Happy Heroes 05 Print
Friday, 11 July 2008 07:31

Chapter 4 - The Sword and the Staff

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A sword or a staff –– not everyone is fond of the staff. But a staff can be extremely useful.

The staff is more arrogant than the sword. It will only strike after the one who wields it has determined that there is something worth his effort. In contrast, once a sword leaves its scabbard, its sole purpose is to seek out a mortal weakness. Especially this particular sword.

There was a price to unsheathing this sword, and there was a price to returning it to its scabbard. The price to unsheathe it was money. The price to re-sheathe it was blood.

One or two shi chen[2] passed but Golden Lion and the black-clothed man remained seated where they were. Guo DaLu and the others also stayed. They were reluctant to leave and also could not leave. If Guo DaLu pulled out the ingot of gold to pay their tab, it would be the same as announcing to everyone that he was the thief.


JiaGun finally returned, and Guo DaLu got a clear look at him this time. His face looked like skin stretched over a skull. There was no expression on it, nor was there any flesh.

Golden Lion: “So…?”

JiaGun: “His surname Song, not Gao. He was once the treasurer for ‘Liao Dong Beef and Lamb’ in Zhangjiakou, but he stole a sum of money from his employer and fled here to hideout. That is why, even though his gold has been stolen, he doesn’t dare tell anyone.”

Golden Lion gave a grim laugh. “This may be a trick that he [the thief] uses often. Before he strikes, he will uncover a mistake in his victim’s past and use it to his advantage.”

JiaGun: “The style in which he commits his crimes is always the same: clean and impressive. Doors and windows are never disturbed, yet gold goes missing.”

Golden Lion: “When did the thefts occur?”

JiaGun: “Last night.”

Golden Lion: “Once he has decided to strike, he must commit at least 13 large robberies. It is a principle of his.”

JiaGun: “Aside from the Song household, I have discovered another five that were robbed.”

Golden Lion: “And these five households, do the victims also have crimes that they committed in their past?”

JiaGun: “Yes. There is one who was formerly a lower-level ring leader working for Terrestrial Dragon King before he retired from wulin. Now this person is married with a wife and children.”

Golden Lion: “These people have had their run of bad luck already because of this thief. Perhaps you should let them off the hook this time?” JiaGun did not reply; he only looked down at his hands, a cold smile on his face.

Golden Lion gave him a knowing look. “I know you won’t let them off easily. Bad luck always happens to anyone who once worked for Terrestrial Dragon King and who crosses your path. But you should be careful as well. You could potentially end up being the unlucky one should you encounter Terrestrial Dragon King or that ‘venomous snake.’ ” JiaGun continued to remain silent, and the cold smile never left his face.

Golden Lion: “Regardless, the information we received appears to be correct. It seems that all these years, he has made this place his hideout.

JiaGun: “I knew the information was from a reliable source. Why else would I tell you to pay 10,000 liang?”

Golden Lion: “But he has been in hiding for seven, eight years. Why do you think he has suddenly decided to strike again?”

JiaGun: “It’s called a thieving itch.”

They were not afraid of anyone hearing their conversation, and Guo DaLu, of course, was not going to pass up the chance to listen in. He could not help but admit that this JiaGun did have a way with things. But who was this “he” that they kept speaking of?

JiaGun suddenly gave a sinister laugh. “Since the robberies were only committed last night, he must still be hiding in the city. I got a look at all the people who left the city this morning. Aside from a group of performers who stood out as a little strange, everyone else looked to be law-abiding citizens.”

Golden Lion: “Do you think he would have put the loot with the group of performers to bring out of the city?”

JiaGun: “From observing the dust that they kicked up as they walked, they had no more than ten liang of silver on them.”

The corner of Golden Lion’s mouth suddenly curled up in a malicious smile. “If that is the case, he is definitely still in the city.”

