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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 7


Chapter 7 – Imposition

Leng Qiuhun said, “Does Zhang Xiong want to ask her something?”

He smiled cruelly as he cast a sidelong glance toward Zhang Xiaolin, and then he continued unhurriedly, “Even if now you ask her how many lovers she had in the past, she would tell you by counting by fives and tens [idiom: narrate systematically and in full detail].”

Clearing his throat, Zhang Xiaolin walked over and bent over to look at Shen Shangu, and said, “Do you still recognize me?”

Seemingly without any strength Shen Shangu tried to open her eyes. Suddenly she giggled and said, “Of course I do, among my lovers, you are the one who can satisfy me the most. But you are a thug, you are a beast …”

Leng Qiuhun laughed aloud and said, “To have such a woman curse you as a beast, Zhang Xiong, you surely have some ability. In a woman’s mouth, ‘a beast’, these two words [orig. chu sheng] usually have some other meaning.”

Smiling ruefully, Zhang Xiaolin stroked his nose and said, “Why did you pry into my secret?”

Shen Shangu said, “Just because you were looking for Leng Qiuhun sneakily, I want to know what kind of secret you two are talking about.”

“How does this relate to your Tian Xing Bang?” Zhang Xiaolin asked.

“Of course there is a relation,” Shen Shangu replied, “This time Tian Xing Bang came to Jinan precisely to look for Zhu Sha Bang, and within Zhu Sha Bang, Leng Qiuhun is the one with most power.”

Looking disdainfully out of the corner of his eye, Leng Qiuhun laughed and said, “Zhu Sha Men has always had no entanglement with Tian Xing Bang, why would Tian Xing Bang come looking for trouble?”

Shen Shangu said, “Because Tian Xing Bang’s Zhangmen, ‘Seven-Star Soul Snatching’ Zuo Youzheng suddenly went missing, but before he left, he said that he was going to look for the ‘Assassin Scholar’, Ximen Qian.”

Zhang Xiaolin’s eyes were flashing. “Do you know why he was looking for Ximen Qian?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Shen Shangu replied.

“Did Zuo Youzheng usually have contacts with Ximen Qian?” Zhang Xiaolin asked.

“They usually don’t have any contact with each other,” Shen Shangu replied.

Knitting his eyebrows, Zhang Xiaolin said, “Do you know that Ximen Qian is missing at the moment?”

“I don’t know,” Shen Shangu replied.

Zhang Xiaolin frowned even deeper, as if he was thinking really hard.

Leng Qiuhun suddenly said sternly, “The tragedy that happened in our school last night, does Tian Xing Bang have anything to do with it?”

“What tragedy?” Shen Shangu asked, “I don’t know.”

Leng Qiuhun cast a quick glance toward Zhang Xiaolin.

Zhang Xiaolin said, “Before Zuo Youzheng went out on his journey, did he receive any letter?”

Shen Shangu thought for a moment. “That’s right,” she replied.

Zhang Xiaolin’s eyes lit up. “Do you know where the letter is now?” he asked.

Shen Shangu replied, “Zhangmen gave it to Er Shixiong [second martial (older) brother].”

“Who is your Er Shixiong?” Zhang Xiaolin asked.

“’Tian Qiang Xing’ [heavenly powerful star] Song Gang,” Shen Shangu replied.

“Where is he now?” Zhang Xiaolin asked.

Shen Shangu replied, “He is still in Xuzhou, raising funds to pay ‘Central Plains One Red Dot’. Presumably he should be rushing over here tonight.”

Emotionally moved, Leng Qiuhun excitedly said, “Central Plains One Red Dot? Isn’t that the cold-blooded professional assassin …? Why does your Tian Xing Bang want to pay such a huge amount of money to him?”

Shen Shangu giggled foolishly and said, “Because we want him to deal with your Zhu Sha Men. If you killed our Zhangmen, we want to have each and every one of you killed!”

Leng Qiuhun’s pale face became even more without any color of blood; appearing to be nervous, his pair of slender hands constantly stroking the hilt of the saber hanging on his waist. “How much do you pay him?” he asked.

“Ten thousand taels,” Shen Shangu replied, “For each one he kills, we add one thousand taels. Killing you, Leng Qiuhun, five thousand taels.”

