Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword - Chapter 23
Chapter 23: Into a Trap
Lin Xian Er and Ah Fei came on this cold, windy night to the front of a large mansion. Pointing at the unusually tall wall, Lin Xian Er said, “This is Third Brother Shen’s house. He and his brothers opened forty some businesses together, but now they’re all his, because his fifteen brothers have all entered the casket.”
Ah Fei asked, “How did they die?”
Lin Xian Er said, “Officially, from illnesses. But no one knows what really happened. Everyone found it strange how fifteen perfectly healthy people can all die within a three year period, when Third Brother Shen wasn’t sick at all.”
Ah Fei did not say anything else, just one simple sentence. “I’ll go meet him tomorrow night.”
With perfect hand-feet coordination, Ah Fei climbed over the wall.
After flipping over, he saw a large garden with many houses. At this hour, most lights are out as people are asleep.
Lin Xian Er found a servant who drew a map for him. So Ah Fei knows exactly where to look.
Third Brother Shen is still awake, this cunning businessman’s hair is already white, yet still sat under the candlelight with his abacus, calculating his earnings.
This abacus skills aren’t the fastest, because his fingers are short, yet quite thick. How could a man from such a rich family have hands like the workers?
Because when he was a child, his dad kicked him out of the house, so he spent five years outside. No one knows what he did, some say he was a beggar, some say he went to Shaolin and worked manual labor, and learned some great kung fu. That’s whey when his brothers and cousins died, no one would dare say anything, despite their suspicions.
Obviously, he denied all allegations, but he can’t deny that pair of hands he has. It’s a pair that has obviously learned a type of Iron Fist kung fu, and quite well at that. Otherwise, his eldest cousin wouldn’t have suddenly died while spitting out blood.
Ah Fei suddenly pushed open the window, entering the room.
Third Brother Shen has a very good reaction, yet by the time he noticed the window was open, Ah Fei is already in front of him. He could not believe someone has this type of speed, scared out of his wits, and just froze.
Ah Fei looked at him coldly and asked, “Are you Third Brother Shen?”
Third Brother Shen just kept nodding.
Ah Fei said, “Do you know what I’m doing here?”
He still just kept nodding his head.
Ah Fei said, “Do you have anything to say?”
This time, Third brother Shen stopped nodding, and started to shake his head.
Ah Fei’s sword came out, yet at this instant, he sensed that something’s wrong, an intuition similar to that of an animals, like a rabbit sensing a wild wolf. But he did not hear anything, nor see even a shadow of that wolf.
Without hesitation this time, Ah Fei pulled out his sword again!
As fast as the shooting stars, his sword cut through Third Brother Shen’s chest, only to hear several clanking sounds. Apparently, the sword cut onto a metal plate, no wonder he can’t cut through it.
After his attack, Third Brother Shen immediately rolled under the table. Ah Fei immediately jumped, trying to escape, but unfortunately, he’s still slow by a step.
At this time, a net dropped from the top of the building, the net is as big as the room, so everyone in it will get caught.
Ah Fei is not caught under the net.
Strangely enough, he did not panic or even feel frightened, instead he just felt sadness, because suddenly realized how it feels to be an animal caught by a hunter.
And it’s impossible for an animal to escape the traps of a hunter.
Ah Fei did not struggle.
He knows it’s useless.
At this time, two shadows fell on top of the net, each with a long staff. Soon, eight of Ah Fei’s pressure points had been sealed.
These two people are Shaolin’s Xin Jian and Bai Xiao Sheng.
Third Brother Shen is no longer under the table, because there’s a hidden passageway under it.
Obviously, this was all a trap.
Bai Xiao Sheng’s face is filled with delight. “I knew you were going to come here, do you give up?”
Ah Fei did not respond.
Although he can still talk, he didn’t bother responding, nor ask, “How did you know I was going to be here?”
His eyes are hollow, as if he’s not thinking at all.
He can’t think? Or doesn’t want to think? Or can’t bring himself to think.
Bai Xiao Sheng said, “I know you’re trying to save your friend Li Xun Huan, so you pretended to be the Plum Flower Bandit.”
Ah Fei said loudly, “I AM the Plum Flower Bandit. I don’t have to pretend. I also don’t know who Li Xun Huan is.”
