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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 13

CSI

Chapter 13 – Three-snake Soup

Two men, one high up in the air, the other standing on the ground, were in deadlock. If the sword was not a divine sharp weapon made of hundred-times refined highly perfected steel, perhaps it would have snapped early on.

Overwhelmed with shock, Yitian Hong let out a shout; he pulled his body down with everything he had and thrust his sword to the ground. This move was both amazing and ruthless. With the tip of the sword pointing down, naturally Chu Liuxiang was no longer able to attach himself to the sword.

Suddenly a ‘crack!’ was heard; Chu Liuxiang flew horizontally for two zhang, and landed on the ground. His palms still tightly clamped both the letter and the tip of the sword. Unexpectedly, this treasured sword, which had gone through a thousand hammers and a hundred refinements [fig. the vicissitudes of life], which was able to cut a strand of hair blown onto it, which usually Yitian Hong treasured more than he treasured his own life, was finally broken into two pieces.

With grieved countenance, Yitian Hong’s trembling voice said, “Good! Good martial art skill indeed, good shenfa!”

Smiling slightly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Hong Xiong deliberately yielded to me.” Before he even finished speaking, the smile suddenly froze on his face.

‘Dang!’ the half piece of the sword fell to the floor, the letter also turned into pieces of butterflies, fluttering in the air. A gust of wind blew from the window, blowing everything away without any trace.

What happened was that when the two men’s power clashed against each other just now, internal energy was flowing continuously from Chu Liuxiang’s palms; forget about the letter made of thin writing paper, even copper disk and steel plate would not be able to withstand.

Yitian Hong was stunned as well. “This … this …” he stammered.

Chu Liuxiang sighed. Smiling wryly, he said, “It seems that I am destined not to be able to read the letter.”

Yitian Hong stared blankly for half a day. Finally he said, “This … this letter is that important?”

Actually, he was fully aware that this question was superfluous; if this letter was not important, Chu Liuxiang would not have risked his life to snatch it away, and many people would not have died because of it.

But Chu Liuxiang simply laughed aloud and said, “It’s nothing. I broke your sword, I should have apologized to you.”

Yitian Hong was silent for half a day. Finally he threw his head back and let out a long hiss; he said, “For as long as I live, if I ever look for you to fight, let me be like this sword.”

‘Pop!’ the half sword in his hand flew out and nailed itself onto the beam.

Right this moment, a shadow flew in. Unexpectedly it was the youngster in black. When the letter was destroyed, Chu Liuxiang was thinking of looking for him; unexpectedly he came back. Unable to hold his delight, he said, “Sire came at the opportune time, Zaixia was about to ask for your guidance on something.”

Who would have thought that the youngster in black did not seem to hear him at all; with fear plastered all over his face, he took a quick look around before suddenly hid behind the window curtain.

The decoration of this ‘Hall of Delight’ was magnificent, and was also very particular. The windows were covered in thick purple curtains that hung to the floor, so that during the late-night gambling, the light would not be leaked out.

As it was still early, the curtains had not been lifted up; rolled to one side, this youngster in black’s slim figure was completely hidden.

Chu Liuxiang and Yitian Hong looked at each other; inwardly, they were both baffled.

Why did the young man come back? Why was he so afraid? With his haughty temperament, what or who could possibly make him hide like this?

While they were still pondering in their hearts, they suddenly heard the sound of bamboo flute in the distance. The sound was sharp and short, one note followed the other in staccato, in the blink of an eye the sound already surrounded the building all around.

And then, a burst of fishy smell blew, unexpectedly there were over twenty, big and small, multi-colored, brightly colored, vipers, slithering their way in from the outside.

Knitting his brows, Chu Liuxiang leaped onto the gambling table and sat cross-legged down.

Yitian Hong also frowned, but he flew onto the beam, pulled the half-broken sword, and threw it down. One of the vipers, the biggest one, was immediately nailed to the ground.

The viper was unexpectedly very strong; its red tongue flashing, like a whip its body trashed around, ‘Crack! Crack!’ the solid stone floor was smashed open.

