LXF03-03 Print
Saturday, 16 August 2008 04:18

Chapter 3 - Catching Snake, Saving Beauty



Night. Darkness has fallen, dark like the ink. The Autumn winds, the unkept grass, the lonely white poplar tree. The cold, unfeeling moon rose and shone down upon this cold and desolate garden. No human could be seen, not even ghosts.

Even if there were ghost, one could not see them. Facing the on coming Autumn winds, even Lu Xiao Feng had to shudder involuntarily.

Just before bad things happen, he would always get this strange feeling. He had that strange feeling right now. No light, no stars, even the moon was cold and sinister.

Under the moonlight, the withered trees shook in the wind, looking just like a ghostly shadow. Suddenly another toot of the whistle came from within the shadows.

Lu Xiao Feng shot off in the direction of the sound. Finally, he caught a glimpse of the person playing the flute, underneath the withered tree just ahead. But Lu Xiao Feng suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. He seemed shocked again. The person playing the flute was just a kid who could not have been over 10 years old.

The kid was not tall and wore a torn outfit. On his round face were a pair of huge, bright eyes. Intermittenly, he was shaking and wiping his nose, obvious he was freezing and frightened. Yet in his hand was strangely shaped bamboo whistle.

Eyes never leaving him, Lu Xiao Feng slowly walked up to him. The kid never noticed him, looking left a bit, then looking over to the right. Suddenly the kid noticed a shadow moving on the ground, he yelped and immediately tried to run away. He did not get away, of course.

After only a few steps, Lu Xiao Feng grabbed a hold of his arm. The kid immediately began screaming like a skinned pig.

Only when he stopped screaming did Lu Xiao Feng speak: “I’m not a ghost.”

The kid looked up at his face. Even though he knew that he was not a ghost, fear remained on his face.

“Are you... you really not a ghost?” His nose was running again.

“Ghosts don’t have shadows, I have a shadow.”

The kid, finally convinced, sighed, and then immediately began to pout.

“Then why did you grab me?”

“Because there’s several questions I want to ask you!”

The kid hesitated.

“Will you let me go after you asked me?”

“Not only will I let you go, I’ll give you two strings of money!” Lu Xiao Feng did not really feel like smiling, but he could not really keep a straight face in front of a kid either.

Seeing his smile, the kid calmed down quite a bit.

“What do you want to ask?” He asked, blinking his eyes.

“What’s your name, where’s your home?” Lu Xiao Feng asked gently.

“My name is Poor Little Thing, I don’t have a home!”

Of course Poor Little Thing did not have a home, only homeless kids would be named Poor Little Thing.

Not only does the kid look very sympathetic, he looked honest too, as if he did not know how to lie.

“It’s very late, aren’t you scared to be out here all by yourself?” Lu Xiao Feng’s voice became even more gentle.

“I’m not scared! I go where I please!” Poor Little Thing stuck out his chest. But those who say they are not scared are often much more scared than anybody else.

“Do you think this is a fun place to be?”

“Not at all!”

“If not, then why did you come here to blow that whistle?”

“An old man with a hump back told me to do it, and he gave me two strings of money.”

The old man with a hump back again. It was he who reserved the caskets for Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng, it was also he who killed Big Shot Sun. What was he?

“Did he give you the whistle too?”

Poor Little Thing nodded.

“This whistle is alot more fun than those they sell on the street, and it’s really loud too!”

He obviously really liked the whistle as he could not help but bring it up to his lips and gave it another toot. All other sounds were muted out once the high pitched whistle was blown. Lu Xiao Feng did not hear any other noises, but still, he was hit with an urge to turn around and check behind him.

Where did he get this urge from? Why did he get it? Even he could not explain it to himself. But in that instant that he turned around, he saw a blood red shadow shoot up from the ground. It was like an arrow, only much much faster than an arrow could ever be shot.

Almost faster than lightning! With just a flash, the red shadow had arrived at Lu Xiao Feng’s throat. It was also at that precise moment that Lu Xiao Feng reached out and clamped his fingers together.

He caught something between his fingers. Something cold, sticky, and slick. A blood red snake!

Its fangs were already out and were almost able to touch Lu Xiao Feng’s throat. But it could not move anymore, Lu Xiao Feng caught it right about seven inches down from its head. Had Lu Xiao Feng’s movement been just a bit slower, had where his fingers clamped down on the snake been a bit off, had he used slightly less strength when he clamped his fingers together....

Then he would be a dead man by now! Since he appeared in the martial world, Lu Xiao Feng could truly be described has having stared death in the face.

He had walked that tightrope between life and death countless times and met countless rutherless murders and monsters.

But he had never ran into anything so dangerous and deadly as this moment was for him. In his hands was a freezing cold snake, but his entire body felt freezing cold as well. He suddenly had to fight off the urge to throw up.

“Snake... there’s snakes here!” Poor Little Thing screamed and ran.

Lu Xiao Feng took a deep breath and threw the snake as hard as he could against a huge rock by his side. When he looked up again, that honest and poor little kid was nowhere to be seen.

