LXF03-10 Print
Saturday, 16 August 2008 04:29

Chapter 10 - The Seventh Satin Belt



September 15th, dusk. The spectacular colors of the setting sun filled the sky. Lu Xiao Feng came flying out of the bakery and began speeding down along the already stained red street.

He must find one satin belt before the moon rises. He could not miss tonight’s duel. Absolutely not!

Because both Ye Gu Cheng and Xi Men Chui Xue were his friends, because he had discovered that, under the full moon, during their duel, something Earth shattering would happen, something even more shocking than the duel itself.

Of course, he could not get back those satin belts that he had given out. But a stolen satin belt was different. Not only could you demand what was stolen from you back, you could steal it back, or even take it back by force. He had decided to do whatever it took. The only problem was how was he going to find Si Kong Zhai Xing?

This man was like the wind, maybe even harder to keep track of than wind. Those who did not want to find would often run into him, but those who want to find him would never find him.

Luckily for Lu Xiao Feng, he still had one lead. He still remembered the name of that pharmacy that Si Kong Zhai Xing stumbled out of.

Si Kong Zhai Xing was much healthier than most of the people he had victimized, there was no way he was actually purchasing some medicine at the shop. So if he had actually walked out from the pharmacy, then that particular pharmacy surely had at least a little bit of relationship with him.

The gold letters of the pharmacy glistened in the sunlight. There was one kid at the front door kicking a little shuttlecock around. When he saw Lu Xiao Feng approach, he immediately put to fingers in his mouth and whistled.

All of the sudden, up and down the street, left and right, a dozen or so giggling kids came streaming out onto the street and gathered in front of Lu Xiao Feng.

They still recognized Lu Xiao Feng, and of course, still remember that little song that could kill a man by either making him explode with anger or asphyxiate from laughter.

Lu Xiao Feng was practically giggling as well, he was sure these kids were about to sing “Si Kong Zhai Xing, is a monkey faerie” again.

But instead the kids began to sing at the top of their lungs:

“Xiao Feng is no bird, is a big stink bug,
Pointy headed stink bug, just dig holes all day,
Dog craps in the hole, so he eats the crap,
One big stinking pile of dog poo, even stink bugs can fly after it.”

What kind of lines were those? That was almost not language at all.

Lu Xiao Feng could not decide if he should laugh or get pissed. He seemed to have forgotten that the lines he came up with were not particularly poetic either.

Of course, he knew those came up with those lines, Si Kong Zhai Xing had been back to this place.

After much effort, he finally got those kids to stop.

“Did that white haired old man come back?” He immediately asked, not taking any risks.

The kids nodded.

“He taught us that song, he said that’s your favorite song and if we sang it good, you would buy us all candy!” They all shouted.

Lu Xiao Feng felt like he was about to burst again, who would want to buy others candy after being insulted?

The kids blinked as they looked up at him expectantly.

“How did we do?”

“Good, very good.” Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

“Are you going to buy us candy?”

Lu Xiao Feng sighed and laughed defeatedly: “Yes, of course I will.”

Anything that others would not be willing to do Lu Xiao Feng often would be willing to do. How could he disappoint all these kids? He immediately went and bought candies, lots and lots of candies. Watching all the kids cheer, his heart melted.

Candy in mouth, a couple of the kids tugged at his shirt.

“The gramps is right, your are a good person, Mister!” They cheered.

“He actually said I was a good person?” Lu Xiao Feng seemed skeptical.

“He said you were very obedient even when you were a baby.”

Lu Xiao Feng was even more incredulous: “How does he know what I was like when I was a baby?”

“He saw you grow up, he even used to hold you when you peed, of course he would know.”

Lu Xiao Feng gnarled involuntarily, at the moment, there was nothing he wanted to do more than to tie that little monkey faerie up and cane a couple of times, maybe more.

“The gramps was just here, if you had showed up just a little earlier, Mister, you would have run into him.”

“Where did he go?”

“He flew off again, and he got so high! Mister, can you fly higher than him?”

