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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 26

CSI

Chapter 26 – Stately Law

Chu Liuxiang blurted out, “Could it be that she was returning to the Central Earth?”

Tian Feng Dashi sighed and replied, “This matter cannot be confirmed, but it may be assumed that that was what happened. Because not long after Miss Li left Tianfeng Shisi Lang, out of the Seven Swords of Hua Shan, only four remained; suddenly they all died tragically. Numerous and confusing rumors spread out in Jianghu, saying that the only survivor of Huang Shan school, Li Qi, has returned to avenge her father and elder brothers.”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Chu Liuxiang said, “If that’s the case, this Miss Li must have learned some kind of astonishing martial art, perhaps it was even Tianfeng Shisi Lang who imparted it to her.”

Tian Feng Dashi said, “On this, your guess is off. Tianfeng Shisi Lang did not impart any martial art skill to her, she must have had some other fortuitous encounter. But on this matter, she had always concealed it from Tianfeng Shisi Lang.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “That’s right, this Miss Li’s encounter must be very bizarre; otherwise, in such a short few years, her martial art skill could not have progressed to such an extent that she unexpectedly was able to kill Four (sic) Swords of Hua Shan in one go … but after her big enmity was avenged, did she not return to Dongying to see her two sons?”

“She did not,” Tian Feng Dashi replied, “At that time, her youngest child was still in swaddling clothes. In his grief, Tianfeng Shisi Lang took these two children to the Central Earth.”

“Could it be that at that time there was no news about this Miss Li in Jianghu?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Tian Feng Dashi replied, “That is the strange thing, after Miss Li performed such an earth-shattering feat, she suddenly vanished without any trace, as if she suddenly disappeared from the surface of the earth. After persistently looking for her for a year, Tianfeng Shisi Lang finally gave up all hope … and so he came here.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Turns out he did not seek a battle with Dashi as soon as he arrived in the Central Earth.”

Tian Feng Dashi sighed and said, “He persistently wanted to challenge me, but I determined not to accept it. Until later on he unexpectedly set the Sutra Pavilion on fire, and so I was forced to deal with him. I only agreed to exchange three palm strikes with him; who would have thought … who would have thought that when I sent out the third palm strike, unexpectedly he neither evade nor dodge. I could not restrain the momentum in time, unexpectedly I caused him a serious injury.”

Grieved, Chu Liuxiang said, “Wanbei indeed guessed correctly. By that time he was already downhearted and did not want to keep on living, so he just wanted to entrust his two sons to appropriate persons, hence the reason he deliberately received the injury from Dashi’s palms.”

Distressed, Tian Feng Dashi said, “After injuring him, I immediately brought him to this meditation room. Who would have thought that he seized the opportunity while I was fetching the medicine to leave without saying goodbye, leaving only a letter, in which he told me about his grieve, and implored me to offer shelter to his eldest son. I rushed toward the place he mentioned in his letter. But when I tried to bring his orphan back to him, unexpectedly I came across Ren Lao Bangzhu. Only then did I know that he had unexpectedly died under Ren Lao Bangzhu’s hands.”

Coming from a senior monk’s mouth, which was as gentle as Buddha’s own mouth, such a plaintive and beautiful, yet solemn and stirring story, sounded even more brimming with some kind of stifling-with-remorse and mystery.

All along Wuhua was sitting quietly on his seat, but his face was completely devoid of any emotions. All along Tian Feng Dashi and Chu Liuxiang did not look at him at all either.

It looked like he positioned himself completely outside this matter, and that the story Tian Feng Dashi was narrating had nothing to do with him.

The meditation room was silent for a moment, and then there was the sound of water boiling.

Chu Liuxiang cautiously and slowly began to brew the tea.

His every movement was completely deliberate, proper and careful. He wanted to take the opportunity of these slow actions to clear his jumbled thought. And then, he held a cup of fragrant tea with both hands, which he respectfully offered in front of Tian Feng Dashi, and spoke in heavy voice, “Thank you very much Dashi.”

Tian Feng Dashi received the cup with both hands, and spoke slowly, “Everything you wanted to know, you already know by now?”

