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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 16


Chapter 16 – Wonder Monk Wuhua

“Tomorrow morning …” Chu Liuxiang replied, “If I knew where to find you …”

The youngster in black said, “Tomorrow morning, go to Daming Lake to take a stroll. You will see a black horse. You tell the horse three times, ‘Take me to see Hei Zhenzhu [lit. black pearl]’, and then pull its left ear three times; it will take you to find me. Remember: no more, no less, only three times. Not too light, not to hard even more.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “If I pulled four times? And pulled too hard?”

The youngster in black replied, “Then perhaps it would take you to find a real pearl.”

Suddenly he flashed another smile to Chu Liuxiang, turned around, and flew away like a light smoke.

Looking at his disappearing figure, Chu Liuxiang muttered, “Hei Zhenzhu, oh, Hei Zhenzhu, people say that the color of black is ominous, but I do wish that you, this black pearl, would bring me good luck. Right now I really need some good luck …”

Chu Liuxiang looked up to the vast sky full of stars above; he was lost in thought for half a day.

Shining stars have always able to bring tranquility to his mind, to clear his head. Usually, he only needed to lie down on the deck of his boat, and then all the difficult problems would go away.

But tonight, those shining stars did not seem to be able to help him much. Even after thinking for half a day, his brains was still in a big mess; he could not help smiling ruefully and wondered, “Could it be that the stars here are not the same as the ones on the ocean?”

Finally making up his mind, he returned to the Beggar Clan’s fragrant hall.

The main hall was still brightly lit. Chu Liuxiang jumped down, but unexpectedly nobody appeared from the dark to ask him the question, “Go up to heaven or go down to Hades.”

Chu Liuxiang had no choice but to cough loudly and said, “Is NanGong Xiong here?”

From the main hall immediately someone responded, “Please come in.”

The overturned chairs had been tidied up, the broken window had been mended, the roof tiles on the floor had been swept clean. It was as if nothing had happened in the main hall at all.

Such a spacious hall, there was only NanGong Ling, one person, sitting in it, but on the table there were several sets of cup and chopsticks, as well as several bottles of wine.

Unexpectedly it was as if NanGong Ling was already waiting for Chu Liuxiang. Seeing Chu Liuxiang stepping through the door, he did not look surprised at all; he merely stood up, cupped his fist, and said with a laugh, “Chu Xiong indeed came to collect my debt of wine. Fortunately Xiaodi has already prepared several bottles of wine; otherwise, Chu Xiong came here, Xiaodi could only escape without a trace.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “You knew I was going to look for you here? You are not surprised the least bit?”

NanGong Ling laughed heartily and said, “When Chu Xiong wants to collect wine debt, who under the heavens would be able to escape? Even if Xiaodi go to hide at the ends of the earth, Chu Xiong will be able to find me; this is also not unusual at all.”

Chu Liuxiang also laughed heartily; he said, “That’s true; my nose usually has a ailment, wherever there is good wine, I can always smell it, much less so many bottles of top-quality Zhuyeqing [green bamboo leaves, type of wine].”

Amidst his laughter, he sat down. His eyes swept around, he said, “Too bad there is wine without any food; unavoidably I have a feeling that there is small defect in an otherwise perfect situation. You ought to know, to a guy who loves to eat like me, this is simply a mistreatment.”

NanGong Ling said, “Originally we did have the dishes, Xiaodi had prepared several fat chicken, a pig’s hoof, and also some smoked fish and preserved meat.”

“Could it be that chicken, fish and preserved meat know stealth technique?” Chu Liuxiang said, “How come I cannot see them?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Chu Xiong cannot see, simply because just now someone came, and poured all the dishes into the yin [female/negative, as in yin-yang] gutter.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Could it be that this person has a deep hatred, irreconcilable enmity with me?”

NanGong Ling restrained himself from laughing; he said, “He knew that the guest Xiaodi was waiting for was Chu Xiong, so he scolded Xiaodi, saying that Xiaodi was entertaining Chu Xiong with such coarse dishes, unavoidably I am mistreating Chu Xiang Shuai’s tongue too much.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Chu Liuxiang does not eat chicken meat, are you saying I have to drink the northwest wind [idiom: cold and hungry]?”

