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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By May 29, 2024 2 Comments
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Chapter 13: You Are So Nice

Visible Skin, Hidden Bones (Part Two)

Qing Jiu was extremely seasick, appearing very weak and unsteady. She could barely see, feeling faint and exhausted. While this was common for some, but to Qi Tianzhu, it was nothing short of astonishing. He couldn’t believe that someone usually so agile and strong could be so severely affected by seasickness.

During these days aboard the ship, Yu’er has been taking care of Qing Jiu. She had always seen Qing Jiu as a figure of perfection, like the moon in the sky, her elegance and otherworldliness setting her apart from mere mortals. Whenever Yu’er stood beside her, she felt a profound respect and admiration, mixed with a bit of apprehension, almost as though she was hesitant to get too close.

Now, witnessing Qing Jiu’s vulnerability to seasickness, lying in bed as if her soul had parted ways with her spirit, and even arguing with Mo Wen about the dosage of her medicine, Yu’er found her to be more relatable, less like a distant celestial being and more like someone within reach.

Yu’er felt a strange and unexplainable happiness upon realizing this.

Yu’er, holding a porcelain bowl of yellow soup, stood hesitating outside Qing Jiu’s cabin, not sure if she should quickly go in.

Qing Jiu had been struggling to keep food down these past days. Even when she managed to eat, it wasn’t long before she would find herself at the ship’s edge, throwing everything up.

Yu’er had secretly made a bowl of sugar water, a remedy her mother used to make for her when she felt nauseous or feverish. Drinking it had always brought relief to her stomach. Remembering how it was made, and knowing that Mo Wen had the necessary herbs, which were drying on the deck, Yu’er had prepared a bowl for Qing Jiu.

It wasn’t about pleasing anyone for Yu’er; she simply wished for Qing Jiu to feel better. She had noticed Qing Jiu’s health decline ever since she fell ill, which inexplicably filled her heart with panic.

When Yu’er arrived at the cabin, Mo Wen was already there, holding a bowl of medicine, persuading Qing Jiu to drink it. Qing Jiu, however, haggled with her, only agreeing to drink half a bowl.

“Finish it,” Mo Wen instructed firmly.

Yu’er, outside, bit her lip, gripping the bowl tightly, too scared to enter. Mo Wen’s medical skills were renowned; with her by Qing Jiu’s side, surely everything would be fine. Compared to Mo Wen, Yu’er’s humble offering seemed insignificant, perhaps even counterproductive to Mo Wen’s treatment.

Such was the logical reasoning, yet Yu’er felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness and pain, as if her heart was being pricked by needles.

Suddenly, Qing Jiu called out, “Yu’er? What are you doing outside? Come in.”

Yu’er hesitated, not moving forward. But with both Qing Jiu and Mo Wen looking at her, she couldn’t just turn and leave. So, she reluctantly stepped inside.

Upon seeing the bowl in her hands, Mo Wen asked, “Is it time to eat?”

Yu’er shook her head, her lips pursed, taking a shy breath, her ears turning red with embarrassment. “This is… sugar water I made, following my mother’s recipe. It’s soothing and helps with digestion…”

Her voice faded, too shy to meet their gaze directly.

Qing Jiu and Mo Wen looked at her for a moment, seeing no further movement from her and no continuation to her words. They exchanged a glance. Mo Wen approached, took the bowl from Yu’er, and sniffed it: “Dried tangerine peel, dark plum, hawthorn, and a bit of Poria. Indeed, these are good for stopping vomiting, dispelling nausea, and stimulating the appetite.”

Handing the bowl to Qing Jiu, Mo Wen added, “There’s a little brown sugar in here, it won’t taste as bitter as medicine.”

Qing Jiu accepted the bowl, sipping carefully from the rim, then drank it all in one go.

Yu’er was relieved and overjoyed when Qing Jiu accepted and eagerly finished the sugar water she offered. It seemed to lift the gloom from Yu’er’s heart, filling her with immense happiness.

