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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 15

CSI

Chapter 15 – Letter from a Lover

Chu Liuxiang crouched behind the roof ridge of the building across the street. He saw Bai Yumo pushed the door and walked in. The house had lanterns inside, but the windows were closed, so that although he saw shadows going back and forth, he could not see what was going on inside.

All around the house were hidden sentries; although he could not see anybody, occasionally he caught the flickers of their blade, as well as heard faint whispers.

Light as a smoke, Chu Liuxiang unleashed his qinggong and circled around the house toward the rear of the building. Suddenly he let out a light cough. Sure enough, from the darkness someone immediately spoke in low voice, “Go up to heaven or go down to Hades.”

Chu Liuxiang responded, “Beggars are not going to go.”

The man appeared from the shadow. Seeing Chu Liuxiang, he was startled, “Who are you?” he blurted out.

“Asking for rice,” Chu Liuxiang replied. [Translator’s note: a bit of explanation is in order here. The word for ‘beggars’ here is ‘yao fan’ (begging for food or money), which literally means ‘asking for (cooked) rice’. Chu Liuxiang responded by saying ‘asking for (grain) rice’.]

As soon as he spoke those three words, with his right hand he jabbed the man’s acupoint, while with his left hand he caught him and put him gently on the roof. “I am not a human,” he spoke softly, “I am a fox fairy. Do you understand?”

The man’s eyes were full of horror. He wanted to nod, but his head could not move.

Light as a smoke, Chu Liuxiang floated down the eaves, found a window with light coming from inside, and then peeked inside from a crack on the window.

He saw two rows of red sandalwood chairs arranged in the main hall, on each side sat two gray-haired old beggars with a thick stack of pouches on their backs; presumably there were nine pouches in the stack.

These were the Elders and Protector of the Law within the Beggar Clan.

Bai Yumo also crashed onto one of the seats of honor. Above them was the astute, valiant, clear-headed, new Gang Leader of the Beggar Clan, NanGong Ling.

Surprisingly, the youngster in black was also sitting inside, opposite to NanGong Ling.

This many martial art masters were surrounding him, yet he did not show the least bit of fear. His big eyes were staring at NanGong Ling, as if he might stand up and fight any moment.

NanGong Ling spoke heavily, “Sire injured our Gang’s disciples, as well as Zhanglao and Hufa [elder and protector of the law], perhaps it was due to misunderstanding, this officer does not wish to investigate, but just want to ask: why did Sire come here?”

Staring at him, the youngster in black coldly said, “I don’t know how many times you have asked me that question; if I was willing to answer, do you think I’d wait until now?”

NanGong Ling still did not get angry; he said, “What do you want from our Gang? If you are willing to speak out, perhaps this officer could give it to you on behalf of our disciples.”

The youngster in black replied, “I want your head; can you give it to me?”

Finally NanGong Ling spoke sternly, “Sire must not forget, at this very moment, I can take your life at any time, yet I am only asking you a simple question: what’s your purpose of coming here. You are still unwilling to talk, aren’t you being too insensitive?”

The youngster in black laughed coldly and said, “At this moment, I can still sit here, precisely because I am being sensitive. If I tell you my background, your objective is achieved, do you think I can still sit here nicely?”

Listening to this point, Chu Liuxiang could not help laughing inwardly, “This young man seems to be stubborn and arrogant, as if he does not understand anything; who would have thought that he is actually smarter than anybody. This time NanGong Ling has met his match.”

He saw NanGong Ling’s countenance slowly turned green; his anger has flared out. But in the end he struggled hard to suppress it. Revealing a smile, he spoke gently, “If this officer wanted to kill you, why do I need to ask your background? Could it be that you don’t understand this fact?”

“Naturally I understand,” the youngster in black replied, “In fact, I understand it very well. Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know how many people are coming behind me. Moreover, you don’t know that I know some of your secrets; in your heart you suspect everyone, how could you kill me without any worry?”

NanGong Ling said, “If that’s the case, don’t you think that I won’t let you go even more?”

Raising his voice, the youngster in black said, “You don’t let me go, that’s the best. I can seat here, sleep here, I am afraid you, these poor beggars, won’t be able to afford to keep me here!”

Bai Yumo suddenly laughed evilly and said, “Treated softly, he doesn’t talk, we’d better treat him harshly; will we be afraid he won’t talk?”

The youngster in black replied with cold laugh, “If you dare to stretch your finger to touch me, I am afraid several people will die in front of me. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try!”

Unexpectedly this youngster in black could be soft and could be hard, he could raise hell and could threaten as well, he could put on an air, and could scare people. Listening from the outside, Chu Liuxiang nearly clapped and cheered for him.

