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The Thrush Chapter 3

CSI

The King of Secret Projectiles

It was a clear and refreshing autumn weather, three gorgeous horse-drawn carriages were rushing along a major road covered with shade on both sides.

The carriage at the very front did not seem to have anybody inside, but there were six big men in tight warrior outfits, straddling the carriage, all of them with fierce expressions and keen eyes. It was evident at a glance that they were Jianghu’s martial art masters, yet unexpectedly this kind of men could be other people’s servants, what kind of people their master was, naturally it could be imagined.

In the last carriage, from time to time, sweet and charming oriole sound and swallow talk could be heard, only too bad the windows were closed so tightly that anyone could forget about catching a glimpse of the faces of the people in the carriage.

The carriage in the middle was the most spacious, it was also the most gorgeous. Although the windows were open wide, there were bamboo curtains hanging on them, from time to time, bursts of hearty laughter could be heard from behind the curtains.

This laughter was precisely coming from Chu Liuxiang and Hu Tiehua – hearing that Su Rongrong and the others were at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’, how could they not go back with Li Yuhan?

Although this carriage was not as ingeniously made as Ji Bingyan’s [see Book 2], it was more spacious, more comfortable, so that people did not feel the hardship of the journey.

Although Chu Liuxiang asked more than once, ‘How did Rong’er and the others get to the Yong Cui Shanzhuang?’ Liu Wumei always laughed and said, ‘I want to hold the climax for now, in any case, after seeing Su Guniang, you’ll know.’

In less than a day, the carriages were already returning to the Central Plains. There were more and more carriages and horses on the road, naturally such three carriages would attract people’s attention.

That day they arrived in Kaifeng. It was evening, so the party stopped in the city.

After dinner and a few cups of wine, everyone went back to their rooms to retire for the night, only Hu Tiehua was still following his old habit, sitting in Chu Liuxiang’s room and refused to leave.

Thinking about all kinds of thrilling and strange mysteries that he encountered in this ancient city not long ago, Chu Liuxiang could not help his heart from galloping and his spirit moving, he simply could not sleep.

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “You vision is indeed not bad, Li Yuhan, husband and wife really launched the ‘Golden Silk Cotton Palm’. Fang Xianke has no successor, but he and Li Guanyu are friends in life and death, hence he passed on his entire consummate skill to his son.”

Heaving a deep sigh, Chu Liuxiang said, “What is hard to imagine is that the number one swordsman of the former days has unexpectedly become a disabled person. Wulin is withering generation by generation, day by day, it really causes people to lament, to sigh.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Luckily he still has such a young son, nine-by-nine, eighty-one styles Lingfeng Sword, coupled with the ‘Golden Silk Cotton Palm’, I am afraid that even though the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’ is no longer in his hands, it will flourish even more.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In my opinion, not only Liu Wumei’s martial art skill is not inferior to her husband’s, it seems to be a bit higher than Li Yuhan, especially her qinggong shenfa, it is much higher.”

Hu Tiehua said, “The three major Wulin influential families’ consummate skills are all passed down to the daughter-in-law but not to the daughter. Since she has become Li Guanyu’s daughter-in-law, naturally her martial art skill cannot be lacking.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “She married into the Li family, definitely cannot be more than ten years, and this kind of Wulin influential families’ disciples and younger generations, most of them started to train martial arts from the age of three to five, Li Yuhan can’t be an exception.”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua said, “I think he has at least ten years of hard training.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In this case, Liu Wumei’s martial arts should not be higher than Li Yuhan, unless her parents’ family is also a famous Wulin family. But looking around the world, how many people can teach disciples better than Li Guanyu?”

Knitting his brows, Hu Tiehua said, “Could it be that you suspect other people’s origins again?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Several times I tried to inquire about her master’s undertaking, but she always eluded. From this, it can be seen that she can’t possibly belong to the Four Major Gangs and Seven Major Sects. I can’t think of any senior martial art master with Liu as the surname either.”

Hu Tiehua said, “In any case, you cannot suspect that Li Guanyu’s daughter-in-law could be the Thrush. Besides, even if she is the Thrush, so what? The Thrush has only brought benefit for us, without any enmity, even my life was saved by the Thrush! If she is the Thrush, I can only be more grateful to her.”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled, he no longer spoke.

Right this moment, suddenly an outcry was heard from the room next door.

Hu Tiehua frowned and said with a laugh, “Such a loving young couple, could it be that they fight too?” Only to hear the outcry was becoming more and more intense, moreover, it seemed to be brimming with pain. It was Liu Wumei’s voice. Hu Tiehua’s mouth spoke the words, the person has already rushed out.

Chu Liuxiang only followed behind him, only to see that the courtyard was extremely quiet, unexpectedly none of the servants and maids who followed these husband and wife came out to call on them.

