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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 3

CSI

Chapter 3 – Heavenly One Divine Water

Chu Liuxiang said, “Therefore, he did it this way, so that people would think that these five massacred one another and died; all of them. This way, the disciples of their school won’t even have a target for revenge; what’s there to investigate?”

Sighing lightly, Li Hongxiu said, “But he had never thought that there is a person in the world who specializes in meddling in other people’s business.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I am afraid he really has never thought about that.”

“But who exactly is ‘he’?” Li Hongxiu said, “Anybody could be ‘him’ … Now, all the clues are gone. You want to investigate, won’t it be really like fishing up a needle from the sea?”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Suddenly his body flew up and leaped down into the sea.

“What are you doing?” Li Hongxiu called out.

Chu Liuxiang laughed, “Fishing up the needle,” he replied.

‘Splosh!’ Like a fish, his body disappeared into the sea. The seawater, which appeared golden red under the setting sun, did not even create the slightest bit of splash.

Stomping her feet, Li Hongxiu said, “Rong Jie, you … you don’t care about him.”

Su Rongrong softly said, “In this world, who could care about him?”

She went to look for a very large sailcloth and covered the five dead bodies.

Only then did Song Tian’er dared to come up the deck. She brought an elaborately made lantern in her right hand, and a basket of fruits in her left hand.

The stars gradually appeared, the ocean looked moist and glossy, like satin. They sat comfortably in the cool sea breeze, but in their heart they did not feel comfortable at all.

If there were five strangers’ corpses by your side, you would not feel comfortable either.

Chu Liuxiang has been gone for a long time. They saw some phosphorescent fish in the distant, like starlight on the surface of the sea. Li Hongxiu groaned and laughed, “I just hope no one would mistake him as a fish and catch him,” she said.

Song Tian’er giggled and said, “If anybody mistook him as a fish and caught him, that person must be your Gege [older brother].”

Li Hongxiu opened her eyes wide and said, “There’s a very strange thing that I will never understand. Suzhou dialect is definitely the best to listen to, yet Rong Jie is unwilling to speak it. Guangdong dialect [Cantonese] undoubtedly sounds like bird’s cry, but somebody always insist on speaking it.”

Song Tian’er made an ugly face, she laughed and said, “I know you don’t like to listen, hence I insist on speaking it to infuriate you.”

Before she finished speaking, her whole person suddenly jumped out, screaming and hopping around on the deck, while something was slipping out of her sleeve; it was a fish.

Li Hongxiu clapped her hands and laughed heartily, “Wonderful, wonderful; finally somebody vented my anger for me.”

And then they saw Chu Liuxiang, nobody knew since when, standing there with a grin on his face, and a fish clutched in his left hand. There was originally a fish in his right hand as well, but it was already inside Song Tian’er’s collar.

Song Tian’er was so scared that her face turned white. Stomping her feet, she was going to pinch him.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I just saw someone whom you wanted to see the most. If you pinch me and hurt me, I am not going to tell you.”

Song Tian’er pinched his arm and then hugged his neck, saying, “Tell me quick, who was it?”

Chu Liuxiang blinked; his eyes were like the starlight on the ocean. He laughed and said, “Who’s the one you wanted to see the most? In the world today, who’s the best in plucking the qin [guqin or zither]? Who’s the best in painting? Whose poems enrapture people the most? Who cooks the best food in the world?”

He has not finished speaking, Li Hongxiu already clapped her hands and said, “I know! You are talking about the ‘Miao Seng’ [wonder monk] Wuhua [lit. no flower].”

Song Tian’er pulled Chu Liuxiang’s hand and said, “Did you really see him? Where is he?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “He was sitting alone on a boat, looking as if he was just reciting Buddhist scripture, or maybe composing a poem. When I suddenly appeared from the water, the look on his face, it’s a pity that you did not see it.”

“Do you know him?” Song Tian’er asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “I only met him three times. The first time, he and I drank wine for three days and three nights. The second time, he and I spent five days and five nights playing chess. The third time, he and I discussed Buddhism for seven days and seven nights.”

