Chapter 20 – The Second Star
April 19th. Before sunset.
The light of the setting sun, which shone on the camellia, suddenly became dim and murky. The camellia, which moments ago had seemed so bright and colorful, suddenly looked pale and sallow.
This is because it does not emit its own light. Moments ago, it had appeared so glorious only because of the light of the sun shining down onto its petals.
People are the same.
Some people shine brilliantly for a time, but then at a certain point become old and frail, and despite being alive, are simply waiting to die.
Fortunately, some people in the world are not like that.
This is because they are innately luminous, powerful, without any need to rely on others. When alive, none dare look down on them. Even after they die it is the same.
Gao Tianjue was that sort of person. Regardless of the circumstances, no one would be willing to doubt her power.
If she said that the “Thunder and Lightning” couple and Tang Lanfang would never again see Ingot, then sadly, they could only wait until after death to do so.
“You’re a women, as am I,” said Grand Miss Lei, staring at Gao Tianjue. “What women say is generally not very reliable. But, I believe you.”
“If you dare to say such a thing, then I believe that not only have you already killed Ingot, you are also prepared to attack us. Now that we have seen your face, you will not let us keep on living.” She sighed. “If I were you, I would probably do the same.”
“You don’t want to ask if I’m certain I can take on all three of you at once?”
“I don’t need to ask.”
“Because if you killed Ingot, then we couldn’t allow you to continued to live.” Grand Miss Lei’s voice suddenly grew very calm. “We would do it even though we might die. So no need to waste breath on any questions.”
“Correct,” said Gao Tianjue. “There is no need for further questions.”
“I could see just now that your acupuncture points had been sealed. And now, I can see that your blood and Qi are flowing properly again.”
“Even my husband and I could not do that,” said Grand Miss Lei. “Your kung fu really is a lot higher than ours.” She sighed again. “In recent years, we haven’t payed any attention to all the trivial matters in Jianghu. And yet we have more and more of our own trivial matters to attend to. All year, every day, all day, the things we do are of no account. We don’t do anything important at all.”
“What we do all day is plant flowers and pull weeds, play chess and chat, get jealous and argue, visit scenic spots, catch rabbits and go fishing. Where is there room for important kung-fu related matters?” She sighed. “Although these things are more interesting than important matters, it means that our kung fu hasn’t advanced at all in the past few years. So, of course we can’t match up to you.”
Despite all her sighing, her expression was filled with joy, and contained no trace of regret.
Even though Gao Tianjue didn’t sigh, her eyes seemed to filled with remorse and pain.
“Right now, even if we attack you three against one, young Miss Tang wouldn’t really count as a person. She would be useless in an attack, so you really would only need to deal with the two of us.”
The old man broke in: “Actually, we don’t really count as two people.”
“Because we two are one person,” he said. “When attacking her, you would defend me with your life, and I would defend you with my life. If I got hurt, you would get flustered, and if you got hurt, I would be flustered. And that is when she would have her chance.” He sighed. “So as I said, the two of us will never measure up to them.” Even though he sighed, his expression was one of happiness, without any sign of regret.
“So,” asked Grand Miss Lei, “you mean that we’ve already lost this battle?”
“And we are basically dead already.”
“No one can evade death, so there’s nothing really amazing about it. In any case, we have lived our lives quite happily. Although, there’s something I need to say to you before I die.”
“Do you remember that year we went to the Zhongnan Mountains to make immortality pills?  Your younger martial sister came to visit and stayed for about a month?”
“There was one occasion when you went to the other side of the mountain to pick medicinal herbs, and you were gone for a few days. Well, when you were gone, your younger martial sister and I did something wrong. We regretted it, but by that time, we had already done it, and it was too late.”
Grand Miss Lei stared at him, and then her wizened, rigid face broke out in a smile, a smile a lovely as a lily.
“You think I didn’t know about that?” she said. “You think you could fool me?”
“You knew?” said the old man, shocked. “When did you find out?”
“I knew all along.”