If they were not deaf, they would have heard the cry, but why did unexpectedly no one come out to see what was going on? Could it be that they were already used to hearing it?

In Liu Wumei’s room, the lantern was still lit.

They only heard Liu Wumei’s trembling voice, “Please kill me! Just kill me!”

Hu Tiehua’s countenance changed, just as he was about to rush in, he heard Li Yuhan say, “Just bear with it, bear with it, don’t wake other people up.”

Liu Wumei hissed, “I can’t bear it anymore, rather than to suffer like this, death is better.”

Only then did Hu Tiehua know that they, husband and wife, were not fighting, he could not help saying, “Could it be that she suddenly contracts an acute pain?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “Perhaps this pain is not sudden, but a chronic ailment, moreover, it must have flared out frequently, hence even their servants are used to hearing it, otherwise how could every single one of them hide in their room and does not come out?”

Hu Tiehua sighed and said, “This pain must be very severe when it flares out, otherwise someone like Liu Wumei definitely would not cry out like that, but I wonder what illness she actually suffers?”

Chu Liuxiang pondered, “In normal time, she looks just like ordinary people, I never thought that once it flares out it would be this dreadful. In my opinion, it may not be a disease, but she was hit by some kind of extremely violent poison.”

Hu Tiehua’s countenance changed, he said, “Poison? If she was poisoned, why didn’t Li Guanyu think of a way to save her? People heard that Li Guanyu’s medical skill is brilliant, plus the people that have dealings with Yong Cui Shanzhuang are all masters of older generation, Fang Xianke was even famous for neutralizing poison, could it be that these many people cannot get rid of her poison, they are simply watching her suffer?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed, he no longer spoke.

From inside the room, they heard the continuous sound of Liu Wumei’s groaning and gasping for breath, Li Yuhan’s comforting her in low voice, and the creaking noise of the bed board being pressed.

It was obvious that Liu Wumei’s pain had not eased, but she was suffering and was struggling incessantly, Li Yuhan was striving to suppress her.

Hu Tiehua said, “Why don’t you go in and have a look, maybe you can get rid of her poison.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Liu Wumei is a woman who is very eager to be strong, she definitely would not want other people to see her in such a difficult situation. Whatever it is, let’s wait until tomorrow.”

Suddenly they heard a ‘plop!’, a wild goose resting for the night on the wutong tree in the courtyard was startled, out of the corner of his eyes, Chu Liuxiang seems to catch a flash of silver light among the leaves of the tree.

Right this moment, a flash of silver light shot out from the bushes, flying straight toward Chu Liuxiang. The rapid momentum was absolutely not something that words could describe.

If it wasn’t for the startled sleeping wild goose, Chu Liuxiang would have died under this flash of silver light, because by the time he heard the sound of the wind, it was already too late to dodge.

In this moment where his life was hanging by a thread, he punched Hu Tiehua that he fell face up on the ground, while he himself also threw his body on top of Hu Tiehua.

He only heard a burst of ‘Ding! Ding! Ding!’ sound, like heavy rain striking bricks, dozens of silver stars were nailed to the ground beside him, and disappeared into the ground.

And then, a figure soared into the sky from the top of the wall in the shadow of the tree, somersaulted in the air, and fled into the dark night outside the wall.

Before Hu Tiehua figured out what was going on, Chu Liuxiang’s figure had also flown out of the wall. Hu Tiehua cast a quick glance at the silver stars all over the ground, suddenly he seemed to remember something. His countenance changed greatly, he called out, “Old stinky bug, be careful, this seems to be the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Needle’.” Amidst his shout, his person also chased after them.

In the dreary and fuzzy night, with the fog rising, Chu Liuxiang’s figure could still be discerned vaguely, but the person in front, not even his shadow could be seen.

The fog was originally light and thin, but a moment later it thickened like white smoke, so that gradually even Chu Liuxiang’s shadow could no longer be seen.

At first, there were still dots of lights in the distance, but now even the lights were disappearing into the thick fog. Very soon Hu Tiehua felt he was nearly going crazy, but he did not dare to call out.

Because under this kind of circumstances, as long as he made a sound, he could become the target of a secret projectile. Hu Tiehua knew that if a secret projectile came at this time, he would absolutely not be able to avoid it.

He could not help being anxious for Chu Liuxiang, because Chu Liuxiang’s situation was even more dangerous.

Right this moment, he suddenly caught a glimpse of something shiny on the ground ahead. Picking it up to look, unexpectedly it was a small and flat silver box.

This silver case was seven cun [unit of length, about an inch] long and three cun wide; it was extremely exquisitely made. On one side of the box, there were three rows of extremely fine pinholes, each row had nine holes.

