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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 17

CSI

Chapter 17 – One Saber Chop in The Wind

Suddenly he heard the sound of running water from a distance. There was another steep cliff ahead. Under the cliff, there was a stream where the water was flowing rapidly; droplets of water looked like flying pearls and splashing jade. There was wide-open space about ten zhang across; both sides of the stream were connected by a stone beam no more than two chi wide.

This moment, there was a man sitting cross-legged on the stone beam. His clothes were fluttering in the mountain breeze. It looked like he might fall any moment, and if he fell, his body would definitely be torn and his bones crushed. Yet his eyes were closed, as if he was asleep.

Chu Liuxiang walked closer, and only then was he able to look at this man clearly. His complexion was waxy yellow, with thick eyebrows and a nose like a hawk. Although his eyes were closed, he could make people feel that there was some kind of sharp murderous aura in them.

He was sitting cross-legged, his bare feet were visible under his clothes, but he had a pair of high-toothed ebony wooden clogs, which he placed in front of him. Next to the wooden clogs, there was unexpectedly a sword inside its peculiarly-styled black sheathe.

The mountain breeze blew his clothes that its sleeves were fluttering, creating rustling noise. Unexpectedly there were eight large wild grass style characters in flamboyant cursive calligraphy embroidered on his black silk wide robes:

‘Sword that must kill, blocking it will not be pardoned.’ [bi sha zhi jian, dang zhe wu she]

In the quietness of the empty mountain, in the dreary and fuzzy mist of the dawn, on the steep cliff standing like a wall, unexpectedly sat such a man. It made this ethereal valley suddenly felt like it was full of strange mystery.

Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Chu Liuxiang turned toward NanGong Ling and spoke quietly, “Who’s that?”

NanGong Ling shook his head.

“Madame Ren’s abode,” Chu Liuxiang asked, “Is it on the opposite cliff?”

NanGong Ling nodded.

Chu Liuxiang walked over, cupped his fist, and said with a laugh, “Friend, would you lend us a way?”

The man still sat upright with closed eyes, without moving at all, as if he had not heard him.

Chu Liuxiang raised his voice, “Friend, is it possible for you to lend a way so that Zaixia could pass through?”

His voice reverberated across the valley, unending echo came from all sides.

The man remained silent, remained unmoving.

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang turned toward NanGong Ling and said, “What this friend is saying without opening his mouth is: This mountain, I opened it, these trees, I grew them. If henceforth you want to pass through, just leave money to get the right of passage.”

He intentionally spoke very loud, as if he wanted to provoke the man.

The man suddenly opened his eyes a slit and gave Chu Liuxiang a glance. Chu Liuxiang felt as if his face was slit across by a blade; unconsciously in his heart he was shocked.

The man slowly said, “The world is so big, instead of going anyplace else, the two gentlemen determined to come here?”

He spoke really slow, enunciating every word clearly, but it sounded unspeakably harsh and ear piercing, like a scraping blade or snapping bamboo pole.

Chu Liuxiang’s heart was moved. “Sire, your great name?” he blurted out asking.

The man replied, “Tianfeng Shisi Lang.” [lit. heavenly maple fourteenth lad/youth]

Chu Liuxiang said, “Could it be that Sire is not Central Earth’s figure?”

Tianfeng Shisi Lang replied, “This man’s coming from Dongying Zhou [east china sea (or Japan) prefecture], Yihe Valley.”

Aghast, Chu Liuxiang’s countenance changed; he said, “Could it be that Sire is Yihe Ren Xia [hero of ‘ren’, see ‘ren shu’, Chapter 8]?”

Tianfeng Shisi Lang closed his eyes and stopped talking.

Chu Liuxiang remembered that night, while the secret fog shrouded his vision, the strange, mysterious person disappeared by jumping into the lake; he could not stop a chill from appearing at the bottom of his heart.

“Could it be that he was the man?”

This moment NanGong Ling bowed and said, “Yihe Ren Xia, invincible divine dragon. More than twenty years ago occasionally his hero track appeared in Min Zhe region [Fujian and Zhejiang]; is it possible that it was Qianbei [senior/older generation]?”