Leng Qiuhun nervously laughed aloud and said, “Very good! Only today do I know that my life is more valuable than the others’ … But five thousand taels cannot be considered much; I can pay him ten thousand … twenty thousand.”

Shen Shangu said, “Yitian Hong usually has a very good trustworthiness; once he accepted our contract, even if you give him ten times the reward, he won’t accept.”

Leng Qiuhun’s laughter stopped abruptly; his palm clenched the hilt of his saber, his eyes flitted to the window, as if he was afraid that mysterious and terrifying One Red Dot would appear anytime and break in.

Giggling foolishly, Shen Shangu turned toward Zhang Xiaolin and said, “What’s your actual name? You should be called the real ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’. Although that Er Shixiong of mine is called ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’, he is not as strong as you are.”

Zhang Xiaolin quickly reached out to lightly seal her sleeping acupoint; he muttered, “Girls must not speak too much; if you became a busybody, nobody is going to marry you. And girls whom nobody wants to marry, I usually don’t want to see. And if there are no girls that nobody wants to marry in the world, won’t there be much less of them?”

Shen Shangu finally fell into deep sleep.

Leng Qiuhun’s eyes were still staring at the window; he muttered, “Central Plains One Red Dot … How fast is his sword? Does he really have the viciousness that the legend says? Is he really …”

Zhang Xiaolin laughed and cut him off, “Leng Xiong need not think too much; you are going to see him soon anyway.”

Leng Qiuhun stood up suddenly and blurted out, “He is coming soon?”

“I think he is,” Zhang Xiaolin replied.

The fingers of Leng Qiuhun’s hand holding the saber hilt already turned white. Suddenly he slapped the table and loudly said, “All right, come then! Even if the ‘Bandit Chief’ Chu Liuxiang came, I may not necessarily be afraid of him; why would I be afraid of Central Plains One Red Dot?”

Zhang Xiaolin smiled and said, “Are you saying that Chu Liuxiang is more terrifying than Yitian Hong?”

“Generally speaking,” Leng Qiuhun replied, “Is there anybody more terrifying than Chu Liuxiang?”

Zhang Xiaolin muttered, “As far as I know, Chu Liuxiang is not the least bit terrifying. He is actually a very good-natured person. On this earth, I am afraid very few people are more good-natured than he is.”

Leng Qiuhun roared in laughter and said, “That’s funny … I have never heard anything funnier than that in the world. Perhaps even if Chu Liuxiang heard it, he would laugh his head off.”

Zhang Xiaolin sighed; smiling wryly, he said, “People are really strange. Sometimes they would rather listen to other people’s hearsay rather than believe the truth.”

‘Crack!’ Suddenly there was a noise on the roof of the main hall.

Leng Qiuhun’s laughter stopped abruptly; immediately there was no sign of smiling expression on his entire body, from top to bottom. Just like a steel ball being shot out of a tight bow string he whizzed toward the window and called out loudly, “Friends, since you have come to the ‘Hall of Delight’, why don’t you come down?”

Zhang Xiaolin pulled the door open and walked out unhurriedly. He said with a laugh, “If gentlemen want to fight, please feel free to find him. If you are coming to gamble, Zaixia might want to accompany you.”

Under the starlight, they saw flashing shadows on the roof ridge; they came together as if they were deliberating for a moment, and then five of them leaped down one after another. But there was someone else standing with his hands behind his back on the opposite roof, his expression looked completely relaxed, yet like a wolf, his pair of pupils flickered in the dark. Zhang Xiaolin looked carefully, and found out that this person was precisely Yitian Hong.

The first one to jump down wore tight warrior outfit, his face was full of stiff beard, but his stature was so thin that it looked so incongruous with his full beard. Among the five, obviously his qinggong was the best, by far. As soon as he landed on the ground, his burning eyes were sizing up Zhang Xiaolin. Slightly cupping his fist, he spoke coldly, “I wonder if Gexia [Sire] the master of this place?”

Surprisingly, the middle finger and the ring finger of his left hand, which was at the front, were sheathed with three peculiar looking jet-black steel rings.

Zhang Xiaolin laughed and said, “I wonder if Gexia is ‘Heavenly Powerful Star’, Song Er Piaobazi [second boss]?”

The stiff-bearded man replied, “Exactly.”

