It was almost dark.
Out of the shadows came a person. His head was covered with a purple satin turban adorned with pearls, his body garbed in rich brocade with flowers adorning the edges of his long gown and over it was an embroidered purple satin sleeveless jacket. Around his waist, he wore a thick leather belt inlayed with 24 studs made from the finest pearls and brilliant gems. Each stud was as beautiful and large as a dragon's eye.
His face was also like a pearl, smooth and round, with a straight nose, elegant neck, and lips that, while as red as cherries, were unsmiling, reducing the face to no more than an expressionless mask.
Looking at him under the light was like looking at a beautiful maiden, without her charms, but with a gentleman's virtues.
When they saw him, all their faces changed pallor.
Even though they have never met the person called "Hua Ruyu," they knew right away that this person was him.
He indeed was a flower that appear to be like jade.
(NOTE: "Hua Ruyu" literally means "flower like jade." Flower is commonly associated with a woman's outward beauty while jade is a symbol representing the inner nobility of a gentleman.)
Not a woman, but a man.
Hua Ruyu must know that in this world there were few people like him.
Thus, even as he was gentle and graceful in his manners, his brows were haughtily raised.
He wore a faint smile as he walked and when he passed by Jin Pusa, he did not spare him a glance. Instead, he kept his eyes on Feng Siniang, saying softly, "How pitiful that when you were still alive, everybody wanted you. Now your corpse is not yet cold but no one even spares a prayer for your soul's eternal rest. If these heartless, unrighteous men don't do what's right, I, Hua Ruyu, shall correct their mistake and look after you."
Ren Shangren could not stop himself from smiling coldly. He said, "You, look after her?"
Hua Ruyu sighed deeply and said, "Even though she and I are neither relatives nor kins, I still can't stand leaving her like this."
Ren Shangren said coldly, "Since when did you become so kind-hearted?"
"I've always been a compassionate person," Hua Ruyu replied.
"Listen to you talk big words," Ren Shangren mocked. "Didn't she die at your hands?"
Hua Ruyu inclined his head slightly, studying him. Then he said pleasantly, "If she died at my hands, shouldn't you take revenge?"
Ren Shangren was speechless. Without a doubt, she would be unable to since she was dead, just as Hua Ruyu said.
Smiling, Hua Ruyu asked, "Jin Pusa, as a Buddhist, won't you take care of her last rites?"
Jin Pusa did not open his mouth.
Hua Ruyu continued, "What about you, Li Qingfeng, the great bandit?"
Li Qingfeng kept his mouth shut.
Hua Ruyu sighed and said, "Since all three of you don't want to take care of her last rites, it seems I have to do it myself."
He waved his hand. At once, two black-clad maidens came. They stood on each side of Feng Siniang's corpse, lifting it quickly from the ground, and then they carryied it out, disappearing into the night.
In a sad voice, Hua Ruyu muttered to himself, "Human sentiment changes from hot to cold. Today, I bury her body. On the day I die, who will bury me?"
Still sighing, he slowly walked away. Although his footsteps were light, his feet left very deep imprints on the path.
At first, Li Qingfeng thought to go after him. But when he noted the footprints, he quickly changed his mind.
Jin Pusa was shaking his head, muttering, "Whether this person is a flower that appears to be like jade or a wolf that appears to be like tiger, what I don't understand is why he took Feng Siniang's body."
"Maybe his taste runs in dead people," Ren Shangren said coldly.
Was it true Hua Ruyu preferred dead people?
Feng Siniang was not dead. At that moment, she opened her eyes and saw Xin Xin.
Xin Xin's hand was not cut off. Not only were both her hands intact and as beautiful as before, they did not even have a single scar to mar the skin.
Surprised, Feng started, "Your hand..."
"My hands are not as beautiful as Feng Siniang's," Xin Xin said softly. But Feng said, "You have two hands?"
"I've always had two hands," Xin Xin told her.
Feng Siniang let out a breath, saying, "And here I thought you had three."
"Three hands?" Xin Xin asked.
