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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 14

CSI

Chapter 14 – Soul-Capturing Adaptable Bowl[1]

His countenance changed slightly, NanGong Ling said coldly, “The window curtain rent, it can be sewed up; the boots damaged, they can be fixed. If the man escaped, our Gang’s disciples can also catch him back.”

His countenance changed, the eight-pouch disciple wondered aloud, “So he really ran away barefooted?”

NanGong Ling asked in heavy voice, “Who’s the disciple on guard outside the window?”

“They are brothers from Jinan’s Tian Guan Temple,” the eight-pouch disciple replied.

NanGong Ling spoke sternly, “Take them to Gongsun Hufa to be disciplined according to our house rules.”

The eight-pouch disciple bowed and said, “Order received.”

He flew out the window; the sound of angry scolding was immediately heard outside the window.

NanGong Ling turned toward Chu Liuxiang, cupped his fist with forced laughter and said, “Xiaodi has an important matter to attend to, I am afraid I will have to take my leave today.”

Chu Liuxiang giggled and said, “You have just aroused the wine worms in my belly, are you trying to avoid a problem by walking away from it?”

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “A wine debt toward Chu Liuxiang, who in the world would want to drop it? Within two days, Xiaodi will come to deliver the invitation, but I do hope Hong Xiong will not decline this time.”

Pulling his hands, unexpectedly the two daggers flew up again. Turned out the hilt of the daggers was tied with a thin chain made of black metal.

NanGong Ling left in a hurry. The shouting outside the window grew again, and then the voices gradually went away, a moment later they all left, until no one remained.

Chu Liuxiang sighed lightly and said, “This NanGong Ling is indeed a talent. Under his command, the Beggar Clan is indeed growing more powerful by day … perhaps it is a bit too powerful.”

Yitian Hong floated down to the ground. His eyes flashing, he said, “Did you see if that youngster has really left?”

“Do you think there is only one window in here?” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Suddenly someone responded coldly, “It’s a pity that NanGong Ling does not have eyesight like Chu Liuxiang’s.”

Amidst his voice, the youngster in black appeared from behind another curtain, his snow-white socks were covered in dust.

It was only then did Yitian Hong realize that the kid intentionally revealed the tip of his boots; he must have taken off his boots, slipped out of the window, went across the eaves, and slipped back in from another window, and hid behind the curtain. Although this boy was very young, unexpectedly he knew how to exploit human psychological weaknesses; he predicted accurately that once NanGong Ling thought he already left, he would not search elsewhere in the room.

He saw the youngster in black went over toward Chu Liuxiang, stared at Chu Liuxiang for half a day, and suddenly shouted loudly, “That NanGong Ling and you are friends, while you and I have never met before. You did not help him, but you helped me instead; why did you do that?”

Unexpectedly this youngster suffered from a very chronic illness of suspicions; others were doing a favor to him, instead of gratitude, he suspected that the others must have ulterior motive.

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang replied, “I did not help him, but I helped you instead, simply because he is a beggar, extremely poor, while you are rich. Therefore, I wanted to pat your horse’s butts [i.e. flattery].”

The youngster in black stared at him for half a day. Finally, he could not stop a smile from appearing on the corners of his mouth. But he managed to refrain from laughing out loud; coldly, he said, “Although you do me a favor, I absolutely refuse to receive your pity.”

Chu Liuxiang also refrained from laughing; he said, “Who did you a favor? Do you even need anybody else’s favor? Those insignificant Beggar Clan troops, how could they be worthy to be considered in your eyes?”

The youngster in black angrily said, “You think I am scared of them?”

“Naturally you are not afraid of them,” Chu Liuxiang responded, “You hid behind the curtain, you just wanted to play a joke on them.”

The youngster was so angry that his face turned completely red. Moving a few steps forward, he spoke sternly, “Don’t ever think that just because you do me a favor, you can laugh at me. I …” before he finished speaking, his entire body suddenly jumped.

Turned out because he was not being careful, he stepped on a dead snake. In his shock, he jumped onto the table, almost throwing himself into Chu Liuxiang’s bosom.

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “We are big hero who fear nothing in Heaven or Earth; turns out we are afraid of snakes.”

Now he knew that just now the young man was running away, flustered and exasperated, only because the snakes were chasing after him, really not because he was afraid of the Beggar Clan disciples’ martial art. This icy-cold youngster was afraid of snakes; it was indeed beyond anybody’s expectation.