“Exactly,” Tianfeng Shisi Lang replied.

NanGong Ling said, “Qianbei appears for the second time, now we, who studied later and less advanced skill, can have a glimpse of Yihe secret art, Wanbei [junior/younger generation] really unbearably happy, but I wonder Qianbei crossed the ocean to come again, how long have you been here?”

This was precisely the question Chu Liuxiang wanted to ask, so he could not help paying very close attention.

He heard Tianfeng Shisi Lang slowly said, “Ten days ago I abandoned the boat to come ashore, five days ago I arrived here.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help commenting, “That’s strange, Zaixia seemed to see Qianbei by the shore of Daming Lake?”

“You must be blind then,” Tianfeng Shisi Lang coldly replied.

Chu Liuxiang still wanted to speak, but NanGong Ling signaled him with his eyes to stop him; he said with a laugh, “Wanbei originally wanted to listen more to Qianbei’s teaching to increase our knowledge, however, we have an important matter at hand, and hoping that Qianbei would lend a way. When Wanbei return, we will definitely come again to ask for guidance.”

Tianfeng Shisi Lang suddenly opened his eyes, and spoke in stern voice, “You insist on going this way, is it to look for that Qiu Lingsu?”

Chu Liuxiang’s heart jumped. This Yihe Ninja unexpectedly knew the name ‘Qiu Lingsu’!

He saw NanGong Ling knitted his brows and said, “Qiu Lingsu …? Did Qianbei mean to say Madame Ren?”

“Humph!” Tianfeng Shisi Lang snorted.

Qianbei also know her?” NanGong Ling asked.

Tianfeng Shisi Lang suddenly threw his head back and howled with laughter; a very mournful laughter. It shook the distant pine trees that the needles were rustling down, and the green mountain seemed to lose its color.

Chu Liuxiang and NanGong Ling looked at each other, neither one knew what he was laughing for.

They heard Tianfeng Shisi Lang said with a wild laughter, “You asked whether I know her? For her sake I was willing to receive disgrace from Ren Ci, with hatred in my heart I returned to Dongying, vowing that as long as Ren Ci is still alive, I would never return to the Central Earth … For her happiness, I received Ren Ci’s palm strike without striking back. For her sake I did not marry until today! And now, you asked me if I knew her?”

Listening to him, Chu Liuxiang was dumbfounded; he had never thought that between this ‘Yihe Ninja’ and Ren Ci, husband and wife, there was such love and hatred entanglement in the past; even more unexpected was that this strange man, who seemed to be colder than ice, could have such infatuation! In term of silly passion, unexpectedly he was not inferior to Zha Muge and the others.

In addition to Zha Muge, Ximen Qian, Zuo Youzheng, Lingjiu Zi, this was the fifth man. All five men were turning upside down for love, willingly subjected themselves to lifelong yearning.

The only difference was that those four men were dead and this man was still alive.

The wild laughter finally ceased. Tianfeng Shisi Lang spoke in stern voice, “Now Ren Ci is dead, finally Qiu Lingsu belongs to me completely. Other than me, anybody else can just forget about seeing her, ever.”

“But Madame Ren …” NanGong Ling started.

Tianfeng Shisi Lang shouted, “She is unwilling to see others either. Just go!”

Knitting his brows, NanGong Ling muttered to himself irresolutely, “In the capacity as Gai Bang disciple, Zaixia ought to honor Madame Ren’s wish, but this Chu Xiong …”

He paused and turned to look at Chu Liuxiang.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Whether she is really unwilling to see others, I have to hear it from her own mouth to believe.”

In quiet, sad voice NanGong Ling said, “With him guarding on the stone beam, how could you and I pass through?”

Under the stone beam was a very deep ravine, the two banks were separated by more than ten zhang distance, anyone would find it difficult to fly through. To fly over Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s head, the chance of success would only be one in a hundred or even one in a thousand.

Chu Liuxiang looked around; smiling slightly, he said, “In any case, good or bad, I still need to try.”

