LXF03-09 PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 16 August 2008 04:28

 

Chapter 9 - Belt Troubles


 

 

September 15th, noon. The sunlight was resplendent as it shone down on the city. Lu Xiao Feng walked out of the Goldfish Alley and began walking down this ancient yet still bustling street. Despite the fact he did not sleep at all the night before, he still looked to be full of energy and spirit.

Men and women were wandering up and down the street as the big and small vendors on either side of the street were flourishing. Even though he had somehow gotten himself into more trouble than he could count, his heart was still filled with joy. Because he liked people.

He liked women, he liked children, he liked friends, he would always have a heart overflowing with warmth for all people. Most people liked him in return. The cloth on his back might be slightly dirty, but his eyes still had that gleam in them, he was still standing as tall and as proud as he ever did. Any woman from 14 up to 40, once they laid eyes on him, would surely secretly take a second look his way.

He had take off the belts he had tied around his waist and placed them on his shoulder. Of the 6 belts, he had already given out 2, one to Honest Monk, another to Tang Tian Zong.

Now he was only hoping to get rid of these 4 belts as soon as possible. The only question stopping him was that he had not figured out who to give these to yet. Up ahead was a little trained monkey show about to get started as children immediately crowded around it.

An old man with a headful of silver hair, supported by a cane, came slowly walking out from a pharmacy and was almost knocked over by two of the children trying to make it over to the monkey show.

Lu Xiao Feng immediately ran over and caught him, preventing him from falling over.

“How do you do sir?” He smiled.

The old man was bent over, trying to catch his breath. Suddenly, he turned his head towards Lu Xiao Feng, winked, stucked out his tongue, and made a face.

Lu Xiao Feng was flabbergasted. He had seen quite a few odd occurences, but he had never had any old men make any faces at him.

When he finally took a good look at the old man’s eyes, he almost screamed. Si Kong Zhai Xing! Turned out this old man was actually that peerless and matchless “King of Thieves” in disguise.

Although he managed to not scream, he put some force into his hand and gave his upper arm a nice little squeeze.

“You little asshole, you’ve showed up as well?” He said in a low voice.

“Well, since even a big asshole like you have showed up, why can’t a little asshole like me be here?”

Lu Xiao Feng put in a little more strength into his squeeze: “Are you planning to steal one of my satin belts?”

Si Kong Zhai Xing’s face concorted in pain as he furiously shook his head.

“You aren’t?”

“No, I really am not.”

Seeing the look on his face, Lu Xiao Feng finally let go and smiled.

“Did you switch professions?”

“No!” Si Kong Zhai Xing answered as he sighed and rubbed his shoulder.

“If you haven’t changed professions, then why aren’t you going to steal?”

“I already have one, why would I still need to steal another one?”

“What do you already have?”

“A satin belt.”

Lu Xiao Feng paused for a second.

“You already have a satin belt?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you get it?”

Si Kong Zhai Xing smiled.

“I just took it off of a friend.”

“And that friend would be me?”

Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed: “You know I don’t have that many friends.”

Lu Xiao Feng gnarled and reached out, trying to grab him again.

But Si Kong Zhai Xing was not about to let him grab him again as he ran far far away.

“Of the four satin belts on you, I only took one, that’s already pretty big of me, aren’t you satisfied?” He asked in between laughs.

Lu Xiao Feng glared at him, but then suddenly broke out into a laugh as well.

“I had assumed you were an intelligent guy, but it turns out you are an idiot!”

Si Kong Zhai Xing blinked, waiting for what he was going to say next.

“Have you asked yourself why would I just carry these satin belts so casually if they were the real satin belts?”

“Could this satin belt be fake?” Si Kong Zhai Xing almost yelled.

Lu Xiao Feng gave him a little wink, stuck out his tongue, and made a face to him in return.

Si Kong Zhai Xing stood there dumbfounded for a long time and then seemingly magically pulled the satin belt out from inside his sleeve.

“It really does look a little fake.” He mumbled.

Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

“I know you claim to never steal anything fake, but who would have expected that today would be the day you would be fooled.”

“Please don’t tell anybody about this, you’ll destroy my reputation.”

“You stole from me, and I can’t even tell others about it?” Lu Xiao Feng mused.

“What if I give it back?”

“If you give it back, I’ll still talk. The King of Thieves actually stole the wrong article! All those thief underlings of yours would probably laugh off all of their teeth when they hear about this!”

“What if I give the satin belt back to you and then take you out to a huge meal?”

Lu Xiao Feng hesitated and pretended to weigh his options.

“This could be worth considering, it’ll depend on what kind of food you are going to get me.”

“Fish fins braised in soy sauce, plus two big fat ducks, what do you say?”