The youngster in black’s face turned red. Gasping for breath, he said, “I am not afraid, I just feel disgusted … I loathe everything that is soft and slippery. Do you think that’s funny?”

Patting his cheek, Chu Liuxiang said, “Not funny. Of course it is not funny at all. Since women can be afraid of snakes, why can’t men be afraid? Why must men be less afraid of certain things compared to women?”

As he spoke to this point, unconsciously a smile twinkled in the cold and detached Yitian Hong’s eyes, while the youngster in black’s face grew even redder.

Right this moment, they heard someone spoke coldly, “Turns out Chu Xiang Shuai, whose name shook the heavens, not only can laugh, he can also tell lies.”

A man was leaning against the door; unexpectedly it was Bai Yumo. There was a flapping white cloth sack in his hand, but nobody knew what was inside.

The youngster in black in black could not stop his countenance from changing.

Although on the surface Chu Liuxiang did not utter a word or show any movement, inwardly he could not help jumping in fright. Yet he laughed indifferently and said, “Did I ever say that he was not here? … I simply did not say anything.”

Bai Yumo laughed coldly and said, “Our Bangzhu already knew early on that he is still here, it’s just that looking at your, Chu Liuxiang’s face, he withdrew temporarily. Now that he has shown himself, you …”

The youngster in black suddenly spoke loudly, “No need to look at his face, he and I absolutely have nothing to do with each other.”

Bai Yumo said, “Since that’s the case, do you want to go out on your own, or do you want to wait for us to come in?”

Without waiting for him to finish, he already flew out of the window, and then, sound of scolding and yelling was heard, as he kept shouting along the way.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “You guys have a Bangzhu like NanGong Ling, that is really a great blessing. That youngster offended NanGong Ling, he is really unlucky.”

Bai Yumo spoke sternly, “Offending me, Bai Yumo, is not necessarily a good fortune either.”

Suddenly he took out a piece of greenish black strange-looking weapon from the gray sack in his hand, and shouted, “Bridge returns to bridge, road returns to road; although you know NanGong Ling, but I, Bai Yumo, don’t know you. You offended me, today I want you dead!”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Why do so many people want me dead? When I’m dead, what benefit will it bring you?”

Bai Yumo laughed evilly and said, “There will be a lot of benefit!” His words had not finished, the weapon in his palm already shot out.

Yitian Hong coldly watched from the side. He noticed that this weapon looked like a bowl, but not exactly a bowl, it looked a bit like a claw, but not exactly a claw either. It wrapped around his hand like a bowl protecting his hand, it curved like a crescent moon, and had a greenish black pole, a little like wolf-tooth club, with countless thorns sticking out of its surface, but at the tip was a retractable ghost claw. The claw was black and shiny, obviously it was extremely poisonous.

The Central Plains’ One Red Dot was able to move unhindered across Jianghu, he has gone through hundreds, if not thousands, of battles, yet he has never seen such a strange weapon, and he could not figure out what kind of magical use would this strange weapon possess.

When martial art practitioners see such a new and strange weapon, it would be like a little kid seeing a new toy; he would find it fascinating, as well as arousing his curiosity.

Naturally Yitian Hong was no exception; he also wanted to see any peculiar move this strange weapon could do, more importantly, he wanted to see how Chu Liuxiang would break the strange move.

He heard Chu Liuxiang said with a laugh, “That is a contraption to catch snakes; are you going to use it to deal with people?”

Bai Yumo laughed eerily and said, “My ‘zhuo hun ruyi bo’ [lit. capturing-soul-according-to-one’s-wishes bowl] not only can catch snakes, it can also catch your soul. Today, there is no harm in letting you have a taste of it.”

While speaking, he already executed seven or eight moves; his style was indeed bizarre beyond compare. It would suddenly poke lightly, and then turned to sweeping across. Sometimes quick and nimble with myriads changes, soon became harsh, as if he was trying to snatch victory using brute force.

In developing this kind of unorthodox weapon of his own innovation, this devil beggar from Gusu has indeed spent painstaking effort. This kind of suddenly-flexible-suddenly-stiff style was really difficult to deal with, but if he did not have full control over the strength of his own hands, there was no way he would be able to execute such moves.

Chu Liuxiang was moving differently as well; he seemed to want to see all the changes this adaptable bowl could do, and momentarily did not want to make his move to break the opponent’s attack.

