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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 22


Chapter 22 – Close Friends Became Foes

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “No matter what, he could not be regarded as sacrificing his life; although he did not obtain the most beautiful woman on earth, he did obtain the world’s gentlest, most elegant, most considerate wife.”

Qiu Lingsu spoke gently, “Thank you, thank you for saying such thing about me. You will never know how happy I am in my heart listening to your words.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Zaixia is the one who should thank Madame for telling me about these past happenings. In all my life, Zaixia can’t possibly hear a greater, more moving love story.”

Qiu Lingsu suddenly laughed as well, she said, “Maybe you know that other than Ren Ci, not only you are the only man who had ever seen my face, you are also the only man that I am grateful to.”

Fixing her gaze on Chu Liuxiang, her eyes became gentler.

She gently stroked the porcelain urn, so light and gentle, as she slowly continued, “Although only Ren Ci could give me twenty years of tranquil and blessed life, but only you can make me die with such a tranquil mind …”

Aghast, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Die?”

Qiu Lingsu unhurriedly said, “Ren Ci is dead, the purpose of my being alive is to expose NanGong Ling’s secret. And now that the load on my mind already gone, do you think I can still keep on living?”

Even until Chu Liuxiang was back in Jinan, his heart was still brimming with grief.

He saw with his own eyes as Madame Ren’s body fell into the ten-thousand-fathom precipice, and he saw how the hazy mist swallowed her up, yet unexpectedly he was unable to do anything to rescue her.

He also saw very clearly how, before her death, Madame Ren’s eyes were still so tranquil, without the slightest bit of pain. Although he knew that for Madame Ren’s exhausted life ‘death’ was just one kind of everlasting rest, he still felt unspeakable grief, unspeakable anger.

He swore that he must find NanGong Ling.

And he did find NanGong Ling almost immediately.

The night was very deep, yet the Beggars Clan’s Fragrance Hall was still brightly lit.

When Chu Liuxiang came here, he did not expect to find NanGong Ling. He just wanted to find Beggar Clan’s disciple to inquire NanGong Ling’s whereabouts. But under the brilliant light, in the spacious red sandalwood chair, someone was sitting upright like a stone statue. Unexpectedly that someone was NanGong Ling.

He sat there with his hand supporting his cheek, appearing to be deep in thought, or perhaps he was waiting for someone.

But who was he waiting for?

From far across the roof ridge, Chu Liuxiang already saw him. Bai Yumo must have returned, so in all likelihood, NanGong Ling must have known that Chu Liuxiang had met Qiu Lingsu alone, and had talked with her. But why hasn’t he left? Why was he still sitting here?

Could this be another trap? Could it be that there was an ambush in the courtyard to kill him, using NanGong Ling was the bait, waiting for Chu Liuxiang to take the bait?

But the courtyard was extremely quiet, there was no human shadow, and he could not see the slightest amount of murderous aura. The starlight was reflected on the dark green flagstones, which were as bright as a mirror.

NanGong Ling suddenly raised his head, smiled slightly, and said, “Have Chu Xiong arrived? Xiaodi has been waiting here for a long time.”

Chu Liuxiang was slightly surprised. NanGong Ling laughed again and said, “Chu Xiong, please don’t worry, Xiaodi is the only one here, there is no ambush at all.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “Naturally there is no ambush here at all, naturally I am extremely at ease. This kind of thing, naturally you don’t want to alarm other people. Naturally you know that it is better for you and I, alone, to resolve this matter.”

Amidst his speaking voice, he already swept into the main hall, his eyes were shining as he stared at NanGong Ling.

NanGong Ling met his stare; his sharp eyes were like a wolf’s, or like an eagle’s.

It was a long, long time later that NanGong Ling sighed and said, “You knew, didn’t you?”

Chu Liuxiang nodded. He said, “You also knew that I already knew, didn’t you?”

