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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 37

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by sienz


    The waterborne transport in Jiangnan was flourishing. There was a small dock at the back door of the Bai residence. There were not many seats on an awning boat, so they could not even spare a seat for a servant to drive the boat. Bai Shiqi took the seat at the back to pole the boat, equipped with a bamboo hat on her head and a woven rush raincoat on her body. She moved slowly, without raising her head, looking like an old boatman.

    (awning boat)


    Zhao Wujiu and brother, together with Shu Changfeng, sat in the inner part of the boat. With the curtains down, the inside of the cramped cabin was filled with damp steam. The awning boat traveled along with the current, and Bai Shiqi used the pole to nimbly avoid the other boats. As expected, she was an expert at poling the boat.


    Zhao Ziheng playfully raised his voice: “Shiqi, do you need me to assist you?”


    Bai Shiqi pressed her bamboo head and mocked him: “Do you want all of us to fall into the river and become tortoise food? Just sit there nicely.”


    Having a patchwork of waterways in one’s city was truly convenient. The small boat carried several people for two days, and along the way, they stayed and ate in the town. Everything was properly arranged by Bai Shiqi, like a much-traveled person. Finally, on the third day, they arrived in Wu Town.


    Bai Shiqi tied the boat to the small pier in the town and called out the several people to go ashore: “According to the news, Old Man Huang is staying at the Taoist temple in the mountain just outside of this town. However, he doesn’t like meeting nobles, so I will have to wrong you esteemed people to change your clothes.”


    Zhao Wujiu came out as earnest and imposing, Shu Changfeng would be ready to meet people once he cleaned up a little, but, she was kind of disgusted by Zhao Ziheng: “Your coquettish appearance is the one that Old Man Huang loathe the most. Why don’t you just stay in the town?”


    Zhao Ziheng argued noisily: “I originally came to Jiangnan with Cousin Brother to treat his legs, how can I be separated from him?”


    Bai Shiqi sized him up and down: “Then you should disguise yourself as a servant, alright?”


    The clothes in the clothing store in town were naturally not as good as the fabrics worn by any of them. After changing the clothes, even Zhao Wujiu looked like an ordinary person. Bai Shiqi circled him a few times and made up a new identity for him.


    They followed the instructions of the people in town and hiked all the way up the mountain. It was already afternoon when they arrived at the Taoist temple. The servant who was guarding the door saw the few people who looked like ordinary pilgrims, so he allowed them to enter Sanqing Hall. Inside Sanqing Hall, after they worshipped the ancestors of Sanqing Taoist, they made a detour around Wenchang Hall and went straight to the back area.


    Bai Shiqi grabbed the hand of the servant to ask: “I heard there’s a physician staying in this place with you? I’ve come a long way to seek medical treatment, please refer me!” She stuffed 10 liang silvers handily.


    The rest of the few people lowered their heads while hearing her talk big— Two to three days trip in the waterway is already considered a long way, this is too exaggerated!


    The little servant was surprised that she was well-informed. After taking the silver, he led them to a courtyard deep within the Taoist temple, one could smell the smell of medicine at the door. Then he withdrew: “The physician lives here!”


    Bai Shiqi pushed open the courtyard door and said with a big smile: “Old Man Huang—


    The courtyard door was wide open and the drying racks were covered with herbs. A young man in a half-worn cloth robe was standing at the side to examine the medicinal ingredients. He was startled by the abrupt appearance of Bai Shiqi, but immediately laughed. From his tone, he was clearly happy: “Shiqi, why did you come here?”


    ”Big Brother Zhu, haven’t you finished your apprenticeship 2 years ago?”


    Zhu Shoumei was Huang Youbi’s only disciple, who had been practicing medicine independently outside for a long time. She really did not expect him to appear in Wu Town.


    He was gifted with a delicate face with gentle and modest temperament. He was still living a simple life even after becoming a physician for quite some time. He was in a good mood the moment he saw Bai Shiqi, and quickly came over to welcome her. He stood in front of her and examined carefully: “Can’t I look after my master once I’ve finished my apprenticeship?” He was half a head taller than Bai Shiqi. He lowered his head and rubbed her head, and asked concernedly: “Are you being mischievous again? Where’s the injury?”


    Bai Shiqi stood in front of him and grinned unrestrainedly: “Big Brother Zhu, can’t you expect a little better from me ah?” Her eyeballs scanned the courtyard: “Where’s Old Man Huang?”


