Chapter 15 - The Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon
High noon. Sunlight filled the sky.
When Fu Hongxue left the inn, he felt as though his spirit was reinvigorated, and that he was capable of dealing with any problems or dangers.
He had slept for an entire day, then rested in a warm bath for an hour. His exhaustion, accumulated over many days, had been washed clean like the dirt and grime.
Over the past few years, he had very rarely pulled out his sabre. He felt that using the sabre to solve problems wasn’t necessarily the best way to handle things.
But now his thinking had changed, and so he had to stir himself to vigor.
Because not only was killing very extravagant and wasteful, it was also something which required sufficient energy and vitality.
Right now, although he didn’t know where those people were, he was confident that he would definitely find clues to their whereabouts.
Zheng Jin was a woodcutter, twenty one years of age, unmarried, and lived in a small wooden cabin in the mountains. Every day, he only left the mountain once, to exchange dry firewood for salt, rice, fatty meat, and alcohol. Once in a while, he would also go to one of the dark alleyways of the city to find a cheap, low-cost girl.
The firewood he cut was always sold to the teahouses by the major avenues. His firewood was both dry and cheap, and so the teahouse managers would always keep him for some tea before letting him leave. Sometimes he himself would buy a kettle of wine as well.
Even when he drank, though, he rarely opened his mouth. He wasn’t a very talkative person.
But on this rainy day, he was very fond of telling a story, the same story each time. He had told it at least twenty or thirty times.
Every time he told the story, he would always emphasis this at the beginning: “This is an absolutely true story. I witnessed it myself. Otherwise, I wouldn’t believe it either.”
The story happened three days ago, at noon. It started from the flash of sabre light which he saw within the forest.
“Even in your dreams, you could never have imagined that there was such a sabre. With just a flash of sabre light, a vigorous and flourishing horse was suddenly chopped into two halves.”
“I saw a young man who looked like he was a playboy from a rich family, with a sword as bright red as fresh blood. No matter who he touched with his sword, that person would immediately fall down.”
“He also had a friend, with a pale face and black hair. His face was so white, it looked translucent.”
“This man was even more fearsome…”
Although he had told the same story over twenty or thirty times, he still told the story with gusto, and the listeners still heard the story with relish.
But this time, he actually shut his mouth before he finished the story, because he suddenly realized that the ashen-faced man was standing right in front of him. A pair of eyes, as sharp as a knife blade, were staring at him.
A pitch-black sabre. A pair of lightning-like eyes. A rain of blood which shot out like arrows…
Zheng Jin only felt his stomach began to contract and twitch again, as though he was almost about to begin vomiting anew.
He wanted to flee, but his two legs just so happened to go soft.
Fu Hongxue watched him coldly. He suddenly said, “Continue.”
Zheng Jin forced a smile to his face. “Continue…continue what?”
Fu Hongxue said, “That day, what did you see happen after I left?”
Zheng Jin wiped away his sweat. “I saw many things, but I didn’t see anything clearly.”
He wasn’t totally lying. At the time, he really was so frightened that he almost fainted.
Fu Hongxue only wanted to know one thing. “What happened to that man who wielded the red sword?”
Zheng Jin replied very quickly this time. “He died.”
Fu Hongxue’s hands tightened, and his heart sank. His entire body was already ice cold. Only after a long time did he open his mouth again. “How did he die? Who killed him?”
Zheng Jin said, “Originally, he wasn’t going to die. After he sent the carriage off, he warded off three people for you. It seemed as though nobody else dared to face his sword, so he also found an opportunity to flee. He moved really quickly, as though he were a gust of wind.”
As he retold the story, in his heart he was reliving that memory. His features went through many transformations as well.
But he spoke very quickly, because he was very familiar with telling this story. “But just as he fled into the forest, that horse-butchering sabre light suddenly flew out again. Although he dodged the first chop, the man followed with a second chop, and each chop was faster than the previous.
He didn’t continue, nor did he need to continue, because everyone already knew the end to this story!
In front was the Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch. Behind him was Gongsun Tu and Xiao Siwu. No matter who was caught in this situation, the result would be the same.
Fu Hongxue was silent. Although he looked very tranquil, in his heart, he felt as though a thousand soldiers and ten thousand cavalry troops were stampeding about.
