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The Thrush Chapter 7

CSI

Professional Assassin

‘Glug! Glug!’ noise came from the throat of the man in black, he could no longer make any other sound, this secret was swallowed with his last breath.

At this time, there was an anxious call from Li Yuhan from the outside, saying, “Chu Xiong, Chu Xiong, are you injured?” Amidst the call, Li Yuhan and Liu Wumei both swept in.

Liu Wumei lit up a fire paper in passing, seeing Chu Liuxiang sitting on the bed, safe and sound, she let out a long sigh of relief, broke up into a sweet smile and said, “Thank Heaven and thank the Earth, we finally rushed back in time.”

The two person’s whole body was drenched, moreover, they looked very tired. Obviously, hastening on with their journey for a day and a night must be very exhausting.

Chu Liuxiang stared at them for half a day, he also let out a long sigh and then spoke slowly, “That’s right, gentleman and lady indeed came back in time.”

Liu Wumei lit the lantern. Staring at the man in black on the ground, she said, “We have to take a look at this man, who is he, and why he wanted to plot against Chu Xiong?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Too bad that now we will never know why he came here.”

“Why?” Liu Wumei asked.

Chu Liuxiang coldly replied, “Because dead people can never speak.”

Liu Wumei was stunned for half a day. Heaving a deep sigh, she said, “That’s right, I really shouldn’t have killed him, but I suddenly saw a man standing with a sword in his hand in front of Chu Xiong’s bed, while not knowing if Chu Xiong had recovered completely from your illness, in a moment of desperation, unexpectedly I forgot that I should have kept him alive.”

Frowning, Li Yuhan sighed and said, “I knew that your reckless temper will one day botch things up.”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled and said, “How can you blame Sao Furen?”

Hanging her head down, Liu Wumei said, “I should really take the blame. But looking at Xiang Shuai, you …”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Sao Furen saved my life, there’s only gratitude in my heart, absolutely no other thought. Sao Furen said something like that, it makes me feel ashamed and unable to show my face.”

Li Yuhan was finally able to smile, he said, “I never thought that Chu Xiong‘s illness would get better so quickly, surely lucky people must have Heaven’s looking down on them.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Speaking about that, I am ashamed. I slept without remembering anything for a day, unexpectedly my illness was gone, but I troubled the virtuous husband and wife to be anxious for me, I am truly very sorry.”

Liu Wumei suddenly lifted the black cloth covering the man in black’s face, she said fiercely, “Chu Xiong, do you recognize who this person is?” Under the lantern, they saw this man’s green and wretched face, although there was still the horrified expression before his death, but from his facial appearance, they could still see the fierceness and cruelty of when he was still alive.

Chu Liuxiang sighed and, “Not only do I not recognize who this person is, but I have never even seen him before.”

Knitting his brows, Li Yuhan said, “If that’s the case, why did he come to plot against Chu Xiong? Is there a mastermind behind this?”

Chu Liuxiang did not answer, but he pulled the sword out of the pillow and stared fixedly at it under the lantern for half a day; heaving a deep, deep sigh, he said, “This sword is really a weapon for killing people.”

“That’s right,” Li Yuhan said, “This sword is at least three cun [1 cun is approx. 1 inch (2.5 cm)] longer than the swords usually used in Jianghu, but it is much thinner, also much narrower, almost two fen [1 fen is approx. 1/8” (3.3 mm)] narrower than the Snow Snake Sword of the Hainan Jian Pai [South Sea Sword Sect]. The people who use this kind of sword must have the same sword technique as that of the Hainan Jian Pai, taking the nimble and vicious path.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Li Xiong has a clear and penetrating insight, you are indeed worthy to be the direct disciple of the number one swordsman.”

Li Yuhan seemed to want to modesty thank him for the compliment, but Chu Liuxiang went on, “Although I don’t know the person who used the sword, but this kind of sword, I have seen once.”

“Oh?” Li Yuhan said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “I wonder if Li Xiong has ever heard the name ‘Zhongyuan Yidian Hong’ [One Red Dot of the Central Plains, see Book 1 and 2]?”

