LXF01-10 Print
Friday, 15 August 2008 21:43

Chapter 10 - Broken Souls, Heaven's Wrath



The soft grass had been soaked through by dew, the night was getting deeper.

Huo TianQing slowly made his way through the yard. The distant light in a small building shoned onto his white and withered face. He looked very tired, lonely and tired.

The clear water in the lotus pound was quiet like a mirror, reflecting the moon and a sky full of stars. With his hands behind him, he stood silently at the head of the small bridge. When the wind blew by, a small leaf was brought with it onto the ground.

He bent down and picked this fallen leaf up.

"You are here." He suddenly said.

"I'm here."

When Huo TianQing looked up, he saw Lu XiaoFeng.

Just like the fallen leaf, Lu XiaoFeng floated in from outside the wall and landed on the other side of the lotus pound. He was also staring at Huo TianQing.

Between them, there was about 20 meters of lotus pound, but at the moment they both felt as if the distance between them were too close for comfort.

Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

"You seemed to be waiting for me!" He said.

"I was waiting for you."

"You knew I was going to come?"

Huo TianQing nodded.

"I knew you had to come."

"Why?"

"Since you left, a lot of things happened here."

"A lot of things?"

"You didn't know?"

"I only know one thing."

"You know that DuGu YiHe died here?"

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"But I don't know if he really should have died."

Huo TianQing was silent.

"Of course, you wouldn't know that I had something to do with his death." He suddenly sighed as well.

"Oh!"

"If not for me, then he might have died to XiMen ChuiXue's sword."

"Oh?"

"I never liked arrogant people who thought so highly of themselves, but DuGu just happened to be one of those arrogant people who thought so highly of himself. So before XiMen ChuiXue arrived, I exchanged blows with him."

"I knew."

"You knew?" This surprised Huo TianQing. "How did you know?"

Lu XiaoFeng laughed a bit.

"When DuGu fought XiMen, he had, at most, half of his inner strength left. Of the people who are able to make him use half of his inner strength, there aren't many of them around here."

Huo TianQing nodded.

"Correct. This was something that you would have been able to figure out."

"So there is something that I wouldn't have been able to figure out?"

Huo TianQing nodded.

Lu XiaoFeng cracked another smile.

"No matter, right now I just want to know where ShangGuan DanFeng is."

"This is just the thing that I wouldn't have been able to figure out."

"What is?"

"She didn't come here, and perhaps won't come here ever again!"

Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he really did not even consider the possibility that ShangGuan DanFeng was not here.

"Maybe you are wondering, how did I come to know she won't come."

"I really am wondering just that." Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

"Once you read this letter, then you probably won't be wondering."

He suddenly took out a letter from inside his sleeve and flicked his hand. The letter, like a piece of cloud, gently floated to Lu XiaoFeng.

"DanFeng in danger,
"XiaoFeng please stop,
"If not stop,
"Life not last."

There were only those 12 words on the letter, the words were very neatly written, and the paper was very fine as well.

On the envelope was written: "To: Lu XiaoFeng".

"This letter was for you, now I hand it over to you." Huo TianQing said.

"But I don't understand what it means."

"It means that it is very difficult for you to find ShangGuan DanFeng at this moment, so it's best if you stop right now and not meddle in this business any longer, or else someone will want you killed." Huo TianQing casually replied, of course, he realized that Lu XiaoFeng understood all of this.

"So who wanted you to give his letter to me?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"If you were to write a letter like that for me to give to another, would you give it to me in person?"

"No."

"That's why the person who wrote this letter did not give me the letter in person either. I only found this letter on Boss Yan's shrine, other than that, I don't know."

Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"Of course not."

"But you should know."

"What I should know?"

"You should know who wrote this letter."

"I only know that Boss Yan did not write this inside his coffin." Lu XiaoFeng said with a pitiful smile.

"You should also know, other than Boss Yan, who else does not want you to meddle in this business." Huo TianQing's eyes brightened.

"Pity I don't know that either." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again.

"You know at least of one."

"Who?"

"Me."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

But Huo TianQing did not.

