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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By May 23, 2024 2 Comments
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Chapter 5: The East Wind Comes

Fanyun Fuyu Thirteen Fortresses(Part Five)

Qing Jiu didn’t respond immediately but gestured towards Mo Wen behind Yan Li, “Mo Wen.”

Mo Wen emerged from behind the pillars, carrying a jar of wine as she approached the pair. Settling down with her back against the railing, Qing Jiu slid some tea cakes across the table towards her, “Mo Wen, I brought this little girl back with me, and you seem quite pleased. Do you like her that much?”

Yan Li offered a light smile, “She likes the girl’s cooking skills. Though still green compared to you, given time, she might match you. Then, there will be two great cooks to satisfy her stomach.”

Mo Wen’s face remained as expressionless as a slab of stone, yet her eyes betrayed a flicker of joy.

Qing Jiu suggested, “The little girl wants to learn martial arts. Since you like her so much, why not keep her by your side as a little medicine apprentice in the future?”

Upon hearing this, Mo Wen, who was uncorking the wine jar and drinking heartily, quickly agreed, “Sure.”

“Learn martial arts?” Yan Li questioned with a hint of surprise.

Mo Wen wiped her mouth, “That little girl possesses an extraordinary talent. Among those I’ve seen, only Qing Jiu is her equal…”

Yan Li’s gaze shifted to Qing Jiu, filled with a new level of scrutiny.

Qing Jiu flipped over a wine cup and passed it to Mo Wen. After pouring a drink for her, Qing Jiu inhaled the wine’s fragrance and smiled, “She told me, ‘Better to be strong and face oppression than embrace a false peace. I want to control my destiny.'”

Yan Li, visibly astonished, asked, “Those were her exact words?”

If these words truly came from that little girl, her insight was remarkable for someone of her humble background. Coupled with her exceptional talent and resilience, she was a prodigy. With proper guidance and careful teaching in martial arts could make her an extraordinary figure in the future. Nowadays, various sects are desperate for talents like her, and if they met her, they would surely compete to take her as a disciple.

“The depth of her words is there, even if she doesn’t fully realize it,” Qing Jiu said, sipping her wine thoughtfully. Her eyes narrowed, reflecting a myriad of interests, “She said she wants to learn martial arts with us because she doesn’t know those famous and upright sects, only us. So, she wants to follow us not just to learn martial arts, but also to find the opportunity to repay her debt.”

“A very interesting little girl, isn’t she? You know me, I’ve always liked interesting people, and those who understand gratitude. Naturally, I like this interesting girl who wants to repay kindness very much.” Qing Jiu continued, her thumb caressing the rim of her cup, a smile playing on her lips. “Although we are not unmatched experts, teaching her a few moves is still within our capabilities.”

Yan Li, with a flick of her whisk, sighed, “If you’ve decided, I have no objections.”

After chatting for a while, Mo Wen had already slumped over the table, drunk.

Seeing this, Yan Li sighed, “Poor tolerance for alcohol yet addicted to it. Those who can’t escape their sorrows drown them in alcohol, not realizing they’re sinking deeper.”

“Are you talking about her?” Qing Jiu asked with a smile.

Startled, Yan Li saw her own reflection in Qing Jiu’s eyes. She shook her head with a bitter smile, choosing to remain silent.

After several days of continuous rain, the sun finally broke through, warming the air noticeably. The long-awaited sunshine brought a welcome change to the dreary weather of the past few months.

As Qing Jiu and her companions gathered in the room for an important discussion, possibly about the bandit fortress, Yu’er knew not to intrude. She sat idly in her room for half the day before finally descending to prepare a pot of tea for everyone.

Approaching the guest room, Yu’er noticed the door was open. Just as she was about to knock, she saw the figure of Tang Linzhi passing inside. She caught sight of her and beckoned, “Ah, Yu’er, come in.”

Holding the tea, Yu’er entered the room only to be faced with sight of that bandit. Her mind went blank for a moment, and a chill seeped into her bones, her body stiffening as fear surged within her.

Why was this man here? Wasn’t he captured by Qing Jiu?

The teapot slipped from her hands, but suddenly, a slender, fair arm reached from behind, catching it gently. Yu’er felt herself enveloped in a comforting warmth.

She knew without looking that it was Qing Jiu, recognizing her by her delicate fragrance.

The ‘bandit’ stepped forward with a grin, “Little Yu’er.”

