room had one coffin in it. The coffin was supported by a set of dark purple bricks like a stage. In front of the stage, there was a simple memorial tablet. The writing on the memorial tablet simply said, ‘A friend, Liu Rugang’.
Seeing this memorial tablet, Lu Xiaofeng’s heart died within him. Whoever saw this memorial tablet would definitely believe that Liu Chengfeng, Liu Rugang was really dead.
The strange thing was, perhaps driven by the gloomy, eerie and bleak atmosphere, or perhaps Lu Xiaofeng had some weird, mysterious, almost supernatural feeling in his heart that Liu Chengfeng might jump out of the coffin at any time and be resurrected, he said, “Please open the coffin lid.”
“What did you say?” Zhao Xiazi shouted in disbelief, “You want me to open the coffin lid? Whatever for?”
“Because I already told you, I want to see a dead man, not a coffin.”
When the coffin was opened, Lu Xiaofeng immediately saw Liu Chengfeng.
Although the face of a dead person is not the same as the face of a living person, in one glance Lu Xiaofeng was able to ascertain that this dead man was indeed Liu Chengfeng; not only that, he could see clearly the remaining expression Liu Chengfeng had on his face at the moment of his death, an expression of shock and fear.
“Is he the friend you are looking for?” Zhao Xiazi asked.
Lu Xiaofeng did not reply, because he already identified the fatal wound that took Liu Chengfeng’s life.
The wound was located on the chest, just above the pit of the stomach, a blade wound. One fatal blade, neat and tidy.
Lu Xiaofeng was absolutely certain of this fact.
He has seen a lot of dead people, his experience in this matter was quite extensive. In fact, no one could see more clearly than he did in this kind of situation. If he was unsure of this fact, no one else could.
Yet the expression on his face was that of an extremely strange and confused one; moreover, he kept shaking his head while his mouth did not stop mumbling, “This is impossible, this is absolutely impossible.” He even repeated those words over and over.
Undoubtedly Zhao Xiazi was a very patient man, if he was not patient, how could he deal with dead people? Therefore, all along he waited until Lu Xiaofeng had repeated those sentences five, six times before asking, “What’s impossible? Why is it impossible?”
Lu Xiaofeng did not answer that question; he asked him instead, “Do you know who is this dead man in the coffin?” Without waiting for Zhao Xiazi to answer, he answered his own question, “He was the ‘One Sword Riding the Wind’ Liu Rugang. His qinggong and swordsmanship, even if can’t compare with Ximen Chuixue, he was not too far behind. If you say that someone was able to stab him to death head-on, without any chance to fight back at all, even if you chop my head I won’t believe you.”
However, the fact in front of his eyes was exactly that.
The body inside the coffin has already fixed with burial clothes, the cut wound has also been dealt with very well. The length of this cut wound more or less was only about one cun and three fen [1 cun is approx. 1 inch, I am not sure how much 1 fen is]. Undoubtedly the blade that killed him was a very narrow blade; furthermore, it ‘pierced’ directly from the front, if the blade was ‘chopped’, the cut wound would lengthen.
That was the reason Lu Xiaofeng thought it was impossible; because on this earth, there was no one who was able to use the blade like that, able to pierce Liu Chengfeng’s heart in one stab, unless this person was Liu Chengfeng’s friend, whom he was very familiar with, so that Liu Chengfeng practically did not guard against him at all.
How could Liu Chengfeng have friends in a small town like this?
Lu Xiaofeng’s gaze finally moved from the wound to Zhao Xiazi’s face. “Do you know where he died?”
“Of course I do,” Zhao Xiazi answered, “It is a very dark alley. When he died, it was already after the third watch of the night [between 11pm-1am], by that time, there was not a single lantern in that alley.”
“Who was the first person to find him?”
“It’s the little beggar, with whom you already talked.”
“What time was his body found?”
“At that time the sky has not completely brightened yet.”
“The sky has not completely brightened, why did that little beggar go that alley? What was he doing?”
“That, I am not too clear.”
“Who moved the body here?”
“It was me. I personally carried the body here.” Zhao Xiazi went on, “Liu Daxia was a very good man, he was also generous, he had always treated me as his friend.”
He added, “Although Liu Daxia had not been here too long, he had already made quite a few good friends.”
Only a good friend, one with whom he was very familiar, could take the opportunity when he did not expect at all, to stab him dead directly from the front.
Who was this good friend?
Lu Xiaofeng sighed inwardly. He asked Zhao Xiazi, “When you brought him here, wasn’t the murder blade still stuck on his chest?”
