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The Thrush Chapter 8

CSI

Wishing to Take Me First

Wishing to Take Me First

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang said, “That is also possible; however, as soon as they rushed back and entered the courtyard, they killed the assassin. At that time, there were still some lights in the yard, but the room was pitch-black. If they hadn’t already known that the assassin was in the room, they could not even see a shadow.”

Hu Tiehua’s brows were furrowed even deeper, he said, “But if the assassin was hired by them, why would they want to kill him?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Naturally to kill people and silence them.”

Hu Tiehua said, “But if the person who lured me out was the thrush, won’t that mean they are of the same way with the thrush?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You surely know that the Thrush is just a pseudonym?”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua replied.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Then how do you know that the Thrush is not their pseudonym?”

Hu Tiehua stared blankly for half a day, he said, “Although the Trush’s action is secretive, toward us, there is no malice. If you say that Liu Wumei wants to harm you, they can’t be the same person.”

“Why not?” Chu Liuxiang asked, “As I said before, by doing that, the Thrush must be doing me favors on purpose and wanting me to repay.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Since he wants to harm you, what does he want you to repay?”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled, he said, “When you saw the Thrush, you did not make your move to kill her, did you?”

Hu Tiehua said, “Of course I can’t kill her.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “That is absolutely right, the Thrush did that, so that we can’t kill her in the future … Even if I already know that Liu Wumei is the Thrush, even if I know she wants to harm me, I have no choice but to let her go, because she already showed kindness to me — before she wants to kill me, she already left a way out.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Why do you insist that you suspect Liu Wumei is the Thrush?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Naturally there are many reasons within.”

Hu Tiehua suddenly said loudly, “But at least that person who hit you with the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’ can’t possibly be them, right?”

Chu Liuxiang asked, “Why not?”

Hu Tiehua replied, “Because at that time they were obviously still inside their room.”

Chu Liuxiang asked, “Did you see them?”

Hu Tiehua was stunned, he said, “Although I did not see them, but I clearly heard them talking.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “You did not hear them talking, you just heard them struggling, shouting, and groaning, right?”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua replied.

Chu Liuxiang said, “When shouting and groaning, everybody’s voice will change due to the pain, therefore, even if we heard something wrong with their voices, we did not mind it, right?”

Hu Tiehua was stunned again, he spoke haltingly, “Could it be that at that time they were no longer in the room, and those voices belonged to someone else?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Is that impossible?”

Hu Tiehua let out a long sigh, he stopped talking.

Chu Liuxiang, “Because all along you thought they were inside the room, so you would not think that it was someone else’s voice. This is a misperception that anybody would inevitably have.”

He also sighed and continued, “Liu Wumei is not only very smart, but also very careful, she also knows that harming me is not easy at all, hence every time she made her move, she must leave a good room to maneuver, so that I will never suspect them.”

Hu Tiehua vigorously rubbed his nose, he muttered, “But I still don’t understand, and I am not convinced.”

Smiling wryly Chu Liuxiang said, “Actually, I don’t fully understand either, but I can more or less figure out the general situation.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Let me hear it then.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “For some reason, Liu Wumei, husband and wife must look for me, but when they found my boat, I was no longer there. When they returned, they came across Rong’er and the others.”

Hu Tiehua said, “How could they come across Rong’er?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If Rong’er and the others wanted to look for me, they must go home to take a look first. Traveling on the road, people like them naturally attract attention very much, right?”

“Uh huh,” Hu Tiehua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “The Li Family of Huqiu [lit. tiger hill, a district of Suzhou city, Jiangsu] is very powerful, naturally they have many eyes and ears in Jianghu, naturally they have already heard about my relationship with Rong’er and the others. After knowing their whereabouts, naturally they would come to pay a visit.”

“Uh huh,” Hu Tiehua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Someone like Liu Wumei naturally can make friends with Rong’er quite easily. Rong’er may not talk much, but Tian’er is just like you, someone with straight heart, straight intestines.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Humph! Are you flattering me or scolding me?”

