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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 20


    The Provocateur Wen Tao

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by Wook


     


    Chapter 20 : The Provocateur Wen Tao


     

    Since Bai Shiqi had taken Miss Song Si’s slave deed and had also conveniently made fun of Wen Tao, her mood became much better. She comfortably handed the two sheets of slave deeds to Miss Song Si—aside from hers, there was also Zhen’er’s deed in addition, which could be considered like a buy-one-get-one-for-free kind of a deal.

     

    Miss Song Si’s eyes reddened, hesitatingly she said: “Master, are you really going to return the deed back to me?”

     

    Zhen’er stealthily poked at Miss Song Si’s lower back, hinting at her to just accept it quickly.

     

    Since she was young, Miss Song Si had suffered from beatings from her foster parents. She hated that she could not steal the slave deed and flee to the ends of the world. She became the money tree of Song family when she was 14. On the stage, she was dripping with silver and gold, however, once she went back to the rear court, her treatment was inferior even to ordinary servant girls. She was tightly watched by the foster parents, it was akin to imprisonment.

     

    “You’ll be a free person.” Bai Shiqi, seeing her emotional state, swallowed back the following sentence “in the future, find a good man to marry”.

     

    By the time Wen Tao came over with tidy attire, Bai Shiqi had already gathered her acquaintances and was preparing to head to the city for breakfast. She had made plans for the whole day: “This is Cousin Brother’s first time in Huai’an, right? Let’s have a bowl of steaming fish noodles first, after that we’ll find a place to drink tea and listen to stories, we can also have lunch while we’re at it. In recent years, Huai’an City has developed a lot of extravagant and rare delicacies, even things like bear paws, monkey brains, and the likes are not little. There are also exquisite dishes like; lion head crab balls, 3-ways duck, soft-pocket long fish, squirrel mandarin fish, Liangxi crispy eel. I guarantee all of them are delicious…”

     

    (lion head crab balls)

    (3-ways duck)

    (soft pocket long fish)

    (squirrel mandarin fish)

    (Liangxi crispy eel)

     

    Zhao Wujiu looked at her face that was radiant with delight when she was explaining. The food had not been eaten by the mouth, but saliva was already secreted. He could not help but smile: “Hearing you, it already sounds delicious even though one hasn’t even tasted it.”

     

    Bai Shiqi clapped her hands happily: “My dad said the same. He said I’m suited to be a storyteller. In the future, if I can’t make a living, I can still live from telling stories.”

     

    Miss Song Si smiled behind her sleeves.

     

    While chatting casually with her, Zhao Wujiu was also observing. The suspicion in his heart was getting bigger and bigger like a snowball. On one hand, he was guessing if she had an unmentionable disease that made one could not have Adam’s apple, and this kind of stuff obviously could not be mentioned outside, while on the other hand, he was thinking what if she was a genuine, tender, female. However, in this world, how could there be such a licentious and unbridled female like this?

     

    Zhao Ziheng was heavily drunk last night, so he was dragged over from the bed by Shu Changfeng. His listless appearance looked pitiful. Hearing that Bai Shiqi wanted to take everyone outside for breakfast, he immediately became energetic. He came and embraced Bai Shiqi’s shoulder, looking ready to set off: “Shiqi, one can’t go wrong when going out with you. Delicious food and drinks and there are also beautiful little ladies to accompany.” His eyes glanced at the pair of Miss Song Si and her servant who was not far behind, which was immediately caught by Bai Shiqi.

     

    Had she not known about this person’s temperament, Bai Shiqi would have beaten his head already: “Cough, cough, behave a little ah.”

     

    Zhao Wujiu’s eyebrows wrinkled—it was as if his small suspicion sparked and set afire. All of a sudden, he felt that the two people’s posture was excessively intimate.

     

    Before he could speak, Zhao Ziheng’s arm was already twisted to the back, making him scream: “It hurts! Let go!”

     

    Wen Tao with a blackened expression was standing behind the two. Earlier, he was already grumpy from lack of sleep, seeing the two people’s posture, he just could not wait to hit Zhao Ziheng.

