LXF01-11 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 August 2008 21:44

Chapter 11 - The smartest man



The air was filled with the delicious and intoxicating aroma of the wine, the fire inside the little red clay stove was not big, but it was just enough to heat up the bitterly cold cave to a warm comfort.

"Well, at least I came to the right place," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "And just at the right time."

Huo Xiu sighed as well.

"I don't get it, how come this person always show up just when I'm about to have some good wine."

He smiled and turned towards them. His bright and vivacious eyes gave even those wretched cloths on him life.

"If you aren't afraid of getting a little dirt on your cloth, then why don't you sit down and have a drink with me?" He asked with a smile.

Lu XiaoFeng looked down at the bright red cape that he was wearing, and then looked up at his faded cloths, and laughed.

"By the time I get as many servants as you do now, I'm going to wear those exact same cloths too."

"Oh?"

"Your cloths are cloths only the richest of the rich could wear, I don't deserve it yet."

"Why?"

"Because once a man really have got some money, it doesn't matter what he wears anymore."

"Pity you would never be rich!" Huo Xiu smiled.

"Why?"

"Because you are too smart, nobody that smart ever get rich."

"But last time we met, you said that I was going to end up rich sooner or later."

"That was because I didn't find out how smart you really are."

"So when did you find out?"

"Just now."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed again.

"Other than you, there may not be another man who could get to here as effortlessly as you have."

"Is it because nobody else is as obedient as me?" Lu XiaoFeng joked.

Huo Xiu nodded.

"When they see the word "push" on the door, at least 9 out of 10 men would not have been able to bring themselves to push the door, and if you don't push open the door there is no way you can get in here. If you don't turn when you see the word "turn", then nobody could have hoped to be able to walked out of my maze. If you don't stop when you see the word "stop", then even if you avoided getting turned into a porcupine by arrows, you would have lost at least a layer of skin from boiling hot oil poured on you."

"But the most dastardly thing is probably that poisonous gas you put into that room above us, even Hua ManLou almost fell for it. There probably aren't too many people who could have guessed that not only wasn't there any poison in the wine, but that's where the antitode was."

"But you guessed."

Lu XiaoFeng cracked a smile.

"I only know that no matter if you are a good man or a bad man, you are at least not one who would lie to your friends. Because you don't have that many friends to begin with, so you can't afford to lose one."

Huo Xiu stared at him with those bright eyes of his, stared at him for a long time.

"What else do you know?" He suddenly asked.

Lu XiaoFeng also stared at him, stared at him for a long time.

"I also know that your surname isn't Huo, that your name was originally ShangGuan Mu." He slowly replied.

"That's right." Huo Xiu's face did not even change as he casually replied.

"You, along with Yan TieShan and DuGu YiHe were all once important officials of the Golden Roc Empire."

"That's right."

"When the Golden Roc Empire fell, the three of you were charged with taking all the riches of the treasury and bringing them here, to China."

"That's right."

His face still looked peaceful, without even the slightest hint of regret or sorrow.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"But then you three took advantage of the situation and kept the riches, as soon as you arrived in China, you went into hiding and did not go look for the 13th Emperor as you were ordered to do so...."

"You are wrong." Huo Xiu suddenly interrupted him.

"Wrong?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

"Wrong about a small point."

"Which is?"

"The ones who did not keep their promise was not us, but that little Prince that escaped with ShangGuan Sheng."

Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he did not expect that point, he had not even consider the possibility of it.

"Not only was he not at the agreed upon location, he has been hiding from us until now. We had been searching all these years and still could not find him."

"So if that's the case, then it's not you guys that has been avoiding him, but he who has been avoiding you."

"That's right."

"You three were all important and trusted officials of the former Emperor, and had a huge amount of riches with you. Why would he be hiding from you? Is there something wrong with him?"

"Because that huge mountain of riches does not belong to him," Huo Xiu coldly observed. "It belongs to the Golden Roc Empire."

"There is a difference?"

"There is a huge difference."

"Oh."

"If he accept all these riches, then he was committed to somehow use that money to restore the Golden Roc Empire. That's not an easy thing to do, not only will there be many hardship along the way, he could lost his life at any moment."

Lu XiaoFeng agreed. To be born to royalty is not necessarily a fortunate thing. "Pray that I never ever ever be reborn to royalty" was a sentence whose bitterness and hardship that not many people can understand.

Huo Xiu's eyes suddenly looked exceedingly hopeless and sad.

"It's a shame that our little Emperor did not have the makings of a great general." He slowly said.

"What kind of a person is he?" Lu XiaoFeng could not help but ask.

"He was like the Late Emperor Li, a poet, and also like Song HuiZong, a painter; ever since he was little, he had been called by others as a Genius of the Three, 'poetry, writing, and painting.'" He sighed and continued. "To a person like him, who he is naturally wasn't important to him, losing his throne was probably not a big deal to him, as long as he could write poetry, sing songs, live a carefree and worry-free life, that was all he wanted, besides...."

"Yes?"

"Besides, the portion of money that ShangGuan Sheng took with him was more than enough to last all of them a life time of carefree living."

Lu XiaoFeng did not speak again, but his silence did not mean that he believed.

"You don't believe me?"

Lu XiaoFeng still did not speak.

"The rations and weapons that we gathered in preparations for the restoration is just outisde, you probably just saw them didn't you?"

Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

"We really did make quite a bit using the riches of the Empire, but it was only with the goal of using that money to organize an army to fight for the restoration of the Empire, because, as you said, we are the most important officials of the present dynasty. But if our Emperor does not show up, then what would we be fighting for?"

His words were almost forcing Lu XiaoFeng to believe him, even if he did not want to.

"But if he had really hid from you all these years, why is he suddenly trying to find you now?" He had to ask one final question.

"It's not like there hasn't been people coming to us before." Huo Xiu coldly replied.

"Oh?"

"Those four old men out there, I trust that you have already ran into them."

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly had an epiphany.

"You mean that they are all fakes trying to get their hands on the fortune?"

Huo Xiu nodded.

"They want to get rich, so I let them sit facing all that money all day everyday, they want to pretend to be king, so I let them sit on that throne and wear those Dragon Robes all day everday." Huo Xiu casually said. "Even though they tried to cheat their way to the money, you can't say that I have mistreated them at all."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed and cracked a rather awkward smile.

"Turns out you are not a good man either, a good man would never treat anyone like that."

But in reality he had to admit that there probably was not a more appropriate way to deal with people like that.

"This matter was supposed to be a great secret, other than the four of us and our little Prince turned Emperor, nobody else should have known about this."

"If that's the case, then how come they know about it?"

"They don't either."

Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he could not comprehend what Huo Xiu was saying.

"The one that knows about this secret is another, they are nothing but pawns being used by that person."

"Who is this other person?"

"Don't know."

"Even they don't know?"

"If you were him, would you appear without disguise?" Huo Xiu sneered.

"No, I wouldn't," Lu XiaoFeng answered back with a pitiful smile.

"In total, they have seen that man three times, every time they met him, he would look completely different, if it wasn't for the fact that his voice did not change, they would not have even believed it was the same person."

"So it seems not only is this man's planning flawless, he is also a master of disguises."

Hua ManLou had been listening quietly at the side until now.

"The real masters of disguises could change their voice as well." He suddenly interrupted.

"Oh?" Lu XiaoFeng replied.

"The art of disguising oneself is part of Ninjatsu that came from the three islands of Japan off the east coast. In the art, there is a particular skill that, once mastered, could allow the practioner to control the muscles inside his throat, making it possible for him to completely change his voice."

{Apparently, Japan did not include Hokkaido at that time.}

"Could you be tricked by it as well?" Lu XiaoFeng wondered.

"If one truly masters this skill, even I can't tell the difference."

"Then could the Golden Roc Emperor that asked us be a fake as well?" Lu XiaoFeng asked himself.

"The reason I asked SiKong ZhaiXing to steal ShangGuan DanFeng from you was to check if she was real or not, pity he just happens to be a friend of yours as well!"

"Good thing you did succeed in the end and ShangGuan DanFeng still ended up in your hands in the end."

"Who said she is in my hands?"

"She isn't?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

"No."

Lu XiaoFeng was shocked again, for he knew that Huo Xiu was not the lying type.

But if Huo Xiu was not lying, then why did ShangGuan DanFeng suddenly disappear? He could not figure it out, nobody could have figured it out.

"I still have not even laid my eyes on her yet!" Huo Xiu added.

"Then have you seen ShangGuan FeiYan?" Lu XiaoFeng probed.

"I haven't even heard of that name before!"

Lu XiaoFeng was even more confused. None the sudden twists and turns of this whole story was what he had expected at all.

All he could do was force a sorry smile onto his face.

"No wonder as soon as Yan TieShan tried to chase me away as soon as he heard me bring up this matter. He probably thought I was also trying to trick away that treasure."

"But at the time you thought that he was mad and frustrated because his old secret had been discovered." Huo Xiu commented.

Lu XiaoFeng had to admit Huo Xiu was right. Only now did he finally understand why Yan TieShan had such a strange expression on his face when he saw ShangGuan DanFeng just before he died. But could ShangGuan DanFeng be the mastermind behind all of this?

But he still could not believe that all of this was a lie. If this was a set up, then why were there so many people trying to prevent him from meddling in this matter? And further more, why would the Green Shirt Pavilion get involved in this matter to try and prevent him from meeting with the Golden Roc Emperor?

"When was the last time you saw that little Emperor?" Hua ManLou suddenly asked.

"A little more than 40 years ago."

"And how old was he at the time?"

"Thirteen."

"Fourty years, even a thirteen year old boy would have turned into an old man." Hua ManLou mused.

Huo Xiu sighed deeply.

"Time has no mercy, everyone will turn old one day."

"Then how could you tell whether or not a 60 year old man now was the same 13 year old Emperor back then?" Hua ManLou asked.

"There is a secret, an even more closely guarded secret." Huo Xiu answered in a heavy and quiet voice.

Hua ManLou did not ask any further, he believed that everyone was entitled to their own secrets.

But Huo Xiu continued. "But I trust you two, I'm willing to tell this secret to you."

Hua ManLou used his silence to show his gratefulness, to be able to gain the trust of a man like Huo Xiu is not an easy matter.

"Every Golden Roc Emperor have always had a birth defect, every single one of them has had 6 toes on both of their feet."

"So that's what you used to find out that those old men were fake!" Lu XiaoFeng realized.

Huo Xiu nodded.

"Even if other people found out about this secret, it would still be very difficult to fake. I still haven't seen a second person with 6 toes on both feet."

"I haven't even seen one." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

Huo Xiu smiled.

"Well, there aren't that many with four eye brows either."

Lu XiaoFeng smiled as well.

"So all you have to do now, is to get this Golden Roc Emperor of yours to take off his boots and count his toes," Huo Xiu instructed. "Then you'd be able to tell if he's real or not."

"That's not too difficult."

"Getting a man to take off his boots must surely be easier than getting a girl to take off her pants." Huo Xiu smiled.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Seems like you really truly aren't a gentleman, not at all."

Huo Xiu sighed as well.

"To be a good man isn't hard, but to stoop as low as I have, now that's difficult."

Lu XiaoFeng understood what he meant. When someone has to look after as big of a fortune as he, he would have to resort to stooping to the lowest of lows to guard against others.

"If that Golden Roc Emperor of yours is the real Emperor, then I would finally be able to get this huge burden off of my shoulders," Huo Xiu continued. "If not then...."

"If not then I'll invite him here to keep those four men outside company." Lu XiaoFeng finished Huo Xiu's thought.

______________________________

By the time they walked out of that mysterious cave, it was already dawn. The spring winds were cold yet refreshingly clean, the hillside was covered with a new born green, and the dew drops on the grass leaves looked like gems under the new light. What a wonderful and beautiful world it is.

The first thing that Lu XiaoFeng did was take a very deep breath.

"My premonition was correct," he said with a tired smile. "I ran into something weird again."

How this matter had turned out was something nobody anybody could have predicted.

"Think about it," Hua ManLou suddenly said. "Do you really think there are people in this world with 6 toes on both feet?"

"I don't know, never seen one before though."

"If there isn't that kind of a person like that in the world, then we can't ever find the 'real' Golden Roc Emperor can we? Then won't Huo Xiu's words become the truth even if they aren't true?"

Lu XiaoFeng thought about it for a bit.

He suddenly smiled.

"I only know that this is a strange world that we live in, where there are all kind and every kind of strange people."

Hua ManLou smiled too.

"That's right, if there is a person that have 4 eye brows, then why can't there be a person that have 6 toes? It's a shame though, you only have 2 of those 4 eye brows left."

Lu XiaoFeng ran his fingers along where his mustache used to be.

"You are wrong again." He smiled.

"What about?"

"No matter how often a person shaves off his mustache, it would always grow back."

As soon as he finished his words, he suddenly saw a person walking out from behind the thick morning fog like a ghost.

Her face was white, she was obviously tired and vulnerable, but still very beautiful.

Lu XiaoFeng recognized her.

"Miss Yie XiuZhu?"

Yie XiuZhu nodded.

"Is Miss Yie waiting here for someone?"

Yie XiuZhu shook her head.

"I have been here since last night."

"Why?"

"We buried our master and little sister here," she grimly replied. "Elder Martial Sister was tired, but I... I couldn't sleep."

She was definitely the most honest and most shy of the Four Beauties of E'Mei, she could barely bring herself to speak when talking to a man.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed. There was an enormous amount of sympathy and sorrow that was in his heart for this girl, but he did not know what to say.

"We couldn't catch up to XiMen ChuiXue," She suddenly spoke up again. "So... we don't even know if our Third Martial Sister is dead or alive."

"I'll find her for you." Lu XiaoFeng promised her.

Yie XiuZhu's head bowed even lower.

"I have something else to tell you." She said after a long time, in a voice barely above a whisper.

Lu XiaoFeng waited for her to continue.

