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The Thrush Chapter 25

CSI

A Girl Yearning for Love

As Huang Luzhi was falling straight to the ground, he spoke the last sentence.

His voice was very soft, but every word could be heard clearly.

They heard him speaking word by word, “I definitely did not misjudge you.”

The tears in Xiong Niangzi‘s eyes could not be held back anymore.

He stared at Huang Luzhi, who was already unconscious on the ground – in a daze, suddenly he knelt down, kowtowed three times, took off his long gown and draped it over Huang Luzhi’s body.

His hands were shaking, his voice was trembling, he said, “I really let you down.”

In these simple five words, how much bitterness contained within? How much blood and tears? How much friendship? It really made those who heard it having a tingling sensation in their nose [due to grief, pungent odor, or taste].

Then, he simply turned around and rushed out wildly.

Rubbing his nose, Hu Tiehua said, “He … what does he mean?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “He just wants to enter the Shen Shui Gong, because whether his daughter lives or dies, he wants to see her one last time, but he also knew that Huang Luzhi would never let him go.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Because he determined to die there, and Huang Luzhi could not bear to see him go to throw away his life.”

“Precisely,” Chu Liuxiang sadly said, “That’s why I must go to enter the palace together with him. Dai Lao Qianbei and Huang Lao Jianke, I am leaving them with you.”

He lightly flew, and immediately swept over the houses. Only his voice was heard coming from a distance, saying, “Don’t forget, there is also Rong’er.”

It was unclear whether Hu Tiehua heard what he said, he just muttered to himself, “Turns out Xiong Niangzi has really reformed and started afresh [idiom: turning over a new leaf], turns out he had no ill will towards Huang Luzhi and Dai Duxing, but if we were unable to bear and rushed out, if we accidentally killed him and did not let him explain, wouldn’t he suffer false accusations in the Nine Springs [the underworld in Chinese mythology] forever, while perhaps I may still think highly of myself.”

He did not dare to continue this train of thought.

He was sweating like rain, soaking through the layers of his clothes.

Following Xiong Niangzi was not easy at all. Not only his shenfa was fast, his movements were especially alert and cautious. These were the things that were tempered during his long career of fleeing. To watch him in secret without him detecting it, on earth, other than Chu Liuxiang, perhaps it would be difficult to find the second person.

Because Chu Liuxiang, apart from his exceptional qinggong, also had a pair of outstandingly sharp eyes, therefore, there was no need for him to chase too closely.

What made Chu Liuxiang felt strange was that he did not rush to the mountain area, but swept back to an inn in the mountain city. Could it be that he was not planning on going to Shen Shui Gong?

Chu Liuxiang almost thought that he had guessed wrong.

The inn where he stayed was not far away, he really wanted to go back to see Su Rongrong, but he did not want to miss Xiong Niangzi, because he already felt that the relationship between Xiong Niangzi and Shen Shui Gong seemed to be very deep and very unusual. He thought that with Xiong Niangzi as a bridge, this might be the only shortcut.

There was still some time before dawn, the mountain city looked so peaceful and serene in the night, the moonlight quietly shone on the roof, and the people under the roof were sleeping soundly. Although their life was ordinary and monotonous, but wouldn’t ordinary be one of many kinds of happiness?

Chu Liuxiang had almost forgotten what it was like to sleep peacefully under the roof.

Although the night was beautiful, no matter what, hiding on the roof in the middle of the night and spying on other people’s secrets was not a pleasant thing.

Fortunately, this moment Xiong Niangzi had come out. His bright eyes flashed in the darkness, just like a cat, and then he disappeared into the darkness again.

Chu Liuxiang noticed that he had a black leather bag on his hand. He specially went back to the inn this time, apparently it was to fetch this leather bag.

What was in the bag? Why did he attach importance to it like this?

This time Xiong Niangzi went straight to the mountain. Half a sichen later, he already reached the foot of the mountain, but he did not go up the mountain, only flying along the foot of the mountain for a short period of time.

The places he passed became more and more desolate, sometimes crossing mountain springs, sometimes crossing piles of brambles, and sometimes crossing some very narrow mountain gaps.

Although Chu Liuxiang was very attentive, if he was asked to come again next time, he might not necessarily be able to follow this route again, but Xiong Niangzi seemed to be very familiar with every grass, every tree in this mountainous area.

He never even stopped to identify the direction. It seemed that he had been on this road many times, so that he could find it even with his eyes closed.

