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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 4


Chapter 4 – Number 113

A malicious smile appeared on the corner of the woman’s mouth, but Chu Liuxiang did not let her speak; his hand pulled her hand, his eyes looked at her eyes, he said, “Miss Leng [lit. cold], if you want to uncover this mystery, you have to trust me.”

The woman finally blushed with shyness and said with a laugh, “My surname is not Leng.”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flashed brightly; he said, “In that case, how should I address you?”

The woman’s countenance suddenly sank again; she spoke coldly, “Just call me Miss Leng then!”

Chu Liuxiang sighed gently; he said, “First, we must investigate: since that ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’ cannot be exchanged for wealth, and it cannot foster martial art skill either, why did he steal it?”

The woman said with a cold laugh, “I ought to ask you that question.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “The only usage of that ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’ is to harm people, moreover, it can kill people undetected. He spent so much effort to steal this ‘Heavenly One Divine Water’, obviously he has one strong reason.”

“And that reason is enough,” the woman said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “From this point, we can determine that the person ‘he’ wanted to kill cannot be killed using ordinary poison, and not someone that ‘he’ can kill using his own power.”

The woman nodded and said, “That’s right; otherwise, ‘he’ would not take the risk to steal the Water.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “But if he can really steal the Water from the ‘Divine Water Palace’, how many people in the world that he cannot kill? If he can steal the Water from the ‘Divine Water Palace’, that means his skill must be comparable to you.”

He smiled, and then continued, “From this, it can be seen that in stealing the Water, ‘he’ must have someone helping him in secret.”

The woman responded, “Who are you talking about?”

Fixing his gaze on her, Chu Liuxiang said, “After the Divine Water was stolen, has anybody from your Palace gone missing?”

The woman laughed coldly said, “Turns out you are suggesting that among our Palace’s disciples, someone was secretly helping ‘him’ stealing the Water; therefore, after the Water went missing, afraid of being punished for the crime, she slinked off. Is that right?”

“Are you saying that that is impossible?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

“Of course it is possible,” the woman replied, “Too bad that in several decades, not one of our Palace disciples has ever run away, and not a single one went missing.”

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang thought for a moment, and then asked, “After the Divine Water was stolen, are you saying that there was nothing happening in the Palace? For example, is there someone committed suicide and died …”

The woman’s countenance immediately changed, “How do you know?” she asked.

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes lit up. “So there is indeed someone committed suicide and died, am I right?” he said loudly, “Why did she kill herself?”

The woman replied sternly, “Our Palace’s internal affair, you think you can casually ask?”

Chu Liuxiang lifted her hand, and slowly said, “Miss Leng, you must tell me about this matter, because this is the key to solving the mystery. You … you’ve got to believe me.”

The woman pulled her hand, turned her back away, and was silent for a long time. Finally she said word-by-word, “She was a lovely girl; both beautiful and passionate. She was also the youngest. She … she is dead; I can’t talk about her anymore …”

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flickered; he said, “Is it because she was pregnant, and was aware that she did not have the face to see others?”

The woman did not answer, but her hand, hanging down, was tightly gripping her belt. Obviously her heart was full of grief and indignation, and she was overwhelmed with emotion.

Chu Liuxiang spoke loudly, “That must be it. She must have been deceived by ‘him’ into surrendering her body. And then, under ‘his’ coercion, she stole the Divine Water. But he did not keep his promise to take her away; therefore, she was left with just one way out, namely, death!”

The woman’s body suddenly shook. “Shut up!” she shouted loudly.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “This has been happening throughout all ages; it is difficult for passionate young women to escape from encountering tragic fate. Rather than grieving for her, why don’t you try to find ‘him’ to avenge her?”

The woman turned around suddenly, and spoke in trembling voice, “How do you suppose we can find ‘him’?”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Chu Liuxiang said, “Just before her death, did she say anything?”

Full of tears, the woman sadly said, “She only said … she was sorry for the child in her belly.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Under this circumstance, she was still unwilling to reveal who ‘he’ is. Obviously she was still deeply afraid that others would hurt ‘him’ … ay! What kind of magical power does he have that he could make a young girl so infatuated with him like that?”

Grieved, the woman said, “She really never mentioned ‘him’ at all. She practically never mentioned any man. Even in our dream we had never imagined such thing would happen to her.”

“Usually, did she know any man?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The woman resolutely replied, “Practically she had never spoken to any man.”

