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The Thrush Chapter 23


Going One’s Own Way[1]

Chu Liuxiang laughed, but immediately frowned and said, “Those several loathsome people that Qianbei mentioned, could it be that they are …”

Dai Duxing said, “It’s those few people who stay in the courtyard next to yours, it was to track them down that Lao xiu came here, but I did not expect to meet Xiang Shuai here.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “So, Wanbei should be grateful to them. But I wonder what they have done that they manage to toil Qianbei’s great self?”

Dai Duxing chuckled and said, “Old men are most afraid of loneliness, because they are always afraid that Yan Wang [the King of Hell] would take advantage of the time when there’s nobody around to come and grab them away. I, this old man, am not an exception, hence the reason I meddle in other people’s business all day long.”

His countenance sank, he continued, “Although those few men are Jianghu’s no-name pawn [a nobody], but recently they have done something very hateful. I, this old man, have vowed to take their lives.”

What exactly was the hateful matter? Chu Liuxiang definitely did not ask more questions. Chu Liuxiang has never liked to talk too much.

Dai Duxing said, “Now that Lao xiu has found them, yet I still have not made my move, Xiang Shuai must have felt a little strange.”

“Precisely,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Dai Duxing heaved a sigh, he said, “It’s just because they seem to have been bewitched by ghosts; other places they did not flee, unexpectedly they fled to this place. You ought to know that it’s not appropriate to kill people around here.”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right, Wanbei has also heard that ‘Shui Mu’ Yin Ji will definitely not let people to kill within a hundred li of the Shen Shui Gong. If anyone violates her prohibition, she will definitely take their life …”

Dai Duxing chuckled again, he said, “It’s not that Lao xiu is afraid of her, it’s just that good men don’t fight with women. I have lived until this old, why would I want to have a grudge against women?”

This old man really had ginger cassia character, the older he got, the spicier he was, definitely did not want to bow his head to anybody, he did not want to lose in front of others even more.

Although Chu Liuxiang felt a little amused inwardly, he could only agree; he said, “Qianbei is right; having a grudge against women, the one having the bad luck will always be the men.”

Dai Duxing laughed and said, “Lao xiu has long wanted to drink a couple of cups with Xiang Shuai, only too bad a beggar can never ascend the elegant hall, so I have no choice but to borrow this place temporarily. I only hope that when Mr. Shallow [uneducated] comes tomorrow, he won’t be drunk by the fume of the wine we leave behind.”

Chu Liuxiang held back his laughter, he said, “I wonder if Qianbei prepared dog meat? Wanbei don’t eat dog meat.”

Patting his shoulder, Dai Duxing roared in laughter and said, “I think perhaps you have also been poisoned by those storytellers who talk about when beggars eat, there must be a pot of dog meat simmering on the side. The fact is, not all beggars eat dog meat.”

The lit candle was half burnt, the wine jar under the table has been opened, and there were packets of braised dishes wrapped in oil paper on the table; it looked like Dai Duxing has indeed made ample preparation to entertain the guest.

But just a few days ago, he did not even want to meet Chu Liuxiang, why did he suddenly change this time? What happened in the past few days that made him change his mind?

Chu Liuxiang suddenly realized that he did not meet him by chance, he must have something that led him to look for Chu Liuxiang, moreover, it must be a very important matter.

After drinking a few cups, Chu Liuxiang suddenly laughed and said, “I wonder if Qianbei already knew that the ‘Shen Shui Gong’ is looking for Wanbei to give me trouble, and has calculated accurately that Wanbei would definitely come here, therefore, you have been waiting here for a long time, ready to offer Wanbei a helping hand?”

Dai Duxing was stunned, he raised his cup and laughed heartily; he said “Lao xiu often hears people say: Chu Liuxiang has cast iron guts, but crystal heart. This saying is indeed not wrong, indeed that in everything, I can forget about concealing it from you.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Your honorable Gang’s information is indeed fast and abundant, Qianbei‘s upholding justice makes people grateful even more, but this matter …”

Dai Duxing hurriedly said, “Lao xiu also knows that this matter cannot be taken care of by others, in fact, it is simply cannot be taken care of, period. This time I only wanted to report a piece of information to Xiang Shuai just to repay Xiang Shuai‘s one in ten-thousand kindness to our gang.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Qianbei is exaggerating.”

