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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By May 25, 2024 2 Comments
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Chapter 8: Pure Joy

Fanyun Fuyu Thirteen Fortresses(Part Eight)

Upon hearing these words, the two men instantly became alert, with one swiftly placing his hand on the hilt of his knife.

Yu’er, recalling the voice-changing technique taught by Hua Lian, deepened her voice, “I’m new here. Shu Ye sent me out to get a jar of wine for him.”

The voice that came out was somewhat immature, like that of a young boy.

Despite trembling, Yu’er tried to steady herself, her speech stuttering slightly.

The man stroking his chin squinted and asked, “One of Shu Ye’s men?”

He gave a look to the other person, and the two of them surrounded Yu’er, one on each side. One of them said in a deep voice, “A spirit of bold righteousness.”

In this mountain fortress, there were secret codes, referred to as ‘thirteen’ among the thirteen fortresses. This included the main fortress and twelve outposts. Each fortress had its own distinct secret code, highly secretive, and it was impossible for Yu’er to know them.”

Qi Tianzhu inwardly cursed their bad luck, thinking, “These bandits are always on high alert. They’re not easily fooled.”

Qi Tianzhu’s hand was already on the edge of the round arch, ready to spring into action, when he heard Yu’er unexpectedly reply, “A vast grace from heaven.”

The two men were taken aback, thinking to themselves, “She really is one of Shu Ye’s men.”

One of them subtly removed his hand from his sword hilt, while the other forced a hearty laugh. “No offense, little brother,” he said, “but we’ve had a lot of wulin types sniffing around lately, trying to take down the stronghold. We’re just being extra cautious.”

Holding the wine jar to her chest in an attempt to calm her racing heart, Yu’er replied, “It’s fine.”

Seeing that Yu’er knew the secret code, the two relaxed considerably, assuming she was just a naive youngster brought back by Shu Ye and not yet familiar with the rules. After exchanging a few polite words, they yawned and walked away, leaving Yu’er behind.

Qi Tianzhu emerged from the archway only when all was quiet, retrieving weapons from the water channel and asked Yu’er with a puzzled tone, “Girl, how did you know the bandits’ secret code?”

Yu’er, still holding the wine jar and breathing unevenly from the tension, listened as Qi Tianzhu gently patted her back to help her recover. She said, “I heard them talking about it.”   

Yu’er had previously overheard two bandits in the prison discussing ‘Shu Ye going down the mountain to make purchases’ and guessed it referred to the man with a mustache like a rat who had come to her house to meet with the bandits.

During their meeting, they had exchanged the secret code, which Yu’er had overheard, thus giving her the idea to use it to deal with the two men just now.

Listening to her, Qi Tianzhu was deeply impressed, realizing this young girl was observant, calm, intelligent, composed in danger, grateful, and had an exceptional nature, far surpassing ordinary people. He exclaimed in amazement, “Girl, you really are a clever one!”

Qi Tianzhu scoffed, “Though, really! Using ‘A spirit of bold righteousness, a vast grace from heaven’ as a secret code, these bandits really have no shame.”

As the two bandits walked away, the path fell silent. Yu’er and Qi Tianzhu didn’t dare to linger any longer, and made their way to the upper chamber, looking for hidden paths.

The upper chamber was behind the hall, a place where the bandits feasted and discussed matters. There was a courtyard in front of the hall, which was quite spacious. There were four watchtowers around the hall with a broad view. If anyone tried to attack stealthily, they would be spotted before getting close to the hall. Fortunately, with buildings surrounding the hall, some high, some low, and the complex terrain with many paths, the upper chamber was a distance away from the hall, so they had a way to get there.

Moving stealthily in the dark, with Yu’er leading the way and Qi Tianzhu avoiding the patrolling guards, they successfully found the upper chamber.

What was referred to as a upper chamber was actually a stilt house guarded by four men. Without silently taking care of these four, it would be impossible to meet the people inside.

Yu’er, holding a jar of wine, walked to the front of the stilt house, took several deep breaths, feeling uncomfortable in her chest due to the cold night air.

