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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 11

CSI

Chapter 11 – Game of Dice

He knew that as soon as such secret projectile hit the body, no one would be able to save her. If he had just acted a little slower just now, the one lying on the ground right now would have been himself.

There seemed to be a trace of remaining breath in the nun’s chest. Suddenly she opened her eyes to look at Chu Liuxiang. Unexpectedly her gaze had suddenly become strangely clear and bright.

Chu Liuxiang sadly said, “Do you still have anything to say?”

The nun’s lips were starting to move several times; finally she was able to produce feeble noises, “Wu … Wu …” [lit. no/without]

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “You have nothing else to say?”

The nun’s face was full of anxiety, beads of perspiration flowed over her head, but although she had exhausted all her strength, she was unable to utter another word.

Finally she died.

At the final radiance of the setting sun [fig. dying flash] just before her death, her mind suddenly became exceptionally clear and bright, unexpectedly she was leaving Chu Liuxiang a significant clue, it’s a pity that Chu Liuxiang did not know it.

By the time Chu Liuxiang left the Wuyi Convent, the night has already been very dark, yet his mind was even darker. He had been hoping for the biggest clue, unexpectedly it was also shattered.

Sighing inwardly, he mused, “No wonder the murderer was not afraid I went to Wuyi Convent; turns out he already knew Su Xin Dashi has been dead for a long time. Otherwise, although outside Sun Xuepu’s window I was trying with all my heart to protect against him making his move toward Sun Xuepu, but later on he would still have a lot of opportunity to kill Sun Xuepu to shut his mouth.”

“Turned out he wanted to borrow Sun Xuepu’s mouth to mention ‘Wuyi Convent’, and then impersonating ‘Su Xin Dashi’ he wanted to lure me into the wrong road. Who would have thought that I have seen through his flaw?”

“Hence, one ruse failed, he calculated that I would definitely go to the Wuyi Convent, so he hid on the beam inside the meditation room first, trying to catch me unprepared, he threw Su Xin’s bones and made his move against me.”

“Although this time he did not succeed, I could not say that his plan was not carefully thought of. His means is even more malicious. If I was slightly careless, it would be difficult for me to avoid falling into his evil scheme. He is wholeheartedly unwilling that I be involved in this matter, and he has no scruple in killing that many lives, it is thus clear that the secret involved in this matter must be extremely astonishing.”

Thinking to this point, not only Chu Liuxiang did not have any fear or intention to shrink back, on the contrary, it has aroused the indignation toward the enemy even more. It has fanned his desire to determine superior/inferior position against this formidable opponent.

He did not take adventure and taking risk for granted.

The more dangerous it was, the more interesting it was for him.

He suddenly threw his head back and laugh; he said, “You listen to me, whoever you are; you want to scare me that I withdraw, that is just a dream. Sooner or later I am going to uncover your secret; you can’t run away from me.”

A deathly still desolate area outside the city, with no sign of human presence as far as his eyes could see, it was unclear whether his ghostly opponent was hiding in the dark, it was also unclear whether the opponent heard his challenge.

Chu Liuxiang stopped his laughter and sank back into contemplation.

Just before that silly nun died, what did she want to say?

She was saying one word, ‘Wu’, was it really the first word ‘wu’ of ‘wu hua ke shuo’ [nothing to say]?

Chu Liuxiang muttered, “Looking at her eyes, there must be a lot that she wanted to say. Is it possible that she meant ‘Wu’ [surname Wu], i.e. that assassin was surnamed ‘Wu’?”

His mind was churning; he suddenly remembered that the nun died under the Chinese parasol tree [wutong]. Could it be the ‘Wu’ was from the word ‘wutong’? Was she trying to tell Chu Liuxiang that there was some secret buried under the wutong tree?

Thinking to this point, Chu Liuxiang immediately turned around. But before he even started to run back toward the Wuyi Convent, he already saw a violent blaze soaring to the sky.

Unexpectedly the Wuyi Convent had turned into an ocean of fire. Whatever secret was buried under the wutong tree would have been burned clean.

Chu Liuxiang returned to the city. The night market was already coming to an end.

He was tired and hungry, but he decided to rush toward the Hall of Delight first.

A woman like Qiu Lingsu was definitely not a nobody. Presumably the husband she married was also outstanding and well-known. Zhusha Men’s disciples were numerous, they came from various strata of the society, perhaps someone would know their whereabouts.