The words have just left his mouth, ‘Qiang!’ there was a flash; from the sleeve of Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s wide robe something flew out and looped around a tree about the size of the mouth of a bowl thick, which grew by the cliff. At the first glance, it appeared to be a silvery, flashing flying ring. Chu Liuxiang still wanted to have a closer look, when he heard ‘Crack!’, the tree broke into two, while the silver ring flew out, whistling back into Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s sleeve and disappeared.

Within the Central Plain Wulin, there was no lack of extremely superior martial art experts in all kinds and sorts of secret projectiles, more than several hundred different varieties. But Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s technique was completely different to any of them. This silvery, flashing flying ring carried some indescribably weird and amazing secret. The ring flying back and forth seemed to be alive.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Yihe technique indeed stands out from the masses.”

Laughing evilly, Tianfeng Shisi Lang said, “This is precisely the ‘Si Juan Shu’ [lit. dead roll technique], one of the Ren Shu’s Nine Big Secret Skills. If I did not start off leniently, what if that tree is your neck? Why haven’t you left?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Si Juan Shu? The name is really scary, but the tree is dead, while people are alive. Would I stick out my neck waiting for you to loop over it?”

Tianfeng Shisi Lang roared angrily, “Do you want to try?”

Amidst the shout, a flash of light already flew toward Chu Liuxiang.

Chu Liuxiang felt the dazzling rays of light, followed by a streak of eagle-bowl-like silvery light like lightning striking over, the momentum was a lot faster than what he previously imagined.

Turning his body around, he moved seven chi away. Who would have thought that the silvery light was indeed alive, it followed him like a shadow, unexpectedly it was still flying toward him.

Chu Liuxiang’s body flashed seven times in succession. As far as his eyes could see, the entire sky was full of flashing silvery light, so that anybody would find it hard to evade.

Suddenly three dots of black stars flew out of Chu Liuxiang’s hand. Two dots of black stars flew into the air, but ‘Ding!’ one dot struck the silvery light.

And then a ‘Qiang!’ was heard, the silvery light filling the air suddenly disappeared, the eagle-bowl closed in and turned into a ring. It fell to the ground, but quickly shot out again.

His countenance changed, Tianfeng Shisi Lang angrily shouted, “Eight-style wild deer [no idea, perhaps cuss word in his native language?], you dare to break my ‘Si Juan Shu’ … All right, look at my ‘Danxin Shu’ [lit. loyal heart method].”

Suddenly, like the waves of the sea a cloud of purple mist rolled over. In the midst of the fog, there seemed to be a flickering purple star. Chu Liuxiang quickly flew backward, and suddenly soared into the sky.

‘Boom!’

A loud explosion shook the earth, like lightning flashes and sound of thunder. The purple fog gracefully dispersed like a light smoke. Unexpectedly a large tree that was originally behind Chu Liuxiang was split in the middle into two halves. Both halves toppled over, revealing the heart of the tree, which looked black as coal, like it was struck by lightning. A gust of wind blew, the leaves and wooden fragments fluttered in the wind. In the blink of an eye, one vibrant tree suddenly turned into a withered and dead tree, most of the green leaves also turned yellow.

Looking at that, Chu Liuxiang could not help but was shocked, “This ren shu is indeed very demonical.”

His shadow suddenly flashed three zhang away, unexpectedly he floated onto the stone beam. The full-of-demonic-spirit, full-of-murderous-intent Tianfeng Shisi Lang was only several chi away from him.

NanGong Ling blurted out, “Yihe Ninja possesses great magical power, Chu Xiong, you must be careful.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Now that I have tasted your ren shu, I want to experience your ‘sword that must kill’.”

Tianfeng Shisi Lang spoke word-by-word, “You want to see my ‘Yingfeng Yi Dao Zhan’ [One Saber Chop in The Wind, title of this chapter]?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Now, even if you let me pass, I won’t pass through. My interest in you is getting bigger than my interest in Madame Ren. After experiencing your ‘Yingfeng Yi Dao Zhan’, I want to have a nice chat with you.”

