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The Thrush Chapter 36 (End)

CSI

Hundred Battles Hundred Victories

Su Rongrong could not help asking, “Why?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “He knew that I was like an arrow at the end of its flight, he was confident that he would win, hence the reason he could use the qi momentum to overwhelm me, but if he discovered that he has been fooled, this stream of qi will be weakened, and then my qi momentum would be able to overwhelm him. At that time, victory and defeat would be difficult to predict. How could someone like him be willing to fight a battle where he had no confidence of victory? Therefore, I predicted accurately that he would rather avoid the problem by walking away, and would not be willing to look back.”

He smiled and continued, “When martial art masters are vying against one another, it would be like two armies confronting each other, their qi momentum must never be weakened. During the Warring States Period, Cao Jian, a great general of Lu, said it well, ‘When you fight, you must have the courage. First, a spurt of energy, and then weaken again, and the third, will be exhausted. The other exhausted, I am full, hence can subdue the enemy.’ Precisely because he understood this principle that he could defeat the many with the few, and triumphed in every battle.”

Su Rongrong laughed charmingly and said, “Precisely because you, Chu Xiang Shuai also understands this principle that every time you can use the weak to strike the strong, to turn misfortune into blessing.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Overpraise, overpraise; but if you did not rush over in time, I still don’t have any incantation to read.”

Su Rongrong said, “But you really can deeply control your qi, seeing how relaxed and cheerful you are. Even I nearly believe that I really had the Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails in my hands.”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a sigh, he said, “You see I am very relaxed and cheerful, but in fact I am extremely nervous inwardly; with my physical strength and spirit today, fighting hand to hand against him, I really don’t have a fraction of confidence.”

Su Rongrong stared at him, her eyes revealed a hint of melancholy, she said, “Fighting hand to hand against him in normal time, how much confidence do you have?”

Chu Liuxiang was silent for half a day; slightly smiling, he said, “Fighting hand to hand against Shi Guanyin, I did not have any confidence, but I still defeated her.”

At this time, the nun in dark green clothes slowly stood up from the corpse covered by the yellow curtain. Chu Liuxiang has been paying attention to her. It’s just that he knew that when a woman was really grieving, she definitely would not want anybody to come to disturb her, hence all along he did not talk to her, so that she could cry quietly enough.

When a woman is crying bitterly, if someone is trying to stop her, she will never stop crying.

The nun in dark green clothes had stopped crying, her pale face seemed a little swollen, she turned to face Chu Liuxiang, and suddenly said, “I want to ask you one thing.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Please tell me.”

The nun in dark green clothes said, “I know you all must feel very strange, unable to guess who ‘he’ is? Why has he been hiding and unwilling to see people?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Everyone has their own secrets, no one has the right to interfere.”

The nun in dark green clothes nodded slowly, she said, “Now I just ask you, never to investigate this secret, never to uncover the yellow curtain, never to let anyone see him.”

Chu Liuxiang did not even think, he immediately said, “Zaixia can guarantee that among my friends, there is absolutely no one who likes to spy on people’s privacy.”

The nun in dark green clothes let out a long breath, she lifted her head to look at the blue dome of heaven, lost in mind for half a day, and then slowly said, “You are a gentleman, I can trust you. After I die, I hope you will immediately cremate us both, and then sprinkle our ashes into the stream that flows into the Shen Shui Gong.”

A hint of smile suddenly appeared on the corner of her mouth, she went on, “This way, although we can’t return to Shen Shui Gong in life, we can always go back after death.”

Her grim, swollen, brimming-with-pain face unexpectedly revealed a hint of smile. This smile seemed really peculiar and mysterious, but also terrifying.

Chu Liuxiang could not help but shuddered. Emotionally moved, he said, “Dashi, could it be that you want to …”

The nun in dark green clothes waved her hand to cut him off, she spoke sadly, “I have never met you before, yet the first time we met, I entrusted this kind of thing to you, just because I believe you are an honest gentleman, although I can’t repay you in this life, I will definitely protect your well-being from the underworld.”

If this kind of words came from other people, it might be just empty talk, but coming from her mouth, there was some kind of mysterious power, which made people feel as if they were making a business deal with a specter.

Chu Liuxiang no longer talked.

Because he knew that her determination, no one could change.

The nun in dark green clothes put her palms together, bowed in a salute, proclaimed one of the many names of Buddha, and turned around slowly.

Chu Liuxiang did not see any movement from her, yet her person had already fallen.

Falling on the dead body covered by the yellow curtain.

Chu Liuxiang let out a deep, deep sigh, and bowed in salute.

Su Rongrong, however, was extremely moved, rubbing her eyes, she said, “Apparently, this Dashi was also a passionate person [lit. with a lot of feeling].”