But Yitian Hong’s hand was very strong; the half sword was thrown with such a force that it was driven straight into the ground, leaving only the hilt, wrapped in black light silk.

The viper unleashed its strength in vain, no matter how it trashed around, it was unable to escape. The rest of the vipers unexpectedly swarmed over and bit its body, instantly had its flesh and blood sucked clean.

Watching this, Yitian Hong was disgusted, but was amazed at the same time. Hanging on the beam, he knitted his brows and said, “These snakes are very evil; where did they come from?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Hong Xiong, I am afraid you already provoked trouble.”

He has not finished speaking, three men walked in in large strides.

The leader was big and tall, the clothes he wore was full of patches upon patches, which, God knows how many times it had been washed, but it was clean and threadbare.

Although he dressed like a beggar, but he looked disdainfully out of the corner of his eye; a fierce, vicious expression across his face, a haughty, considered himself unexcelled in the world, practically did not consider anybody worthy in his eyes.

The two men behind him also wore clothes with hundred knots, their faces fiendish, there were seven, eight sackcloth pouches hanging on their back; unexpectedly they were high-ranking disciples of the Beggar Clan.

The Beggar Clan’s organization was very tight, the difference between seniors and juniors was very clear, this big and tall beggar did not even have a single pouch on his back, so he ought to be an apprentice who has not entered the school yet.

However, from the expression showing on those two seven- and eight-pouch disciples’ faces, they appeared to be deeply deferential, almost fearful. This, in the eyes of Jianghu veterans, was unusually strange.

Even more baffling, the big beggar had fierce, vicious expression on his face, as well as the appearance of someone who had undergone a long vicissitudes of like and hard work; no matter how you look at him, his skin should be black and coarse.

But the skin all over his body was fair and delicate, just like a fine jade; it seemed like it was a lot more delicate and smooth than a virgin who has not stepped out of her lady’s chamber.

Chu Liuxiang sighed again; he muttered, “Trouble indeed has come.”

That big and tall beggar’s pair of triangular eyes flashed with ominous glint as he swept his gaze around, and then, without blinking, he fixed his stare at Chu Liuxiang’s face, and spoke angrily, “Nong [you, in Wu dialect] have the guts to kill our Gang’s Ge Ling She [lit. square/rectangular spirit snake], do you want to die quickly?”

In his anger, he spoke in local dialect, and unexpectedly it was the pleasant-sounding Wu dialect, which was in big contrast with his big and tall figure, his fierce and vicious countenance.

Yitian Hong was about to answer, Chu Liuxiang already cut him off, “Your Gang? Sire mentioned your ‘Gang’, I wonder which Gang is that?” [Translator’s note: see my previous note on ‘Beggar Clan’ instead of ‘Beggar Gang’.]

The big and tall, vicious looking beggar spoke sternly, “Nong, are you blind? Can’t you even see Beggar Clan disciples?”

Chu Liuxiang calmly replied, “Beggar Clan disciples, naturally I can see. But Sire has been expelled from the Beggar Clan more than ten years ago; how could you dare to call yourself a Beggar Clan disciple today?”

The big and tall, vicious looking beggar’s countenance changed. Throwing his head back in wild laughter he repeatedly said, “I didn’t expect a yellow-mouthed kid like you would know laoyezi’s [I, your father] background.”

Chu Liuxiang unhurriedly said, “If I don’t know your background, who’d know your background? Your original surname was Bai, only because you committed multifarious evil, and grew delicate skin and white flesh, Jianghu people called you ‘Baiyu Mo Gai’ [white jade demon/devil beggar]. You think highly of yourself instead, and got rid of the character ‘gai’ [beggar], so you called yourself Bai Yumo.”

Surprisingly he spoke about this vile beggar’s origin in one breath as if he was enumerating his family valuables [fig. very familiar with the subject matter].

