Chapter 6 - Before the Duel
[originally translated by Chowbeng and edited by RWX]
About 36-37 years old.
Characterised by his maimed right foot and the sabre that never left his hand.
His martial arts don't seem to be from a particular school or teacher. His self learned sabre is extremely quick and widely acknowledged as the martial world's number one sabre.
His family background is unclear. He was said to be adopted from birth by the Devil Sect's Princess Bai Feng, and thus well he is acquainted in all kinds of killing arts using poison. He had never married, and roamed the world without a home.
His character is eccentric and callous, operating alone and associating with no one else.
Du Lei slowly pushed the paper with these data to the Thumb without any expressions.
Thumb asked, "Have you read these?"
Du Lei, "Hmm.."
Thumb sighed, "I know that you would not be satisfied, but that's all the data we could dig out. And that's as much as anyone know about Fu Hongxue."
Du Lei, "Very good."
Thumb blinked and lightly probed, "Are these of any help to you?"
Du Lei, "Not at all"
Thumb, "Not even one bit?"
Du Lei slowly nodded. He stood up, opened up a step and quickly sat down again. He said coldly, "Your data left out two things, the two most important points."
Du Lei, "He was cheated by a woman before, very badly cheated."
Thumb, "Who was this woman?"
Du Lei, "A whore called, Cui Nong"
Thumb sighed again, "I had always wondered why intelligent men are so easily cheated by whores."
Peacock suddenly butted in and sneered, "That's because intelligent men would only like intelligent women and clever women are mostly whores."
Thumb shook his head and laughed, "I knew you hate women but would never guess that you hated them that much."
Du Lei sneered, "Looks like he was also cheated by a woman."
Peacock's face changed colour, unexpectedly smiled and changed the topic, "What's the second point?"
Du Lei, "He has a sickness"
Thumb, "What sickness?"
Du Lei, "Epilepsy."
Thumb's eyes shone, "When his sickness acts up, he would foam in the mouth and roll on the ground?"
Du Lei, "Epilepsy has only one kind of effect."
Thumb wondered, "How could an insane cripple like him mastered the unparalleled sabre under the heavens."
Du Lei, "He has worked hard. It was said that he practiced his sabre at least eight hours everyday, starting from the age four to five, drawing his sabre at least 12000 times a day."
Thumb laughed bitterly, "I can't believe that you know more about him than us."
Du Lei softly said, "I know that much about each and every person in the Hall of Fame, because I had spent five whole months collecting their info and another five months researching their skills."
Thumb, "I am sure you had spent more time on Fu Hongxue than anyone else."
Du Lei acknowledged that.
Thumb, "So what's the result of your research?"
Du Lei, "His sabre had never left his hands, for at least the last twenty years that sabre is all he ever used. By now, that sabre had practically become part of his body. He used that sabre, better and more easily than others used their own finger."
Thumb, "From what I know, that sabre isn't really a good quality sabre."
Du Lei, "A sabre that can kill is a good sabre!"
For Fu Hongxue, that sabre is no longer just a sabre. The man and sabre had developed a link that others would not be able understand. Although Du Lei did not say that aloud, but Thumb had understood what he had meant.
Peacock was pondering all this time, and suddenly said, "If we can take away his sabre..."
Du Lei, "Nobody can take away his sabre."
Peacock smiled, "There are always exceptions to every matter."
Du Lei, "There will be no exceptions in this case."
Peacock did not argue further but instead asked, "Usually, when would his sickness act up?"
Du Lei, "His sickness surfaces when he is suffering from extreme anger or sorrow."
Peacock, "If you can strike when he is sick..."
Du Lei's face darkened and coldly said, "What kind of person do you think I am?"
Peacock smiled again, "I also know you are not willing to do such things, but we could easily have others to do that. If we could get someone to anger him first, then..."
Du lei suddenly shot up, and coldly declared, "I only hope you understand one thing."
Peacock is listening, and so is the Thumb!
