Thick smoke slowly dispersed.
This is a life taking smoke. There were simply too many renowned heroes who had fallen suddenly and noiselessly to this thick smoke.
As the smoke was dispersing, Wood Man’s eyes were shining with elation. He was certain that his opponents had fallen.
In fact, he hoped to see them on the ground, still struggling to the last. He hoped that they would crawled in front of him and begged for the antidote.
Even Shi Batian and Bronze Tiger had knelt in front him before, and begged piteously for the antidote.
They were the most terrifying strongmen in the martial world; but when facing death, even the bravest would become cowardly.
To him, the suffering and hopelessness of other people were a source of pleasure and gratification.
But this time, he was disappointed.
Fu Hongxue and Yan Nanfei did not fall. In fact, their eyes were still shining.
The light in Wood Man’s eyes was extinguished, just like the flames on his torso. His clothes were burnt to ashes and were scattered into the winds along with the thick smoke. Only a person with soot blackened skin was left. It looked like cast iron that was inflammable, yet like burnt charcoal too.
Yan Nanfei suddenly spoke, “These two people are the Double Killers of the Five Elements.”
Fu Hongxue gave a “humph” in reply.[Wood hiding within Metal, Water and Fire coming from the same source], [Hidden movement in borrowed Earth, Ghost hands grabbing legs], normally these assassination moves were practically impossible to defend against. The Double Killers of the Five Elements were one of a few professional assassins who commanded the highest price. It was rumoured that they were already men of huge fortunes, if not millionaires.
Unfortunately, in this world no matter how many times a millionare you were, to some people you were essentially worthless.
Mud Man laughed uneasily, and spoke first, “He is Metal-Wood-Water-Fire, and I am Earth. I am nothing really, a stupid donkey, a useless potato and a worthless dog.”
He was looking very intently at the sabre in Fu Hongxue’s hand.
The sabre was already back in its sheath. A pitch black hilt and a pitch black sheath.
Mud Man sighed, and laughed bitterly, “Even if we did not recognise Hero Fu, we would have recognised this sabre.”
Wood Man said, “But we could not imagine that Hero Fu would save him.”
Fu Hongxue retorted coldly, “This life is already mine.”
Wood Man answered, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue:“Apart from me, no one else can touch a strand of his hair.”
Wood Man, “Yes, yes.”
Mud Man pleaded, “If Hero Fu promises to spare my life, I would immediately scram somewhere far far away.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Scram.”
His words were barely out of his mouth when Wood Man and Mud Man scrammed off. In fact, they actually rolled out like two balls.
Yan Nanfei suddenly laughed, and said, “I knew you definitely would not kill them,”
“Oh?” Fu Hongxue replied.
Yan Nanfei explained, “because they are not worthy enough.”
Fu Hongxue looked intently at the sabre that was in this hand, but there was an unspeakable sense of loneliness in his expression. He never had many friends to begin with. Now even his remaining enemies were dwindling in number. Under the heavens, how many people were still worthy of his sabre?
Fun Hongxue said slowly, “I heard that their price for killing Shi Batian was three hundred thousand taels.”
Yan Nanfei replied, “Absolutely correct.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Your life is obviously worth more than Shi Batian’s.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Far more.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Not many people can afford their price for you.”
Yan Nanfei shut his mouth.
Fu Hongxue said, “I didn’t ask as you had known that person’s identify long ago.”
Yan Nanfei’s mouth was still shut tight. Silence without words.
Fu Hongxue continued, “Your unfulfilled wishes was to deal with this person?”
Without warning, Yan Nanfei laughed coldly, “You had already asked too much!”
Fu Hongxue, “You are not willing to say?”
Yan Nanfei, “Not willing.”
Fu Hongxue, “Then, you go!”
Yan Nanfei, “I am even more unwilling to go!”
Fu Hongxue, “Don’t forget that I had already loaned you a year. What you still own me was the span of a year.”
Yan Nanfei, “You want me to repay it? In what way?”
Fu Hongxue, “By clearing up your unfinished business.”