Ba Yumo sternly said, “Well said. What else?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “More than ten years ago, your brutality flared out, in Huqiu [district] Suzhou [prefecture, Jiangsu province], you raped and murdered seventeen yellow flowers [i.e. young virgin] maidens at a stretch. Enraged, the old Bangzhu determined to put you to death according to the house rules; who would have thought you were aware of his intention, and went into hiding. The old Bangzhu was unable to find you, he could only expel you from the school.”

Bai Yumo laughed nastily and said, “Yes, that’s exactly right. It’s just that nowadays the old man already died, the new Bangzhu is not stubborn and ignorant like he was; knowing that if he wants to revive our Gang’s prestige, he would need laozi’s pair of miraculous hands to help him. Although laozi disdain to do this ‘turning around to eat grass’ thing, looking at his good intention, I reluctantly return.”

His shameful background was completely bared by others, yet not only he did not feel uncomfortable, he appeared immensely proud of himself instead; if he was not rotten to the bones, how could he have such a thick skin?

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Although NanGong Ling is usually magnanimous, I think what he did is rather lack of consideration.”

Before Bai Yumo answered, the seven-pouch disciple behind him already spoke sternly, “Our gang’s Bangzhu’s decision, who in the world dare to criticize randomly?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Others don’t dare, but maybe I do.”

The seven-pouch disciple laughed coldly and said, “What ‘thing’ do you think you are?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Why is it that everywhere I go, there’s always someone asking me what ‘thing’ I am? Clearly I am not a ‘thing’, I am a human, no difference to anybody who is alive. Perhaps I look a bit more pleasing to the eye than all of you. Could it be that you cannot even see this fact?”

Bai Yumo laughed grimly and said, “In that case, I’d like to ask for guidance as well, who the hell are you that you have the impertinence to speak like that in front of me? Could it be that you are tired of living?”

These five characters ‘tired of living’ [huo de bu nai fan] almost have become the most popular saying in Jianghu. Whenever two people quarreled, it seemed like they did not show enough prestige if they did not say this saying. It’s just that although the person saying it appeared to act as if he was taking things very seriously, to the listener, however, most of the time he just considered him as farting.

But when this saying came out of Bai Yumo’s mouth, the weight was very different. If others heard Bai Yumo spoke these words to him, perhaps he would be so scared that his knees went weak.

Who would have thought that Chu Liuxiang still considered him as farting? He smiled and said, “Who said I am tired of living? I think my life is very interesting. There’s enough good wine in the world to drink for a lifetime, not to mention I have friends such as NanGong Ling, who often come to pour wine for me.”

The seven-pouch disciple’s countenance changed slightly, he asked, “You know our school’s NanGong Bangzu?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Although I’d love to say that I don’t know him, I can’t help it that in all my life, I have never told a lie.”

Bai Yumo’s pair of triangular eyes sized him up from head to toe again, as if he was trying to determine whether Chu Liuxiang was simply tooting his horn or not.

The other eight-pouch disciple coldly said, “Could it be that this is his delaying tactics, to give that kid a chance to escape?”

Bai Yumo laughed evilly and said, “If that kid escaped, I, laoyezi, have already prepared killer ambush in here, and you are included. Don’t even think that anybody in this room will be able to leave alive.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “If NanGong Ling heard you speak to me like this, I am afraid he would be angry.”

Bai Yumo chuckled and said, “Is that so? I might as well make him angry then!”

As soon as he finished speaking, his mouth blew the bamboo whistle, the more than twenty vipers, raising their heads high menacingly, only waiting for action, instantly flew toward Chu Liuxiang like arrows.

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “Although I don’t like to kill people, I do not have any problem killing snakes.”

Amidst his laughter, the vipers already flew in the air. Hanging on the beam, Yitian Hong actually wanted to see how Chu Liuxiang would make his move, but this moment he could not help worrying for him.

Up to this moment, Chu Liuxiang has not made any move. But as soon as he did, he instantly pinched a snake seven cun from its head, and tossed it to the ground. The snake could no longer move.

They saw his pair of hands moving as if he was conjuring some magic tricks: pinching to the left and tossing to the right, pinching to the right and tossing to the left. With each pinch he grabbed a snake seven cun from its head; with each toss, the snake immediately lost its life.

