"…Virtuous little brother, stop groping around, what are you trying to do?”
Yu Changqing practically flew down the mountain. How could You Mengzhe, who had lived like a prince all his life, keep up? Yu Changqing would walk a little, then stop a little, until soon enough, the sky darkened, and they had no choice but to spend the night at the foot of Yuheng Mountain. Yu Changqing started a fire, while infinite stars illuminated the vast summer night and insects cried endlessly. The two of them lay by the fire and prepared to sleep. You Mengzhe ripped off his martial boots, and as soon as he saw the blisters that had formed, whined incessantly.
Yu Changqing chuckled and said, "After we make it down the mountain, buy a horse. Then you can put your gold leaves to good use."
"Brother Yu, you’re chasing a thief, so why didn’t you buy one? Those thousands of miles, did you run the whole way here?"
Yu Changqing replied, "Hunting criminals pays next to nothing, so I can’t afford a good horse."
You Mengzhe had never given money a second thought, so he blurted, "Tomorrow when we’re down the mountain, I’ll buy you a horse.”
"I appreciate your kindness. Fast horses mean a fast return, but my pace must be tempered. Besides, Unworthy Brother Yu has to practice his Qinggong."
You Mengzhe suddenly thought of something, and asked, "I heard that all the people in the Jianghu have nicknames. What’s Big Brother’s?"
Yu Changqing smiled disparagingly. "Brother Yu is not affiliated with the Jianghu, so I don’t call myself anything, but the Jianghu calls me the ‘Thousand Mile Wanderer’." You Mengzhe only half-understood, nodded, and the two drifted off to sleep.
However, You Mengzhe couldn’t sleep contentedly and slapped at mosquitos with a pa pa pa. He had originally planned to dual-cultivate Yu Changqing by night, but looking at the other's obvious skill, then at his good-for-nothing self, he doubted forcing this man would end well. The ‘True Art of Turning to Yang’ just needed one...just one man. After he found an expert to dual-cultivate with, he would gain martial arts skills, so later if he wanted to bully and dominate men, or directly take them, it wouldn’t be a problem. But it was precisely the first one that’s difficult to find. The so-called, “getting started is always the hardest part” mostly rang true.
"Brother Yu." You Mengzhe resolved to capture his heart and mind, so asked, "Are you married?"
Yu Changqing rested his head on his arm, crossed his legs, kicked back not far from the fire, and replied, a smile tugging at his lips, "Big brother got married two years ago."
You Mengzhe nodded. Although he spent all year round isolated in the remote mountains, shut off from the world’s affairs, he still knew about the love between men and women and the social customs of the world; it wasn’t like he was blind. No wonder Yu Changqing didn't want to dual-cultivate; he had only been married for two years.
"Brother Yu, do you have children? Do you miss them?"
"Unworthy Brother Yu doesn’t have children."
"What’s with all the formality, you don’t have to call yourself Unworthy Brother this and Unworthy Brother that. Why don't you have children?"
Yu Changqing smiled to himself, and in a manner suggesting no further comment, answered, "I was destined to have no children." He continued casually, "I can't force it."
You Mengzhe thought that sounded promising! Then he asked,"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Yu Changqing shook his head, gazed at You Mengzhe with a twinkle in his eyes, and asked, "What about you?"
You Mengzhe shook his head and said, "I am an only son, I’ve been alone since I was a child. "
Yu Changqing murmured in agreement, "Big Brother is also an only son, and I have an 80-year-old mother."
You Mengzhe shifted closer as Yu Changqing lay back down, and while caressing Yu Changqing’s knees, he asked, "Brother Yu, why don't you take a concubine?"
Yu Changqing smiled and said, "I can’t even wait on my wife, how can I have other thoughts?"
The more You Mengzhe heard, the more he became aware of the hidden meaning behind Yu Changqing’s words, so curiously asked, “Is your wife very fierce?"
Yu Changqing drew in a breath, avoiding the question, so You Mengzhe pressed on, "What’s it like in the bridal chamber?”
Yu Changqing grinned and replied, "When you get married, you will naturally understand."
