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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By Jun 01, 2024 1 Comment
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Chapter 19: To Save Oneself

Visible Skin, Hidden Bones (Part Eight)

Yu’er strained to lift her head, catching sight of the man standing beside the woman, his figure slim and upright, his features handsome and refined, dressed as a scholar. It was unmistakably the same man who had picked up a piece of white paper for her on the street that day.

Two other men stood on the stone path, one in green and the other in a white robe, clearly associates of the first man, watching her with detached interest.

Yu’er realized that these newcomers were highly skilled, far beyond her ability to contend with. Trying to stand, she felt a wave of weakness wash over her, her ears ringing incessantly.

Biting her lower lip hard to stay conscious, Yu’er decided not to look at the three men anymore and turned to flee.

Suddenly, a figure appeared in front of her—the villain who had followed her to the courtyard and captured her. Before Yu’er could react, he had swiftly immobilized her with an acupoint technique, and she passed out.

The scholarly-looking man watched Yu’er with a frown, a sense of familiarity dawning on him. He asked, “Steward Qin, this young girl seems familiar to me…”

He then picked up Yu’er, carrying her on his shoulder, and after bowing to the four people in the courtyard, he joked, “Master Ye jests. This girl is the daughter of a criminal, how could she possibly have any connection with Master Ye? The master has prepared a feast in honor of your arrival, hoping to offer you a warm welcome. I won’t disturb you further and will take my leave now.”

Steward Qin carried Yu’er away through the corridor. Master Ye, still with a thoughtful expression, was only distracted when the woman beside him tugged at his arm, smiling, “Eldest Brother, how did you get here so quickly?”

The man’s face turned stern as he replied with feigned seriousness, “Jianghu has been anything but peaceful lately, how could I rest knowing you sneaked out? I had to come immediately after receiving your letter.”

He inspected the girl from head to toe, concern evident in his voice, “Are you alright? Did that little girl hurt you?”

The girl shook her head. The man sighed, “You! You have always been lazy and playful, never taking your martial arts training seriously. Now, you can’t even handle a little girl, all those years of sword training wasted!”

With a sudden increase in pitch, the girl retorted, “I was only trying to talk to her, and she attacked me unexpectedly! Who knew she could be so fierce and deceitful!”

The man laughed heartily, “To think there would come a day when Ye Wushuang would call someone else fierce!”

“Eldest Brother!”

As they joked, a servant came to lead the way, and they followed him out.

After being immobilized, her head throbbing and her chest heavy with stifled anger, leaving her feeling deeply uncomfortable. She dimly understood that she had been returned to the dungeon, with chains binding her limbs. Through her hazy eyesight, she noticed two people with bruised faces peering down at her.

She faintly heard someone sigh, “She’s been caught again…”

After a while, she drifted back into a deep sleep.

When she was moved again, Yu’er woke up clearer than before, opened her eyes, and saw her own astonished face reflected in a mirror in front of her.

A woman approached Yu’er, dipping a pen in some lip rouge before bending down to dab it on her lips.

Yu’er came back to her senses and realized she was sitting, her handcuffs and shackles removed. She found herself wearing a cherry-red dress with elaborate embroidery that exposed her chest, and her hair was elegantly styled, adorned with a gold hairpin that moved with each gesture. Her face was made up in a way that gave her an unnaturally mature and seductive appearance.

“What are you doing?” Yu’er asked.

As Yu’er reached to wipe her face, a woman beside her quickly grasped her wrist, whispering softly, “Miss, if you want to suffer less, just obey.”

Yu’er didn’t understand the meaning of her words, stared blankly for a moment before watching the women finish their preparations and bow out of the room. The door closed behind them, with several guards stationed outside.

Yu’er approached the window and pushed it open to peer outside. She noticed guards stationed on both sides behind the house. Her mind was uneasy, her body uncomfortable, and she started pacing back and forth, feeling desperate and anxious.

She thought about her escape from one cage only to find herself in another. Previously, her luck had shifted for the better when she encountered Qing Jiu and others who saved her from a desperate situation. Now trapped here, who would know? Who would come to save her? She feared it might be another three years, or perhaps even a lifetime, spent in this place.

“This time, the person I selected myszelf, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied,” a voice said outside.

Yu’er, feeling miserable, suddenly heard a familiar voice outside. Approaching, she recognized it as the person who had captured her.

