LXF01-05 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 August 2008 21:38

Chapter 5 - Singing voices from far away



There wasn't any plums at the Thousand Plums Mansion.

It was April, peach flowers and cuckoos covered the mountainside.

Facing an entire world covered with flowers, Hua ManLou seemed as if he wanted to just stay here forever. An indescribable look suddenly appeared on that calm and peaceful face of his, the kind of look that young girls get when they see their first loves walking towards them.

But Lu XiaoFeng couldn't wait any longer: "I don't want to kill the atmosphere, but once it turns dark, XiMen ChuiXue would not meet any guests."

"Not even you?"

"Not even the King of Heavens himself."

"What if he's not there?"

"He has to be there. He only leaves 4 times a year at the most, and that's only when he's off to kill someone."

"So he only kills 4 people a year at the most?"

"And they all deserve to be killed."

"Who deserves to be killed? Who decides they deserve to be killed?"

Hua ManLou suddenly sighed before continuing: "You go ahead, I think I'll wait here for you."

Lu XiaoFend did not say another word, because he understood this friend of his very well.

Nobody has ever seen Hua ManLou angry or mad, but once he made up his mind, nobody has ever been able to persuade him otherwise either.

He turned towards the flowered-covered mountainside and slowly suggested: "When you see him, try my way first, then try yours."

______________________________

There wasn't a single flower in the room, yet it was filled with the frangrance of flowers; faint and simple, just like XiMen ChuiXue.

Lu XiaoFeng sat sideways on a soft chair made from vines, and stared at him. The cup was filled with light green wine. The white shirt he was wearing was light and soft.

Faintly, wave after wave, a flute, seeming close yet far away, with a sound that felt softer than the softest of Spring breezes can be heard; but the flute player was no where to be seen.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "In your entire life, have you ever been troubled?"

"No," XiMen ChuiXue replied.

"Is there a thing in this world that you can't have?"

"No again."

"Are you really completely satisfied?"

"Because I really don't ask for that much," XiMen ChuiXue casually replied.

"And that's why you have never asked anyone else for a favor?"

"Never."

"And that's why when others come to you, you are never willing to help them."

"Never."

"No matter who, no matter what, you are never going to help?"

"What I'm going to do is never based upon what others ask of me, this is the same to anybody and everybody."

"What if someone is going burn your house down?"

"Who would come and burn my house down?"

"Me."

XiMen ChuiXue laughed. He rarely laughed, so whenever he did laugh his face always had an indescribable hint of ridicule.

"I came here wanting to ask you to help me do something. I promised a person that if you don't help, then I'm going to burn your house, burn it down to ground." Lu XiaoFeng explained.

XiMen ChuiXue stared at him. After a long time, he slowly began to speak: "I don't have that many friends, the most ever at any particular time was 2 or 3, but you have always been my friend."

"And that's why I have come and asked for your help."

"And that's why whenever you want to burn down my house, you can go right ahead. You can start the fire where ever you want to start it as well." XiMen ChuiXue said casually.

Lu XiaoFeng was shocked, because he also understood this friend of his very well.

Every word this man said is like an arrow that's just been shot out: it's never going to be taken back.

"In the storage out back, I have some pinewood and kerosine, I suggest you start the fire there. And also do it at night, that kind of fire must be beautiful at night." XiMen ChuiXue said.

"Do you know of Know-It-All and Smart Guy?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly asked.

"I have heard that there isn't a question in the world that they can't answer. Do they really know everything in the world?" XiMen ChuiXue replied coldly.

"You don't believe it?"

"You believe it?"

"I asked them if there was anyway to get you to help me. They told me there was none. At first, I didn't believe them, but now... Now it looks like they really do have you all figured out."

XiMen ChuiXue looked at Lu XiaoFeng silently. Suddenly he let out another little laugh and said: "Well this time they are wrong."

"Oh?"

"You do have a way of making me help you?"

"What way is that?"

XiMen ChuiXue smiled and said: "If you shave off that mustache of yours, I'll be willing to do anything you ask of me."

______________________________

If Lu XiaoFeng had ran into some of his friends right now, they probably wouldn't recognize him.

Here was a person who was suppose to have 4 eyebrows, but now he only has 2; and where there used to be a mustache is now as smooth as a new born's skin. It's a shame that Hua ManLou couldn't see it.