These past few days, admittedly his mind was in chaos, so that he did not remember that he also had connections in various strata of the society; but how come he had never heard anything pertaining to Qiu Lingsu?

If even he did not know, how would anyone else know?

Suddenly he heard the sound of hoof beats coming from behind, followed by someone yelling lightly, “Get out of the way!”

Chu Liuxiang had just evaded sideways, a horse brushed past him.

The rider was wearing black cloak, which was fluttering in the wind, revealing the fiery-red satin inside. The man and the horse sped along, they nearly knocked Chu Liuxiang down.

However, instead of losing his temper, he blurted a praise instead, “Excellent spirited steed!”

Toward horses, as well as toward women, Chu Liuxiang had a special taste. Sometimes, when he saw a good horse, he was a lot more delighted than seeing a beauty.

The moment he took a glance, he knew that this horse was indeed a one-in-ten-thousand kind of dragon horse. It may be assumed that the person who could see this kind of horse was definitely not an ordinary character.

“Who’s that person?” Chu Liuxiang muttered to himself, “Why did he come to Jinan city? Although a beautiful woman would sometimes marry a klutz, but a gold colt cannot be ridden by a mediocre person. When a good horse selects its master, that insight is indeed much more precise than a woman selecting a husband. At least it can’t be deceived by several graceful words, flowery speech from a man, and it would not be dazzled by looking at shining white silver. If it already picked a master, oftentimes it will be a lot more loyal than a woman toward her husband.”

Muttering to himself, he could not help smiling.

Always trying to find a chance to smile, taking it easy and relaxing his own nerve, this was the approach with which he conducted himself, perhaps it was also the reason that no matter how critical his situation was, he was always able to find a reason to live – if one’s nerve was strained too much, when he encountered a dangerous situation, he might not know how to deal with it.

Moreover, he was confident that his view would never be wrong; just because concerning women and horses, these two things, he could really be regarded as a rare authority.

Before he even reached the Hall of Delight, Chu Liuxiang already saw the horse again. It was standing under the lantern at the Hall of Delight’s main gate, while continuously raising its head high and letting out low neigh.

Its master did not tie it up at all, it seemed that practically he was not afraid someone would steal the horse away. Several people were standing on the side, far away from the horse; unexpectedly no one dared to come near it.

One man was squatting, wrapping his arms around his belly, his face was full of pain. Chu Liuxiang walked over and patted him on the shoulder; he said with a laugh, “Did friend received suffering from it?”

With pained expression the man cursed, “That damned horse, very vicious.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Good flower will have lots of thorns; beauties and good horses are usually difficult to provoke. This, my friend, you’d better keep in your mind, always.”

He really wanted to see, the master of this horse came to the Hall of Delight, what did he want? While speaking, he strode inside.

It was not even midnight yet, it ought to be the busiest and most lively time at the gambling hall, yet although the rooms were brightly lit, inside, the crow and peacock made no sound [absolute silence]. Chu Liuxiang secretly knitted his brows as he lifted up the curtain and walked in.

He saw unexpectedly several dozen gamblers were standing close to the wall, each one had scared expression on their bloodless face. The usually swallow-like girls who walked back and forth around the gambling hall were also standing quietly while their body was trembling.

He looked at the bodyguards, who were currently lying on the ground; some were really unable to crawl back up, but some others were afraid to crawl back up. Several dozen pairs of eyes, all were staring blankly at the man in the black cloak.

He was standing perfectly straight in front of a gambling table, with his back facing the door. Chu Liuxiang could only see the shiny black whip in his hand, but he could not see his face.

Chu Liuxiang could only see Leng Qiuhun’s face.

Leng Qiuhun’s face was already without the slightest color of blood, but now there was panic, and there was terror, in his eyes; he was also staring at the mysterious black cloak.

The hall was quiet without the slightest bit of noise, the people were nervous and trembling, the atmosphere was oppressive and stifling, just like an arrow on the bow, or the air just before a rainstorm arrived.

No one paid any attention as Chu Liuxiang walked in. Chu Liuxiang did not disturb anybody either. He was simply walking over quietly, and stood quietly on the side.

He finally saw the mystical ‘black cloak’ – unexpectedly he was a youngster. Inside the black cloak he was wearing black skintight shirt, black belt, black riding boots, black calf hide gloves. In his hand he held a black long whip tightly. Only his face was pale; frighteningly pale.