“How did you know?” Zhao Xiazi appeared to be greatly astonished, “How did you know that the blade was still stuck on his body?”
“The wound is between the sixth and seventh ribs. These two ribs are very close to each other. Once the blade went in, it would be very difficult to pull it out.” Lu Xiaofeng said, “The murderer took advantage when Liu Chengfeng was careless and stabbed him dead, he must be both excited and scared; besides, he must be unsure whether this famous swordsman had really died under his blade. He would try pulling the blade with trepidation; if the first time he failed to pull the blade, he might try the second time. If the second time he still could not pull the blade, he would not try the third time.”
With an exceptionally calm voice Lu Xiaofeng continued, “This kind of blade, I am sure only a coffin shop owner like you, in a very peace and quiet situation, can pull it out quite easily.”
Zhao Xiazi sighed. “Until a moment ago I still did not know who you are. But now I know. You must be a very extraordinary man.”
“Did it really happen like that?”
“Did you pull the blade out?”
“I did.” Zhao Xiazi said, “I pulled it out with my own hand.”
“Where’s the blade?”
“Blade?” Zhao Xiazi seemed to all of a sudden forget what they had just talked about, “What blade?”
Lu Xiaofeng laughed.
Naturally he understood people like Zhao Xiazi very well; even more, he understood the only way to deal with this kind of people.
To deal with this kind of people, only one word is enough.
After a silver ingot was stuffed into Zhao Xiazi’s hand, Lu Xiaofeng asked the same question he had just asked a moment ago. Zhao Xiazi’s answer was already completely different from his response just a moment ago.
“Where’s the blade?”
“Naturally I have hidden the blade.”
“Where did you hide it?”
Zhao Xiazi’s originally stiff and bloodless face finally revealed a trace of a smile; at least it looked like a trace of smile, “When I want to hide something, naturally I would hide it in a place where nobody else can find it.”
The coffin was supported by purple bricks, forming a low platform that looked like a sacrificial offering platform. Unexpectedly a few pieces of bricks were moveable.
Pulling these movable bricks out, inside was a secret hiding place. If other people did not know that the platform had some moveable bricks, and they did not know which bricks were moveable, naturally it would be really difficult to find the object that was hidden inside.
Zhao Xiazi already reached into the hole in the platform; by the time he pulled his hand out, undoubtedly he would have a blade in his hand.
Lu Xiaofeng really wanted to know what kind of blade was able to stab Liu Chengfeng to his death head-on?
Yet all along Zhao Xiazi had not pulled his hand out, it was as if a viper inside the hole had suddenly grabbed his hand.
His originally pale and completely bloodless face now seemed to turn into a wretched greenish color.
Lu Xiaofeng looked at him, the pupils of his eyes gradually narrowed. “Where’s the blade?”
This time unexpectedly Zhao Xiazi’s reply was the same as his first answer, “Blade? What blade?”
Lu Xiaofeng was seriously thinking of giving him whack plus a heavy kick. But to his surprise Zhao Xiazi already kneeled down and cried out in distress, “I swear, I really hid the blade in here, but now the inside is empty, the blade has already gone.”
Looking at his appearance, Lu Xiaofeng’s palm did not continue going down, his leg did not kick out. Suppressing his anger, he asked, “Think hard, other than you, who else knew that you hid the blade in there?”
Zhao Xiazi already knocked his head against the floor, but hearing this question, he suddenly looked up, his dead eyes seemed to lit up.
“I remember, there is someone else who knew about this matter; not only he is the only one who knew, he had also seen it for himself.”
Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and lifted him up the floor, “Who’s that person?” he asked in stern voice.”
Gasping for breath, Zhao Xiazi said, “His surname is …”
Zhao Xiazi did not finish this sentence, when he said the next word, his mouth was open, but no sound came out.
Because he had just opened his mouth, from the outside twenty, thirty rays of light shot in.
In this split second, by Lu Xiaofeng’s estimate, there were at least twenty-three rays of light, in three different colors: green, violet, and shining like silver.
This time he was incorrect, because there was a secret projectile that was nearly transparent. The transparent one was almost invisible. Therefore, the number of secret projectiles shooting inside the room from three different windows was not twenty-three, but twenty-four. Because one of them was transparent.
The target of these twenty-four secret projectiles was not Lu Xiaofeng, but Zhao Xiazi.
Luckily all these secret projectiles missed their target, even the invisible projectile did not hit its target.
Because Zhao Xiazi already crashed through the roof, he flew out.