Obviously, he couldn't see XiMen ChuiXue following Lu XiaoFeng; but nevertheless, he smiled and inquired: "Master XiMen?"

"Hua ManLou?" XiMen ChuiXue asked back.

Hua ManLou nodded: "I regret being born handicapped so that I could not see the best swordsman today in all his glory."

XiMen ChuiXue stared at him and suddenly asked: "Forgive me but... can you really not see?"

"I'm sure Master XiMen has heard that even though Hua ManLou has eyes, he's as blind as a bat."

"Then did you hear my footsteps?"

Just like DuGu Fang, he had to ask that question. He was just as proud of his lightness kungfu as he was of his sword skills, and he definitely should be proud of it.

"From what I know, there's at most 4 or 5 men in the world today that can actually walk without any sound at all. Master XiMen is one of them."

"But you knew I was here!"

Hua ManLou let out a little laugh: "That's because Master XiMen carries a certain aura of death!"

"An aura of death?"

"When one unsheath a sword, there's a certain aura that the sword gives out. How many men has Master XiMen killed? How can you not have an aura of death about you?" Hua ManLou casually replied.

"No wonder you didn't want to enter my house, turns out that you can't stand this deadly aura I have." XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied.

Hua ManLou smiled: "The flowers are so beautiful here, if Master XiMen could take some more of this beauty in, this deadly aura could slowly disappear."

"Fresh flowers maybe beautiful, but how could it compare to the flower of blood when a person is killed?" XiMen ChuiXue observed coldly.

"Oh?"

XiMen ChuiXue's eyes suddenly looked different: "There will always be dishonest traitors in this world. When you thrust your sword through their throats, the flower of blood blossoms underneath your sword. If you can just see that fleeting moment of glory, then you would understand that there can be nothing in the world more beautiful."

He suddenly turned around and walked away without even looking back once.

The evening mist fell, as if the flowers suddenly covered themselves with a silk white sheet. His figure had just as suddenly disappeared into the mist.

Hua ManLou could not help but sigh and comment: "I finally understand how he could be so good at his kind of sword technique."

"Oh!"

"Because he really believes that killing is a sacred and divinely beautiful thing. He has already offered his life in service of that. It's only when he kills does he truly feel alive. All other times he's just waiting for the next time."

Lu XiaoFeng thought deeply for a bit before he too gently sighed: "Luckily, all the people he killed deserved it."

Hua ManLou smiled and did not reply.

______________________________

The endless night sky had suddenly engulfed the world.

The stars had just begin to appear. The beautiful yet distant waning moon hung down from a branch on some distant tree. The winds still carried a flowery fragrance, the night was beautiful and intoxicating.

Hua ManLou was slowly walking on the side of the mountain, having seemingly fallen into a beautiful and intoxicating dream.

But Lu XiaoFeng couldn't hold it in any longer: "Are you going to ask me whether or not my trip was successful?"

"I already know that you have already convinced him to join us," Hua ManLou said with a smile.

"You did? How?"

"He didn't ask you to stay nor did he say goodbye, and you didn't seem to mind at all. Obviously that's because you 2 had already set up a meeting place."

"And I bet you also know how I managed to do it?"

"My way, of course."

"Why do you say that?"

"He might be heartless, but you are not. He knows that you won't burn his house down; besides, even if you do, he wouldn't care."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed and then sighed: "No matter how amazing you are, there is something that you'll never be able to guess."

"And what's that?"

Lu XiaoFeng ran his fingers over where his mustache used to be: "Just guess, I'll tell you all about it when you get it right."

"If I got right, why would I need you to tell me about it?" Hua ManLou laughed and said.

Lu XiaoFeng laughed as well, but before he could respond, he suddenly realized that Hua ManLou's calm and peaceful smile had suddenly and instantaneously turned unspeakably stiff and strange.

"What's going on?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask.

Hua ManLou didn't answer, and didn't hear his question. He seemed to be listening for a mysterious sound from far away, a sound that only he could hear.

He suddenly changed direction and began walking towards the back of the mountain.

All Lu XiaoFeng could do was follow him. The night became even darker and one by one, the stars disappeared behind the peak of the mountain.

Suddenly, he heard the far away singing too. The singing was indescribable, haunting, and heartbreakingly beautiful.

