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Fragrance in the Sea of Blood Chapter 8


Chapter 8 – Cool Breeze and Bright Moon[1]

Amidst his shout, the sword light pierced like a well-trained horse. Unexpectedly the hands behind Zhang Xiaolin’s back were not moving at all. The sword ray suddenly came to a screeching halt half a cun [1 cun is approx. 1 inch] in front of his throat.

The sword ray reflected his facial features that it looked a gloomy, bluish-green color, his Adam’s apple was also stimulated by the dense, cold sword qi that it trembled continuously, yet his expression unexpectedly did not change at all.

His nerve was really like steel.

Yitian Hong pushed the sword in his palm half a fen [1 fen is approx. 1/3 of cm, but ‘half a fen’ usually means ‘just a little bit’] forward. The tip of the sword was absolutely still. Unexpectedly his wrist was also as calm as steel.

“You think I don’t dare to kill you?” he spoke hoarsely.

The tip of the sword was only two fen away from Zhang Xiaolin’s throat, yet unexpectedly he still did not move. Smiling indifferently, he said, “Naturally it’s not that you do not dare, but you are simply unwilling.”

Yitian Hong laughed coldly and said, “I have determined to kill you, why would I be unwilling?”

Zhang Xiaolin laughed and said, “You kill me like this, what joy might you get?”

The tip of the sword suddenly trembled.

Yitian Hong’s boulder-like stable wrist unexpectedly moved, while he hissed, “You really have such self-confidence?”

Suddenly the sword was thrust out.

But Zhang Xiaolin’s body, from head to toe, did not budge even for one fen. Although the sharp blade just flitted along the skin of his neck, but this sword could have been piercing through his throat.

Although Yitian Hong’s face was still as cold as ice, the muscles on his face were starting to twitch, until finally his face was twisted strangely as he said, “You … you really don’t want to fight with me?” Unexpectedly his voice was trembling as well.

Zhang Xiaolin sighed; he said, “I’m terribly sorry.”

Yitian Hong threw his head back and let out a long laugh. “Very well!” he said. His laughter was mournful, unexpectedly he turned his sword around and pierced his own throat.

Zhang Xiaolin was really shocked with this turn of event, with a lightning move of his hand, he grabbed Yitian Hong’s sword. Yitian Hong’s wrist flashed, from beginning to end the tip of his sword never left his own throat within a distance of one cun.

Zhang Xiaolin unleashed his ‘empty-hand entering the naked sword’ skill, and did his best to snatch the sword.

Under the starlight, the sword light flickered, shadows rose and fell, in the end, the two were fighting. But in the fight that these two fought, one of them was not fighting to injure the other, but to save him. The other one did not fight to kill the opponent, but himself.

This kind of fight was truly unprecedented and never to be duplicated. It was the one and only.

In an instant they have fought for several dozen moves. Suddenly they heard, ‘Zheng!’ Unexpectedly the sound of qin [zither] came from the lake. The sound of qin was as clear as a bell, as beautiful as if it was made in heaven. Yet in the midst of it, there was also some kind of indescribable gloom and regret, just like when a country ruined and the people starving, as if the player had his heart full of grief and indignation, which was hard to dispel. Or as if he had received disgrace, was harboring a grudge, pent-up frustrations that were difficult to eliminate.

The sound of qin rose up, heaven and earth seemed to be brimming with some kind of bleak, somber and desolate feeling. The moon and the stars in the sky seemed to be dimming and lost their luster, the scenery of the famous lake also lost its color.

Zhang Xiaolin’s frame of mind was wide open, his heart was peaceful, even as he heard the qin, he did not feel anything.

But Yitian Hong had lived a life of bitterness, he was down and out in Jianghu, originally his breadth of mind was in the extreme, originally his heart was filled with depression; otherwise, how could he use murder as a way to make a living, killing as a way to find pleasure?