Lu Xiao Feng fixed his collar and his sleeves: “I’m not too sure, why don’t you guys pay attention and see?”

Since Si Kong Zhai Xing was not here, there was no point for him to stay here any longer either.

But the kids immediately stopped him: “Wait a second Mister, we have one more thing to tell you.”

“What’s that?”

“That gramps left a little bundle for you. He told us we should give it to you if you buy us candy and throw it in the sewer ditch if you don’t.”

The fastest kid had already ran back into the pharmacy and walked out with a bundle in his hand. Not in his wildest dreams could Lu Xiao Feng have suspected that inside the bundle was two satin belts.

In the setting sun, the satin belts have already turned red in color. Other than the belts, there was also a slip of paper in the bundle: “Steal one from you, give you two back. I’m a monkey faerie, you are a stink bug. You want to beat my ass? I’ll make you eat #####.”

Lu Xiao Feng laughed, laughed out loud: “The little bastard really can’t ever stand being on the short end of anything can he?”

Why would he give him back two more satin belts after stealing one? Where did the other one come from?

Lu Xiao Feng did not bother dwelling on those questions. Now that these two satin belts are in his hands without so much of an effort, he was positively giddier than those kids when they saw how much candy he got them: “Pay attention now, tell me who flies higher ok?”

Still laughing, he somersaulted three times and landed, again, on the rooftops.

“You were higher! You were higher than the gramps!” The kids cheered.

With their bright eyes and innocence, they would never lie. Lu Xiao Feng felt even better, if that was possible. He felt as if he was floating, as if a pair of wings just grew out of his body and was about to fly to the moon. The moon might have have risen yet, but the setting sun have disappeared beyond the horizon.

The night slowly descended. Lu Xiao Feng returned to Delicious Fragrant Vegetarian through the back door. Through the window, he could tell the lamp had been lit. The soft and gentle lamp light made it easier for him to spot Sun Xiu Qing and Ou Yang Qing through the open window even as far as the flower bushes.

Both of them were beautiful, and under the lamp light, they seemed somehow even more beautiful. But their faces were covered with an unspeakable anguish, somehow, even the lamp light seemed morose. Did Xi Men Chui Xue already leave?

Of course he did. There was only this lone lantern keeping them company in this room. The door was not completely closed. Lu Xiao Feng completely forgot to knock for his heart was heavy as well. When did Xi Men Chui Xue leave?

He wanted to ask, but did not. He did not dare, nor could he bear the thought. There were three empty cups on the table and one flask of wine. He poured a cup for himself and slowly drank the entire cup before pouring another cup and quickly emptying its contents again.

“He left.” Sun Xiu Qing abruptly stated.

“I know.”

“He said he wanted to leave a bit early so he could leave the city and enter again so people wouldn’t think that he’s been inside the city this whole time!”

“I figured.”

“I hoped that you would get there early too, because... because he doesn’t have any other friends.”

Lu Xiao Feng could not say anything and Sun Xiu Qing did not say anymore. She turned away and stared out into the night through the window. Night was slowly descending upon the land, a full moon had already slowly climbed its way up onto the sky. The wind was slowly getting colder as well.

After an untold amount of time, Su Xiu Qing quietly spoke up again.

“Tonight’s dusk is very pretty, much more beautiful than it ususally is. But soon it will be gone.” She closed her eyes as tears rolled down her cheek. After another long pause, she continued. “Why must everything good and beautiful be so fleeting? Why can’t they remain in this world just a little bit longer?”

Was she asking the Heavens? Or was she asking Lu Xiao Feng? Lu Xiao Feng was at a lost as to how he should respond. Nobody knows how to respond to this question.

He finished another cup of wine before he could force a smile onto his face: “I’m leaving too. I promise I’ll bring him back!”

He did not dare say anything more, nor did he dare to look at Ou Yang Qing. He was ready to give that extra satin belt to her so she could witness this duel of the century.

But he did not even bring the subject up. He knew Ou Yang Qing would undoubtly stay here to keep Sun Xiu Qing company instead. He understood how Sun Xiu Qing felt, it was not anxiety, fear, anguish.... Those words could not possibly be adequate. At this moment, he just hoped to really be able to bring Xi Men Chui Xue back.