Emotionally moved, Li Yuhan said, “Could it be that Chu Xiong is referring to the professional assassin who recognizes money but does not recognize people, who is known as ‘killing without the shedding of blood, one red dot [yi tian hong] under the sword’?”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Li Yuhan said, “When my father discussed the famous swordsmen of the present age, he did mention this person’s name, saying that his swordsmanship is in a style of his own, and that he could have competed with Xue Yiren, Xue Daxia for a whole day, only too bad that his conduct was too extreme, and his actions were too vicious. Therefore, his sword technique also unconsciously entered the heretical path. Since ancient times, heretic can never defeat the upright, so no matter how high his innate talent is, no matter how hard he works, inevitably he will definitely not be able to reach the great heights.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Based on these words alone, Li Lao Qianbei is worthy to be called the number one swordsman of the present age. In the world, those who learn sword should keep these words in their hearts and pursue them faithfully for the rest of their lives.”

Li Yuhan said, “When the heart is upright, the sword is upright, when the heart is demonic [or heretic], the sword is demonic. This is indeed the steadfast principle for all eternity.”

Liu Wumei suddenly said, “Isn’t the sword used by this assassin the same as that of Zhongyuan Yidian Hong?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Except for the hilt is slightly different, the rest, both the length and the width, are exactly the same.”

The ripples in Liu Wumei’s eyes rolling, she said, “In that case, this assassin was actually sent by Zhongyuan Yidian Hong?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled slightly, he said, “That’s impossible.”

Liu Wumei lightly bit her beautifully contoured lips, she said, “Then what Chu Xiong mean is …”

Chu Liuxiang said, “What I mean is that the assassin himself has absolutely no relation with me, so much so that he might not know me at all. He came to assassinate this time, only because someone paid him to do so.”

Muttering to herself irresolutely for half a day, Liu Wumei nodded and said, “That’s right, since the sword this person used is exactly the same as Yidian Hong’s, presumably he must be of the same school as Yidian Hong, naturally he was also a professional assassin like Yidian Hong.”

Knitting his brows, Li Yuhan asked, “Are there really so many people in Jianghu who take assassination as their profession?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I am afraid that seems to be the case.”

He suddenly untied the front piece of the assassin’s clothes, inside was empty. Naturally, this kind of person would never carry some superfluous bits and bobs on his body.

But Chu Liuxiang found something in his inner pocket, a banknote with very large nominal amount, and a very strangely shaped bronze medal.

Banknotes were the most common and most reliable type of payment at that time, they could be withdrawn anywhere. Chu Liuxiang sighed; smiling wryly, he said, “Two hundred thousand taels, it’s no wonder he came to kill me. For 200,000 taels, I might kill myself. I never thought that my life would be so valuable.”

Li Yuhan sighed, “This person did not hesitate to spend 200,000 taels on Chu Xiong’s life, it seems that his hatred toward Chu Xiong is not small.”

Liu Wumei suddenly said, “I can already find out who this person is.”

“Oh?” Chu Liuxiang said.

Liu Wumei said, “Such a large amount of banknotes, no bank will treat it casually. There must be a record in his account book, we just need to go to the bank to find out who this banknote is paid to. Wouldn’t it be possible to know who this person is?”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled, he said, “That’s not necessarily true.”

Liu Wumei’s eyes widened, “Why?” she asked, “Could it be that Chu Xiong already know who this person is?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If I want to hire an assassin to assassinate other people, I would definitely not use my own banknote. Therefore, even if we go to investigate, not only will it be useless, we might also be lured into a wrong path and look for someone who has nothing to do with this matter at all.”

Liu Wumei was silent for half a day, she sighed softly and said, “That’s right, it makes sense.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “But now I have found out at least one thing.”

Liu Wumei immediately asked, “What did Chu Xiong find?”

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “Now I at least know that this person must be a very rich man, because the number of people who can afford to spend 200,000 taels casually in this world is really not many.”

Li Yuhan has been silent for a long time, at this moment he suddenly asked, “What is this bronze medal?”

They looked at the decorative design at the front of the bronze medal, it was an engraving of thirteen swords surrounding one hand. The shape of the swords was identical to the one used by the assassin.

On the reverse side of the bronze medal, there was only one character ‘eight’ engraved on it.

Knitting his brows, Li Yuhan said, “What do these thirteen swords mean?”

Liu Wumei’s eyes flashed, she clapped her hands and said, “I already understand what it means.”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Li Yuhan said, “Thirteen swords, could it be symbolizing thirteen people?”

“That’s right,” Liu Wumei said, “Presumably these thirteen people must all be professional assassins, and this hand represents their leader. This person ranked eighth in their school, hence the ‘Eight’ character at the back.”