The bright moon had sunk down. The swallow had flown away, never to be seen again as well.
He was silent for a long time, before asking, “What type of person was he?”
Zheng Jin said, “He really looked as though he were a divinity, like he was the prince of hell. He was at least a head taller than everybody present. He wore a golden hoop in his ears, and wore clothes made from animal skins. The sabre he wielded in his hands was at least seven or eight feet long.
Fu Hongxue said, “Afterwards?”
Zheng Jin said, “That ‘chef’ fellow originally wanted to chop your friend apart and boil him in the pot, but the man who was originally playing chess was totally opposed to this. Afterwards…”
He let out a breath, then continued. “Afterwards, they gave your friend’s corpse to a monk from the Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon.”
Fu Hongxue immediately asked, “Where is the Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon?”
Zheng Jin said, “I hear it’s at the northern gate, but I’ve never gone before. Very few people go there!”
Fu Hongxue said, “They gave him to which monk?”
Zheng Jin said, “It seems that monastery only has one monk. He’s a crazy monk. I hear that he…”
Fu Hongxue said, “What about him?”
A pained look was on Zheng Jin’s face, as though he were about to vomit again. “I hear that not only is he crazy, he also likes to eat flesh. Human flesh.”
The sunlight was as scorching as fire, making the road as hot as a furnace.
Fu Hongxue silently strode upon the furnace. He didn’t sweat a single drop of sweat. He didn’t shed a single tear.
The only thing he had left was blood.
“When I can ride a carriage, I will never walk. I hate walking!”
He was just the opposite of Yan Nanfei. When he could walk, he would never ride a carriage!
He seemed to want to intentionally torment his two legs, because these two legs brought him too much trouble and misery.
“Sometimes I can even fall asleep while I’m walking.”
Right now, he naturally wouldn’t fall asleep. There was a very strange look in his eyes. It wasn’t a look of grief, or of rage. It was a look of uncertainty and pondering.
And then he suddenly turned around, heading back to where he came from!
What did he suddenly think of?
Could it be that there were things he still hadn’t thought through, and so he must go back and speak to that woodcutter again?
But Zheng Jin was already no longer at the teahouse.
“He just left.” The teahouse manager said, “Over the past two days, he was always here telling that story. He always stayed here until it was dark. But today, he left particularly early.”
He clearly felt some dread towards this pale-faced stranger, and so he spoke very carefully and very precisely. “And he left in a big hurry, as though he had pressing business to attend to.”
“What road did he take?”
The manager pointed to a road up ahead. There was a flattering yet obscene smile on his face. “His old mistress seems to live on that street. I think her name is Peach. He must have gone to look for her.”
A dark, dirty, and narrow alleyway. A foul stench emanated from the gutter. Trash was stacked everywhere.
Fu Hongxue didn’t seem to notice at all.
Light shone in his eyes. The blue veins on the hand with which he gripped his sabre were bulging out, as though he was very excited, very agitated.
What, exactly, did he think of?
From behind a tattered wooden door, a woman wearing a string of jasmine flowers suddenly walked out.
The perfume and makeup were all cheap. They mixed together with the vile stench of the alleyway to form an evil, degrading lure.
She intentionally brought her heavily made up face close to Fu Hongxue. Her hands had already quietly reached out, intentionally stroking a certain place on Fu Hongxue’s upper thigh.
“There’s a bed inside. It’s both soft and comfortable. There’s also me and a basin of warm water. It only costs two silvers.”
She narrowed her eyes, revealing lascivious laughter in them. “I’m only seventeen, but I am very skilled. I’m even better than Peach.”
Her laughter was very cheerful. She felt that this transaction was already successful.
Because a certain part of this man’s anatomy had already changed.
Fu Hongxue’s pallid face suddenly turned red. Not only did he want to vomit, he was also furious. Even in front of such a base, cheap woman, he still wasn’t able to control his physiological reactions.
Was this because it had been too long since he had been intimate with a woman, or because he was already very excited?
No matter what type of excitement one might have, it easily leads to arousal.
The body of the woman wearing a jasmine flower moved even closer to him. Her two hands were moving more quickly as well.
Fu Hongxue’s hand suddenly struck out, heavily striking her across the face. She collapsed, hitting the wooden door, falling face-up to the ground.
The surprising thing was, there wasn’t a look of anger or surprise on her face. There was a look of exhaustion, sorrow, and despair.