The lyrics were the same, beautiful, moving, and heartbreaking. It was about a young and passionate girl who was just about to die telling her lover about her life, about her heartbreaks and loneliness.

Lu XiaoFeng didn't really pay much attention to the lyrics, because at this moment he was puzzled by Hua ManLou's expression. So much so that he had to ask: "Have you heard of this song before?"

"Yes," Hua ManLou finally nodded after a long silence. "I've heard of it before?"

"From who?"

"ShangGuan FeiYan."

Lu XiaoFeng had often said that in this world, there were only about a dozen or so things that he had complete faith and trust in. Hua ManLou's ears just happen to be one of them.

When other people saw something with their very own eyes, sometimes they didn't really see it. But Hua ManLou's ears have never ever made a mistake.

So the singer had to be ShangGuan FeiYan.

How could this girl who had mysteriously disappeared suddenly appear here? And why would she be singing such a hauntingly beautiful song here, at night on an desolate mountainside?

Who was she singing the song for?

Could it be that she was just like the girl in the song? Telling her sad life's misfortunes and bitterness to her lover just before her impending death?

Lu XiaoFeng didn't ask any further, because a light had suddenly appeared in the darkness.

The singing was also coming from the direction of the flickering light.

Hua ManLou had already began to move, flying his way over the mountainside. Even though he couldn't see that lonely light, he was moving exactly at the direction of the light.

The light was getting closer and closer and Lu XiaoFeng was finally able to make out a little monastery. Was it built in honor of some mountain demon or an earth god?

The singing suddenly seized, the world suddenly turned unspeakably empty and silent.

Lu XiaoFeng shot a look at Hua ManLou. "If she was really singing to you," he had to say to convince himself, "she wouldn't leave just now."

But she did leave. The oil lamp was still lit inside the dark and damp monastery, but there was nobody in sight.

A black faced mountain demon was sitting on a vicious tiger with a iron staff in hand. In the faint and flickering light, it looked as if he was in the middle of beating down a bunch of evil-doers with his staff and carrying out justice for the good people of the land.

Laying on top of the offering table was an old and rusty bronze wash bowl. The bowl was filled with clean water, several strands of black hair was floating on the water.

"What are you looking at?" Hua ManLou asked.

"There's a wash bowl on the table, it's filled with water and there's some hair as well." Lu XiaoFeng answered.

"Hair?"

The hair was soft and still had a faint trace of that sweet smell that only young girls have.

"It's a girl's hair." Lu XiaoFeng concluded. "Seemed that a girl was just here singing and using this bowl of water as a mirror to comb her hair. But now she's gone."

Hua ManLou nodded slowly, as if he had figured out a long time ago that she wouldn't have waited here for him.

"In this place, at a time like this, she still had the urge to comb her hair? She's obviously a girl who likes to look as pretty as she can." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

"17, 18 year old girls, which one of them doesn't like to look pretty?"

"And is ShangGuan FeiYan just an 17, 18 year old girl?"

"She liked to look pretty to begin with anyways."

Lu XiaoFeng looked at Hua ManLou, and probed: "You have felt her hair before haven't you?"

Hua ManLou gave a laugh. There are many different kinds of laughter, this particular kind of laugh means admittance.

"Is this her hair?"

He believed that Hua ManLou's fingers were just as sensitive as his ears. He has seen, with his very own eyes, Hua ManLou be able to tell the validity of an artifact by simply touching it ever so slightly.

Hua ManLou was already holding that strand of hair in his hand and was gently running his fingers along its length. A very peculiar expression appeared on his face, it was neither joy nor sadness.

"Is this really her hair?"

Hua ManLou nodded.

"She was just sitting here and was even combing her hair and singing. Clearly, she's living quite well."

Hua ManLou gave another laugh. There are many different kinds of laughter, but this particular laugh was impossible to tell whether it was out of joy or sadness,

She was just here, so why didn't she wait for him? If she did not know he was here, then who else could she have been singing to.

Lu XiaoFeng secretly sighed to himself, he couldn't decide whether or not to console him or to pretend he didn't understand.

A gust of wind blew by and entered the room through the door. That staff touting, tiger riding, black faced mountain demon statue suddenly began to crack. That 10 meter long staff of his suddenly fell apart.