The wind whistled through the grass, the withered trees shook. Standing still in the middle of this Autumn night, Lu Xiao Feng took several more deep breaths before his heart beat finally returned to normal. But at this moment another scream came through the darkness. This scream coming from that very kid!

Poor Little Thing had fainted. By the time Lu Xiao Feng got there, the little kid had collapsed on the ground. On a night like this, in a place like this, how could a little kid like that not be frightened when he suddenly sees a dead man?

The dead man was right in front of the kid. It was an old man with a hump back. He had a head of bushy white hair, but he was choked to death with a bright red silk sash. He reserved those caskets, he killed Big Shot Sun! So how did he die in the hands of another? Who killed him? Why?

In the night, the silk sash looked almost glowing red, blood red. Lu Xiao Feng had seen the exact same kind of silk sash before, and he had also seen another man choked to death with this exact same kind of sash.

First Madame Gong Sun’s daggers were tied to this kind of sash, the Snake King was also choked to death by this kind of sash. Who was the killer this time? Could it be First Madame Gong Sun?

It was indeed very likely that First Madame Gong Sun had already arrived in the capital. She would not want to miss the duel either. But then who was this old man? Why did he kill Big Shot Sun? And why did First Madame Gong Sun kill him?

Lu Xiao Feng had never heard of an old man like this in the martial world before. He hesitated. Finally he bent down -- there could be something that could identify the old man on his body.

But there could also very likely be more snakes! Lu Xiao Feng’s finger tips felt cold as ice as he used those two finger tips to flip open the old man’s shirt. No snakes, snakes would have moved in this situation.

Lu Xiao Feng reached in but suddenly stopped in shock. In front of his eyes was the forehead of an old, white haired man. But his hand was feeling something different -- this old man was a woman!

In his hands were the smooth skin of a woman. The white hair was fake, and the face was cleverly disguised. After removing the hair and tearing off the mask, Lu Xiao Feng saw a frozen stiff but still very beautiful face!

He recognized this face! This old man with a humped back was none other than First Madame Gong Sun!

Lu Xiao Feng knew first hand the mastery of First Madame Gong Sun’s skill when it comes to disguises. In his mind, there were not that many people who could have seen through her disguises.

He also knew first hand just how good of a martial arts master she was. Who in the world could actually choke her to death? The killer’s skills must be even better. Lu Xiao Feng involuntarily shuddered.

He had been in the capital for only one day, but in this one day, he had ran into way too many puzzling and unexplained happenings. He could not figure out why First Madame Gong Sun would kill Big Shot Sun, nor could he understand how First Madame Gong Sun died here.

If there were too many things one could not figure out, then all that was left was not to try and figure them out; if the more thinking one did the more confused one became, then it would be better to not thing at all. This had always been one of Lu Xiao Feng’s guiding principles.

But even if he tried not to think, he still could feel that, lurking in a corner somewere in this ancient city, there was a pair of eyes, even more cunning the the shrewdest of foxes, even more poisonous than the most poisonous of snakes, staring at him, waiting to take his life!

No matter who this person was, without a doubt it would be the most frightening and most powerful foe he had ever faced in his life. He seemed to also have faintly figured out who this foe could be!

The light was dim and ghastly. The ghastly dim light shone upon Ou Yang Qing’s deathly pale face. There was nary a sign of life to be found on her beautiful face, her beautiful eyes were tightly shut, her jaw also tightly shut.

Could she open her eyes again? Could she still speak? Silently, Lu Xiao Feng stood at the head of the bed, staring at her, hoping against hope that somehow she could shoot him a look like the ones she gave him before or hurl several insults as before. Li Yan Bei and 13th Mistress were by his side, their expressions just as grave.

“By the time we made it to the kitchen, she’d already passed out!”

Lu Xiao Feng stared intently at her throat, he could not find any trace of a wound.

“Where was she bit?”

“On her hand, her left hand.”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed in relief. When the snake shot towards her, she probably reacted the same way Lu Xiao Feng did and tried to catch it. Even though her reflexes were not on par with Lu Xiao Feng’s, they were still better than Big Shot Sun’s. Big Shot Sun really had too much to drink.

“Luckily you told us to check on her, so we weren’t too late!” Li Yan Bei explained.

After discovering Ou Yang Qing’s wound, he immediately sealed the pressure points on her shoulder to slow the spread of the poison.

“So the person who really saved her was not me, but you!” He continued.

“But I’m still confused, how did you know she would be targetted?” 13th Mistress asked.

“Honestly, I didn’t know!”

“Yet you still managed to save her life!”

“I have done a lot of things that even I’m not too sure how I did them,” Lu Xiao Feng replied with a forced smile. “If you asked me what happened or why it happened, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I don’t know.”

“Even though you didn’t know, you still did it,” 13th Mistress countered. “A lot of people wouldn’t be able to do it even if they knew.”

“That’s why Lu Xiao Feng really is Lu Xiao Feng, the one and only Lu Xiao Feng in this world.” Li Yan Bei concluded.

13th Mistress gently sighed.

“No wonder she would be so head over heels for you!”

Was Ou Yang Qing really head over heels for him?