Chu Liuxiang ignored him, he went on, “For Liu Wumei to inquire of me from Tian’er’s mouth, naturally not difficult at all …”

Hu Tiehua interrupted, “She thought you might still be in the desert, so she went to the desert to look for you.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “She only had this bit of clue, so she could only try her luck.”

Hu Tiehua said, “But why did Rong’er and the others did not go together with her, but went to the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’ instead?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Maybe they were deceived, maybe they were seized by force, maybe …” He stopped abruptly, his face already revealed anxious look.

Emotionally moved, Hu Tiehua said, “Are you saying that Rong’er and the others may not be at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’ at all, but maybe they have fallen under Liu Wumei, husband and wife’s treacherous hands?”

Heaving a deep sigh, Chu Liuxiang said, “That is naturally a possibility, fortunately Liu Wumei is not someone who would massacre innocent people, the one she wants to deal with is me, and since she wanted to show kindness to me, she would leave a way out, so it’s unlikely that she would go so far as killing them.”

Hu Tiehua knitted his brows and pondered for half a day, suddenly he said, “But based on time, when she reached the desert, she would have found us, right?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “That’s right.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Since Li Yuhan is a child of a Jiangnan’s influential family for generations, how can he be so familiar with the desert terrain? Besides, Shi Guanyin’s dwelling place is so secret, how could they find it in a short while?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke slowly, “Currently I still have two things that I can’t figure out, that is one of them.”

Hu Tiehua said, “And the other one?”

Chu Liuxiang heaved a deep sigh and said, “I really can’t figure out why these husband and wife, two persons must kill me?”

Hu Tiehua knitted his brows again, he spoke heavily, “Now, since they already know that you are suspicious of them, they must have seen that last night you were pretending to be sick, won’t your situation be even more dangerous?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed indifferently and said, “But now that I did not expose them, naturally they will not lay it bare even more. Since they already know that I suspect them, they will not dare to act blindly without thinking along the way.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Are you saying that they are going to wait until you arrive at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’ before making their move?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “It seems to be the case.”

Hu Tiehua said, “If that is the case, they must have prepared a way to deal with you at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’. With the Huqiu’s Li Family’s prestige in Jianghu, this must be no trivial matter.”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Hu Tiehua said, “Since you know, you still want to go to deliver your life?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “Things have come to this, do you think I can still not go?”

Hu Tiehua was silent for half a day, he sighed and said, “That’s right, naturally you cannot abandon Rong’er and the others over there, but …”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly chuckled again and said, “But you don’t have to worry too much, although our trip this time is dangerous, at least we won’t encounter any more plots like the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’.”

Hu Tiehua asked, “How can you be sure?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Based on the Li Family’s prestige in Jianghu, if they want to plot against me, they can only do it in other places, using others as the scapegoat. Once we are at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’, how could they dare to use these despicable methods again? How could they dare to ruin the several-decades-long reputation of ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’ in a short time?”

“That’s right,” Hu Tiehua said, “They did not use their own secret projectiles, but use the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’, it was precisely because they were afraid of tarnishing the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’s’ prestige. If you die under the Pear Blossom Nails, naturally no one will think that this is the vicious attack of the Li Family’s younger generation.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “And now you are convinced?”

Hu Tiehua sighed and said, “No wonder once he struck and missed, that person discarded such precious secret projectiles. Turns out that he was afraid that you would discover the ‘Rainstorm Pear Blossom Nails’ in their hands.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Actually, you should have thought of it a long time ago, other than the younger generation of the Li Family who could obtain such precious secret projectiles?”

Hu Tiehua caught on, “Other than the younger generation of the richest Li Family in Jiangnan, who could spend 200,000 taels of silver in one shot?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Too bad they wanted to steal a chicken but the chicken nibbled the rice away, and thus giving you the convenience of obtaining secret projectiles that is more precious than gold for no reason.”

