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   GU LONG > Xiao Shiyi Lang || Chapter 3: The Sound of Singing at Night

The Zhu Ye Qing (NOTE: Literally Bamboo Leaf Green...some sort of wine) inside the green porcelain cup resembled a large piece of translucent emerald.

The bright moon was like a tray of ice suspended in the sky above. The moon was full and complete. Were people?

Feng Siniang's face was flushed. It seemed she was a little tipsy. The bright moon shone through the window from outside. She was raising her head to gaze at the bright moon when suddenly, she started.

"Is it possible that today is already the 15th?"

Her birthday was on the 15th of the Seventh Month. After today, she would already be a year older.

"Thirty-four!" What a dreadful number.

When she was fifteen, she used to think that a woman can only live a meaningful life until she is thirty. A woman over thirty years old was just like a chrysanthemum in November, only waiting to wither and die.

But now, she was thirty-four. Although she did not want to believe it, she had no choice but to believe. Why were years and months so heartless?

In the corner of a wall was a bronze mirror. She foolishly gazed at the person reflected in it.

The person in the mirror was youthful. When she smiled, not a single wrinkle formed in the corners of her eyes. Nobody would believe that this was the face of a thirty-four year-old woman.

But though she could deceive others' eyes, she could not deceive her own.

She turned around completely and poured herself a cup of wine. The moonlight cast her long shadow on the floor. In her heart, she suddenly remembered two lines of a poem, "Raise the cup, invite the moon; Face the shadow to make three people."

She never before understood how lonely and desolate this poem was.

Outside the gate, she heard the faint sound of a crying child.

She used to find a child's weeping the most repugnant sound, but now, how she wanted a child! She wanted to hear the crying of her own child.

The moonlight illuminated her face. Were those tears on her face?

These past several years, she had casually thought about finding a man to marry, but she could not. She thought most of the men she met were disgusting.

Her youth was dissipating. A few more years and even those men she found disgusting would not even want her. Oh, a woman of thirty-four... She heard a man's loud laughter outside her door. The laughter was candid but also obviously drunk.

"What would this man be like?"

This man must be really callous and ugly, his whole body reeking of liquor.

Perhaps, but if this man rushed in right now and asked for her hand in marriage, she might promise -- Was it the harsh reality that a woman who was thirty-four years old could not be picky about her men like a twenty-year-old? As Feng was asking herself this, the corners of her mouth lifted to reveal a bitter smile.

The night was getting late. Outside, the sounds have died down.

In the distance, the sound of gongs could be heard. The sound was dull but this kind of monotonous sound actually marked the passage of time and life.

"I should rest."

Just as Feng stood up to close the window, the night breeze suddenly fluttered in, carrying with it the sound of singing. The voice, pensive and stirring, sounded familiar.

Xiao Shiyi Lang!

She remembered that each time she saw Xiao Shiyi Lang, he was always humming this melody. During those moments, his expression was always dreary and glum.

Feng Siniang felt her heart flutter and so without hesitation, she pressed her hand against the window sill.

She shot out of the window like an arrow, heading towards the direction of that voice.

The long street was quiet.

In front of each household door were ashes from burned paper money scattered on the road. The wind blew, scattering smoke and ashes in every direction. In the darkness, no one knew just how many ghosts were waiting to snatch them away.

July the 15th was also the Ghost Festival, when all the ghosts went beyond the great wall. Now, the gates of hell were open. Was the world really filled with all kinds of ghosts?

Feng gritted her teeth and muttered: "Xiao Shiyi Lang, you really are a ghost. Show yourself!"

But there were no signs of ghosts around. Even the singing had vanished.

Feng said bitterly: "This man is really a ghost. If he's not willing to see me, why did he have to let me hear his voice?"

Her mood turned downcast and she felt incredibly tired. All she wanted was to go back, drink a few more cups, and then rest and wait for tomorrow. Perhaps, everything would change tomorrow.

Perhaps, that was why people go on because there will always be "tomorrow."

When she saw the light from the window to her room, she felt an inexplicable warmth. It was like the feeling of coming back home.

"But is this my home? This is only a room in an inn."

Feng sighed deeply. She did not know where her home was or if ever she would have one. As she stepped into the room, she heard someone quote slowly: "'When I'm 3,000 miles away from here, Mr. Xiao will be just like any stranger.' Feng Siniang, Feng Siniang, I fear you have forgotten me, have you?"

Feng felt her whole body grow hot. She straightened and dashed into the room, calling out: "You ghost -- so you have finally shown yourself!"

The wine cup on the table was gone.

A person was draped across the bed, his face covered with a pillow.

He had on blue clothes which was faded from frequent washing. A sash was tied around his waist and casually tucked into that sash was a saber.

This saber was far shorter than regular sabers. The scabbard was made of black leather, which was extremely old but it was actually newer-looking compared to his pair of boots.