     

    Bai Shiqi angrily said: “The one surnamed Wen, are you sick ah? Quickly let Ziheng go.”

     

    Looking from his thick eyebrow and tiger-like eyes, Wen Tao was obviously not happy. He did not let go of Zhao Ziheng’s arm: “What if I don’t want to?”

     

    Bai Shiqi’s temper would turn worse every time she met him. She rolled her sleeves as if preparing to fight: “If you don’t let him go, we can’t have breakfast. Anyway, let’s talk again after we fight!”

     

    Zhao Ziheng’s tears of pain were splattered everywhere. He repeatedly said that he was hurting.

     

    When Bai Shiqi was about to strike, Wen Tao finally let go. His face changed to a smiling expression: “I was merely joking with Brother Zhao. You’re too short-tempered. Do we have to argue about this?”

     

    “What if I twist your arm until it breaks, are you going to argue about it?”

     

    Wen Tao’s expression turned roguish, wishing he could stretch his arm to under Bai Shiqi’s nose: “Why don’t you try?”

     

    Bai Shiqi swatted him away. She pulled Zhao Ziheng’s arm and tried to move it, not wanting to put up with Wen Tao: “Go away! Does your muscles or tendons hurt?”

     

    “Gentler! Ow! It hurts!”

     

    Wen Tao did not act lightly or heavily. Zhao Ziheng had been pampered by his parents, his noble body was delicate. Looking straight at this, Zhao Wujiu tightly knitted his brows—This youngster has not trained enough. Any kind of cat or dog can make him cry. Admitting him as a youth of Zhao family is truly an embarrassment!

     

    Zhao Ziheng still did not know that his cousin brother’s brain was currently occupied with a lot of training plans, which meant that in the future he would have a tragic and difficult life for a long time. Moreover, this time, his close brother Bai Shiqi was completely excluded from the training.

     

    The reason was unknown.

     

    The party went out, and the thick-faced Wen Tao went along with them. Bai Shiqi really did not want to see him, so she said to him sarcastically: “Does the salt group have nothing to do today? We, idle people, do not want to delay Young Leader Wen’s business.”

     

    The bruised-faced Hu Xian was following at the side, the side of his face that was scarred by knife distorted, and the sentence “Young Leader is very busy” that he had almost blurted out was swallowed back to his belly.

     

    Wen Tao’s face was outstandingly thick, and his attitude was excellent. Using his eyes, he threatened Hu Xian not to say a thing, while still talking about things as usual: “If my father finds out that I neglected you when you came to Huai’an, won’t he find me to settle the accounts once I return?”

     

    It’s not like yesterday was their first fight. Wen Bao should not find it strange anymore.

     

    Bai Shiqi smiled insincerely: “If Uncle Wen knows that you’ve wasted so much money to give me a concubine, I wonder what kind of expression he’s going to show?”

     

    Wen Tao: “From the rumors outside, it is said that Young Leader Bai is in love with Miss Song Si. As a big brother, I’ve helped you to fulfill this dream. Shouldn’t my father praise us for being good brothers and getting along harmoniously instead?”

     

    “Really… Harmonious ah!” Bai Shiqi kicked out and nearly hitting Wen Tao. This attracted Zhao Wujiu, causing a smile on his lips.

     

    Thick-faced Wen Tao went along with them, however, Bai Shiqi really did not want to see him. At the dining table, sitting on her left side was Zhao Ziheng, the two never ran out of things to talk about. On her right side was Miss Song Si, who was being thoughtful and considerate. She peeled the shrimps and the crabs, even picked out the fish bones. She was serving so attentively, and he found it mystifying: “Bai Shiqi, have you broken your hands?”

     

    Bai Shiqi had already found him not pleasing to the eyes since an earlier time. No matter how hard he tried to act as a host and even though he covered all their expenses today, the words exchanged between the two were still harsh. She picked up the shrimp and the crab meat, then chewed them, eating with relish. Then, she raised her chin and adopted an arrogant look: “Are you jealous? Then you tell me which young lady that you want.”

     

    Wen Tao: “You still want to help me to take in a concubine?”