"If ShangGuan DanFeng don't come, and you stop what you are doing, then this Pearl and Diamond Pavilion and all its treasures would all belong to me!" Huo TianQing said with a darkened face.

"But I know that the head of the Heaven Hunter Sect would never do something like that." Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

Huo TianQing stared at him, the corner of his mouth finally curled up in the slightest hint of a smile.

"What something to drink?" He suddenly said.

"Of course!"

The wine was kept in blue and white porcelin, when poured out, it was colorless and had no smell, just as if it was water, but as soon as it was stirred with another wine, the fragrance of the wine immediately filled this small yet delicate room.

Lu XiaoFeng slowly took a sip, then let out a long sigh.

"Now that is the genuine Virgin's Blush."

"You know your wine."

"That's why, next time you have wine as good as this, you should invite me over, at least I won't let this good wine of yours go to waste."

"I don't usually have wine this good you know." Huo TianQing laughed and replied.

"Oh."

"I got this wine the last time I went and visited our neighbor, he gave it to me."

"I envy you," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Finding a neighbor as good as that is harder than finding a good jug of wine nowadays."

"But he is a weird fellow, you probably heard of him before."

"I do know quite a number of weird fellows, which one could he be?"

"His name is Huo Xiu."

"Huo Xiu?" Lu XiaoFeng almost shouted. "How could he be your neighbor?"

"He doesn't come here very often, but he did build this small little place on the mountain in the back and would stay here a couple of months every year."

Lu XiaoFeng's eyes suddenly started to glow.

"Do you know why he would come here?"

"Other than drinking? He doesn't seem to do much of anything."

Lu XiaoFeng did not inquire any further, he seemed to be deep in thought. He had made a rule of not thinking too much while drinking, but this time he made an exception.

Huo TianQing did not pay much attention to Lu XiaoFeng and continued. "Any good wine that you can name, he probably has it in that place. Even I, who don't care much for drinking, don't quite want to leave that little place once I enter it."

"You know what kind of wine taste especially good?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

"No, what kind?"

"Stolen wine."

Huo TianQing laughed.

"You want me to go and steal some wine with you?"

"Exactly!" Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

"There is only one type of person in the world that can't drink a drop of wine, do you know what kind that is?"

"No, what kind?"

"The ones who have lost their head, so if you want to keep that head of yours for drinking wine, then you better forget this idea."

"Stealing wine is like stealing books," Lu XiaoFeng joked, "they are done both highly civilized and tasteful thieves. Even if you are caught by someone, you probably won't get your head chopped off."

"Well that depends on what kind of a person catches you!"

"Come on, if you go back 500 years, you and Huo Xiu were of the same family," Lu XiaoFeng carried on joking. "What are you afriad of?"

"He told me himself, inside that little place of his, there are 108 different types of traps just waiting to be sprung. If you are an uninvited guest and just charge up in there, then no matter who you are, it is very difficult to come back out alive." He stopped to sigh before continuing. "Those traps don't know who you are, they don't care if your surname is Huo, or Lu, it doesn't make a difference to them."

Lu XiaoFeng finally let out a sigh as well.

"I had four eye brows, it's not a big deal if I lose two of them, but I only have one head, I can't even make it if only half of it is gone." He said with a hopeless smile. "For just a couple of jugs of whine, he uses 108 different traps to guard against thieves, no wonder he's rich."

"Maybe he's not just guarding the wines."

"So you think there are other secrets inside that little building of his?" Lu XiaoFeng's eyes were glowing again.

Huo TianQing smiled.

"Everyone, more or less, have some secrets...." He casually replied.

"But there is only one kind of person who can really keep a secret."

"What kind?"

"The dead kind."

"But Huo Xiu is not dead." Huo TianQing's eyes were glowing as well.

"No, he isn't."

______________________________

The most frightening kind is dead kind too. No matter how warm, gentle, or beautiful that person was while alive, death would always make that person frightening.

That was why Shi XiuYun's body was covered by a white sheet of cloth.

There was a lone lamp sitting on the table, Hua ManLou sat silently by the light, unmoving. He had left, but came back.