She had long since become accustomed to this sort of humiliation. Her anger had long since turned into numbness. What made her sorrowful was that once more, the transaction was not successful.
Where would her dinner come from tonight? A strand of jasmine flowers wouldn’t fill her stomach.
Fu Hongxue turned his head away, not bearing to look at her. He brought out all the silver on his body, forcefully casting them to her.
“Tell me, where is Peach?”
“She’s at the very last right-handed house.”
The jasmine flowers had already fallen. She crawled about on the floor, picking up those silver pieces. She didn’t give Fu Hongxue another look.
Fu Hongxue began to walk away. He only took a few steps before he bent his waist and vomited.
In the entire alleyway, only this door appeared attractive and dignified. Not even the lacquer had peeled off.
It seemed that not only was Peach very skilled, her business was very good as well.
It was very quiet inside. There was no sound.
A young, vigorous man and a woman with very brisk business who were together in a room shouldn’t be so quiet.
Although the door was locked, it wasn’t latched too firmly. A woman in this line of work didn’t necessarily need to latch her door too tightly, just like how they definitely didn’t need a tight belt.
He pushed open the door. The living room was in front of them. It was also their bedroom. The walls looked as though they had just been whitewashed as well. It was filled with all sorts of unimaginable pictures.
A large bouquet of withered camellias were held within a teapot on the table. Next to the teapot was a bowl of half-eaten pork noodles.
Aside from a large, embroidered bed, the most lavish thing in the room was an ancestral tablet placed at the head of the bed. The engravings were exquisite, and the yellow curtains were noble. It formed an extremely strong contrast with the lewd, lascivious paintings on the walls.
Why would she put an ancestral tablet at the head of the bed.
Did she want these spirits to personally witness how lowly and despicable humans were? Witness her sell herself? Witness her die?
Peach was already dead. She lay dead on the bed, along with Zheng Jin. Their fresh blood dyed the embroidered red blankets even more crimson.
The blood was flowing from the major arteries in the back of their necks. One chop took their lives.
Not only did the killer have a quick sabre, he also had plentiful experiences.
Fu Hongxue wasn’t startled. Could it be that he had already predicted all of this?
Why would a man who normally didn’t speak too much, stay in a teahouse all day and tell stories without even chopping wood anymore?
He drank, ate meat, and *****d. Naturally, he couldn’t have too many savings.
Then after not working for two days, how could he afford to visit Peach?
In addition, he was too familiar with that story, and told it too brilliantly, to the point where even the expressions on his face worked in concert with it, as though he had long since been used to it.
The conclusion one should reach from these clues were very obvious!
He intentionally stayed behind at the most populous teahouse to tell stories, for the sole purpose of Fu Hongxue seeking him out.
Gongsun Tu and the rest gave him money to tell lies for Fu Hongxue to hear.
So now, they killed him to shut his mouth.
But even if these conclusions were totally accurate, a few problems still existed.
Which parts of the story he told was true? Which parts were false? Why did they want him to tell those lies? Was it to cover up the identity of the true killer of Yan Nanfei? Or was it to get Fu Hongxue to go to the Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon?
Fu Hongxue couldn’t be sure. But he had already made his mind up. Even if the monastery was a deadly ambush, he had to go no matter what.
Just at this moment, that naked woman lying in the middle of the puddle of the blood suddenly flew up. She withdrew a dagger from behind her pillow, thrusting it towards his chest.
Someone scurried out from the closet behind him as well. He wielded a silver spear, and thrust it, serpent-like, towards his back.
This was definitely a totally unexpected act.
Zheng Jin was really dead. No one would have imagined that the dead girl by his side was actually alive.
And even less might one imagine that her strikes were vicious and evil, and as quick as lightning.
Fu Hongxue didn’t move, nor did he dodge her dagger. He didn’t need to dodge at all.
Just at this moment, there was suddenly a dagger flash from outside. It flew past the right side of the neck of the silver-speared assassin, then nailed itself into the throat of the naked female.
Fresh blood spewed forth like an arrow from the neck of the silver-speared assassin. Just as that woman’s body rose up, it fell back down again.
With the single flash of a dagger, the lives and souls of two people were taken away.
Fresh blood sprayed down like rain.