Suddenly there was a loud ‘Crash!’, the window opposite Chu Liuxiang was smashed open, followed by someone flew inside like an arrow.

This man’s sword ray was like lightning. To everybody’s surprise, it was the Central Plains’ One Red Dot.

Seeing Yitian Hong suddenly made his appearance, Chu Liuxiang was really pleasantly surprised; laughing inwardly, he mused, “Turns out you still follow me; but this time you came at the right time.”

He saw Yitian Hong flew into the house, tapped the ground with the tip of his toes, and stabbed the four elders of the Beggar Clan plus Bai Yumo seventeen, eighteen times in rapid succession.

Although all these men were first-class Wulin’s martial art masters, but since they were caught off-guard, facing this kind of fast, vicious, and strange sword technique, they could not help being flustered.

NanGong Ling angrily said, “Yitian Hong, I respected you as a famous hero, how dare you being so rude in our Gang’s Fragrance Hall.”

Yitian Hong laughed coldly and said, “I usually don’t recognize my own family, haven’t you heard?”

He rushed toward the youngster in black’s side and spoke heavily, “You haven’t left?”

Who would have thought that the youngster in black simply stared at him and said, “Why should I go with you?”

Yitian Hong was stumped; finally he responded coldly, “You don’t go, I will uncover your background.”

This time the youngster in black was stumped. Finally he said with a cold laugh, “All right, let’s just consider you win. Let’s go!”

However, by this time, an adaptable claw, a judge pen, a green bamboo staff, a pair of iron crutches, and so on, seven or eight kinds of weapon, were already coming to greet their bodies.

In this main hall, not a single one was not a martial art master among martial art masters, each weapon carried profound move and ferocious power, sinister yet experienced. The youngster in black took out a weapon from his bosom, which he shook straight out against the wind. Unexpectedly it was a Burmish saber with white hilt, made of hundred-refined steel. ‘Shua! Shua! Shua!’ he repeatedly hacked several times. The saber technique was bold and vigorous, the blade created fierce wind, the movement was yang in nature, hard and forceful all the way.

These two men, one using saber the other using sword, fought side by side, what could they possibly be afraid of? However, if they wanted to rush out, perhaps it would be more difficult than difficult, as difficult as ascending the heavens.

Yitian Hong stabbed his sword more than a dozen times, and then suddenly called out, “If you don’t make your move, I am going to call your name.”

Naturally others did not know whom he was talking to, while Chu Liuxiang outside the window could not help smiling bitterly and mused, “This kid finally wants to drag me down the water.”

He thought for a moment, and then picked up a dozen or more roof tiles from the roof ridge, opened the window, and threw them in, while shouted loudly, “Watch my Five-Poison copper cymbals.”

Although these more than a dozen pieces of tiles were ordinary roof tiles, thrown from his hands, they became unordinary. Some struck down straight from high up in the air, some whizzed in a spiral, dancing in the air.

The people inside could not immediately see what kind of secret projectiles being thrown at them, but suddenly hearing the two words, ‘Five Poisons’, they withdrew one after another, no one had the time to think about attacking the enemy.

Yitian Hong and the youngster in black seized this opportunity to dash out.

NanGong Ling darted to the window. Staying close to the wall, he looked outside, but it was dark; he could not see clearly who had released the secret projectiles. Picking up a chair, he threw it outside the window, while he followed closely behind, and shouted, “Friend, slow down!”

But how could Chu Liuxiang be willing to slow down? He had long gone without a trace.

Yitian Hong and the youngster in black flew out the window and ran side by side for a while. The two’s qinggong was equally matched. After running far away, the youngster in black suddenly stopped. Glowering, he said, “Who told you to rescue me?”

With his ungrateful-even-to-the-death temper, if it were someone else, after taking the risk to pluck him from danger and then hearing these words, it would be strange indeed if he did not get angry to the death.

But Yitian Hong was not angry at all. Letting out an eerie laughter, he said, “Who rescued you? I don’t give a damn whether you live or die.”

The youngster in black stared at him with his big eyes. Puzzled, he said, “You did not rescue me, then why did you come there?”

Yitian Hong replied, “I broke someone’s thing, I want to take you to compensate for that.”

The youngster in black was stunned; he angrily said, “What kind of fart are you talking about? I don’t understand.”

He heard someone laughed and said, “You don’t understand, but I do.”

This languid laugh, this ghostly shenfa, in all the world, other than our ‘Bandit Chief’ Chu Liuxiang, would there be a second person?

If Chu Liuxiang wanted to fix his attention on someone, nobody in the world would be able to shake him off. When Yitian Hong saw him, he was not surprised the slightest bit. “Here’s your letter, I pay it back to you,” he spoke coldly.