NanGong Ling also nodded. He smiled and said, “But Xiaodi has not gone away; I am waiting here instead. Chu Xiong must be extremely puzzled.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You did not go, just because you know that you can’t go anywhere.”

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “I did not go, just because I did not want to go. Otherwise, the world is so big, where can’t I go?”

Chu Liuxiang pulled a chair and sat down; he spoke unhurriedly, “If you go, you have to give up everything and pass your days living an exile-like life. But if you must give up your current reputation and power, you will be more miserable than being dead.”

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “Chu Xiong really knows Xiaodi like you know yourself.”

He suddenly stopped laughing, and spoke sternly, “Since you understand me that deeply, you ought to know that even if I have to die, I will never give up everything. I have spent my heart’s blood in my whole life to obtain all these, no one can force me to give it all up.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed lightly and asked, “Can you not give up everything though?”

NanGong Ling stood up suddenly and spoke sternly, “Why not? Even though I killed Ren Ci, but that was for the sake of avenging my father. Father and the enemy cannot live under the same sky, who in Jianghu would dare to say that what I did was wrong?”

“You already knew this secret?” Chu Liuxiang blurted out.

With a mournful laughter NanGong Ling said, “Ren Ci thought he could deceive me; are you telling me that you thought you could deceive me as well?”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a long, long sigh, and spoke slowly, “Even if you did what you did really to avenge your father, even if no one in Jianghu really care about you, but what about Beggar Clan’s disciples? If they knew that you killed Ren Ci, would they still allow you to become their Bangzhu?”

NanGong Ling’s body shook, he plopped himself back into the chair. Chu Liuxiang’s last remark was like a knife stabbing deep into his vital point.

It looked like he suddenly aged a lot. Hanging his head down, he said dejectedly, “Chu Liuxiang! Chu Liuxiang! Why are you pushing me like that? I did not have the slightest intention to harm you, but you … why are you intent on meddling in other people’s business?”

Chu Liuxiang was speechless for half a day. Finally he smiled wryly and said, “Maybe because my innate character is one who loves to meddle in other people’s business.”

NanGong Ling slowly said, “Ever since the first time I met you, I always thought that you can be a good friend throughout my life. Do you … do you remember where did you and I met for the first time?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It was a the foot of Mount Tai. At that time, not only Qilu Si Xiong [Four Mighty Men of Qilu (abbr. for Shandong)] were robbing the escorted goods of Jinling’s Shuang Yi Bao Ju [Double Righteousness Escort Agency], they also tied up the daughter of the Zongbiaotou [head of escort agency] Sha Tianyi. After I heard about it, I could not curb my meddling character from flaring up, and immediately rushed to Mount Tai. Who would have thought that you have already rushed over and arrived before I did?”

His sharp gaze gradually softened, he slowly continued, “When I rushed over, you already used your pair of iron palms to inflict heavy losses on Qilu Si Xiong; I noticed your different-from-ordinary martial art skill, and yet you were so young and handsome, so unavoidably I was greatly admiring you. If at that time someone had asked me who the number one young hero in the world was, I would not hesitate to tell him, it was NanGong Ling.”

NanGong Ling smiled and said, “From then on, you and I became very close friends. As soon as I have free time, I would come on board your boat and stayed for a couple of days. You might remember that time when I painted a portrait of Su Rongrong …”

A smile also appeared on the corner of Chu Liuxiang’s mouth, he said, “That was the longest you and I had hanging around each other. In those five days, you and I drank all the wine in the boat’s hold. There was one time I was completely drunk, and wanted to catch the moon in the sea. Unexpectedly you also jumped into the water to help me. Although we did not catch our moon, we did catch a big sea turtle.”

NanGong Ling roared in laughter and said, “That sea turtle, in all my life, I have never tasted anything more delicious. You and I had a competition on who could eat more. Such a big sea turtle, unexpectedly we could eat it all in just one day. But, as a result, our tummy was hurt for the next couple of days.”