It should be noted that his addiction to martial art was really more intense than anybody else; seeing a novel weapon like this, his interest was higher than Yitian Hong’s. In fact, he was ten times more curious than Yitian Hong.

Therefore, concerning the peculiar and odd weapons of unorthodox schools of the whole wide world, he nearly knew the technique to break them. And now suddenly this ‘adaptable bowl’ appeared; how could he simply let it get away? Before he could fully understand how this ‘adaptable bowl’ moved and the variations surrounding the moves, he was practically unwilling to let Bai Yumo stop.

However, fighting like this, inevitably he would repeatedly be in distress. Sometimes he even deliberately revealed ‘empty-gate’ flaw, just to lure the opponent to execute his masterstroke.

Several times the black and shiny, flickering poisonous claw, made contact with his clothes, so that even Yitian Hong had to secretly wipe his cold sweats on behalf of Chu Liuxiang.

Gaining the upper hand, Bai Yumo’s spirit was aroused; more and more masterstrokes emerged from the ‘adaptable bowl’ in his hand, forcing Chu Liuxiang to repeatedly step back.

But suddenly Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “Turns out your adaptable bowl style is just so-so; to be used to catch snakes it is barely effective, but to catch people, it is still too far away!”

Bai Yumo shouted, “Don’t even think you might be able to see all of Laofu’s adaptable bowl styles in your lifetime.”

This wily old fox of evil beggar seemed to have seen through Chu Liuxiang’s mind.

He knew that before Chu Liuxiang could see his entire moves, he would not make any move. By saying that, he was trying to restrain Chu Liuxiang from making his move. As long as Chu Liuxiang did not make any move, Bai Yumo would be able to unleash his styles to the fullest. Besides, his adaptable bowl still had one killer move that so far he had never used before; he wanted to force Chu Liuxiang into a critical spot, and then he would execute this one move, so that Chu Liuxiang would die under his claw.

Chu Liuxiang also knew it clearly, but he obviously wanted to provoke him; laughing coldly, he said, “You have already exhausted your limited abilities early on; I don’t believe you still have any wonder moves.” While speaking, he retreated to a dead corner of the room.

He was indeed too bold; unexpectedly he did not hesitate to stake his own life in a gamble just to see if the opponent really had changes in his style.

The stake was really too high; even Central Plains’ One Red Dot could not believe that there was someone in the world who considered taking such risk as simply a game. He was not sure if that kind of person could be considered stupid, or very smart?

Although fishing could be considered a smart game, but if one was using his own body as a bait, it would almost be like the fish was actually fishing for him.

Chu Liuxiang waited for Bai Yumo to strike with the bowl, while Bai Yumo was also waiting for Chu Liuxiang to strike the bowl. By the time Chu Liuxiang cornered himself into a dead spot, Bai Yumo suddenly laughed evilly and said, “Laofu’s killer move, after you’ve seen it, you won’t live.”

In the blink of an eye, he launched seven moves. Chu Liuxiang dodged all seven one by one. He saw the adaptable bowl suddenly struck straight toward his face.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly shrunk his body and retreated one chi; he calculated accurately that based on its position, this adaptable bowl would not be able to reach him. Laughing heartily, he said, “If you don’t …”

His words had just left his mouth, there was a swishing noise, the black and shiny ghost claw suddenly separated itself from the body of the claw, and shot straight to grab his chest.

Unexpectedly, there was a spring mechanism inside the pole of the ‘soul capturing adaptable bowl’. Bai Yumo only needed to shake his hand and press lightly, the ghost claw would immediately shoot out.

The ghost claw had a four-chi chain on it, so the three-chi and six-cun long adaptable bowl suddenly became seven­-chi six-cun. Originally it could not reach Chu Liuxiang’s position, but now it was more than enough to reach him.

This moment Chu Liuxiang was unable to retreat anymore. He knew that as soon as the ghost claw scratched his skin, he could forget about staying alive.

With Yitian Hong’s martial art skill, plus he was watching on the side, naturally he was able to see a lot more clearly than the people involved in the fight. As soon as he saw Bai Yumo executed this move, he could not refrain from sighing.

At his current position, Chu Liuxiang really could not back off anymore, he could not evade anymore.

If the claw was not poisonous, perhaps Chu Liuxiang could still use the ‘differentiating light, capturing shadow’ technique to snatch the ghost claw away. But since the ghost claw was extremely poisonous, he could not even touch it.

Very soon the man who fished would be buried inside the fish’s stomach.

