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Translated by Wook
Edited by sienz
Life as a Taoist was modest and simple. Bai Shiqi was fully aware that the Huang Youbi master and disciple pair had never required such worldly and material things. First thing in the morning, Bai Shiqi dragged Shu Changfeng and Zhao Ziheng into the mountain to hunt in order to improve their livelihood.
Zhu Shoumei actually wanted to go, but Huang Youbi wanted to give acupuncture treatment and medicinal bath to Zhao Wujiu and he had to prepare the medicinal bath, so he could only stare helplessly as Bai Shiqi ran happily into the forest along with the birds.
Zhao Wujiu maintained his expression, made a conversation, which could be considered rare, and indirectly asked: “After listening to Brother Zhu, it seems like you’ve known Bai Shiqi since you were young?”
Zhu Shoumei calmly tested the temperature of the decoction in the tub with his hand, and glanced at Zhao Wujiu who had taken off his clothes that only his undergarments remained, and showed a gentle smile: “Shiqi was very naughty back then, he fell and broke his leg, so Leader Bai brought him to the countryside for treatment. He was never an idle person and kept forcing me to carry him on my back to run outside. I was still weak at that time. After running outside with him on my back for several days every day, not only my appetite increased, even my body became much stronger.” It could be considered a pleasant discovery.
Bai Shiqi had been able to hunt rabbits in the mountain even with a broken leg and she had concealed the fact that Zhu Shoumei had abandoned her with bad intention. The two quickly formed ties because of food and their relationship developed further until they could call each other friends.
Zhu Shoumei had been like a little hedgehog back then. Aside from Huang Youbi, he had always been vigilant to everyone else. He listened carefully and observed nervously with even the smallest sign of turmoil. The sense of crisis was extremely deep.
The two people had eaten grilled fish by the riverside until their stomachs became round. They had been lying flat on limestone to sleep when Zhu Shoumei heard movements and slowly got himself up to look for the source of the voice. Bai Shiqi, on the other hand, had still been sleeping like a pig, even turned to her side and pushed his body until he fell off the large limestone, then continued to sleep using the crook of her arm as a pillow.
Zhu Shoumei turned over to get up: “Shiqi, someone’s here.”
Bai Shiqi did not open her eyes and muttered in lowered voice instead: “Little bastard, why are you disturbing my sleep when there’s nothing going on.” That tone was extremely similar to Bai Zhenting.
The ones who had come over were Zhu Shoumei’s classmates. Children from the countryside spent the first half of their day in school and the other half helping with matters at home. These children who had come were from middle-class families in the village. They were very curious and followed the two today. They saw Zhu Shoumei carrying a little cripple and put the person near the water from a distance. Unexpectedly, the little cripple speared several fishes, scraped the scales, removed the innards skillfully, then made a fire to roast and ate them, which aroused the children’s greedy stomach.
The group, led by Er Gouzi, was ready to rob the rich and help the poor, wanting to attack them to grab the fishes. However, Da Pang blocked their way and advised him to outsmart the two instead of using brute force. As a result, the five children waited until the two ate their fill and were lying down on the limestone before they came over.
[T/N: Er Gouzi is a term usually used to call younger boys for jokes, while Da Pang literally means big fat, consider it as calling him Fatty. But here, the author used these terms as their literal names.]
The country children wore cloth shoes and meticulously lightened their footsteps to circle the two. Zhu Shoumei’s long-term vigilance made the hair all over his body stand. Ever since he started going to school, there were many children who bullied him, but he did not dare to tell Huang Youbi. He had been afraid that the Master would think that he was troublesome, so he could only lie every time and said that he fell by himself when picking herbs in the mountain.
This limestone was enormous. The two of them slept in the middle, and the two grilled fishes wrapped in banana leaves were put on the side— Those were reserved for Huang Youbi.
The goal of the naughty children was those two grilled fishes. Before they could touch the banana leaves, they were slapped at their hands with a ”pa” sound.
The outsmarting tactic had failed!
Er Gouzi screamed, Da Pang was stunned, while their three other accomplices became angry. Xiao Shitou incited them: “Let’s fight them together, I don’t believe we won’t be able to beat two little misfits like them!”
[T/N: Xiao Shitou literally means “small rock”, with “small” as a term of endearment, while “rock” was to describe being hard-headed, and is used to describe stubborn children. But again, here, the author used it as their literal names.]
The country boys had studied several scripts at school but still could not get rid of their vulgar language.