“Then why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you lose your temper? Why didn’t you flip out on me?”
“Because we are married,” she said softly. “Being married is different than being siblings, friends or lovers. If I flipped out on you for a mistake you made, then the person in the wrong would not be you, but me.”
Gao Tianjue had been listening quietly, but now she interjected: “I also had a husband. He was surnamed Guo. Guo Mie. He was an extremely intelligent and talented man. I’ve never met another man in my entire life who could compare even to one of his fingers. When we were young, we were also happily married.”
“We know all that already.”
“He’s dead now,” said Gao Tianjue. “Do you know how he died?”
“No,” said Grand Miss Lei. “But we’ve always wanted to.”
“Then I’ll tell you. I killed him. I used the most cruel method possible to kill him.” Her voice was again extremely calm, frighteningly calm. So calm it was almost impossible to take. “Do you know why I killed him? Of course you don’t know.”
“Because of a child.”
“A child?” blurted Grand Miss Lei. “You killed your own husband because of a child?”
“Whose child was it?”
“My husband and my older sister’s child. My blood sister.”
The room was suddenly silent. Even the sound of breathing seemed to have ceased.
Everyone knew that she must have a feeling of deep hatred in her heart to have become like this. But who could have imagined that the people she hated were her blood sister and her husband.
Gao Tianjue suddenly asked Grand Miss Lei: “If you were me, would you have become like this?”
Grand Miss Lei was at a loss for words. After a very long time, she quietly said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Gao Tianjue sighed. “In any case, we two are different. You have grown old together happily as a couple, because you have patience. I am a vicious and jealous woman, and that is why I have become like this.” She laughed. “So everything you just said is quiet useless.”
“What did we say? What do you mean useless?”
“You said all those things on purpose. You wanted to provoke me, make me feel pain, to create an opening to kill me.”
This was a tactic; don’t attack the person, attack the heart. When experts fight, if the heart is disturbed, it can lead to defeat.
“Unfortunately, this type of tactic is useless on me,” said Gao Tianjue coolly. “Because my heart is already dead. I have always been prepared to die, and that day is today.”
Grand Miss Lei looked surprised. “You prepared to die today?”
“Not only am I prepared to die, I am determined to die. So anything you say is useless. However, you do not wish to die, therefore, you will.” She sighed and continued, “There are many things in the world like this. People who don’t want to die often die more quickly than the ones who do.”
Tang Lanfang suddenly let out a sigh. “The person who least wishes to die is me. And yet I know I will be the first one to go.”
“Yes,” said Gao Tianjue coolly. “You shall be the first to die!”
Ingot took the black headband off and removed the silver mask, chuckling as he looked at Xiao Jun.
“Chamber Lord Xiao, long time no see! Hello!”
“You!” Xiao Jun said, looking shocked. “How could it be you?”
“How could it not be me?” chuckled Ingot. “From the day I was born until now, I’ve always been me, not some random Joe. And I’m not Pockmarks Wang’er.”  He laughed happily. “But if someone wants to mistake me for Gao Tianjue, well I can’t do anything about it.”
Xiao Jun looked at him in amazement. Staring at his outfit, he said, “Who do these things belong to?”
“To Gao Tianjue, of course,” he said, placing the mask on top of his head. “Other than her, who else would have treasures like this?”
“Why would she give them to you?”
“Who said she gave them to me?” said Ingot. “These are her treasures. She wouldn’t give them away even if you killed her.”
“And yet there they are in your hands.”
“I’m just borrowing them.”
“She agreed to let you to borrow them?”
“She didn’t agree.”
“If she didn’t agree, then how could you have borrowed them?”
Ingot sighed. “To be honest, I didn’t borrow them.”
Xiao Jun usually was not the type of person who wanted to examine a matter down to the last detail. But he could not hold back from asking more questions.
“You didn’t borrow them?”
“Then where did they come from?”
“I took them,” said Ingot. “Because she didn’t agree to lend them to me, I had to take them.”
“How did you do it?”
