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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By May 28, 2024 1 Comment
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Chapter 12: Seasick

Visible Skin, Hidden Bones (Part One)

Descending the mountain’s rear cliff, the group navigated a treacherous and steep path. Fortunately, the moonlight guided their way, saving them from having to travel blindly in the dark.

The summit of the main fort blazed with fire, turning the night sky a fiery red. There were still three to four hundred people around the main fort and the mountain pass below. Alerted by the activity, they sent out signals.

Due to the natural defense of a treacherously narrow path, the rear of the mountain fortress was lightly guarded. This allowed Yu’er and her party to proceed unimpeded. By the time the bandits made their rounds, they had long since departed.

As dawn began to break, they reached the mountain’s base. Yu’er, fragile and small, struggled to keep up with the martial artists. Determined not to be a burden, she followed as best she could until Qi Tianzhu effortlessly picked her up and carried her on his back.

Qi Tianzhu’s broad shoulders provided an indescribable sense of security. Though Yu’er was hesitant to inconvenience others, Yu’er felt happy and secretly a bit melancholic being carried by him.

Walking at the back with Yu’er on his back, Qi Tianzhu’s body radiated warmth in the cold night. His consistent pace enabled Yu’er to fall into a gentle sleep, her head weighed down by sleepiness.

Suddenly, Qi Tianzhu called out, “Girl.”

Yu’er weakly responded, “Hmm?”

“What are your plans for the future?” he asked.

Without hesitation, Yu’er said, “I’ll follow Qing Jiu and the others.”

“They journey through jianghu, encountering challenges like the recent battle at the Thirteen Forts. As a young girl without martial arts skills, following them means facing numerous difficulties. Wouldn’t it be wiser to settle with a good family instead?”

Yu’er, now more alert, said, “Qing Jiu discussed this with me. I don’t want to. It’s my choice to follow them, and she even promised to teach me martial arts.”

Qi Tianzhu sighed deeply, then after a pause, asked, “Girl, what if I too followed them? Would they accept me?”

“I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask Qing Jiu…” replied Yu’er.

Yu’er valued the dependable, mountain-like support of Qi Tianzhu and the happiness that came with making a new friend. She treasured this unique friendship and felt genuinely sad at the idea of saying goodbye. She would be overjoyed if Qi Tianzhu could come along with them.

By noon, they had left the mountain. Although winter days on Yan Ling Mountain were long, the Qingming Festival had passed, and the weather was warming, the sun at its peak.

Qing Jiu said to Qi Tianzhu, “Brother Qi, it’s time for us to part ways.”

Qi Tianzhu hesitated, then said, “Qing Jiu, I have an unconventional request.”

Hua Lian and Tang Linzhi had gone into town to find horses. Yan Li and Mo Wen walked ahead, occasionally glancing back. Standing behind Qing Jiu and Qi Tianzhu, Yu’er listened to their conversation, feeling a hint of nervousness.

“Speak freely, Brother Qi,” Qing Jiu encouraged.

Qi Tianzhu asked, “Can I join you?”

Qing Jiu looked at him intently, silent for a long while.

Rubbing his bald head, Qi Tianzhu continued, “I heard that you are all wandering the jianghu. My family is ruined and my loved ones are dead. I’ve left the monastic life to take revenge, but I don’t know where to go. I might as well join you and travel the world.”

“Firstly, the girl saved my life, and I haven’t yet repaid her kindness. By following you, I can seek opportunities to repay this debt of gratitude. Secondly, I’m also looking for Yuan Wenliu, as I have a personal grudge against him. I need to go to Jiangnan on this trip. My internal martial arts may not be as strong as yours, but I excel in external martial arts and possess great physical strength. I can handle all the heavy lifting and carrying for you. My skin is thick and my flesh is tough, so I can also be the one to probe the enemy when we encounter them. May I join you on this journey?”

Qing Jiu reminded him, “Brother Qi, we are not heroes of justice.”

Qi Tianzhu chuckled, “I know, but I also know you’re not the worst of outlaws!”

Qing Jiu smiled faintly, “In that case, we’re honored to have you.”

Seeing Qing Jiu agree, Yu’er felt a weight lifted off her chest. She looked at Qi Tianzhu, and as their eyes met, they shared a smile.

Qing Jiu walked forward to join Yan Li, who held a whisk and walked with a dignified posture. “You really are fated with Buddhism.”

