Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
With the shelter of the carriage, the scorching sunlight in the noon could not do much to bother Zhang Xiaohua as he sat in the carriage and thought back to the time when his second brother and he first arrived in Pingyang city. Zhang Xiaohua thought in his heart, “No wonder most people would prefer the city life, this feeling is really different, and the quality of life is that much higher. These luxuries cannot be found in the village even if one is willing to pay for them, I wonder how much does this trip actually cost? Never mind, it is better not to ask or Ma Jing will start nagging again.”
The sound of the horse tottering continued for roughly two kettles of tea worth of time before the tall entrance of Pingyang city came into view. Upon seeing Pingyan city again, Zhang Xiaohua did not become surprised as he did before as the sight was no longer unfamiliar. A person’s ability to adapt is frightening; three looks were enough to make something mundane. Even if an object is extremely valuable, looking at it every day would make it appear normal.
As the carriage entered the city, Zhang Xiaohua assumed that it would head towards the carriage station but unexpectedly, it turned in another direction. Even though Zhang Xiaohua was still not familiar with the city, he could recognize the general direction of the carriage so he asked Ma Jing, “Elder brother Ma Jing, the carriage station doesn’t seem to be in this direction, or did I remember wrongly?”
Ma Jing’s patience had long been grinded down by Zhang Xiaohua’s endless questions, he looked at the boy and snapped, “The carriage station is not in this direction, but drunken fragrance house is.”
Upon hearing his answer, Zhang Xiaohu immediately stood up, and fortunately he was still short so he did not reach the carriage’s shelter. His sudden movement frightened Ma Jing who asked, “What’s wrong brother?”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face flushed as he said, “Elder brother Ma, I am really not going to drunken fragrance house, why don’t you let me down the carriage now.”
Ma Jing looked at Zhang Xiaohua’s distress and he laughed heartily before calling over to the driver in front, “Driver, please stop for a while for my brother to get down.”
The driver stopped the carriage as instructed and Zhang Xiaohua hurriedly jumped off in fear of being sent to drunken fragrance house.
Ma Jing turned his upper body and called out from the carriage, “Brother, do you know where the carriage station is? You can go there to find a carriage when you go back, do not forget that. Also, where are you heading to, I can get the carriage to send you there later.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he replied, “Alright, elder brother Ma, I don’t need the carriage to send me off. Just remember to go back earlier tonight.”
After finishing his sentence, he waved his hands and ran off.
“Go back early? Elder brother had such a hard time coming out, it will be strange if I went back early instead.” Ma Jing thought to himself as a lecherous smile appeared on his face.
Zhang Xiaohua ran for quite a distance before he felt that the carriage was far enough before he slowed his footsteps and went to a nearby store to get directions to Lotus escort.
Even though it was noon, the wide main road was crowded with people like silk threads on a cloth. Zhang Xiaohua weaved in and out the crowd as while keeping his vigilance up for any pickpockets. Even though his money pouch was not on his waist and in his breast, Zhang Xiaohua was still not at ease as he thought of the incident when he caught a thief when he and his brother walked around the streets for the first time, which was also quite funny.
Just as he was thinking of the past, he suddenly recognized a familiar figure. Zhang Xiaohua was stunned for a moment, it was really speak of the devil as he did not know many people in Pingyang city, and if this person was not Zhang Xiaohu then he could only be the pickpocket. Seeing the thief tailing behind his next target, Zhang Xiaohua felt that the situation was funny and he quickened his pace towards them.
As Zhang Xiaohua had expected, there was a scholar in front of the thief fanning himself with one hand as he looked around the street. The scholar would stop whenever he saw something interesting at a roadside stall, to browse some old books occasionally, or purchase a bit of ink and paper. The money pouch was dangling continuously as he walked, and the thief wagging his head along with it. Despite having followed the scholar for a while, the thief still could not find an opportunity and just at that moment, the crowd was slightly thinner and there was a clear path for escape. The thief increased his pace and got closer to the scholar, while Zhang Xiaohua who was behind naturally went forward to stop him. However, Zhang Xiaohua was more careful this time, he recalled the previous time when the thief’s accomplice came up from behind to help the thief escape and guessed that the same people must be in the vicinity right then. If he rushed forward to stop the thief, the other accomplices might come forward and he would not be a match for them. Without his second brother around, he could not be assured of his own safety and thought back to Liu Kai and teacher Liu’s advice, although it was good to help a person in need, one must still consider his own safety. Hence, what should he do at that situation?