In the blink of an eye, more than twenty vigorous and nimble, vicious vipers, have been dashed against the stone floor, one by one had their head crushed, not a single snake remained alive.

His movement was accurate, his technique fast, his hands powerful; it was indeed too frightening, so that even the sword-that-shook-the-Jianghu Yitian Hong could only watch with blank expression on his face.

Looking at the dead snakes on the ground, Chu Liuxiang sighed instead, and muttered to himself, “Autumn breeze starts to blow, it’s time to take healthy tonic. Too bad that Tian’er of mine is not here; otherwise I could ask her to make me a fresh and thick stew of three-snake soup.”

All the blue veins on Bai Yumo’s head appeared, fire seemed to be shooting out of his eyes.

All these vipers were caught personally by him via arduous work from barren mountains, vicious valleys, desolate forests and harsh swamps, and then were fed with all kinds of poisonous substance, and were subjected to laborious training before they could be used.

He originally wanted to rely on these vipers to go on the rampage across Jianghu; who would have thought that someone raised his hands against them and killed them all? Not only that, the person still wanted to make three-snake soup out of them.

Bai Yumo stood woodenly for half a day. All the bones in his body suddenly cracked continuously like a dense string of beads. Gnashing his teeth, he fixed his gaze at Chu Liuxiang, while step-by-step he walked toward him.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Um, that’s strange! Looks like someone is shaking dice in your tummy; but looking at the rotten bad luck on your face, the dice must have shown ‘one, two, three’ dots.”

Although he was joking in his mouth, he was well aware that Bai Yumo’s martial art skill could not be underestimated. This moment he already gathered his strength ready for action, as soon as he made his move, the power must be no small matter.

His eyes were focused on Bai Yumo’s hands, and noticed that Bai Yumo’s pair of white and tender palms emitted a faint dark green qi.

“The palms are poisonous,” Yitian Hong shouted, “Be careful!”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Don’t worry, the poison won’t kill me.”

Laughing evilly, Bai Yumo said, “Who says the poison won’t kill you?”

As he exhaled to speak, he already sent out an omen. Chu Liuxiang knew that in the next instant he would definitely make his move.

Yet in that same instant, suddenly they heard someone shouting, “Stop!”

Light and shadow flickered, a man entered in hurriedly. He had sword-shape eyebrows and star-like eyes, his entire body looked like jade; the long green robe he wore also had two or three patches.

Although his handsome face carried a hint of smile, in his ‘not-angry’ might, there was a terrifying power within his facial features. His expression staid, he did not look like a man of his age.

Seeing this man, the two Beggar Clan disciples immediately lowered their heads, no longer dared to make any noise. Even Bai Yumo also retreated to one side, where he stood tall and majestic with his hands hanging loosely by his side.

Yitian Hong has never seen this man, but he knew that this man must be the newly-appointed Longtou Bangzhu [big boss gang leader] of the number one Gang in the world, the Beggar Clan’s NanGong Ling.

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “NanGong Xiong came just in time. If a moment ago Xiaodi promptly made the vipers into a tonic living-person soup, wouldn’t NanGong Xiong have one less drinking companion in the future?”

NanGong Ling cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “Fortunately Xiaodi arrived one step earlier; otherwise, I am afraid these three disciples of our Gang’s who have eyes but no eyeballs would already become Chu Xiong’s ‘three-man soup’.”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “You have become a Bangzhu, how come your words don’t follow compass and set square [i.e. established standard] a bit more?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Talking with someone like Chu Xiong, if the talk was boring, would Chu Xiong still be willing to take Xiaodi as a friend? But anyway, our Gang’s disciples are guilty of being rude, I am asking two gentlemen’s forgiveness.”

His countenance suddenly sank, he turned toward the three Beggar Clan disciples, and spoke in stern voice, “You are not young anymore, yet the way you work is so muddleheaded. Without asking who the other party is, you recklessly made your move. Did you forget our Gang’s rules already?”

