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Old Mr. Barley's Roast Duck
The mountainside town had more than three hundred households, and now there was a lantern burning at every house. The doors were wide open as if they were waiting for the G.o.d of prosperity to come and bless them.
Too bad that it wasn't any G.o.d of prosperity, but an unyielding pestilence.
Dozens of hats with red ta.s.sels, attired officials, torches held high and swords hanging from their waists, were searching every house one at a time.
As soon as Big G and Swally came down the mountain they ran into the Golden Lion. Hands behind his back, he was standing at the head of the street shouting orders, as dignified as a high-ranking general giving orders on the battlefield.
Big G went up to greet him, "Golden General, are you planning on dividing the town into a battleground?" he asked with a laugh.
The Golden Lion's face had looked like a wall of ice, but he smiled upon seeing Big G, "This is absolutely necessary, otherwise we would never dare to disturb these good citizens."
Swally: "Since you know they're good citizens, what is the point in disturbing them?"
The Golden Lion sighed, "All we know is that the stolen property is still here, it hasn't been transported, but we don't know in which house. So we had to gather all of the constables from the surrounding eighteen counties, and search house by house."
He was laughing again, "As long as we can find where the stolen property is hidden, The Phoenix can forget about escaping this time," he elaborated.
Big G: "It sounds like we're not going to be allowed in either?"
The Golden Poodle's eyes flashed, "What are the two of you doing coming into town so late?"
Big G: "Going drinking."
Golden Loin: "Are you going drinking at Old Mr. Barley's shop?"
Big G: "Yeah, we finished all the alcohol we had on the mountain, but our addiction still isn't satisfied."
The Golden Lion laughed, "We already searched there earlier, all we found was a single gold ingot, please feel free to go on over."
He gave a hand signal to the constables patrolling the street and stepped aside to let them through.
They had walked a distance before Swally started laughing, "It seems that he is showing you a lot of respect."
"That is because he hasn't figured out anything about my background," he said smiling.
Swally was smiling too, "All those names you mentioned, were they really your masters?"
Big G: "Yes, that was all true."
Swally: "Even though your kung fu isn't spectacular, they wouldn't be able to train a disciple such as yourself."
Big G smiled, "I wasn't studying their amazing martial arts, I was learning from their shortcomings."
Big G: "If I saw any faults in their martial arts training, I would think of a way to avoid the same mistakes. This is called 'learning from anyone,' no matter who it is, there is always something you can learn."
Swally gave him a glance, "I never imagined you know a little something about philosophy."
"In front of you there is no need for humility, I have always been an impressive scholar," he said very seriously.
Swally couldn't hold back his laughter, "Then why didn't you study anything besides shortcomings?"
Big G: "Did I ask you about the soles of your boots? Did I ask you about how you died seven times?"
Big G: "Then why are you asking me?"
Old Mr. Barley was a bachelor for life, there were only four rooms in his entire establishment.
The room in front was for customers, and then there was the kitchen, and one room where he slept.
The most important room was in the back: the grill.
The back room's door was always closed, because if someone tried to steal Old Mr. Barley's "Secret BBQ Sauce" his livelihood would be ruined.
When Swally and Big G arrived, Old Mr. Barley was in the back room, even though the door was closed, a delicious smell was wafting through the cracks.
Big G swallowed a mouth full of saliva, "Mr. Barley, customers are here, hurry on out," Big G yelled.
After a long wait, Old Mr. Barley finally came out, he was covered in oil as if he had been rolling around in a pile of lard.
Upon seeing Big G, his impatient face broke a smile, "n.o.body got any sleep tonight, and I'm antic.i.p.ating a big crowd in the morning, so I was busy barbequing a few dozen extra ducks."
Big G laughed, "You don't have a son, you don't have a wife, and you are so frugal you won't even buy new clothes, what is the point of making all this money?"
Old Mr. Barley: "I am always covered in oil, what would I need new clothes for? And money, the more the better, who would be worried about more money?"
"That is the truth," Swally smiled.
Old Mr. Barley: "Honest people always tell the truth."
Big G: "You sure are an honest fellow, I heard that you have been here for more than ten years, but you haven't even visited widow Zhao's stone ally behind the virtuous archway even once."
Swally: "What is the stone alley?"
Big G smiled, "The stone alley is a great place, lots of pretty ladies, and they are so gentle and considerate."