“I only have two hands, so of course I used two hands. First I took the headband and the mask, and then the clothes and boots.”
“Where did you take them from?”
Ingot looked at him as if he were a simpleton. “Do you really have to ask me such an obvious question?”
“I already did.”
Ingot shook his head and sighed. “Well, I guess I just have to tell you, then.” He spoke it like a list: “The headband, I untied off her head. The mask, I took off her face. The cloak, I stripped off her body.” He paused for a moment before continuing on slowly: “The boots were a bit more difficult, because they were on tight. It took a lot of effort, but I finally took them, off of her feet.”
Xiao Jun stared in shock. After a long time passed, he said, “You took these things off of her body?”
“Every one of them.”
“And what of her?” asked Xiao Jun. “Where was she?”
Ingot looked like he wanted to jump up. “Did you really just say that? Did your really ask such a nonsensical question? She’s there. Her head was inside the headband, her face was behind the mask, her body was inside the cloak, and her feet were inside the boots. Such a simple matter, don’t tell me you couldn’t figure that out?”
“Is she dead?”
“No,” said Ingot. “How could a person like her be dead?”
“If she’s alive, but you have her things, does that mean she made you take them?”
“Even if she refused, I would still take them.”
“Because I’m Ingot,” he said, pointing at his nose. “I’m a big, round, shiny, lively, charming and handsome giant ingot.”
Xiao Jun didn’t say anything. There was nothing he could say.
He didn’t believe it, not any of it. If this little scoundrel wasn’t insane, then he was ten times as thick-skinned as before to dare to boast and tell such lies.
The best method to deal with people like this is to ignore them.
Yet in the world there are some people who are impossible to get rid of, and ignoring them doesn’t work.
“You’ve asked me all these questions for such a long time,” said Ingot, “I think it’s now my turn to ask you some questions. “Do you have such an expression on your face because you just killed someone?”
Xiao Jun ignored him.
“Killing isn’t good. If I killed someone, I would feel regret, and then sorrow. But you’re different. The person you killed was the person everyone said you wanted to kill. Why are you sad?”
Xiao Jun couldn’t continue to ignore him.
“How do you know I killed someone,” he asked. “Do you know who I killed?”
“Of course I know.”
A murderous look appeared on Xiao Jun’s pale white face, an expression that made it seem like he could kill someone at any moment.
Ingot didn’t seem to notice, and in fact seemed happy. He said, “You killed Three Frightening Laughs General Li. He’s someone that everyone wanted to kill. It doesn’t matter who killed him, it would cause a huge sensation. Lately there have been more people around here trying to kill him than you could find rats in a rice granary. Only you succeeded. You should be happy to death, and yet you look like you’re so sad you want to die.”
Ingot shook his head: “I really don’t understand what’s going on with you.”
Xiao Jun stared at him. After a long time passed, he said, one word at a time: “You really don’t understand?”
“At first I didn’t. Even if you smashed my head open I wouldn’t be able to figure it out.”
“Now?” Ingot rolled his eyes. “Right now, the sky is turning dark and it’s about time for dinner. If you cooked up a pot of mushrooms, ham and pigs’ feet, maybe with some chicken, then added some fragrant sticky rice and boiled it for a while, I think I could finish the whole thing without your help.”
Xiao Jun stared at him lividly.
“And now?” he asked again, his face looking as taught as a bowstring. “Do you understand now?”
“Yes,” admitted Ingot with a sigh. “Even if I wanted to not know, I would still know.”
Xiao Jun suddenly stood, gathering his Qi and assuming a stance. The five fingers on his right hand became hooks. It looked as if he were about to snatch a viper.
This was a unique technique of Beggar Sect disciples. Neither vipers nor people could easily escape its grip.
It could stab the vital point on a vipers and kill people alike.
But there were no vipers in the cabin, only a person.
In Xiao Jun’s eyes, Ingot, so vivacious and charming, had become as abominable and terrifying as a viper.
Ingot didn’t even blink.
