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Sharp Sword, Ruthless Knife
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  1. #1
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    Default Sharp Sword, Ruthless Knife

    Sharp Sword, Ruthless Knife



    This is an original Wuxia story set during the time of the Sung Dynasty. It combines Wuxia with Detective Fiction. Two friends, Zhang Cheng and Jiang Ling, must investigate a seemingly unsolvable murder case.

    Table of Contents

    Chapters: 1 |2 |3
    Last edited by Christos200; 05-12-16 at 01:58 PM.

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    Chapter 1 – Murder in Jiangjing Fort

    Cold night, dark sky. The moon was hiding behind the grey clouds, making the night even darker and thus even scarier. Even the stars seemed to be less bright than normal. No sound could be heard in Jiangjing Fort apart from the sound of soldiers marching on the towers of the huge and impressive stone walls of the Fort and the sound of the cold wind, which sounded like a whip.

    Suddenly, a cry came from inside the General’s quarters in the inner part of the Fort. The cry came from a woman. Two soldiers charged into the room of the General, breaking the wooden door. They saw the General lying dead on the floor and a female servant crying and shouting. After they calmed her down, she frantically explained to them that she had nothing to do with the crime and that the General was already dead when she entered the room.

    The dead General was Shang Wang, one of the best Generals of the Sung Imperial Army and protector of Sung against the attacks of the Khitan Liao Dynasty. The General had been able to defeat the Liao armies on several occasions, and yet he died in his own room. The cause of his death and who murdered him remained unknown. Thankfully, the very next day, one of the Sung military officers visiting Liang village, a small village nearby the Fort, found two men who would surely be able to solve the mystery.

    The Sung military officer was named Xiang Yuen and was in Ma’s Inn drinking wine when two men walked into the inn, which was crude and simple to the extreme, with earthen walls and mud floors. Both men were young. One of them had long black hair, fine, manly physique and handsome, well-proportioned features. He was wearing a blue gown made from the finest silk and was holding a hand fan made of crane feathers.

    Xiang Yuen recognized him as Zhang Cheng, the famous martial artist and detective, who had the nickname “Iron Judge”, due to his excellent Kung Fu and his solving of many crime cases. He had seen him in Ji Manor a year ago, and that’s the reason why he was able to immediately find out his identity.

    The other man had thick eyebrows, large eyes, a sturdy and strong stature, and a complexion somewhere between dark and fair. Xiang Yuen knew that this man had to be Jiang Ling, Zhang Cheng’s best friend, who was known for two things: for mastering the Iron Palms and for being a great drinker. In fact, a few years ago he had drunk ten huge jars of wine, thus his nickname “Drunken Ling”.

    The two men sat on a table and Zhang Cheng ordered wine and some fresh dishes to be brought. Once the wine and the dishes were brought, the two friends proceeded to leisurely sip the wine and taste the dishes, which included roasted beef and rice with vegetables. All the while, Zhang Cheng was cooling himself with his fan.

    Xiang Yuen approached the two men and, after bowing slightly before Zhang Cheng, said, “It is an honor to see you again Hero Cheng.”

    He then turned towards Jiang Ling and said, “It is an honor to meet Hero Ling.”

    The two friends returned the polite greeting and Zhang Chen proceeded to ask Xiang Yuen, “What are you doing, honorable sir?”

    “I am alright. But the country is in danger. My superior General, the honorable Shang Wang, was murdered and no one knows who the murderer is and how the General was murdered. You have a reputation for solving crimes, would you be kind enough to help us?”

    Jiang Ling was going to protest, as they had come for sightseeing and wine, not for solving crimes, but Zhang Cheng immediately accepted Xiang Yuen’s request, “Honorable sir, I shall come immediately with you to the Fort.”

    “Why can’t we once just drink wine and relax?”, Jiang Ling complained. Zhang Cheng laughed and replied, “Once I solve this case, I promise to buy you ten jars of the best wine!”

    Although still irritated, Jiang Ling agreed. “I am doing this for the wine only!”, he said and followed his friend and Xiang Yuen towards the Fort.