Just as he got up and was about to leave, Ou Yang Qing suddenly grabbed his hand, making him turn around and saw her eyes. There was tears in her eyes as well. Even a fool could see her concern and affection. Of course, Lu Xiao Feng saw it too, although he was having a hard time believing it. --How could the Ou Yang Qing who was looking at him now be the same Ou Yang Qing before who was cold as ice?

Why did she suddenly change? Only then did Lu Xiao Feng truly discover how little he really understand about women.

Luckily, he understood enough to know that a woman would never look at him this way if she truly detested him, nor would she grab his hand. Her hand was freezing, but it was tightly holding onto his hand. Only now did she truly understand how painful it it would be for a woman if she was to lose the man she loved.

The two of them stared into each others eyes for a long time.

“Are you coming back too?” She finally asked in almost a whisper.

“I will!”

“You promise?”

“I promise!”

Ou Yang Qing slowly looked away as she slowly let go of his hand: “I’ll be waiting for you.”

“I’ll be waiting for you.” That feeling inside of a man when he knows there is a woman is waiting is something that could not be replaced by any other feeling.

“I’ll be waiting for you.” What a beautiful, warm, and wonderful phrase. Lu Xiao Feng felt intoxicated, he was not drunk off of alcohol.

The bright moon was in the sky, and Lu Xiao Feng was facing yet another conundrum -- There was one extra satin belt on him to give away, but who should he give it to? None of those who deserves to have the satin belts were anywhere to be seen.

The streets were quite crowded, even more so inside of the restaurants and bars. All manners of people are sitting at the tables, discussing whatever their business of the night might be.

Lu Xiao Feng did not need to hear what them to know that they were waiting for the result of tonight’s duel. Without a doubt, many among them have money riding on either Xi Men Chui Xue or Ye Gu Cheng.

Not only has this duel shaken the martial world, it had penetrated into the depth of the Capital’s society. Never have duels had this kind of effect before.

Lu Xiao Feng found it all very humorous. He was sure that if Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng knew of this, they would find it all very humorous as well.

At this moment, he noticed a man walking out of a tea house across the way. This man was very tall and very skinny, well groomed, carried himself in a very cultured way, and wore a very sophistocated blue robe. There were streaks of silver in his sideburns. It was none other than “Master of South City”, Du Tong Xuan.

This might not be Li Yan Bei’s territory anymore, but it was still a rival of Du Tong Xuan’s. Why would he suddenly appear here? And without even one bodyguard?

Lu Xiao Feng immediately chased up to him and patted him on the shoulder.

“Scholar Du, how are you?”

Du Tong Xuan was completely caught off guard as he snapped his head around. When he realized it was Lu Xiao Feng, he forced a fake smile: “Not bad, thanks you!”

“Where’s your bodyguard?” He asked, referring to that mysterious man dressed in black from earlier.

“He left!”

“Why did he leave?”

“Small ponds can’t keep big fishes alive, of course he left!”

Lu Xiao Feng looked around rather secretively before purposefully lowering his voice: “I got to hand it to you, coming here to Li Yan Bei’s territory all by yourself?”

Du Tong Xuan smiled.

“This doesn’t seem to be Li Yan Bei’s territory anymore.” He casually replied.

“He might be dead, but he still has a band of brothers!”

“After a man dies, even his wives can remarry, nevermind his ‘brothers’!”

Even Lu Xiao Feng had to chuckle: “Looks like not only do you know Boss Li is dead, but you also know that his people have been swallowed up by White Cloud Outlook!”

Du Tong Xuan’s face, however, remained emotionless. “In this business of ours, those who can’t get their news fast doesn’t last long.” He coldly observed.

“Could Gu Qing Feng be a friend of yours?”

“He might not be a friend, but at least he isn’t a nemesis either!”

“No wonder you are here by yourself.” Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

“If you, sir, have time, you are always welcomed to come visit my part of town. And you can bring however many people you like.”

