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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 35

    Golden Cow Manure

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by sienz


    Although Zhao Wujiu knew that she had done everything only to escape from being punished by Leader Bai Zhenting, and that she’d even gone as far as devaluing others, he was still startled by the truth behind her self-introspection.


    But to be honest, which one of the men who earned their livings above the river did not bring their heads when going against the river?

    [bring their heads when going against the river: means which one of them doesn’t risk their lives when working on the river]


    This was a profession with an extremely high-risk factor, however, the leader and the young leader appeared to be very well-regarded. The group fought their repressors and continuously put themselves in danger, and the lives of their loved ones were all handed over to the Grand Canal.

    [Grand Canal: 1.800 km from Beijing to Hangzhou, built on 486 BC]


    He straightened silently and did not know what to say.


    Zhao Wujiu had been born into a high position, but he had also guarded the border for 10 years, so he knew first-hand of the vicissitudes of the life of the commoners. He was also aware that most people on this earth were not born with a golden spoon, and had to struggle to survive in this world.


    “… Still, you should not loiter around this kind of place, even if you’re placed in a thorny situation, you have to improve yourself instead.” This sentence was particularly powerless.


    Everyone respected scholars. A person was only a nobody despite his many years of preparation in a hard learning environment, but once he passed the exam, he was well-known all over.

    [This is a sentence from an ancient Chinese opera, used to describe the story of a person who silently worked hard and finally achieved something.]


    However, not everyone who studied followed the road of imperial examination. For example, Bai Shiqi, as a female, could not take this road, and Zhao Ziheng, who was born of noble blood, did not have to take this arduous path. Zhao Wujiu finally understood the reason why these two people hit it off.


    Bai Shiqi looked toward Zhao Wujiu cordially: “I appreciate Cousin Brother’s kindness, but I couldn’t walk this honorable road of imperial examination to become an official, so I can only be this kind of person my whole life, mingle with those people on the river to earn my food. Coming here once in a while to listen to songs is also a small bit of pleasure in my life. Cousin Brother… can you spare me to enjoy this little bit of joy?”


    Zhao Wujiu’s principle and compassion wrestled with each other, for one moment, he thought that a woman like Bai Shiqi shouldn’t show herself in places like Linjiang Courtyard, the next moment, he felt that Bai Shiqi was pitiful. She seemed like she was flying freely, but actually, she was also restrained. The always decisive His Highness Prince Zhou was stumped, and the wheelchair stopped at the door of the private room indecisively.


    Seeing the wind driving the rudder, Bai Shiqi immediately pushed the wheelchair back in, swept away her gloominess, and warmly recommended him: “Let me tell Cousin Brother something good, in Linjiang Courtyard, aside from Lady Xiaoxian’s wonderful singing voice, their appetizers are also famous for their amazing taste, and there’s also the fruit wine of various flowers made personally by Lady Yao. Since we’re already here, let’s have a taste!”

    [Seeing the wind driving the rudder: Analogy of being indeterminate in doing things, adapting to changes, and acting according to the situation.]


    Zhao Wujiu still put on the cold face. Zhao Ziheng was anxious and frightened, not knowing whether his Cousin Brother was persuaded by Bai Shiqi or was brewing the next wave of storms. In any case, the back of his clothes was still drenched.


    Bai Shiqi also did not call for the servant girls to wait upon them, she had guessed that Zhao Wujiu disliked it. She secretly cursed him for being so old-fashioned, but on the surface, she praised him for living cleanly and honestly. She could only order some food and beverages, as well as a lady to play an instrument. Even though her level was not comparable to that of Lady Xiaoxian, it was still feasible.


    From time to time, the noisiness from downstairs can be heard. The two of them could see the view downstairs from the sideways. Bai Shiqi pointed at the noble person who was betting downstairs and introduced him to Zhao Wujiu. She recognized most of the people, and for some of the others that she did not recognize: “Looking at the way that guy’s dressed and his bearing, he must be a foreign merchant.”


    Zhao Wujiu eventually opened his mouth: “Shiqi, seeing this, it seems that you know most of the immortal guests in Linjiang? It appears your circle of friends covers everywhere under the sky ah.”


