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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 25

Chapter 25 – Reverend Tian Feng

Emotionally moved, the Bald Eagle said, “Since Xiang Shuai knew about it, I wonder if you could bestow the knowledge?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke in heavy voice, “Even if I tell you who the murderer is, you will have no way of doing anything about it. However, …”

He suddenly rose up to his full height and said, “Three days later, wait for me at the Lin Family’s garden in Putian City. At that time, I will naturally hand the murderer, who killed NanGong Ling, over to you.”

Without leaving the saddle at all, Chu Liuxiang stayed constantly on horseback until he reached Putian.

It was dusk again.

After entrusting his horse to someone else, he took advantage of the twilight to sweep over toward Shaolin Temple. He only felt that time was extremely pressing, it was too late to announce his visit [i.e. to ask for an audience and wait for an answer].

Although Putian’s Shaolin Temple was not as imposing and magnificent as the Mount Song’s Shaolin Temple, but this old Buddhist temple, immersed deep in the vast and obscure twilight, appeared to have some kind of mysterious beauty.

The evening breeze carried a faint chime of the bell and the voices of the monk chanting sutras. In the midst of the sweet scent of the wood and the leaves, there was a faint scent of sandalwood. The air between the Heaven and the Earth was full of solemn silence; how could there be any smell of murderous aura?

The autumn wind swept the dead leaves on the bottom of the stone steps. The main gate at the bottom of the stone steps was wide open. From outside the gate, he could see the dense ancient trees of the secluded courtyard.

Walking farther, he saw the smoke from the burning incense curling up to the sky, under which was the stately, the grand main hall of the Temple.

Up to this point, this was the place where anybody could go. But nobody would dare to go rashly. Shaolin’s majestic name was renown throughout the world, whoever came here would inevitably feel reverence and would not dare to act recklessly. Although the gate was wide open, who would dare to presumptuously step in like a thunder jumping across the moat?

Chu Liuxiang did not enter via the main gate either. He unexpectedly jumped over the wall to get in – there was some kind of ominous alarm in his heart; although he only felt it for a moment, he knew that he must not wait much longer.

The sunset painted the sky blood red. Under the setting sun, layer upon layer of roof ridges looked like mountain peaks; mountain peaks that was dyed red by the blood.

But under which mountain peak was Tian Feng Dashi? [Translator’s note: ‘feng’ of Tian Feng means ‘mountain peak’, the same ‘feng’ as in Wudang’s Zhang Sanfeng.]

Chu Liuxiang swept over like a flying swallow, he could not help hesitating.

He was just stopping for a moment, suddenly he heard someone calling one of the many names of Buddha, “Amitabha!”

This short call has not yet ended, from under the eaves of the four corners of the roof ridge four shadows flashed out at the same time.

All these four men wore grey robes with white socks, they appeared to be forty-something years old, and on all four solemn, majestic faces, there were pairs of bright and shiny, flickering eyes.

This moment, four pairs of shiny eyes were staring at Chu Liuxiang with their as-sharp-as-a-blade gaze.

Unavoidable Chu Liuxiang was inwardly very shocked; he mused, “Indeed Shaolin monks are not to be despised.” However, on the surface he appeared calm and collected.

Dashi, have all of you eaten yet?” he said with a smile.

This was the most common question; when two people met, whether they were old friends of many years, or perhaps they were just acquaintances who simply passed and nodded to each other, most of them would ask a question like this.

But the question was being asked at this very moment, the four monks could not help staring blankly. A relatively older monk on the left spoke heavily, “For twenty years, there has never been a Jianghu man setting foot on Shaolin Temple’s roof ridge. Since today Shizhu [benefactor] has broken the precedent, presumably you are coming not without any reason at all, but please reveal your thought.”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled and said, “The purpose of Zaixia’s visit this time, even if I said it, Dashi would not believe it.”

The grey-robed monk spoke sternly, “If Shizhu is unwilling to reveal your intention, please don’t blame pinseng for being rude.”

Smiling bitterly, Chu Liuxiang said, “In all my life, Zaixia is most unwilling to fight with Shaolin disciples; why do Dashi bother to force me to make an exception?”