“That’s strange,” Chu Liuxiang said, “How could there be so many strange things today … five totally unrelated people unexpectedly died together at the same place! The Divine Water from ‘Divine Water Palace’ was mysteriously stolen! A dignified, gentle, girl, who has never spoken to any man, unexpectedly became pregnant. And these three things, which on the face do not seem to be related, unexpectedly are entangled together …”

He looked up, and muttered, “This kind of matter, who can explain it?”

“You!” the woman said.

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “I …”

The woman fixed her stare at him and said in stern voice, “For your own sake, you must uncover this mystery.”

“But what about the clues …” Chu Liuxiang said, “I have almost no clue.”

The woman said, “There must be clues somewhere, you just have to find it.”

Again she turned her back toward Chu Liuxiang, and spoke word-by-word, “I give you one month. If you cannot find it, ‘Divine Water Palace’ will come to look for you!”

“Why did you turn your back against me?” Chu Liuxiang asked, “Is it because when you are facing me, you cannot speak such unreasonable words?”

The woman ignored him. From the side of the boat, she slowly walked toward the stern.

Under the shadow of the stern, there was an elaborate skiff.

She floated down. The skiff immediately slid away.

Leaning on the ship’s railing, Chu Liuxiang watched her silently.

Under the brilliant starlight, the light boat appeared to undulate in the ocean of stars; the gauze clothes danced in the breeze, it looked even more like the feather clothes of the immortals. She suddenly looked back, smiled sweetly, and said, “My name is Gong Nanyan [lit. southern swallow].”

Chu Liuxiang stretched his legs as he lay comfortably on the chair. His eyes, as if he was in a daze, were fixed on the amber wine swirling inside the cup, as he mumbled softly, “She is indeed very beautiful; especially that smile. The stars in the sky, the stars in the sea, everything seems to be reflected on her face. And then she quietly disappeared into the mysterious night.”

Li Hongxiu laughed indifferently and said, “After one month, I am afraid you won’t feel that she is beautiful anymore, especially when she has her sword pressed against your neck …”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “She doesn’t use sword.”

Li Hongxiu blinked; she said, “What does she use? Vegetable knife?”

Chu Liuxiang refrained from laughing; he replied with straight face, “She is using a vegetable bowl.”

Li Hongxiu was surprised, “Vegetable bowl?” she asked.

Chu Liuxiang roared in laughter and said, “If she doesn’t use vegetable bowl, how is she going to catch the spilled vinegar from the bottle?” [Translator’s note: in Chinese, vinegar usually refers to jealousy (in love rivalry).]

Song Tian’er giggled and said, “You must not offend her, she is much more formidable than Gong Nanyan.”

Surprisingly, she did not speak her hometown dialect, only because she was afraid Li Hongxiu would not understand.

“Oh?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Song Tian’er doubled up in laughter. Gasping for breath, she said with a laugh, “At most Gong Nanyan is just a disciple of the ‘Divine Water Palace’, but our Miss Li Hongxiu is actually the Zhangmen [chief/head of school] of ‘Divine Vinegar Palace’.”

Li Hongxiu pounced on her. Clenching her teeth, she said, “Little demon, you don’t want your life anymore?”

Song Tian’er laughed until she curled up into a ball. “Rong Jie,” she called, “Help! The Zhangmen of Divine Vinegar Palace is so formidable oy …”

Laughing and fighting, the two girls, one was running away, the other chasing after her, rushed around the deck.

Su Rongrong looked at Chu Liuxiang, “What are you going to do now?” she spoke softly.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “So far, there really isn’t any clue to find, but finally we at least know that ‘he’ must be a handsome man; otherwise, how could that girl be so infatuated with ‘him’?”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “Girls may not necessarily like handsome men.”

Chu Liuxiang burst out laughing; he said, “In your opinion, what kind of man is ‘he’?”

Su Rongrong said, “He must be very good in talking, very smart, and an expert in currying a young girl’s favor. He must also be very distinguished and accomplished. Young girls will never be able to resist this kind of man.”

“But can such a man enter the Divine Water Palace?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “If that kind of man entered the Divine Water Palace, I am afraid he won’t be able to come out alive … On this earth, I am afraid the number of men who are able to get out alive from the Divine Water Palace is only a few.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Therefore, I have no choice but beseech you to do something.”

“You want me to go to the Divine Water Palace?” Su Rongrong asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “I … I’m only worried about your health.”

Laughing sweetly, Su Rongrong said, “You think I am really too weak to stand up to the wind?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I was wondering whether you could find your Biaogu [aunt, see previous note], get clear information from her if under normal circumstances men can go in and out of Divine Water Palace. Also ask her what kind of person was the girl who died, what did she like to do? It would be best if you could find the girl’s belonging. If she had left a letter, that would be very good.”