Hu Tiehua roared in laughter and said, “But I would rather have the two hundred thousand taels of silver.”

The two looked at each other and laughed heartily, unexpectedly they seemed to have completely forgotten the dangers of this trip, unexpectedly they have forgotten that if they die at the ‘Yong Cui Shanzhuang’, the silver and the secret projectiles would still be someone else’s.

Unexpectedly, these two characters ‘danger’ [wei xian] seemed to be practically nonexistent in these two people’s brains.

Huqiu [Tiger Hill], the name of the mountain, formerly known as Mount Haiyong, is located outside Lumen [lit. village gate] of Suzhou. According to old legend, King Helu of Wu [-496 BC, reigned 514-496 BC, sometimes considered one of the Five Hegemons] was buried on this mountain, with mercury as a coffin and gold and silver as a pit.

Records of the Grand Historian [authored by Sima Qian (145-86 BC), known as the father of Chinese historiography]: Helu Tomb is located outside Lumen, Wu County. It was built with 100,000 people, and the soil was taken from the overlooking lake. Three days after the burial, a white tiger squatted on it, hence the name Tiger Hill.

This mountain is not high, but it is full of some beautiful legends and myths. Since ancient times, it has been a must-see for gifted scholar literary writers.

Chu Liuxiang and the others really had a pleasant journey and arrived in Gusu.

Instead of going around outside the city, they entered and passed through the city. Li Yuhan and Liu Wumei were still talking cheerfully and wittily, no one could see that they harbored murderous intentions.

Could it be that Chu Liuxiang guessed wrong?

Arriving in this city famous for its beauty, everyone could not help feeling some kind of tenderness in their hearts, who might think about killing people?

The clean streets seemed to be brimming with beautiful girls, with long braids swaying in the wind, constantly casting their sweet smile at people.

Hu Tiehua’s eyes were fixed at them, suddenly he laughed and said, “Did you guys find something interesting? Turns out the people here don’t like to wear shoes.”

They saw that the people coming and going on the street indeed did not like to wear shoes, some were barefooted, some wore sandals, even if they wore shoes, the shoes were flat, without heels, open-toed. Their slender feet, white and translucent like jade, wrapped in gold-painted clogs, made people’s mind disappearing even more.

Hu Tiehua laughed again and said, “Do you know why they don’t like wearing shoes? I have found out the reason.”

Li Yuhan could not help asking, “Why?”

Rubbing his palms, Hu Tiehua said, “Simply because their feet are more beautiful than people from other places’ feet, if they don’t let people see, wouldn’t it be a reckless waste of natural resources?”

Suzhou girls not only have beautiful feet, but most of them have natural feet. When they got outside the city, they could see girls, each one with a basket of jasmine, light and graceful, chasing the carriages and horses coming and going; suddenly jumped on the carriage, suddenly jumped off. Hearing their suave pleasant-sounding Wu dialect like a yellow warbler, who would have the heart not to buy a couple of their flowers?

Seven li outside the city was the Huqiu Mountain.

But as soon as you get out of the city gate, you can see the lush and majestic mountain in the distance, just like a fierce tiger squatting there, full of vitality, head and tail swaying.

They walked on foot through Gusu, this moment they returned to the carriage. Hu Tiehua opened the carriage window, looking at these young and vivacious girls, he could not help laughing and said to Chu Liuxiang, “These little girls are so light and quick, they really are good material to train martial arts. If they practice qinggong, I am sure that compared to you they will not be lacking.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Indeed they have trained since childhood. Every day, I don’t know how many times they have to jump up and down on the carriage, they really are more hardworking than we training martial arts.”

He had not finished speaking, there was already a girl in a dark green cloth short garment, with flowing sleek big braids jumping on the carriage, holding a jasmine flower bouquet in her hand, and said full of smile, “Sweet, sweet-smelling jasmine, Gongzi Ye [basically: young master], please buy a couple!”