Suddenly someone said with a laugh, “The toil on the red dust [i.e. world of mortals (Buddhism)] already consumes human being’s spiritual nature until there is not much left. If you add fat chicken and fat meat onto it, I’m afraid that the barely remaining spiritual nature would be blinded as well.”

A man came floating in from the rear hall, wearing plain clothes and white socks, untainted by even a speck of dust, so that even the smile on his face also appeared out-of-the-dust; unexpectedly it was the ‘Wonder Monk’ Wuhua.

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “Turns out it is you. You, this Wonder Monk, don’t touch meat and fish, are you saying I must copy you to become a monk? But even if I became a monk, I would become a wine-and-meat monk; seeing dishes with generous amounts of meat and fish, I will immediately be reluctant to leave the mortal world.”

Wuhua laughed indifferently and said, “Eating meat is contemptible; don’t you want to try changing your taste?”

Chu Liuxiang appeared delighted; he said, “Are you saying that you are willing to go down to the kitchen?”

Wuhua sighed and said, “Playing Qin, one must have someone who understands music, delicious food must also have someone who knows flavor. Were it not for you, whose tongue has been cultivated since you are little on how to distinguish good or bad taste, why would Pinseng be willing to touch the smoke and fire?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “If you have smoke and fire on you, do you want us to dredge the food directly from the pot?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “This is also strange; no matter where Wuhua Dashi [grand master, a term of respect to address a Buddhist monk] is coming from, he always seems to be ten times cleaner than us. Apparently the dirt and dust of the mundane world cannot contaminate him. Perhaps the saying ‘Celestial Lady scattering the flower, rubbing the flower without being contaminated’ is just like this!”

Pouring the wine till the cups were full, he toasted, “Fortunately, wine is one thing that has the purest nature; otherwise, if Dashi did not even drink wine, how could we all endure!”

Chu Liuxiang laughed toward Wuhua and said, “If ‘three people drink wine, but only you do not drink’, I will really admire you.”

These three men’s wine capacity was really scary; if there was a fourth person on the side watching them drinking, he would have thought that the wine bottles were filled with water.

Two bottles of wine already went down their belly, but the faces of all three of them remained the same.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly said, “It is said that there is one man in Jianghu whose wine capacity is supposedly without equal, he is able to drink a thousand cups without getting drunk. One day he drank three hundred bowls of ‘Ergoutou’ [sorghum liquor) from outside the Pass in succession; unexpectedly he was still able to stand and walk back home.”

“Oh?” NanGong Ling said, “Is there such man? Who is he?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It’s the ‘King of the Desert’ Zha Muge.”

As he spoke, he carefully watched NanGong Ling’s expression.

But NanGong Ling simply laughed aloud and said, “They say it was three hundred bowls, but actually, able to drink half of that would be pretty good. Of all the drinkers in the world, not one does not exaggerate his own wine capacity a little bit. In Xiaodi’s opinion, he might not necessarily be able to drink more than you and I.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes were burning brightly, “Have you ever seen him?” he asked, “Have you ever had a drink with him?”

NanGong Ling smiled and said, “Too bad Xiaodi has never seen him. Otherwise, I really want to decide who’s the better drinker, he or I.”

Chu Liuxiang stroked his nose and muttered, “I am afraid you won’t have such opportunity.”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “As long as he is not dead, there will always be an opportunity.”

Chu Liuxiang put down his cup and spoke word-by-word, “Who said he is not dead?”

“Is he dead?” NanGong Ling asked, “When did he die? How come nobody in Jianghu knows?”

“How do you know that nobody in Jianghu knows about his death?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Smiling, Wuhua interrupted, “The Beggar Clan’s information network is fast and abundant. If there is anybody in Jianghu knows about this information, how could the Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu do not know?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “That’s right. There is indeed nobody in Jianghu who knows about this information, only because I have hidden his corpse, intentionally preventing others from finding out about his death.”