"It should have been my Third Martial Sister who told you this, but before she was finished, she was... was...." She suddenly could not control her voice anymore and had to stop to gather herself. She quietly and gently wiped away the tears around her eyes with her sleeve and continued. "The reason why our master had made this trip here was because he had received information that the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion is on the hill behind Pearl and Diamond Pavilion."

"No information is absolutely correct, no matter who it came from." Lu XiaoFeng uttered before he could stop himself.

Yie XiuZhu's head shot up.

"But our Third Martial Sister was hit because of this information. Obviously someone did not want her to say it. That's why I felt that this was of great importance and that you had to be told of it." There were traces of indignation on her face, even her voice got a bit louder.

Lu XiaoFeng could not help but feel sorry towards her again.

"I know you meant good," He forced a smile on his face. "No matter what happens, after I get to the bottom of all of this you would be the first one that I tell."

Yie XiuZhu's head went back to looking down again as she was silent for a long time.

"So where are you going now?" She barely whispered.

"We are going to see a man with 6 toes on his foot...."

Yie XiuZhu's head shot back up again as she seemed startled by his comment. Suddenly, she turned around and left.

Hua ManLou sighed.

"Right now, she's probably thinking that you are insane."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed too.

"Right now, even I am having more and more doubts about my sanity."

______________________________

The long hall way was dark and quiet, they were waiting at the very end of the hall, somebody had already gone in to inform the Golden Roc Emperor of their arrival.

"So are you sure you can get him to take off his boots?" Hua ManLou quietly asked, he had to know.

"No."

"Have you thought of any way of doing it?"

"I thought of several ways to do it, but I can't decide on which one to use."

"Well, give me two examples."

"I can accidentally knock over a flask of water onto his feet on purpose; or I could say that I really like his boots and ask him if he could take them off for me to get a closer look at them."

"Do you have any idea how idiotic those ideas are?" Hua ManLou frowned.

"Of course I know," Lu XiaoFeng put up a pitiful smile. "But this entire thing is idiotic in and of itself, so how do you expect me to think of any non-idiotic ideas?"

He stopped, because the door had just been opened.

The Golden Roc Emperor was still sitting on that huge but comfortable chair, his face was covered with anxious excitement.

"So did you guys find those 3 traitors?" He did not even wait until they had walked into the room before asking.

"Only found two." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

"Well where are they?" Golden Roc Emperor's face seemed to glow.

"They are dead."

The Golden Roc Emperor's expression noticeably changed.

"Dead? How?"

"Everyone dies."

Lu XiaoFeng was not really paying attention to his answers because he had not seen the Golden Roc Emperor's feet --- the Golden Roc Emperor's was covered from his thighs on down with a silk blanket decorated with golden colored dragons, as if he was afraid of cold.

But Hua ManLou had already succinctly told him what had happened.

"We haven't found Huo Xiu yet, because quite simply he is a very difficult person to find," he added on at the end. This was the first time he had ever lied, he suddenly discovered that lying was not a hard thing to do at all.

Because when he said that lie, he did not feel in his heart that he had wrong anyone with the lie.

The Golden Roc Emperor let out a long sigh.

"I had wanted to see them to see if they still had enough face and dignity to see me." He bitterly declared.

"But we want to see a person right now as well!" Hua ManLou suddenly said.

"Who?"

"Zhu Ting."

"Actually I was just about to ask you," the Golden Roc Emperor frowned. "I have already twice dispatched men to get him, and yet he still did not come."

Hua ManLou thought about it for a bit before cracking a smile.

"This is probably because he's such a lazy person to begin with."

"Those dragons on your blanket look great," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly spoke up, "they almost look real."

This was another idiotic sentence, after that, he did another idiotic thing. He actually went up and lifted the blanket. He froze like a real idiot, completely motionless, in the middle of his motion to lift the blanket. There was nothing coming out from the ends of the Golden Roc Emperor's pants, both of his legs had been cut off from the knees on down.

"You are probably wondering why my legs had suddenly disappeared aren't you?"

All Lu XiaoFeng could do was nod like an idiot.

"Remember that old problem that my legs had?" The Golden Roc Emperor sighed. "If I touch wine, they would start hurting a great deal. Once a man gets old, he finds more and more problems."

This was true, he had told Lu XiaoFeng this the last time he was here.

"But once you get to my age, what other joys do you have but to drink a bit of wine?" The Golden Roc Emperor smiled pathetically.

"So... you snuck in a couple of drinks?" Lu XiaoFeng barely forced a smile back onto his face.

"I figured that a little bit couldn't hurt, but I had just had 3 cups when my legs started to swell up, and they were filled with pus, so... so I decided to get rid of them once and for all and told Liu YuHen to amputate them."

He suddenly stopped and bust out laughing. "I might not have my legs anymore, but at least now I can drink without any worries. Tonight I will have to challenge you two to a drinking contest, let's see if this old man here can hold his wine as good as you youngsters."

All Lu XiaoFeng could do was look at him with a silly smile on his face.

"Had you guys gotten back a few days earlier, I would have surely brought out those two cut off legs and let you guys have a see, to prove that even though I am an old man, I still have that warrior spirit within me."

"Where are you legs now?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask.

"I had them burned."

"Burned? Why did you have them burned?" Lu XiaoFeng was startled.

"Those two legs had prevented me from drinking wine for 10 years, what did you expect me to do but burn them? Did you expect me to use them as snacks to go down with the wine?"

Lu XiaoFeng had nothing more to say. Looking at the proud and self-assured expression on this old man's face, he suddenly felt like a simpleton, a really idiotic simpleton at that.

The hallway was still dark and sinister as they slowly walk out from within it.

"Well, at least we solved that problem." Hua ManLou suddenly smiled.

"Oh?"

"You don't have to think of ways to take off his boots anymore, because he doesn't have any boots to begin with!"

"Since when did you get a sense of humor?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied.

But this matter was not funny at all. Now even Huo Xiu would not be able to tell if this Golden Roc Emperor was real or not.

If you say this was just a coincidence, he just could not believe at how perfect and convenient this coincidence was.

If you say this was not a coincidence, then how could the Golden Roc Emperor had known about this secret? They headed straight for here as soon as they left Huo Xiu's little place. Unless the Golden Roc Emperor had eyes and ears that work from thousands of kilometers away, there was no way that he could have known that they were coming to look at his feet.

"If my legs swelled up every time I drank, I just might have them cut off as well." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Looks like there is quite a few people in this world who would rather die before they stop drinking." Hua ManLou sighed in return.

"That room is probably still left vacant for you, why don't you go and get some sleep, don't forget that someone wants to challenge you to a drinking contest tonight." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

"What about you?"

"I'm going to find a person."

"Who?"

"A woman, of course. A woman with a foot."

Hua ManLou's face immediately gained a glow.

"That's right, you have to go and find a woman with 6 toes as soon as possible."

"Oh!"

"Don't forget that the every Golden Roc Emperor of every generation has had 6 toes, this is something that they passed down. So if ShangGuan DanFeng is the daughter of the Golden Roc Emperor, she should have 6 toes as well, you...."

He stopped talking, because he suddenly discovered that Lu XiaoFeng had already disappeared.

______________________________

Close to dusk, but not quite dusk. The flowers in the garden was just in full bloom, the wind was filled with their fragrance, but nobody was there.

ShangGuan Xue-Er was not in the garden. Lu XiaoFeng was not looking for ShangGuan DanFeng, because he knew for a fact that ShangGuan DanFeng could not possibly be here.

The Golden Roc Emperor had not uttered a single word inquiring about his daughter's whereabouts. This was another strange matter.

Lu XiaoFeng did not have time to think of such matters, right now he only want to find ShangGuan Xue-Er as quickly as possible and ask her a question, a very important question.

When he did not want to see her, she was always going back and forth in front of him, but now that he wants to see her, there was nary a trace of her to be found anywhere. Lu XiaoFeng sighed, made his way through a little trial in the midst of the flowers, and suddenly discovered a little door.

The door had been slightly hidden, behind it was a small little yard, in the middle of the yard was a well.

He pushed open the door, walked in, and finally found ShangGuan Xue-Er, this little devil always seemed to be up to something weird.

Right at this moment she was actually squating there in the middle of the yard, by herself, staring unblinkingly at a piece of empty ground with those big eyes of hers, seemingly mesmerized.

But there was nothing on the ground, not even a single leaf of grass.

Lu XiaoFeng could not figure it out for the life of him what could be so interesting about a piece of ground.

"Hey older cousin," he finally had to ask. "What are you looking at?"

Xue-Er did not reply, nor did she even turn around. Even when scholars finally take their examinations could not hope to match her concentration at this moment.

So what in the world was this little devil looking at? Lu XiaoFeng's curiosity was piqued.

Therefore he crouched over as well, crouched at Xue-Er's side. Where ever Xue-Er's eyes wondered, there his eyes would wonder as well. He still could not see anything.

It obviously had not rained there in a long time, the dirt was very dry, the flowers and grass in garden just outside was flourishing, but yet in here was a layer of completely bare dirt.

Even that well looked as if it had been out of use for a long time, even the little rack at the top of the well was covered in dirt, on the sides of the yard was a couple of old and worn down rooms, the locks on the doors of the rooms were covered with rust.

Lu XiaoFeng looked right and looked left, and still could not see what Xue-Er was doing crouching here.

"When my grandfather was alive," Xue-Er suddenly spoke up, "this was where he meditated."

Lu XiaoFeng knew that her grandfather was ShangGuan Sheng, the very same man, along with Huo Xiu and company, who had received the orders to help the little Emperor, he was also the Golden Roc Emperor's royal uncle.

"Even since my grandfather died, nobody has been here."

"So what are you doing here?" Lu XiaoFeng finally gave up and asked again.

Xue-Er suddenly snapped her head around and stared at him.

"That's exactly what I wanted to ask you, what are you doing here?"

"I... I'm here looking for you."

"What for?"

"To see you, and to chat with you."

Xue-Er put up a hurt face.

"You don't believe a single word that I say, so what's there for me to chat with you about!" She sneered.

Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

"How do you know that I don't believe a single word you say?"

"You said it yourself."

Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

"So you actually think that every single word that I say is the truth?"

Xue-Er stared at him with those huge eyes of hers, stared at him for a long time. Then she suddenly burst out laughing.

Lu XiaoFeng laughed as well. He suddenly discovered that when Xue-Er laughs, she looked every bit like a really obedient and honest girl.

Bud suddenly Xue-Er suddenly stiffened up her face again.

"Whatever you want to talk to me about, come on, talk."

"I want to ask you, when was the last time you saw your sister?"

"That day in which she brought back Hua ManLou, which is also the day we left to get you."

"And you haven't seen her since you got back?"

"No." The hints of sadness appeared on her face again. "She was always so nice to me, even if she was going to go out, she would leave a word for me or something. But this time... this time she must have been killed by someone."

There was a trace inside Lu XiaoFeng's eyes that his mind was not all there.

"Does she go out often?"

"She didn't use to dare to go out, but after grandfather died, she got braver and braver. Not only did she leave more and more often, she would often leave and stay out an entire half a month or so. I have always suspected that she had met someone outside, but she wouldn't admit it no matter what."

"Our parents died a long time ago, so we had always been with our grandfather. My sister isn't afraid of anything in the world, but she's afraid of grandpa."

"And your uncle never tried to control her?"

Xue-Er shook her head.

"Even he wanted to he couldn't. One time he even resorted to locking my sister in her room, and my sister still found a way to escape and get out."

"Is he usually good to your sister?"

"No, he would always get mad at my sister and berate her, saying that she was destroying the ShangGuan family name, but my sister would never listen to him."

She bit her lips before quietly continuing. "That's why I suspect he has killed my sister."

"But you sister isn't dead."

"Says who?"

"Hua ManLou saw her not so long ago."

"He saw my sister? He's as blind as a bat, how could he see my sister?" Xue-Er laughed coldly.

"He could tell from your sister's voice."

Xue-Er's facial expression suddenly changed.

"That must be ShangGuan DanFeng pretending to be her, the two of them had always looked alike ever since they were little, back then they even often tried to imitate the other's voice. One time she covered my eyes and used my sister's voice to talk to me, even I was fooled."

An extremely weird expression had also Lu XiaoFeng's face, even though this matter was getting more and more twisted, it was also getting more and more interesting.

Xue-Er's fists were fiercely clenched.

"Now that you said that, I understand it all now," she suddenly said. "The one who kill my sister must be her and no other."

"You are talking about ShangGuan DanFeng?"

Xue-Er nodded.

"On the surface she might have always been nice to my sister, but my sister had always said that it was all fake, all a show. Because she had always been jealous of my sister for being prettier than her and smarter than her." She did not let Lu XiaoFeng reply and continued. "After she had killed my sister, she purposefully appeared as my sister in front of Hua ManLou to trick you guys into thinking that my sister isn't dead yet."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed. He did not know what to say. Even though Xue-Er's words were quite crazy, but was nevertheless possible.

Xue-Er suddenly grabbed his hand.

"That's why I need you to do me a favor."

"What kind of favor?"

"I need you to help me dig up my sister's body!"

"You know where your sister's body had been buried?"

"I know, I'm absolutely sure of it."

Lu XiaoFeng wanted to laugh, but could not laugh.

Xue-Er's expression, however, was still very serious.

"I was always searching inside the garden and could never find it. But now I discovered that this must be where she had killed my sister, and this must be where she had buried the body."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"How did you find out?"

"In my grandpa's later years, he turned into this real life monk. Not only would he refuse to kill even one solitary ant, he would often bring small pieces of rice to feed them, hence this yard used to be crawling with ants." She was so excited that her face was flushed red from it. "But I had just stayed here and looked for 4 hours straight and haven't seen a single ant."

"And therefore you think...."

"I think that there must be poison just under the surface," Xue-Er eagerly finished the thought. "So that even ants were scared off."

"Poison?"

"She must have used poison to kill my sister. Now the poison had seeped out of my sister's body and into the ground, so even the ground had been killed by the poison."

"Dirt can be killed by poison?"

