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The Thrush Chapter 9

CSI

Unequalled Under the Heavens

By this time, the twilight has come, the sunset clouds were flowing and beautiful, in the shadow of the Tiger Hill Pagoda on the top of the mountain, there was a lone eagle circling in the sky, but this picturesque scenery was incomparably bleak and desolate.

This sight was also incomparably bleak, incomparably desolate.

They saw a wisp of solitary smoke spiraling gracefully out of the hexagonal mountain pavilion, which dispersed in the blink of an eye. Amidst the faintly discernible smoke, in the desolate upper pavilion, there was a white-haired old man in feather coat and a tall hat, sitting alone, brewing tea. His lonesome figure seemed to be just like the lonesome eagle circling by the pagoda at the summit of the mountain.

Chu Liuxiang’s eyes flashed, he said, “Could it be that Lao Xiansheng [old Sir/Mister] was also a participant of the grand gathering of brewing tea and appraising swords here in the past?”

The old man heaved a deep, deep sighed and said, “That’s right, it’s a pity that many of the former people have become immortal [passed away], leaving only Lao Xiu’s body, which is riddled with a hundred illnesses – still wandering in the world of the living. Finding someone to accompany me here to brew tea and test the sword is impossible.”

Chu Liuxiang and Hu Tiehua looked at each other, unconsciously they felt a little chill in their hearts.

In the past, people who could brew tea and test the sword here, none was not an absolute-top swordsman. If they could stay alive until now, undoubtedly their swordsmanship has reached perfection even more.

This old man happened to be revisiting the old haunts today, sitting here alone, it may be assumed that it was not an accident at all, if he was waiting for someone, who was he waiting for?

Hu Tiehua could not help asking, “I wonder what is Lao Xiansheng’s honorable surname and great given name?”

The old man did not turn his head at all, he only spoke slowly, “Lao Xiu Shuai Yifan.”

Chu Liuxiang excitedly said, “Could it be the One Sword Moving Three Mountains, Powerfully Slashing the Stars in the Sky, the ‘Star Picking Feather Warrior [or Scholar]’ Shuai Lao Qianbei?”

That old man suddenly stood up and threw his head back in long laughter, the autumn leaves all around the mountain pavilion were shaken by his laughter and rained down like snowflakes.

They heard him letting out long laughter and said, “Chu Liuxiang is indeed extraordinary, Lao Xiu’s new tea is just boiling, why don’t Gexia come in and have a cup together?”

He did not even look back, he already knew that it was Chu Liuxiang, clearly he had already received the information from Li Yuhan, and was waiting here precisely for Chu Liuxiang.

Looking at Li Yuhan, husband and wife again, nobody knew when, but they already disappeared without a trace.

Chu Liuxiang sighed inwardly, but on the surface he smiled and said, “Brewing tea, Zaixia will be honored to accompany, but to test the sword, Zaixia …”

Shuai Yifan suddenly turned around and spoke sternly, “But what? Although Lao Xiu is old, the sword is not yet old!”

They only heard the ‘Qiang!’ dragon cry, a long sword, green jade like the limpid autumn water already appeared in his palm. Chu Liuxiang stood a few zhang away, yet he felt the sword qi pressing on his eyebrows and eyelashes.

Hu Tiehua could not help blurting out a praise, “Good sword!”

Shuai Yifan laughed proudly and said, “Naturally it’s a good sword.”

His eyes seemed to be more severe than the sword light, he glared at Chu Liuxiang and said, “This sword of Laofu [I, the old man] has not left the sheath for thirteen years. It is coming out today for you, you can be proud of yourself.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed deeply and said, “The famous sword coming out its sheath, it will not return empty. I wonder if Qianbei is determined to take the head on top of Zaixia’s head today?”

Shuai Yifan spoke sternly, “For us, martial art people, dying under the sword is reasonable and fair, could it be that you are still afraid of dying?”

Chu Liuxiang was silent for half a day, he said, “If Qianbei simply must impart your wisdom, Zaixia can only keep you company, but I must ask for guidance in one matter from Qianbei, with Qianbei’s prestige, surely you won’t cover up the truth?”

“What is it?” Shuai Yifan asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Between Zaixia and Qianbei, there is no grudges, no enmity, yet Qianbei is determined to take Zaixiai’s life, could it be that you are entrusted by someone?”

Shuai Yifan’s furrowed eyebrows rose up, he said, “That’s right, but if the opponent was not Chu Liuxiang, Laofu still disdains to make a move.”