{Note: Since they are in Beijing, the two ducks Si Kong Zhai Xing is referring to is, of course, Peking Ducks}

Lu Xiao Feng did not seem too convinced, finally, with much hesitation, he nodded. In reality, he was almost about to burst on the inside and roll around on the ground, dying in laughter.

--I have still fooled this little asshole. Seeing Si Kong Zhai Xing presenting satin belt back to him with such respect and decorum, he found it even harder to suppress his urge to laugh. Not only did he want to just roll around in laughter, he felt like doing somersaults.

But then, unexpectedly, Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly withdrew the satin belt.

“No, can’t do!” He shook his head.

“What can’t you do?” Lu Xiao Feng immediately asked.

“The ducks would be too fattening, and the fish fins would be way too greasy. If you eat too much you’ll get diarrhea. We are old friends, I can’t do that to an old friend!”

Lu Xiao Feng was dumbfounded once again.

Si Kong Zhai Xing blinked.

“Besides, I’ve just had an epiphany. Having a fake belt is still better than have no belt, wouldn’t you say?” He also looked like he was trying very hard to resist bursting out in laughter before finally giving in as he did three somersaults and jumped up onto the roof of a building. Still laughing, he waved goodbye to Lu Xiao Feng and suddenly disappeared.

Lu Xiao Feng’s belly almost exploded in anger.

“I swear, that little asshole is my nemesis. I get nothing but bad luck every time I ran into him.” He mumbled through clenched teeth.

He did not even finish before he suddenly realized that all those little children that had been watching the monkey show had surrounded him. Every single one of their eyes looking up at him, as if they all found him even more interesting than that little monkey show.

“Why aren’t you guys watching the monkey over there?” Lu Xiao Feng could barely keep a straight face, realizing the irony of his remark.

One particular kid shook his head.

“The monkey isn’t any fun, you are fun.”

Lu Xiao Feng did not know if he should laugh or get angry.

“What’s so fun about me?” He had to ask.

“You are friends with that gramps, so you definitely know how to fly as well.”

Lu Xiao Feng finally figured it out, these kids were gathered around waiting to see him fly.

The kids all began shouting and begging: “Mister, can you fly for us? Please?”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed, but then suddenly let out a little laugh at his own genius.

“I’ll teach you all a little song, and if you sing it for me, I’ll fly for you guys ok?”

Every single one of the kids immediately clapped in excitement.

“Yes, we’ll sing, we’ll sing it every day from now on!”

Lu Xiao Feng immediately got down to teaching the kids the song:

“Si Kong Zhai Xing, is a monkey faerie.
Naughty faerie, is a rotten rascal.
Bad bad rascal, deserves a big spanking.”

These kids were such good learners, they picked the song up right away and began singing it at the top of their lungs, singing non-stop.

The more Lu Xiao Feng listened to this song, the funnier he thought it was. Soon he was doubled over in laughter. Then, he also did three somersaults, landed on the roof of a building, and waved goodbye to the kids.

“If you sing this song whenever you can, I’ll come back and fly for you guys whenever I can!” He said in between fits of laughter.

______________________________

There really was one less belt from the 4 that was supposed to be on his shoulder. Even Lu Xiao Feng had to concede that Si Kong Zhai Xing really was something else, that little monkey faerie was actually able to steal something away from Lu Xiao Feng right there in front of him.

First he felt like his belly would burst in anger, then almost burst in laughter, but now he only felt the emptyness inside his belly. He was starving. Lucky for him, it was lunch time. Enmanating from all of the restaurants, big or small, was a cacophany of cleavers and kitchen utensils as they prepared all manners of food. Even those who were not hungry would get hungry just from listening to them. If he does not get a big meal right now, this belly of his that almost exploded in anger and then almost burst in laughter would probably just implode out of hunger.

“Bring me a big dish of fish fins braised in soy sauce, a roasted duck, an entire kilogram worth of biscuits, and on top of that, give me one and half kilogram worth of Bamboo Green and 4 more dishes that goes down with wine.”

He went into the closest restaurant, grabbed the nearest table, order 8 or so dishes off the top of his head, and waited.

None of the eight or so dishes had arrived yet, but in strolled either or so people from the outside. The man in front was dressed in the finest silk and carried himself owned the place. Even though there was some slight hint of white in his sideburns, he was still dressed like a young bachelor. Around his waist was a jade belt that was studded huge crystals and some even bigger emeralds. That belt alone was priceless, but the sword tied to that belt was far more invaluable than the belt.

Following behind him was a group of seemingly insufferably arrogant young men, each one of them dressed fancier than the other and they all seemed to got their eyes on top of their heads. But every single one of them moved with an agility and nimbleness that seemed to prove that they were all quick skilled in martial arts.