Swally gave him a look, "Have you been there?"
Big G: "It's not that I haven't wanted to go there, the thing is, every time I get drunk I forget about it."
Swally: "So why don't you go when you're sober?"
Big G: "I wouldn't dare to go there when I'm sober."
"You wouldn't dare?" Swally asked coldly.
Big G: "I am worried that if all those pretty ladies see such a handsome man like myself they will never let me go."
Swally couldn't help but smile, "That type of place just has to be behind the archway of virtue, and don't you think that would make a lot of people upset?"
Old Mr. Barley: "Will the two of you be drinking tonight?"
Swally: "He wants to try your roast duck fresh out of the oven."
Old Mr. Barley: "Great, let me go pick a nice juicy one."
He turned around to go inside, surprisingly, Big G followed behind, "I want to have a look in the back."
Old Mr. Barley stopped, "It's so dirty back there, what is there to see?"
Big G: "I am not scared of dirty, I am pretty dirty anyway."
Swally sighed, "If he is set on going its best that you just let him, even if he has to bother you for days, he won't let it rest."
Old Mr. Barley smiled, "its dark back there, be careful where you step huh."
× × ×
The back courtyard certainly was very dark.
The grilling room was at the very back, it was also completely dark inside.
Old Mr. Barley stumbled forward, walking very slowly.
Big G laughed, "Judging by the way you're walking, you must have been drinking as well."
Old Mr. Barley: "It's chilly this evening, I only had a couple gla.s.ses, but I already feel a little tipsy..."
He suddenly stumbled as if he was about to fall over.
Big G reached out to support him, when Old Mr. Barley suddenly turned around, like a serpent leaping from the ocean, nimble as a sparrow hawk, it was simply impossible to describe such agility with words.
Big G had just extended his hand, and his main arteries were already being clasped tightly.
Swally never could have imagined that this grumpy old man who normally had troubles walking, could suddenly make such a frightening transformation, shocked, his first thought was to rush over.
"Stop, or I will take his life," Old Mr. Barley sternly rebuked.
He spoke the standard north eastern Mandarin without a trace of the Cantonese accent.
Swally was astounded, "You... you are the..." he gasped.
Big G laughed, "He is The Phoenix, and he is the one who moved the chests from under the bed. Can't you put it together?"
He couldn't move, with his life hanging in the balance he was still smiling without a care.
"That's right, I am The Phoenix. How did you know?" he asked coldheartedly.
Big G: "I was taking a wild guess, because other than The Rod, the Golden Lion, the person in black, and the four of us, you were the only one who knew we were hiding gold, you were the only one who could have rushed up the mountain and moved the chests before we returned."
The Phoenix laughed cynically.
Big G: "Also, The Rod already falsely accused you, they wouldn't suspect you again, not to mention, n.o.body is allowed in the grill room, what better place to hide the chests."
The Phoenix: "Anything else?"
Big G: "The Golden Lion has seen you before, his sensitive nose would have recognized your smell, so you intentionally chose this line of business."
He took a long whiff with his nose, "No matter what you smell like, it could never be stronger than the smell of roast duck, not even a women's body odor is that strong," he added.
The Phoenix: "Anything else?"
Big G: "Also, I heard that The Phoenix was a stingy penny pincher, he wouldn't even spend any of the money he stole, he even considers a wife to be an unnecessary expense; I have never met anyone stingier than you, you won't even eat your own fresh meat and drink, but are always eating our leftovers."
He suddenly laughed and kept going, "I am just realizing that your beautiful phoenix name is perfect for you, the poet Bu Lin married plum blossoms and had cranes for sons, your wife is yourself , it's called 'marry myself.'"
He was really enjoying his amazing sense of humor, tears were already coming down from all the laughter.
n.o.body else thought it was funny.
The Phoenix was staring at him coldly, waiting for him to finish laughing, "Anything else?"
Big G: "Nope, those three things are enough, so The Phoenix is Old Mr. Barley, Old Mr. Barley is The Phoenix."
The Phoenix: "Never thought a little scoundrel like you could actually be smart at times."
Big G: "Even the stupidest people are smart once or twice in their lives; not to mention, I have always been a genius, I just act a little stupid once in a while."
The Phoenix: "So you want to go to the grill room huh?"
Big G: "I did, yes."
The Phoenix: "Good, get in there."
