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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 2


Chapter 2 – Floating Corpses on the Ocean

The ship dropped its anchor, just like it was moored above the water.

Chu Liuxiang carefully squeezed the lemon to sprinkle the juice on the pigeon. He had just finished one pigeon and drank half a cup of wine, when sure enough, another corpse was floating by.

This corpse was wearing scarlet short gown, the length barely reached the knees. Although the face was bloated due to being soaked in seawater for a long time, it could still be seen that he had a fair and clear complexion. His age was approximately forty; although there was a small beard under his chin, there was no wrinkle on the corner of his eyes. His left palm was slender, fair and clear, but his right palm was extremely rough; the muscles and bones were prominent, and was nearly double the size of his left hand. When the palm was pried open, surprisingly the color was the same as his clothes.

Li Hongxiu’s pair of bright and beautiful limpid eyes looked straight to it; startled, she said, “Who could have thought that this man was the ‘Sha Shou Shusheng’ [killer/assassin scholar], Ximen Qian!”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “He killed Zuo Youzheng, yet he also died under other people’s hands.”

“But who killed him?” Li Hongxiu muttered.

Finished speaking, she noticed a wound under this Ximen Qian’s Adam’s apple. The blood has been washed away by the seawater; the ash gray skin and flesh was rolled out on both sides. Exhaling slowly, Li Hongxiu said, “This is sword wound.”

“Oh?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Hongxiu said, “The wound is less than a cun [a unit of length, approx. an inch]. In the Wulin world, only ‘Hainan’ and ‘Laoshan’, two big sword schools’ disciples use such a narrow sword.”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Hongxiu said, “Although those two sects, Hainan and Laoshan, are not too far from here, but Laoshan Pai’s sword technique handed down through the generations is orthodox, moderate and extensive. This Ximen Qian’s throat was pierce through by one sword strike; presumably the sword technique is ruthless and treacherous, which is the forte of Hainan’s swordsman’s ruthless hands … this is even stranger.”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Why is it strange?”

Li Hongxiu replied, “Not only Hainan Jian Pai [sword sect] has neither grievances nor enmity with Zhusha Men [cinnabar school, (sic) it was Shi Sha Men (Corpse Sand School) in Chapter 1], they have a rather close relationship. Eight years ago, Zhusha Men was besieged by Seven Sword of Minnan [southern Fujian]. Making light of traveling a thousand li, Hainan Pai rushed over to help. But now a martial art master of Hainan Jian Pai killed a Zhanglao [Elder] of Zhusha Men. What’s going on here? I really don’t understand.”

Chu Liuxiang muttered, “With no cause, no reason, Zuo Youzheng died under Ximen Qian’s hands, Ximen Qian also somehow died under Hainan Pai disciple … I wonder what secret lies behind all these?”

Smiling sweetly, Li Hongxiu said, “Are you thinking of meddling again?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Didn’t you just say that I am too lazy? I am just looking for something to do so that you can see.”

Li Hongxiu said, “But apparently the implication of this matter is far and wide; it must be extremely dangerous, plus these past couple of days Rong Jie [elder sister] is ill. I’ll say we do not meddle in this matter!”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “The more dangerous the matter I am meddling in, the more interesting it is. The wider the implication of this secret, the value of the matter is bound to be extremely high. How could I not care about this kind of matter?”

Li Hongxiu sighed and said, “I know that if you do not uncover this secret, you won’t be able to sleep. Ay! You! You seem to be born precisely to meddle in other people’s business.”

She suddenly broke into laughter and said, “Fortunately this matter is literally like fishing up a needle from the ocean. Until now, there is not the slightest bit of clue. Even if you want to meddle in other people’s business, I am afraid you won’t be able to do so.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “You just wait and see, the clues will come more and more naturally.” Drinking a mouthful of wine and tearing off the chicken leg, he leaned on the ship’s railing to chew.

Smiling wryly, Li Hongxiu said, “I really admire your appetite, you can still eat at time like this.” Unconsciously she also walked over to the railing and cast her gaze to the distant horizon.

Sure enough, another dead body was floating on the sea; surprisingly it was a Taoist priest, wearing green robe, with swarthy complexion and rolled-up beard, and big tall build. Although his limbs have already turned cold and stiff for a long time, his hand was still tightly gripping half of a broken sword. The sword’s body was long and narrow; it was still flickering under the bright sunlight, emitting a dense green sword ray shining on his head, where the bun of hair was disheveled.

The top of his head was chopped that it split in half.

Even Li Hongxiu had to turned her head around, she could not bear to look.

Chu Liuxiang said, “He is indeed a disciple of Hainan Jian Pai.”

“You … you knew him?” Li Hongxiu asked.