This moment the sound of qin entered his ears, he felt his blood was surging like waves; unexpectedly he could not control himself. Suddenly throwing his head back and let a long hiss, he turned his sword around and thrust it toward Zhang Xiaolin.

This sword strike was fast, urgent, ferocious, and ruthless. Zhang Xiaolin did not have time to think; purely by instinct he dodged the attack. Under the starlight he saw Yitian Hong’s eyes were bloodshot; unexpectedly he appeared to have gone mad.

By the time Yitian Hong’s second sword strike arrived, Zhang Xiaolin was already unable to evade. Although just now he remained calm, but this time he was facing a person, who seemed to have lost his mind, naturally the situation was very different.

The sound of qin was getting more and more urgent, Yitian Hong’s sword light was also getting more and more urgent; unexpectedly his entire person seemed to have been completely under the qin’s control, no longer under his own.

Zhang Xiaolin could not help feeling greatly frightened; he was not afraid that Yitian Hong would harm him at all, rather, he knew that if this situation continued, Yitian Hong would inevitably injure himself.

The rapidly moving sword weaved a curtain of sword light in front of Zhang Xiaolin’s eyes. This frantic sword light was also something that not anybody in the world would be able to curb.

Zhang Xiaolin suddenly shouted loudly, “Do you dare coming with me into the water?” His voice was still ringing in the ears, he already soared up and somersaulted, and plunged into the lake.

Without the slightest hesitation Yitian Hong followed.

But underwater was completely different from on land, the sword in Yitian Hong’s palm stabbed out, it merely stirred up a splash, which would be difficult to injure anybody.

In the water, Zhang Xiaolin was like the dragon [orig. legendary horned-dragon with the ability to control rain and floods] returning to the sea; like a swimming fish he flashed and twisted, and he pinched Yitian Hong’s wrist, sealing his acupoint, and throwing him onto the shore. Laughing, he said, “Hong Xiong, Hong Xiong, although this moment you suffered a bit of hardships, but it’s always better than going crazy or dying.” And then with an abrupt turn he leaped into the water again, and swam toward the sound of qin.

In the hazy fog, unexpectedly there was a solitary boat floating on the water.

Sitting cross-legged on the solitary boat was a young monk dressed in moon-white colored monk robe, playing a qin. Under the illumination of moon and the stars, his eyes looked as bright as the stars, his lips red, his teeth white, his facial features fair like a young woman, but his expression warm and cultured, filled with elegance, free and easy, unlike anything that the women of the world could compare.

His whole body, from top to bottom, appeared untainted by even a speck of dust; unexpectedly he appeared like the cloud from the Ninth Heaven blowing down to the mortal world. Even if Tang Seng[2] was alive, Xuanzang was reborn, perhaps he would be no more than this.

Chu Liuxiang cast him a couple of glances. Knitting his brows, he smiled wryly and said, “Turns out it is him; I should have thought about it, in all the world, aside from him, who else could produce such qin sound … He plays the qin under the moonlight, it is quite elegant and stylist, but he didn’t know how much hurt and sufferings he brought to me.”

He dove toward the side of the boat before his head appeared out of the water and said, “Could it be that in Dashi’s [great master, term of respect to address Buddhist monks] heart, there is some difficulties?”

The plinking sound of the qin suddenly stopped; although the monk was also startled, but his demeanor remained calm. With his cold eyes he looked, and a smile spread out across his face. He said, “Every time Chu Xiong meet pinseng [impoverished monk, a humble term used by monk to refer to self], is it a requirement that you have to be dripping wet?”

This young monk was precisely the world-famous ‘Wonder Monk’ Wuhua [lit. no flower]. The other day the was going boating on the ocean, and was also scared by Chu Liuxiang who suddenly appeared from the water.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Did Dashi happen to see two people?”

Wuhua asked, “But I don’t know which two people, and which two characters?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “The first is that ‘killing people without shedding blood, one red dot under the sword’.”

Wuhua frowned slightly; suddenly he picked the seven-stringed qin in front of him and tossed it into the water.

