"I told you yesterday to dual-cultivate," chirped You Mengzhe, rejoicing in Yu Changqing’s misfortune. "You didn’t do it, and now look, you’re in trouble."
The next morning, You Mengzhe woke up refreshed and full of vitality, feeling as light as a swallow. He leaped well beyond three strides with a single burst of qi, and vital energy circulated throughout his entire body, immediately rousing within him an indescribable feeling of elation.
Yu Changqing checked out of the room, and carrying their bundles, the two of them decided to first find a stall in the West Market to eat breakfast at.
"Mengzhe." Yu Changqing offered You Mengzhe a spoonful of braised prawns and asked, "Where are you going next?"
You Mengzhe lowered his head to peel the shrimp and said, "Nowhere in particular. Just going to wander the Jianghu, find people to dual-cultivate with, and strengthen my martial arts."
"What about you?"
"If it’s not urgent, there’s no need to rush to explore the Jianghu. How about I bring you to the capital? As long as you don’t dislike it, you can stay at my house for a while.”
As You Mengzhe ate his porridge, he mulled over the idea. Did the capital have a lot of wulin martial artists? Based on Yu Changqing's suggestion, if he wanted to take him to his place, then those two silver taels...well, he didn’t need him to pay those back in the first place. Oh, that’s right, there was also his mother’s will.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to. I can write you a pass. At home you can rely on your parents, but away from home, you have to rely on your friends. If you run into any trouble while venturing through the Jianghu, look for my brothers from the yamen. With my position as an imperial constable, even though the Jianghu martial artists may not like me, amongst the yamen, just report my name, and they will help you."
You Mengzhe disclosed, "My mother also left me a self-portrait and a will."
"Can I see?"
You Mengzhe took out the portrait, revealing a chubby woman’s eggplant-shaped visage.
"This is... a court drawing. It looks like a court lady's portrait, but it's really a bit..."
"I know, right? My mother claims to be a master in all four arts, but in self-portraits…… Eh, let’s just say that I think no one in the world looks like this.”
"It looks like you haven’t opened the letter?"
"It’s not actually a letter, my father opened it before and said... it's my natal chart. My mother wished for me to get married early."
Yu Changqing nodded, handing back the portrait to You Mengzhe, and responded with a chuckle, "In the future, Big Brother will help matchmake for you."
While the two of them discussed this, a lion-like roar suddenly erupted from behind them. "Yu Changqing! I finally caught you!"
With a reverberating clatter, the table’s contents shook, cups and plates quivered, tea launched into the air, and braised prawns leaped into the sky. By the time You Mengzhe looked up, a dense horde of wulin martial artists had surrounded the West Market. Last night’s Elder Long took the lead, followed by Long Batian, Long Badi, Long Bahai, and numerous disciples wearing every color under the sun. There were well over hundreds of people.
A moment later, the market fell into pin-drop silence. The hawkers who had set up their stalls at dawn immediately packed their wares, and countless heads poked out from atop the tall teahouses on both sides of the street, gawking at the scene below.
Yu Changqing immediately got up and cupped his fists in respect. "Elder Long."
"The Long Family treated you as a guest of honor." Elder Long pointed a finger at him, glowering. "How dare you commit such a despicable and vulgar act!"
The martial artists behind him laughed and jeered, doing their utmost to humiliate him, but Yu Changqing’s expression stayed calm and unaffected. “What happened last night was too complicated to tell you all the details. I have brought back all of Elder Long’s birthday gifts.” He grabbed the bundle on the table and handed it to Elder Long, then continued, “Now they have all been returned to the rightful owner. I hope Elder Long will kindly accept.”
"You must be joking!" With a burst of qi, Long Batian fiercely roared using the Long Family’s inherited ‘Dragon Roar Technique’, shaking the table into a clatter once more.
You Mengzhe angrily roared back, "You’re looking down on us?!"
It would have been fine if he had kept quiet, but after shouting out of turn, someone immediately cried, “It's him! He was with the thief from last night! What’s your name?!"
"Don't come any closer, I’m warning you," You Mengzhe threatened.
Yu Changqing explained, "He is just a little brother I met on the road. It’s a long story, Elder Long, it's like this..." Yu Changqing carefully narrated the events, then placed the bundle on the ground. Thousands of eyes from the horde of onlookers and martial artists ogled the bundle.
Elder Long sneered and let out a cold laugh, prompting everyone else to burst into mocking laughter. "Do you really think when the situation has come to this point, that you can get off easily just by telling a lie?" scoffed Elder Long.
Yu Changqing cupped his fists and declared, "As a public servant, Changqing never lies or deceives."
Elder Long snorted coldly, "The words of an imperial lackey cannot be trusted."
"Fight! Fight!" shouted two commoners from above.