The playful tone of his voice was unmistakably Hua Lian’s. Yu’er, still reeling from shock and confusion, took a while to gather her senses.

Qing Jiu stepped forward, placing the tea on the table, and said to the ‘bandit’, “You scared her.”

The ‘bandit’, still grinning with a face that looked menacing despite the smile, said, “If little Yu’er is scared, it means Mo Wen’s disguise is convincingly deceptive.”

Hearing the ‘bandit’ speak, Yu’er was sure it was Hua Lian. Although her heart still raced, she wasn’t as panicked as before.

“Little Yu’er, listen to this. Does my voice sound like that scoundrel?” he asked, referring to the actual bandit.

Yu’er shook her head, “The voice needs to be coarser.”

“Like this?”

Yu’er, suppressing her laughter, shook her head again, “Deeper.”

Initially, Yu’er, traumatized by the bandit, was wary of men, including Hua Lian. But Hua Lian, with his easygoing, gentle, and humorous demeanor, was a stark contrast to the bandit. He seemed frivolous but was respectful and protective towards women, like a caring Elder Brother. Realizing this, Yu’er began to let down her guard.

“Like this?”

This time, Hua Lian’s imitation was nearly perfect. Yu’er was startled, feeling a chill rise within her, “Yes, very similar…”

Hua Lian smiled, quickly reverting to his own voice, “Want to learn? I can teach you. Open your throat like this, lower your tongue…”

Then, another figure emerged from behind a screen. It was the other bandit who had met with the first in their house and who should have been subdued by Qing Jiu and her group – the bandit with a patch of rat whiskers on his face.

Qing Jiu, seeing Yu’er staring in disbelief, smiled and said, “Don’t be afraid, it’s Mo Wen.”

The calming voice immediately soothed Yu’er’s startled heart.

Yan Li entered the room from outside, closing the door behind her. The six of them gathered in the room, some sitting, some standing.

Qing Jiu walked to a chest near the bed, opened a drawer, and took out a yellowed scroll. She unrolled it on the table, addressing Hua Lian and Mo Wen, “This is a map of the outposts and the main path to the fortress. Make sure you memorize it.”

Hua Lian exclaimed, “Wow, you’ve drawn this so quickly! All your efforts these days, talking to the ‘brothers’ from the Thirteen Forts in Ning City, haven’t been in vain!”

Tang Linzhi scolded, “Hmph! You have the nerve to say that. If it weren’t for the mess you made last time, why would we have had to urgently change our hiding place yesterday? It’s very likely that the fortress’ spies in Ning City are already onto us!”

Indeed, the discussions at the inn a few days ago were true; Ning City was thoroughly infiltrated by the Thirteen Forts, teeming with their spies both overt and covert.

Qing Jiu leaned on the table with her left hand, her right hand tracing a path on the map. “Patrols begin at the outer edges of Yan Ling Mountain,” she explained, her voice calm and measured. “There are twelve outposts within the side peaks, and the main fortress sits atop the summit, built right into the cliff face. For kilometers around the fortress, the vegetation has been cleared, leaving a clear field of fire. The fortress boasts a ten-meter-high wall, numerous arrow towers, and a clear view of any movement within half a kilometer.

“Behind the fortress is a narrow, treacherous path known as ‘Heaven’s Thread,’ a sheer cliff face that drops hundreds of meters. The only way in is through ‘Thousand-Steps Ladder,’ a narrow passage that allows only one person to pass at a time. It exits through a cave opening right in front of the fortress. Yan Ling Mountain is a natural fortress, imposing and difficult to conquer. The bandits control all the entrances and exits, and any unusual activity is immediately detected. Even if you manage to bypass the twelve outposts and reach Thousand-Steps Ladder, you’ll likely be riddled with arrows the moment you step out of the cave. The wulin heroes who attempted to raid the fortress yesterday didn’t even make it past the first checkpoint.”

Yu’er listened quietly, piecing together the events of the previous day. She realized that their sudden departure wasn’t intentional; something urgent had come up, forcing them to leave in haste. Qing Jiu had followed those wulin heroes to Yanling Mountain.

Qing Jiu stood up straight, “Although the bandits aren’t a serious threat, you two must be cautious. Meiren Gu and Yuan Wenliu might be in the fortress.”

Hua Lian’s face turned serious, and in that expression, he was the spitting image of the bandit, indistinguishable.

