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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 18

CSI
Chapter 18 – Turning All Living Things Upside Down

She spoke the world’s richest-with-legend, as well as the most romantic, name, one more time, but the tone of her voice was still flat, as if there was not the slightest bit of amazement. ‘Chu Liuxiang’, these three words were regarded with such indifference … especially regarded with such indifference by a woman; perhaps this has never happened before.

NanGong Ling bowed and said, “Originally disciple did not dare to take outside guest to come and disturb Madame, but this gentleman Chu Gongzi has a rather deep relationship with our Gang. Not only that, the reason of his visit this time is related to our Gang …”

Madame Ren spoke indifferently, “The Gang’s affair has nothing to do with me; why would you come to me?”

“But this matter is deeply related to Madame,” Chu Liuxiang said.

“What matter?” Madame Ren asked.

Chu Liuxiang cast a glance toward NanGong Ling. Muttering to himself irresolutely, he said, “Ximen Qian, Zuo Youzheng, Lingjiu Zi, Zha Muge, these four Qianbei, presumably Madame knew them. This time Zaixia’s visit here is related to these four gentlemen.”

As he spoke, he paid close attention to any changes in Madame Ren’s look. Although he did not see her face, he found out that her tranquil shoulders seemed to suddenly tremble a little.

And then, she abruptly rose up to her full height and looked back.

Chu Liuxiang has been waiting for her to look back; he was waiting to see her turning-all-living-things-upside-down appearance. When her head was turning, Chu Liuxiang could not stop his heart from beating faster.

But when she turned back, Chu Liuxiang was completely disappointed.

Unexpectedly her face was covered in a layer of black gauzed veil, so much so that even her eyes were covered. Unexpectedly she was this stingy with her appearance; she was unwilling to let anybody look at her.

Chu Liuxiang only felt that her pair of bright and sharp fluid glance was penetrating the black gauzed veil to look at him … so much so that it penetrated his body, and was looking at his heart.

But he did not lower his head. No one in the world could make Chu Liuxiang lower his head.

Madame Ren’s gaze was fixed at him for a long, long time. By the time she spoke again, her voice has returned to its former tranquil tone. She finally spoke slowly, “That’s right, I do know those four men. But it was a matter of twenty years ago. Why did you use this matter, which even I have already forgotten, to disturb me?”

“But Madame has recently wrote a letter to them, is that right?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

“Letter?” Madame Ren blankly said.

Chu Liuxiang looked straight at her. “That’s right,” he said, “Letter! The letter said Madame had some difficulties and asked them to rush over to help. Zaixia came here precisely to consult Madame about what kind of difficulty was mentioned in the letter?”

Madame Ren was silent for half a day. She spoke indifferently, “I don’t remember ever writing such letter; are you sure you did not read it wrong?”

Chu Liuxiang was like suddenly someone stuffed a half-ripe persimmon in his mouth; his heart felt bitter and astringent, as well as dejected. He really did not understand why Madame Ren was unwilling to reveal the secret of this letter.

But he did not give up; he spoke loudly, “Madame did write the letter, Zaixia did not read it wrong.”

Madame Ren coldly said, “How do you know that you did not read it wrong? Are you saying that you recognize my handwriting?”

Chu Liuxiang was stumped for words; he stared blankly without being able to say anything.

Madame Ren turned around and kneeled down again, saying, “NanGong Ling, close the door on your way out. Forgive me for not seeing you off.”

Quietly pulling Chu Liuxiang, who was still staring blankly, NanGong Ling said, “Madame already said she did not write that letter, someone must have impersonated her. Let’s go!”

Chu Liuxiang muttered, “Impersonating her … that’s right.”

His eyes suddenly turned toward the inelegantly shaped, ancient looking porcelain bottle; he said, “Could it be that Ren Lao Bangzhu’s remains were cremated?”

Madame Ren has not responded, NanGong Ling already interrupted, “When Beggar Clan disciples die, most of them would be cremated. This is the legacy regulation that is passed from generation to generation within the Beggar Clan.”

Letting out a long laughter, Chu Liuxiang said, “Too bad I could not even see Ren Lao Bangzhu’s face for the last time. It is a really big regret.”

Unexpectedly Madame Ren suddenly said, “You need not regret it. My late husband was bedridden for many years and he died suddenly, those who could see his face for the last time were not many. Just go away quickly!”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Thank you Madam,” he said.

“I did not do you any favor, you don’t need to thank me,” Madame Ren replied.

“Yes,” Chu Liuxiang said.

He quietly withdrew, but in his mind he chewed on Madame Ren’s last few words. These few words sounded so ordinary, yet he felt that there was infinite meaning behind it.

