Chapter 2: A Close Friend Stored in the Seas
[บางคำ อาจจะต้องตัด -d, -ed, -s, -es ออกเสียก่อน
When the driver saw these four people, he immediately said, "Black snake was not killed by someone."
Li Xun Huan said, "Huh?"
The driver said, "They're killed by a scorpion's poison."
The horse carriage is now filled with many bottles wine. These wine are bought by that youngster, so he drank them one after another, fully enjoying the taste.
Li Xun Huan looked at him with eyes filled with joy. He rarely finds people he's interested in, but this youngster is incredibly interesting.
The youngster suddenly put down the wine bottle, staring at Li Xun Huan. "Why must you invite me into your carriage for a drink?"
Li Xun Huan laughed. "Because that hotel is not a place we should very long at."
Li Xun Huan replied, "No matter who kills a person, he'll end up in some sort of trouble. While I am not afraid of killing, I despise trouble."
The youngster thought for a moment, then started drinking again. Li Xun Huan smiled as he looked at the youngster, appreciating his look as he drinks.
After a while, the youngster also sighed. "Killing is definitely not a happy thing. But there are people in this world that you just have to kill. So I must kill them!"
Li Xun Huan laughed. "You really killed him for those 50 taels of silver?"
The youngster replied, "Even without the money, I would've stilled killed him. But having 50 taels of silver is better."
Li Xun Huan asked, "Why do you only ask for 50 taels?"
The youngster responded, "Because that's how much he's worth."
Li Xun Huan smiled. "There are many people in the martial world that should die. And some are worth even more than 50 taels of silver. So later maybe you'll become filthy rich."
The youngster said, "Unfortunately, I'm too poor. Otherwise, I really should give you 50 taels.
"Because you helped me killed that person."
Li Xun Huan laughed heartily. "You're wrong. That person's not worth 50 taels. In fact, he's not even worth a single wen [the lowest form of ancient Chinese currency, like the penny today].
He suddenly asked, "Do you know why he tried to kill you?"
"Because although white snake did not kill him, he still made Zhu Ge Lei unable to keep his place in the martial world. You killed white snake. Only by killing you will he be able to regain his position. That's why he must kill you. People in the martial world are devious beyond your imagination."
The youngster went deeply into his own thoughts. Then said, "Sometimes, a person's heart is much more vicious than that of a tiger. At least when a tiger wants to eat you, he'll let you know first."
He drank another bottle of wine, then continued. "Yet I only hear people say that tigers are vicious, but never hear tigers say that humans are vicious. In reality, tigers only kill to survive. Yet humans can kill for any reason. And from what I know, humans kill a lot more humans than tigers do."
Li Xun Huan looked at him. "That's why you'd rather make friends with a tiger, right?"
The youngster thought a bit more, then suddenly laughed. "The only problem is, they can't drink."
This is the first time Li Xun Huan saw the youngster smile. He never thought a smile could bring such a huge change to a person.
The youngster's face used to be so lonely, so proud, making Li Xun Huan think he's like a wolf in the snow.
Yet when he smiled, his person totally changed. He became so warm, so close, so cute.
Li Xun Huan has never seen anyone's smile can be so charming.
The youngster suddenly asked, "Are you a really famous person?"
Li Xun Huan smiled. "Sometimes, being famous is not a good thing."
"Yet I would wish to become famous. I want to be the most famous person in the world."
The way he said this made him look so innocent.
Li Xun Huan laughed again. "Everyone wants to be famous. You just happen to be a lot more honest than most people."
That youngster said, "I'm different from others, I MUST be famous. If I'm not famous, I'll have to die!"
Li Xun Huan was shocked at this statement. "Why?"
The youngster did not answer this question. Yet one can see the look of incredible pain from his eyes.
It's only at this time that Li Xun Huan sees that this innocent child also has many hidden secrets. His childhood must have brought him much pain and suffering.
Li Xun Huan said in a warm voice, "If you want to be famous, you should at least tell me your name."
The youngster thought for a long time, then responded, "People who know me all call me Ah Fei."
Li Xun Huan laughed. "So your last name is 'Ah'? There's no one in this world with that last name."
The youngster replied, "I have NO last name!" Much fire appeared in his eyes. Li Xun Huan realizes that not even tears can put out this type of fire. He cannot bear to keep on asking. He never thought that the youngster would continue to talk. "When I become really famous, I might say my last name, until then..."
Li Xun Huan said in a calm tone. "For now, I'll just call you Ah Fei." The youngster responded, "Very good, you can call me Ah Fei now. Quite frankly, you can call me by whatever name you want."