However, after entering the mountain area, his movements were more cautious. When he was flying in the air, he would suddenly turn his head and look, so that Chu Liuxiang had more difficulty in following him.

Moreover, by this time the sky was getting brighter, the clouds with gold lining had started to appear from behind the top of the mountain, the dews on the trees and leaves were gradually glistening.

If the day dawned, Chu Liuxiang absolutely would not be able to follow his track anymore.

At this time, the milky white morning mist was also rising, it seemed like this lonely and desolate valley was shrouded with a layer of veil, which makes the scenery look more dreary and fuzzy, yet serene and splendid.

But Chu Liuxiang was even more worried, because if the fog was too thick, not only would he immediately lose Xiong Niangzi’s track, he would even lose direction.

If he got lost in a place like this, it would be even more dreadful.

Amidst the breeze of the dawn, there was a faint sound of running water, the wonderful rhythm was natural, like the sound of fairy’s qin [guqin or zither]. Listening to it in this boundless silence, people’s heart and spirit were intoxicated.

Recalling Su Rongrong’s description of the situation when she entered the mountain, inwardly Chu Liuxiang was delighted, he mused, “Could it be this is the entrance to the Shen Shui Gong?”

But when he got here, Xiong Niangzi stopped instead. He glanced around, and immediately swept up a cliff to the right.

The terrain of this hillside was extremely dangerous, with a ten-zhang vertical drop underneath, as if it was cut with a knife, and a towering strange rock above, but the middle was a protruding cliff that looked like a platform.

After Xiong Niangzi arrived at this cliff, he suddenly disappeared.

Turned out there was unexpectedly a cave on the cliff, only it was concealed by several pieces of rocks that intertwined like a dog’s teeth, hence looking up from below, it was really not easy to see.

Could this cave be the secret passage to Shen Shui Gong?

Chu Liuxiang still did not go straight up, he did not dare to be the slightest bit careless, because the terrain here was really too dangerous, as long as he was a little careless, not only would he be immediately discovered by the other party, but also as he placed himself in a dangerous place, if the other side launched a killer move, he practically would not even have a way out.

Like a gecko he stuck himself to the mountain wall and went around, hiding under the platform-like cliff, while putting his ear on the mountain wall to listen quietly for half a day.

He heard a very light sound of trickling water coming from the cave above, like the sound of gold and iron striking against each other, or like the sound of Xiong Niangzi placing pieces of tiny metal objects on the rock.

Evidently Xiong Niangzi was still inside the cave and has not left.

Half a day later, Chu Liuxiang heard the sound of him drinking water, the sound of him chewing, and occasionally a heavy sigh, and his footsteps as he walked back and forth.

At first Chu Liuxiang could not guess what he was doing in this cave, but now he realized that he was going stay inside for a long time, only then did he think that he might want to wait here until dark.

He did not dare to enter Shen Shui Gong in broad daylight either.

Chu Liuxiang sighed secretly; he could only wait outside. Xiong Niangzi at least brought food and water, while he could only sit around waiting outside.

From now to dusk, there were still at least five or six sichen. These five or six sichen were really difficult to bear. He found a secluded place by the mountain wall to lie down, but he did not dare to close his eyes.

Because just in case Xiong Niangzi came out before it got dark, he would have missed the opportunity again. Although Chu Liuxiang really liked to take chances, he did not like to take this kind of chances.

Waiting for someone was already uncomfortable enough, but waiting for someone on an empty stomach was even more unpleasant.

People like Chu Liuxiang, even if they were hungry for three or five days, they would not fall down, but ‘hunger’ was not purely a physical problem.

Because hunger often brings people some kind of spiritual emptiness, therefore, Chu Liuxiang could only try to think about other things. Fortunately, the things that he could think about were really too many.

His life was really full of all kinds of memories, although some have caused him suffering, but most could bring him a little comfort and warmth.

He remembered his own childhood, which was really a period of golden days.

During martial arts training, most of the famous heroes have to endure hardships and pains that others find it unbearable, but Chu Liuxiang did not have that kind of feeling.

Although he had gone through days without stopping to sleep, although he had also run quickly on rugged mountain roads in the icy, snowy and cold winds to train his qinggong and physical strength, although he had also sweated, even bled under the scorching sun, but he did not think it was painful, because it was his interest, hence he could always find delight in it.

He thought of those childhood friends: Ji Bingyan, Hu Tiehua …

When he thought of Hu Tiehua, he could not help laughing. He always thought that Hu Tiehua did not really love drinking, he just liked that kind of tone and mood when he was drinking.