“Even though she had been bitten on her left hand and was passed out, her right hand was still clutching onto that plate of butter soaked snails.” 13th Mistress continued. “She wouldn’t let go even if she died, because she made them for you, because....”

She did not go on, because she had already said enough. Just this alone was enough to prove Ou Yang Qing’s feelings for him.

Lu Xiao Feng stared at Ou Yang Qing’s face, his heart suddenly flooded with an describable feeling. He could not let Ou Yang Qing die, absolutely not! Xue Bing’s death had already given him enough grief and regret to last until his death.

There was a question on Li Yan Bei’s mind all this time, he finally could not hold back anymore.

“Did you find that person who was whistling?”

Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“Who was it?”

“It was a kid!”

Li Yan Bei was taken aback by that as well.

“Is there a mastermind behind all of this?” He immediately asked. He was indeed an experienced man of the martial world, his observations always seemed to be a bit more accurate and a bit deeper than other’s.

“According to the kid, it was an old man with a humped back who told him to do it!”

“Did you find that old man?”

“There probably never was an old man like that in this world, I found one, but it was First Madame Gong Sun in disguise!”

“Who is First Madame Gong Sun?”

“She’s Ou Yang Qing’s elder sister, and also my friend.”

Li Yan Bei was speechless.

13th Mistress could not help but coldly snicker a little.

“At least she has quite a sister, and you have quite a friend!”

Not responding immediately, Lu Xiao Feng quietly thought about the situation for a while.

“First Madame Gong Sun really was quite a sister, and also quite a friend.”

“You think so even now?”

“Because I believe the real mastermind behind all of this is not First Madame Gong Sun!” Lu Xiao Feng explained.

“If not her, then who?”

“A person even more cunning and sinister than Huo Xiu, even more devious and heartless than Jin Jiu Ling,” Lu Xiao Feng’s fists were clenched tight. “And this person’s martial art skill could be better than every person I’ve ever met!”

At one time or another, he had thought that either Huo Xiu and Jin Jiu Ling was the toughest foe he had ever faced as both of them had almost taken his life. It was only after numerous close calls, countless hardships, and some sprinkles of luck that he was able to reveal both men as what they were. But this present foe was even more frightening!

“How do you know that First Madame Gong Sun was not the real mastermind?” Li Yan Bei inquired.

“I don’t.”

“But you suspect that’s the case, you feel that’s the case?” 13th Mistress asked.

Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this.

“You are not quite sure why you feel that way are you?”

Lu Xiao Feng could not deny that either.

“You really are a freak,” 13th Mistress sighed. “No matter who your foe is, that person is really in trouble!”

“But this time it’s very likely that I’m the one that’s in trouble!” An almost defeated smile appeared on Lu Xiao Feng’s face.

“So where is First Madame Gong Sun?” Li Yan Bei asked another question.

“Dead!”

“And that kid?....” 13th Mistress asked.

“Still lying where he fainted!”

“You didn’t bring him back to save him?”

“I left him there precisely in order to save him!”

13th Mistress did not understand.

“You think that kid was an accomplice?” Li Yan Bei asked instead.

“A 10 year old kid would never go to that kind of place by himself at this time of night. Also the whistle was very strangely designed, a person who had not cultivated internal energy could never hope to make it make sound!” Lu Xiao Feng then smiled. “Besides, he didn’t really faint anyways!”

“Then why didn’t you bring him back here to interrogate?” asked Li Yan Bei.

“He wouldn’t say anything, and I won’t be able to interrogate a kid!”

“Then you should have at least secretly followed him, maybe he would have led you to the real killer!”

“If I followed him, then he’s dead for sure!” Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“You think the real mastermind would kill him to shut him up?”

“Mm.”

“My heart can no longer be considered cold, but I didn’t expect that you would be even softer than me!” Li Yan bei sighed.

Again, Lu Xiao Feng was silent for a long time.

“Someone said to me before that even though my temper was like the stones in an outhouse, hard and stinky, my heart was as soft as tofu.” He said slowly.

“Forget tofu, it’s almost like butter soaked snails!” 13th Mistress sighed before suddenly breaking out a smile. “That plate of butter soaked snails is still out, she made it especially for you, you should at least eat one.”

“I’ll eat them when I get back!”

“You’re going out? Where to?” Li Yan Bei asked.

“To find a person!”

“Who?”

“Ye Gu Cheng!”

Li Yan Bei was speechless once again.

“If he could cure the Tang Family Poison Sands and save himself, maybe he could save Ou Yang Qing as well!” Lu Xiao Feng explained.

A frightening shade of pale white had appeared on Ou Yang Qing’s face and the left side of her face was starting to swell somewhat. Li Yan Bei’s pressure point hitting techniques were not very refined, the poison’s progress had not been completely halted.

“Would a person like Ye Gu Cheng be willing to save other people?” 13th Mistress frowned.

“Even if he isn’t, I still have to go, even if I have to get on my knees and beg, I will make him come here!”

Staring at Ou Yang Qing’s face, Lu Xiao Feng slowly continued, emphasizing each word: “No matter what, I will find a way to save her!”

