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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 25

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by Wook


    Chapter 25


    Once in the past, when Bai Zhenting had gone drinking with Wen Bao, there had been a joke between them: “Shiqi is extremely naughty, sometimes I wish I can break his will so he won’t cause any more trouble in the future.”


    At that time, Wen Bao had drunk from his cup that had been filled to the brim and had laughed loudly: “The brat Tao is promising! Could it be that you want to raise your son like a bitch so he could control those young men in your group?”


    Bai Shiqi actually lived up to one’s expectations. Even though she was born somewhat pretty, her temper was openly unruly. She used both carrots and sticks to subdue the rough people under Bai Zhenting’s hands. It was just that, when confronting her ever-changing way of life, Bai Zhenting felt uneasy. As she grew older, this uneasiness reached its peak, and before his eyes—this little bastard would even go as far as taking in concubines!


    On that year, Zhejiang’s Group Leader, Weng Jian, had come to SuzhouBai Zhenting and Weng Jian had drunk and chatted merrily, they had also sent each other concubines. The moment the concubine entered Bai residence’s door, Bai Shiqi had also taken in four pretty concubines in one go, each with their own unique skills in playing the instruments and singing, and there were all famous beauties of Suzhou.


    Four small pink sedan chairs had lined up and had landed at the side entrance of Bai residence. He did not know how many people had come to watch, but it would do no good for Bai Zhenting to make trouble in public, so he had let the four beauties enter the door with a blackened face.


    Those four famous beauties had probably been instigated by Bai Shiqi secretly, so they showed the skills they had learned throughout their lives to amuse Su shi and Bai Shiqi. Every day when Bai Zhenting returned home, he would see the two mother and child holding a feast while listening to the music. The words of swallows and singing of oriole1 were everywhere, it was no different from the style of the snob masters’ from the outside which eventually sickened him.


    It was nothing if it was Bai Shiqi. She often went out for social niceties, so she had learned the style of a young master at an earlier time. However, even Su shi often ignored her husband, all day long she would drink while listening to the music to amuse herself. Until one day, Bai Shiqi had proposed to her: “Mum, recently there’s a theatrical drama troupe coming to the city. The singer is a young man called Yun Shuyue, who has a clear voice and looks talented and handsome, his singing is like flowing water and the person is gentle. Why don’t we invite him to our house, so he may entertain us.”


    Bai Zhenting had turned to face Su shi and had threatened Bai Shiqi: “… …” Stinky brat, you dare?!


    Bai Shiqi had pretended that she did not see and incited Su shi further while smiling: “In any case, nobody knows about the pretty women by Dad’s side whenever he attends the banquets outside and he can still come home once he’s done having fun. Mum should not suffer any losses too. Call the talented and handsome singer over. When the heart is happy, one can’t help but eat another bowl of rice!”


    Bai Zhenting: “… …”


    Su Shi had patted her forehead lightly and laughed: “You dare to mislead your mother!” In the end, she had said: “Then call the theatrical troupe over for me to see, if it’s not as good as you said, I’ll break your legs!”


    Her “break your legs” remark was merely a verbal threat, it was soft-spoken and without deterrence, and sounded more like a joke. It was very different from Bai Zhenting’s “break your legs” remark, which was usually followed with real action.


    Bai Zhenting could provoke Bai Shiqi, but towards his wife Su shi, he could only surrender. He had repeatedly said that he was not even close to the corner of another woman’s skirt, but Su shi was serious. In spite of everything she really intended to invite Yun Shuyue over to their residence to perform.


    Su shi appearance was graceful, truly showing the magnanimity and virtuousness of a first wife: “What is Master saying? Whoever your esteemed self wants to take in, you may take in. Whoever your esteemed self wants to be close to, you may get close to. If our Bai family wants to open new branches and spread new leaves2, I’ll support her all the way!” In her heart, she snickered: It is still Shiqi this sly demon who can control Bai Zhenting!


    Bai Zhenting had tried to defend himself: “… I’ve never thought about taking in anyone!”


    Bai Shiqi had driven a wedge between them further: “Never thought about it but still brought one home, had he really thought about it, 8 to 10 would be brought home at once ah?”


    “Little bastard you get your ass out of here!” Bai Zhenting waved his hands and Bai Shiqi slipped away as fast as possible.


    Bai Zhenting continued the discussion with Su shi: “When Wen Jian leaves Suzhou, I’ll send away the concubine. Wife, you don’t have to invite Yun Shuyue to perform here, okay?”