Seeing that the thief has extended his hands while the scholar was still looking at the signboards hung outside the shops, an idea struck Zhang Xiaohua’s mind and he shouted out loudly, “Big brother Zhang, what are you doing here?”
Zhang Xiaohua’s voice was loud and clear causing several people in the surroundings to look at him, especially those whose surnames were Zhang. The scholar also responded by turning his head back, and the thief immediately retracted his hands and looked away to another side stall to pretend to buy something.
When the scholar turned his head back, Zhang Xiaohua was also surprised because it was someone he recognized as well. He was actually the scholar who took the same carriage as him and his brother from Lu town all the way over to Pingyang city, Li Jinfeng. There were many coincidental meetings on that particular day, Zhang Xiaohua did not know that many people within the city including the thief, but he had met two people he recognized so far. Zhang Xiaohua continued to smile as he walked to the front, and Li Jinfeng was also curious because his impression of Zhang Xiaohua was not very deep. Nevertheless, they had spent quite some time together in the same carriage, and upon seeing Zhang Xiaohua walking up to him and none of the surrounding people responding, he guessed that the latter was looking for him.
Zhang Xiaohua walked over and called, “Hi elder brother Li.”
Li Jinfeng asked curiously, “You are Zhang… Zhang Xiaohua right, it has been over a month and I almost forgot your name. However, I am still better than you, why did you call me big brother Zhang just now?”
When the thief who was at a side noticed that the two knew each other, and even recognized Zhang Xiaohua as the boy who chased after himself previously, he disappeared the moment the two exchanged greetings. Zhang Xiaohua then explained what he saw about the thief to Li Jinfeng. Li Jinfeng felt around waist for his money pouch and estimated that Zhang Xiaohua was telling the truth, so he said happily, “Thanks to you, the money for my living expenses this month is still safe. I must really thank you properly for your help.”
Zhang Xiaohua naturally declined and said, “Big brother Li is too courteous, and we are old acquaintances after all. Even strangers would help each other if they could, so if you want to thanks me for such a little thing, then it will be demeaning the relationship we built in the horse carriage.”
Li Jinfeng felt that Zhang Xiaohua’s words were reasonable and his admiration for the boy grew, he realized that this child in front of him was no longer the same person he met a month ago. Li Jinfeng thought that Zhang Xiaohua had matured into someone who was no longer naive and even had a magnanimous air which made him grew a liking towards him as though the latter was like his own younger brother. He patted Zhang Xiaohua’ shoulders gently and said, “Alright, since you said so, I won’t be too courteous around you. As fellow drifters from the same town, don’t hesitate to find me next time if you ever need my help.”
He then shared his address with Zhang Xiaohua who carefully noted it down in his heart.
Li Jinfeng looked strangely at Zhang Xiaohua’s azure robes and little hat and he asked, “What are you doing here? Why are you dressed like that? Did some large family employ you as a servant? What about your elder brother?”
Hence, Zhang Xiaohua recounted the recent happenings around him to Li Jinfeng, but he did not mention the relationship between Huanxi mountain villa and Piaomiao sect. even though Li Jinfeng reside in Pingyang city, he was a scholar with little knowledge of the Jianghu matters so he assumed that the Huanxi mountain villa was a large private estate. When he heard that Zhang Xiaohua and Zhang Xiaohu were waiting for them outside the carriage for a long time, his ears turned red and he felt guilty. On that night, he was pulled by Shangguan Yun to another residence where they first had a meal before drinking some wine, and by the time he woke up the next day, it was already three poles after morning and the promise he made to the brothers were long thrown up into the clouds. Had Zhang Xiaohua not mentioned it again, he would have long forgotten the promise he made by thumping on his chest.
Li Jinfeng was an educated scholar after all, so he apologized sincerely, “Little brother Xiaohua, I had indeed forgotten about that matter on that day and made the two of you wait for naught. I am really sorry, so I will apologize to you right now.”
Li Jinfeng bowed down immediately after his apology, and Zhang Xiaohua hurriedly supported him to recover as he said, “Elder brother Li, please don’t be like this. The Lotus escort was easy to find anyway, we found it by casually asking around.”
Li Jinfeng continued to ask, “Little brother Xiaohua, where are you heading to now? Are you going to the Lotus escort?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and asked, “Elder brother Li is so intelligent, how did you managed to guess? I am indeed going to the escort station.”