Zhu Shoumei sat up in surprise and was about to fight them at all costs. He was also worried that Bai Shiqi’s injured leg would get beaten up severely by those people. Not only would he not be able to eat roasted rabbit, roasted fish, and roasted bird anymore, perhaps he’d also be blamed by Huang Youbi for not being able to take care of Bai Shiqi.
He was about to stand in front of Bai Shiqi, however, he was pushed down to sit back by Bai Shiqi: “Just sit down and watch the show.” Bai Shiqi’s eyes lit up, and she rubbed her hands with a smile: “I haven’t exercised for a long time. I didn’t expect someone would come to entertain this young master.”
Xiao Shitou rushed forward bravely. However, before he could reach his target, he was hit on the knees with a walking stick and knelt down on the edge of the limestone with a thump. His knees were probably broken, his eyes reddened in pain, and was close to tears. Bai Shiqi, however, sat in the middle and shook her head: “Hey, don’t be so courteous. One doesn’t need to give such a big gift at the first meeting!”
Xiao Shitou became furious and yelled at his friends: “Why are you guys still not moving to beat this cripple?”
The remaining children came over. Under Zhu Shoumei’s trepidation, Bai Shiqi made these boys kneel down with just a walking stick. Some of them even cried from losing their front teeth.
Ever since Zhu Shoumei stayed in this small village and attended school, he had been bullied by these children. When they went home that day, it had become the very first time he was very happy and willing to carry Bai Shiqi on his back. He even wished to pick up the soil on the spot to use as incense and worship Bai Shiqi on the spot.
“Shiqi, you’re amazing!”
Bai Shiqi was lying on his back and slowly said: “You can be as good as me, as long as you eat more meat and exercise.”
Zhu Shoumei had suffered a lot since he was a child. Even though Huang Youbi knew how to prepare decoction and medicine, his cooking skills were terrible. He did not know the combination of meat and vegetables, and could not provide enough meat for the growing child. No wonder Zhu Shoumei was not strong enough.
With the beautiful hope of becoming a strong man, Zhu Shoumei went home with Bai Shiqi on his back with two grilled fishes in their hands. By the time they arrived, there were already several brutish women at the front door, and each of them was bringing a crying child to seek justice.
They were headed by Da Pang’s mother, Aunt Fatty, whose voice was proportional to her figure. When she shouted out “Physician Huang!”, it was as if the three-room hut’s roof might get blown off: “Physician Huang, take a good look at your child who hit my child…”
[T/N: Rather than “Aunt Da Pang”, Aunt Fatty is funnier…]
Before Huang Youbi could even taste the food, he was blocked by the crowd who wanted to report his unscrupulous disciple. Looking out through the fence, the five married women were clutching five crying children, and one of the children had broken lips and missing front teeth, so how could he still be in the mood to eat fish. He turned his head and strictly asked: “What happened?”
Zhu Shoumei had never seen his master angry, so he shivered in fright. He did not expect Bai Shiqi to hold on to the walking stick and calmly said: “Old Man Huang, let them all come in. It’s unreasonable to speak so loudly. Let us talk about it today.”
Huang Youbi was almost angered to death. He had known earlier that his old friend’s little bastard was difficult to deal with, so he could only invite the several women in.
Aunt Fatty gave Zhu Shoumei a fierce look upon entering, and showed her Da Pang to Huang Youbi: “Physician Huang, look at my child who was hit by your child!”
The rest of the women agreed one after another and wanted to punish the ’perpetrator’.
Zhu Shoumei was terrified out of his wits, he was afraid that Huang Youbi would not want himself after this. He was prepared to step forward to kneel to admit his mistakes, but Bai Shiqi pulled at his sleeve. She sat on the stool and struck the stone table: “Will you shut up for this young master!” The women were startled, while Bai Shiqi asked Da Pang: “Did Shoumei hit you today?”
Da Pang shook his head— If Zhu Shoumei had such an ability, how could he be bullied by them on normal days?
Bai Shiqi pointed to Er Gouzi and Xiao Shitou again: “Tell me, did Shoumei hit you today?”
Er Gouzi glared firmly: “He dares?!”
The women were dumbfounded.
Bai Shiqi cursed: “You’re a group of bastards! Did you not bully Shoumei on a daily basis? He’s too kind and did not dare to tell Old Man Huang, but you guys keep bullying him, then when you unexpectedly met and suffered losses from this young master here, you cry and clamor to your elders at home to ask for justice. When you normally bully Shoumei, why don’t you remember the word ‘justice’? Have all the knowledge you’ve been taught gone into the belly of the dogs?!”