"If you didn't have three hands," Feng said, "then what happened to that other hand that was poisoned a while ago?"
Xin Xin laughingly said, "If I can't even stand a little poison, then I must have lost at least 30 hands by now."
"A little poison?" Feng repeated.
"A very small amount," Xin Xin confirmed.
Feng said, "But a while ago, you..."
"A while ago, I only wanted to show Feng Siniang how terrible that man was," Xin Xin told her.
Feng stared at her for a long time. Finally, she said, "Didn't I say a while ago that you would certainly find a good husband?"
"Thank you," Xin Xin replied.
Feng muttered under her breath, "Now I actually feel a little sorry for this man who has you for a bride. How can anyone stand leaving you?"
The interior of the room was elegantly furnished and magnificent.
Staring around her, Feng could not help asking, "How did I get here?"
"We carried you," Xin Xin told her.
Feng asked, "You carried me?"
"You died," Xin Xin said.
Feng blinked slowly, then said, "How did that happen?"
"The clothes I gave you were poisoned," Xin Xin answered.
"Even clothes can be poisoned?" Feng said.
"If others can't do it," Xin Xin said, "Honorable Hua can."
Feng asked, "Why did he want to kill me by poisoning my clothes?"
Xin Xin's lips curved into a smile. She said, "Because he was afraid that the others might catch you and rip them into shreds."
Feng forced a smile, saying, "Those people did catch me."
"But as soon as you were dead," Xin Xin responded, "not one of them dared to touch you."
"And that's why you took me," Feng said.
Xin Xin said softly, "Dead or alive, we still would have looked after you."
"You always look after dead people?" Feng asked.
"If others won't do it," Xin Xin said, "Honorable Hua will."
Feng murmured, "It seems this Honorable Hua of yours is extraordinary..." Xin Xin said, "It's true. I haven't met anyone more extraordinary than him."
Feng eyed her languidly. "Then why don't you let me see him?"
Xin Xin smiled, saying, "He did not ask me to."
From behind the curtain, a voice suddenly said, "Message from the master: If Siniang is awake, bring her to the wine hall."
The hall was even more magnificent. It was like stepping into a beautiful fantasy world.
The table was heaped with food and wine.
Xin Xin began, "I prepared the food myself: a nice plump roasted duck stuffed with bean curd, chicken boiled in its own soup, chicken and Chinese cabbage meatballs, stewed deer meat, steamed duck braised with pork, stir-fried chicken, edible bird's nest soup, steamed shrimp dumplings, minced meat and sea cucumbers, chicken dipped in thick radish sauce, sauteed shark's fin, duck meat sauce, pickled jiao bai, four kinds of wine, and also wild chicken sprinkled with thyme and eggplant oil, non-glutinous rice meal, bamboo shoots, bee honey sponge cake..."
Before she could finish, Feng Siniang already stopped listening.
"The recipe is based on Huai cuisine," Xin Xin informed. "I don't know if it's enough."
Feng said, "Don't you think it's more than enough?"
"Thank you," Xin Xin said.
Feng asked, "Who do you think I am? A Buddhist with a pot-belly?"
Xin Xin smiled and said, "I only know that you must be very hungry."
Feng exhaled, smiling. "Indeed, I was very hungry but after seeing this grandiose feast, I felt full."
As she sat down, she saw a person raise the bead curtain and enter.
Feng Siniang had not seen many good-looking men, certainly not like this person.
Hua Ruyu was smiling as he entered but as soon as he came nearer, his brows wrinkled. He said, "Who prepared the food today?"
"It was I," Xin Xin answered.
Hua Ruyu said angrily, "What a careless person you are, displaying this much food on the table. How can Siniang eat when all she had to do was look in order to get full?"
Feng could not keep herself from smiling as she said, "I didn't know Honorable Hua is on intimate terms with Feng Siniang."
"For a glimpse of Feng Siniang's face, Hua Ruyu would risk even death," Hua Ruyu declared.
"You can't die," Feng said gaily. "With so many dead people to take care of, you can't let yourself die yet."