“Yes,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Tian Feng Dashi chuckled indifferently and said, “Very good, because all Laoseng can tell you is also only so much.”

Unexpectedly he did not ask why Chu Liuxiang wanted to know the story; he simply started to sniff the aroma of the tea. In this moment, his solemn and grave expression suddenly seemed to relax, but the grief in his eyes seemed to grow deeper. Thereupon he slowly closed his eyelids, and muttered, “This cup of tea is indeed much better than that other cup just now.”

Chu Liuxiang stared at him for a long time; he really could not figure out how much this wise and farsighted senior monk really knew. He could not help blurting out a question, “Dashi does not have anything you wanted to ask of Zaixia?”

Tian Feng Dashi was silent for half a day. He spoke indifferently, “Has Ren Lao Bangzhu passed away?”

He did not even open his eyes; this question seemed to be asked randomly.

But Chu Liuxiang exhaled slowly before replying, “Yes.”

Offering another cup of tea, he said, “Everything that Dashi wanted to know, I am afraid you already know by now.”

Tian Feng Dashi simply nodded his head without saying anything.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and stood up. “I wonder if Dashi would allow Wanbei to speak with Wuhua Shixiong for a moment?” he asked.

Tian Feng Dashi replied slowly, “What ought to be said must be said. The two of you may go!”

Only then did Wuhua stand up. His expression still looked relaxed, confident and at ease. Respectfully he put his palms together toward Tian Feng Dashi before quietly withdrawing out of the room.

He did not speak at all.

When he was already outside the bamboo curtain, Tian Feng Dashi suddenly opened his eyes and cast him a glance. The emotion carried in his eyes seemed to be extremely complicated.

But he did not speak either.

The night was already deep.

The pathway at the back of the mountain was very narrow. The hazy starlight illuminated the leaves of the tree lining the pathway; the whole earth seemed to be shrouded in some kind of mysterious and desolate fog.

Chu Liuxiang and Wuhua walked side-by-side along this rugged and narrow pathway, straight to the end. All along both of them also maintained their silence, as quiet as the mountain tops in the night.

Finally Wuhua smiled slightly and said, “Although you did not expose me, I am not grateful to you at all. You did what you did just because you were afraid of Tian Feng Dashi’s stern attitude, am I right?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang replied, “You think that apart from this, there is no other reason? For example, the friendship between you and me …”

Wuhua leisurely said, “Up until now, our friendship remains to be no more than a grain of sand in the eyes.”

Heaving a deep sigh, Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right; if there’s a grain of sand in our eyes, it might only produce tears.”

Wuhua said, “All right, there is no harm in you telling me now: how much do you actually know?”

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “I know a lot of things, but there are many more that I do not know.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Which ones you do know? Which ones you do not know?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “I know that you are Tianfeng Shisi Lang’s eldest son, NanGong Ling’s elder brother, but how did you know that NanGong Ling was your sibling? Naturally Tian Feng Dashi could not possibly tell you.”

Wuhua replied, “The reason you might have guessed. When Xianfu [my late father] passed away, I was already seven. A seven-year old boy, although he did not know much, but he may have learned many things, many things that he would never forget.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “What you knew maybe too much already.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Naturally you also knew that I was the one who stole the ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’.”

Smiling ruefully, Chu Liuxiang said, “Correct. Although the ‘Divine Water Palace’ forbids men to enter and exit, but a refined, elegant man who had left home is naturally an exception. In the eyes of ordinary people, those who had left home and become a monk cannot be regarded as ordinary men anymore, while in reality, unavoidably this kind of thought has its own drawback. Only too bad that passionate girl died because of you …”

Wuhua laughed and said, “A girl who had never had any contact with a man will never be able to resist the temptation; she died very willingly, why do you bother to feel sorry for her?”

Staring at him, Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “You are really a strange person. No matter how despicable, no matter how hateful, you are always able to speak it out with the most gentle, the most elegant intonation.”