No matter if Shi XiuYun was dead or alive, he could not leave her here by herself.

The owner of this little shop ran off a long time ago, leaving only a single lamp here, seemingly forgotten that a blind man had no use for light.

The night was quiet, without the slightest bit of sound, when Lu XiaoFeng entered, there was still no sound.

But Hua ManLou still turned his head around towards him.

"You've been drinking?" He suddenly asked.

"A bit," Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

"After all that's happened, you were still in the mood to drink?" He coldly said. "That is indeed rare."

He stiffened his face, very rarely did he ever stiffen up his face.

Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

"You are jealous of me aren't you?"

He had a secret weapon against anyone mad at him --- since you are already mad, then why not make you even madder? Let's see just how mad you can get, let's see if you can die from anger.

Hua ManLou did not reply, he knew Lu XiaoFeng through and through, he did not want to die of anger just yet.

Now it was Lu XiaoFeng's turn to not know what to do.

"Actually, you should be drinking too," Lu XiaoFeng awkwardly stated. "The best thing about alcohol is that it can make you stop thinking about alot of stuff that you can't do anything about."

Hua ManLou ignored him for a long time.

"I ran into someone earlier." He suddenly broke the silence.

"You ran into quite a number of people earlier."

"But this person I absolutely did not expect to see here!"

"Who?"

"ShangGuan FeiYan."

Lu XiaoFeng was just as shocked as Hua ManLou was.

"She isn't dead?"

"Even though she's not dead, living is pretty close to death to her right about now." Hua ManLou sadly commented.

"Why?"

"She seemed to have fallen into other people's hands, her actions completely under their control."

"Do you know who is controling her?" Lu XiaoFeng asked in a surprised face.

"She didn't say, and I don't know. But my guess is that this person must be...."

"Must be who?"

"Huo Xiu!"

Lu XiaoFeng had just sat down, now he shot back up.

"Huo Xiu?"

"ShangGuan FeiYan came here because she was forced to come here, to try and talk me out of this whole affair, right now there is only one person who wouldn't want us to continue, and that is Huo Xiu."

Lu XiaoFeng sat back down.

Another long silence passed.

"I didn't ran into someone earlier." He suddenly said.

That sentence was very intriguing and clever, almost impossible to decipher.

"You also didn't ran into quite a number of people earlier!"

"But this was a person that I was absolutely sure of running into, I went to Pearl and Diamond Pavilion specifically to try and find this person."

"ShangGuan DanFeng?"

"Correct!"

"Where is she now?"

"She didn't go there to begin with, but someone leave a letter to Huo TianQing, telling him to give to me!"

"What was on the letter?"

"Four phrases that somewhat made sense and somewhat didn't. Altogether not unlike a couple of farts."

"What were they?"

"DanFeng in danger, XiaoFeng please stop, if not stop, life not last!"

"It seemed that those phrases are telling you to stop this whole affair as well." Hua ManLou commented seriously.

"Right now, there is still only one person who could not want us to keep going."

"So you think that the person who wrote that letter is Huo Xiu as well?"

"I only know that whoever wrote this letter is not the kind of person who does anything half way."

A successful person would never do anything half way.

"SiKong ZhaiXing did not steal away ShangGuan DanFeng, maybe that didn't surprise him. Therefore he had instructed people to wait for her on the road and was finally able to get his hands on her."

"But I just finished drinking half a jug of his wine."

This surprised Hua ManLou quite a bit.

"You already met him?"

"No, the wine was his gift to Huo TianQing, he owns a small little pavilion on the mountain behind Pearl and Diamond Pavilion."

"A small pavilion?" Hua ManLou's expression noticeably changed.

One word at a time, Lu XiaoFeng replied.

"Yes, a small pavilion."

Hua ManLou stood up too, but he sat right back down.

Another long silence.

"Do you remember what Sun XiuQing was saying earlier?" He slowly said.

Of course Lu XiaoFeng remembers --- DuGu YiHe came here because he had received some information that the First Mansion of the Green Cloth Mansion is at....

Hua ManLou's face seemed to be glowing.