"Of course, there is such a thing as soil that's alive or dead. Only soils that are alive can have grass and flowers growing on it, and little bugs and ants in them."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed again.

"You think way too much you know? If a person thinks too much as a child, then when that person grows up she will age extremely fast."

"So you don't want to help me?" Xue-Er stared at him.

"I have already done enough idiotic things for one day." Lu XiaoFeng smiled at his own misfortunes.

Xue-Er once again stared at him for a long time.

"Help! Help!" She suddenly began shouting. "Help! Lu XiaoFeng is trying to rape me!"

Lu XiaoFeng panicked.

"I haven't even touched you yet, what the hell are you shouting for?"

"Not only would I yell now, from now on, every time I see a person who knows you, I would tell them that you constantly raped me!"

"I constantly raped you?!" This time it was Lu XiaoFeng who shouted.

"Mmhmm, constantly, meaning that you have raped me lots and lots of times already."

"And you think anyone would believe you stuff that a little girl like you spiels out?"

"If anyone doesn't believe, then I would take off my cloths, so they can see for themselves exactly whether or not I'm still little!"

Lu XiaoFeng looked at her in shock.

"This little girl is crazy, absolutely insane!" He mumbled to himself, unable to stop shaking his head in disbelief.

"Ok, good, because I'm crazy, I'm going to starting shouting again." And she really did resume shouting.

But this time Lu XiaoFeng covered her mouth very quickly.

"You couldn't possibly want me to start digging now do you?"

Xue-Er nodded.

"So you are going to help me?" She asked as soon as he took his hands away from her mouth.

"I'm only wondering where in the world did you learn that from?" Lu XiaoFeng, once again, smiled pitifully at his own luck.

Xue-Er smiled as well.

"This is one of the 3 oldest tricks women can use on men, only now do I know how effective this is."

"So what are the other 2 tricks?"

"Why should I tell you," Xue-Er coyly replied. "I still have to save them to use against you!"

She jumped up excitedly.

"I'm going to go find a hoe for you. You best stay here and wait like a good boy. Tonight I'll go and steal a couple of pigeons so I can fry them for you to eat with your wine."

"Pigeons?"

"My sister kept a lot of pigeons, normally she would not allow anyone to go near them, but now... now I don't think she would mind anymore."

The hints of sadness appeared on her face once again, she suddenly turned around and quickly ran away.

Looking at her pigtails swaying back and forth behind her as she ran away, a very strange expression suddenly appeared on Lu XiaoFeng's face again. He suddenly jumped up and caught up to Xue-Er.

"I'll go and find a hoe with you."

"Why?"

Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

"I'm scared that you might be carried away by those pigeons."

His smile looked a little strange as well.

Xue-Er looked back at him.

"You are afraid that I might suddenly disappear like my sister aren't you?"

A cold breeze whisked through, several swallows took off from behind the flower bushes and flew over the wall. The color of the sky was getting darker and darker.

Lu XiaoFeng stared at the disappearing shadows of the swallows in the dusk light, he suddenly sighed.

"Even swallows do not want to stay in this place, not to mention people...."

Had ShangGuan FeiYan, like those swallows, flew away over these walls? Or was she already buried under earth?

Why did ShangGuan DanFeng suddenly disappear as well? Could it be that the Golden Roc Emperor already knew of her whereabouts and therefore did not inquire about it from them?

On those two amputated legs of his, were there 6 toed feet? Could anyone in the world answer those questions?

______________________________

Dusk, after dusk. The wind became even colder and cleaner. The cold, clean wind came blowing in from the window and onto his skin, that was how Hua ManLou know that day had turned into night.

His skin was just like his nose and his ears, it possessed a sensitivity that was far beyond that of the average man.

But right now he was in no mood to enjoy this fresh, just after dusk, April breeze. His heart and mind was a mess.

Ever since he had met ShangGuan FeiYan in that little wine shop, his heart had often been very chaotic, especially whenever he was completely alone.

He just could not shake the feeling that something was not right, but as to exactly what that is, he could not tell.

It was getting close to dinner time, and Lu XiaoFeng still had not returned, nor had the Golden Roc Emperor sent anyone to inform him to get prepared for dinner.

The situation was changing again, he could almost feel it, but as to exactly what kind of change, he could not tell either.

At this precise moment, he suddenly noticed a very special fragrance along with the wind, just the very fragrance that had caused his heart to be so chaotic and unsettled.

Could ShangGuan FeiYan have returned? He lightly pressed his hand on the window sill and flew out of the window, he believed that his senses were not lying to him.

But he could not see a thing, in his world, there would never be light, never be color, only darkness. Hopeless darkness!

That earlier fragrance had seemingly mixed with the smell of the flowers, causing him to lose his awareness of its direction. But, from the direction where the fragrance was the strongest, he suddenly heard a voice.

"I've returned." It was ShangGuan FeiYan's voice.

Hua ManLou tried desperately to control the overflowing emotions within his heart. Only after a long time, did he finally relaxed and sighed.

"So you really have returned." He lightly replied.

"You knew that I would come back?"

"I didn't know, but I hoped."

"You were thinking of me?"

Hua ManLou smiled. His smiled had within it an indescribable emotion, was it happiness? Or poignant bitterness?

But ShangGuan FeiYan had already walked up to him and grabbed his hand.

"What's the matter, are you not happy that I have returned?"

"There... there is just one thing that I can't figure out."

"What's that?"

"The last 2 times that I have seen you, another person would come to my mind."

"Who?"

"ShangGuan DanFeng."

As he said that name, he felt as if ShangGuan FeiYan's hand seemingly shook gently.

But her hand immediately grasped his hand lightly.

"You saw me, but yet thought of her?" She said, with a bit of spoiled jealousy in her voice.

"Mm!"

"Why?"

"Because... because I sometimes would mistake you and her to be the same person."

ShangGuan FeiYan laughed.

"Now why would you think of that?"

"I don't know either, that's why... I thought it was very strange as well."

"Did you actually believe my little sister's ideas? That ShangGuan FeiYan had been killed? And that this ShangGuan FeiYan is nothing but ShangGuan DanFeng in disguise?"

Hua ManLou did not reply, because there really was this suspicion in his heart, he did not want to lie to the face of the one that he loved.

"Do you still remember Cui YiDong? Do you still remember asking me whether or not I have ever heard the sound of snow falling on the roof? Can you feel that strange but wonderful power of life when the flower buds slowly blooming in the spring? Do you know that the Autumn winds often brings with it the sweet smells from trees and forests from hillsides far far away?"

Of course Hua ManLou remembered. Those questions were originally asked by him, but now ShangGuan FeiYan had repeated them word for word.

"If I am ShangGuan DanFeng, then how could I know about these words that you said to me? How could I remember it so clearly?"

Hua ManLou smiled, he suddenly realized that his suspicion was completely superfluous.

His heart once again filled with sympathy towards this girl, he could not stop himself from gently reaching up and stroking her hair.

ShangGuan FeiYan was already in his arms, holding him tightly. His heart was filled with an indescribable joy and satisfaction, he was in another world. At this moment, he suddenly felt ShangGuan FeiYan's hand reach the Jade-Pillow pressure point at the back of his head. He felt absolutely nothing after that.

______________________________

There was already a hole about half a meter wide and one meter deep in the ground, and Lu XiaoFeng's body was already covered with sweat.

ShangGuan Xue-Er was squating over by the side, with both her hands supporting her cheeks. She was telling him to hurry up non-stop.

"What are you stopping for? Keep digging, come on. You look so strong, who knew it would be so useless?"

Lu XiaoFeng wiped the sweat away with his sleeve.

"Because I haven't ate, right now I should be sitting in a very comfortable chair and drinking wine with your uncle," He mustered a smile. "But instead I'm here, like an idiot, digging a hole."

Xue-Er blinked.

"Then are you suggesting that a little girl like me should jump down there and dig while you watch on the side?"

"No, I'm not, that's why I'm suffering now."

"What are you talking about? Suffering? This is an honor."

"Honor?"

"Even if other men had got on their knees and begged me to dig a hole for me, I would not have even acknowledged them."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed, suddenly realizing that he really should not have came looking for this little devil, really should not have talked to her to begin with.

But then he immediately discovered that he had thought wrong. At this last swing of the hoe, a bright red corner of clothing suddenly appeared in the dirt.

Xue-Er had already jump up.

"See? I was right wasn't I? There was someone buried under here!"

This time even if she did not egg him on, Lu XiaoFeng would have still kept on going. He put down the hoe and switched to the shovel. A couple of shovels later, the corpse was slowly becoming revealed. Amazingly, it had not began to decompose.

Xue-Er had already went and brought over the lantern that had been hanging above the well. The light just happened to illuminate the face of the corpse.

She suddenly screamed in horror, she almost dropped the lantern onto Lu XiaoFeng's head.

Lu XiaoFeng was shocked as well. He had never been this shocked before in his entire life.

The body was not that of ShangGuan FeiYan, incredibly, it was ShangGuan DanFeng!

The light from the lantern swayed back and forth, because Xue-Er's hands were shaking non-stop.

Not only had the face of the corpse not started to decompose, it was still incredibly maintain its life-like colors, both eyes were pushing out of their sockets, as if they were staring at Lu XiaoFeng.

Lu XiaoFeng had never been a coward, but when his mind wondered to those words that he and ShangGuan DanFeng had shared not so long ago, when he thought about her sweet and moving smile, even his hands went limp and he could not hold on to the shovel in his hand.

"Bang!"

The shovel fell from his hands and happened to land on the corpse. The sound of metal hitting on another was produced. Lu XiaoFeng had to bent over and touch the corpse, only then did he realize that the corpse was cold and hard, just as if it had been made of metal.

His hands were cold as well. He sighed despite of himself.

"She really was poisoned." He concluded.

"Who... who poisoned her?"

Lu XiaoFeng did not answer, because he did not know the answer.

"When people who die of poison, their bodies should decompose very quickly. So it would seem she wasn't killed that long ago." Xue-Er speculated.

"She had been dead for a long time."

"How do you know?"

"Because the poison in her body had seeped out into the soil."

Those words were exactly what Xue-Er said herself, she had been right all along.

"Besides, look at this piece of land, it hasn't been turned in at least a month or two." Lu XiaoFeng added.

"So you mean to tell me that she has been dead for at least one or two months?"

"Yes."

"Then why hasn't her body began to decompose?"

"Because the poison she died from is a very strange and peculiar poison. Some poison could even preserve a human body upwards of hundreds of years. Besides, not only is this piece of land extraordinarily dry, there isn't any traces of ants or bugs or any critters, any kind of body buried here would not decompose for quite a while."

His voice was monotonous and slow, because while he was saying one thing with his mouth, his mind was onto something else. So many things he thought about.

Xue-Er thought quietly as well.

"One or two months ago? My sister haven't gone to see Hua ManLou yet." She mumbled to herself.

Lu XiaoFeng, in deep thought, nodded.

"Only when my sister brought Hua ManLou back did I go with her to find you."

"That's right."

"If she had died a month or two ago, then how could she go and find you? How could you have met her?"

"The ShangGuan DanFeng that I met, was not the real ShangGuan DanFeng."

"Then who is it?"

Lu XiaoFeng did not answer her question, instead, he asked a question of his own.

"In these last two months, have you ever seen your sister and her at the same time?"

Xue-Er thought about it for a long time, then shook her head.

"No, I don't think so."

"In these last two months, have you felt that her attitude towards you were a little different?"

Xue-Er thought about it for a long time again, then nodded.

"Yes, when she ran into me before, she would always stay to talk and joke, but recently she seemed to be always avoiding me."

"That's because she was afraid that you finding out that she was no longer the real ShangGuan DanFeng!"

"Then who could she be?" Xue-Er frowned. "To be able to look so real, could it be...."

She suddenly jumped up again.

"Are you insinuating that the ShangGuan DanFeng that you saw was in fact my sister in disguise?" She almost shouted.

Lu XiaoFeng did not reply. Sometimes, no reply means a silent admittance.

Xue-Er fiercely stared at him.

"Are you saying that not only had ShangGuan DanFeng not kill my sister, but my sister had killed her!"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"I only know that it is a fact that she is dead now."

"But why would my sister kill her? Can you give me a motive or a reason?"

Lu XiaoFeng did not, but was it because he could not think of one? Or because he did not want to say it? He suddenly squat down to take off the corpse's shoe.

"What are you doing?" Xue-Er asked in surprise.

"I want to take a look at her feet."

"You are insane, absolutely, positively insane." Xue-Er shouted.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"I know that this is really quite insane, but I still have to take a look." He cracked a hopeless smile.

He took off the shoe, on those smooth and beautiful foot, there really was six toes.

Xue-Er suddenly fell silent. After a long time, she finally spoke up.

"That is really my cousin." She said in a melancholy voice.

"You knew that your cousin had six toes?"

"Mmhmm!"

"How did you know?"

"She... she would never let anyone see her feet, sometimes, when all of us would take off our shoes to go play by the river, only she wouldn't take off her shoes."

All girls want to be pretty, having six toes on her foot was not something to show off or brag about.

"The more she wouldn't let other people see, the more I wanted to see, so one day, I barged in on her while she was taking a bath."

Lu XiaoFeng cracked a miserable laugh, that was all he could manage, this little devil seemed capable of anything.

"At first she was real mad, but then she begged me not to tell anyone." Xue-Er continued.

"And you said yes?"

Xue-Er nodded.

"I have never told anyone about it before."

"Even your sister?"

"She doesn't know either, I never told her."

Lu XiaoFeng thought about it for a while.

"When did your uncle have his legs cut off?" He suddenly asked.

There was a look of surprise on Xue-Er's face.

"His legs were cut off? How come I did not know about this?"

Lu XiaoFeng was surprised by her response.

"You really didn't know?"

"Just yesterday noon, I saw him walk towards where my sister had kept her pigeons to feed my sister's pigeons for her."

A sudden glimmer suddenly appeared in Lu XiaoFeng's eyes.