    Zhu Shoumei joked: “If Master heard that you’re looking for him, he might have gone into hiding already.” He looked at the sky: “The old man should be collecting herbs on the mountain at the moment.”


    Hearing this, Bai Shiqi immediately waved toward the door: “Quickly come in and close the door.”


    Shu Changfeng pushed Zhao Wujiu’s wheelchair to enter, Zhao Ziheng turned around to close the courtyard door, while Bai Shiqi introduced the several people: “This Big Brother Zhao… is the helmsman of Zhejiang Shipping Group. He’s been suffering from injuries in his legs for a long time and wanted to find Old Man Huang to see.”


    Before going up the mountain, Bai Shiqi had messed up Zhao Wujiu’s hair a bit, on top of that, he had never shaved ever since they left Bai residence. The newly grown stubble under his chin was black, and he was wearing a coarse cloth long robe, making him appear somewhat like an unrestrained and rough person from the world of traveling merchants.


    He cupped his hand in greetings toward Zhu Shoumei. Zhu Shoumei knew that the Bai family had a vast circle of friends, the number of the shipping groups in the five provinces as well as the number of merchants who had business dealings with the shipping groups were enough to scare people. And so he believed Bai Shiqi’s words, returned Zhao Wujiu’s greetings, then entered the house to serve them tea and conversed with Bai Shiqi about the recent happenings.


    Bai Shiqi was born swift with words, living an unconstrained life and its own ups and downs. Seeing Zhu Shoumei’s amused smile across his whole face, Zhao Ziheng had the illusion of “good brother had been stolen away by others”. He had the thought to interrupt them, but at the moment he was disguised as Zhao Wujiu’s servant, so he could only stand at the side quietly, but he still glared at Zhu Shoumei silently several times.


    Zhu Shoumei’s senses were sharp, but he pretended not to see. By the time the sun descended to the west, Huang Youbi, who was wearing an old robe with his shaggy hair, finally returned.


    When he pushed the courtyard door open, Bai Shiqi was already out to grab his arm: “Old Man Huang, I’ve found you!”


    Huang Youbi was taken aback, however, he did not need to look to know who had come. He hit her forehead and said in a bad mood: “Tell me, what kind of disaster do you have in mind for my good medicinal ingredients?”


    Zhu Shoumei took the basket that was filled with medicinal ingredients from his back with a smile on his face, and let Bai Shiqi drag Huang Youbi over to Zhao Wujiu. She fumed: “Here, don’t you like treating hard-to-treat diseases the most? I brought you one. It’s a brother from Zhejiang Shipping Group, don’t waste my good intentions!”


    Huang Youbi was in his fifties. His hair and beard had started to whiten, and his complexion was dark brown after being exposed to the sun for a long time, with a pair of lean arms and legs. His hair was casually tied with a wooden hairpin. If you changed his clothes with coarse hemp robes and let him carry a hoe, this figure could pass as an ordinary farmer in a field, with only his pair of wise and farsighted eyes being his distinct features.


    He crouched to touch Zhao Wujiu’s legs, and began to take off his boots…


    As the sky darkened, Zhu Shoumei took the food that had been brought by a servant boy in a basket and arranged them on the stone table outside, then sighed helplessly: “This is your fault. Once Master gets busy, he won’t even eat properly. What should be done now?”


    Bai Shiqi, with her feet raised, stared absentmindedly at the bright light inside the room: “… Should I bring the food in?”


    Zhu Shoumei was amused by her suggestion: “You should still eat first.”


    Zhao Ziheng and Shu Changfeng were leaning by the door to peep, but soon they were dragged over by Bai Shiqi: “Old Man Huang doesn’t like to be disturbed by others.”


    Huang Youbi had a lot of quirks. For example, he always avoided the family members who were walking around constantly asking about the patients’ condition. In his spare time, he loved to go to the forest in the mountains, or sometimes he’d carry his medicine box and he became a bell doctor, walking through villages and towns. Instead of living in a house, he preferred to live at the temples of the Taoist. Oftentimes, even after exhausting himself to ring the bell, he’d only get a few copper coins.

    [Bell doctor: A bell doctor carries medicine boxes and a hand-cranked string of bells, then walks back and forth in the villages and towns to help people.]


    He had been practicing medicine since he was young, and nowadays he was already famous throughout Jiangnan. The number of complicated diseases he had treated up to this day couldn’t be counted. There were many wealthy merchants in Jiangnan who were willing to subsidize him to open a medical clinic or employ him as a government physician, but he refused each and every one. If he earned generous consultation fees, he’d used them to help the poor, he was pretty loose when it came to spending money.


