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    The Black Horse

    Chapter 53.2


    Translated by Wook
    Edited by sienz


    In the afternoon, Huang Youbi went to see Bai Zhenting in person.


    The next day, Bai Zhenting saw Bai Shiqi and wanted to poke a hole in the little bastard’s head: “What did you say to Huang Youbi? Did you ask him to personally resign the proposal? He also cursed you for being cold-hearted for not having his disciple in your heart.”


    Bai Shiqi leaned against the bed, looking slouchy: “What else can I say?  I discussed the benefits of having Zhu Shoumei entering our family with him. When we meet a group of pirates, I can sacrifice his disciple to find a way out for us, since he must be used to finding a way out based on his experience in the mountains. Even though Old Man Huang is a stubborn person, he loves his disciple very much. But I think his disciple is no better than those precious herbs he planted and dug from the mountains. It can be regarded as best used when used on a patient. Moreover, Zhu Shoumei is not an object, if we sacrifice him to those ruthless people and he loses his life, can we be held responsible?”


    Being an impartial person, Huang Youbi wouldn’t sacrifice his own disciple into a pit.


    Bai Zhenting wished to beat her up, but looking at her dispirited appearance because of the serious injuries, he only knitted his brows: “Your thought is… on that person?”


    —Does this bastard like Prince Zhou?


    Bai Shiqi lay on the bed and quickly understood his meaning. She laughed at her old father’s words, and with a sneer, said: “Dad, are you stupid? If that person is Zhao Ziheng, I still have a way to hold him in my palm, but who is he? Can he be controlled by me? If he plans to go somewhere, obviously he would’ve suffered losses being with us. This is just a momentary confusion. Once he can stand again and return to the capital, will he still remember who I am?”


    Talking about beauties, the palace is so colorful with them. And what kind of talented person wouldn’t be there?


    Bai Shiqi stretched out her hands. There were old wounds on her palms. Recently, because of her sickness, her skin color had turned paler, but compared to the jade-like fingers of the slender young women raised in the boudoir with great care, it was not good enough. She asked: “Dad, do you think I’m beautiful or talented? Or is my family background on par with those official ladies in Jing?”


    Bai Zhenting was not a stupid person either. Her words provoked his laughter, and in the end, he couldn’t help but poke her forehead: “You clever ghost. You’re the only one who understands!”


    As the father and child of the Bai family reached an agreement, the always flexible Leader Bai was once again calm even in the midst of a storm. Every time Zhao Wujiu wanted to talk with him, he shifted the blame to Bai Shiqi, while pretending to look anxious: “Shiqi, that stubborn kid. Your Highness has seen it too, if she doesn’t want to do something, even if I take out the biggest rod there is to break her legs, it won’t change her mind. From the way I see it, this matter cannot be rushed.”


    Before, it was clear that he had been so anxious for the continuation of the Bai family and wished to find a suitable person for Bai Shiqi, but now he was dragging the matter.


    At the beginning of the twelfth lunar month, Bai Shiqi could already jump around to harm people. Huang Youbi was also preparing to continue his travels with his disciple. Today, an emissary was sent to pass an Imperial decree: to let Zhao Wujiu and Yu Ang to secretly investigate the corruption of Lianghuai’s salt road. There was also a tiger tally, to let Zhao Wujiu command the army to suppress the pirates.


    Yu Ang had been having unreal expectations before this. He had listened to the news on the street outside: The newly-appointed Imperial envoy had reached Lianghuai half a month ago, and had begun to inspect the accounts of the salt road with the help of yamen. However, Prince Zhou hadn’t moved the slightest here.


    Thus, when this Imperial decree arrived, he knelt on the spot and knocked his head repeatedly on the cold-hard floor, almost resulting in a big bruise.


    As soon as Zhao Wujiu received the secret order, he specially invited Bai Shiqi. His reasoning also sounded grand: “You have taken people to clean up the river pirates over the years, no one can match your familiarity with this group of people. Can this prince ask for Young Leader Bai’s help to eradicate the pirates?”


    Bai Shiqi could still refuse other reasons, however, it was her long-cherished wish to eliminate the river pirates.


    “I’m not sure what I can do for Your Highness?”


    Apart from her complexion, which was still a little pale as the result of deficiency after a serious injury and could only be recovered slowly, her gaze was heroic, and her eyes were shining like stars. 


    Zhao Wujiu once again realized that ordinary well-bred ladies were swallows at home, while Bai Shiqi was an eagle in the sky… He couldn’t use ordinary strategies to impress her.


    “If Young Leader Bai is free, please be my assistant for the time being. Let me familiarize myself with Lianghuai waterway, where the pirates are likely to hide, and where are good places to set up an ambush. And for places where it’s not convenient to use the ships, we will survey on land. When the pirates of Lianghuai are all suppressed, I will certainly ask Imperial Father to bestow a title for Bai Shiqi!”


    Bai Shiqi smiled: “I don’t need a fancy title, I’ll thank the heavens as long as I can earn some money from those officials along the journey.”


    As the two reached an agreement, Bai Shiqi laid a paper and painted Lianghuai waterways overnight.


    She was born and grew up here, plus, she often wandered down the river. After all those years, she had memorized everything she could, so she could draw a lot of things without having to go there.


    Zhao Wujiu sat next to her, seeing her grinding the ink while pondering before drawing on the paper with a brush. She marked the place names, the depth and width of the river, the feasible ships, and the hiding places. Even the reed meadows were drawn. Zhao Wujiu was secretly surprised.


    If she’s in the army, she can be a scout and make contributions.


    It’s a pity that she’s a girl.


    Bai Shiqi buried herself in the drawing, and the sky darkened before she knew it. As Zhao Wujiu got up and took the light, Shu Changfeng’s voice suddenly rang at the door: “Is there something wrong with Miss Song?”