"Someone had been impersonating my cousin for the last two months, how could it be that even my uncle did not see through it?" Xue-Er mumbled to herself.

She wanted to ask Lu XiaoFeng, but Lu XiaoFeng had suddenly disappeared.

The night was bleak and miserable, the dim light from the lantern shined upon the cold and frozen face of the corpse, the eyes of the corpse stood out, as if they were staring at her.

Xue-Er involuntarily shuddered.

"You shouldn't have stuck your nose in this." A cold voice suddenly said from the darkness.

She recognized this voice. Her heart sank.

______________________________

The hallway was sinister and dark, the door was closed. Lu XiaoFeng knocked on the door. No response. A louder knock. Still no response.

The expression on his face had already changed. He suddenly rammed the door, and that door, which was around 10 centimeters thick, was incredibly smashed to pieces.

The kerosene lamp on the table was lit, but the chair was empty. The Golden Roc Emperor had been seemingly sitting on that chair this entire time, but now it seemed that he had disappeared.

There was no look of surprise on Lu XiaoFeng's face, as if all of this was exactly what he had expected.

That silk blanket with dragons on them was left sitting on the ground. He bent down with intentions of picking it back up, when he suddenly saw a hand.

A thin and whithered hand, extending out from behing the chair. The fingers were bent, as if they were trying to grab something, but could not.

Lu XiaoFeng walked over and saw the Golden Roc Emperor.

The body of this old man was not yet cold, but his breathing had seized a long time ago. In his eyes were a trace of unspeakable panic, shock, and rage. Obviously, even at the moment of death, he could not believe that his killer would actually kill him.

On his other arm was a very deep knife cut, as if someone had wanted to cut off this hand, but did not.

His hand was clenched, the veins and tendons on the back of his hand was popping out, obviously even death could not make him let whatever was in his hand go.

Lu XiaoFeng squated down to take a closer look. Incredibly, his hand was holding a bright red shoe.

Just like the red shoes that brides wear during their weddings, but embroidered on it was not a solitary loon, nor was it an owl, but a swallow --- a flying swallow.

His grasp was too tight, too powerful, an originally very pretty red shoe was now squeezed and bent completely out of shape.

But his face was utterly and completely devoid of emotion, when set against that pair of panic and rage filled eyes, it created an even more frightening sight.

Lu XiaoFeng did not need to reach out and touch in order to see that his face had been very cleverly disguised.

This old man was obviously not the real Golden Roc Emperor! The Golden Roc Emperor had obviously died with his daughter!

Lu XiaoFeng looked into his eyes, then looked down at his amputated legs, and could not help but let out a long and exhausted sigh.

"I have done quite a number of idiotic things in life," he mumbled to himself. "But isn't what you have done even more idiotic?"

He did not finish his sentence, because he had already heard the very faint sound of a thin piece of metal piercing through the air.

The sword had came from outside the window behind him, it came fast, and it came furious. The person that was trying to kill him was undoubtly one of the first rate swordsmen in the martial world. There was not that many first rate swordsmen in the world.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed again, he already knew who this person was.

His body had already slid aside about more than a meter.

"Liu YuHen," he sighed. "You shouldn't have came."

"But I already have!" Liu YuHen's voice coldly replied from outside of the window.

His sword was even faster than his words. The antique and beautiful window sill was instantaneously smashed into bits as he, along with his sword, came flying in.

Lu XiaoFeng did not look at him.

His sword was vicious and fast, and his moves were changing extraordinarily fast, every thrust was directed at a lethal spot.

Lu XiaoFeng's eyes never left the tip of his sword, just like how a kid's eyes would never leave the butterfly prancing in the air.

In a blink of an eye, Liu YuHen attacked him 17 times. It was then that Lu XiaoFeng finally made a move.

He only reached out and clamped his two fingers together. Nobody could convey the speed and agility with which this move of his was done, almost nobody could imagine it.

It was as if his fingers were directly connected to his heart, that at any moment, he could do anything he wanted with his fingers.

When Liu YuHen thrusted his sword out for the 18th time, he suddenly discovered that his sword had been caught!

It was as if this sword had suddenly jammed into a rock, even with all the force that he could summon in his body, he could not pull it out.

The sword was attached to his right wrist, it was truly a part of him, yet he still could not pry his sword lose from between Lu XiaoFeng's fingers.

A steel hook was usually attached to that wrist of his, a steel hook that was able to pick up any type of weapon. Only when killing did he ever exchange the steel hook to a sword. He had obviously came here with the intention to kill.

Looking at his painful and distorted face, Lu XiaoFeng's heart suddenly flooded with sympathy.

"I don't want to kill you, just leave."

Liu YuHen did not answer with his mouth, his answer was the steel ball attached to his left wrist.

The steel ball came crashing down with the a whirl of wind, if Lu XiaoFeng did not let go, his head would have probably be flattened.

But he had a spare hand, when the steel ball came down, that spare hand of his swiped sidways, and Liu YuHen's left arm went limp.

"If I let go, will you leave?"

Liu YuHen suddenly let out a cold laugh, a cold laugh filled with disregard --- disregard towards Lu XiaoFeng, and disregard towards his own life.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Why do I keep on running into these kinds of idiotic people? why..."

He did not finish, because he had just heard another person's voice.

It was supposed to be ShangGuan DanFeng's voice, but he knew that ShangGuan DanFeng would never appear again.

The final burst of colors from the setting sun had disappeared, the room became even darker. Like a phantom a person appeared at the door, a very beautiful woman, beautiful yet warm and sweet.

She was looking at Lu XiaoFeng, smiling.

"Because you yourself is an idiot, idiots usually flock together."

Lu XiaoFeng did not need to look at this woman to know who she was.

"ShangGuan FeiYan?"

"That's right." Her smile was like that of an innocent little kid. "Do you think I'm prettier than ShangGuan DanFeng."

Lu XiaoFeng nodded, he had to agree with her.

ShangGuan DanFeng was undoubtly a very beautiful girl, but the girl in front of him right now was so beautiful that she was approaching that perfect girl in every man's fantasies.

Not only was her smile beautiful, but it was pure and innocent, when she looked at you, it was as if she thought you were the only man in this entire world, and at the same time it made you feel as if she was the only girl left in the world.

ShangGuan DanFeng's smile could conjure up innumerable dreams and fantasies. Her smile could make you forget everything.

"You were wrong you know." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"How so?"

"A girl as beautiful as you should never, for any reason, ever put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else."

ShangGuan FeiYan blinked.

"If you had seen my real face that night, would you have let me go?"

"If I had seen your real face earlier, I probably would not have waited until that night."

"Does that mean that even in the carriage you would have...."

"I told you, I'm not a man who can resist temptation."

ShangGuan FeiYan laughed: "You might not be a gentleman, but you are certainly honest about it."

"And not only are you not a lady, you are not honest about it either."

"If a girl is too honest, then she would be hard pressed not to fall for the tricks of a man like you." ShangGuan FeiYan sweetly replied.

Her voice had changed too, it was as if it was a completely different person talking.

To Lu XiaoFeng, this change in voice was almost completely unimaginable.

He could understand masks and disguises, and he had seen, with his own eyes, those near legendary human-skin masks.

But he could not understand how a person's voice could completely change into that of another's.

It was easy for ShangGuan FeiYan to see his surprised expression.

"Is my voice better than ShangGuan DanFeng's?" She smiled.

Lu XiaoFeng gave up and smiled in return.

"By now you could probably see that I'm better than her in every way, but ever since birth, she had been on top of me." Her warm and sweet voice had suddenly filled with hate. "Ever since I was little, I had to wear cloths that she had worn, eat food that she had left, only because she was a Princess."

"So at the first opportunity, you had to proove that you were better than her."

ShangGuan FeiYan replied with a cold snicker.

"So once your grandfather died, you could not stay in this place a moment longer."

"Nobody likes to always serve a person, always being wary of that person's moods."

"You had planned on going around in the martial world, using your own abilities, and accomplish a couple of impressive and eye-brow raising things to show them. But you didn't plan on running into a man who could grab your heart."

The color on ShangGuan FeiYan's face changed a little.

"I knew that little devil would have told you everything."

"Not only did that man admire you, he also sympathized with you, so he found an opportunity for you."

"Keep going." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly instructed.

"Once he found out about the Golden Roc Emperor's secret, he thought of an idea for you."

ShangGuan FeiYan listened, that sweet smile on her face had long disappeared.

"He convinced you to think of a way to get the riches of the Golden Roc Empire from Yan TieShan and company. Anybody, no matter who, with that much money, would immediately be able to make a name for themselves."

"Men die for money, birds die for food." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly replied. "With that much money at stake, anybody would have been tempted."

"But you also know for a fact that your uncle and cousin would never approve of such a thing. Besides, if he is still alive, then even if you got all that money, it would just end up being his."

"Of course, I don't want to be doing all the work for someone else to make a fortune."

"So you and your lover came up with a briliant plan."

"I had only planned on killing that senile Emperor, but no matter how cleverly disguised the person that I find to replace him is, there was no way that ShangGuan DanFeng could be fooled."

"So you decided to just kill her as well."

"Correct."

"Luckily, the two of you have always looked similiar, and often immitated each other's voice ever since you were little, so you were the perfect candidate to replace her and at the same time get a taste at what it's like to be a Princess."

"It wasn't that good of a taste." ShangGuan FeiYan snickered.

"Of course, with this kind of secret, you did not want a little girl who can't keep her mouth shut to know, so you kept Xue-Er in the dark the entire time. But ironically, she had somehow thought that it was you who had been killed by ShangGuan DanFeng."

"Not only can't that little devil keep her mouth shut," ShangGuan FeiYan bitterly commented. "She can't keep out of other people's business either."

"But what I'm wondering is why you didn't just go and find Huo Xiu and company yourselves."

"Because only afterwards did we discover that the Golden Roc Emperor must have had some secret mark or sign that only those official that were exiled along with him would know. So no matter who we find to be him, it would be nearly impossible to fool Huo Xiu and the rest of those old foxes."

"Did you know that he was had 6 toes on his foot at the time?"

"I didn't, but I wasn't going to risk it either."

"So you two figured that the best thing to do, was to first find a person to go and kill those old foxes for you."

"Correct."

"But this wasn't an easy person to find." Lu XiaoFeng gave a self-deprecating smile. "Because not only must he have the ability to kill Huo Xiu and the others, he must also be naturally have that terrible habit of meddling in other people's affairs."

"This person was indeed very difficult to find." ShangGuan FeiYan casually concurred. "Other than you, we really could not think of another person."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Looks like there really isn't too many people in the world like me."

"To get you to go along with this whole heartedly was another difficult problem."

"But fortunately, not only do I like meddling in other people's business, I also possess an attitude of an ass who was more persistent to not move the more you cajole it to move."

ShangGuan FeiYan finally laughed. "Turns out you know yourself quite well."

"So you purposefully ordered Soul Hooker and them to come and stop me, because you know the more someone does not want me to do something, the more I want to go and do it."

"Those donkeys of ShanXi province are like that too." ShangGuan FeiYan joked.

"Then afterwards, when you killed Xiao QiuYu and DuGu Fang to warn me, it was for the same reason."

"And also because they really knew too much."

"The reason that you lured us into that old shrine with your singing and left a few strands of hair was nothing more than making Hua ManLou believe that you were still alive, right?"

"That and to make sure that you would not ever believe a single word that little devil said from then on."

"You knew that Xue-Er was peeking in from outside the window when you 'killed' Liu YuHen."

"Of course, that little devil had no clue that it was nothing more than a show that Liu YuHen and I put on for her." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly added.

"And when we saw that Liu YuHen was still alive, we would undoubtly be even more sure that she was nothing more than a habitual liar." He sighed and laughed at himself. "Poor little girl, when she saw that Liu YuHen was still alive, she looked as if she had really just saw a real life zombie, she was too frightened to say a single word and left with him!"

"I should have locked that little devil up from the beginning, pity that...."

"Pity that the things that you had to do in those couple of days were really too many, and you are also afraid that if we didn't see her when we got back we might get suspicious."

"Sometimes I really wonder about you," ShangGuan FeiYan sneered, "it's as if you know everything that's going on inside of me."

"Then you suddenly appeared to Hua ManLou, the purpose of which was to place all the blame on Huo Xiu."

"Right."

"But how could you have fooled him?" Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Not only are his ears exceptionally sharp, his nose is very sensitive as well, even if he can't tell from your voice, he should be able to from your smell."

Everyone has their own distinctive smell that nobody else has, which is probably easier to distinguish that that person's voice.

"That's because every time I see him, I would always put on a very sweet and very thick type of flower powder, and then when I appear as ShangGuan DanFeng, I would have washed that fragrance completely off of me."

"You seemed to have thought of everything."

"That's because I'm a woman," ShangGuan FeiYan sweetly replied. "Woman don't like taking chances."

"Then why did you make Liu YuHen to come and try to kill me?"

"You should know the reason for that as well." She casually answered.

"Is it because he is no longer useful to you now, so therefore you wanted to kill him through me?"

"I should have known by now that you didn't like killing," ShangGuan FeiYan sighed. "Or else I wouldn't have had to kill Yan TieShan myself either."

Ever since she had arrived, Liu YuHen seemed to have turned into a different person, turned very quiet.

Whenever he looked at her, that singular of his would convey a very warm kind of emotion.

But this last sentence by ShangGuan FeiYan was like a sharp dagger, suddenly piercing all the way into his heart.

"You... you really want me to die?" He shakily asked.

"You should have died a long time ago, what purpose does a person like you have in living?" ShangGuan FeiYan, coldly, did not even look in his direction.

"But you... you said...."

"Of course, everything that I said was a lie, to trick you. Do you really think that I would like you?"

Liu YuHen's entire body seemed to have been frozen, he stood there, motionless, staring mesmerizingly at her. His eye was filled with hate, but also filled with love. After what felt like forever, he finally, gently, sighed.

"You are right. Of course you wouldn't like me. I knew that all along. All along, I had just been lying to myself."