The sugar water was more sour than sweet. Initially, it did alleviate Qing Jiu’s discomfort, but as she drained the last drop, the sourness hit her hard. It was so intense that her facial muscles twitched, and her brows furrowed as if they were trying to merge. She covered her cheeks, gasping for air.

Qing Jiu’s reaction was both endearing and amusing to Yu’er, who had never seen her like this. She couldn’t help but laugh softly.

Embarrassed, Qing Jiu covered herself with a blanket and retreated to her bed, shouting, “Get out, get out, I need to rest.”

When Mo Wen and Yu’er stepped out, Mo Wen was still holding a half-filled bowl of medicine. The bowl was significantly larger than the one Yu’er had brought, almost twice the size.

Yu’er couldn’t help but comment, “She didn’t finish her medicine.”

Mo Wen explained, “She always drinks only half of her medicine. That’s why I switched to a larger bowl, so half of this is the actual amount she needs to consume.”

Yu’er found it curious; logically, she thought Qing Jiu wouldn’t be fooled by such tricks.

Mo Wen, reading her thoughts, said, “Whether it’s a big or small bowl, she only drinks half. She’s aware of it, yet she continues to do so. Perhaps it’s more about mental comfort for her.”

“Is she afraid of the bitterness?” asked Yu’er.

“Perhaps,” Mo Wen replied.

The two headed to the kitchen to wash the dishes. Yu’er mused about the unique habits of each individual in their group: Tang Linzhi, an assassin who couldn’t find her way; Mo Wen, a healer often drunk; and Qing Jiu, a seemingly perfect person, who, as it turned out, disliked taking medicine. Yu’er felt happy, believing that knowing these personal quirks made her feel more connected to them.

Upon reaching Wu City, the group switched to a horse-drawn carriage. Qing Jiu’s seasickness had been severe, and she hadn’t recovered even several days after disembarking. She lay in the carriage all day, feeling dizzy and nauseated, her complexion pale and her taste buds numb. Yu’er sat inside, caring for her, while Mo Wen, Yan Li, and Qi Tianzhu managed the carriage outside. Tang Linzhi and Hua Lian rode alongside on horses.

After the Guyu period, which heralds the last phase of spring with its clear skies and occasional showers, the journey was blessed with beautiful weather. Yu’er, busy caring for Qing Jiu, couldn’t fully appreciate the scenery outside: the gradually receding mountains, the lush plains and fields that greeted them, lakes scattered like stars across the landscape, and streams crisscrossing the land.

One day, they arrived at a town marked by an archway inscribed with the words “Fengyu”, likely the town’s name. Another twenty or twenty-five along the official road would lead them to Suzhou.

The group stopped the carriage under an old banyan tree for a rest. Yan Li distributed some silver coins, instructing everyone to buy what they needed.

Yu’er received some coins too. Holding the silver in both hands, she stood on the wet stone pavement, looking at Yan Li under the tree, not sure what to do.

Yan Li, holding a whisk with its long white bristles draped over her arm, said with a gentle smile, “Go explore with Linzhi and the others. If you see something you like, feel free to buy it.”

Glancing at the carriage, Yu’er followed Mo Wen and the others. She was the first to return, carrying two oil-paper wrapped packages, and slipped back into the carriage. Inside, Qing Jiu lay reclined, propped up on her elbow, peering out through the parted curtains with a distant look, watching the bustling crowd outside.

As Yu’er entered, Qing Jiu’s indifference faded, and she smiled, “That was quick, what did you buy?”

Yu’er unwrapped the oil-paper packages and handed them to her. “You’ve been feeling unwell, eating some sour plums might help.”

Qing Jiu reached out and felt one of the packages. The package exuded a sweet fragrance and felt warm to the touch. When she saw it was a chestnut, she looked surprised, then smiled at Yu’er, “Did you buy this for me?”

Yu’er, shyly nodding, held out the packages.