These men walked in, shot one look over at Lu Xiao Feng, and sat down as a group at the biggest table Though they did not even bother looking anybody else, as if they were somehow unworthy of being noticed by them, they at least all shot Lu Xiao Feng a look.

Lu Xiao Feng could not be bothered to pay attention to them, but he did still recognize that sword that was tied to that jade belt.

A sword, sheathed in a black fish skin with a platinum mouth, was a very strangely shaped and unusually long sword. Along with the blood red tassel was two fish figurines carved out of pure white jade. Anybody who recognize this sword would also recognize the person with the sword.

This silk clothed middle aged man was, of course, none other than the master of Eternal Joy Mansion of Double Fish Pound of Tiger Mound from South of the Yangtze, “Peace and Tranquility Swordsman” Si Ma Zi Yi. “Nan Gong Gold, Ou Yang Silver, Si Ma Jade.” That saying was referring specifically to the three biggest ancient and aristocratic families of the martial world.

Jade had always been the most precious among the three, so EnteralJoyMansion was, without a doubt, the richest and most extravagant of the them all. Besides the family martial arts that he inherited, Si Ma Zi Yi was the lone disciple of the “Mister Iron Sword” of yesteryears. He was a handsome young man that excelled in both the academic and the martial aspects of life, add that on top of his famous family legacy, and the result was that he was reknowned throughout the world before he turned twenty. Even though he was now entering middle age, his still had his youthful arrogance and temper as well as his still handsome appearence.

To be able to see such a man in his full glory was supposed to be a very enjoyable occurrence, but Lu Xiao Feng would much rather lay his eyes on a dish of well cooked fish fins braised in soy sauce.

The fish fins were cooked just right, and the wine was just the right temperature. Lu Xiao Feng picked up his chopsticks and was just about to start eating when he noticed a young man dressed in purple with pair of fish made of white jade hanging from his sword walking towards him.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed to himself. Trouble had found him once again. So he immediately, before the young man got too close, stuffed his mouth full of fish fins.

With his hand on his sword, the young man coldly sized Lu Xiao Feng up and down a couple of times before finally cupping his fist in a salute: “You, sir, must be Lu Xiao Feng.”

Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“I am Hu Qing, I’m from Suzhou, Tiger Mound, Double Fish Pound’s EternalJoyMansion. Sitting over there is my Master. I think you, sir, knew that already.”

Lu Xiao Feng nodded again.

“No point in beating about the bush, Master ordered me to come here to ask you to lend the belts on your shoulder and also invite you, sir, over for a drink.”

This time Lu Xiao Feng did not nod, not did he shake his head, instead he merely pointed at his mouth. He had not swallowed that mouthful of fish fins yet, so there was no way for him to speak.

Hu Qing frowned. Even though it was obvious he was losing his patience, all he could do was to stand there and wait for Lu Xiao Feng to finish chewing.

“You, sir, can just give me the belts now if you want. If you, sir, want to keep one for youself, that’s ok too.” He proposed as soon as he Lu Xiao Feng swallowed that mouthful of fish finsHe mad.

He made sound like it was nothing, as if the fact that he had opened his mouth was already giving Lu Xiao Feng a tremendous amount of face.

Lu Xiao Feng took his time swallowing the fish fins, then took some more time taking a sip of wine before letting out a little satisfied sigh. Then he flashed a smile at Hu Qing.

“I have long admired Master Si Ma’s famed name and reputation, and I’m very thankful for Master Si Ma’s good intentions and kindess. As for the belts....”

“What about the belts?”

“You can’t borrow them.” Lu Xiao Feng rather casually dismissed the offer.

Hu Qing’s expression dropped as he immediately grabbed the sword. But Lu Xiao Feng did not even look at him as he picked up another fish fin and began to meticulously chew it over in his mouth, savouring its flavor.

Hu Qing was almost scowling at him as the blood vessels on the back of his hand were pulsing, as if he was just about to pull out his sword. Suddenly, someone let out a couple of coughs behind him.

“You should not have used that word: ‘lend’, nobody is willing to lend this kind of a thing.”

Si Ma Zi Yi actually lowered himself to come over as well, but he still stopped quite a distance off, as if he was expecting Lu Xiao Feng to get up and greet him.

Lu Xiao Feng did not notice. He was obviously much more engrossed in the plate of fish fins in front of him than anything or anyone else.

So Si Ma Zi Yi had to walk over all by himself and, with that well groomed hand of his, pointed at the table. Hu Qing immediately took a banknote out and placed it down on the table.