    Yun Shuyue was successful in Suzhou. Thanks to his graceful and exquisite voice as well as his refined looks, he had become a sought-after performer for married women and young ladies and had quickly become a public enemy of men in Suzhou.


    Su shi: “I only want to listen to the songs. Don’t tell me when Master goes out for a banquet, they don’t have female performers to sing songs?”


    It had taken Bai Zhenting a lot of effort to dispel Su shi’s idea of inviting Yun Shuyue. He had sent Bai Shiqi to the ship with his front foot and sent away the four concubines she had taken in with his back foot without any hesitation.


    Unexpectedly, after a few years, Bai Shiqi took in another concubine, but this was not the most upsetting matter. She even slept in the same bed for a night as that person who made him feel restless, Zhao Wujiu.


    When he finished beating up the little bastard, he took the opportunity to interrogate her about Zhao Wujiu’s identity and his leg injuries, but unexpectedly Bai Shiqi only replied with “don’t know” whatever the question. He regretted that he had stopped and wished he could beat her again: “… You really don’t know his identity? You don’t know but keep calling him cousin brother this, cousin brother that like a muddle-headed person, do you think it’s proper?”


    Bai Shiqi who was just beaten, replied while looking weak: “Even if I know, what can I do? Do you want me to climb up3? I only call him cousin brother because I’m following Ziheng.”


    Bai Zhenting felt irritated: “You and him… for one night. Did he do anything improper?” Letting him as a father talk about this kind of matter is somewhat embarrassing.


    Bai Shiqi’s eyes widened: “Cousin Brother is a person of noble character! Moreover… Moreover he has injuries in his legs, what can he do?” With meaningful expression, she also asked him: How can Father think of such dirty thoughts?


    The angry Bai Zhenting wished he could continue beating her, but luckily she had slipped away.


    Bai Zhenting laughed at her naivety and ignorance. If a man really set his mind on something, what couldn’t he do?


    On another day, he specially invited Zhao Wujiu for a drink, in the midst of it he probed: “Shiqi is reckless and likes to do things as he pleases, it must be tiring for Young Sir Zhao to look after him the whole journey. This humble Bai can’t thank you enough!”


    On his way here, Zhao Wujiu had inquired from Bai Zhenting’s close servant, Sui Qirong. When he heard that Bai Zhenting only invited him alone, he knew immediately what this was all about.


    There was a saying in the art of war: Know yourself, know your enemy, and you shall emerge victorious in every battle.


    While Bai Zhenting wanted to sound out Zhao Wujiu, at the same time, Zhao Wujiu wanted to confirm Bai Shiqi’s gender.


    He went to see Bai Zhenting with the mentality of being at peace with him. Towards Bai Zhenting’s pleasantries, he replied appropriately: “Shiqi is a bright and experienced person, He has been taking care of us brothers the whole journey. He is attentive and considerate, not inferior to women. Leader Bai is too modest!”


    Bai Zhenting’s brows knitted slightly, then he continued immediately: “He’s empty-headed, how can a woman be compared with him? Young Sir Zhao is thinking too much.”


    Zhao Wujiu took in his expression and became even more convinced about Bai Shiqi’s gender. However, Bai Zhenting obviously did not want to speak the truth, and he was not in a hurry to mention it at the moment, so they talked about the sceneries in Jing capital and laughed it off.


    Bai Zhenting had gone to the north to escort provisions for many years, he was not a country bumpkin who had never seen the big city. He was very familiar with the market, even more so than Zhao Wujiu. After talking for some time, he knew about some things—this person was not very familiar with the sceneries in Jing, either he was born in a high family so he did not know about these things well: or he was not from Jing capital at all.


    It was one or the other.


    When the two were still probing each other, Qirong came and announced: “Leader, the yamen chief of the Water Transport, Lord Tian, came for a visit.”


    Bai Zhenting went blank, towards Tian Zongping’s arrival, he was quite surprised: “Why is he here?”


    Tian Zongping looked warm and affable on the surface, but the inside was like a ravenous wolf, a very greedy person. He was responsible for the inspection of the ships in the canal and never he returned home empty-handed.


    He muttered in his heart, asked Zhao Wujiu to sit down, and went to greet him in person. From the distance, he said: “Lord Tian is usually busy with official duties, small matters can be handed off to the subordinates, for what reason does Lord Tian have to tire himself and run here personally?”