The several children were cursed by her until they even forgot to cry. Aunt Fatty was at a loss for words, but still wanted to argue: “But… But…”
Bai Shiqi rained curses again: “But my ass! Do you think your child is a jewel and other people’s children are trash ah? Your child’s been bullying my Shoumei every day, now that you’ve suffered losses, you came here and want to argue?” She suddenly fished a small dagger out of her boots and threw it casually to hit a rooster that was pecking at food in the courtyard. Before the rooster could make any sound, it fell and twitched on the ground. It tried to get up to escape, standing up crookedly, and then fell down again. Where it fell, blood could be seen.
“From now on, you should burn incense for Bodhisattva every day, pray so that no one in your family will get sick. Don’t come to Old Man Huang to treat your illness! If you bully my Shoumei again, I’ll hit you!”
Aunt Fatty had just recently started taking Huang Youbi’s decoction. The people of the village were frugal and could not afford to call the physicians from the county. Sometimes, when they caught a serious illness and saved some money for decoction, the sick people would be gone first before finishing the prescription. It could be said that the decoction was not good. However, Huang Youbi not only had superb medical skills, but he also often delivered medicine for free. Even if he charged a fee, it could only be considered as a token of appreciation.
Both Huang Youbi and the disciple were good-tempered. The little disciple was quiet and obedient, he did not even say anything when he was bullied, while Huang Youbi was kind and gentle, and did not care about money. However, Bai Shiqi was not a good-natured child. She started hitting people after just a few words, she even killed the rooster that had been raised by Huang Youbi, making the other parties give up without even a fight. Aunt Fatty and the rest of the women were defeated and apologized to Huang Youbi and Zhu Shoumei.
The kid whose front teeth got knocked out was being checked by Huang Youbi. Since it was only the milk teeth and new front teeth would grow after a while, it was not a big problem.
After the group of people retreated, Zhu Shoumei wanted to worship Bai Shiqi so much. Even when several years had already passed since that event, he still wanted to laugh whenever he recalled those memories. With a smile plastered across his face, he told Zhao Wujiu: “Brother Zhao wouldn’t know. That was the first time that I felt… It wasn’t so bad to have a brother!”
Huang Youbi had certainly saved his life, but the gentleman was too reasonable. Zhu Shoumei had been afraid of being abandoned by him, so he needed to pay attention to Huang Youbi’s expression in every action he took. Even though Huang Youbi was a gentle person, if he frowned or even knitted his eyebrows, Zhu Shoumei would question himself for half a day whether he had done any wrong. Once he knew that Master was unhappy, he would become even more diligent in finding more work when he was home.
No one had been able to understand Zhu Shoumei’s skittish mentality. Huang Youbi, the old bachelor who had been obsessed with studying medicine for half of his life, had not understood the mentality of the sensitive child.
Zhu Shoumei filled the barrel with enough medicinal water and easily carried Zhao Wujiu before placing him in the barrel, then smilingly said: “I’ve been thin since I was young, but I’ve started exercising ever since Shiqi shook me up, so after a few years, my strength is adequate.”
Ignoring his gentle appearance, the muscles under the half-worn cloth robe were sturdy, which Zhao Wujiu had felt when he was carried by him.
“I didn’t expect Shiqi to be so eloquent since he was young.”
Zhu Shoumei put in his arms to stimulate the acupuncture points on Zhao Wujiu’s legs while thinking to himself: It is clear that Shiqi is not only eloquent but also has a chivalrous heart since young.
“I had also asked Shiqi why he was so courageous and even dared to confront adults. He fearlessly said that those people were not as scary as his family’s Leader Bai. He would become so fierce once he got mad, while those women could only argue noisily and run away frightened.” He smiled even more and the movement of his hands paused for a while: “Brother Zhao wouldn’t know, after those people left that day, Shiqi told me to boil some water to pluck the chicken’s feather and used the medicine from Master’s box to make chicken soup.”
He kept the taste in his mind till this day.
Perhaps what made him obsessed was because that had been the first time someone had protected him for no reason in this life. Bai Shiqi had stood by his side without distinguishing whether he had been right or wrong, which made the terrified youth finally open up his heart, forgetting the cold glares he had suffered from, and accepted Bai Shiqi’s warmth.
Zhao Wujiu’s lower body was submerged in the hot medicinal water and the acupuncture points on his legs were pressed by Zhu Shoumei. Amidst the steam, he imagined Bai Shiqi as a child, and rare jealousy arose in his heart— So jealous of the man before him. He was so familiar with Bai Shiqi since childhood.