Laughing fiendishly, Tianfeng Shisi Lang said, “This ‘Yingfeng Yi Dao Zhan’ is the essence of the way of the swords [jian dao]. When the sword comes out, it has to kill; those who block it will not be pardoned. After you look at it, don’t think that you would be able to talk to anybody.”

He stared at Chu Liuxiang without blinking. His eyes emitted some kind of demonic, peculiar light. Within his slowly spoken words, there seemed to be some kind of demonic, peculiar hypnotic power.

Although on the surface Chu Liuxiang was still smiling, his entire body, from top to bottom, every fen, every cun, was in full alert. But his eyes were fixed on the saber.

The saber was over five chi long, it was long and narrow like a sword.

Such a peculiar long saber, naturally it must have peculiar style as well.

Suddenly he saw Tianfeng Shisi Lang grabbing the saber, while his person was also leaping up; the saber has left its scabbard! The saber light was like a vast and deep limpid autumn waters, dark green and deep cold, piercing into the flesh and bones.

Tianfeng Shisi Lang turned his left hand over to hold the scabbard, while his right hand grasped the long saber. Left hand hanging below his waist, right hand raising the saber level to his eyebrow, the blade facing out. The saber might chop down any moment.

But his body was like stone statue; it did not move at all. His demonic, peculiar gaze was fixed on Chu Liuxiang. The saber light was like his gaze, it also enveloped Chu Liuxiang.

The blade, although it was not moving yet, but Chu Liuxiang already felt the murderous aura shooting out of it, which was growing heavier and heavier. Although he was standing some distance away, unexpectedly he did not dare to move half a cun.

He knew that as soon as he moved the slightest bit, it would be hard not to reveal any opening, and then the opponent’s ‘must kill sword’ would immediately chop down.

This ‘using stillness to control motion’ was precisely the essence of the Dongying’s sword way.

‘The enemy does not move, I do not move. The enemy moves, I move first. Not unleashing at all, once it is unleashed, it will hit.’

‘Martial art masters facing off against each other, wouldn’t one move be able to differentiate victory from defeat?’

Dark clouds were gathering from all around, the leaves on the trees were rustling, the earth was brimming with somber and desolate air.

The sound of surging waves seemed to be moving farther and farther away, until it finally disappeared altogether. The only audible thing was the rhythm of Tianfeng Shisi Lang and Chu Liuxiang’s breathing, which was also growing heavier and heavier.

The ‘stillness’ in standing face to face was really more dreadful than the ‘motion’ of the battle attacking each other.

Only because the ‘stillness’ was brimming with unknown crisis, unknown danger; nobody could predict where Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s blade would chop.

Chu Liuxiang could already feel the beads of sweat trickling down from the tip of his nose, but Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s yellow waxy face was like a dead person’s; it did not show any changes.

Suddenly the two wooden clogs fell into the rave below. It was a long time later that a couple of ‘Splash!’ was heard, as the wooden clogs fell into the water. Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s movement has kicked the clogs down.

Step-by-step Tianfeng Shisi Lang was pressing on.

Chu Liuxiang could not move. He did not know how to move.

Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s bare feet ground against the rough stone beam as he moved step by step forward; the sole of his feet was scratched, leaving traces of blood on the stone beam.

But he did not seem to feel anything.

His heart and soul were entirely on the saber. He was totally oblivious of ten thousand matters outside his body. Although his figure was moving, the blade of the saber was still standing upright.

Even the top of the blade did not flicker at all.

But right this moment, suddenly a wisp of sharp wind attacked straight toward Chu Liuxiang’s waist and flank.

Although the saber in Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s hand has not moved, the scabbard actually thrust out.

Chu Liuxiang’s entire body was actually prepared for the saber, unexpectedly he would use the scabbard to strike first. Startled, instinctively his body moved backward.

Yet at this moment, Tianfeng Shisi Lang roared while the sword in his hand was swiftly hacking down.

He already calculated accurately Chu Liuxiang retreating path, and already calculated accurately that Chu Liuxiang would not be able to retreat even if he wanted to, that he would not be able to evade even if he wanted to. This saber was indeed the ‘sword that has to kill’.