Du Lei, "This duel is between he and I alone, no matter who wins or loses, it has nothing do with anyone else."
Thumb suddenly injected, "Nothing to do with Gongzi as well?"
Du Lei's hand on the scabbard tightened suddenly.
Thumb, "If you haven't have forgotten Gongzi, then you should at least do one thing."
Du Lei could not help but to ask, "What is that?"
Thumb, "Let him wait, let him wait longer, till he is anxious and bothered before you go."
He smiled and continued, "This battle you win or lose, live or die, we don't really care. But we are also not keen to collect your body."
Noon, the abandoned Ni Family Garden.
The sun's rays are shinning on the hexagonal pavilion. Outside the pavilion, there is one man, one sabre!
A pitch black sabre!
Fu Hongxue slowly walked across the weeds-invaded alley, his hand clenching the sabre tightly.
Although the red paint on the railings were already peeling off, the pavilion was still standing proud in the mist of the greenery . Under the sun's rays, it looked every bit of its former glory.
This place certainly used to be splendid, but why had it fallen to such a desolate state?
A pair of swallows flew in and settled on the poplar tree outside the hexagonal pavilion, as though they were searching too for its former glory.
It's a pity that while the poplar tree was still the same, the local scenery was all gone.
The swallows had flew back and fro, how many times had they came and how many times had they left?
The poplar never asked.
The poplar had no words!
The poplar had no feelings.
Fu Hongxue suddenly felt a stinging pain in his heart.
He had long mastered the polar's silence, but when could he ever mastered the polar's ruthlessness!
Fu Hongxue stood there foolishly, as if forgetting where he was and where he's from.
He did not think further, because he suddenly heard somebody's laughter.
Laughter, clear and sweet like a golden oriole.
The sun had set and the grass had grown tall but there was no sign of the oriole.
The sounds of the golden oriole was in the tall grass.
From the tall grass, a girl suddenly stood up, looking at Fu Hongxue and laughing in a silly way.
Her laughter was beautiful, but more so was her person, her long raven hair as soft as silk.
She didn't comb her hair and let her silky soft black hair fell free on her shoulders.
She didn't wear any make-up either, just a long gown that fitted easily on her. It is neither silk or satin, but it lustred like her hair.
Fu Hongxue did not ask.
"I was laughing at you." She laughed even more sweetly. "You stood there, looking like a fool."
Fu Hongxue was silent.
"You wouldn't even ask who I am?"
"Who are you?"
Fu Hongxue had asked, as he had originally intended to!
Who could have known that the moment he opened his mouth, that long-haired girl leaped up with a yell.
"I was waiting for you to ask just that." She leaped up with the ominousness of a provoked kitten. "Do you know who owns the land you are standing on? Who are you to swagger around like a lord?"
Fu Hongxue coolly watched her and waited for her to continued.
"This place belongs to the Ni family." Her finger pointing at her own nose, "I am 2nd Miss Ni, "I could chase you out any time I pleased."
Fu Hongxue could only keep his mouth shut.
One hadn't much to say when one was caught trespassing by the owner herself.
2nd Miss Ni stared at him maliciously with her pair of large eyes. She smile again, still as sweetly as before.
"However, I certainly would not chase you out, because..." She winked, "Because I like you."
Fu Hongxue could only listen.
You can choose not to fancy someone, but you can't prevent others from fancying you.
But just as suddenly, this 2nd Miss Ni changed her mind, "I was actually lying when I said I like you." Sighing, "I didn't chased you out, because I know I am not your match."
Fu Hongxue could not help but to ask, "So, you know me?"
"What do you know?"
"I not only know about your martial arts, but your surname and name as well."
With her hands behind her back, she swaggered out of the long grass. Slanting her eyes, she sized up Fu Hongxue from top to bottom.
"Others all said that you are a freak, but I don't find you strange in any way. In fact, you are rather good looking."
Fu Hongxue slowly turned and walked towards the hexagonal pavilion, "You are the only one left in this place?"