    Tian Zongping’s tone was unexpectedly somewhat intimate, he smiled from ear to ear and cupped his hand to greet: “I’m used to living a tiring life, the subordinates below are unreliable, so I can only do it myself.”


    Bai Zhenting’s heart leaped twice. He was considering whether this old fellow had come to “borrow some money”, otherwise, why would he come here personally?


    Before he finished with his wild imaginations, Tian Zongping had already come over. He asked in a low voice: “I heard that… that noble lord is staying at your place?”


    Bai Zhenting: “That noble lord?”


    Today, Tian Zongping’s attitude was very strange. He intimately embraced Bai Zhenting’s shoulder and smiled flatteringly: “Brother Bai, in the past we were not very close, but you don’t have to hide that His Highness Prince Zhou is staying at your place. I’m still the one responsible for the inspection of the ships at the dock, why is your esteemed self concealing this matter from me?”


    Zhou… His Highness Prince Zhou?”


    Tian Zongping noticed his extremely astonished expression, it did not seem like he was pretending. He was immediately stunned: “Don’t tell me? Brother Bai doesn’t know?”


    At this moment Bai Zhenting had regained voice: “His Highness Prince Zhou… Lord Tian is talking about the Prince Zhou who has returned to Jing with a great victory? Why would he be in my house?”


    Tian Zongping was a bit unhappy in his heart. In the past, the Bai clan’s father and son used to chase him to climb relation. Unexpectedly, once they climbed up to Prince Zhou, they were showing different faces: “Brother Bai, don’t hide it from me. Your son and His Highness Prince Zhou arrived together in Huai’an and he even accompanied him to stroll around in town, so there is no need for this, alright?”


    Bai Zhenting gripped Tian Zongping’s wrist tightly, even his voice sounded blank: “Lord Tian means… That Young Sir Zhao who is sitting in the wheelchair is… His Highness Prince Zhou?”


    —The legitimate son of the current empress, the one who had been in charge of the army for 10 years, who put an end to the turmoil in the frontier with one hand and made exceptional contributions, that Highness Prince Zhou, was in his home?


    Bai Zhenting suddenly recalled the apathetic and handsome face of Zhao Wujiu, and his appearance when his slender but powerful fingers twirled the porcelain white cup while observing from the corner of his eyes when they were talking about the sceneries in Jing capital, and he immediately understood… the strange things could now be explained.


    He was suddenly enlightened: “I see, it turns out that Young Sir Zhao is His Highness Prince Zhou!” He turned his body and once again asked Tian Zongping to verify: “You’re not mistaken, right? He is truly His Highness Prince Zhou?”


    Looking at his nearly insane appearance, it seemed like he truly did not know that His Highness Prince Zhou had been staying in his house this whole time. This made Tian Zongping feel a little better: “Brother Bai, why don’t we introduce ourselves to His Highness?”


    Bai Zhenting hurriedly spoke: “Lord Tian, this way!” He secretly calculated: Regardless of whether Prince Zhou wants to poke further into Bai Shiqi matters or not, the two have to be separated.


    Sharing bed was already dangerous enough. He only had this one baby daughter, he could not let her run off with some people with bad intentions!


    Before Zhao Wujiu’s identity was exposed, Bai Zhenting was merely feeling him out. After learning the identity of the other party, he wished Tian Zongping could invite the person to the Tian residence for protection as soon as possible—Bai family was considered dirty and had the lowest profession. The majority of the people who made a living on the ship were poverty-stricken, compared with the first-class people from the capital, it was like a whole different world. If everyone minded their own businesses and could live together in harmony, it would be best.



    The “Rigidly Dogmatic” Cousin Brother ZhaoOh, I just want to correct Shiqi’s bad habits, your old esteemed self is thinking too much!


    The “Big Mandarin Duck Helper” Leader BaiDon’t think that Laozi will put a blind eye because of your lame legs! Don’t ever think about getting mixed with Laozi’s baby daughter!




    1 Words of swallows and singing of oriole: Often used to describe the voice of young women talking and laughing.

    2 Open new branches and spread new leaves: A saying meaning to produce children.

    3 Climb up: meaning taking advantage of the other party’s high status for one’s own benefit.


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    Wook's notes:

    There are no titles for this and the next chapter, because the author posted 2 chapters in a go, and for some reason only wrote "First one" and "Second one" as the title.


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