Zhang Xiaolin stepped away from the door and said with a laugh, “The master of this place is waiting inside. Please.”

Leng Qiuhun already sat down in the spacious chair, his flickering long saber was pressed down on Shen Shangu’s neck, as he looked at Song Gang coldly. “Song Er Xiansheng [second mister] came at a very opportune time; Zaixia has just captured a female thief in here, if Song Er Xiansheng is interested, there is no harm in you and Zaixia interrogate her together.”

Song Gang was standing at the door; his gloomy face has already turned purple, he did not know whether to rush in, or should he refrain from rushing in.

Leng Qiuhun laughed aloud and said, “Song Er Xiansheng’s clothes must be too tight, somehow your face is turning red. Perhaps next time you should find another tailor; Zaixia might be able to recommend one for Song Er Xiansheng.”

The countenance of all Tian Xing Bang disciples already changed, showing their displeasure; screaming and yelling, they were going to rush in. But Song Gang suddenly raised his palm backward, sending the first person to rush in to fall back outside the door, while he himself unexpectedly cupped his fist and said with a forced laugh, “This … this must be a misunderstanding.”

Raising his eyebrows, Leng Qiuhun said, “Misunderstanding?”

Song Gang said, “The person currently under Leng Gongzi’s blade is Ol’ Song’s Shimei [martial (younger) sister].”

Leng Qiuhun said, “Ah … Zaixia is indeed lacking in manners. If your honorable Shimei would speak out her background earlier, how could Zaixia dare to be this rude?”

His speech was polite, but it did not look like he had the slightest intention to pull the saber pressing on Shen Shangu’s neck.

Song Gang was already unable to hide his concern and anxiety; forcing a laughter, he said, “If Xiongtai [brother (polite appellation for a friend one’s age)] is willing to return our humble Shimei to us, our humble Gang can’t thank you enough.”

Leng Qiuhun laughed aloud and said, “If there is any unusual relationship between a man and a woman, indeed it is hard to conceal.”

Finally Song Gang was unable to stop his countenance from changing. “What did you say?” he said.

Leng Qiuhun spoke unhurriedly, “Zaixia said, for the sake of your affection to your Shimei, unexpectedly Gexia forgot your Shixiong.”

Song Gang’s face turned even deeper red, almost purple. Stammering, he said, “My humble Shimei … my humble Shixiong …”

Leng Qiuhun suddenly rose up to his full height and spoke in stern voice, “Those in the light don’t speak dark words; I might as well tell you honestly, whether Zuo Youzheng is alive or dead, which course he took, our Zhu Sha Men has nothing to do with it. As for your Shimei … you are thinking of snatching her away, I am afraid it won’t be that easy.”

Clenching his fist, Song Gang spoke hoarsely, “You … what do you want?”

Leng Qiuhun said, “If you want to take this woman out alive, you have to make an oath guaranteeing Tian Xing Bang will never enter into Jinan even for one step. As for the friend on the roof, naturally you must ask him to go back together with you.”

Before he finished talking, suddenly there was a gust of wind, a shadow flew in from the left window, and flew out from the right window. The saber in Leng Qiuhun’s palm was flicked by that shadow, ‘Ding!’, it nearly flew off of his hand.

And then he saw the Central Plains One Red Dot has already perched back on the right roof.

Without even speaking, he has already given the clearest, the simplest answer that Leng Qiuhun could understand, “I want to come I will come, I want to go I will go, nobody has the ability to stop me.”

Leng Qiuhun’s countenance changed; but he immediately laughed and said, “As long as Xiongtai no longer care about Tian Xing Bang’s business, any time you want to come into the City of Jinan, our Zhu Sha Men disciples will definitely welcome you, and will send you off respectfully.”

This moment Song Gang was no longer able to restrain his anger. “Yitian Hong,” he shouted, “You killed our School’s disciple, not only I did not complain, I scolded them instead. Even toward my old man [i.e. father], I, the one surnamed Song, am not as polite as I am with you, but just now you were clearly able to rescue San Mei [third (younger) sister], yet you were unwilling to act. You … you … you …”

Yitian Hong coldly said, “I always know only how to kill, not to rescue.”

His gaze was colder than the blade. Song Gang only looked at him once, it was as if his words were stuffed back inside and blocked his throat, so that he could no longer speak it out.

