LXF02-04 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 August 2008 22:01

Chapter 4 - A Pair of Red Shoes



Dusk colors were darker, the laterns in the meditation room was not yet lit. The last burst of brilliance from the setting sun fell upon the walk way leading up to the guest room behind the meditation room. It fell upon those old and decaying wooden columns, making them shine like they did in the days long past. In the gentle July night breeze, there came with it a gentle fragrance from the far away mountains and trees that just fills one’s heart with joy and comfort. Jiang Qing Xia was walking very slowly, Lu Xiao Feng was also walking very slowly. Jiang Qing Xia did not say a word, Lu Xiao Feng did not open his mouth either. He seemed to have realized that he was an unwelcomed guest. Unwelcomed guests should all be at least wise enough to keep their mouths shut. The yard next to them was deserted, not a person could be seen nor heard. This entire place was a lonely place to began with, lonely people are used to the quiet.

“Alm-giver, please enter!” Jiang Qing Xia pushed open a door and turned to Lu Xiao Feng with a serious face.

“Many thanks!” Lu Xiao Feng replied with a serious face. The lamps in the room was not lit either, even the light from the setting sun could not penetrate its walls. Lu Xiao Feng slowly walked into the room, as if he was somehow scared to enter the room. Could he possibly have been afraid that this ice cold woman would lock him insde of this ice cold room?

“The devil isn’t in the room, what are you scared of?” Jiang Qing Xia coldly said.

“The devil isn’t in the room alright,” Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled, “but he is in the mind!”

“Who’s mind?”

“Yours!”

“You are the devil yourself!” Jiang Qing Xia bit her lip. Instantly, this ice cold taoist nun had changed, changed almost to an entirely different person. She forcefully pushed Lu Xiao Feng inside, pushed him down onto a chair, placed both her hands on his shoulder to keep him down, and bit his ear.

“Now that’s more like a female tiger,” Lu Xiao Feng actually laughed. “Just then, you were acting like....”

“What was I acting like?” Jiang Qing Xia glared at him.

“Like a dead tigeress!” Jiang Qing Xia did not even wait until Lu Xiao Feng had finished before giving his ear another bite.

Lu Xiao Feng almost yelped from the pain.

“Are you all trained by the same master or something? What’s with ear biting?” He managed to force out a smile.

“‘You all’? Who are ‘you all’?” Jiang Qing Xia glared at him again. Lu Xiao Feng did not reply, suddenly realizing that he had made a mistake again.

“Do you often get your ear bitten?” Jiang Qing Xia would not let it go.

“It’s not like I’m surrounded by dogs or anything, why would my ear get bitten?”

But Jiang Qing Xia’s eyes got even bigger as her glare became even angrier.

“So are you calling me a dog? Is that what you are saying?” Lu Xiao Feng found himself in a corner again and was at a lost as to what to say.

“Tell me the truth, how many people have bit your ear?” Jiang Qing Xia angrily demanded, still viciously glaring at Lu Xiao Feng.

“Just... just you.!”

“Is that the truth?”

“Who else would have the guts to bite me?”

“What about Xue Bing? Does she have enough guts?”

“She’s too scared to even touch me, she’s lucky I don’t bite her!”

“Sure you talk a good one now, but when you face her in person, I bet you are too scared to say anything!” Jiang Qing Xia pouted.

“Why would I be scared?” Lu Xiao Feng laughed. “Am I suppose to be scared of her?”

Jiang Qing Xia suddenly laughed as well, laughing somewhat like how a cunning little fox would.

“Alright, go ahead! I’m here, let’s see what you got!” At this moment, someone outside of the door coldly declared.

Lu Xiao Feng’s heart sank. He did not even need to look to know that it was Xue Bing. Running into one female tiger was already bad enough.

The only thing worse than running into one female tiger is running into two tigeresses at the same time. Lu Xiao Feng’s head suddenly felt three time bigger. Jiang Qing Xia giggled as she lit the lamp. The light shone upon Xue Bing’s face. Her face was red again, red as a pepper, but this time it was from anger.

“Grabbing the initiative.” Of course Lu Xiao Feng knew full well why this was important.

“I just happen to be looking for you! Didn’t figure you would actually dare to come looking for me!” He suddenly jumped up and coldly told Xue Bing, all the while giving her the meanest glare he could muster.

“Why... why wouldn’t I come dare come looking for you?” Seeing him so angry, Xue Bing went soft.

“What are you doing here?”

“We have always been old friends,” Jiang Qing Xia cut in and answered for Xue Bing. “And we are also taught by the same master, specializing in ear biting, why wouldn’t she be here?”

“I’m asking you, what are you doing here?” Lu Xiao Feng held his glare at Xue Bing, completely ignoring Jiang Qing Xia.

“You know full well that I’m here to deliever something!” Amazingly, she casually admitted to all of this, there was not even the slightest hesitation on her face. “Of course, it was that piece of red satin!”