She had noticed Qing Jiu’s lack of appetite in recent days and thought sour foods like hawthorns and dark plums might stimulate her appetite. On her way back, after buying the dark plums, she saw a stall selling sugar-roasted chestnuts. Remembering how Qing Jiu had specifically bought a pack of chestnuts when they left a town earlier, Yu’er thought she might enjoy them, so she bought some.

Qing Jiu toyed with the small chestnut in her slender fingers. After a moment, her eyes and brows softened as she looked at Yu’er and spoke gently with a smile, “Yu’er, you’re so kind.”

Yu’er’s heart warmed, and she quickly responded, “No, you’re the kind one.”

Stumbling over her words, Yu’er added, “You… you are better than me.”

Qing Jiu lay there silently, and when Yu’er looked over, she saw Qing Jiu covering her eyes with her hand, unable to contain her laughter, her body shaking with amusement.

Yu’er set the oil-paper packages aside and picked out a chestnut. She lowered her head and said, “I… I’ll peel these for you.”

With Yan Li and the others still away, the carriage was quiet, save for the sound of Yu’er peeling chestnuts. She didn’t dare look directly at Qing Jiu, just cleanly peeled each chestnut and handed it over, where a pale, warm hand would receive it.

The sounds of carriages and horses outside had seemed distant, but suddenly they grew louder, pressing into the carriage.

Qing Jiu reached out, pulling back the carriage curtain. Across the street, in front of an inn, a disheveled group of people walked by – the youngest around eleven or twelve years old, the oldest no more than thirty. The group consisted mainly of women, followed by a pair of young boys at the rear, all shackled and chained together in a single line.

Following them was a man resembling an official, riding a horse and holding a whip. He cracked it in the air, loudly berating anyone who lagged behind.

The onlookers on the inn’s balcony appeared nonchalant, even gossiping about the prisoners’ appearances – comparing them to previous prisoners, commenting on their beauty or dignified bearing.

Yu’er felt a chill in her heart as she watched, unconsciously gripping her own wrist. Since leaving Ning City, Mo Wen had been treating her with medicine. Her skills had greatly improved her once frail body, her injured leg was healing, and she had even grown taller in the past month. The scars on her body faded, her skin becoming soft and fair. The dark bruise on her wrist had lightened, but some scars were imprinted on her heart and soul, beyond the reach of medicine.

Qing Jiu gazed at Yu’er for a moment, then gestured to someone outside, calling out, “Old master.”

An elderly man, carrying firewood on his back and leaning on a walking stick, approached. Seeing Qing Jiu’s distinguished demeanor, he respectfully asked, “Miss, do you need something from this old man?”

Qing Jiu, observing the line of women, inquired, “Old master, do you know what’s happening with them?”

The old man replied, “Those are slaves bought by the Qin family, a prominent household in the town. I heard they were imprisoned for some crime and then sold off by the authorities. The Qin family has connections; they buy slaves every year, either to keep for themselves or to sell.”

After answering Qing Jiu’s question, the old man walked away, leaning on his stick and sighing, “Ah, such a tragedy!”

Qing Jiu sat back down and called, “Yu’er.”

Startled, Yu’er looked up, then quickly averted her eyes in a fluster, “What, what is it?”

Qing Jiu asked, “Yu’er, do you want to save them?”

Yu’er clasped her hands, her head bowed, thumbs nervously twiddling over each other, fingers brushing lightly over faint scars. She remained silent, not giving an answer.

She felt a deep compassion, perhaps because she could relate to their plight. She wanted to save them, but she was afraid of causing trouble for Qing Jiu and the others, worried about upsetting them, so she didn’t voice her thoughts.

Even when Yan Li and the others returned and they left Fengyu Town, Yu’er never answered Qing Jiu’s question. 

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anazu
anazu
1 month ago

The world is cruel, especially for those who are kind

Khriss
Khriss
22 days ago

Indeed, it’s a cruel world, and if one frees them what to do with them afterwards?
Thanks for the chapter!!