“Why don’t you ask me what I know? And how I know it?”
It seemed his words were effective. Xiao Jun, who was originally about to attack, suddenly didn’t.
That was because he really did want the answers to those questions.
Ingot smiled. “That’s better. If you want to kill me to shut me up, you should at least first let me make things clear before you attack.”
It turned out Xiao Jun was willing to ask: “What exactly do you know?”
“Honestly speaking, I happen to know quite a bit.” Sounding completely at ease, he said, “Everything that you don’t want people to know about, I know.”
“Gao Tianjue worked out a plan for you to kill someone. After you did, she told you that you shouldn’t have killed him. Even if everyone under heaven wanted to kill him, you couldn’t. Because you are his son.”
Xiao Jun’s fists clenched. They clenched, not upon a person’s throat, nor upon the vital spot of a viper.
They clenched on themselves, on his own life and blood and soul.
“Other than Gao Tianjue, who would ever have guessed that you were the son of Three Fearsome Laughs General Li? Even you could never have guessed. That’s because you always believed that he killed your mother.” Ingot sighed. “Gao Tianjue told you that even if he did kill your mother, you can’t deny that you are his son. Gao Tianjue hated his guts, so he devised this plot, had you kill him. That way, he would die in unrest, and you would regret it for the rest of your life.”
Xiao Jun showed no reaction. He was already numb to the point of collapse.
“Even in your wildest dreams you never imagined that there could be someone in the world who would use such vicious methods to kill people. If Gao Tianjue hadn’t told you herself, you wouldn’t have believed it.”
“Did she tell you this herself?” Xiao Jun seemed like a person who had been awaked from a dream by being stabbed with a needle. “Why would she tell you these things?”
“Perhaps because she felt proud of herself, and couldn’t help but tell someone. Perhaps because she wished me to spread the story, that she had gotten her revenge in this way. Then no one in Jianghu would ever forget her.”
Both conjectures seemed highly possible.
Ingot sighed again. “Although, perhaps only heaven knows why she told me.”
Xiao Jun looked at him, his expression empty, numb, exhausted. But murderous intent still shone in his eyes.
“You shouldn’t know these things.” He sighed. “And I wish you didn’t.”
“I know what you mean.”
“I’m so charming, you really can’t help but like me. But now that I know all these things, you have no choice but to kill me to shut me up.” He continued, “Even though you don’t want to continue living, you have to kill me first so that I don’t reveal your secrets. They are things you cannot allow others to know.”
Xiao Jun didn’t deny it.
He was in control of himself, his spirit and energy. All of his energy and concentration, all of his gathered Qi, was focused on something.
And that something was how to deliver a killing blow.
Ingot didn’t seem to notice.
There are some things that others don’t notice whatsoever that he would notice from the very beginning. And yet some things that others noticed immediately, he wouldn’t notice whatsoever.
Anyone at all could see Xiao Jun’s intent to kill, that he planned to crush Ingot like a viper. And yet Ingot looked happy. With a chuckle, he said, “Actually, I should know these things. Even if I didn’t want to know them, I should. And fortunately, there are some other things I know.”
“Some things that I should know. Some things that should make you very happy, you and other people as well. Anyone who knows such things should be able to live a long, happy and peaceful life.” He smiled, exceedingly cheerful. “And only someone as smart and talented as me could know such things.”
Some people seem to be unable to refrain from praising themselves, to boast, to talk themselves up. People who look down on them end up being overlooked.
Xiao Jun knew that Ingot was not such a person.
He just liked to talk this way because he wanted others to be happy, and hoped that others could be like him, and go with the flow.
Depression, nervousness, sorrow, and wrath are not only useless, they can also cause people to make unforgivable mistakes.
A person should maintain a bright and open frame of mind in order to make the most correct decisions and made the best judgements.
So as of now, Xiao Ju could no longer take Ingot to be a boastful, naughty child. He asked him, “What type of things are you talking about?”