This answer was exactly what he wanted to hear. You Mengzhe, hoping to take advantage of this opening to gain some benefits, continued bombarding him with questions, while one hand caressed Yu Changqing’s chest back and forth. You Mengzhe didn't know why he had these intentions, but when speaking, he couldn't help but want to playfully pat, slap, and rub against Yu Changqing, itching to weave his way into his arms.
"How did you meet your wife?"
"When the time came, we naturally met.”
"How do you do it in the bridal chamber?”
"Your father told you about this too? …Virtuous little brother, stop groping around, what are you trying to do?”
You Mengzhe had one hand on Yu Changqing, stroking from his chest to his abdomen, twisting his nipples through his martial robe. Yu Changqing’s official robes were extremely thin, revealing the man’s magnificent figure. Yu Changqing ignored his movements, which bolstered Mengzhe’s courage.
Yu Changqing leaned over and laughed, grabbed the hand kneading his waist, and commanded, "Lie down, don't move around." He stretched out his hand for You Mengzhe to rest on, and the two lay shoulder to shoulder on the grass.
"It's good for young people to come out and wander the Jianghu." Yu Changqing said sternly, "Back when I was sixteen and accomplished in martial arts, I also left my sect to explore the Mingchuan Mountains. But Little Brother, you must remember that in this world, not every stranger you bump into will treat you sincerely. When you meet those from the Jianghu, you must not be rude."
You Mengzhe tilted his head and glanced at Yu Changqing, not really understanding. He rested on Yu Changqing’s muscular left arm, and the two of them gazed up above at the boundless Milky Way, at the vast sky studded with innumerable stars.
"Then why do you treat me so well?" You Mengzhe asked curiously.
Yu Changqing smiled and answered, "I think you’re interesting. Forget it, let’s not talk about this. Go to bed, we have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow."
This was You Mengzhe’s first time leaving Yuheng Mountain. Completely ignorant of the Jianghu’s dangers, he only felt that even a complete stranger in the wilderness would be more interesting than anyone from Yuheng Mountain.
The next morning, a thick layer of dew and dense fog blanketed the mountains. The two woke up early, and Yu Changqing led You Mengzhe down the mountain to ride the Han River Ferry across the river. It was You Mengzhe’s first time experiencing this vast land and surging river. From the post station and ferry crossing to the river beach and boatman, everything around became the most wonderful attractions in his eyes.
The waters of the Han River were as ancient as ever, and the roaring waves surged eastward. The ferry stopped at the dock, the atmosphere clamorous and overflowing with people. You Mengzhe got on the boat, looking every which way, prompting Yu Changqing to throw him over his shoulder and carry him to the side, beckoning him to not wander around. A hodgepodge of people crowded on the boat: the porter lugging his load, the mother carrying her child, and several martial artists venturing west from the East China Sea, each wearing a bamboo hat and talking with hands clasped respectfully in greeting. The ferryman called out loudly, and the ferry set off across the river.
Suddenly, a man in gray leaped out of the mountains and shouted, "Wait!" The man came too late to catch up to the boat, so had no choice but to wait for the next one.
The Jianghu wanderers whispered quietly to themselves, studying You Mengzhe. One of them wanted to come over, but his companion said a few words in a low voice, hinting at the person standing beside him. Several people cast him ill-intentioned gazes from under their hats, but because of Yu Changqing by his side, no one dared to act rashly. Yu Changqing, unperturbed, swept his eyes across the length of the boat.
As the river surged east and the water birds cried, You Mengzhe gaped at the wide open world. He stood on the bow, surveilling the imperceptible boundary where the water met the sky, and an inexplicable feeling stirred in his heart.
"Have you been to Jiangzhou?" You Mengzhe asked.
“I’ve been no less than five or six times. Since ancient times, the world’s taxes have come from Jiangzhou. Throughout the Great Qing’s four hundred years, Jiangzhou was the primary source of taxation in the Central Plains. But one day, Empress Fang washed the capital with blood, and Chengzu and General Ying fled the capital overnight to fight against the Xiongnu at Feng Pass outside Xichuan. Later, they gathered the fifty-thousand-strong Black Army in Jiangzhou and in one fell swoop, slaughtered them back to the capital, thus regaining the Great Qing’s land."