Bai Xiao Sheng said, “Really... brother Xin Jian, he said he’s the Plum Flower Bandit, do you believe him?”
Bai Xiao Sheng said, “But this is pretty hard to prove. Brother Xian Jian, do you know who killed Hong Tian Lei?”
”The Plum Flower Bandit.”
“How did he die?”
“Although his body has the mark of the plum flower, the attack that killed him was on his Xuan Ji Pressure Point.”
Bai Xiao Sheng said, “In that case, the Plum Flower Bandit is not only a great fighter, but also a master of pressure points, then.”
Bai Xiao Sheng Smiled, turning to Ah Fei, “If you can tell me the names of the pressure points I just sealed, we’ll agree that you’re the Plum Flower Bandit, and then immediately release Li Xun Huan. How about it?”
Ah Fei bit his teeth hard.
Bai Xiao Sheng sighed. “You really are his good friend. For him, you’re willing to sacrifice your life. But I wonder how important you are to him. If you can make him come out of that room, then that would be quite good.”
There’s wine in the cup.
Li Xun Huan has the cup in his hands.
At the corner of the room is a thin, seemingly weak monk, although past the middle age, but doesn’t look too old, and carries a look of a bookworm.
No one would believe that this is Reverend Xin Shu.
Although he’s Li Xun Huan’s hostage, his mind is still at peace, sitting quietly at the corner.
Li Xun Huan suddenly said to Xin Shu with smile, “I can’t believe Shaolin has wine of his quality, how about a cup?”
Xin Shu shook his head.
Li Xun Huan said, “I’m drinking wine in front of your brother’s corpse. Does that count as rudeness?”
Xin Shu said, “It’s universally accepted that people use wine as a way to toast others. No matter the place, you’re not being rude at all.”
Li Xun Huan said, “Very good. No wonder people say that once you enter the monastery, your heart is more free.”
Xin Shu’s peaceful expression changed a bit, as if trying to hide some pain.
Then he sighed, his face filled with sorrow, whether for the deceased or for him, no one knows.
Li Xun Huan looked at his wine cup, then also sighed. “To be honest, I didn’t expect you to be the one to save me this time.”
Xin Shu said, “I didn’t save you.”
Li Xun Huan said, “Fourteen years ago, I resigned from my government post, although the official reason is because I was tired of being in politics, the reality is, if you hadn’t written that scripture saying that I have dirty dealings with bandits, my mind would not have been so set.”
Xin Shu closed his eyes, then said, “The old power-hungry Hu Yun Ji has long died, why do you bring him up again?”
Li Xun Huan said, “You’re right. Once one enters the monastery, he’s a different person. Still, I would never believe that you’d be the one to save me today.”
Xin Shu opened his eyes, then said loudly, “I already told you, I didn’t save you. But because my inner power is so weak, I couldn’t escape your grasp. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything.”
“But unless you hinted at me to escape here, I might not have chosen to come into this room. If you had struggled, I might not be able to truly trap you here.”
Xin Shu moved his mouth, but no words came out.
Li Xun Huan smiled, “Monks should not lie, besides, it’s just us two here.”
Xin Shu suddenly said, “Although I do have the intention of saving you, it was not because of that incident.”
Li Xun Huan did not seem surprised, and asked, “Then why?”
From his look, Xin Shu seemingly doesn’t know what to say.
Li Xun Huan did not force him, instead just finished his wine.
At this time, someone from outside the window yelled, “Li Xun Huan, look out the window.”
This is the voice of Xin Jian.
When Li Xun Huan finally looked out the window, his expression immediately changed.
He never thought Ah Fei would fall into their hands.
Bai Xiao Sheng just stood there looking smug, then said, “Li Tan Hua, I guess you should recognize him, right? For you, he’d rather be known as the Plum Flower Bandit. How do you think you should thank him?”
Xin Jian said loudly, “If you want to save his life, you better come out and surrender.”
Li Xun Huan’s hands started to shake. He didn’t see Ah Fei’s face, because his face is on the ground, as if suffered some major injuries.
Xin Jian suddenly raised Ah Fei’s body. “Li Xun Huan, I give you four hours. If you don’t come out with my sixth brother by sunset, you’ll never see your good friend again.”
