Heroes Shed No Tears – Chapter 7 – The Lion Clan Hall of Copper Camel Alley

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Part 1

The sixth day of the second month of the lunar calendar.

Luoyang.

Luoyang was the location of the capital of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Western Jin Dynasty, the Wei State during the Warring States period, the Sui Dynasty, the Later Tang Dynasty, and seven others. To its east lay Tiger Cage Pass, to the west the Guanzhong Plain, to the north the Yanyun Sixteen Prefectures, to the south the Jiangnan region.(1) Its palaces and watchtowers were magnificent.

Emperor Song Taizu’s birthplace of Jia Ma Ying, the Temple of Eastern Greatness built during the later Tang Dynasty, Fu Fei from the “Rhapsody of the Goddess of Luo” by the poet Cao Zhi, Laozi’s ancient residence in Copper Camel alley, the ancient bridge “Spring Waters under Tianjin,” are all still there.

But Gao Jianfei’s spirit was not there.

He hadn’t come to visit these ancient and famous places. He’d came for one place, one person. He wanted to find the Lion Clan hall, Zhu Meng’s Lion Clan.

And he found it.

The Lion Clan headquarters was located in Copper Camel alley, the same area as Laozi’s ancient residence. It occupied almost the entire alley.

Little Gao found it very quickly.

In his imagination, the Lion Clan hall was an ancient and immense building. Even if it was not extremely imposing and beautiful, it would definitely be spacious and open, emanating loftiness, just like Zhu Meng himself.

He was correct. The Lion Clan hall really was like that. But there was one thing that he never imagined: that this ancient, immense, spacious building would be burned into rubble.

Other than a few rooms in the back, the Lion Clan hall, which had dominated Luoyang for so many years, had been completely destroyed by raging fire.

**

Gao Jianfei’s heart sank.

The wind cut like a knife. The frigid breez tossed some of the debris about in the rubble. Was it the remains of a wooden beam, or of a person’s bones?

The Lion Clan hall, which in the past had constantly burst with visitors like snow in a snowstorm, was now devoid of even a single human shadow.

Copper Camel alley, a place filled with ancient legends and modern-day heroes, was now only filled with misery and somber melancholy.

Time brings great changes (2), and the affairs of people are in constant flux, but this type of change was too quick and too horrible.

—When did it happen? How did it happen?

—The daring, energetic and exceedingly proud Zhu Meng, his disciples, and his veteran experts… where had they gone?

**

Little Gao thought of Zhuo Donglai, about his methods, about his sinister and ruthless cool-headedness.

And now, he couldn’t help but think about all the things that had happened that day in the snow-filled Red Flower Bazaar, all the details.

And he suddenly understood why Zhuo Donglai let Zhu Meng go that day.

With Zhu Meng in Chang’an, the defenses of the Luoyang headquarters would definitely be lax. His best opportunity was to dispatch people at double speed to launch a surprise attack.

Zhuo Donglai would certainly have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time.

The moment that he raised his glass to toast Zhu Meng, the surprise attack forces were most certainly already on their way.

And this was the result of that surprise attack.

During the exact time in which Zhu Meng felt the safest and most victorious, he had actually already been vanquished.

And this time his defeat was utterly brutal.

**

Little Gao’s hands and feet were freezing.

He couldn’t imagine how Zhu Meng would be able to handle such a massive strike, but he believed that he couldn’t be completely knocked down.

As long as Zhu Meng lived, he couldn’t be defeated by anyone.

And now the only thing Little Gao could think about was that Zhu Meng must be racing back to Chang’an to get revenge. And Zhuo Donglai would most definitely be waiting for him to return, a trap ready to be sprung.

If Zhu Meng had already reached Chang’an, then his chances of returning alive were small.

Anyone attacked in such a vicious way would definitely be filled with impatient fury and carelessness.

And the slightest bit of carelessness could lead to a fatal mistake.

Zhuo Donglai’s plans were never the least bit careless, and when he thought about this, Little Gao’s heart became cold. At that moment he made a decision.