Hua Ruyu sighed. "Looks like Xin Xin told you too much already."
"But she has not told me where this place is," Feng said.
Hua Ruyu said with a smile, "Siniang, where did you originally intend to go?"
"Chaos Rock Mountain," Feng replied.
Hua Ruyu said, "This is Chaos Rock Mountain."
Feng's eyes widened, saying, "There is such a beautiful place in Chaos Rock Mountain?"
"This place was not always beautiful," Xin Xin interjected. "But after our master came here, it became like this."
Hua Ruyu laughed. "It's just that I don't want to mistreat myself."
Feng returned his smile as she said, "It looks like you and I could be friends. I, too, don't like to mistreat myself."
"So long as Siniang does not treat me like Jin Pusa and the others, then I'm satisfied," Hua Ruyu said.
Feng gazed at him for a long time. Then slowly, she said, "You find fault in their ways?"
Hua Ruyu smiled and said, "Jin Pusa is obsessed with material wealth. Ren Shangren and Li Qingfeng are obsessed with killing. Siniang, do you think I'm the sort of person who wants to kill for money?"
Smiling, Feng said, "You don't, but all of them were paid to kill someone. Who?"
"Xiao Shiyi Lang," Hua Ruyu said. "Who else but Xiao Shiyi Lang?"
"So you came for Xiao Shiyi Lang?" Feng asked.
"No," Hua Ruyu replied.
Feng said, "What?"
Hua Ruyu smiled. "I did not come here to speak with Xiao Shiyi Lang, not even to capture him. Instead, I came to this desolate place for another reason."
"What reason is that?" Feng asked.
Hua Ruyu said, "A person."
Feng questioned, "Who?"
"You," Hua Ruyu replied.
Feng Siniang smiled and said, "I like listening to men's lies. Lies are always better to hear."
However, Hua Ruyu sighed and said seriously, "What a pity that I am not lying."
Feng was surprised. "Oh?"
"Who else but Feng Siniang could force me to come to this wretched place?"
Feng stared at him, saying, "I did not ask you to come here." Hua Ruyu answered, "But I came anyway."
"Why did you?" Feng questioned.
Hua Ruyu sighed deeply and said, "If the husband knew his wife was in danger, wouldn't he go after her?"
Feng giggled, saying, "So Eldest Brother Hua came here for Sister Hua."
(NOTE: The actual word used by Feng Siniang is "sister-in-law.")
"True," Hua Ruyu answered.
"This Sister Hua must also be as beautiful as a flower and as pure as jade," Feng said.
Hua Ruyu nodded without taking his eyes off her face. Suddenly, he let out a breath, saying, "Sister Hua is indeed as as beautiful as a flower and as pure as jade. Sometimes I wonder what I did in my past life to deserve such good fortune."
"Then you should be careful," Feng told him.
"Why?" Hua Ruyu asked.
"Because if you aren't careful," Feng told him with a smile, "she might catch you staring at me and will probably feel jealous."
"She won't," Hua Ruyu disagreed.
"Has this Sister Hua never been jealous?" Feng challenged.
"She's frequently jealous," Hua Ruyu said. "But never of you."
"Why not?" Feng questioned.
Hua Ruyu said, "Because Sister Hua is you. You are Sister Hua."
Feng Siniang gave pause.
Smiling, Hua Ruyu said, "Really, after I married you, I simply could not look at another woman again. With a bride like you, as beautiful as a flower, as pure as jade, who could look at other women?"
Feng took a deep breath and exhaled. "So I am Sister Hua."
"Of course, you are," Hua Ruyu said.
"When did I marry you?" Feng asked.
Hua Ruyu said, "Have you forgotten?"
"I have," Feng replied.
Hua Ruyu sighed. "You really shouldn't forget because it happened on the fifth day of May."
"The Dragon Boat Festival?" Feng said.
"That's right," Hua Ruyu said. "On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, we made our vows and became husband and wife under the heavens."
Feng Siniang's heart sank.
Every year on the fifth day of May, she was never in the mood to join in the festivities. Therefore, as she always did in previous years, she searched for a place to hide so no one would find her.