“As soon as it’s daybreak, I will go on the journey,” Su Rongrong said.

Chu Liuxiang looked at her tenderly, he said, “But you …”

Su Rongrong gently covered his mouth, and said with a laugh, “Whatever it is that you want to say, I already know … After I leave, what are you going to do?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Seven days later, I am going to wait for you in Fengyu Pavilion [lit. wind and rain] by Daming Lake in Jinan [Shandong province].”

“Jinan?” Su Rongrong said, “Isn’t that the Zhusha Zhang [cinnabar palm] Pai’s [Sect] base of operations?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Hainan Pai, Qixing Bang, are both too far away from here. Zha Muge was even farther away outside the Pass. I only want to hear from Zhusha Zhangmen [chief] and disciples’ own mouth, to inquire about some information.”

“But you’ll have to be extra careful,” Su Rongrong said, “If they know it is you …”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Although they hate me, they are still incapable of catching me.”

He suddenly spread out his palm. No one knew where it cam from, but a small and exquisite crystal bottle suddenly appeared in his hand. The cork was unplugged, some kind of mysterious tulip scent permeated the entire cabin.

Chu Liuxiang spoke in an awe-inspiring manner, “Dao Shuai’s lingering fragrance [i.e. liuxiang] in the night, wonder where the ecstasy is?”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “You want me to leave your fragrance everywhere?”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang replied, “Along the way, you might as well leave some scents on my behalf, so that others will never be able to grasp my exact whereabouts; even more, they won’t be able to figure out that I am going to Jinan.”

Su Rongrong said, “But you … what identity you want to appear as this time?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed indifferently and said, “The majority of disciples under Zhusha Zhangmen came from rich families. If I want them to trust me, to respect me, the only way is for me to pretend to be even wealthier than they are.”

Standing up lazily, he walked over to the wine goblet cupboard, which spread over the entire wall, and lightly pushed it aside. Behind the cabinet was a small, narrow door.

Behind this narrow secret door was a fantastic hexagonal room. All six walls were mirrors. Inside this room, one lantern would appear ten times brighter.

Along the mirrorred walls was a row of low wooden wardrobe with several hundreds tiny drawers. Every single drawer has a number on it, just like in an apothecary.

Leaning against the door, Su Rongrong laughed and said, “Perhaps what you want is number 63? Or possibly number 113?”

Chu Liuxiang casually opened the drawer number 63. Insider was a set of sleeveless jacket and trousers made of durable silk fabric, dark blue in color. It looked only about 50% new. In addition, there was a pair of sturdy cloth boots, a small black pouch made of sharkskin, and a thin paper notebook.

Frowning, Chu Liuxiang asked, “Is this the right number?”

“It should be correct,” Su Rongrong replied.

“But look at these clothes,” Chu Liuxiang said, “It does not look like what the wealthy would wear.”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “Among the traveling merchants in Jinan City, the most well-off can be categorized into two types: the first is the big boss of Shanxi’s money farm [i.e. ancient bank], and a Shanxi big boss who is willing to wear this kind of clothes can already be considered very generous.”

Chu Liuxiang blurted out laughing, “That’s right. I have forgotten that most of Shanxi people’s silver are cooked using chemical. Sometimes I wonder, they store up so much silver, in the end what are they going to do with it?”

He picked up the thin account book and flipped the pages. He read what’s written inside:

Name and surname: Ma Baiwan [lit. one million]

Status: Big Boss of Shanxi Four-Pass Money Farm

Age: a little more than 40

Hobby: None

Characteristic: When traveling through places with water, must take off the boots first. When it rains, must think of a way to use other people’s umbrella. His body always carries some kind of long-time-not-taking-a-bath smell …

Without even finished reading, Chu Liuxiang hurriedly put the book back in the drawer, closed it tight, heaved a long sigh, and shook his head, “If you want me to dress like this,” he said, “I would rather you kill me and be done with it.”

Su Rongrong laughed and said, “It was you who told me to prepare one profile of all types of personalities; you have even disguised yourself as a beggar, why not …”

Chu Liuxiang hurriedly waved his hand and said, “I would rather be a beggar than this kind of big boss.”

“All right,” Su Rongrong said, “Look at number 113 then.”

Chu Liuxiang opened the number 113, inside the drawer was a set of gorgeous clothes, a pair of shiny leather boots, two steel balls, which, with just a light rub in the hand would produce clear ‘ding dang’ noise, a waist saber which hilt was inlaid with jade and precious stones, as well as a black sharkskin pouch and a thin paper notebook.