Big G: "I did want to, but not anymore, because I don't want to be strung up and roasted like a duck."
"Too bad, it isn't up to you anymore," he laughed coldly.
Swally: "There's no point in killing him, I can still make sure that your secret gets out."
The Phoenix: "When he goes in, naturally you will follow him inside, because you wouldn't miss an opportunity to save your friend, I am fifty-six years old, and I can at least tell that about you."
Swally was biting his teeth, his eyes were even turning red, a three-year old child could tell how much he cared about Big G, let alone a crafty old fifty-six year old.
Big G laughed even louder, "Having an incredible friend in this life, I can die without any regrets, with a friend like you, living or dying doesn't matter, it's just that..."
The Phoenix: "It's just what?"
Big G: "I know there is no way that you will kill us."
The Phoenix: "Oh?"
Big G: "Even if you kill the two of us it will be pointless."
The Phoenix: "Oh?"
Big G: "Not only old Mr. King knows we came here, the Golden Lion knows as well, if we suddenly disappear, how could they not suspect you?"
"I will have to figure that out later," he laughed insidiously.
Big G: "Since you aren't worried, why haven't you killed me yet?"
The Phoenix: "n.o.body would come here anyway, there is no need to hurry."
Big G: "You haven't made a move because you haven't made up your mind yet, I know that you're overly careful, you wouldn't do anything unless you were extremely confident."
"As long as you release him, perhaps we can help conceal your secret," Swally suddenly said.
The Phoenix's eyes flashed, just like a s.h.i.+fty fox.
The fatal flaw of the fox is that they are always paranoid, not only suspicious of others, but doubting themselves.
"You know, I am not the least bit interested in catching thieves, I just don't like being lied to," Big G said casually.
Someone laughed, "n.o.body likes being lied to."
It was the voice of the Golden Lion.
The Golden Lion, The Rod, and the person dressed in blacked slowly walked into the courtyard.
In that same instant, torches were raised from the top of the walls, dozens of constables with bows drawn and swords unsheathed were already surrounding the tiny little courtyard.
The Phoenix's face was glistening, it was hard to tell if it was oil or sweat?
With a sudden swing of his backhand, Big G's enormous body came flying forward, cras.h.i.+ng towards the Golden Lion and the person dressed in black.
The Phoenix came shooting out like an arrow, in the blink of an eye he was already on the ridge of the roof, grabbing two swords in the process: the "Spreading of the Phoenix Wings" kung fu.
The blades flashed, two constables fell off the roof, another flash, and he was already more than ten meters away.
He was an experienced master of martial arts, and successful carried out countless notorious heists, sure enough, he was exceptionally talented.
He not only moved with intense speed, his hands were unbelievably quick; furthermore, he excelled at seizing opportunities.
This was his first chance of escaping, it was also his last chance.
Even if the Golden Lion and the person dressed in black possessed a higher level of qinggong, Big G cras.h.i.+ng towards them blocked their way, catching him now would be impossible.
"Get down," A deep voice suddenly rebuked him sternly.
Two figures had suddenly appeared on the ridge of the roof, blocking The Phoenix's exit.
One of the figures seemed to have merely waved his hand, and The Phoenix was knocked back. He stumbled back the way he came, and with a "thump" he fell into the courtyard, directly on top of the two constables he had just killed.
With an agile bounce the two figures had already landed softly in the courtyard: a cold face void of expression; and an elegant, refined face, like that of a young lady.
Forest and Dash had arrived.
Big G had just managed to st.u.r.dy himself, "Our old Mr. King actually has some skill," he laughed while clapping his hands.
Dash: "It wasn't me."
If it wasn't him, then it must have been Forest.
How could this little girly boy possess such advanced skills?
n.o.body knew, but they couldn't help but believe what they had just seen.
By this time The Phoenix was already tied up like a sticky rice dumpling.
The Golden Lion looked to the sky, crying out triumphantly, "I have been tracking you for twenty years, and now I have finally caught the crafty old fox."
Big G: "The stolen property is definitely in the grill room, you can bring it out whenever you want."
"Catching the thief with the loot, all of our hard work has truly come to the perfect ending," the Golden Lion said smiling.
Big G: "There is no need to thank me, if you are going to thank anyone, it should be him."
Big G was pointing at Forest, "Although this friend of mine looks delicate, he can drink more than a water tank," he said laughing.