Suddenly they heard Hu Tiehua heaved a deep, deep sigh and blurted out, “Uh, when did you get here? Where is he?”

The ‘you’ he was referring to was naturally Su Rongrong, and the ‘he’ was the man in black robe.

Su Rongrong was stunned, “Did not you see it?” she asked.

Staring blankly, Hu Tiehua said, “I … I …”

Cold sweat broke out on his head again, he spoke hoarsely, “What’s going on? Why was I suddenly dreaming?”

Chu Liuxiang said slowly, “Precisely because you were dreaming that all along I did not dare to disturb you, now that you are awake from your dream, just like a dream, forget everything!”

It should be noted that just now Hu Tiehua’s heart and spirit were frightened, he was nearly just an empty shell, there was not much left. If he was disturbed, his true qi strayed, inevitable he would suffer fire deviation.

If he did not forget about this matter, when fighting against others in the future, it would be hard to avoid losing his confidence. And when a martial art practitioner loses confidence, there won’t be much left. How could Hu Tiehua not understand this principle? Hence the reason he could not help cold sweats from pouring down his head.

Chu Liuxiang fixed his gaze on him. Only half a day later that he spoke gently, “Have you forgotten now?”

Hu Tiehua pondered silently for a long time, suddenly he threw his head back in laughter and said, “I have forgotten.”

Covering the corpses with dry branches and leaves, Chu Liuxiang lit up a fire.

All the secrets would immediately fade away along with the blaze.

Hu Tiehua looked at the corpse that has always been covered in yellow curtain, he could not help muttering, “Who is this person? Could it be the nun in dark green clothes’ Shimei [younger martial sister]? Or perhaps her lover? Only because his appearance was destroyed that he hid and did not dare to see people?”

Su Rongrong wanted to say something, but in the end she did not open her mouth.

Just now, when the wind blew a corner of the yellow curtain, she seemed to see this person’s hand.

It seemed that it was not like a human hand, but like the claws of a beast, with long nails and some black hair on it.

Could it be that what the nun in dark green clothes was so attached to was just a psychic [orig. communicates with the spirits] beast?

Between ‘love’ and ‘evil’ [or ‘sin’], sometimes the distance was no more than a thin line.

But Su Rongrong not only did not dare to say it, she did not even dare to think about it.

Besides, black hair sometimes grows on human’s hands.

The fire was starting to burn.

This secret already disappeared in the fire, it was gone forever.

A riddle would always remain in Su Rongrong’s heart.

Yidian Hong and Qu Wurong have left. No one could retain them, because they were born in loneliness, they grew up in loneliness.

Only the lonely life was what they were fond of.

The only thing that made Chu Liuxiang happy was that these two lonely people already came together.

Dai Duxing insisted on seeing them off for a section of their journey, because all his life Dai Duxing was also lonely, only he could understand that lonely people often have a fiery heart as well.

What about Huang Luzhi? He was determined to find Xiong Niangzi’s body in that fresh water stream. Their friendship was steadfast thru trials and tribulations, unchanging in life and death.

Chu Liuxiang handed the nun in dark green clothes’ ashes to him, because he was also a trustworthy person, no matter who made a friend like Huang Luzhi, it would be a very fortunate matter.

Song Tianer did not stop pouting and grumbling, she lost consciousness and fell asleep, hence she missed a lot of ‘excitement’; all along she felt very unhappy.

Su Rongrong comforted her, “Although you missed a lot of things, some things are better if you don’t see them.”

Li Hongxiu was telling Chu Liuxiang about what happened during their journey, “Liu Wumei’s poison suddenly flared up midway, she was unable to continue the trip. So Li Yuhan stayed to accompany her, they are recuperating in a woodcutter’s hut.”

Chu Liuxiang naturally knew that Liu Wumei was not ‘sick’ but was ‘afraid’, she knew that her secret was about to be exposed, how could she dare to come to see Chu Liuxiang?

Emotionally moved, Li Hongxiu said, “Are you saying that practically Liu Wumei was not poisoned, she lured you into Shen Shui Gong just to avenge Shi Guanyin?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Precisely.”

Li Hongxiu said, “In that case, she definitely will not dare to stay at the woodcutter’s house either, why should we make the journey for nothing?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “It is not only us who have been deceived, there’s also Li Yuhan, in any case, I want to look for him.”

Very soon they got there, only to see two tiny wooden houses at the foot of the mountain beside the jungle, and a woodcutter, who, although was not young, his muscles and bones were very robust – was chopping wood in the wilderness outside the house, bare chested. Although he did not know martial arts, he chopped wood in the wild, but every chop of his axe carried some kind of very gentle and beautiful rhythm, log after log of the huge firewood responded to the axe and split.