A bandit descended, barking coldly, “Whose man are you? What are you doing here?”

Yu’er addressed the two guards on the stilt house, “Brothers, the head boss asked me to bring wine for you four, saying it’s cold at night and appreciating your hard work guarding the lady.”

Having faced the bandits before, Yu’er spoke more fluently and steadily this time.

The bandit frowned, casting a doubtful look at his companion behind him. Suddenly, a dull thud, like something heavy hitting the ground, came from behind the stilt house.

The bandit in front of Yu’er jerked his head towards his companion, who immediately drew his knife and crept towards the back of the stilt house.

The remaining bandit drew his blade halfway, uttering, “Heroic spirit.”

He stared coldly at Yu’er, ready to strike her down if she failed to respond to the secret code.

Yu’er, looking past the bandit, warned, “There’s someone behind you.”

The bandit didn’t believe her, thinking it was a trick, the bandit unsheathed his sword to strike Yu’er’s feet, muttering, “Such childish tricks, you dare to deceive…”

Before he could finish, there was a loud thud, and the bandit blacked out, falling to the ground.

Qi Tianzhu, holding an iron staff, stood behind the fallen bandit, chuckling, “Girl, you tried to warn him, why didn’t he listen?”

Dragging the unconscious bandit, Qi Tianzhu dumped him under the stilt house and then entered the house with Yu’er. Inside, the room was spacious and tidy, with a complete set of tables, chairs, and mirrors. By the moonlit window, Yu’er saw a figure lying on the bed.

Rushing over, her heart pounding and twisted in anxiety, Yu’er feared finding Qing Jiu bruised and battered, or worse, arriving too late.

Approaching the bed, she saw the person lying sideways on the bed, feet still on the footstool. It was indeed Qing Jiu, neatly dressed, eyes lightly closed as if in deep sleep, and bound with hemp rope. Seeing Qing Jiu unharmed, Yu’er breathed a sigh of relief.

Bending down to untie Qing Jiu’s rope, Yu’er was startled when Qing Jiu suddenly opened her eyes, clear and profound like black jade stones frosted with silver under the moonlight. Yu’er’s hands reflexively loosened their grip on the rope.

Yu’er was stunned for a moment until Qi Tianzhu called out in a low voice, “Girl, move faster.”

Yu’er came to her senses and asked Qing Jiu, “How are you?”

The momentary cold indifference in Qing Jiu’s eyes dissipated, replaced by a hint of surprise, “How are you here?”

As Yu’er helped Qing Jiu sit up and began untying her, Qing Jiu asked, “Did Hua Lian and Mo Wen bring you here?”

Then, seeming to realize something was off, Qing Jiu shook her head and asked, “What are you doing here?”

The knots in the rope were tight, and Yu’er struggled to undo them, her face turning red with effort.

“I came to rescue you.”

As Qing Jiu was removing the ropes from her body, she heard this and turned to look at Yu’er, noticing her sincerity and the unfamiliar man standing by the table with a bear-like stature. Realizing that Yu’er was telling the truth, Qing Jiu’s eyes curved, her body trembled, and she couldn’t help but burst into clear, spirited laughter that filled the room.

Qi Tianzhu’s frowned in displeasure, “Miss, do you realize how dangerous this journey has been? Even seasoned wulin heroes would think twice before venturing into this place! This girl is young and has no martial arts skills to protect her. She would have been killed or captured by the bandits. Yet she came to rescue you without a moment’s hesitation, driven by gratitude for saving her life. Instead of appreciating her loyalty and kindness, you laugh at her. What is the meaning of this?”

“I apologize,” Qing Jiu replied, covering her eyes and gradually curbing her laughter, though her eyes still twinkled like crescents. She looked at Yu’er with a soft, low voice, chuckling, “I was just very happy to hear Yu’er came to rescue me.”

Yu’er, her head bowed, dared not look at Qing Jiu. Her hands hung in front of her, nervously switching grips, left hand clasping the right then right hand clasping the left, even her ears blushing a bright red.