The night was even deeper. Even in the busiest, most late closing night spot, the Bright Vernal Tea House, guests were starting to file out. From the looks of it, the house would have to close shop for the night soon. But Lu Xiao Feng was still sitting there, staring idlely at a freshly prepared flask of tea.

He had already walked all over the city and visited many a hotels, yet he could not even find a hint of Ye Gu Cheng’s shadow. A person with as conspicuous and famous as Ye Gu Cheng should have been a very easy person to find because no matter where he goes, he would always attract attention.

But ever since that meeting at Oriental Spring Pavilion, he seemed to have disappeared into the city like Xi Men Chui Xue. There was not a single evidence that he was around afterwards.

Lu Xiao Feng could not figure out the reason behind this. There was no reason for Ye Gu Cheng to go into hiding. Even Tang Tian Rong, the man whose collarbone he cut in half and would probably go through the rest of his life as a cripple, did not go into hiding.

Tang Tian Rong was staying at a huge hotel by the name of “All Fortune Inn” off one of the major cities on the east side of the city. Rumours had it that a great number of doctors who specialized in bone injuries and other famous osteopaths. The reason that he was still staying in the city was not because of his injury, but because all of the masters of the Tang family were already poured out of their nest and have descended upon the city overnight to avenge their brothers.

Of course, this would be yet another event that shakes the martial world to its very core. The other one was that even though Yan Ren Ying did not find Xi Men Chui Xue, he did find several very powerful helpers.

Supposedly, among them were not only a lhama from Tibet, but also two mysterious swordsmen who trained for many years in the shadows of Mt.Goddess’s Water. For some odd reason or another, these people were all willing to help out Yan Ren Ying.

Neither of these developments would help Xi Men Chui Xue or Ye Gu Cheng. The first group of people wanted to find Ye Gu Cheng, the second was after Xi Men Chui Xue. So no matter what happens in the duel, neither one of them would have a comfortable life afterwards, whichever one of them survives, or if indeed both survives. Lu Xiao Fend did dig up quite a lot of news and information, but none of them was what he wanted to find. He could not even find the Wooden Taoist or Ancient Pine Hermit.

The customers continued to file out. The man who made the tea had already put down the big flask of water in his hand and was endlessly shooting looks over at Lu Xiao Feng, obviously telling him to leave. The only thing Lu Xiao Feng could do was pretend to not see, he really did not have anywhere else to go.

How could he go back to face Ou Yang Qing without finding Ye Gu Cheng? The newly made tea was already cold, the night was even colder.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed and lifted the cup up to his lips. But before the tea could touch his lips -- “Crash!” Suddenly, with a cold flash, the cup in his hand shattered.

When the flash died down, it turned out to be a rather large three-pointed bone piercing dart! There was a lantern just out the door, holding it was a monk wearing a green robe, white sox, and shoes made from the awns of wheat. He was coldly snickering at Lu Xiao Feng. Of the martial artist in the north, northeast, almost none use this type of dart.

Yet this monk’s throw was accurate and fast. From this one throw Lu Xiao Feng could tell he was unquestionably one of the best in the world in this practice. Yet he did not recognize the monk, nor could he figure out why he would suddenly attack. The strangest thing, however, was that even though he misfired, he did not run away but instead remained standing outside.

Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Not only did he not chase the monk, he actually smiled towards him. He already had enough problems to deal with and was not in the mood for anymore. Unfortunately, the monk would not let it go at that and, with a flick of his arm, launched two more darts. The little bit of cloth tied as tal to the dars flapped loudly as it pierced through the air; obviously, the power behind these darts were very strong.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed again. He had already figured out that this monk was determined to cause him some problems. Now, even if he did not want to go outside, he still had to.

Even before the darts arrived, he was already outside. But unexpectedly, the monk, as soon as saw he was coming out, turned around and began to run. And when Lu Xiao Feng stopped chasing him, this monk would actually stop and wave back.

The strange happenings were coming fast and furious now, and it seemed like Lu Xiao Feng had ran into every single one of them.

He did not want to continue chasing, yet he could not stop chasing either. After passing two more streets, the monk suddenly stopped at the entrance of a dark alley.

“Lu Xiao Feng, do you dare come in here?” He mocked.

Of course Lu Xiao Feng dared, there was not that many things in the world he did not dare to do. Even though he knew that he was walking into a dark alley, that the monk could attack at any time, that there could very well be countless traps that he could not see in the alley, or that this monk could very well have a killer move that he had not heard about.

But he still walked in. Incredibly, as soon as he walked in, the monk suddenly dropped onto his knees and kowtowed to him three times!

Lu Xiao Feng was shocked once again.

Smiling, the monk looked up at him.

“Do you recognize me?”

Lu Xiao Feng shook his head, he had never seen the monk before in his life.

“Then do you recognize the 3 pointed bone piercing dart?”

Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes lit up.

“You are one the ‘Flying Dart’ Sheng’s from central China?”

“I am none other than Sheng Tong.”

Lu Xiao Feng was not familiar with the name either. The Flying Dart Sheng’s was not among the most famous families in the martial world.