The two men returned all the way to Jinan. NanGong Ling seemed to know that Chu Liuxiang was not in good mood, hence he did not disturb him; he simply accompanied him quietly by his side.

By the time they arrived at Jinan, it was already very late at night of the third day.

Only then did NanGong Ling sighed and said, “Chu Xiong going back and forth in vain, Xiaodi feels very much disappointed as well.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I am the one meddling in other people’s business, yet I am implicating you to accompany me running around there and back; I should have invited you for a couple cups of wine.”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Accompanying Chu Xiong drinking wine, I need at least three days. Would Chu Xiong excuse me?”

Chu Liuxiang was precisely hoping that he would go away, the quicker the better. Laughing aloud, he said, “I will excuse you this time, but if you are still not leaving, I am afraid I might change my mind.”

He has not finished speaking, NanGong Ling really laughed heartily, cupped his fist, and left.

As soon as NanGong Ling left, Chu Liuxiang hurriedly headed toward the bank of Daming Lake.

This time, he found Hei Zhenzhu without any difficulty at all. As soon as Hei Zhenzhu saw him, his pearl-like eyes grew darker and shone brighter [reminder: Hei Zhenzhu means black (or dark) pearl]. Jumping up from the small boat, he asked, “Did you see Qiu Lingsu?”

“Although somebody wholeheartedly tried to stop me, I managed to see her,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“Was she really very beautiful?” Hei Zhenzhu asked.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Somehow you really are like girls; instead of asking what she said, your first question is what she looks like. Too bad her face is covered in black gauzed veil, so I did not see her face.”

Hei Zhenzhu seemed to be more disappointed than Chu Liuxiang; he sighed first before asking, “What did she say?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “She said, she did not remember ever writing that kind of letter.”

Hei Zhenzhu was stunned. “Could it be that the letter was not written by her?” he said.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If she really wrote those letters, she must have known that Ximen Qian and the others have already died for her; why would she lie to me? Could it be that she did not want me to uncover this secret for her?”

Hei Zhenzhu stared blankly for half a day. He mumbled, “That’s right, indeed she has no reason to lie to you, but …” he suddenly grabbed Chu Liuxiang’s hand and blurted out, “You said her face was covered by black gauzed veil, didn’t you?”

“Uh huh,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Hei Zhenzhu said, “Could it be that the one you saw was not Qiu Lingsu, but someone else posing as her?”

“Definitely not someone else disguised as her,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“You have not even seen her face,” Hei Zhenzhu said, “How do you know it was not someone else disguised as her?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Although I have not seen her face, but that kind of voice, that kind of graceful bearing, who on earth could impersonate it? Besides, if she was a fake article, there wouldn’t be someone who wanted to stop me, someone who did not want me to see her.”

Finally Hei Zhenzhu heaved a deep sigh and said, “In that case, the secret could never be uncovered?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled slightly and said, “In Chu Liuxiang’s eyes, there has never been these three words, ‘impossible’ [bu ke neng].”

Laughing coldly, Hei Zhenzhu said, “What word is there in your eyes? I am afraid there are only two words, ‘tooting your own horn’ [chui niu]!”

Chu Liuxiang ignored him; his eyes swept around, he asked, “I told you to watch for someone, she hasn’t come?”

“She has already come,” Hei Zhenzhu replied.

Greatly delighted, Chu Liuxiang asked, “You have seen her? Where is she?”

“Dead!” Hei Zhenzhu replied.

When ‘Dead’, these two words [si liao] came out of his mouth, although he said it in an easy manner, in Chu Liuxiang’s ears it was tantamount to huge thunder overhead, tantamount to heaven falling and earth rending.

Chu Liuxiang’s entire body jumped up, he grabbed Hei Zhenzhu’s shoulders and cried out involuntarily, “What did you say?”

“I said, she had been killed,” Hei Zhenzhu replied.

“You … you saw it?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

“I did,” Hei Zhenzhu replied.

Chu Liuxiang’s eye socket was about to burst; grasping Hei Zhenzhu’s shoulders forcefully, he hissed, “Unexpectedly you can watch her being killed? You … don’t you have a heart?”

Hei Zhenzhu’s shoulders were nearly crushed by him, but he clenched his teeth and stayed unmovable. Although teardrops were about to fall from his eyes, his mouth still spoke coldly, “So what if I saw it? You did not ask me to protect her. Besides, I practically did not know her. Whether she is dead or alive, what does it have to do with me?”

Chu Liuxiang stared at her [sic; for some reason, I always feel that Hei Zhenzhu was a girl, although perhaps it was a typo here (Chinese has different characters for ‘he’ and ‘she’)]; his palms slowly loosened, his body swayed, he nearly fell down. Finally he plopped down on his butts – unexpectedly Su Rongrong has died!