Yan Nanfei, “But, I…”
Fu Hongxue lifted his head slowly and looked hard at him, “If you are a true man, even when facing death, you would want to die with integrity.”
He had lifted his head up high, but Yan Nanfei followed his head, as if unwilling to let him see the expressions on his face.
Nobody could explain what was that expression. – Was it sadness? Pain? or Fear?
Fu Hongxue said, “Your sword is still alive, your body still alive. Why did you have no courage to face him?”
Yan Nanfei lifted his head up, held his sword tightly in his hand, “Fine, I would go. After a year, I would certainly return.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I know!”
There was still wine on the table.
Yan Nanfei suddenly turned around to grab the wine bottle, “You still do not drink?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I don’t drink!”
Yan Nanfei looked at him, “People who don’t drink, are they always sober?”
Fu Hongxue replied, “Not necessarily.”
Yan Nanfei tilted his head backwards, guffawed loudly and drank half the bottle of wine in one gulp. Then he walked out of the tavern in large strides.
He walked very fast. Because he knew the road ahead was not only difficult, but also very long. So long that it was mind-boggling.
Dead town. Deserted street. Lonely world. Lonely bright moon too.
Tonight was a night of a full moon.
The moon was full, but the heart was already empty.
Yan Nanfei walked under the moon light. He was walking in large strides, walking very fast.
But Fu Hongxue kept following behind him. No matter how fast he walked. The moment he turned around, he would immediately see the lonely cripple, using that clumsy looking and strange posture, slowly shuffling behind.
The stars were dispersing, the moon was dimming and the night was almost over. He was still following, still keeping the same distance behind.
Finally, Yan Nanfei could take it no more. He turned around and yelled loudly, “Are you my shadow?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
“Then why do you kept following me?” Yan Nanfei questioned.
Fu Hongxue answered, “I am not willing to allow you to die in someone else’s hands.”
Yan Nanfei gave a cold laugh, “I don’t need you to worry for me. I have always been able to take care of myself.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Can you really?”
He did not let Yan Nanfei but immediately continued, “Only the a truly emotionless person can take care of themselves. You feel too much.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “What about you?”
Fu Hongxue said grimly, “I may used to have feelings, but I had forgotten them. Long forgotten them.”
His pale face was without emotion. Who could have noticed that behind this cold, grim mask hid deep, heart wrenching pain? Who could have seen those painful memories?
If a person’s heart was truly dead, feelings totally extinguished, no one in the world could hurt him.
Yan Nanfei gazed hard at him and unhurriedly said, “You are wrong if you think you can take care of yourself. “
“Oh?” Fu Hongxue replied.
Yan Nanfei said, “There’s one more person in this world that can hurt you.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Who?”
“Yourself,” Yan Nanfei answered.
The day broke, and the sun rose.
The sun had already illuminated the dark, gloomy and cold Earth. And also the words on a stone plaque at the side of the road: “Phoenix Settlement”.
Only this stone plaque, and these three words, remained the same as they had been a year ago.
Fu Hongxue was not a man who shown his sadness easily. But when he walked past this plaque, he could not help but turned and looked at it again.
The lands were broad as the seas were wide. Changes that happened in this world were often large. But the change that occurred here was undoubtedly too fast, so fast that it was unnatural.
Yan Nanfei could guessed Fu Hongxue’s feelings, and asked suddenly, “You didn’t expect this at all?”
Fu Hongxue nodded his head slowly, and said, “No, I didn’t, but you already knew.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Oh?”
Fu Hongxue answered, “You already knew that this town was dead, that was why you brought your wine and your music with you.
Yan Nanfei did not deny this.
Fu Hongxue said, “You obviously know why this town ended up in such a sorry state too. “
Yan Nanfei answered, “Of course I know.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Why?”
Yan Nanfei’s eyes suddenly showed a mixture of pain and anger. After a long time, he muttered, “Because of me.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because of you? How did you turn the entire bustling town to transform into a grave?”
Yan Nanfei clamped his mouth shut.