Guo DaLu fought against the urge to interject at this point and ask, “How do you know he hasn’t snuck out of the city through some alleyway or back road? And how can you be sure he’s not trying to sneak away right at this moment?” But of course, he could not ask them.

Fortunately, he did not need to because JiaGun was already answering his questions. “Each time he strikes, it will be for at least 10,000 or more liang of gold. I have secretly arranged for checkposts on all routes out of the city. There is no way anyone can hope to escape with 10,000 liang.”

Golden Lion: “Of course, he will never willingly spit out something that he has already swallowed. This person values money as much as his own life. He is known for taking everything he can possibly get and once it is in his possession, he will not give it up, no matter what.”

JiaGun smirked. “That has always been a bad habit of his. I always knew that one day this habit would cost him his name and reputation!”

Golden Lion: “But this person is extremely shrewd, and he is an expert of disguises. He can even change his height and stature.”

Guo DaLu was grinning as he listened, not at all concerned about any of this, especially now when his stomach was filled with the zhu ye qing [*a type of wine] from Yan Mao Yuan.

JiaGun’s face did not show a hint of expression as his gaze suddenly fixed upon Guo DaLu. Slowly he stood up and walked over.

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[2] An ancient measure of time. 1 shi chen = 2 hours

 

His complexion was ashen, and his eyes had a grisly look. If a faint-hearted person were to see him at night, not only would a confession be extracted, the poor person would likely end up wetting his pants in fear. “This guy shouldn’t be called JiaGun. [Chinese] Vampire would be much more appropriate.” The sentence nearly escaped from Guo DaLu’s lips. Do not think that he did not dare say it. As long as his belly was filled with wine, there was nothing that Guo DaLu did not dare do.

Wang Dong and the others were not bothered by the situation. “To make friends with this Guo DaLu means that you are prepared at all times to fight for him.” To them, getting in fights was an everyday occurrence. Even Lin TaiPing was not an exception.

JiaGun eyes were no longer fixed on him, but Guo DaLu still glowered back. One wrong statement from either party was all that was needed for the fight to break out.

Golden Lion suddenly spoke. “These people do not need to be questioned.”

JiaGun: “Why?”

Golden Lion: “If they were guilty, do you think they would be sitting here discussing my nose?” It turned out that not only did this man have an acute sense of smell, his hearing was extremely sharp as well.

A laugh escaped from Guo DaLu. “You could hear everything?”

Golden Lion: “In our line of work, not only must we observe everything around us, we must always keep our ears open as well.”

Guo DaLu: “And you’re not angry?”

Golden Lion: “Why should I be angry? My nose may be ugly but it is not disgraceful.”

Guo DaLu’s impression of this man improved drastically. “Not only is it not disgraceful, it’s not ugly either. A man should have a large nose, the larger the better. Mature women are attracted to men with large noses.”

Golden Lion erupted in laughter. “Your nose is not so bad itself.”

Guo DaLu gave his nose a rub and smiling, said, “So-so. It will pass.”

Golden Lion: “Do you live in the city here?”

Guo DaLu: “Not in the city. Up in the hills.”

Golden Lion: “Are there many people living in the hills?”

Guo DaLu: “Living people, there’s only the four of us but dead people, there are lots.”

Golden Lion: “Dead people?”

Guo DaLu: “We live in a place right next to the cemetery. It’s called Wealthy Manor. If you have time, feel free to come over for a drink.”

Golden Lion: “We most certainly will visit.” He stood. “Shopkeeper, the bill please. And we will pay for the tab for these friends as well.”

Guo DaLu jumped to his feet. “That’s not right. We are the host here. You must allow us to extend our friendship as hosts and treat you to this meal.” Not only did he like making new friends, he enjoyed treating guests even more.

No one could make friends as fast as him, nor could anyone pay a tab as quickly as he did. However, as his hand reached into his pocket, he realized he could not pull it back out. He could not take out the ingot of gold with everyone’s eyes on him.

But Golden Lion did not continue to insist on paying. Smiling he said, “If that’s the case, then ‘obedience is better than politeness.’ Thank you.”

