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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 19

CSI

Chapter 19 – To Be One Step Ahead Of The Opponent

Su Rongrong giggled and said, “It was just a box of rouge that I bought for Tian’er when I was passing through Jinan.”

Chu Liuxiang clapped his hands and laughed aloud, “No matter how cunning, I am afraid that anybody who meet our Miss Su will turn into a fool!”

His laughter suddenly stopped, he spoke in heavy voice, “But no one knew you were here waiting for me, whom did these people meet? How did they know you were waiting for me? Could it be Hei Zhenzhu? He can’t be that kind of person …”

Su Rongrong spoke softly, “You can think about that later.”

“That’s right!” Chu Liuxiang said, “What I should be asking you now is what did you get this time? Did you find out if under normal circumstances any man could enter Divine Water Palace?”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “When I asked that same question to my xiao biaogu [younger father’s female cousin via female line], can you guess what she said to me?”

“What did she say?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Su Rongrong replied, “She said, ‘Forget about men, even male housefly could forget about entering the Divine Water Palace’, ever.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help laughing; but then he frowned and said, “If no man can go in and out of the Divine Water Palace, how did the girl become pregnant? What was she like? Did she leave anything behind?”

Su Rongrong replied, “The girl was called Situ Jing. She was just like her namesake, usually she was always gentle and quiet [Jing means still/calm/quiet], and did not talk much. Other than occasionally plucking the qin [zither], she did not have any other hobby. No one had ever thought that this could happen to her.”

Smiling bitterly, Chu Liuxiang said, “The quieter she was, the more the girl did not talk, the stronger her emotion would be; when she fell in love with a man, she would really be dead set on having him. Therefore, she would rather die herself than be willing to divulge the man’s secret.”

Su Rongrong grimly said, “Do you have such clear understanding on all kinds of women?”

Chu Liuxiang rubbed his nose and hurriedly changed the subject, “She did not even leave a single thing?” he asked.

Su Rongrong sighed, “She did not,” she replied, “I simply wasted the trip; I did not find anything.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes were flashing, he said, “But those people are afraid that you might find something, hence they wholeheartedly wanted to kill you to silence you. From this, it can be seen that the man must have left some kind of clues at the Divine Water Palace; it’s just that up until now, nobody has noticed it yet … But how could these clued not attract any attention the slightest bit?”

Su Rongrong was silent for half a day. Finally she asked, “What about you? What did you get?”

Chu Liuxiang narrated systemically and in full detail everything that has happened in the past few days.

Listening to the ruthlessness and how eccentric the Central Plains’ One Red Dot was, Su Rongrong could not help shaking her head. Hearing about the secret of the portrait and the letter, she could not help staring with her eyes opened wide. Hearing that unexpectedly Qiu Lingsu was the Beggar Clan’s former Gang Leader’s wife, plus that Chu Liuxiang had seen her, finally Su Rongrong could not refrain from letting out a soft cry.

For fear that Su Rongrong might be worried for him, Chu Liuxiang he did not tell her about his thrilling duel on the stone beam; he simply glossed it over in just a couple of sentences.

But Su Rongrong has been nervously clenching her fist, and her voice was trembling as she said, “Not only that man has outstanding martial art skill, he is also vicious and merciless, deceitful in many ways. You met such an enemy, you really have to be very careful!”

Chu Liuxiang pried her fingers open, one by one, while laughing softly and said, “Do you know that all others say that Chu Liuxiang is the most terrifying person in the world? Although that man can be considered terrifying, he can’t compare with Chu Liuxiang!”

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “Although Chu Liuxiang is strong, but his heart is too soft. Others have the heart to kill him, he does not have the heart to kill others. Tell me, how can I not be anxious?”

Patting her hand, Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Don’t worry, to kill Chu Liuxiang is really not easy.”

Su Rongrong’s face broke into laughter, but then she frowned and said, “Do you think the person impersonating Tianfeng Shisi Lang is the same person who killed the ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’ Song Gang and jumped into the Daming Lake?”