The lines of his mouth were thin and cold; in fact, they were almost cruel. So the moment he closed his mouth, anybody could see that he would no longer discuss the matter any further.
So Fu Hongxue closed his mouth too.
But their eyes were not closed. They both saw a stallion approaching towards them from the side road. Galloping, galloping at a high speed.
The stallion was a thoroughbred, and the rider’s skills was superb. By the time they saw the horse, both the rider and his horse were already in front of them.
Yan Nanfei suddenly shot out like an arrow, and did a flip midair as he leaped over the stallion’s head. He was already pulling on the reins of the stallion when his feet touched the ground again.
He stood there like a nail driven into the ground; with just one hand, he managed to rein in a galloping horse.
The stallion was startled, and reared up.
The rider was so angry; he cracked his whip and lashed it in the direction of Yan Nanfei’s head.
Suddenly he found himself sprawled on the ground; his perspiration-drenched face was already pale and tense with fear and terror. He stared at Yan Nanfei, stupefied.
Yan Nanfei was smiling. “Why are you such in a terrible hurry to get to your destination?” he asked.
The rider was trying to keep his temper. He had to, after witnessing Yan Nanfei’s skill. He felt that he had to answer Yan Nanfei’s question. “I am rushing to get to a funeral wake.”
“A relative of yours died?” Yan Nanfei asked.
The rider answered, “Yes, my second uncle.”
“By hurrying there, will you be able to save your uncle?”
It was a rhetorical question, for who could raise the dead?
“Nothing changes anyway, why travel in such haste?” Yan Nanfei asked.
The rider was confused, and asked, “What exactly do you want from me?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I want to buy your horse.”
The rider answered, “The horse is not for sale.”
Yan Nanfei reached into his pocket casually, took out a bundle of gold leaves and threw it in front of the rider. “Is this enough?”
The rider was shocked by Yan Nanfei’s gesture. He stared blankly at the bundle of gold leaves. He finally gave a long sigh, and said, “A dead man cannot come back to life. Why do I need to rush to get there?”
Yan Nanfei laughed. As he was stroking the mane of the stallion, he smiled at Fu Hongxue, and said, “I know I can’t get away from you, but now I have six legs.”
Fu Hongxue was speechless.
Yan Nanfei guffawed, and waved good bye, “So long! I’ll see you in a year’s time!”
He was about to jump onto the intricately designed saddle that was on this beautiful thoroughbred. Suddenly, there was a flash of sabre light.
Fu Hongxue had already pulled out his sabre. The sabre flashed with light, and returned to its sheath.
The horse was not startled, and nobody present was injured in anyway. This flash of sabre light looked like shooting stars in the sky; shooting stars that gave people beauty and hope, not fear and horror.
But Yan Nanfei was shocked. He looked at the sabre in Fu Hongxue’s hand. “I know you very seldom drawn your sabre.”
Fu Hongxue grunted an agreement.
Yan Nanfei said, “Your sabre was not meant for viewing pleasure.”
Fu Hongxue grunted once again.
“Then why did you pull your sabre out for no reason whatsoever?” Yan Nanfei asked.
Fu Hongxue answered, “Because of your legs.”
Yan Nanfei did not understand, “My legs?”
Fu Hongxue continued, “You don’t have six legs. In fact, the moment you mount this horse, you won’t have even one leg.”
Yan Nanfei tensed, and turned back to look at the horse. He saw blood!
Crimson red blood was flowing out. The blood did not flow out from anybody, nor the horse.
The blood was flowing out from the saddle of the horse.
The horse rider, who had been sitting on the ground all this time, suddenly jumped to his feet and sprinted away, as quickly as a flying arrow.
Fu Hongxue did not stop him, neither did Yan Nanfei; they did not even glance at the rider.
Both their eyes were glued to the horse saddle. Yan Nanfei cautiously used two fingers to lift the saddle. – Only one half of the saddle.
This intricately designed saddle had been severed into 2 halves by the flash of sabre light.
How could the horse saddle bleed?
It couldn’t, obviously.
