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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 42

    The Scaredy Cat and Cowardly Bai Shiqi

    Translated by Wook
    Edited by sienz


    The man’s condition gradually stabilized after a few days. Picking a time when Huang Youbi and his apprentice were absent, Shu Changfeng pushed Zhao Wujiu in to visit the patient.


    The man was surprised when he saw Zhao Wujiu: “Zhou… His Highness Prince Zhou?”


    It was rumored in the capital that His Prince Zhou lived a simple life and rarely went out. Even the empress rarely saw him. For him to unexpectedly appear here in Jiangnan, which could be considered as a rather remote place, was really surprising.


    But then, recalling his bizarre experience, it was not so odd for Prince Zhou to appear here.


    He wanted to get up and bow to Prince Zhou, but Zhao Wujiu stopped him: “Lord Yu is seriously injured, no need to be courteous.” This person turned out to be Yu Ang, a senior official of the Imperial Censor, who was born with a good moral character and was heavily favored by the emperor.


    Yu Ang had been through an arduous path, even nearly lost his life. Thus, once he awakened with a heavily injured body, he grew vigilant to his surroundings. He had understood Bai Shiqi’s sign and had been pretending to be a mute, but never in his wildest dream he’d ever expected to meet Prince Zhou. This person was decisive, and even though he was now sitting in a wheelchair, he still got that imposing aura from his glory days. He immediately felt like crying: “This humble official had thought that he was going to be a water ghost who died unjustly, truly did not expect that he would be saved by Your Highness! Heaven has truly taken a pity on me!”


    He had even lost his official seal now, so he did not have proof even if he wanted to announce to the public that he was an imperial official.


    Zhao Wujiu did not want to take the credit from Bai Shiqi: “I don’t dare to take credit. It was the shipping group’s young leader Bai Shiqi who saved you. He came in to accompany you every day, Lord Yu should have known him by now.”


    Yu Ang thought of the quirky young man who deliberately told him to pretend to be mute, and despite his predicament, he could not help but smile. He sighed softly, “Young Leader Bai is truly a sincere person!” Truly did not expect that Bai Shiqi purely came to his aid.


    “How did Lord Yu get hurt from a sharp object and appear in the river?”


    Yu Ang thought of the dangerous situation that happened and felt a chill down his spine: “This humble official was ordered to go to Jiangnan to check the salt road. Perhaps the moment I left the capital, someone had conveyed the news. By the time the official ship I was on entered the Liang River, we encountered some pirates. They were trying to break the ship and a hole was made in the end. I was slashed and forced to jump into the river with my wounded body. I didn’t expect to get away with it. What a blessing!”


    Shu Changfeng was shocked at once: “They dare?! They truly cherish wealth above life!”


    Zhao Wujiu chuckled: “Why would they not dare? Lord Yu encountered some pirates, so it has nothing to do with the Salt Transport Officers. The ones that will be blamed will be the River Guards. As long as they can keep the Salt Transport Officers’ illegal deeds going, even murdering for money is not so unusual.”


    Yu Ang replied in admiration: “Once I die, any dirty water of their (Salt Officers) misdeeds can be pushed to this official, and the criminal charges of the assault can be pushed to the pirates. If the government sends more forces to suppress the pirates, perhaps they (Salt Officers) can even get more rewards from the higher-ups (by “pretending” to help them by directing them to real pirates or something, since the pirates who attacked Lord Yu are actually not pirates, but their people). And when the capital assigns another person to investigate the salt road of Liang River, the problems that should have been fixed would be fixed; and they can just bribe the next imperial envoy. ”


    Shu Changfeng: “Then why not bribe Lord Yu?”


    Yu Ang smiled bitterly, and Zhao Wujiu explained on behalf of him: “Lord Yu has a reputation of being upright. He never accepts bribes. If they bribe him with gold and silver, it can be used as evidence against them in court. Hence, it would be better to throw aside the idea of bribing him. They had planned to let him die at the hands of the pirates since the beginning.”