He laughed before continuing, “Discussing Buddhism, naturally I could not outspeak him; but drinking wine, he could not outdrink me.”

Li Hongxiu could not bear asking, “How about playing chess?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I said it was enough, but that monk stubbornly refused.”

Li Hongxiu giggled and said, “Other than drinking and fighting, I am afraid in everything else you can’t compare to others.”

Chu Liuxiang replied resolutely, “Nonsense, at least in eating I ate a bit more than he did.”

Li Hongxiu laughed so hard that she could not keep her waist straight.

Pulling his sleeve, Song Tian’er asked, “Why didn’t you invite him here?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “He would have come, but I told him that there are several girls over here who wanted to see him, and he just bolted away like a rabbit being hit by an arrow.”

Pouting, Song Tian’er said, “He has already become a monk, why would he be afraid of any girl?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “He was afraid precisely because he is a monk; if he weren’t a monk, he wouldn’t be afraid.”

Li Hongxiu laughed tenderly and said, “If he weren’t a monk, I guarantee he would come faster than a rabbit.”

Su Rongrong laughed gently and said, “I heard this person is a famous scholar among the Buddhists; not only in poetry [shi], classical Chinese poem [ci], books, paintings, and all kinds of amazing skills, but also in martial art he could be considered a master.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “How could he be just a master? It can be said that he is practically the number one great talent among the Shaolin disciples. Too bad he … he is too smart, his proficiencies are just too many, his reputation is too big, so that when Shaolin’s Tian Hu Dashi [great master, term of respect to address Buddhist monk] conferred a title on him as the future Zhangmen, none of those who took part in the election could compare to him.”

Li Hongxiu said, “It may be assumed that people like him would not care about that kind of thing.”

Clapping his hands, Chu Liuxiang said, “I didn’t expect Li Hongxiu to be Wuhua’s close female friend.”

Su Rongrong said, “Naturally he does not have the slightest relation with this matter. Did you see anybody else?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Those dead bodies floated from the east side. I have looked at every single ship east of here. Other than Wuhua, there was only one ship with Wulin people.”

“What kind of people?” Su Rongrong asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “The people on that boat were the Beggar Clan’s Four Great Protectors of the Law, Four Great Elders, as well as their newly appointed Bangzhu. You may know that the old appointed Bangzhu died last year; can you guess who the new Bangzhu is?” [Translator’s note: I usually translate ‘Bang’ as ‘Gang’, but since the term ‘Beggar Clan’ has been widely used before, I decided to keep the already familiar term.]

“Who?” Su Rongrong asked.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Think about it some more. He is my friend, his capacity for wine is about the same as mine, his food capacity is also more or less the same as mine. One day, he even painted your portrait.”

“Ah!” Su Rongrong said, “Could it be NanGong Ling?

Chu Liuxiang laughed, “Precisely him,” he said.

Su Rongrong spoke sweetly, “Unexpectedly he became the Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu. It can clearly be seen that the general mood in Jianghu has changed; no longer old and wise [or experienced and knowledgeable] be considered a beauty, no longer they carefully select people based on age, but they began to focus on people’s talent. This is a matter worthy of celebration.”

Li Hongxiu said, “NanGong Ling can’t possibly have any relationship with this matter either. Therefore …”

Chu Liuxiang smiled bitterly and said, “Therefore, I don’t know what to do.”

Su Rongrong spoke softly, “It is best if you don’t; I do not wish to meddle into this kind of other people’s business either.”

Chu Liuxiang stared at the piece of sailcloth; he said, “I want you to think: did these five people have anything in common? For example …”

Li Hongxiu said, “For example, they were all humans.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Apart from that point, is there anything else? Think again.”

Su Rongrong stood up gracefully and said, “Go down if you want to think in the cabin below. I am going to brew a pot of strong tea for you. I don’t care if you want to think all night long, but no one is allowed to sit here and be blown by the wind.”