He would return to Chang’an as quickly as possible. Whether, Zhu Meng was dead or alive, he would return.

If Zhu Meng was still alive, maybe he could help his friend.

He still had his two hands and a sword and his own life.

If Zhu Meng had already died under Zhuo Donglai’s hands, then he could collect his friend’s corpse, and then do everything in his power to seek revenge.

Regardless of anything, Zhu Meng was the only person who had ever considered him as a friend.

In fact, Zhu Meng was his only friend.

He didn’t completely understand the meaning of the world “friend,” because he had never had a friend before.

But he had spirit.

The spirit of chivalry, the spirit of courage, the spirit of brotherhood and loyalty.

—Because the world has people with this spirit, justice can prevail over evil, and humanity will continue to exist forever.

But unfortunately, at this moment, no matter where Gao Jianfei wanted to go, it would be very difficult to do so.

Part 2

What moments ago had been a quiet alley without a soul in it, was suddenly full of people.

A person wearing brown clothes appeared; no more than four feet tall, with a horse-like face nearly one foot wide. His eyebrows looked like two brooms tied together by a knotted piece of rope.

He did not appear to be very old, but had an air of maturity. The narrow eyes under his dense brows glittered. As soon as he caught sight of Little Gao, those eyes fixed onto him like nails.

Little Gao had seen this person before.

When you see a person like this, it’s hard to forget them.

Little Gao remembered that he had been selling sliced rice cakes on the street outside the alley. He had been using a long, sharp, thin knife to cut the date-flavored sweet cakes.

The knife was currently sheathed at his waist.

It wouldn’t be difficult to use this knife to cut a person into pieces.

**

As soon as he appeared, the alley suddenly filled with noise and people. It seemed as if everyone that had been outside on the main street suddenly entered, just like tidewater. And Little Gao was submerged.

Little Gao felt like he had suddenly walked into a lively temple fair. Every direction was filled with people, all kinds of people. Not even a drop of water could get through. One could not even move.

He wasn’t really sure how to deal with the situation, because he had never encountered anything like this before.

The cake-seller had originally been right in front of him, but now he was nowhere to be seen.

He was too short, and to find him would be really difficult. But, if he wanted to use his knife to stab someone from within the crowd, it would be easier than cutting a cake.

Little Gao didn’t want to be near a knife like that.

He had to find the man. It was obvious that he was some sort of leader.

“I want to buy sliced sweet cakes!” he suddenly called. “Whoever was selling the cakes, where did you go?”

“I didn’t go anywhere,” came the reply, a deep husky voice. “I’m right here.”

The voice came from behind Little Gao. He turned around, but still couldn’t see the man.

But he heard him call out again, and then he realized that he couldn’t see him because he still hadn’t lowered his head.

A person that short, in a crowd, can’t be found unless you drop your head down.

“Can you see me?” asked Little Gao. “I still can’t see you. How can we do business?”

“The problem is easy to solve.”

Little Gao suddenly squatted down. He couldn’t see the faces of the others in the crowd, but right in front of him was the long, wide horse-like face.

“Now we can do businesses, right?”

The man smiled, and the corners of his mouth nearly reached his ears. “You really want to buy sliced sweet cakes?”

“Other than buying cakes, is there any other business to discuss? Any other business to do?”

“No, there isn’t.”

“Then I’ll just buy some sliced sweet cakes.”

“How much do you want to buy?”

“How much can you sell?”

“As long as you pay the price, I can sell any amount.”

“How expensive are your cakes?”

“That depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“Depends on the person.”

“Depends on the person?” Little Gao didn’t understand. “Selling sweet cakes depends on the person?”

“Of course it depends on the person. The price of the sweet cakes is determined by what type of person wants to buy.”

Adjusting the price based on the customer is definitely one of the secrets to successful business.

“For some people who want to buy sweet cakes, I sell them at two coins per half kilo. For other people, I won’t sell for even five hundred gold bars. Because I don’t like the way they look.”