The two of them roared in laughter together, a very happy laugh, just like all the unhappiness between them has been completely forgotten. But for some reason, unexpectedly the laughter grew faint.

Chu Liuxiang muttered, “Those days can really be considered a series of happy days. Sometimes I unconsciously wonder, why is it that happy days always seem to be exceptionally short?”

NanGong Ling unhurriedly said, “As long as you don’t destroy it, we will still able to have that kind of happy days. As long as you don’t say anything, no one will know anything about this matter.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly went silent. A long time later, he sighed softly and said, “If there is anything in the world that can move Chu Liuxiang’s heart, that will be friendship!”

NanGong Ling said, “You … you agree not to talk?”

“I won’t talk …” Chu Liuxiang said.

Greatly delighted, NanGong Ling said, “Friend … I knew that Chu Liuxiang is NanGong Ling’s friend.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke in heavy voice, “I won’t talk, but I want you to promise me two things!”

NanGong Ling was startled. “What is it?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Even if you wanted to avenge your father, you shouldn’t have used such a cruel method. Moreover, you shouldn’t have killed that many innocent people. I wish for you to temporarily resign from your position as the Bangzhu, to find a quiet place where you can shut yourself up and ponder over your errors. You … you are still young; in the future, you will start anew. With your talents, there must be something that you can do.”

NanGong Ling’s complexion turned ashen. Throwing his head back, he laughed and said, “Chu Liuxiang, good friend! You, after all, did not say that you wanted to kill me, but you want me to start anew in the future. When will this ‘future’ be? Ten years? Twenty years …?”

He stood up again suddenly, his body shook, and he hissed, “In one’s lifetime, how many ten or twenty years does he have? Why are you forcing me to sacrifice the best time of my life? Why don’t you simply say that you want to kill me?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I just want you to atone for what you did, I just want you to mend your ways. I don’t want you to die at all. You must know that ‘death’ is not the best way to atone for one’s crime; not at all.”

NanGong Ling laughed coldly and said, “And what is your second condition? I want to hear it.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “I just want you to tell me, who, exactly, is he?”

Frowning, NanGong Ling asked, “He?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “He is the person who killed Tianying Zi, who killed Song Gang’s men. He is the person impersonating Tianfeng Shisi Lang, the one who wanted to take my life. He is the person who stole the Heavenly One Divine Water from the Divine Water Palace.”

NanGong Ling’s body shook; he was suddenly stumped for words.

Chu Liuxiang went on, “You naturally know that he did all those things not just so that he could kill Ren Ci. He must have a lot of others plots. I can’t let his conspiracy continue further, I simply must stop him!”

Clenching his teeth, NanGong Ling spoke word-by-word, “You can never stop him. Nobody can stop him!”

Chu Liuxiang spoke loudly, “Until now, why do you still want to keep the secret for him? You must know that he wanting to have Ren Ci killed was only one part of his entire conspiracy? You are nothing more than a tool that he used to kill Ren Ci. In the end, when necessary, he might kill you as well.”

NanGong Ling howled with laughter again. He said, “He used me? He is going to kill me as well? … do you know who he is?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “Precisely because I don’t know who he is that I am asking you.”

NanGong Ling howled with laughter again. “And you think I will tell you?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh and said, “NanGong Ling! NanGong Ling! I really do not wish to hurt you, why are you pushing me like this?”

NanGong Ling’s voice trembled, “It was you who are pushing me, I am not pushing you. Although I did not want to hurt you, but as the last resort, I will have no choice but to make my move!”

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “You will definitely not make your move, your martial art skill is definitely not my match!”

Laughing coldly, NanGong Ling said, “You think so?”

His body did not seem to move at all, but he flew straight up from the chair. Chu Liuxiang’s body did not seem to move either, yet he also flew up.

However, in the air, unexpectedly Chu Liuxiang was still sitting; unexpectedly that massive and heavy red sandalwood chair was like glued to his butts.