Chu Liuxiang spoke slowly, “He was one of the Three Swords of Hainan, Lingjiu Zi [lit. quick/spirited vulture]. His swordsmanship was ruthless and vicious. In today’s Wulin world, I am afraid only a few can be compared to him.”

Li Hongxiu sighed and said, “With one sword strike he pierced other people’s throat, unexpectedly his own head was chopped into two halves by someone else.”

She could not refrain from looking back, and said, “Judging from his condition, when that person’s sword cut down, he must have been unable to dodge, so he could only block it with his own sword; who would have thought that that man’s sword not only cut down his long sword, the residual momentum was powerful enough to chop his head into two. Hainan Pai’s swords are all made of refined seabed’s cold iron, yet this person is able to cut it with one sword strike. Ay … such a sharp sword, such a heavy sword!”

“How do you know that his opponent also used sword?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Li Hongxiu replied, “Among the current renowned masters in Wulin who use sabers, and whose saber technique is able to force such a ruthless and vicious master like Lingjiu Zi that he could not even dodge … it must be a style, which Hainan Jian Pai is not familiar with. If he wasn’t forced into a corner, how could he use his sword to block the opponent’s blade coming directly down onto his head?”

Chu Liuxiang nodded, “Right,” he said, “The changes in saber technique are indeed inferior to sword technique’s nimble, fast, and overwhelming. If a saber user wanted to force a sword user that he could not even evade, that is indeed difficult above difficult.”

He then smiled slightly and went on, “But could it be that you have forgotten one person?”

Li Hongxiu’s eyes lit up; she said, “If you are talking about ‘Wu Ying Shen Dao’ [Shadow-less Divine Saber] Zha Muge, you are wrong.”

“Why?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Li Hongxiu said, “Zha Muge is known as the number one saber expert in the Central Earth; his saber technique is fast, formless and shadow-less. When his saber is chopping down, perhaps before Lingjiu Zi could see clearly, it has already arrived. Naturally his only response was to block it with his own sword. Moreover, the saber that Zha Muge uses, the ‘Storm Saber’, is one of the thirteen divine sharp weapons throughout the land, so it is enough to cut a Hainan Paisword.”

“Isn’t that the answer?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Hongxiu laughed and said, “But don’t you forget, Zha Muge was able to move unhindered across the great Gobi Desert thirty years ago; he was known as the ‘King of the Desert’; how could he come here?”

Slowly, Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “You say it’s impossible, I say it’s possible.”

Li Hongxiu blinked her eyes and said, “You want to bet with me?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “I don’t want to bet with you, because you will definitely lose.”

Just then, a sweet laughter came from the cabin, saying, “Why don’t you two make a bet? The loser will have to help me wash the dishes for half a month.”

Li Hongxiu laughed and cursed, “Little demon, you are eavesdropping.”

Song Tian’er giggled and said, “Although I do not dare to look, I can still listen.”

Li Hongxiu turned to Chu Liuxiang, “Hey!” she called, “Look at this little demon, she is a shrewd schemer. All the conveniences in the world, she, one person, wants to have them all.”

Leaning against the railing, Chu Liuxiang was lost in thought; unexpectedly it was as if he had not heard her at all.

Li Hongxiu walked over and asked, “What are you waiting for? That Zha Muge?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Perhaps …”

Li Hongxiu laughed and said, “You don’t need to wait, this ‘King of the Desert’ can’t possibly come here. Even if he did, no one will be able to kill him.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It was also rare for Ximen Qian to have dealings with Zuo Youzheng, but why did he kill Zuo Youzheng? Lingjiu Zi had no enmity whatsoever with Ximen Qian, but why did he kill Ximen Qian? Zha Muge and Lingjiu Zi, one was far away at the ends of the earth, one was at a distant peninsula, they had nothing to do with each other, why did he kill Lingjiu Zi?”

He sighed and added, “It is thus clear that there are many things in the world that are completely unpredictable.”

By this time the sun was already leaning to the west. More than two sichen [one scihen is 2 hours] have passed since they found the first corpse. And now there were three corpses lying on the deck.

And sure enough, the fourth corpse was coming.

While the other corpses were bobbing in the water, sinking and floating under and over the water surface alternatingly, this corpse was like inflatable raft; the entire body was completely floating above the water.

The other corpses, Li Hongxiu at least still dare to take a couple of glimpses; but this corpse, Li Hongxiu only took one look, her entire body was trembling in fear, and she no longer dare to take the second look.

Whether this corpse’s body was originally fat or thin, even Chu Liuxiang could not figure out, only because the entire body was already bloated, so much so that it has started to rot.

Whether this corpse was old or young, Chu Liuxiang also could not see. Because all the hair all over his body; from the hair on his head to his moustache, had come off completely.

His eyeballs were already swollen that they were bulging and protruding out of the sockets; the skin on his entire body has turned nauseatingly dark red. Chu Liuxiang did not even dare to touch him even with the tip of his finger.