This saber appeared ordinary, without anything amazing about it, but the essence of this sword way, the intelligence while facing the enemy, the extreme limit of the martial art that the earth is capable of containing, were all covered in this one saber strike.

Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s eyes have turned completely red, the clothes covering his body was also aroused by the true power exuded by his body that it ballooned and fluttered in the wind – this saber must kill; he really did not need to spare any energy.

This ‘One Saber Chop in The Wind’; would it really be unequalled throughout the world?

The saber wind passed over, Chu Liuxiang’s body also fell down … he could not retreat even if he wanted to, could not evade even if he wanted to, unexpectedly he jumped off the stone beam.

Although he managed to evade this saber that must kill without pardon, yet it was difficult for him to avoid having his body buried in the hundreds of zhang deep ravine! NanGong Ling’s face contorted; he could not help wanting to cry out in shock.

Who would have thought that his cry has not left his mouth, Chu Liuxiang’s figure suddenly sprang up.

Turned out although his body fell down, the tip of his foot still managed to hook the stone beam. Once the saber blade passed through, the toes, utilizing the inertia force, sending his body shooting four zhang into the air, where he made a somersault, and then like a hawk seizing a rabbit he pounced down straight toward Tianfeng Shisi Lang.

He intentionally walked up the stone beam, seemingly taking his chances, but actually he has already calculated early on his way out of the stone beam. Far before the battle happened, he unexpectedly already figured out every possible scenario. The way he turned over and fell, the way he leaped high into the sky, not only a demonstration of his qinggong, his shenfa, which has reached the great heights, but also the embodiment of his resourcefulness in facing the enemy. Although the two combatants have only exchanged one move, this one move was the crystallization of their martial art and intelligence.

Once Tianfeng Shisi Lang sent out one saber strike, he had no strength left. Chu Liuxiang’s speed in meeting a contingency, his superior qinggong, had really far exceeded his expectation.

The stone beam terrain was extremely dangerous; Tianfeng Shisi Lang originally wanted to exploit the danger to produce victory; he had forgotten that if there was any advantage, there must also be detriment. This moment the situation changed, he ended up eating his own fruit instead.

Chu Liuxiang’s figure pouncing down, he also could not retreat even if he wanted to, he could not evade even if he wanted to.

There was a loud ‘Clang!’ as the blade chopped down of the stone beam; sparks flew everywhere, with one grab Chu Liuxiang caught his hair, and said with a long laugh, “Sire, where do you think you are going?”

The sound of his laughter rose up before it stopped abruptly!

What Chu Liuxiang grabbed in his hand was unexpectedly just a pile of fake hair, with a waxy yellow mask attached at the end. Nothing more.

He saw Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s body rolling down, and then suddenly with another ‘Clang!’ A piece of string flew out of his hand and nailed itself onto the stone beam.

Following the thread, his body swept away and floated down; unexpectedly he was not hurt at all. They saw him quickly wading toward the bank of the stream and walking away. Laughing loudly, he said, “Chu Liuxiang, you have seen Yihe’s ‘Empty Cicada Technique’, isn’t it the most amazing thing in the world?”

Before the laughter disappeared, he had already gone far away.

Unexpectedly Chu Liuxiang could only stare blankly at Tianfeng Shisi Lang swaggering off. He could not chase even if he wanted to, he could not block even if he wanted to. He simply clutched the wig and the mask in his hand, while standing there, dumbfounded.

Only drops of water were dripping down from the mask.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly laughed and said, “In any case, I still made him sweat … Just now, with the mask covering his face, I thought he was completely without any feeling so that he did not even sweat!”

Only this moment did NanGong Ling walk over and said with a laugh, “The martial art of Yihe Valley is indeed strange and ruthless, really unfathomable. Were it not for Chu Xiong’s unrivalled-in-the-world qinggong, perhaps today no one would escape his saber.”

Staring at him, suddenly Chu Liuxiang broke into laughter and said, “Although he learned his martial art from Yihe, but he himself did not come from Yihe.”

Taken aback, NanGong Ling asked, “How did Chu Xiong know?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “If he really came from Yihe, how did he know I am Chu Liuxiang?”