"Well at least you are not too stupid."

Liu YuHen slowly nodded. Suddenly he swung his sword around and sent it through his own chest.

The blade had pierced entirely through his heart as blood squirted like a fountain out of his back, covering the wall one drop at a time.

But his face had once again turned completely expressionless. Death, to him, did not seem to be a painful thing but a luxury.

His eye suddenly began to glow as he suddenly laughed.

"Turns out that dying isn't so hard after all," he mumbled, "but to die in front of you, at least I can...."

He collapsed before he could finish.

Lu XiaoFeng did not stop him, and could not stop him either. Sometimes, dying in peace is better than living.

"He really is a passionate man, full of love, it's a shame that he used his love on the wrong person."

Lu XiaoFeng looked over at ShangGuan FeiYan, he was suddenly overwhelmed with great disgust toward this girl who was totally void of compassion.

Not hatred, but disgust, just like the feeling that people have towards poisonous snakes.

"You did a stupid thing as well." He coldly observed.

"Oh?"

"You shouldn't have forced him to die."

"Why?"

"Because if he is alive, at least he won't see me kill you."

"You want to kill me? Do you have the heart for it?"

"I truthfully don't like killing, further more, I have never killed a woman, but you are an exception."

ShangGuan FeiYan laughed.

"If that's the case, then what are you waiting for?"

"I'm in no hurry!"

"Of course you are not in a hurry, it's not like I can run away now." ShangGuan FeiYan casually said. "Besides, you still have questions you want to ask me!"

"Seems like you are not an idiot either."

"Do you want to ask me why I would make Liu YuHen cut off that old man's legs before you arrived? And how I suddenly found out that he was suppose to have 6 toes?"

"That I don't need to ask you anymore."

"You already figured it out?"

"Pigeons are faster than humans."

"You really are quite smart." ShangGuan FeiYan sighed.

"I shouldn't have leaked the secret to Yie XiuZhu."

"She was the only one you told?"

"That's right."

"Did you leak the secret by accident? Or were you testing her?"

"I didn't want to hurt her," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "She is a poor girl as well."

ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly let out a cold snicker.

"You are wrong about her. She might look very honest and good, but in reality she's a natural born whore."

"Just because she fell in love with the same man as you?"

"He's just using her that's all," ShangGuan FeiYan's face turned green. "Just like how I was using Liu YuHen."

"Yie XiuZhu told him about the secret, and he messaged you using the pigeons."

ShangGuan FeiYan nodded, her expression suddenly turned very warm and calm.

"That black pigeon was originally used for carrying love letters between us, turns out it would come in handy in other ways as well."

"If he could give commands to Soul Hooker and Iron Faced Judge, then could he possibly be the leader of the Green Shirt Pavilion?"

"What do you think?"

"I don't know."

"Do you actually expect me to tell you?"

"Of course I don't expect you to tell me now."

"I won't tell you later either, you will never know who he is."

"But you are a woman."

"What of it?"

"Even a pretty girl like you, if you had your nose cut off, you would undoubtly be very ugly." Lu XiaoFeng coldly observed.

"You... you can bring yourself to cutting off my nose?" ShangGuan FeiYan asked in shock and panic.

"If you really think that my heart is softer than tofu," Lu XiaoFeng casually replied, "then you would be sorely mistaken."

"So if I don't tell you who he is, you'll cut off my nose?" ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him in shock.

"First the nose, then the ears."

ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly smiled sweetly.

"Your talk a tough one, but even I know that in reality you would never go through with it."

"You want to give that a try?" Lu XiaoFeng's face darkened.

"I know that you won't even give it a try, because I know you would never want to have a noseless friend."

"Good thing you are not my friend anymore."

"I know I'm not, but Hua ManLou and Zhu Ting both are."

Lu XiaoFeng's face turned a different color.

"If you cut off my nose, then maybe they won't even get to keep their heads." ShuangGuan FeiYan casually commented. "Wouldn't headless be even uglier than noseless?"

Lu XiaoFeng stared at her. He suddenly burst out in a great laugh.

"You think this is funny?"

"Do you really expect me to believe that you have tricked Hua ManLou again?" Lu XiaoFeng replied in between fits of laughter.

"If I can fool him once, I can fool him again."

"Only idiots can be fooled twice, and he is not an idiot."

"But he is a romantic, a man of emotions, at most you can only trick an idiot twice, but a passionate man could be trick hundreds of times, because he will be falling for it whole heartedly."

"And is Zhu Ting a romantic as well?"

"No, he's too lazy for that."

"There's a good thing about being lazy too."

"Oh?"

"Because if he's so lazy that he doesn't even move, then how in the world could he be tricked by others?"

"It really was quite difficult to trick a person as lazy as he," ShangGuan FeiYan proudly smiled. "But luckily he also has a friend who wrote him a check to get him tricked."

Lu XiaoFeng could not laugh anymore.

"Of course, you don't want to see this good friend of yours lose his head do you?" ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly added. "Not to mention that he would take that pretty wife of his along with him."

"The Boss's Wife is usually even lazier than the Boss," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "What is she doing coming as well?"

"Because she's sure that you would save her, so she's waiting for you."

"Where is she waiting for me at?"

"You want to know?"

"Very much so.""

"Do you think I would take you there?"

"No!"

"You are wrong," ShangGuan FeiYan smiled. "If I don't intend to take you there, then why would I bring it up?"

"Well at least you won't take me there right now."

"You really are quite smart you know that?" ShangGuan FeiYan smiled sweetly again.

"Pity that my friends aren't too lazy, but are too stupid." Lu XiaoFeng complained to nobody in particular.

"But they are still your friends, so you have to save them."

"I will consider it."

"What's there to consider?"

"I have to see what is it you want me to do in order for you to take me there."

"What I want you to do is really a very simple and easy task."

"And what's that?"

"I only want you to kill someone for me. For you, killing someone should be a pretty easy task."

"Well that depends on who the person that you want me to kill is."

"You can surely handle this person."

"Who?"

"XiMen ChuiXue."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

"What do you really want? Me to kill him or him to kill me?"

"Of course I want you to kill him, he insulted me, insulted me like I have never been insulted before."

"And for that little thing, you want to kill him?"

"It doesn't take much for a girl."

"And what if I can't kill him, instead he kills me?"

"Then you don't have to feel too bad either, you'll surely run into a bunch of friends in purgatory."

"Looks like I don't have any choice in this matter."

"None what so ever."

"No matter if he dies or I die, you would end up quite happy."

"To be honest, in my heart, I wouldn't be sad if both of you died."

"Didn't think you actually still have a heart!"

"Of course I do. That's why I hope that you kill him to exchange his one life for the three lives of Hua ManLou and company."

"This little exchange really isn't a bad bargain," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "But pity I don't know where he is."

"But you could surely find him."

"How?"

"When he carried Sun XiuQing off that day, he was obviously trying to save her life."

"Other than ending lives, he would occasionally save lives."

"So right now he would surely be at a place where Sun XiuQing could heal her wounds. You should know where around there that she could do that."

"But dead people can't heal."

"Correct!"

"So I have to ask you, after Sun XiuQing had been hit with the Flying Pheonix Needle, could she survive?"

"What hit her was not Flying Pheonix Needles, it was Flying Swallow Needles." ShangGuan FeiYan bitterly replied. "It's supposed to be fatal, but XiMen ChuiXue seemed to be quite an expert."

"Oh?"

"Flying Swallow's poison is different from the normal poisons. Once you were hit by the needles, if you just quietly lay there, then you would surely die."

"That's why Shi XiuYun is dead now." Lu XiaoFeng added for her.

"But XiMen ChuiXue took Sun XiuQing flying all over the mountainside to let the poison dispell out of her body, hence she has a chance now."

"After you injured her that night, you didn't leave did you?"

"How could I, with all you masters there?" ShangGuan FeiYan laughed. "So I just decided to stay there, I saw everyone of you guys jump out trying to chase me."

"Turns out that you have some big balls there!"

"I knew that none of you would have expect that I could have dared to just stay there."

"After we had all left, then you made your presence known."

"By that time there was only Hua ManLou there, he would never suspect me of anything. Even if I tell him that snow is black and ink is white, he would still believe."

"Why?"

"Because he loves me." ShangGuan FeiYan confidently replied. "Once a man falls for a girl, then he becomes really quite hopeless."

"Precisely because he likes you, therefore you think that all the tricks and lies that he falls for is deserved?"

"Because he himself wanted to. I didn't make him love me."

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly sighed again.

"I only have one thing to tell you now."

"What?"

"If a person keeps making everyone else to be idiots, then that person is the dumbest of them all."

"What's that suppose to mean?" ShangGuan FeiYan frowned.

"If you turn around and take a look, then you would understand."

ShangGuan FeiYan turned around. She felt as if she had suddenly completely fallen into a dark and deep hole.

The room was even darker, a person quietly stood in the darkness, completely motionless.

"Hua ManLou!" ShangGuan FeiYan could not stop herself from letting out a startled shout.

But Hua ManLou's demeanor was still very peaceful, as if he was not feeling a bit of pain or rage.

ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him in shock.

"How... how did you get here?"

"I walked." Hua ManLou casually replied.

"But I... I sealed your pressure point."

"When others hit your pressure point, if you can force your body's energy to the area around that point, after a while maybe you could be able to push open that sealed pressure point. Luckily, I know a small bit of that skill."

"You already made preparations? Did you already suspect that I would do something?"

"I didn't want my friend to kill in order to save me."

"Did you hear all of what I just said?"

Hua ManLou nodded.

"You... you... you are not mad?"

"Nobody can avoid making mistakes," Hua ManLou casually replied. "Besides, you really did not force me to fall for you."

He still looked that serene, that warm, because in his heart there was only love, only love and no hate.

ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him. Even a girl like him could not but feel regret and guilt.

Lu XiaoFeng was looking at him as well.

"This man really is a good man." He quietly sighed.

Hua ManLou let out a little laugh.

"Good man, stupid man, sometimes there's not much difference at all."

"Where's the Boss?"

"He's keeping the Boss's Wife company, of course."

"Why didn't they come?"

"They are busy listening to Xue-Er's story."

"Looks like it won't be long until they fall for another lie." Lu XiaoFeng cracked an exasperrated smile.

Of course, he knew the real reason why they did not come. They were endangered because of him, so when they meet, he would undoubtly be very embarrased, and they did not want him to feel embarrased.

Xue-Er did not want to see her sister either. Under these circumstances, neither would feel pleasant in their hearts if they had met.

ShangGuan FeiYan finally let out a prolonged sigh.

"What you said earlier, I finally understand now."

"Oh?"

"Looks like what I did was truly stupid, stupid to the point of no return."

"Oh!"

"I took all of you to be idiots, but only now do I realize the real idiot is me." She sighed again. "But even if you cut off my nose now, I would never tell you who he is."

"Turns out you are a romantic as well."

ShangGuan FeiYan laughed, it was a very sad and lonely laugh.

"Once a woman falls for a man, then she becomes quite hopeless as well."

"I understand, I understand." Hua ManLou slowly nodded.

"No matter what, I really have wronged you," ShangGuan FeiYan told him in a heavy tone of voice. "Even if you kill me, I won't blame you!"

"But I don't want to kill you."

"Then what do you plan to do to me?"

"Nothing."

"You... you are going to let me go?" ShangGuan FeiYan was startled again.

Hua ManLou did not reply, he suddenly turned around and slowly walked out of the door. Lu XiaoFeng sighed and, incredibly, began to follow him out.

ShangGuan FeiYan was in shock.

"I know what you are trying to do, you know that I would surely go and find him right now, so you let me go on purpose with designs on following me to him." She suddenly shouted.

Lu XiaoFeng did not turn around.

"I don't have to do that." He casually declared.

"Why not?"

"Because I already know who he is!"

ShangGuan FeiYan's expression changed dramatically.

"You know who he is?" She shouted at the top of her lungs. "...... Who is he?"

Lu XiaoFeng did not answer, nor did he say anything. He chased up to Hua ManLou, as the two of them, walking shoulder to shoulder, made their way past the dark hallway and into the pitch black night. The room was pitch black as well.

ShangGuan FeiYan stood alone in the darkness, she suddenly began to shake, was it caused by the cold night? Or was it caused by terror?

The garden was dark but serene, the aroma of the flowers in the wind seemed to be even thicker than it was before the sunset. Several scores of twinkling stars had just arisen, only to be covered up once again by a pale piece of cloud.

Hua ManLou walked very slowly, only when he walked in front of a bush of flowers did he finally, gently, sigh.

"Poor girl."

Lu XiaoFeng nodded, seeming forgetting that Hua ManLou could not see him nod.

"Everyone makes mistakes, even though she did the wrong thing, she...."

Lu XiaoFeng cut him off. "Doing the wrong thing leads to punishment, no matter who, once they have done something wrong, they must suffer the consequences."

"But you let her go."

"Maybe only because I know there is one person who wouldn't let her go."

"Who? Her lover?"

"No, not lover. He is devoid of love."

"Do you really know who he is?"

"No."

"Then was she right? Are you really planning to follow her?"

"I might not be a gentleman, but at least I live up to what I say." Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

"If you don't know who he is, and you are not going to follow her, then are you prepared to let this whole thing go?"

"Can't stop now."

"I don't understand what you are saying."

"I might not be able to find him, but he would certainly come looking for me."

"Are you sure?"

"At least 70% sure."

"Oh?"

"He thinks that I already know who he is, how could he let me live?"

"So just then you said what you said trying to make him come looking for you!"

"I said what I said, also to save ShangGuan FeiYan."

"If you already knew who he is, then he has no need to kill her to keep his identity secret."

Lu XiaoFeng smiled again.

"At least the first one he'd come to look for is me, not ShangGuan FeiYan."

"Too bad he couldn't hear what you just said."

"Yes he could!"

Hua ManLou frowned.

"You think that he was there too just then?"

"He's still there right now."

"Therefore he could appear at any moment, and could try to kill you at any moment."

"Correct."