The Golden Lion glanced over at The Rod, "We really should give him our thanks, but how should we thank him?"
"Seize them, arrest them all," he spoke sullenly.
"What did you say?" Big G nearly jumped up.
"These four are a den of thieves, even if they weren't conspiring with The Phoenix, they too are infamous bandits! Arrest them all, tie their hands behind their backs and take them for interrogation, we will make them talk," The Rod spoke in his sullen voice.
Big G was so angry he was about to explode, he started laughing instead, "I want to see who is brave enough to touch me?"
"You dare to resist arrest?" he spoke fervently.
"No," Dash said suddenly.
The Rod: "Since you wouldn't dare to resist arrest, why aren't you complying?"
Dash: "Although we wouldn't dare to resist arrest, it's a shame you aren't acting under the law, you're the thief."
Swally: "You're more ruthless than actual thieves."
Dash: "You have been painstakingly tracking The Phoenix for all these years, because you are after his money, not him."
Swally: "How much does a constable make every month? Would that satisfy the two of you? Just look at the clothes this golden gangster is wearing, I don't think a general would even be able to afford to dress like that."
Dash: "Not to mention, hiring a professional killer doesn't come cheap, there is no way that officials would pay for this kind of expense."
Swally: "But I am sure there are plenty of spoils with thieves being everywhere, leaving no shortage of loot for the two of you to spend however you want."
Dash: "There is no harm done in bringing in petty thieves for public recognition, but a serious criminal like The Phoenix, might as well keep him all to yourselves."
Swally: "Catching this kind of criminal, you can feed yourselves for at least two, three years."
Dash: "But keeping us around would be a risk, better to simply do away with the witnesses."
Swally: "Even though you are more ruthless than actual criminals, you haven't broken the law, how wonderful that must be."
Dash: "I already mentioned black eating black is quite fascinating, but I'm afraid your about to choke on your food."
Dash and Swally were speaking in unison, even Big G and Forest were listening stunned, and he clearly had less knowledge than Swally about the shady dealings that took place throughout the world of martial arts.
The Rod nearly attacked, but the Golden Lion held him back.
When they were finished speaking, the Golden Lion just laughed, "You two are absolutely right, I admit to everything."
He pointed at The Rod laughing, "This guy has a family in Kaifeng, Luoyang, Jinan, and Tianjin, each with a different wife. How could the measly salary of a constable afford all of that?"
"You have just as many wives as I do," he replied with a straight face.
"Too bad all of your wives are about to be widows," Big G shouted angrily.
The Golden Lion laughed, "Do you know why I wanted to share this with all of you?"
He pointed to the top of the walls, "There are thirty strong bows, and forty blades all belonging to our brothers in arms. Do you think they will let you go?"
"How do you think it feels to be shot through the heart by a stray arrow," The Rod said callously.
The Golden Lion: "Not to mention, brother black here that we hired at a heavy price."
He kept laughing, "Obviously you all know his name isn't black, and that sword of his is more than enough to take care of two or three of you, so I advise you all to listen up, so you can at least die an easy death," he added.
"You're talking out of your mother's a.s.s!" Big G yelled furiously.
"Kill him first, make an example out of him," the Golden Lion's face turned angry.
The person dressed in black had been standing to the side with his hands behind his back, "Who should kill him?" he suddenly asked.
Golden Lion: "You of course."
The Rod: "Three hundred extra pieces of gold for every person you kill."
"Good!" The person dressed in black said.
With a swipe of his hand he suddenly unleashed his sword, with a flash, he stabbed the Golden Lion in the shoulder.
It wasn't a long sword, it was short.
The scabbard was more than four feet long, but only a one foot seven inch short sword was concealed inside.
The Golden Lion was a formidable opponent, but he never expected the person dressed in black to turn on him, and he certainly did not expect such a short sword.
"Release!" The Rod screamed in panic.
He had already sprang forward while shouting.
But how could they let him go.
Big G and Swally came up from both sides, The Rod rushed out at an angle.
Dash had been motionless.
But he suddenly moved, just one move.
The accuracy and speed of this one move was simply impossible to describe.
The Rod noticed a flash before his eyes, and suddenly he appeared to be handcuffed.
Screams came from the people standing on the wall, they threw down their bows and blades, and completely vanished in the blink of an eye. They weren't getting a big enough cut to put their lives at risk.