    Zhao Ziheng had been stabbed in the back by Bai Shiqi, it took him a long time to recover. He immediately spared no effort to brandish his knife toward his good brother: “Cousin Brother, you should not underestimate Shiqi, perhaps at least half of these people have drunk together with him already.”


    Bai Shiqi hurriedly made an excuse for herself: “Cousin Brother, don’t listen to Ziheng’s nonsense. I’m not… Our family has ships, and there are many business partners who go traveling, every single one of their goods must go through the canal for convenience, so they’re all just business dealings.” In her heart, she felt that this was like an excuse for those men who lingered in various entertainment venues all year round and did not go home. She felt amused, but under Zhao Wujiu’s upright and firm gaze, she held her laugh.


    Zhao Wujiu glanced at each of them. Zhao Ziheng was a little terrified, and couldn’t help but shrink his neck, not daring to say anything.


    But, Bai Shiqi said: “We’re the water transporters, so it’s not like we can just stop making a living, right?”


    She left the words at that to let others finish it themselves, Zhao Wujiu was aware that her identity made her unsuitable to do these kinds of work, yet he could not find the reason to refute.


    Empty words such as “are you doing well” had never been able to solve the issues of enough food and warm clothes for the people.


    After a while, the food and beverages were ready, and the noisiness downstairs had finally subsided. Lady Jiang Xiaoxian had chosen a 34-year-old noble foreigner guest and retreated together. Zhao Ziheng watched the sturdy man enviously and commented: “Truly the living expression of ‘a flower in the middle of cow dung’. Aside from being wealthy, what does that person know about the songs?”


    Bai Shiqi said leisurely: “Even if it’s a cow dung, it’s still a piece of golden cow dung!”


    Zhao Wujiu smiled.


    Zhao Ziheng became speechless.


    Only Shu Changfeng laughed out loud, then, he hurriedly turned around and went out of the room.


    Not only that noble guest had spent his money lavishly, his whole being exuded an aura of the rich. From the crown on his head to his rings, and the things hanging on his body, it was akin to pasting big bold letters on his forehead: This big master doesn’t lack money!


    Lady Yao made a lot of money today, making her exhaustion disappear without a trace. Seeing the precious treasures in the room, she hurriedly ordered a servant girl: “Send the best food and fruit wine to Xiaoxian’s room and serve them to the best of your abilities, don’t let any mishaps, otherwise, be careful of your skin.”


    The servant girl quickly obeyed to serve, but a short while later, she quickly returned: “Lady Yao, it’s not good—“


    Lady Yao had just removed her hairpin to loosen her hair and was looking at her reflection in the mirror. She felt sad regarding the fine lines around her eyes. She only felt unlucky when she heard those words: “What’s not good?”


    The servant girl answered: “Three masters have come here, and among them is Leader Bai…”


    Lady Yao reproved: “Then what can I do? Even if Leader Bai doesn’t like Shiqi lang taking in concubines, I can’t refrain him from coming to our courtyard to play ah. You’re making a fuss out of nothing, leave.” When the servant girl was almost at the door, she quickly called her again: “Come back! Secretly send the news to Shiqi lang to watch out, as to not meet the bad omen that is his father, and be careful not to get beaten. It’d be shameful to get beaten in public!”


    The servant girl responded and quickly rushed to the private room where Zhao Wujiu had been, only to find that the wine and food inside had been eaten halfway, but the people had disappeared.


    The songs had been heard. The delicacies and fruit wine had been tasted. On their way to return, just a few steps down the stairs, they were dumbfounded when they looked up.


    Bai Zhenting, accompanied by two tea merchants, was walking and chatting when they bumped head-on. The distance between the two sides was about ten steps, and both father and son looked like they had seen a ghost.


    Bai Shiqi: “… …” I’ve really gone out without seeing the yellow calendar!

    [Yellow calendar: also known as the imperial calendar, is a calendar that also adds a large number of rules and contents related to good fortune and the avoidance of evil.]


    Bai Zhenting: “… …” Isn’t this little bastard supposed to be in the study to cultivate feelings with Qiu Yunping?


    Bai Shiqi reacted extremely quickly and stepped forward with a smile to greet the two tea merchants: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. Are Uncle Zhang and Uncle Zhu well?”