She laughed at Chu Liuxiang and said, “And that Zhongyuan Yidian Hong, I’m afraid he ranks the first.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I am afraid that seems to be the case.”

Liu Wumei said, “But the most terrifying thing is naturally that hand. Although he doesn’t show up, he is controlling this secret group in the dark, and using these thirteen people to make murder transactions.”

Overwhelmed with shock, Li Yuhan said, “Unexpectedly there is a group of professional assassins in Jianghu, won’t that be extremely terrifying?”

Liu Wumei sighed and said, “I’m afraid this cannot be considered the most terrifying thing in the past hundred years or so.”

Although Chu Liuxiang did not speak, his heart was very uncomfortable.

‘No wonder Yidian Hong seems to have a lot on his mind, turns out he was trapped in this secret group reeking of blood and could not extricate himself.’

‘No wonder that after deciding that he would no longer kill in cold blood, he immediately went far away into desolate wilderness, fleeing into the Great Desert, because he knows that that hand will never let him go.’

As long as anybody joined this kind of organization, other than death, perhaps there was no other way to break away.

Only now did Chu Liuxiang know why Yitian Hong’s eyes were always so deep, so melancholy. He only regretted why he had never thought of it before.

Only to hear Liu Wumei suddenly laughed and said, “But this group is not that terrifying now.”

“Why?” Li Yuhan asked.

Liu Wumei said, “Because before long, a set of handcuffs will be added to this hand.”

Li Yuhan thought for a while, then broke into a smile and said, “That’s right, now that they have provoked Chu Xiang Shuai, would Chu Xiong let them off?”

Liu Wumei said, “Besides, since this group has such a tight organization, every transaction must go through the ‘hand’, as long as Chu Xiong finds this hand, he can also find out who hired this assassin.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly laughed and said, “I’m not in a hurry to find him.”

Even though Liu Wumei was most able to control her emotions, this moment she could not help her face from showing an astonished expression. “Why?” she blurted out.

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “This kind of person, even killing he does not dare to do it himself, when I see him, I will get angry instead. Now I want to go to see the glorious hands of the number one swordsman of the present age. Wouldn’t it be much more delightful than trying to find that kind of jumping-over-the-beam clown?”

Fixing his gaze on Liu Wumei’s face, he continued slowly, “Besides, sooner or later he will come to look for me anyway, why should I be anxious to look for him?”

Liu Wumei pursed her lips and laughed, she spoke sweetly, “Perhaps the most important thing is that Chu Xiong is afraid that Su Guniang [Miss] and the others are anxiously waiting for you?”

The two looked at each other and laughed.

But Li Yuhan’s countenance suddenly changed, he blurted out, “Where’s Hu Xiong? Where did Hu Xiong go?”

It seemed that only now he realized that Hu Tiehua was not in the room, yet unexpectedly Chu Liuxiang did not seem to be anxious. It was only when he asked that he replied indifferently, “It seems like he also found a suspicious person, so he went out in pursuit.”

Liu Wumei also blurted out, “Hu Xiong already has one hand unable to budge, how could he lightly chase the enemy?”

“That’s not a problem,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“Not a problem?” Liu Wumei said, “Could it be that Chu Xiong is not afraid that he might fall into someone else’s treacherous assault?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “He will definitely not be caught off guard.”

“Why?” Liu Wumei asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Because others only want my life, they do not want his at all, they are just trying to lure him out so that they could make their move to kill me.”

Liu Wumei said, “But — but why hasn’t he come back until now?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke leisurely, “If he did not stealthily drink wine outside, he must have lost his way.”

Liu Wumei sighed and said, “Chu Xiong is indeed able to keep your composure.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I’m not really able to keep my composure, I have just heard his voice.”

Very few people know when it would rain, this is not surprising at all, because after all, people who know astronomy like Zhuge Liang are really not many.

Oddly enough, also very few people know when the rain would stop.

The rain always seems to stop before people know it.

Amidst the breeze of the quiet night, Hu Tiehua’s voice was really heard, saying, “It’s this house.”

Unexpectedly, there was an old-sounding voice as well, “You are not mistaken this time?”

Hu Tiehua said, “It can’t be wrong.”

By the time they heard this sentence, his person had already swept into the courtyard, and rushed over like a cat that someone had just stepped on its tail.