The blood was cool, and was flowing out from snakes. The snakes were in the horse saddle.
There were four poisonous snakes, and they were too cleaved into two by the flash of sabre light.
If a person sat on this horse saddle, that had holes for snakes to crawl out, whose seals had been removed, and if the four venomous snakes had crawled out and bit the legs of this person…
Would this person still have legs?
Yan Nanfei broke out in a cold sweat at the very thought of this horrifying scenario.
He was still perspiring, when he heard a wretched cry. This cry was so chilling, he felt as though a sword was being stabbed into his chest.
The escaping rider had used his lightness skill, the [Swallow Pecking Water Trice], to escape, and was already about seven to eight feet away.
He suddenly gave a cry of horror, and collapsed.
That flash of sabre light earlier not only severed the saddle and cleaved the snakes, it injured the rider’s heart, spleen and liver.
He collapsed onto the ground, and was writhing like snakes.
No one turned around and looked at him.
Yan Nanfei slowly released the severed horse saddle, raised his head, and gazed intently at Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue’s hand was on the hilt of his sabre, and his sabre was in its sheath.
Yan Nanfei contemplated silently for a while, and suddenly sighed. “I regret very much that I was born too late, and never had the opportunity to see this.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “You have never seen Ye Kai’s blade?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “I regret that I never had the fortune. I…”
Fu Hongxue interrupted him, “You may not have had the fortune, but you are nevertheless also lucky. There were people who had seen his sabre in the past..”
Yan Nanfei asked, “They had all died?”
Fun Hongxue answered, “Even if their bodies are still alive, their hearts were already dead.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Their hearts had died?”
Fu Hongxue said, “All who had seen him use his blade, dared not use a blade for the rest of their lives, without exception.”
Yan Nanfei said, “But his blade is really just a flying knife.”
Fu Hongxue replied, “A flying knife is a type of blade as well.”
Yan Nanfei agreed, could only agree.
There were all sorts of knifes and sabres. Every single type of sabre and knife can be used to kill.
Fu Hongxue asked, “Have you ever used a sabre?”
Yan Nanfei replied, “Never.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “How many people have you seen, who do actually know how to use sabres properly”
Yan Nanfei answered, “Not too many.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Then you have no business to be talking about knifes and sabres.”
Yan Nanfei laughed, and said, “Perhaps I really do not have any business to be talking about knifes and sabres; perhaps your sabre technique isn’t unmatched under the heavens. These, I am not too sure. But I am sure about one thing.”
Fu Hongxue said, “And what is that?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Now I have six legs again, but you only have two.”
He gave a loud gaffaw again, and leaped onto the horse.
The horse saddle may be severed, and the snakes may be slashed, but the horse was still very much alive and alert.
The horse ran like the wind, and left behind a swirl of fine dust.
Fu Hongxue looked down at his feet; his eyes had the indescribable look of self ridicule, and whispered to himself, “You are wrong. I don’t have two legs; I only have one.”
There were wine tavern in every town; and every wine tavern with long histories had something that was special or unique.
The “Ten Thousand Longevity” tavern was unique in one way, and that was the exorbitant prices that it charged. Everything that was served, food or wine, were at least double the price of other taverns.
Man has many weakness. Spending tons of money for the sake of appearance was surely one of them.
This was why places that charged ridiculous prices also had ridiculously good business.
When Yan Nanfei walked out of the “Ten Thousand Longevity” tavern and looked at the horse tied outside the tavern, he could not help laughing.
Two legs were really of no match to six legs.
Every Man hopes to escape their shadow. This was certainly another of Man’s many weaknesses.
But as he was untying horse reins, he could no longer laugh.
The moment he raised his head, he saw Fu Hongxue again.
Fu Hongxue was standing across the street, and was staring at him coldly. His face was deadly pale, his eyes silently cold, his sword pitch black.
Yan Nanfei smiled.
He gave the horse a small pat and the horse trotted away. He, however was still where he was, smiling and looking at Fu Hongxue.