"Do you think that Huo Xiu's little pavilion is the First Mansion of Green Cloth Mansion?"

Lu XiaoFeng did not answer this question, this was a question that did not need to be answered anymore.

"But, according to the Golden Roc Emperor, the leader of the Green Cloth Mansion is DuGu YiHe!" Hua ManLou pondered.

"His information might not be absolutely correct."

"Nobody can avoid being falsely accused by someone, and just the same nobody can ever avoid falsely accusing someone else." Hua ManLou concurred.

"It's a shame that Zhu Ting isn't here." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

"How come?"

"I heard that inside that little pavilion is 108 different booby traps."

"You want to go and check that place out?"

"Very much so."

"Are those traps keeping you from doing so?"

"Nope."

Once Lu XiaoFeng started doing something, he would never stop half way. Nothing could make him stop half way!

______________________________

The hill was not very tall, but the view was very pretty. After a bit of a walk onto the hill, one could see a small light, a small light always looks very bright in the dark.

But in front of Hua ManLou was nothing but darkness.

"I see the building now." Lu XiaoFeng told him.

"Where?"

"Up ahead just through those woods right there, there is light inside the pavilion as well."

"Do you think Huo Xiu would be here too?"

"Don't know."

"I said a bit ago, nobody can ever avoid falsely accusing someone else."

"I heard you, I'm not deaf you know."

"I'm only reminding you, Huo Xiu is your friend, and has always been good to you."

"You think I might be falsely suspecting him?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied. "Even though I'm constantly being falsely accused of things by others, I still haven't falsely accused anyone of anything yet."

He suddenly seemed to have turned very short tempered, because there was conflict in his heart.

To be able to finish this matter quickly and get to the bottom of all of this would be for the best, but he really did not want to find out that the evil and despicable leader of the Green Cloth Mansion was really his friend Huo Xiu.

Inside the woods was the refreshing and clean smell of early spring, even though the coldness in the wind was even more prevalent, the world seemed to be at peace.

No humans, no sounds, as if all the noise and troubles of life was relegated to below the hill.

However, some of the most dangerous and frightening things are often hidden inside this kind of peacefulness.

"I don't like this situation." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

"What situation?"

"It's too quiet here, I get nervous when it's too quiet or too noisy."

"Why?"

"Because everytime I ran into something weird, it was under one of these two circumstances!"

"If you are really nervous, then it's best that you talk a bit more, talking usually gets people to forget about nervousness."

"What do you want me to talk about?"

"Talk about Huo Xiu."

"Don't you already know quite a bit about him?"

"I only know that he's a very strange and rich loner, he hates to socialize or deal with people, so even his most trusted servants do not know where he is."

"Not only does he hate to deal with people, he don't like women very much either, therefore he has stay a bachelor all the way to now."

"But a man must have some kind of a hobby or weakness."

"His only hobby is good wine, not only does he love to drink them, he also loves to collect all kinds of good wine, any kind of good wine, from everywhere."

"I heard that his martial arts is pretty good too."

"I have never really seen him use his kungfu, but I can guarantee that his lightness skills, his inner strength, and his pressure point hitting techniques are definitely not below that of anybody in the world."

"Oh?"

"And he practices a kind of virgin inner strength, to my knowledge, in this world, there are at most 10 men who are really dedicated enough to really train that."

"To practice that kind of martial arts, you really do have to sacrifice a lot." Hua ManLou laughed. "If not for the fact that he naturally don't like woman, it is very difficult to maintain that drive."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed too.

"I don't know about other people, but I would never practice that kind of martial arts, I'd rather have my head cut off that to practice that."

"If something else of yours is cut off, then you would have to practice it." Hua ManLou joked with a smile.

"So it turns out you are not a gentleman after all." Lu XiaoFeng burst out laughing.

"With a person like you around for any amount of time, any real gentleman would turn bad as well."

They laughed out loud, as if not caring if they were discovered or not --- since sooner or later they were bound to be found out, then what's the point of being sneaky and lose some of that smoothness?