"So what if I am alone?" She rolled her eyeballs, "Don't tell me you still dare to bully me?"
"Usually, you don't stay here?"
"Why would I stay in such an ghastly place by myself?"
Fu Hongxue suddenly turned and stared at her, "Why are you still here now?"
2nd Miss Ni exclaimed,"This is my home, I can come and go as I like. Why should I be under the orders of others?"
Fu Hongxue could only shut up yet again.
2nd Miss Ni stared at him intensely in a fierce looking manner. She then smiled again, "Actually, I shouldn't have quarreled with you. If we start fighting now, how could we manage in the future?"
Do you know that there are some people without a future?
Fu Hongxue slowly stepped on to the stone dike and stared into an unseen distant location. Despite the sun's rays, his face is still frightfully pale.
He only wished that Du Lei would be here soon.
She however still latched on to him, "I know you are Fu Hongxue, so you should at least ask for my name."
He did not ask, so she could only continued herself, "My name is Ni Hui, meaning 'wise'." Without warning, she leaped up the railings, facing Fu Hongxue, "My father give me this name, because I have been intelligent since childhood."
Fu Hongxue ignored her.
"You don't believe me?" With her hands on her waist, her forehead nearly touching his nose, she said, "I not only know why you are here but also what type of people you are waiting for."
"You are certainly here for a life and death duel, I can tell from one look."
"You have a murderous aura."
What did this small slip of a girl know about murderous auras?
"I also know that the person you are waiting for is certainly Du Lei", Ni Hui said confidently. "Because within a few hundred li of this area, the only one who can match up with Fu Hongxue is Du Lei."
This girl indeed knew quite a bit.
Fu Hongxue looked her two lively eyes and coldly said, " Since you know, you should leave quickly."
Although his voice was cold, the emotion in his eyes wasn't quite as cold. In fact, the outline of his eyes showed some hint of tenderness.
Ni Hui smiled again, gently, "Are you starting to care for me?"
Fu Hongxue immediately lowered his face. "The reason I want you to go is that I don't kill for others to watch."
Ni Hui curled her lips, "Even if you want me gone, there is no real hurry. Du Lei wouldn't be here that soon."
Fu Hongxue lifed his head, the sun was already in the middle of the sky.
Ni Hui, "He would let you wait, let you till wait you are agitated. When you are agitated, his chances would increased."
She smiled and continued, "This is also a kind of battle strategy, a man like you should had thought of it a long time ago."
She shook her head, "No no, you wouldn't have thought of it, you are a gentleman. I am, however not one, so I can teach you a method that is used especially to deal with such villain."
Fu Hongxue did not ask but did not refuse either.
Ni Hui, "He let you wait, you could also let him wait."
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
This is an ancient method, an ancient method is usually a very effective method.
Ni Hui, "We could take a walk before coming back. We could even play two games of chess, drink two cups of wine. Let him wait for you here, let him wait till he is anxious."
Fu Hongxue showed no reaction.
Ni Hui, "I could bring you to my family wine cellar. If we are lucky, we might even find a couple jars of maiden's blush wine that was left when my aunt got married.
She was in high spirits. But he still did not show any reaction, so she reached out for his hand - the hand that held the sabre.
Nobody can touch that hand.
Her soft delicate fingers merely brushed his hand, but she could feel a strange and powerful vibration.
This powerful vibration actually sent her whole body flying away.
She was trying to remain standing but she couldn't steady herself and finally she fell down, a heavy fall!
Although she didn't cry, her eyes were already flushing red. With a choking voice, "I only wanted to make friends with you and help you with such a small matter. Why did you treat me like this?"
She rubbed her nose and looked to cry any moment.
She looked just like a small, tiny girl, so pitiful and cute.
Fu Hongxue did not pay her any attention, did not look at her, not even one look. He however coolly said, "Get up, there are snakes in the grass."
Ni Hui felt even more wronged. "How could I stand up when all bones in my body were nearly broken just now?"
She used the hand that was rubbing her nose to rub her eyes, "I might as well be bitten to death by the venomous snake."