    “So cruel!” Shu Changfeng murmured.


    Suddenly, a clear voice came from outside: “Who is so cruel?”


    The door was pushed open, and Bai Shiqi rushed in with a smiling face as if she had brought in the sunshine outside into the room. Seeing Yu Ang sitting there, she shook her head: “I knew that these nonsense rules would hinder the patient’s recovery. This… Lord, Old Man Huang has spent a lot of effort to save you and he has told you to stay in bed, so don’t waste the medicines that Old Man Huang has collected so hard!”


    Seeing her speaking so rudely, Yu Ang became worried and quickly apologized in her stead to Prince Zhou: “Please don’t blame him, Your Highness. Young Leader Bai is outspoken and is just worried about my well-being.”


    Zhao Wujiu thought: She has done everything that can be considered rude, can I still find her to settle the accounts? But the way Yu Ang defended her made him seem like an outsider, which made him unhappy. So, he answered: “This being the case, we will wait for Lord Yu to recuperate and get well first. If Imperial Father gets the news about Lord Yu’s death, he will probably assign another person to Liang River, and that moment will be an opportunity to us.” Then he pulled at Bai Shiqi’s sleeve and used a somewhat intimate tone: “Shiqi, don’t make a fuss in the room, it might affect Lord Yu’s recovery. Go out with me.”


    Bai Shiqi bounced in her steps and pushed out his wheelchair without noticing his displeasure. She still smiled and complained: “Brother Zhao, let’s go and see Ziheng. Just now we went to catch fish together and he unexpectedly fell into a pond of mud. At the moment he’s rolling in it like a pig. How embarrassing! You should lecture him so he won’t live so restlessly anymore!”


    Zhao Ziheng was originally a graceful noble young master who could not swim nor fish. Going to the mountains to climb trees and hunt were usually done in the most elegant way. Nobody would’ve expected that after following Bai Shiqi around, now he found pleasure in doing these things. Every day he played to his heart’s content, his body grew healthier, his skin turned darker, and his actions were far from a graceful noble young master. He was basically turning into a rough hermit.


    He was originally pretending to be Zhao Wujiu’s little servant, but now he could even be regarded as a member of the shipping group.


    Shu Changfeng helped Yu Ang lie down and tucked his feet in for him, but his arm was suddenly grabbed by Yu Ang, and he asked in a low voice: “Officer Shu, what…” Kind of situation is this?


    It was said that His Highness Prince Zhou was stern and not really close even to the important officials in the court. He would not speak a single word to the officials who still offered him a toast at palace banquets. Yu Ang did not expect that he’d be able to talk and laugh so intimately with a young merchant.


    Shu Changfeng inevitably had to cover up for his master: “Young Leader Bai is bright and not shrewd, so His Highness feels familiar with him since the first meeting…”


    Yu Ang pondered about it. Even if normal people saw him severely wounded, who would dare try to save him so carelessly? This Young Leader Bai had a chivalrous heart, and perhaps His Highness Prince Zhou had taken a liking to it, so it was not strange that the two developed friendship. He let out a satisfied smile: “It is just as Officer Shu said.” Who would not like a simple and honest person nowadays? Especially those who fight with the people in the court all day would prefer the simple-minded people.

    Outside in the yard, Zhao Ziheng was seen sitting in mud. Seeing Zhao Wujiu, he proudly presented the inside of the small barrel in his hand: “Master Helmsman, look. This small one has caught two slippery and fat eels for your recovery.” He had gotten so used to addressing himself as “this small one”, that even Huang Youbi and his apprentice would not be able to see through his act.


    Zhao Wujiu pushed the wheelchair over. When he looked down, there were two fat eels swimming around at the bottom of the small wooden barrel under his feet. As soon as the eels left their comfortable environment, they started to panic and slither around, but the bottom space of the barrel was so small, so they could only swim around in circles.