Chu Liuxiang watched him how deftly he was using the axe, he recalled the story of ‘Yang Youji and the Oil Seller’, and could not help but was deeply moved in his heart[1].

‘Although the martial art skill is trained to become the number one in the world, what is there to be proud of? The number one expert in wielding the axe of the present day, how much could he outperform this woodcutter?’

Li Hongxiu walked over, with a smile on her face, she said, “May I ask Dage [big brother], I wonder if our two friends are still here?”

The woodcutter’s face was expressionless, so much so that he did not even cast her a single glance, he only nodded. The axe chopped down, another piece of firewood responded to the axe and split.

Li Hongxiu said, “Thank you very much,” and signaled Chu Liuxiang with her eyes. The two swept to the door and saw Li Yuhan.

Inside the poorly furnished wooden house, there was a square white wooden table. Li Yuhan was sitting alone, drinking. His face was pale, he seemed to be lacking sleep, but he kept drinking cup after cup. The light in the room was very dim. Although it was daytime, it seemed to be quiet and desolate.

When they walked in, Li Yuhan only looked up and cast them a glance, and immediately started drinking again, as if he had suddenly become a stranger.

Chu Liuxiang sat down opposite him. Only after a long time did he ask, “Where’s Sao Furen [madam sister-in-law]?”

It seemed that it took a long time for Li Yuhan to understand what he said, suddenly he laughed and spoke quietly, “She’s asleep, you guys must not wake her up.”

Only then did Chu Liuxiang realize that there was a bed in the corner of the room, and there was indeed someone sleeping on the bed, but the whole body was covered with quilts, practically he could not see the face.

As soon as Hu Tiehua walked in, he could not help picking up the wine bottle.

Who would have thought that Li Yuhan snatched it back and said, “There’s not much wine, I want to drink it myself. If you want to drink, why don’t you buy it yourself?”

Hu Tiehua was stunned, he could hardly believe that this person was the same Li Yuhan of the past, a generous friend. But Li Yuhan was still acting as though there were nobody else present, minding his own business, he poured and drank, no matter what kind of person others think of him, he did not seem to care the slightest bit.

After half a day, Chu Liuxiang spoke slowly, “I’m very sorry, we did not get the antidote back for Sao Furen.”

Li Yuhan said, “Oh?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily, “Because Sao Furen was not poisoned at all, Shui Mu told me herself.”

He thought that hearing it, Li Yuhan would be shocked, who would have thought that Li Yuhan did not even show the least bit of emotion on his face. After half a day, he suddenly laughed and said, “She’s sick? That’s great, just great …”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly realized that he was laughing peculiarly. It could be said that he was laughing, but it would be better to say that he was crying. Momentarily he was unable to figure out Li Yuhan’s real intentions, he did not know either whether he should use strong words to scold him, so that they had falling out and ended up fighting, or he should take this matter lightly, and from then on would not bring it up again.

Chu Liuxiang has always had a big heart and received favors from others. While admittedly skin-deep injustice must be recompensed, but he never wanted to take revenge. Besides, the load on his mind was already gone, plus there was no harm, no damage, Shi Guanyin‘s school has been broken off because of this, why would he want to persistently pursue one weak woman? While his mind was churning, his person already stood up, he said with a laugh, “Zaixia’s mission is over, hereby I take my leave, from now on …”

Before he finished speaking, Song Tian’er already spoke loudly, “No way, I want to ask clearly.”

Her mouth was still talking, her person already rushed over and lifted the quilt on the bed. Speaking to this point, her voice suddenly stopped. She looked at the person on the bed, unexpectedly she was so scared that she could only stare blankly.

Liu Wumei was indeed sleeping on the bed, but her face was like golden paper [funerary object], her pair of eyes were tightly closed, and the flesh on her face had all disappeared without any trace, leaving only skin and bones. This stunning beauty has unexpectedly become like skeleton, and was completely without vitality, plus there were two or three ants crawling in and out of her ears and nose.

‘Wah!’ Song Tian’er vomited, Su Rongrong and the others could not help looking away either, they could not bear to look anymore.

Hu Tiehua blurted out, “She … She is dead.”

Yet Li Yuhan shook his head, he laughed quietly and said, “She is not dead, she is just sleeping soundly, you must not wake her up.”

Even though Hu Tiehua was hot-headed, he knew that this person was too affectionate, so he unexpectedly refused to believe that his beloved wife was dead, just because he practically could not bear this immense sorrow.

Looking at the smile on his face, Hu Tiehua’s hot tears could not help bursting out of his eye socket …

The lantern light was very dim, because this was just a very simple and crude tiny wine shop.

Although they were all very hungry, after going through this, who would still be able to eat?