Naturally Chu Liuxiang could not help but was shocked; however, although he was shocked, he was not thrown into disorder. In this instant where life and death was separated only by a strand of hair, he came up with a spur-of-the-moment ruse.

They saw his shoulder moved, an object suddenly appeared in his hand, the ghost claw already clutched his chest, but he had the object stuffed inside the ghost claw.

There was a clacking noise, the ghost claw closed down and was retracted, but there was something inside the claw, which Bai Yumo was unable to fling off. Unexpectedly, it was a scroll of painting.

It should be noted that Chu Liuxiang’s technique was truly too amazing, it was matchless under the heavens. If he wanted to take something from someone else’s bosom, it would be as easy as a hand’s turn, much less taking something from his own bosom.

Therefore, he was able, in that instant where a thousand catties hang by a thread, to take the picture scroll out, and stuffed it inside the ghost claw, utilizing the claw’s own momentum. If it were someone else, perhaps as soon as the picture scroll was out of his bosom, his chest would already have a big hole in it.

Although this painting was important, during the critical moment threatening his life, no matter how precious or important an object was, everything could be discarded.

Bai Yumo had never imagined Chu Liuxiang would have this kind of move. As soon as his strike failed, his countenance changed, immediately he withdrew seven chi back, afraid that Chu Liuxiang would counterattack.

Who would have thought that Chu Liuxiang did not even move? He just smiled and said, “Although you wanted my life, I don’t want yours. Now that your ability has already been demonstrated, you’d better return that thing inside the claw to me, and quickly go!”

Although Bai Yumo did not know what the object inside his claw was, but anything hidden inside the Bandit Chief Chu Liuxiang’s bosom could not possibly be any ordinary thing.

As soon as Chu Liuxiang said that, his heart became even more suspicious; laughing coldly, he said, “You really want me to return this roll of paper to you?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “The ghost claw wanted to catch a soul, but it only grabbed a roll of rotten paper; unconsciously you must be losing face?”

Bai Yumo laughed aloud and said, “Since it is just rotten paper, why do you want me to return it to you?”

Although inevitably Chu Liuxiang grew a bit anxious in his heart and mused inwardly, “This guy [orig. si, male servant, derogatory] is indeed a wily old fox,” but his mouth spoke indifferently, “If you want to, there is no harm in my giving it to you to wipe your tears, or to wipe your runny nose with.”

Bai Yumo laughed grimly and said, “At this moment, I am afraid the one shedding tears will be you!”

Unexpectedly he retreated a few steps back, took the scroll of painting, and opened it to take a look. However, after only one glance, suddenly his face revealed a strange expression, and then he burst out laughing loudly.

Noticing his strange laughter, Chu Liuxiang could not help asking, “What are you laughing at?”

Bai Yumo laughed and said, “Why are you hiding Ren Ci’s wife’s portrait in your pocket? Looking at your young age, could it be that you harbor unrequited longing toward Ren Laotouzi’s [old man] wife?”

As Bai Yumo spoke those words, Chu Liuxiang was really surprised, but he was delighted as well. He had worn out iron shoes trying to find the answer, unexpectedly it came to him without he had to spend any effort.

Pleasantly surprised, he could not help blurting, “Turns out Qiu Lingsu married the former Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu; indeed it was a respectable status, illustrious reputation. It is so much more excelled compared to Ximen Qian and the others.”

Looking at Chu Liuxiang’s expression, Bai Yumo was extremely baffled. “Qiu Lingsu …? Who is Qiu Lingsu?” he asked.

Surprised, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Didn’t you just say that she was Ren Ci’s, Ren Lao Bangzhu’s wife?”

Laughing coldly, Bai Yumo said, “Ren Ci’s wife is surnamed Ye; her name is Ye Shuzhen …”

Chu Liuxiang cried out involuntarily, “So the woman on the painting …”

Bai Yumo said, “The woman on the painting is Ye Shuzhen. You hide her portrait in your pocket, are you telling me you don’t know her name?”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly understood, “No wonder nobody in Jianghu knows Qiu Lingsu’s whereabouts; turns out she changed her name, and married Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu … ay! This yaonu [lit. female demon; could simply mean ‘beautiful woman’] had bad reputation in the past, if she was going to marry a prominent figure in Wulin, naturally she had to alter her surname and change her given name. I ought to have thought about this fact early on.”