Qing Jiu twirled the prayer beads on her arm. “It’s Yu’er who’s fated with it.”

After leaving Yan Ling Mountain, the group headed southeast. After several days, they reached the edge of Yunmeng Marsh, where they saw vast waters and endless shores covered with lush moss, the wild fields glimmering like scattered gold.

The group, seven people with six horses, had Yu’er riding with one of them since she couldn’t ride a horse. At that moment, she sat on Qi Tianzhu’s horse, while he taught her how to ride.

Hua Lian, Tang Linzhi, and Yu’er led the way, with Qing Jiu, Yan Li, and Mo Wen following behind.

Hua Lian sighed, “We’ve traveled so long and haven’t even covered half the distance.”

Yu’er asked, “Is Suzhou very far?”

Having never traveled far, Yu’er was naturally curious about their destination.

“Have you ever been to Jiangnan, little Yu’er?” Hua Lian asked.

Yu’er shook her head. Hua Lian, playing with a folding fan, said, “Speaking of Jiangnan, it is the best place in the world. One must say, ‘wine houses, pleasure boats, temples of love, and Yanyu Pavilion.'”

“What is the Yanyu Pavilion?” Yu’er had never been to wine houses, pleasure boats, or temples of love, but she had at least heard her mother mention them, so she knew what kind of places they were. However, the Yanyu Pavilion was new to her, and Hua Lian made it sound extraordinary.

“In the wine houses, the fragrance of fine wine fills the air. In the pleasure boats, talents are displayed in abundance. In the temples of love, many beauties can be found. The Yanyu Pavilion, however, combines all these elements into one special place where…”

Tang Linzhi interrupted, “Stop that, speaking of such things in front of Yu’er.”

Hua Lian flicked his fan, retorted, “Yu’er is traveling with us to gain experience. The Yanyu Pavilion isn’t a place of filth or disgrace. Why can’t we mention it?”

“Hmph!”

As the two bickered, Yu’er didn’t dare to continue the conversation. She pursed her lips, and after a while, wanting to sneak a peek at Qing Jiu, she suddenly heard Yan Li’s urgent call, “Qing Jiu!”

Turning her head, Yu’er saw Qing Jiu collapsing from her horse, with Yan Li quickly leaping down to catch her.

Tang Linzhi and Hua Lian stopped their argument and immediately reined in their horses, using their lightness skills to rush back.

Qing Jiu lay on the ground, with Yan Li supporting her upper body, while Mo Wen checked her pulse.

Yu’er’s heart tightened, still trying to comprehend the situation, when Qi Tianzhu swiftly helped her down. She hurried over to the group, where she found Qing Jiu with eyes half-closed, brows knitted in agony, clutching her chest, her complexion ghostly pale.

“Have you taken your medicine?” Mo Wen asked.

After a moment, Qing Jiu managed to squeeze out two words through clenched teeth, “Took it.”

Mo Wen, with a hint of resignation in her voice, sighed, “As I feared, the medicine has lost its effectiveness.”

Delicately searching within her robes, Mo Wen retrieved a small medicine bottle and smoothly uncorked it, revealing red medicinal pills inside. “We have no choice but to use these to suppress her condition for now.”

She gently administered the pill to Qing Jiu. In just a short while, Qing Jiu succumbed to a deep sleep. Despite this, her brows remained tightly knit, her body subtly trembling, and sweat beaded on her skin as she seemingly endured tremendous pain.

Yu’er, with a mix of worry and caution in her voice, inquired, “What’s wrong with her?”

Mo Wen, now carrying Qing Jiu, chose to proceed on foot rather than horseback. Yan Li, standing beside them, let out a sigh of empathy, “She’s sick.”

From Yunmeng Marsh onwards, the group decided to sell their horses and switch to traveling by boat.

Firstly, this helped avoid the remnants of the Thirteen Forts who were pursuing them. Although the group wasn’t afraid, constant attacks every few days were troublesome for Hua Lian. Secondly, with a suddenly sick and unconscious patient among them, traveling by boat was more convenient.

The group decided to enter the river from Yunmeng Marsh and travel southeast along the river, planning to reach Wu City and then travel overland to Suzhou.

Thanks to several years of favorable weather, their journey by boat was smooth and pleasant. The spring atmosphere was inviting and clear, the skies open and filled with flocks of geese, and the waves teeming with spirited fish. Witnessing the vast expanse of the river, their spirits rose, filling them with a deep sense of serenity and joy.