Using that same well groomed hand of his, Si Ma Zi Yi stroked his equally well groomed beard: “Jade rings might be nice, but aren’t nearly as useful as money. Bu Ju doesn’t understand people, so of course he was turned down.”

News really did travel fast in the Capital, even someone like him found out about that in just two hours.

“I believe you, sir, feel the same way about this.” Si Ma Zi Yi concluded.

Lu Xiao Feng nodded, conveying that, indeed, he did.

“This is a banknote worth fifty thousand taels that could be cashed immediately. With that amount of money, a normal person would be able to live the rest of his life without any worry.”

Lu Xiao Feng concurred with that as well.

“Fifty thousand taels of silver is more than enough for any two satins belts, any time, anywhere.”

Lu Xiao Feng completely agreed with that as well. A smile appeared on Si Ma Zi Yi’s face as he got ready to leave, as if the deal had just been sealed.

But it was Lu Xiao Feng who suddenly spoke up.

“Why aren’t you, sir, taking this banknote with you?”

“Take it where with me?”

“To a tailor shop.”

Si Ma Zi Yi did not understand.

“There’s quite a number of tailor shops out there. You, sir, can go make the deal with any of them, it would much simpler.”

Si Ma Zi Yi’s expression dropped as well.

“I want to trade this banknote for your belt.”

Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

“This belt isn’t available for trade.”

Si Ma Zi Yi’s seemingly always shining face had turned to a shade of green.

“Don’t forget, this is fifty thousand taels of silver.” He snapped.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“If you will let me eat this entire dish of fish fins in peace, I’ll pay you fifty thousand taels!”

Si Ma Zi Yi’s steely green face turned crimson. Someone sitting at the table to the side could not control himself and let out a little laugh.

As soon as the laughing started, there was a sword flash.

“Ping!” The tip of the sword had been caught by a pair of chopsticks.

The person who laughed was a half drunk merchant, the sword belonged to Hu Qing. With a mere flip of his wrist, the long sword around his waist flew out. But Lu Xiao Feng was even faster, as he suddenly, and casually, reached out with his chopsticks and caught the tip of the blade, like a snake charmer grabbed a snake. Hu Qing’s face froze as he dumbfoundedly looked at Lu Xiao Feng.

“He’s drunk.” Lu Xiao Feng said.

Hu Qing bite down and tried to pull the sword out, but this sword seemed to have merged with the chopsticks.

“There isn’t any rules against laughing here, this isn’t EternalJoyMansion.” Lu Xiao Feng casually observed.

Sweat appeared on Hu Qing’s forehead.

“Bang!” Suddenly, another swordflash struck as the sword in his hand broke in half!

Si Ma Zi Yi’s sword had left its sheath, but now it had returned there.

“Back off,” He callously ordered. “From this day forth, you are forbaded from wielding a sword.”

With his head held low in shame as he looked down at the broken sword in his hand, Hu Qing begin to slowly back up. After 7 or 8 steps, tears suddenly appeared on his face.

“Shame, what a waste!” Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“Waste?”

“Shame about this sword, shame about that young man too. His techniques aren’t too bad, and this sword wasn’t too bad either.”

Si Ma Zi Yi’s expression was still that dark as he coldly declared: “A sword that could be cut in half is not a good sword!”

“Maybe the only reason his sword was cut in half was because somebody was holding on to the tip of the blade.”

“If the sword could be caught, there’s no point in keeping it either.”

Lu Xiao Feng shot him a look.

“So your sword would never be caught if your attacked with your sword?”

“Never.”

Lu Xiao Feng smiled, suddenly smiled.

“My belt isn’t available for borrowing, trading, nevermind selling!”

“Are you daring me to take it by force?” Si Ma Zi Yi mocked.

“Or we could bet for it.”

“What kind of bet?”

“A bet on your sword.”

Si Ma Zi Yi did not understand.

“If it’s true nobody could catch your sword, then you win. And then not only can you walk away with my satin belt, you can come and take my head any time you want as well.”

“I don’t want your head.”

“But you do want one of my satin belts.”

Si Ma Zi Yi glared. “Other than that, is there no other way?”

“No.”

Si Ma Zi Yi did not say anything for a long time.

“I’m going to aim for your left shoulder, get ready.” He suddenly said.

With a smile, Lu Xiao Feng patted his left shoulder: “My shirt isn’t too clean, I haven’t washed it for two days. So you should probably pull out as quickly as you can so it doesn’t get too dirty.”

“As long as there’s blood to wash with, it doesn’t matter if blade gets dirty.” Si Ma Zi Yi coldly humourlessly dismissed.

“I wonder if my blood is clean or not?”

“You are about to find out.”