Because wine always brings excitement and delight to people.

He had all kinds of friends, and he thought that these friends were not bad to him, therefore, there was a warm, friendly feeling in his heart. This made him very comfortable.

Thereupon he thought of Yidian Hong, and thought of Qu Wurong. These two persons were as cold as icebergs on the outside, yet their hearts were brimming with hot fire.

He wondered where these two were, or whether Yidian Hong was still escaping from that assassin group’s pursuit.

He could only wish them well in his heart.

At this time, there were all kinds of sounds in the empty mountain, including the sound of running water, the tweeting of birds and chirping of the insects, the wind blowing leaves, the pine waves filling the mountain, and occasionally one or two low whistles of wild animal from the distance.

Chu Liuxiang looked up and suddenly discovered that the sun was gradually inclining to the west.

When one is taking a trip down memory lane, oftentimes time tends to pass quickly, hence some lonely old people can spend the long and lonely later years only when they lived in their memory.

But now it was still at least one or two sichen before dark, Chu Liuxiang stretched his limbs and had just thinking to stand up and exercise his muscles and bones. Who would have thought that at this moment, somebody was slipping out of the cave above.

This somebody was not a Xiong Niangzi.

Other than Xiong Niangzi, unexpectedly there was another person in this cave. Could it be that she has been waiting for Xiong Niangzi inside the cave?

She was a very beautiful girl, wearing snow-white clothes, standing on the protruding cliff, her full black hair and snow-white clothes fluttered in the wind at the same time, she appeared so out of the world.

It was Gong Nanyan.

Why would Gong Nanyan be here? Where did Xiong Niangzi go?

Chu Liuxiang’s heartbeat quickened, but after taking a closer look, he realized that the woman was not Gong Nanyan, only she looked a lot like Gong Nanyan.

Her expression, attire, adornment, and the belt around her waist, all told people that she was also a disciple of the ‘Shen Shui Gong’, which name shook the world.

So how could she be in this cave? Could it be that this cave was really the secret passage to Shen Shui Gong? Could it be that Xiong Niangzi has already arrived at the Shen Shui Gong?

Chu Liuxiang was also a little anxious. He saw this girl floated off the cliff and flew down. Her qinggong was so sublime, her posture was so graceful.

She also carried a black leather bag in her hand.

Turned out this girl was Xiong Niangzi.

Chu Liuxiang could not help smiling wryly in secret, Xiong Niangzi really lived up to his reputation, his disguise skill was really exquisite, unexpectedly almost even Chu Liuxiang was deceived.

The best part was that after disguising himself as a woman, his whole body, from top to bottom, did not have the slightest flavor of a man. In the blink of an eye, every move of his hand, every move of his feet, he looked exactly like a woman. Although Chu Liuxiang could also impersonate a dragon and look like a dragon, pretend to be a tiger and look like a tiger, but this kind of woman’s flavor, he could never pretend in all his life.

Xiong Niangzi looked around from under the cliff, but did not immediately move.

Chu Liuxiang suddenly noticed that there were many wrinkles around the corners of his brows and eyes. Although from a distance he still looked like a young girl, but her age was obviously not young anymore.

Was this Xiong Niangzi’s real appearance?

Chu Liuxiang sighed secretly, no wonder Xiong Niangzi was so proud of his appearance, it could be said that he was a peerless beautiful man.

Although he was already old, he was still much more beautiful than most women. A man was unexpectedly more beautiful than a woman, more like a woman than a woman; this was indeed inconceivable.

But since he had already disguised himself as a woman, why did he still use his original appearance? This fact, even Chu Liuxiang was unable to figure out.

He also had never thought that Xiong Niangzi unexpectedly looked a lot like Gong Nanyan.

In that case, was there some kind of amazing relationship between Xiong Niangzi and Gong Nanyan?

Some people may ask, “Since Xiong Niangzi was going to disguise herself as a disciple of ‘Shen Shui Gong’ to infiltrate Shen Shui Gong, why didn’t he simply impersonate Gong Nanyan?”

But Chu Liuxiang knew that this question was stupid.

Because the art of disguise was not magic, people who are skilled in the art of disguise can change their appearance, making it difficult for others to detect, but they definitely cannot take another person’s place – although Chu Liuxiang could dress up as Zhang Xiaolin, it was just because no one knew Zhang Xiaolin, that’s all.

Therefore, if it was said that Xiong Niangzi could impersonate Gong Nanyan in a short period of time and sneak into Shen Shui Gong without anyone in Shen Shui Gong noticing it, then it is not a story, but a myth.