He was speaking to someone in an ingratiating tone, “I found her on the street. Delicate and charming, yet as fierce as a wildcat with sharp claws. She even managed to escape before Protector Yuan returned, but fortunately, I found her in time and captured her again. She’s far more interesting than the girl from a few days ago.”

Yu’er froze in shock, standing still as numerous thoughts flashed through her mind—the stories of Yuan Wenliu discussed by the men in the inn at Ning City, the crazed girl in the dungeon…

“Protector Yuan? Yuan Wenliu! The enemy of Uncle Qi! The person Qing Jiu and the others are looking for! The girl they mentioned, she must be the same one from the dungeon, the one driven to madness by Yuan Wenliu’s cruel torture!”

A cold sweat broke out on Yu’er’s palms, her body starting to tremble uncontrollably. The reason for her capture, her lavish dressing, what Yuan Wenliu might do upon his arrival—it was all too clear!

A chill ran through Yu’er’s heart as she gripped her wrist, trembling, and touched the scar on the back of her thumb, closing her eyes.

When she opened her eyes again, a fierce determination shone through. She pulled the gold hairpin from her hair, holding it tightly in her hand, recalling Qing Jiu’s words, “Better to rely on oneself than to seek help from others.”

If heaven won’t save me, I’ll save myself!

Yu’er sat down on the bed, looking obedient with her hands resting on her lap, the hairpin hidden in her sleeve.

The door swung open, and a man cloaked in black robes stepped inside, the door closing promptly behind him. With his hands clasped behind his back, he approached the bed, reached out with a large hand, and forcefully lifted Yu’er’s chin. In his presence, Yu’er noticed his deep-set eyes and pale complexion, exuding a sinister aura that surpassed any portrayal she had seen of him in the portraits at the Yanyu Pavilion.

Yuan Wenliu curved his lips into a cold sneer, “I’ve never been one to toy with people who are like dead fish.”

With a slight exertion of force, Yuan Wenliu pushed Yu’er onto the bed, “Show me your claws.”

His sinister laugh echoed, eyes gleaming with a bloodthirsty madness, twisting into insanity. Yu’er gripped the gold hairpin tightly, her heart pounding like a drum, waiting for him to draw closer, ever closer…

The night fell, with a gentle breeze and the cold moonlight covering the ground.

Qing Jiu and her companions left Qi Tianzhu outside the Qin residence for backup, while the three of them leaped over the wall, agile and swift as swallows.

As soon as they landed in a courtyard, barely touching down on an old locust tree, they heard a loud and clear male voice declare, “Bypassing the main gate and choosing to sneak over the rooftops instead, you must be thieves.”

A figure sat against the moonlight on the rooftop, a Zhanmadao slung over his shoulder and a wine gourd in hand. After taking a few gulps, he wiped his mouth and chuckled, “Two ladies and one effeminate man coming to steal without disguise, how strange.”

This person was backlit, making it difficult for Tang Linzhi and Hua Lian to see his face clearly, but Qing Jiu spoke in a low voice, “Mad Blade, Hao Yun.”

The two were stunned. Hua Lian in disbelief, “A Martial Champion?!”

“Proceed with caution,” advised Qing Jiu.

Tang Linzhi frowned, “Why would Qin Mu go to the lengths of enlisting such a figure?”

After a moment’s thought, Hua Lian suggested, “You two go ahead; I’ll hold him off.”

Their objective was Yuan Wenliu and the Meiren Gu; there was no need for a direct confrontation. If a fight broke out, the more skilled fighters, Qing Jiu and Tang Linzhi, would pursue Yuan Wenliu and the Meiren Gu, while Hua Lian, with superior agility, would distract Hao Yun.

The plan was clear. Qing Jiu thought, “This man must have some principles. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding. Try to probe later.”

“Understood. Be careful, both of you,” Hua Lian responded.

In an instant, the two leaped away, bypassing Hao Yun like two streaks of black lightning. Hao Yun snorted coldly, his body moving and blade swirling, aiming first at Tang Linzhi.

Without looking back, Tang Linzhi dodged as the blade swiped through the air, its blade swiftly descending.

Hua Lian stood gracefully on the blade, his toe touch preventing Hao Yun from swinging it freely.

In that moment of delay, Tang Linzhi and Qing Jiu had already vanished without a trace.

Hao Yun flicked his blade upwards, but Hua Lian gracefully landed on a water jar in the courtyard. Hao Yun struck with his zhanmadao, sending a cold chill from thirty meters away, which loudly split the water jar in half and carved a deep gash in the ground.