By the time the word “out” was heard, the sword was already out of its sheath. Like lightning, the flash of the sword fell towards Lu Xiao Feng’s left shoulder. The sword was much longer than swords usually are, so it should be somewhat more difficult to unsheath quicklyu. But he utilized a special technique to pull out his sword so that once it was out of its sheath, it was already almost at Lu Xiao Feng’s shoulder.

Lu Xiao Feng reached out and pinched his two fingers together! This was supposed to be a very simple move, but his precision and speed was something that nobody could imagine, nevermind describe.

This move might be simple, but he forged through countless trials to turn it into, literally, the cream of the crop. Si Ma Zi Yi could feel his heart sink, he could also feel his blood sink. His sword has been caught!

He started practicing with bamboo swords at the age of four. At 7, he began using real swords forged with pure steel. By now, he had studied sword for more than 40 years. Even just on the subject of how to unsheath a sword, he had studied more than 130 different types of maneuvers. At this point, he was capable of, in one motion, unsheath his sword and thread the tip of his blade through the loop hole in the middle of 12 free-falling bronze coins.

Yet now, his sword has been caught. In that instant, he almost could not believe this was true. He gawked at Lu Xiao Feng hand, having a hard time believing that it was a real hand made out of flesh and blood.

Lu Xiao Feng was looking at his own hand as well.

“You didn’t use full force on that strike,” He suddenly observed. “Looks like you really aren’t after my head.”

“You....”

Lu Xiao Feng cut him off with a smile.

“I’m not a good man, but you are not a bad one either. For not wanting my head, I’ll give you a satin belt!”

He untied a belt and hung it at the tip of his sword before getting up and walking out without looking back even once. He was afraid he might change his mind if he did.

Even though he was not full, Lu Xiao Feng still felt good in his heart. Because he knew that, now, Si Ma Zi Yi most surely have come to understand two things. Anybody’s sword could be caught, and the soft approach works much better than the hard approach on some people.

He believed that after learning those two things from this lesson, Si Ma Zi Yi would undoubtly change that arrogant and intimidating air with which he carried himself.

But what was in all of this for him? He did not even think about that. Whatever he did, Lu Xiao Feng never thought for himself.

But his stomach was fiercely objecting. He might not have much of an apetite normally, but two mouthful of fish fins could not nearly be enough to satisfy it. To him, to be able to comfortably eat a quiet and full meal had turned into a nearly impossible proposition.

As long as he had these satin belts with him, no matter where he go, trouble would undoubtly quickly come looking for him.

How should he give out these last two satin belts? Who should he give them to? He was prepared to give one of them to the Wooden Taoist, yet the Wooden Taoist was nowhere in sight. Those who should not show up all showed up, but of those who should, none did.

Because some people never show up when they are suppose to and always does when they are not suppose to. Lu Xiao Feng seemed to be always running into this kind of people, this kind of things. He sighed. Suddenly, he noticed Honest Monk walking up in the other direction, biting into a huge steamed bun in his hand. As soon as he saw Lu Xiao Feng, he reacted as if he had just saw a ghost and was immediately trying to find a way to get away.

But Lu Xiao Feng had already caught up to him and pulled him to a stop.

“Leaving so soon? Where are you going?”

Honest Monk rolled his eyes and replied: “I didn’t bother you, I wasn’t breaking any laws, why are you grabbing me?”

Lu Xiao Feng blinked, and then broke out into a smile.

“Because I want to make a deal with you.”

“I don’t want to make a deal with you, I don’t want to get robbed.”

“I guarantee you won’t get robbed.”

Honest Monk looked at him and hesitated.

“Let me hear what kind of deal you have in mind first.”

“I’ll trade you these two satin belts for that steamed bun in your hand.”

“No deal.”

“Why not?” Lu Xiao Feng yelled.

“Because I know there isn’t this good of a deal in the world.” He rolled his eyes again. “Bu Ju tried to trade you jade rings, you refused. Si Ma proposed fifty taels of silver, you refused. Now you want to trade it for my steamed bun, and you are not insane.”

“Are you afraid that I’m laying down a trap for you?”

“I don’t care if you are or aren’t, I’m not going to fall for it.”

“So you’ve made up your mind?”

“I have.”

“No regrets?”

“No regrets.”

“Alright, no deal. But when I want to talk, you can’t stop me from talking.”

“Talking about what?” Honest Monk had to ask.

“Talk about this story about a monk who went to a brothel to visit a prostitute.”

Honest Monk suddenly forced the steamed bun into Lu Xiao Feng’s hand, grabbed the satin belts, and took off walking in the other direction.

“Don’t forget, one of them is for the Wooden Taoist, you have to save one for him. Or else I’ll still talk.” Lu Xiao Feng shouted at his fading silhouette.