Immediately, the huge statue began to fall apart as well, as it fell onto the floor, piece by piece.

With in the cloud of dust, Lu XiaoFeng suddenly realized that, on the wall behind the statue, there actually hung a man.

A dead man. The blood on his body wasn't even dry yet. An iron judge pen was stuck through his chest and nailed him onto the wall. Two pieces of paper like those used by Taoist priest to call the souls of the dead hung from the pen.

"An eye for an eye!"

"This is what happened to those who meddle with other's business!"

The same two sentences, written in blood, just like the other one. The blood seemed to have soaked through the papers.

DuGu Fang, not Liu YuHen. Those who wanted to die was still alive while those who wanted to live were dead.

"The statue had been smashed long before," Lu XiaoFeng observed with anger. "This dead man had been placed here just for us to see."

Hua ManLou's face was pale as death. He finally had to ask: "Is it ShangGuan FeiYan?"

"It's DuGu Fang." Lu XiaoFeng replied. "I really didn't expect him to be the second one to be dead."

"What's he doing here? Why would ShangGuan FeiYan be here?" Hua ManLou was in deep thought. "Could she be kidnapped as well? Could she have fallen into the hands of the Green Shirt Pavilion?"

Lu XiaoFeng frowned: "Usually, you are a very open minded guy, but how come whenever it comes to her, you always think towards the worst of all possibilities?"

Hua ManLou was quiet for a long time before finally sighing: "Maybe it's because I care too muc about her."

When one cares too much about someone, it's hard to not think about the worst possibility, it's hard not to make it worse.

That's why the more one care about another, the easier misunderstandings arise, and the worse the time apart becomes.

Lu XiaoFeng forced a small laughter out and said: "No matter what, at least she's alive. How could anyone sing so beautifully if there was a sabre up against her neck?"

______________________________

The song wasn't beautiful, because it was sang by Lu XiaoFeng.

"Life should be tasted to the end, and not spent facing the moon alone."

He banged his chopsticks against wine cup to keep the beat. Over and over again, he just kept on singing tose 2 lines over and over again.

Lu XiaoFeng sings one line, Hua ManLou would drink one cup. Finally, he couldn't help it anymore and had to speak up: "It's not that I don't like your singing, but could you possibily sing something different?"

"No." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

"Why not?"

"Because those are the only lines I know."

Hua ManLou laughed. "You know, everyone else keep on saying that Lu XiaoFeng is a genius, one of the smartest and most intelligent men in the world; and that no matter what kind of kungfu, he would learn and master it in an instant." He observed. "But when it comes to singing, you are truly worse than a donkey."

"If you don't like my singing, then how come you don't just start singing, huh?" Lu XiaoFeng rebutted.

His whole point was to get Hua ManLou to laugh, to get Hua ManLou to sing. Because he had never seen Hua ManLou acting like this, and drinking like that.

It wasn't good wine. Where do you go find good wine in a poor village on the mountainside at a time like this?

But no matter what kind of wine it was, it had to be better than having no wine at all. Hua ManLou suddenly lifted his cup up in the air, downed its entire contents in one dramatic flair, and began to sing.

What he sang was "Long Reminiscent," originally written by, Li Yu, the only emperor of the Southern Tang Dynasty as he was longing for his deceased wife Da ZhouHuo. So it had a sad, soft, romantic, and lonely feel to it.

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly realized that Hua ManLou had really fallen in love with that mysterious and beautiful girl. He never said anything about it, but that was only because he was deeply in love. He was deeply in love, but that was only because he had never loved before.

But what about ShangGuan FeiYan?

Her movements were too mysterious, and her actions too inexplicable, that even Lu XiaoFeng couldn't figure out what was going on inside her heart; not to mention the entangled Hua ManLou.

Suddenly, Lu XiaoFeng bursted out laughing. "My singing may be bad, but yours is even worse!" He said. "When I sing, I at least got you to laugh. But when you sing, I couldn't crack a smile even if I wanted to."

"That's why I think it's best if we just stick to drinking. 'Today has wine, already drunk of today'."

The 2 of them held up their cups. Just as the cups were about to touch, a voice said: "Is anyone here young master Lu XiaoFeng?"

The night had grown old and everyone else had already gone. There shouldn't be anyone coming to this mountainside village, and definitely not anyone coming looking for Lu XiaoFeng.

