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Chapter 18

Skinned Alive


       Skinned Alive's pawnshop was called profiteers.

       Profiteers had been right across from Old Mr. Barley's barbeque shop.

       Now his sign was gone, and there were a few people painting the front of the shop.

       Big G and Swally couldn't help but to sigh with emotion when thinking about Old Mr. Barley.

       After all, they had a lot of pleasant memories from spending time there.

       They definitely weren't the sentimental type, but certain things affected them that way.

       There was a horse and carriage parked in front of Profiteers.

       The door of the pawnshop was closed, as if he had no intention of doing business today.

       Big G and Swally looked at each other, they had just passed through the little side alley, when they saw Skinned Alive poke his head out of the back door and look around suspiciously. He was tightly grasping a bundle, saw that nobody was around, and jumped into the carriage.

       He immediately shut the door and pulled the curtains down.

       An old women slowly walked out of the pawnshop carrying a bucket of garbage.

       Big G knew who she was, she definitely wasn't Skinned Alive's wife, but she cooked for him and took care of various chores. Since she was too old, other than being able to eat for free, Skinned Alive didn't pay her anything. But when he needed something done, he would treat her like a little servant boy.

       Big G always found it strange that this old women was willing to keep working for him.

       If you worked for someone like Skinned Alive, and had an unfortunate accident, there probably wouldn't even be a coffin to put your soul to rest.

       They heard him yelling from inside the carriage, "Shut the door, under no circumstances are you to let anyone in, I will be back tomorrow morning."

       The driver raised his whip and the horse charged down the main road.

       Big G and Swally sprang out from the alley, jumping onto both sides of the carriage.

       The curtains immediately opened, and Skinned Alive poked his head out. He looked very startled, he was even more surprised when he realized who it was, "What are you two doing?"

       Big G laughed, "Nothing, just hitching a ride with you into the city."

       He instantly started to shake his head no, "No, it's all been arranged, this carriage won't accept any other passengers."

       Big G gave a big smile, "It has to be ok, since we already boarded would you actually push us off?"

       Swally laughed, "You were the one who asked us to go with you in the first place."

       Skinned Alive: "I didn't actually want you two..."

       He suddenly realized that he had said too much and instantly shut his mouth.

       Swally: "Not us? Did you change your mind?"

       He started to turn a little pale, he quickly gave a smile, "If you two want to hitch a ride that's fine, but you have to pay. It's a total of three silvers, so we can each pay one."

       He took the money in his left hand and immediately opened the carriage door with his right hand.

       As long as you had money, he could always make you feel that you had made a good deal, that was one good thing about Skinned Alive.

       He even let them have the two best seats.

       Big G was already seated when a new thought came to mind.

       Skinned Alive was tightly grasping the bundle he was carrying.

       "Swally, how about we make a bet?" Big G suddenly asked.

       Swally: "Sure, what do you want to bet?"

       Big G: "I bet you that there is a mouse in that bundle, what do you think?"

       Swally: "No way."

       Big G: "Ok, I will bet you ten silvers."

       Skinned Alive suddenly laughed again, "That's not necessary, I know that you two are just trying to see what's inside this bundle, isn't that right?"

       Big G smiled, "Maybe just a little bit."

       Skinned Alive: "You can have a look for ten pieces of silver."

       Big G never thought that he would have promised him so quickly. He had thought that there must be some big dirty little secret inside the bundle.

       As soon as Skinned Alive had the silver pieces in his left hand he immediately untied the bundle with his right hand.

       There was just a few old pieces of clothing inside.

       Big looked at Swally, Swally looked at Big G, all they could do was smile bitterly.

       Skinned Alive smiled, "You two regret losing those ten silvers don't you? Too bad you can't take them back."

       He was looking quite pleased with himself and was just about to tie the bundle back up.

       "One of those pieces of clothing belongs to Forest, doesn't it?" Swally suddenly asked.

       Skinned Alive coughed dryly a couple of times, "Yeah I think so, he already pawned it to me anyway."

       Swally: "The receipt hasn't expired, he can redeem it anytime he wants, so why are you taking it away?"