“What about me,” asked Little Gao. “Do you like the way I look?”

The man examined him for a long time, from top to bottom. The narrow eyes underneath his heavy brows glittered like knives. “Did you come from Chang’an.”

“Yes.”

“What’s in that cloth package of yours? Is it a sword?”

“Yes.”

“The reason you came from Chang’an … is it Great Master Zhu of the Lion Clan?”

“Yes.”

The man suddenly smiled again, revealing a set of ghastly white teeth. “Then I don’t think we can do business.”

“Why?”

“Because dead people can’t eat sweet cakes, and I don’t sell sweet cakes to dead people.”

**

Little Gao’s palms had already started sweating, a cold sweat.

If the people crowding in all directions suddenly pressed forward, they could easily crush him to death, and he would be powerless to stop them.

He could hear that some of the people in the crowd were breathing heavily from excitement. People usually get excited before killing.

The crowd began to press forward, and the cake-seller had already drawn the knife from his waist.

Little Gao suddenly realized something. The most frightening thing in the world is people; when manpower is pooled together, it is more frightening than any powerful thing in the world.

But he was still able to keep his cool. Because he could see that all these people were members of the Lion Clan. Like him, they had all stood by Zhu Meng. So he said, “I’m here from Chang’an, and my bundle does contain a deadly sword, but I’m not here to kill Zhu Meng.”

“Who are you here to kill?”

“I’m here to kill the same people as you. Because I’m the same as you, I’m a friend of Zhu Meng.”

“Oh?”

“I’m Gao, Gao Jianfei.”

“Are you the Gao Jianfei who wants to gradually fly?”

“Yes. You might as well go ask Zhu Meng if he has a friend like me.”

“I don’t need to ask.”

“Why?”

The cake-seller’s narrow eyes suddenly shone with a crafty smile. He laughed at Little Gao.

“You think I don’t know that you’re Zhu Meng’s friend?”

“You know?”

“It’s because I know that I’m going to kill you.”

**

Little Gao’s back suddenly dripped with cold sweat.

The crowd once again began to surge forward. The cake-cutting knife was sharp, but in this short moment, he still had a chance to break the hand holding the knife, smash the nose in the middle of that horse-like face, and wipe the crafty, evil expression from those two eyes.

But he couldn’t act rashly.

He could kill the man, but not the tide of people around him, not completely.

If he used this flitting moment to kill the man, then he would most likely be chopped to pieces by some other random blade.

The cake seller laughed again, a sinister laugh. “You’re not dead yet, why haven’t you made a move?”

Before he finished his sentence, Little Gao, who had been squatting in front of him, suddenly stood up. He stood up and then shot straight up, as if a giant hand had just grabbed his collar and lifted him up, like a hand picking a green onion out of the ground.

This was a lightness kung fu not often seen in Jianghu, a unique skill used to escape death.

Unfortunately, he was no bird, and didn’t have wings.

His body relied on the strength of a single breath to fly up. As soon as the breath expired, his body would fall again, and when he fell he would descend back into the crowd of people.

He understood this.

He knew that the people below him had already drawn their weapons, and were ready to kill. They were just waiting for his power to be exhausted and for him to fall. And then, even if he drew his sword and killed some people, he too would inevitably die among the blood and corpses.

He didn’t want that to happen, and he also didn’t want to see the horrific sight of blood and flesh flying in every direction.

But he didn’t die.

At that exact moment, he suddenly saw a long rope flying toward him.

He didn’t see where the rope flew from, or whose hands it was in.

But luckily, he saw it, and was able to grab it.

The rope was pulled forward, pulling his body forward as well.

It pulled him along like a kite, flying higher and higher.

It seemed like the person pulling the rope was moving forward. Little Gao couldn’t see the person, but he could hear a very familiar sound.

It was the sound of cleats running on snow.

Little Gao suddenly felt a warmth in his heart.

It was as if he could see a person, wearing a pair of cleats, grasping the tail of a horse, flying behind the horse like a kite.