Wuhua’s expression did not change at all. He even laughed and said, “You ought to also know, I spent so much time and energy to steal the ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’, for what purpose?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Only because Ren Lao Bangzhu and Tian Feng Dashi are not people that you could easily kill. Moreover, you also want them to die without leaving any trace, so that others would not be suspicious.”

“You are absolutely correct,” Wuhua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “On that stone beam, the one posing as Tianfeng Shisi Lang, naturally it was you. The one who killed ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’ Song Gang, escaped into the Daming Lake using ‘ren shu’, naturally it was also you.”

“Correct again,” Wuhua said.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “That day when I saw you at Daming Lake, I should have suspected you; too bad that although I suspected everybody else in the world, I did not suspect Wuhua, who was unwilling to even have the sound of his qin infected by a murderous aura.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “No need to be disappointed, everybody would definitely feel confused sometimes.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled wryly and said, “That mentally-impaired disciple of Wuyi Convent’s Su Xin Dashi, before her death she actually exposed your secret, too bad she only said one word ‘Wu’ and then died. Even worse, all along I thought that she was saying the ‘Wu’ of ‘Wutong’ [tree]; unexpectedly I never thought that she was saying the ‘Wu’ of ‘Wuhua’.”

Wuhua said, “I really did not expect either that before her death her mind would clear up; otherwise, when I killed Su Xin Dashi, I would have killed her as well.”

“But why would you want to kill Su Xin Dashi?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Wuhua replied, “Anybody who has the slightest bit of connection with this matter, I cannot let them alive and open their mouth. You know me, I have always been very cautious; I never want to take risks.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “So you want to kill me as well?”

Wuhua sighed and said, “I really do not want you to be involved in this matter. I have already told NanGong Ling that if there is anybody in the world able to expose our secret, this person must be Chu Liuxiang.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “At the Daming Lake, in Wuyi Convent, on that stone beam, you already made your move on me many times. You want to kill me, I am not surprised at all, but why do you want to kill Rong’er?”

Wuhua replied, “I have already thought that you certainly wanted to send her to the Divine Water Palace to make some inquiries. Therefore, I immediately thought that the person you were going to meet by the Daming Lake must be her. You should also know, I am not a stupid person.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “When a person is too smart, it is not a good thing either.”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Could it be that you are very stupid?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “It’s only now that I know, I am not as smart as I thought I was. Otherwise, I would have already thought that when it is necessary, you would certainly kill NanGong Ling to shut his mouth.”

Wuhua sighed and said, “I am not as smart as I thought I was either. I thought that as soon as NanGong Ling died, your clues would all be broken, and you would never implicate me; otherwise, how could I bear to kill him?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “This was the most crucial point in all these, because he said that you two are brothers. Without this clue, I would never find this place and come here.”

Wuhua fell silent for a long time. The fog on the waist of the mountain was getting thicker, the mountain breeze already carried the news that winter was coming, but he only felt a slight nip in the air.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “What I still don’t understand is, you did what you did, is it for revenge? Or is it a fight for power? Was it your own idea? Or did your esteemed father, before his death, leave you his last words, wanting you to do this?”

Raising his eyebrows, Wuhua said, “How do you know that my late father left his last words for me?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Since you are in the Central Plains, your ren shu and sword technique naturally came from your esteemed father. But when he died, you were still little; you were definitely not old enough to learn such a profound martial art skill. Naturally he would leave his secret martial art manual for you. You guarded this secret very well, so that even Tian Feng Dashi is not aware of it.”

“Mmm,” Wuhua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Therefore, I immediately thought that since he did not hesitate to sacrifice his own life, plus he wanted for the two of you to enter Shaolin and the Beggar Clan, perhaps what he wanted was that when you grow up, you would take over the biggest Sect and the biggest Gang in the world and then go one step further to conquer the world. This was perhaps what he wanted to do himself, yet he could not do it. Therefore, he wanted the two of you to accomplish that for him; otherwise, why would he willingly and gladly die?”

Again, Wuhua fell silent for a long time. He smiled and said, “Do you know why I always like you? Because you have brains. I often said that being able to make acquaintance with you, whether as a friend or a foe, can be regarded as the biggest pleasure in life.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In that case, am I guessing correctly?”