       Skinned Alive gradually started to look a little uncomfortable, "If he wants to make a redemption, I certainly have clothes for him."

       Big G: "How much did he pawn this piece of clothing for?"

       Skinned Alive: "Two and a half pieces of silver."

       Big G: "Good, I am going to redeem it for him right now."

       Skinned Alive: "Not ok."

       Big G: "I have money, what's wrong with that?"

       Skinned Alive: "You need the receipt as well, these are the rules at any pawnshop, did you bring the receipt?"

       Big G looked at Swally again, they didn't have anything to say, but they knew that something strange was going on.

       Why was Skinned Alive taking Forest's clothes to the city?

       The quality wasn't bad, but it was already worn-out. Why was he holding it so tightly, as if it was some kind of treasure.

       ×      ×      ×

       As soon as the carriage entered the city, Skinned Alive told them, "We have arrived, please get off."

       Swally: "Didn't you want us to accompany you?"

       Skinned Alive: "No need for that anymore, what's better than having money to spend, it's better to save whatever you can."

       Swally: "What if we accompany you for free?"

       Skinned Alive smiled, "That's even worse, any good business deal involves the exchange of money, there is always hassles when free is involved."

       Swally sighed, "Then I guess we will be getting off."

       Skinned Alive: "Goodbye, goodbye."

       As soon as they got out, he immediately shut the door with a BANG.

       Big G was watching the carriage drive away, he sighed as well, "There is something extremely treacherous about this guy, I can't figure out what he is up to."

       Sally was deep in thought: "He said too much just now, didn't you hear him say that we weren't the ones that he had wanted."

       Big G nodded.

       Swally: "Could it be that Forest was the only one he was really interested in, and we were just extras."

       Big G: "What does he want with Forest?"

       Swally: "I have always had the feeling that Forest is keeping some kind of secret."

       Big G thought about it for a moment, "Do you think he is a women dressed as a man?" he suddenly asked.

       Swally glared at him, "You have been reading too many stories, does that even happen in real life?"

       Big G didn't say anything.

       As soon as the carriage turned the corner, they suddenly sped up at the same time, running to catch up.

       They were not about to let this go so easily.

       The carriage stopped in front of a large tavern.

       Someone like Skinned Alive actually staying at this kind of place, now that was indeed quite strange.

       Fortunately it was already getting dark outside. It always got dark early during winter nights.

       They circled around to the back of the tavern and jumped over the walled enclosure.

       Most people aren't unlucky forever, and this time they got very lucky. As soon they landed in the trees, they saw Skinned Alive heading to a row of private houses across from the back courtyard.

       It was still very cold, and the courtyard was completely dark.

       They swept along through the trees, and after a few swift movements they landed on the top of the houses.

       They both realized that the other person had exceptional Qinggong, as if they were naturally gifted for accomplishing such feats.

       They both decided that they would find a way to ask the other person how they had cultivated such abilities.

        They were suddenly both curious about the other person's secret training techniques.


       The eaves were covered in icicles, so naturally the windows were shut tightly.

       Fortunately there was a fire burning inside, so the top windows had to be open to let the air circulate. 

       Looking inside from the small windows, they had the perfect angle to see what was going on inside.

      Other than Skinned Alive, there were two other people standing inside. They were dressed extravagantly, and had an impressive manner to them, their facial expressions were gloomy, as if the whole world owed them money.

       With one look Swally could tell that they were skilled warriors, and were no strangers to the world of martial arts. One of them, had a long scar across his face, making him look even scarier.

       Although the other one didn't have a scar on his face, he was missing an arm. There was an empty sleeve tucked into his belt, along with a curved scimitar hanging diagonally.

       It was rare to see this kind of sword, but martial artists with one arm could still wield it effectively, he was clearly not a novice.

        Not to mention, only people experienced in deadly encounters would have been injured so severely.

       Someone who was still alive after frequent encounters with death, with such a bearing, was sure to be someone you didn't want to upset. Big G couldn't figure out why someone like Skinned Alive would have any business with the likes of them.

       Skinned Alive had already unraveled the bundle, taking out the piece of clothing belonging to Forest. He placed it on the desk in front of the two people, looking very proud of himself, as if he was presenting them with some kind of precious treasure.