You Mengzhe nodded slowly, his heart yearning for a bygone era, unable to resist imagining that heroic scene from four hundred years ago.
"Does the Black Army still exist today?" You Mengzhe used to read some history books in his sect’s library.
"It has been disbanded. Jiangzhou men have been known for their strength and bravery since ancient times. After entering the city, watch more, listen more, talk less, and don't cause trouble."
You Mengzhe acquiesced.
It was time for the ferry to dock, and the crowd disembarked. At the same time, another group poured out of the north ferry dock, and the situation descended into chaos.
You Mengzhe, stuck in the push and shove of the human stampede, felt his butt get pinched, which made him shriek. When he turned his head, he saw a raggedy, dirty from head-to-toe beggar. The boy was about the same size as him, just a half-head taller. He winked at him, and gleefully boarded the boat. You Mengzhe felt baffled, and Yu Changqing came over.
"Are you okay?" You Mengzhe touched the bundle behind his back, and checking that everything was intact, assured "I’m fine."
Yu Changqing took You Mengzhe into Jiangzhou, which flourished for miles along the brilliant Han River. Ever since the Black Army’s war god Han Canghai oversaw Jiangzhou, this place had become the largest city in the Southern Central Plains, with both its East and West Markets several miles long. The East Market specialized in Chinese goods, ranging from the Southern Wild’s giant elephants to jars of crickets, coral from the Eastern Sea, the red wine from the Western Regions, antlers from beyond the Great Wall, the pearls from Nanze.... the girl selling herself to bury her father, the performer smashing rocks with his head…. This place had everything for everyone.
Stupefied, You Mengzhe nearly lost his way several times. Yu Changqing crossed the long street sideways, then turned around and led You Mengzhe by his collar, as if carrying away a little chick. "I’ll take you exploring later. First we need to find an inn."
Yu Changqing took You Mengzhe to an alley in between the East and West Markets. Seeing that the two were dressed well, an inn worker rushed over to greet them with a glint in his eyes. Yu Changqing asked for a servant’s room.
The worker’s face immediately darkened, and he snapped, "No more left, come earlier next time."
With respect, Yu Changqing cupped his fist to his sword and stated, "I have official duties, please make an exception."
Although You Mengzhe had no knowledge of worldly affairs, he could sense the good and evil in others, and seeing this guy treating them like dogs, he at once asked, “You dare look down on us?”
“So what if I do?!”
“You want a beating? Come at me!”
Yu Changqing hurriedly exclaimed, "Virtuous brother! Don't make trouble!"
Yu Changqing presented his official document, and the guy had no choice but to take them to the backyard on the first floor and open a servant’s room.
The interior was unspeakably squalid. There was a single cot, a three legged table leaning against the wall, a stool, and nothing else. You Mengzhe turned over the quilt -- it was moldy. On the outside this place looked as if it were carved out of jade, so how can the inside look so unsightly?
Yu Changqing fetched water to clean his face, and You Mengzhe questioned, "How do you plan to catch that thief? Can I help?"
Yu Changqing replied, "That guy has exceptional Qinggong. There are so many people in Jiangzhou, so catching him is like finding a needle in a haystack. Elder brother needs to find and ask my peers for advice. I need to see if we can find a thread to lure him out. Today you can go and have fun by yourself, just don't cause trouble."
"I’ll go with you."
Yu Changqing waved his hand and remarked, "You have gold. Go to the East Market to exchange for silver taels. I think you will enjoy all that Jiangzhou has to offer. Just remember that at night you must come back and rest.”
Without a second thought, Mengzhe threw his bag on the bed, stuffed a few gold leaves in his pocket, and headed out.
Yu Changqing called out, "Elder brother will help you carry your things, that way they won’t get stolen."
Seeing Mengzhe’s carefree attitude, ignorant of the dangers of the world, Yu Changqing had no choice but to take care of his belongings for now. He opened Mengzhe’s bag in front of him, and confirmed, "Look carefully, these are all your things."
"Wu… Heaven-Vanquishing Earth-Extinguishing Bone-Piercing Needle, Vermillion-Eyed Ice Silkworm… wait, where’s my manual?"