Hu Tiehua looked at her spring-scallion-like little hands, he could not help laughing and said, “Is it the fragrance of flowers? Or is it your hand?”

The little girl blushed, she pursed her lips and said with a laugh, “Naturally it is the fragrance of flowers, if you don’t believe me, Gongzi Ye can smell it.”

Hu Tiehua laughed aloud and was about to pick up the flowers, who would have thought that Chu Liuxiang snatched it first and said with a laugh, “All good flowers have many thorns, does this flower have thorns? I don’t want my nose to be pricked.”

The little girl tittered and said, “Gongzi Ye really knows how to tell jokes, where in the world is there jasmine flower with thorns?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If that’s the case, I’ll buy a few. It’s a pity that although this flower is good, there is no one who wears it … I can only present this flower back to Guniang [Miss].” He suddenly sent the bouquet to the little girl’s face.

The little girl’s expression suddenly changed, unexpectedly she made a somersault high in the air, retreated more than a zhang away, turned around and ran away as if flying.

Frowning, Hu Tiehua said, “Look at you old lecher, you scared the little girl like this.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed, he said, “If I did not scare her away, she would take my life and yours.”

Hu Tiehua blurted out, “What did you say?”

Chu Liuxiang did not answer, but gently tore the jasmine flower bouquet into pieces, only to see that unexpectedly there were more than a dozen small gleaming black needles inside the flower bouquet.

Aghast, Hu Tiehua said “Poison needles?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “If it wasn’t for my quick reception, as long as her little hand flicked, do you think you and I are still alive this moment?”

Hu Tiehua was silent for half a day, wiping his sweat, he could not help asking, “This time, how did you see it?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “These little girls have been selling flowers on this road since they were little, it can clearly be seen that they are all children of poor families. They sell flowers during the day and have to help with housework at night. How could there be such fair and tender hands like hers?”

Hu Tiehua stared blankly for half a day, smiling wryly, he said, “Your pair of shifty eyes is really too formidable.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Also, these little girls are all born and raised here, how could they speak like her, in official Mandarin [guan hua, orig. bureaucratic language, ‘officialese’]? As soon as I heard her speak, I knew something was not right.”

Hu Tiehua sighed and said, “It seems that the rumors in Jianghu are not wrong at all, Chu Liuxiang is really a ghost and spirit.” He suddenly lowered his voice and said, “Do you think this little girl was also sent by them, husband and wife?”

Chu Liuxiang wrapped all the poisonous needles in a cloth and put it away, he said, “Now that we are here, how could there be anyone else? If this time they succeeded, while admittedly they could say that they know nothing, but if things did not work out, it has nothing to do at all with them even more.”

Hu Tiehua was silent for half a day, he muttered, “It seems that the place we are going now is not the Tiger Hill, but the Tiger’s Den.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “How do you catch the tiger cub without entering the tiger’s lair [idiom]?”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “It’s not a tiger boy, but a tiger girl.” [Note: English does not differentiate male/female cub, but the original was ‘hu zi’ (zi usually refers to male child), and Hu Tiehua said, ‘hu nu’ (nu – female/woman/daughter).]

Arriving right in front of the Huqiu Mountain, everyone dismounted, Li Yuhan and Liu Wumei were still talking cheerfully and wittily, as if they practically did not know what happened.

Could it be that the little girl had nothing to do with them?

Could it be that Chu Liuxiang guessed wrong again?

Outside the mountain gate, there was a tiny market, with a small stream winding through it. There were three, five decorated pleasure boats moored by the riverside, from time to time there were silver bell-like tender laughter coming from the decorated pleasure boats.

Upon entering the mountain gate, they saw many small shops on both sides, as well as many beggars. When they saw someone coming, they gathered around to beg. There were others respectfully bowed from a distance and said with a laugh, “Li Gongzi is back? Furen, how are you?”