Naturally he could not fly out on his own. He was crouching on the ground, Lu Xiaofeng grabbed him and lifted him up. It was when Lu Xiaofeng was still carrying him that the secret projectiles shot in. In this moment, where even a split second delay was unacceptable, Lu Xiaofeng already threw him out with all the strength he had, creating a large hole on the roof, and flew out from the hole.
And then Lu Xiaofeng flew out from the window where the cold rays shot in.
In that instant, the change and speed of his movement nearly exceeded the limit of human capability, it even surpassed the limit of his own physical capability.
The reason one is capable to reach success, oftentimes it is because he can unleash the superhuman willpower and survival instinct that is beyond his own physical limitation.
The same the principle applies to someone, who in the eyes of other people may die anytime and anywhere, could avoid death.
By the time Lu Xiaofeng reached the courtyard, Zhao Xiazi had just landed from the air into the midst of fluttering roof tiles.
From behind a pile of lumber, another flash of cold ray shot out. The target was still Zhao Xiazi. No doubt the intention was to kill Zhao Xiazi to shut his mouth.
While his body was still in the air, Lu Xiaofeng had picked a piece of wood. His left toes pressed on the ground, his body shot up again, the wood piece in his hand flew and struck the flash of cold ray down. With a series of light popping noise, the secret projectiles were nailed onto a wooden plank.
Zhao Xiazi had landed on the roof, and slipped and fell back into the room via the hole on the roof.
From behind the pile of lumber, someone shouted in low voice, “Good Lu Xiaofeng, good qinggong.”
“Who are you?” Lu Xiaofeng shouted back. He was going to pounce toward the pile of wood, unexpectedly a flicker of saber, like a flash of rainbow arching in the sky, as swift as an arrow, already swept toward him from the roof of the opposite building.
The saber was fast and deadly, it was meant to kill him with one chop, therefore, the saber did not leave him any room to maneuver.
Lu Xiaofeng did not shrink back to evade, instead, he charged toward the saber light head-on. Apparently the attacker was taken aback. The saber light trembled, it changed direction to sweep across Lu Xiaofeng’s throat; however, the momentum was already decreasing.
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly stretched out his fingers, his two fingers, and in a flash he pinched the blade of the saber, and pushed it forward. A burst of internal energy flowed from the blade down to the hilt. The hollow of the assailant’s palm was jolted. His hand grip was barely loosened, the hilt of his own saber already struck the pit of his stomach. ‘Crack!’ two of his ribs were broken.
It was Lu Xiaofeng’s consummate skill, which prestige shook the Jianghu, which had no equal throughout the world. All these changes happened in a flash. Other than Lu Xiaofeng, no other human being would be able to utilize this opportunity, where even a split second delay would be fatal, to pinch the blade of the saber.
When the assailant tumbled down from the air onto the ground, he could not help grunting like a dying beast. His saber had already moved into Lu Xiaofeng’s hand, with the blade already pressed on his throat.
Actually, his saber technique and qinggong were undoubtedly first class; so Lu Xiaofeng had to admit, “I did not expect this place has such a martial art expert like you.”
Lu Xiaofeng asked the assailant, who was clad in black skintight nightwalker attire and black cloth mask, “Who are you? Who sent you here? Why do you want to kill Zhao Xiazi to shut his mouth?”
The man looked at Lu Xiaofeng in shock, he was startled and scared that the pupil of his eyes shrank.
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly saw on his eyes a shadow and a flash of a sword.
He was not mistaken. And his reaction was fast enough, that’s why he did not die under this sword. Because he had already twisted his body around and brandished the saber.
Although his reaction was that fast, the front piece of his garment was still cut open by the cold and dense sword aura.
Amidst the flashing sword ray, he saw an old woman in violet garment, whose head was covered in white hair, but he did not see her face clearly. Because in the split second that it happened, he simply could not afford to observe clearly.
The sword pierced, he turned around and brandished the saber, the assailant whose ribs he broke already rolled away. The sword flashed again, Lu Xiaofeng was forced to step back, he withdrew toward the pile of wood. He seemed to have thought of a way to strike back, or at least a good way to escape.
But he did not strike back, neither did he escape. His countenance suddenly changed, because he suddenly discovered that the sword in this old woman’s hand was surprisingly the sword that Liu Chengfeng used to use.
This moment, the tip of the sword nearly pierced his heart. Lu Xiaofeng’s situation was so dire that even if he wanted to escape, he simply could not.
A heart is, undoubtedly, a fatal organ in human’s body. The strange thing is that later on Lu Xiaofeng told someone, “Fortunately, her sword was piercing my heart, or else I would definitely die.”