    The two people were famous tea merchants in Suzhou. Every year, they transported the tea via water transport. They were old customers of the shipping group, and in the past two years, they have done a lot of dealings with Bai Shiqi. They immediately smiled back: “So the young leader is here as well ah?”


    Bai Shiqi was accompanied by Zhao Wujiu, so the two people assumed Zhao Wujiu’s identity was her business partner.


    Bai Zhenting glared at Bai Shiqi viciously, with an expression filled with threats: See if I don’t break your legs once we return!


    Having received her old father’s threats, Bai Shiqi used Zhao Wujiu’s wheelchair and framed him: “Dad, you must have not known. Cousin Brother was feeling unbearably stuffy at home, so he asked this son to accompany him to Linjiang Courtyard to hear Lady Xiaoxian’s songs. It’s not like this son wants to disobey you, alright?”


    Shu Changfeng: Young Leader, how brave you are, even dared to frame His Highness?!


    Zhao Ziheng was often stabbed in the back by his good brother. Seeing his good brother framing Cousin Brother at this very moment, he was immediately overjoyed. He turned his head to laugh up his sleeves.


    Only Zhao Wujiu was still unperturbed and calmly asked: “Shiqi?”


    Bai Shiqi bent and tightly held his big hands, her eyes filled with plea: “Cousin Brother?”


    At this moment, one heard the sound of footsteps coming from behind, and it soon came to the front. It was a pair of a master and his servant. After going past Zhao Wujiu, the master turned his head first to glance, then immediately stopped his step, and hesitatingly asked: “Zhou… Your Highness Prince Zhou?”


    Bai Shiqi was still holding Zhao Wujiu’s big hands and could feel the thick calluses in his palms. She was thinking: It really is strange. If Cousin Brother is a civil official, why does he have thick calluses in his hands that can only be achieved by a martial arts practitioner?


    That man’s words were passed to her ears but could not be passed to her brain. She did not react, and only raised her head and smilingly looked at that man. It was a man in his mid-forties, looking rich and honorable. The man unexpectedly called “Your Highness Prince Zhou” upon seeing Cousin Brother, with a bad expression. She truly wanted to recommend this person to get his eyes treated by Old Man Huang.


    Zhao Wujiu slowly held Bai Shiqi’s hands back, and asked: “Lord He?”


    Although he rarely returned to the capital to visit relatives, he had also seen He Yan several times at the palace banquets. The two people who were unfamiliar with each other were meeting face to face at this moment.


    He Yan could not believe that he was meeting Prince Zhou here. Prince Zhou had a cold temperament and did not like social niceties back in the capital. He was usually only accompanied by Shu Changfeng when going out, and most of the time he’d only stayed at his mansion inside the palace, he even seldom showed himself before the empress to chat. Surely he must have recognized the wrong person.


    Bai Shiqi’s fingertips turned cold. The smile on her face quickly crumbled. She tried to take back her hands, but they were held tightly by Zhao Wujiu: “C-Cousin Brother, you shouldn’t joke around like this! One could be beheaded for impersonating a member of the imperial family!”


    Zhao Wujiu: “Yes, one can be beheaded for impersonating a member of the imperial family!”


    Zhao Ziheng let out a giggle, and He Yan took notice of his presence. He quickly cupped his hand and smiled towards him: “The heir (of Ziheng’s father’s business) has also come to Jiangnan?”


    This time, Bai Shiqi was truly astonished. The sons and daughters of the world of traveling merchants did not bother about trifles and had no interest in entanglements. Ignoring their backgrounds, the two played together and got along so well, besides, Zhao Ziheng had never had the aura of an imperial relative and his temperament was easy-going. At best, he was just a young master of a rich family. Talking about arrogance, he was really different from the salt group’s Young Leader Wen Tao.


    Ziheng, you… you’re joking, right?”


    There had not been many people who’d flattered Zhao Ziheng since his childhood. He did not care about his identity and status, but only a few would treat him as a brother sincerely. Even though Bai Shiqi often stabbed him in the back, it was pretty much harmless. Getting flattered was a novel experience for him, so he gladly accepted.


    Read only at Travis Translations


    Wook's notes:

    Yes, Shiqi, one can be beheaded for impersonating a member of the imperial family. Now, which cousin of Prince Zhou again are you...


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