Staring at him, NanGong Ling asked, “But why?”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flickered; he said slowly, “Because the killer created a diversion in order to make Jianghu people think that they were fighting each other and died together. Not only that, they all died. If I did not hide their bodies and prevented this news from leaking out, the culprit would be unfettered and beyond the law. Why should I let him off so easily?”

NanGong Ling nodded and said, “That’s right. With what Chu Xiong did, the people of their school, their relatives, would not know that they are dead. Presumably they would do everything within their power to find out their whereabouts, then the culprit could forget about passing his days in peace and quiet.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Pinseng always said, when the bad guys encountered Chu Xiang Shuai, they must have committed too much sins in their previous life.”

Fixing his gaze on NanGong Ling, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Would you help me find the real culprit?”

NanGong Ling laughed and replied, “Chu Xiong must not forget, the Beggar Clan disciples have the reputation to be too inquisitive about other people’s business; although still inferior to Chu Xiang Shuai, the difference is not too much.”

“In that case,” Chu Liuxiang said, “Could you tell me, where is Ren Lao Bangzhu’s madam this moment?”

Astonished, NanGong Ling said, “Are you saying Madame Ren is related to this matter?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “The hidden reason behind this, you may find out in the future, but now you only need to tell me where Madame Ren is, then you are already doing me the biggest favor.”

His eyes were still fixed on NanGong Ling, but he said with a big laughter, “If you are unwilling to tell me, I am afraid I will think that you are deliberately covering up the culprit. If I talked rubbish, I am afraid you, as the Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu, will find it unbearable.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Chu Xiong’s most adorable trait is that sometimes he will raise hell like a little child.”

NanGong Ling sighed and said, “After Ren Lao Bangzhu died, Madame Ren vowed to remain unmarried. In my capacity as Beggar Clan disciple, Xiaodi actually cannot take an outside to disturb her.”

And then he slightly paused his speech, turned toward Chu Liuxiang, laughed, and said, “Yet although Xiaodi is not afraid of anybody else, seeing Chu Xiong, I am actually quite helpless.”

Chu Liuxiang was delighted, “So you agree?” he asked.

Smiling bitterly, NanGong Ling said, “That accusation of covering the culprit, how could Xiaodi bear it?”

“Where is Madame Ren now?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Madame Ren’s dwelling place is really a secret, it is hard for others to find it. If Chu Xiong would be willing to finish this still-more-than-half a bottle of wine, Xiaodi would immediately take Chu Xiong there; what do you think?”

Wuhua laughed and said, “If you want to give him any hardship, you ought to think about some other ideas. You wanted him to drink, wouldn’t it be exactly what he has in mind?”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “In the end it is Wuhua who knows me better.”

Amidst his laughter, he raised the wine bottle, and with ‘glug, glug, glug’, he finished the bottle in one breath. Unexpectedly his face still did not change. “Can we go now?” he said with a laugh.

NanGong Ling pondered for a moment before saying, “I wonder if Chu Xiong could wait for a moment, Xiaodi has some trivial things in the Gang to attend to.”

Chu Liuxiang thought for a moment; he said, “The place where we are going, can we go there and return within two days?”

“Perhaps two days is enough,” NanGong Ling replied.

Wuhua laughed and said, “Chu Xiong wants to return urgently, I wonder if you have a date with a beautiful woman?”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “Others often say that nothing can deceive me, I’ll say this sentence ought to be transferred to you.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Daming Lake under the moon, a tryst after dusk. Chu Xiong is that kind of person. If you came to Jinan prefecture and did not have one or two such love affair, that would be really odd.”

Chu Liuxiang turned his gaze toward the window, where the paper was starting to show the color of dawn. “Very well,” he said, “About a sichen later, I am coming back to look for you.”