Although these words were not addressed to Bai Yumo, yet it was tantamount to scolding Bai Yumo.

Bai Yumo chuckled and said, “Bangzhu does not need to point to a [Buddhist] monk and curse him as a bald donkey [derogatory term to call a Buddhist monk]. These two did not make any move at all, it was me who did it.”

NanGong Ling suddenly turned to face him, and spoke in heavy voice, “Is that so? This official wants to ask then, why without asking clearly Bai Shishu [martial uncle] recklessly made your move to injure people? Could it be that Bai Shishu is trying to find an excuse to withdraw from our Gang?”

Although he respectfully addressed Bai Yumo as ‘Shishu’, under his hard stare, this evil beggar from Gusu [Suzhou, Jiangsu], who murdered without blinking an eye unexpectedly did not dare to laugh anymore. Drawing back the corners of his mouth, he said, “We were just chasing after that hoodlum to this place. Seeing these … these two gentlemen in here, naturally we thought these two gentlemen hide that kid.”

“Did you ask the two gentlemen?” NanGong Ling asked.

“We did … did not,” Bai Yumo replied.

NanGong Ling angrily said, “Since you didn’t ask, how did you know the two gentlemen hide that kid? That man is dangerous and malicious, he is difficult to tolerate, how could the two gentlemen shelter him?”

Unexpectedly Bai Yumo hung his head low and did not dare to speak.

NanGong Ling laughed coldly and said, “Much less there is the ‘Central Plains One Red Dot’ and ‘Bandit Chief’ Chu Liuxiang in here. Anybody in the world, when they come here, they ought to be respectful, they ought to be polite, who do you think you are that you dare to be rude to them?”

Despite his young age NanGong Ling was really worthy to become the Gang Leader of the biggest gang in the world; in just a few simple sentences, not only he criticized his gang’s disciples, he also pointed out Chu Liuxiang and Yitian Hong’s identity. This way, although he scolded his gang’s disciples, he did so without losing Beggar Clan’s face.

The most important thing was that he mentioned that the youngster in black was wicked beyond redemption, so that Chu Liuxiang and Yitian Hong could no longer shelter him.

Listening that unexpectedly his one word says it all, that he exposed Yitian Hong’s origin, unconsciously Yitian Hong was even more amazed, “This NanGong Ling is really a formidable character,” he mused.

Chu Liuxiang, however, was inwardly baffled, “That youngster came here from the distant desert; how did as soon as he enter the Central Plains, he offended Beggar Clan’s disciples? Not only that, looking at this situation, the offense is not light either.”

As the Beggar Clan disciples heard that the man in front of them was the ‘Bandit Chief’ Chu Liuxiang, whose name shook the heavens, they could not stop their eyes from growing big, they jaw to drop, and were unable to close their mouth.

Throwing his head back, Bai Yumo laughed and said, “Turns out Sire is Chu Xiang Shuai [fragrant commander, another nickname of Chu Liuxiang]. I, Bai Yumo, fell head first in Bandit Chief’s hands, so I do not lose face. Since Bangzhu is here, there is no need for me to manage … I am sure we’ll meet again some day!”

After fiercely staring at Chu Liuxiang for a moment, without looking back, he walked out in large strides.

NanGong Ling sighed lightly and said, “Although in recent years this man’s conduct has changed, unavoidably he is still narrow-minded, his action is still inevitably reckless, but I hope Chu Xiong will not blame him.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Others don’t blame me, I am already perfectly satisfied, how could I blame others?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “I did not expect Chu Xiong and Hong Xiong’s heroic selves are in here. Although Xiaodi has not lived here long, I often come and go around this place, so more or less I can be considered the host here, we should have a few quick cups of wine together.”

Unexpectedly he did not mention the youngster in black anymore, naturally Chu Liuxiang did not want to mention him even more. Roaring in laughter, he said, “You guys beg for food all year long, how could you ask others to have a drink with you? All right, I don’t care whether your wine come from begging or robbing, someone invites me for a drink, I never miss it … Hong Xiong, you must not miss it either. You have to know that the wine that you don’t need to spend your money on tastes very different.”