Looking at him from the side, Chu Liuxiang saw the bridge of his nose was cut straight, his thin lips were tightly closed, a sign of his strong and grim character.

The tip of his brows was slanting up, under the pitch-black eyebrows was a pair of deep eyes, so deep that no one could see the bottom, no one could see his heart.

His face was nearly perfect. In fact, the young man’s entire body hardly had the slightest flaw. This kind of fantastic ‘perfection’ was unexpectedly so perfect that it was actually terrifying.

Leng Qiuhun was staring at him, he seemed to be contemplating a reply, but the youngster in black did not seem to be anxious, he simply stared at him back. Leng Qiuhun finally spoke slowly, “Since Sire wishes to gamble, naturally Zaixia will be honored to accompany. But Zaixia would like to consult Sire’s honorable surname and great given name first. Presumably Sire would unlikely go so far as not to tell me?”

“I don’t have a name,” the youth in black said.

His voice was cold and detached, sharp and curt, but it was somewhat different to the Central Plains’ One Red Dot – the two voices were like blades, it’s just that Yitian Hong’s blade was rusty, but this youth’s blade was the sharp kind, which, when a single strand of hair was blown toward it, would cut the hair. Yitian Hong’s voice was mournful and sinister, but this youth’s voice was irascible and blunt.

Leng Qiuhun said, “Since Sire is unwilling to tell your distinguished name, I am afraid …”

“You are afraid what?” the youth said.

“The rule here,” Leng Qiuhun started, “Is that we don’t gamble with strangers …”

He looked at the young man’s eyes; immediately he broke into a hollow laugh and went on, “But Sire has come from afar, Zaixia naturally must not disappoint Sire.”

“That’s very good,” the youth in black said.

“But I wonder what Sire would like to play?” Leng Qiuhun said.

“Dice,” the youth in black replied.

“And the stake …” Leng Qiuhun said.

The youth reached out and tossed a piece of jade annulus. Under the lamplight, this jade annulus looked glossy and warm, without the slightest bit of blemish. Even Chu Liuxiang has never seen such a perfect precious jade in all his life, perhaps the Jade Annulus of He Clan[1], which according to legend was enough to overturn the nations, may not necessarily be much better than this jade annulus.

Leng Qiuhun was also a man who knew his stuff; his eyes immediately lit up, but his mouth spoke indifferently, “Sire wants to bet this jade annulus against what?”

“You,” the youth in black coldly replied.

Leng Qiuhun’s countenance changed, but he threw his head back and roared in laughter, “Me? I, Leng Qiuhun, am that valuable?”

The youth in black said, “If I win, you come with me.”

Leng Qiuhun’s laughter suddenly stopped, as if it was cut short by a blade. His eyes fixed on the jade annulus on the table, greedy look appeared in his eyes, he then turned his gaze on the dice lying next to the jade annulus. “All right!” he suddenly said, “I’ll play!”

At his words, the silence of the hall was broken by a commotion. But Chu Liuxiang knew that since Leng Qiuhun dared to use his own person as the gambling stake, there must be some ingenious trick on these six dice, hence victory was assured.

He saw Leng Qiuhun tossed the six dice one by one into a white porcelain bowl, and then using a good saucer he covered the bowl. He spoke slowly, “Gambling with dice, there are so many ways to play. Sire …”

The youth in black said, “We bet small, the smaller dots win.”

Leng Qiuhun chuckled lightly and said, “Betting small or betting big, it’s all the same. Sire, please.”

He was just about to hand the dice over, the youth spoke coldly, “You throw first.”

Leng Qiuhun thought for a moment, he said, “Same point …”

The youth impatiently said, “Same point can be considered a match.”

“All right,” Leng Qiuhun said.

Waving his hand, a crisp noise as the dice hit the bowl immediately resounded throughout the hall.

His expression looked grave, he was in full concentration, as he continuously shook the bowl and its lid next to his ear. The dice were rolling in the bowl, creating burst after burst of sound that break the people’s soul.

Everyone in the hall seemed to be too nervous to breathe.

And then there was a loud ‘Bang!’ as Leng Qiuhun put the bowl on the table.

Unblinking, several dozen pairs of eyes were fixed on his pale hand.

He slowly raised his hand to uncover the lid, exposing those six frightening dice – the hall erupted in uproar.

Unexpectedly all six dice showed one red dot; with the white porcelain bowl as the backdrop, they looked like six drops of blood.