Yu Changqing responded indifferently, "Of the rights and wrongs of this matter, heaven knows the truth. Towards my actions, Changqing has a clear conscience. Mengzhe, let’s go.”
“Oh,” echoed You Mengzhe.
"Wait!" Long Batian shouted, "You come and go as you please, but you think you can just take advantage of the Long Family without a fight?!"
"Yes!" Cheers erupted from the teahouses, shouts of support, heckles, rowdy jeering, and enthusiastic applause echoing in the air.
Yu Changqing angrily replied, "Changqing doesn't cause trouble, but also doesn’t fear it. Now that the words have been spoken, what does the Long Family want to do?"
"Fight! Fight! Fight!" The commoners’ shouts flooded from both sides of the street.
"We don’t want to do anything." Long Batian retorted, "If it’s not a problem, I want to ask Constable Yu for some pointers——" Applause thundered, and Long Batian unhurriedly peeled off his outer robe, revealing an expanse of roiling, rippling muscle, prompting women on both sides to shriek and squeal in waves. He cupped his fists towards Yu Changqing.
Wrath clouded Yu Changqing's features. He had originally planned to swallow his anger, but for the Long Family to harass them to this point, he had no choice but to accept the challenge. The Jianghu had always enjoyed humiliating court officials, wanting to bask in their superiority.
"Then I’ll have to offend you." Yu Changqing challenged, "Do you want to fight me one to one, or all at once?"
The teahouses fell into respectful silence as Elder Long sighed and sat on a chair someone had brought out.
Long Batian smirked and retorted, "If Constable Yu can beat me, I will personally escort you two out of Jiangzhou today."
"What if we lose?" You Mengzhe asked.
"Hurry up and fight! What are they dawdling about!!" The spectators on both sides shouted impatiently.
"That depends on Constable Yu." Long Batian's lips quirked.
Yu Changqing declared, "If I lose, please let this little brother go, and you can handle me as you see fit."
"I told you yesterday to dual-cultivate," chirped You Mengzhe, rejoicing in Yu Changqing’s misfortune. "You didn’t do it, and now look, you’re in trouble."
In the time it takes lightning to flash, Yu Changqing drew his blade, and with a quiver of his hands, Long Batian brandished a pair of twin daggers. The onlookers formed a ring around them, and Yu Changqing and Long Batian kept their eyes fixed on the other, locked on the enemy's every move, slowly, intensely circling around each other.
"Fight! Fight!" The surrounding crowd raged.
One circle, two circles... Yu Changqing and Long Batian switched directions, and continued slowly circling each other. Sweat poured from Yu Changqing's forehead as Long Batian eyed him closely. Thirteen circles, fourteen circles... You Mengzhe sat cross-legged at an Eight Immortals table, munching on peanuts from a porcelain plate. Twenty-seven circles, twenty-eight circles... Thirty-three circles, thirty-four circles...
"Ha!" Yu Changqing finally swung his sword!
"Ha!" Long Ba flashed his twin daggers, and ding ding ding ding ding, the sword and daggers clashed, and the spectators applauded frantically. Yu Changqing slashed straight down with one ‘Collapsing Mountain’ move, radiating powerful vital energy!
"Yesyesyes!!" You Mengzhe loudly cheered on Yu Changqing. Just as the fight entered full swing, You Mengzhe cheered, "Big Brother Yu! Beat him into the dirt!"
This immediately irritated someone, who shouted, "You’re asking for death!" In a flash, someone drew out their long whip and slashed at You Mengzhe.
"What do you think you’re doing!" You Mengzhe subconsciously recoiled, using his vital qi to leap three feet away and evade the whip, just in time for it to strike the Eight Immortals table, smashing it into pieces with an ear-splitting crash.
This triggered everyone, and a female voice shouted, "Not bad! Take this!"
You Mengzhe still hadn’t found his footing before the whip coiled again. The other party did not know that You Mengzhe didn’t know any martial arts, she only thought he had exceptional Qinggong and wanted to teach him a lesson. But no one could anticipate that You Mengzhe already had Sun Bin's vital energy. Sun Bin, the ‘God of Thieves’, had extraordinary Qinggong. Having robbed the entirety of China, he had yet to be defeated. Even if only a tiny thread of vital qi resided within You Mengzhe, none of these Jianghu martial artists could compare.
You Mengzhe dodged left then right, all the while yelling, "I don't know martial arts! Hey! Don't force me to use violence!"
The woman nicknamed ‘Funeral Whip’ Qiao Wuniang, sternly scolded, "You don’t know martial arts yet you’re still so arrogant. Auntie is going to teach you a lesson today!"
You Mengzhe finally couldn't bear it any longer, and roared, "Come at me! Come at me! Don't say I didn’t warn you!"