It was as if he could see the person riding the horse, emanating an awe-inspiring and heroic spirit.

He’d known all along that Zhu Meng could not be knocked down by anyone.

Part 3

“Young Master Gao, I never thought you would come.” Cleats had stopped running. He knelt onto the snowy ground. “The Clan Lord said you would come looking for him, but I didn’t think Young Master Gao would really come.”

It took quite a bit of strength for Little Gao to pull this faithful friend up from the snowy ground and onto his feet.

“The one kneeling should be me,” he said to Cleats. “You saved my life.”

Cleats dried a few hot tears that had forced their way out of his eyes, and once again his expression became stern.

“Your servant realized much earlier that Cai Chong would not let any of the Clan Leader’s friends go free,” said Cleats. “Almost all of the them have already met disaster under his treacherous hands. He hasn’t let a single one escape, not even friends from distant places.”

“Cai Chong is that cake-selling freak?”

“Exactly.”

“He clearly isn’t really a cake seller,” said Little Gao. “Who is he, exactly?”

“He’s the same as that joker named Yang. He used to be one of the Clan Lord’s trusted aides.”

“And just like Yang Jian, he betrayed the Clan Lord?”

“He’s much more abominable than Yang Jian,” said Cleats hatefully. “He betrayed the Clan Lord when he was most weak and hurt, when he needed help the most.”

Little Gao understood. “When you two returned from Chang’an, not only was the Lion Clan hall already destroyed, but Cai Chong had also turned on you.” Little Gao sighed. “Those two days must have been very difficult.”

“Yes. Very difficult.”

“But no matter how difficult the days are, they will pass.”

“Yes.” Cleats repeated Little Gao’s words like a puppet: “They will pass.”

Suddenly, an indescribable expression of bitterness and grief shone from his eyes. It was the look of someone sinking down into quicksand, sinking so deep that they could never escape.

Little Gao suddenly felt a sinking feeling.

—Cai Chong betrayed Zhu Meng at his greatest time of need, and yet Zhu Meng still had let him live happily and freely in the world?

This wasn’t Zhu Meng’s style.

Little Gao looked at Cleats’ eyes, and very slowly asked him, “You don’t dare to tell me, do you?”

Cleats suddenly seemed anxious. “Don’t dare to tell you what?”

Little Gao gripped his shoulder forcefully. “Has your Clan Lord already fallen victim of some murderous scheme?”

“He hasn’t.”

“He really hasn’t?”

“He really hasn’t.” Cleats seemed to be trying to put on a cheerful expression. “Your servant can take Young Master Gao to see him right now.”

Part 4

A withered forest packed with snow, a hideous looking crag.

In front of the crag burned a fire, and sitting on top of the crag was a person.

It was a person who seemed to have lost their essence, like a vulture who for a very long time hasn’t seen a corpse.

The flames flickered on the person’s face.

It was a face filled with loneliness, hopelessness and sorrow. The thick brows were furrowed in anxiety, and the exhausted eyes, sunken deeply into the cheekbones, gazed fixedly into the fire, as if they expected a miracle to spring forth from the flames.

It was Zhu Meng.

“Fierce Lion” Zhu Meng had always been a strong and courageous person, a true man that no one could knock down.

Cleats prostrated himself before the stone. “Reporting in to Clan Leader. The person Clan Leader most wants to see is now here.”

**

Little Gao did not shed a tear.

Tears filled his eyes and threatened to roll down, but he did not shed a single one.

He hadn’t shed tears for many years.

Zhu Meng had raised his head and looked at him blankly, as if he had no idea who was standing in front of him.

Little Gao hung his head.

Now he understood the look of despair in Cleats’ eyes. He didn’t understand how the heroic man who that day in Red Flower Bazaar had on horseback slain a man in the blink of an eye, could possibly be knocked down as easily as this.

“Little Gao, Gao Jianfei.”

Zhu Meng suddenly let out a savage shout, then leaped down from the rock, rushed forward and embraced Little Gao.