Chu Liuxiang was surprised, “That qin must be a lot more valuable than my mask, why did you throw it into the lake?” he asked.

Wuhua replied, “You mentioned that person’s name here, this qin became infected by the reek of blood; it could no longer produce an ethereal sound.” Finished speaking, he washed his hands in the lake water, took out a spotlessly-white-like-snow silk neckband to wipe the droplets dry.

“Do you think this lake water is clean?” he asked, “Perhaps inside there are …”

Wuhua hurriedly cut him off by saying, “People can make water dirty, but water cannot make people filthy. It rushes to and fro, its nature is dust-free.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed; he said, “No wonder you wanted to be a monk. People like you, if you did not leave home [to become a Buddhist monk or nun], I am afraid you can’t even survive one day in the vulgar, mundane world.”

Wuhua chuckled indifferently and asked, “And the second person?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed bitterly and said, “This second person, although he recognizes me, I don’t recognize him. I only know his qinggong is out of the ordinary, his secret projectile sinister, and he knows ‘ren shu’.”

Wuhua was slightly moved, “’Ren shu’?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “You have always been extremely knowledgeable; you might know, has ‘ren shu’ entered the Central Earth?”

Wuhua pondered quietly for half a day. Finally he spoke slowly, “First-class ‘ren shu’ was passed on from Yihe, from the main island of Dongying; it could also be considered some kind of extremely mysterious martial art. But in pinseng’s opinion, your remarkable ability not only can be considered ‘different tunes played with equal skill’ with ‘ren shu’, it also surpassed it.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You flattered me like that, clearly the next time we play chess, you want me to intentionally lose to you several rounds?”

With a grim expression Wuhua said, “Dongying’s martial arts originated from our country during the Tang dynasty, it’s just that they added and altered it somewhat; nothing more. Dongying Wulin’s most famous figure Liu Shengliu’s ‘Yi Dao Liu Deng Zongpai’ [lit. one blade flowing once school/sect] for the most part paying particular attention to ‘using stillness to control movement, moving later to control the opponent’. Isn’t that similar to the essence of our country’s martial art? As for their sword technique being ruthless and concise, it is also similar to the root of the saber technique that was prevalent during the Tang dynasty; they are virtually the same.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “You are indeed extremely knowledgeable, but that ren shu …”

Wuhua said, “Ren shu, these two characters, although sound mysterious, it is actually no more than qinggong, secret projectile, knockout drugs, as well as the art of disguise, mixed together. It’s just that by their nature they are the best in imitating and copying, plus some kind of martyrdom spirit, which is unfathomable mystery. After learning things from our country, not only it can be said to master it, but also embellish [orig. add washes of ink or color to a drawing] to the brink of myth.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I just want to ask you, after going through their embellishment, and becoming martial art skill like ‘ren shu’, has it flowed into the Central Earth? Has anybody mastered it?”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Wuhua said, “It is said that twenty years ago, there was one ‘Yihe’ ninja crossing the ocean and came here; not only that, he even stayed in the Minnan [southern Fujian] area for three years. If there is any person from Central Earth Wulin who can master ren shu, presumably he must have learned it within that three years from him. Moreover, presumably he must be a figure from Minnan Wulin.”

Knitting his brows, Chu Liuxiang said, “Minnan …? Could it be that he is from Chen and Lin, two major Wulin families?”

Frowning, Wuhua said with a laugh, “Such a fine evening, yet you and I are talking about some worldly affairs, aren’t you afraid of disappointing the cool breeze and the bright moon?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I am a layman; especially at this moment. Other than these worldly affairs, I have completely no interest in anything else.”

He suddenly stood up, laughed aloud and said, “If you want to discuss Zen [meditation (Buddhism)] or play chess, after my business is done, I may look for you. And I guarantee that my body will be dry.” Amidst his laughter, he leaped back into the water, without creating the slightest splash of water.

Wuhua laughed and said, “Discussing Zen and playing chess is an appointment, you must never forget it.”