By the time the last word came out of his mouth, he was already far away.

The youngster in black followed him with his eyes. Shaking his head, he said, “I wonder if that man is kind of sick?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “That man’s sickness is that he kind of likes to meddle in other people’s business. He thought he is doing me a favor, but he has actually spoiled my big plan.”

The youngster in black could not help asking, “He spoiled what big plan of yours?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “I originally wanted to use jadeite in exchange of a pearl, but he spoiled my business deal.”

The youngster in black stared blankly at him, as if his face has suddenly grown a flower. His eyes full of astonishment and curiosity, he said, “I only felt that he is sick; who would have thought that you are actually a lot sicker than him.”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter; he said, “This is called ‘fellow sufferers empathize with each other’ [idiom: misery loves company], ‘similar things come together’ [idiom: birds of a feather flock together].”

The youngster in black said, “But I have no sickness whatsoever, apologies for not accompanying you.”

He was about to turn around to leave, Chu Liuxiang suddenly said, “You wanted to ask me something; don’t you want to ask me now?”

These words were like a bowl; all of a sudden it caught the youngster in black’s foot. Immediately he turned around, his face lit up, and he said, “Now you are willing to tell me?”

Without even thinking Chu Liuxiang said, “I saw the flying camel inside your cape, hence I know you must be either the son or nephew of ‘King of the Desert’. I once saw him inside the Pass, hence I knew he already entered the Pass.”

The youngster in black’s eyes lit up, “You’ve see my Diedie?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang heaved a sigh; he said, “If you are willing to trust me, our difficulties can be resolved.”

The youngster in black looked straight into Chu Liuxiang’s eyes. Under the starry sky, this pair of eyes seemed to be brighter than the stars. The youngster in black suddenly laughed and said, “Very well, I trust you.”

Chu Liuxiang sat down, leaning against the roof ridge. If he could sit, he would never stand. Stretching out his limbs, he laughed and said, “That being the case, I’ll ask you to quickly tell me what exactly was written in that letter.”

“Letter?” the youngster in black said, “Didn’t I give that to you?”

Smiling ruefully, Chu Liuxiang said, “I am decreed by fate not to see the letter, but as long as I can hear it, I will be perfectly contented.”

The youngster in black spoke slowly, “What if I have not seen it?”

Chu Liuxiang tensed up immediately, “If you say you have not seen it, I am afraid I will faint at once,” he said.

“Then faint!” the youngster in black said.

“You really have not seen it?” Chu Liuxiang blurted out.

Unexpectedly the youngster in black chuckled. “I have not seen it,” he replied, “But my Diedie has read it for me.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a long sigh; he muttered, “To be able to see you chuckle, even if I have to be scared to death it is worth it.”

The youngster in black said, “Listen up, the letter says …”

“Wait!” Chu Liuxiang said, “Wait for me to wash my ears clean first.”

The youngster in black laughed, and then said, “The letter says: ‘Parting for many years, remembering the lord’s elegance, which must have surpassed the past, while Qie [I, your servant (deprecatory self-reference for woman)] is already a lot more wan and sallow, now caught in predicament, wishing the lord remembers old affection, to come and bestow your assistance. If the lord does not come, Qie could only die.’ The signature on the bottom was only one character, ‘Su’.”

After suffering untold hardships, Chu Liuxiang was finally able to listen to, which was tantamount to looking at, the letter. Although he had already guessed the content of the letter, but now he was able to verify it with his own ears, hence he was somewhat more confident.

It was a pity that the letter did not mention what the difficulty was. Chu Liuxiang could not help feeling a bit disappointed. After being lost in thought for a long time, he muttered, “Whatever the case, presumably Qiu Lingsu’s difficulty is related to the Beggar Clan.”

“My father also thought of that point,” the youngster in black interrupted, “Hence the reason I thought my father’s disappearance must be related to the Beggar Clan; otherwise, how could I intentionally want to become a stench in the Beggar Clan’s nostrils?”

Chu Liuxiang thought for a moment. “This letter, when was it received? Who delivered it?” he asked.

The youngster in black proudly laughed and said, “My father roamed the desert as a knight-errant, all year long his whereabouts is uncertain, we completely rely on flying pigeons to exchange information, to get in touch with subordinates in various places. Although he is called the ‘King of the Desert’, his influence reaches far into various provinces inside the Pass. The letter was received a month ago, delivered by carrier pigeon from Lincheng [county, in Xingtai, Hebei] pigeon station.”

“But who delivered this letter to Lincheng pigeon station?” Chu Liuxiang asked, “How did he know the ‘King of the Desert’ has a pigeon station in Lincheng?”

