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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 20


Chapter 20 – Tianfeng Shisi Lang

Bai Yumo’s eyes were flickering; he said with an evil laugh, “Are you still waiting for someone to rescue you? Aren’t you dreaming?”

Qiu Lingsu looked up to the sky as if she was checking the time of the day. Sighing grimly, she said, “Until now, I am afraid no one would come to rescue me … Death, I wonder how does it feel to die?”

Holding the urn tightly in her bosom, she was ready to jump.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly leaped out and shouted loudly, “Bai Yumo, I have never killed anyone, but as soon as your hands move, I am going to kill you.”

Bai Yumo’s wolf-teeth mace was already high in the air, but he was startled that it stopped midair.

Chu Liuxiang did not give him any time to think; amidst his shout, he already swept past, pulling Qiu Lingsu far away from this ten-thousand-fathom precipice.

It was only then did Bai Yumo come to his senses. “The one surnamed Chu!” he bellowed angrily, “Why are you meddling in other people’s business?”

Carrying a strong gust of wind, the heavy wolf-teeth mace swept across both Chu Liuxiang and Qiu Lingsu.

The wolf-teeth mace was a long weapon that was normally being used to charge and break through the enemy lines on the battlefield, the weapon to be used in bloody battle involving magnificent army with thousands of men and horses; its power was strong, its momentum violent, absolutely could not be compared to the weapons most commonly used by Jianghu’s warriors. But unexpectedly Bai Yumo was born with such a divine strength that he was able to move such a heavy weapon with ease [orig. what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes].

Who would have thought that not only Chu Liuxiang did not dodge, he met the attack head-on instead?

When he reached out to pull just now, he discovered that Madame Ren Qiu Lingsu unexpectedly did not know martial art at all; naturally he could not let her suffering any harm.

Therefore, he had to take risk.

Twisting and turning his body around, he charged into the crisscrossing shadows of the wolf-teeth mace. Suddenly he made his move to strike at Bai Yumo’s elbow.

Bai Yumo’s arm was swinging horizontally. As his elbow was hit, involuntarily his arm swang upward! Chu Liuxiang’s palm then reached toward his flank and gently sliced down.

Bai Yumo only felt half of his body went numb, the wolf-teeth mace left his hand and flew out. ‘Whoosh!’ it flew straight to the sky; the clouds covering the mountain peak was immediately smashed to pieces.

Although Chu Liuxiang’s palm ‘slice’ seemed to be ordinary and mediocre, but at that time he was taking a big risk; his technique was extremely strange, no one could really explain it.

Bai Yumo had never expected that he just launched one strike, and his weapon already flew off his hands. He had roamed the Jianghu for several decades, yet he had never encountered such thing. Unconsciously he was dumbfounded.

He saw Chu Liuxiang was standing in front of him, speaking with a smile, “You haven’t left?”

Unexpectedly Chu Liuxiang did not seize the opportunity to attack, but lightly and easily let Bai Yumo go.

Bai Yumo never expected even more that there was such thing in the world. Because he himself was vicious and merciless, naturally he had never expected, not even in his dream, that other people could be this magnanimous. Momentarily he did not know whether he should be shocked? Or happy? “You … are you …” he stammered.

Chu Liuxiang replied indifferently, “If you think carefully, you ought to wonder why you haven’t died yet? But you also ought to know how to conduct yourself in the future.”

Bai Yumo no longer speak. He turned around and headed straight out.

Only at this time that there was a ‘Splosh!’ sound from the bottom of the cliff, as the wolf-teeth mace reached the bottom.

Chu Liuxiang turned around toward Qiu Lingsu and spoke with a smile, “Was Zaixia too late?”

“But in the end you came,” Qiu Lingsu replied, “In the end you still did not disappoint me.”

She sighed softly and went on, “I can see at the first glance that you are an intelligent man, surely you are able to understand my words and would undoubtedly come back. Therefore, when that Bai Yumo came looking for me, with a thousand ways, a hundred plans I tried to hold him back, and slowly came here. Hearing that I was going to jump down the cliff, he did not immediately make his move.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Were it not for Madame’s manner and appearance, how could the bloodthirsty Bai Yumo not dare to lay a finger on Madame? Were it not for the hairpin Madame left behind, how could Zaixia find you here?”