On the top of the box, there was an engraving of a very fine decorative design. After a closer look, he found out that this decorative design was unexpectedly two lines of characters. It looked like a small seal script [form of Chinese character standardized by the Qin dynasty], or perhaps bell-cauldron script [form of Chinese character used in metal inscriptions].

Hu Tiehua looked at it for half a day, but could not recognize what it was. He could not help heaving a deep sigh and muttered, “It seems that in the future, not only I have to train qinggong more, I also have to read more books.” While he was thinking of continuing forward, he suddenly felt a gust of wind blowing from his side, a hand was cutting toward his flank, while another hand was grabbing the silver box.

Hu Tiehua mused inwardly, “Good kid, I was worried that I couldn’t find you, but you are dropping by my door.” His thought flashing, he already sent out one punch and one kick.

This punch and kick sounded simple, but actually it was not that simple. Just because this person was pouncing from his left, only by twisting his entire body was he able to avoid the opponent’s attack, he was able to counterattack. From this, it could be seen that although Hu Tiehua drank a lot of wine, his waist was still as flexible as a serpent.

Who would have thought that the other side’s figure was more nimble than him? With a light flash, he was already behind him. It was only then that Hu Tiehua was shocked.

He was just about to turn around, the man spoke heavily, “Xiao Hu, it’s you?”

Hu Tiehua suddenly breathed a sigh of relief. Smiling wryly, he said, “Now you are just like me, without any greeting, you simply make your move.”

Chu Liuxiang also could not help smiling wryly, he said, “I saw the flash of silvery light in your hand, naturally I was sure that you must be the person releasing the secret projectile, who would have thought that this thing would end up in your hands?”

Winking at him, Hu Tiehua said, “Can’t you figure this out? With three punches and a couple kicks, I beat that kid that he fled in a sorry state, naturally this thing ended up in my hands.”

Chu Liuxiang was stunned, “Really?” he asked.

“I was kidding,” Hu Tiehua replied.

Chu Liuxiang could not help laughing, he said, “Actually, I also know that you absolutely cannot catch up with him.”

Hu Tiehua said, “I cannot catch up with him, that is quite reasonable. But Chu Liuxiang, whose qinggong is number one in the world, after chasing for half a day, can he catch up with him?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “If it weren’t for this fog, I might have been able to catch up with him, but this person’s qinggong is really not weak. By the time I chased outside the wall, his person had already swept away forty, fifty zhang.”

Emotionally moved, Hu Tiehua said, “In the blink of an eye, he had already swept away forty, fifty zhang. In that case, wouldn’t his qinggong be higher than Li Yuhan, husband and wife”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I’m afraid a notch higher.”

Hu Tiehua said, “How about compared to me?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed again. Restraining himself, he said, “If you drink less wine, his qinggong might not be as good as yours, but now …”

Hardening up his face, Hu Tiehua said, “What about now? Could it be that I am inferior even to Li Yuhan, husband and wife?” Without waiting for Chu Liuxiang to speak, he laughed first and said, “You don’t need to answer me, so that hearing it, I would be grieved.”

Chu Liuxiang said. “Actually, your qinggong is about the same as Li Yuhan, husband and wife, Yidian Hong, NanGong Ling, all can be considered first-class martial art, but this person’s qinggong is already on par with Wuhua. This time, if I hadn’t seen with my own eyes Wuhua’s throat was pierce with a sharp arrow, I’m afraid I would think that Wuhua has come back to life.”

Hu Tiehua said, “In that case, the number people in Jianghu with that kind of qinggong can’t be that many, right?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Really not many.”

Shaking his head, Hu Tiehua sighed and said, “Why do you always meet some formidable opponents?”

Chu Liuxiang was silent for half a day before asking, “That thing in your hand, where did it come from?”

Hu Tiehua said, “I picked it up. There are characters engraved on it, take a look, do you recognize it?”

Chu Liuxiang took the silver case, his countenance changed, he said, “This is a small seal script.”

Hu Tiehua hatefully said, “Obviously it’s a sharp weapon to kill people, yet it has to be bookish by having some characters that people don’t recognize engraved on it. This is practically like a woman who is plainly a prostitute, yet she simply has to wear seven, eight pairs of pants.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “This really is not deliberately showing off, only because this secret projectile is really an antique, plus it was made by someone who did not know martial arts.”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua said, “I’ve also heard the tales about the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nail’, but what exactly is engraved on it?” [Note: first instance was ‘Needle’, subsequent instances are ‘Nail’.]

Chu Liuxiang spoke word by word, “Engraved on it says: once it’s out, it must see blood, returning empty will be inauspicious. Rapid hit the rapid. The king of secret projectiles.”