Chu Liuxiang’s head appeared on the surface; he laughed loudly and said, “Whoever forgets his appointment with Wuhua, that person must be an idiot.”

Wuhua followed him swimming away like a fish with his eyes; he smiled and said, “Able to make acquaintance with this person, whether as a friend or a foe, can be regarded as a pleasure.”

Chu Liuxiang swam back to the shore; picking up Yitian Hong, he looked for a tall tree, and put him on the branches, making sure that his position was stable. And then he leaped back onto the ground, waved his hand, and said with a laugh, “We must part here. In less than half a sichen, you will wake up. I know that you won’t want me to see you as you wake up in such an embarrassing situation.”

He swaggered back into the city. Along the way he repeatedly thought deeply, only to feel that in this matter so far, everything was a jumbled mess, without any clue that he could get hold of.

He decided not to think about it for the time being, to give his brains a chance to rest well.

A human’s mind is a fairly strange thing; you don’t use it for a long time, it will rust, but if you use it too much, it will become numb.

As he entered the city, the light of the dawn has already appeared, the streets already had pedestrians, albeit still sparse.

Chu Liuxiang’s clothes was already dry; after three turns and two bends, unexpectedly he had already reached the Hall of Delight. Song Gang’s dead body has already been removed. Shen Shangu and the Tian Xing Bang disciples had all left.

Several big men dressed in black were just cleaning up; seeing Chu Liuxiang, one after another they shouted, “This moment the gambling tables are not open yet, why don’t you come back in the evening? Why are you so anxious?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I am looking for Leng Qiuhun.”

The big man angrily said, “What ‘thing’ do you think you are? How dare you call Leng Gongzi’s name straight out?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I am not any kind of ‘thing’, just Leng Qiuhun’s Xiongdi.”

The several big men cast a glance, put down their brooms and buckets, and hurriedly rushed inside.

Half a day later, Leng Qiuhun waltzed out. Although he appeared to have lack of sleep, his eyes were still bright and spirited; he looked at Chu Liuxiang up and down several times, and spoke coldly, “Who are you, Sire? Ol’ Leng does not remember having any Xiongdi with Sire’s appearance.”

Chu Liuxiang deliberately looked around, and lowering his voice, he said, “Zaixia is Zhang Xiaolin; to evade others’ eyes and ears, I deliberately put on a disguise like this.”

Leng Qiuhun stared blankly for a moment. Suddenly he pulled his hand and laughed aloud and said, “Turns out it’s Zhao [sic] Er Ge [second older brother]; Xiongdi really deserves to die, unexpectedly I forgot Er Ge’s appearance.”

Chu Liuxiang was secretly amused; he was pulled into an exquisite bedroom, where from under an embroidered quilt a piece of woman’s disheveled bun was seen, from where a piece of emerald jade hairpin had fallen next to the pillow.

Unexpectedly Leng Qiuhun pulled the quilt open and spoke coldly, “The matter is over, you haven’t left yet?”

The woman whimpered tenderly while putting on her clothes, and tottered out of the room.

Only then did Leng Qiuhun sit down. Looking at Chu Liuxiang, he said, “I never thought Xiongtai’s disguising technique is extremely exquisite.”

Chu Liuxiang stroked his nose and said with a laugh, “Leng Xiong could not see through it?”

Leng Qiuhun said, “After wearing disguise, of course it did not look as natural as before. If Xiongtai disguise yourself a bit uglier, it would not be easy to see through. This way … this way inevitably will attract attention too much.”

Chu Liuxiang almost burst from refraining from laughing, but on the mouth he sighed and said, “It was late at night and I was in a hurry; although it was not the best, I just had to put up with it.”

Leng Qiuhun took a couple more glances, and then said, “It’s not too bad actually, perhaps if the nose is a bit lower, the eyes are a bit smaller, it would do.”

Struggling hard not to laugh, Chu Liuxiang said, “Yes, yes, next time it will be fixed.”