He wiped his mouth and unexpectedly swaggered out, while snatching the wine cup in front of Wuhua in passing. They heard the sound of his laughter from outside the window, saying, “Wuhua provided good dishes, NanGong provided good wine, I came and ate, I ate and left. Life is just like this. Men return, what is there to seek? Having eaten and drunk to one’s heart’s content, being merry without any companions.”

By the time the last word was spoken, he had already gone far. But the wine cup has flown back through the window and landed precisely in front of Wuhua.

The wine has been drunk dry, but there was something inside the cup; unexpectedly it was the tiny jade ruyi scepter [a symbol of power and good fortune] that was hanging on Wuhua’s waist.

Emotionally moved, NanGong Ling said, “Chu Liuxiang, what a fast hand.”

But Wuhua sighed and spoke calmly, “If it was not an insignificant thing, how could Pinseng let him took it? If he is willing to hold back his sharp point somewhat and not showing off too much, perhaps he would be able to live for a long time.”

Misty dawn by the Daming Lake.

Chu Liuxiang strolled along the lake; before too long, he already heard a horse neighing, followed by light, crisp hoof beats, running along the side of the lake.

Even inside the dense fog, it was clear that the horse was black and shiny.

Chu Liuxiang stepped over to meet the horse; he laughed and said, “Horsey, oh horsey, too bad you belong to a friend; otherwise, I would not want to let other people riding on your back.”

Unexpectedly the horse seemed to recognize him; it neighed lightly and nodded its head toward him.

Chu Liuxiang sighed inwardly, “If you treat a horse well, it will never forget you. But no matter how great you are treating people, in the blink of an eye he would forget it completely.”

He spoke in the horse’s ear, “Take me to see Hei Zhenzhu,” three times, as well as lightly pulled the horse’s ear three times. If it were other people, he would certainly unable to bear not to pull four times harder, just to see what would happen. But Chu Liuxiang has always thought that one must not be mischievous toward animal, since he and the animal were similar.

Sure enough, the horse led the way in front.

Chu Liuxiang did not ride the horse at all. From behind, he watched in fascination as the horse’s muscles were leaping and moving. He felt that it was much delightful than if he was riding on its back.

The movements of the muscles, the rhythm of life, wouldn’t they be the beautiful and virtuous realm of the human life? A man who knows how to enjoy life will never pass any opportunity to enjoy ‘beauty’.

In the dark shade under a willow tree by the lakeside, there was a small, light boat. The youngster in black, the ‘Black Pearl’, was sitting on the boat, staring blankly at the fog covering the entire surface of the lake, lost in thought.

Although on the surface he appeared cold and detached so that he seemed not to care about anything in the world, but he actually had more load in his mind than anybody else.

Chu Liuxiang cleared his throat and said with a laugh, “What are you thinking?”

Without even looking back, Hei Zhenzhu pensively replied, “I am thinking about you.”

Suddenly he sprang up, turned around to face Chu Liuxiang, and loudly went on, “Thinking whether you have asked the question?”

“I haven’t,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Hei Zhenzhu laughed coldly and said, “I knew that he couldn’t possibly tell you.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Although he has not told me, he is going to take me go.”

Hei Zhenzhu’s eyes lit up, “All right,” he said, “You go ahead, I’ll follow behind you.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If you are thinking of following behind NanGong Ling without him detecting your presence, I’m afraid your qinggong is not good enough.”

Laughing coldly, Hei Zhenzhu said, “Even if he detected me, what can he do to me?”

“Nothing,” Chu Liuxiang said, “But you and I can forget about ever finding Madame Ren.”

Hei Zhenzhu was silent for half a day. “How long are you going to go?” he finally asked.

“Two days,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“All right,” Hei Zhenzhu said, “Two days later, I am going to wait for you here.”

Chu Liuxiang pondered for half a day. Finally he said, “Two days later, at dusk, there will be a girl wearing light-colored clothes coming to Daming Lake. If by that time I haven’t returned, please tell her to wait for me.”