Wuhua smiled and said, “Maybe right, maybe wrong. Later on, you will definitely find out …”

He suddenly stopped walking. Turning to face Chu Liuxiang, he said, “Whatever the case, now that you have uncovered this secret, what do you want to do?”

After staring at him for a long, long time, Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “You know I never want to kill anybody; I don’t want to kill you even more!”

Wuhua laughed and said, “But you also should know that although you don’t want to kill me now, I still want to kill you!”

Smiling bitterly, Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right, if you kill me, you’d be unfettered and beyond the law, only because in the world, the person who completely knew this secret is only me.”

Wuhua spoke slowly, “Are you waiting for me to make my move?”

Chu Liuxiang replied with sadness in his voice, “Although I don’t want it this way, I am afraid there is no room for any other choices!”

The two men stopped talking.

They knew that whatever it was that needed to be said has already been said.

The mountain breeze was getting more violent, it blew their clothes and his hair that they were fluttering in the wind. The expression on their faces was still peaceful and calm, but the air between them was thick with murderous aura.

Suddenly there was a crash of thunder; the mountain rain was about to start, the whole earth looked even more bleak.

The instant the thunder was crashing, both of Wuhua’s palms struck straight out!

This was the Shaolin Divine Fist, which name shook the heavens. The first strike he launched was his own school’s fist technique, hidden and infused punch’s momentum in contrast to the force of the thunderbolt; it indeed carried a world-shaking power! Unless they witnessed it with their own eyes, no one would believe that this elegant and gentle Wuhua unexpectedly could launch such a hard and ferocious move.

Chu Liuxiang spun around, his left palm chopped diagonally on Wuhua’s wrist. This palm strike seemed to be ordinary, with nothing strange about it; it simply could not compare to the might of Wuhua’s punch.

But this ordinary, nothing-strange-about-it palm strike was clearly able to neutralize Wuhua’s punch prowess.

Unleashing his shenfa, Wuhua’s body flashed; before the clap of thunder even stopped, he already launched four punches, all were able to vanquish dragons and tigers, none was not the essence of Shaolin’s Divine Fist.

Yet Chu Liuxiang neutralized all his punches one by one; not only that, as soon as Wuhua’s offensive vanished, he seemed to still have enough power to counterstrike.

Wuhua launched eighteen punches in succession; unexpectedly he still failed to gain the decisive opportunity. He suddenly withdrew his right punch, but when he sent out a strike, it created a ‘Chi!’ sound. Unexpectedly he changed the punch into a finger strike.

This finger flick was the inner-power school’s ‘Tanzhi Shentong’ [Divine Flicking Finger]. A wisp of sharp wind rapidly slashed down on qimen and jiangtai, as well as various acupoints on Chu Liuxiang’s right shoulder blade.

The finger did not need to touch Chu Liuxiang; if he was swept by the finger wind, half of his body would be unable to move a single step, perhaps he would even die instantly under Wuhua’s left palm.

But Chu Liuxiang’s body slanted sideways – it was just a slight tilt, the powerful and sharp finger wind could only sweep past his clothes.

In the meantime, his left palm has already reached Wuhua’s flank.

Wuhua was forced to change his offensive into defensive; his right hand pulled back, his left hand shot out in a palm strike, the edge of the palm immediately threatened Chu Liuxiang’s quchi acupoint.

Chu Liuxiang traversed one step sideways, his left elbow struck out.

Wuhua had no choice but to withdraw his move and changed it into a different one. In an instant the shadow of his palm fluttered around just like a gale filling up the sky. It was Shaolin’s external school’s consummate skill, the ‘Feng Ping Zhang’ [duckweed wind palm].

As the name implied, the forte of his palm style was not on the power itself, but in seizing the victory relying on technique; the palm momentum was strange and erratic, like an ever-changing cloud, with more empty moves rather than real.

But as soon as he launched the strike, Chu Liuxiang immediately sealed it off.