Li Xun Huan said, "Ah Fei, let's toast."
Just as he finished half a glass, Li Xun Huan started to cough again, his pale face revealed a serious illness. Yet he still finished the rest of the glass.
Ah Fei stared at him strangely, as if wondering how a famous person like him can be in such bad health. Yet he said nothing, just finished his own glass.
Li Xun Huan suddenly smiled. "Do you know why I like you as my friend?"
Ah Fei did not respond, so Li Xun Huan continued. "Because of all my friends, you're the only person to see me cough, yet does not persuade me to stop drinking."
Ah Fei said, "Should you not drink if you cough?"
"In actuality, I shouldn't even touch alcohol."
Ah Fei said, "Then why do you keep drinking? Do you have a very sad past?"
Li Xun Huan's bright eyes dimmed, looking at Ah Fei. "Have I asked you anything you did not wish to answer? Did I ask who your parents were? Who taught you kung fu? Where you're from? Where you're going?"
"Then why do you ask me?"
Ah Fei quietly sat there. Then smiled. "I won't ask you."
LI Xun Huan also smiled, he seems to want to toast again, but just as he picks up the glass, he started to cough again.
Ah Fei opened the window for him, but suddenly the carriage stopped.
"What happened," Li Xun Huan asked.
The driver said, "There's someone blocking the street."
They got off the carriage. Li Xun Huan simply just breathed slowly, yet Ah Fei kept staring at the snowman, as if he has never seen a snowman in his life before.
Li Xun Huan looked at him and asked, "You've never seen a snowman before?"
Ah Fei responded. "I just know that snow is terrible. Not only does it bring coldness to people, but also make plants die out, animals hide, people lonely, hungry."
He made a snowball and threw it. The ball landed somewhere far away, broke apart, and disappeared. His eyesight is also looking at a faraway place. "To those who have enough to eat and enough to wear, snow might be very nice. Because not only can they make snowman, but also enjoy the scenery of a snowfield. But to people like me..."
He suddenly stared at Li Xun Huan. "Do you realize that for a person growing up in the wild as I did, wind, snow, hail, and rain are my biggest enemies?"
Li Xun Huan made a snowball too, saying, "I don't hate snow, but I hate others blocking my path."
He threw that snowball at the snowman. Oddly enough, the snowman did not fall down. They only saw the snow break apart, revealing something beneath it.
There's actually a real person inside the snow!
A dead person.
A dead person's face is never pretty, this face is incredibly hideous.
"Black snake!" Ah Fei suddenly yelled.
Why would black snake die here?
Why would the person who killed him put him here as a snowman?
The driver took his body from the snow, examining it closely, trying to find the strike that killed him.
Li Xun Huan asked, "Do you know who killed him?"
Ah Fei answered, "I don't know."
Li Xun Huan said, "It's that package."
Li Xun Huan continued, "That package was always on the table, so I did not notice it. But when black snake left, that package disappeared. Therefore I thought, he just pretended to be insane, to divert everyone's attention while he leave with the package."
"Ok." Ah Fei said.
"Yet he never would've thought that the package would cause his death. The person who killed him must did so for that package."
No one knew when that dagger made its way back to his hand again. "I wonder what's in that baggage? Why would so many people be so interested in it? Maybe I should've taken a look."
Ah Fei has been listening intently, but suddenly cut in, "If the person killed him for the package, why did they turn him into a snowman to block our paths?"
Li Xun Huan was very surprised. He found that while this youngster does not have much experience in society, innocent as a child. he does have an amazing intellect. Something many experienced people in the martial world cannot even compare.
Ah Fei continued, “That person must've calculated that no one else will travel on this road. Only you. So the snowman here is to block your path."
Li Xun Huan did not respond, but said, "Did you find the lethal wound?"
But before the driver can respond, Li Xun Huan said, "Don't bother."
Ah Fei added, "That's right. Those people are already here, why bother to keep looking?"
Li Xun Huan's hearing and eyesight can be said to have no equal in the world. He really could not believe that this youngster's hearing is just as good.
This youngster seems to have some natural beast-like abilities, to observe things others cannot. Li Xun Huan gave him a congratulatory laugh, said, "Since you're all here, why not come and have a drink?"
The snow on the trees to the side of the road suddenly came down.
A person laughed heartily. "It's been ten years since we last met. I never thought your precious dagger is still young. I must congratulate you."
During the laugh, an one-armed man with a stare of an eagle appeared from the forest.