Fu Hongxue slowly turned around. He saw Xiao Siwu.
He had another dagger in his hands. This time, he wasn’t pruning his nails. He was just coldly staring at Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “One dagger, two lives. Good dagger!”
Xiao Siwu said, “Was it truly good?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Good!”
Xiao Siwu turned around and took two steps away. He suddenly turned his head and said, “Naturally, you could tell that I didn’t want to kill you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Xiao Siwu said, “I just wanted you to look at my dagger again.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I already saw it just now!”
Xiao Siwu said, “You’ve already seen me strike three times, and two of those times it was directed towards you. With regards to my attacks, there’s already nobody else in the world who can see my attacks more clearly.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Very probably.”
Xiao Siwu said, “Ye Kai is your friend. Naturally, you’ve seen him strike as well.”
Fu Hongxue admitted to it.
He had naturally seen it, and not only once.
Xiao Siwu said, “Right now, I only want to ask you one thing. If you won’t tell me, I won’t blame you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Ask.”
Xiao Siwu said, “Why, exactly, is my flying dagger inferior to Ye Kai’s?”
Fu Hongxue was silent. Only after a long time did he speak. “You ambushed me twice with your dagger. The first time, you used all your strength, but before you struck, you gave me a warning. The second time, although there was no warning, you held back twenty percent of your strength.”
Xiao Siwu did not deny it.
Fu Hongxue said, “This is because in your heart, you know that you shouldn’t kill me. You simply do not have a reason which makes it absolutely necessary for you to kill me, and so when you strike, you lack a righteous, all-conquering air.”
He slowly continued, “But the people whom Ye Kai killed, were all people who absolutely had to be killed. Therefore, he is superior to you!”
Xiao Siwu said, “Is it this alone?”
Fu Hongxue said, “This is enough. You will never be able to surpass him!”
Xiao Siwu was silent for a long time as well. Suddenly, he turned around. Without even looking back, he departed.
Fu Hongxue didn’t turn around.
After walking for some time, Xiao Siwu suddenly turned around again. He loudly said, “Just wait. There will be a day when I am stronger than him. When that day comes, I will kill you.”
Fu Hongxue lightly said, “I will definitely wait for you.”
If you intend to kill someone, abstain from nothing at all.
This time, should Fu Hongxue have killed Xiao Siwu?
“This time, you did not kill him. I fear that next time, you will die to him.”
This time, Fu Hongxue once again did not strike. But he didn’t regret it, because he had already laid down a seed within Xiao Siwu’s heart.
The seed of righteousness.
He knew that this type of seed would flower and bear fruit one day.
He walked out of the alleyway. That seventeen year old girl had once more placed that strand of jasmine flowers in her hair. She stood at the door to her home, secretly looking at Fu Hongxue. She appeared both fearful and curious.
No one had ever given her a few dozen taels of silver for no reason at all. This pale-faced cripple must be a true eccentric.
Although Fu Hongxue didn’t want to see her again, it was difficult for him to not even spare her a glance.
Just as he reached the exit, she suddenly said in a loud voice, “You hit me. That’s an indication that you like me. I know that you will definitely come back to find me.”
Her voice became even louder. “I will definitely wait for you.”
The Ancient Monastery of the Heavenly Dragon was actually the Great Heavenly Dragon Monastery. It was originally a place of great splendor and burning incense. No one knew why it suddenly became cold and desolate. But there were many legends and myths as to why that was now the case.
The most widespread legend said this: “This ancient temple which looked solemn and majestic on the outside, was actually a den of sin. The beautiful woman who came to this monastery to pray before the Buddha would often be kidnapped and taken to hidden rooms deep within the monastery. Those who resisted would be beaten to death.”
Thus, whenever there was no moon or stars in the sky, their lonely, wronged spirits would appear.
With regards to whether or not this temple actually had secret rooms, and exactly how many women from good families were raped and defiled, no one was sure, because no one had personally seen any of this!
But ever since this story became widespread, the people who came to this temple to pay their respects slowly became fewer in number.
The type of person who would actually believe that spending a little money on sesame oil would buy them four seasons worth of peace and prosperity naturally wouldn’t carefully consider the truth or falsehoods inherent in rumors.
There was a dense forest outside of the ancient monastery. Although it was spring, the fallen leaves were very plentiful.