“He is,” Chu Liuxiang replied, “If I am guessing it correctly, the one killing Zha Muge, Lingjiu Zi, Zuo Youzheng, Ximen Qian, must also be him. The one stealing the ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’ from the Divine Water Palace was also him!”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “He wholeheartedly wanted to kill you, he wholeheartedly wanted to stop you from seeing that Madame Ren – Qiu Lingsu, yet unexpectedly Qiu Lingsu did not want to say anything; don’t you think he has done more than is required?”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly laughed and said, “But Qiu Lingsu did say something that is importantly relevant.”

“What did she say?” Su Rongrong asked.

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “Listen carefully; she 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 …’”

Su Rongrong thought for a moment, and said, “I can’t figure out the crucial importance of these words.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Think carefully, I am sure you will understand it.”

Su Rongrong thought from the beginning; after a long time, she finally had a sudden understanding, “I get it,” she said, “Since the Lao Bangzhu had been ‘bedridden for many years’, how could he ‘die suddenly’? Their Gang disciples naturally knew that Bangzhu was critically ill, it is only proper that they should have waited by his sickbed all the time, how can it be that ‘those who could his face for the last time were not many’?”

Chu Liuxiang clapped his hands and said, “Precisely. Although at first glance these sentences were so ordinary, but after careful thought, there are so many contradictions in it. That Madame Ren is exceptionally intelligent. Why do you think she made such contradictory statements?”

Su Rongrong rolled her fluid glance around, while muttering to herself irresolutely, “Could it be that she was giving you a hint?”

“Precisely,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Su Rongrong said, “But if she wanted to say those words, why didn’t she simply say it to your face? Could it be that she did not want NanGong Ling to hear it? Could it be that NanGong Ling is unexpectedly …”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “Although there are many doubts surrounding this matter, we must not make any conclusion too soon. It’s just that the implication is simply too great, it is definitely not as simple as we originally thought.”

Fixing her gaze at him, Su Rongrong said, “In that case, are you going to look for Madame Ren again?”

Chu Liuxiang resolutely replied, “I must go!”

Gripping his hands, Su Rongrong softly said, “But you must consider this: you go this time, the danger will be greater. Since they knew the crucial secret is in Madame Ren’s hands, how could they let you talk to her alone?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I think, for the time being, they would not expect that I might go to look for Madame Ren again, so the sooner I go the better; the longer I wait, the greater the danger will be.”

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “Right now, they are just plotting against you, trying to stop you. But by the time you are really about to uncover their secret, they would desperately come to deal with you.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled slightly and said, “If you want to catch big fish, naturally you must use big bait.”

Su Rongrong said, “Could it be … you are going to use yourself as the bait?”

Chu Liuxiang only felt that her hands grasping his have become icy-cold and were trembling, so he wrapped his pair of strong and warm hands over hers. Laughing, he said, “This bait is actually too big, even a bigger fish would not be able to swallow. You may set your heart at ease. And now, listen obediently: go home quickly, put my bottle of wine into the sea to chill it, and tell Tian’er to prepare some chicken dishes for me. In less than five days I will definitely come back to finish them up.”

Su Rongrong stared at him; her eyes were gentler and softer than the starlight.

Finally, she smiled sweetly and said, “Of course you will come back. On earth, who could possibly stop you?”

On earth, there was nothing more inspiring than a beautiful girl’s encouragement and confidence. By the time Chu Liuxiang was back on the shore, he felt that his energy level has never been as high as it was right now.

Su Rongrong was indeed an obedient girl; a beautiful and smart girl, yet incredibly she was obedient as well. This was a man’s greatest happiness.

Chu Liuxiang sighed in contentment; he muttered to himself, “Indeed the world did not treat me unfairly …”

He heard someone laughing, and then said, “When did you ever treat the world unfairly?”

Amidst the voice, Wuhua have floated over. That out-of-the-dust graceful bearing, that elegant smile, under the starlight he looked even more like a heavenly-being that was banished from the Heaven.

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “I thought I was the only night owl around here, who would have thought there is one other.”

Wuhua laughed and said, “Actually, there are two others.”

Chu Liuxiang looked beyond him, and saw someone standing woodenly in the Fengyu Pavilion. Under the starlight, his black attire seemed to be glowing; it was none other than Hei Zhenzhu.