She knew without a doubt that she did not marry Hua Ruyu. But besides herself, who else would confirm her testimony?
After studying her, Hua Ruyu looked pleased. He said, "Although our wedding was rather sudden, we managed to get a matchmaker to witness the ceremony. So don't even think about going back on your vows."
All of a sudden, Feng smiled, saying, "Being married to a noble gentleman like you, what reason would I have to do such a shameless act?"
"If you like me that much," Hua Ruyu said, "then why did you run away on our wedding night?"
Feng laughed. "It's a bad habit of mine. Every time there is a wedding, I always feel like running away."
"But now that I found you, I won't let you get away again," Hua Ruyu said.
Feng let out a breath, forcing herself to smile. "I know."
Indeed, she knew that she could not run away.
So all of a sudden she found herself fooled into a trap and became Hua Ruyu's bride. What an interesting turn of events!
No matter what, Hua Ruyu was an exceptionally good-looking man. Not only was he rich, he was also gentle and considerate. Whoever married a man like him must feel very happy. But Feng Siniang only felt like weeping even though no tears came.
Hua Ruyu kept staring at her lovingly as though he could not wait to take his new bride into their wedding chamber.
But Feng only wanted to take his life with her bare hands. It was too bad, she knew, that taking this man's life with her bare hands was not an easy task.
Hua Ruyu was smiling as he softly said, "Our wedding chamber is designed with Huai furnishings."
"Oh?" Feng sounded.
Hua Ruyu said, "If you don't want to eat, then shall we proceed to our wedding chamber?"
Feng's gaze shifted. "And pass up all this good food?" She asked.
She ate fast but not too much.
Because after she finished eating, she did not know what came next.
Hua Ruyu just smiled, waiting.
Feng saw him from the corners of her eyes. "You married a bride who likes to eat, yet you're still smiling?" She mocked.
"Why shouldn't I be smiling?" Hua Ruyu asked.
"Aren't you worried I'll eat so much you'll end up being poor?" Feng said.
Hua Ruyu smiled, saying, "Marrying someone like you is already a great fortune. How can I be poor?"
Feng felt her teeth itch. She really wanted to bite a piece of his flesh. But she knew that even if she did manage to bite him, she would never be able to swallow what she bit.
Even if someone paid her to swallow his flesh, she could never do it.
"Are you done eating?" Hua Ruyu inquired.
Feng was forced to admit. "My appetite is not good. I can't eat anymore." Hua Ruyu said softly, "In that case...." Feng interrupted, "In that case, I need a drink. Won't you join me over a few cups?"
"Certainly," Hua Ruyu answered.
Feng's eyes lit up. "Let's have a drinking contest," she suggested.
Hua Ruyu smiled and said, "There's no one to pour our wine. Could it be that my bride wants to get me drunk?"
Feng laughed. "What bridegroom doesn't get drunk on his wedding night in his wedding chamber?"
But her smile was laden with deceit. Indeed, her plan was to get this man drunk.
Could someone as extremely delicate as Hua Ruyu know how to hold his liquor?
Like many women, Feng Siniang had made use of wine to get men drunk.
But if it were only up to her alcohol tolerance without resorting to tricks, countless men would have taken advantage of her long ago.
Her drinking skill was a strong point of hers. When other people drank too much, their eyes turned bleary and they became confused. However, the more she drank, the brighter her eyes became and no one could tell if she was drunk. That was why few people dared to have a drinking match with her, even though in reality, her alcohol tolerance was not that high.
Who knew Hua Ruyu was also the same. No matter how much he drank, he remained completely sober.
By this time, Feng's eyes were bright as lamps. Finally, she could not help asking, "Have you ever been drunk?"
Smiling, Hua Ruyu said, "Have you met anyone who drinks but who has never been drunk?"
"So you have been drunk," Feng said.
"I'm often drunk," Hua Ruyu answered.
"But you don't look like someone who's often drunk," Feng said.