Six dice, six points, nothing can be lower than that. Leng Qiuhun had indeed occupied an invincible position. He could not stop a hint of pleased and proud smile from appearing on the corner of his mouth.

Chu Liuxiang sighed inwardly, “Leng Qiuhun’s hand skill is indeed not bad, but I wonder what the youngster is going to do to beat him?”

The youngster unexpectedly did not show any emotion; he still spoke coldly, “Indeed not bad.”

Leng Qiuhun smiled and said, “Sire, please.”

“Very well,” the youngster replied.

As soon as the word ‘very well’ came out of his mouth, the long whip in his hand suddenly shot out like a viper.

Leng Qiuhun was shocked; he thought the youngster was going to use force, but this flying-out-like-lightning long whip unexpectedly stopped suddenly above the dice. The tip pf the whip ingeniously curled up to roll one die, which it suddenly let go.

‘Swish!’ the die flew straight out, and ‘Pop!’ it embedded itself on the white-washed wall. The whole die entered the wall, exposing only one side, this side was precisely showing one dot. Using hands to flick the die and embed it into the wall to expose only one dot was absolutely not an easy matter, it could already be considered a first-class secret projectile master in the world. Yet this young man was able to use the tip of a six-chi long whip to roll the die and shoot it out; the strength of his wrist, as well as his eyesight, was simply unfathomable.

The crowd could not help crying out in alarm.

In the midst of the cry, the long whip rolled up the second die and shot it out.

The second die unexpectedly hit the first one, pushing it further into the wall, exposing only one side – naturally it was still one blood-red dot.

Like a rattlesnake the long whip hissed and moved; the dice flew out in succession. The fourth die hit the third die, the fifth die hit the fourth one …

In a flash all six dice were embedded in the wall, exposing only one side of the last die – one dot. All eyes were practically looking straight at it.

The youth in black’s face did not change at all, he slowly said, “My six dice only show one dot. You lose …”

Leng Qiuhun’s face was grey like a dead man; suddenly he cried out, “This does not count. Of course this does not count.”

The youth in black laughed coldly, “You want to renege?”

The long whip suddenly flew out again, like a serpent it coiled over Leng Qiuhun.

Leng Qiuhun was, after all, not a weakling. Suddenly his saber left its scabbard. Who would have thought that the long whip seemed to have a life of its own? Unexpectedly it changed direction midway to catch the steel saber.

Immediately Leng Qiuhun’s steel saber left his hand, ‘Pop!’ it nailed itself on the beam of the hall, the red silk cloth on the hilt of his saber fluttered, a streak of blood appeared on his pale face.

The youth in black laughed coldly and said, “You lose. Come with me!”

Leng Qiuhun was so shocked that he could only stare blankly. Suddenly he heard someone drawled, “Gentlemen, please hold. Zaixia wishes to bet against this friend as well.”

Leisurely voice, indifferent smile, who else but Chu Liuxiang?

Just now when the long whip was dancing in the breeze, the cloak flipped over, out of the corner of his eyes Chu Liuxiang was able to see that under the cloak with scarlet lining on the inside was unexpectedly an embroidered flying camel. Were it not for this flying camel, perhaps he would not have come out.

The crowd has already been shocked by this youngster’s martial art skill, this moment unexpectedly there was someone who came to bet against him, they could not help staring wide-eyed at Chu Liuxiang.

Leng Qiuhun felt as if he had just received an amnesty from a nightmare. Immediately he broke into a big smile as he said, “Since Zhang Xiong also want to bet, that is very good, it’s simply very good.”

The youth in black’s gaze, which was as deep as the ocean, as sharp as the blade, has already been fixed on Chu Liuxiang’s face. Anybody who was being stared at by this kind of gaze would inevitably be beside themselves.

But Chu Liuxiang remained indifferent, chuckling and returning his gaze, he said, “Sire came from the desert?”

The youngster’s cold face surprisingly changed suddenly, “Who are you?” he asked in astonishment.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Just like Sire, I forgot my name.”

The youngster stared at him for half a day. Finally he said, “You want to bet? All right! What do you want to bet?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Dice. Naturally it is still dice, naturally it is still the smaller points win.”

He had not finished speaking, everybody already thought that this person must be insane – the youngster’s six dice came out to be one dot, he still think he could win?