In this moment, it seemed as if he was suddenly full of vitality again. “I knew you would come, and here you are.”

He held Little Gao tightly, his face pressing against Little Gao’s.

He laughed, a hearty laugh at the top of his lungs, just as he had laughed that day in Red Flower Bazaar when he had beheaded his opponent.

But Little Gao suddenly realized that his face was wet.

—Was someone shedding tears? Who was shedding tears?

**

“The wanderer sings three songs, he doesn’t sing sorrowful melodies,
In the world of mortals, there are already too many sorrowful things.
The wanderer sings a song for the king, urging the king not to shed tears, if some injustice exists in the world of men, drink to excess, brandish a blade and sever heads.”

Part 5

An iron spear and a copper pot. A pot of unfiltered rice wine.

A fire.

Cleats hung the pot over the fire with the spear to heat the wine. Cold wind whistled through the branches of the pine trees. The wine was not yet hot.

But Little Gao’s blood was hot.

“Zhuo Donglai,” said Zhu Meng. “That bastard really is a freaking character.” He had already drunk three pots full of wine. “Even though he attacked my old lair, I have to admire him.” As his belly filled with the rice wine, his heroic spirit began to rejuvenate. “But admire or not, sooner or later the day will come when I’ll cut off his head and use it as a chamber pot.”

Little Gao looked at him for a long time. “Why haven’t you gone after him yet?”

Zhu Meng suddenly stood up, then slowly sat down again, his face once again covered with a look of despair and sorrow.

“I can’t go now,” said Zhu Meng. “If I go, she’ll be dead for sure.”

“Who will be dead? A woman?” (3)

Zhu Meng shook his head. He said nothing, but instead took a drink.

“Is it also because of her that you don’t kill Cai Chong?” asked Little Gao.

Zhu Meng shook his head again. After a long time, he responded in a hoarse and broken voice: “Do you know how many people that little son of a b*tch took with him?”

“How many did he take?”

“All of them.”

“All of them?” Little Gao was shocked. “Don’t tell me all the disciples of the Lion Clan are following him?”

“Other than Cleats, they were all bought over by him. These past few years, he’s been managing the funds for me. All of the wealth going in and out of the Lion Clan went through his hands. I never payed any attention to it.”

“So you think that going after him would be useless, because he has more men than you.”

Zhu Meng didn’t admit it. It seemed the heroic spirit just recently awakened by the strong alcohol had suddenly vanished again.

He held the wine bowl with two gaunt hands, drinking one mouthful at a time of scalding liquor. Other than the bowl of wine, it seemed he didn’t care about anything in the world.

Little Gao felt stabbed to the heart.

He suddenly realized that not only had Zhu Meng’s appearance deteriorated, his heart had also begun to rot.

Before, if he knew someone who had betrayed him still walked the streets waiting to assassinate his friends, even a thousand men and horses couldn’t protect that person. He would ride on horseback, brandishing his blade, to find that person and behead them.

—Maybe that was one of the main reasons why the disciples of his clan had betrayed him.

Who in Jianghu would be willing to follow a leader who had lost their courage?

Little Gao truly could not understand how such a strong and stalwart man could change in this way. And how could he change so quickly?

He didn’t ask Zhu Meng.

Zhu Meng was already drunk. He got drunk much more quickly than before.

It seemed that his mighty bones only had a layer of thin flesh on them. Now that he was drunk, he looked like the skeleton of a fierce lion.

Little Gao couldn’t bear to look at him again.

The firelight still flickered as Cleats continued to heat wine. Cleats didn’t look at him. His eyes were yet again filled with that look of hopelessness bitterness and pain.

Little Gao stood up and walked over, and handed him his bowl of wine.

Cleats hesitated, but finally drank a mouthful.

Little Gao took the iron spear from him, and then poured another bowl of wine, drank it, and sighed. “I didn’t misjudge you. You really are a good friend.”

“Your servant is not the Clan Lord’s friend.” Cleats’ expression was very solemn. “I’m not worthy.”