Hei Zhenzhu suddenly laughed coldly and said, “A tryst with beautiful lady at dusk; Chu Liuxiang is indeed very romantic. Too bad I do not know that beautiful lady of yours; how could I pass on your message to her?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “She is surnamed Su. As soon as you see her, you will know that it is she. Although Daming Lake is inundated with illustrious individuals, a girl like her can’t be too many.”

Staring deeply toward Chu Liuxiang with his pitch-black eyes, Hei Zhenzhu said, “Is she very beautiful?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “How could just this one word, ‘beauty’, describe her?”

Hei Zhenzhu’s eyes grew bigger; he said, “Who is she to you?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Don’t you think you are asking too much?”

Hei Zhenzhu suddenly lowered his eyes; he said coldly, “All right, you may go … but what if she is unwilling to wait for you?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “If she is unwilling to wait for me, I will jump into Daming Lake to kill myself.”

Hei Zhenzhu turned his gaze toward the fog-covered lake; heaving a long sigh, he said, “Your confidence in yourself is really too high.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “If you take the self-confidence away, I am afraid what remains from Chu Liuxiang is just the smelly water from the beach.”

He started to walk away for several steps; suddenly he turned around and said, “Don’t you think that your name is a little bit like a woman’s name?”

Hei Zhenzhu coldly said, “If I were a woman, I might have already killed you.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “If you were a woman, perhaps you would not be so mean to me.”

Several li southeast of Qufu [county level city in Jining, Shandong], there was a mountain called Mount Ni. Although the mountain was not very high, the scenery was extremely serene, with natural charms filling the eyes. It was not long after Chu Liuxiang entered the mountain when he already felt that he was out of this world.

It was early morning, the mountain was covered in dense mist, the white rocks and clear spring appeared dark blue and bluish green from the reflection of the light. The morning breeze swayed the trees and the leaves, interspersed with the chirping of the birds. When NanGong Ling was stepping into the rising dense morning mist, it appeared that he was riding on clouds.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly asked, “How long have we been away from Jinan?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Not even one day yet. How could you forget?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Although I have just arrived here, thinking about those ordinary dispute in the city of Jinan, it feels like all those things were happening in my previous life. If I continued living here for a long time, perhaps I, a mere layman, would become an elegant scholar.”

NanGong Ling was silent for half a day. Heaving a deep sigh, he said, “When Ren Lao Bangzhu was still alive, he always thought about building a house here to live in seclusion. He often said that there was a Kuang Lu’s [ancient name of Mount Lu, Jiangxi] absolute serenity in here, but without Kuang Lu’s tourists. There was Mount Huang’s spirited elegance, but without Mount Huang’s false reputation. It’s a pity that he was so busy all his life that unexpectedly this aspiration could only be realized after his death.”

“Do you miss him very much?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

NanGong Ling was silent. “He was the most benevolent man, the kindest man I have ever met in all my life,” he said, “I … I was an orphan. Without him, I would not be what I am today.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flashing, he said, “I have known you for many years, but these words, this is the first time I hear you say it.”

NanGong Ling sighed, he spoke slowly, “In Jianghu, the strong survives, the weak perishes, the competition is fierce; not one day, one moment, we could have rest. Some things, I do not have time to think, but I do not dare to think about it either.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “That’s right. Some things, if you think about it too much, your heart will change. And those whose heart is too soft will not be able to survive in Jianghu.”

NanGong Ling laughed indifferently, but no longer spoke.

There was a narrow path in front of them, winding around up the mountain. One side was a ten-thousand-ren [ancient unit of measure, around 7-8 feet or 2-2.5m] deep cliff; the other side was a hundred-zhang dangerous precipice. Although the scenery was absolutely serene, the terrain was extremely dangerous.

“I wonder if Madame Ren lives on the summit?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

NanGong Ling replied, “Madame Ren is a peerless talent [orig. magnificent style unmatched in one’s generation], a unique individual, how could she be willing to live under other people?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I am not the kind of person who get nervous easily, but hearing all kinds of poetic and passionate things people say pertaining to Madame Ren, and then thinking that very soon I am going to see her, unexpectedly my heart is throbbing without I am able to stop it.”

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