And then he simply called out in delight, “Turns out you guys are back.”

After the cheer, he stared wide-eyed and said, “Old stinky bug, how did you suddenly crawl up?”

Chu Liuxiang has not responded, the old voice outside said, “Chu Xiang Shuai is all right?

Stroking his nose, Chu Liuxiang said, “Thank you, Gexia, for your concern, why not coming in to meet?”

The person outside said, “Not only Lao Xiu has wanted to see Xiang Shuai for a long time, but after thinking about it, it is better not to meet now.”

“Why?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

The man laughed and said, “If I see you now, I should at least kowtow seventeen or eighteen times, but I, this laotouzi [old man] am so advance in years, kowtowing in front of others is really too embarrassing. Let me try to think of a way to repay your great kindness first, and then I’ll come back to find you for a drink!” By the time he said the last sentence, his voice was already several zhang away.

Chu Liuxiang said in astonishment, “Who is this person? When did I show him great kindness?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Toward him, you did not show any kindness, but toward the Beggar Gang, you did.”

Chu Liuxiang blurted out, “He is also a Beggar Gang disciple?”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “Not a disciple, but a Zhanglao [elder]. In terms of seniority, it seems that even Ren Ci of the former years was a generation younger.”

Rolling his eyes, Chu Liuxiang excitedly said, “Are you saying he is the ‘Wan Li Du Xing’ Dai Lao Qianbei?”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua replied.

Chu Liuxiang could not help asking, “How did you know this eccentric Qianbei?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Could it be that only you can know this eccentric Qianbei, and I’m not allowed to know one or two?” He laughed heartily and said, “If you’re jealous, there’s no harm in telling you, tonight I met someone else, someone you’ve always wanted to meet.”

“Who?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

“The Thrush,” Hu Tiehua replied.

He still wanted to say something, who would have thought that Chu Liuxiang suddenly stuffed something into his mouth, Hu Tiehua could not spit it out, he stammered, “This … what is this?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “This is the antidote that Li Xiong, husband and wife painstakingly brought back for you, hence you should really go to sleep first and talk later!”

Dawn also always seems to come before people know it.

Because everyone wanted to hasten on with their journey, they set off as soon as it was dawn, and because everyone had to sleep, Chu Liuxiang and the other could no longer ride in the same carriage with the husband and wife of the Li Clan.

But how could Hu Tiehua sleep? As soon as the vehicles and horses started to move, he stared at Chu Liuxiang and said, “Why didn’t you let me talk? What exactly do you want to hide from others?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Whom do I want to hide from?”

Laughing coldly, Hu Tiehua said, “Do you think other people can’t see it? Other people deliberately don’t ride with us in the same carriage, it’s precisely so that you and I can talk sneakily.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “How do you know that it’s not they who wanted to talk sneakily?”

Hu Tiehua said, “What kind of sneaky talk do other people want to talk about?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Not much, only guessing how much do I really know?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Know how much what?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Know what trick, ghost scheme they are playing in secret.”

Hu Tiehua almost jumped up, he spoke angrily, “Other people treat you as a good friend, not only they invited you to eat, invited you to drink, but also invited you to come home with them. Someone came to harm you, other people killed the assassin for you, but now you say other people are playing trick, ghost scheme on you. Let me ask you, what do other people covet from you? What do they want from you?”

Chu Liuxiang replied indifferently, “They don’t want anything else, they only want to take my life, that’s all.”

Hu Tiehua glared at him a few times. Contrary to expectation, he laughed, shook his head and said with a laugh, “I think you, this person, are really similar to Cao Cao [of the Three Kingdoms], as long as others cast a glance at you, you think other people wanted to beat you.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Then let me ask you, if Rong’er and the others are in ‘Yong Cui Shan Zhuang’, why would they come out to go on a scenic tour? And they ‘coincidentally’ met us. How could there be such a coincidence in the world?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Even if they deliberately came out to look for you, it is also other people’s good intention.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Since it is a good intention, why didn’t they say it clearly?”

Hu Tiehua started to stroke his nose again. Knitting his brows, he said, “Could it be that you think Rong’er was kidnapped by them?”

Chu Liuxiang nodded, he said, “Also, I suddenly fell ill, no one else knew about it. How did that assassin get here?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Maybe they spied on it secretly, or maybe the inn attendant was tipping them off.”

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