For some unknown reason, this peculiar youngster was standing there as if he was losing his mind.

Wuhua said, “Moonlit night on Daming Lake, standing alone in Fengyu Pavilion, pinseng thought he was Chu Xiong. I was going to come over to talk, unexpectedly Chu Xiong appeared right here.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “So late at night, you actually still roam the lake with a refined and elegant attitude of mind.”

Wuhua said, “Appointment to play chess and drink wine, pinseng will never forget. This time I came precisely to honor an agreement with Chu Xiong.”

Naturally Chu Liuxiang did not have time to play chess and drink wine at this time. But he rolled his eyes and said with a laugh, “To play chess, you and I have had enough. To drink wine, only if we have NanGong Ling along will it be interesting.”

Wuhua laughed and said, “Since that’s the case, why don’t you and I become the evil guests who come knocking on someone’s door very late at night this time?”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “The monk knocks on the door under the moon, it is already picturesque. Since it is extremely sophisticated, how could it be considered evil guest … Why don’t you wait here for a bit, let me go and get rid of that friend over there, who looks to be asleep already, and then I’ll come with you?”

Without waiting for Wuhua to respond, he already flew toward the Fengyu Pavilion, where Hei Zhenzhu was staring blankly toward the middle of the lake. Unexpectedly there seemed to be an unspeakable gloom visible on his forehead between the eyebrows.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Only a horse would sleep standing up; why does Hei Xiong imitate a horse?”

Hei Zhenzhu turned his head back to take a glance; the moment he saw Chu Liuxiang, there seemed to be countless changes flitting across his eyes, but in the end he only spoke coldly, “If Sire wants to play a joke, it would be best if you look for that old fisherman.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Your eyesight is not bad.”

Hei Zhenzhu looked up to the sky and no longer paid attention to him.

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “Tonight I have another appointment with him, so I can’t accompany you to drink. Let’s talk again in two, three days!”

Listening to him suddenly speaking those words, Hei Zhenzhu was unable to make head or tail of it. While he was about to show signs of anger, Chu Liuxiang quickly continued in low voice; he spoke hurriedly, “Take your horse, wait for me outside the southern gate. This is a matter of grave importance, whether we can uncover this secret or not, it will entirely depend on this.”

While Hei Zhenzhu was stunned again, Chu Liuxiang already turned away with a big laugh.

For some people, going without sleep for three days and three nights was not a problem. Naturally Chu Liuxiang could be considered one, and so was Wuhua; it turned out that NanGong Ling was also one.

Practically Wuhua did not need to knock at all, because NanGong Ling was not sleeping. He was already pouring some drink alone, as if he was waiting for them to come.

After the chessboard was setup, and the food and the wine were ready, NanGong Ling said with a laugh, “Apparently, this time the three of us absolutely must decide who’s the best among us. No one is allowed to lie down, no one is allowed to leave. I wonder what does Chu Xiong think?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “You knew that I am a drunkard who would not go home before I am drunk; why didn’t you ask Wuhua instead of me?”

He drank and played chess at the same time. He looked so happy that it seemed like no one would be able to get rid of him even with a whip.

Wuhua said with a laugh, “NanGong Xiong did not know the pleasure of playing chess. It is indeed a great pity.”

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Playing chess requires hard thinking, it involves worrying about personal gains and losses; how could it be compared to the carefree enjoyment of watching others playing chess?”

Wuhua was about to respond when he suddenly saw Chu Liuxiang moved his chess piece to the corner of the chessboard.

This move was absolutely unreasonable, practically it could be regarded as a blunder in chess; yet since it came from Chu Liuxiang’s hand, it forced others to have a real headache.

Knitting his brows, Wuhua said, “Pinseng has read all records of chess game throughout the ages, yet I have not seen such move; this is the territory under the belly [not sure: 这腹下的地盘]. Could it be that Chu Xiong does not want anything anymore?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed heartily and said, “My move is infinitely magical. Think about it carefully, I want to take this opportunity to relieve myself … as for where I could relieve myself, I am afraid I must trouble NanGong Xiong to show me the way.”