Laughing indifferently, Chu Liuxiang said, “If Zaixia still want to ask Qianbei who the person entrusted you with this matter is, presumably Qianbei would not be willing to speak up, but even if Qianbei won’t say, Zaixia can guess with seventy-, eighty-percent confidence.”

Shuai Yifan said, “Very good, pull out your [bladed] weapon and make your move!”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Receive your order.”

Just as he spoke these two short words [zun ming], his figure suddenly rose into the sky, swept up to a big tree which branches and leaves had not dried up yet, and picked a soft branch.

Shuai Yifan earned the nickname ‘Star Picking’, it could be imagined that his qinggong must be high, but when he saw Chu Liuxiang’s leap, he still could not stop his countenance from changing.

He saw Chu Liuxiang twisted the pliable branch into an approximately five chi long stick, it still even had three or five leaves remaining on the branch.

Holding the branch horizontally in front of his chest, he saluted and said, “Qianbei, please.”

Knitting his brows, Shuai Yifan asked, “Is that your weapon?”

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Exactly.”

Shuai Yifan said angrily, “What a frivolous young man, even Li Guanyu would not dare to be so irreverent and rude to Laofu.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Zaixia do not have any intention of disrespect at all.”

Shuai Yifan shouted angrily, “Then what do you mean?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled slightly and said, “As long as it is used properly, everything on earth is a sharp weapon that can hurt people. If it is used improperly, even an ancient divine weapon can hardly hurt anyone. Qianbei is a very able person, how could you not understand this logic?” He spoke the words indifferently, but it was brimming with pressing sharp point.

Hu Tiehua snickered inwardly, knowing that this was also one of Chu Liuxiang’s strategies. If the opponent was too strong, Chu Liuxiang must kill his might and air of arrogance first.

Besides, the sword in Shuai Yifan’s palm was obviously a sharp weapon that could cut iron like mud. If Chu Liuxiang was using metal, iron, to fight with him, he would not be able to block the sharp edge of his treasured sword

This time, he faced the enemy with flexible branch, it was precisely the ‘using softness to conquer strength [idiom]’ principle. Even if he could not gain any advantage, at least he would not suffer too much loss.

Only now did Hu Tiehua know that Chu Liuxiang’s wit when dealing with people was indeed beyond what other people could reach, he nearly could not help persuading Shuai Yifan.

“Why do you insist on fighting this old stinky bug! The name ‘Star Picking Feather Warrior’ was not easy to come by, why do you have to destroy it?”

The tea smoke in the mountain pavilion has dissipated.

Shuai Yifan no longer spoke, he came out step by step. He steps were very slow, he only took two steps, Hu Tiehua was already shocked.

When he was young, Hu Tiehua was daring and fierce, even after he grew up, his temper did not change much. In all his life, practically fighting and scuffling were like eating simple home-style meal [idiom: common occurrence]. These past ten years or so, it could be said that he had met all kinds of opponents, among those, naturally there were some famous swordsmen with unique swordsmanship.

Some of these people’s sword skills were light and spirited, some were swift and nimble, some were fierce and ruthless, but no matter who they were, they must wait until the sword’s style was stabbed out before they could pose any threat to others.

But this moment, this ‘Star Picking Feather Warrior’ Shuai Yifan, not only his long sword has not made any move, his person has not even stepped out, yet Hu Tiehua has already faintly felt the threatening sword qi – his whole person seemed to have been tempered into a blade, his whole body exuded a murderous aura.

Hu Tiehua was outside the arena, he already had this kind of feeling, much less Chu Liuxiang?

No one would have imagined that this old man with feather coat and a tall hat and a dream of going out of the dust unexpectedly could become this sharp and terrifying in an instant.

Mountain breeze was blowing, so that his clothes were fluttering and creating rustling noise, all along his feet did not stop stepping out, but unexpectedly no one seemed to notice that his body was moving.

Simply because he has turned all the essence, spirit and qi in his entire body into a stream of sword qi, so that others could only feel the threatening sword qi and have forgotten his own existence.

His person has been dissolved into one entity with the sword qi, abundant between the heaven and the earth, so when he moved, he did not appear to move, and when he did not move, he appeared to move.

Hu Tiehua finally found out that the spirit of this senior, famous swordsman – was really beyond anybody’s imagination. He originally wanted to persuade Shuai Yifan, but now he began to worry about Chu Liuxiang.

He himself really could not think of any way to break this stream of sword qi.

Although the mountain wind was very strong, the whole world seems to have condensed.

Hu Tiehua only felt beads of sweat dripping out, but everything in the world seemed to have stood still, even time seemed to have stopped.

He only felt as if a pair of invisible hands was strangling his neck.