“I am here to repay a debt!” Sheng Tong continued.

“Repay a debt?” Lu Xiao Feng was caught even more off guard.

“The entire Sheng family owes the Great Hero Lu a huge debt!”

“You must be mistaken, I never owe anyone else anything, nor does anybody ever owe anything to me!”

“I’m not mistaken.” Sheng Tong seemed very sure of his claim as his spirit turned more solemn as well. “Six years ago, all 11 people of our family lost in the hands of Huo Tian Qing as our entire family was chased out from our home. Even since then, my parents have been separated, my brothers have lost contact with each other, and I was forced to become a monk. Even though the debt was written in blood, Huo Tian Qing’s martial arts was so strong that I could not hope to avenge it!”

“You think that I killed Huo Tian Qing and avenged for you, so you are here to repay that debt?”

“Correct!”

All Lu Xiao Feng could do was laugh at his own misery. Huo Tian Qing did not die in his hands, nor did Du Gu Yi He and Su Shao Ying. Yet people still seemed to hold him responsible for their deaths, be it those who came for revenge or to repay him. Could it really be this difficult to sort out the web of revenge and debt in the martial world?

Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“Huo Tian Qing did not....”

Sheng Tong seemed completely disinterested in hearing his explanation and cut him off: “No matter what, had the Great Hero Lu not been there, Huo Tian Qing would probably be enjoying a life of endless fame and fortune and in the Pearl and Diamond Pavilion instead of where he is now!”

That statement was not necessarily wrong. Again, all Lu Xiao Feng could do was laugh at his own misery.

“Ok, let’s just say that you did owe me, you already repaid it just then!”

“Kowtows are only a show of respect, how could that count as repaying a debt?”

“It doesn’t count?”

“Absolutely not!”

“Then what does count?”

Sheng Tong suddenly took out a bundle of very finely wrapped oil cloth and held it up with both hands.

“This is what I’ve come all the way here to give to the Great Hero Lu!”

All Lu Xiao Feng could do was to accept it. He suddenly realized that being forced to accept repayment did not feel much better than being forced to accept revenge.

He had never thought much about this before, but even more unthinkable for him, was the fact that inside this bundle was actually just a piece of white cloth with streaks of blood and yellow puss all over it. As soon as he opened it, a unbearable stench filled the air.

Now Lu Xiao Feng could not even force himself to laugh.

“You came here to give me this piece of cloth?”

“Yes.”

“And you are giving me this to repay a debt you owe me?”

“Correct.”

Lu Xiao Feng stared at the mixture of puss and blood on the cloth, not quite sure if he wanted to laugh or cry. This monk fired off 5 darts at him before giving him this stinking piece of cloth, all in the name of repaying a debt. This had to be the first time he had ever heard this being called that!

--Luckily, he came to repay a debt, what would Lu Xiao Feng had done if he was here for revenge?

Lu Xiao Feng’s only wish right now was to get rid of this monk as quick as possible.

“Well, now I guess you have indeed repaid your debt!”

Amazingly, Sheng Tong did not refute this claim. But he was still reluctant to leave.

“This piece of cloth might look normal, maybe even worthless, but at this moment, it’s worth cities!” He quietly whispered.

Nobody would agree that this cloth was some priceless treasure, no matter how they look at it. Yet when this monk said it, he was as solemn as can be, not a trace of humour could be found in his voice.

Even Lu Xiao Feng’s interest became piqued.

“Does this cloth has anything special about it?”

“Only one thing.”

“What one thing?”

Sheng Tong’s expression became even more cautious as he lowered his voice even more.

“This cloth was taken off of Ye Gu Cheng’s body!”

Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes immediately lit up. This filthy and stinky cloth, in his eyes, was indeed a treasure that worthed more than solid gold and diamonds.

“In trying to hide from Huo Tian Qing as well as being too shamed to see the world, I settled down in an ignored and neglected monastery. After the old monk there died, I became the only one who lived there!”

“Is Ye Gu Cheng there too?”

“He came in today afternoon, there’s only two bedrooms in the entire monastery. Nobody had stayed in the old monk’s room after the old monk died and forget about alms givers or pilgrimagers. So the arrival of some people today was a great surprise to me!”

“He was alone?”

Sheng Tong nodded: “When he arrived, I had no idea that he could have been the world famous Master of White Cloud Castle!”

“Then how did you find out?”

“Since he arrived, he locked himself in his room and asked me for a tub of clean water to be deliever into his room every hour, on the hour....”

He was originally a man of the martial world as well, when he ran into someone behaving suspiciously, he would naturally pay him extra attention.

“Other than the clean water, he also asked me to go and buy a roll of white fabric and gave me this bundle, instructing me to bury it.”

Of course, there was no way that Ye Gu Cheng could have suspected that in this broken down monastery lived a man of the martial world. So he was not nearly as careful.

“It was when I went into the city to buy the fabric that I heard the news of Ye Gu Cheng’s injury by the Tang Family Poison Sands at Zhang Jia Kou only to return and severely injure Tang Tian Rong at Oriental Spring Pavilion.”

Therefore he immediately asking for a description of what this Master of White Cloud Castle looked like.