When the two met high up in the air, there was the sound of palms slapping against each other, seven times in succession. Unexpectedly, in this fast-like-a-white-steed-flits-past-a-crack instant, the two had exchanged seven palm strikes.

After seven palm strikes, the two shadows suddenly seemed to fuse together, and quickly separated again.

Chu Liuxiang brought the chair back floating to the ground, and happened to land on the exact spot, hardly missed it by a fraction of a cun. When the heavy chair landed on the ground, unexpectedly it did not make the slightest noise.

NanGong Ling made a somersault in the air, and he also fell back into his chair. But the solid wooden chair made a squeaking noise from the pressure. His countenance also changed miserably.

Although both of them did not suffer any injury, undoubtedly who was superior and who was inferior was already decided. Although the two of them exchanged blows in such a short period of time, undoubtedly it was the battle that would determine the current situation in Wulin.

This battle seemed to be an understatement, but its importance was definitely not below any battle in the word since ancient times.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “NanGong Ling, do you still want to force me to make my move?”

NanGong Ling’s countenance alternated between green and red, his expression was unspeakably miserable. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “NanGong Ling! NanGong Ling! You painstakingly trained martial art for twenty years, unexpectedly you are unable to withstand a single blow like that?”

He suddenly rose up to his full height again and shouted loudly, “Chu Liuxiang, don’t feel so proud of yourself either! Since I, NanGong Ling, have been waiting for you here today, do you think I don’t have any other way of dealing with you?”

Amidst his shout, he waved his hand, and a big man, about eight chi tall, bare-chested, bald head, looked like a beast, holding a chair high above his head, walked in in large strides.

Under the brilliant lantern lights, he saw sitting on the chair was surprisingly someone with wooden expression, sitting upright with pale face, and a pair of beautiful eyes staring emptily straight ahead.

Chu Liuxiang turned pale with fright; his countenance changed, he called, “Rong’er, you … how could you be here?”

Unexpectedly Su Rongrong did not seem to hear him at all, she still remained motionless.

NanGong Ling let out a cold laugh and said, “Naturally Miss Su was invited by me. Other than me, who else could move her into accepting my invitation?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “At the Fengyu Pavilion by Daming Lake, were those four men in green sent by you as well?

“Exactly!” NanGong Ling replied.

“How did you know that she was there?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

NanGong Ling laughed and said, “Under the moon at Daming Lake, a tryst with a beauty after dusk! Since Wuhua Dashi reminded me of that, naturally I must see it for myself. Since I painted a portrait of her, how could I not recognize her?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You are afraid she might discover the secret of the Divine Water Palace, you went so far as to deal with her maliciously. But since you already executed your evil scheme, how did you know that she did not die?”

NanGong Ling smiled and said, “I know that that youngster in black was watching from the side, I deliberately let him pass on the story to you. But when you came here, your face did not show the slightest sign of grieving. From this, it could be seen that Su Rongrong must not be dead. Therefore, after you made an excuse to urinate and slipped away, I did not pursue you at all, but pursued after her instead. Although chasing after you is not easy, chasing after her was not difficult at all.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh and said, “And she obviously did not have the slightest suspicion toward you; otherwise, how could she fall into your hands?”

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “How could she doubt Chu Liuxiang’s friend?”

Chu Liuxiang seemed to suddenly remember something. “That’s not right!” he shouted, “When those four men made their move against her, you were with me to look for Madame Ren. There must be someone else orchestrating this from behind the screen; who is he? How did he know Rong’er?”

NanGong Ling’s countenance changed again; he spoke sternly, “I already gave my order, why would I need to be personally present?”

Without waiting for Chu Liuxiang to respond, he shouted, “Put her down!”

The beast-like big man stretched his arms horizontally and slowly put the chair down.

“Why don’t you show this friend the strength of your hands?” NanGong Ling said.

The big man drew back the corners of his mouth into a big grin, while stretching out a pair of hairy, gigantic palms, with which he slowly grabbed a chair next to him, and then both of his hands lightly squeezed.

