Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword - Chapter 22
Chapter 22: The Plum Flower Bandit Reappears
The lunch is over, the story is over, the people are leaving, as they left, everyone talked about the predicament Li Xun Huan’s in.
Lin Xian Er kept looking at Ah Fei, who’s deep in thought. None of the dishes on their table was touched.
After a while, the Pig-tailed girl put down her chopsticks and asked, “Grandpa, do you think Li Tan Hua is innocent?”
Old Man Sun said, “Even if I know he’s innocent, what can I do?”
The Pig-tailed girl said, “But what about his friends? Are none of them willing to help him either?”
Old Man Sun said, “If he were trapped elsewhere, then maybe someone would try to save him. But he’s trapped at the Shaolin Temple. So I’m afraid no one can save him.”
The Pig-tailed girl said, “So he’s just going to die at Shaolin?”
Old Man Sun thought for a long time, then said, “There certainly is a way, except the chance of success is very small.”
When he heard this, Ah Fei’s eyes brightened.
The Pig-tailed girl asked, “What is it?”
Old Man Sun said, “If the real Plum Flower Bandit is still alive, and reappear, then Li Xun Huan is obviously absolved of all guilt. If he’s not the Plum Flower Bandit, then he’d have no reason to kill Reverend Xin Mei.”
The Pig-tailed girl sighed. “This possibility really is slim. Even if the Plum Flower Bandit is still alive, he obviously is hiding right now, waiting for them execute Li Xun Huan.”
Old Man Sun put his smoking pipe on the table. “Are you finished with your noodles?”
The Pig-tailed girl said, “I was pretty hungry. But after hearing this story, I can’t eat anything now.”
Old Man Sun said, “In that case, let’s go. We can’t save Li Tan Hua by sitting here anyway.”
As the Pig-tailed girl walked to the door, she glanced at Ah Fei again, as if saying, “If you just sit here, then how can you save him?”
After Lin Xian Er saw them leave, she chuckled coldly. “What kind of people do you think these two people are?”
Lin Xian Er said, “Based on his look, the old man’s inner strength is very high. That little girl’s steps are light and quick. Her lightness kung fu is at least as good as mine.”
“In my opinion, they’re definitely not normal storytellers. They must have another reason for coming here.”
Lin Xian Er continued, “They purposely tell this story to you, so you can go commit suicide.”
Lin Xian Er sighed. “If you knew that Li Xun Huan is trapped at Shaolin, then you’d obviously try to save him. Yet how can you possibly take on the entire Shaolin Temple?”
Ah Fei is still deep in thought, not responding.
Lin Xian Er said, “Besides, they might be lying. So you’ll get tricked.”
She suddenly held Ah Fei’s hand, then said sweetly, “Even if they’re telling the truth, that Li Xun Huan really is in trouble, if you go, you’ll only break Li Xun Huan’s concentration. If those monks caught you, then he’d try to save you. So you’d be hurting him instead of helping.”
After some more thinking, Ah Fei said, “You’re right.”
Lin Xian Er said, “So you promise me you won’t go to Shaolin?”
From the speed of his response, Lin Xian Er couldn’t help but question his honesty of the answer.
When the two people got back to the hotel room, Ah Fei said, “Since we’re not going to Shaolin, you should go back.”
“What about you?”
Ah Fei responded, “I... I want to take a walk outside.”
Lin Xian Er suddenly grabbed his hand, her voice shaking. “Are you going to pretend to be the Plum Flower Bandit?”
Ah Fei stared at the floor for a long time, then after a long sigh, said, “Yes.”
This ‘Yes’ came out very strong, as if nothing can change his mind.
Lin Xian Er said, “Then... then why do you ask me to go back?”
Ah Fei said, “Because this is my problem.”
Lin Xian Er said, “You’re problem is my problem.”
Ah Fei said, “But Li Xun Huan is not your friend.”
Lin Xian Er responded, “Your friend is my friend.”
Ah Fei’s face is now filled with gratitude, yet he did not speak.
Lin Xian Er said, “Since you value friendship so much, then why can’t I? Although I’m useless, but at least I can provide emotional support.”