Honest Monk did not even bother to turn around as he disappeared faster than a whipped stallion. Lu Xiao Feng laughed. He did not remember his body ever feeling this light, as if he had never been this happy and relaxed in his life.

He had finally pushed those pieces of hot coal onto somebody else. It was as if a one ton weight off had been just lifted off of his back.

The steamed bun had not completely cooled off yet, biting into it, he could almost swear that this steamed bun was better than those fish fins.

He had been suspecting Honest Monk was the mastermind behind this entire conspiracy, but now he seemed to have forgotten it. Is he stupid? Or really smart?

The sun was slowly sliding towards the west. It was now two hours after Lu Xiao Feng handed those satin belts off to Honest Monk. Nobody knew what he had been up to in those two hours.

He seemed to have just walked around town several times. Even if there were some people following him, he had lost them by now. Of course, he could not risk leading anybody back to Delicious Fragrant Vegetarians.

He entered through the backdoor, there was nary a sound in the backyard. The air was filled with an ever changing mixture of frangrances of chrysanthemum and osmanthus. Even the little goldfishes in the pond underneath the pomegranate tree seemed to be too intoxicated to move.

Through the chrysanthemum brush, a person could be seen sitting inside the little gazebo. Seemingly entranced, sitting there on the rail.

The chrysanthemums were yellow, the rails were red, but her cloth was vivid green in color as it wrapped around her willowy frame. The signs of illness had not completely disappeared on her pale face but new troubles could already been discerned. She looked barely strong enough to hold up her cloth.

The colors of Autumn in this yard might be beautiful, but it could not compare to her beauty. It seemed that only now did Lu Xiao Feng realize just how beautiful Ou Yang Qing really was. Could it be because only now did he know that she has been secretly loving him?

The wind breezed by the bush of chrysanthemums by the rails. There were already several fallen leaves on the path. Quietly, he walked over. Suddenly, he noticed Ou Yang Qing’s gleaming eyes were looking straight at him.

They did not meet too many times. In reality, they have not exchanged more than 10 sentences in conversation.

But now there was indescribable feeling subtlely tugging at Lu Xiao Feng’s heart, causing it to beat faster. He seemed to be totally at a loss as to what to do.

What was she feeling in her heart? At least, Lu Xiao Feng was not able to discern anything different on her face. She was looking at him the same way she always looked at him. Either she was just a very calm person, or she was very good at playing games. And how many women are there in the world that are not very good at playing games?

Lu Xiao Feng sighed under his breath and walked into the gazebo.

“Are you feeling better?” He asked with a awkward smile.

Ou Yang Qing nodded and pointed to the stone stool opposite of her.

“Sit.”

Lu Xiao Feng had planned on sitting down next to her, but if she was going to behave so coldly, he could not exactly act too warm either.

--Why do women enjoy playing games so much?”

Could it be because they all know this type of women was precisely what men likes? If Ou Yang Qing was truly nice and warm towards Lu Xiao Feng, he might have been scared away a long time ago.

So instead, he obediently sat down on that stone stool.

“Where is Xi Men Chui Xue?” There was a lot in his heart he wanted to say, yet he could even say any of them, so he had to settle for that filler.

“He’s in the house with his wife, I figured they must have a lot to say to each other.”

Lu Xiao Feng stood up, but then sat right back down. He had wanted to go in and talk to Xi Men Chui Xue, but he did not want Ou Yang Qing to think of him as unempathetic. The duel was looming, the outcome was still in doubt, this goodbye could very well be the very last one.

He really should let the two of them peacefully spend this entire afternoon together, let them say all those things that nobody else should hear.

The garden seemed to have engulfed them, the fragrance of flowers permeated throughout the air, the scene that surrounded them felt like a dream. Was there not just the two of them as well? Did they not also have very much to talk about?

Yet he could not, for the life of him, think of what to say! He seemed to have turned into a little boy going on his first date.

“Do you know him?” Ou Yang Qing suddenly broke the silence.

“Who?”

Ou Yang Qing pointed to her side, only then did Lu Xiao Feng notice the little wax figurine sitting on the rail. It was Manager Wang’s figurine.

He could not understand why she would suddenly be so interested in the likeness of this eunuch: “Do you recognize him?”

“I’ve seen him before, he came to our place once.”

“Our place” was, of course, the brothel she worked at.

Lu Xiao Feng was even more puzzled.

“Do you know that this man is a eunuch?” He could not help but ask.

“We have all kinds of clients at our place,” Ou Yang Qing nonchalantly replied. “Not only eunuchs, but monks too.”