Chu Liuxiang and Hu Tiehua looked at each other, but were secretly wondering, “I wonder if there is any Beggar Gang’s disciple among these beggars?”

While pondering, they reached the famous Qian Ren Shi [lit. Thousand-people Stone]. They saw a large stone on one side, which could seat a thousand people. As far as the eye could see, not only they could not see the edge, not even a single blade of grass was seen. On the north side of the big stone there was a tiny stone platform.

They heard Liu Wumei spoke leisurely, “According to the old legend, in the past, King Helu of Wu used a thousand craftsmen to build a tomb here. After the tomb was completed, afraid that they might divulge the secret mechanism inside, the King of Wu buried all the people alive under this stone, hence this stone is called Qian Ren Shi.”

Coming from her mouth, this cruel story did not seem to have the slightest smell of blood, Hu Tiehua could not help asking, “What is that stone platform?”

Liu Wumei replied, “That is the pulpit where the divine monk Zhu Daosheng taught the scripture, there are four seal characters of Li Yangbing of the Tang Dynasty on it, which says, ‘Sheng Gong Jiang Tai’ [lit. Duke of Sheng’s podium]. That stone next to the white lotus pond is the famous nodding stone, as the saying goes, ‘Sheng Gong speaks, obstinate stone nods.’ That allusion came from here.”

Her steps were as light and graceful as her voice, the mountain breeze was blowing from behind the stone, blowing off her hair worn in a bun, blowing off her dress that it danced in the wind, making her whole person seemed to be riding the wind.

Hearing her, Hu Tiehua stared blankly, looking at her, he also stared blankly, yet he could not help sighing inwardly, “Such a fairy-like beauty, could she really be a murderer?”

Then they walked up to Jian Chi [sword pond/lake], only to see dense forest all around, thick with bluish green and serene mugwort. A wooden bridge spanned the pond like a rainbow, the water was dark green and cold, with specks of duckweeds on the surface.

When Chu Liuxiang stood by the pool, he instantly felt a burst a cold air hitting him in the face, the dark bluish green water in the pool unexpectedly seemed to hide bursts of murderous aura.

From the distance, amidst the autumn clouds combined with the cool breeze, there came a faint sound of twilight bells [usually from a temple].

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Li Xiuqing, a famous scholar of the Tang Dynasty, commented that this water is the fifth spring in the world, but he did not know that this water is the most suitable for tempering swords, it is precisely the place where the ancient swordsmen tempered their sword, and then the number one swordsman of the present age Li Lao Qianbei assigned the name Jian Chi, two characters. It could be said that the name is not empty.”

Liu Wumei charmingly said, “It is said that there is another history of the name.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Oh?”

Liu Wumei said, “According to legend, the King Helu of Wu’s tomb is under this Jian Chi. When he died, he was buried with thirty famous swords in Sichuan, even various specialty sword like the fish-hidden sword were also included, hence the reason this place is called Jian Chi.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed indifferently and said, “If I were to be buried here, and be a neighbor to such a mighty ghost like King Helu of Wu, it could be considered that I live my life not in vain, I would have died in the right place.”

Liu Wumei’s expression did not move, she laughed sweetly and said, “Since Chu Xiong knows that this is the fifth spring in the world, do you know that the third spring in the world is also here?”

Going around the Sword Lake, they could see a very, very large stone well, its surface was a zhang or so in diameter, and by the well, there was a roughly hexagonal-shaped mountain pavilion and vermillion railing winding around it.

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I’m afraid this is the third spring in the world, ‘Lu Yu Cha Jing’ [Lu Yu Tea Well, see previous chapter on Lu Yu]. In the past, Li Lao Qianbei invited a group of famous swordsmen from all over the world to brew tea and appraise swords here. Qianbei’s distinguished character and accomplishment really make people cannot bear to admire wholeheartedly.” Suddenly he heaved a deep sigh and said, “It’s a pity that although the rivers and mountains [country] is still the same, the people’s face is completely different.”

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