He heard a ‘crack’. The solid wooden chair was unexpectedly crushed into smithereens – this was not a human being! This was like an evil beast from the great wilderness.

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “Very good! Now, I want you to put your hands on the little Miss’ head. Just be a bit careful, don’t crush her head yet.”

The big man’s hand indeed slowly landed on Su Rongrong’s head.

Pointing to Chu Liuxiang, NanGong Ling ordered the big man, “Now, open your eyes wide and look at him. As soon as any part of his body, either a hand or a foot, moves slightly, you can immediately crush this little Miss’ head!”

The big man unexpectedly giggled excitedly, as if he felt that this was an extremely interesting thing. Chu Liuxiang, however, felt his hands and feet were turning cold. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “NanGong Ling! NanGong Ling! I never thought you would resort to such a despicable, shameless trick. You … you really disappoint me.”

Turning his head around, NanGong Ling spoke hoarsely, “I did not want to do it, but why did you insist on pushing me so hard?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Now you … what do you want?”

NanGong Ling replied, “I just want you to know that Su Rongrong has fallen into my hands. If you still want her alive and well, you must never meddle in my business.”

Chu Liuxiang was silent for a long time. He spoke slowly, “And if I disregard her life and insist on meddling in yours?”

NanGong Ling turned his head back and said with a smile, “I am certain that Chu Liuxiang can’t possibly be that kind of person.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In that case, are you … are you going to keep Rong’er here forever?”

NanGong Ling replied, “It doesn’t matter where, but I will let you know that she is still alive. That is definitely better than dead, isn’t it?”

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “But I will still be alive as well. As long as I am alive, you guys will never feel at ease. Although this moment I can give you my words, you guys will always try to kill me, am I right?”

NanGong Ling’s countenance slowly sank; he spoke word-by-word, “That is another matter altogether. Whether you are dead or alive, it has nothing to do with her life and death. If you still want her alive, this moment you have no choice but to agree.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “After I die, are you still going to kill her?”

NanGong Ling spoke unhurriedly, “Since you are already dead, whether she is dead or alive, it has nothing to do with you. But as long as you are alive, you will never have the heart to see her die because of you, am I right?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled bitterly and said, “Wouldn’t this agreement be too unfair?”

NanGong Ling laughed loudly and said, “Even until now, you are still hoping for a fair agreement? Besides, before you die, you might have some chances of rescuing her out of here.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes have been fixed on Su Rongrong, unconsciously his fingertips started to tremble. If anybody had said that unexpectedly Chu Liuxiang could tremble, perhaps nobody in the world would believe that.

NanGong Ling laughed aloud and said, “I have seen through your bones, I know you absolutely cannot disagree, you simply have no leeway not to.”

Chu Liuxiang seemed to cast a quick glance outside the window, and then he sighed and spoke unhurriedly, “NanGong Ling, since you disappoint me like this, perhaps once in a while I might also disappoint you.”

Amidst his voice, suddenly a ‘swish’ was heard. A streak of black light, carrying a sharp gust of wind, wound itself around the big man’s throat like a viper.

The big man howled and raised his hand. He had just raised his hand, like a light smoke Chu Liuxiang already swept across and grabbed Su Rongrong, along with the chair she was sitting on, and pushed them both away.

Greatly surprised, NanGong Ling wanted to pounce, but a chilling cold sword ray flew by like a trained horse to block his way.

Chu Liuxiang pushed Su Rongrong all the way to the corner before letting out a sigh of relieve; he muttered to himself with a chuckle, “Hei Zhenzhu, Yitian Hong, knowing the two of you, I am really lucky.”

The long whip in Hei Zhenzhu’s hand was stretched taut like the bowstring.

He pulled the long whip with both hands with all his might, just like the barge hauler pulling his boat over the dangerous rapids of the Yangtze River, so that his body was almost parallel to the ground; blue veins already bulged out of his delicate hands and palms.

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