    Their horses, two black horses which were ridden by Zhang Cheng and Jiang Ling and one white horse belonging to Xiang Yuen, galloped forward and in no time, they reached the outer walls of the Fort. The huge wooden gate opened and five horsemen galloped forward to meet the three men.

    “Come inside!”, one of them, a senior military officer, said and the three men galloped inside the Fort. Once inside, they dismounted their horses, which were then led by some servants to the Fort’s stable, and walked into the General’s residence. There, they saw a beautiful woman with long black hair, wide eyes and a charming face waiting for them. The woman was in her early thirties and was wearing a white gown, a sign of mourning.

    “Hello.”, the woman politely said with a melodic voice. “I am Yue Li, the wife of the deceased General.”

    Jiang Ling was enamored by her beauty, but Zhang Cheng was more curious than impressed by her. He knew that Shang Wang was in his late fifties, so it seemed weird to him that a woman twenty years younger than him and of such beauty would marry a middle-aged man.

    “Greetings, Madam!”, Zhang Cheng said. Jiang Ling greeted her in the same way, but unable to keep himself from smiling.

    “Those two are Heroes Cheng and Ling.”, Xiang Yuen explained. “They are famous for solving crimes, so I brought them here to solve the case of who murdered the General.”

    “Thank you!”, Yue Li cried out, barely able to keep herself from crying. “I am sorry, I have to rest. I am not well and cannot keep my calm.”

    “I understand”, Zhang Cheng replied.

    A young female servant accompanied Yue Li to her room while Xiang Yuen led Zhang Cheng and Jiang Ling to the General’s room. The General was still lying on the floor, an order of Xiang Yuen who did not want to change the scene of the crime at all, in order to make the solving of the case easier.

    The two friends saw that the General, who had a long black beard, grey hair and was wearing a blue gown, was not wounded. Or so it seemed. Zhang Cheng approached the body and took off the gown, searching for any clue or wound. He saw a marking on the stomach of the General that indicated that he was hit there with two fingers, the middle and index fingers probably.

    ‘In order for someone to be able to kill the General with a simple hit of his two fingers, he must be a great fighter’, Zhang Cheng thought. ‘Shang Wang was not only a great General, but also an able Kung Fu Master. Killing him would surely be no easy task.’

    “Well”, an impatient Jiang Ling shouted, “what did you find?!”

    “He was killed with the ‘Two Divine Fingers’ skill.”

    “You mean that Master Zhou of Divine Fingers School killed the General?” Xiang Yuen asked.

    “No.”, Zhang Cheng replied. “I can assure you, because I know him personally, that he is an honorable person and quite a patriot. I also know something that Master Zhou told me to keep a secret from the Martial World, but which I am forced to reveal to you in order to prove his innocence. The manual describing the ‘Two Divine Fingers’ skill and how to learn it was stolen from him ten years ago.”

    “I can attest to that.”, Jiang Ling said. “I am one of the few who know about this.”

    “Why no one knew about this?” Xiang Yuen asked.

    “Because”, Zhang Cheng replied, “Master Zhou asked me not to talk about this and only inform a few trusted individuals. Although Master Zhou was able to write from memory a copy of the Manual, as he had studied it extensively, imagine how shamed he would have been if all of the Martial World knew that someone was able to intrude into his School and steal his Sect’s treasure. He asked me to find the manual for him, but I was unable to locate it and the case was soon forgotten. But it seems that the one who stole the manual now also killed General Shang Wang.”

    “Do you mean he intruded the Fort?”, Xiang Yuen said.

    “No.”, Zhang Cheng answered. “The Fort is too well defended and has too many troops guarding it for someone, even as able as the theft of the manual, to sneak in. The Divine Fingers School in which the murderer sneaked in did not have even a fraction of the military forces guarding this Fort nor did it have its huge walls.”

    “So”, Jiang Ling concluded, “the murderer was someone inside the Fort!”

    “Indeed!”, Zhang Cheng commented.