Hu Tiehua blurted out laughing, he said, “All literati can talk big, that seems to be really true.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “It’s not that he deliberately talked big to harm people. The secret projectile was exquisitely crafted, its launching power is fierce. It really deserves to be called ‘the King of Secret Projectiles’, four characters [an qi zhi wang]. There are several famous secret projectiles in Wulin today. Compared with this thing, their speed is at least 20% slower. And the secret projectile’s kiss to determine victory and wounding people is precisely decided in that instant. Even if the difference is only a hairsbreadth, that difference is already too much.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Could it be that this thing is a lot more powerful than the needle cylinder made by Shi Guanyin?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Although the poisonous needle shot by Shi Guanyin’s needle cylinder is fast, if you wait until it is shot to evade, you still have time. But after the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nail’ is fired, no one in the world can dodge or stop.”

Hu Tiehua said, “But you clearly dodged it?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “That was really lucky, just because before it was fired, I was already on guard, but even so, if that person shot a few chi [unit of length, about 1 foot or 1/3 of a meter] closer, I would not be able to evade it.”

Frowning, Hu Tiehua said, “In that case, wouldn’t this secret projectile be extremely valuable?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “In the eyes of Wulin people, it can be said that this thing is indeed a priceless treasure.”

Hu Tiehua said, “In that case, why would that person toss it to the ground then? Since he has such a high level of martial art skill, could it be that he can’t even hold on to this little box firmly?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “That is indeed very strange.”

The lantern in Liu Wumei’s room has already been extinguished, these husband and wife seemed to have gone to bed.

Chu Liuxiang and Hu Tiehua quietly returned to their room, but the lantern in their room was still bright, only the wick was about to burn out.

Hu Tiehua raised the wick to brighten the lantern a little bit, he sighed and said, “We pursued relentlessly for half of the night, yet even the other person’s shadow we haven’t even seen. If I don’t drink a cup of wine soon, I’ll be infuriated to the death.”

There was one teapot and one wine pot on the table, but Hu Tiehua disliked the wine cup being too small, so while talking, he had already filled the tea cup full with wine.

Chu Liuxiang shook his head, he laughed and said, “I am sure that if you drink a bit later, you won’t die. We need to go to the courtyard to see if those ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’ are still there.” He picked up the lantern and pulled Hu Tiehua out.

There was a bug in the room, it flew out following the light, but when it flew over the wine cup, unexpectedly it suddenly fell down, and it fell into the wine cup.

Could it be that this little bug was helplessly intoxicated by the wine aroma that it was unable to fly?

But how could the smell of the wine be that strong?

If this moment Chu Liuxiang had not gone out, he would have discovered that after the little bug fell into the wine cup, unexpectedly the wine cup produced a ‘pssch …’ sound, and emitted a faint dark green smoke.

Looking again, the little bug had disappeared without a trace. In the blink of an eye, unexpectedly it had completely dissolved in the wine and turned into a piece of foam.

In another blink of the eye, even the foam had disappeared, the cup of wine was still a cup of wine, moreover, it still looked so clear, there was not even a bit of residue left.

If this cup of wine were drunk into Hu Tiehua’s belly, wouldn’t Hu Tiehua’s five viscera and six bowels be immediately corroded into a pulp?

It did not rain often in Kaifeng City, the ground in the courtyard was dry and hard, practically it was almost like a stone. Even if you hit it with a hammer, it would take a long time to tap the nail down.

But this moment, under the illumination of the lantern, Chu Liuxiang found that unexpectedly all twenty-seven ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’ were buried in the ground, not even the heads were visible.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Look at the place where he fired the secret projectile, how far is it from here?”

Hu Tiehua looked around for a moment, he said, “Perhaps it is four or five zhang.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “These Pear Blossom Nails were shot at four or five zhang away, and yet they could still go straight into the ground. How strong the power of this secret projectile is, you can easily imagine.”

Hu Tiehua said, “I really want to dismantle this box to take a look, to see how the spring mechanism inside is made. It’s like there are twenty-seven small models pulling the bowstring inside the box.”

His mouth was speaking, he already used a small knife to dig two ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’ from the ground, only to see that although the name of this Pear Blossom Nail was ‘nail’, it was actually more or less the same size as an embroidery needle, except that the tail was a bit thicker, but placed on the hand, it felt light and floating, as if even the wind could blow it away.

Aghast, Hu Tiehua said, “Such a small needle can be driven into the ground. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It is powerful because of its high speed.”

Hu Tiehua sighed and said, “These tiny nails hit the ground, and went straight into the ground. If it hits a person, wouldn’t that be … I must put them back and see how fast they actually shoot out?”

He really dug out all twenty-seven Pear Blossom Nails and held them in his hands.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Those things look extremely sharp, you must be careful.”

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