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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By Jun 05, 2024 2 Comments
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Chapter 24: Gu Poison

A Thread of love Wrapped around Black Silk (Part Three)

In the midst of a lively conversation, a sudden gasp cut through the air. Yu’er lifted her eyes just in time to see a shadow plummeting rapidly from above. A thought flashed through her mind: “That girl is falling.”

Hua Lian, with a light tap of his foot, soared gracefully into the air, catching the girl with steady arms and cradling her across his chest. He couldn’t help but chuckle, “Oh, look, a beauty has fallen from the sky.”

The girl, with a face that was both pretty and clean, was initially frozen in shock. It took a moment for her to realize she hadn’t felt any pain and was still very much alive, letting out a sigh of relief. As soon as she saw that it was a man holding her and his words carried a flirtatious tone, she snapped from embarrassment to anger and slapped Hua Lian across the face, calling him a “scoundrel.”

Hua Lian, ever the patient one, gently placed her down and, while holding his cheek, offered a laugh tinged with disbelief, “Miss, I saved you with good intentions, and this is how you repay kindness?”

Tang Linzhi laughed with her arms crossed, “Well, your flirty words invited that slap. Who else would she hit if not you?”

Just as Hua Lian was about to argue, a soft and anxious female voice called out, “Zelan!”

The girl quickly turned and responded, “Senior sister.”

Around the corner of the mountain path, a woman dressed in dark green, with a graceful and beautiful appearance, rushed over in a panic. She inspected the girl from head to toe, even checking her pulse, before finally letting out a sigh of relief, “You scared me to death, I told you to be careful.”

After catching her breath, she turned to Hua Lian with a bow. She had witnessed the whole thing from a lower position on the mountain and knew it was Hua Lian who had made the save. Acknowledging her junior sister’s rude behavior, she said, “Thank you, young master, for your help. I am Zizhi, and this is my junior sister, Zelan. My junior sister was rash and offended you. Please forgive us.” Her voice was gentle and sweet.

Holding a folding fan, Hua Lian returned the gesture with a bow, smiling, “I am Hua Lian. Miss Zizhi, your quiet elegance and grace surpass what one might expect from a little girl.”

 Zelan, realizing Hua Lian’s ‘little girl’ comment was directed at her, blushed furiously and retorted, “You!”

Zizhi quickly stopped her, “Zelan.”

 Zelan pouted and turned her head away with a huff. Zizhi continued, “We thank you once again for saving her life, but unfortunately, we have nothing to offer in this wilderness.”

Hua Lian replied with a smile, “In jianghu, meeting by fate makes us friends. A helping hand is nothing to expect in return.”

“You have a righteous heart,” Zizhi smiled gently, then bowed slightly to everyone, “It seems you are in a hurry, and the sky looks like it will rain soon. It’s getting late, and you should find a place to rest. There’s a village ahead where we are staying. If you don’t mind, we can lead you there for rest, as a way to repay your kindness.”

With the sky filled with heavy clouds and a mist rising in the forest, signaling a heavy rain soon, and the difficulty of traveling in the mountains during such weather, finding shelter became a priority for the travelers.

Hua Lian looked towards Qing Jiu for her opinion. Qing Jiu nodded with a smile, “That would be wonderful.”

The group followed Zizhi and her companion, who revealed that their sect had sent several members to this area. Every year, disciples from the Xuhuai Valley would leave to practice their medical skills in jianghu. This time, they stayed in the village to treat villagers with a strange disease, having braved danger in search of medicinal herbs.

Upon reaching a valley, they saw a village with houses nestled together, home to around a hundred families.

At the village entrance, an elderly man with white hair and dressed in dark clothes greeted them. His face was pale and he was extremely thin. Seeing Zizhi and her companion, he looked hopeful, “Divine healer, you’ve finally returned. How did the search for the medicinal herbs go?”

Zizhi and her companion showed a look of guilt and shook their heads. The light in the old man’s eyes dimmed instantly, his spirit seemingly deflating in a moment. After a brief, bitter chuckle, he turned to Qing Jiu and the others, inquiring, “And who might these people be?”

Zizhi explained, “We encountered danger while gathering herbs earlier and were fortunate enough to be rescued by these people. They were passing through this place, and as it’s getting late and traveling is difficult, I wonder if the village chief could spare some rooms for them to stay the night.”

The old man immediately responded with a respectful bow, “The benefactors of the divine healer’s companions are benefactors of our village. It is my duty to serve you to the best of my ability.”

Zizhi then introduced him to the group, “This is the village chief.”

Everyone returned the gesture, and Qing Jiu said, “Then we’ll trouble you for the night.”