“You are not denying it?” It was Lu Xiao Feng’s turn to be a little taken aback.

“It’s not like something shameful, why would I deny it?”

“You helped someone else trick me!” Lu Xiao Feng almost shouted. “Is that suppose to be something to be proud of?”

“Si Kong Zhai Xing isn’t just someone else, he’s your friend, you said that yourself!” Even Lu Xiao Feng had to concede that point. Xue Bing let out a little laugh and continued rather smugly. “I helped your friend, you should be grateful!”

“You helped him sell me out, and yet I should be grateful?” Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback again.

“That piece of satin was of no use to you anymore but was very useful for him. All I did was help him take it here, how is that selling you out?” She seemed angrier than Lu Xiao Feng and ten times more righteous than Lu Xiao Feng. “Besides, isn’t he your friend? Did you not lie to him as well? And afterwards you were all proud and pleased with yourself. So why can’t I lie to you?”

“But you... you... you should be helping me!”

“Well whose fault is it that you were so full of yourself? As if there was nobody in the world that’s better than you. Well I can’t stand that attitude of yours!” Xue Bing smirked.

Lu Xiao Feng had no reply. He suddenly discovered that when a man ran into a woman, it was like a scholar running into a group of soldiers: reasoning is just futile. Inside of a woman’s heart seemed completely devoid of the words “right” and “wrong”. Everything she does would inevitably be based on her whim and if you ever tried to argue reasons with her, she would always have 10 times as many reasons as you do.

“I haven’t even dealt with you talking about me behind my back and you try to pin this on me?” The smirk disappeared from Xue Bing’s face.

“This is called capturing the initiative, all the men in the world does it!” Jiang Qing Xia snickered.

“And what do you have to say for yourself now?” Xue Bing teased.

“I only have one thing to say.” Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

“Well? Spit it out!” Xue Bing commanded.

“Who did you give the red satin to?”

“Lu Dong Bin!”

“Who the hell is Lu Dong Bin?” Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback once again.

“You don’t even know who Lu Dong Bin is? How did you ever live to be 30?” Xue Bing wondered out loud.

“Lu Dong Bin is Lu Chun Yang, the very same Chun Yang Taoist master who sang and flew his way over the Lake Dong Ting. Don’t you know?” Jiang Qing Xia explained matter of factly.

{Note: Lu Dong Bin is one of the most famous legendary Taoists in Chinese folk lore. The tales of his deeds are wide and varied. He is to some Taoists what Buddha is to some Buddhists.}

“I thought that Lu Dong Bin wanted white peonys, since when did he want black peonys embroidered on red satin?” Lu Xiao Feng smiled weakly.

“Si Kong Zhai Xing did not tell me to give the satin to any person,” Xue Bing finally explained. “He only wanted me to place it in front of Lu Dong Bin’s altar.”

“And where is the altar?”

“In that little temple out back.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Not too long, but long enough to hear you talking badly about me!” Xue Bing coldly answered.

______________________________

In the bamboo woods behind the convent there was a homely little temple. Inside the temple was lit up by an ever-lit lamp, whose light fell upon Chun Yang Taoist Master’s ever smiling face. Even though he might not be able to enjoy the meat and incense offered up in the altar in the front of the convent, but he was still very satisfied. Lu Dong Bin was a smart deity, smart deities are like smart people, they all understand how to be satisfied and happy. Lu Xiao Feng did not wait for Xue Bing to finish before rushing out here to find that there really was a piece of red satin with a black peony sewn on it at the foot of the altar. By the time he picked up the satin, Jiang Qing Xia and Xue Bing had both arrived as well.

“It’s still here!” Lu Xiao Feng mumbled to himself as he flipped the satin over in his hand in deep thought.

“Si Kong Zhai Xing must not have thought that Xue Bing would tell you the truth so soon and so have not gotten around to picking it up.” Jiang Qing Xia proposed.

“Maybe he wasn’t suppose to pick it up!” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly looked up and said, looking straight into her eyes.

“Well then who was suppose to if not him?” Jiang Qing Xia asked.

“You!”

“Are you crazy?” Jiang Qing Xia laughed. “What would I need this God forsaken piece of satin for?”

“I’m about to ask you that myself!”

“Do you actually think that I’m the one who told him to steal this from you?” Jiang Qing Xia’s expression changed.

Incredibly, Lu Xiao Feng silently conceded the point.

“Well if I did ask him to steal it, then why would he lead you here?”

“Maybe he had to finish the deal in person but could not shake me off of his tail; or maybe he suddenly found his conscious and felt that he had wronged me; or maybe he led me here on purpose so that I would not suspect you!”

“So what you are telling me is that you think that I am that Embroidery Bandit?” Jiang Qing Xia’s face was red with rage.

Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this.

“Maybe you are not that stupid,” Jiang Qing Xia suddenly laughed again. “But you forgot one thing!”

“Oh?”