After half a day, he was finally able to stammer, “Since that’s the case, why didn’t you kill him?”

Yitian Hong said, “Killing people, I never attack sneakily. You call him out, I will kill him for you.”

Leng Qiuhun laughed aloud and said, “Only before Zaixia goes out, your honorable Shimei’s head will separate from her body first.”

Song Gang hatefully stomped his feet and hissed, “All right, you win. From now on, Tian Xing Bang will not enter Jinan even for one step.”

A man like Song Gang, although his status in Jianghu was not too high, but for gangs and societies, if they still want to mingle in Jianghu, their words will be like the wind; once it was out, they could never change.

Leng Qiuhun’s countenance brightened; he laughed and said, “So be it …”

Suddenly someone chuckled and said, “Leng Xiong must not forget that Zaixia also has a part on this Miss.”

Song Gang turned around quickly, and saw the chuckling Zhang Xiaolin was walking over. His eyes seemed to spout fire as he shouted angrily, “What kind of ‘thing’ are you? Why are you so meddlesome?”

Still chuckling, Zhang Xiaolin said, “I am not a ‘thing’, I am a human.”

With a wild roar Song Gang sent out a punch, the star rings on his fingers glittered like frost and snow; to take someone’s life was as easy as a hand’s turn. But as soon as he sent out the punch, the shadow in front of him disappeared.

And then he saw Zhang Xiaolin was standing on the roof, still chuckling and said, “Zaixia has already said: if you want to fight, I am not going to accompany you.”

Song Gang was startled and angry at the same time; he beckoned Yitian Hong several times, but Yitian Hong acted as if he did not see him. Finally Song Gang could not bear anymore, he said, “Hong Xiong, you … Could it be that the time for you to kill has not arrived yet?”

Yitian Hong cast a glance toward Zhang Xiaolin, he spoke slowly, “All people in the world, I can kill. But he … Please find someone better qualified than me!” From the roof he tossed down a bundle of silver. Unexpectedly he left without even looking back.

Song Gang was agape and tongue-tied, he simply stared blankly on the spot. Not even in his dream he ever imagined that there were people that the Central Plains One Red Dot, who killed people like cutting grass, could not kill.

Zhang Xiaolin stood with his hands behind his back. His clothes fluttered in the wind, he laughed and spoke slowly, “Actually, my condition is a lot simpler than Leng Gongzi’s.”

Finally Song Gang stomped his feet and said, “What do you want? Speak up!”

Zhang Xiaolin said, “As long as you let me look at the letter that your honorable Shixiong handed to you before he left, not only will I immediately send your Shimei out of the door with respect, I will also hire a nice sedan chair for her, and light a string of firecrackers to wash the bad luck.”

Song Gang could not help but was stunned, “Your condition is just to see the letter?” he asked.

“After I look, I will immediately give it back,” Zhang Xiaolin said.

Song Gang was silent for half a day. Finally he spoke slowly, “Although I have destroyed that letter, but I have read it, and I know the content. I just don’t know what relationship does that letter have with you, and why do you insist on seeing it?”

Zhang Xiaolin happily said, “You don’t need to ask me the reason, you only need to think whether you want that sweet and pretty Shimei back in your bosom or not.”

Song Gang pondered for half a day, he also looked at the pale yet beautiful face under the lantern light. A burst of hot blood welled-up in his heart, he threw all cautions away and loudly said, “All right, I’ll tell you. Actually, nothing’s secret in that letter, it’s just …” Suddenly he roared wildly, rushed several steps forward, and fell face down on the ground.

With cry of alarm, Tian Xing Bang disciples were thrown into chaos. They saw that there seemed to be no wound on his body, but after a moment there was a trace of blood oozing out of the seventh joint of his backbone.

His countenance changed, Leng Qiuhun said, “This is the second person died because of that letter. Zhang Xiong, do you …” But when he looked up, Zhang Xiaolin, who was standing on the roof, has disappeared to God knows where.

As Song Gang roared wildly and fell to the ground, from behind the corner of the wall a shadow flashed and disappeared. Although no one else saw this, how could it escape Zhang Xiaolin’s pair of sharp eyes?