Because at that instant, his right hand happened to be near his heart, so that although the blade of the sword had already penetrated his clothes right in front of his chest, if it went half a fen farther, Lu Xiaofeng would be finished. Too bad in that instant, the sword was unable to move even half a fen farther, because the tip of this sword was suddenly clamped by Lu Xiaofeng’s two fingers.
Later someone asked him, “We know that your two fingers are like they have gods or ghosts’ charms on them, so much so that those fingers seem to be completely interlinked to your mind; as soon as your mind moves, the opponent’s sword will be clamped down. Because no matter how fast the sword is, it cannot possibly be faster than your mind.”
This fact, nobody in Jianghu would be able to refute.
“But how come at that time your hand happened to be near your heart? Is it possible that you have already calculated that the opponent’s sword was going to stab your heart?”
Lu Xiaofeng only laughed, he did not answer.
In this kind of things, there is simply no answer.
The instant when one is facing a matter of life and death, there are so many things that cannot be explained logically. Maybe it was the crystallization of his life-long experience and wisdom, maybe it was a split second inspiration, maybe it was no more than just plain luck.
When a swordsman has his sword clamped, it is tantamount to have his hands and feet bound; the psychological blow to him is even harder.
Yet this old woman in purple was undoubtedly a first-class swordsman, a super martial art expert. Not only her sword could move fast, her reaction was even faster. Not only her reaction was fast, her judgment was even more accurate. Therefore, as soon as Lu Xiaofeng caught her sword, she let go, while with an unbelievable speed her body immediately slipped away.
Naturally she slipped upward, the angle at which she slipped away was very unusual. In order to evade the opponent’s follow-up attack, undoubtedly the angle was very effective. But it was not enough for her, undoubtedly she was a very cautious person, someone who extremely cherished her own life. Therefore, as soon as she slipped away, she made another somersault high in the air, toward an even more secure angle.
Her attire was a skintight white pomegranate long skirt, it looked exactly like a heavy hanging curtain. When a woman was wearing this kind of long skirt, usually she did not need to wear long pants on the inside. But when she was doing somersault high in the air, her long legs also flipped in the air, just like heavy waves rolling in the air.
When Lu Xiaofeng looked up, he was able to see her legs. The legs definitely did not belong to an old woman.
The legs that Lu Xiaofeng saw were snow white, slender and firm. The legs, with the head full of white hair and the face full of wrinkles definitely did not belong to the same person.
Lu Xiaofeng was a man with a very good taste, plus he was especially interested in women’s legs, and he had done some research. He could even tell that this pair of legs’ muscle as they moved, their firmness, their length, their beauty, was something that even Lu Xiaofeng rarely saw.
The sword in the old woman in purple’s hand was Liu Chengfeng’s sword, her partner’s saber was very fast and accurate. Even if Lu Xiaofeng did not have any preconceived idea, he would definitely be able to tell that they must be closely related to Liu Chengfeng’s death. Undoubtedly these two people had always lived in this small town. Right now, although they all came, he still had no idea about this matter.
How could he investigate this matter?
The saber-wielding man had his face covered in black cloth, the old woman’s face was undoubtedly not her real face. Right now the only real thing Lu Xiaofeng saw was a pair of legs; which were definitely not an old-lady-whose-head-was-covered-in-white-hair’s legs. If he could find the owner of these legs, then he might also find the assassin who killed Liu Chengfeng.
It was Lu Xiaofeng’s only clue, it was also the only thing Lu Xiaofeng could do.
What could he do?
Could it be that he had to lift the skirt of every woman in this town and look at their legs?
Honestly speaking, Lu Xiaofeng did not wish to do that either, it’s just too bad that he did not have any other idea.
He’d better go find Zhao Xiazi.
But even if he was killed, Zhao Xiazi refused to say another word; he was so scared that his pants were drenched.
The city of Beijing was not built in a day, naturally investigating this kind of mysterious and odd murder case also cannot be accomplished in just one day or two. Therefore, Lu Xiaofeng had no choice but to come back and sleep.
Who would have thought that as he returned to that crappy hut, he saw a leg protruding from underneath his bed?
A filthy and black, thin leg; a leg that was covered in mud. By Lu Xiaofeng’s most conservative estimate, the leg has not been washed for at least seven or eight months. However, compared to the foot at the end of the leg, the leg looked extremely clean.
That foot, practically it looked like a pile of dog poo was dumped on it.
Lu Xiaofeng smiled wryly and shook his head. He pulled a chair and sat down opposite of the bed.
The person under the bed finally crawled out slowly. A pile of hair that looked like a pile of bird’s nest, covering a head that looked like bird’s egg.