“You forgot that Jiang Chong Wei is my elder brother! Why would I blind my brother?” As soon as she finished, she turned around to leave, as if she was done trying to reason with this kind of an idiot.

“Wait!” But Lu Xiao Feng blocked her way.

“What are you going to say now?” Jiang Qing Xia sneered.

“Only one thing!”

“Ok, I’ll listen to you say one more thing!”

“Jiang Chong Wei don’t have any sisters, and you don’t have any brothers. Your surname was not originally Jiang!”

All of the colors disappeared from Jiang Qing Xia’s face as her face turned deathly pale.

“How... how... how did you know that?”

“I didn’t want to know either.” Lu Xiao Feng sighed. “But I can’t help it if fate just want me to find out some things that I should not know!”

“What else do you know?” Jiang Qing Xia viciously stared at him with her piercing eyes.

“Do you really want me to say it?”

“Say it!”

“You are Jiang Chong Wei’s unwedded wife, but for some reason you became a nun instead. You pretended not to know me in front of him because you didn’t want to disturb him, didn’t want him to know....”

“Shut up!” Jiang Qing Xia suddenly yelled. Her whole body was shaking.

“I didn’t want to say those things either!” Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“That’s right, Jiang Chong Wei and I were arranged to marry each other when we were little.” Jiang Qing Xia’s body was still shaking uncontrollably, but she still replied through her tightly clenched teeth. “But when we grew up and met each other, we discovered that there was no way that we could be together so....”

“So you became a nun?” Lu Xiao Feng finished for her.

Jiang Qing Xia nodded.

“Other than becoming a nun, what else could I do?” Tears fell from her eyes.

A girl like her, becoming a nun at such an age must have been coupled with a tragic and painful story.

“You shouldn’t have forced her to say those things!” Xue Bing bit her lips and reprimanded Lu Xiao Feng, those eyes that glared at Lu Xiao Feng were filled with tears as well.

“It’s ok, I want to say it!” Jiang Qing Xia suddenly shouted. She gently wiped her tears away with her sleeve and held her head high. “Even though I was a nun, I was still young and can’t stand this type of quiet and loneliness. So I wanted to go out and have an adventure or two in the world out there. So I came to know quite a number of men, and came to know you!”

Lu Xiao Feng quietly sighed -- even when a woman becomes a nun, it does not mean that she is dead, she still had the right to her own life and had the right to live how she sees fit.

“If you think that I did not want Jiang Chong Wei to know, then you are wrong. And if you think that I blinded him because I did not want to marry him, then you are even more wrong, he....”

She suddenly stopped as she stared out of the window in shock.

Jiang Chong Wei had already walked in from the darkness outside, walking in with his hands feeling and leading the way. His face was also deathly pale.

“It wasn’t because she did not want to marry me, it was because I can’t take her as my wife!” He quietly revealed.

“Why?” Xue Bing had to ask.

“Because I....”

“You don’t have to tell them,” Jiang Qing Xia shouted desperately once again. “You don’t have to tell anyone!”

Jiang Chong Wei smiled, it was a sad and lonely smile.

“It’s ok, I want to say it too.” His face was covered with pain. “I can’t take her as my wife, because I have long ago turned into a disabled person, I can’t be someone’s husband, and can never be anyone’s father!”

Xue Bing finally understood, but now she regretted asking. Why did she have to know? Aren’t other people’s suffering painful for oneself as well?

“All of the things that Qing Xia did, I knew about all of them.” Jiang Chong Wei continued. “No matter what she did, I don’t blame her one bit. Besides, I know that even though she don’t look it on the outside, she’s not a loose woman at all!”

Jiang Qing Xia’s head bowed down as tears rolled down her cheeks. For a young and vibrant woman like her, fighting off the feelings and emotions of youths was almost impossible, no matter what she did, it was all forgiveable by anyone’s standards. But she could not forgive herself one bit.

“No matter what you say, I can guarantee that she is absolutely not the person who blinded me!” Jiang Chong Wei concluded.

“Are you sure? Did you get enough of a good look at the person to know it’s not her?” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked. His heart was filled with empathy as well, but this matter was just too important, so he had little choice but to swallow his feelings and make sure.

“Of course I got a good look!” Jiang Chong Wei immediately answered without the slightest hesitation.

“What did you see that made you so sure it was not her?”

“I... I just know, don’t forget that when we first met, she was still just a kid!”

“But you two had not seen each other for many years, right?”

“What are you trying to say?” Jiang Chong Wei’s face dropped as he coldly demanded. “Are you insinuating that I’m lying for her?”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed. He had truly run out of ways to probe further.

“As long as we have no regrets and no doubts in our hearts, it doesn’t matter what he thinks!” Jiang Qing Xia coldly declared.

Jiang Chong Wei nodded. Jiang Qing Xia had already walked up to his side and put his arm over her shoulers to support him.

“Let’s go!” He said.