"Who told you that?" Hua Ruyu asked. "Why, only last year, I got drunk."
"Last year?" Feng scoffed.
"Also five years ago," Hua Ruyu added.
"So all your life, you've been drunk only twice?" Feng said.
Hua Ruyu said, "Twice is already too many."
Feng sighed, saying, "Some people get themselves drunk twice in a day; sometimes even more." Hua Ruyu agreed, "Actually, I wanted to get drunk several times. Too bad the wine ran out before I could."
"How much wine can you hold?" Feng asked.
Hua Ruyu said, "I'm not sure myself. But last year, after I drank a dozen jugs of bamboo wine I lost consciousness."
Feng Siniang thought that if thirteen jugs of bamboo wine could fill a tub, she was in for a long wait.
Hua Ruyu was saying, "We were in a hurry so we didn't bring much wine. But if you feel that twelve jugs is not enough, I can send someone down the mountain to buy more."
Sighing, Feng said, "If I drink twelve jugs of wine, I'd be so steeped inside that it'd enough to drown me to death."
"How much can you drink?" Hua Ruyu asked.
"Not a single drop," Feng answered.
Hua Ruyu's eyes narrowed into slits, resembling Jin Pusa's. He stood up and said softly, "In that case..."
Suddenly, Feng rose to her feet. "It's time we go to the wedding chamber."
Hence, Feng Siniang entered the wedding chamber with a strange man.
This would be her second time entering a wedding chamber. When she walked in, she looked like a martyr stepping into the battlefield.
The wedding chamber looked nothing like a wedding chamber. The interior of the room was lit by red candles and the bed was covered with a quilt embroidered with figures of lovers.
But the bride looked nothing like a bride. From top to bottom, there was nothing remotely bride-like about her.
Xin Xin was on the floor, smiling as she mouthed the words to a cheerful song:
"On this beautiful night, in this beautiful place, the red flowers bloom under the green willow's shade. Next year, a fat baby is born into a mother's embrace."
Feng clapped her hands and said, "What a beautiful voice! I want to reward you!"
"Reward me with what?" Xin Xin asked.
"Reward you with a smart slap on the face," Feng said.
She was really slapped in the face. It was only too bad Xin Xin, the little fox, managed to defend, giving her enough time to slip out and use the door as cover.
Smiling, Hua Ruyu said casually, "Actually, you didn't need to drive her out. She was just leaving."
Feng bit her lip, then said, "Who said I don't need to drive her out? I'm in a hurry!" Hua Ruyu narrowed his eyes. "In a hurry for what?"
Feng likewise narrowed her eyes as she said, "Take a guess."
She looked somewhat inebriated. Suddenly, she turned and plopped herself down among the embroideries and pillows. "How old are you?" She abruptly asked, raising her eyes to Hua Ruyu.
"Twenty," Hua Ruyu answered.
Feng giggled, saying, "If I married sooner, perhaps my son would be as old as you."
The statement, even though it was mildly upsetting, did not spoil the air of romance around them.
Hua Ruyu also smiled, saying, "I've always liked women who are older than me. Older women are the ones competent to know about romance."
Still smiling, he slowly moved towards Feng Siniang.
He was still smiling as he slowly, slowly moved towards Feng Siniang.
Feng blinked and said, "You? You don't know about romance?"
"You can teach me," Hua Ruyu replied.
Feng's face went red as her cheeks blushed. She closed her eyes.
Hua Ruyu's breath was getting closer and closer.
Feng moaned softly as she said, "Little brother, my little brother. You're older sister wants you to..."
Dazed, Hua Ruyu smiled foolishly, asking, "You want me to what?"
"I want you to die," Feng told him.
All of a sudden, her body shot out from the bed. In that short period of time, she already sent seven palms and three kicks.
At that moment, a dazed man, of course, absolutely could not get out of the way. Even if there was only a single stance used, there was no way to avoid it.
Who knew Hua Ruyu who, until a moment ago, looked dazed would suddenly raise his hand and quickly grasp Feng Siniang's foot, refusing to let go.