Bai Xiao Sheng said, “Li Tan Hua, this person is quite good to you, you really should respond in kind.”
Li Xun Huan doesn’t know what to do.
He saw how they dragged Ah Fei around like a dog, how his scars showed the torture he’s been through.
Yet this youngster did not say a single word.
He only glanced at the window, his expression that of calmness, as if to tell Li Xun Huan that he doesn’t care for death.
Li Xun Huan sighed. “My good friend. I really understand what you’re thinking. You don’t want me to save you.”
Xin Shu kept looking at him, then suddenly asked, “So what are you going to do?”
Li Xun Huan drank three more cups, then smiled. “Of course I’ll give myself up. You can tie me up any time you want.”
Xin Shu said, “But you know you’ll die if you leave!”
“Yet you’ll still go?”
“Of course.” His response is so certain, leaving no room for argument.
Xin Shu said, “Don’t you think this is too stupid?”
Li Xun Huan smiled. “Everyone does a few stupid things in his life. If everyone only does smart things, then wouldn’t life get too boring?”
Xin Shu thought over those words, then said, “You’re right. A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. You know you’ll die if you do this. But you still must do it!”
Li Xun Huan chuckled, “At least you certainly know how I think.”
Xin Shu continued, “Friendship comes first, before life and death. Li Xun Huan really is Li Xun Huan.”
Li Xun Huan did not look at him, just said, “I’ll go first.”
Xin Shu suddenly said, “Hold on!”
It’s as if he suddenly made an important decision, his eyes stared at Li Xun Huan. “I wasn’t finished.”
Xin Shu said, “I already told you, I have another reason for saving you.”
Xin Shu said, “This is a big secret of Shaolin, and affects many people, so I didn’t want to tell you.”
Li Xun Huan stood there listening.
Xin Shu said again, “Shaolin has countless rare books, some are Buddhist scriptures, others are kung fu manuals.”
“I know this, of course.”
Xin Shu said, “For the past hundred years, more than a few people have tried to steal these things from Shaolin, but no one has succeeded.”
He continued, “Although monks do not kill, these scriptures are still the basis of our temple. So anyone tries to steal it will receive the wrath of Shaolin.”
Li Xun Huan said, “I rarely hear anyone who dares to rob this place.”
Xin Shu said, “You’re an outsider, so you obviously don’t know the details. Actually, there has been seven instances where Shaolin has been robbed, one is for calming the heart, while the others are all top kung fu manuals.”
Li Xun Huan couldn’t help but be taken aback, “So who is it?”
Xin Shu said, “The weirdest thing is that there were no evidence of the robberies, nor any trails for us to investigate.”
After the first two robberies, we have significantly upgraded our security, yet the robberies still continued. Originally, third brother guarded the room, but he’s since retired.”
Li Xun Huan said, “This is quite a big deal. Why hasn’t there been any rumors?”
Xin Shu said, “Because this is so important, the abbot warned everyone to close their mouths, so including you, only nine people know about this.”
Li Xun Huan said, “So other than the seven reverends, who’s the eighth person?”
“Bai Xiao Sheng.”
Li Xun Huan sighed, “This guy really does get into a lot of other people’s businesses.”
Xin Shu said, “After third brother left, second brother and I took his place as the guardian, and only for the past half a month.”
Li Xun Huan said, “If Reverend Xin Mei was guarding the room, then why did he leave?”
Xin Shu said, “Because second brother suspects that the Plum Flower Bandit has a hand in this, so he had to look into it. Who’d have thought that he’d never come back.”
After a while, Xin Shu said, “Second brother and I have been old friends, before he left, he took out the three most sacred scriptures from the book room, and hid them in three separate places. Only the abbot and I know where they are.”
“And one is in this room, right?”
Li Xun Huan said, “No wonder they’re so hesitant to attack this room.”
Xin Shu said, “Simply because this series of robberies are so strange, second brother and I made an assumption, that there is perhaps an insider.
Although we’ve been suspicious, neither of us dare to say it, because other than us seven reverends, no one else could’ve stolen those scriptures.”
Li Xun Huan’s eyes brightened. “So the thief could very well be one you seven.”
Xin Shu said, “Us seven brother have all been in here for at least ten years, we trust each other deeply. Except...”