    Zhao Ziheng and Shu Changfeng felt uneasy. They were sitting outside the door, feeling as if a cat was scratching their hearts. If it had not been for Bai Shiqi to stop them, they would have entered earlier.


    By the time Huang Youbi finished the examination and went out to wash his hands to eat, it was already midnight.


    Seeing his grave expression, Bai Shiqi restrained her smile and asked in worry: “Can Helmsman Zhao’s legs be cured?”


    Huang Youbi engrossed himself in eating the rice: “There’s a bit of possibility, but I can’t guarantee it.” He had always been cautious in his hypothesis and would not easily say that something could be cured.


    The imperial physicians from the capital had tried their best to make Zhao Wujiu’s legs feel even a little. On this journey to the south, he also carried a little bit of hope, but his rationality told him that he was doing something useless, hence, just hearing “there’s a bit of possibility” could already be considered as good news.


    He smiled slightly: “I’ve invited so many physicians for these legs and they’ve tried so many methods without many results. Whatever treatments Master Physician has in mind and whether it will be successful or not, I will cooperate with you, so don’t worry about it.”


    Huang Youbi had seen many patients. Usually, before the physician gave up, the patient’s family gave up first. The man before him now had tenacious eyes, but seeing the deep-rooted scar in his legs, he should’ve been injured heavily, and yet he still endured and came here. It could be seen that his will was extraordinary. He said: “With that being the case, I will do my best.”


    Bai Shiqi clapped her hands: “You were the one who healed my broken leg back when I was a kid. I’m sure you’ll certainly be able to heal Helmsman Zhao’s legs. Why don’t I go to the mountain and hunt rabbits, pheasants, and the likes of everyone starting tomorrow to improve our meals?”


    The food sent by the temple was not bad, but they were terribly bland.


    Huang Youbi wanted to hit her head with the chopsticks: “Tell me, you must have caused a disaster somewhere and came here to avoid it, right?”


    Bai Shiqi’s face looked as if she was treated unjustly: “Am I that kind of person?”


    “Of course ah.” Huang Youbi did not give her even a little bit of face. “Which one of your crazy shenanigans that this old man is not aware of? Instead of behaving when your leg was broken back when you were still a kid, you deceived Shoumei to carry you to fish in the river. Both of you were almost carried away by the water and returned drenched like a drowned rat. Even in sickness, you don’t waste any time to cause troubles, would it be possible for you to grow up well-behaved?”


    Thinking of the hellish medicinal soup that she had drunk at that time, Bai Shiqi immediately felt that there was a medicinal smell in the rice, and she said uncourteously: “If not for Big Brother Zhu checking over the prescription, God knows what kind of things your old esteemed self would put in my decoction. Adding a kilo of yellow lotus, is this the way of a healer?” 

    [yellow lotus: It is supposedly very bitter.]


    Zhu Shoumei mediated between them: “Stop quarreling you two, the food will turn cold!”


    Bai Shiqi pulled a face at Huang Youbi: “For Big Brother Zhu’s face, I won’t stoop myself to the level of a muddled old man!”


    Huang Youbi hit her head: “You’re lucky Shoumei is spoiling you, if not, see if this old man doesn’t drive you out!”


    The two people lowered their heads and focused on their own meals, but after the meal, they had another conflict because of sleeping arrangements.


    There were three rooms in the courtyard, with Huang Youbi’s room in the middle of the three. Normally, Zhu Shoumei slept in the left room, while the right room was used to store herbs, with another bed inside. Today, it could be used as a guest room, however, it wouldn’t be possible to squeeze four people inside.


    Besides, hearing that Bai Shiqi would cram in with Zhao Wujiu and the others, Huang Youbi and Zhu Shoumei’s faces turned green, and they opposed simultaneously.


    Huang Youbi’s reason was: “Your sleeping habits are not good, there’s only one bed in the right room, are you not afraid of kicking others off in your sleep?”


    Zhu Shoumei spoke much more gently: “Brother Zhao still has injuries in his legs, it won’t be good if it’s too crowded. Why don’t you sleep in my room?” Before the latter half of his words “I’ll sleep on the floor of Master’s room” could be said, Zhao Wujiu opposed it firmly: “Since Shiqi’s sleeping habit is not good, it would not be good to disturb Brother Zhu either.”


    As both sides fell into dispute, Bai Shiqi held her head and only wanted to be quiet: “Why don’t I just go to Sanqing Hall for the night watch? It would save you guys from arguing!”


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