Both were exceptionally intelligent persons, unexpectedly they happened to meet together.

Qiu Lingsu seemed to be smiling; she spoke indifferently, “You must know that I am doing all these things, it is not because I value my life more than anything, but if I don’t tell the secret in my heart, I would die with regret.”

“So, can Madame tell the secret of your heart now?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “If I don’t tell it now, I am afraid I will never have any time later … But this is a plethora of things to tackle, where do I start?”

Without even thinking, Chu Liuxiang immediately said, “Letter! Naturally you must start from those four letters; Zha Muge, Zuo Youzheng, Lingjiu Zi, Ximen Qian, all received the letter. I wonder if they were written by Madame?”

“It was me …” Qiu Lingsu replied, “I brought disaster to them!”

“Why did Madame write those four letters?” Chu Liuxiang asked, “What might Madame’s difficulty be?”

Qiu Lingsu sadly said, “You may have heard the story of ‘attire imperial order’ [? 衣带诏] of Emperor Xian of Han [(181-234), the final Han emperor, set up by Dong Zhuo, reigned 189-220, forced to abdicate 220 by Cao Pi]. He was the emperor, but was no different than a puppet; not only he could not do anything, he was even incapable to preserve his own life.”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang said, “Could it be that Ren Lao Bangzhu was also …”

“For the last three years,” Qiu Lingsu said, “Ren Ci’s situation was identical to that pitiful emperor. Although in name he was the Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu, but everything was actually under someone else’s control.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help asking, “Who’s controlling him?”

Qiu Lingsu replied word by word, “NanGong Ling!”

Stomping his foot in anger, Chu Liuxiang said, “Indeed it’s him … indeed it’s him.”

Qiu Lingsu continued, “He was an orphan. It was Ren Ci who raised him up since he was little until he is a grownup and taught him martial arts. He is actually very intelligent; whatever Ren Ci taught him, he only needed to learn it once and he already knew how to do it. Not only that, he had the potential of green surpassing the blue.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “But with Ren Lao Bangzhu’s martial art skill …”

Qiu Lingsu interrupted him by sighing and then said, “Although Ren Ci was already old, his martial art skill did not diminish, his physique usually was very sturdy. But in the last three years, for some unknown reason, he unexpectedly caught some kind of strange illness. Not only his body grew increasingly thinner and weaker, even his limbs were gradually paralyzed; practically he became a handicapped person.”

Heaving a deep sigh, Chu Liuxiang said, “Heroes are most afraid of disease wearing them down; it has been so since ancient times!”

“But his illness did not come naturally,” Qiu Lingsu said.

“Madame is saying …” Chu Liuxiang blurted out, “Someone poisoned him?”

“Precisely!” Qiu Lingsu replied.

Although Chu Liuxiang already knew who it was, he still could not help asking, “Who?”

“Only one person had the opportunity to poison him,” Qiu Lingsu replied, “NanGong Ling! Before his true colors were revealed, everybody knew that he was the most filial person in the world. Not only he strived wholeheartedly to resolve any challenging affair within the Gang, he even meticulously took care of Ren Ci’s food and drink and everyday necessities that I nearly had nothing to do. Originally I was so grateful of his filial piety; unexpectedly he did that for the convenience of putting poison in him.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Yet he was afraid to arouse other people’s suspicion, hence he did not dare to poison Ren Lao Bangzhu to death. This man’s intention is sinister, his conduct is impenetrable; unexpectedly even I was unable to see through it.”

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “You are not the only one who failed to see his viciousness. By the time I found out about it, it was already too late, Ren Ci was already powerless against him. In everything, he simply had to obey him. Not only he did not dare to reveal his malicious scheme, he still had to see his face, still had to make a supreme effort to touch him, so much so that he had to curry favor from him …”

Speaking to this point, her tranquil, serene and elegant voice quivered. Those days, the days where she had to contain her suffering and endure the disgrace, must be full of bitterness and tears of blood.

Listening to her, righteous indignation filled Chu Liuxiang’s breast; he angrily said, “He acted like that, how come other people in the Gang were not concerned?”

Qiu Lingsu replied, “In front of others, he was still full of respect toward me and Ren Ci, and was totally submissive; who could possibly see through his true malicious face?”