Another person also appeared from the other side of the road. This person's thin and small. Looks like he has no more than a pound of meat on him, that light wind can probably blow him away."
Ah Fei can see instantly that as this person appeared, there's no footprint in the snow.
For a person to be able to leave no footprint, even if he has the advantage of being a bit light, still must have incredible inner power.
Li Xun Huan smiled. "I only came back from the border area for half a month. Yet Golden Lion Escort Agency's head and 'Traveling Without Shadow' Mr. Yu Er both came to see me. My reputation must be pretty good."
That short old man smiled deviously. "It seems that Little Li Tan Hua's* fame is not undeserved. Your memory is amazing. We only saw each other once thirteen years ago, yet you still recognize me, this old, useless man."
*[Note: Putting the word 'little' in front of one's last name is sometimes used by elders to call a younger person. 'Tan Hua' is a title in ancient China. Given to the 3rd place tester in the imperial examinations as a method to determine future government officials. Kind of like calling someone a "Dr." today for those with a Ph.D. Li Xun Huan, of course, got 3rd place in the examination. That's why Yu Er called him by that title, as a sign of respect. Try to remember the term 'Tan Hua', as it will appear many more times later in the book]
It's only now that Ah Fei saw that one of the old man’s legs is broken. He could not imagine how a broken-legged man be an expert in lightness kung fu.
But he didn't understand that just because this man was handicapped at birth, he practiced his lightness kung fu much more rigorously to make up for the deficiency.
Ah Fei can't help but feel respect for this man.
Li Xun Huan chuckled. "Since you also invited some friends, how come you're not going to introduce them to us?"
Mr. Yu Er said coldly, "You're right, they also have heard of your fame, and would like to meet you."
As he spoke, four people appeared from the forest. Although it's daytime, Li Xun Huan still could not help but feel a chill when seeing these four people.
These four people all look mature, yet they still dress like kids, with brightly colored clothing with flowery designs. Their shoes are kids shoes with a tiger design in front. Apron tied to their waist. Although their eyesight showed their mature age, they still act as if they are kids. If people see them, they'd probably throw up.
The most interesting thing is, they have bracelets with bells on their wrists and ankles. So they'd make a lot of noise when walking.
When the driver saw these four people, he immediately said, "Black snake was not killed by someone."
Li Xun Huan said, "Huh?"
The driver said, "they're killed by a scorpion's poison."
Li Xun Huan's mood was changed. "In that case, these four must be the disciples of the 5-Poison-Kid then."
The 'kid' in the yellow clothes laughed. "You destroyed that snowman we spent so much effort making. You're going to pay." As the word 'pay' came out, he suddenly flew toward Li Xun Huan, yet the bells on him did not make any noise.
Li Xun Huan just smiled at him, didn't even move.
But Yu Er also flew, intercepting that yellow-clothed 'kid'. Pulling him to the side.
'Golden Lion' suddenly stood up and laughed loudly. "Mr. Tan Hua here is incredibly rich. Forget a snowman, he can even afford to pay a 'gold man'. The four of you should not be so hasty. I want to introduce everyone."
The 'kid' in red said, "I know him. His last name is Li, first name is Xun Huan."
The other 'kid' in red added. "I also know he's an expert in eating, drinking, woman, and gambling. So I've always wanted him to help us go seek some pleasure*."
*[Note: Li Xun Huan's first name, 'Xun Huan', means to 'seek pleasure'. The 'kid' in black used that exact term 'Xun Xun Huan', obviously as a play on words. I don’t know why I bother pointing this out, though.]
The last 'kid' in green said, "I also know that he's quite a knowledgable person, was able to score a Tan Hua in the imperial examinations. I heard his dad, and his dad's dad, were all Tan Huas."
The 'kid' in red giggled. "Unfortunately, this Little Li Tan Hua doesn't want to be a government official, but rather a thief."
While others might not care too much about what they said, Ah Fei was spellbound by all this information. He had no idea his new friend had such a colorful life.
He did not realize that they only picked some of the more spectacular aspects of Li Xun Huan's life. Li Xun Huan's whole life story can't be finished in three days and three nights.
Ah Fei also did not see that while Li Xun Huan's smiling, his eyes revealed terrible pain, as if his heart will be broken when hearing others speak of his past.
Suddenly, Yu Er said with a serious face, "You really do know a lot about Li Tan Hua. But have you evver heard? Little Li's Legendary Dagger, No equal under the Heavens, once leaving his hand, would NEVER miss!"