“It was only after comparing the descriptions did I know that this strange guest in my monastery was none other than the Master of White Cloud Castle that had shook the capital to its foundations!”

Lu Xiao Feng let out a long, exhausted sigh. He had finally figured out two puzzles that had stumped him this entire time.

-- Ye Gu Cheng, who did not like flowers and never bothered with women, had beautiful girls paving a carpet of flowers for him to walk on was only doing so to cover up the stench eminating from his wound.

-- Lu Xiao Feng could not find him inside the city because he simply did not stay in the city and actually settled down in a neglected monastery.

-- Of course, he could not let others find out that not only had his injuries not healed, but have worsened.

-- When a lion is hurt, he would naturally hide out in the mountains by himself, for fears that the wild dogs might start coming after him.

Lu Xiao Feng’s heart sank. He had hoped that Ye Gu Cheng would be able to help with the poison in Ou Yang Qing’s body. But now he had just found out that Ye Gu Cheng might not even be able to save himself, nevermind somebody else.

“When I entered the city, about 8 or 9 out of 10 people were betting in favor of Ye Gu Cheng,” Sheng Tong continued. “They are even taking on odds as high as 7 to 1 in his favour.”

That one demonstration of Outer Heaven Angels at Oriental Spring Pavilion had already rocked the city to its core.

“If somebody, anybody, was to come across this news, to see this cloth, there could be....” Sheng Tong did not finish.

If somebody was to find out about this, what would happen within the city was not only something that he could not say, but something that he could not even imagine.

“You are right, this cloth is truly a priceless treasure,” Lu Xiao Feng sighed. “I truly am not worthy to receive such a valuable gift.”

“Even though I’m a nobody, I also don’t like owing people anything, just like the Great Hero Lu,” a smile finally appeared on Sheng Tong’s face. “As long as the Great Hero Lu accept this humble little gift, I will be more than satisfied.”

Instead of answering, Lu Xiao Feng quietly thought to himself for a second.

“Where’s your monastery?” He suddenly asked.

“Does the Great Hero Lu want to come and meet the Master of White Cloud Castle?”

Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, I really would like to go meet him.” There was a hint of sadness and loneliness in his smile, slowly, he continued. “Even though we’ve only met twice briefly, I still think of him as a friend....”

He understood that Ye Gu Cheng must be in need of friends at this moment, and he also knew that Ye Gu Cheng did not have that many friends. At this moment, to Ye Gu Cheng, a true friend might have been even harder to come by than antitodes.

The room was dark and damp. Even though the room was not small, it only had a bed, a table, and a stool, making the room feel even more empty and desolate than it was. There was only one small lamp in the room providing a dim glow. The wall was covered with dust and spiderwebs dots the ceiling. There were scrolls of manuscripts beside the lone lamp, but they looked like they have not been touched for a long time.

-- How lonely a life must the old monk who resided here before have led?

-- To him, could death be seen as an escape? Ye Gu Cheng lied on his side on the that cold and hard bed. Even though he had started feeling exhausted a long time ago, he could not fall asleep no matter how much he tossed and turned.

He had gotten used to loneliness a long time ago. Swordsmen like him are destined to be cut off from the world, just like wandering monks, unable to enjoy all of the joys of the mortal world.

Throughout his entire life, loneliness had been his companion, his only companion. But he could not bear to suffer this type of coldness and neglect that was more frightening than any type of loneliness. Because before, even though his days were filled with loneliness, they were also filled with fame and glory.

But now... The wind blew in through the window, causing the ripped and torn curtain to flap loudly like the falling leafs. The room was still filled with a stench that not even the wind could disperse. He knew by now that his wound had completely festered, as if it was a maggot-filled piece of meat.

He was a proud man, but now he was hiding in some hole somewhere like a wild dog. This kind of torture and humiliation was something that he would rather die than face, but face it he must.

Because he must live until September 15th! The wind breezed by, the night sounded cold. How could he possibly make it through these long nights?

If he had a relative or a friend with him right now, the situation might be a lot better. But pity he was fated to be alone in his life, to always reject other people’s overture for friendship. He suddenly discovered that this was the first time in his life he realized that he needed a friend too.

He thought about a lot of stuff he never did before. He thought about how he would always train non-stop in the morning, the blood of his foes flowing out from underneath his sword, but he also thought of the ocean colored sky, the spectacularly bright sun, the beautiful, jade like clouds....

He wanted to die, and at the same time did not want to die. Why must there be so much unresolvable conflicts in a person’s life?

Puss oozed out of his wounds again, as the stench intensified some more. He thought about getting up and cleaning the wound off a little and switch the bandage once again.

Even though he knew that doing this would not help his wound, almost to the point of exacerbating it, but it was all he could do.

-- Such powerful weapons, such frightening poisons. He finally got off the bed, as soon as his feet touched the ground, a gust of wind blew by outside the window -- it could not have been natural.

The sword was on the table; with just a flick of the wrist, it was in his hands. His reaction was still fast, his movements were still quick.

“No need to pull out your sword,” A person said, smiling, from outside the window. “But if you have some wine, don’t hesitate to pour a cup or two.”