Hua Lian, quick on his feet, had already dodged to the side, admiring Hao Yun’s profound internal energy from a safe distance.

In a thunderous flurry, Hao Yun unleashed a series of fierce attacks, his zhanmadao moving with the agility of a sword in his hands.

Despite Hao Yun’s ferocious onslaught, Hua Lian remained unscathed, his steps light, his body seemingly weightless, floating with the wind to evade Hao Yun’s rapid strikes.

Hua Lian landed gracefully, unfurling his folding fan, the words “Peerless and Unparalleled” shimmering in the moonlight: “I’ve heard of Mad Blade Hao Yun, renowned for his boldness and unrestrained spirit. Yet, why would you stoop to serve under a tyrant, becoming nothing more than a watchdog?”

Hao Yun, caught up in the heat of battle, was irritated by the interruption, “Enough with the chatter! If we’re going to fight, let’s fight without all this nagging!”

Hua Lian’s expression darkened. He didn’t mind being called beautiful but took offense at being deemed less than a man, retorting coldly, “To aid the tyrant, you waste your reputation…”

He paused, then scoffed, “What reputation? Perhaps it’s all just rumors. In truth, you are nothing but heartless and cold-blooded!”

Hua Lian shifted from defense to attack, moving with the grace of the wind, his movements unpredictable and elusive. He launched over twenty moves in rapid succession, appearing as a blur of white shadows.

Hao Yun, adept in close combat, matched him blow for blow, alternating between the blade and handle for defense and attack, parrying twenty-three strikes until a kick landed on his chest. However, Hao Yun’s blade had already reached the hem of Hua Lian’s robe, prompting Hua Lian to lessen the force of his kick. The kick landed moderately on Hao Yun, and Hua Lian’s robe was sliced at the hem.

“What impressive skills!” Hao Yun, patting the footprint on his chest, laughed, “Enough fighting! Young man, you seem too noble to be a thief. What grievance do you have with Master Qin, to accuse him of being a ‘tyrant’ and ‘aiding the tyrant’?”

Initially, Hao Yun had underestimated Hua Lian, seeing his feminine appearance and the way he sneaked into the Qin residence. But after engaging in combat and experiencing Hua Lian’s impressive abilities and straightforward approach, Hao Yun’s opinion changed. Intrigued by Hearing Hua Lian’s curses, he sensed there was a story behind it and, not being one to act without thinking, he paused his actions to understand the situation better.

The combatants ceased their fight, giving Hua Lian a chance to observe Hao Yun closely. Despite his rugged appearance, unkempt beard, and tattered cloak, Hao Yun’s sharp brows, bright eyes, and handsome features stood out.

Hao Yun scratched his unkempt beard, suggesting, “Tell me, if it’s not too difficult, Master Qin is known for his generosity. If you speak to him nicely, he might just agree.”

“But if you’re intent on causing trouble for Master Qin,” Hao Yun then rested his zhanmadao on his shoulder, took a swig of his wine, and sighed deeply, “I dislike conflict and am too lazy to exert myself. Unfortunately, I’ve always loved wine. Master Qin, being both charitable and hospitable, treated me with respect and offered me a drink. Naturally, I must reciprocate the gesture by guarding his manor.”

Hua Lian, hearing the reason, sensed there was more to the story. Yet, he couldn’t help but scoff when Hao Yun mentioned Qin Mu’s ‘charitable and hospitable’ nature, “Qin Mu harbors evil intentions, harms women and children, shelters monsters like Yuan Wenliu and the Meiren Gu, and is involved with the Fanyun Fuyu Thirteen Fortresses. A man with the face of a Bodhisattva but the heart of a wolf—what does ‘charitable’ have to do with him!”

Hao Yun replied, “Yuan Wenliu and the Meiren Gu? You mean that den of evil on Yan Ling Mountain? Young man, you must be mistaken. Master Qin’s benevolence and righteousness are well-known in this town.”

Hua Lian sneered, “Appearances can be deceiving. If your wine was bought with the blood and tears of women and children, could you still drink it?”

Hao Yun, looking at his wine gourd, frowned, “Do you have evidence?”

Hua Lian responded, “Evidence…”

Translation note:
              Zhanmadao – A Chinese saber. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhanmadao

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Khriss
Khriss
21 days ago

Hmmm. Evidence is always concealed, must uncover.
Thanks for the TL!