Lu Xiao Feng’s eyes rolled around as another idea hit him: “Since you’ve already put so much down on Ye Gu Cheng, I bet you really would like to witness tonight’s duel first hand!”

Du Tong Xuan did not agree nor refute that.

“I have one extra satin belt with me, if you are interested, I can give it to you!”

Du Tong Xuan did not answer for a long time, as if he was considering the offer.

“Boss Bu Ju is in that tea house as well.”

“Oh?”

“Why don’t you give him that extra satin belt?”

Lu Xiao Feng was speechless. Other people tried everything to get this satin belts, yet now that he was just offering it to Du Tong Xuan for nothing, unbelievably, hrefused it.

Du Tong Xuan cupped one hand in another and gave a slight salute to Lu Xiao Feng.

“If there is nothing else, sir, I must be leaving. Fare thee well.”

And just like that, he left, not even showing the slightest trace of wanting to stay.

Mystified, Lu Xiao Feng stood there like an idiot for a long time before suddenly looking up and noticing that Bu Ju had just walked out of the tea house. Bu Ju noticed him too as well as the satin belt on his shoulder. Suddenly, he broke out into a smile.

“Did you not sell off all of your belts?” It was a very odd looking smile, there seemed to be an indescribable hint of sarcasm in it.

“This satin belt isn’t up for sell, but could be given away. If you still want it, I’ll give it to you!”

Bu Ju shot another look at him, his smile becoming even more odd: “Pity I don’t like to kowtow!”

“No need to kowtow.”

“Really?”

“Of course.”

“And I really don’t want it either!” His expression suddenly dropped as he dismissively flicked his sleeve at Lu Xiao Feng and walked away, not even looking back at Lu Xiao Feng again.

Once again, Lu Xiao Feng was speechless. This was the same person who, earlier in the day, was willing to trade 3 huge pieces of jade rings for one satin belt, but now he did not even want it for free.

Lu Xiao Feng could not understand what was going on, but he did not have time to ponder either. The full moon has risen and he has to make it to the Forbidden City as soon as possible. He could not afford to be late.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony was inside the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Outside the Gate of Supreme Harmony was GoldenJadeBeltRiver which, under the moonlight, looked just like a golden jade belt.

Lu Xiao Feng made his way through East Gate, Grand Forefather Gate, and the Meridian Gate located underneath the Dragon and Phoenix Watchtower before finally arriving at the most forbidden part of this Forbidden City, the city within the city.

On the way here, there were platoons and stations of guards every few steps or so. It would be extremely difficult for anybody to get here without the satin belt on them, and even if they did get here, it was impossible for them to get any further in this literal mine field.

Even if there was not a shadow of a soul to be seen at the moment, there could be a martial art master within the Imperial Guards waiting to ambush you around every dark corner.

There were all kinds of hidden dragons and crouching tigers among the Imperial Guard, some were real martial art masters who inherited their family skills, some were ambitious and brave young heroes, and some were also criminals who are trying hide from their enemies. In the end, nobody in the world dared to underestimate their ability. Under the moonlight, there was one person sitting on the bridge over the moat. The top of his head still shining.

“Honest Monk.” Lu Xiao Feng immediately ran up to him.

“You got here early.” He smiled.

Honest Monk was biting into another steamed bun when he saw Lu Xiao Feng ran up. Hurriedly, he tucked the steamed bun away and made some vague sound to acknowledge Lu Xiao Feng, hoping that he did not see the steamed bun.

Lu Xiao Feng laughed: “Seeing that in your hands, I suddenly realized something.”

“What?”

“I realized that I forgot to eat dinner again.”

Honest Monk rolled his eyes: “Are you going to try and trick this steamed bun from me again?”

Lu Xiao Feng glared back: “When did I ever lie to you? I traded you two satin belts for one steamed bun. Do you actually feel robbed?”

Honest Monk looked around for a bit before suddenly breaking out into a smile as well: “I’ll be honest, I have three more steamed buns on me, plus another half of one. Are you interested in a trade?”

“Yes.”

“What are you going to use in the exchange?”