"Take out your weapon!" Qiao Wuniang flicked her sleeves.
You Mengzhe took out a round, palm-sized, black-lacquered iron box and faced Qiao Wuniang. At this moment the crowd shifted their eyes towards them.
"So this is your weapon?" Qiao Wuniang asked.
"Come closer," You Mengzhe beckoned.
Inexplicably, Qiao Wuniang took a step forward. You Mengzhe held the iron box and ordered Qiao Wuniang, "A little more to the right." Qiao Wuniang moved a few steps to the right.
"Too right, a bit more left."
Qiao Wuniang, eyes nearly popping out of her sockets, angrily demanded, "What the hell are you doing!"
You Mengzhe roared impatiently, "You'll know soon! Hurry up!"
Baffled, she nudged a little more to the left, and You Mengzhe continued, "Stand still, don’t move, I will count to one, two, three..." With a kacha, You Mengzhe activated the mechanism, and out of the round box noiselessly shot a needle, thin as a cow’s hair, straight into Qiao Wuniang's chest.
“A hidden weapon!” she cried as she collapsed where she stood.
At that moment the crowd exploded and howled, "What did you do to her?!"
"I warned her!" You Mengzhe retorted.
Qiao Wuniang frantically clawed and wailed on the ground, howling madly, instantly prompting someone to yell, "That guy is insidious! Grab him! Get the antidote—"
The scene descended into chaos, forcing You Mengzhe to retreat a few steps. A spectacular sight of Jianghu martial artists wielding everything from spears and meteor hammers to iron fans rushed towards him. You Mengzhe backed away as he shouted, “Don’t come any closer!”
"He can only hurt one person at a time!" Somebody else shouted, "Let's attack together!"
In a flash, the crowd swarmed and surged towards You Mengzhe, vying to capture him alive. You Mengzhe had no other plan, so he had no choice but to activate the area of effect mechanism. With a sweep, torrential rain-like needles poured from the round iron box, and a large number of people fell like flies. The rest of the crowd didn’t even have time to react before You Mengzhe darted off and pressed the mechanism again. Heaven and Earth Extinguishing Bone Piercing Needles rained down from everywhere. They splattered across the crowd, each needle dipped with the highest quality anesthetic. It wouldn’t kill, but with one hit, the victim would fall over and flail around in utmost pain.
“Heaven and Earth Extinguishing Bone Piercing Needles——!" Someone in the crowd finally howled out, "It's someone from the Demon Cult! Capture that demon!"
Off to the side, Yu Changqing and Long Batian were still fighting vigorously with each other, until a needle flew past, and Long Batian immediately collapsed onto the street, howling painfully on the ground. Only then did Yu Changqing regain his wits, withdraw his sword, and shout "Mengzhe! You can’t kill anyone!"
You Mengzhe took time out of his busy schedule to explain, "It’s an anesthetic!"
Simultaneously, he lifted the lid on the iron box, shot a torrent of needles at a group approaching him, and as they collapsed, someone unexpectedly fell on top of him, dragging him down.
Yu Changqing drew out his sword to rescue him, and shouted "Let go of him!"
The crowd piled on top of You Mengzhe like a human pyramid. Just then a gray shadow flashed through the crowd, raised his hand and lightly tapped his palm against the shoulder of the outermost person, then immediately dashed away into a small alley.
As soon as that palm hit, a colossal force as massive as a mountain reclaiming the sea, blasted away the crowd with a boom, sending dozens flying.
You Mengzhe: "???"
"Let's go!" Yu Changqing shouted.
Yu Changqing lifted up an Eight Immortals table with his sword, and with a confident horizontal swipe, his domineering sword energy burst forth and smashed the Eight Immortals table into a million pieces, successfully blocking the hidden weapon flying their way.
You Mengzhe pressed the mechanism a few times, no more needles, it was empty!
"His weapon is used up!" Someone yelled immediately, "Everyone, charge with your swords! Kill them!"
Yu Changqing used one arm to wrap around You Mengzhe’s waist, and carried him swiftly away. As You Mengzhe faced the people chasing after them, he pressed the mechanism a few times, and after slapping the box a bit, another large wave of piercing needles poured out. One of them struck Elder Long, who had been chasing them at the forefront of the crowd, and he loudly screamed before collapsing and flailing on the ground.
"It was just stuck!" You Mengzhe celebrated, "There's more!"
Yu Changqing lectured, "Don’t enjoy fighting!" You Mengzhe turned and flung himself onto Yu Changqing's body, letting him carry him, and with one vertical leap, Yu Changqing charged out of Jiangzhou, making a mad dash through the wilderness.
"The officials are here, the officials are here——!" Jiangzhou's officers finally rushed over, only to see an expanse of Jianghu martial artists rolling around and wailing on the ground.