All Lu Xiao Feng could do was bow his head and let them walk by. The light from the lamp was faint, the floor was made from green stone slabs. Jiang Qing Xia was wearing a pear of green colored shoes which did not match with her purple robe at all. She had always been a very picky woman.

“Wait!” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly said again.

“Are you not finished yet?” Jiang Qing Xia was intent on ignoring him, but suddenly noticed that he was staring at her feet, so she sneered.

“I’m only finding it a bit strange!”

“What’s so strange?”

Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes still had not left her feet.

“Why is there a red edge inside of your green colored shoes?” He slowly asked.

Jiang Qing Xia’s expressioned changed again as she instinctively tried to hide her feet below her robe.

“Your Taoist robe isn’t long enough to hid your feet,” Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly told her. “Inside of those green shoes, you shouldn’t have worn those red shoes!”

Red shoes! Jiang Chong Wei’s expression seemed to change was well.

“What eyes you have!” Jiang Qing Xia suddenly coldly laughed. Before the sound of her laughter went away, she had already struck. She actually tried to used two of those beautiful and orchid like fingers of hers to dig out Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes! Her moves were quick and accurate!

“You should only try to bite ears, you should not try to dig my eyes out!” Lu Xiao Feng sighed. As he said those 16 words, Jiang Qing Xia had already attacked 11 times. Such quick moves! Such swift attacks! Jiang Qing Xia was one of the famouse four scariest women in all of the martial world. They were all incredible beauties, but they were all female tigers. Countless men had already been injured under their claws.

When women attack, most of the time their moves would be faster and more vicious than men’s attacks. Because they know that their strength could not match the men’s, so they did not want to be boggled down in a prolonged fight with men! So most of the time, their moves were all aimed to take the man’s life! But Lu Xiao Feng was not like any other men, incredibly, he was actually even faster than Jiang Qing Xia. He easily dodged Jiang Qing Xia’s 11 strikes without even fighting back. It looked as if he did not want to fight back, but if he had fought back, Jiang Qing Xia probably would not have been able to get out of the way.

“Projectiles!” Jiang Qing Xia clenched her teeth and yelled. Lu Xiao Feng immediately backed up two meters or so, but Jiang Qing Xia did not let loose any projectiles. Instead her body flipped in midair and shot toward the outside. At this moment, Lu Xiao Feng suddenly reached out and, with lightning like quickness, grabbed her shoes. And only grabbed her shoes, not her. Inside those plain green colored cloth shoes, there was really a pair of red shoes - embroidered red satin shoes. But she was already enveloped by the darkness and disappeared instantly.

Lu Xiao Feng did not chase after her. Xue Bing, of course, did not either, she was still shocked.

Jiang Chong Wei stood there motionlessly, his complexion a deathly gray.

“Is she gone?” He suddenly asked.

“She’s gone!” Lu Xiao Feng answered.

Jiang Chong Wei’s fists were clench tightly and the corner of his eyes twitched uncontrollably, making those dark and cave like eyes of his look even more indescribably terrifying.

“Did that Embroidery Bandit wore red shoes too?” Lu Xiao Feng asked.

Jiang Chong Wei’s expression became even more tortured. Finally, slowly, he nodded.

“Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“I didn’t really remember either, only when you just said something did I recall it!” Only at that instant when the flash of the needle point arrived in front of his eyes did he see that pair of red shoes. Red like blood.

“What kind of eyes do you have?” Xue Bing finally let out a sigh. “I couldn’t spot the red lining around her shoes at all.”

“Neither could I!”

Xue Bing was startled.

“I only thought that the color of her shoes did not match her clothing at all, and it seemed a little too big too, as if it was something that was temporarily and hastily put on!”

“So you tested her?”

Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“To be around a person like you is truly quite dangerous!” Xue Bing sighed again, despite of herself.

“Sun Zhong would probably disagree adamantly,” Lu Xiao Feng smiled. “He’s probably certain that you are more dangerous than me!”

“I should have chopped his two legs off too!” Xue Bing joked.

“Did he come and trouble you again?” Lu Xiao Feng wondered.

“He wouldn’t dare!”

“But then how did his severed hand end up on that plate on your table?”

“What hand?” Xue Bing was startled at that question as well.

“You didn’t see that hand?”

“No!”

“No way that hand crawled onto the plate by itself could it?” Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled. He could not figure that out for the life of him!

“There’s another thing that I can’t figure out,” said Xue Bing. “Si Kong Zhai Xing wanted me to take this here, then why did he bring you here as well?”

“Nobody can figure out why a person like him do what he does,” sighed Lu Xiao Feng. “So it’s best to not even think about it.”

“I can’t understand something either, why would Qing Xia do something like this?” Jiang Chong Wei gloomily asked.

“You can stop thinking about it too!” Lu Xiao Feng answered.

“Why?”

“Because she didn’t do it.” Lu Xiao Feng smiled again.

“She didn’t?” Jiang Chong Wei was surprised at the revelation. “She’s not the Embroidery Bandit?”