JiaGun suddenly tapped Guo DaLu on his shoulder. “The city will be in chaos for the next couple of days. If you have no specific reason to be out, it would be best if you all stayed at home and avoid any trouble.” Without waiting for a response, he applied a force on Guo DaLu’s shoulder and said, “Do not trouble yourself to see us out the door. Please, have a seat.”

Grinning, Guo DaLu replied, “I’m tired from sitting. I prefer to stand.” JiaGun had used eighty percent of his strength, yet it did not get a reaction from Guo DaLu at all. He eyed Guo DaLu up and down a few times, then without a backwards glance, he left.

Suddenly, they heard Golden Lion’s voice say, “Do you know that person across the street?” On the opposite side of the street, a hunchbacked old man with silvery hair was carrying a bucket of dirty water out of a shop. “SPLASH!” He emptied the water onto the street.

Guo DaLu laughed. “Of course. He’s the storekeeper of Li Yuan Pawnshop. We all call him ‘Huo BoPi’ [*literally, one who skins people alive. i.e. he squeezes people for every penny].”

Golden Lion’s eyes never left the old man until he had disappeared back into the shop. “Please, take your time. We must take our leave now.” He left and caught up to JiaGun. After whispering something amongst themselves, they went together in the direction of the pawn shop.

It was only then that the man in black unhurriedly rose from his seat and slowly walked past Guo DaLu and the others.

They all lowered their heads and sipped their wine. No one wanted to look at him because when they did, it was as if they were looking at a venomous snake. He did not stop, but all of a sudden, he said, “Huang YuHe, greetings.” They paused in confusion. No one knew who he was talking to.

But in several large strides, he was already out the door.

Guo DaLu shook his head and muttered, “Maybe he’s got some sort of problem.”

Lin TaiPing was still staring at the sword on the black-clothed man’s retreating back. “That sword is at least four feet, seven inches long.”

Yan Qi: “You’ve got a good eye. I would guess that you must use a sword as well?”

Lin TaiPing appeared to have not heard the question. “From what I know, only three people in the entire martial world use such a long sword.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh? Which three?”

Lin TaiPing: “One is called Ding YiLang, who is reputedly the illegitimate child of Scarlet Wood San Tai Lang , the FuSang [*ancient Japan] wanderer and Ding Li, the heroine of Yellow Mountain. Scarlet Wood San TaiLang is a swordsman from FuSang’s “Cloaking Wind, Flowing Sword” sect. That is why Ding YiLang’s swordsmanship incorporates the strengths of both FuSang’s and Yellow Mountain’s sword techniques.”

Yan Qi stared intently at him. “I never would have thought that your knowledge of wulin secrets would be even more extensive than mine.”

Lin TaiPing hesitated briefly before answering, “I heard it from someone else.”

Guo DaLu: “And what about the other two?”

Lin TaiPing: “The second is Gong HongFen, the only successor of Gong ChangHong’s sword skills.”

Guo DaLu: “Gong HongFen? That sounds like a woman’s name.”

Lin TaiPing: “That’s because she is a woman. Did you think that a woman cannot use such a long sword?”

GuoDaLu laughed. “I just believe that the black-clothed person couldn’t possibly be a woman.”

Yan Qi: “I heard that Ding YiLang recently went to FuSang to look for his father, so the person in black should not be him either.”

Guo DaLu: “What about the third person?”

Lin TaiPing: “That person is ‘Roaming Soul Beneath the Sword’ NanGong Chou.”

Guo DaLu: “Roaming Soul Beneath the Sword? Isn’t that a phrase that you would curse someone with [*to die by the sword and become a soul]? Why would he choose such a name for himself?”