Looking around, he asked, “Where is Shen Shangu?”

Leng Qiuhun smiled slightly and said, “Zaixia is unwilling to step in Xiongtai’s trailing dust [fig. somebody’s footsteps], naturally I had to let her go. Although Tian Xing Bang’s talents have been dwindling, overall it is still considered a famous gang, I am not willing to tie too deep of an enmity with them.”

“In that case,” Chu Liuxiang said, “I wonder if Xiongtai could send your men to track Wulin people’s whereabouts within the city of Jinan?”

Leng Qiuhun replied, “I have already sent people to carefully search, and those ‘Five Demons’ [referring to five chief demons of folklore personifying pestilence] are not in the city at all. Apart from this, although there are several figures whose names are not small, they have nothing to do with us.”

“Who are they?” Chu Liuxiang casually asked.

Leng Qiuhun replied, “The man’s attire is strange, his sword narrow, looks like he is from Hainan Jian Pai. From his expression, he seems to be a martial art master; it may be assumed that if he is not Lingjiu Zi, then he must be Tianying Zi.”

Chu Liuxiang sprang up and said, “Could he be Tianying Zi? Where is he now?”

Leng Qiuhun was surprised, “Why is Xiongtai so keyed up?”

“Don’t ask now, tell me quickly where he is,” Chu Liuxiang replied, “Any delay, I am afraid it might be too late.”

Leng Qiuhun replied, “He is not at Gua Shan Daoguan [Daoist temple], but he is staying at the Yingbin Lou in southern part of the city. Why is Xiongtai so anxious to find him?”

He had not finished speaking, Chu Liuxiang already rushed out in large strides, while muttering to himself, “I hope I am not too late; I hope he won’t be the third person who die because of that letter.”

The Yingbin [lit. welcoming the guest] Lou [building with more than one story] was extremely big, with a lot of guests, but Tianying Zi was the only guest who had left home [to become monk/priest], and he occupied a tiny lateral court facing the sun.

Only at this time he had gone out.

After inquiring clearly, Chu Liuxiang took two turns, and quickly broke away from the shop clerk, who was staring at him like he was watching a thief. The shop clerk only saw the person in front of his eyes suddenly disappeared, and thought that he had encountered a fox spirit; immediately he fell prostrate on the ground to kowtow. Meanwhile Chu Liuxiang already reached the lateral court, and using a copper wire, he opened the door lock.

Although Tianying Zi’s prestige was not small, he did not bring too many luggage, only a bundle of yellow cloth. Inside the bundle was a set of clean undergarments, two socks, and a roll of silk sutras.

This roll of sutras was wrapped inside the undergarment, and was tied using silk yarn; evidently Tianying Zi considered this object as very precious. “Could it be that the mysterious letter is hidden in the sutra?” Chu Liuxiang wondered inwardly.

By this time Chu Liuxiang already realized that the letter must have an extremely deep relation with the matter he was investigating, perhaps it was even the key to solve this whole secret, otherwise, there would not be that many people died because of the letter.

Chu Liuxiang untied the silk thread, and sure enough, a letter fell from the sutra.

Overjoyed, the picked up the letter to take a look. Written on a piece of pink paper were two rows of graceful characters; unexpectedly it appeared to be a woman’s handwriting.

The letter read:

Returned to the Lord is his pearl, thanking the Lord for his ever measure.

Bestowed to the Lord by means of Hui Jian [lit. intelligent sword], hoping the Lord would sever the yearning. [Translator’s note: apology for the inaccuracy, this passage is beyond my ability.]

The letter’s creases were very deep, it appeared to have been read over and over again, but was still kept neatly and in whole; it was thus clear that the recipient deeply treasured the letter.

Although it was written tactfully, it was obvious that the writer wanted the recipient to cut off the emotion, and no longer thought about her. If it were written in a clear-cut manner, it would be something like this: ‘I don’t love you, and I don’t want you to be carried away by your wishful thinking about me.’