“No way. Her kungfu is not bad, but is still quite a long way before she could even hope to blind masters like Chang Man Tian and Hua Yi Fan in one move!”

“You can tell that she wasn’t purposefully holding back?”

“I can!”

“And that’s why you let her go!” Jiang Chong Wei sighed deeply.

Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this. If he could grab a person’s shoes, then he could grab that person’s feet. Once a person’s feet have been captured, then there was no way that person could go anywhere.

“If she had nothing to do with this, then why did she run” Jiang Chong Wei frowned after some deep thought.

“Because she has another secret that she does not want others to know about!” Lu Xiao Feng concluded.

“What secret?”

“The secret of the red shoes!”

“The Embroidery Bandit was wearing red shoes too,” Jiang Chong Wei nodded. “Could they be in the same organization?”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Lu Xiao Feng replied, knowing full well that what he just said was completely useless, but he still had to say it. “That Embroidery Bandit is an incredibly skilled and powerful, beard wearing, but red shoes wearing woman.”

That was the only thing they know, but they could not be sure of this, and was even further from proving it.

“She was such a simple, innocent, and kind girl,” Jiang Chong Wei’s expression became even more melancholy. “She could have been a perfect spouse for a man, could she have really changed?”

“How long has it been since you seen her?” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked.

“Not long, she would come to see me my birthday every year!”

“When is your birthday?”

“The 14th of May!”

“On what day did the heist take place?”

“The 11th of June.”

Lu Xiao Feng did not say another word. Jiang Chong Wei seemed to want to say something, but for some reason he held it back and instead just let out a long and exhausted sigh. Head bowed, he turned and felt his way out.

Watching his lonesome shadow disappear in the darkness, Xue Bing could not help herself and sighed as well.

“He must feel terrible inside right now!”

Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“Jiang Qing Xia visited him on May 14th, and not even a month later, the heist took place!”

“It could just be nothing more than a coincidence!”

“But the security of the Royal Treasury Vault is so tight that even a fly couldn’t get in, how could the Embroidery Bandit have gotten in?”

“Any ideas?”

“I think, maybe somebody had already went into the RoyalPalace and check out the lay out of the place for her as well as made an imprint of the key to the Vault with wax.” Xue Bing’s eyes lit up as she explained her hypothesis.

“And you are saying that person is none other than Jiang Qing Xia!”

Xue Bing did not deny this claim and sighed. “Only she could get close to Jiang Chong Wei, and only Jiang Chong Wei had the key to that Vault!”

“You are saying that she secretly made a imprint of the key, made a copy from the imprint and gave it to that Embroidery Bandit?”

“Correct!”

“And that the Embroidery Bandit got in the Vault by using that key to open the Vault doors.”

“I think that has to be what happened!”

“Your scenario isn’t too far fetched, but you forgot two things!”

“What?”

“The Vault doors are guarded all day and night by guards, how could someone with a huge beard just open the Vault doors and walk in without the guard noticing? He had to have been invisible.” Xue Bing had no explanation for this.

“Not only that, when Jiang Chong Wei went into the Vault that day, he door was still locked from the outside. How could the Embroidery Bandit lock the door from the outside after he had entered the Vault?”

“Well, if my idea is so wrong, then how do you think she did it?” Xue Bing was blushing again.

“She must have used a very unique method, it might not even have anything to do with Jiang Qing Xia!”

“Pity even you can’t figure exactly what is that very unique method of hers.” Xue Bing coldly replied.

“That’s why I have to give it a try!”

“Give what a try?”

“Try to see if I can find a way to get in!”

Xue Bing’s eyes were wide in amazement as she looked at him in shock.

“Are you drunk again?”

“I haven’t drank one drop of wine today!”

“Well if you are not drunk, then you must be insane! A normal and sober person would never even think of doing such a thing!”

“Oh?”

“Do you know how many guards there are inside the RoyalPalace?”

“Over 800!”

“And you know that every guard carries with him a very powerful Zhu Ge Bow? That as soon as anyone has been caught, they would instantly be turned into a hedgehog?”

“I know!”

“And you know how many other kungfu masters are in the RoyalPalace besides those guards?”

“Like the number of stars in the sky!”

“And you know that the Young Prince’s personal sword skills were taught to him by none other than the Master of White Cloud Castle?”

“Rumors say that he’s actually the best fighter in the RoyalPalace!”

“And you know that the restricted areas of the RoyalPalace all carry with them a certain death for anybody caught within them, no questions asked?”

“I know!”

“But you are still going to try to break in?”

“Yes!”

“Do you want to die?”

“No!”

“What makes you think that you could try to break in and make it out alive?”

“Nothing!”

“Then why are you willing to take this risk?” Xue Bing bit her lip. “Just to prove Jiang Qing Xia’s innocence?”

“I only want to find out whether or not she really had anything to do with this whole thing.”

“Do you really care that much about her?”