The youngster seemed to be intrigued as well; his eyes flickered, he said, “And your stake …”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If Sire lose, naturally Zaixia have no choice but to win this jade annulus back, this Leng Gongzi naturally does not need to come with Sire anymore. Apart from this, Zaixia would like to ask Sire a few questions.”

His condition was indeed very harsh. The young man raised his eyebrows and said, “And if you lose?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed indifferently and said, “If Zaixia loses, I will tell Sire what you want to know.”

The youngster’s countenance changed again, “How do you know what I was going to ask?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Maybe I do.”

If the other party lost, his condition was so harsh, but if he lost, he would only lose a sentence. Moreover, it was only a ‘maybe’. This kind betting was simply too unfair. Plus everybody knew that the youngster still had full confidence of victory, he would never agree to this kind of betting.

Who would have thought that the youngster simply thought for a moment, and then replied resolutely, “Very well, I’ll play.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I knew Sire would.”

The youngster said, “I have rolled the dice, do you want me to throw again?”

“No need,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

The more everybody thought that there must be something wrong with this man’s head, furthermore, the problem was not a small one. They saw him walking toward the other gambling table and picked up six dice.

He grasped these six dice in his hand, Leng Qiuhun seemed to feel that his entire body was also in his grasp. Chu Liuxiang appeared calm, but Leng Qiuhun’s head was full of cold sweats; he could not help speaking, “Zhang Xiong must not forget, that friend threw a one.”

Laughing indifferently, Chu Liuxiang responded, “I know.”

Waving his hand, the first die flew out.

Everybody knew he wanted to copy the youngster, but he could only follow the prescription, i.e. throwing a one; at most he would not lose, but definitely he would not win.

Moreover, the youngster was using his whip to shoot the dice, and he was using his hand. It goes without saying that in term of the degree of difficulty, he already fell short by a large amount. Why did he even bother to come and showoff his disgrace?

But the die’s momentum was indeed extraordinarily slow, unexpectedly it was as if the die was hanging from a thread, the crowd really did not understand, how could the die not fall down?

Although nobody understood the profound skill behind this, but everybody understood that this kind of ‘slow’ was a lot more difficult than ‘fast’.

By this time the second die already flew out of Chu Liuxiang’s hand. It overtook the first die, and ‘Chi!’ it hit and obliterated the first die.

The third die was flying a bit faster. It overtook the second die and ‘Dang!’ it hit and shattered the second die.

Chu Liuxiang’s finger flicked lightly, each die was flying a bit faster than the previous one. The fourth smashed the third, the fifth crushed the fourth …

The fifth die did not stop. It bumped into the wall, and shot back. Unexpectedly it just met the sixth die, the two dice collided against each other in the air, and both shattered.

Six dice unexpectedly became fine powder that fell to the ground, unexpectedly all six fell at the same place and became one pile of dust. Watching this, the crowd was stupefied, as if they had just witness some kind of magic trick.

Chu Liuxiang clapped his hands, smiled and said, “My six dices did not even produce one dot, I am afraid Sire has lost.”

Finally Leng Qiuhun could not help jumping with joy. Clapping and laughing, he said, “Not bad, not bad, six dice did not even show one dot. Wonderful, extremely wonderful, simply too wonderful.”

The youth in black’s countenance was deathly pale. Although Chu Liuxiang’s method was a cheap trick, his technique was truly genuine goods at fair prices, without the least bit of cheap trick feeling.

Besides, his own victory over Leng Qiuhun could also be considered cheap trick; how could he speak about others? This moment his situation was exactly the same as Leng Qiuhun’s just now; he could not renege even if he wanted to renege. Normally when toying with others, he always had the upper hands, he had never thought that today his trick boomeranged.

His deep, big eyes were flashing; anger, regret, resentment, admiration, mixed together.

This pair of eyes was originally as deep and still as the ocean, but this moment it appeared like the red clouds on the horizon, many shapes and many colors, changing unpredictably. This pair of cold and detached eyes unexpectedly became full of emotions all of a sudden.

Even Chu Liuxiang could not help staring at him blankly. He sighed inwardly, “If this pair of eyes belongs to a girl’s face, the girl must be a remarkably beautiful woman; if she cast a glance toward a man, even if that man had to die for her, perhaps he would be delighted to do so … too bad this pair of eyes belongs to a man’s face; indeed they grew on the wrong face.”

[1] Jade Annulus of He Clan, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Shi_Bi. More (fictional) info on this can be found in the Legend of The Great Tang’s Twin Dragons, translated by yours truly.

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