Li Jinfeng smiled as he replied, “I heard that you were living in a mountain villa outside the city and had entered the city during all this time, so I naturally assumed that you are going to the escort station to find your elder brother. That was not hard to guess at all.”
Zhang Xiaohua scratched his head and said, “Listening to elder brother Li’s analysis, I guess that it was really obvious. Little brother has the tendency to not use his head, so I am unable to see through the simplest things sometimes.”
Li Jinfeng patted his head and said, “You are still young so it is the right time to start using your head more. If you meet an obstacle, try to solve it on your own before asking for help from other people. Even if the answer someone else gave you is correct, it may not be suited for you. You have to decide on answer that is most suitable for you.”
Upon listening to his advice, Zhang Xiaohua felt a streak of electricity had run through his brain, and he seemed to have thought of something but was unable to recall what it was.
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s confused expression, Li Jinfeng said, “It has been a long time since I went to the escort station to visit Shangguan Yun and Yu Lun, so today will be a good time to go there with you to see them.”
Zhang Xiaohua said happily, “Really? Those two people are inside? Are they delivery hands as well?”
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s joyful reaction, Li Jinfeng shook his head and said, “I do not know what they are doing in the escort station but they should be learning martial arts and not working there. Their families are quite well off, especially Shangguan Yun who seems to be quite rich, so I doubt they will work for the escort station.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face turned into a shade of red; Li Jinfeng had previously advised him to use his head more and he had forgotten about it so soon, and even suggested that someone else would become a delivery hand. They most probably were learning martial arts from fourth uncle Wen, sigh, he has to use his brain more and not say such stupid things. Silence is gold!
Zhang Xiaohua then replied, “Elder brother Li, I understand. Lotus escort has a martial arts school which will accept students who pay their fees, I believe that elder brother Shangguan and elder brother Yu are learning martial arts from there.”
Li Jinfeng smiled and said, “That should be the case, what they lack the most is definitely not money. Let’s go and see them, I still owe your brother an apology. Oh right, what is your brother’s name?”
Zhang Xiaohua swallowed his tongue and said, “My second elder brother is called Zhang Xiaohu.”
Hence, the two chatted as they walked towards the escort station.
The escort station was near the city entrance, when Zhang Xiaohua took the carriage with Ma Jing to enter the city, they also went through the entrance and he escaped not long after they reached the city. If Zhang Xiaohua had not met Li Jinfeng, he would have already reached the escort station, and even though Li Jinfeng was a scholar whose footsteps were much slower than Zhang Xiaohua, they still reached the escort station soon after.
There were many people who were entering and leaving from the door of the escort station on that day. The crowd was lively and it seemed that their business was doing well, the two stone lions were still majestic looking as before although Zhang Xiaohua did not pay much attention to them anymore.
As Li Jinfeng walked up the steps, he cupped his fists towards the guards standing beside the door and said, “Excuse me, I came here to find Shangguan Yun who is learning martial arts from the station, may I please enter?”
The head guard smiled as he replied, “Oh, looking for gentleman Shangguan, may I know if this gentleman can make his way there himself? Today’s business is slightly busier than usual so I am afraid I do not have the time to bring you there.”
Li Jinfeng replied, “It is not my first visit so I am familiar with gentleman Shangguan’s quarters, I can go there by myself.”
After he finished his sentence, the guard motioned him with a polite gesture to enter and said, “This way please, gentleman.”
Li Jinfeng turned his head around and wave to Zhang Xiaohua before bringing the latter along with him through the main entrance of the escort station.
Zhang Xiaohua was dressed in servants’ clothes that day, so the guards treated him as Li Jinfeng’s attendant and let cross the door in with a single glance.
There were quite a few people walking in the field in front of the entrance who seemed to be there for business reasons and not to learn martial arts. Zhang Xiaohua extinguished the thought of looking for his second brother immediately, he decided to wait and follow Li Jinfeng to meet Shangguan Yun before doing so. Even though Zhang Xiaohua was not a student there like them, but they might have met him before having lived under the same roof.