She still seemed to remember what happened that day, still remembered that Lu Xiao Feng had wronged her. But Lu Xiao Feng seemed to have completely forgotten it, there were way too many much more important questions for him to ponder.

“He isn’t the first eunuch to come to our place, and on that day, he didn’t come alone!” Ou Yang Qing continued.

“Who else was with him?” Lu Xiao Feng immediately followed up.

“When he arrived, it was just him, but afterwards two swordsman from the Southern Sea Sect showed up looking for him, as if they had prearranged a meeting.”

“How do you know they are from the Southern Sea Sect?”

“I recognized their swords.” The Southern Sea Sect’s sword was not only particularly long and narrow, but had a distinct shape as well.

“I could also tell this old man was a eunuch. No matter how he disguises it, I could always tell.”

“Big Shot Sun was there that day too?”

“Mm.”

Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes glowed. Manager Wang had undoubtly arranged that meeting with those two swordmen from the Southern Sea Sect at the brothel to discuss some secret plan.

When they found out that Ou Yang Qing and Big Shot Sun had arrived in the Capital, they feared either one of them would recognize them, so they went after the two of them to shut them up. First Madame Gong Sun’s death undoubtly had something to do with this as well. Those two Southern Sea Sect swordsmen would logically be the same two swords men that perished at the crematorium.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed deeply. He had finally found that thread. Now all he had to do was find the thread that could connect this thread with the other threads he had found, then he would be able to solve this case. Did he find several other threads just now? There was alot one could accomplish in two hours.

“If any eunuch visits our place, I would always make sure to take him to my room!” Ou Yang Qing suddenly stated.

“Why?”

“Because they are not men,” she coldly explained. “The more useless the men are, the more liked to show off how manly they are. So even if I force them to sleep on the floor, they wouldn’t dare complain and would actually pay extra. Because they are deathly afraid others find out about this weakness of theirs.”

“That night, when Honest Monk spent the night in your room, did he sleep on the floor?” Lu Xiao Feng had to ask.

Ou Yang Qing nodded.

“Could he be a eunuch too?”

“He might not be a eunuch, but he isn’t a man either.”

Lu Xiao Feng let out another deep breath. Finally, he had found out why Honest Monk lied to him. “Impotent” was a word that all men viewed as an unimaginable shame. That was why some men would rather be spending money to sleep on the floor of a woman’s bedroom than to let other find out that he was “impotent.”

Honest Monk was a man. Even monks could not avoid retaining that little bit of vanity.

Ou Yang Qing looked down at the little figurine: “That night, thi sold man didn’t even have the nerve to touch me at all because he was so scared that I might find out he was a eunuch.” She said with a mocking smile. “He could have never suspected that the only reason I let him stay was because I could tell he was a eunuch.”

A strange look suddenly appeared on her face.

“Do you know why no man has ever touched me?” She suddenly asked.

Lu Xiao Feng shook his head.

“Because I detest men.”

“Do you detest me as well?” Lu Xiao Feng could not help but ask.

Ou Yang Qing shot a cold look at him. Although she did not refute it, she did not concede the point either. Lu Xiao Feng began to laugh. He suddenly came to a realization -- Ou Yang Qing was not in love with him, not even a little inkling of feeling.

If the 13th Mistress did not tell him, Lu Xiao Feng would have never thought so himself. But it was just that all of those things were said by the 13th Mistress, maybe she purposefully tried to make Lu Xiao Feng believe Ou Yang Qing loved him to make him eat that entire plate of butter soaked snail shells. Not only did Ou Yang Qing not said a word about it herself, she had never even showed any signs of feeling that way.

After getting to the bottom of this, even though there was a little bit of sour taste in his heart, he could not help but let out another sigh, as if he had just been relieved of another burden. His demeanor all of the suddenly turned much more natural. He never believed in love at first sight anyways.

“What are you laughing at?” Ou Yang Qing could not help but wonder.

“I... I’m laughing at Honest Monk. I just passed off two burning hot pieces of coal to him!”

“Hot pieces of coal?”

“Satin belts.”

“What satin belts?” Ou Yang Qing did not understand.

Lu Xiao Feng immediately explain all that had happened. When he was telling her about Si Kong Zhai Xing stealing a belt, he almost got angry again; when he got to Honest Monk, he was doubled over in laughter, acting in general like a little kid.

Ou Yang Qing stared at his face, a strange look appeared in her eyes once again. This man had just traded away two priceless satin belts for one single steamed bun, and still felt as if he had robbed the other party. She really have never met any one like this.

“Shame you haven’t completely recovered, else I would have saved one belt for you so you can see the show.”

“You don’t have one single belt with you now?”

“Not even half of a belt.”

“Are you going to the duel tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Where’s your belt?”