       What was so precious about this worn-out piece of clothing?

       The man with the scar on his face picked it up, looked at it closely and then handed it to the man with one arm.

       When he was flipping over the piece of clothing, Big G thought he had seen something embroidered on the inner lining, but he couldn't see what character it was, or maybe a flower?

       The man with one arm looked inside the garment, slowly nodding his head, "Not bad, this belongs to him."

       Skinned Alive smiled, "Of course, you can always count on me to get the job done."

       "Where is he?" The man with one arm asked.

       Skinned Alive didn't say anything, but he extended his hand.

       "You want it now?" The man with one arm asked.

       Skinned Alive smiled, "Pawnshop owners only deal in transactions on the spot, I'm sure you two are aware."

       "Ok, give it to him," the one armed man laughed coldly.

       The man with the scarred face instantly took out a pouch, and placed it on the table with a THUD.

       The pouch was very heavy.

       There was only one thing that Skinned Alive would be willing to pay five hundred silvers for, and that was something that could earn him five thousand silvers.

       Looked like Swally had been right, there appeared to be at least five thousand silvers in that pouch.

       Big G looked at Swally, he finally understood.

       These two people were definitely looking for Forest, and it was urgent as they didn't mind paying out such a large sum of money.

       Skinned Alive had already known this, but he didn't know that Forest was the one they had been looking for until he came across that piece of clothing.

       So he had wanted Forest to go with him to the city, then he could have handed him over to these two in person. Obviously they would have paid a lot more if he had delivered him in person.

       But what had Forest done that was worth such a hefty price just to find him?

       As soon as he saw the money, his face suddenly became adorable, he was smiling so much his eyes were barely open.

       "Where is he, you can talk now," the man with the scarred face said.

       No matter what Forest had done, he was clearly hiding from these two, so they couldn't let them find him.

       Big G was ready to charge in from the window.

       Who would have known that his happy face suddenly froze.

       His eyes were fixated on the entrance, his mouth hanging open, but he was speechless. His facial expression seemed like someone had suddenly stuffed his mouth full of mud.

       Big G followed his gaze, and was instantly shocked.

       He hadn't seen this person enter.

       It was just an ordinary looking old women, there was nothing surprising about her, but in Big G's wildest imaginations, he could never have pictured her there.

       He knew for certain that he had just seen her standing in front of profiteers with a bucket of garbage.

       Then they had boarded the carriage and drove here without stopping, how had she arrived, could she actually fly?

       It looked like Skinned Alive had seen a ghost, "You... What are you doing here?" he stammered.

       The old lady was carrying a little bowl with a cover, she walked in slowly, shaking her head, "It's time for your medicine, why do you always forget? I came to bring it for you, hurry up and drink it," she said with a sigh.

       Skinned Alive took the bowl, the only sound was the cover of the bowl making a clinking sound.

       It wasn't just his hand shaking, he had broken out in a cold sweat.

       The two men were standing their expressionless, they had been staring coldly at the old women the whole time. They suddenly made a move, two black flashes came flying towards the bowl.

       They were not slow.

       Who knew that as soon as the flashing blades arrived in front of the old lady, she suddenly disappeared.

       She clearly had not even moved.

       The facial expression of the scar faced man changed slightly.

       The man with one arm still had no expression, he just laughed callously, "I never thought we had a master present, that's great, just excellent."

       The old women suddenly smiled, "No, there isn't anything great about it."

       "Why not?" said the one armed man.

       "What good does it do you? Only misfortune awaits the two of you," she said.

       He suddenly sprang forward, "Who are you? How dare you interfere in our affairs!" he yelled angrily.

       The Old Lady: "Who is interfering in your affairs? Your affairs are not worthy of my attention, even if you knelt before me and begged, I would never get involved in your affairs."

       Old women are often in the habit of talking people's ears off.

       "Then what are you doing here?" he asked.

       "I want him to take his medicine. Hurry up, you need to have a nap after you finish taking your medicine."

       Skinned Alive frowned, but he plugged his nose and swallowed the medicine down.

       "Good, now go back and sleep," the old lady said.