Then, everyone's eyes turned to the person dressed in black, not a single person could figure out what was going on with him.
The Golden Lion's eyes were filled with furious indignation, "You accepted my gold, and now bite the hand that feeds you, you are more despicable than a mutt," he cried, biting his teeth.
"I was never a mutt," he replied casually.
The Golden Lion: "I have always heard that the 'Sword of Lost Souls,' was an honorable man, a man of his word, which is the only reason why we were willing to pay you such a heavy price, and now our little pet has pecked out our eyes."
"You two have always been blind," he said.
Golden Lion: "You... are you actually..."
"You actually think I am the 'Sword of Lost Souls?'" he asked.
The Golden Lion: "If you aren't the 'Sword of Lost Souls then who are you?'"
"I specialize in complicated matters, but this time I came to make your lives complicated," he said.
The Golden Lion: "Who are you?"
"Your superior, the captain general heard about your dirty habits, so he sent me to investigate, to see exactly what kind of schemes the two of you were up to," he replied.
He let out a shrill, abrupt, sneering laugh, and continued speaking, "And now that you have admitted to your crimes, I have everything I need, isn't this what you would call 'catching the thief with the loot, all of our hard work has truly come to the perfect ending.'"
The Golden Lion was staring at him, but didn't say another word.
The person dressed in black turned to Dash and his friends, saluting them with hands folded, "Any sect is going to have its share of degenerates, the Six Doors sect is no exception. But I hope that the next time you meet a constable, you will not be under the impression that they're all rotten," he said with a smile.
Big G laughed, "To be honest, I almost became a constable myself."
Swally: "If he were a constable, those bandits would be in luck."
"I have to thank the four of you for your n.o.ble deeds today, I plan on handing these three over to the authorities now," said the person dressed all in black.
Swally: "Please do."
Big G suddenly patted The Phoenix on the shoulder, "Actually, going to jail should be pretty comfortable for you, I guarantee you won't have to spend a dime," he said laughing.
The Phoenix just rolled his eyes. What else could he do really?
The person in black: "As to the stolen goods..."
Big G: "Naturally it should go to the warehouse for confiscated goods."
"The four of you practically solved this case, it is reasonable that you should have approximately thirty percent of the stolen property, as compensation, as long as the four of you are willing to come with me to the prefectural city..."
"No need," Dash interrupted before he was even finished speaking.
To walk so far just for some gold, even if you threatened to cut off his head, he wouldn't do it. Big G, Swally, and Forest were also not interested. In their eyes, there were many things in this world more important than wealth.
Big G laughed, "I'm afraid that all of this has brought us nothing but trouble, why don't you leave us the roasted ducks in the grill room as our compensation, which will be more than enough."
The peace of the town had been restored, the wind was blowing and the snow was falling just like it always had. Some things in this world are beyond the control of anything else; some people are the same way.
× × ×
The ducks had been roasted to perfection. Big G had just pulled one apart and was just about to take a bite. Suddenly, seven or eight pieces of jade the size of a person's finger fell out of the duck's stomach. Everyone's eyes went wide. They opened another duck, the stomach was full of onyx. Out of the dozens of ducks, there were ten or so with treasure hidden inside the stomachs.
Swally blinked, "I understand," he suddenly said.
Big G: "You understand?"
Swally: "The Phoenix wanted to hide all of the most valuable gems inside the ducks, and transport them out secretly, who knew we would charge in here first, so he only had time to stuff half of them."
Big G: "Makes sense."
Swally: "Our friend dressed in black didn't know how much treasure there was, even if he counted it all up, he wouldn't be able to tell."
Big G: "Makes sense."
Swally smiled, "Why are you playing dumb, you already thought this through."
Big G was blinking, "How did I know?"
Swally: "If you didn't know, then why did you ask him to leave you the ducks?"
Big G sighed, "If you're set on thinking this way about me, then there is nothing I can do."
He suddenly laughed again, "Anyway, it was reasonable to give us thirty percent of the stolen property as compensation, it would be a waste if we didn't spend it."
Swally was staring at him, shaking his head, "Sometimes, I can never figure you out."
Big G: "Oh?"
Swally: "I really can't tell if you are actually smart? Or just stupid?"
"When you say he is stupid, he is deliberately smart; when you say he is smart, he just has to be stupid."
This was also a conclusion.