Su Rongrong said, “Those who conduct business in Jinan City, other than Shanxi money farm boss, the most well-off are couriers supporting the ginseng pickers from the Changbai Mountain area outside the Pass.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “This seems to be much more interesting.”

Name: Zhang Xiaolin

Status: Big Ginseng Merchant from outside the Pass

Age: 35, 36

Hobby: Strong Wine, Compulsive Gambling, Women …

This time, Chu Liuxiang did not finish reading either; he closed the notebook, clapped his hands, and said with a laugh, “Interesting, very interesting indeed.”

Su Rongrong faintly said, “I knew it would certainly fit your ideas. But in any case, you’d better bring that suitcase along. I have already prepared number three, number seven, number 28, and number 40, in the suitcase for you.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Very well, starting today, I will become Zhang Xiaolin for a few days!”

Amidst his laughter, he already opened the black sharkskin pouch, and took out a delicate human skin mask.

Leaning against the door, Su Rongrong saw his laughing reflection on all the mirrors. One Chu Liuxiang, unexpectedly seemed to have incarnated into countless personalities.

Hall of Delight [Kuai Yi (lit. pleased/elated) Tang (Hall)], three gold characters were glittering brightly like flying dragon, dancing phoenix, under the lantern light.

It was the biggest casino in the city of Jinan.

It was early evening, the time when lanterns were first lit. In the Hall of Delight, people were talking and drinking; the hall was bustling with noise and excitement. In all three spacious halls, the air was thick with the aroma of wine, tobacco smoke, the perfume from the women’s body, mixed the sweat stench from the men’s body … Everybody’s head were glistening with beads of sweats, which appeared like shiny chili oil.

It’s just that while some people had the radiance of spring splashed across their faces, some people were hanging their heads dispiritedly; while some people had calm and composed countenances, some were trembling in nervousness.

In the outermost hall, there were two Pai Gow [dominoes] tables, two dice tables, and two single-double [or odd-even; since I am not a gambler, I am not sure what it is] tables. The gamblers’ character flow was also the most complex, their shouts were the loudest. Several big men wearing black clothes with vermillion belt stood by the tables. No matter who won a round, the men would always draw 10% out.

A reception pavilion on the inside had relatively less people; it was also relatively quieter. Sitting around the three tables were mostly full-brained, fat-intestines big and rich merchants, with pile upon file of glittering silver, moved around the table by pair upon pair of sweaty hands. Next to the tables were fragrant tea and fine wine, with more than a dozen young women – their heads were full of pearl and green jade, their faces with enchanting smile, going back and forth among the crowd, like butterflies passing through the flowers, groping a piece of silver from here, or pinching a couple of gold ingots from there.

As for the big masters who were gambling, who would care about such thing? As a result, while those who lost the bet admittedly had their money purse emptied, those who won did not have their moneybag increased by much either.

Very soon, these little things added up to a great amount; the gold and silver moved from the young women’s delicate hands into the big boss of the casino’s moneybag. This casino was, after all, opened by the Zhusha Bang.

The innermost room had a thick curtain hanging over its door.

In this room, there were only seven or eight gamblers, but there were more than a dozen young women. Some were serving tea at the ends of the table, some were pouring wine, yet some others simply snuggled in some other men’s bosoms. Melon seeds were peeled one by one, the lithe hands then delivered it into the grand guest’s mouth. The women’s fingers were like bamboo shoots in the springtime [fig. tender and delicate fingers of women], their fluid glance was as sweet as honey.

On the gambling table, there was neither gold nor silver, only several slips of paper circulating around, but the amount written on these slips of paper was enough for ordinary people to live comfortably for a lifetime.

One young man, with deathly pale complexion, dressed in emerald green long gown, having a smile on his face, was watching from the side. From time to time he would pat a big-spender guest’s shoulder, and said with a smile, “Your old gambling luck is no good, why don’t I call Zhu’er to accompany you lying down for now, and then you can come back later?”

The answer invariably came with a roar of laughter, “What’s the rush? It’s not even fifty thousand taels yet!”

Thereupon the young man would withdraw his hand, and with a smile on his face he gently stroked the beard stubble, which had just appeared on his chin – the hand he always used was his left.

All along his right hand has always been hidden inside his sleeve.

This was the ‘Hall of Delight’ Director, also the disciple of Zhusha Bang’s Zhangmen – the Assassin Jade Youth, the Powdered Face Senior Disciple, Leng Qiuhun.

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