Qi Tianzhu scrutinized Qing Jiu, noting her graceful, elegant demeanor and steady aura. Realizing she was no ordinary person and remembering that Yu’er said Qing Jiu saved her life, he naturally respected her. Hearing Qing Jiu’s explanation, he didn’t dwell on it further and suggested, “Since that’s the case, we should leave quickly.”

Qing Jiu stood up, lit a candle with flint and steel, and sat down at the table, pouring three cups of tea with a tranquil air, “No rush, let’s have tea first.”

Qi Tianzhu exclaimed in surprise, “Tea?! Lady, this is hardly the time for leisurely tea!”

Qing Jiu offered Qi Tianzhu a cup, which he didn’t accept, so she turned to hand it to Yu’er. Yu’er took it with both hands, while Qing Jiu’s gaze shifted, “How did you get the wounds on your hands?”

Yu’er’s thumb had two patches of skin scraped off, the wounds not fully scabbed over, dirty and bloody, “I, I scraped them by accident.”

Qi Tianzhu explained, “She scraped off the skin while struggling against the chains. Without that, she couldn’t have broken free.”

Qing Jiu shifted, untying the wine flask from her waist. Her jade flute, wine flask, and Buddhist beads on her wrist were all present, but her sword, usually at her back, was removed and placed on the table opposite the door. She didn’t hurry to retrieve it. “We’ve talked so much, yet I don’t know the name of the young master who escorted Yu’er here. How can I thank you?”

Qi Tianzhu bowed, “I was presumptuous. I am a former Shaolin disciple, my Dharma name was Lu Chen, and my secular name is Qi Tianzhu. I don’t deserve the title of a hero. I owe Yu’er my life, as she rescued me from prison. Seeing her determination to save her benefactor, I simply lent a hand. There’s no need for thanks.”

Qing Jiu lingered her gaze on Qi Tianzhu, nodding, “Qing Jiu,” she simply stated her name.

Upon opening the wine flask, the room filled with a rich, sweet aroma. Qi Tianzhu, having abstained from alcohol for years, involuntarily sighed, “Fine wine!”

Qing Jiu beckoned, “Yu’er, come here.”

Yu’er sat beside Qing Jiu. Qing Jiu extended her slender fingers, gently lifting Yu’er’s hands, “If we leave these wounds untreated, it’ll get infected and scar. We need to clean them with alcohol first, though it might sting a bit.”

Yu’er nodded, softly responding, “Okay.”

Before Qing Jiu could pour the wine, a voice echoed from the beams, “You’re using this wine to clean her wounds?”

With a smile in her voice, Qing Jiu replied poetically, “To repay the wood peach, one must offer back the jade.”

A dark figure descended from the beams like a feather, landing silently on the ground, “Enough, Mo Wen would cry if he knew.”

Yu’er, surprised, recognized the newcomer as Tang Linzhi, who had been in the house all along.

Tang Linzhi produced a small white porcelain bottle from her robe and tossed it to Qing Jiu, then bowed to Qi Tianzhu, “Tang Sect, Tang Linzhi.”

Qi Tianzhu was inwardly astonished. This woman before him concealed her energy well, demonstrated exceptional internal energy and lightness skills, and carried herself with a dashing elegance. Being from the Tang Sect, he recognized her as a formidable martial artist, feeling that even though she was younger, she was no less skilled than himself.

Tang Linzhi and Qing Jiu, both exuding extraordinary presence, were calm and composed despite being in a den of dragons and tigers. From their previous conversation, it seemed they had companions mingled among the bandits. Qi Tianzhu felt reassured, understanding that these were no ordinary, defenseless women. If they were captured and brought to the mountain, it was likely part of a calculated plan, deliberately ‘caught’ by the bandits.

Qi Tianzhu bowed to the two women, “Ladies!”

Qing Jiu poured the medicine from the porcelain bottle onto Yu’er’s wound. The liquid was light green and transparent. Yu’er felt a cooling sensation, and as the medicine flowed over the wound, it turned murky with dark red, cleaning the wound to reveal a pale red and white flesh underneath. Qing Jiu skillfully bandaged Yu’er’s fingers with a white cloth strip, and after securing the bandage, she asked Qi Tianzhu, “Brother Qi, what do you mean by this?”

