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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 1


    The Fully-Developed Bai Shiqi

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by Wook


     


    Chapter 01 : The Fully-Developed Bai Shiqi


     

    Autumn, 16th year of Yuan Feng era. The shipping dock in the capital was bustling with activity. Every shipping boat of Jiangsu Shipping Group had already reported back from their task: unloading the autumn grain crops. The ship workers were in the midst of transporting some local specialties into the ship one by one, as ordered by the young leader. There were also other workers specialized in maintenance going through the final round of overhaul, prepared to take advantage of the bright and sunny weather to depart.

     

    All of a sudden, a pair of steeds galloped closer. The young man at the front was wearing a golden crown. He seemed to be around 20 years old and had an outstanding face. He halted in front of the shipping boat and did not speak; he only let out a smile as he pointed at the ship workers with the horsewhip in his hand, at last asking: “Where is your family’s young leader?”

     

    The ship workers pointed their fingers in the direction of the boat. Zhao Ziheng dismounted and handed over the reins to the other person, Shu Changfeng. He boarded by himself into the largest boat owned by Jiangsu Group and headed towards the cabin at the highest floor to scoop out Bai Shiqi who was sleeping in: “Shiqi, wake up quickly!”

     

    This Bai Shiqi was the only child of Leader Bai Zhenting and had just reached the weak crown year1. Last night, she went to the city to listen to Ninth Lady Song’s zaju2 and only returned at dawn. Woken up by the noise, she angrily kicked her foot towards the voice: “Get lost!”

     

    Zhao Ziheng skillfully evaded the barefoot she stretched out and did not forget to stroke the soles of the foot: “How come your feet are more delicate than that of a woman?” It looked like it’d snap easily like a bamboo.

     

    Ai, ai, don’t hit me, ah. If you ruin my face, how can I make the young ladies admire me?”

     

    “You mad narcissist, get lost! Laozi3 wants to get dressed!”

     

    Bai Shiqi gathered the quilt and shooed away the uninvited guest who had barged in. She got up, clothed herself, washed her face and rinsed out her mouth, making herself presentable. Fortunately, upon returning last night, she had not fully shed the clothes nor took off the crown from her head.

     

    Bai Zhenting had been married for many years, yet it was vacant under his knee4. A number of little concubines had been taken in as well, but to no avail. Finally, it was still his first wife, Su shi5, who gave birth to a daughter.

     

    On that year, he had just pulled down the former group leader and ascended to the position of the new group leader. He claimed to the outside that Su shi had just given birth to a boy, while also hoping that Su shi would keep trying, as it would be best if she could give him 17 or maybe 18 little sons. As a result, the newborn was named Shiqi6, to express his wish for the prosperity of Bai family for years to come.

     

    It was a pity that things turned out contrary to what he had wished. In the following 20 years, it was as if the harem in his backyard had reached an agreement, resulting in no movement at all. There was not even an egg, not to mention birthing a child.

     

    Bai Shiqi’s appearance followed after Su shi, born with red lips and white teeth, and she was 1.7 meters tall. From a young age, she liked to provoke the cats and fight the dogs7. As early as she was 7 to 8 years old, she had started taking part in the expedition for transporting salt twice a year. After repeated success in an impressive manner, it could be said that the ancestors were proud of this descendant.

     

    Bai Zhenting loved this only child dearly. When she had just turned 16, he let her follow Uncle Guan to the capital, to assist in transporting provisions. Su shi’s attempt to stop him was useless. After all, the decision-maker in the house was Bai Zhenthing: “Sons need to travel far and make a mark, we also cannot let Shiqi’s world only revolves in this square of land, can we?”

     

    Su shi was originally a beauty from Jiangnan, when she wept, it was like raindrops on a pear blossom, even in fury she did not seem intimidating: “Is Shiqi your (male) child?”

     

    Within the room there was only the pair of husband and wife, Bai Zhenting asked Su shi: “If not my child, then don’t tell me it’s someone else’s child?” He pulled Su shi over with clenched fist.

     

    Bai Zhenting immediately felt like he was being pricked: “Laozi has so many businesses, in the future, they will be Shiqi’s. After she is familiar with all the business affairs, in the future she will be the group leader.”

     

    As the child of the current group leader, one could not just eat, drink, and be merry. He had finally seized all this power, if one did not even have the ability to support Laozi to keep it, then one was not worthy.

     

    Bai Zhenting did not understand a lot of big words, but he knew for sure that wealthy lords would want their birth sons to inherit family properties, let alone him?

     

    He spoiled his child and needed something in return, and Bai Shiqi did not fail him as well. Since young, she had learned to read and practiced kungfu, was also known as a clever person, for every master that had been invited to teach her would boast that she had a highly retentive memory. One only needed to teach her once for her to understand. Only in kungfu she was somewhat lacking, but with the father and Uncle Guan constantly catching and forcing her to exercise, she finally improved bit by bit in her fighting ability.

     

    Bai Shiqi: … The grievance of being born from mum’s womb is that not only you have to be an intellectual and cultured person, but even your physical education also cannot be lacking!

     

    Later on, facts would prove that she was still a little bit naïve, for Bai Zhenting was apparently abnormal in the brain. At the age of 13 to 14 years old, he made her sit at the same table to drink wine, saying it was to refine her alcohol tolerance level. At 15 years old, he let his trusted confidante bring this “son” to drink outside with hostesses. To say it in glorified words: sit and learn, so the mind will not be confused.

     

    Confused in your dreams!

     

    Bai Shiqi was fortunate that the alcohol tolerance in this era was pretty low, her body’s current level of tolerance could be considered high already. At 16, she had already made a name for herself. The number of her female confidantes was not little, born with a pretty face and did not hesitate in spending money, moreover, she never vented her anger on those courtesans, made her very popular among the flower houses8 in Jiangsu red district.