The horse that was worth thousands of gold, turned into swirl of dust with a mere pat of his hands.
A thousand taels. Ten thousand taels. Tens and Tens of thousand taels. What are they in his eyes? To him, they are nothing but dust.
The dust settled, and he walked across the street towards Fu Hongxue. He smiled, and said, “You still managed to catch up after all.”
Fu Hongxue gave a “humph” in reply.
Yan Nanfei gave a deep sigh and said, “It’s just as well I am not a female. If not, after being chased and watched like this by you, I’d have had no choice but to marry you.”
Fu Hongxue’s pale face suddenly blushed red. The blush was so deep red, it was alarming. All the pores on his face contorted as though he was in deep pain.
What excruciating memory lay in his heart? Why would a simple, ordinary joke like this one cause him so much pain?
Yan Nanfei closed his mouth.
He never liked hurting other people. Everytime he hurt a person by mistake, he would feel very bad too.
They stood there face to face, under the roof of a bakery.
There was a skinny and withered old lady with two children, a girl and a boy. They were buying some cakes in the bakery. They were barely out of the bakery and the children were already bickering to eat. Though the granny was telling them that it was not good to be eating on the streets, she took out two pieces for them to share.
The children however, quarrelled even louder after they received their share of the cakes.
The little boy jumping up and down, “Why is Xiaoping’s piece so much bigger than mine? I want her cake.”
The little girl naturally refused so the little boy tried to scratch it from her. The little girl had no choice but to run away from him. The old granny couldn’t them and could only shake her head and sighed with resignation.
The girl was not as fast and the boy was going to catch her. She ran behind Yan Nanfei and hid, pulled at Yan Nanfei’s sleeve, and said, “Good uncle, please save me. He’s a little robber.”
The boy quipped, “ This uncle won’t help you. We are all men, and men stick together.”
Yan Nanfei laughed at the antics of the children.
These two children may be mischievious, but they were very intelligent and very cute. Yan Nanfei also had his childhood once, but those golden times were gone, never to return. He too,had a girl playmate once, and he wondered if she was already married.
He saw something in the two children that reminded him of his childhood.
His heart was suddenly filled with warmth and nostalgia. He grabbed both the hands of the two children and said gently, “Let’s quarrel no more. Uncle will buy ten cakes for each of you.”
The faces of the two children lighted up, their smiles were angelic. They both start running into his embrace.
Yan Nanfei opened his arms, preparing to carry a child in each arm.
At this instant, there was a flash of sabre light.
Fu Hongxue was a person who never drawn his sabre out lightly, and yet he suddenly draw his sabre!
The sabre light flashed pass, and the cakes that were in the children’s hands fell onto the ground. They had been slashed into halfs.
Both children were so frightened that they started crying and ran back to their grandmother.
Yan Nanfei was also stunned. He stared at Fu Hongxue in bewilderment.
Fu Hongxue’s sabre was already back in its sheath. His face was expressionless.
Yan Nanfei suddenly laughed coldly. “Now I know. Other than killing, your sabre has one more function.”
Fun Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Yan Nanfei said, “You also use your sabre to frighten children.”
Fu Hongxue replied coldly, “I only scare one type of children.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “Which type?”
Fu Hongxue answered, “The type that kills.”
Yan Nanfei was stunned once more, and turned his back slowly. The old lady was backing away with the two children. The children were no longer crying; their eyes were wide open, and they were glaring at Yan Nanfei.
It was as though their glare was filled with murderous intentions and hatred.
Yan Nanfei lowered his head. His heart beginning to sink. His eyes fell on the cakes on the ground. There were reflective bits inside the cakes.
He picked up one of the halves, and found a mechanised hollow tube filled with [Five-Poison Needles].
He suddenly leaped up like a bird, and landed in front of the old lady. “You are the Ghostly Granny?”
The old lady laughed. The wrinkled and shrivelled face, suddenly became evil and cruel. “You’ve heard of me. Now, that is unexpected.”
Yan Nanfei gazed at her for a long time, and said calmly, “You do know that I have a habit.”