Lu Xiaofeng coughed lightly, “Little beggar,” he called.
The little beggar jumped in fright, his head nearly hit the beam, but when he saw that it was Lu Xiaofeng, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Da Shaoye, this time you really scared the hell out of me, my soul almost left me.”
Lu Xiaofeng immediately put on a very apologetic expression on his face, “Did I really scare the hell out of you?”
“Of course you did.” The little beggar patted his chest, “I came so close to being scared to death by you.”
“I am truly sorry,” Lu Xiaofeng said, “It seems like I ought to apologize to you, and compensate you somehow.”
“That is not necessary,” the little beggar put on a very magnanimous air, “All you have to do is give me a bit of compensation in one area, and then I will definitely forgive you.”
“A bit of compensation?” Lu Xiaofeng deliberately asked, “What kind of compensation?”
“For instance, a tiny bit of gold, a tiny bit of good wine, one or two good-looking young misses.” The little beggar squinted, “Of course you also know that those things can suppress shock.”
Lu Xiaofeng laughed.
Actually, he did not want to laugh, but he could not resist laughing. It’s just that when he started laughing, he had already grabbed the front of the little beggar’s clothes. And when he grabbed the front of the little beggar’s clothes, the little beggar looked like a small turtle being carried away.
With a wooden face Lu Xiaofeng said, “You sneaked into my room in the middle of the night. Turning over the chest and flipping over the basket [i.e. searching everywhere] is not a big deal, but you crawled underneath my bed. What do you want?”
“Worse yet, you still say that I scared you and had to pay you.”
With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng went on, “I’ll say it is you who ought to pay me. Otherwise, I will definitely come up with a good way to deal with you.”
The little beggar quickly broke into crying.
“I am not here to steal your things, I am a Beggar Clan’s disciple, how could I steal from Lu Xiaofeng, how could I dare?” He continued with miserable scowl on his face, “Who in the world does not know that Lu Xiaofeng is a good friend of the Beggar Clan? Tens of thousands Beggar Clan brothers, from top to bottom, which one dares to attempt vainly to move a single strand of Lu Xiaofeng’s hair?”
“Are you really Beggar Clan’s disciple?”
“Not in the least bit fake.”
Lu Xiaofeng let go, the little beggar fell down, and instantly saluted Lu Xiaofeng in a very beautiful stance. “Beggar Clan’s twenty-third generation disciple Huang Xiaochong pays his respect to Lu Xiaofeng, Lu Daxia, Lu Dashu [great hero, great (younger) uncle, respectively].”
“Which hall do you belong to, which helmsman?”
“Xuangui [lit. mysterious turtle] Hall, Wang Laoyezi [old master], under the jurisdiction of Chang Jiang [Yangzte river] district’s twenty-seventh cabin. I was sent here only three years ago.”
“How can Chang Jiang district’s disciple be sent here?”
The little beggar sighed and said, “No matter which Clan, which Sect, there are always a few disciples with a rather bad luck.”
The relationship between Beggar Clan and Lu Xiaofeng was very deep, all Beggar Clan’s disciples could be considered Lu Xiaofeng’s friends. And the words of a friend, Lu Xiaofeng always had little doubt.
From the mouth of this little beggar Lu Xiaofeng was able to confirm several things.
Liu Chengfeng indeed died in a dark alley, and Zhao Xiazi was indeed the one who brought him back. At that time the murder weapon was indeed still stuck on Liu Chengfeng’s dead body.
Question is –
“But the first person who discovered Liu Daye’s dead body was not me.” The little beggar spoke with a very convincing tone, “People in our line of work, although we love to roam to the east and stroll to the west in the middle of the night, but when I got to that dark alley that night, there were at least two people ahead of me.”
“I wasn’t going to go to that alley, it was because I heard Liu Daye’s miserable cry that I rushed there.”
“And when you got there, you saw two people already there?”
“What kind of people?”
“It was in the depth of the night, I could not see their faces clearly, plus as soon as they saw me, they quickly ran away.” The little beggar went on, “But I can tell that those two people, one was a man, the other a woman.”
“One man and one woman?”
Lu Xiaofeng immediately thought about the masked assassin and the woman who masqueraded as an old woman but have a pair of nice legs whom he came across at Zhao Xiazi’s rear courtyard.
The room was of a very simple construction, the furnishing was only a broken-down wooden table which paint has peeled off long ago, the bed was a worn out bed.
All of these were not a big deal. The big deal was that in the room there was no friend, on the table there was no wine, and on the bed there was one person less.
In this kind of room, Lu Xiaofeng actually did not want to stay, even more, he would definitely not want to sleep on the bed.