The construction of the cabin was elaborate and gorgeous, definitely not a cun of space was wasted, and definitely not a single object was a sore in anybody’s eyes.

Walking down the stairs was an exquisite apartment; the lantern light shone down gently, so that the dark cabin gradually brightened. Chu Liuxiang, who was walking at the front, suddenly halted his steps, as if he was suddenly nailed to the floor, no longer able to move. There was someone in the cabin, a woman!

Her back was toward the door as she sat in the chair Chu Liuxiang usually loved to sit in the most; looking at her from behind, they could only see the beautiful, thick hair pulled high above her head, and one hand, which was an absolutely beautiful hand.

At the moment, the hand was holding a cup, and in the cup was the wine Chu Liuxiang usually loved to drink – she was not bashful at all.

Chu Liuxiang, Su Rongrong, Li Hongxiu, Song Tian’er, four people were still standing on the deck, their eyes and mouths wide open, too stunned for words.

When did this woman come in? They absolutely had no idea.

Perhaps she came in when Chu Liuxiang went down to the sea; but she was able to avoid Su Rongrong, Li Hongxiu and Song Tian’er’s eyes and ears, her ability was not a minor one.

They heard her graceful, yet cold and detached voice, speaking slowly, “Come in. Could it be the ‘Dao Shuai’ [Bandit Chief] Chu Liuxiang?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “That’s right. But have Zaixia [lit. under, a Jianghu term to refer to oneself] entered the wrong door?”

The woman coldly said, “You have not. This is your place.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Since this is my place, how come Miss is sitting in here?”

“Because I am happy to,” the woman replied.

Chu Liuxiang laughed aloud and said, “That is a good reason; really good.”

“Besides,” the woman went on, “I hear Chu Liuxiang has never refused any girl.”

She suddenly turned the chair over to face Chu Liuxiang. The lantern light immediately shone on her face.

If in this world there was indeed one kind of a woman’s face that can make a man stop breathing, then this woman’s face was one. If in this world there was indeed one kind of a woman’s fluid glance that can make a man’s heart stop beating, then this woman’s fluid glance was one. And now, this pair of fluid glances was focused on Chu Liuxiang. “And now,” she spoke in a drawn-out manner, “Is this a good enough reason?”

Slightly hesitant, Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right. This reason has suddenly become good enough. Too good.”

His gaze finally moved away from the woman’s face, and only then did he discover that she was wearing snow-white gauzed long gown, and only then did he discover that a silver-colored ribbon was tied around her waist.

The woman slowly said, “And now, I am afraid you already know from what kind of place I was coming from.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I would rather not know.”

“Why?” the woman asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Because if there is any girl I do not wish to have dealings with in the world, that is precisely a disciple of the ‘Divine Water Palace’.”

The woman suddenly stood up and turned around. She took the silver pot from the cupboard and slowly poured a cup of wine. His heart ached, Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I really want to know: you came here, apart from drinking wine, is there any other business?”

While saying that, he pulled the chair and hurriedly sat down.

The woman tilted her head, and fixed her gaze on his face. She spoke word by word, “Arrogant, rude, callous, yet there’s one or two points that can make Little Miss fascinated … You are indeed exactly the same as the legend said about you.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Thanks a lot … but I wonder if the legend in Jianghu also mention one other thing about me.”

“What is it?” the woman asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “If there is a strange girl running away into my cabin, sitting in my chair, drinking my wine, I usually throw her down into the sea. Especially if this girl thinks she is very beautiful, while in fact she is not too beautiful.”

He stretched his legs comfortably, ready to enjoy the woman’s angry look.

As expected, the woman was so angry that her face paled, while her hands were shaking.

Li Hongxiu hurriedly walked over and gently took the golden cup from her hand. Smiling sweetly, she said, “If Miss wants to throw the cup, let me give you another one made of iron.”