    “But who could be?” Xiang Yuen asked.

    “Who had access to this room?”

    “The servants, the General’s wife Yue Li and General Jia Ming. “

    Zhang Cheng smiled.

    “I will pay a visit to all of them. By the way, was the General sleeping when he was assassinated?”

    “No.”, Xiang Yuen replied. “I am sure of that. The General rarely slept early at night. He always slept quite late, except when he was campaigning, and preferred to also sleep a few hours during the afternoon. Also, a maid had brought him wine half an hour before he was killed and she can attest that he was awake. By the way, I’ve checked the wine and it is not poisoned.”
    Last edited by Christos200; 03-10-16 at 09:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mandred Skavenslayer's Avatar
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    Intriguing start, kind of reminds me of the Butterfly Murders.

    Are we allowed to start speculating yet?

  4. #4
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    You can start speculating if you want.

    Chapter 2 – The wife and the scholar


    Zhang Cheng asked Xiang Yuen about Yue Li and learned that she married Shang Wang five years ago due to political rather than romantic reasons. Yue Li’s father, Yue Han, was the Chancellor of Sung. Five years ago, he had just been appointed to that post and had quite a few enemies, both Ministers and Generals. So, he married off his daughter to the middle-aged popular and able General, whose first wife had died three years earlier, in order to gain his support and silence his opponents. Indeed, the move was successful as Yue Han was by now the most powerful person in the Empire, besides the Emperor himself.

    Zhang Cheng had already known that Yue Li did not marry Shang Wang out of romantic reasons, due to the simple reason that, compared to the General, Yue Li was too young and very pretty too. So, he had found it unlikely that this beautiful maiden would have married this middle-aged General out of love. Thus, Zhang Cheng concluded, his wife did have a motive to murder her husband.

    “Madam Yue”, Zhang Cheng said to her when he and Jiang Ling met her in her room, “what was your relationship with your husband?”

    “Tell us honestly.”, Jiang Ling quickly added.

    “Well”, Yue Li, with tears in her eyes, replied, “I respected him and liked him. We had a rather happy, if dull, marriage. He was mostly managing military affairs and I was mostly in the household. Whenever we met, he treated me with the outmost respect and always bought me whatever I wanted.”

    ‘Interesting.’, Zhang Cheng thought. ‘According to her description, they were more like friends than husband and wife. And, of course, a young woman like her could not have possibly remained all day long alone in the household with a few female servants. She must have had an affair. It is only natural and human to do so.’

    “Where you were when the murder happened?”

    “I was….”

    Yue Li seemed a bit nervous but immediately regained her coolness and asked, “Do you suspect me of murdering my husband? I can assure that I would never do such a thing.”

    “Please, answer my question.”

    “Alright.”, Yue Li replied and seemed lost in her thoughts for a few seconds. “I… I was having a walk in the garden because I could not sleep that night.”

    Zhang Cheng smiled and said, “Alright. Thank you Madam.”

    Zhang Cheng grabbed Jiang Ling by the shoulder before he could say anything and they left the room.

    “I am sure she was lying!”, Jiang Ling said.

    “Me too.”, Zhang Cheng replied.

    “Then why did you not let me tell it before her and pressure her to tell us the truth?”

    “Because I don’t want to alert her!”, Zhang Cheng explained.

    “I see….”

    A few minutes later, the two brothers arrived to Xiang Yuen’s office and he led them to their room, which had two large separate beds and a wooden table which had a beautiful jade vase on top of it. Once inside their room, Zhang Cheng said, “Rest here and drink some wine. I have some business to do and check a few things in order to shed some light in this mysterious case, for I have a strange feeling that something is not right.”

    “Alright, go.”

    Jiang Liang did not need much persuasion to relax in the truly luxurious and huge room and drink wine; especially as Xiang Yuen had told him that he could drink for free as much wine as he wanted to. And the wine of the General’s residence, unlike the one which the common soldiers were drinking, was of the best quality and quite old.
    A few hours later Zhang Cheng returned to the room. He seemed to be more puzzled and confused than he was before leaving the room.