But right now Lu Xiaofeng has already lay on the bed. Liu Chengfeng was his friend. Liu Chengfeng’s death was indeed too strange.
Sleeping so far away in a desolate little town also seemed to be unspeakably odd.
If Lu Xiaofeng did not care of even these kinds of things, what other things would he care?
If Lu Xiaofeng did not care of even these kinds of things, then Lu Xiaofeng would not be Lu Xiaofeng either.
To deal with this matter, he had to think about a lot of other things first.
Up to now, all the clues that Lu Xiaofeng had come from the little beggar and Zhao Xiazi. These two did not seem to lie, yet the strange thing was, there seemed to be a contradiction between the two.
But what was the contradiction? Lu Xiaofeng was unable to explain. There are a lot of things he was unable to understand, he could not even see the shadow, he could not even see the door.
It was the moment where he wanted his head to be as big as three heads when he suddenly heard a strange noise.
His heart suddenly jumped.
Everyone knew that Lu Xiaofeng was by no means a person who could be easily excited, but right now his heart was thumping really wild.
Lu Xiaofeng’s heart had always been beating, it’s just that right now the beating of his heart was a lot faster than usual. Because he suddenly heard someone else’s heart beating, ‘thump, thump, thump’; on top of that, he also heard a light labored breathing, and the noise came from outside the thin wooden door, and the noise was a very seductive female voice.
More importantly, Lu Xiaofeng immediately recognized the woman making this sound was the slim-waisted, slender-legged lady boss, the lady boss who, when she walked on the street, her whole body was twisting and turning like a snake.
She was rushing from across the courtyard, she ran onto the door with elevated heartrate and heavy, labored breathing.
Second watch of the night [between 9-11pm] she ran toward the room of an unknown traveler, what did she want? Lu Xiaofeng did not even dare to think about.
As a traveler who went far from home, if he thought too much about this kind of matter all night long, how could he get some sleep? Tonight naturally Lu Xiaofeng would not get any sleep, because the lady boss has already pushed the door and came in.
The door was not bolted, that’s why the lady boss was able to push the door and walk in. But as she came in, she closed the door and bolted it.
Lu Xiaofeng lay in bed like a dead man, he did not move at all. But his heart was moved.
A healthy, normal man, a solitary, lonely traveler, if in this situation he was able to prevent his heart from being moved, then he was really dead.
Lu Xiaofeng did not move, only because he wanted to see what this charming, flirtatious lady boss would do by coming here in the dead of the night.
Could it be that she came to search his luggage? Was it to kill him? Or was it to seduce him?
As a man, naturally Lu Xiaofeng was hoping that the reason she came here was the last one.
This was man’s vanity and pride. It’s possible to any man to entertain such hope.
Fortunately, Lu Xiaofeng also entertained different idea.
If this crafty lady boss was coming to kill him, at least he would get the proof that she was related to Liu Chengfeng’s murder case; in which case the scope of Lu Xiaofeng’s investigation could be narrowed somewhat.
Unfortunately, the lady boss did not even have the slightest idea of killing him.
The lantern in the room had already been extinguished. From outside the window, there was a lantern light of unknown origin, dimly illuminated the lady boss’ waist and her pair of slender legs, the curves of the legs were clearly visible under the thin and soft long gown.
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly opened his mouth, “You should know where the lantern is, go light it.”
The lady boss seemed surprised, her pair of snow-white hands went up to gently pat her ample breasts.
“You scared me to death, you really scared me out of my skin.” She asked Lu Xiaofeng, “Isn’t this very good? Why do you want me to light the lantern?”
It was Lu Xiaofeng’s answer that would really scare most women out of their skin, “Because I want to see your legs,” he said.
The lady boss giggled. “What’s so good about my legs? I won’t show it to you.”
Unexpectedly Lu Xiaofeng put on an act like a spoiled brat, “I like to see, I want to see, I cannot not see it.”
The lady boss sighed, “Ay, you. You are really annoying; do you know that?” Although her mouth said those words, yet the lantern on the broken-down wooden table was lit by her.
The lady boss turned her body that it faced the light, and then she threw her charming and fluid glance toward Lu Xiaofeng, “Will this do?”
“Not enough?” the lady boss asked, “Why not enough?”
“Because now I see only your skirt, I haven’t seen your legs.”
“What do you want?” the lady boss’ fluid glance seemed to ripple, “Could it be that you want me to pull up my skirt?”
“Exactly right,” Lu Xiaofeng said with malicious smile, “That’s exactly what I have in mind.”