[I would like some help here. The phrase “Li Bu Xu Fa” describing his dagger is one of my favorite phrases in the book. It would be nice if someone can come up with a better translation than the gay one I have up there.]
The 'kid' in yellow laughed. "Once the dagger's thrown, it never misses. So you must've been afraid that I would have died under his dagger, and then won't be able to explain this to my master, right? That's why you stopped me."
Li Xun Huan said with a smile, "But everyone can be rest assured, my second dagger is not really all that great. And my first dagger has absolutely no chance of killing six people."
"So if everyone wants revenge for Zhu Ge Lei, just go ahead."
'Golden Lion' laughed twice. "Zhu Ge Lei's doesn't deserve to live, why is brother Li's fault?"
Li Xun Huan responded, "Since everyone's not here for revenge, are you all really here to have a drink?"
Yu Er responded coldy, "We just want the package!"
Li Xun Huan raised his eyebrows. "Package?"
"Yes, that package needs to be sent by the escort agency. If there's any problems, the Golden Lion Escort Agency's reputation will be shot."
Li Xun Huan looked at black snake's body. "You mean the package is not with him?"
'Golden Lion' responded, "Brother Li really knows how to joke. With brother Li at the scene, how could black snake possibly get away with the package?"
Li Xun Huan sighed. "The thing I hate most in my life is trouble. Why does trouble always seem to find me?"
'Golden Lion' didn't seem to hear him, instead kep talking. "Brother Li just have to give up that package, I'll leave immediately, and give brother Li some wine too. "
Li Xun Huan played around with the dagger in his hand. Suddenly smiled. "You're right, that package is with me. But I don't know whether I should give it to you or not. Give me some time to think.
Yu Er asked, "How long will it take?"
Li Xun Huan responded, "Just two hours. After two hours, we'll meet here again."
Yu Er didn't even hesitate. Said immediately, "Fine!"
He did not say another word before leaving.
The 'kid' in yellow suddenly chuckled. "In just one hour, you can already disappear. Why need two hours?"
Yu Er said, "Ever since Little Li Tan Hua entered the martial world and before retiring, had over 300 battles. He did not try to escape a single time."
They came quickly and went quickly. Even as they speak, they had already disappeared deep into the woods.
Ah Fei suddenly said, "You don't have the package."
"Then why did you lie?"
Li Xun Huan smiled a bit. "Although I did not take it, they would never have believed me. A battle was unavoidable. It's better for me to admit it, rather than having to talk more."
"If a battle's unavoidable, why wait?"
Li Xun Huan said, "We must find someone in these two hours."
"The person who stole the package."
Li Xun Huan continued, "That night three people were at the table. Two are dead. We must find the third one.
Ah Fei thought deeply. "You're saying that guy in the purple coat, with a whip on his waist, and hair in his ears, right?"
Li Xun Huan smiled. "You just saw him for an instant. Yet you remembered such extreme details!"
"I did see him just for an instant. An instant is enough."
"You're right. He's the person I'm talking about. Of the people at the restaurant that night, only he knows the true value of that package. He stayed to the side so no one would notice him. That's why he has the chance to take it. Because the package is so valuable, he wants to keep it for himself. Yet he's afraid that his boss will find out, so he pushed the blame on me."
He smiled lightly, and continued. "Good thing this isn't the first time I'm wrongly blamed."
Ah Fei said, "The only reason those people know where you are must be because of him."
"But in order for 'Golden Lion' not to be suspicious of him, he must still be around!"
"That's why he must be with the 'Golden Lion' people. So all we need to do is find them to find him!"
Li Xun Huan tapped his shoulders. "You just have to be around in the martial world for 3-5 years, and everybody else life will start to be miserable. Hopefully if we meet again, we're still friends."
He laughed heartily as he continued. "Because I really do not want to be your enemy."
Ah Fei looked at him silently. Then said, "You want me to leave now?"
Li Xun Huan said, "This is my business. It has nothing to do with you. They weren't looking for you. Why shouldn't you leave?"
Ah Fei said, "You don't want me get into this mess with you? Or do you simply not want me to travel with you?"
Li Xun Huan let out a sad look, but still kept smiling. "There's no never-ending party under the Heavens. We'll part eventually. Why care whether it's soon or late?"
Ah Fei has a heavy look on his face. Then got two glasses of wine from the carriage. "Let me toast you one more time."
Li Xun Huan drank the wine quickly. He wanted to smile, but instead started to cough again.
Ah Fei looked at him silently for a long time, then quickly turned around and left.