“Because I like her!”

Xue Bing suddenly jumped up and viciously glared at him.

“Alright, go ahead and die!” She loudly declared.

The wind was gentler, the lonely yard was even more lonesome. Lu Xiao Feng came walking out, and Xue Bing followed him.

“Are we heading to the Southeast now?”

“We? Again?” Lu Xiao Feng looked like someone had just stuffed his mouth full of sour tangerines.

“Of course us!” said Xue Bing with a straight face. “Did you think you could just leave me here by myself?”

Lu Xiao Feng really did, but even he knew that once this kind of women made up her mind to follow you, you cannot get rid of her no matter what you tried.

“What are you going with me for? Planning to keep me company when I die?”

“No!” Xue Bing was biting her lip again. “I just want to see what you look like after you died!”

______________________________

The streets were mostly paved with green stone slabs, red cotton trees that were redder than maple leaves lined the streets, the colors were bright and splendid like the dusk.

“This is WangPingCity?”

“Mmhmm!”

“I heard that the food here is the best!”

“Have you had some?”

“No, but I have heard a couple of things that are the best!”

“Well tell me.”

“Big Wings of Three Big Rings, Wen Yuan’s Hundred Colored Chicken, Xi Yuan’s Lake Vegetables, Nan Yuan’s Scorched Snail Shells....”

Xue Bing only listed these things before she had to stop, because she discovered that she was almost drooling.

“They are not that big of a deal, the best eats here you probably have never even heard of before!” Lu Xiao Feng nonchalantly told her.

“Are you going to take me to eat it now?” Xue Bing’s eyes lit up.

“As long as you behave like a good girl, I guarantee that you’ll have something good to eat!”

He had obviously been here before as he put on the look of an old horse that knew his way around. With Xue Bing following behind him, he twisted and turned through the street and made his way into a very narrow alley. The alley was very poorly lit, and its ground still had spots of mud from the rain a couple of days ago. There were all types of little vendors on both sides, but all of their doors were very narrow as well. The people making their way in and out of the doors all looked like the seedy types.

“There are good eats at a place like this?” Xue Bing was mumbling to herself under her breath. But she did not dare to ask out loud. This place was like a foreign country to her, she did not understand a single word that the locals were saying. She was really a little afraid that Lu Xiao Feng might just leave her here all by herself.

It was at this moment that she realized that there was an indescribably delicious smell that had floated over with the breeze. She had never smelled anything so sweet. Looks like Lu Xiao Feng did not lie to her at all, there really was something good to eat here.

“What is this smell?” She had to ask.

“The smell of the most delicious thing in the world, you’ll agree after you had some too!” Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly told her.

At the very back of the alley was a very small little shop, by its front door was a huge stove. On the stove there stewed a huge pot of food, the smell had originated from this stove. But the inside of the shop was very dirty. The walls, chairs, tables, were all an oily blacked from the fumes, even the sign above the door was darkened so much that it was impossible to make out any words. But this smell was truly too alluring. They had just sat down when a waiter scouped up two big bowls of some kind of grinded meat for them.

It seemed like this place served nothing else. The meat was still steaming, not only did it smell delicious, it looked good too.

Lu Xiao Feng immediately picked up a spoon and handed it to Xue Bing.

“Eat it while it’s hot, it’s not nearly as good if it gets cold!”

Xue Bing tried a scoup, then helped herself to another. It tasted amazing.

“What’s in here anyways?” She had to ask. “Other than meat, there seemed to be alot of other stuff!”

“Do you like it?”

“It’s delicious!”

“If it’s delicious, then eat more and talk less!”

Lu Xiao Feng finished one bowl and added another. Suddenly, he made a strange gesture toward that waiter. That waiter had carried himself as if he could not careless about this type of out of towners.

But as soon as he saw Lu Xiao Feng’s gesture, his entire demeanor immediately changed.

“Wha’cha wang?” He came running over with a wide smile.

“Ima ‘ere ‘oo’in fo some’un!” Lu Xiao Feng replied.

“Who aria ‘oo’in fo?”

“The Snake King.”

The waiter’s expression changed a little.

“Wha’cha wang ‘im fo?”

“Ma surname’s Lu, ja tell ‘im dat, ‘e’ll know!”

The waiter hesitated a little before finally nodding a bit.

“‘ait ‘ere!”

Xue Bing was in shock this entire time. Finally, after the waiter had exited through another narrow door in the back did she could not restrain herself anymore and asked.

“What were you two talking about just then?”

“I asked him to help me find someone!”

“Someone in this kind place? Who?”

“The Snake King!”

“The Snake King? And who might the Snake King be?”

“On the street leading to here, what did you see?” Lu Xiao Feng did not answer but asked her a question instead.

“It’s not a street, it’s just a small and dirty alleyway.”

“This is a street, and it could very well be the most famous street in this city!”

“Oh?”

“Do you know what this street has?”