“Well for example, some people are convinced that they killed someone, and are certain that they should not have killed that person. Therefore, they are sad to death. That is because they don’t know that the person isn’t dead at all. But,” Ingot said, “I do know.”
“You do know?” said Xiao Jun in shock. “Who are you saying isn’t dead?”
“General Li, of course.”
“You really know this?”
Ingot sighed and shook his head. “What kid of person do you think you are? Chu Liuxiang? Little Li Tanhua?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Of course you’re not. You’re not even qualified to compare yourself to them.”
Xiao Jun had to admit this was correct.
Even though he was a very proud person, he admired those two great heroes of the older generation as much as anyone.
“Since you already admit that you can’t compare to them, then why don’t you think about it a moment. How could Three Fearsome Laughs General Li, who roamed unhindered throughout the earth, possibly die by your hand?”
Xiao Jun was speechless.
He knew that he was fundamentally not a match for General Li, and wished that what had occurred had not.
But underneath that pale moon, he had clearly seen his sword stab General Li in the heart.
He would never forget the look on General Li’s face as his sword stabbed into the flesh and blood.
“Why don’t you say something?” asked Ingot. “Don’t tell me you still think you killed him?”
Xiao Jun was silent for a long time. Slowly, he said, “The reason I’m still here is because I hoped he wasn’t dead. I hoped that I would see him again.” His expression miserable and dark, he said: “And if he is dead, I hoped that I could see his corpse.”
“But they haven’t pulled up his corpse, even after switching shifts several times during the dredging process. They haven’t even caught sight of his shadow.”
“Do you know why they haven’t found General Li’s corpse?” said Ingot. “You probably know.”
“But I don’t.”
“You really don’t?” said Ingot, looking surprised. “Such a simple thing, and you still don’t get it?”
He again shook his head and sighed. “They can’t find the corpse, because he isn’t dead!” Ingot acted as if he were chiding a child. “If a person isn’t dead, there can’t be a corpse. If you can’t understand something as simple as that, then you really are an idiot.”
“Even if he wasn’t dead at first, he would be drowned by now.”
“Because the shores are patrolled constantly, and all of the guards are experienced martial artists. Gao Tianjue spent ten long years training up this group of people.”
“I believe it.”
“Perhaps their kung fu doesn’t count as being truly top rate, without compare. But their eyesight, hearing, endurance, as well as their powers of observation and judgement, are all first rate.”
“I believe it.”
“It’s clearly impossible for General Li to have slipped past the shores of the lake. Even if they couldn’t stop him, they would have at least seen him.
“Who ever said General Li made it to the shores? If he went onto the shores, of course he would find it impossible to evade the eyes and ears of those men.”
“Well, then he must have drowned in the lake,” said Xiao Jun sadly. “It’s already been a day and a night since he entered the waters. There is no way he could stay under this long. Furthermore, even if he wasn’t dead at the time, he was seriously injured.”
Ingot stared at him for a while, before coldly asking him: “Do you really think he is dead?”
Xiao Jun didn’t answer, because even he was not sure what he believed in his heart.
He was never the type of person to say much. Even at times when he should speak, he wouldn’t speak very much.
Right now, he should have remained silent because of grief, and yet had actually spoken quite a bit.
That was because in his heart, he still had some hope.
Ingot could actually refute everything he had said.
—If you saw a man do something incredibly abnormal, and then become filled with deep pain and suffering, and yet could understand enough to forgive him, then you would be a truly magnanimous person. A true man.
Ingot stared at Xiao Jun for a long time before suddenly saying, “I know that you don’t dare to make a bet with me. Definitely not.”
“What do you want to bet about?”
“I want to bet that he’s not dead. Do you dare make the bet?” He looked askance at Xiao Jun and did something that experienced swindlers will do to attract gamblers: “I advise you not to make the bet, because this time I definitely will not lose.”
Xiao Jun’s pale white face suddenly grew red, the color of watered-down blood.
He knew that Ingot didn’t really want to make a bet with him, nor did he himself want to win such a bet.