    “What did you learn?”, Jiang Ling impatiently asked.

    Zhang Cheng smiled. “Quite a few things.”

    He then presented Jiang Ling with two black gowns and cloaks and red masks that could cover their entire faces.
    “What shall we do with those?”, Jiang Ling asked while pointing at the gowns, cloaks and masks.

    “Wear them.”

    “Why?”

    Zhang Cheng laughed. “Because we are going to have some fun tonight.”

    “Great!”, Jiang Ling shouted. “I was bored having to talk to people and think about this mystery. At last, we can can have a fight!”

    A few hours later, when it was late in the night, the two friends wore the gowns, cloaks and masks and walked stealthily towards Yue Li’s quarters. The quarters of Yue Li were actually in a separate building from the one where the General’s quarters were. Once they reached that building, they leaped, using their ‘Leaping Skill’, and landed on the rooftop of the building. From there, they could see any movement on the ground and watch anyone who entered or left the room.

    The two men waited. One hour passed after the other and nothing was happening. Jiang Ling was totally bored: “Why did we come here?! I am bored!”

    ‘Could I be wrong?’, Zhang Cheng thought. But just as he was going to agree with Jiang Ling and prepared to leave, he heard someone opening the door. He then saw a shadowy figure coming out of Yue Li’s quarters. Whoever that person was, he or she was wearing a black cloak that made it difficult for someone to find out that person’s identity.

    “Follow that person.”, Zhang Cheng whispered to Jiang Ling and the two men followed that person until they saw that person running to the garden where he or she hugged a young scholar. Then, that person took off her cloak and revealed that she was in fact Yue Li, General Shang Wang’s wife!

    “Are you alright?”, the scholar asked.

    “Yes.”, Yue Li replied. “But I feel a bit guilty.”

    At that moment, without warning Jiang Ling, Zhang Cheng rushed forward and attacked them. He slapped Yue Li and kicked the scholar, causing him to fall on the ground. Jiang Ling also rushed to the garden.

    “Please, spare us!”, the scholar cried out. “At least, spare Li.”

    Zhang Cheng took off his mask and bowed slightly before the scholar and Yue Li. “I am sorry for offending you; I just wanted to prove that you are innocent.”

    “What are you talking about!?”, Jiang Ling shouted. “It is clear that they killed the poor General!”

    “No. Neither of them has the skills needed to kill such an able martial arts master. That’s why I attacked them suddenly; in order to test their martial arts. And they could not have faked their incompetence in martial arts, because the attack was sudden and instinctively, if they knew martial arts, they would defend against my attack.”

    “I see…. But they could have hired a killer to kill the General.”

    Zhang Cheng smiled. “You are becoming smarter in solving cases. But your hypothesis is false. Remember when I left the room for a few hours for some business?”

    “Yes.”, Jiang Ling replied after thinking for a few seconds.

    “I visited the accountant. According to him, even though the General was buying Yue Li whatever she wanted, he never allowed her to directly get money from his treasury. Even when she wanted to buy vegetables for cooking, she had to get permission from the General. The General was always watchful of how his money was spend.”

    “Even so, she could have sent a letter to someone from her family, which is quite rich, asking him or her to hire the assassin.”

    “That is what I thought too. But an old friend I found by accident assured me that in all of her letters, Yue Li never asked anyone to hire an assassin.”

    “How did he know that?”

    “The Emperor had sent him to the Fort, pretending to be a simple guard, to intercept all letters coming out and in and read them. As General Shang Wang was one of the most powerful Generals of the Empire and Yue Li the daughter of the Chancellor, he wanted to know what their letters said, in fear that they would plot against him. Of course, this was kept secret from everyone, including, of course, the General and Madam Yue.”

    “Then how did you learn it?”

    “As I already told you, the one who intercepted the letters is an old friend of mine. Also, he knew that if he did not help me, his identity would be exposed by me.”

    “If she was innocent, why did she lie to us about where she was when the murder happened?”