Wen Tao had also known Bai Shiqi since childhood, but the two people’s characters were so incompatible. Bai Shiqi had nothing good to say about him and did not put on any form of politeness when dealing with him. However, Zhu Shoumei was completely different. He was a special existence.
“Did your relationships with the villagers improve afterward?”
Zhu Shoumei lowered his head and pressed Zhao Wujiu’s acupuncture points, then with a smile he said: “I won’t hide it from Brother Zhao. After that day, I lived comfortably in the three years we stayed in that village.”
After Aunt Fatty went back, she thought to herself that if she offended Physician Huang, her mother-in-law’s medical expenses alone needed a large sum of money, which was very strenuous for their family. If one had to choose between money or hurt the child’s heart, one had to give in.
She pulled Da Pang over and lectured him. She warned him not to bully Zhu Shoumei anymore in the future, and also sent a basket of eggs that she had prepared to be sold at the city, to Huang Youbi’s house.
Huang Youbi had refused to accept it, but in the end, it was accepted by Bai Shiqi. She had shamelessly said: “I will accept this from Aunt Fatty as an apology from Da Pang for bullying my Shoumei in the past!” And still magnanimously said: “As long as Da Pang doesn’t bully my Shoumei anymore, Physician Huang will treat your family member’s illness. But if you start bullying him again, be careful of your big fat arms and legs. I won’t be gentle!”
Even though Aunt Fatty had this thought (of bribing with the basket of eggs), her face still blushed with embarrassment when her thoughts were exposed by a child. She quickly said farewell to Huang Youbi and hurried away.
Before the day had turned completely dark, the other four also sent gifts.
Huang Youbi looked at the dried chicken meat, eggs, wild tea leaves, hens, and the other items on the table. He was so angry that he wanted to lecture Bai Shiqi, however before he could open his mouth, he was reprimanded by Bai Shiqi: “Old Man Huang, you don’t need to thank me. I was only sticking out for Shoumei because you’ve been neglecting him and someone needed to aid him from the injustice!”
Zhu Shoumei had always been diligent and studious, and the teacher from the school had always praised him for that. He also thought that the child was doing fine: “Where did you see I’m neglecting him?”
Bai Shiqi pointed at Zhu Shoumei fussily and said: “Are you saying you’re not neglecting him? Just look at him. A good boy that has become so skittish under your care. Not only his eyes are frightful, but he also doesn’t even dare to utter a voice. It’s said that you’re raising a disciple, but if people didn’t know, they’d say that you’re raising a slave. If you threw him to my father with this appearance, he would have been beaten to death earlier!”
Huang Youbi had been studying medicine meticulously, however, he knew next to nothing about parenting. He did not understand what a normal child should look like. He only thought that the little disciple had never caused any trouble. In the end, because of Bai Shiqi’s words, the little disciple’s strong point became a big question.
“Your father beat his child because you’re too naughty. Shoumei is sensible, how can he be beaten like you?”
Bai Shiqi rolled her eyes and said: “Old Man Huang, are you stupid? Don’t just look at my father beating me, he’s actually very proud. I’m so awesome, I can put a bunch of ignorant kids to their places. My father looks down on those wimpy kids the most, he’d curse that those kinds of kids are worse than women. If not because of me blocking him, Shoumei would’ve apologized to Aunt Fatty and the others today. He had obviously done nothing wrong, and yet they bullied him. Today I only fought back a little, and he almost apologized under your watch. He’s a man who doesn’t even dare to insist on right or wrong, don’t you feel that you’ve been neglecting him?”
Huang Youbi became speechless because of her words. He nibbled quickly on several pieces of chicken and added a double dosage of yellow lotus to Bai Shiqi’s decoction that night.
Zhu Shoumei had been the one who boiled the medicine. He smelled the rich yellow lotus smell and wanted to drink the bitter medicine for Bai Shiqi.
He could not help but laugh when the matter was brought up today: “I was young at that time and was not familiar with Master’s temperament. Looking back now, Master also has such an amusing side.”
Bai Shiqi had said, my Shoumei.
She had said: Her Shoumei.
He would even protect her from a blade, not to mention yellow lotus!
Bai Shiqi said: My Shoumei!
Whoever bullies my Shoumei, I’ll dye my blade red!
Zhoa Wujiu: … …
Read only at Travis Translations
I like how Shiqi always helps others in a subtle way. Like how she starts those competitions on their return so that the crewmates won't gamble and how she keep asking Shoumei to carry her on his back to make him stronger. Such a cool female lead~