Dai Duxing said, “What Lao xiu wanted to say is also related to the unworthy renegade disciple of our humble Gang, NanGong Ling.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Wuhua?”

Dai Duxing slammed the wine cup heavily on the table, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “That’s right, Wuhua, this person is outside our party, but he did not follow the rules, unexpectedly he seduced the clear-as-ice-and-clean-as-jade [idiom: incorruptible] little Guniang of the Shen Shui Gong and turned her into an adulterer, as well as framing her so that she died. This matter, presumably Xiang Shuai have heard?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “But Wanbei has never spread this matter, how did Qianbei find out about it?”

Dai Duxing sighed and said, “Xiang Shuai praises the virtue while concealing their faults, unwilling to reveal people’s private business, this kind of morality and conduct is indeed respectable; who would have thought that heaven’s net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it [idiom, from Laozi], no matter how secret someone’s conduct is, sooner or later, others will find out.”

He sighed and continued, “Although NanGong Ling was guilty of terrible crimes [idiom], after the person is dead, once the main problem is solved, all troubles are solved [idiom: death ends all one’s troubles]. Our humble Gang’s several Zhanglao [elders] passed a resolution, his remains was still going to buried with the ceremony of the Bangzhu [gang master]. This … this is naturally because they also felt that family scandal must not be announced publicly. The secret trouble within it, presumably Xiang Shuai also understand.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Yes.”

Dai Duxing said, “Our Gang’s disciples examined the belongings that NanGong Ling left behind, when they were about to bury him, they found that there was a very elegant antique wooden fish among his belongings.”

Chu Liuxiang slightly knitted his brows, he said, “Wooden fish?” [Note: percussion instrument used in Zen monasteries to keep the beat during the chanting of the liturgy.]

Dai Duxing said, “It’s the wooden fish that those who had left homes [to become Buddhist monk/nun or Taoist priest] use when reciting sutras. Our humble Gang’s disciples neither worship Buddha nor recite sutras, how could he leave behind a wooden fish? Thereupon everyone thought that this wooden fish must be left there by Wuhua for safekeeping.”

Nodding his head, Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right.”

Dai Duxing said, “We all recalled how in all his life NanGong Ling was harmed by this evil monk Wuhua, inevitably we felt grief and indignation …”

He added sadly, “It should be noted when he was little, NanGong Ling was a well-behaved child whose virtue exceeded people’s expectations, our Gang’s Zhanglao all have very deep affection for him.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a sigh and nodded, he mused inwardly, “One’s own child doing something wrong, parents must think that someone else is leading him astray. This is human nature.”

He heard Dai Duxing continued, “Among them, Wang Zhanglao was the most emotionally moved, unexpectedly he could not help grabbing the wooden fish and slammed it to the ground. Who would have thought that after the wooden fish was shattered, unexpectedly there was a book [lit. paper book, a booklet] inside?”

Emotionally moved, Chu Liuxiang said, “A book? What is written on it?”

Dai Duxing said, “This book has been concealed so secretly, what’s written on it, if not some martial arts xinfa [lit. heart method, core technique], then it must be a great secret. Lao xiu and the others are not people who like to expose other people’s private business, originally we wanted burn it, but Wang Zhanglao thought that the secret within it might be related to the Beggar Gang, thereupon he insisted on taking a look.”

It should be noted that the Beggar Gang disciples have always regarded themselves as on the right way, and prying on other people’s secret note and private records are really not a straightforward and upright thing to do. Hence the reason Dai Duxing said so many things to explain. Naturally Chu Liuxiang could only nod to agree.

Dai Duxing downed a cup of wine and continued, “This book indeed contains the secret of Wuhua’s life. Lao xiu really can’t understand why he wanted to record these matters that could make him losing face.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Although Qianbei thinks that these matters could make him losing face, Wuhua might feel that those were things that he was proud of. Since he could not speak out about it, he could only write it down one by one, to find some consolation.”

Dai Duxing also chuckled and said, “Xiang Shuai has indeed thoroughly studied the mentality of these wicked people. No wonder no matter how cunning those people are, once they meet Xiang Shuai, they cannot cover their traces.”

Chu Liuxiang had no choice but to half rise out of his chair [a polite gesture] to modestly thank him, but he asked, “Among the secrets that Wuhua recorded in the book, I wonder if there is anything related to the ‘Shen Shui Gong’?”