    Zhang Cheng laughed. “Because, as you can see, she was most likely with this young scholar.”

    “But why she said to him that she felt guilty?”

    At that moment, Yue Li intervened: “Because I felt a bit guilty meeting my lover the next day after my husband’s death. Although I did not love him, I respected him.”

    “I see…”

    It was then the young scholar’s turn to speak. “Please, do not tell anyone about this. My love for Li is a pure one and we truly love each other. I was working for the General on the planning of logistics for his military campaigns, and that’s how I met Yue Li. I saw that she did not truly love her husband and we instantly fell in love.”

    Zhang Cheng smiled. “Do not worry. I won’t tell anyone about this.”

    But Jiang Ling was puzzled. “If she did not kill the General, then who did?”

    “I propose that we pay a visit to General Jia Ming.”, Zhang Cheng replied and the two men left after saying goodbye to the two lovers.

  5. #5
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    Chapter 3 – The rival General


    The next suspect for the murder of General Shang Wang was his colleague, General Jia Ming. Jia Ming came to the Fort a few days before the murder happened and he was discussing with Shang Wang on how to deal with a possible Khitan invasion of Sung. Jia Ming had been promoted to General only a few months ago, possibly as an attempt by the Emperor to weaken Shang Wang’s hold on the army. Jia Ming had remained in the Fort after the death of Shang Wang, as its temporary commander. As the Fort was located on the Sung – Liao border, it would be unwise to not appoint quickly a new commander.

    Zhang Cheng and Jiang Ling were quick to meet him. Walking under the morning sun that was brightening the magnificent clear blue sky, they reached the Guests’ quarters, where Jia Ming was residing while staying in the Fort. Five guards were positioned on the building’s door.

    “Hello.”, Zhang Cheng politely said. “I want to see General Jia Ming.”

    One of the soldiers sneered and replied, “And who are you who want to see our General?”

    The rest of the soldiers laughed, enraging Jiang Ling, but Zhang Cheng was able to keep his cool and reply, “I am Zhang Cheng, people in the Martial World like to call me ‘Iron Judge’. And he is my friend, Jiang Ling, best known as ‘Drunken Ling’. We are investigating the case of the murder of General Shang Wang and we want to ask your Master some questions.”

    But the soldiers did not take them seriously. One of them approached Zhang Cheng and ironically said, “If you are the ‘Iron Judge’, then I am Master Wu of Shaolin.”

    At once, Zhang Cheng launched a succession of three quick kicks, the first hitting the soldier’s face and the other two his chest, pushing him back and causing him to lose his balance and fall on the ground. Another soldier drew his sword and attacked Jiang Ling, but he dodged the sword attack. The soldier attempted again to stab him, but Jiang Ling was able to grab his hand and press it so hard that the soldier was forced to let down his sword. He then punched the soldier’s face, breaking his nose. This terrified the other soldiers.

    At that moment, a middle-aged man with long grey beard and wearing a full golden military armor that was shining under the sun, a golden helmet decorated with precious gems and a red cape came out of the Guest’s quarters, possibly because he heard the fighting and wanted to see what was happening.

    Immediately, the three soldiers (the other two were too injured by Zhang Cheng and Jiang Ling to get up) bowed before the man and shouted: “Greetings, General!”

    Zhang Cheng realized that the man was General Jia Ming. He was truly as impressive and awe-inspiring as rumors claimed.

    “What is it?”, the General politely asked.

    “Those two”, a soldier replied while pointing at Jiang Ling and Zhang Cheng, “claim to be the Heroes Cheng and Ling and want to question you.”

    “Considering how easily they beat two of my men”, Jia Ming said, “they must really be the Heroes Cheng and Ling. My men are exceptionally trained and not anyone can beat them.”

    He then proceeded to bow slightly before the two men and said, “I am sorry to have offended you.”

    “Not at all.”, Zhang Cheng replied, and then he smiled.

    “Come inside my room.”

    The two heroes and the General walked into the room, which was richly decorated and luxurious.