Yu Changqing carried You Mengzhe on his back and sprinted for a full twenty li, only stopping when he reached the Han River Ferry crossing.
Yu Changqing had sprinted nonstop for a long while, so even if he had expert Qinggong, this kind of running with all his might was still a bit hard to endure. You Mengzhe got off Yu Changqing’s back, both of them finding a huge rock to lean against. Yu Changqing, panting, stared at You Mengzhe for a moment, then couldn't help but burst into raucous laughter.
Yu Changqing couldn’t restrain his amusement and poked You Mengzhe with his finger. "Truly the actions of the Demon Cult. That hidden weapon won’t harm anyone, right."
You Mengzhe put the iron box away and replied, "It won’t, the needles are only dipped in anesthetics. My sect likes to use this narcotic to capture our enemies. It’s too boring to kill them on the spot, right?”
Yu Changqing shuddered, and from a distant sampan, a boatman called out, "Cross the river——!"
Yu Changqing immediately pulled You Mengzhe, and they boarded the sampan and set off. Just as they reached the heart of the river, an officer on horseback arrived on the opposing riverbank -- in the end, still a step too late. When they successfully crossed the river, Yu Changqing purchased two horses in the village.
"It’s my first time riding...how do I ride?" You Mengzhe asked.
Yu Changqing had no choice but to return one horse and ride together with You Mengzhe, hastily leaving the Jiangzhou area. Yu Changqing rode for three days nonstop, presumably shaking off most of their pursuers, and following the official road, entered the boundary of Yangzhou, a city southeast of Jiangzhou. As a region rich in fish and rice, Yangzhou was extremely prosperous. After they arrived in Yangzhou, they transferred to a wu-peng boat, drifting through rows of white walls and black-tiled roofs that existed in perfect harmony with the serene waterscape, breathtaking and beautiful beyond comprehension.
"Mengzhe." Yu Changqing voiced, "This is Yangzhou. I have something to discuss with you, I don’t know what you’ll think about it."
"What is it?"
Yu Changqing explained, "The Emperor’s Jade Seal was stolen, which was a major event in the palace. Additionally, the martial artists of Jiangzhou are likely still tracing our whereabouts. I must rush back to the capital day and night without a second’s delay, changing horses, but not riders. I’m afraid you won’t be able to bear it.”
"Then, you’ll go first?"
Yu Changqing nodded, continuing, "Yangzhou magistrate’s head Constable Wang is my martial brother. So I was thinking, it would be better to entrust you to him for the time being, and a month later, when he has to pay tribute to the palace, he will send people to the capital, and you can go with them. This will save you from the fatigue of the journey, as well as allow you to play around in the city."
You Mengzhe was just thinking about spending a few more days in Yangzhou, so he immediately agreed, and Yu Changqing brought him outside the county’s yamen. Before long, a tiger of a man greeted them. "This is Virtuous Brother You."
That robust man nodded at You Mengzhe and asked, "How did Martial Brother cause this much trouble?"
Yu Changqing chuckled and replied, "I have no idea. Wang Tan, Virtuous Brother You is my benefactor, you have to treat him well."
The stout male, built like a massive bear, nodded. "Understood."
As Yu Changqing led away the horse, he imparted, "Mengzhe, you..."
"I’ll see you off?" At the thought of parting with Yu Changqing, You Mengzhe felt reluctance in his heart. This was the first friend he had met after leaving home, as well as the first friend he had ever known in his life. Not to mention, he had also treated him very well.
"You’ll go to the capital to find Big Brother, won't you?"
"Of course, why would you say that?"
"You...forget it, it’s pointless to say more. The technique you previously learned in your sect, Brother has no comment. I’ve chased the thief for thousands of li, and it’s all thanks to your help that things worked out. If you’re willing, I can help you find a school, so you can study and maybe in the future, take the imperial examination..."
You Mengzhe remembered his father, You Gutian, had also said something like this before.
Yu Changqing continued, "Or if you want to practice martial arts, I can help you find a martial arts school, and you can build a solid root and foundation. Don't be too addicted to taking shortcuts, lest you fall into the demonic way."
You Mengzhe thought I am the demonic way, and my whole family is the demonic way... But hearing that Yu Changqing only meant him well, he smiled and chirped, "I understand, you should go."
"I’ll wait for you in the capital." Yu Changqing cupped his fists in farewell, leapt onto his horse, and left Yangzhou.
Even though there’s no ppp *gasp*, this is a good chapter. I already miss our constable policeman leopard boy. Guess who’s next?
(sorry it’s 2 days later than usual! Went on a trip to Arizona for 5 days and didn’t have any time to translate. but hope last week’s double release kept you sated)
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ruini.