Dai Duxing said, “Precisely because of this that Lao xiu made a special trip to report to Xiang Shuai.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I don’t dare …”

He pondered and said, “Did Qianbei mean to lend his secret book to the Wanbei to review?”

Dai Duxing also muttered to himself irresolutely, he spoke slowly, “Lao xiu originally had that thought, but … but Wuhua was known as the ‘Miao Seng’ [Wonder Monk], some famous and influential families for generations in Jianghu were proud to have him as a guest, so … so in his secret book, he recorded not a few private businesses of other people’s thousand-jin [catty (of gold), i.e. daughter] in their lady’s chamber, if some were leaked out, I don’t know how many good families in Jianghu are going to be torn apart, and how many good women are going to die with shame, therefore, Lao xiu have already burned that dirty thing.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Might as well be burned.”

Dai Duxing said, “But the record concerning the ‘Shen Shui Gong’, Lao xiu already committed to memory, because he may be the only man who ever entered the Shen Shui Gong, so his records are naturally extremely precious.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Wanbei would like to hear the details.”

Dai Duxing sighed and said, “He was indeed an extremely intelligent person, not only he was wonderful in explaining music, calligraphy and painting, he was also good at preaching. Even Shen Shui Gong Yin Gongzhu [palace master] had heard his great name, and Yin Gongzhu was a very sincere person in Buddhist teaching.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “This fact, Wanbei has also heard people mentioning it.”

Dai Duxing said, “Shen Shui Gongzhu summoned him to speak, Wuhua not only felt honored, but also it was exactly what he wanted, because he has had his thought on that ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’ [Heavenly One Divine Water].”

Chu Liuxiang said, “To put someone to death, and not any signs of poisoning can be seen after he died, other than the ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’, there really is nothing in the world.”

Dai Duxing said, “But although he entered the Shen Shui Gong, there was still no opportunity that he could exploit, just because Yin Gongzhu’s restriction to her disciples is very strict, he practically had no chance to talk to those Guniang.”

“Oh?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Dai Duxing said, “Moreover, Yin Gongzhu did not let him stay in Shen Shui Gong, only every day from noon, he was invited to expound Buddhist teachings for one sichen, and immediately after speaking, someone would see him off out of the valley, he could not stay one moment even if he wanted to.”

Chu Liuxiang pondered, “The person who saw him off, who was it?”

Dai Duxing said, “Those who picked him up and send him out were four female Shen Shui Gong’s disciples, these four people were keeping a close watch over each other. It could be said that there was practically no opportunity to be exploited, even he himself thought that he had no hope. Who would have thought that one day, he suddenly discovered that unexpectedly one of the four Guniang was secretly smiling at him.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed, “This Guniang must be Situ Jing.”

“That’s right,” Dai Zhuxing said, “Only at that time he did not know the name Situ Jing. He only felt that there seemed to be an affectionate feeling in the Guniang’s eyes, as if she had some interest toward him, but there was still no opportunity for the two to speak.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “For someone like Wuhua, flirting did not need speaking.”

Dai Zhuxing said, “But without an opportunity, he still could not make his move.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Someone like him, naturally he could create opportunities himself.”

Dai Duxing spoke hatefully, “Exactly right!”

He went on, “According to his notes, Shen Shui Gong is a valley. The valley is full of flourishing blossoms like brocade, just like the Peach Garden. Hidden from view among the forest trees were dots of pavilions and buildings in the valley, which were the residences of the female disciples of Shen Shui Gong.”

Chu Liuxiang mused inwardly, “Rong’er is not wrong, but what Liu Wumei said, what exactly is going on?”

Dai Duxing said, “There was a waterfall in the valley, its momentum was like a flying dragon. Under the waterfall there is a pool like a mirror, there is a big rock in the middle of the pool, and that is where Wuhua spoke.”

He continued, “As soon as Wuhua entered the valley, he sat on this big rock and taught the Dharma. Finished speaking, he simply left. After careful planning, he felt that this big rock was his only way to do the trick.”

Chu Liuxiang could not help but ask, “What trick?”

Dai Duxing said, “This big rock is flat and smooth like a mirror. One day upon entering the valley he deliberately stepped on the moss and mud. As soon as he stepped on the rock, he slipped down.”