“Everything I have, I have on me. Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you!”

Honest Monk sized him up a couple of times.

“Looks like you don’t have much more than me!” He laughed, as much at his own sorry state as at Lu Xiao Feng.

Lu Xiao Feng laughed as well.

“At least I have one more mustache than you, not to mention several thousand strands of hair.”

“I don’t want your hair or your mustache, I just want you to promise me one thing, then half of food is yours.”

“And what’s that?”

“That the next time you see me, you pretend you don’t know me. That way, at last, I would be able to spend my days in peace.”

Lu Xiao Feng threw his head back in laughter and patted Honest Monk on the shoulder as he sat down next to him, still not able to control this fit of laughter.

“So what do you say?”

“No.”

“Don’t you want my steamed buns?”

“Yes.”

“Then why not?”

“Because I already have a steamed bun.”

Honest Monk was befuddled.

“Where did you get your it from?”

“From Si Kong Zhai Xing!”

“Si Kong Zhai Xing?” Honest Monk was even more confused.

Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

“If it wasn’t because of the little bit I picked up from him, how could I have possibly taken your steamed bun? So of course it came from him!”

Honest Monk did not say anything more, by now, he had realized there was one less steamed bun on him. It was already in Lu Xiao Feng’s hand, it somehow appeared, as if by magic.

Honest Monk sighed.

“He doesn’t learn anything else, he has to learn how to steal.” He mumbled.

“At least thieves don’t starve.” Lu Xiao Feng laughed as he stuffed half of the steamed bun into his mouth. “What are you waiting for here?”

“For the Emperor to go to bed.” Honest Monk replied with a straight face.

“So we can’t go in just yet?”

“No.”

“How long do we have to wait?”

“We’ll know when the time comes!”

Lu Xiao Feng stood back up and looked around more closely.

“Has Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng arrived yet?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about the others?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you see anyone?”

“I saw one and a half men.”

“One and a half?”

“One was Yin Xian, he was the one who told me to wait here!”

“Who is the half a man?”

“You, at most, you can only count as half a man.”

Once again, Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Suddenly, from the darkness, a shadow appeared. It flew through the air, giving a definitive display of the orthodoxed “Eight Step Cicada Chase”. After just a few consecutive hops, the shadow was in front of them. Dressed in green, silver hair flowing, it was none other than the leader of the Wu Dang Sect, the Wooden Taoist.

“You really are quite honest.” Lu Xiao Feng observed with a smile. “So you didn’t end up swallowing what belonged to your fellow monk.”

“I only know how to swallow steamed buns, shame that the steamed buns could be stolen.”

The Wooden Taoist shot a look at Lu Xiao Feng and pretended to frown: “What kind of a man would stoop so low as to steal a monk’s steamed bun?”

“When I have the chance, I’m going to steal from a Taoist monk too.”

The Wooden Taoist smiled.

“At least this guy is honest, he confessed without even the slightest force being applied.”

As he said that, another shadow appeared.

Lu Xiao Feng took one look and frowned: “Who did you give the other satin belt to?”

“Yan Ren Ying.”

“This man isn’t Yan Ren Ying.” The Wooden Taoist immediately concluded.

“Nor is it Tang Tian Zong, nevermind Si Ma Zi Yi.”

This person’s movement was very unique, as he approached with his sleeves flapped in the wind. It seemed as if he was floating in with the breeze without using the slightest bit of effort.

Yan Ren Ying, Tang Tian Zong, and Si Ma Zi Yi were not capable of such effortless movements. In truth, counting Lu Xiao Feng, there was not more than three to five men in the martial world capable of this.

“Who is this?” Honest Monk wondered.

“He’s not a person, not even half a person. He is a monkey faerie.” Lu Xiao Feng answered.

Before he finished, the shadow shot towards them like a rocket, the clothes howling in the wind, as if he was about to run smack into Lu Xiao Feng. But just before it did run into Lu Xiao Feng, it suddenly somersaulted backwards three times in midair and gently floated down on the ground. It was a white haired old man, hunched over coughing up a storm.