But a person did come, and he did come looking for Lu XiaoFeng.

From his looks, he was probably a hunter. He had a bamboo basket in his hand. Inside the basket was a couple of roasted chickens.

"Why are you looking for Lu XiaoFeng?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask before answering his question.

The hunter placed the bamboo basket on the table. "This is bought for young master Lu XiaoFeng by his dear aunt who instructed me to come here and deliever it to him to go with his wine." He explained.

"My aunt?" Lu XiaoFeng uttered after being taken aback for a moment.

"You are young master Lu XiaoFeng?" The hunter seemed rather taken aback as well.

Lu XiaoFeng nodded. "But I'm not a young master, and I don't have an aunt."

"Yes you do, without a doubt you do."

"Why?"

"If that person wasn't your aunt, then why would she spent 5 taels of silver to by these chickens and 5 more taels to make me deliever it here?" The hunter argued. "But it's just that... that...."

"It's just what?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

"She told me that young master Lu XiaoFeng would have 4 eyebrows and that I would recognize him as soon as I saw him." The hunter answered while trying hard to fight off the urge to laugh. "But you seem to only have 2."

Lu XiaoFeng tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably and laughed. "Have you ever seen anyone with 4 eyebrows?"

At this point the hunter began to laugh as well. "Precisely because I have never seen it before, that was the reason why I came." He replied. "I didn't come here just for those 5 taels of silver you know."

"What kind of person is my aunt?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

"She's a little girl."

"A little girl?!" Lu XiaoFeng almost shouted. "Can a person as old as me have a little girl for an aunt?"

A forced smile appeared on the hunter's face. "At first, I didn't believe her either. But then she said that even though she wasn't very old, she has alot of seniority. She even said that she has a grand-nephew called Hua ManLou who is more than 50 years old."

Lu XiaoFeng looked over at Hua ManLou. He wanted to laugh, but was too embarrased to laugh.

But instead, Hua ManLou laughed: "That's right, I do have a great-aunt like that."

Once again, the hunter was taken aback by the response: "You are Hua ManLou? You are 50 years old?"

"I took good care of myself, that's why I look so young."

"How did you do it?" The hunter couldn't help but ask. "Can I do it?"

"Of course, it's quite easy really." Hua ManLou casually replied. "What I did was everyday, I would eat 50 earthworms, 20 geckos, and 2 kilograms of human."

The hunter stared at him so hard that it looked like his eyeballs were about to pop out of their sockets. Suddenly, and without saying a word, he turned around and began to run, running like there was no tomorrow.

Lu XiaoFeng couldn't hold it any longer and began to laugh very loudly.

Hua ManLou laughed as well. "You are right," he said, "looks like when that little devil lies, she could even trick a dead person to come alive again."

As he spoke, he half-heartedly pointed at the window to the left with his chopstick.

Lu XiaoFeng took off, somersaulted in mid-air, and pushed open that window.

A girl with 2 pigtails was hiding outside of the window silently laughing to herself.

ShangGuan Xue-Er's eyes were still that big and she still seemed so good and honest. But she couldn't laugh anymore.

Grabbing her by her pigtails, Lu XiaoFeng dragged her into the room. "This little devil here, just being my aunt isn't good enough, she had to go and become your great-aunt." He observed.

Xue-Er pouted her lips a little and rebuked: "I was only playing around you know. Just because you can't stand being made fun of doesn't mean you should take it out on other people's pigtails."

"Not to mention she did spend 10 taels of silver on you." Hua ManLou smiled. "Besides, these chickens aren't bad. Even if you aren't grateful, you should at least be somewhat polite."

"Seems like only my grand-nephew still got a heart." Xue-Er casually added. "At least he is being fair and honest."

Lu XiaoFeng burst out laughing: "So according to you the person with a heart is even lower than the person without a heart?"

While he was laughing, he let Xue-Er's pigtails go. Just like a little fox, Xue-Er immediately scrambled through between his legs and ran.

Unfortunately, she wasn't fast enough as Lu XiaoFeng grabbed her by her pigtails again and dragged her back like a little chicken. Forcing her to sit down on a chair, his face turned serious as he began: "I have to ask you a question, and it's best for you if you just answer me honestly, don't even think about lying."