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “To the last days, Ren Ci and me were practically put under house arrest; without his permission, nobody could see us. Externally he just said that Ren Ci was seriously ill, therefore, he would not let anybody to disturb him. Who’d dare not to believe his words? All the Beggar Clan disciples were hoping that Ren Ci would recover soon, so who’d come to bother him?”

“In that case,” Chu Liuxiang asked, “How did Madame send those four letters out?”

“NanGong Ling sent them out for me,” Qiu Lingsu replied.

Astonished, Chu Liuxiang asked, “NanGong Ling?”

Qiu Lingsu explained, “Although sending letters to Ximen Qian and Zuo Youzheng was not difficult, but Lingjiu Zi and Zha Muge, one lived in seclusion in the coastal area, the other lived far away in the desert. Except for NanGong Ling ordering Beggar Clan disciples all over the world to deliver the letters, who would have the capability of delivering the letter to them quickly and properly?”

Chu Liuxiang clapped his hands and said, “Oh, that’s right. I was originally wondering, Zha Muge, Lingjiu Zi, Ximen Qian, Zuo Youzheng, those four men lived far and near, the difference was enormous. If you sent those letter at the same time, by the time Ximen Qian and Zuo Youzheng arrived, perhaps Zha Muge and Lingjiu Zi have not even received the letter yet. But those four clearly arrived at the same time; wasn’t that extremely strange?”

He sighed and went on, “Now I understand that turned out NanGong Ling had calculated the timing accurately; he calculated accurately the time Zha Muge and Lingjiu Zi received the letter and set out, and only then did he send the letters to Zuo Youzheng and Ximen Qian. He calculated accurately that the four men would arrive at the same time, and he made them die at the same time as well.”

Once he figured out this logic, the more he felt that NanGong Ling was very thorough in his conduct; it was really terrifying.

Qiu Lingsu heaved a deep sigh and said, “Ever since Ren Ci fell ill, tens of thousands Beggar Clan disciples already regarded NanGong Ling as the sole successor of the Gang Leader’s position. NanGong Ling only needs to speak; forget about merely delivering a letter, even if he wanted them to go through water and tread on fire, everybody would jump head first to accomplish it. How could this kind of power be considered ordinary?”

“But why did he deliver those four letters for Madame?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu replied, “During that period, in order to buy the heart of the people, NanGong Ling had spent large amount of wealth. But in order for him to build his reputation in Jianghu, he could not take money that did not belong to him.”

“Could it be that his plan was to hit Madame on the head?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu said, “After I married Ren Ci, although I had changed my surname, he knew my background. Naturally it was because Ren Ci trusted him too much. Day by day his expenditure was rising. For the past several years he scraped around for money and went completely broke. One day, unexpectedly he forced me to think of ideas for him, as a result, I wrote those letters.”

Chu Liuxiang clapped his hands and said, “That’s right, on that letter, Madame did not specify clearly what the difficulty really was, plus Zuo Youzheng, Ximen Qian’s money came very easily, Hainan Jian Pai’s properties are not a few either, King of the Desert need not be mentioned even more. NanGong Ling unexpectedly thought that Madame wrote the letter to borrow money for him.”

Qiu Lingsu said, “He wanted to exploit me, I was also thinking of using that opportunity to exploit him to deliver the letter for me. As long as I can see the four of them, everything will be all right.”

“But NanGong Ling,” Chu Liuxiang asked, “What made him change his mind? He did not want their money anymore, but wanted their lives instead?”

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “That’s just because of one person. One evening after the letters were delivered, this person came and had private discussion with NanGong Ling all night long. After that, things changed completely.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes lit up, he immediately asked further, “Who was that person?”

“I did not see him,” Qiu Lingsu replied.

Disappointed, Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “You only know that he was there?”

Qiu Lingsu said, “In order to keep a close watch over us, NanGong Ling stayed in the room next door to us. Since we were already the fish inside his net, he did not need to be extremely wary of us. Therefore, all the movements in his room, I was able to hear for the most part … although my skill is lost, fortunately my hearing ability is not lost.”

“Did you hear what they say?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu said, “They spoke in a very low, very heavy voice. I know that whatever they were discussing must be a very important secret. Every now and then there seemed to be very minor disputes, but I could not hear what they say.”