Li Hongxiu’s eyes were also a bit red, she muttered, “I never thought that she unexpectedly would kill herself, I really never thought …”

Su Rongrong sighed and said, “Maybe she did not kill herself, but was really poisoned and was beyond help.”

Li Hongxiu said, “But I believe that Shui Mu definitely did not lie, because she was determined to die, why would she deceive others?”

Su Rongrong spoke sadly, “This may be because Liu Wumei always thought she was poisoned, so all along her body and mind were tormented. Suspicion indeed can kill people.”

Li Hongxiu heaved a deep, deep sigh, she said, “No matter what, Liu Wumei did not lie to us …”

Song Tian’er said, “Do you think Li Yuhan is really going to be there waiting for her to wake up? He … he is so pitiful.” As she spoke, tears flowed down from her eyes again.

Su Rongrong said, “No matter how deep the pain is, it will gradually fade away from memory over time. Otherwise, perhaps half of the people in this world will not be able to live.”

She was not wrong. No matter how deep the sorrow and pain, over time, it will also fade from memory. ‘Forgetting’ is precisely one of the instincts that enable human beings to survive.

Hu Tiehua suddenly slapped Chu Liuxiang’s shoulder, he said, “Your worries are over, plus you defeated the number-one-in-the-world Shen Shui Gongzhu, why are you unhappy? Why do you always sit there in a sullen mood, not even drinking wine?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled wryly, but did not respond.

Hu Tiehua said, “I know that you feel that you have wrongly blamed Liu Wumei, hence in your heart you feel very hard to bear, but, this matter can’t be blamed on you. In any case, she did not die because of you.”

Chu Liuxiang let out a long, long sigh and said, “In any case, our trip this time can be considered without any hitch. The only regret is that Hei Dajie [big sister Black], I did not expect her character is unexpectedly so stubborn, that she left without saying goodbye.”

Chu Liuxiang let out a long, long sigh. He raised the cup and drank it in one gulp.

Hu Tiehua broke out in laughter and said, “In any case, the unhappy things have finally passed. Now we should always hope for the happy things and do some happy things. I …”

His voice suddenly stopped; his eyes grew big.

A girl in dark green clothes, carrying a large wooden tray, came over gracefully. Although she was not ugly, she could not be considered too beautiful either, only all along her face carried some kind of a sacred and inviolable look.

‘Bang’, she put the wine pot on the wooden tray down heavily in front of Hu Tiehua, and then she turned around and walked away, without even casting a glance at Hu Tiehua out of the corner of her eye.

Seeing Hu Tiehua’s dejected appearance, Chu Liuxiang could not help laughing, he said, “Are you thinking of staying here?”

Hu Tiehua stroked his nose, while staring blankly for a long time. Suddenly he realized that a pair of big eyes that he had never met, was looking at him without blinking.

Hu Tiehua threw his head back in loud laughter and said, “You fool me once, the fault lies with others. If you can fool me twice, the fault is all mine. You think how could I fall into this kind of trick again?”

(End of the book)

This is the end of the trilogy, which is known as ‘The Legend of Chu Liuxiang’. Chu Liuxiang will return in ‘The Legend of the Bat’.

[1] I could not find an English reference to this story, but here’s what I found from the venerable Mr. Google:

Yang Youji, who lived during the Warring States period (475-221 BC), was China’s most famous archer. Two Chinese idioms ‘bai bu chuan yang’ [shoot an arrow through a willow leaf at a hundred paces] and ‘bai fa bai zhong’ [a hundred shots, a hundred bull’s eyes] were attributed to him. Other source says it was a guy called Chen Yaozi who called himself ‘The Little Youji’, referring to Yang Youji, a native of Chu during the Spring and Autumn Period [770-476 BC], and believed that there was no one in the world who could surpass him in archery.

One day, Chen Yaozi was practicing archery at home, an oil seller happened to pass by, so he leaned on the door of his house to watch. Chen Yaozi shot ten arrows in a row and hit nine. Inwardly, he was immeasurably proud of himself. However, the oil seller only smiled and nod his head and made some noise, apparently he was not too impressed. Seeing this, Chen Yaozi asked, “Do you understand archery? Is my archery skill not exquisite?”

The oil seller smiled and said, “How could that be considered exquisite? It’s just a skillful technique.” Then he picked up the gourd and placed it on the ground, put a copper coin [round coin with a square hole in the middle] on the mouth of the gourd. He scooped the oil with a ladle and poured it into the gourd through the hole of the copper coin, the gourd was full but the copper coin was not touched by a single drop of oil. Chen Yaozi was stunned. The oil seller said, “I don’t have any other skills, only this technique was trained to perfection, that’s all.”

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