After a long while of frantic grappling, You Mengzhe wailed, "My ‘Turning to Yang’ is gone!"
Yu Changqing frowned and questioned, "Maybe when you were drying it you forgot to bring it with you?"
"Just before, I was definitely carrying it. I don't know where I lost it."
Yu Changqing said, "That martial technique isn’t good for you anyways. If you lose it, then you lose it."
"Fortunately, I memorized it all."
One after the other, they filed out of the room, and Yu Changqing remarked, "Don’t take it personally, but this inherited martial arts you’re practicing, it's really… ai "
"It’s really what?"
You Mengzhe strolled past the inn’s main hall, and suddenly saw the rude innkeeper from before, his nose bloody and face swollen, as if he had just suffered a beating. Seeing them come out, he immediately bowed his swollen pig’s head and exclaimed, "Sending the two masters off."
You Mengzhe: "?"
This also baffled Yu Changqing. He glanced at the innkeeper, didn't ask further, and continued where he left off, "Unorthodox... and perverse."
"Our Demon Cult is full of good people! Aside from practicing some martial arts, everyone is a first class kind and honest person. All day long, Dad makes people go down the mountain to help the commoners, and even help villagers beneath Yuheng Mountain herd cattle and carry water. The people love us!”
The corner of Yu Changqing's mouth twitched slightly, and he asked, "What does your sect do for a living?"
"Everyone either farms on the mountain or does business beneath the mountain. The hall masters and helmsmen establish businesses in various cities, and regularly deliver to my father food, drink, and silver."
Yu Changqing nodded, the two emerged from the alleyway, and the overwhelming cacophony recommenced.
"I'll take my leave."
So You Mengzhe bid him farewell, and wandered along the long street, his face filled with curiosity. He marvelled left and right, until he found himself at a bank, recalled Yu Changqing's instructions, and took out a gold leaf. One tael of gold exchanged for twelve taels of silver, and You Mengzhe received sixty silver taels and two banknotes for five hundred silver taels each.
Jiangzhou had a famous restaurant called ‘House Under Heaven’, renowned for its fish congee, steamed bao, and tea eggs. They say that back in the day, when Chengzu visited Jiangzhou, he ate at this very restaurant. You Mengzhe ordered a pot of tea, a bowl of fish congee, a plate of spicy stir-fried frog, a basket of crab soup dumplings, and ate while listening to a story. Someone poked You Mengzhe's shoulder, so he turned his head, but only saw the wall to his left.
To the right, a filthy hand stretched out, snatched a bun, and disappeared.
You Mengzhe turned back and continued eating his baozi. Suddenly he noticed something amiss. Why are there fewer baozi? One, two... You Mengzhe counted. Six. He lowered his head and continued eating.
A finger poked his left shoulder again. You Mengzhe abruptly swerved, his eyes fixed on the wall, and a hand to his right lifted the whole basket of baozi away. You Mengzhe shrieked, "Boss! Your restaurant is haunted!" As soon as the words left his mouth, someone from behind hissed in pain and immediately broke into a run. When You Mengzhe turned his head, only a shadow flashed in the distance, immediately followed by another grey shadow which swept past -- gone.
Bewildered, You Mengzhe finished his lunch and asked for the check. He casually slapped a silver ingot on the table, causing the waiter’s eyes to contract. Holding the silver ingot like an offering, he went to find his boss. A moment later, his boss came out and greeted him with an apologetic smile, "Esteemed guest, our humble restaurant doesn’t have enough change for your silver ingot. Do you have copper coins?"
"Not enough change? How do you do business here!"
The boss cried out, "Esteemed guest, please don't make fun of us. You have five taels of silver!" You Mengzhe scavenged the smallest two fragments of silver, and the boss brought out no less than two large strings of copper coins.
You Mengzhe's face turned green. Two whole strings of copper coins! One string contained a thousand coins, each coin weighed 5/32 jin, so one string weighed thirty-two jin, and two strings sixty-four jin. Carrying this much weight, his pants would drag off on the street!
"This small restaurant only accepts copper coins, and we never see customers paying with silver taels. We don’t even have silver fragments in our coffers..."