    The weather was getting colder, and Zhao Ziheng’s clothes were all wet. After sitting for a while, he sneezed twice in a row. He even almost sneezed in Zhao Wujiu’s face. He covered his mouth in fright and apologized, but he forgot about the mud in his hands and dirtied himself as a result. With a mouthful of mud, he looked like a dirty monkey.


    Bai Shiqi laughed in disgust: “Ziheng, is the mud tasty?”


    Why would Zhao Ziheng suffer any losses? He quickly jumped and chased after her: “It’s so tasty. Why don’t you taste it yourself?”


    But, why would Bai Shiqi sit and just wait for her death? She immediately ran off. They ran and joked all around the small courtyard.


    Both of them were youngsters who played like people of their age should, making noises without any scruples. Nobody knew what Zhao Wujiu was thinking about, but he looked down at his legs, feeling dejected.


    Due to the extremely slow treatment effect from the first few days, Huang Youbi had wanted to try a radical method, which was to strike on the original wound and reattach the bone. However, it would be very painful for the patient to regenerate the broken bone. He hesitated and told Zhao Wujiu again and again that he was afraid of injuring it further. If the injury turned more severe, not only the original injury could not be cured, but it might lead to new symptoms.


    Both the physician and the patient knew that this was a risky method, however, they had no other choice but to make this move.


    Zhao Wujiu had considered this for a long time. He had used those few days to think, and during those days he often woke up in cold sweat. It was really difficult for him to accept that he would sit in a wheelchair and become a cripple for the rest of his life.


    Zhao Ziheng and Bai Shiqi’s laughter resounded throughout the small courtyard, and Zhao Wujiu made his decision at once. When Huang Youbi returned that night, he stated his decision: “Since there is no other way, I will accept the ‘breaking the bone to reattach it’ method.”


    Huang Youbi looked at him solemnly: “Even though I’ve said that this is a risky method and that the success rate is only around 50%, it is still better to try than to be hopeless. Once you agree with me, I will prepare the medicine.”


    That night, Zhao Wujiu shut himself in the room without eating.


    Zhao Ziheng caught the eels with great difficulty to help him and did not expect that Zhao Wujiu would shut himself in the room. He was timid and scared and did not dare to go in himself, so he incited Bai Shiqi: “Cousin Brother usually treats you with great tolerance, why don’t you go?”


    The master Huang Youbi and his disciple pair had started busying themselves after dinner, digging through piles of accumulated medicinal materials to dispense medicines, so they had no time to pay any attention to them.


    Bai Shiqi opened the door with the eel congee in hand. The room was very dark and the lights were off. Zhao Wujiu was sitting in front of the window, his expression was unclear, but his tone was very impatient: “Roll off!”

    [scram, 滚 (gun) which literally means ‘’to roll’’ in English, describing rolling on the floor, scrambling off, in the context of being mean to someone that had done stupid stuff e.g 滚开- scram off; literal meaning- roll off]


    “I can’t just roll with the congee still in my hand, once I roll, it will spill all over me.” Bai Shiqi, who couldn’t care less about the consequences, opened the fire-fold and ignited the candles in the room. She then turned the wheelchair around so it faced the bowl of eel porridge on the table: “Ziheng took a lot of effort to catch it. The food that is hard to obtain is the most nourishing. Master Helmsman really doesn’t want to try it?”


    Zhao Wujiu’s mouth was bitter and he had no appetite. He stared at the person in front of him, and not knowing what came over him, he grasped her wrist on impulse and said wilfully: “Shiqi, if I can’t break away from this wheelchair my whole life, what should I do?”


    Bai Shiqi actually had already listened to Zhu Shoumei talking about Huang Youbi’s plan. Even with Zhao Wujiu’s power, he could not be cured in Jing, and even had to come to Jiangnan, so, the hope of curing his legs was very small.