Lin TaiPing: “Many years ago, there was a strange person in the martial world called ‘Fierce Crucifix Sword.’ No one who crossed paths with him could escape his sword. He even killed ‘West Mountain Three Friends’ and ‘Finest Sword of Jiangnan,’ who were all very famous at the time. Only NanGong Chou has ever escaped from beneath the fury of his sword. NanGong Chou, himself, felt extremely lucky and hence, gave himself the martial name, ‘Roaming Soul Beneath the Sword.’ ”

Guo DaLu laughed. “He lost out to someone else’s swordsmanship yet he still thinks he’s lucky. This person is quite amusing.”

Lin TaiPing: “He is most definitely not amusing.”

Guo DaLu: “Why do you say that?”

Lin TaiPing: “It is said that his favourite thing to do is to kill. Sometimes he kills people for his own pleasure, other times it’s for money. And though he was able to escape from the Crucifix Sword with his life, he still came out of the fight with a cross-shaped scar on his face. That is why he does not allow people to see his face.”

Guo DaLu: “If that’s the case, then the man in black must be him.”

Wang Dong suddenly spoke up. “Not necessarily.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Wang Dong: “How do you know that the person is not a woman, that it’s not Gong HongFen?”

Guo DaLu: “Of course it’s not.”

Wang Dong: “Why? Have you seen his face or his hands? What about his feet? He doesn’t even allow you to see one inch of his body. The only thing you saw was his black clothing. If a man can wear that type of clothing, why can’t a woman?”

Guo DaLu paused in surprise, struggling with the thought. He laughed. “If ‘he’ really is a woman, then that truly would be amusing. I’d definitely want to see what she really looks like.”

Yan Qi said slowly, “As long as it is about women, you find it amusing, don’t you?”

Guo DaLu laughed again. “Most women are more interesting than men. Of course, the ugly and the old are the exceptions.”

Yan Qi sighed. “And this guy actually has the gall to claim that he’s not a pervert. If he isn’t, then I don’t think there are any perverts out there.”

Wang Dong gave a loud yawn. “At least I have one thing in common with a pervert.”

Yan Qi: “What?”

Wang Dong: “Any time, any place, all I can think about is bed.”

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Bed!

The five boxes of gold and jewels were still under the bed.

Even the wealthiest person in the world would not take those five boxes filled with their priceless contents and carelessly shove it under a bed, then leave without locking the door.

But that was exactly what they did.

That was because no one would ever dream that underneath that old, worn-out bed was a storehouse of treasures. Plus, there was nothing left in the house. Aside from beneath the bed, there was no other place that they could hide those five boxes.

“Why don’t we bury them underground?” Yan Qi had suggested.

Wang Dong was the first person to argue against that idea. “We’ll have to sweat and work now just to bury it and then a couple days later, we’ll have to sweat and work again to dig it back up. If in the end all we’re going to do is dig it back out, why bury it in the first place?” Lazy people always have a good excuse to refuse working.

Wang Dong’s reasoning was certainly logical.

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He was now back to lying on his bed.

Guo DaLu was hanging upside down, fervently practicing how to drink wine in that position. He was determined to learn how to do it. In fact, if he heard of anyone out there who could drink wine through their eyes, even if it was only one person, he would keep practicing until he had mastered that skill as well.

Lin TaiPing sat holding his head on the stone steps at the front of the house. No one could tell whether he was deep in thought or whether something was troubling him. Even though he was the youngest of all of them, he seemed to have the most things troubling his heart.

Yan Qi had slipped away somewhere again. There always seemed to be a hint of secrecy and furtiveness in his actions. He would often sneak off to some place, but no one would know where he had gone or what he was doing.

It seemed deep into the night already, yet at the same time, it still felt early.

Someone once said, “Time governs all of creation, and only time is truly eternal.” But in this place, that saying did not appear to be completely accurate. Although the people in this place did not use time to their advantage, they were not slaves to time either.

When Guo DaLu had finished his third bowl of wine, Lin TaiPing suddenly stood up from the stone steps. The expression on his face was ecstatic, yet very serious as well, like a general announcing to his troops an extremely important battle strategy. Nevertheless, no matter how serious a person’s expression is, if you are looking at him while hanging upside down, his face will somehow become incredibly comical. Guo DaLu nearly spurted out in laughter the wine he had just drank.