Qi Tianzhu explained, “I know you two ladies are not ordinary people. You weren’t captured and brought to Fanyun Fuyu Thirteen Fortresses, but came to this fortress of your own volition.”

He bowed to them with a fist-and-palm salute, “If what you ladies are doing is against this fortress, I, Qi Tianzhu, would like to offer my assistance. No! Please let me offer my assistance!” He knew his own limitations in cunning and strength. Even though he had escaped from prison, it would be difficult to seek revenge against the fortress.

Qing Jiu and the others not only came to the fortress unharmed and freely but even had companions among the bandits. Earlier, Yu’er could navigate the way and mentioned seeing a ‘map’, which was probably obtained by these people. Although their origins were unclear, they appeared to be extraordinary individuals. Although their intentions were unclear, their readiness indicated they had plans against the bandits. Assisting them could help eradicate the evil bandits, and also to protect Yu’er and fulfill his own debt of gratitude.

Yu’er, retracting her hand, touched the bandage, “Madam, Uncle Qi’s family was killed by these bandits.”

Yu’er had been with Qing Jiu and the others for over ten days. She could call out the names of Tang Linzhi and the others, but she was still timid and hesitant when addressing Qing Jiu, finding it hard to speak. When she first woke up in the inn and the dungeon in panic, she didn’t think much, but now facing Qing Jiu in a quiet environment, she found it difficult to speak again.

Qing Jiu glanced at Yu’er, “Call me Qing Jiu.”

Yu’er slowly raised her head, and Qing Jiu turned to Qi Tianzhu, “Brother Qi, your internal energy hasn’t recovered. Why not rest here and recover your energy and injuries first?”

Qing Jiu didn’t explicitly agree or disagree, but at least she didn’t send him away, which eased his mind.

The room was spacious, and with three young ladies present, Qi Tianzhu felt awkward staying for the night and certainly wouldn’t occupy the bed. Therefore, he sat behind the screen on the floor, meditating to restore his energy.

Qing Jiu said to Tang Linzhi, “Have Hua Lian check the prison to ensure no issues arise before my wedding feast tomorrow.”

Tang Linzhi nodded in agreement and chose not to exit through the main door. Instead, she jumped out of the window bathed in moonlight, seamlessly blending into the darkness of the night.

Qing Jiu noticed the night had faded, with the sky turning a deep blue, signaling the approach of dawn. She said, “Yu’er, it’s almost dawn. Go to bed and rest. There’s a spectacle awaiting us tomorrow.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll just sit for a while.”

“No, I’ll sit. Sitting is fine.” Yu’er, who had already stood up, sat back down.

Qing Jiu smiled gently, “As a martial artist, I can endure days of hunger, cold, and fatigue. But you, having endured a whole night already, can you still hold up?”

Yu’er pursed her lips, “I… I’m small. A few stools put together would be enough for me to lie down.”

Qing Jiu said, “Alright, be obedient and go to sleep.”

Yu’er hesitantly lay down on the bed. She intended to just rest briefly and then give up the bed to Qing Jiu, but after a day of mental and physical strain and multiple scares, she was exhausted. As soon as her head touched the pillow, she fell asleep, not waking until the sun had set.

The next day, she was awakened by noises outside the door.

Stepping down from the bed, Yu’er heard a loud shout from outside, “Damn it, where are the guards? What’s happened to them!”

Translation notes:
              To repay the wood peach, one must offer back the jade.  (投我以桃,报之以琼瑶) – A Chinese idiom that means when someone shows you a small kindness, you should return it with an even greater kindness.

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anazu
anazu
1 month ago

The sense of helplessness is killing me, Yu’er handle it bravely with innate qualities

Khriss
Khriss
29 days ago

I wonder if the story will be able to maintain this tension as our yu’er grows more capable. I mean, when else is her life going to be so realistically in peril once she becomes as powerful as her mentor, who has the same potential as her?

Thanks for the chapter (tyftc!)