With fine and white teeth the lady boss bit her lower lip gently, “Ay, you; you are indeed my destined love [in opera].”
If a woman calls you her destined love, then you may rest assure that womenfolk definitely will not refuse a request from a destined love. Therefore, very soon Lu Xiaofeng was able to see the lady boss’ legs.
This pair of legs did not give anybody any reason to complain; even the most picky man ought to feel very satisfied.
However, he was sighing in his heart, so much so that his disappointment showed on his face.
Because this pair of legs was not the one he wanted to see.
The one he wanted to see was the pair of legs that was revealed under the flipping purple skirt, the one with sturdy muscles, the one that looked supple and flexible, the one full of youthful vitality.
Although the lady boss’ legs looked fine and delicate, the muscles were already not as tight; although they could still arouse desire in a man’s heart, they already lacked firmness.
Lu Xiaofeng did not hide his disappointment very well, but the lady boss did not pay any attention; she merely asked in a sultry voice, “And now what do you want me to do?”
To her surprise, Lu Xiaofeng closed his eyes, “And now I want you to put your skirt on, blow out the lamp on the table, and with your two big, fat legs, get out of here.”
The lady boss was furious, this time she was really enraged, she was so angry that she wanted to strangle this vile moustache to his death. “What do you mean?” she screamed her question toward Lu Xiaofeng.
“I believe I have already made my meaning very clear just now,” Lu Xiaofeng flatly said, “And I believe you have heard it very clearly.”
Lu Xiaofeng thought that she would be so angry that perhaps she would pounce on him and beat him several times, or bite him several times.
But he did not care.
Dealing with a crazy woman, Mr. Lu Xiaofeng knew at least a hundred ways.
The unthinkable thing was: not only our lady boss did not go crazy, she broke into giggles instead.
“Ay, you! You are indeed not a good thing, you are basically not a human being.” It sounded as if she was laughing in glee, “Fortunately I still have a way to deal with a man who is really not a man like you.”
“I can guarantee that if you let me walk out of that door today, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
Surprisingly, there was not the least bit of anger in her voice. Even a ‘veteran of a hundred battles’ like Lu Xiaofeng could not help thinking that it was very strange. Therefore, he could not resist asking, “Are you telling me that if I do not keep you here tonight, I will regret it for the rest of my life?”
The lady boss smiled sweetly, revealing a row of fine, white teeth, “I believe I have already made my meaning very clear just now,” she said, “And I believe you have heard it very clearly.”
“Alright, just consider I lose this time.” He even went as far as raising both hands high in the air, “And now, can you tell me why I would regret it for the rest of my life?”
“Because I am the only one who can tell you how your friend Liu Chengfeng died.”
This sentence was like a whip; it was as if Lu Xiaofeng was being whipped. He sprang up from the bed and asked, “You know who killed him?”
“I think I probably know a little.”
Lu Xiaofeng stiffened, but his voice turned gentler, “In that case, can you tell me now?”
“Of course I can, you are my destined love, no matter what you want me to do, I’ll do it,” the lady boss said, “But it is only proper if you’ll let me have you do something first.”
“What is it?”
The lady boss looked straight at him, softly but flatly she said, “Take off your pants and let me look at your legs.”
Lu Xiaofeng stared blankly, as if he was so terrified that he turned silly. But suddenly he grinned from ear to ear, “It’s so easy,” he smiled delightedly, “What could be easier in the world than a woman asking a man to take off his pants? As long as I can make you happy, whatever you want me to take off, I don’t care.”
He did not lie. Before he even finished speaking, his pants had already left his legs.
“And now what do you want me to do?”
The lady boss’ fluid glance seemed to ripple again, “And now I want you to throw away your pants, blow out the lamp on the table, and with your two small, thin legs, come over here and hug me.”
In order to do something, much less that something simply must be done, one always has to pay a small price.
In order to do something for a real friend, whatever price one has to pay, it is always worth it.
Lu Xiaofeng has always been a man of principle, and that was his principle.
Therefore, the light went out.
One man one woman, one small room, one bed. After the light went out, there were so many things could happen.
One man one woman, one small room, one bed. After the light went out, it is also possible that nothing happened.
What has actually happened? After all these things, anything that happened, other than these two people, who would know?
The only thing that we can be sure is that Lu Xiaofeng definitely asked the lady boss, “How did you know who killed Liu Chengfeng?”
“Because in this small town of ours, where even the birds do not lay eggs, only one person has the capability to kill him.”