This was Yu’er’s first long journey, and everything was new and fascinating to her. After spending some time gazing out of the cabin window, she returned to sit beside Qing Jiu’s bed.

After spending three days on the boat, Qing Jiu remained unconscious. Her lips had turned pale, and her face was so ashen it was almost transparent. She seemed like she might disappear at any moment. Even in her deep sleep, she was restless, having started out moaning in pain. And although she was now in a deep sleep, her forehead was still deeply furrowed, indicating her ongoing distress.

In the room, Mo Wen busied herself with grinding medicine. In recent days, she began teaching Yu’er about medicinal herbs, teaching her about various herbs used for stopping bleeding, detoxifying, their sources, and identification. Yu’er absorbed these lessons quickly, memorizing everything after just one explanation.

Yu’er’s remarkable ability to learn so quickly and retain information had left an impression on Yan Li and the others. They had discussed and decided that once they reached Suzhou, they would begin teaching Yu’er martial arts.

Mo Wen looked over at the bedside, cautioning, “Yu’er, don’t sit too close to Qing Jiu.”

Yu’er obediently moved away a bit. Despite their time spent together, Yu’er still found Mo Wen somewhat intimidating. Of the six, even the usually serious Yan Li would sometimes smile, but Mo Wen always maintained a strict and solemn appearance.

Hua Lian entered the room, holding a fishing rod, “Mo Wen, Yu’er, how about going fishing?”

Mo Wen shook her head, “I need to concentrate on making the medicine.”

Both Hua Lian and Mo Wen then turned their gazes towards Yu’er, who also shook her head, “I’ll stay here.”

“Alright then,” Hua Lian patted Yu’er’s head with a chuckle, “I’ll fish in the Yunmeng Marsh, hoping to attract golden-scaled fishes. Perhaps touching Yu’er here will bring me good luck, a lucky charm to catch more fish.” He joked about the namesake, tousling Yu’er’s hair until it was somewhat disheveled.

Mo Wen suggested, “Qing Jiu won’t wake up anytime soon, you could go out and play for a while.”

Yu’er, tidying her hair, glanced at the bedridden Qing Jiu and shook her head. She wouldn’t dare to look at Qing Jiu like this when she was awake. Now, with Qing Jiu unconscious, Yu’er felt more relaxed. If she went out to play, she might miss such moments, and she didn’t want to regret that. So, she stayed inside, occasionally looking curiously out of the window.

After some time, Mo Wen left to prepare medicines in the next cabin. Yu’er heard a series of urgent calls from outside, “Yu’er! Yu’er!” It sounded like Hua Lian. Hesitant to disturb Mo Wen and remembering her words that Qing Jiu wouldn’t wake up soon, Yu’er decided to step outside.

Hua Lian and Tang Linzhi were seated at the edge of the boat, engrossed in fishing. Despite the boat’s gentle swaying, they sat as steady as pine trees, unshaken.

Both Hua Lian and Tang Linzhi had their backs to her. Qi Tianzhu and Yan Li stood aside, watching them fish. When Yu’er came out, she asked in confusion, “What’s going on?”

The group turned to her, pausing for a moment before smiles crept into their eyes. Yu’er looked even more confused.

Suddenly, Hua Lian’s fishing rod twitched. He joyfully exclaimed, “Got one, a fish is hooked!”

Only then did Yu’er realize Hua Lian wasn’t calling her, but referring to the fish in the river.

Blushing slightly, Yu’er turned and went back inside the cabin.

“You’ve upset Yu’er,” someone said.

“How is that my fault? Don’t wrongly accuse me,” retorted another.

Inside, Yu’er chuckled softly to herself. She wasn’t bothered at all; instead, she was actually enjoying the dreamy, relaxed nature of their days, finding it quite delightful.

Upon entering Qing Jiu’s room, Yu’er saw her leaning on a table, hand over her mouth. Hearing Yu’er enter, Qing Jiu looked up at her.

Yu’er’s face lit up with joy, “You’re awake!”

Just as Yu’er was about to call for others, Qing Jiu groaned, wincing with a frown, her fingers gripping the edge of the table.

Yu’er moved to help her, “How are you feeling?”

Qing Jiu shrugged off Yu’er’s hand, trying to walk outside. She stumbled, nearly knocking over the table, “I…ugh…I need to get off the boat!”