The grey-robed monk shouted angrily, “If Shizhu is unwilling to fight, then follow pinseng down!”

Amidst his shout, his long sleeve suddenly brushed out, swift like flowing cloud, strong and fast like lightning, it rolled straight toward Chu Liuxiang, between his face and his throat.

Those who have left home [to become Buddhist monk] usually do not carry weapon, so this pair of long sleeves was usually the weapon with which they protect themselves. Everybody in the world only knew the ‘Flowing Clouds Iron Sleeves’, which were Wudang’s consummate skill. But nobody knew that not only Shaolin’s sleeve skill was not inferior to Wudang, its power, harshness, and ferociousness actually surpassed Wudang’s.

The grey-robed monk’s flying sleeve skill could be hard, but it could be soft as well. Using the ‘soft’, he could snatch the weapon from the opponent’s hand; using the ‘hard’ he could jolt and break the opponent’s heart and meridians.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “In everything else, Shaolin disciples are quite all right, only their temper is a bit too short.”

While with his mouth he said such thing, his body already soared. By the time he spoke the last few words, his body was already high up in the sky like a flying crane, far above the four monks’ head.

The grey-robed monk’s strike hit empty space, he was moved emotionally, “Shizhu indeed has superior qinggong, no wonder you have the impertinence to come to Shaolin Temple to display your shockingly bad behavior.”

Immediately four shadows moved together in separate directions. They figured that Chu Liuxiang would inevitably fall down, and if he fell, he would fall into their formation.

Who would have thought that Chu Liuxiang was able not to fall down?

He was like a fish in the water; one flip and one straight move later, he was able to traverse for four zhang sideways. His head down, his feet up, he slipped into the darkness under the eaves.

They only heard his laughter from a distance, “Zaixia did not come to display my shockingly bad behavior at all. After this matter is done, I will come to beg for Dashi’s forgiveness.” [Translator’s note: throughout this exchange, ‘you’ and ‘Dashi’ are plurals.]

All four Shaolin monks had their countenance changed.

The oldest grey-robed monk spoke in heavy voice, “Xuan Fa, raise the emergency alarm. Xuan Tong, Xuan Miao, come with me.”

While speaking, he pounced in the direction of Chu Liuxiang’s voice. But all he saw was the moon and the stars in the sky, and the breeze blowing the trees, where could Chu Liuxiang’s shadow be?

Chu Liuxiang knew that if this time he requested audience to see Tian Feng Dashi, these Shaolin monks definitely would not take him. Since the explanation was unclear, he had no choice but to avoid the problem by walking away.

As his figure swept into the darkness, immediately he soared to the sky again. Not going to other places, he came back to the same eaves under the roof ridge he had left just now.

He saw the three grey-robed monks flitting across the eaves, nobody even thought that he would come back; they did not even look this direction.

Chu Liuxiang waited for half a day, and then from all corners of this vast temple complex he heard burst after burst of the low rumble of wooden fish [percussion instrument used in Buddhist ceremony] being struck. From time to time he saw sturdy shadows flying across the roofs.

Although normally this Shaolin Temple appeared to be peaceful and quiet, but when facing the enemy and meeting a contingency, their fast reaction and strict vigilance were indeed worthy of their reputation as a forbidden area of the Wulin world.

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang mused inwardly, “With my heart and soul I wanted to see Tian Feng Dashi as quickly as possible; who would have thought that it turns into more haste, less speed?”

Thinking about Tian Feng Dashi might be in grave danger very soon, he could not stop his heart from growing even more anxious. To make matter worse, until now he did not even know Tian Feng Dashi’s whereabouts.

By this time the sound of wooden fish had died down; the old Buddhist temple was quiet, not a single noise was heard.

But naturally Chu Liuxiang knew that the quieter it was, the more terrifying it would be. This seemingly quieted down Temple actually hid dangers everywhere.

He did not have time to think quietly. Closing his eyes, he thought for a moment, and then suddenly he rushed out of the darkness and swept across toward the highest roof ridge, toward the highest cornice.