Qing Jiu said, “I was planning to have Mo Wen and Linzhi disguise themselves as bandits to infiltrate the fortress, but unfortunately…”

One skilled in medicine and poison and the other in assassination, they were the ideal candidates for infiltration…

Hua Lian’s face broke into a mischievous smile, “Unfortunately, one’s a drunkard, and the other’s directionally challenged. Hardly the makings of a successful mission. So, the responsibility ultimately falls on me, but don’t worry. I’ll be careful, even if I encounter Meiren Gu, I won’t act rashly.”

Tang Linzhi, with her arms crossed, glanced at him dismissively, “Hmph!”

Soon, after finalizing their plan, everyone left the room and descended the stairs, with Yu’er following behind.

The inn was still quiet, located in a secluded area. Hua Lian and Mo Wen led their horses out of the stable, mounted them, and took hold of the reins. Hua Lian teased Yan Li, “Shall the divine swindler cast a fortune for us?”

Yan Li, unfazed, took out three copper coins from her sleeve and cast them six times on the back of her hand. She gathered the coins and said, holding her whisk, “Qian hexagram, yuan, enjoy, benefit, firmness, all is harmonious and successful.”

Hua Lian grinned, “A good omen.”

Yan Li continued, “The second line indicates ‘seeing the dragon in the field’, beneficial to meet a great person. Do not act recklessly. Don’t get caught at the outposts before reaching the fortress. Once inside, wait for the right moment. We will also be heading up the mountain; plan accordingly.”

Hua Lian and Mo Wen, on their horses, started off with a light trot. As they disappeared into the twilight, they waved their hands, “Understood!”

The horses galloped away, kicking up dust, vanishing into the distance like the wind.

The group returned to the inn, where the number of guests was sparse. Seeing that Qing Jiu and her party were all women, the lazy staff neglected their duties, not even bothering to heat water for bathing. Yu’er herself went to the kitchen to heat water for Qing Jiu and the others, then carried the hot water to Qing Jiu’s door.

The heavy buckets strained Yu’er’s small frame, spilling water on her as she shakily made her way, leaving her drenched.

Qing Jiu opened the door and, seeing Yu’er’s state, asked, “Why are you the one bringing the water?”

Yu’er wiped the water from her chin, “The staff… they’re asleep.”

Qing Jiu took the bucket inside, inviting, “Come in.”

After pouring the water into a wooden tub behind the screen, Qing Jiu did not immediately send Yu’er back for more. Instead, she leisurely sat at the table, casting a glance at Yu’er and sighed deeply, “We’ve prepared for everything, but this ‘east wind’ has come too swiftly, blowing right to our doorstep.”

Yu’er found her words strange, and Qing Jiu’s gaze even more so.

Then Qing Jiu fell silent, not saying or doing anything. She propped her head with her right hand and closed her eyes. The dark red prayer beads dangled from her fair arm, reflecting the light of the candle, serene yet eerie.

Qing Jiu seemed to have fallen into a deep sleep. Yu’er, sitting there for a while, began to smell a strange fragrance and felt odd. As she tried to stand up, her legs gave way, and she collapsed weakly to the floor.

Confused, Yu’er struggled to stand but failed, her consciousness beginning to blur, her vision clouding as if covered by a sheet of white paper.

Faintly, Yu’er heard the creaking of a window opening. Two figures climbed through the window and approached them. A sense of dread filled her; she remembered Tang Linzhi’s words from earlier in the day and thought, “Could it be that the people from the fortress have found us?”

The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became. Biting her tongue, she mustered all her strength to shout, “Qing Jiu! Qing Jiu!”

Her voice was weak and powerless. Desperately looking at the snow-like, elegant figure at the table, her heart raced with urgency, but she was helpless. She could only hold on for a moment longer before succumbing to unconsciousness.

When Yu’er awoke again, it was to the sounds of soft crying, angry shouts, and the mournful, wailing wind.

Sitting up, Yu’er saw many women and children huddled around her, curled up in fear.

Anxiously looking around, she called out, “Qing Jiu! Qing Jiu! Yan Li! Tang Linzhi…”

A girl about her age tugged at her clothes and whispered, “Don’t shout, you’ll attract them.”

Before the girl could say more, two men approached, rapping their iron rods against the cage, the clanging of metal sharp and piercing, “Quiet! Keep it down!”

Yu’er, instinctively asking, “Where are we?”

A woman, with a numb expression, answered, “This is hell.”

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anazu
anazu
1 month ago

??!!!!

Khriss
Khriss
22 days ago

Wahh!!! Captured, again!?
Thank you for the chapter !!