He wanted to lose.
Perhaps Ingot was using this as a method to comfort him, to raise his spirits, stop him from being depressed, remove his thoughts of longing for death.
For whatever reasons Ingot did it, he felt grateful in his heart.
“I’ll bet with you,” he said. “Whatever the bet is, I’ll take it.”
Ingot laughed, just like a swindler who had seen the sheep get hooked into the trap.
“You won’t regret?”
“If I can find General Li, let you see him with your own eyes, alive, then what?”
“I’ll do anything you want.”
This was not something Xiao Jun would normally say. Considering his identity and position, he wouldn’t say something such as this in any situation.
But if he lost to Ingot, he really would do as he said. He would willingly do anything Ingot said.
And he truly hoped that the loser would be himself.
But he really did not see how Ingot could win. How could Ingot possibly find General Li?
General Li had to be dead. Even if in the one out of ten thousand chance were true and he hadn’t died, how could Ingot possibly know where he was?
Ingot had absolutely no way to know.
The red on Xiao Jun’s face disappeared, because in his heart, though he wished to lose the bet, he still believed Ingot would lose.
It seemed Ingot could tell what he was thinking. “Why don’t you ask me what will happen if I lose?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
Ingot frowned deliberately and thought for a moment. Then he asked, “Do you know why Gao Tianjue suddenly became so agreeable? Why she would obediently hand her treasures over to me?”
That matter didn’t have anything to do with the bet, but Xiao Jun hadn’t been able to figure it out. He’d wanted to know all along, so he said, “Why?”
“Because she was already under my control,” said Ingot. “I sealed seven or eight of her acupuncture points in a matter of seconds.
“You don’t believe it. I knew you wouldn’t.” Ingot laughed happily, proud of himself. “How could someone like me seal the acupuncture points of someone as skilled as Gao Tianjue?” He chuckled. “You’re thinking to yourself, this kid is crazy; he has skin thicker than anybody to be able to boast like this, to tell such lies.”
Xiao Jun didn’t deny it, because that is exactly what he was thinking at the moment.
“But think for a second. Had I not sealed her acupuncture points, how could her things end up in my hands?”
No one could deny the truthfulness of what he said. So Xiao Jun asked, “How did you seal her acupuncture points?”
“Oh, that was nothing,” he said, acting deliberately casual. “I just showed her something.”
“You just showed her something? When you moved to seal her acupuncture points, couldn’t she dodge or fight back?” Xiao Jun was both shocked and a bit suspicious. “What did you show her?”
“Of course it was something special. Something very special.”
Twenty years ago, Gao Tianjue was already unstoppable under heaven, powerful and invincible.
In those twenty years, she had no idea how many amazing and terrible things she had done. But she did know that she had shed many tears alone in the night.
After twenty years of setbacks and painful lessons, she had become even more eccentric, cold, proud and ruthless. And her martial arts were even more powerful.
If there was truly something in the world that could make her lose her head to fear and let a teenage youth seal her acupuncture points, then that thing was definitely very special.
Anyone could reach this conclusion.
Many people in Jianghu would trade their lives for such an item.
Ingot coolly said, “If I lose, I’ll give it to you.”
At some point, he had pulled the object out and held it in his hand. Even though he wasn’t a very big person, his hands were not small, and when he closed it into a fist, no one could see what was inside.
Xiao Jun didn’t want to win, and receive this item. But everyone gets curious.
He couldn’t help but ask, “What is this thing?”
“Nothing, really,” said Ingot in a deliberate understatement. “It’s just a star, that’s all.”
“A star?” asked Xiao Jun. “What kind of star?”
“A small star,” he said, sounding apologetic and regretful. He sighed. “A very, very, very small star.” And then, Ingot revealed his second star.
** Zhongnan Mountains are located in Xi’an, and are known for their connection to Buddhism and Daosim. http://tinyurl.com/m62km24
 I’m pretty sure he’s referring to Xiao Jun’s subordinate with the pockmarked face.