     

    Bai Shiqi: “I’ll inform that young lady as soon as possible to avoid the living hell that is you.”

     

    Wen Tao ground his teeth in annoyance. He looked at her sharp mouthed appearance, wishing that he could pull clean all her thorns, so he would not get pricked too terribly. This arrogant and proud appearance of hers… truly made one’s heart itch to do something. One could not help but keep teasing, it was similar to provoking cats or teasing dogs, but also completely different.

     

    He knew the feeling.

     

    “Between us brothers, there is no need to make such a clear line.”

     

    Bai Shiqi disgusted him deliberately: “Nah, you, my brother, will still cover the bills. Young Leader Wen is wealthy, while I, on the other hand, am terribly poor and have to beg for food above the river. From now on I’ll have to rely on Young Leader Wen’s support.”

     

    Wen Tao who was full of calculations: “Not a problem!”

     

    Since Wen Tao, the financial backer, was present and also willing to cover the bills, Bai Shiqi brought the group of people to eat, drink, and play unrestrainedly. As they had come to spend their money, they strolled in the city from morning until night, after that, they returned straight to the Bai residence in Huai’an.

     

    There was a little episode in the midst of this. In the afternoon, when the few people were listening to poems, they had run into Tian Zongping by accident. He wanted to approach to pay his respects, but Shu Changfeng signaled for him to leave using his eyes.

     

    Earlier at the ship, Tian Zongping did not dare to slight Prince Zhou’s token. When he returned afterward, he was feeling conflicted. He was hesitating whether to report this matter to Governor Xun Bai. A night had passed and he still could not make up his mind. Distraught with anxiety, he was dragged outside by a salt merchant to listen to poems as a diversion. He did not think that he would run into Prince Zhou’s party once again.

     

    Today, aside from Bai Shiqi, Prince Zhou unexpectedly was also accompanied by the salt group young leader, Wen Tao. He felt amazed—The prince went traveling, he didn’t find local officials but went together with rough barbarian groups instead. It was really hard to understand his meaning.

     

    Wen Tao was still not aware of Tian Zongping’s conjectures, his sole purpose was only to follow Bai Shiqi. Stepping their foot in front of Bai residence’s main gate, Yu Si came out to welcome them. He looked like he was in a hurry: “Young Leader, Leader has come!”

     

    Bai Shiqi felt pain in her legs in reflex. She turned her head and grabbed Zhao Ziheng’s both hands: “Ziheng, my good brother, please save my life!”

     

    Zhao Ziheng proudly said: “What matters, you said!”

     

    Bai Shiqi pulled Miss Song Si’s over: “I’ll entrust Miss Si to you. If my dad asks, just say that she’s your newly taken concubine.”

     

    Miss Song Si felt wronged: “Master, is this servant… too inferior to be shown in public?”

     

    Bai Shiqi explained to her again and again: “My dad’s temper is really bad, if he knows that I’ve taken in a concubine without the consent of the family, not only he’d beat me up, I’m afraid he’d also deal with you! I’m doing this for your own safety.”

     

    Wen Tao sneered: “This is a trivial matter, why are you so scared!”

     

    Wen Bao could not stop his child from getting polluted by female charms, he could take in confidants casually and Wen Bao did not find this unusual anymore. As the sole young leader of the salt group, whenever Wen Tao went out for social interactions, there would be people gifting him things, from beauties to cooks, and he had never refused. On this aspect, Bai Zhenting found it unreasonable.

     

    Bai Shiqi wished she could drive him away: “You’re here only to stir up trouble, right?” This must be his goal from the very beginning.

     

    Wen Tao smiled brightly, finally, he could vent the annoyance he had been holding back that was caused by Bai Shiqi the whole day: “I haven’t seen Uncle Bai in ages, it makes sense to visit the elders and wish them good health.”

     

    He took the lead to enter. The panicked Bai Shiqi quickly grabbed his wrist and questioned him in low voice: “Wen Tao, what do you want to do? You’re very happy to see me out of luck?”

     

    Wen Tao’s gaze swept across the panicked face, then he suddenly felt pleased with himself: “Shiqi, should we go in together?”

