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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 24

CSI

Chapter 24 – Going Down South To Chase After The Vicious

Chu Liuxiang closed his eyes and mumbled to himself, “Turns out Tianfeng Shisi Lang did not come to the Central Earth alone; he took his two children along. After he died, one child was entrusted to Ren Ci; but what about the other child? Whom did he entrust the child to? Who else in the world know about this matter?”

It was a secret of twenty years ago, so now, there was almost no clue to be found.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly sprang up and spoke loudly, “I know, since Tianfeng Shisi Lang entrusted the younger child to Ren Ci, he must have entrusted the older child to the person he fought first. As long as I can figure out who it was, I will be able to find who ‘he’ is.”

Although Chu Liuxiang did not know the person who fought with Tianfeng Shisi Lang before Ren Ci did, but so far, he knew these things:

First, the person’s reputation must be very high, hence Tianfeng Shisi Lang looked for him first before he looked for Ren Ci. In Wulin world, the number of people with higher reputation than the Beggar Clan’s Gang Leader was really not many; so the range is narrowed down considerably.

Second, this person’s martial art skill must be extremely strong; only then would he be able to injure Tianfeng Shisi Lang.

Third, this person’s character must be similar to Ren Ci: enormously magnanimous; only then would he shelter Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s orphan and teach him martial art.

Fourth, this person definitely did not like to brag; therefore, although he defeated the saber expert from Dongying, no one in Jianghu knew about it.

Fifth, this person must be residing in the Minnan region; therefore, after Tianfeng Shisi Lang was wounded from the fight with him, he was still able to rush to personally meet with Ren Ci in time.

Chu Liuxiang exhaled slowly and said, “Now, what I know cannot be considered a few already.”

Rushing out the cabin, he grabbed the punting pole and drove the fancy boat to the shore.

Suddenly he heard the sound of hoof beats, followed by someone calling out from a distance, “Chu Liuxiang, is it you?”

Amidst the shout, someone flew on horseback and dismounted; it was Hei Zhenzhu.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Unexpectedly you came here; how is she?”

Hei Zhenzhu was silent for half a day. “She is really obedient,” he spoke coldly, “She has obediently gone home.”

But suddenly he opened his eyes wide and shouted loudly, “But I want to ask you, where actually is my Diedie? How come you always refused to tell me?”

Chu Liuxiang hung his head down and said, “Your esteemed father has … has passed away.”

Hei Zhenzhu’s body shook, he hissed, “You … what did you say?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I already have your esteemed father’s remains preserved at Lu Dong Red Rock Cliff. In the fishing village by the sea, there is a Li Tuozi [lit. hunchback Li]. If you hasten there, ask him to take you to my boat. When you see Su Rongrong, you will also be able to see your esteemed father’s remains.”

Hei Zhenzhu rushed a step forward and spoke sternly, “How could my Diedie’s body be on your boat? Did you kill him?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang replied, “It’s hard to explain the twists and turns in this story clearly in short moment, but Rong’er will be able to tell you in details … As for the man who killed your esteemed father, he is currently on this fancy boat.”

He has not even finished, Hei Zhenzhu already flew to the boat.

Chu Liuxiang rolled his eyes, suddenly he spoke loudly, “I need to borrow your precious horse, someday, I’ll return it to you with gratitude …”

Amidst his voice, he already flew onto the horseback, raised his whip, and was gone in an instant!

After meeting with Qiu Lingsu on Mount Ni, Chu Liuxiang went down the mountain to the woodcutter’s house to fetch this horse. Riding on it, he returned to Jinan with only one purpose in mind: to find NanGong Ling. Therefore, he did not return the horse to Hei Zhenzhu, but entrusted the horse to an inn. By the time he came back from the Beggar Clan’s Fragrance Hall, the horse has already run out of the stable to look for its master. It was precisely because of this horse that Hei Zhenzhu and Yitian Hong discovered that Chu Liuxiang has returned to Jinan, and thus they came in time to save Su Rongrong.

Only by relying on this horse would Chu Liuxiang be able to reach Minnan in the shortest time possible. But when he arrived at Minnan, he was completely disappointed.

Whatever happened twenty years ago, the people there have long ceased to remember. As for the Chen and Lin families, two prominent Wulin families of Minnan, they have never even heard of Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s name.

One day, Chu Liuxiang reached Xianyou [county, in Putian, Fujian]. Although the scenery around Xianyou was magnificent, Chu Liuxiang was in a very bleak mood; unexpectedly he was not even in the mood to drink any wine, he just wanted to drink two cups of bitter tea instead.