But Yitian Hong remained on the beam; without going down, he coldly said, “I don’t drink.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Such a good, palatable thing to fill the intestines, if you don’t drink, won’t you just let yourself down?”

Yitian Hong said, “Wine can make hands tremble and heart soften, killing won’t be scary anymore.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If one must not drink wine in order to kill, it’s practically like not eating for being afraid of defecating. Not only it’s extremely absurd, it’s also brutal and unfeeling. Hong Xiong, you …”

Suddenly he saw two Beggar Clan disciples entered in in large strides from the rear door, and bowed to salute toward NanGong Ling. The one on the left said, “Disciples, under Zhu Zhanglao and Ge Zhanglao’s [Elders] leadership, have investigated all the rooms at the back, that man surnamed Leng has already been handed over to Gongsun Hufa [protector of the law] as well, but there is no trace of the ruffian.”

Rolling his eyes, NanGong Ling turned toward Chu Liuxiang, cupped his fist and said, “Since that the case, I’ll have to ask Chu Xiong to hand over the man!”

Chu Liuxiang blinked his eyes and said, “What are you talking about?”

NanGong Ling sighed and said, “To be honest to Chu Xiong, Xiaodi is unable to figure out that man’s background; all I know is that his shenfa is light and nimble, his martial art skill very high. Two days ago at Zhaoguan town he wounded more than 10 of our Gang’s disciples, as well as stole one important article of our Gang. Just now he injured our Gang’s Song Hufa; therefore, our Gang absolutely cannot let him off.”

“Oh …” Chu Liuxiang said, “Is there such man?”

NanGong Ling spoke heavily, “Chu Xiong really don’t know this man?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Even if I have the desire to hit other people, I will never hit your Beggar Clan’s head.”

NanGong Ling smiled slightly and said, “That would be best …”

In the midst of his voice, from out of his sleeve suddenly flew two daggers.

These two daggers from NanGong Ling’s sleeves can be used as a club to hit acupoints, as judge pen, as awls to part water, and so on, eight different weapons’ style. It was called ‘Ruyi Ba Da, Ji Feng Shisan Ci’ [lit. adaptable (orig. as one wishes) eight strikes, stormy wind thirteen stabs], and could be considered as a pinnacle in Wulin, so that even the deceased old Gang Leader of the Beggar Clan, Ren Ci, his martial art skill seemed to be a tad inferior to NanGong Ling’s.

This moment unexpectedly the two daggers flew out of his sleeves, and went straight toward the purple velvet curtain. From his high vantage point, Yitian Hong was able to see very clearly.

Unexpectedly a pair of black boots toe was visible under the window curtain.

All they heard was a couple of ‘pop, pop’ sound, the daggers already pierced the boots, just like couple of nails nailing the boots to the ground.

The smiling expression on NanGong Ling’s face did not change; he spoke slowly, “Even to this moment, Sire is still unwilling to come out?”

There was no response from the curtain.

NanGong Ling cast a glance at Chu Liuxiang; Chu Liuxiang’s face was expressionless, as if he did not know anything. NanGong Ling finally let out a cold laugh and shouted, “Very well.”

He lightly waved his hand, the two Beggar Clan disciples immediately drew the saber from their waist, and with sudden lunge they brandished the saber to hack on the window curtain.

Although Yitian Hong had a cold, unfeeling heart, he could not stop his heart from skipping a beat. Even if the youngster in black did not die, perhaps his two legs could be considered finished.

The blades swept through, the lower half of the curtain dropped down, but surprisingly there was no splashing of blood.

The window was open, the night breeze was blowing in, the upper half of the curtain was swaying in the wind, but there was no sign of anybody there.

Behind the curtain was just a pair of boots. Nothing more.

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter, “Such a nice curtain now has become two pieces. A pair of highest quality leather boots now has two holes on it. Don’t NanGong Xiong think that it’s too much of a waste?”

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