The road which led to the monastery had long since been covered by fallen leaves. Even people who often came here might not be able to recognize the road from within the dark forest.
Fu Hongxue hadn’t come here even once!
From his current viewpoint, there were large trees all around which looked absolutely identical.
He couldn’t tell which direction was the right one.
Just as he was hesitating, the sound of footsteps could be heard on the fallen leaves. A monk with features as delicate and refined as a crane’s walked by on the leaves. There wasn’t a single speck of dust on his fluttering, moon-white robes.
Although he wasn’t very old, he appeared to definitely be a monk of very high learning.
Although Fu Hongxue wasn’t a pious follower of Buddhism, he still respected eminent monks and men of learning.
“Master, where are you headed?”
“I come from where I came from. Naturally, I am headed to the place I am going.”
The monk’s features were very heavy, and his hands were clasped together. He didn’t even look at Fu Hongxue.
But Fu Hongxue wasn’t willing to give up the chance of asking for directions. He didn’t have the time to go on a wrong road.
“Master, do you know by which road one should travel to the Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon?”
“Come with me.”
The monk’s footsteps were slow and peaceful. It seemed as though even if this road were headed to the Western Paradise, he wouldn’t hurry up even slightly.
Fu Hongxue could only slowly follow him from behind!
The night became even gloomier. They finally arrived before a six-pillared pavilion. The red paint on the banisters of the pavilion had already peeled off. Within the pavilion, there was a zither, a chessboard, a kettle of wine, and a set of ink and a quill. There was also a little stove made from red mud.
To be stroking the zither and playing chess, chanting poems and boiling wine within such a secluded grove, this eminent monk was just like a scholar. Both were very aesthetic.
Although Fu Hongxue had never experienced this sort of relaxed luxury, he still respected others enjoy this sort of refined pleasure.
The eminent monk, as refined and elegant as a crane, had already entered the pavilion. He picked up a chess piece and stared at it. There was a look of great pondering in his eyes, as though he was considering how, exactly, he should make his next move.
Afterwards, he slowly put the chess piece in his mouth. With a gurgle, he swallowed it.
Next, he broke the zither apart and put the wooden pieces into the oven, and lit a fire. He poured the alcohol in the pot out and washed his feet with it, then poured the ink in the inkslab into wine kettle and boiled it on top of the fire. Then he lifted up the chessboard and rapped on it non-stop, revealing a satisfied smile on his face, as though this sound was much more beautiful than the sounds of zither playing.
Fu Hongxue, watching, was stunned.
This seemingly advanced, erudite monk was actually a crazy monk?
Fu Hongxue was stunned yet again.
That monk is not only crazy, he also likes to eat flesh. Human flesh.
That monk was looking at him up and down, as though appraising how much flesh there was on his bones.
But Fu Hongxue still couldn’t believe it.
“You really are a crazy monk?”
“Crazy is sane. Sane is crazy.” The monk giggled. “Perhaps the truly crazy one isn’t me, but you.”
“If you weren’t crazy, why would you court death?”
Fu Hongxue tightened his hands. “You know who I am? Know where I am going?”
The monk nodded, then shook his head. He suddenly raised his head to the sky, then mumbled, “It’s over, all over. A thousand-year old ancient monastery is about to collapse. A sea of people will become drenched with blood. Where do you want this monk to go?”
He suddenly picked up the wine kettle on the fire, then poured its contents into his mouth. The ink overflowed, pouring out of the corners of his lips, dripping down and staining his moon-white robes.
He suddenly fell to his knees and began to loudly weep. Pointing to the west, he loudly shouted, “If you want to die, hurry up and go die! Sometimes, living is a fate worse than death.”
Just at this moment, the sound of a bell being struck suddenly came from the west.
This was the thousand-year old copper bell of the ancient monastery. Only it could produce such a clear, loud, and melodious sound.
If there was only a mad monk in this ancient monastery, who was ringing the bell?
The bitterly crying monk suddenly jumped up. His eyes were suddenly filled with shock and terror.
“This is a funeral bell.” He loudly cried out, “When a funeral bell sounds, then someone is surely about to die!”
Rising to his feet, he threw the wine kettle at Fu Hongxue, then continued, “If you don’t die, others will die. Why don’t you hurry up and go die?”
Fu Honxue looked at him. He dully said, “I go.”