Minnan was a tea-producing region. In Xianyou town, teahouses were numerous, they also paid very particular attention to the tea-drinking utensils. He saw that everybody sitting inside the teahouse had their eyes closed while raising the teacup, which was even smaller than a winecup, and carefully sipping the tea. In the eyes of Minnan people, those who drank tea using large bowls are practically like a cow.

Chu Liuxiang also ordered a pot of fragrant and bitter tea, the bitter and astringent Tieguanyin [a variety of oolong tea]. Although upon entering the mouth the tea tasted bitter, upon drinking it, it actually left fragrant taste on the teeth and cheeks, and filled the mouth with sweet taste.

After two cups of tea, Chu Liuxiang’s restless mood gradually quieted down. It was only then did he find out that Minnan people had so many rules in drinking tea; first and foremost being the people’s mind must be tranquil. Their skill in cultivating the heart and nurturing the character was trained precisely via one cup after another of this strong tea beverage.

Although the teahouse was full of people, everybody was speaking softly, a far cry from the noisy and boisterous teahouses of the north.

This moment, two big men in brocade clothes walked in, while loudly talking and joking. One man had pockmarked face, carrying a yellow bundle strapped diagonally across his back. While walking and laughing, he said, “Meeting an old friend in a foreign place is indeed one of the joy in life. Xiaodi simply must drink two cups with Feng Xiong today.”

The other man had a face full of dragon beard; laughing heartily, he said, “Qian Xiong has been living in Minnan for a long time, could it be that you also like to drink only tea and don’t want to drink wine anymore?”

The pockmarked man laughed and said, “Wine! Feng Xiong, you drink wine every day, but what Xiaodi wants to invite Feng Xiong to taste today is the immortal-grade tea. Not that Xiaodi is bragging, but such tea, I am afraid Feng Xiong has never tasted it in all your life.”

All eyes in the teahouse were turning toward the pockmarked man, but he acted as though there were nobody else present. He took out a long bamboo tube from the yellow bundle on his back.

When he opened the bamboo tube, a whiff of sweet smelling aroma permeated the air, intoxicating everybody’s mind.

The dragon-bearded man laughed and said, “What a fragrant tea! Long time no see, unexpectedly Qian Xiong has become so sophisticated.”

The pockmarked man carefully took a pinch of tea, and ordered the teahouse attendant to brew a pot using first-rate spring water. Only then did he turn his head around and said with a laugh, “To be honest, although Xiaodi has the tea on me, were it not for meeting such an old friend like Feng Xiong, ordinarily Xiaodi is a bit reluctant to drink it.”

The dragon-bearded man laughed and said, “If Qian Xiong is reluctant to drink it, why do you carry it around like that?”

The pockmarked man smiled and said, “Just because this tea is the thing that a certain Wulin qianbei [senior] take pleasure in the most. Xiaodi has received his, the Senior’s, big kindness in the past, nothing can repay that kindness. Only every year, using a thousand ways, a hundred plans, I searched for this tea, and deliver it to him, the Senior, just to show a bit of my gratitude. Other things, he, the Senior, absolutely refused to accept.”

“I wonder who this Wulin qianbei is,” the dragon-bearded man said, “Unexpectedly he could make Qian Xiong admires him this greatly?”

The pockmarked man’s smile became even prouder; he slowly said, “Feng Xiong should have heard the name Tian Feng Dashi?” [Translator’s note: Tian Feng means heavenly peak, different characters from the ‘tian feng’ of Tianfeng Shisi Lang. Reminder: dashi – great master, a term of respect to address Buddhist monk.]

The dragon-bearded man blurted out, “Tian Feng Dashi …? Could he be the Zhangmen [head/chief of a school] of Shaolin’s southern branch, the Fangzhang [Abbot] Dashi of Putian Shaolin Temple?”

The pockmarked man laughed and said, “Precisely he, the Senior.”

Chu Liuxiang’s heart suddenly moved; he could not help walking over and said with a laugh, “Mantianxing [lit. sky full of stars, Baby’s Breath flower (Gypsophila paniculate)], I am your old friend, how come you did not invite me to drink tea?”

The pockmarked man cast him a glance. His countenance sank, he said, “Friend, who are you? You seem unfamiliar to Zaixia.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Seven years ago, Tieshizi [iron lion] Alley in Beijing, have Qian Xiong forgotten about it?”

He had not finished speaking, the pockmarked man quickly rose to his full height; emotionally moved, he said, “Could it be that Sire is …”

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and cut him off, “It’s good that you remember; there is no need to mention my name.”