       She was pulling him along like he was her son, she walked Skinned Alive outside.

       Suddenly a blade flashed, the one armed man came flying through the air, his curved scimitar slicing through the air.

       People who could attack while flying through the air clearly had exceptional skills with a blade.

       But the blade flashed just once and then disappeared.

       His bright, curved scimitar suddenly broke in half, and fell to the floor with a CLANG.

       It fell right beside the man with one arm.

       He didn't know how, but he was already kneeling in front of the old lady. His head was covered in sweat, as if he was trying with all his strength to stand up, but all of his strength wasn't enough to even move.

       The old women sighed, "I already told you, even if you kneel before me I'm not going to get involved in your affairs, since you didn't hear me the first time you must be hard of hearing?" she muttered.

       She was mumbling to herself as she hobbled out the door.

       Skinned Alive followed obediently, he was too scared to even breath. 

       The large fellow with a scar on his face was sweating profusely, "Please wait a moment," he suddenly said, showing respect to the older women.

       The Old Lady: "Wait for what? Would you like to bow before me as well?"

       "Since you're already involved, your humble servant has nothing to say, I only hope that you might tell us your name, then I will at least know what to tell my master."

       "Are you asking me my name?"

       "Yes, please," said the man with the scarred face.

       The Old Lady: "You're not worthy, you wouldn't know who I am even if I told you.

       She suddenly added, "But you can go back and tell your master, tell him he has an old friend with some advice for him, have mercy on the small child, don't force it otherwise you might upset a certain someone."

       She slowly walked out of the door.

       He chased after her to the entrance as if he still wanted to ask her something.

       But there wasn't even a shadow, the old women and Skinned Alive had suddenly disappeared.


       This old women who did the cooking was actually an extremely high level master. Her kong fu skills were more impressive than most people could even dream about.

       No wonder why the Golden Poodle and The Rod left that day with such a respectful attitude. If they hadn't suffered at the hands of this old women, then they at least recognized who she was.

       Big G and Swally finally understood what happened that day.

       But now they had another issue that they couldn't figure out, they looked at each other, and then simultaneously jumped back.

       There was a big tree behind them.

       The tree didn't have any leaves, only snow.

       Swally was squatting on a limb, but Big G sat down, he suddenly jumped up as if there was a knife to his bum.

       The cold snow felt sharp as a knife.

       Swally sighed, shaking his head, "Don't you ever look down before having a seat?"

       Big G smiled bitterly, "I didn't notice, I was busy thinking about something."

       The branch was quite thick, Big came and crouched beside Swally, "I was thinking about that old lady, she is clearly a master of the highest standing, why would she work as a servant at his pawnshop?"

       Swally was deep in thought, "Perhaps she is hiding from someone, just like The Phoenix was."

       Big G: "Sounds like a good reason, but when you think about it, some things don't add up."

       Swally: "Oh?"

       Big G: "The world is such a big place, there are countless places she could hide, especially someone with those kind of skills, so why would she pretend to be someone's servant, having to listen to everything he says, and letting him take his anger out on her."

       He was shaking his head, "Even if she was willing to act as someone's servant, she should at least find a better place, and a better person, why did it have to be Skinned Alive?" he added.

       Swally: "I don't know,"

       Big G: "I just can't figure it out."

       Swally: "If you can't figure it out, then nobody else is going to be able to figure it out."

       Big G smiled, "If I can't even figure it out, then I'm afraid there isn't many people who could."

       Swally: "Perhaps that is why she is doing it."

       Big G: "But there is numerous things that are impossible to figure out."

       Swally: "Such as?"

       Big G: "Did you see her kung fu, there is probably only a few people in the whole world who could take her on."

       Swally sighed, "She certainly does possess a very high level of kung fu, I have never seen anyone as good as her, I haven't even heard of anyone that good."

       Big G: "So why would she be scared of anyone, she doesn't have any reason to hide."

       Swally: "Don't forget, diamonds cut diamonds, some mountains will always be taller than others."

       Big G: "That's just a stupid old saying."

       Swally: "Stupid sayings often make the most sense, there is a reason why they have been around forever."

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