“Some terribly unkempted and downtrodden vendors, and a host of terribly seedy individuals!”

“Can’t you tell what those individuals do?”

“I don’t even want to look at them, much less think about them!”

“Well you should!”

“Why?”

“Because within them, there’s at least 10 fugitives with prices on their heads, at least 20 of the quickest thieves, at least 30 or so fighters for highers. If you get on their bad side, it’s almost impossible to accomplish anything in this city!”

“I get it now, this is a gang street!”

“The Snake King is the king of this street, he’s also the leader of all of them. Just one word from him and all of them would be perfectly willing to do anything you ask of them!”

“You are not planning on asking these people to fight for you are you?”

“If I need help for a fight, I already have as an excellent helper as you, why would I need anyone else?” Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

“Then what are you asking the Snake King for?”

“I want to ask him to help me....”

He had not finished when the waiter hurried came running back in. His demeanor towards Lu Xiao Feng changed once again, to something warmer and more respectful.

“Sa ya ar’a ‘ld fri’nds, Sa ya shalda’old ma’rlia!”

“‘e ‘till remamba ma?” Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

“‘orsa ‘e does! Boss sa’ yar ha’da bes’goongfu’n da wirl, and’a grit frind. ‘e tol’ma ta br’n ya quigly!”

Behind that narrow door in the back was yet another, even smaller, alley. From the dark ditches there enmanated a terrible stench, flies were buzzing all around. At the end of the alley, there was another small door.

Pushing open that door, they came upon a very large yard. About ten or so strong shirtless men were busy playing dice in the yard, so involved were they that they were all covered in sweat. At the corner was several scores of cages, some of the cages had poisonous snakes in them, others had in them wild cats and wild dogs. A person was just in the middle of grabbing a yellow dog out from a cage and, in one swift motion, pushed it down into a huge bath tub so that it was entirely submerged in the water and drowned the dog right then and there. Xue Bing almost puked when she saw that.

But Lu Xiao Feng seemed unwavered.

“Now that’s a real expert at killing dogs,” He casually observed. “That way not a single blood is lost. That kind of dog meat really taste good!”

Xue Bing did not reply, she was afraid that if she did then all that meat that she had just ate would be coming back up.

Two big men who were occupied with watching others playing dice suddenly came walking up.

“Yar ‘ere fo Snake King?” They glared at Lu Xiao Feng.

Lu Xiao Feng nodded. The two men shot each other a look before suddenly attacking, trying to grab ahold of Lu Xiao Feng.

Lu Xiao Feng did not move, the two men had just touched him when they themselves was sent flying off.

The waiter cheered in joy.

“I sad ‘at yar goongfu’s grit, dem di’nt beliva ma an’ lesee ‘f ‘newon els wan’a tra?”

All of the men in the yard had turned and looked at Lu Xiao Feng in awe as they slowly backed up to make a path of him.

The waiter led him into another little vendor place and up a very narrow staircase to a very narrow door. On the door hung a curtain made of black and prayer beads.

“Snake King’s ‘nsi’ ples!”

How could the leader capable of controlling all of those city low lives live in such a downtrodden place? Xue Bing thought it was all very strange, until she walked through the door. Inside the door was like an entirely different world from the one outside. Even a spoilt girl like Xue Bing who had been brought up in the richest of rich families had never seen any room that was so immaculately and expensively decorated. Everything, every object in the room was a priceless masterpiece, from the tea cups made from the whole pieces of white jade to the fruit bowl made from crystals from Persia to even the paintings on the wall. Two of them she recognized were Wu Dao Zi’s portraits, another was a horse drawn by Han Gan, and another was incredibly the work of the Emperor himself.

A person was leaning back onto a padded rocking chair. Smiling, he extended his hands towards Lu Xiao Feng. There was hardly any meat on those hands at all. Xue Bing had never seen anybody so thin in her entire life. Not only was there no meat on his hand, his pale face seemed nothing more than a piece of skin hanging off of bare bones.

Despite it being a scorching day outside, the chair had on it a layer of tiger fur, and on top of that, he was wearing a huge coat. Xue Bing could not have dreamed that the leader of all those city dwellers would be like this. Lu Xiao Feng had already walked over and tightly took his hand into his own.

“I didn’t think that you would actually remember a disabled person like me and would actually come to visit me!” The Snake King smiled.

Xue Bing sighed in relief, finally someone speaking words that she could actually understand.

“I had wanted to visit you for a long time, but this... this time I’m not here just to see you!” Lu Xiao Feng replied.

“It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are here, and I’m already overjoyed about that!”

“I have something to ask of you!”

“You came here, of course it’s to ask me for something, the fact that you can think of coming to me is proof to me that you still think of me as a friend, that’s more than enough!” He laughed heartily and turned toward Xue Bing. “Besides, you brought such a beautiful lady with you, it’s been forever since I have seen anything nearly as beautiful!”

Xue Bing blushed.