Unexpectedly the pockmarked man dropped down to his knees and spoke respectfully, “Seven years ago, were it not for … Gongzi came to my rescue, I, Qian Mazi [pockmarked surnamed Ma] would have fallen head first under ‘Meihua Jian’ Fang Huan and ‘Shuang Zhang Fan Tian’ Qiaozi He’s hands [See Chapter 1 on these two]. Even though I, Qian Mazi for a period of time was trying to repay Gongzi’s great kindness, I regret to say that I lost Gongzi’s brave and chivalrous tracks. I never thought that I can finally see Gongzi today; it is indeed a providential good fortune.”

Noticing that the famous and hard-to-impress Qian Mazi was so deferential toward this young man, the dragon-bearded man could not help feeling emotionally moved as well. But he was a Jianghu veteran as well; by weighing up his words and observing his facial expression, since he knew that this young man was unwilling to divulge his identity, naturally he was not going to ask either. He simply cupped his fist and said with a smile on his face, “Zaixia Feng Tianhe, hoping that in the future Gongzi would bestow instructions to increase my knowledge.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Ye You Shen’s [lit. nightwalker immortal/deity] great name, Zaixia has already heard it like a thunder in my ears.”

The three of them drank two pots of tea, while chatting over some inconsequential matters. Finally Chu Liuxiang slowly steered the conversation by looking at Qian Mazi and spoke in heavy voice, “Just now Qian Xiong mentioned Tian Feng Dashi. Could he be the one who, forty years ago annihilated the Eight Evils with his palms, fought Tianmen’s Four Elders single-handedly, the Shaolin’s Monk Ku, whose name shook the heavens?”

Clapping his hands, Qian Mazi said, “Precisely he, the Senior!”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “I hear that this Dashi already live in seclusion, isolated from the red dust [the world of mortals]. Unexpectedly he is still addicted to tea.”

Qian Mazi laughed and said, “When Ci Xin Dashi became an immortal [i.e. die] in the past, he, the Senior, was the one who ought to take the leadership of Shaolin Sect. Yet he, the Senior, let his Er Shidi [second younger martial brother] Tian Hu [lit. heavenly lake] Dashi to assume the Zhangmen position, while he himself went far away to Minnan. Reportedly it was precisely because of the tea of this place.”

Chu Liuxiang mused, “Tian Feng Dashi took over the Putian Shaolin Temple, I wonder how long ago was that?”

Qian Mazi replied, “According to my calculation, it has been twenty years.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly slapped the table and spoke loudly, “That’s right! It’s him; it must be him. I should have thought of it.”

Astounded, Qian Mazi asked, “Could it be that Gongzi also knew him, the Senior?”

Full of delight, Chu Liuxiang said, “Tell me, do you think that Tian Feng Dashi’s reputation is still above the former Beggar Clan’s Ren Lao Bangzhu?”

Qian Mazi did not understand why he suddenly asked that question; at a loss, he replied, “He, the Senior, is the present day’s ‘as weighty as Mt Tai, as brilliant as the Big Dipper’ [idiom: the ultimate]. Although Ren Lao Bangzhu’s reputation was resounding, compared to him, the Senior, I am afraid he was still a notch below.”

“Naturally his, the Senior’s martial art skill is very high,” Chu Liuxiang commented.

Qian Mazi sighed and said, “His martial art skill is very high, perhaps even Gongzi … even Gongzi can’t compare with him.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “His, the Senior’s, cultivation is very deep, naturally he is enormously magnanimous, without showing any sharpness.”

Qian Mazi laughed and said, “Although Jianghu legend says that he, the Senior came to Minnan to taste the tea, in Zaixia’s opinion, perhaps the Senior came to live a simple life, to enjoy quiet life, hence he was unwilling to take over Mount Song’s Shaolin Sect.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh and said, “That is so. Other than he, who else would fight against Tianfeng Shisi Lang before Ren Ci did? Tianfeng Shisi Lang was able to entrust his older son to him, naturally he could close his eyes in death and die contentedly.”

Qian Mazi was puzzled even more; he could not help asking, “Who is Tianfeng Shisi Lang?”

Chu Liuxiang replied with a wry smile, “He was a very strange person; although he himself died in obscurity, he was able to make the world’s biggest sect and Wulin’s biggest gang’s Zhangmen to raise his two sons for him.”