Unexpectedly this incomparably intelligent, infinitely gentle and tender girl has died. He really could not believe it. He really could not believe that there was someone in the world who had the heart to make his move to kill her.

Hei Zhenzhu stared at Chu Liuxiang with his big eyes. Biting his lip, he said, “That woman was really this important to you?”

Chu Liuxiang hissed, “You will never know how important she is to me. I would rather have my body chopped by blades and torn apart than letting her suffered any harm.”

Hei Zhenzhu was silent for half a day. Suddenly he was overcome by emotion; stomping his feet, he said, “You are solely engrossed in grieving for her, but I don’t need to be grieving for her, and you also have no right to force me to grieve for someone that I don’t even know; isn’t that right?”

Once again Chu Liuxiang jumped up and grabbed his shoulders, saying, “That’s right. You don’t need to grieve for her, but you must tell me, who killed her?”

Hei Zhenzhu’s chest moved up and down. It was half a day later that he spoke heavily, “She came yesterday evening to the pavilion over there, and looked in all directions. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one you were talking about. While I was thinking of coming over …”

“But you did not, did you?” Chu Liuxiang said sternly, “Otherwise, she would not have died.”

“Before I came over,” Hei Zhenzhu responded, “There were already four men coming to the pavilion. Those four unexpectedly appeared to know her, they talked to her for a moment, and she seemed to respond with smile on her face.”

Chu Liuxiang immediately asked, “What did the four men look like?”

Hei Zhenzhu said, “I was quite some distance away from them, I could not even see their faces clearly, I could only see that they all wore green gown [orig. chang pao, traditional Chinese men’s robe], very garish looking.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed coldly and said, “They were going to harm somebody, yet still wearing such a garish attire, there must be something fishy here.”

“That’s right,” Hei Zhenzhu replied, “They deliberately wanted other people to pay attention to their clothes, hence cannot possibly pay too much attention to their faces. Plus the clothes can be taken off at any time.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Since you also know this point, why didn’t you pay special attention …”

Hei Zhenzhu coldly cut him off, “This was something that came to my mind later. At that time, I am not an immortal, how would I know that they were going to kill her? I only saw that since the woman seemed to know them, naturally I did not pay any attention to them.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and asked, “How did they make their move?”

Hei Zhenzhu said, “Since they seemed to be chatting amiably, I did not wish to interfere even more. It seemed to me that the four men wanted her to come with them, but she shook her head, refusing to go. The four men were taking and gesticulating for a while, but after half a day, she was still shaking her head while laughing. The four seemed to be helpless; they cupped their fist as if they were taking their leave.”

“And then what happened?” Chu Liuxiang could not help asking.

Hei Zhenzhu laughed coldly and said, “And then … there was no then. Right when they were cupping their fist, all four of them shot secret projectiles from their sleeves. The secret projectiles were both numerous and fast, plus they were shooting from a very close distance. Although the woman jumped up, she was still too late. I just heard a miserable cry; she was knocked over the railing and fell into the lake.”

Chu Liuxiang’s voice trembled, “Those … those secret projectiles really … really hit her?”

Hei Zhenzhu said, “If they did not hit her, are you saying they ought to hit me instead?”

Clenching his teeth, Chu Liuxiang said, “You saw people were plotting against her, could it be … could it be …”

Hei Zhenzhu cried out, “What do you think I am? A wooden statue? I saw people plotting against her, naturally I was shocked. But by the time I rushed over, those four men in green robes have already disappeared without any trace. Although blood unceasingly rose up in the water, but not even the head of a corpse was to be seen.”

Without waiting for him to finish, Chu Liuxiang already turned around and flew away.

Looking at his stronger-and-more-healthy-than-a-swallow figure, Hei Zhenzhu suddenly let out a faint sigh and said, “I never thought that such a staunch and cool-headed man could be grieving and is overwhelmed with emotion like this. The person who could make him grieving, although she is dead, she could be considered very lucky.”

The railings of the Fengyu Pavilion [lit. wind and rain] have already been mended, the water of the lake under the railing was also very calm. The night breeze was blowing into the pavilion, carrying the scent similar to a girl just finished taking a bath. The faint starlight was gentle and soft, like the lover’s tears. All in all, there was not the slightest bit of sign that a murder had just happened here.

Chu Liuxiang simply could not imagine that in such a beautiful place, someone would have the heart to kill such a beautiful girl. He was thinking of looking for one or two vestiges of the secret projectiles hitting the railing. If he could find out with what weapon those people committed the killing, perhaps he could find out who they were.