“Do you two know who this monkey faerie is?” Lu Xiao Feng said with a straight face.

“‘Si Kong Zhai Xin, is a monkey faerie.’ I heard that song earlier this afternoon.” The Wooden Taoist said with a smile.

“Looks like my disguise is completely wasted!” Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed.

“You shouldn’t have showed off your lightness kungfu, other than Si Kong Zhai Xing, who else was capable of that?” The Wooden Taoist pointed out.

“Me.” Lu Xiao Feng declared.

“‘One big stinking pile of dog poo, even stink bugs can fly after it.’“ Si Kong Zhai Xing sang with a smile.

Lu Xiao Feng pretended not to hear him and, instead, stared at the satin belt on him: “You stole one of my belts, and gave me back two.”

“Well, you know me, always looking out for my friends. When I found out you forgot to leave one for yourself, I went and found two for you.”

“Where did you find them”

“Don’t forget that I’m the King of Thieves!”

“Did you steal the ones on Si Ma Zi Yi and Tang Tian Zong?”

Si Kong Zhai Xing just laughed and suddenly pointed in the distance: “Why don’t you go look at who is coming?”

Two more streaks of shadows approached from the distance. The person on the left seemed to always be shrugging his shoulders in midair, as if he was already just about to let loose a whole host of projectiles, using a lightness kungfu skill unique to the Tang Family. The person on the right, however, seemed very awkward and cumbersome, as if he had spent too much time in strength training. If Tang Tian Zong did not slow down for him, he would have been trailing far far behind him.

“Looks like the young master of the Tang Family is here!” Honest Monk observed.

“Who is the other person?” The Wooden Taoist inquired.

“Bu Ju!” Honest Monk answered. It really was Bu Ju. Once again, that mocking smile appeared on his face as he noticed Lu Xiao Feng was present, as if he was saying to Lu Xiao Feng: “You didn’t give me a belt, I’m still here anyways.”

Incredibly, there was a satin belt tied around his waist. In the moonlight, the belt’s color would fluctuate from light purple to silver depending on the angle. Obviously, it was made from the same material as the other satin belts. There were only 6 belts. But, with the two on Lu Xiao Feng, one each on Honest Monk, the Wooden Taoist, and Si Kong Zhai Xing, plus the two belts on them, there were 7 belts.

How did 6 belts turn into 7? Where did the extra one come from? Bu Ju’s face was filled with pride as proudly strode onto the bridge, but Tang Tian Zong’s face was stone colored as he did not even look in Lu Xiao Feng’s general direction. Lu Xiao Feng knew they would not tell hiim even if he asked; besides, he did not have any time to ask.

A shadow has shot out from within the Gate of Supreme Harmony. There was a long sword carried sidelong along his back and he was dressed in a uniform of an armed Imperial Guard. The uniform looked a little snug on him, obviously he had been enjoying himself a bit recently. But his movement was still agile. It was none other than one of the four Chief Wardens of the Imperial Guard, Yin Xian.

His face was also stone colored and his expression was grim.

“I know everyone here is the creme de la creme of the martial world, but I hope everyone realize what kind of a place this is. This isn’t a tea house, if you want to chat, then you have come to the wrong place.” He was talking like an official down to commoners, but everyone had to listen. They were taking a huge amount of risk and responsibility for this, so it was not unexpected that they would get somewhat testy. Besides, this really was not the place for a chat.

After that initial rant, Yin Xian’s expression softened a bit as he looked over the 6 people present: “Well, now that everyone is here, please come in. Once you get past the big platform, there’s a huge hall. That would be the Hall of Supreme Harmony.”

“Is that also throne room?”

Yin Xian nodded.

“The tallest building in the ImperialPalace is the Hall of Grand Harmony. If those two masters must duel atop the Forbidden City, it’s probably best for everyone to wait there.” He took a look at Bu Ju, and then looked over at the hunched over old man and coldly continued. “Since you’ve made it this far, your lightness kungfu is undoubtly pretty good. But I should still remind everyone, that isn’t just any normal rooftop. It’s difficult enough to get on it, but the roof tiles are all slippery glass tiles. So everyone should be careful with every step because all of us are going to suffer the consequences should one of us fall off the roof.”