With a smile on his face, NanGong Ling took him to the rear courtyard. Chu Liuxiang acted as if he could not wait anymore, he hurriedly ducked inside, but leaped out from the ventilation window on the back and flew away.

The ventilation window was no more than a chi in diameter; even a child would not be able to go in and out. Who would have thought that all the joints in Chu Liuxiang’s entire body were able to lengthen and shorten freely, so that he could go through places that other would never have imagined.

After going straight for several dozen zhang, Chu Liuxiang laughed inwardly and said, “Wuhua, oh Wuhua, that move of mine basically stinks to the highest heaven. If you want to figure out the beauty of my move, it is practically the same as trying to pick the bones from an egg … But my move was totally amazing; by the time you guys think that I have fallen into the septic tank, I am afraid I have already reached Mount Ni.”

Outside the southern gate, there were weeping willows everywhere. ‘Jinan scenery is just like Jiangnan’ [area south of Yangtze River, i.e. the sunny south], particularly in this night under the moon and the stars, it appeared even more so.

Under the shadow of the willow tree, he could not see anybody; all he could see was a pair of bright eyes.

Like a light smoke Chu Liuxiang flew over, and spoke quietly, “The horse?”

Hei Zhenzhu said, “You are so sneaky; where exactly are you going?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “If it wasn’t a secret, why would I be sneaky? But if it is a secret, how could I tell you?”

Laughing coldly, Hei Zhenzhu said, “If you don’t trust me, why should I trust you? If I don’t trust you, why would I lend this precious horse to you?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Only women love to pry into other people’s secret; only women would use this kind of trick to threaten others. Are you sure you don’t have any women’s temperament?”

Hei Zhenzhu was stunned; although in the dark of the night his face could not be seen, but his cold and indifferent eyes seemed to undergo complex changes again.

Finally, he let out a sudden whistle and the horse immediately galloped over. The hoof beats were just like the weeping willows, they barely made any noise.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I knew you would never want anybody to think that you are a woman.”

Hei Zhenzhu quickly turned his head around, but just as quickly he looked back again and said, “When are you going to return the horse to me? Where do you want me to wait for you?”

As he was leaping onto the horse, Chu Liuxiang said, “This moment you are no longer in danger, just feel free to walk around the city, no one is going to hurt you. Within two days, I am going to return the horse to you. That is, if I did not die.”

Hei Zhenzhu coldly said, “I don’t care if you died or not, but you must never harm my horse.”

Before he finished talking, Chu Liuxiang already left amidst his long laughter.

This horse was indeed an exceptional ‘thousand-li colt’; galloping on the horseback, Chu Liuxiang only felt the wind gusting over his two ears, and the trees on the side of the road seemed to fly backward.

He loved the thrill of this kind of speed, but that was not the entire reason he borrowed the horse; he just did not want to waste his strength on the journey.

He had to preserve his strength to do more important things.

By the time the horse reached Mount Ni, the long dark night already passed. At the foot of the mountain, Chu Liuxiang looked for an appropriate home belonging to a woodsman family where he entrusted the horse, and then immediately took advantage of the sunrise to go up the mountain.

The morning sun shone its light on the stone beam, making it glitter. But this time there was no one on the stone beam trying to stop Chu Liuxiang. The birds were singing over the empty mountain, otherwise all was quiet. The serene and elegant cottage was also quietly immersing itself in the sunshine. The wooden single-leaf door was half-closed. Looking inside from the half-opened window, everything was even quieter.

From all these, there was not the slightest degree of any ill omen, but he did not like it, because it was too quiet. Too quiet to make Chu Liuxiang felt somewhat uneasy instead. Not wanting to waste any time, Chu Liuxiang simply broke in.

Qiu Lingsu has indeed disappeared!

On the green-gray putuan [Buddhist praying mat, made of woven cattail] only a piece of black hairpin remained, a faint scent of hair fragrance still remained on the black hairpin.

Chu Liuxiang called out loudly, “Madame Ren … Madame Ren … where are you?”

Naturally he knew that the call would not be answered. While calling out repeatedly, he quickly searched through all three small cottages. Inside the thatched cottages, everything was in order, there was not the slightest bit of disarray, and there was not the slightest remnant of a fight either.