In such a short period of time, he had changed from ‘Shaolin Divine Fist’, to ‘Divine Flicking Finger’, to ‘Duckweed Wind Palm’; three different martial art styles. In terms of hard-and-ferocious character, intensity, bizarre changes, and footwork, all these three styles were different to each other, but all were the most prestigious, the most powerful martial arts in Wulin world of the present age.

Yet the styles that Chu Liuxiang used were the most common, the most ordinary martial art in Jianghu. Perhaps there were thousands, if not tens of thousands of people in Jianghu able to perform this kind of martial art styles.

However, in Chu Liuxiang’s hands, the plainly ordinary moves became different.

Every move he used was right on target without the slightest bit of inaccuracy. Every strike he launched was three times faster than anybody else!

The move itself was perhaps ordinary and mediocre, but by the time the two men exchanged a blow, every action suddenly displayed its unfathomable power!

Every now and then Wuhua was simply unable to understand why his brilliant style could be easily neutralized by Chu Liuxiang’s ordinary move? In fact, not only Chu Liuxiang was able to neutralize his strike, he was even able to strike back!

Another crash of thunder, followed by a sudden downpour.

The gale, the rainstorm, the mother earth, were all screaming. In the depth of the mountain, everything was as dark as inside the tomb.

Practically they were unable to see the opponent’s shadow, so they could only rely on listening to the palm wind to discern each other’s move. But the whistling storm interfered with their hearing ability, so that later on they could not even hear the opponent’s palm wind.

Another flash of lightning and clap of thunder. Chu Liuxiang’s body moved along with the flash of lightning. But Wuhua leaped high into the sky. Several dozen dots of cold star shot down like rain.

In such darkness, it was practically impossible to dodge secret projectiles. By the time Wuhua landed on the ground, he could not stop a hint of smile from appearing on the corners of his mouth.

Amidst the earth-shattering thunder, Chu Liuxiang seemed to let out a cry of surprise.

And then, there was another flash of lightning. But Chu Liuxiang was nowhere to be seen.

In the darkness, Wuhua was panting for breath. “Chu Liuxiang! Chu Liuxiang! Where are you?” he cried out.

Suddenly he heard someone responding slowly from behind him, “I am here.”

Wuhua was so shocked that his heart nearly stopped beating.

But he did not turn around at all; he simply stood quietly with blank stare for half a day. Finally he hung his head down and said slowly, “Very good. Today I finally confirmed that I really am not your match.”

The tone of his voice was so flat, as if what he had just confirmed was winning and losing in a gambling, which stake was not too big. Anybody would not be able to hear that he had staked his own life in this gamble.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Although you have lost, whatever the case, you indeed lose in such an elegant manner.”

Wuhua let out a gasping laugh and said, “If I won, I would feel even more elegant. Too bad I will never be able to confirm this, won’t I?”

Chu Liuxiang replied sadly, “That’s right, indeed you will never have a chance to win.”

Wuhua unhurriedly said, “As the winner, your poise is indeed not bad, but I am afraid it was just because you are so accustomed to winning; you look like you will never see the time when you are defeated.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “If you stand on the right side, you will never be defeated.”

Wuhua suddenly howled with laughter and said, “Am I wrong …? If I succeeded, who’d dare to say that I have done wrong …”

An ear-splitting clap of thunder interrupted his mad laughter.

Chu Liuxiang was silent for half a day. He spoke slowly, “Why aren’t you running away?”

Wuhua’s wild laughter already turned into panting for breath. “Running away?” he said, “Am I the kind of person who would run away …? If someone wants to enjoy success, he must learn how to accept failure first …”

He suddenly howled in laughter again and said, “No matter how great a victory, it will never make me so happy that I am losing my mind. No matter how bad a defeat, it will never make me running away with my tail between my legs like a stray dog either!”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and spoke sadly, “Indeed you did not disappoint me.”

“What do you want me to do now?” Wuhua asked.

Chu Liuxiang unhurriedly replied, “I can only uncover your secret, but I cannot punish you at all. Because I am not the law, and I am not God either. I do not have the authority to punish you!”

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