“Except when second brother left, he told me he’s deeply suspicious of one person among us seven.”
Li Xun Huan immediately asked, “Who’s that?”
Xin Shu shook his head. “He didn’t say it, because he didn’t want to make wrongful accusations, he only hoped that the thief really is the Plum Flower Bandit.”
When he got here, Xin Shu’s throat tightened, unable to speak.
Li Xun Huan said, “I understand how Xin Mei feels, but how can he watch as that thief still free, when he has no chance to say his name?”
Xin Shu said, “Second brother thought about this, so before he left, he told me, if he were to ever die on the trip, I should read his diary, because the name of person he’s suspicious of is on the last page.”
Li Xun Huan said, “So where is it now?”
“Originally with the rare scripture, but now in my hands.”
He took out a book, which Li Xun Huan immediately grabbed. Every single word talks about Buddist principles, with no words talking about the suspect.”
Li Xun Huan asked, “So did the suspect tear out the last page?”
Xin Shu said, “Not only that, but also the scripture is now a blank book!”
Li Xun Huan said, “If that’s the case, then the suspect already knows that the second brother suspects him.”
“But only you and the abbot knows of the location, so do you suspect...”
Xin Shu said, “Not totally. Because if the suspect knows that the second brother is suspicious of him, he’d follow the second brother moves closely, and perhaps found the hidden location that way. But...”
“Actually, when second brother came back, he was still alive. And he shouldn’t have died!”
When he heard this, Li Xun Huan was quite shocked.
Only to see Xin Shu tightened his fist. “Although I’m not an expert on poison, I still learned a lot about it the past few years from our books. So when I saw second brother’s condition as he came back, I knew that he can be saved, or at least shouldn’t have died so quickly!”
Li Xun Huan said, “So you’re saying...”
Xin Shu said, “Obviously, whoever stole the scriptures also killed second brother.”
Li Xun Huan suddenly felt that this room became very small, as he tried to gasp for breath.
He circled the room, calmed down, and then asked, “So how many people came here to look at him?”
Xin Shu said, “Big brother, fourth brother, fifth brother, and seventh brother all have been here.”
“So anyone of them could be the murderer?”
Xin Shu nodded, “This is a huge misfortune of our monastery. I shouldn’t have told you, but now I realized that you’re not the type who betrays your friends. So I want you to...”
“You want me to help you find the real killer.”
Li Xun Huan thought for a moment, then asked slowly, “But what if the killer is Xin Hu?”
Xin Shu suddenly froze, sweat poured down his forehead.
Li Xun Huan said, “Even if everyone at Shaolin knows that the killer is Xin Hu, no one would admit it, would they.”
Xin Shu didn’t respond, because there’s nothing to say. Everyone treats Shaolin as the renowned institution in the martial world. What would they say if Shaolin’s abbot is a killer?
Li Xun Huan said, “Even if I can prove that Xin Hu is the killer, I bet you still wouldn’t say any nice words for me, in order to protect your reputation.”
Xin Shu sighed. “You’re right. For the reputation of Shaolin, I am willing to sacrifice everything.”
Li Xun Huan said, “Then why do you ask me to do this?”
Xin Shu said, “Although I won’t do anything that will damage Shaolin’s repuation, as long as you can prove who killed brother Xin Mei, I’ll will make sure he dies with me.”
Li Xun Huan said, “How could a monk talk about murder? Looks like you’re still attached to the outside world.”
Xin Shu said, “Even Buddha himself has been angry, much less just a mere monk.”
Li Xun Huan said, “With these words, I’m content.”
Xin Shu said, “You mean you know who the killer is?”
Li Xun Huan said, “I don’t. But I know someone who does.”
Xin Shu said, “Obviously, the killer himself does.”
Li Xun Huan said, “Other than the killer, another person does. That person’s in this room.”
Li Xun Huan pointed at the corpse of Xin Mei, “Him!”
Xin Shu said, “Regrettably, he can no longer talk.”
Li Xun Huan chuckled, “But sometimes even the dead can talk.”
He took off the cover sheet on Xin Mei’s body. Sunlight shined on his face, which looked dark grey.
Li Xun Huan asked, “Have you ever seen a victim of the Five-Poison Kid?”