The sleeves of his clothes fluttered in the air, as if he was flying high in the sky, the entire temple complex seemed to be under his feet. Sure enough, someone immediately saw him.

He saw shadows flashing, from every courtyard there were people flying over here, except from a tiny courtyard in the west; there was no detectable movement at all.

Without waiting for the monks to come over, Chu Liuxiang swept down hurriedly. Letting out a long laugh, he said, “Shaolin’s depository of scriptures is famous all over the world, could Dashi let me borrow some to see?”

His laughter stopped, his body turned around quickly. Selecting a big tree with the thickest branches and leaves, he hid himself there. He heard people were scolding in low voice everywhere, “This man really come for the scriptures.” “Watch the Sutra Pavilion.”

The abundance of Shaolin library was number one under the heavens. The majority of the people risking danger by entering the Shaolin Temple were indeed doing so for the scriptures. Although Putian was Shaolin’s southern branch, the Sutra Pavilion’s collection was very valuable. Naturally the Shaolin monks also thought that Chu Liuxiang was coming to steal the scriptures, who would have thought that he was actually threatening the east and striking to the west, and was employing a diversion tactic?

Seeing the shadows continuously swarming to the east, Chu Liuxiang immediately swept away to the west.

This time, he no longer flew over the roof ridge, but went through under the eaves of the halls and under the shadow of the trees. Most of the rooms in the temple had not lighted any lantern. Occasionally cicada sound was heard from among the foliage.

There was no one in the courtyard. There was some kind of unspeakably bleak and lonely feeling. The monks who lived in this old Buddhist temple certainly did not pass their days in easy living.

While his body did not stop, Chu Liuxiang was sighing inwardly; he had always been holding these people, who were able to endure loneliness, in the highest esteem.

Because he knew that there was nothing in the world more difficult to endure than loneliness.

He passed through a layer of quiet courtyard, through row after row of dark meditation rooms. The green flagstones, looked shiny under the starlight, slid quietly under his feet.

Shizhu, please hold your steps,” suddenly a voice scolded lightly.

A stream of vigorous and violent fist wind assaulted his face.

Clenching his teeth, Chu Liuxiang neither dodged nor fled, but he did not block either; unexpectedly he used his flesh and blood body to take the enough-to-open-the-mountain-and-split-the-rock strike called the Bai Bu Shen Quan [hundred-step divine fist].

Shaken by the wind of the fist, his body flew out like a kite without its string.

On the other side, as the Shaolin monk with grey eyebrows and long beard’s strike went smoothly, he was taken aback instead. A shadow flashed in front of his eyes, the young man that was just jolted by the wind of his fist has unexpectedly flown back, and stood in front of him with a grin on his face. Not only his shenfa was swift, he came and went like lightning, but also this Shaolin’s divine fist, which was able to cut the mountain and beat down an ox, unexpectedly failed to cause the slightest bit of injury on him.

This Shaolin great master, the supervisor of the temple, whose cultivation was deep, whose power profound, was unexpectedly so stunned that he could only stare blankly at Chu Liuxiang, and was speechless for half a day.

The reason Chu Liuxiang intentionally took his punch was precisely to render him temporarily speechless, so that he would not raise the alarm to warn others. Otherwise, his body was not made of iron, how could receiving this punch be comfortable?

He heard the monk with the grey eyebrow finally spoke slowly, “Shizhu has such martial art skill, Laoseng [old monk] has never seen anything like that. I wonder if you could reveal your name and surname?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “If Zaixia reveals my name and surname, I am afraid Dashi would think that Zaixia is here to steal the scriptures.”

The monk with the grey eyebrow said, “If Shizhu is here to steal the scriptures, you could not possibly come this way.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Zaixia Chu Liuxiang.”

Emotionally moved, the monk with the grey eyebrow asked, “Could it be the Bandit Chief Chu Liuxiang?”

Chu Liuxiang stroked his nose and said with a laugh, “Dashi has left the red dust far away behind, unexpectedly you still know Zaixia’s shameful nickname.”