Fu Hongxue's pale face still had no emotion, but he already started to walk to her.
He knew how much power he had used just now.
That strength did not come wholly from his hand. His hand was holding the sabre and the sabre too had its own strength.
In his hands, the sabre seemed to have a life of its own.
With life, it has strength.
The power of life.
This kind of strength is powerful, almost as powerful as that kind of sword-qi that can cut through everything.
He indeed shouldn't have used this sort of strength on her.
Ni Hui sat dejectedly upon the grass, with her face buried in her hands.
Her hands are white and small.
Fu Hongxue couldn't help but to reach out and pull her up - naturally with the hand which is not holding his sabre.
She did not refuse or avoid him.
Her hand was soft and warm.
Fu Hongxue had not touch a girl's hand for a long, long time.
His control over his own lust is almost thorough and complete.
However, he is still a man. One who wasn't too old, yet.
She obediently stood up, softly groaning. He was just about to support her, but her whole body unexpectedly fell into his embrace.
Her body was so warm, so soft.
He could feel his own heartbeat, and she of course could feel it too.
Oddly, at the same time he suddenly had another very unnatural sensation.
He suddenly felt a rush of a murderous aura.
At this very moment, she had pulled out a dagger. A seven inch dagger. The dagger stabbed at the weak point on the his armpit.
Her face was still that of a small, tiny girl, but her hands were as deadly as the venomous cobra.
Sadly, her stab still missed the mark.
Fu Hongxue's body suddenly contracted, and the blade that was clearly aimed for his flesh and blood merely grazed his skin.
In the same moment when she realised that she had missed, she had already sprung up!
Just like the kind of venomous snake which could suddenly sprung up from the ground, the second she sprung up, she somersaulted away.
One somersault after another in mid-air resulting in her feet being on the eaves of the hexagonal pavilion.
With her feet firmly planted, she sent herself flying 50 feet away into the trees with another flip.
She had intended to flee further but Fu Hongxue didn't give chase. So, she didn't have to flee either. Amazingly, with just one foot on a thin tree branch, she could hurl abuse.
Her lightness skill was high, but her ability to hurl abuse was higher.
"Now I know why that woman in the past jilted you. It is because you are simply not a man. You are not only crippled in the leg, but crippled in the heart as well."
Her curses were not very vuglar, but every word was like a needle, piercing Fu Hongxue's heart.
Fu Hongxue's pale face suddenly had a kind of red blush, his hand was already holding tight.
He almost couldn't help but to draw his sabre.
However, he didn't move because he realised the pain in his heart wasn't as intense as he had thought.
In the past, his pain was like a hot brand on livestocks, forever clear and fresh.
Her every smile, her every tear, every bit of emotion, every little lie was deeply etched in his heart.
He had always hidden it very well.
All until the moment he saw Mingyue Xin - all the deeply hidden painful memories, all came alive in front of him.
No one could have imagined the pain he had borne then.
But unexpectedly to him, after that shocking hurt, his pain lessened. The unthinkable pain had became more bearable.
The hurt of the heart is sometimes like a festering wound. If you do not cut it out, it would rot even more; if you steeled your heart and cut it out, allowing the blood and pus to flow out, the wound might begin to heal.
When Fu Hongxue lifted his head again, he had completely recovered his composure.
Ni Hui was still on the tree branch, staring at him in surprise. He didn't draw his sabre, but he softly said two words, "You. Leave!"
This time Ni Hui obeyed. She left very quickly.
The sun had already moved to the west, and the hexagonal pavilion was already casting a shadow.
Fu Hongxue had not moved, not even his posture had changed.
The shadows grew longer and longer.
Fu Hongxue still did not move.
When the body is calm, the heart is also calm.
To a man who had long since grown accustomed to solitary and loneliness, waiting was no longer a painful thing.
To draw his sabre for the very first time, he had waited for seventeen years. However, that draw of his sabre was both meaningless and unnecessary!