Feng only felt a ticklish sensation in the sole of her foot. It traveled from her leg up her body and straight to her heart.
Hua Ruyu had unexpectedly taken off her shoe and was now lightly caressing her foot. He smiled as he said, "What beautiful pair of feet!"
Feng's entire body went lax.
What woman could withstand getting her foot and heart tickled?
Suddenly, she called to mind that time when in order to steal the Deer-Carving Saber, she fell into the hands of One-Armed Hawk King. This handicapped monster took her shoe off and used the beard on his face to tickle her foot.
Although Hua Ruyu did not have a beard but compared to a beard, a pair of hands were actually worse. Hands, to say the least, were more nimble than a beard.
That time, Xiao Shiyi Lang came to rescue her. This time? Where was Xiao Shiyi Lang?
Feng was so mad she did not know whether to laugh or to cry. She tried to cry but couldn't, tried to laugh but couldn't, until, at last, she could not help but scream.
But Hua Ruyu only laughed, saying, "If someone hears you scream, can you guess what these people would think?"
At once, Feng stopped. She bit her lip and said, "If I can take off, will you let me go?"
Hua Ruyu said, "No."
"You..." Feng started. "What do you want?"
"Can you guess?" Hua Ruyu asked.
Feng did not dare to guess. She did not even dare to think.
"Actually," Hua Ruyu continued, "I already knew what you were going to do exactly. From the very beginning, I've been waiting. It hadn't occurred to me you could go so far as to sink to this level, stopping only for air once the right time came." He let out a soft breath, adding, "But it's too bad you now must make a move regardless if it's too early." (NOTE: This paragraph killed my brain.)
"What right time should I wait for?" Feng asked.
Now she only hoped he would talk more.
"You originally wanted to wait for the time when I to go to bed," Hua Ruyu told her.
Feng sighed deeply. Indeed, she wanted to wait for that time. She also knew that with enough time, her chances were better. It was too bad her fear of being touched by a man took precedence.
Even though she appeared like a loose woman, in reality no man had ever touched her.
Hua Ruyu was sighing as he said, "From this, it's easy to see how you're not really a bad woman."
"But you are really a bad man," Feng retorted.
"Correct," Hua Ruyu said, smiling.
"You planned this," Feng accused.
"Indeed, twenty-three months ago," Hua Ruyu answered.
"You knew that during festivities, I always set off by myself," Feng said, "so on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival you followed me to make me your bride."
Hua Ruyu chuckled, saying, "So no matter how much you want to deny it, you can't."
"You also knew I would slip out of the wedding chamber," Feng said.
"Many people already know this," Hua Ruyu replied, "so if you think I'd commit the same mistake, then you're wrong." He smiled then, saying, "Also, I think you originally wanted to marry me, only when you heard news of Xiao Shiyi Lang, you changed your mind."
Feng said, "So no matter how much I deny it, no one would ever believe me."
"So no matter what, you were bound to be my bride," Hua Ruyu said, smiling.
"But," Feng started, "Why would you go to all this trouble?"
"Because I like you," Hua Ruyu said.
"If you really like me," Feng said, "you shouldn't treat me like this."
"But it's because I really like you that I want to treat you like this," Hua Ruyu said.
Feng said, "You... Do you really want...want..." But before she could finish, Feng suddenly discovered that his hand was on her leg. Not only that, he was caressing it lightly, his hand both gentle and soft.
Feng only felt her body already go soft, then heat up, then soft again. She was certainly a woman, certainly a 35-year old woman.
Hua Ruyu gazed at her, smiling as he said, "You look nervous. Could it be that no man has touched you?"
Feng clenched her teeth as tears flowed down her cheeks.
"So no man has really touched you." Hua Ruyu smiled, pleased with himself. He said, "To marry a woman like you must be my good fortune...." He then lowered himself.
With her eyes closed, Feng burst into tears. She said, "You'll regret this one day, one day...."
The threat was meant to be a warning, only her tone belied it. No matter how strong a woman was, eventually she became weak, especially with a man as attractive as Hua Ruyu.