Bai Yumo spoke sternly, “I don’t care if you curse that Ren Laotouzi, you scold him as a turtle [fig. cuckold]; but his wife is a dignified, virtuous woman, who is always magnanimous and amiable to everybody. Even I, Bai Yumo, admire her a little. If you insult her, tens of thousands Beggar Clan’s disciples, from top to bottom, might not spare you.”

Chu Liuxiang knew that after she was married, Qiu Lingsu must have washed her heart and renewed her face [idiom: to turn over a new leaf], and made a fresh start. Usually he would admire this kind of people the most, naturally he was unwilling to reveal the evil conduct of her former days. Rolling his eyes, he asked, “I wonder where would this Madame Ren be at this moment?”

Bai Yumo laughed coldly and said, “Looking at your lecherous appearance, you are not a good man; could it be that you have the intention of hitting on someone else’s widow? But she is very chaste; you, this toad, can forget about eating the swan’s meat.”

Chu Liuxiang rolled his eyes again, and spoke slowly, “Ren Ci expelled you from the Beggar Clan, he hunted you until you fled to the east and hid in the west, in ten tears you did not have one day that you passed in peace, could it be that you don’t hate him?”

Bai Yumo hatefully said, “He is already dead, even if I hate him, what can I do?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Although he is dead, his wife is not dead yet!”

Bai Yumo glowered at him viciously, and then using his hand he quickly pulled the beard under his chin until nearly not a single strand of hair remained. His fierce and malicious eyes gradually revealed a smiling expression as he spoke slowly, “Although your words are repulsive, you have touched my spleen and stomach [i.e. one’s taste].”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “To certain kind of man, I speak certain kind of words. I know this logic very well.”

Bai Yumo laughed aloud and said, “No wonder people say that Chu Liuxiang is the world’s most loveable villains. Even I … this moment I am starting to like you.”

Chu Liuxiang quickly asked, “In that case, where is his wife now?”

“Too bad I really don’t know,” Bai Yumo replied.”

Chu Liuxiang stared blankly for a moment. And then he cupped his fist and said, “Goodbye.” He raised his cupped fist again, turned around, and left.

Bai Yumo called out, “Although I don’t know, there’s someone who does.”

Chu Liuxiang immediately halted his steps; he turned around and asked, “Who?”

“Can’t you think of it?” Bai Yumo asked.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “At first NanGong Ling might be willing to tell me, but now, not necessarily.”

Bai Yumo smirked and said, “Others have a pearl, you come with empty hands, naturally he can’t possibly give it to you. But if you use jadeite, which is more valuable than pearl, for an exchange, could it be that he still refuse to give it to you?”

Chu Liuxiang thought for a moment, “What is my jadeite?” he asked.

Bai Yumo spoke word-by-word, “That kid in black’s background.”

Chu Liuxiang followed Bai Yumo, Yitian Hong followed Chu Liuxiang; they flew away just like the people’s roof were the road through Yangguan [fig. wide open road].

By this time the night was so deep that everywhere they looked, there was no light in sight.

While flying, Bai Yumo spoke in heavy voice, “Chu Liuxiang, listen to me: it was you who wanted to come with me; I did not take you at all.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and replied, “This logic, naturally I understand.”

“It’s good that you know that,” Bai Yumo said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Yitian Hong, listen to me: it was you who wanted to come with me; I did not take you at all.”

There was no response from behind.

Chu Liuxiang turned his head to look; Yitian Hong has disappeared without a trace since who knows when. Chu Liuxiang could not help stroking his nose; he muttered to himself with a wry smile, “When you don’t want him to come, he came. When you don’t want him to leave, he left. Whoever wants to make friends with him will seriously have big headache.”

He heard Bai Yumo said, “The house with light ahead is precisely the Incense Hall, an important place of the Beggar Clan. I am going now, you must not follow me. If by any chance you find your way there, you must not mind my business.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “I practically did not see you at all, wherever you are going, I have no idea.”

“Very good,” Bai Yumo said.

Stooping down, he leaped to the ground. Immediately a voice came from the darkness, “Go up to heaven or go down to Hades.”

Bai Yumo responded, “Beggars are not going to go.”

And then there was a whisper, “Where is that kid?”

“In the hall.”

Bangzhu finally get hold of him?”

“Looks like he came on his own, and ostentatiously sat down. For some reason, Bangzhu suddenly seems to be a lot more courteous toward him.”

[1] Chapter Title: Adaptable, ruyi, lit. as one wishes. The bowl here refers to the small earthenware bowl usually used by a monk to ask for alms.

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