"I have never told a single lie before." Xue-Er blinked, looking as if she had just been greviously wronged.

"That sentence right there is a lie."

"If everything I say is an lie, then why do bother talking to me at all?" Getting mad, ShangGuan Xue-Er shouted back at him.

Knowing that it would be very stupid to get into an argument with her, Lu XiaoFeng straightened up and asked: "Why are you following us all this time?"

"I'm not following you guys to begin with. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't keep up."

That sentence was actually true.

"Then how did you find us?"

"I knew you were going to come here for XiMen ChuiXue, so I just came straight here before you guys!"

"You have been waiting here all this time?"

"I have waited for an entire day now. Didn't even get to change my cloth or take a bath to clean myself. I stink. Don't believe me? Then come over here."

Hua ManLou was laughing again. All Lu XiaoFeng could do was clear his throat a couple of times. "Why are you waiting for us?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

"Because I have a secret that I have to tell you."

"What secret?"

Xue-Er pouted her lips again, looking like she was about to cry again. She suddenly produced a very delicately made golden swallow from inside her shirt. "I found this in the garden that night?"

Lu XiaoFeng took a good look at it but couldn't make anything out of it.

"Before I was born, my dad gave it to my older sister." Xue-Er continued. "My sister treasured it, she had it placed on a gold chain necklace and wore it all the time. I tried to get her to let me wear it for a day or 2, but she would never even let me touch it. But now I find it just laying there on the ground."

"Maybe she accidentally dropped it." Lu XiaoFeng suggested.

Xue-Er shook her head feverishly: "Never, not possible. This had to have been dropped by someone while they were trying to hide her body."

There were tears in her eyes, she looked very distressed, even her voice began to crack.

"Do you really think that your sister is dead?"

Xue-Er bite her lip and nodded with conviction. "Not only do I know that she's dead," she said in a raspy voice. "I know who killed her."

"Who?"

"That bitch cousin of mine." Xue-Er bitterly replied.

"ShangGuan DanFeng?"

"Yes, her! Not only did she kill my sister, she also killed Xiao QiuYu, DuGu Fang, and Liu YuHen!"

"All 3 of them were killed by her?"

Xue-Er nodded. "I saw it with my own eyes. She was in this hotel room with Liu YuHen just talking. Then suddenly she let loose her Flying Pheonix Needles and killed Liu YuHen. She even hid him under the bed."

"To think, he wanted to die so bad, and yet he died just like that." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Flying Pheonix Needles are her best weapon. They clog up as soon as it meets blood and the poison is fatal. My sister was probably killed by them as well. But where did she hid my sister's body?" Tears rolled down her cheeks as she continued.

"What you said is completely logical and very sensible, as if it was all true." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "Too bad I still don't believe it one bit."

This time Xue-Er didn't even get mad, she just kept on crying. "I knew you wouldn't believe me, you... you... you are completely messed up over her."

Lu XiaoFeng stared at her, his conviction were beginning to shake a little. So he couldn't help but ask: "She's also your older sister's cousin, why would she kill your sister?"

"Who knows why?" Grinding her teeth, Xue-Er replied. "Maybe because she had always hated my sister for being smarter and prettier."

"Then what about Liu YuHen? Hasn't he been completely loyal towards her? Why would she kill Liu YuHen?"

"She is more vile than the vilest of snakes, if she could find it in herself to kill a person like my older sister." Xue-Er bitterly replied. "Then is there a person that she can't kill?"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "I know you hate her, but...."

"You think I hate her because I'm jealous of you and her?" ShangGuan Xue-Er suddenly interrupted him with a cold snicker. "She might seem very nice to me, but she's been bullying me around from behind ever since we were little.

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly interrupted her: "She's only 19, but you are 20. How could she have bully you around?"

Xue-Er couldn't answer.

Lu XiaoFeng didn't have the heart, so he added in a gentle voice: "If you are really worried about your older sister, you can rest easy at least for now. Because I know for a fact that she hasn't died."

Xue-Er bit her lips and replied: "But I really did saw it with my own eyes from outside when she killed Liu YuHen. I...."

She suddenly stopped, her entire body froze.

The Liu YuHen that had been killed and shoved under the bed by ShangGuan DanFeng had suddenly appeared.