“You’re wrong. In this world, you might be his only true friend. And only you are worthy to be his friend!”

“Your servant isn’t worthy,” Cleats said again. “I don’t dare to think in that way.”

“But you are the only person who stuck with him.”

“That’s because my life belongs to him. Your servant will follow him forever.”

“But look at what he’s become.”

“It doesn’t matter what he becomes, he’s still my Clan Lord,” said Cleats resolutely. “That will never change.”

“Seeing him change so much, aren’t you hurt in your heart?”

Cleats didn’t say anything.

Little Gao poured another bowl of wine, watched Cleats drink it, then let out another sigh. “I know that your heart must feel as bad as mine. And you must also hope that he can pull himself together again.”

Cleats said nothing.

Little Gao stared at him. “Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way to help him.”

Cleats drank another bowl. This time he had poured it for himself.

Little Gao also drank another bowl, then in a loud voice said, “You can’t think of a way, but I can think of a way.”

Cleats suddenly lifted his head and stared at Little Gao.

“But first you must tell me, how come he is acting like this?” Little Gao was also staring at Cleats. “Is it really because of a woman?”

“Young Master Gao,” Cleats said, seemingly on the verge of tears. “Why do you have to ask me about this?”

“I have to ask. To cure a sickness, you must first determine the cause of the illness.”

Cleats had seemed ready to speak out, but he suddenly shook his head forcefully. “Your servant can’t say. Dares not say.”

“Why?”

Cleats simply sat down and put his head in his hands, ignoring Little Gao.

—Why had Zhu Meng changed in this way? Was it really because of a woman?

—Who was this woman? Where was she? Why didn’t Cleats dare to talk about it?

**

The night grew deeper, colder. The fire was dying.

Struggling a bit, Cleats stood up and then quietly said, “Your servant needs to find some more firewood for the fire.”

Before he could walk off, Zhu Meng, dreaming drunkenly, let out a roar.

“Die Wu, you can’t go.”(4) He shouted again hoarsely. “You’re mine, no one can take you away from me.”

This roar seemed like a whip slashing at Cleats’ body.

He suddenly began trembling.

Zhu Meng turned over and continued sleeping. Little Gao barred Cleats’ way, grasping his shoulders.

“It’s Die Wu, it’s definitely Die Wu,” he said. “Zhu Meng must have changed in this way because of her.”

Cleats lowered his head, and at long last admitted that this was the truth.

“Is she still in Luo Yang?” asked Little Gao

“She’s not. When your servant and the Clan Leader were returning from Chang’an that night, people attacked the Lion Clan Hall in the middle of the night. Cai Chong was on duty, and because of his laxness, the enemy succeeded easily. Not only did they burn down the Lion Clan hall, they killed more than forty of our brothers, and then just swaggered off.”

“They were definitely sent by Zhuo Donglai.”

“They must have been,” said Cleats. “Not only were they professionals, they also were very familiar with our internal situation.”

“The Lion Clan must have been infiltrated by some of Zhuo Donglai’s men.”

“Therefore, some people suspect that Cai Chong intended to betray the Clan Leader all along. Others say that he was lax in his watch and feared punishment by the Clan Leader, and so therefore betrayed him.”

“Did Die Wu go along with Cai Chong?”

Cleats shook his head. “Miss Die never liked that idiot, how could she go along with him?”

“Don’t tell me she was kidnapped by Zhuo Donglai’s men? He wants to use her as a hostage to threaten Zhu Meng?”

Cleats sighed. “It’s for this very reason that the Clan Leader isn’t willing to go to Chang’an to settle accounts with Sima.”

“Even if Cai Chong hadn’t gone against him, he still wouldn’t go?”

“Most likely not. If the Clan Leader went to Chang’an,” he said sadly, “those bastards would probably bring out Miss Die immediately and put her to the sword.” He yet again seemed to be on the verge of tears. “The Clan Lord told me before, as long as Miss Die is able to live a good life, he can deal with any sort of suffering.”