Lin TaiPing: “I have something to say.”

Suppressing his giggles, Guo DaLu replied, “I can tell.”

Lin TaiPing: “There is someone who lives in the city whose martial arts is extremely powerful. Not only that, he also knows the art of disguises and the skill of contortionism. He was once responsible for a series of big cases that left the officials with nothing but headaches.”

Guo DaLu blinked. “I think I had heard about this before too.”

Lin TaiPing: “Not only you, Sour Plum Soup knows this as well.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Lin TaiPing: “Furthermore, she must have a deep-seated animosity, an enmity, towards this person.”

Guo DaLu: “Enmity?”

Lin TaiPing: “But she is in the same situation as we are. She only knows that he is hiding out somewhere in the city but doesn’t know where exactly nor what identity he is using. Even though she wants to seek him out for revenge, she doesn’t know where to find him. Therefore…”

All of a sudden, he did not seem as funny and loveable to Guo DaLu anymore. With a somersault, Guo DaLu dropped back to the ground. “Therefore what?”

Lin TaiPing: “Therefore, she thought up a scheme to get someone else to find him for her.”

Guo DaLu: “And of course she must have known that GunZi The Stick and Golden-Coat Pekingese are the best in the world at finding people.”

Lin TaiPing: “She also knew that they were already in the vicinity, so she somehow leaked the information to them that this famous thief was hiding in the city.”

Guo DaLu: “Then she went into the city and committed seventeen or eighteen burglaries. What’s more, she intentionally mimicked the style of how he commits his crimes to lead The Stick and Golden-Coat Pekingese to the conclusion that these thefts must have been his doing.”

Lin TaiPing: “That wasn’t the most important reason for doing it.”

Guo DaLu: “What is then?”

Lin TaiPing: “Her actions would have confirmed to The Stick and Golden-Coat Pekingese that the famous thief is in the city, so they would then put effort into the search. People of their status do not bother making an effort for information that is merely a rumour.”

Guo DaLu: “But she had a problem.”

Lin TaiPing: “Her problem was, she had all these stolen goods but she had no way of getting them off her hands or transporting them out of the city because The Stick and Golden-Coat Pekingese had already arrived.”

Guo DaLu: “Correct. The goods were conspicuous and to hide them would not be an easy task.”

Lin TaiPing: “Not only would it be difficult, it would require some effort and thought. That’s why…”

Guo DaLu laughed wryly. “That’s why she found someone else to hide it for her. But out of everyone out there, why did she pick me?”

Lin TaiPing: “She undoubtedly knew that you lived here and knew that even ghosts don’t like coming to this place. Hiding the goods here is like…”

Guo DaLu: “Like hiding wine in your stomach: safe and secure.”

Wang Dong suddenly spoke up. “That also was not the most important reason.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Wang Dong: “Most importantly, the person whom she entrusted this task to must be a careless idiot who befriends every Miss Cat or Mr. Dog that he comes across.”

Not only did Wang Dong rarely move, he rarely spoke either. And when he spoke, his words were usually a conclusion of some sort. But this time, the person who drew the conclusion was not him. It was Guo DaLu himself.

Guo DaLu let out a long sigh and forcing a smile, he said, “Making friends with all the cats and dogs doesn’t matter so much. The real idiot is the one who sees a pretty girl and is so senseless he doesn’t even remember how to move.”

Lin TaiPing frowned. “And who are you referring to?”

Guo DaLu pointed at his own nose and said, “I’m referring to myself.” In reality, Guo DaLu was not as befuddled as he appeared but rather, he refused to put much thought into most matters. Once he actually thought it through, he often understood things more clearly than most people.

Lin TaiPing interrupted again. “You made another mistake also.”