Unexpectedly the monk with the grey eyebrow’s gloomy and grave expression suddenly lit up in delight, his cold and sharp gaze also began to shine with a smile. He spoke slowly, “Although Laoseng has stayed away from Jianghu’s knight-errant footprint for a long time, I have a Shizhi [martial nephew] who has a wide circle of friends. Each time he came here, he always recounted some new and odd interesting stories for Laoseng to hear. And among all those stories, Chu Xiang Shuai’s heroic and passionate magnificent feats are the most interesting, the most captivating.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “The one Dashi’s mentioning, could it be Wuhua?”

The monk with the grey eyebrow smiled and said, “Over the last several hundred years, speaking about Shaolin disciples with vast network of friends, he is the only one.”

“He … is he here now?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The monk with the grey eyebrow said, “Shizhu came here this time, is it to look for him?”

Muttering irresolutely, Chu Liuxiang replied, “Zaixia came here this time, the main reason is to pay my respects to Tian Feng Dashi.”

The monk with the grey eyebrow said, “Although Zhangmen Shixiong has not received any outside visitors for a long time, Chu Shizhu is such a person that he would take pleasure in receiving. It’s a pity that Shizhu has come in a very unfortunate time.”

Chu Liuxiang anxiously asked, “Could it be Tian Feng Dashi is already …”

With a smile on his face, the monk with the grey eyebrow said, “Zhangmen Shixiong has emptied his mind of ten thousand thoughts; tea is his only pleasure, it never changes from beginning to end. This moment he is enjoying the tea, so no one can disturb him.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a sigh of relief; his expression turned into delight, he laughed and said, “If Tian Feng Dashi is enjoying the tea alone, Zaixia is not worried. If I could see this Wuhua Shixiong, it would be the same.”

The monk with the grey eyebrow said, “Since Shizhu won’t be able to see Zhangmen Shixiong, you won’t be able to see Wuhua either.”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Why?”

The monk with the grey eyebrow said, “Among Shaolin disciples, Wuhua is also the only one proficient in Dongying tea ceremony. Whenever he comes here, the first thing that he do is drawing water and brewing the tea for Zhangmen Shixiong.”

Chu Liuxiang’s countenance has already changed early on. “This moment Wuhua is brewing tea for Tian Feng Dashi?” he blurted out.

The monk with the grey eyebrow nodded and said with a laugh, “If Chu Shizhu wants to see them, I am afraid you will have to wait until tomorrow morning.”

Inwardly Chu Liuxiang was so anxious that it nearly drove him crazy, but on the surface he suppressed his emotion, “They are enjoying the tea, must be in the rear courtyard?” he asked.

“Precisely,” the monk with the grey eyebrow replied.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly pointed to something behind the monk with the grey eyebrow; he laughed and said, “But isn’t that Wuhua standing behind Dashi?”

“Where?” the monk with the grey eyebrow asked.

He looked back, but no one behind him; where was Wuhua’s shadow? But by the time he turned his head back, the Chu Liuxiang in front of him has already disappeared.

The first time the monk with the grey eyebrow turned his head, Chu Liuxiang has already flown out.

In his escape this time, he had exhausted all his skill. Furthermore, he already determined accurately where he would step his foot. His toes tapped the ground, he already flew four zhang away. Before the monk with the grey eyebrow turned his head, he was already ten zhang away.

In an emergency, the speed of Chu Liuxiang’s matchless-under-the-heavens qinggong was simply inconceivable. By the time the monk with the grey eyebrow turned his head back, Chu Liuxiang already disappeared behind the short wall.

Behind the short wall, the bamboo leaves in the small courtyard was very thick, the grass and trees extremely secluded. Among the bamboo grove, there was a pavilion with three sides open, with thick bamboo curtain hanging over it. Looking beyond the bamboo curtains, he could vaguely see two human figures sitting cross-legged on the floor. The courtyard was quiet. The breeze blew the leaves of the trees, their shadows were dancing on the bamboo curtain. The two men seemed to be on heaven.

The one on the right was precisely Wuhua.

In front of him was a small purple clay stove, a red copper pot, a cattail-leaf fan, as well as an exquisite small tea set. This moment, three cups, about the size of a wine cup, were already full to the brim with tea. Bursts of tea fragrance floated out of the bamboo curtains. Added to that the fragrance of the flowers and the fragrance of the bamboo, the aroma was really intoxicating.