    Miss Song Si’s voice came from outside the door: “I heard that my master hasn’t had dinner today, so this concubine came to send some food and soup.”


    Bai Shiqi was absorbed in painting, and only then discovered that it was already late, and Zhao Wujiu was also hungry with her. She was somewhat embarrassed and with a lowered voice, said: “Why didn’t you call me?”


    Zhao Wujiu saw her slouchy appearance often, and had never seen her doing something so focused. When she was drawing at the desk, he kept watching her. He also asked some questions at times, and she explained vividly as if the places were before their eyes. It was as if the two people were on a small boat, traveling along the waterway she was explaining. However, whenever she was drawing, she’d be so focused that she even forgot to talk to him.


    Time had passed as she wrote and drew.


    They could only hear Shu Changfeng outside the door: “The young leader has a serious discussion with my master. Miss Song can put down the food and soup, and this humble one will pass it to him. Please go back.”


    Miss Song Si said anxiously: “My master hasn’t recovered yet. Asking Brother Shu to pass the message for him, make sure he takes care of his body.”


    There was the sound of leaving footsteps in the courtyard. Soon, Shu Changfeng came in with dinner. Zhao Wujiu glanced at Bai Shiqi with a complicated expression: “Are you really going to live with Miss Song as a pair of fake phoenixes?”

    [a pair of fake phoenixes refers to a fake relationship between a man and a woman, like a married couple only in names. Can also refer to homosexuality.]


    Bai Shiqi carefully put away the picture of the waterway on the table. Zhao Wujiu helped to clean up the papers and pen. Bai Shiqi raised her eyebrows and said: “There are a lot of heartless and fickle men in this world. If Miss Si can’t find a good husband who would love her, rather than hastily push her into the fiery pit called marriage, then I might as well keep her by my side.”


    “A lot of heartless and fickle men? Where did you draw this conclusion from?”


    Bai Shiqi thought: As a person who follows the teachings of monogamous modern society, what should I think regarding the men in this era who embrace women right and left?


    However, Bai Shiqi was also aware that the way of thinking of the people in this era was different from the modern era, so she let it pass.


    She then smiled and said: “The conclusion is drawn from me. If I’m a man, I will embrace women right and left. When I see one beauty, I will love one beauty. In any case, who can obstruct me from taking in eight to ten beauties even though I already have a wife? At most, I’ll only get called young and flirtatious.”


    Zhao Wujiu saw that she was being indecent again, and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry: “You really! Fortunately you’re not a man, otherwise, how many girls would’ve been harmed by you.”


    Bai Shiqi shook her head: “No, no. I am saving a lot of beauties. You’ve never seen those tyrants by the riverside, who scold their wives, and raise their limbs to beat and kick them, treating them like cows and horses. If I take in those beauties, they will be blessed with my tender, protective feelings towards them. It makes no sense for a woman to not fall in love with me!”


    Zhao Wujiu was taken aback by her smug and complacent look: “Your meaning is that, I’m… not tender and protective enough?”


    This is a simple paradox—Why would Bai Shiqi, who had the appearance of a street ruffian, need tender and protective feelings from others? She herself was a protector of flowers.


    Shu Changfeng was dumbfounded, but he quickly recovered to set up the meal.


    After eating, the two of them cleaned up their bowls and chopsticks, lit up the lanterns and continued to draw. Yu Ang came for a while. Seeing that Bai Shiqi had written like a god, he was amazed: “Young Leader Bai is really a young talent, why not enter the army to serve?”


    Bai Shiqi stretched her waist, immersed herself with her work and continued to paint: “I have a clear understanding of myself. I have such a sloppy and unrestrained temper. If I entered the army, I might have been beaten to death by a military rod.”


    Zhao Wujiu smiled: This little girl sees everything clearly.


    Bai Shiqi drew the waterway map day and night, meanwhile, Zhao Wujiu called back the guards who had been sent out to gather information, and ordered them to investigate the garrison guards in every part of Lianghuai. Since he had been staying together with Bai Shiqi for a while, it was unavoidable that they would have to come in and out of Bai Shiqi’s room.


    Huang Youbi had set a date to depart. Zhu Shoumei still had his mind on Bai Shiqi, in his sadness, he wanted to say goodbye to her. The courtyard was lively when he entered. Shu Changfeng was guarding the room at the door, and there was another guard inside the room, reporting the latest news: “… Your Highness, this subordinate has watched the garrison guards of Gaoyou County for a few days, but didn’t find anything unusual. However, their clothes and weapons seemed too shabby, which is strange.”


    Lianghuai was populous and affluent, the guards stationed in the area shouldn’t be that shabby.


    Zhu Shoumei heard the word “Your Highness” in his ears. Before he could think further, Shu Changfeng had already addressed him with a loud voice: “Physician Zhu, do you come here with something in mind?”


    The difference between this “Physician Zhu” and the “Your Highness” that had been uttered by that guard before was too far, and it sobered Zhu Shoumei up.


    “Your… Your Highness?”


    Zhu Shoumei studied under Huang Youbi, and was very aware of the Huang family’s motto. As blood rushed into his head, he wanted to rush in: “What “Highness”? Who’s in that room is this “Highness”?”


    The door suddenly opened from the inside. Zhao Wujiu was sitting in the wheelchair. Bai Shiqi was still holding a brush in her hand, and stared at him in astonishment. Another young man, supposedly the guard, was standing upright by the side.


    Zhu Shoumei pointed at Zhao Wujiu: “He… Who is he?” He looked agitated: “Shiqi, who is he?!” It was fine if she couldn’t accept his feelings, but now, even both master and disciple are being fooled together?


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