Guo DaLu said with a sigh, “Mr. Guo making mistakes is not a strange occurrence. Now, if he does something right, that would be an amazing phenomenon.”

Lin TaiPing: “You shouldn’t have used that ingot of gold to pay the bill at the restaurant.”

Guo DaLu: “If I didn’t use the ingot of gold to pay, did you expect me to pay by chopping off my fingers? Don’t forget, you drank just as much as I did.”

Lin TaiPing: “If The Stick and Golden-Coat Pekingese find out that we paid using gold, they will certainly wonder where these poor ghosts got the gold from. And when that happens, trouble will definitely be heading our way.”

Guo DaLu: “Could I tell you something as well?”

Lin TaiPing: “Sure.”

Guo DaLu: “First, The Stick and Pekingese will not find out because Mai LaoGuang is not one to gossip.”

Lin TaiPing: “You have a ‘first’ so obviously there must be a ‘second’ that’s following.”

Guo DaLu: “Second, Mr. Guo having a few ingots of gold on him is not impossible or completely unheard of and is nothing worth getting alarmed over. In addition, I had inspected the ingot, and it had no marking or symbols on it. Anyone who dares say that it was stolen will get a good clout across the face from me.”

Lin TaiPing: “Anything other points?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes. Everyone needs to eat, and if we wanted to eat, we would have eventually had to use that ingot anyway.”

They heard a voice say, “This is actually the most important point. Sour Plum Soup required a person that is not only a perverted idiot but also an insanely poor and insanely starved idiot.” This also was a conclusion. The person who drew the conclusion this time was also not Wang Dong. It was Yan Qi.

Yan Qi’s appearances were just as mysterious and quick as his disappearances.

Guo DaLu shook his head and gave a wry smile. “When this guy talks to anyone else, he’s still rather civilized, but for some reason, he enjoys throwing insults my way.”

Yan Qi laughed. “If you weren’t my friend, I wouldn’t bother wasting my breath to insult you.”

Guo DaLu: “Wang Dong is your friend too. Why don’t you try throwing a few insults at him?”

Wang Dong laughed. “You’ve already exhausted all the possible ways to insult me. Why would we need anyone else to do the job?”

Guo DaLu had to laugh as well. He strolled over and patted Yan Qi on the shoulder. “Where did you slip off to this time?”

Yan Qi: “I … I just went for a stroll.” It seemed that he did not like people touching him. Every time Guo DaLu touched him, he looked very uncomfortable. Perhaps this was because, aside from Guo DaLu, very few people were actually willing to come in contact with him. They only needed to take one look at the clothes he was wearing and they would be retching up the previous night’s dinner.

Guo DaLu: “Where did you go for your stroll?”

Yan Qi: “The foot of the mountain, in the city.”

Guo DaLu: “There’s nothing to see there.”

Yan Qi: “Who said there isn’t?”

Guo DaLu: “There is?”

Yan Qi: “Didn’t you see a beautiful woman carrying two baskets just yesterday evening?”

Guo DaLu: “Well, what did you see tonight?”

Yan Qi: “Murder.”

Guo DaLu: “Murder? Who was committing the murder?”

Yan Qi: “The Stick.”

Guo DaLu: “The Stick committed murder? Who did he kill?”

Yan Qi: “A suspect.”

Guo DaLu: “Who was the suspect? What was he suspicious of?”

Yan Qi: “GunZi is looking for a man in his fifties who moved here ten years ago. Therefore, any man who moved here within the last ten years is suspicious and could potentially be Feng QiWu [*Phoenix Perched in the Parasol Tree].”

Guo DaLu: “Who is Feng QiWu?”

Yan Qi: “Feng QiWu is the person that GunZi is trying to find.”

Lin TaiPing interjected, asking, “The Feng QiWu that you are talking about, is it ‘Chicken and Dogs Will Not Be Spared’ Feng QiWu?”

Yan Qi: “That is him.”

Guo DaLu chuckled. “His name is so sophisticated and elegant. How did he get such a horrible-sounding martial name?”