But the railings have been replaced with new ones. These people did their job carefully and meticulously, just like girls meticulously putting on their makeup before a blind date, they would definitely not leave a single blank space that others would be able to see. Dealing with this kind of enemy not only require intelligence and valor, it would need a bit of luck as well.

And anybody could see that right now what Chu Liuxiang was lacking was precisely this bit of luck; it could even be said that he lacked a lot of luck.

Chu Liuxiang was leaning on the railings, under the sparkling and translucent starlight that appeared to be hazy.

Suddenly a small boat floated over from the middle of the lake.

An old man, wearing lean clothes and bamboo rain hat, was sitting on the bow, enjoying a cup of wine by himself, swinging by the Fengyu Pavilion. He looked at Chu Liuxiang up and down several times, and then laughed suddenly and said, “If the young man wanted to drown your sorrows in wine, there is no harm in coming aboard and enjoying a few cups with this old man.”

This old fisherman was out of the ordinary.

Chu Liuxiang rubbed his nose, and jumped aboard. He has never known phony courtesy, picking up the wine cup, he drained it in one gulp. Looking up, he chanted, “Only afraid that the grasshopper boat from the twin creeks is loaded without moving, a lot of things to worry about …”

Passing the wine cup to the fisherman, he said, “Laozhang [sir, term of respect to address older man], do you have enough wine to wash away the anxiety and depression in Zaixia’s mind?”

The old fisherman seemed to have been accustomed to the world’s unrestrained men; raising the wine bottle, he poured a cup full for him, and said with a slight smile, “Such a fine time, beautiful scenery, why would zuxia [you (used to a superior or between persons of the same generation)] shed tears?”

Throwing his head back, Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “Tears? In all my life, Ol’ Chu has never known what tears taste like!”

The laughter gradually subsided, ‘Slap!’ he heavily put the wine cup down, unexpectedly it seemed like even the wine could not go down his throat. The old fisherman stared at him blankly. Suddenly he heaved a faint sigh and said, “With you grieving for me like this, what harm is there in me if I really died?”

Chu Liuxiang sprang up and grabbed the ‘old fisherman’s’ shoulders; losing his voice, he said, “Rongrong, it is you … is it really you?”

He did not care that they were on a small boat in the middle of a big lake; he did not care if the boat would capsize, unexpectedly he grabbed her entire body and lifted it up, while laughing loudly, “I knew you would not die, I knew no one would have the heart to kill you.”

Su Rongrong hugged his neck tightly. Leaning against his ear, she laughed softly and said, “Put me down. Aren’t you afraid someone might see us?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I am just holding a xiao laotou [lit. small old man, usually used in derogatory way]. Even if someone saw us, it has nothing to do with us.”

Using one hand to twist her nose, he went on, “One Song Tian’er and one Li Hongxiu are enough to give me headache, unexpectedly you are even more mischievous than they are, deliberately causing me to be this anxious.”

Su Rongrong spoke softly, “It’s not that I wanted you to be anxious, but I wanted those people to think that I have really died, so they won’t guard against me. Just think, do I have the heart to make you anxious?”

Chu Liuxiang gently put her down; staring at her, he said, “You think they can hurt you?”

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “Those four men’s move was ruthless and cruel; fortunately I have already seen through them, otherwise … otherwise, I am afraid I would really not be able to see you again, ever.”

Chu Liuxiang hatefully said, “Toward someone like you, unexpectedly they could commit such an evil scheme. This kind of people should really have their heads chopped off. Tell me quickly, who are they?”

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “How would I know?”

Puzzled, Chu Liuxiang said, “But you did talk to them, didn’t you?”

“Yesterday,” Su Rongrong began, “I was in the pavilion, waiting for you. Suddenly those four men came, asking me if I was Miss Su, saying that they were Zhusha Bang disciples, also that you sent them to pick me up.”

Smiling sweetly, she went on, “But I knew that you knew that I was waiting for you, so you couldn’t possibly send other people to me. You knew that I loathe meeting strangers the most, hence I became suspicious and was unwilling to come with them. I also saw them exchanging eye signals in secret, so I already guard against them making their move.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Fortunately you know me, I can’t possibly stir up your loathing … but why didn’t you just subdue them then and force them to tell you their story?”

Su Rongrong replied, “These men were using sinister method, meticulous planning. If I subdued them, there would be more people coming for me later on, I don’t know if I would be able to stop them, so …”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “So you pretended to be hit by their secret projectiles to avoid later trouble.”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “You know I don’t like to fight the most.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “But the blood floating up from the lake, how did that come about?”

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