    She sat next to him and recounted: “The brothers of the shipping group have to find their livings on the water. The burden is heavy and the work is hard. Sometimes we may meet the pirates, which usually will lead to a fierce battle. If someone loses his life, then that’s it for him. But if someone loses an arm, or breaks a leg, it will reduce their ability to work, and their circumstances will be extremely miserable after that. However, if they have other skills they’ve learned in their childhood, most will be able to get by. When I was a child, I knew an uncle who had his leg cut off by the pirates. His usual bright and heroic spirit died, and he became depressed for half a year. But then one day, he opened a forging shop and started relying on his arms to make a living. He was originally strong, and his arms only got stronger since then. I was not sensible when I was a child. My dad took me to visit him, and I called him Uncle Gibbon.”

    [Gibbon as in… the primate, yes… animal.]


    Zhao Wujiu, the proud son of the emperor, was now being compared to an impoverished rough fellow from the shipping group. He would have thought of this as a disrespectful offense in the past, but at the moment, he actually listened to her: “Uncle Gibbon?”


    “Yeah, he happened to have the surname Yuan, and he liked this nickname.” Bai Shiqi laughed again: “Do you know? All kinds of things like kitchen knives, axes, woks, made by Uncle Yuan were very durable. His shop became famous in the local area. If you have any weapons you’d like to be made, just draw them on a piece of paper and bring it to him to be made. When I saw him last time, he made a joke about his younger self, saying that when he was young, he shouldn’t have gone to the river to make a living, he should’ve opened a blacksmith shop.”

    [The Chinese for Gibbon is chang bi yuan (长臂猿).]


    —If that person could make a joke about the past, it meant that he had come out of the predicament of losing his legs.


    Zhao Wujiu was moved by every means. He was about to say something but was stuffed with a bowl of eel porridge by Bai Shiqi. Then he got scolded without the slightest bit of courtesy: “Helmsman Zhao’s family is filthy rich. Who would dare to neglect you even if your whole body is unable to move? I should really take you to see the brothers with broken legs and arms from the shipping group. After seeing their lives, you will cherish your own life and won’t be here lamenting how miserable you are.”


    Zhao Wujiu: “… …” What a despicable chap!


    “Hurry up and eat while it’s still hot!” Bai Shiqi urged him to eat while rambling about some interesting stories from the shipping group, but the details were all related to finding joy in sorrows. For example, after someone became disabled, his wife immediately rolled up all their valuable things and eloped with her secret lover. Not to mention eel porridge, he could not even eat plain white rice porridge. He’d occasionally got a bowl of wild vegetable porridge though, which he could still share with the beggars sitting on the street.


    All kinds of unfortunate stories in her mouth were tragic and ridiculous. Zhao Wujiu unconsciously had fed himself a bowl of eel porridge while listening to the stories. In the end, he heard her ask: “What do you think? Is he lucky or is he not?”


    “He is very unlucky.” Zhao Wujiu felt that he was being unreasonable in contrast to those unfortunate stories. It seemed that it was not a big deal to be unable to stand up for life: “But how do you know so many tragic stories?”


    Bai Shiqi sighed deeply and told him the suffering of a young leader: “You don’t know that there are always brothers in the group who become disabled every year. They don’t know how to be frugal, the more money they have, the more they become muddled. In order to increase their awareness, I always organize a group of people to visit the elderly to help every New Year. To call it by the glorified name, is to share the warmth, but it is actually to let them watch out and make more plans for their future. Don’t spend money in the blink of an eye.”


    Zhao Wujiu was curious: “Is it effective?”


    Bai Shiqi sighed again: “I dare not say it’s effective. But nowadays, when I bring the brothers on board, some of them mock me saying I’m a scaredy-cat and a coward!” Trying to keep those people safe the whole journey without any accident is not easy ah.


    Read only at Travis Translations


    Wook's notes:

    Bai Shiqi the mother hen. I wonder how was she like in her past life.


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