The grip that Ye Gu Cheng had on his sword slowly relaxed. He recognized that voice: “Lu Xiao Feng?”

Of course it was Lu Xiao Feng. Ye Gu Cheng struggled to stand up, stand up straight. He adjusted his shirt, wiped the frown off of his face, walked over to the door, and pulled it open.

Lu Xiao Feng was smiling at him.

“Didn’t think I was going to show up?”

Ye Gu Cheng did not answer, instead he turned around and sat down on the only stool.

“You shouldn’t have come, there’s no wine here!” Only then did he slowly reply.

“But there’s a friend here.”

Friend! That word was like wine, a cup of warm, hot wine, as it poured into Ye Gu Cheng’s throat, into his chest.

He suddenly realized that the blood in his chest had turned warm, but his face remained cold and emotionless.

“There is no friend here either, only a killer swordsman!”

“Killer swordsman could still be a friend.”

The only stool was taken, but Lu Xiao Feng did not remain standing.

He moved aside that kerosene lamp, also the scrolls and sword beside it, and sat down on the table.

“If you didn’t see me as a friend, then how could you have put your sword back down onto the table?”

Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything and just stared back at Lu Xiao Feng. The frost on his face seemed to have melted a little. When a man come to the end of his rope and suddenly finds out that he still has a friend, it is a feeling that nothing else could hope to compare, maybe not even love.

Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything for a long time.

“I don’t seem to recall you making friend with me before.” He said slowly.

“Because before you were the world famous, utterly matchless Master of White Cloud Castle!”

“And now?” The corner of Ye Gu Cheng’s mouth stiffened.

Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“Before a duel like that, you really shouldn’t have gone up against a person like Tang Tian Yi, you should know that there’s no antidote for their poison.”

Ye Gu Cheng’s expression changed.

“How much do you know?”

“Maybe already too much!”

Once again, Ye Gu Cheng did not say anthing for a long time.

“I didn’t want to get into it with him either!”

“But you....”

“But he came up to me and forced me to unsheath my sword.” Ye Gu Cheng cut Lu Xiao Feng off. “He said that I... he claimed I tried to seduce his wife while he was away!”

“Of course you didn’t.”

Ye Gu Cheng smirked.

“Since you didn’t, then why didn’t you try and explain it?”

“If you were me, would you have tried to explain it?”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed again. He had to admit he would not have bothered to explain anything if he ran into a situation like this. Because type of thing was not worth the trouble, nor could it be explained away.

“So the only thing you could do was fight!”

“All I could do was fight!”

“But I still don’t understand, with your skills, Tang Tian Yi shouldn’t even have had the chance to move!”

Again, Ye Gu Cheng did not say anything as his fist tightened.

“I didn’t want to say this, but the only reason he was able to make a move was because, just as I was about to unsheath my sword, I heard a strange whistle.”

Lu Xiao Feng’s expression changed as well.

“And then you immediately found a snake?....”

“How did you know?” Ye Gu Cheng stood up in rage.

“Just today, I’ve had two friends die from that type of snake, and another in bed, life hanging in the balance.” Lu Xiao Feng’s fist tightened as well.

Ye Gu Cheng’s pupil dilated as he slowly sat back down. Both men understood that there was somebody behind the scenes for all of this. But who could it be? And for what purpose?

“The person who would benefit most from your injuries is Xi Men Chui Xue.” Lu Xiao Feng observed, after a long period of silence.

“But the person who did this to you could not be Xi Men Chui Xue!”

“I know, I don’t believe he is that low of a person!”

“Do you really?”

“A person as despicable as that could not possibly be able to attain such a high level of mastery of the sword!”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

“Didn’t think you would understand Xi Men Chui Xue so well!”

Ye Gu Cheng stared down at the sword on the table.

“I don’t understand him, only his sword!” He slowly explianed.

Lu Xiao Feng stared into his face.

“Maybe because you two are the same type of person as well!”

Although Ye Gu Cheng did not agree to that, he did not deny it either.

Two unmatched swords, two peerless men, how could they not understand each other?

“Looks like not only truly devoted friends who understands each other, but also truly devoted enemies who understand each other.” Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Of course there is, just that the latter is so much harder to find than the former.

“Supposedly a lot of people have placed bets for me to win!” Ye Gu Cheng suddenly said.

“The odds at this moment is 7 to 1 for you!” Lu Xiao Feng said with a slightly condescending smile.”But still, that means there are still some who put money on Xi Men Chui Xue to win!”

“Yes.”

“If I should lose, then wouldn’t those men make a killing?”

“You think that the person who sabotaged you is one of those who placed bets on Xi Men Chui Xue?”

“Don’t you think so?”

Lu Xiao Feng did not reply.

Even though he did not say so, he knew in his heart that was not the case. Because that person not only injured Ye Gu Cheng, but also killed Big Shot Sun and First Madame Gong Sun as well as injured Ou Yang Qing. There must be an even bigger conspiracy, an even bigger targe behind all of this than just winning a huge bet.

Ye Gu Cheng stood up again. He walked over to the window and pushed it open.