He instantly flew several zhang over and ran after it. Who would have thought that the shadow was already more than a dozen zhang away? Although everybody in the world knew that his qinggong was superior, who would have thought that this man’s qinggong was not weak either?

Two streaks of shadows, one in front the other behind, were flying high in the sky in the dry evening breeze of Jinan city, just like two kites connected together with one string.

Unexpectedly that shadow has always been able to keep some distance from Zhang Xiaolin.

In just a short moment, the two shadows had flown out of the city. In the distance water vapor rose up from the ground; they had reached the edge of Daming Lake. Under the moonlight, this famous lake seemed to have a different kind of captivating charm.

By this time Zhang Xiaolin was able to catch up with the shadow. In all the world, no matter who, his qinggong would be a tad lower than his.

Zhang Xiaolin laughed and said, “Friend, you had better halt your step; I guarantee I won’t harm a single hair of yours. But if you are thinking of jumping into the water, unavoidably you are asking for trouble.”

The man’s laughter sounded like screeching owl, he said, “Chu Liuxiang! I finally recognize who you are.”

Amidst the sound of his voice, suddenly a burst of strange purple smoke exploded, engulfing his figure, as well as swallowing Zhang Xiaolin in it.

The smoke immediately became so thick that it appeared to look like a solid object; not only Zhang Xiaolin had his eyes blinded, unexpectedly his body in the middle of the smoke could not move, as if he was paralyzed.

By the time he stopped his breath and rushed out of the smoke and reached the edge of the lake, unexpectedly that man has already disappeared, leaving only a ripple on the water, which was rising in spirals and dissipated.

As if he was in a trance Zhang Xiaolin stared at the slowly dissipating ripple, while his mouth mumbled, “Is that not the legendary Dongying [East China Sea/Japan] warrior’s mysterious ‘ren shu’ [method/technique of restraining oneself]? How come I’ve never heard that someone in Central Plains Wulin managed to master this near-sorcery skill?”

According to the old legend, ‘ren shu’ was some kind of technique to make one’s body disappear suddenly in front of the enemy. To learn this kind of mysterious martial art, one must sever fleshly desire, and completely dedicate himself to the ‘ren shu’ religious rite. The process was extremely arduous, so that no ordinary human could endure. Therefore, even within the Dongying Wulin, the ‘ren zhe’ [ninja] who knew ‘ren shu’ was oftentimes considered as demonic, mysterious character.

Although Zhang Xiaolin’s qinggong had already reached transforming boundary, although he had a way to escape the eyes and ears of the people all over the world, but his knowledge about this mysterious ‘ren shu’ was actually not much.

After staring blankly for half a day, he could not help but smiling ruefully and said, “Since this person is an expert in ‘ren shu’, plus he has that kind of qinggong, today I, Chu Liuxiang, finally met my match. Too bad until this moment I still cannot guess who he is?”

Suddenly he heard someone speaking coldly, “Chu Liuxiang, pull the sword hanging on your waist.”

The voice was hoarse and peculiar; a dark shadow appeared from the foggy edge of the lake. Surprisingly it was that ‘Central Plains One Red Dot’.

Emotionally moved, Zhang Xiaolin asked, “Why are you here?”

Yitian Hong said, “I tracked you all the way here, and only now did I finally find you. You must not disappoint me.”

Stroking his nose, Zhang Xiaolin said, “You followed me all the way here? Why?”

Yitian Hong coldly replied, “Just so I’ll have my sword embedded in your throat.”

Zhang Xiaolin was stunned, “You want to kill me?” he asked.

“Or be killed by you,” Yitian Hong replied.

Zhang Xiaolin laughed and said, “You know that I never wish to kill people, not to mention you.”

“You don’t want to kill me, then I’ll kill you,” Yitian Hong said.

Zhang Xiaolin said, “Didn’t you just said that you don’t …”

Yitian Hong cut him off, “I just did not want to kill you for other people; I want to kill you for my own sake.”

Smiling wryly, Zhang Xiaolin asked, “Why?”

Yitian Hong replied, “To be able to fight a life and death battle against Chu Liuxiang is the greatest joy of my life.”

Zhang Xiaolin shook his head, put his hands behind his back, and said with laugh, “Too bad I really don’t have any interest in fighting with you. I am really sorry.”

Yitian Hong shouted, “Even if you don’t want to fight, you simply must fight.”

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