Ah Fei suddenly held her hand tightly, still cannot speak, but his eyes, his expression, already spoke for him.
His silence spoke louder than any words can.
Lin Xian Er smiled sweetly. “If you’re going to pretend to be the Plum Flower Bandit, then you’ll need someone to rob.”
Lin Xian Er said, “It can’t be anybody, right?”
Ah Fei said, “Obviously, we need to find a rich family who’s money was ill-gotten.”
Lin Xian Er’s eyes rolled. “I have just the person.”
Lin Xian Er said, “This person used to be a bandit. He stopped after when he turned fifty or so, but he still does some dirty dealings.”
Ah Fei said, “Do you know his name?”
Lin Xian Er thought for a moment, then said, “I remember that it’s Zhang Sheng Qi, but now he’s called Zhang Yuan Wai, Zhang Da Shan*.”
*Note: Da Shan literally translates into ‘big kindness’.
Ah Fei raised his eyebrows. “A big kind guy?”
Lin Xian Er said, “He’ll steal ten thousand taels of silver, then spend a hundred to fix roads. At night he’d kill a hundred people, but in the daytime he’d help the sick.
It’s incredibly easy for bandits to become a kind person.”
Zhang Sheng Qi lies on his sofa, looking at the pot over the fire, brewing bird soup.
It’s snowing outside again, but inside it’s warm as the Spring.
He closed his eyes, wanting to take a nap. Suddenly, he heard a noise, as the pot rolled over and broke.
Shocked, he opened his eyes, a man in black appeared in front of him. No one knows where he came from.
Although Zhang Sheng Qi has retired for a while now, his kung fu is still in top shape, yelling loudly, “Pathetic little robber. How dare you come to my place!”
As he spoke, he got into fighting position, about to attack this man in black.
At this moment, a light appeared in front of him.
Zhang Sheng Qi did not see where it came from, or even what kind of weapon he used. Only that five blood marks appeared on his chest.
The Plum Flower Bandit has reappeared!
At tea parlors, bars, everyone talked about this among themselves.
Could it be that the killer of Zhang Sheng Qi is the real Plum Flower Bandit?
Who’s his next target?
The rich people no longer could sleep again.
At dusk, a bell sounded in the monastery, monks with serious and cold faces one by one appeared in the rooml.
Their footsteps seemingly even lighter than usual, because for the past few days, their minds have been quite occupied.
On the top of Mt. Song*, the cold is even more brutal, snow fills the whole mountain, as a person walking up in a hurry. It’s one of Shaolin’s non-monk disciples, ‘The Hero of Nan Yang* Xiao Jing”.
*Note: Mt. Song is the mountain where Shaolin’s located. Nan Yang’s a city, but I have no idea where.
Xiao Jing’s footsteps are also light, not making a noise as he touches the ground, yet just as he entered the courtyard, Reverend Xin Hu in the abbot’s room yelled, “Who is it?”
Xiao Jing stopped outside, bent over, and said, “Student Xiao Jing, I have something to report.”
There are only three people in the abbot’s room. Xin Hu, Xin Jian, and Bai Xiao Sheng.
Xiao Jin doesn’t dare to say too much useless stuffs. As he entered the room, he bowed again and said, “The Plum Flower Bandit has reappeared!”
Xiao Jing continued, “Three days ago, the former bandit Zhang Sheng Qi was suddenly killed, his valuables stolen. The only marks on his body is are blood marks of a plum on his chest.”
Xin Jian and Bai Xiao Sheng looked at each other, both looked extremely pale.
After who knows how long, Xian Hu sighed. “Now that the Plum Flower Bandit has reappeared, maybe Li Xun Huan wasn’t lying after all.”
Bai Xiao Sheng looked at Xin Jian, did not speak.
Xin Jian walked slowly to the window, looking at the snow outside. “But this might also proved that Li Xun Huan IS the Plum Flower Bandit!”
Xin Hu said, “Please explain.”