A thought flashed through his mind, he suddenly blurted out, “He challenged Tian Feng Dashi and Ren Lao Bangzhu, could it be that his objective was to have his two sons separately entrusted to them? Perhaps he already had some injury or a load in his mind that he did not want to live any longer, and only wanted his sons to stand out among their peers in the future. Could it be that he already determined to die under Tian Feng Dashi and Ren Lao Bangzhu’s hands, so that they would raise these two boys with all their hearts?”

The more Qian Mazi listened to him, the more confused he was. “Gongzi is saying …” he could not help asking, “This Tianfeng Shisi Lang unexpectedly did not hesitate to sacrifice his own life for …”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “He knew what kind of person Tian Feng Dashi and Ren Lao Bangzhu were, they could not possibly take in and care for other people’s children randomly, but if he died in their hands, then they absolutely could not bear to refuse …”

Emotionally moved, Qian Mazi said, “Such a father was indeed worthy of the greatest admiration, but I wonder who his two children are?”

Chu Liuxiang sadly said, “One was NanGong Ling.”

Qian Mazi suddenly said, “Isn’t he the Beggar Clan’s new Bangzhu?”

“Exactly!” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“And the other one?” Qian Mazi asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied word-by-word, “The other one is … is …”

He suddenly looked up to the heavens and heaved a deep sigh; smiling bitterly, he said, “If only my guess is wrong, if only that mysterious killer is not him at all.”

Qian Mazi was startled, “Killer?” he asked

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “As far as I know, he has killed nine innocent people; the next one …”

Speaking to this point, Chu Liuxiang suddenly sprang up and blurted out, “His next target, could it be Tian Feng Dashi?”

Qian Mazi laughed and said, “In this, I must ask Gongzi to relax. No matter who this person is, if he wanted to harm Tian Feng Dashi, I am afraid the time of his death has arrived. Although Tian Feng Dashi has not paid any attention to the affairs of life for a very long time, he has never put his martial art skill aside.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh and said with a wry smile, “If you knew who he is, you wouldn’t have said such thing. He …”

Qian Mazi could not help asking, “Who is he, actually?”

Chu Liuxiang seemed to be unwilling to say his name. After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, he suddenly laughed and said, “I happen to have a business that I’d like to see Tian Feng Dashi myself. I could deliver your tea leaves for you, but I don’t know if you would feel reassured with me doing it for you.”

Qian Mazi immediately pushed the yellow bundle toward Chu Liuxiang, and said with a laugh, “Let’s not mention this insignificant bundle of tea leaves, even if Gongzi wanted Qian Mazi to hand over my life to you, I, Qian Mazi, will still feel reassured.”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled. But before he could say anything, he suddenly saw the teahouse attendant came over in a hurry. Bowing to Chu Liuxiang, he smiled apologetically and said, “At a table in the corner over there, there is a gentleman who would like to talk to Gongzi; I wonder if Gongzi would be willing to come over?”

Turning his eyes to the table in the corner, he saw a man wearing grey robe was sitting down facing the corner. He has been sitting on that same spot for more than half a sichen, but has not moved at all.

He was wearing a large flat straw hat with a copper-basin-like top. This moment the hat was hanging over his neck, so that his entire head was blocked from view, except for the bunch of grey hair at the top of his head.

As soon as Chu Liuxiang entered the teahouse, he has had a feeling that this man was somewhat strange; no matter what activity was happening in the teahouse, this man has always been facing the corner, and never turned his head around.

All along he has never cast a single glance toward Chu Liuxiang, and all along Chu Liuxiang has not seen his face either, why did this moment he suddenly want to talk to Chu Liuxiang?

Chu Liuxiang felt strange in his heart, there was no way he was not going to dig to the bottom of this matter.

He had just walked over, the man already stood up from his seat – although he had not turned his head, he seemed to have eyes on the back of his head.

Chu Liuxiang’s heart was moved, he suddenly laughed and said, “Could it be that Sire is the Bald Eagle Wu Lao Butou [old constable, see Chapter 1]?”

The man’s body seemed to shake slightly; Chu Liuxiang has already walked over and sat down beside him. Laughing heartily, he said, “In all the world, other than Wu Lao Butou, who’d have this kind of astonishing hearing ability?”

The man smiled wryly and said, “In all the world, indeed there is nothing that can deceive Chu Liuxiang.”

He had high cheekbones and deep cheeks, his eyes were shining, his pair of ash grey ears was unexpectedly made of cast silver. Were it not for his straw hat, others would be able to recognize him in just a glance.