     

    Yu Si welcomed Zhao Wujiu and brother pair in, while Bai Shiqi dragged Wen Tao to the side to negotiate: “Say it, what do you want so you won’t speak rubbish in front of my father?” Don’t mention that fiery pit anymore.

     

    Seeing her showing weakness, Wen Tao enjoyed it very much and said: “I’m serious, you know. I’ve never thought to make things difficult for you. Shiqi, think about it. We’ve known each other for so many years, have I ever done bad things to you?”

     

    In Bai Shiqi’s heart: Just very terrible things! However, at this moment, she could only say this against her will: “… Not really.” At least he had not sunk her into the Jiang river or cut off her arms or legs.

     

    Wen Tao sighed: “Actually, I redeemed Miss Song Si for you. Not to dig a pit for you, but because I feel that you don’t have any woman by your side. All year round you hang about on the ship, it must be tough. Sometimes, the flower mist1 from the outside lingers, but that is human nature.  That’s why I found a woman that suits your heart to serve you.”

     

    Bai Shiqi: “Then many thanks to Brother Wen!”

     

    Wen Tao’s expression was so cordial, one would believe his words: “Letting Uncle Bai break your legs, that will frighten you. Let us brothers have deeper friendship than with those people from the outside, alright?” His gaze went to the Zhao brothers.

     

    Bai Shiqi also cooperated very well: “Naturally!” Managed to dig this pit in his spare time, naturally it was much better than a brother like the romantique Zhao Zihenga dead person cannot pay for his life2!

     

    Wen Tao showed a puzzled expression: “Besides… I think Uncle Bai is too strange. You’re already 20 years old, not to mention a wife, you don’t even have a single concubine. Does he want you to live as a bachelor?”

     

    Bai Shiqi: “Why are you more worried than my dad regarding my backroom matters?”

     

    Wen Tao seized her shoulders and smiled contentedly, his reasoning also sounded dignified: “Since I already have everything I need with me, I can’t let you stay alone with your quilt and cold pillows.” Then he also tried to make inquiries: “Shiqi, are you adopted by Uncle Bai? Passing down the family bloodline is a big matter, my family is already preparing for my marriage, doesn’t your family feel anxious?”

     

    Bai Shiqi: “Brother Wen, are you trying to confuse me? My dad is waiting for me in the main hall, and you still want to probe about my lifelong affairs? Why don’t you just go in and ask my dad directly?”

     

    Wen Tao was about to enter when Bai Shiqi suddenly pulled him: “Tell me, are you still going to tell my dad that I’ve taken in a concubine from outside?”

     

    Wen Tao unhurriedly said: “On one condition, let us stop fighting and get along peacefully, alright?”

     

    Bai Shiqi was stunned: “This simple?”

     

    Wen Tao: “This simple!” Aggrieved Bai Shiqi was still trying to find faults: “We’ve known each other since we’re kids, our parents are also old acquaintances, can even be considered a friend of the family, we have fought often when we were little because we were not sensible. However, you and I are not young anymore, every time we meet each other, we still oppose each other, undermine each other’s plan, and try to humiliate each other, don’t you think we’re too childish?”

     

    Bai Shiqi: “… I’m actually really easy to get along with.” You’re not only finding faults every time we meet, but you’re stirring up problems even from the smallest things!

     

    She quickly decided: “I’ll trust you for the time being. If you blabber your mouth in front of my father today, worst comes to worst my legs will be broken, then from that on, us brothers will have nothing to do with each other. If you don’t, then we’ll be close brothers in the future!”

     

    Wen Tao had gone around in a big circle and still could not get the desired result, so he could only use a roundabout tactic. At the moment he patted her palm lightly: “High-five oath, it’s settled then!”

     

    He looked like he truly wanted to start anew, and Bai Shiqi was so close to believing him.

     


     

    FOOTNOTE

    1 flower mist: prostitute, confidants, etc. Basically saying that Bai Shiqi’s mind occasionally will think about them.

    2 a dead person cannot pay for his life: I think it means that one cannot do anything once he’s dead.

     


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    Wook

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