“So it’s because of this Miss Die that your Clan Leader has become so depressed, not willing to do a single thing. And Cai Chong can strut around the streets doing whatever he wants.”

“Your servant never thought the Clan Leader would become so infatuated with a woman. Even in my dreams I never imagined it.”

At first, Cleats thought that Little Gao would find the whole thing very ridiculous. Pitiful and ridiculous.

But he was wrong.

He suddenly noticed that Little Gao’s eyes were also filled with sorrow; he stared blankly out into the darkness.

—A nameless woman, a romantic love that could never be forgotten.

Of course, Cleats didn’t know about this. After a long time he heard Little Gao speaking in a soft and sentimental tone: “Your Clan Leader hasn’t changed. He’s still a man. Only true men can care about others. If he didn’t care at all about the lives of others, you wouldn’t stick with him.”

“Correct.” Cleats seemed afraid to say more. But after a few moments, he gathered his courage and said, “Young Master Gao, there’s something your servant would like to say to you.”

“Go ahead.”

“Everyone should care about others. But to torment oneself because of others isn’t correct. Doing that will only cause the people you care about to be hurt and disappointed.”

Little Gao gave a forced laugh, and then changed the topic.

“There’s a spot over there that’s protected from the wind. I’m going to sleep a bit. You should sleep as well.”

**

The world was silent. The only sound that could be heard was the crackling of the dead firewood.

Cleats placed a thick felt blanket onto the rock and rolled Zhu Meng onto it, then covered him with two more felt blankets. Afterwards, he laid onto the cold rock next to Zhu Meng and fell asleep, shrunken up like a shelled shrimp.

Before daybreak, the cold woke him, and discovered that Little Gao had already awakened.

In the dim early-morning light, he could see Little Gao washing his face with snow. And it looked as if he was unwrapping the bundle he always carried.

Cleats couldn’t see if it was a sword inside the bundle, let alone what the sword looked like.

He didn’t dare to look closely.

He pretended that he didn’t see anything at all.

But his heart pounded, pounded oh so quickly.

Part Six

By the time Zhu Meng woke up, the sky was bright. Cleats had woken earlier, and was boiling water at the fire.

Little Gao was gone.

Zhu Meng sat up, looking around with bloodshot eyes. Little Gao was nowhere to be seen.

He let out a low animal-like growl from his throat.”

“He left too?” he asked Cleats. “When did he go? Where did he go? Is he coming back?”

“Your servant must report to Clan Leader, when Young Master Gao left, he didn’t say anything, and I’m not sure where he went. But Clan Leader should be able to figure it out, because Young Master Gao is Clan Leader’s friend.”

Zhu Meng had grown listless from sorrow and disappointment, but when he heard these words come forth from Cleats’ mouth, he suddenly roused himself. His bloodshot eyes shone as he rose to his feet.

“You’re right. I definitely should know where he went. Cleats,” he said in a strong voice, “We must go too.”

“Yes.” Cleats’ spirit also seemed to be roused, and there were tears in his eyes as he said, “Your servant already prepared everything. Your servant has always been ready. Your servant has been waiting all day.”

**

(1) These are all geographical references. Here are links if you would like more information. Tiger Cage/Hulao pass: http://goo.gl/vgNGYy. Guanzhong Plain: http://goo.gl/6iwrvc. Sixteen Prefectures: http://goo.gl/ILCbsC. Jiangnan region: http://goo.gl/9m7ZU
(2) This is a cool idiom which literally translates something like “from seas into mulberry fields.
(3) I fudged a bit in the translation because in spoken Chinese there is no distinction between “he” and “she.” When you refer to someone, it’s generally not clear which gender you’re talking about unless you specify.
(4) This name is comprised of two characters. The first character 蝶 “die” is from the word “butterfly.” In case you’re not familiar with Chinese pronunciation, it’s not pronounced like the English word die, but phonetically like “dyeh.” The second character 舞 “wu” means “dance.” So her name literally could be translated “Butterfly Dance.”


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