One foot was resting on the other knee, revealing two huge holes on the sole of his shoe.

Feng Siniang flew towards him and kicked his foot, saying angrily: "Lazy, dirty ghost, who said you can sleep on my bed?"

The person on the bed sighed and muttered: "I just took a bath last month and this woman here says I'm dirty -" Feng could not stop herself from giggling, but then she sobered up immediately. She flung the pillow away, saying: "Get up! I wonder, is your face still ugly after all these years?"

But although the pillow was gone, the man on the bed was covering his face with his hands.

Feng said: "Are you too ugly for me to see you?"

The man on the bed separated two fingers, revealing through the gap a pair of laughing, shining eyes. He exclaimed: "Well, what a fierce woman! No wonder you're not married yet. Except me, it looks like no one would dare marry you - " He was not able to finish because Feng was slamming her palm down.

The man quickly withdrew, his whole body braced against the wall. He looked like a paper doll clinging to the wall, staying there and refusing to come down.

His bright eyes were still laughing, his eyebrows thick, his nose straight, and his chin covered with a beard so thick it looked like it could prick skin.

Although this man had a proud air, he was not really handsome. But his eyes and his smile lent him a certian kind of aura, a wild magnetism that drew people to him.

Feng sighed gently as she shook her head. "Xiao Shiyi Lang, you haven't changed at all. You are still quite simply a bastard in every sense of the word."

Xiao Shiyi Lang grinned: "I thought you wanted to marry a bastard like me. Looks like I was mistaken."

Flushing, Feng said hotly: "Marry you? Why would I marry you? Even if you were the last man on earth, I still wouldn't marry you..."

Xiao Shiyi Lang let out a long breath. He said: "Then, I am relieved!"

His body slid from the wall and with a puff, he landed on the bed. He smiled and said: "To be honest, when I heard you were looking for me, I was a little scared. I'm only twenty-seven. If I wanted to marry, I would at least choose a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, not some old granny like you..."

Feng lunged, saying furiously: "I'm an old granny? Me, an old granny? How old do you think I am? You said --" She choked down her own words and instead drew out her sword from her sleeve.

In just a short while, her sword had tried to skewer Xiao Shiyi Lang seven or eight times.

Xiao Shiyi Lang slid up the wall once more and climbed up the ceiling, resembling a gecko. He waved his hands and said: "Don't move. I was just joking. Really, you're not old at all. You don't look a day over forty."

Feng tried to keep a straight face but she could not stop herself from laughing. She shook her head. "Luckily, I don't see you often. Otherwise, I'd die from getting irritated at you."

Xiao Shiyi Lang grinned: "Too many people flatter you. Isn't it refreshing to have someone who makes you mad?"

After climbing down, his eyes fell on the sword in Feng's hands.

The sword was over a foot long. Its blade was incredibly thin and it emanated a bluish-green light. It was the type of sword that was most suitable for women. The most famous swordswoman in the Tang Dynasty, Madame Gongsun, had a sword just like this. Once, the famous poet Du Fu even wrote a song about her: "There was once the beautiful Lady Gongsun, she brandished her sword in all directions; Those who viewed her were awed while the world could only stand still and watch. She shot up like the Nine Suns and descended like a god in an Imperial Chariot; Flying in circles, moving like furious thunder, and stopping like clear light shining off calm waters..."

Madame Gongsun was a petite woman and the poem was a clever attestation to her skill. Though her body was very frail, if not for this sword, she would not have been so nimble.

While Xiao Shiyi Lang was staring at the sword hilt, Feng was studying his eyes. Suddenly, with a backhanded stroke, she slashed the wine cup on the table.

There was a "clang." The green porcelain cup was cut in half.

Xiao Shiyi exclaimed in approval: "Good sword!'

Feng Siniang smiled faintly and said in a light tone, "This sword cannot cut iron like it's mud, but it's close. Xiao Yaohou treasured it like jade and because of that, he was not even willing to let others take a look at it."

After a short moment, Xiao Shiyi Lang blinked. He smiled as he asked: "And yet, he gave you this sword?"

Feng nodded. "That's right."

Xiao Shiyi Lang said: "So that means he likes you."

Feng gave a cool smile. "Why not? Am I really that old?"

Xiao Shiyi Lang gave a sigh while looking at Feng. Then, he said: "It's difficult to make a person like Xiao Yaohou like you. I'm just wondering, how many concubines did he have before you?"

Feng got angry. "What fart..."

Thereupon, her sword rose but Xiao Shiyi Lang docked.

Feng slowly lowered her sword, all the while keeping a close watch on him from the corners of her eyes. She said: "Since you are so competent, you ought to know the origin of this sword." Xiao Shiyi Lang replied: "It looks like the sword used by Madame Gongsun's first disciple, Shen Reguan who uses the Blue Jade (La Yu)."