If given a long period of time, so that Xiong Niangzi could fully prepare and try to imitate Gong Nanyan’s expression and actions, then it might still be possible.

Afterwards, Xiong Niangzi suddenly dug a hole in the ground and buried everything, which naturally everything in the leather bag that he used to disguise himself.

Yet he still carried the leather bag in his hand.

An empty leather bag, what was that for? Chu Liuxiang felt very strange.

At this time, although the sun was already tilting to the west, the sun was still bathing the mother earth with its light. Xiong Niangzi looked up at the sky and then walked slowly forward.

He appeared to be more anxious than Chu Liuxiang, he also could not wait until it was dark.

Chu Liuxiang waited until he turned around a depression in the mountain before he dared to chase after him. Who would have thought that when he turned around that depression in the mountain, unexpectedly he lost Xiong Niangzi’s track again.

Beyond the depression in the mountain pass, unexpectedly was a dead end. Both sides of the mountain were like walls, and the mountain wall in the middle rose nearly vertically up, just like a box with one missing side.

Since Xiong Niangzi has entered this box, how could he suddenly disappear?

Could it be that he found out that someone was following him? But there were three mountain walls here, even if he grew wings, it was difficult to fly. Could it be that he could burrow into the ground?

This was indeed an astonishing thing, but Chu Liuxiang’s surprise soon passed. He carefully searched for half a day, and discovered a gap between the mountain wall in the middle and the mountain wall on the left.

The gap was only a chi wide, moreover, it was overgrown with weeds and vines. If Chu Liuxiang had not seen with his own eyes Xiong Niangzi disappeared here, and accurately predicted that there must be a way out, no matter how carefully he searched, he would never find that there was such a secret passage between the two huge mountain walls.

Passing through this secret passage, the faint sound of running water suddenly became clear and loud. The murmuring sound of the stream seemed to be very close to his ears. The morning mist was dreary and fuzzy, filling the valley, which, since ancient times, seldom saw human footprint.

Chu Liuxiang bent down, cautiously and solemnly he walked following the sound of the flowing water. He knew that with every step he took, he was one step closer to the secret.

But he was also a step closer to danger.

Suddenly, a strange ‘Ss! Ss!’ sound was heard.

Chu Liuxiang immediately stopped and dropped down to the ground. While a snake was slithering two or three chi forward, he saw Xiong Niangzi.

The mysterious flowing water was by Xiong Niangzi’s feet. At this moment, he was holding the black skin bag with both hands and was blowing hard into the leather bag.

The leather bag swelled up quickly, and turned into a big wheel.

Only then did Chu Liuxiang suddenly realize, he mused inwardly, “Turns out he is going to use this leather bag as an inflatable raft, and then ride the inflatable raft downstream, straight into Shen Shui Gong.”

Sure enough, he saw Xiong Niangzi put the inflatable raft down in the water, and then he stretched out one foot to test the buoyancy of the inflatable raft, before riding on it gently.

The leather inflatable raft was about to go down the river, Chu Liuxiang was worried, not knowing know how to follow. Who would have thought that right this moment, he heard a ‘zip!’ sound.

Xiong Niangzi suddenly leaped up from the inflatable raft, the snow-white light of his clothes flew in all directions, as if it dissolved to become one with the thick fog.

The inflatable raft was spinning incessantly like a windmill in the water, getting smaller and smaller. After seventeen or eighteen turns, ‘Chi!’ it flew out of the water.

Obviously someone had struck and broken the inflatable raft in the dark, so that leaking the air inside, the inflatable raft was spinning incessantly.

Xiong Niangzi had already landed on the shore, his eyes were brimming with shock. He paused, and was just about to turn around and dash away when a burst of light laughter was suddenly coming from the dense fog.

A coquettish voice said amidst the laughter, “Since you have come, why do you have to leave?”

Only to hear amidst the soft sound of the water, there was a light boat, breaking through the dense fog, slowly floating out, standing on the bow of the boat was a slender white-clothed figure, holding a long punting pole in the palms of her hand; like a swallow, the light boat has floated to the shore.

Heaving a long, long sigh, Xiong Niangzi said, “Turns out it’s you.”

The girl in white laughed tenderly and said, “That’s right, it’s me. You did not expect it? But I already knew that you would come, I have been waiting for you here.”