But where has that Madame Ren, Qiu Lingsu gone?

Chu Liuxiang immediately became like a hunting dog; he started to search around everywhere, hoping that Madame Ren would leave something; even the tiniest bit of clue would be good.

But after searching every nook and cranny, he could not even find a single character on a piece of paper; even more so, he could not find anything out of ordinary. The bedding was neatly folded on the bed, the clothes were neatly stacked in the wardrobe, the dressing table still had three cleanly-washed combs, the cupboard still had several cleanly-washed porcelain bowls … Everything that was normally there was still there, so neat and orderly, absolutely without the slightest degree of clutter. Chu Liuxiang has practically never seen anywhere more neat and tidy than this place.

If there seemed to be something wrong with this place, it was precisely because everything was too neat and tidy, as if it was deliberately set to be displayed for other people to see.

Deep in thought, Chu Liuxiang was on his way out when suddenly his eyes fell on the ebony hairpin.

This putuan was the one Madame Ren used to sit on. Her hairpin was lying on the putuan, it could not be regarded as completely out of place, hence originally Chu Liuxiang did not pay more attention to it.

But now that he found that the house was extraordinarily organized, this hairpin seemed to be exceptionally conspicuous.

Since every item in this house was put on its most appropriate place, on its most logical place, then the hairpin ought to be placed on the dressing table; however, why was it on the putuan now?

Using his two fingers, Chu Liuxiang gently picked the hairpin up. Suddenly he became aware that the pinhead of the hairpin was pointing to the small door on the back of the house.

But at the moment the small door was closed.

Chu Liuxiang flew over, and found that unexpectedly someone had tied the door up from the outside.

Immediately a happy expression flashed across his eyes. Without hesitation he kicked the door open and flew out of the house!

The mountain behind the house was even more desolate.

Like a leopard cat [Prionailurus bengalensis] Chu Liuxiang moved swiftly among the wild grassland, thistles and thorns. Suddenly he saw hanging on the thistles and thorns to his left several pieces of shattered black fabric.

It looked like these pieces of cloth were torn from Madame Ren’s clothes.

Chu Liuxiang turned left and kept moving swiftly. Suddenly he heard a peal of evil laugh.

A man was laughing aloud and said, “Since you won’t allow me to touch even one finger of yours, and I already complied with your request, why haven’t you jumped down?”

This fierce and evil laughter unexpectedly came from the ‘Wulin Evil Beggar’ Bai Yumo.

And then he heard Madame Ren’s voice replying, “I am going to die anyway, why are you still so anxious?”

Chu Liuxiang sneaked quietly over. He saw Madame Ren’s charming figure standing on the edge of the overhanging cliff ahead. The mountain breeze blew her clothes; it looked like she could fall down at any moment.

Her face was still covered by the black gauzed veil, but in her hands she was holding the urn containing the Old Gang Leader’s ashes. Laughing evilly, Bai Yumo stood about four chi behind her, but the weapon in his hand was a heavy, overbearing wolf-tooth mace.

There was no one else but Bai Yumo. Chu Liuxiang could not help heaving a sigh of relief in his heart.

Qiu Lingsu said, “Life is so precious, it is always better to be able to live a moment longer.”

Bai Yumo ground his teeth, producing creaking noise; he said, “In order to exact revenge on that laotouzi [old man], I have been waiting for twenty years! Since I cannot personally kill him, seeing his bones have turned into ashes and now I can hound you to death, I finally am able to vent my resentment!”

Qiu Lingsu said, “I knew you were coming to seek revenge on me, but how did you find this place?”

With an evil laugh Bai Yumo replied, “Do you think this place is a secret?”

“This place is indeed a secret,” Qiu Lingsu replied.

Bai Yumo roared in laughter and said, “Such a secret place, but who brought you here? That person ought to know that you live here!”

Qiu Lingsu was silent for half a day; she sighed softly and said, “I should have thought, sooner or later he won’t let me off!”

Bai Yumo shouted, “You have asked the questions you wanted to ask; what are you waiting for?”

Qiu Lingsu replied, “Since you have been waiting for twenty years, why do you care if you wait a moment longer?”

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