“It’s September 14th now....” He mumbled as he stared into the moonlight.

“Are you still planning on going through with the duel?”

“Do I look like someone who would go back on his words?” Ye Gu Cheng coldly answered.

“But your wounds....”

Ye Gu Cheng smiled, it was a sad and lonely smile.

“Nobody can heal the wound, so the man is dead. If death is comign anyways, wouldn’t dying under Xi Men Chui Xue’s sword an honour in and of itself?”

“You... you could postpone the duel again!”

“No! Not possible!” Ye Gu Cheng dismissed that suggestion.

“Why not?”

“Because, in my life, I have never gone back on my word yet!”

“Don’t forget that you two have already changed the date once!”

“There was a special reason!”

“What reason is that?”

“You don’t need to know!” Ye Gu Cheng’s face darkened.

“I must know!”

Ye Gu Cheng snickered coldly at that remark.

“Not only am I Xi Men Chui Xue’s friend, I’m also your friend. I have the right to know!” Lu Xiao Feng demanded.

Ye Gu Cheng slowly closed the window only to push it open again. The moonlight poured in like before.

He did not turn around, as if he did not want Lu Xiao Feng to see the expression on his face. The two men stayed like that for a long time.

“Did you know that he has a child?” He suddenly said.

“What did you say?” Lu Xiao Feng jumped off of the table.

Ye Gu Cheng did not say any more, he knew that Lu Xiao Feng heard perfectly well the first time.

Of course Lu Xiao Feng did, he just could not really believe it.

“Are you telling me that Xi Men Chui Xue has a child now?”

Ye Gu Cheng nodded.

“You mean that Sun Xiu Qing is pregnant?” Lu Xiao Feng asked again. Again, Ye Gu Cheng nodded.

Lu Xiao Feng did not say anymore. If a man, just before he was going into a life-or-death duel, suddenly discover that his love was pregnant, what should he do?

“So it was he who went to you to ask for a postponement, because he had to make sure that Sun Xiu Qing was taken care off afterwards. Becuase he was not sure that he could beat you!” Lu Xiao Feng finally understood.

“He’s a responsible man, he knows that he has made too many enemies!”

“And if he was to die in your hands, his enemies would not want his wife or child to live either!”

“He never begged in his life, so even if he dies, he still does not want to beg other people to protect his wife!”

“And that was why he asked you to postpone the duel for one month, so he could make sure that his family is taken care of!”

“If you were me, would you have agreed to it?”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Finally, he understood why Xi Men Chui Xue had suddenly disappeared. Of course he was going to find a secretive place where his wife could settle down so that she could give birth to the baby in peace. This kind of place was somewhere that nobody could know about.

Ye Gu Cheng stared into the moon, it was already full: “Night of full moon, peak of Mt. Zi Jin....”

“‘Night of full moon’ is still ‘Night of full moon’, but what did ‘peak of Mt. Zi Jin’ get changed to?” Lu Xiao Feng could not resist asking.

“To just ‘peak of Zi Jin’!” Ye Gu Cheng slowly replied after another long pause.

“‘Peak of Zi Jin’? As in Zi Jin Cheng? As in the Forbidden City?” Lu Xiao Feng was shocked.

“Yes!”

“You two are going to duel inside the Forbidden City, on the roof of the Hall of Supreme Harmony?” Even Lu Xiao Feng was having a hard time believing the location that was chosen.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony was the biggest hall inside of the Forbidden City, so the peak of the Forbidden City was none other than on the roof of the Hall. The roof of the Hall was 27 meters high and covered with very slippery glass tiles, making just standing on it almost impossible, but not nearly as impossible as actually climbing to the top. On top of all of that, was the fact that this was where the Emperor himself holds court and conducts his business, making it the most highly guarded place within the world. And yet these two men had to pick this place for their duel.

Even Lu Xiao Feng had to take a deep breath when he realized this.

“Aren’t you two getting a little too brave for your own good here?” He had to laugh.

“If you are afraid, then don’t come!” Ye Gu Cheng casually dismissed his concerns.

“You picked this place because you knew that there would not be many spectators, if any?” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly realized.

“To say the least, this duel is not for others to see!”

“Then what is it for?” Lu Xiao Feng had to ask.

“Because he is Xi Men Chui Xue, and I am Ye Gu Cheng!”

This was not a real answer, but it was enough. Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng were destined to meet in their life to determine who was the best. No other reason is needed! Two unmatched, peerless swords masters are like two meteors, if they meet, they would surely result the most spectacular and explosive display. This explosion might disappear in an instant, but would pass down in legend forever!

The moon was so bright that in its luster, only a few stars could be seen. The night deepened some more.

“What you wanted to know, you have found out, so why aren’t you leaving?” Ye Gu Cheng slowly asked.

“Other than me, does anybody else know where the duel will take place?” Lu Xiao Feng was not quite ready to leave yet.

“I didn’t tell anybody else,” Ye Gu Cheng coldly answered. “I don’t have any other friends!”

His voice might be cold, but his words were warm. He actually admitted that Lu Xiao Feng was his friend, his only friend.