The old man guided them into the village, which was beautifully situated among lush green mountains and clear waters, radiating a peaceful calm. The sky was covered with dense clouds, and a cool breeze was blowing. Despite being home to approximately a hundred families, the village seemed deserted, with its main pathways unusually silent and empty.

They arrived at a spacious house in the east of the village. The house, surrounded by a bamboo fence, had a small building to the right, a deep well under a grass shed by its side, and a yard to the left where herbs were being dried on racks.

Upon seeing this, Zelan exclaimed, “Ah, luckily we’re back in time, the rain hasn’t soaked these herbs.”

 Zelan and Zizhi hurried to gather the herbs. The village chief led everyone inside for a rest. The main hall was bright and spacious, centered with a large table. The chief offered seats respectfully and had his wife serve tea.

Yu’er glanced at the wife, noting she bore the same haggard appearance as the village chief, her face and lips pale as if she hadn’t seen the sun in years.

The village chief busied himself arranging dinner for everyone and made arrangements for them to stay in his house, showing warm and respectful hospitality.

As they were speaking, a figure emerged from the small building and started towards the hall. Midway, the figure abruptly turned and quickly headed back the way they had come.

Qing Jiu called out, “Come back!”

Yu’er followed her gaze and saw the figure pause, then silently turn around. It was Mo Wen, who had run away.

Qing Jiu, with a smirk that wasn’t quite a smile, said, “What? You ran away for over ten days, making us search high and low for you! Are you still angry? Planning to run off again without a word?”

Mo Wen approached obediently and took a seat at the table, murmuring, “I’m not angry.”

Tang Linzhi said, “You’re not angry? Then why didn’t you leave any clues? Do you have any idea how much I spent on the reward money at Yanyu Pavilion to get information about you?”

Tang Linzhi was speaking in haste, and her local accent slipped out. She was very annoyed. It wasn’t about the money; it was Mo Wen’s unexpected disappearance without a trace, leaving them clueless and forcing a visit to Yanyu Pavilion, which led to the pavilion’s young mistress mocking her.

That day, while searching the streets for any sign of Mo Wen with Yan Li, Liu Xiu called out to Yan Li from the balcony of Yanyu Pavilion. Yan Li thought to use the Pavilion‘s resources to find Mo Wen and went inside. Tang Linzhi, refusing to join, waited stubbornly below.

Liu Xiu was well-prepared, agreeing immediately but for a significant fee, exactly the amount Tang Linzhi had earned from her last mission. Down below, Tang Linzhi watched with glaring eyes as the young mistress of the pavilion, with a cunning smile, seemed overly pleased, then said, “I’ve heard that the lady is a skilled assassin from the Tang Sect, even went to complete a mission by killing Yuan Wenliu. But it’s strange, your name isn’t on the Tang Sect’s assassin list from first to last. Perhaps the rumors aren’t reliable, this ‘tiger’ might just be a cat in disguise?”

Liu Xiu mockingly suggested that Tang Linzhi was all bark and no bite. Tang Linzhi, teeth clenched, found herself unable to retaliate; her name indeed did not appear among the top thirty assassins. Her mood darkened further as Liu Xiu, casually leaning on the railing and conversing with Yan Li, glowed with a mischievous glee, her allure almost enchanting.

After Yan Li handed over the money, the impression Tang Linzhi held of Liu Xiu worsened as she and Yan Li departed.

Now, after running into Mo Wen again, all because she hadn’t left any clues had put them at a disadvantage against Liu Xiu, Tang Linzhi couldn’t help but vent her frustration on Mo Wen.

“That woman is so stingy; we even promised to go down into the tomb for her, yet she still demanded extra for your information!”

Whether it was Tang Linzhi’s questioning that flustered her or something else, Mo Wen’s accent slipped out as well, “I forgot, alright.”

“You!” Tang Linzhi was so exasperated she couldn’t speak, not knowing where to start with this person, ultimately ending up with a powerless ‘you’ after a long while.

Qing Jiu, with a hint of amusement, inquired, “What happened to your face?”

Mo Wen had a dark circle around her left eye, already fading but still visible as a mark of injury.

Qing Jiu’s question, everyone became interested.

Zelan and Zizhi, having just finished gathering the herbs, stumbled upon the group deep in conversation, looking surprisingly familiar with one another.  Zelan’s face flushed with embarrassment upon hearing Qing Jiu mention the bruise around Mo Wen’s eye, and she quickly tried to change the subject, “So, you’re all with wooden-faced over here? What a small world, ha-ha, ha-ha…”

Zizhi shot her a look, then turned apologetically towards the others, “It was my junior sister’s hasty judgment that led to the misunderstanding with Miss Mo Wen. She mistook her for a thief and unintentionally injured her in the process. We didn’t realize you were friends, and we are deeply sorry. We don’t know how to make amends.”