The woman’s countenance changed from green to white, and then from white turned to red. But suddenly she broke into a laughter and said, “Very good. You are all very interesting. But now the time to chat and laugh has passed.”

“And now you are ready to cry?” Chu Liuxiang said.

The woman coldly said, “If you don’t return my thing, I am afraid you won’t be able to cry, even if you want to.”

“Return to you?” Chu Liuxiang said, “What did I borrow from you?”

“You did not borrow,” the woman replied, “Naturally you did not borrow. Everybody in the world knows Chu Liuxiang never borrowed anything from anyone.”

She laughed coldly, and then said, “You stole it.”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang said, “I stole it? What did I steal from you?”

“Heavenly One Divine Water,” the woman replied.

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes suddenly grew big, “What did you say?” he blurted out.

The woman replied word by word, “Heavenly. One. Divine. Water.”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang said, “Are you saying that the Heavenly One Divine Water has been stolen from your Palace?”

The woman said, “I came over a thousand li to come here, I can’t possibly swindle you to have fun with you, can I?”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes shone with delight. “Wonderful, just wonderful,” he muttered, “Everything has become more interesting. I wonder how much of your Heavenly One Divine Water has been stolen?”

The woman coldly said, “Not much, just a few drops. But it is enough to kill more than thirty front ranking Wulin martial art masters without they understand anything. If you want to be precise, the number is thirty-seven.”

Su Rongrong lightly exhaled, and said, “Do you think it was he who stole it?”

The woman laughed and said, “Other than ‘Dao Shuai’ Chu Liuxiang, who else could steal a piece of wood or a blade of grass from the ‘Divine Water Palace’?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Much obliged for the compliment. But since you said it like that, if I say that I didn’t do it, you definitely will not believe me.”

“Can you convince me?” the woman asked.

“Perhaps … perhaps I can,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

Suddenly he sprang out of his chair, pulled the woman’s hand, and said, “At least, let me take you to see something. I can guarantee that this thing will be interesting … very interesting.”

Somehow, the cold and detached, as well as arrogant, young woman, was pulled out just like that.

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “If he wanted to pull a girl’s hand, I am afraid no girl will be able to refuse.”

Blinking her eyes, Song Tian’er said, “It would be best if all ‘Divine Water Palace’ disciples are men.”

Li Hongxiu laughed and said, “Women are no problem, but it would be best if they are a bit ugly.”

Song Tian’er giggled and said, “It would be best if they are as ugly as muyecha [witch/shrew/vixen, female Yaksha (demon in Hinduism/Buddhism), also a fictional character in Water Margin: Sun Erniang].”

The sailcloth was lifted up.

Under the starlight, the corpses looked even more malevolent and terrifying.

“Look at her first,” Chu Liuxiang said, “Do you know her?”

The woman concentrated her attention on the dead body of the young woman whose shoulder had been cut off. She looked like a piece of stone statue, her face was as expressionless as if she was made of wood. “This is not ‘Divine Water Palace’ disciple,” she spoke coldly.

Finally Chu Liuxiang was shocked. “She was not?” he blurted.

The woman said, “I have never seen this person in my life.”

Chu Liuxiang stroked his nose, as if someone has just punched him on the face. Smiling ruefully, he said, “I originally thought that the Divine Water was stolen by someone from within your own Palace; I originally thought it was her, but now …”

The woman coldly said, “Now you still find it interesting?”

Chu Liuxiang muttered, “Since this woman was not Divine Water Palace’s disciple, why did she dress this way? Naturally it was not her own idea; rather, ‘he’ had her dressed like this to arouse other people’s misconception.”

“What misconception?” the woman asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “He wanted others to believe that Zha Muge was killed by this woman, in such a way that she was also dead under Zha Muge’s hands; everything will be over. Obviously he did not want anybody else to continue pursuing this matter. This poor woman has become his scapegoat.”

The woman unhurriedly said, “You said so, presumably you already know who he is?”

Chu Liuxiang snorted and said, “I wish I know.”

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