With a trembling voice, Li Hongxiu said, “Such a formidable poison. Let me get Rong Jie to take a look what kind of poison this is.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “This poison, even Rongrong won’t be able to recognize.”

“You are tooting your horn again,” Li Hongxiu said, “Although your martial art skill is not bad, but speaking about secret projectiles, you might not necessary be better than Tian’er; speaking about the art of disguise and poison skill, you are absolutely cannot compare with Rong Jie.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “But what this person was hit with was not completely a poison.”

Li Hongxiu giggled and said, “If it’s not poison, could it be some candy?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It could be considered candy … syrup, to be precise.”

Li Hongxiu stared blankly, “Syrup?” she said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “This is precisely the essence extracted from water of ‘Shen Shui Gong’ [Divine Water Palace] of [Lake] Tianchi [lit. heavenly pond]. In Jianghu, it is known as ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’ [lit. heavenly one divine/sacred water]. And the people from Shen Shui Gong are called heavy water [deuterium oxide].”

Emotionally moved, Li Hongxiu said, “Is this really the ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’, which is more poisonous than any poison in the world?”

“Of course it is,” Chu Liuxiang replied, “It is said that one drop of ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’ is heavier than three hundred buckets of water. Ordinary person only had to take one drop, immediately his whole body will burst and he die!”

He sighed, and then continued, “Not only that, this ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’ is colorless and odorless, even if you tested it, you won’t see anything unusual, that’s why even this ‘King of the Desert’ cannot escape falling into the plot.”

“This … this is Zha Muge?” Li Hongxiu asked.

“Uh huh,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Hongxiu said, “He had become like this, how could you recognize him?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Although he is wearing ordinary clothes, but on his feet he is wearing a pair of leather boots, so obviously he belonged to nomadic people. Although his skin is tender, but his face is very rough; evidently because he went back and forth in the desert, subjected to the wind and the dust for a very long time. Although there is a steel ring girdle ornament on his waist, the saber and its scabbard have gone; apparently because he was using precious saber, hence someone took it away.”

And then he slowly went on, “Based on these points, it can be said that he is the ‘King of the Desert’, the Shadowless Divine Saber, Zha Muge.”

Li Hongxiu said, “I’ll say you ought to change profession to become a police detective, then the way you handle your case will be much more formidable than that presumably the number one catcher in the world, the ‘Bald Eagle’.”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled and said, “There’s more: he is wearing a silver medal, with a winged camel carved on it. If I cannot tell that he is the King of the Desert, then I’d be a fool.”

“Pfft!” Li Hongxiu could not help giggling and said, “You really are a gifted child.”

But her smile immediately disappeared, replaced with a frown, “Unexpectedly this matter involves the King of the Desert and the Divine Water Palace; it is thus clear that this is not a small matter at all. And now, even the King of the Desert is dead, therefore …”

Chu Liuxiang cut her off by laughing and saying, “You are thinking of persuading me to stop, aren’t you?”

Li Hongxiu sighed lightly and said, “I don’t want to persuade you to stop, I just hope that you will be a bit more careful. That’s all.”

Chu Liuxiang cast his gaze on a clump of white cloud in the sky; he smiled and said, “I hear that all disciples of the Divine Water palace are world-class beauty, but I wonder how they are compared to our three ladies?”

Li Hongxiu shook her head and said with a wry smile, “You will never behave, won’t you?”

This time close to a sichen passed, there was nothing happening on the sea.

Li Hongxiu leisurely said, “Perhaps you don’t need to wait anymore.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If nobody else died, then this matter rest with the Divine Water Palace or its envoy. If these people were fighting over a treasure, then this treasure must have fallen into the Divine Water Palace’s envoy.”

“And if there’s someone else died?” Li Hongxiu asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “No matter how many people died, as long as we can tell who killed the last one, there will be clues to find.”

Li Hongxiu sighed and said, “Were these martial art masters really died because they were fighting over a treasure?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “People die for riches; these people were definitely humans!”

Li Hongxiu’s eyes gaze into the distance; she spoke slowly, “A treasure that can incite this many peerless martial art masters’ greed must be an astonishing one.”

This matter was really getting more and more interesting; her eyes were flashing brightly.

From the cabin below, Song Tian’er’s voice called out, “Do you two know that Rong Jie has an aunt [orig. biaogu, father’s female cousin via female line] who belongs to the Divine Water Palace?”

“Oh, Rongrong unexpectedly has an aunt in the Divine Water Palace?” Chu Liuxiang said, “These past couple of days, I wonder if she is feeling better? Does she still have runny nose?”

Li Hongxiu laughed and said, “Do you want her to come up?”

“Forget it,” Chu Liuxiang said, “She caught cold; the more she is lying down, the better she will be.”