     

    Bai Zhenting was very satisfied with his teaching results and continued to teach her to assist with business dealings. Once she was 18, she could handle the transport of provisions to Jing by herself; dealing with higher and lower officials in each checkpoint along the way without any accident, this year was her third time entering Jing with provisions.

     

    After tidying up, she went for Zhao Ziheng on the deck, still with an ugly complexion she started: “Why are you looking for me?”

     

    Zhao Ziheng was an idle rich kid. The two got acquainted from fighting over a courtesan in a pleasure boat in Suzhou. Obviously, Bai Shiqi who had experienced many battles since childhood beat him violently and won. Nobody had expected that the exchanged blows led to friendship in the end.

     

    Sure enough, today Zhao Ziheng had come with a reason, he went straight to the point: “I have an older cousin brother who’s sustaining some injuries, the situation isn’t good. Famous doctors in the capital had tried every way but it has not improved, so I want to go look for famous doctors in Jiangnan. I remember you’re a local and it is about the time when you’re supposed to sail back, so I rushed over as quickly as possible. I already told my family that I’m going by your boat to the south.” He was all smiles: “We are close brothers, aren’t we?”

     

    Bai Shiqi who got no alternatives: “If you want to come then pack up quickly, we’re setting off in 2 hours. I don’t have time to wait for you.”

     

    Zhao Ziheng face lit up: “You just wait for a bit ah.” He directly got off the shipping boat and caught up to Shu Changfeng to go inform together.

     

    At JiangnanBai Shiqi was known to be somewhat heroic, her circle of friends was wide and she was knowledgeable. From atop the deck she looked below on Zhao Ziheng and his cousin brother’s carriage, noticed more than a dozen guards riding tall horses surrounding and guarding the carriage. She inwardly speculated that this cousin brother of Zhao Ziheng’s family circumstances must be impressive, most probably coming from a family of government official.

     

    The carriage stopped. A guard lifted a wheelchair from the back of the carriage while another guard bent and raised the curtain. Directly facing her, an unyielding and cold-looking face appeared. His general features were strong, looking rather soldierly.

     

    When the group of people abandoned the carriage and boarded the ship, Zhao Ziheng personally introduced Bai Shiqi: “This is my older cousin, Zhao Wujiu, and this is my friend Bai Shiqi.”

     

    Zhao Wujiu’s sharp gaze was scrutinizing Bai Shiqi. He was obviously sitting in the wheelchair, obviously shorter than Bai Shiqi, however that penetrating gaze made one feel as if he was the one looking down, making others feeling uncomfortable.

     

    Bai Shiqi found someone to prepare the passenger cabin and let a handyman escorted Zhao Wujiu and his group to rest, while she herself pulled Zhao Ziheng to inquire: “Tell me honestly, is your cousin brother a government official or someone who preside over cases? There are only four characters to describe that kind of face.”

     

    “Which four characters?” Zhao Ziheng was curious.

     

    Bai Shiqi pointed out her fingers as she said: “Strict and iron-faced.” She described the feeling she got from the first sight: “It feels like if you don’t agree with his words, he’d drag you out and hit you with planks. Could he be a judicial officer? Or perhaps someone from the procuratorate9?” If it was an occupational disease then it was pretty severe. The smiling muscles had been absent for too long, so all that remained was that one type of expression. The common term for this should be… facial paralysis.

     

    Zhao Ziheng vaguely: “… Close enough.” As an overseer in a big military camp, if someone violates the law, they will surely get dragged out and punished with a military rod. It was more or less the same with what Bai Shiqi had said, the hitting people with plank part.

     

    Bai Shiqi almost pounced on him to blast off his dog head: “Good, you’re so good, you just had to bring a public servant into my boat, you wish to dig a hole for me to die, ah?” Shipping boats that carried provisions would be empty once they unload the provisions in the capital, hence, many of those boats would usually carry smuggled private goods on their journey back. However, the imperial court had decreed that this was considered illegal.

     

    At 16 years old she had started following Uncle Guan to Jing to transport provisions, the officials along the way were already familiar with them, they would close one eye and let them pass. However, at this time the boat would be carrying a strict and iron-faced lord official, if this was not called a ticking time bomb then what?

     

    Bai Shiqi felt a headache when she thought of the cargo hold that was fully packed with private goods.

     


     

    FOOTNOTE

    1 weak crown year:
    冠之年 (ruò guàn zhī nián). Referring to a man who has just reached adulthood. Usually 20 years old.

    2 zaju: 杂剧 (zájù). Zaju is a traditional Chinese art form that combines song, guest speech and dance. It was first seen in the Tang Dynasty, and its meaning is similar to the “Hundred Operas” in the Han Dynasty. (source: baidu.)

    3 Laozi: 老子 (lǎozi). Used in an arrogant way to show off seniority. Lit. This father, or I, your father.

    4 empty under his knee: not having descendants.

    5 shi:氏 (shì). A married woman’s clan name. Su shi means she came from the Su clan.

    6 Shiqi:十七. The number 17.

    7 provoke the cats and fight the dogs: 猫斗狗 (zhāomāo dòu gou). Idiom. Making troubles.

    8 flower house: brothel

    9 procuratorate: 都察院 (Dōu chá yuàn). The public prosecutor’s department, or the body of public prosecutors, at any of various levels of the court hierarchy.

     


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    Wook's notes:

    And so it begins~ If you like a strong female lead who wipes her own butt and not counting on the male lead to do so, this is the place. I should remind you that this is a comedy genre, not everything will... well, truly makes sense, but let us laugh it off and just enjoy the impossible, alright~

    Wook

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