Sitting opposite to Wuhua was a withered, thin monk whose beard and eyebrows had turned completely white. This moment he was taking a cup from Wuhua, closing his eyes, and slowly bringing the cup toward his lips.

Chu Liuxiang shouted loudly, while as fast as an arrow he flew through the bamboo curtain and thundered, “This tea must not be consumed!”

When Wuhua saw him, his countenance changed, but in the blink of an eye he regained his composure.

As for Tian Feng Dashi, not even the muscle on the corner of his mouth was twitching; it was as if even if the sky collapsed in front of him, his countenance would not change the slightest bit.

He simply put down the teacup slowly and opened his eyes slowly. When this pair of eyes looked at Chu Liuxiang, unconsciously he felt his hands and feet were failing.

Tian Feng Dashi spoke indifferently, “Shizhu is breaking in like this, don’t you think you are being too reckless?”

Chu Liuxiang bowed and said, “Zaixia was very anxious; I am hoping Dashi would forgive me.”

Tian Feng Dashi fixed his gaze on Chu Liuxiang for half a day. He slowly said, “Within the last twenty years, Shizhu is the first person ever to charge into Laoseng’s meditation room. Since you are able to come here, naturally you are not ordinary. How about sitting down and enjoying some tea first?”

This Shaolin senior monk’s cultivation had indeed reached the ‘stove fire has turned bright green’ [idiom: brought to the point of perfection] level; incredibly he did not show the slightest sign of anger. Inwardly Chu Liuxiang could not help admiring him greatly.

Immediately Wuhua also smiled and said, “That’s right, since Chu Xiong is here, why not sit down and drink a cup of tea to wash away the dust of the secular world.”

Tian Feng Dashi smiled indifferently and said, “Turns out it is Chu Shizhu; no wonder your qinggong is brilliant, the world has not produced the second person.”

“I do not dare!” Chu Liuxiang replied.

With a smile on his face, Tian Feng Dashi said, “Although Laoseng has cut off worldly affairs for a long time, to be able to see the outstanding talent of the present age, my heart is still extremely delighted. This is a cold temple without any wine, there is no harm in Chu Shizhu enjoying tea in place of wine.”

He raised the cup with both hands again. Chu Liuxiang could not help blurting out again, “This tea must not be consumed!”

Tian Feng Dashi said, “Even if this tea was not grown by the immortals, it could be considered a fine work of art; why can’t it be consumed?”

Chu Liuxiang cast a quick glance toward Wuhua. Suddenly he laughed and said, “Actually, someone entrusted Zaixia to bring Dashi an exquisite, new tea. Furthermore, Zaixia is confident that in the art of brewing tea, I can be quite out of the ordinary as well. Would Dashi like to have a taste first?”

Tian Feng Dashi broke into delight; he said, “Since that’s the case, Laoseng would love to receive the benefit of your trouble.”

Although toward other things this senior monk with deep cultivation and profound power was quite indifferent, hearing about high brewing-tea skill, unexpectedly he could not help revealing delighted expression.

Although inwardly Wuhua was startled and angry, his countenance did not reveal any emotion at all. Unexpectedly he also smiled and said, “I never thought Chu Xiong would have this kind of refined and elegant attitude of mind as well. Wonderful! Wonderful!”

He immediately stood up to let Chu Liuxiang took his place, but he took the pot of tea that he had just brewed and poured it all into the courtyard.

Chu Liuxiang cast him another glance, laughed, and said, “Such a precious water, you threw it all away; won’t it be a pity?”

He did not say ‘tea’, but ‘water’. Only he did not say ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’, four characters. Unexpectedly Wuhua was still expressionless. He smiled and said, “The water came from dissolved snow. Although it was precious, we have enough stored in the Temple’s cellar. If Chu Xiong is also fond of it, there is no harm in bringing a bottle back with you.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed inwardly. He sat down respectfully, and started the fire to brew the tea.