Ghostly Granny said, “What habit is it?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “I never kill women.”
Ghostly Granny laughed. “It’s a good habit to have.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You may be old, but you are still women.”
Ghostly Granny let out a breath, and said, “It’s too bad for you that you’ve never seen me when I was still young, or else….
Yan Nanfei interrupted coldly, “… I would have still killed you.”
Ghostly Granny said, “I seem to recall you just mentioning that you never killed women.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You are an exception.”
Ghostly Granny asked, “Why am I an exception?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Children are pure and innocent. You should not have used them. You’ve wrecked their lives…”
Ghostly Granny smiled again. Her smile was chilling, “Granny loves the children, and the children love to help their Granny with her work. What business is it of yours?”
Yan Nanfei shut his mouth.
He was no longer bear to discuss this matter. His hand was already griping his sword sword.
A bright red sword, red as fresh blood!
Ghostly Granny cackled in laughter. “Other people are afraid of your Wild Rose Sword, but I…”
She didn’t finish her sentence, but threw a bag of sugared pastries heavily on the ground.
There was a suddenly clap of thunderous explosion. There was dust flying high, acrid smoke everywhere and sparks flying about.
Yan Nanfei leaped into the air and somersaulted two feet back.
By the time the smoke dispersed and the dust settled, Ghostly Granny and the two children had vanished. There was however, a large hole left in the ground.
A crowd gathered around to watch, but soon scattered.
Yan Nanfei was still standing there, shell-shocked. After a good while, he turned and faced Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue was as cold as snow.
Yan Nanfei let out a long sigh, and said, “You are right once again.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I’m rarely wrong.”
Yan Nanfei said, “The children are innocent. They must have been kidnapped by Ghostly Granny when they were tiny.”
In the dark of the night, and babies in cloth bundles…
A shrivelled old lady knocking on the door in the middle of the night…
Grieving parents, pitiful children…
Yan Nanfei said sorrowfully, “She must had used all kinds of methods to have taught the children nothing but evil and hatred from a young and tender age.”
Fu Hongxue said, “That’s why you should not have let escape.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I did not suspect that fire seeds from Jiangnan’s Thunderclap Hall could be hidden in that the bag of sugared pastries.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You should have thought of that possibility. If the cakes could contain the [Five-Poison Needles], they could also contain the [Thunderclap Seed].”
Yan Nanfei asked, “You expected something like this would occur?”
Fu Hongxue did not deny it.
Yan Nanfei asked, “Since you are of the opinion that that I should not have let her go, why didn’t you strike her down?”
Fu Hongxue answered coldly, “That is because her target was you, not me. Besides, I never expect you to be so dumb.”
Yan Nanfei looked intently at him, and laughed bitterly. “Perhaps it is not that I’m too dumb, but it is that you are too sharp.”
Fu Hongxue, “Oh?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Right to this very moment, I still find it hard to understand how you detect the toxic mist amidst the smoke and the poisonous snakes in the saddle?”
Fu Hongxue was silent for a long time. He calmly said, “There are many ways to kill a person. Assassination is but one of them, and yet this way of killing is the most fearsome of them all.
Yan Nanfei answered, “I know that.”
Fu Hongxue continued, “Then do you know how many assassination methods are there?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “I don’t know.”
Fu Hongxue asked again, “Do you know how many people in the last three centuries have died undeserved deaths because of successful assassinations?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “I don’t know.”
Fu Hongxue said, “At least 538 people.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “You counted?”
Fu Hongxue replied, “I counted. It took me seven years of time and effort to get this exact number.”
Yan Nanfei could not stop himself from asking the obvious question, “Why did you waste so much time to find the exact answer to this trivial question?”
Fu Hongxue replied, “If I had not taken the trouble to do so, I would have already died at least ten times , and you three times.”
Yan Nanfei let out a small breath. He was going to say something, but stopped himself.
Fu Hongxue continued “These 538 people that I mentioned, they were all highly skilled members of the pugilistic fraternity. They were all killed by people who were normally not their match in martial arts.”