Qing Jiu’s complexion was terribly pale, her hand still covering her mouth, yet she struggled to move towards the door.

Yu’er rushed to stop her, “You’re still sick. I’ll call Mo Wen. Please lie down and rest for now.”

Qing Jiu staggered towards the back of the boat, bumping into the doorframe. Just then, her behavior appeared erratic, as if she was delirious from a high fever.

Yu’er rushed to assist her, but found herself being pulled along in a stumbling, unsteady manner towards the rear of the boat.

Covering her mouth, Qing Jiu’s words were slurred and unclear, insisting, “I need to get off the boat!”

But they were in the middle of the river, with the water moving rapidly- getting off the boat was impossible.

Yu’er struggled to restrain Qing Jiu, but instead, she was dragged towards the stern of the boat. In desperation, Yu’er called out, “Mo Wen! Mo Wen!”

Suddenly, a figure leaped from the top of the boat. Before Yu’er could react, she was caught by the momentum and flipped over, plunging into the cold river.

Despite being close to Guyu period, the river water was still ice-cold.

As Yu’er opened her eyes underwater, her vision was blurry and tinged with a murky yellow, her ears muffled, barely discerning the rumbling sounds around her.

In her confusion, a pale arm reached from behind, encircling her waist and pulling her back to the surface.

Yu’er emerged coughing and gasping for air. She turned to the person holding her and cried out worriedly, “Qing Jiu.”

Yu’er was concerned about Qing Jiu, fearing her illness would worsen from being submerged in the icy waters.

Surprisingly, though Qing Jiu’s face was pale, she wasn’t as dazed as before, and her expression was no longer pained.

Hua Lian was the first to reach them, exclaiming, “Oh no, how did you both end up in the water!”

Yu’er urged, “Hua Lian, quickly pull us up.”

Hua Lian, standing on the edge of the boat with a rope in hand, didn’t immediately toss it to rescue them. Instead, he teased with a smile, “Alright, little Yu’er, I’ll pull you up, but first, call me ‘Brother Lian’.”

Yu’er’s face turned red, she opened her mouth to comply but hesitated, feeling somewhat embarrassed.

In that moment of hesitation, Qing Jiu’s sharp eyes narrowed as she glared at Hua Lian, her voice tinged with a hint of threat, “Brother Lian, the river is cold. Do you want her to catch a cold?”

Hua Lian shivered and quickly threw down the rope, trying to appease her with a smile, “It’s almost summer now, a dip in the river will cool off the heat, it’s fine.”

But the truth was, summer was still more than ten days away.

Yu’er intended to help Qing Jiu onto the boat first. However, Qing Jiu placed her palm on Yu’er’s waist, and suddenly, Yu’er felt a warm current rise from below her waist. Before she could fully comprehend what was happening, she was already leaping out of the water. Hua Lian reached down and effortlessly pulled her onto the boat.

Yan Li and the others also hurried over. Qi Tianzhu, holding two blankets, wrapped one around Yu’er, who was shivering from the cold.

Qing Jiu remained in the water, her gaze detachedly fixed on the boat, “Let me stay in the water a bit longer.”

Yan Li grabbed the end of the rope, flicked her wrist, and the rope spiraled, wrapping around Qing Jiu. With a strong pull, she hoisted her up onto the boat.

“Your body is weaker than Yu’er’s right now, so stop struggling in this river.”

Qing Jiu, with her exceptional lightness skill, landed steadily on the boat. However, the moment her feet touched the deck, she collapsed, hunched over, covering her mouth, sobbing softly as if her soul had been taken away. She reverted to her extremely pained and depressed state.

Seeing Qing Jiu significantly better in the water, Yu’er was confused. “What’s wrong with her?” she asked Mo Wen anxiously.

Mo Wen replied simply, “She gets seasick.”

Translation note:
              Guyu(谷雨) – Marks the end of spring and is known as Grain Rain in English. It typically starts on April 20 or April 21 and lasts for two weeks. Following Guyu is Xiaoman (小满), which marks the beginning of summer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyu

              Yu’er – The Yu(魚) in Yu’er means fish. They were making puns of fishing and Yu’er (fish).

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Khriss
Khriss
22 days ago

Yay! Companion gained! I’m glad it wasn’t a death flag, rather it’s a green flag!