The night fog was bleak and desolate, the moon was hazy and dim. Liu YuHen was just walking out from underneath this hazy and dim moonlight and into this little wine shop.

His ghastly face was even more indescribably horrific when seen under this moonlight.

But his expression was very peaceful and his voice very soft. "You have had enough fun out here? Go back with me." He said, looking at Xue-Er. "His Majesty is waiting for me to take you back."

Xue-Er's eyes were almost popping out. "You... you are not dead?" She stuttered.

A look of sadness shot through Liu YuHen's eyes as he answered heavily: "Sometimes, dying isn't an easy thing."

"And my older cousin?"

"She's hoping that you would go back as soon as possible as well. You are young, wait until you get a little older, then it's still not too late to come out and have some fun. Take your older sister for example, she goes where she wants to when she wants to, and nobody has a problem with that."

Xue-Er looked at him, as if she was frightened. Suddenly, she grabbed Lu XiaoFeng. "Please don't let him take me back!" She screamed. "Please let me follow you around, I'll be good!"

"That will have to wait until you grow up a bit too." Liu YuHen said. "You are still a kid. There are some serious things that adults have to do, how can you just tag along?"

Outside, a horse neighed. A horse carriage was outside, the very same one that Lu XiaoFeng and rode on.

"Just take a nap in the carriage." Liu YuHen continued. "Then you'll be home before you know it."

ShangGuan Xue-Er finally left, left without even turning around to look back.

Looking at her getting on her carriage, seeing how pitiful she looked, Lu XiaoFeng couldn't help but sigh again. "You are such a cute and lovable girl, why do you lie so much?"

Hua ManLou had been quietly sitting there all this time, but now he suddenly spoke up: "Everyone who lies have a reason for it. Some people lie to trick others, some people lie to tirck themselves."

He sighed and continued: "And the most vulnerable ones are those would lie only to get affections from others, to get others to notice her."

"Is it because she's never had much affection and love from others?"

"Yes."

"You are right." With a forced smile on his face, Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Some people should people should be forgiven even though they have done bad things. Maybe I should have started to think for them much earlier th...."

He wasn't quite finished when he noticed that Liu YuHen had suddenly reappeared at the door. "Xue-Er has a message she would like for me to give you." He said slowly.

Lu XiaoFeng waited for the message. He suddenly noticed that in this man's horrifying eyes there appeared what seemed to be a hint of a warm smile. "She said that she forgot to tell you, that when you shave your mustache, you look much younger and much more handsome than when you had your mustache."

______________________________

Lu XiaoFeng felt the stubbles just below his nose with the tip of his fingers. He had been feeling them with his finger the entire trip from YanBei to ShanXi. It was as if the mustache just couldn't grow fast enough for him.

"You know that I have never been saddened by the fact that I can't see." Hua ManLou was smiling from ear to ear. "But at this moment I really wish I could see how you look without that mustache."

"Very young and very handsome."

"Then how come you kept the mustache all this time?"

"Because I'm afrad that every girl would die from being too enthralled by me."

"You seemed to have quite a temper these last couple of days." Hua ManLou was still smiling. "Are you mad at yourself?"

"Why would I be mad at myself?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied.

"Because you feel that you have wronged that vulnerable, lovable, and lying little girl. And you are worried that she might be bullied and mistreated once she gets back."

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly stood up. But before he could leave, someone came with an invitation.

"Respectfully prepared food and spirits, for guest to wash off the dust of travel, would be honored with presence."

The invitation was signed: "Huo TianQing."

Simple sentences, written very neatly and straight. And the ink was very thick, so that every letter jutted out ever so slightly. Even those who couldn't see could use his fingers to read the invitation.

"Looks like this Warden Huo is a very thorough and attentive person." Hua ManLou observed with a smile.

"Not just attentive." Lu XiaoFeng casually.

The person who delievered the invitation was a very clever looking kid. He stood outside of the door and bowed respectfully. "Warden Huo instructed that if the honored guests would be willing to attend the little banquet. Then I, humbly, would have to get a carriage ready and wait here, so as to take the guests to Diamond Pavillion. Warden Huo is already waiting there for sirs to grace us with their presence."

"How did he know that I'm here?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

The kid laughed a little and replied: "No matter big or small, there's not much that goes on within 400 kilometer of here that Warden Huo doesn't know about."