NanGong Ling thought for a moment, and then he blurted out, “That’s right, just now Xiaodi did not mention Chu Xiong’s name at all.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Besides, if he was really Yihe Ren Xia, you and I basically did not know him, why would he bother to wear a mask and change his appearance?”

NanGong Ling mused, “But if that man was not a Yihe Ninja, who is he?”

Brilliant rays flickered in Chu Liuxiang’s eyes, he said, “Until now, although I cannot guess who he is, but I know that he must know me, and I must have known him as well …”

The light in his eyes brightened, he laughed and went on, “The range of possibilities can’t be too big, simply because within the Wulin under the heavens, those who know my true identity are not many. And those with that kind of martial art skill are even less.”

NanGong Ling said, “As far as Xiaodi knows, within the martial art masters of the world, practically not even one person is proficient in Yihe ren shu.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Naturally ren shu is not his original school’s martial art. In such a crisis he was still unwilling to use his original school’s martial art, naturally it was because he knew that as soon as he used his original school’s martial art, I would immediately recognize who he is.”

NanGong Ling’s eyes also brightened; he said, “In that case, wouldn’t this person’s real identity is on the verge of coming out into the open?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled slightly and said, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed. Buddha said, ‘must not be mentioned, must not be mentioned’.”

NanGong Ling roared in laughter and said, “I never thought Chu Xiong unexpectedly can hold off the climax of the story.”

Stretching his limbs, Chu Liuxiang said, “In any case, shall I be able to see Madame Ren today?”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Even if Chu Xiong did not wish to see her, I am afraid Xiaodi will be dying to see her.”

The two men looked at each other and roared in laughter together as they walked over the stone beam.

Arriving here, where the mountainous area ended, the forest hidden from view, there were thirty-five cottages.

Leading the way, NanGong Ling walked over toward the bamboo fence in front of the cottage and spoke in loud and clear voice, “Disciple NanGong Ling is coming with a specific purpose in mind to kowtow and to inquire Madame’s wellbeing.”

After half a day, someone responded slowly from inside the hut, “Since you are already here, why don’t you push the door and come in?”

The voice was incomparably gentle and soft, incomparably graceful; hearing this kind of voice, one would be able to infer what kind of person the speaker was.

Unconsciously Chu Liuxiang’s spirit was shaken; laughing quietly, he said, “Without seeing the person, just by listening to this voice, one’s spirit would clear up and his qi open up.”

NanGong Ling did not answer; he slowly pushed the bamboo fence open and tiptoed in.

Arriving here, this fiery and passionate Gang Leader of the Beggar Clan unexpectedly seemed to become like a tardy pupil who was afraid that the teacher might punish him; he did not dare to even breathe loudly.

The wooden door outside the cottage was half-closed. A whiff of faint delicate fragrance permeated the air from the gap on the door. A huge, ancient cypress tree branches loomed overhead; there was also an unknown kingfisher bird perched on it, but it seemed to be asleep.

Walking into the dense serenity, Chu Liuxiang also seemed to be afraid to break the quiet loneliness; unconsciously his steps became lighter.

This moment, that same elegant voice spoke slowly, “The door is open, why haven’t you stepped in?”

With the squeak of the door, the kingfisher was startled, the door was ajar.

At first glance, Chu Liuxiang saw a woman with her long hair draped across her shoulders, wearing black gown, kneeling woodenly in front of an incense burner table, without moving at all, as if she has been kneeling there since the ancient times.

Her back was toward the door, so he could not see her face.

However, although her back was facing the door, although she was not moving, her elegant posture was enough to make Chu Liuxiang, in his unconscious mind, to look at her as he was losing his mind.

He had never thought that the back of a kneeling woman could have such a great charm.

On the incense burner table was an inelegantly shaped, garishly colored porcelain bottle emitting thick incense fragrance. Without turning her head, Madame Ren slowly said, “NanGong Ling, who did you bring here?”

Chu Liuxiang bowed and said, “Zaixia Chu Liuxiang, came with specific purpose in mind to pay my respects to Madame.”

Madame Ren said, “Chu Liuxiang …”

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