Feng nodded, saying: "You have good eyes."

Xiao Shiyi Lang said: "But if you have Blue Jade, then you should also have the Scarlet Cloud (Chi Xia), unless..."

Feng asked: "Unless what?"

Xiao Shiyi Lang grinned. "Unless Xiao Yaohou was reluctant to give you both swords."

Feng glared, saying: "If I wanted his head, he'd offer it to me with both hands. Much less two mere swords."

Xiao Shiyi Lang said with a smile: "Well, then where is the Scarlet Cloud?"

Feng said: "I don't mind showing it to you."

Xiao Shiyi Lang quipped: "Actually, I really don't want to look, but if I don't, I'm afraid you'll get angry."

Still grinning, he added: "You remember that time in October when the weather was really hot, yet you wore a sable when you went to see me? Though you were sweating from the heat, you still insisted that you were cold and that you must wear warm clothing..."

Feng snorted: "What fart, you think that I was trying to show off?"

Xiao Shiyi Lang smiled, saying: "If you have something to show off, then that's good. Unlike me, I have nothing to offer. I only have myself."

Feng let out a laugh: "You really are a funny guy."

She took out the sword, the sheath of which was inlaid with pink precious jade.

When Xiao Shiyi Lang saw this, he shook his head, smiling as he said: "The things women use always smell of rouge and powder."

While speaking, his hand was starting to withdraw the sword.

But unexpectedly, the Scarlet Cloud's blade was broken!

Feng's expression did not change as she calmly looked at him, saying: "You are surprised?"

Xiao Shiyi Lang said: "Such a fine weapon, how did it break?"

Feng replied: "It was cut and broken by a saber!"

Xiao Shiyi Lang looked surprised, asking: "What saber? How could it be so sharp?"

In a light tone, Feng said: "I know that each time you hear about sabers, your heart itches. But this time, I won't tell you because you're going to say I'm a show-off."

Xiao Shiyi Lang rolled his eyes at this. Then, suddenly he stood up and said: "When I saw you, I got hungry. Let's go. I'll treat you."

A small outdoor shop appeared at the end of the street. It was said that this shop was built several years ago. Moreover, whether rain or shine and whether it was the new year or a holiday, this shop never closed. That was why the town's night owls liked to frequent this place because if their wives refused to open the doors to them, then they could at least have a bowl of steaming beef noodles in Lao Zhang's shop.

Lao Zhang (Old Zhang) was indeed very old and, like all elderly persons, had gray hair. At the moment, he was sitting, his head lowered as he drank his soup. The paper lantern hanging at the vendor stall was smoked black by the oil, the color resembling his face.

Old customers who came here knew that his face never changed its expression. Besides asking for payment, very few people had heard him say anything else.

Xiao Shiyi Lang smiled, saying: "How about eating here?"

Feng Siniang wrinkled her brows and said: "All right." Xiao Shiyi Lang then said: "You don't have to frown. The beef noodles here are so delicious I'm sure you've never had anything like it."

He sat on at an old, shaky table near the door. In a loud voice, he said: "Lao Zhang, I have an honored guest with me today. Serve us something delicious."

Lao Zhang did not look up and only gave him a sidelong glance as though saying: "What's the rush? Let me finish this bowl of soup first."

Xiao Shiyi Lang only shook his head and quietly said: "This old man is a monster. We shouldn't annoy him."

The world-renowned Xiao Shiyi Lang was afraid to annoy the old man of the shop, who would dare to believe? Feng was greatly amused.

After a very long time, Lao Zhang finally carried two dishes and a jug of liquor. He slammed them on the table before turning around and left.

Feng could not help but smile, asking: "Do you owe him money for the wine?"

Xiao Shiyi Lang thrust out his chest and said: "I only owed him a few coins but I paid it off yesterday."

After staring at him for a long time, Feng gently sighed and said musingly: "In Jianghu, everyone says that Xiao Shiyi Lang is a seamless bandit, the best one for the past five hundred years. But only few people really know that Xiao Shiyi Lang is actually so poor that he treats people to cheap beef noodles and sometimes even on credit."

Xiao Shiyi Lang guffawed: "I know it and you know it, isn't that enough?... Let's drink."

Xiao Shiyi Lang was a puzzling person. Some people cursed him. Others hated him. Still, others loved him. But only very few people truly understood him.

He, for one, did not want to be understood. He never thought about himself.

If you were Feng Siniang, would you love him?

Feng's drinking skill was a strong point of hers. When other people drank too much, their eyes turned bleary and they become confused.

But when she drank too much, her eyes turned brighter instead and no one could tell if she was drunk. Few people would dare to have a drinking match with her even though in reality, her tolerance for alcohol was not that high.

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