Sighing, Chu Liuxiang said, “It would be great if you could hear them. Maybe this mysterious character is the real mastermind behind the scenes.”

Qiu Lingsu said, “This mysterious character left very early in the morning the next day. Not too long afterwards, NanGong Ling delivered a bowl of ginseng soup, saying it was a tonic for Ren Ci to take for his health.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flickered; he said, “Presumably this bowl of ginseng soup was not good to drink.”

Qiu Lingsu said, “He has not been this attentive for a long time, so I also knew that there must be a plot in this. However, after using three different methods to test the soup, I still could not verify the slightest amount of poison in it.”

She sighed, and then continued, “I am sure you are also aware that in the olden days, I was considered a first-class poison expert in Jianghu. As long as there was a trace of poison in the soup, no matter which school’s or which sect’s poison he was using, I would definitely be able to test it out. Therefore, I thought that this bowl of ginseng soup surely did not have any problem.”

“Hence, feeling relieved, you let Ren Lao Bangzhu drinking it?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu sadly said, “Since there was no poison in the ginseng soup, why bother brushing away NanGong Ling’s kindly intention? Besides, day-in day-out Ren Ci only took thin porridge to fill his belly, he definitely needed something more nourishing.”

Those were indeed miserable days; every time she recalled the bitterness and the hardship of those days, unconsciously her fragile body would tremble.

Chu Liuxiang’s heart was suddenly moved; he spoke quietly, “After Ren Lao Bangzhu drank that bowl of ginseng soup, did his entire body swell?”

He had not even finished, Qiu Lingsu already spoke in shock, “How do you know that?”

“Heavenly One Divine Water,” Chu Liuxiang said, “You could not test the poison in the ginseng soup, because it was the Heavenly One Divine Water!”

Now he was more convinced than ever that the mastermind behind this matter was indeed the man who stole the Heavenly One Divine Water from the Divine Water Palace. Naturally he was also the man who killed the ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’ Song Gang, and disguised himself as Tianfeng Shisi Lang. Although NanGong Ling was terrifying, this man’s craftiness and viciousness was above NanGong Ling’s.

Although Chu Liuxiang now knew NanGong Ling’s secret, if he failed to investigate who this person was, all his efforts would be tantamount to a waste.

Qiu Lingsu’s body trembled even more violently, she said, “All along I did not believe that NanGong Ling really had the heart to kill Ren Ci with his own hands, all along I did not believe that there was poison in the ginseng soup, but now … now …”

She suddenly rushed over to Chu Liuxiang and hissed, “I am going to tell you all the secrets; can you avenge me?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “After the secret is uncovered, no need for me to make my move, NanGong Ling himself won’t be able to live. No wonder he spared no effort to stop me from seeing you.”

“But why did he take you here?” Qiu Lingsu asked.

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “From beginning to end he was unwilling to oppose me openly, so when I forced him and he could not refuse anymore, he decided to take me personally. He knew that in front of him, you would not dare to reveal the secret …”

He paused for a moment, and then muttered, “That day, he asked me to wait for him one sichen, saying he had a Gang’s affair to take care of; naturally it was not really Gang’s matter, but to see the mysterious assassin, to tell him to rush over here first, to disguise himself as Tianfeng Shisi Lang, and to wait for me on the stone beam while he was coming with me here. While he was afraid that I might see you, he still wanted to take advantage of the dangerous terrain here to get rid of me, hence removing his trouble forever. If I could never see you, naturally he would feel a lot more at ease.”

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “He wanted someone to wait here first to kill you, but if he failed to kill you, he would come with you to see me. With him around, naturally I could not say anything …”

She suddenly chuckled and said, “He thought that what he was doing could be considered seamless heavenly clothes, not one drop of water can leak out; who would have thought that heaven’s net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it [idiom from Laotze]. In the end he still cannot escape.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Actually, maybe he did not really feel at ease, plus he was afraid I might come back, so he intentionally leaked your residence to Bai Yumo. He wanted to borrow Bai Yumo’s hands to get rid of you. When other people find out about this, he can pretend ignorance, and put all the blame onto Bai Yumo …”

He laughed, and then continued, “But he never expected that I could arrive here so soon. That chess move of mine is indeed not in vain. By the time he figures out the secret of that move, it was already too late.”