The youngster in black sighed and said, “This question of yours, I am afraid nobody can answer it.”

“Why?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The youngster in black replied word by word, “Because everybody at the Lincheng pigeon station has died.”

Chu Liuxiang took a long, withdrawn breath. He was silent for half a day. Finally he said, “Your esteemed father went out only for a month, somehow you think he disappeared?”

The youngster in black said, “After entering the Pass, my father sent pigeon letter to stay in contact with me every day, but more than ten days ago the letters suddenly stopped. If not for encountering enormous misfortune, he definitely would not forget to write a letter to me.”

“And so you followed him out?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The youngster in black replied, “Naturally I immediately traveled at double speed to enter the Pass, while making some inquiries at the pigeon stations along the way, yet there is no news about him, the Senior. Only after finding out that the Lincheng pigeon station personnel suddenly died by violence, I became anxious, hence I looked for the Beggar Clan.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flashed, “What did you find from the Beggar Clan?” he asked.

The youngster in black sighed and said, “I didn’t find anything. Not only the Beggar Clan people completely did not know my Diedie’s whereabouts, practically they do not have any difficulties for the past few years, so they can’t possibly seek help from outsiders.”

He stared at Chu Liuxiang, and then spoke slowly, “But the more so, the more I doubt them. I always feel that under their peace-and-security-with-no-problem-at-hand outside appearance, there must be a hidden secret. My Diedie clearly received their Madam Gang Leader’s letter; he clearly must have had contact with the Beggar Clan, how could they have not the slightest bit of knowledge?”

Chu Liuxiang muttered to himself irresolutely, “Perhaps Mrs. Ren’s difficulty is only her own personal matter; she simply did not wish others in the Beggar Clan to know. She and your Diedie met each other, it was also concealed from the others’ eyes.”

The youngster in black said, “Naturally that is also a possibility. But there are two things that I find strange: first, within the Beggar Clan, unexpectedly nobody knows their own Madam Gang Leader’s whereabouts. Second, you must not forget, their old Gang Leader Ren Ci died within this period of time. Although it is said that he died because of illness, who within the Jianghu saw it with his own eyes?”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly sprang up, and spoke in heavy voice, “From what you have been jabbering about, only this sentence hit the spot right on. But you must not repeat it to anybody else, otherwise there might be instant chaos in Jianghu. This Gang Leader throne of the world’s biggest gang, everybody in the world, whether he is a Beggar Clan disciple or not, would want to sit on it.”

The youngster in black said, “As long as I can find my Diedie, whether Jianghu is in chaos or not, it’s none of my business.”

Chu Liuxiang pondered deeply for half a day, and then he went on, “Since you are this anxious to find your esteemed father’s whereabouts, how could they still not know your background?”

The youngster in black replied coldly, “The reason is very simple … those Beggar Clan disciples whom I have asked would no longer able to divulge any of my secrets.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed; smiling wryly, he said, “This business of killing people seems to come to you quite easily.”

The youngster in black said, “If I don’t kill other people, other people would kill me. Although killing is not a pleasant thing at all, it is always better than being killed.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “How did you know that NanGong Ling wanted to kill you? Why didn’t you ask him directly?”

“I always feel that he is not a good man,” the youngster in black replied.

Chu Liuxiang chuckled and said, “Just based on your feeling? That reason is not enough.”

“In my case, that reason is enough,” the youngster in black replied.

His eyes lit up again; fixing his gaze on Chu Liuxiang, he continued slowly, “Do you think … if you ask him, would he tell you?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Do you think … he has any reason not to?”

The youngster in black said, “If he has done some shameful deed, naturally he would not tell you.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “In that case, if he is unwilling to tell me, would that be tantamount to proving that he has done some shameful deed? Just think, could there be such a fool in the world?”

The youngster in black thought for a moment. He spoke slowly, “If he told you, would you be willing to tell me?”

“Is there any reason why I would not be willing to tell you?” Chu Liuxiang replied.

The youngster in black laughed again; he said, “Turns out Bandit Chief Chu Liuxiang is not at all as hateful as the legend says.”

His cold and detached face revealed a hint of smile, just like on the frozen glacier, on the frigid earth suddenly blew spring breeze, bringing warmth that arose from the bottom of one’s heart.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If you are willing to laugh more often, you will find that there are so many people in the world that are not at all as hateful as you think.”

The youngster in black immediately returned to his wooden expression; he spoke coldly, “Whether there are many hateful people in the world or just a few, it has nothing to do with me. I only ask you: you are going to ask NanGong Ling, when are you going to tell me?”

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