"But you don't seem too worried at all."

Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

"The best thing about me, is that...."

He did not finish, he suddenly noticed that Hua ManLou's expression changed. Hua ManLou was not an easy person get a reaction out of.

"What's happening?" He could not help but ask.

"Blood!" Hua ManLou replied in a deep voice.

"What blood? Who's blood?"

"I only hope that it's not ShangGuan FeiYan's...."

The blood was ShangGuan FeiYan's. Her throat had been cut, the blood had not stopped flowing.

Her expression was one of shock, rage, and terror, just like the Golden Roc Emperor's expression when he died.

Obviously, she could not believe that her killer could actually kill her either! She could not believe it even in death.

---Was it her lover? Or a man devoid of love? Nobody, only darkness.

The smell of blood in the wind was still very thick.

"He still killed her!" Hua ManLou observed.

"Mm!"

"He obviously did not believe what you said."

"Mm!"

"Now that he's killed ShangGuan FeiYan, there isn't another person in the world who knows who he is."

"Mm."

"So you will never find him."

"I only know that if anyone, no matter who, do something wrong, he has to pay the price." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly declared.

"ShangGuan FeiYan has indeed paid the price," Hua ManLou heavily said. "But what about her killer?"

Her killer had disappeared in the darkness, maybe disappeared forever.

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly grabbed Hua ManLou's hand.

"Where's the Boss?"

The Boss had disappeared. The dungeon that originally had kept them was deserted. An old padauk table had been flipped on its side, the tea pot and cups that were on it were smashed.

"They must have just fought."

"You think that person came and captured Zhu Ting and them?"

"Looks like he's still quite worried about me," Lu XiaoFeng snickered. "So he came and took Zhu Ting and them away to use against me as leverage."

"To be able to capture them this quickly, his kungfu skills is definitely not any worse than yours."

Zhu Ting and the Boss's Wife were not slacks when it comes to martial arts by any means, not to mention that little but devious ShangGuan Xue-Er.

"I didn't expect his kungfu to be worse than mine to begin with."

"There's not that many so skilled in martial arts."

"Therefore, he has made a mistake."

"He shouldn't have gone so far."

"In doing this, he's pretty much admitted his fault as well."

Hua ManLou sighed. "I said it before, everyone makes mistakes."

"If anyone does the wrong thing then he suffer the consequences, there is no exceptions."

______________________________

The room was quiet like a tomb. Ten men silently sat there, looking at Lu XiaoFeng - Fan Da, Jian Er, the 7 Heroes of the City, and Shan XiYan. Much wine had been consumed, but now all that has ceased.

When friends get together to drink, it should be very difficult to stop before they are drunk. Yet at this moment, they were all very sober. There was not a trace of intoxication on their faces; rather, each one of them had a very peculiar look on their face.

Shan XiYan's expression was the most grave as he stared at Lu XiaoFeng.

"And you think that the mastermind behind this whole thing is him?" He suddenly asked.

Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"We are friends, and I know the nature of his relationship with all of you. If I wasn't absolutely sure, would I have came here to tell?"

Shan XiYan slammed his tightened fist down onto the table.

"If Huo TianQing really did this, then whatever we had between us are over! I don't care what kind of relationship I had with him!" He viciously declared.

"But I still do not believe that he was capable of doing such a thing." Fan Da coldly challenged.

"I don't want to believe it either," Lu XiaoFeng replied. "But other than him, I can't hink of anyone else."

"Oh?"

"Only he could subdue Zhu Ting and them in an instant."

"If that's all you have, it's not enough." Fan Da snickered.

"Only he could know of the Golden Roc Empire's secret, because he is the person that Yan TieShan trusted the most."

"That's still not enough."

"And only he could get anything good out of this whole matter, once Yan TieShan dies, then Pearl and Diamond Pavilion would be his."

Yan TieShan was just like Huo Xiu, he was also a life-long bachelor. People's suspicion that he was once an eunuch was not without reason.

"Besides," Lu XiaoFeng continued. "Why would a person with his skill and stature be willing to be the warden for someone like Yan TieShan?"

Even Fan Da could not deny the validity of that point.

"Nobody in the pugilistic world could have suspected that Green Shirt Pavilion's First Pavilion was none other than Pearl and Diamond Pavilion." Lu XiaoFeng added.

"Wait, you think that the First Green Shirt Pavilion is Pearl and Diamond Pavilion?" Shan XiYan's expression noticeably changed at that ascertion.

Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

"Obviously, the reason that DuGu YiHe had came here was because he found out about this. This is also the reason that Huo TianQing purposefully forced him to expend his energy to make him die under XiMen ChuiXue's sword."

"Sun XiuQing and Shi XiuYun was also killed by ShangGuan FeiYan precisely because they were about to reveal this secret." Hua ManLou had been sitting quietly on the side, but he could no longer stay quiet.

"If they knew about this secret, then how come Man XiuZhen and Yie XiuZhu did not know it?" Shan XiYan inquired.

"They knew as well!" Lu XiaoFeng replied.

"But they are still alive."

"Yie XiuZhu is still alive, but only because she, like ShangGuan FeiYan, had fallen in love with the young and handsome martial arts master Huo TianQing."

"What about Ma XiuZhen?"

"If my guess is correct, then she had probably died under Huo TianQing's hands, it could have even been Yie XiuZhu who killed her."

"And he tried to distract you by telling you about that little pavilion at the back of the mountain to make you go find Huo Xiu." Shan XiYan hypothesised.

Lu XiaoFeng nodded in agreement.

"It didn't matter if I died in that building or if I killed Huo Xiu, this whole matter would have been over and he would have gotten away with it!"

"But he could have never expected that you and that odd hermit would be old friends." Shan XiYan observed.

"He wanted to know how this matter ended, that's why he had instructed Yie XiuZhu to wait outside."

"And he's the only one that knew that you two would go look for Huo Xiu."

Lu XiaoFeng nodded in agreement again.

"But Yie XiuZhu made one slip up." Lu XiaoFeng declared

"What was it?"

"She said that she was there because he had just buried DuGu YiHe and Shi XiuYun."

"DuGu YiHe is a master of a sect, how could you bury him on a random hillside?" Shan XiYan frowned.

"Yie XiuZhu is truly a nice girl in the end." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "She still does not know how to lie."

Shan XiYan sighed as well.

"To lie to a face like yours isn't exactly easy either." He gave an exasperated smile.

"But I did tell her about the secret about the 6 toes, so she immediately went and told Huo TianQing. Pearl and Diamond Pavilion was very close to Huo Xiu's little place to begin with."

"And so only Huo TianQing could have found out about the secret from her so quickly."

"Correct."

"You purposefully leaked this secret to her, or was it an accident?" Shan XiYan wondered.

Lu XiaoFeng did not answer his question directly. He only merely smiled and said: "At the time I didn't think that she should have showed up there. I found that to be a bit odd."

Shan XiYan stared at him, and sighed again.

"You know, your name shouldn't have been XiaoFeng, little phoenix," he laughed. "It should have been little fox!"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

"But I admire Huo TianQing very much." He let out a worried smile. "He is truly an impeccable planner and very level headed man. If this whole incident was a chess match, then he certainly predicted every move that his opponent was going to take."

"Pity that, in the end, he still made a wrong move." Shan XiYan commented.

"Every man makes mistakes, and he is a human."

"Actually, even if he did not make that last move, you still would have been able to nail him." Fan Da suddenly let out a cold laugh and observed.

"At least at that time I could not have been so sure!"

"How about now?" Fan Da asked.

"Right now I still am not 100% sure, only about 90%."

"Why did you come to us?" Fan Da inquired.

"You were my friends, and I promised you that I would not fight him."

"And now we are no longer friends?" Fan Da probed further.

"We are still friends, that's why I came."

"To rescind what you said?"

"If anyone does anything wrong, then he has to suffer the consequences, even if he is Huo TianQing!"

"Do you actually expect us to help us kill him!"

"I only want you to inform him that, at tomorrow's sunrise, I'll be waiting for him at Green Breeze outlook!"

"Very well." Fan Da replied. He suddenly stood up and, with razor sharp eyes, stared at Lu XiaoFeng. "If you please."

"Please? Please what?"

"Please, en guarde!"

"Don't you believe what I said?"

"I only know that Huo TianQing is the leader of Heaven Hunter Sect, and I just happen to be a disciple of Heaven Hunter Sect...."

"So you...."

"So as long as I, Fan TianYi, is still alive, nobody will trouble Huo TianQing."

Shan XiYan frowned.

"Haven't you heard of the idiom: 'Righteousness before family'?"

"Yes, I have heard of it before," Fan Da coldy replied. "But I forgot it."

"We are bastards who don't know the difference between right and wrong to begin with!" Jian Er slowly stood up as well.

"This type of man deserves to die!" The meat bun vendor suddenly shouted.

"Correct, very much so." Jian Er replied.

"Pity that I, Bao WuYa, just happen to be this kind of a man as well." The meat bun vendor declared.

"So you deserve to die as well." Jian Er answered.

"Not only deserve to die, but deserve to die right now!"

He suddenly lept up and, like an arrow, flew head first towards the wall. He did not hit the wall but Lu XiaoFeng's chest. Lu XiaoFeng had suddenly moved in front of him.

Still in midair, he did a back flip, kicked his feet against one of the beams on the ceiling, and came crashing down head first onto the stone floor. He still did not hit the floor. Instead he felt a hand gently give a little push against his waist, and before he knew he was steadily standing on the ground, facing that man. The tall man stood straight up with a pale face. Huo TianQing....

Everyone was startled, even Lu XiaoFeng was. Nobody could have dreamed that Huo TianQing would appear at this time and place, nobody could even have imagined that he would have dared to come here. Even though Huo TianQing's face was pale, his expression was still very calm.

"Why... why won't you let me die?" Both of Bao WuYa's fists were clenched tight.

"You deserve to die?" Huo TianQing asked.

Bao WuYa gritted his teeth.

"I deserve to die...."

"Do all of you deserve to die? Do you really want to wipe out all of Heaven Hunter Sect?" Huo TianQing coldly interrogated.

Bao WuYa was too surprised by his question to answer.

"The reason that Heaven Hunter Sect taught you all the kungfu you know was not so that you can all go and kill yourself!"

"But you...." was all Bao WuYa could say.

"But I what? What do I have to do with you?" Huo TianQing snickered. "Even if all of you died, I would not even bat an eye in your direction."

"But just now you...."

"I just didn't want all of you to die because of me, that's all." Huo TianQing cut Bao WuYa off again. "If it gets out that some meat bun vendor died because of me, how would that make me look?"

He suddenly reached into his shirt, took out a bamboo badge, and snapped it in half.

"I, Huo TianQing, have money and fame, and had long lost interest in being this stupid, poor sect leader job." He coldly declared. "From now on Heaven Hunter Sect and I have nothing between us what so ever. If anyone dares to say that I am still in Heaven Hunter Sect, then I'll make sure to cut off his tongue and break both of his legs."

Bao WuYa looked at him, his eyes turned red. He suddenly Shcollapsed onto the floor, crying his eyes out.

Even Shan XiYan's eyes were getting a little red as well. However, he suddenly threw his head back and let out a hearty laughter.

"Good show, Huo TianQing, so it turns out that your surname is still 'Huo' huh? At least you have not shamed that name."

Huo TianQing did not even look at them as he slowly turned around, and stared directly at Lu XiaoFeng, and Lu XiaoFeng stared directly back at him.

They were facing each other, and staring at each other. Nobody knew how long this lasted. Finally, Lu XiaoFeng let out a long sigh: "Why you? Why did it have to be you?"

"Someone like you would never understand what we do." Huo TianQing coldly replied.

"I understand that you really want to do something incredible, something amazing. I understand that you don't want to live your whole life underneath the shadow casted by your great father. But this...."

"This is precisely something incredible," Huo TianQing viciously cut him off. "Other than I, Huo TianQing, who could pull off something like this?"

Lu XiaoFeng smiled with an exasperated look: "Nobody else."

"And other than you, there's nobody that could destroy my plan!" He suddenly threw his head back and let out a sigh. "If there is a Huo TianQing in this world, then there should not have been a Lu XiaoFeng!"

"Therefore...."

"Therefore between the two of us, one has to die. But will it you? Or me?"

"We'll probably know by sunrise tomorrow." Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

"Dawn will always come morrow, what matter may it be that morrow's matters be settled today?" Huo TianQing snickered. He suddenly flicked his sleeve and he was already outside the door, one could hear his cold and bland voice enminating from a far far place. "At dusk today, I'll wait you outside of Green Breeze Outlook!"

______________________________

Dusk. Green Breeze Outlook. Green Breeze Outlook was located on top of a green colored mountain, the mountain side was already on the other side of the setting sun.

Hua ManLou's emtions were obviously very serious as well.

"Huo TianQing has still not arrived!" He observed while letting out a sigh.

"He will."

"I did not think that he was that kind of a person, he shouldn't have been capable to do this kind of thing."

"But he still did." Lu XiaoFeng grimly replied.

"Maybe because he is just too proud, not only does he want to be better than everyone else, he wanted to be better than his own father!"

"Pride is a very idiotic thing to begin with."

If a man is too proud, he would be hard pressed not to do something idiotic.

"And precisely because of that same pride, he is willing to take responsibility for his actions."

Lu XiaoFeng was silent for a long time.

"If you were me, would you let him go?" He suddenly asked.

"I'm not you."

Lu XiaoFeng let out a long and tired sigh. "Luckily you are not me, and luckily I'm not you...."

Hua ManLou did not reply, for at this moment he heard the sound of a door opening. The heavey and ancient front door of Green Breeze Outlook openly slightly. A yellow clothed child servant walked out, carrying a lantern with him. Another man followed behind him. Not Huo TianQing, but a yellow robed Taoist monk. His robe and sleeves were huge, like all robes. His temples were caved in. On that thin but clean face of his was a very grave expression. Even though his steps were light and nimble, he did not look like he practiced martial arts.