Yan Nanfei said, “They only succeed because the assassination methods were so lowly and ingenious.”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “There may have been 538 deaths, but there were only 483 assassins.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Some were victims of the same assassin.”
Fu Hongxue nodded again. “Also, different assassins might shared the similar methods.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I would have imagine so.”
Fu Hongxue said, “In all, the assassins had used 227 different methods.”
Yan Nanfei said, “It goes without saying that these 227 methods must be the most malicious and ingenious.”
Fu Hongxue replied, “Obviously so.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “Of these, how many of them do you know?”
Fu Hongxue answered, “227.”
Yan Nanfei let out another breath, and said, “Originally, I know none of these methods.”
Fu Hongxue said, “At the very least, you now know three of them.”
Yan Nanfei answered, “More than three methods!”
Fu Hongxue, “More than three methods?”
Yan Nanfei smiled, “Do you know the number of assassination attempts I had survived in the last six months?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Yan Nanfei said, “39 attempts, not counting the three that you witnessed.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Their methods were all different?”
Yan Nanfei replied, “Not only were they totally different, they all came unexpected. But I’m still alive today.”
It was now Fu Hongxue’s turn to be speechless.
Yan Nanfei laughed and walked into a small road that was intersecting the major street that they were on. There was a high mansion. There were floral scents emitting from the upper floors.
What floral scent was it?
Could it be that of wild roses?
There was a high mansion.
There were windows in the mansion.
There was moon outside the window.
There were flowers beneath the moon.
Flowers were wild roses.
The moon was bright moon.
There was no lamp. The moonlight came in from the window, and shone at the wild roses that were beside Yan Nanfei.
He had more than wild roses by his side, he also have a person pricked by wild roses.
Tonight, of all nights..
The moon is like a liquid, two people leaning on each other.
There were countless burdens to be shared.
There were never-ending words of love to be said.
The night was deep, and men were getting intoxicated.
Yan Nanfei was however very much alert, his eyes were still clear as the bright moon. But the expression on his face seemed as though he had been pricked by the thorns of wild roses.
Wild roses had thorns, but what about the bright moon? The bright moon did have a heart, that was why the moon would lend its rays to illuminate manknd. The name of this lady was *Mingyue Xin.
[*Mingyue Xin literally translates as “Heart of the Bright Moon”. She is a recurring character, and the moon is often used as a pun/metaphor for her. Keep this in mind henceforth when the “bright moon” or “the heart of the bright moon” comes up. The author may be just be literally describing about the bright moon hanging in the sky. Then again, the author may actually be referring to Mingyue Xin.]
The deeper the night,
The clearer the moon,
The more beautiful she is,
However, the expression on his face was even more hurt.
She gazed intently at him for a long time. Finally she had to break the silence. She whispered, “What is in your mind?”
Yan Nanfei remained quiet for a long time, before he answered softly, “I’m thinking of people. Two people in particular.”
Mingyue Xin’s voice was even gentler now, “Am I one of the two?
Yan Nanfei answered, “No.”
His voice became ice-cold, “You are not either of the two people I’m thinking of.”
The beauty was pricked once again, but she did not withdraw. She asked, “Who are they then?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “One of them is Fu Hongxue.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “Fu Hongxue? The person who was waiting for you at Phoenix Settlement?”
Yan Nanfei nodded.
Mingyue Xin asked, “He is your enemy, isn’t he?”
Yan Nanfei answered, “No.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “Is he your friend then?”
Yan Nanfei said, “No, he’s not my friend either.”
He suddenly laughed, and said, “You’d never guess in a million years why he was waiting for me at Phoenix Settlement.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “Why was he waiting for you?
Yan Nanfei said, “He was waiting to kill me.”
Mingyue Xin let out a small breath, and said, “But he didn’t kill you.”
Yan Nanfei was still smiling, but his expression was mocking, “Not only did he not kill me, he even saved me three times.”
Mingyue Xin sighed once more, and said, “We women will never understand these kind of men.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Woman don’t understand man in the first place.”