In the secluded, secret valley, amidst the thick fog and running water, appearing to be a woman but was actually a man, dead but was coming back to life – giant thief of the Jianghu, all these appeared to be brimming with mystery and bizarre atmosphere.

Now, this swallow-like light boat suddenly appeared in the thick fog, this specter-like beauty, even Chu Liuxiang could not help feeling chills in his hands.

Was this all real? Was it an illusion? Even he could not tell the difference.

He only felt that the woman in white was graceful, she appeared to be an absolute beauty, but in this dense fog, he could not see her face clearly.

Xiong Niangzi was silent for a long time before sighing, he said, “I did not want to come, but I simply have to come one time.”

The woman in white suddenly stopped her laughter, she said, “Have you forgotten that in the past you already vowed a poisonous oath?”

When this sentence was spoken, Chu Liuxiang suddenly realized that her voice was very familiar.

And then, he found that the woman in white and Xiong Niangzi were standing side by side, whether their attire, posture, and demeanor, unexpectedly they appeared to be somewhat similar.

Xiong Niangzi spoke sadly, “I haven’t forgotten, I just want to see my daughter’s grave.”

The woman in white said, “It’s just a pile of loess, there’s nothing to see, if you want to see, go and see graves of those whom you killed, all the graves in the world are more or less the same.”

Her words suddenly became extremely caustic. Only when hearing these words did Chu Liuxiang recall that the reason he could not recognize her was because Chu Liuxiang could not have imagined that such a cold and detached woman surprisingly could also laugh sometimes.

Who would have thought that this moment Gong Nanyan laughed tenderly again and spoke softly, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to say those words to hurt you, please don’t be mad at me, all right? I … I am not going to say it again next time.”

Chu Liuxiang nearly suspected that he had heard it wrong.

He never believed that Gong Nanyan would say such a thing.

But this woman was indeed Gong Nanyan. She lightly got off the boat and walked over toward Xiong Niangzi, but Xiong Niangzi was just rooted on the spot, no one knew what he was thinking?

Gong Nanyan laughed sweetly and said, “Is this your true colors? No wonder she often said that I look a lot like you, even more like you than your own daughter …”

Xiong Niangzi suddenly raised his head and said, “She … She often talked about me in front of you?”

“Uh huh,” Gong Nanyan replied.

She walked around Xiong Niangzi one time through, then stopped in front of him, her pair of deep eyes was fixed on him without blinking, she spoke slowly, “Do you think of her often?”

Xiong Niangzi heaved a sigh, he said, “Over the years, I have forgotten everyone.”

Gong Nanyan tittered and said, “What an inconsistent-in-love person, others are hovering between life and death [idiom: suffering terribly] for you, but you have completely forgotten about others. Is there really no one on earth who can move your heart?”

Xiong Niangzi replied, “No.”

He bit his lip lightly, just like a bashful young girl.

Gong Nanyan said, “Now I know that you really are a demon who bewitches people to the death, no wonder that so many girls are willing to die for you. Even me … I also …”

Her face seemed to turned red, she lowered her head and bit her lip.

A gleam of light flashed through Xiong Niangzi‘s eyes, he spoke softly, “You also what?”

Gong Nanyan hung her head even lower, she said, “Everybody says you are most understanding of women, could it be that you don’t understand me? Could it be that you still don’t understand my heart?”

Xiong Niangzi gently took her hand, but suddenly let it go again. Heaving a deep sigh, he said, “I still somewhat don’t understand”

Gong Nanyan said, “Why?”

Xiong Niangzi spoke softly, “Because you are different from other girls, I can’t … I can’t hurt you.”

Gong Nanyan said, “I’m also a woman, and I also want … also want …”

Xiong Niangzi sighed and said, “In my eyes, you are always so gentle, so pure, so lovely, as long as I can look at you from a distance, I am already perfectly contented.”

He narrated so gentle and soft; listening in secret, Chu Liuxiang could only sigh.

These words, each sentence was what girls love to hear the most. Every girl hopes that she is different from others in the eyes of men, all hope that men will adore her.

After hearing these words, if a girl could still refuse him, it would be really strange indeed. The only thing that Chu Liuxiang felt glad was that, fortunately, there were no lechers eavesdropping here.

If these words are learned by lechers, no one know how many more girls in the world would suffer calamity.

But after thinking about it, Chu Liuxiang could not help smiling bitterly, he mused inwardly, “If a man is qualified to be called a ‘lecher’, these words must have been as ripe as a melon that rolls from its vine [idiom: knowing something inside and out] in his heart, so why does he need to learn them again?”

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