Lu Xiao Feng was dumbstruck. Only now did he realized that he had completely forgot to save a belt from himself. Could that possibly be the reason why Honest Monk ran away so quickly as soon as he got his hands on the belt, he was afraid that Lu Xiao Feng would suddenly remember?

“Tehehe!” Seeing the look on his face, Ou Yang Qing could not help but let out a little laugh. Running into such a fool did not happen very often. Lu Xiao Feng sat there with a dumbstruck look on his face for a long time, completely speechless. Suddenly he leapt to his feet and flew out of the gazebo.

Coincidentally, Xi Men Chui Xue and Sun Xiu Qing were just walking up the flower path when they were greeted by him. Lu Xiao Feng did not even have time to wave hello to them as he flew by right in front of them, as if somebody was chasing him away with a broom.

Sun Xiu Qing looked up at Ou Yang Qing, sitting up there on the rail.

“Did you just piss him off?” She asked.

Ou Yang Qing shook her head with a smile on her face. Such a sweet smile she had, nobody would believe she could actually piss anybody off.

“Then did you bully him?”

“He doesn’t need anybody else bully him, he does a pretty good job of beating himself up.” Ou Yang Qing answered rather playfully.

Sun Xiu Qing looked her up and down a couple of times and smiled: “You seemed to have gotten to know him pretty quickly.”

“I only know he’s a big buffoon.”

“But he is the smartest buffoon.”

“He’s smart?”

“When it comes to himself, he really is a buffoon, because he has never ever given himself a second thought. But if anyone should take him to be a real buffoon and try to trick him, then that someone is going to run into some bad luck.”

“It doesn’t matter if he’s a genius or a buffoon, it has nothing to do with me.” Ou Yang Qing matter of factly announced.

Sun Xiu Qing blinked: “Don’t you like him?”

“Do you think every woman in the world should like him or something?” Ou Yang Qing mocked.

“I’m not talking about every woman, I’m talking about you!”

“Why don’t you talk about something else?”

“You aren’t interested in him at all?”

“No.”

Sun Xiu Qing smiled again.

“You can’t fool me, I can see right through you.” He placed her hand gently on her belly as a joyous and proud gleam flashed in her eyes. “Not only am I another woman, I’m going to be a mother soon. A little girl like you can’t put anything past me.”

Ou Yang Qing did not reply, but her pale face blushed to a crimson red.

“You women are weird.” Xi Men Chui Xue abrubtly declared.

“What’s so weird?”

“The more you like a man in your heart, the less interested you act on the surface. I really don’t understand why you would do that.”

“What do you want us to do? Leap into the men’s arms the moment we lay our eyes on them?”

“Well you could at least be a little bit nicer and warmer to him and not scare him away.”

“When we first met, was a nice to you?”

“No.”

“Yet you were not scared away either.”

Xi Men Chui Xue gazed at her, that warmth returning to his eyes once again.

“A man like me can’t be scared away by anything or anyone!”

“That’s right,” Sun Xiu Qing playfully affirmed. “Men like you are exactly what we women like.”

She walked over and took his hand in hers.

“Because women are like sheeps sometimes, we need to be chased down.” She gently explained. “If you aren’t brave enough to chase her down and just watch her run around back and forth in front of your eyes. Then you would never be able to get your hands on her precious horns.”

Xi Men Chui Xue smiled.

“Have you given your horns to me?”

Sun Xiu Qing gently sighed: “I’ve given you my horns, skin, bones, everything.”

In each other’s arms, they silently stood there under the setting sun. They seemed to have completely forgotten there was someone else there with them, to have completely forgotten this entire world. The setting sun might be beautiful, but soon it would be dusk. How much longer could they spend in each other’s arms?

Ou Yang Qing watched them from afar. Even though, in her heart, she was joyous over their happiness, she was also feeling an indescribable fear, a fear for their happiness.

Because she understood what kind of man Xi Men Chui Xue was, because understood Xi Men Chui Xue’s sword. His sword was not that of men.

A real, feeling, flesh and blood person could have never been able to employ such an unfeeling sword. That sword was literally approaching that of the “divine.”

Xi Men Chui Xue was not a normal, real, feeling, flesh and blood person. His life had long ago been sacrificed for his sword, to his sword. It was as if he had merged with his sword into one, and was also literally approaching that of the “divine.”

But now he had changed into a normal, real man, now he was also made of flesh and blood, he also had feelings. Would he still be able to wield such the same unfeeling sword? Could he possibly defeat Ye Gu Cheng?

The setting sun might be beautiful, but it was almost over and soon the moon would rise. Tonight’s blood seemed destined to be stained red by one man’s blood. But whose blood would it be?