Mingyue Xin turned her head towards the window and stared at the moon hanging outside the window. She asked, “Who else were you thinking of?”
Yan Nanfei’s expression turned from gibe back to pain, and said slowly, “A man I want to kill, but I know I would never be able to kill him.”
Seeing his pain, her eyes dimmed; even the moon outside also dimmed.
A dark cloud floated quietly across the sky, and covered the moon.
She got up silently, and whispered, “I’m leaving now, you should be sleeping soon.”
Yan Nanfei did not raise his head. “You are leaving?”
Mingyue Xin said, “I know that I should be with you when you are feeling down, but…”
“But you had to leave anyway, even though this room is amongst the *wind and dust, you had never allowed guests to stay overnight. You are giving me face by letting me remain here,” Yan Nanfei interrupted.
[*“Wind and Dust” is a euphemistic term referring to prostitution. Yan Nanfei’s present location can be left to the reader’s imagination.]
Mingyue Xin looked at him, and her eyes also began to show the pain. She suddenly turned around, and said, “Perhaps I never should have asked you to stay. Perhaps you never should have come.” Her voice was calm, yet not without a hint of resentment.
Man in an empty room. The empty room thicked with loneliness. Outside the window, raindrops was like the chord of a qin. It was slowly nearing, louder and denser.
The rain was heavy and came very fast. The wild roses on the balcony were ravaged by the torrent of raindrops.
Across the street, at the corner, there stood a man who could not be ravaged. Nothing could devastate him; not his person, not his determination.
When Yan Nanfei pushed open the windows, he saw this man.
“He’s still here,” Yan Nanfei mumbled to himself. The storm was worsening, but this man stood there, motionless. Even if the raindrops were like hundreds and thousands of little daggers raining down on him, he would not retreat. Other than smiling bitterly to himself, Yan Nanfei had no other appropriate response to this sight. “Fu Hongxue, Fu Hongxue, what kind of a human are you?”
There was a slight breeze, and the raindrops hit his face. They were cold, and their chill wormed their way into his heart.
However, there was a sudden rush of hot blood in his heart. Pounding hard with emotion, it rushed through the icy raindrops, over the high wall and falling in front of Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue seemed far away. It was as though he wasn’t experiencing this downpour, and didn’t see Yan Nanfei.
Yan Nanfei was only under the rain for a short while, but his clothes were quickly drenched through. But if Fu Hongxue remained silent, so would he as well.
Fu Hongxue’s gaze fell on him at last. He said coldly, “It’s raining heavily outside.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I know.”
Fu Hongxue continued, “You should not have come out.”
Yan Nanfei laughed, and asked, “If you can be standing under the pouring rain, why cannot I do the same?”
Fu Hongxue only said three words, “You certainly can.”
With that, he turned his gaze away. It was obvious that he was terminating the conversation.
But Yan Nanfei refused to let the dialogue end. He continued speaking, “Of course I can stand under the rain. Anybody has the right to stand under the rain if he so chooses.”
Fu Hongxue was silent. He was again as though he was physically somewhere far far away.
Yan Nanfei yelled, “But I didn’t come out here specially to get drenched.”
His voice was just too loud. It was even louder than the hundreds of thousands of raindrops that were hitting the tiled rooftop.
Fu Hongxue was undoubtedly not deaf. He finally asked nonchalantly, “Then what are you doing outside?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I want to tell you something. A secret.”
Fu Hongxue’s eyes brightened. “You are now prepared to tell me?”
Yan Nanfei nodded. Fu Hongxue asked, “But you were originally intending to take that secret to your grave?”
Yan Nanfei nodded in admission, and said, “I had made up my mind not to tell anybody, ever.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Then why are you telling me now?” Yan Nanfei stared at him, at the raindrops on his face, at his pale face, and answered, “I’m going to tell you now, because I’ve suddenly realized one thing.”
Fu Hongxue said, “And what is that?”
Yan Nanfei laughed. He said, unconcerned, “You are not human. Not human at all.”
To be continued……