Bu Ju’s expression had turned grim, that smile nowhere to be seen. Even Si Kong Zhai Xing seemed to quietly take a little deep breath. To this point, Lu Xiao Feng did not even have a chance to speak up.

He was just about to speak up when Yin Xian cut him off: “Don’t get on the roof right away, there is somone waiting for you.”

“Who?”

“If you want to see him, follow me.”

With a simple shrug of his shoulders, he took off, as if he wanted to show off his abilities a little bit in front of all these people.

He was pretty fast, with just one simple hop, he shot out about 8 meters. Lu Xiao Feng followed him at a distance, not wanting to show him up. So Yin Xian tried even harder to show off as he did a somersault and unleashed “Swallow Parting the Cloud.”

But as soon as he made this move, a person quite gently and effortlessly past him with a small hiss as he pierced through the air. It was none other than that hunched over old man.

As soon as they passed through the Gate of Grand Harmony, Lu Xiao Feng’s attitude and demeanor changed completely. Not only could he not smile anymore, even his breathing became quieter. The authority and power of the Emperor was still something that these heroes of the martial world did not dare to infringe upon.

Not even Lu Xiao Feng dared to. The two flights of stairs just in front of the Hall looked just like any other staircase made of several dozen slabs of stone. But just imagining the scene when the Emperor holds court with the top officials and generals solemnly standing on either side of the stairway waiting to answer to the Emperor’s every beck and whim made even Lu Xiao Feng’s body temperature rise in excitement.

All of the geniuses, prodigies, heroes, and leaders would wrack their brain, sacrifice their body, and some would even sacrifice their lives in hopes of just being able to stand on these stairs for a little bit.

The Hall of Grand Harmony was even more breathtaking. Looking up, the gleaming roof seemed to be in the clouds. Besides the Hall of Grand Harmony was the Hall of Secure Harmony. Besides the Hall of Secure Harmony, just west of the stairs outside the Pure Heaven Gate, up against the northern wall, was three flat roofed buildings. The black lacquered doors were shut tight and through the windows, a dim flickering of a lamp could be seen. The dim light illuminated a white plaque hanging on top of the door. On the plaque were 6 words that would stop any man in his track: “Those Who Enter Shall Be Executed!”

Yin Xian had led Lu Xiao Feng here and stopped in front of that particular door: “Someone’s waiting for you inside, go in!”

Lu Xiao Feng immediately shook his head.

“I can still read you know.” He said with a rather weak smile. “I don’t want to lose my head.”

Yin Xian smiled as well.

“I’m the one who is telling you to go in, whatever happens, I’ll take care of it. What are you scared of?”

Lu Xiao Feng looked at him and decided that he did not look like the type that was sending him into a trap. But here, at such a important and solemn place, even Lu Xiao Feng could not help but be especially careful. He would much rather just stand outside.

Yin Xian smiled again: “Can you figure out who is inside waiting for you?”

Lu Xiao Feng shook his head.

“Who?”

“Xi Men Chui Xue.”

Lu Xiao Feng was momentarily flabbergasted.

“How did he get in?”

Yin Xian looked around to make sure nobody was around before moving closer.

“We all put money down on him.” He whispered. “So of course we are going to treat him nicely and let him get a good rest so he would have the energy to take on that Outter Heaven Angel.”

Lu Xiao Feng smiled as well.

“This place might be a restricted area, but His Majesty has gone to bed and it is long time until the morning court. So other than we Chief Wardens, nobody would come here!” Still smiling, he gave Lu Xiao Feng a pat on the shoulder. “So stop worrying and just go in. If you have a couple of secret moves that counters Ye Gu Cheng’s moves, then give him a couple of pointers. We are all on his side anyways!”

He might have been pulling rank just a bit earlier, but now he seemed to be a completely different person. Even his smile seemed friendlier, he even went so far as pushing the door open for Lu Xiao Feng.