Yan Qi: “Because once he strikes, he will steal everything possible, and a person is left with nothing, not even a penny. Many people that he left in poverty and ruin had no choice but to hang themselves or slit their own throats. So even though he has never killed anyone, the number of people that he has driven to the point of death is not small.”

Lin TaiPing: “I have heard that this person is cruel and ruthless. He views money to be as important as his own life, and he will not spend the money that he has stolen.”

Guo DaLu: “Could it be that he took the money and gave it to charity?”

Yan Qi: “This man has done everything out there but he has never done a single act of charity.”

Guo DaLu: “So where has his money gone?”

Yan Qi: “Nobody knows.”

Guo DaLu was lost in thought for a while. “How many people in the city are potential suspects?”

Yan Qi: “There weren’t many to start and now there are even less.”

Guo DaLu: “How many has The Stick killed?”

Yan Qi: “Five or six, maybe six or seven.”

Guo DaLu glowered at him. “And when he killed, you were right there watching him?”

Yan Qi: “I can’t be bothered to watch anymore.”

With another angry glare at him, Guo DaLu jumped up and rushed out the door.

Wang Dong heaved a sigh. Grumbling under his breath, he said, “Why is it that, ever since I met him, it seems that I have no choice but to get up and move?”

Guo DaLu may not have been befuddled, but he was very rash and impulsive. He should have first asked Yan Qi, “What type of people did GunZi kill?” He did not ask, though, because he knew that anyone GunZi killed could not be much of a good person. He understood, yet he still could not control his hot-headedness. Even though this was a bad habit, it was much better than being callous and heartless.

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The man in black had a habit as well – he would never walk in front of anybody. Of course, this was not a matter of being polite or humble but rather, it was because he preferred to have his eyes on people instead of his back facing them.

At this moment, he was walking behind GunZi and Golden Lion. They were not concerned because they knew that his sword never pierced anyone from behind. Although he wore a black cloth to prevent people from seeing his face, he was still a person who cared much about face and honor.

Silence filled the street. Only two or three houses still showed a dim light in their windows. Their footsteps took them to the fourth house on the left side of the street, where they stopped.

The house was similar to any other house found in the city. Its construction was simple but sturdy, the door narrow and thick, and its windows, covered in yellowed paper, skinny and tall. The dull, yellow light of a lamp shone through the windows. The door and windows were tightly shut.

Golden Lion said in a low tone, “Is this house?” GunZi nodded.

Golden Lion suddenly flew into the air. Although he had a large build, he was adept in lightness kung fu, and his motions were extremely lithe and agile. With a light tap on the ridge of the roof with his toe, he was over and inside the house.

GunZi turned and glanced at the man in black, then in a loud voice, cried out, “This is the state on official business. Residents shall stay inside with all doors and windows shut. Anyone who disobeys will be killed on the spot.” Before he was finished, the lights inside the house had gone out.

A loud crashing noise disturbed the silence. Someone had broken a window at the back of the house and was trying to escape. But Golden Lion was prepared. They heard a cry of panic, then Golden Lion’s low voice saying, “Where do you think you are going?”

Suddenly, a shadow appeared on the roof of the house. Its display of lightness kung fu was not inferior to that of Golden Lion, but the person’s build was significantly smaller. Hesitating for a moment, the shadowy figure flew off towards the east.

GunZi did not move.

It also seemed like the black-clothed man had not moved. But all of a sudden, he was already on the roof of the house, blocking the shadowy figure’s escape route. In fear, the figure struck out with his two fists. It did not appear as if the black-clothed man had returned the blow, but the figure was already toppling to the ground into the middle of the street.

Slowly, GunZi walked over towards him. With his hands behind his back, he lowered his head to stare at the man on the ground. The wind was bitterly cold in the solemn night. In the darkness, his eyes looked like a pair of awls. A pair of awls covered in ice.


End of Chapter 4