Tian Feng Dashi suddenly chuckled indifferently and said, “This moment the water is not boiling yet, Chu Shizhu might as well tell me the purpose of your visit. In front of famous tea, Laoseng’s frame of mind is at its best. If Chu Shizhu has something you’d like to consult, this is also the best time to ask.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly discovered that within this senior monk’s ordinary smile, there was indeed a matchless wisdom hidden in it. That pair of serene eyes seemed to be able to see clearly the downy feather of autumn [idiom from Mencius: able to distinguish right and wrong with acuity].

He sighed softly and said, “Wanbei [junior] came here, just want to ask Dashi to narrate a story.”

Frowning slightly, Tian Feng Dashi asked, “Story?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “More than a dozen of years ago, there was a Fusang [mythical island of ancient literature, often interpreted as Japan] warrior called Tianfeng Shisi Lang, who crossed the see from the east. He pitted himself against two martial art masters of the Central Earth, one of them was the Beggar Clan’s Ren Lao Bangzhu. As for the other one, I wonder if it was Dashi?”

Tian Feng Dashi was silent for a long time. Finally he heaved a deep, deep sigh and spoke sadly, “The matter that happened twenty years ago, Laoseng have almost forgotten. Unexpectedly today Shizhu raised this matter again … That’s right, Shizhu is correct, it was indeed Laoseng.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes lit up, he said, “Tianfeng Shisi Lang crossed the eastern sea asking for a duel, yet he did not have the desire to win; on the contrary, he seemed to be determined to die. If Wanbei did not guess incorrectly, was he in some kind of grief?”

Tian Feng Dashi fell silent again for a long time. He spoke slowly, “Your guess is correct, he was indeed in some kind of grief.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If Dashi is willing to reveal it, Wanbei will be very grateful.”

Tian Feng Dashi’s eyes flickered; he fixed his gaze on Chu Liuxiang for a long time before sighing and said, “Past events flit like a smoke. Laoseng originally did not wish to mention it, but Shizhu came her by making light of traveling a thousand li just to inquire about this matter. The implication of this matter is indeed grievous.”

Chu Liuxiang hung his head down and said, “Dashi indeed sees clearly the downy feather of autumn. Wanbei does not dare to conceal anything, the implication of this matter is indeed grievous, but Wanbei can guarantee something, that is, Wanbei’s inquiring of this matter is absolutely without any selfish malice intention.”

Tian Feng Dashi laughed indifferently and said, “If Shizhu has any selfish malice intention, you would not be able to sit here.”

Chu Liuxiang shivered inwardly. “Dashi is able to see clearly,” he replied respectfully.

Closing his eyes, Tian Feng Dashi slowly said, “Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s perseverance was outstanding, he was addicted to martial art to the point of being crazy about it, but it was unfortunate that he fell into the web of passion. More than twenty years prior to this, there was a big feud between Hua Shan and Huang Shan, two influential Jian Pai [Sword Sects] that there was continuous bloody battle between the two for many years. In the end Huang Shan School suffered a crushing defeat until, after the battle, only Li Qi, one person survived.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help asking, “What does this matter have to do with Tianfeng Shisi Lang?”

Tian Feng Dashi replied, “In order to escape disaster, Miss Li Qi boarded a merchant ship and sailed to the east passing Fusang. At that time she was already suffering internal injury. Exacerbated by the arduous voyage, by the time she reached Fusang, she was too sick to continue the journey.”

“Could it be that this lady unexpectedly came across Tianfeng Shisi Lang?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Tian Feng Dashi sighed and replied, “That’s exactly what happened. Tianfeng Shisi Lang fell in love with this Miss Li at first sight. For many days without stopping to sleep or have a rest, he thoroughly treated Miss Li’s injury. Unavoidably Miss Li was moved by his sincerity. The fourth day after her injury has been completely healed, she became husband and wife with Tianfeng Shisi Lang.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “An opportune connection with marriage partner decreed by the Heaven, tying a knot overseas, it is indeed a story that captures the imagination and will be spread far and wide.”

Tian Feng Dashi sadly said, “Only a pity their happy days were not long. After Miss Li gave birth to two sons for Tianfeng Shisi Lang, unexpectedly she left without even saying goodbye, leaving only a letter.”

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