Xin Jian said, “If I were the Plum Flower Bandit, knowing someone is going to die for me, I’d stay low for a while. Otherwise, wouldn’t I have just saved Li Xun Huan?”
Bai Xiao Sheng nodded. “You’re right. The only reason for the Plum Flower Bandit to appear now is to clear Li Xun Huan of all crimes. If I were the Plum Flower Bandit, I would also never do this.”
Xin Hu said, “In that case, what are your suggestions?”
Xin Jian said, “If Li Xun Huan isn’t the real Plum Flower Bandit, then his associates wouldn’t be doing this for him.”
Xin Hu also stood up and walked over to the window. “Who’s guarding Li Xun Huan right now?”
Xin Jian said, “It’s second brother’s students Yi Rui and Yi Chen.”
Xin Hu said, “Tell them to come here.”
When Yi Rui and Yi Chen got in the room, he didn’t turn around, only asked, “Did you send your fifth uncle his dinner?”
Yi Rui said, “Yes. But...”
Xin Hu asked, “But what?”
Yi Rui said, “I followed the directions and put the food at the door. The quantity is the same as yesterday’s, twice as much as normal and another cup of water.”
Yi Chen added, “I carried the food basket, because I wanted to see what’s going on inside, as I stepped back a bit, I saw Li Xun Huan take the basket, looked at it, and threw it back out again.”
Yi Rui answered, “Because he said the food’s terrible, there’s no wine, so he wouldn’t eat.”
Xin Hu’s filled with rage. “Where does he think he is? A restaurant?”
Yi Rui and Yi Chen had been in the monastery for over ten years now. Never have they seen the abbot* actually getting mad before. The two didn’t dare to look up.”
*Note: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that Xin Hu is the abbot of Shaolin. It’s rarely mentioned(he’s mainly referred as reverend) in the book. But in the few instances it was mentioned, I sort of fudged on my translation because I didn’t know what the head of a monastery is suppose to be called. Hehehe. ^_^
After a long time, when he calmed down, Xin Hu asked, “What does he want to eat then?”
Yi Rui said, “He wrote a list and threw it out, and told us to follow his cooking directions. Any mistake and he’ll throw it out again.”
The list said:
Red Steamed Winter Bamboo
Mixed Vegetables Pot
Sour Vegetables with Mushrooms
Cooked Centerless Vegetable
To Fu with Mushrooms and Baby Bamboo
*Note: The above translation could anywhere be right on the money to totally off(I’d bet on the latter). I don’t even know how these dishes are cooked even in Chinese. And some of these vegetables probably don’t even have an English name. O_O
In addition to the 4 dishes and one soup, he also wanted 1.5 kg of high quality Zhu Ye Qing(type of wine), as if Shaolin temple is a high quality Capital City vegetarian resturant.
No matter who sees this list wouldn’t know whether to laugh of cry. But Xin Hu simply said calmly, “Just do as he says.”
Xin Jian immediately said, “Big brother you...”
Xin Hu cut him off, “If Li Xun Huan doesn’t eat, neither can fifth brother. His health has been deteriorating the past year or so. He doesn’t have the stamina to go without food for too long.”
Xin Jian looked at th floor. “But if we do this, then wouldn’t it prove that Li Xun Huan is controlling us?”
Xin Hu’s eyes sparkled. “I already have a plan. So who cares if he gets his way for a couple of days.”
Ah Fei lied on the bed.
It’s been four hours. He just lied there, not moving, as if his whole body turned into a stone.”
He simply waits.
Because by not moving, he can save his energy. He needs energy to get food, and need food to survive, to combat nature.
Several times, even the most cunning wild rabbits thought he was just a stone. Once, he was so weak and hungry he had no energy left. If that wild rabbits didn’t jump on top of him, he might’ve died of hunger.
Another time he played dead for two days before a wild dog came to him.
This type of patience and endurance is not a natural talent, it came only after countless practice.
At first, he’s not very good at it. He can’t help but shrivel himself up. But now, he doesn’t feel anything anymore. As long as he feels that there’s no need to move, he won’t move an inch.
When Lin Xian Er came back, she though he’s already asleep.