The previous time Zhang Xiaohua came over, he had only went as far as the rows of houses in the right but when he went again that day, they were all closed probably for rest. Li Jinfeng did not stop by these rooms, he continued to walk along the corridor and into another wide courtyard with a row of houses in the opposite end. The houses were quiet as well, and the courtyard had many large trees which made it cool and shady. After the courtyard as a long wall which led to two doors on the left and right; Lin Jinfeng did not hesitate and he walked straight towards the left door and into another long corridor, and the end of the corridor was a row of exquisite-looking houses. Li Jinfeng brought Zhang Xiaohua past a few of the houses, observed carefully for a while, walked to one and knocked softly on the door.
A moment later, a lazy and slightly hoarse voice sounded, “Who is it, what is the matter?”
Zhang Xiaohua’s heart jumped when he heard the voice, wasn’t it Yu Lun’s voice? Even though he had not talked much to the other party, Zhang Xiaohua could still recall his voice.
Indeed, Li Jinfeng answered, “Brother Yu, I am Li Jinfeng, and I came over to meet my two elder brothers.”
Before Li Jinfeng ended his sentence, another voice sounded out, “Oh, it is brother Jinfeng, quickly come in. It has been many days since you came, have your studies been busier?”
The voice had a touch of pride in his tone, and it was indeed Shangguan Yun who spoke.
Li Jinfeng pushed the door opened and entered, he smiled, “My studies are not too busy, but I have been preparing for some exams so I did not have too much idle time. Haven’t I come over to visit our two heroes now?”
Shangguan Yun and Yu Lun were sitting on chairs with some drowsiness in their expressions; it was evident that they had just woken from an afternoon nap. They stood up and nodded their heads in approval when Li Jinfeng entered before returning to their seats, probably because they were all already very close to each other.
“Haha, brother Li is too courteous, calling us heroes. While brother Shangguan can be considered one, my own martial arts are like a three-legged cat so I don’t deserve such praise.” Yu Lun humbly said.
Shangguang Yun said, “Yu Lun has also improved recently, as long as he works harder, there will come the day when you succeed, there is no need to despair.”
After the two people finished their sentence, Li Jinfeng said, “I have brought a familiar face with me today, can you guess who it is?”
“Familiar face? Someone we both know?” The two men exchanged gazes in surprise.
Li Jinfeng smiled and called out, “Zhang Xiaohua, you can come in.”
Zhang Xiaohua then entered the room with a smile on his face and he greeted the two men, “I have met two brothers before more than a month ago.”
The two men were puzzled when they saw the azure robed youth with a little hat bowed towards them, who did Li Jinfeng brought with him this time?
After a careful inspection, they finally understood that the other party was the youth who sat on the same carriage with them to Pingyang city, only his clothes were swapped out with a servant uniform.
When Shangguan saw Zhang Xiaohua bowed, he did not stand up and simply nodded his head which could be considered as a greeting, while Yu Lun did not greet the latter and walked up to the front instead. He said, “Zhang Xiaohua, we are fellow passangers, how did you end up as brother Li’s servant?”
Upon hearing the misunderstanding, Li Jinfeng quickly explained, “It is not like this, how can I afford a servant if I can’t even take care of myself? This little brother Xiaohua is working in Huanxi mountain villa now.”
“Huanxi mountain villa?” Shangguan Yun raised his eyebrows when he heard the name, he said, “That is a pretty good place so he should be treated quite well. Zhang Xiaohua, you have been quite lucky to find such a good place in Pingyang city.”
Yu Lun asked, “Is Huanxi mountain villa famous?”
Shangguan Yun looked at the other man and said, “Huanxi mountain villa is a business of Piaomiao sect, it is under Piaomiao sect’s management just like this Lotus escort.”
Yu Lun then understood and asked Zhang Xiaohua again, “Oh right, Zhang Xiaohua, didn’t you want to come with us to the Lotus escort? How did you end up in Huanxi mountain villa?”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face turned red as he replied, “About this, we initially wanted to learn martial arts here, but the people in the station said that we had to pay school fees. We did not have the money so…”
Even before Zhang Xiaohua could finish his sentence, Yu Lun laughed and said, “Which is why when you were asking by the Lotus escort, I was puzzled on why you wanted to come. I did not think that you wanted to learn martial arts, and if I had asked you another question at that time, it would have saved you the trip of coming here, doesn’t the poor pursues literature and the rich learns martial arts, how can you learn martial arts without money? Martial art is not something people like you can aspire to learn, just be a good servant now and earn enough money to increase the size of your fields, grow up a little more and find a bride, and happily live your life together with her.”