 Zelan pouted dismissively, “She appeared after the whole village was poisoned by Gu, dressed in foreign clothes, looking cold and expressionless. It was an understandable mistake. And it wasn’t only me; the villagers too believed she was an associate of the Gu Emperor.”

Zizhi whispered sharply, “Zelan!” In response, Zelan turned her head away, sticking out her tongue.

Qing Jiu, intrigued, asked, “Poisoned by Gu?”

The atmosphere tensed as everyone braced for Mo Wen’s explanation, but they were abruptly interrupted by a rush of frantic footsteps and a voice filled with panic and urgency, “Divine healer, divine healer!”

Zizhi and Zelan hurried out, followed by the rest, to see a woman rushing in desperately, tripping and almost falling before Zizhi caught her, “Madam Shen, what happened?”

Tears in her eyes, the woman cried for help, “Divine healer, please save my son Kun! He’s dying!”

The expressions of Zizhi and  Zelan changed drastically.  Zelan rushed to fetch her medicine box, while Zizhi, supporting the woman, said, “Tell us on the way.”

The three quickly left the house. Mo Wen, watching them go, thought for a moment, “They might need help. I’ll go too.”

As Mo Wen made to leave, Qing Jiu called out, “Wait, I’ll come with you.”

Qing Jiu then called out, “Yu’er, come here.”

With a smile, Qing Jiu said to Mo Wen, “Considering you’re somewhat of a mentor, it’s only right to let her witness such situations.” Together, the three of them left the courtyard, proceeding unhurriedly towards the affected household.

Along the way, Mo Wen briefly recounted the events that had unfolded after she had left from the group. She had traveled westward towards the Miaojiang, eventually arriving in these mountains.

Upon her arrival, she found the entire village had been afflicted with Gu. As soon as she entered the mountains, she was wrongfully accused of being the one who had cast the Gu and was captured. When she woke up and managed to free herself from the ropes, Zelan saw her. Acting on impulse, Zelan struck her without any prior warning. This took Mo Wen by surprise, resulting in a direct hit to her eye. Mo Wen was caught off guard, not anticipating such aggressive behavior from someone who appeared so gentle and delicate.

Mo Wen continued, “The Gu poison infecting the villagers feeds on human blood. Instead of killing its victims outright, it slowly drains their strength and mind, turning them into living dead, until it reaches their heart through the bloodstream, depleting their life force and ultimately causing death. This time, it appears someone was using the village to test the effects of Gu. The villagers harbored deep hatred towards this person, and I just happened to arrive at that time. Being suspicious, I was… It was just bad timing that led to me being wrongfully accused.” It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yu’er listened, horrified by the idea of someone using people as test subjects for Gu spells, a deed even worse than the acts of bandits, “So that’s why the villagers looked so pale and thin. But why would someone use people to test Gu…”

Mo Wen fell silent for a moment before explaining, “Gu, like medicine, has its functions, habits, and effects that can only be known after testing. Using people is the most convenient method.”

“The Gu Emperor of Miaojiang, known for his mastery of Gu, has nearly a thousand disciples. Although considered both righteous and evil, his notorious habit for using people as test subjects has tarnished his reputation. This has caused widespread suffering among those living in the Miaojiang’s mountains and forests, and the villagers are extremely cautious, mistaking Mo Wen partly because of her Miaojiang attire and unusual behavior.” Walking beside Yu’er, Qing Jiu’s eyes twinkled mischievously as she whispered, “Speaking of testing Gu, there are Gu Insects that can heal, but many more that harm, with a wide variety of strange effects. They’d love to use someone as fair and delicate as you for testing. Are you scared?”

Leaning in to speak to Yu’er, she saw Qing Jiu’s cunning smile and heard her teasing words, realizing she was just trying to frighten and tease her. For some reason, Yu’er felt a warmth inside, as if the discomfort had melted away, leaving a tingling sensation and a sweet smile on her face.

Yu’er felt a strange mix of confusion and curiosity, wondering how Qing Jiu always managed to effortlessly dispel the chill in her heart, much like how the warm breeze of spring melts away the snow, leaving the promise of blooming peach flowers.

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Khriss
Khriss
21 days ago

master teasing little disciple, so cute! I haven’t seen gu in any other Chinese cultivation novel, I wonder if it’s mainstream and I haven’t read enough?
Thanks for the TL.

Lakka
Lakka
1 day ago

Thank you for the translation! I’m very curious about Qing Jiu’s backstory, she’s such a mysterious character