He hatefully continued, “Everyone knows that Wuhua was Shaolin’s distinguished disciple [lit. high foot]. If you say that he could not apply his power to stand steadily, naturally other people would not believe it, but if the soles of his shoes had moss and mud, it would be hard to say, not to mention that he deliberately changed his shenfa a few times before falling into the water. This man was so brilliant that even Yin Gongzhu was deceived.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled wryly and mused inwardly, “Wasn’t I also deceived by him many times? If anybody can deceive me, I’m afraid there will be very few people that he can’t deceived.”

He heard Dai Duxing continuing, “Since he was soaked all over, naturally it was difficult for him to expound Buddhist teachings with peace of mind, naturally he had to dry his clothes over a stove first. No one could say that his request was unreasonable, even Yin Gongzhu had no way to refuse, therefore, she called someone to take him to a small temple at the foot of the mountain, even built a fire for him to dry his clothes.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Drying the clothes over a fire, it would take at least half a sichen, and half a sichen is enough to do a lot of things.”

Dai Duxing said, “He thought that the Guniang who smiled at him, Situ Jing, would definitely take this opportunity to be alone with him, who would have thought that it was actually two other Guniang who took him to the temple, and after building the fire, they immediately withdrew. They even closed all the doors and windows of the small temple tightly.”

Chu Liuxiang was a bit bewildered as well, he said, “In that case, wouldn’t it be impossible for Wuhua to put his plan into effect?”

Dai Duxing said, “Precisely when he was feeling anxious that unexpectedly Situ Guniang suddenly came out from behind the curtain of the idol, not only that, she even voluntarily devoted herself to him [euphemism of giving her virginity to him]. This change, according to his notes, even he himself was surprised.”

Chu Liuxiang was also emotionally moved, he muttered, “That Situ Guniang came out from behind the curtain of the idol? In that case, there must be a secret passage in that small temple … I wonder if every building in Shen Shui Gong have a secret passage? I wonder if every secret passage leads to ‘Shui Mu’ Yin Ji’s residence? So much so that there is also a secret passage reaches far into the Puti An where Liu Wumei was?”

Although Dai Duxing did not understand what he was talking about, he did not ask any questions. He just continued, “According to him, Situ Jing was one of the most trusted disciples of Yin Gongzhu. After being intimate with him one time, she was dead set on him, he just said that he wanted to see [gain first-hand knowledge] of the ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’, Situ Jing immediately stole a bottle for him, and secretly gave it to him when he was in the valley two days later.”

Chu Liuxiang spoke in amazement, “Unexpectedly it was that easy?”

Dai Duxing said, “He himself had never thought that it would be that easy, because, although the disciples of ‘Shen Shui Gong’ were as beautiful as peaches and plums, but they were as cold as ice and frost, and he never thought that Situ Jing would unexpectedly voluntarily give herself to him, unexpectedly she seemed to be even more frivolous than a slut and dissolute girl.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Not only that, but she could steal a whole bottle of ‘Tian Yi Shen Shui’ in just a day or two. Naturally, as the favored disciple of ‘Shui Mu’ Yin Ji, she was doted on and trusted by Shui Mu. Naturally she was not usually a frivolous and lascivious person, so how could she change completely upon seeing Wuhua?”

Dai Duxing sighed and said, “I’m afraid this is what Buddhism said about the ill-fated relationship.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “From the disciple’s point of view, I’m afraid there were still other hidden secrets involved in this matter.”

Dai Duxing said, “Whether there were other hidden secrets or not, this matter is, after all, happened the past, Lao xiu brings up the old topic again today, just to let Xiang Shuai have a little bit more understanding of Shen Shui Gong‘s situation.”

He chuckled and went on, “Since that private note was written by Wuhua for himself, the thoughts recorded must be the truth. Therefore, according to Lao xiu’s guess, perhaps Yin Gongzhu’s dwelling place is at the bottom of the mountainside, and it must be near the pool, so that when Wuhua was teaching the scriptures, she could hear it.”

Right this moment, both men suddenly stood up, because they heard the sound of sleeves outside, followed by someone laughing and saying, “There are wine and dishes, yet I was not invited, inevitably Dai Lao Qianbei is favoring this and looking down on that, right?”

Breaking through the window and coming in amidst the laughter, naturally it was Hu Tiehua. But he also felt that now it was not the time to drink, because he was in a hurry to speak.

Finished listening to him narrating what had just happened, Chu Liuxiang could not help starting to stroke his nose again. Either when he was very pleased or very displeased, he could not help stroking his nose.