He waited seventeen years to kill a person, to avenge his parents.
But when he drew his sabre, he already discovered that he wasn't a descendant of that family, and had nothing to do with that affair.
That was more than ironic.
No matter how you looked at it, this kind of irony was too cruel and malicious.
But he had accepted it, because he had no choice.
He had, henceforth, learned to endure.
If Du Lei could understand this point, perhaps he wouldn't make him wait.
while you are making others wait, you are also waiting yourself!
In this world, many matters were like a double edge sword.
When you are trying to hurt others, many a times you would end up hurting yourself the same way. Sometimes, you hurt yourself more than you hurt others!
Fu Hongxue softly breathed out, feeling totally calm.
The time was already 15 minutes past 2 PM.
This dark gloomy house was at the end of a long, dark and gloomy street. The original owner was a sickly and stingy old man. It was said that only when his body started to smell was his corpse was discovered.
Peacock didn't rent this house because he was stingy.
He had the ability to live in the best inns, but he preferred it here.
For him, the name "Peacock" was an irony.
His personality was definitely unlike that of the proud, gorgeous showbird. It was more like that of the bat which never saw the light of the day.
When Thumb entered, he was lying on that cold and hard wooden bed of his.
The only window of the house was also nailed shut, so it was really not unlike a bat's cave.
Thumb sat down and exhaled. He could never understand why Peacock liked to live in this place.
Peacock did not even take a single look at him. Only when his breathing quieted down, did Peacock asked, "What about Du Lei?"
Thumb, "He is still waiting."
Peacock, "When we parted ways, it was exactly 2 PM."
He added, "How long is he prepared to let Fu Hongxue waited?"
Thumb, "I already told him to wait till at least 4 PM before setting off."
Peacock broke into an evil grin, "Standing in that ghastly place and waiting for four hours is certainly no joke."
Thumb however raised an eyebrown, "But I am worried about something."
Peacock, "What is that?"
Thumb, "Although Fu Hongxue is waiting, Du Lei himself is also waiting. I only worried that he might it more unbearable than Fu Hongxue."
Peacock softly said, "If he died under Fu Hongxue's sabre, do you suffer any loss?"
Peacock, "Then, there is nothing to worry about."
Thumb laughed and wiped off his sweat with his sleeves, "I have good news for you."
Peacock listened on.
Thumb, "Yan Nanfei is not only poisoned, but seriously as well.
Peacock, "Where did you get this piece of news?"
Thumb, "Bought it with five hundreds taels of silver."
Peacock's eyes shined, "News that is worth five hundred taels is usually very reliable."
Thumb, "So, now we can go and kill him anytime."
Peacock, "Let's go now."
The time was exactly 15 minutes past 2 PM.
Noon had long passed, and the sun's rays were getting harsher and hotter. Spring had gradually tapered off, and the long summer season would arrive soon.
Fu Hongxue disliked the summer.
Summer belonged to the children. During the day, they would frolick about naked in the ponds, roll in the grass, pick strawberries, and catch butterflies. During the night, they would sit under the melon shed, eating sweet melons chilled with well water. They would listen to the adults tell tall tales and trade gossip. They would catch a bag of fireflies, putting them into gauze pouches and exchanging them with young ladies and girls for a few pieces of candy.
The golden summer, the golden childhood, a time of everlasting joy and no pain.
However, Fu Hongxue never had a summer that truly belonged to himself.
In his memories, summers were full of sweat and blood. Hiding in the hot woods, drawing the saber; under the hot desert sun, drawing the saber!
Drawing the sabre!
Again and again, the never ending draw!
This simple action had already transformed into the most important part of his life.
When is the next time he draw his sabre?
The sabre itself is death
When the sabre is drawn, death comes.
When he draw his sabre this time, who would die?
Fu Hongxue lowered his head, gazing at the hand that held the sabre. The hand is cold, the hand is pale, the sabre pitch black.
At this moment, he heard the footstep of Du Lei.
The time was exactly 45 minutes past 2 PM.