He glanced around the area for a moment before walking steadfastly towards Lu XiaoFeng and greeting him with a single-handed open-palmed salute.

"Is this Alm Giver Mr. Lu XiaoFeng?"

{Note: This reference does not mean that the monk thought Lu XiaoFeng was there to make a donation. Taoist and Buddhist monks traditionally have always address anyone who was not a monk as "alm giver."}

Lu XiaoFeng nodded. "And Father is...."

"This humble Taoist goes by the name of Green Maple, I'm the host of this humble outlook."

{Note: The name of the monk and the name of the outlook actually are pronounced the same in Chinese.}

"Could Father be a friend of Huo TianQing?"

"Alm Giver Huo and I are chess mates, every month he would come to this humble outlook for a couple of matches."

{Note: The game the 2 play is actually Go. However, since it just doesn't sound right in English, I changed it to chess, everything still works. Unless I get any objections, I think I'll stick with this.}

"Where is he now?"

A very strange expression crept onto Green Maple's face again.

"The reason that this humble Taoist had came out was to lead Alm-Giver to see him."

"So where is he?"

"He is in this humble Taoist's guest room," Green Maple slowly replied. "He has been there for quite a long time now."

The yard inside outlook was unusually quiet. The incense burning by the half opened windows diffused into the air as the wind breezed by. The door was half open as well.

Lu XiaoFeng made his way through the yard, as soon as Green Maple to open the door he saw Huo TianQing. But Huo TianQing would never see him.

Huo TianQing had actually died on Father Green Maple's guest bed. On the floor by the guest bed was a jade wine cup decorated with dragons, there were still wine in the cup. Poisonous wine.

Huo TianQing's face was death gray in color. At the corner of his eyes and just below the nose was some slight traces of blood that had not been wiped away. Lu XiaoFeng looked at him, his heart sank.

The look on Father Green Maple's face was one of utter melancholy.

"When he showed up, I had assumed that he came to finish the match that we did not finish yesterday," He gravely explained. "I was quite interested in seeing what new idea he had came up with to save this match. But instead he said he wasn't in the mood to play today."

"He only wanted to drink." Lu XiaoFeng guessed.

Green Maple nodded. "That was when I noticed that his attitude seems strange, as if there was something heavy that's weighing on his heard. He was also sighing endlessly and mumbling to himself."

"What did he say?"

"He seemed to be saying something like the hundred year life of man went by in a blink of an eye, and also that if there was already a Huo TianQing in this world, why did it must also have a Lu XiaoFeng."

Lu XiaoFeng smiled a sad smile through his frown.

"Was this wine yours?" He had to ask.

"The wine is indeed of this place, but the cup he had brought on his own. He's always been obsessed about cleanliness and would never use anything anyone else has used before."

Lu XiaoFeng picked up the cup and sniffed its edges.

"The poison is definitely on the cup." He frowned.

"He picked up the cup but put it back down several times, just like when met with a difficult chess move to make, as if he could not make up his mind. I was just about to ask him when he suddenly threw his head back, let out three laughs, and drank the wine."

The troubled Taoist put his hands together in front of him in prayer.

"I could not imagine that one so young as he would see through the hopelessness of life, I pray that he reach the way soon." His voice was getting quieter and quieter, there seemed to be tears swelling up in his eyes.

Lu XiaoFeng was quiet, his heart was even heavier. After a long time, he finally sighed. "Did he bring up anybody else?"

"No."

"And he did mention the name Zhu Ting at all?"

"No."

Lu XiaoFeng's heart sank even deeper under its own weight.

On the side of the bed was an unfinished game of chess. "Life is ever changing, just like the clouds in the sky," Green Maple mumbled to himself, "but who could have expected that even though the unfinished game is here, he is no longer."

"He played the black pieces?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly asked.

"I always let him go first."

Lu XiaoFeng picked up a piece, thought deeply, and slowly played a move.

"I'll finish this game for him."

Green Maple smiled in sadness. "If you make that move, then won't black lose?"

"But other than this, he had no other move to make."

"He had lost this game already, he knew that too, but it's just he could not bring himself to admit it."

Lu XiaoFeng stared out toward the horizon. "But he still lost," he mumbled. "This game is just like life, one wrong move and you lose."

Father Green Maple suddenly swiped the board with his sleeve and knocked all of the pieces off.

"Isn't life just like a game too? Why take winning and losing so seriously?" He slowly asked.

"If you don't take it seriously, then why play this game to begin with?"

Father Green Maple shot a look at him before slowly closing his eyes and bringing his two hands together in prayer again. He did not say anything more. A gust of wind blew open a window, the dark night was already covering the world.

______________________________

Lu XiaoFeng laid in his bed, staring at the wine cup on his chest. This cup had been laying on his chest for a very long time, even now he still hasn't drank it. It seemed as if he was not in the mood for even a drink.

"Still thinking about Zhu Ting and them?" Hua ManLou asked. Lu XiaoFeng silently admitted it.

"When a man is about to die, his heart would turn kind. Since Huo TianQing had already decided to die, then he probably did not want to do any more wrongs and kill people. Maybe they are already safely home by now."

Not only did he say this to comfort Lu XiaoFeng, he said it to comfort himself. But Lu XiaoFeng looked as if he did not hear it at all.

Hua ManLou forced a smile onto his face. "No matter what, you have won this game."

Lu XiaoFeng replied with a long, drawn out sigh.

"But the last move was not one made by me."

"And it was not played the way you wanted it too either was it?"

"No." He forced a pathetic smile on his face as well. "That's why even though I had won, it feels even worse than if I had lost."

Hua ManLou could not help but let out a drawn out sigh as well.

"Why wasn't he willing to finish playing this unfinished game?"

"Because he knew that he had lost," Lu XiaoFeng answered, "just like how he was not willing to finish that game yesterday either---"

As soon as he finished this sentence, he suddenly jumped up off the bed, the wine cup that was resting on his chest fell onto the ground and was instantly smashed to pieces.

Hua ManLou knew that he had never allowed his wine cup to be smashed. But right now he seemed to have completely forgotten about that. He stood there in complete and utter disbelief, his whole body, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, felt ice cold

Hua ManLou did not ask him anything, he knew knew he would say it himself soon enough.

"He didn't finish that game yesterday either." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly repeated the same idea.

"Yes."

"He was still playing chess at Green Breeze Outlook yesterday." By now, even the color on Hua ManLou's face changed.

"If ShangGuan FeiYan had died in his hands, how could he be playing chess here yesterday?"

ShangGuan FeiYan was hundreds of miles away, even if Huo TianQing had grew wings, there was no way he could have made it back in one day. ShangGuan FeiYan had died only yesterday.

Hua ManLou felt his hands and feet go ice cold as well.

"Did we mistakenly accuse him?" Hua ManLou sighed.

"At least, he didn't kill ShangGuan FeiYan." Lu XiaoFeng's fists were clenched.

Hua ManLou nodded.

"At least for that, we were wrong in accusing him."

"Why didn't he argue for his innocence?"

"The reason why he had arranged to meet me at Green Breeze Outlook was probably to ask that Taoist to prove his alibi, that he was playing chess there yesterday."

"Because he knew that if it was just his words without any proof, you would never have believed him."

"But he didn't even have the chance to argue for his innocence."

"Then, there was no way that he could have killed himself."

"Absolutely none."

"Then who killed him."

"The one who killed ShangGuan FeiYan as well."

"The real master mind behind all of this?"

"That's right."

"Was Father Green Maple bribed by this guy to lie for him?"

"Monks are still human."

"If that's the case, the Father Green Maple must surely know who he is!"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed at that remark. "So right now I only hope that Green Maple is still alive."

He was disappointed. By the time they made it back to Green Breeze Outlook, the outlook had turned into a sea of flames. Nobody could have escaped, not a single person. The fire has no compassion, the person who set the fire had even less. Who was this person?

______________________________

Green Breeze Outlook was on one side of the mountain, Huo Xiu's little pavilion was on the other side. Even though one side of the mountain had been engulfed in a sea of fire, the other side was still peaceful and quiet.

"PUSH". That word was still on the front door. Lu XiaoFeng pushed open the door and walked in. This was the second time he pushed open this door, and could very be his last.

The belly of the hallow mountain was empty, there was nothing in it. All those countless treasure and weapons had miraculously disappeared.

In the middle of the room was a small stone platform, on it was a dirty and old straw mat. Huo Xiu, barefoot, wearing that bluish-green shirt that had been washed white, sat cross-legged on that mat, warming up his wine. Such deliciously smelling wine.

Lu XiaoFeng took a deep whiff of the smell and walked to the bottom of the stone staircase.

"Seems like I arrived just in time again." He smiled.

Huo Xiu smiled back. "This time I'm not surprised anymore. Everytime I have good wine you would suddenly appear!"

"But now I'm a bit suspicious."

"Suspicious of what?"

"Suspicious that you might be purposefully luring me here with good wine as bait."

Huo Xiu burst out laughing. "Well in any case, good wine is still good wine. If you are not afraid of getting your cloth dirty, then you could sit down and have a cup."

"I am afraid."

"You are afraid?" Huo Xiu frowned.

"But what I'm not afraid of getting my cloth dirty."

"Then what are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid that I'll end up like Huo TianQing and have to wait for someone else to come along and finish my unfinished game for me."

Huo Xiu stared at him, his eyes suddenly seemed to have turned into a pair of just unsheathed razor sharp sabres. He did not say another word, instead he slowly poured a cup of wine and slowly drank it. Lu XiaoFeng did not say another word as well, he knew that one sentence was enough. He was talking to a smart man, with a smart man, just one sentence was enough.

After an extended period of time, Huo Xiu suddenly burst out laughing again.

"Looks like I still can't fool you."

"So you might as well stop trying to altogether."

"How did you know it was me?"

"I couldn't," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "There was no way for me to realize that I had been mistaken from the very beginning."

"Oh!"

"I had always thought that you were on the same boat as Yan TieShan and DuGu, that you were also a victim, and I had always thought that only Huo TianQing could benefit from this whole matter."

"How about now?"

"Now I have it all figured out. There is only one person that could really benefit from this whole matter."

"And that one person is me."

"That's right, that one person is you!"

Huo Xiu filled his wine cup again.

"Once the Golden Roc Emperor dies, nobody in the world would ever bring up your duty to the Golden Roc Empire anymore." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

"He wouldn't have brought it up anyways," Huo Xiu slowly nodded. "But recently he was really getting rather poor. He is very good at spending money, but he never knew about the hardships of actually earning money."

"So you had to kill him?"

"This type of person deserves to die to begin with!" Huo Xiu coldly concluded.

"But his death wasn't enough was it? Because DuGu and Yan TieShan was going to come and split the money weren't they?"

"This money is mine originally, and only I spent all that energy and effort protecting it, making it grow day by day, I would never let anyone else get a piece of it!"

"So they deserved to die too?"

"They had to die!"

"In truth, this money was enough to last 30 men an entire lifetime," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "At your age, do you really plan on taking it all to your grave with you?"

Huo Xiu stared at him.

"If you had a wife, would you be willing to share her with other people? You aren't using her during the day anyways." He coldly rebuked.

"That's completely different."

"To me, these two matters are the same. This treasure is like my wife to me, no matter if I'm alive or dead, I would never share it with anybody else!"

"So therefore, you first used Huo TianQing and ShangGuan FeiYan to kill the Golden Roc Emperor, and then used me to get rid of DuGu YiHe and Yan TieShan."

"I didn't want to get you involved, but other than you, I really couldn't think of anyone else who could do this."

"That's not the first time I heard that sentence." Lu XiaoFeng smiled embarrasingly.

"It's the truth."

"I took your bait because I wanted too. But what about Huo TianQing? How could you get to a person like him?"

"It wasn't me who got to him."

"ShangGuan FeiYan?"

Huo Xiu smiled. "Don't you think that she's a girl that's quite capable of moving a man's heart?"

A wry smile appeared on Hua ManLou's face.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

"And how did you get to her?"

"I might be an old man, but I can still tempt any girl." Huo Xiu casually replied. "Because I have something that no woman can refuse."

"What's that?"

"My riches." He smiled and went on matter of factly. "There isn't a woman in the world who doesn't love riches, just like there isn't a man in the world who doesn't love beautiful woman."

"You promised to split a portion of your treasure to her to get her to seduce Huo TianQing?"

"You all thought that her lover was Huo TianQing, bet you didn't expect that the one that she actually loved was this old man did ya?" Huo Xiu laughed out loud.

"She wasn't in love with you, she was in love with your money." Lu XiaoFeng could not fight off the urge to correct him.

"Doesn't make a difference to me," Huo Xiu was still laughing. "Either way, to me she was a dead person to begin with."

"You had planned to kill her to keep her quiet from the beginning?"

"I told you, I would never let anyone else share my riches with me."

"So you purposefully told me the secret about the 6 toes to send me to deal her."

"But Huo TianQing still didn't know what was going on, and actually sent her the message telling her this secret with his pigeons."

"Even he didn't know that you were the master mind behind all of this?"

"Of course not, why else would he be so willing to go through all of this for ShangGuan FeiYan?"

"But not even you could have predicted that I would let ShangGuan FeiYan go."

"Therefore I had to go and do it myself."

"Huo TianQing was no dummy, when he heard that news that ShangGuan FeiYan had died, he must have knowns that there was someone else behind the scenes. Therefore once he arranged the meeting at Green Breeze Outlook with me, he came here to see you."

"He really wasn't that stupid, pity that even smart people have stupid moments."

"He really should not have came to you all by himself." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"That's why he deserved to die too."

"You moved him to Green Breeze Outlook after you killed him?"

"The deed of Green Breeze Outlook is mine as well, I could have taken it back anytime I felt like."

"That's why when you asked Father Green Maple to lie for you, he could not refuse could he?"

"A monk that was capable of lying? Obviously he deserved to die as well!" Huo Xiu casually concluded.

"You wanted me to believe that Huo TianQing had committed suicide out of guilt and stop meddling in this whole affair didn't you?"