Hu Tiehua said, “You don’t need to stroke your nose, and you don’t need to worry about Rongrong, she is much more capable than you think.”

Chu Liuxiang pondered, “Listening to you, the six men who died could not be considered the first-class characters in Jianghu, they merely made a big business transaction every now and then.”

Dai Duxing hurriedly said, “That’s right, those six men were not first-class martial art masters at all, Lao xiu did not come to follow their trace at all, I just ran into them here.

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “Such characters naturally are not worthy to toil Qianbei’s great self. No need for Qianbei to explain, we could see it.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In that case, Gong Nanyan is coming out of the valley this time, definitely not to deal with them, it’s just that those six men’s fate was unfavorable that they happened to bump into her.”

Dai Duxing said, “How can you be sure?”

Hu Tiehua roared in laughter and said, “Hearing the singing to a string accompaniment [education (a reference to teaching the people Confucian values by means of song in ancient times)], knowing the delicate interest and charm [your valued advice]; could it be that Qianbei still could not hear his overtone?”

Dai Duxing smiled. Hu Tiehua continued, “Gong Nanyan was the person who looked for Chu Liuxiang last time. Since Yin Ji sent her to look for the grand Chu Xiang Shuai, it can clearly be seen that she must be the character reckoned to be first or second best in ‘Shen Shui Gong’, yet those six men were no more than just no-name-pawn in Jianghu, they were not worthy to toil her great self.”

Chu Liuxiang glowered at him, he said, “I found out that you talk too much today, but drink too little wine.”

Dai Duxing said, “But what you said is not wrong. The person that ‘Shen Shui Gong’ sent out to find Chu Xiang Shuai, her status in Shen Shui Gong must be very high, definitely will not make a special trip out of the valley for those six men.”

Hu Tiehua said, “So, Gong Nanyan went out of the valley this time, is to deal with Chu Liuxiang? But how did they know that Chu Liuxiang is here?”

Chu Liuxiang pondered, but Dai Duxing had already put all the wine and dishes on the table into his bundle, he even fanned out the candle, and spoke heavily, “A lone light in the dark night is indeed too eye-catching. Since Hu Xiong can find this place, others can also find it. We’d better go someplace else to drink.”

Chu Liuxiang had just turned around and walked toward the door, suddenly he stopped. It was only half a day later that Hu Tiehua, who was standing by the window, saw two figures swept over in the darkness of the night. These two figures were unusually light and quick, especially the comparatively shorter one on the left. Chu Liuxiang and Dai Duxing were both first-class experts, in just one glace they could already see that not only these men’s qinggong was extremely high, but all along they were able to maintain some kind of elegant and calm posture, as if they were floating and dancing to the silent rhythm of the evening wind.

Hu Tiehua looked at Dai Duxing, and then he looked at Chu Liuxiang, and could not help sighing. He was usually very proud about his qinggong, but tonight, everyone he saw, their qinggong was higher than his, as if all the qinggong masters in the world have flocked into this small town.

Dai Duxing silently signaled them with his hand, all three of them already retreated from the window on the other side. Outside the window was a mountain pit with very dense vegetation. They did not go far at all; they were just hiding in the shadows of the grass and the trees. All three were secretly guessing: Who were these two men? Why did they come? They determined to wait and see as the water recedes, the rocks appear.

Not only did the two men come straight to the school building, but they also seemed to have come here more than once; they seemed to be very familiar with the terrain of this area. They swept through the outside once before entering the school.

The shorter one had just stepped over the threshold when he stopped and spoke heavily, “Why isn’t this door closed?”

The other man smiled and said, “The children could not wait to leave the school and go home a bit earlier, how could they remember to close the door?”

The man muttered to himself irresolutely, and then said, “But isn’t it Wang Xiansheng who teaches here? I know that this man is a meticulous [orig. not one thread loose] and old-fashioned person who has always been very cautious in his work, how could he …”

The taller man interrupted him with a laugh and said, “I’m afraid his head was confused by the cacophony of the children. Besides, what does it matter whether the door is closed or not? In any case, there is nothing worth toiling the gentleman on the roof beam’s [fig. a thief] great self in here.”

[1] Chapter Title: Going One’s Own Way, du xing qi shi, lit. walking alone his way, same ‘du xing’ characters in Dai Duxing’s name.

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