Naturally this answer needed some explanation. The lady boss’ explanation was that the town of Huangshi was an extremely desolate, out-of-the-way small town. Since the legend that said that there were gold buried somewhere in the vicinity of this town was confirmed to be just a rumor, even regular travelers no longer journey pass this town, because this town was basically not located on a major trading route.
The inhabitants of this town were born here and grew roots here, they were already accustomed to a life of poverty, yet a very peaceful and quiet life. They already lost their ability to adapt to a competitive and bustling life in the world outside their small town.
The lady boss said, “Take that dead fatty of our family for example; he clings obstinately to this small grocery store, which has already been in his family for several generations. If right now you want him to move out to earn fistful after fistful of silver, he won’t have the guts to do it.” She went on, “As soon as he leaves this town for a single step, his legs will turn weak.”
Most other people in this town were also like that. They lived in poverty, but the peaceful and quiet life had completely stripped them off of the will to fight, and they had absolutely no vanity.
Because they practically did not know what kind of sensual splendor the people on the outside were enjoying.
These people had already distanced themselves from the world as far back as a hundred of years ago, they lived and took root in this small town, every family understood each other, just like a man understands himself. “Only one person is an exception,” the lady boss said, “In our town, he is the only exception.”
“Who is this person?”
“His surname is Sha, almost nobody remembers his given name, because everybody simply calls him Sha Dahu.” [Dahu means great family/rich family/big landlord, etc.]
“Sha Dahu? Why would everybody call him Sha Dahu?” Lu Xiaofeng asked the lady boss.
“Even several fresh water wells in the town of Huangshi belong to him; if people don’t call him Sha Dahu, what should we call him?”
“Why would this Sha Dahu want to kill Liu Chengfeng?”
“I did not say that he wanted to kill Liu Chengfeng,” the lady boss said, “I just said that if anybody in the town of Huangshi is able to kill Liu Chengfeng, this person must be Sha Dahu.”
“Because I also know that Liu Daye [big master] was a first class martial art master of Jianghu, while our people here, as soon as we saw other people moving their sabers, they would pee in their pants and become the grandsons of a turtle.”
The lady boss went on, “Other than big boss Sha, nobody in the town of Huangshi dares to move a single strand of Liu Daye’s hair.” She added for emphasis, “Other than big boss Sha, nobody has that kind of ability either.”
“What ability does he have?”
“Actually, he himself does not have any bird egg ability, what he has is no more than a belly full of sh1t.”
The lady boss had brought an earthen jar of wine along, which she now drank with Lu Xiaofeng. No doubt it was one of the most delightful things in the world. Therefore, this lady boss of ours, who had a pair of white hands and a pair of long legs plus an amorous heart, found it hard not to get drunk even if she did not want to. Hence the reason now she started to talk a little nonsense.
“It’s just that our Big Boss Sha is a bit stronger than those turtle grandsons,” the lady boss said, “Because other than a belly full of sh1t, he also has a house full of gold, silver, pearls and jewels.”
“What does it have to do with Liu Chengfeng’s death?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
The lady boss grabbed Lu Xiaofeng’s neck and patted his cheek just like patting a little child’s cheek.
“Xiao Shaoye [little young master], do you know that there are a lot of people who are like fly? When they see sh1t, they disregard their own lives and immediately fly over.” Her eyes narrowed, “Gold, silver, pearls and jewels are their sh1t.”
“So what kind of people are these flies?”
“The flies are some good-for-nothing, men who are not humans.” The lady boss said, “Robbers, fugitives, murderer, scoundrels, serial rapists, and animals who sell their friends. They were on the run and had nowhere else to go, hence they turn into flies, buzzing over a large pile of sh1t. Naturally, the farther this pile of sh1t is the better.”
She drank the last mouthful of wine from the earthen jar, “The pile of sh1t in this town of Huangshi is naturally the farthest.”
Lu Xiaofeng knew that very soon this woman would become a drunken female cat, because he knew that the wine in that earthen jar was a strong wine; therefore, he took advantage to ask a few more questions before she got drunk.
“Are you saying that among these flies, there are some first-class martial art masters?”
“Probably there are.”
“Could it be that among these robbers and murderers who seek shelter under Sha Dahu you recognize some people who can kill Liu Chengfeng?”
“I don’t know either.” The lady boss’ eyes already closed, “If you want to know, why don’t you go and see it for yourself?”
Finished speaking that sentence, the lady boss’ eyes would not open anymore, she was totally drunk, and had become a sleeping woman that Lu Xiaofeng had no way of waking her up.
Other that going straight to Sha Dahu, he had no other way at all.
Written by Gu Long
Translation by Fox
Edited and proofread by audiowuxia.
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