"According to legend, as long as you are dedicated enough to practice this kind of martial arts, your kungfu would undoubtly be among the greats." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

"It's not legend, it's fact. If you are willing to master that, then when learning other kungfu skills you would only have to put in half the effort and get back several times the results in return."

"But since the dawn of time until now, of all the true martial art greats, none of them practiced this kungfu, do you know why?"

"Don't know."

"That's because those people who practice this kungfu are all old bachelors, and all old bachelors must have small problems here and there inside of their heart, those with problems inside their heart could never be a great in martial arts."

"And that's why you don't practice it." Hua ManLou smiled.

"Absolutely, positively no. No matter what you cut off of me, I won't practice it."

"The pity is that even if you do practice it, you would still not be able to be a great in martial arts."

"How come?"

"Because of the things that are detrimental to practicing kungfu, you seemed to love them more than life itself, things like...."

"Things like gambling, drinking, meddling in other people's affairs."

"And another very important one, you like women way too much."

Lu XiaoFeng burst out into another loud laugh. Only after he recovered did he realize that they had already made it through the woods and to the pavilion.

If it had been anyone else walking through that piece of road, they would have been scared and unsure of themselves every step, but they had leisurely made their way through it.

The road is all the same, what really matters is how you make your way through it. The road of life is the same as well.

The red lacquered door was closed, but on it was a huge word.

"PUSH"!

So Lu XiaoFeng pushed, and the door opened with just a push.

No matter what kind of door, it could be opened by pushing, all that mattered was whether or not you were willing to push, whether or not you dared to push.

Passed the door was a wide but crooked hall way, after going down the hall way a bit, the corners of the wall where forks appeared had several large words on them.

"TURN".

So Lu XiaoFeng turned, after several turns, he made it to a rather large stone platform, facing him was another large word.

"STOP".

So Lu XiaoFeng stopped, Hua ManLou, of course, stopped as well.

"Why did you suddenly stop?" He could not help but ask.

"Because there's a word here that says stop."

"It told you to stop, so you did?"

"So what if I didn't? There are 108 traps all around this place, do you know where any of them are?"

"Don't know, not even a single one."

Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

"So since we don't know, then what's the harm in being a little easy going?"

"Since if we keep going forward we might spring a trap, what's the harm in stopping?"

"Right, so if they tell me to stop, then I'm going to stop, they want me to walk, then I'm going to walk."

"It's rare to find someone as obedient as you." Hua ManLou sighed.

"Since I'm so obedient, how could they bring themselves to trouble me huh?"

Hua ManLou could not stop himself from laughing.

"No matter what you do, you always seem to have your own little strange and completely nonsensical way, but I could never tell if your way of doing things is right or wrong."

Before Lu XiaoFeng could reply, he suddenly realized that the stone platform they were standing on was slowly sinking.

Then he found that they were inside a stone room in the shape of a hexagon, a stone table was in the middle with two bowls of wine on it. There was also a word on the table.

"DRINK".

Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

"See, benefits of listening to others."

"What benefits? Invite you to a drink?"

"Correct, this time they invite us for a drink, next time they might offer us some food."

"That is some genuine Music of Lu Prefecture, looks like Boss Huo is bringing out the good wine."

"But you don't use your nose to drink," Lu XiaoFeng joked. "Come on, a bowl for you, a bowl for me."

"This wine is too strong, one bowl and I'll probably be drunk."

"Alright, you don't drink, I will."

He brought the bowl up to his face and drank almost all of it in one go. Suddenly he noticed that the color on Hua ManLou's face had changed. So he had to stop.

"Are you alright?"

"This room seem to have a special fragrance, can you smell it?" Even Hua ManLou's lips had turned white.

"I only smell the wine."

Hua ManLou seemed to be barely able to stand, suddenly, he reached out, grabbed the bowl of wine, and drank it all in one gulp. Colors of life immediately returned to that already deathly gray colored face of his.

Lu XiaoFeng blinked a couple of times.

"Turns out this wine could also cure illnesses." He laughed.

He finished his own bowl of wine before discovering that, on the bottom of the bowl, there was another word.

"SMASH"!