“My surname is Xue, full name Xue Bing!” She shyly replied. She suddenly discovered that even though the Snake King was physically weak, he was still a very bold and straightforward person, and a great loyal friend as well. He suddenly discovered that her impression of him was a very good one.

“Xue Bing? Are you the Xue Bing from Divine Needle Xue’s family?”

Xue Bing blushingly nodded.

“Who knew that I would get to see the most famous beauty in all of the martial world?” The Snake King laughed and declared loudly. Holding tightly onto Lu Xiao Feng’s hands he said. “Looks like not only are your taste top notch, your luck is pretty good too. If I were you, I would buy myself a huge drink right about now.”

This time Lu Xiao Feng seemed very obedient as he immediately poured himself a drink and rank it. There was a horn shaped golden cup on the table, and the wine was amber colored.

The wine was about gone when the Snake King finally spoke up again.

“What do you want? If I have it, you can take it. If I don’t have it, I’ll find it for you!”

“I want a map!”

“What map?”

“A map of the lay out of the RoyalPalace, with where the guards and the traps are located on them as well as their shift times!”

This was, of course, not an easy thing to accomplish. But the Snake King did not look troubled, nor did he bother to ask what a map like this was used for.

His answer was very simple.

“Ok!”

Lu Xiao Feng did not thank him, their friendship was beyond that word.

The Snake King looked into his eyes with satisfaction in his own eyes. He understood how Lu Xiao Feng felt. He only asked one question.

“Where are you planning to stay tonight?”

“As You Wish Inn!”

“Before sunset tomorrow, I’ll send someone with the map to you.”

______________________________

The breeze on the river shore is forever cool and refreshing. The night was cool like the water. There was the moon, there were the stars, and there were hundreds of star like fires on the fish boats. With joy in their hearts, they slowly strode on the shore of the rive. This was truly a beautiful city, they liked this city, and also liked the people of this city.

“I finally understood something!” Xue Bing suddenly gently sighed.

“What’s that?” Lu Xiao Feng inquired.

“You really do have alot of great friends!”

“Especially a friend like the Snake King,” Lu Xiao Feng concurred. “Anybody who could have a friend like him is lucky!”

Xue Bing stopped and watched the light on the fishing bloats flicker on the river and the moonlit waves. Her heart was filled with joy and happiness.

“I like this place, in the future I might settle down here!”

“Not only are the people here great, the weather is great, and there’s alot of good stuff to eat here!”

“Especially that grinded meat that you took me to eat,” Xue Bing shyly declared. “I’ll never forget it!”

“If you knew what it was made of, then you would really never forget it!” Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

“What was it made of?”

“Snake and cat meat.”

______________________________

Xue Bing was still puking. She had already puked 5 times, when she made it back to the inn, she found a washing bowl and hid over in the corner of the room, puking. She was puking out the excess water in her stomach by this point. Lu Xiao Feng just smiled as he stood watching on the side.

Finally, Xue Bing finished puking and turned around. She gave him the meanest glare.

“There must be something wrong with you, you like seeing others suffer.” She bitterly whined through her clenched teeth.

“I don’t like seeing others suffer,” Lu Xiao Feng was still smiling. “I just like seeing you suffer a little!”

“What did I ever do to you?” Xue Bing jumped up. “Why are you torturing me like this?”

“Don’t this type of person have a heart?” Lu Xiao Feng shook his head and sighed. “I took her to eat such delicious food, and yet she’s accusing me of torturing her!”

“So you are saying that I should be grateful to you?”

“Exactly!”

“I’m very grateful, so grateful in fact that I want to bite you to death!”

She suddenly reached over and grabbed him. She bit his ear. It was not a hard bite....

______________________________

The breeze was so gentle, the night was so quiet. Two young and passionate people in a strange but beautiful city - if you are man, don’t you wish you are Lu Xiao Feng? If you are a woman, don’t you wish you are Xue Bing?

______________________________

Dusk, dusk again. Hand in hand, they returned from the city. There was a huge envelope resting on the table.

There was only 4 words on the envelope.

“Fortunate to Not Disappoint!”

Underneath the star light, the street made of green stone slabs was glowing like a mirror.

“Must you go?” Xue Bing held onto Lu Xiao Feng’s hand as tightly as possible. Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“And you won’t allow me to go with you?” Lu Xiao Feng nodded again.

She turned away, because there were tear in her eyes, tears that she did not want him to see.

“If the two of us go, then the chances of us surviving is cut in half!” He explained.

“But... how do you expect to live waiting for you outside all by myself?”

“You could always go find someone to chat or drink!”

“Who do you expect me to go find?”

“Whoever, as long as they have tongues that talk and mouths that drink!” Lu Xiao Feng joked.

Xue Bing snapped her head back around and glared at him. She gave him a rather hard kick in the shin.

“Ok fine! I’ll go and find some other man, you just go ahead and die!” She loudly proclaimed.


 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 16 August 2008 04:05 )