Her clothing today is quite strange, a plain grey cloth, covering all parts of her body.
She went to get some information, and had gone for four hours.
As Ah Fei suddenly sat up, which really scared her. But then she smiled, “So you’re just pretending to be asleep, wanting to scare me?”
Li Xian Er combed her hair, then bit her lips. “You don’t like me?”
Ah Fei shook his head.
Lin Xian Er innocently looked at him, then went over and kissed his cheeks. “You’re so good.”
Ah Fei stood up, and asked, “You have news?”
She shook her head. “Shaolin has always been very cautious on matters. They must observe for a long time before taking action. They’d rather not do something than to do something wrong.”
Ah Fei said, “But it’s been six days.”
Lin Xian Er said, “Maybe they don’t believe that the Plum Flower Bandit killed Zhang Sheng Qi, because the Plum Flower Bandit always does a string of crimes, not just one at a time.”
Ah Fei thought for a long time, then said, “But they’ll have to believe sooner or later. I’ll make them believe.”
Lin Xian Er said, “Come with me. I’ll show you a place.”
“Your second victim.”
It’s nighttime. The snow has melted. Their clothing has been changed, so no one noticed them.
Lin Xian Er suddenly pointed at the sign of a pawn shop. This is a big pawn shop, with a big sign that says ‘Shen Ji Pawn Shop’.
Ah Fei said, “What’s so special about this sign?”
Lin Xian Er did not respond, only pointed at another sign on a restaurant. “Look at this one.”
This restaurant’s business is very good. Both floors are full of customers. The sign says ‘Sheng Ji Restaurant’.
Actually, every five or six shops on this street seems to have the ‘Shen Ji’ name. And they all seem to have great business.
Lin Xian Er said, “All these are opened by Third Brother Shen.”
Ah Fei said, “Now where are we going?”
Lin Xian Er said, “Just follow me.”
Ah Fei doesn’t like to ask too many questions anyway, so he didn’t ask her to explain.
As they walked, she suddenly pointed to the sky. “Look, a shooting star.”
Ah Fei stayed silent for a while, then asked, “Did you make a wish?”
Lin Xian Er said, “A shooting star always passes by too quickly. No one has enough time to make a wish, unless he knows that the shooting star will appear. But who could know that? I think it’s all a big lie.”
Ah Fei said, “Even so, it can still allow people to have dreams and hopes, and that’s always good.”
Lin Xian Er said, “I never thought you’d know about such superstition.”
Ah Fei stared into the distance, where the shooting star disappeared. His eyes showed much sadness, then said, “I knew this since I was a little kid.”
Lin Xian Er watched those eyes closely, then said soothingly, “You remembered your mother, didn’t you? Did she tell you about it?”
Ah Fei didn’t respond, just walked ahead quickly.
Ah Fei originally thought he saw a huge mansion, but as he got closer, it seemed to have disappeared.
Lin Xian Er looked at the wall surrounding the place. “This is a tall wall. Could it be 40 feet?”
“That sounds about right.”
Lin Xian Er asked, “Do you think you can jump over?”
Ah Fei said, “No one can jump that high. If you want to get in, I can think of another way.”
Lin Xian Er said, “This is Third Brother Shen’s home.”
Ah Fei asked, “Is he my second victim?”
Lin Xian Er said, “I know you don’t want to hurt merchants. But there are many different kinds of merchants.”
“Which kind is him?”
“The worse, dirtiest kind.”
She smiled. “Think about it. How else can he open so many businesses in the city? Why else would he have such tall walls in his house?”
Ah Fei said, “There’s nothing wrong with having tall walls. And there are no laws against having too many businesses.”
Lin Xian Er said, “The tall walls means that he’s scared from doing all his crooked dealings. He has so many shops because he takes them from others?”
Lin Xian Er said, “The Shen family is very big and rich. Last generation it had five siblings. This generation, there are sixteen brothers. The sixteen brother opened forty some businesses.”
Ah Fei said, “So each one owns three or so. That’s not a big deal.”
Lin Xian Er responded, “But all of them belong to Third Brother Shen.”