    “How well did you know General Shang Wang?”, Zhang Cheng asked once they sat down on the room’s table.

    “I disliked him, to be honest.”, Jia Ming replied. “He was overrated as a military commander. Just because he won a few victories, it does not mean that he was a great General!”

    Jiang Ling was going to say that Jia Ming had won only two battles up to now and so he was in no position to judge, but Zhang Cheng, who predicted what Jiang Ling was going to say, gave him an angry look thus preventing him from talking.

    After a moment of silence, Jia Ming continued.

    “But, of course, our relations were typical. When you do business, you set personal feelings aside.”

    Before Zhang Cheng could ask a second question, three female servants entered the room, bringing each a cup of green tea. After sipping the tea, Zhang Cheng asked his next question, “Where you were when General Shang Wang was murdered?”

    “I was here, on this room, reading Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, searching for a quotation to support my proposal for an invasion of Liao.”

    “I see. I am sorry for not staying any longer but we’ve got to leave.”

    Jia Ming smiled. “See you!”

    Once Jiang Ling and Zhang Cheng left the room, Jiang Ling expressed his doubt about the truthfulness of Jia Ming. “I do not trust this guy!”, he said. “He seems to dislike too much the General.”

    “Indeed.”, Zhang Cheng commented. “I sense that he did not tell us the whole story. He is hiding something.”

    As they kept walking, they saw some other of Jia Ming’s men drinking some wine and talking. One of them said, “Our General should be happy now that this bastard died. He always disliked him and they were constantly arguing. Now, he can surely persuade the Emperor of the rightness of his plan to invade Liao.”

    “I told you!”, Jiang Ling whispered to Zhang Cheng.

    “This seems interesting.”, Zhang Cheng noted. “Let’s go see Madam Yue.”

    Indeed, the two men rushed to Yue Li’s quarters. They knocked the door and she led them inside.

    “Madam Yue”, Zhang Cheng said. “What was your husband’s relationship with General Jia Ming?”

    “He hated him.”, Yue Li replied. “They always argued. Jia Ming wanted to take the war to Liao itself and conquer it. My husband claimed instead that the Liao armies were too numerous and their defenses too strong, so they should instead focus on defending Sung from Liao attacks.”

    “So, they were shouting at each other and were arguing bitterly?”

    “Yes. Do you suspect Jia Ming of murdering my husband?”

    “No. He is innocent. Thanks for your help.”

    As soon as they got out of the room, Jiang Ling, who was very confused, asked Zhang Cheng, “Why do you think that Jia Ming is innocent? All evidence shows that he murdered the poor General. Jia Ming argued bitterly with him, he was jealous of him, was inside the Fort and so he had access to all of the rooms, including the General’s, and he is renowned in the Martial World for his skill in martial arts.”

    “No!”, Zhang Cheng replied. “Exactly because he argued with him constantly and he knows good Kung Fu, he could not have harmed Shang Wang. Shang Wang too hated Jia Ming and knew that things could get ugly, so if Jia Ming had tried to assassinate Shang Wang, the second would have been prepared for a fight. After all, by all accounts, when the murder happened, Shang Wang had not gone to sleep yet, as by all accounts he was always sleeping quite late at night and half an hour before the murder happened, he had ordered a maid to bring him some wine, which she did, and she testified that the General was awake. So, if Jia Ming was the one who entered the room, Shang Wang, as he was not asleep, would have been prepared for a fight. Instead, Shang Wang’s body showed no signs of fighting. The one who killed him was surely trusted by Shang Wang, as he or she was able to approach the General and kill him with just a move of the ‘Two Divine Fingers’ technique. So the General instantly died before having a chance to fight back. And, of course, Shang Wang did not trust Jia Ming. That’s why I had initially suspected Shang Wang’s wife, as she was one of the few people who the General trusted. “

    “So, someone else must have killed the General!”, Jiang Ling concluded. “But who?”

    “Don’t know yet, but the only remaining suspects are the servants who had access to the General’s room.”

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mandred Skavenslayer's Avatar
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    Thanks for the new chapter.

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