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Since we parted at the Capital, suddenly months have passed; I have never expected that Wu Lao Butou has not forgotten Ol’ Chu’s voice … The strange thing is, that day Zaixia did not seem to say anything in Wu Lao Butou’s presence, yet Wu Lao Butou seemed to hear Zaixia’s voice?”

The Bald Eagle laughed and said, “People all over the world, not only their voices differ from each other, the sound of their footsteps is not the same either. Chu Liuxiang’s qinggong is number one under the heavens, naturally your footstep is greatly different from other people. If this old man is unable to hear Chu Xiang Shuai’s footsteps, this pair of ears really ought to be fed to the dog.”

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “Bai Yi Shen Er’s [again, see Chapter 1] reputation is indeed not an empty one.”

He suddenly lower his voice and spoke slowly, “Wu Lao Butou followed a trail for ten thousand li to this place, is it for the sake of the White Jade Beauty?”

Smiling apologetically, the Bald Eagle said, “Even if laoxiu [lit. old rotten, self-deprecatory term] had gargantuan guts, I would never dare to demand anything from Chu Xiang Shuai’s hands.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flickered, he said with a smile, “In that case, why is Sire here?”

The Bald Eagle also lowered his voice and replied, “Laoxiu was originally following Mantianxing Qian Mazi’s trail …”

Knitting his brows, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Is it still related with the old affair of Tieshizi Alley seven years ago?”

Smiling wryly, the Bald Eagle replied, “Laoxiu did not even know that this matter was related to Chu Xiang Shuai; otherwise I would not have dared to meddle. As I am sure Xiang Shuai is aware of, whenever one is eating public’s rice, for the rest of his life, one could forget about even leaving the Liushanmen [lit. six-leaf door, seat of the government/yamen/(in wuxia stories) special police force]. There are things that I do not wish to care, but was being forced so that I do not have any choice but to care.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “This matter of seven years ago, although Qian Mazi shouldn’t have done it, but ‘Meihua Jian’ and ‘Shuang Zhang Fan Tian’ were taking advantage of their position to bully people; they were despicable. Besides, because of this affair, Qian Mazi has long ago washed his hands out of Jianghu, and moved far away to this place. Why must Wu Lao Butou insist on killing to the last one, and pushing him too far?”

Smiling apologetically, the Bald Eagle said, “Laoxiu has been alive for many years, how could I not know brows and eyes, high and low? Since I now know that Chu Xiang Shuai is involved in this matter, how could I interfere?”

He heaved a deep, deep sigh, and went on, “The reason Laoxiu is asking Gongzi to come over is for another thing altogether.”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang asked, “What other thing?”

The Bald Eagle was deep in thought for half a day; finally he spoke word-by-word, “Gai Bang’s NanGong Bangzhu was found dead on the Daming Lake of Jinan city ten days ago; I wonder if Xiang Shuai has any knowledge of this matter?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Wu Lao Butou couldn’t possibly suspect that I killed NanGong Ling?”

The Bald Eagle hurriedly smiled apologetically again and said, “How could Laoxiu dare to think so? It’s just that …”

“Just what?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The Bald Eagle sighed and said, “It’s just that NanGong Bangzhu’s death was too tragic. Reportedly even after his death, someone still chopped him randomly and cut his body off. Therefore, Beggar Clan disciples all vowed their life to find the killer!”

Chu Liuxiang knitted his brows deep. Naturally he knew who chopped off NanGong Ling’s body; it must be Hei Zhenzhu who wholeheartedly wanted to avenge his father. Naturally he could also think that until today, the Beggar Clan disciples were still unaware of NanGong Ling’s conspiracy. But naturally he was unwilling to divulge this matter to just about anybody.

He heard the Bald Eagle sighed and said, “This kind of vendetta among Jianghu martial art masters, Laoxiu originally should not get involved, so I did not dare to be involved. But the fact is that Laoxiu has been friends with several Beggar Clan Zhanglao [Elders] for many years. This time I happened to meet them on the road.”

Chu Liuxiang asked, “Could it be that the Beggar Clan disciples suspected that I have a part in NanGong Ling’s death?”

Smiling apologetically, the Bald Eagle replied, “They absolutely did not dare to suspect Xiang Shuai; it’s just that they said that you, Xiang Shuai, must know the identity of the assassin who murdered NanGong Bangzhu. Therefore, they asked that if Laoxiu happens to see you, for me to ask you on their behalf. Whether you, Xiang Shuai indeed know about it or not, as long as Xiang Shuai say the word, the Beggar Clan disciples will absolutely believe you.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flickered; he spoke word-by-word, “This matter, I do know about it!”

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