"Forget it, keep the two taels of silver. The next few mornings, deliver food to the Imperial Treasure Inn in the alley at the end of East Street." The boss nodded hastily, and You Mengzhe waved his hand as if to say don’t mention it.
Stuffed full of food and wine, he continued to wander the street. When he arrived at the East Market, he saw a vendor leading along an elephant. He remembered his father once called this animal the Docile King of Beasts, so he reached out and touched its trunk.
"Little brother —— buy, buy one to bring home to play with bei.” The vendor was a Westerner with green eyes and a blonde beard. He spoke shoddy Chinese, with a stutter.
"No thanks, can’t stuff it in a house. How much does this thing cost? Can it even be sold?"
"One thousand taels."
You Mengzhe casually replied, "Sell it for 800 taels."
“It has to be nine-nine hundred eigh——ty taels."
You Mengzhe imagined how awe-inspiring riding this thing would be, but decided that it was impossible to buy. Wanting to tease the merchant, he pretended to hesitate and offered, "I only have eight... eight hundred twen——ty taels."
As You Mengzhe spoke, his eyes travelled underneath the elephant’s belly and spotted a person. Completely upside-down and clinging under the elephant’s head, he was currently reaching for the Western merchant’s brocade pouch. You Mengzhe cocked his head, carefully scrutinizing. He was a filthy beggar about his age, and Mengzhe vaguely wondered where he had seen him.
"Shhh..." The man pursed his lips, indicating at You Mengzhe not to speak.
You Mengzhe: "Ai!"
With a serious expression, the thief snatched a pearl necklace into his arms.
"If you’re not, not buying then forget it, why——mock people!" The thief stuffed several items into his arms, ducked under the elephant’s legs, and once again, turned and ran away. You Mengzhe also left.
A few steps later, he heard the merchant miserably cry to an officer, "Just...just—— here, it’s——it’s gone...a string, a string..."
You Mengzhe continued strolling and happened across a clothing store with nice martial robes, so he bought himself a new set. After thinking a bit and estimating Yu Changqing’s size from memory, he also bought him a set. When night fell, he went to a well-reputed Jianghu store and bought some tranquilizing incense and plum-blossom-shaped iron darts, for future use. By the time he returned, Yu Changqing was already waiting in the inn’s main hall.
"Brother Yu, did you get the information you needed?"
“En, the constables in Jiangzhou gave elder brother a clue, so we have a rough sketch of his appearance.”
Seeing that Changqing was worried about something, You Mengzhe suggested, "How about we dual-cultivate now."
Yu Changqing ignored his words and continued, "There is a martial arts family in Jiangzhou surnamed Long. Elder Long plans to celebrate his 70th birthday today, and many Wulin martial artists will come to bring him gifts. It’s very likely that the thief will go to the birthday banquet for easy pickings. I got two invitations, and I intend to wait for my opportunity to strike. Look.”
You Mengzhe asked, "You want to catch the thief at the birthday banquet?"
Yu Changqing nodded and replied, "But I have to prepare some birthday gifts. I came in haste this time, so I don’t have much money on me."
You Mengzhe, yearning for fresh excitement, asked, "Take me with you?"
Yu Changqing didn’t answer, so You Mengzhe said, "You don’t have money huh? I’ll pay for the birthday gift. How much do you need?"
"That’s what I was thinking, but I can’t just let you pay. How about I borrow some silver from you, and buy the birthday gift. You’ll be fine anyways. In the future when we return to the capital, I will definitely pay you back."
"Ai don’t worry about paying me back, how much money do you want? Just tell me?"
Yu Changqing felt extremely embarrassed, and then refused, "No, no, don't say that. As soon as I catch that criminal, I will definitely pay you back."
"Alright, stop it, stop beating around the bush. How much, I just exchanged a thousand taels, if it’s not enough, I’ll just go again….”
hehehoho aren’t they cute? Ngl I really like our proper constable Jishui Leopard (Yu Changqing) and our thirsty Fangri Rabbit (You Mengzhe). Next chapter you will be meeting our Xinyue Fox 🙂
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ruini.