It's at this time that it began to snow again. It's so quiet one can the snowflakes landing on the ground.
Li Xun Huan stared at this youngster disappear into the snow and wind, stared at the ground's slow, lonely footprints.
He immediately poured another glass of wine. Then said, "Youngster. I give you another toast.”
“You do know that I don't really want you to leave. It's just that your future is too bright. By being with me will only lead you to trouble. I'm a person that has made friends with trouble, bad luck, danger and sadness. I can... no longer have any more friends."
But Ah Fei can no longer hear those words.
The driver still just stood there like a statue. He did not speak, and although filled with snow, will not move.
Li Xun Huan drank again. Then turned towards him. "You wait here. It's best to bury this snake's body. I'll return in two hours."
The driver lowered his head. "I know the Golden Lion's palm is very famous, but it's power is very exaggerated. You should need at most 40 moves to defeat him."
Li Xun Huan said, "Maybe it won't even take 10 moves."
"What about Yu Er?"
"His lightness kung fu is quite good, and is an expert with the hidden weapons. But I should still have no trouble with him."
The driver said, "I heard that the disciples of the 5-poison-kid knows some very strange kung fu. Based on what I saw, their kung fu is different from most."
Li Xun Huan cut him off with a laugh. "Don't worry. I'm not afraid of these people. They do not pose a problem."
The driver is still very serious. "You don't have to lie to me. I know this trip is very dangerous. Young master should not let Master Fei leave at this time."
Li Xun Huan suddenly became a bit angry. "Since when did you began to like chattering?" he scolded.
The driver stopped immediately, and lowered his head even more. By the time he raised his head again, Li Xun Huan is gone, leaving sounds of his coughs.
Anyone that hears this continuous coughing sound in the middle of a snowfield could not help but feel sympathy. But the wind finally covered even the sound of his cough.
Tears dropped down the side of the driver's face. Talking to himself, "Young master. We were living so peacefully at the borders. Why did you come back to this place of pain and sadness? Can you still not forget her after ten years? Do you still want to see her? But after you see her, you still would not talk to her. Why do you even bother and bring more suffering to yourself?"
Once in the forest, Li Xun Huan's savvy, happy look suddenly changed, changing into that of a predator. His ears, eyes, nose, every ounce of muscle in his body searched the forest, leaving no trace missed. In the past twenty years, no one has escaped his pursuit.
Although his movement is quick as a rabbit, he doesn't look like he's in a hurry. Like a great dancer, no matter under what conditions, he can still maintain his gracefulness and composure.
Ten years ago, when he gave up everything he had and left for the borders, he also traveled on this road. At that time, spring flowers were just beginning to bloom.
He remember that there's a small bar here. He would always stop there for drinks. Although the wine is not the best, the scenery is. The mountain on the other side, the waterfall. There are many tourists then. He looked at those couples while drinking his bitter wine cup by cup. Thinking he'll forever leave this place. This is a memory he'll never forget.
Now, he can't believe he's back here again. Ten years. The people must all be new now. The little waitress now married. The married couple who loved each other deeply left this world. Even the peach trees, now trapped under the snow.
Oh but how he yearned that the little bar would still be there.
He thinks this way not because of old memories, but rather because he thinks the person he wants is here.
Although the world in this snow is vastly different from the Spring winds, he still feel stabbing pain from it.
Money, power, fame, place in society are all easy to give up. But those great memories, those sweet memories, all act like locks, trapping him so he can never escape. Never break free.
Li Xun Huan took out a wine bottle and drank the whole bottle. He only started moving again after he finished coughing.
He really did see that little bar again.
He remembered that in the Spring, a no-name mountain flower would grow everywhere. He would drink wine here and enjoy the flowers.
Now everything has changed.
But he saw a carriage, and heard the sound of horses in the back.
Li Xun Huan knows that he did not guess wrong. They're really here! Because in this weather, in this area, cannot have any other tourists.
He picked up his pace, became more careful, quietly listened for a while. No sound came from the little bar. He then dashed towards the bar.
When he got really close, he found that this bar is quiet beyond belief. Other than some low horse sounds, everything's quiet.
Just as Li Xun Huan stepped up to the door, the floor gave a creak. He immediately backed off.
But still no sound.
Li Xun Huan sneaked to the back, thinking, "Maybe they're not here."
But he then saw 'Golden Lion',who's just staring at him. But there's no movement, like a statue.
Li Xun Huan sighed. "I would've never thought!"
He just said those three words before closing his mouth.
Because he just then realized that the 'Golden Lion' will never ever hear another voice again.