They heard a soft voice saying, “It doesn’t matter; I will be better soon. Just hearing you say that, I …”

And then Song Tian’er’s loud voice said, “Rong Jie, don’t fall into his trick; he knew you were coming, hence he deliberately said something that shows he cares about you for you to hear.”

The gentle and soft voice said with a laugh, “Even if it was deliberately spoken, as long as he said it, I am very happy.”

Following the voice, a sweet, fair, and graceful shadow floated up the deck.

She wore a soft and spacious long gown, so long that it dragged along on the deck, covering her feet. The setting sun filling the sky reflected on her hair, which was put in a loose bun. Her limpid eyes also reflected her gentle smile. She looked like a celestial fairy that has long ago stopped eating the food of common mortals.

Li Hongxiu stomped her feet and said, “Rong Jie, the wind is strong, why did you come up? Be careful, lest you get so sick that you can’t even crawl up the bed, and harm this Passionate Prince of ours to vent our anger.”

Su Rongrong said sweetly, “It’s so exciting up here, how can I stay in the cabin staring blankly at the walls? Besides, I also want to see whether there really is a Divine Water Palace’s envoy coming here.”

In her hand was a piece of thick velvet clothes, which she gently draped over Chu Liuxiang’s shoulders. “The night is cold, be careful you might catch a cold,” she spoke tenderly.

With a smile on his face, Chu Liuxiang said, “You always care about others, but don’t know about your own body … if you have the slightest care about yourself, how could you fall ill?”

Li Hongxiu cast him a sideways glance and said with curled lips, “That’s right! He would never care about people who are not sick like us.”

Su Rongrong gently patted her cheek and said with a laugh, “Why be overly sensitive? You will get old easily.”

Li Hongxiu caught her in her arms and giggled, “I am indeed overly sensitive, plus I am the little bad egg [i.e. scoundrel] who can get jealous; why would Rong Jie be that good to me?”

Su Rongrong’s slim body was unexpectedly squeezed and lifted up by her.

Just then, the fifth corpse floated over.

Strictly speaking, this one could not be considered ‘one’ corpse – the left part, from the shoulder down, including the arm, was cut apart.

Fortunately, her face was still intact, so that they could still see her graceful and beautiful appearance. It seemed like the cruel murderer also did not have the heart to destroy her beauty.

The clothes she wore was a beautiful gauze dress, with silver colored ribbon tied on her waist. Her delicate and beautiful feet were wearing silver colored shoes of the same material.

At this moment, the remaining half of the gauze dress has been dyed red by her blood. Were it not for the silver colored belt, perhaps the dress would have been washed off by the sea – even so, her body appeared to be almost completely naked.

Su Rongrong turned her head away, her beautiful eyes were already brimming with tears.

Li Hongxiu also closed her eyes, and said, “Rong Jie, can you tell whether she is a ‘Divine Water Palace’ disciple?”

Su Rongrong sadly nodded her head.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Such a beauty, who had the heart to commit such an evil scheme to her like this?”

Li Hongxiu said, “The person who committed the evil scheme to her has already died as well.”

“You mean Zha Muge?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

“Naturally it was Zha Muge,” Li Hongxiu replied, “Other than him, who has such a fast blade?”

“Oh?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Hongxiu said, “When Zha Muge found out that he has been poisoned, at death’s door he gathered all he had left, and gave her a saber strike. Naturally he was full of resentment; therefore, this saber strike was so malicious, so heavy.”

Looking pensive, Chu Liuxiang said, “Sound like it is not completely unreasonable.”

Li Hongxiu sighed and said, “And now, all the clues have been broken, we have nothing.”

“We have nothing?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Li Hongxiu said, “All the people involved are dead, what else do we have?”

“So you think she really died under Zha Muge’s hands?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Li Hongxiu rolled her limpid eyes, and said, “Are you saying she did not?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Don’t forget, after Zha Muge died, his ‘Storm Saber’ had fallen into other people’s hands. After this person took the ‘Storm Saber’, he killed her, precisely so that others would think that this matter is completely over.”

“Ah!” Li Hongxiu blurted out, “That’s right!”

Chu Liuxiang spoke slowly, “Since he wanted others to think that this matter is over, it means that this matter is definitely not over. In my opinion, this matter is not even started yet.”

Su Rongrong suddenly said, “This matter, he does not want others to intervene. Am I right?”

“In that case,” Li Hongxiu said, “Why didn’t he destroy these corpses completely? If other people basically could not see these corpses, how could they investigate who killed them?”

Smiling slightly, Chu Liuxiang said, “All these corpses were well-known Jianghu warriors; not only that, they could be considered as having the rank of grand masters. If they suddenly disappeared, won’t the children and disciples of their School try to track them down?”

Knitting her brows, Su Rongrong said, “Therefore …”

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