"I truthfully did not want you to be involved anymore," Huo Xiu sighed. "But it's a shame that wordy Taoist did you in."

"He did me in?"

"When I heard him mentioning about that unfinished game yesterday, I knew that you would realize that inconsistency sooner of later."

"So you just decided that you might as well set the entire Green Breeze Outlook on fire."

"I just happened to have something else in mind planned for that piece of land."

"In your eyes, are those people actually just the same as that piece of land? Nothing more than tools that you use and throw away as you please."

"So when I wanted them to be alive, they'll live; when I wanted them to die, then they must die!"

"How did you figure out how you were going to use me?" Lu XiaoFeng asked with a tired smile.

"Every man has a weakness, once you figure out where their weak spot is, you can use anybody."

"What's my weakness?"

"Your weakness is that you loved to meddle in other people's affairs way too much!" Huo Xiu coldly answered.

"That's how I ended up being your accomplice, getting XiMen ChuiXue involved for you, helping you get rid of Yan TieShan and DuGu YiHe...." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"And you did very well through all of it. Had you been willing to stop after Huo TianQing had died, you would have been welcomed to come and have a drink with me whenever you liked, if you run into any kind of trouble, I might actually have been willing to lend you ten thousand taels of so to get yourself out of it."

"Pity that I didn't stop."

Huo Xiu sighed as well.

"Do you know why I had moved all the stuff in here away?" Lu XiaoFeng did not know.

"Because I planned to leave this place for you to use as your tomb."

"At least it's not a small tomb." Lu XiaoFeng tried a rather pathetic joke.

"For Lu XiaoFeng, being buried underneath the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion is actually pretty fitting don't you think?" Huo Xiu observed matter of factly.

"At least ShangGuan FeiYan did say one sentence of truth," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "The First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion really was here."

"Pity, though. The more people tell you that the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion was here, the less you believed them."

"And you, obviously, must be the Master Helmsman of the 108 Pavilions of Green Shirt Pavilion aren't you?"

"Master Helmsman, those words sound so nice," Huo Xiu smiled. "I love hearing those words."

"Do they sound better than the sound of you counting money?"

"I don't count money," Huo Xiu casually replied. "You can't count how much money I have anyways."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "Only now do I really understand how you got to be so rich."

"You might understand now, but pity you'll never master it."

"Only because I really don't see the point in taking it all to the grave with me."

Huo Xiu burst out laughing again. "Good, very good!"

"What's so good about it?"

"Rumors say that you would always a very thick stack of banknotes on you and that everytime you never put anything less than 5000 taels on the table each time." Huo Xiu said, smiling.

"That particular 5000 tael banknote has probably already ended up in your hands." Lu XiaoFeng let out an exasperated smile.

"Since you don't plan on taking money to the grave with you, I'll make sure to take all that money out for you after you died."

"You want a dead man's money?"

"I want any and all kinds of money, that's one of the biggest secrets in getting rich."

"Pity I'm still alive."

"But you are already in your grave."

"Are you certain that you can kill me?"

"No, but I am certain that you will die here."

"Oh!"

"Once someone has entered their grave, there isn't any hope for them to get out."

Lu XiaoFeng looked at Huo Xiu, his eyes suddenly shone like a pair of razor sharp knife.

"Your hands getting a little itchy for action?" Huo Xiu smiled.

"Yes, they are." Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

"Too bad I'm not interested in fighting you, I never liked to get my own hands dirty." He gently pressed down on the stone platform with his hand. "Boom!" A huge steel cage actually fell down from above, trapping the entire stone platform inside of it.

Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

"Since when did you decide to turn into a bird and put yourself inside a cage?"

"You find this funny?"

"It is funny."

"You won't think it's so funny when I walk out of here, a man about to die from starvation will be hard pressed to find anything funny."

"Am I about die from starvation?"

"After I leave, the only thing you can eat here would be the flesh on you and your friend's bodies, the only thing you can drink here would be your own blood." Huo Xiu coldly replied.

"But how can you leave?"

"The only exit in this entire place is precisely beneath this stone platform I'm sitting on. And I can assure you, I would make sure to remember to seal this exit on my way out."

The color on Lu XiaoFeng's face changed a bit.

"I don't seem to remember us getting in here that way." He forced a smile on his face.

"That door you entered from could only be opened from the outside, and nobody outside will open it for you, that I can also assure you."

"What else can you assure me of?"

"I can also assure you that you will die of thirst within ten days. However, I'm a very prudent man, so I would make sure to at least wait ten more days before coming back."

"You are coming back?"

"Of course I'm coming back," Huo Xiu laughed, "coming back to take all that money that's on you."

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly laughed, a big and hearty laugh.

"If I was you, I would not be laughing right now." Huo Xiu told him matter of factly.

"You are not me."

"Fortunately I'm not."

"And precisely because you are not me, you don't know that the only thing I have left in my pocket is one huge hole." Lu XiaoFeng said, trying to contain his laughter.

"Seems like you are determined not to let me get anything out of you even in death." Huo Xiu sighed.

You are finally getting it."

"Luckily, there's still some thing I can get out of this."

"Oh!"

"I can still at least take off the clothes on your body and sell them somewhere for a couple of farthings at least!"

"You are willing to go through all of that for a copule of farthings?"

"A farthing is still money."

"As long as it's money you want it!"

"Money is always good, one farthing is at least better than no farthing at all."

"Alright, let me give you some!" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly flicked out his hand and a dozen or so chains of bronze coins were sent screaming towards Huo Xiu.

Huo Xiu did not move nor did he dodge. Only when the chains of coins penetrated the vertical bars of his cage did he wave his hand around a couple of times and all 12 of the chains of coins suddenly ended up in the palm of his hand.

The excellence of skill of this old man's hand startled even Lu XiaoFeng.

"Excellent move!" He exclaimed despite of himself.

Huo Xiu had already carefully put away those 12 chains of coin.

"When there's money to be made, my kungfu would always be exceptionally good."

"Pity that that skill of yours is still a bit worse than mine."

Huo Xiu let out a laugh. "Are you trying to bait me to go out there and fight you?"

"Yes, I had that in mind."

"Then I advice you to get that out of your mind."

"You are never going to come out?"

"Even if I wanted to, I can't."

"Why not?"

"This cage is made from steel that has been forged over 100 times. It weighs 990 kilograms. Even blades that cut through steel like butter might not even cut through it, nevermind that those kinds of swords only exists in legend."

"And nobody could hope to lift up a 990 kilogram cage either," Lu XiaoFeng added.

"Nobody."

"Therefore not only can you not come out, I cannot get in either."

"So all you can do is watch me leave, and then wait to die of starvation."

"The reason you put yourself in a cage to start with was that you are afraid that I might try and get in a fight with you?"

"I'm an old man, I'm not even interested in getting in bed with women anymore, much less fighting."

Lu XiaoFeng patted Hua ManLou on the shoulder. "Looks like the only we can do is to wait here for death!" He sighed.

"This looks to be his final move!" Hua ManLou casually replied. Unbelievably, he actually smiled.

"You have to admit, this move is quite an effective move."

"But we still have a move to make, there is a piece that we haven't used yet."

"Oh!"

"Did you forget about Zhu Ting?" Hua ManLou asked.

Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

"Of course not."

"And that's the reason you are still able to smile even now." Hua ManLou smiled in return.

"And that's why you are not anxious at all either."

"He shouldn't have brought Zhu Ting here to begin with."

"That is so very true."

There seemed to be some changes on Huo Xiu's face.

"What about him?" He finally succumbed to temptation and asked. "Why shouldn't he be here?"

"Nothing about him really." Lu XiaoFeng nonchalantly answered. "Just that there isn't a place in this world that has been able to lock him up."

"He doesn't have any good points about him really, other than the fact that he happens to be a personal apprentice of Master Lu." Hua ManLou added.

"Master Lu?" Huo Xiu frowned.

"Of course, you already know that Master Lu is the direct descendent of Lu Ban, and also is the best handyman in the world." Hua ManLou explained.

"After Master Lu died, that title obviously fell to none other than The Boss, Zhu Ting." Lu XiaoFeng added.

"Therefore, as long as he's here, then you are sure to be able to get out." Huo Xiu concluded.

"That's right." Lu XiaoFeng concurred.

"He really is here."

"I know."

"Just a bit further, where you saw me last time."

"I know."

"If there isn't a place in the world that can keep him locked up, then why hasn't he come out yet?"

"He will."

"Well even if he comes out now, it will be too late." Huo Xiu snickered to himself.

"Oh!"

"The master control of all of the machines and gadgets in here is right below where I'm sitting."

"Oh!"

"Of course, while I'm leaving, I'll make sure to immediately destroy it."

"And then what happens?"

"And then every exist out of this place would immediately be sealed off by boulders, every boulder weighing more than 4 tons, so...."

"So we are doomed to die in here."

"Not just you, even if Lu Ban was resurrected, all he could do is wait to die." Huo Xiu casually added.

"And therefore you are leaving right now!"

"I had wanted to wait and chat with you guys a little while longer, because I know that waiting for death isn't all that pleasant."

"But now you have changed your mind?"

"Correct!"

"Looks like not only could I not keep you, I can't send you on your way either." Lu XiaoFeng joked, in a rather pathetic attempt to be funny.

"But you will definitely miss me very soon, that I know," Huo Xiu said with a smile as he reached out with his hand. "All I have to do is press down, and I would disappear. You'll never see me again."

He pressed down with his hand. However, he did not disappear, but the smile on his face has.

That square stone platform still remained a square stone platform. He had been sitting squarely on top of it, now he still remained sitting squarely on top of it. The expression on his face was as if he suddenly got hit directly on the nose by someone.

Huge beads of sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead.

Lu XiaoFeng seemed to find all of this quite odd as well. He knew Huo Xiu very well, this old fox would never ever do anything that he was not completely sure and confident of. If Huo Xiu said that there was an exit underneath this platform, then there must be an exit underneath the platform. But now it seemed as if the exit had suddenly disappeared.

"Why are you still here?" Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

Huo Xiu's fists were clenched.

"You... you...." He did not finish his sentence before fainting.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed, then suddenly discovered that he wasn't the only one sighing. The ones who sighed was not Hua ManLou, but ShangGuan Xue-Er and the Boss's Wife. They sighed as they walked over to him, with flowery smiles on their faces.

"Turns out you are right, this guy really did have an ace up his sleeve." ShangGuan Xue-Er was the first to speak.

"That's why he's the one and only Lu XiaoFeng!" The Boss's Wife's smile was even sweeter.

But Lu XiaoFeng's smile was a rather pathetic one.

"The reason that you didn't come out was to see if I still had an ace up my sleeve?"

"We didn't think that there was nothing that you could have done to this old fox, but who knew that you still had this one last move left?" ShangGuan Xue-Er sweetly answered.

"This last move of yours is truly quite something else." The Boss's Wife giggled.

"He made this cage himself, but he probably never would have dreamed that he would actually be trapped in it." ShangGuan Xue-Er observed.

Lu XiaoFeng cracked a smile as well. "This is what's called, 'Kindly Step into the Vat'"

{Note: "Kindly Step into the Vat" is a well known Chinese idiom. It originated from a story regarding a conversation between two officials of the only female Emperor in Chinese history, Wu ZeTian. Both officials were infamous for their cruelty towards the subjects of their interrogations. When the first official was suspected of treason, the second official was sent to interrogate. The second official, being friend with the first official, invited him to dinner that night. During the dinner, the second official claimed to have this one particularly stubborn subject who will not cooperate no matter what and sought the first official for advice. The first official suggested that the best thing to do was to use a large vat filled with oil, heat it to a boil in front of him, and then threaten to throw him in the vat if he does not confess. The second official then promptly ordered his servants to bring a large vat filled with oil into the room and heat it to a boil. Once that was done, the host stood up, charged his guest with his crimes, and asked him to "kindly step into the vat" if he does not confess. His guest, the first official, promptly confessed. Therefore this idioms applies to when people's own designs and plans comes back to work on themselves. Now that we are finished with our history listen, back to the story.}

The Boss's Wife stared at him, her eyes twinkled. "How did you ever think of and pull off this?"

"I have always been a genius." Lu XiaoFeng replied matter of factly.

"Did you figure out that he was going to try and escape using that way and therefore sealed it off before he came in here?" ShangGuan Xue-Er inquired.

Lu XiaoFeng was quiet.

"Well? Why aren't you talking?" The Boss's Wife demanded. "How did you do it?"

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly shook his head.

"I can't tell you."

"Why not?" ShangGuan Xue-Er asked.

"Everyone needs to keep a couple of secrets to themselves just in case, especially when women like you two are involved." Lu XiaoFeng said with a smile, a smile quite a bit like a crafty old fox. "If you two learn all of my secrets, then how could I possibly survive the rest of my days?"

______________________________

"So how did you do it?" Once everybody had left, Hua ManLou could no longer resist the temptation to ask any longer. "Why won't you tell them?"

Lu XiaoFeng's answer was especially clever.

"Because I don't know either."

"You don't know why that exit would suddenly be sealed either?" Hua ManLou was shocked.

"No idea."

Hua ManLou was speechless.

"Maybe it was because the set up suddenly malfunctioned, or maybe it was because a rat had accidentally wandered into and popped a spring here or there...." Lu XiaoFeng suggested, there was a look of deep contemplation in his eyes. He sighed. "What was really the reason? Nobody knows, maybe only Heaven knows."

"Only Heaven knows?"

Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

"Do you know why evil doers always fail at the last hurdle?" He asked.

"No idea."

"Because Heaven has already prepared a last master stroke waiting there for them, so no matter how clever their plan was, it would always fail."

"So this last move was not yours but the will of Heaven?"

"Correct."

Hua ManLou laughed.

"Why are you laughing? You don't believe me?"

"Do you actually think I would believe you?" Hua ManLou asked, still laughing.

Lu XiaoFeng sighed and answered with a pathetic smile of his own.

"Why is it when I tell the truth, nobody ever believes me?"