He could not generate any qi.

He could not imagine how uncomfortable Chu Liuxiang felt at the moment, but, right this moment – Chu Liuxiang’s figure suddenly soared into the sky.

No one would have imagined that under such great pressure he could still soar into the sky, no one would have imagined that the momentum of his leap was unexpectedly like his body has transformed into an arrow.

Shuai Yifan was still as solid and motionless as a boulder, only the sword in his palm was raised cun by cun. His sword seemed to have ten million jin [unit of weight, catty, about ½ kg] heavy object on top of it, it appeared to be indescribably heavy and sluggish.

But Hu Tiehua had already seen that his sword stance exactly matched the change of Chu Liuxiang’s figure. Even though Chu Liuxiang’s figure was a stalwart arrow like a dragon, all along his sword never left Chu Liuxiang for a square cun. No matter which position Chu Liuxiang landed, he could not escape this one stab of the sword.

Chu Liuxiang has finally landed.

The momentum of his upward soar was like an arrow splitting the air, he flew straight into the sky, but the momentum of his dropping down was like a divine dragon stalwart arrow, circling and dancing, with myriads of changes, so out of this world.

The sword in Shuai Yifan’s palm was also waiting for action after having accumulated power.

Right this moment, the flexible branch in Chu Liuxiang’s hand suddenly drew a circular arc, the few leaves at the tip oof the branch suddenly left the branch and shot towards Shuai Yifan.

Shuai Yifan let out a long whistle, the long sword already turned into a curtain of light.

Hu Tiehua saw that the sword light had engulfed Chu Liuxiang, the few leaves had been shattered by the swift and fierce sword qi and disappeared without a trace.

And then, the sword qi suddenly disappeared, the sword in Shuai Yifan’s palm was already hanging down, his face was expressionless, in that instant the muscles of his whole body seemed to have stiffened.

Originally he was like a saber, but now he has become a wooden saber, becoming dull without any light, his sharp point and murderous aura have disappeared without any trace.

Looking at Chu Liuxiang again, he had already landed about a zhang away in front of him. The flexible branch in his palm had become bare, unexpectedly even the bark had been stripped away by the sword qi.

Hu Tiehua did not know how Chu Liuxiang rushed out of the shrouding sword qi, nor did he know between the two who won and who was defeated.

No one knew how much time has passed, Chu Liuxiang bowed in salute and said, “Qianbei’s swordsmanship is exquisite, it is indeed something that Zaixia rarely see in my life.”

Shuai Yifan looked at him with blank expression, he muttered, “Very good, very good, very good …”

After saying it three times in succession, the long sword suddenly turned into a flying rainbow flashing in the boundless twilight, and then swayed gently like a meteor and fell into Jian Chi.

It was quite half a day later that they heard the ‘splosh!’

Thereupon Jian Chi gained an additional peerless famous sword.

Shuai Yifan stared blankly into the distance, his whole body had collapsed, his life and his soul seemed to have fallen into the Sword Pond along with this sword.

Chu Liuxiang could not help revealing a grieving expression on his face, heaving a deep sigh, he said, “Zaixia took an opportune short cut, although I was lucky to escape Qianbei’s sword, but was unable to score a victory, why did Qianbei …”

Shuai Yifan spoke sternly, “No need to say it.”

“Yes,” Chu Liuxiang said.

Shuai Yifan fixed his gaze at him for a long, long time, without saying a word, suddenly he turned around and strode down the mountain.

Chu Liuxiang followed him going far away with his gaze, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “Qianbei’s air, it is indeed different …”

He spoke very softly, but Shuai Yifan suddenly turned his head around and looked at him, as if he wanted to say something.

Chu Liuxiang bowed and said, “Qianbei still have instructions?”

Shuai Yifan was silent for half a day, he finally let out a long sigh and said, “Winning but not arrogant, polite and modest but also courteous, younger generation like you, how could Qianbei be able to match?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Much bearing Qianbei’s praise, yet Zaixia dare not say anything about winning.”

Again Shuai Yifan looked at him for a long time, he suddenly said, “What kind of enmity do you have with Li Guanyu?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Zaixia have never met Li Lao Qianbei before, ‘enmity’, these two characters [chou hen] is beyond words even more.”

Shuai Yifan’s eyes showed a look of surprise, he said, “If that’s the case, why did Li Guanyu want to kill you?”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Zaixia does not know, could it be that Li Lao Qianbei never mention it?”

Shuai Yifan looked up to the sky in long sigh, he said, “Li Guanyu has shown kindness to me in the past, as long as he entrusted something to me, even if he wanted me to cut off my own head, I will not hesitate to do it, do you understand?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Zaixia understand.”