Qiu Lingsu was silent for half a day; suddenly she said, “Tianfeng Shisi Lang; did you just mention this name?”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang replied, “That’s right! Could it be that Madame really know that person?”

Qiu Lingsu said, “Although I do not know this person, I often heard Ren Ci mentioning him in the past.”

Chu Liuxiang cried out involuntarily, “Unexpectedly there is indeed a person with that name in the world. I originally thought that they created that name Tianfeng Shisi Lang out of thin air.”

Qiu Lingsu said, “Ren Ci is hard on the outside, but soft in the inside. In all his life, very seldom did he show any regard to anybody, but toward this Tianfeng Shisi Lang, he showed deep respect. Each time he mentioned this man, he always said that he could be considered as rarely-seen-in-the-world hero and real man.”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang said, “That kind of person, what could his relationship with NanGong Ling be? Why did NanGong Ling borrow his name …? Madame, do you happen to know where is he now?”

“This person has been dead for twenty years,” Qiu Lingsu replied.

“Who killed him?” Chu Liuxiang blurted out.

Qiu Lingsu replied slowly, word-by-word, “The man who killed him was none other than Ren Ci.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help but was stunned. “Since Ren Lao Bangzhu had deep respect toward him, why did he kill him?” he asked in astonishment.

Qiu Lingsu sighed and said, “That Tianfeng Shisi Lang crossed the sea to come here, with his heart and soul he wanted to decide relative superiority against martial art masters of the Central Plains’ Wulin. At that time Ren Ci had not taken over Gai Bang’s leadership for long, it could be said that he was at his peak. Tianfeng Shisi Lang had the great ambition and magnificent aspiration to challenge Wulin’s martial art masters everywhere under the heavens, naturally he would not miss him. Not long after he set foot on the Central Earth, he sent a letter to Ren Ci, challenging him for a duel.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “This Tianfeng Shisi Lang was unavoidably too crazy; our country has vast territory with abundant resources, I don’t know how many crouching tiger, hidden dragon, people with superior martial art skill, are there; how could he, one person, beat them all?”

Qiu Lingsu said, “After receiving Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s letter challenging him, for the sake of Gai Bang’s reputation, naturally Ren Ci could not shrink back. Besides, at that time his blood and vital breath was flourishing, so he also wanted to determine relative superiority against this Dongying swordsman’s strange swordplay.”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang said, “Surely the brilliance of this battle was earth-shattering; too bad I was born twenty years too late; unexpectedly I missed witnessing this great battle!”

Looking pensive, Qiu Lingsu said, “That battle was not brilliant at all; if you really witnessed it, I think you will be sorely disappointed.”

Chu Liuxiang was startled, “Why?” he asked.

Qiu Lingsu said, “Ren Ci usually did not like false reputation. After receiving the challenge, he did not broadcast it at all; therefore, within the Jianghu nowadays, not many people knew about this matter. At that time, the only person accompanying him to meet the challenge was Situ Zhanglao [elder], who, by now, had been dead for a long time. Other than he, practically no one else knew.”

“Where did the duel take place?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Qiu Lingsu replied, “Reportedly that place was at Minnan [southern Fujian] border, on some obscure mountain. Naturally it was because they did not want to attract anybody else’s attention.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If that was the case, then this Tianfeng Shisi Lang, although he was brash, presumably he did not like false reputation either. Otherwise, although Ren Lao Bangzhu did not say anything, Tianfeng Shisi Lang might have broadcasted the news.”

Qiu Lingsu said, “In his letter of challenge, he also made it clear this battle was not for the sake of fame, but for the sake of martial art. When Ren Ci and Situ Zhanglao arrived on the mountain, as expected, Tianfeng Shisi Lang was already waiting there. Without saying anything, he immediately fought with Ren Ci.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help asking, “He did not even say a single word?”

Qiu Lingsu thought for a moment before replying, “According to what Ren Ci told me later, when he arrived on the mountain, Tianfeng Shisi Lang was sitting on a large rock, holding a long sword, which was already out of its scabbard. Seeing Ren Ci, he immediately raised his sword, and immediately launched the swordplay unique to Dongying sword schools. His mouth only spoke two words.”

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