With a smile, Lu Xiao Feng gave him a pat on the shoulder as well.

“When you have time to take some leave, I’ll take you out for some drinks.”

The room was not big, nor were there any fancy furnitures, but it still possessed a natural austere and final feel, the livelihood and fortunes of tens of hundreds of thousands of lives have been decided here with a mere stroke of a pen.

The moment that a person, any person, first enters this room would undoubtly be the most nervous and most excited moment of his life. As Lu Xiao Feng silently walked in, his heart seemed to be beating must faster than normal as well.

With his hands behind his back, Xi Men Chui Xue was quietly standing next to a little window, his clothes white as snow. Of course, he heard someone open the door and enter, but he did not turn around, as if he already knew that the person must be Lu Xiao Feng. Lu Xiao Feng did not speak up either.

The door had been closed and the lamp light dimly flickered in the dark and humid room. He suddenly noticed how cold his hands and feet were. He really wanted a cup of wine. Of course, there was no wine in this room, but how much blood, tear, and sweat have been spent here?

Lu Xiao Feng sighed in his heart. He finally understood that he was not the most troubled man in the world, that the people who come to this room everyday were much much more troubled than he would ever be.

Xi Men Chui Xue still did not turn around, but he suddenly broke the silence: “Did you go back to my place?”

“I just came from there.”

“Did you see her?”

“Mm.

“How... how is she holding up?”

Lu Xiao Feng weakly smiled.

“You should know better than me she isn’t some weak willed woman, the Three Valiants and Four Beauties aren’t much less famous than we are.”

He might be smiling on his face, but his heart was sinking. At such a crucial juncture before the duel, when the life or death moment was so close upon him, this man was still thinking about his wife, he was not even holding his sword.

Lu Xiao Feng was finding it almost impossible to believe that this was the same Xi Men Chui Xue he knew before. But he could not help but be somewhat comforted, because finally, Xi Men Chui Xue has turned into a flesh and blood human being.

Abruptly, Xi Men Chui Xue snapped around. “Are we friends?” He asked, looking Lu Xiao Feng in the eyes.

“Yes.”

“If I die, will you take care of her?”

“No.”

Xi Men Chui Xue’s face turned deathly pale: “You won’t?”

“I won’t, only because you are not acting like my friend anymore. My friend is a real men’s man and would never hope for death instead of hoping to live.”

“I’m not hoping for death.”

“But the only thing in your mind and your heart is death.” Lu Xiao Feng coldly observed. “Why aren’t you thinking about your past glories? Why aren’t you thinking of ways to defeat Ye Gu Cheng?”

Xi Men Chui Xue glared at him, glared at him for a long time before he looked down and stared at the sword laying on the table. He suddenly grabbed the sword and pulled it out of its sheath.

The motion of his hands as he pulled out his sword was still that fast, still that elegant, there was absolutely no way anyone in the world could match him.

Si Ma Zi Yi’s technique for pulling out his sword might be also very quick and clever, but compared to Xi Men Chui Xue, he looked like a butcher pulling his cleaver out of a dead pig.

“Are you my friend?” Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked back.

Xi Men Chui Xue paused before finally nodding.

“Do you believe what I tell you?”

Again, Xi Men Chui Xue nodded.

“Then I’m going tell you, I’m almost sure I can handle an attack from any of the swordsman in the world, save one man.” He stared straight into Xi Men Chui Xue’s eyes, not blinking once, slowly continued. “That man is you!”

Xi Men Chui Xue stared down at the sword in his hand, a strange shade of crimson suddenly appeared on his pale face. The lamp light seemed brighter, the shine on the sword seemed brighter as well.

Immediately, Lu Xiao Feng felt the forboding aura of the sword, so forboding was the aura that it made him squint. He knew Xi Men Chui Xue’s confidence has returned.

To a dispirited man, one word of encouragement from a friend could be much more powerful than all of the medicine in the world combined.

The hint of a smile appeared on Lu Xiao Feng’s face. Without saying another word, he quietly turned and walked out of the room.

Outside, the moon hung in the sky like a mirror.