Naturally this letter was addressed to Tianying Zi. The signature at the end of the letter only says ‘Ling Su’, two small characters. It may be assumed that this was the woman’s maiden name.

Chu Liuxiang sighed inwardly and pondered, “Apparently before he left home, this Tianying Zi has had his heart broken, perhaps it was precisely because of this that he left home. Until today he still keeps this heartless letter by his side, he is indeed a passionate guy.”

Inadvertently he had pried into other people’s private business, inwardly he felt very bad. In the end he still did not find the mysterious letter, and could not help feeling very disappointed.

The bundle was returned to its original state, no one would be able to see that it had been moved.

Walking back to the street, Chu Liuxiang muttered to himself, “Where could Tianying Zi go? He traveled for thousands of li presumably also in order to track down his Shixiong [martial brother] Lingjiu Zi. Since he has arrived in Jinan, naturally he must have come to Zhusha Men to inquire.”

At this thought, he immediately stopped his horse and galloped back toward the Hall of Delight.

Unexpectedly Leng Qiuhun was standing outside the door, as if he had just sent a guest off. Seeing Chu Liuxiang, he laughed and said, “You are still one step too late.”

Chu Liuxiang urgently asked, “Was it Tianying Zi?”

Leng Qiuhun laughed and said, “It was. You went to look for him, but he came to look for me. Strange thing is, Hainan Jian Pai unexpectedly also has someone missing. Even more strange, he did not look for others to inquire, but he came looking for me. Hainan and Jinan are thousands of li apart, someone from Hainan Jian Pai went missing, how could Zhusha Men know his whereabouts?”

Chu Liuxiang asked, “After he left, do you happen to know where he is going?”

“Back to Yingbin Lou of course,” Leng Qiuhun replied, “I have agreed with him that before noon today I am going to pay a return visit.”

Without waiting for him to finish, Chu Liuxiang already disappeared without any shadow.

This time he was ‘driving a lightweight chariot on a familiar road’ [idiom: doing a familiar thing], he rushed straight toward the lateral court. The window of the room has already been raised, a withered and thin Taoist, with his black hair rolled up and pinned in a bun on top of his head, was sitting by the window, steeping tea.

Perhaps he was thinking about the load on his mind, but the tea in the teapot had not been poured out yet, unexpectedly he was unaware that he was still holding the teapot in is hand in an upright position.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Chu Liuxiang muttered to himself, “Finally I came in time. This time, no matter what, I am not going to let anybody killing him in front of my eyes.”

Finished speaking, he cupped his fist to salute and called out, “Is it Tianying Daozhang [Taoist priest] inside the house?”

Tianying Zi seemed to be in trance, unexpectedly he did not hear such a loud voice.

Snickering, Chu Liuxiang mused, “Could it be that this passionate Taoist is thinking about that Lingsu?”

Walking over to the window in large strides, he said, “Zaixia came here only to talk about your honorable Shixiong …”

Before he finished, he suddenly discovered that the teapot was not without tea, but it has been drained, the tea flowed over the table, and spread over his body.

Chu Liuxiang’s mind traveled at the speed of light, he reached out to tap his shoulder. Who would have imagined that unexpectedly he fell straight down? Even after he was on the ground, his legs were still bent in a sitting posture.

Chu Liuxiang was greatly shocked. He flew into the room. Tianying Zi’s four limbs were already ice-cold, his breathing stopped, a trace of blood came out of his chest. Unexpectedly his acupoint was sealed first before a sword pierced his chest and killed him.

Apparently this famous swordsman, whose name filled Hainan, had been killed without he knowing it. The person who killed him put his sword through his chest in such a way that even the teapot in his hand was not shaken.

It was such an astonishing skill.

[1] Chapter title: figuratively, it means living a solitary and quiet life.

[2] Tang Seng, Xuanzang (602-664) Tang dynasty Buddhist monk and translator, who traveled to India 629-645.

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