Shuai Yifan said, “Very good, very good, very good …” He said this sentence three times again, and then his figure flashed in the twilight and disappeared.

Chu Liuxiang shook his head in deep sigh, he said, “This person indeed worthy to be called a hero, only too bad that in Jianghu, such people are fewer and fewer.”

It was only then did Hu Tiehua let out a sigh of relief, he could not help asking, “The last thing he said, what does it mean? Do you really understand?”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “He is telling me that in order to repay Li Guanyu’s kindness, even if he had to die, he would not hesitate to do so, therefore, although he does not know why Li Guanyu wanted to kill me, he still came to make his move.”

Knitting his brows, Hu Tiehua said, “So, he was really entrusted by Li Guanyu?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Of course.”

Hu Tiehua said, “But why did Li Guanyu want to kill you?”

Chu Liuxiang sadly said, “An old man can do anything for his daughter-in-law.”

Hu Tiehua was silent for half a day, he suddenly laughed and said, “How did you beat him just now? Not only I could not see it, I could not even think about it.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “This person’s swordsmanship has reached the pinnacle, he has transformed the visible sword into invisible qi. My entire body has been shrouded by him, I nearly was unable to exert my qi.”

Hu Tiehua said, “Even I could not exert my qi, much less you?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “If I did not try to get out of his sword qi first, I would only let him slaughter me, therefore, I can only take the risk while he was taking a breath to suddenly leap up.”

He smiled bitterly and continued, “You should know that dealing with a master like Shuai Yifan, not only you must take the risk, it is practically no different than throwing away your life.”

“Right!” Hu Tiehua said, “That kind of flying high into the air and strike down move can only be used by the strong to defeat the weak, because if the strike fails, you yourself will fall into a desperate situation, hence when I saw you using this kind of style, I jumped in fright.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “After I flew up in the air, I could see more clearly that his sword qi was condensed, indeed it was impossible to fault, so I had to use the leaves on the branches first to induce his sword qi.”

Stroking his nose, Hu Tiehua said, “This logic, I don’t get it.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “At that time, his sword qi was fully exerted, just like the bow being fully deployed with the arrow on the string, any light trigger, the arrow on the string had to be released.”

“Uh huh,” Hu Tiehua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “And that is the logic I use.”

Hu Tiehua’s eyes grew big, he said, “What logic? I still don’t understand.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “I used my internal power to force the leaves out and touch his sword qi. His sword qi was already amassed to the full, as soon as it is touched by foreign object, it would want to flare out immediately.”

“Uh huh,” Hu Tiehua said.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Once the sword qi is released, it will be out of control. Not only those few leaves will be completely destroyed, but perhaps the whole person will also be crushed to pieces.”

Aghast, Hu Tiehua said, “How formidable!”

Chu Liuxiang said, “But after the sword qi was triggered, there was a gap.”

“How so?” Hu Tiehua asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Because his power was concentrated on those points, inevitably other places would reveal gaps, so I took advantage of the gaps to lightly touch his head with the branch.”

He let out a long laughter and continued, “But in spite of all that, I was still hit by the reaction of the sword qi that I was shaken and thrown out.”

Wiping his sweat, Hu Tiehua broke into laughter and said, “But no matter what, you still beat him in one move.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “Although this one move seemed to be effortless, it was actually more difficult than tens of thousands of moves. Besides, although my branch touched him, definitely it was incapable of hurting him. He actually did not need to admit defeat.”

Emotionally moved, Hu Tiehua said, “In that case, if at that time he did not admit defeat but seized the opportunity to pursue and attack, wouldn’t you be done for?”

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

“Why not?” Hu Tiehua asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Just because my stick already destroyed his sword qi. If he wanted to condense his sword qi again, I wouldn’t give him a chance, so if he pursued and attacked again, he could only rely on his style to fight with me.”

Hu Tiehua said, “How do you know that his style cannot beat you?”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled again and said, “Speaking about exquisiteness of styles, I’m afraid no one in the world can beat Shi Guanyin.”

Hu Tiehua blinked, suddenly he asked, “How about Shuai Yifan versus Shi Guanyin?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Shi Guanyin will definitely win, no doubt about it.”

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

Chu Liuxiang said, “Because Shuai Yifan has not trained the sword qi to perfection, to be able to retract and release at will. Also, he has not been able to dissolve the sword qi into the changes of the sword style.”

Hu Tiehua asked, “And if he could dissolve the sword qi into the sword style?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Then he would be unequalled under the heavens!”

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