So he threw the bowl onto the ground, smashing it to pieces on the stone wall.

Then he suddenly noticed that the stone wall was moving, uncovering a secret door. Behind the door was several scores of steps, leading into the ground.

Underneath was the belly of the mountain, Lu XiaoFeng did not even need to go down before seeing the glow of treasures.

The belly of the mountain was hollow, the inside was over 100 meters long and wide, piled high with uncountable numbers of spears and sabres, as well as chests after chests of gold and precious stones.

In his entire life, Lu XiaoFeng had never seen this much weapons or gold.

But what shocked him the most, was not the weapons nor the riches, but four men. Four old men.

Their faces were all wrinkled and white, obviously having not been under the sun for years, they were all wearing gold colored robes decorated with dragons and made from the finest of silks, all wearing jade covered belts, the clothing of emperors.

There were four golden chairs decorated with dragons, thrones. One of them was sitting on one, entranced, another one was crouched on the floor with an abacus, mumbling something to himself, as if he was counting the treasure, another one was standing in front of a bronze mirror, counting the white hairs on his head.

The last old man both hands behind his back and was pacing back and forth. When he saw Lu XiaoFeng, he immediately came walking up with a stiff face.

"Who art thou?" He demanded in a force tone. "How dare thou enter your Emperor's bed chambers without being summoned. Doth thou not know this is an offense punishable by death by a thousand cuts?"

His attitude and demeanor really did look like that of an emperor, not a bit like he was joking.

Lu XiaoFeng was a bit taken aback.

"You say that this is the Royal Palace? Then who are you?" He had to ask.

"The Golden Roc Emperor, the 13th Emperor of the Golden Roc Empire."

Lu XiaoFeng was taken aback again. He never could have imagined that there was another Golden Roc Emperor here. But it turned out that there was more than one here.

This old man had just finished speaking before the other 3 old men came charging up.

"Don't believe this crazy old fool's words, I am the real Golden Roc Emperor, he's a fake." They were all saying.

"He's a fake... all three of them are fakes!"

The four old men were all saying the same thing, all arguing untill their faces were red all the way to their ears. All that royal air and attitude that was there a moment ago had all but disappeared.

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly felt that all four of the men were insane, at least a bit crazy at least.

When running into this kind of people, the best thing to do is to high tail it out of there, even if you had promised to give him all of the treasures in the world, he would not have wanted to stay there one moment longer than he had to.

But just as he decided that he wanted to back out, he discovered that the door above the stone staircase was closed. The four old men had surrounded him as well.

"Who among us do you think is the real Golden Roc Emperor... be honest now, tell the truth." They all asked him.

On those old and worn faces of theirs, a crazy and animalistic look suddenly appeared. Lu XiaoFeng knew no matter who he picked as the real one, the other three would undoubtedly immediately try to kill him.

He had never encounter anything so comical, so frightening before in his life. He could not even have dreamed of this.

At this moment, he suddenly heard three clear and crisp rings as another door suddenly appeared on the wall behind him.

Four handsome, eunuch looking young men, each wearing yellow robes, came walking out, each with a small lacquered table with food on them in their hands.

The four old men immediate ran back and climbed onto their individual "thrones", changing their facial expression to a very serious and proud look. The four young men each knelt in front of one of the old men, presented the table to the old men, and said: "For Your Excellency's use."

Lu XiaoFeng suddenly came down with a big case of the head ache. Because he could not, for the life of him, figure out what is going on.

Could the four old men all be the real Golden Roc Emperor? How else could they all have eunuchs serving them?

But this was supposed to be Huo Xiu's little summer house, why would there be four men like these here?

That door on the other side of the wall was still open, so he quietly and surreptitiously, pulling Hua ManLou with him, walked through that door.

There was another hall way beyond the door, at the end of the hall way was another door, when they opned that door, they saw Huo Xiu.

Huo Xiu had on him some greenish-blue colored clothing that had already been washed to white, he wore a pair of old and torn shoes, and was sitting on the ground, using a broken piece of spoon, stirring the wine that was being kept warm by a small red clay stove.

Such delicious smelling wine.