Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Robbery on the road
The days spent travelling were bland and tedious. Fortunately, Zhang Xiaohua had low expectations, he would not care if he was in the horse carriage or at his own room as long as he could read his books every day.
In fact, since he did not have to work in the fields, he had more time to read than usual.
The journey on horse carriage went on like this for another ten plus days, and Shi Niu’s singing voice persisted throughout the entire period as well. Everyone was initially in admiration, but it turned into hate before reaching a critical point when villa master Ou had to intervene in the situation herself. Under her orders, Shi Niu stopped singing for that period of half a day, but as soon as half the day passed Shi Niu would not be able to contain his joy upon seeing the beautiful sunset in the horizon and stretch his vocal cords again, causing Ou Yan to not know whether she should laugh or cry. With Madam Qin’s comforting words, she slowly calmed down, and as for the rest of the fellow passengers in the carriages behind, they simply treated it as a noisy human sized crow cawing.
In the beginning few days after their accommodation had been settled in the night, Zhang Xiaohua would drag He Tianshu to find a place to train, but He Tianshu seemed to have learnt his lesson from the first night and would find ways to reject the boy. Thus, Zhang Xiaohua had no choice but to practice his martial arts alone, but a few days later, he became curious and asked He Tianshu secretly in the carriage for his reason.
He Tianshu smiled mysteriously and asked Zhang Xiaohua if he had seen other disciples going out or staying at the courtyard to practice their martial arts as well. Zhang Xiaohua thought back carefully and realized indeed that he had not seen any of them practiced their martial arts yet.
He Tianshu then explained the reason. It seemed that He Tianshu was like the other disciples, they were practicing their inner energy. As the saying goes, external martial arts is trained through the tendons, bones and skin while internal martial arts trains with a breath. This inner energy cultivation only requires the practitioner to sit down and accumulate qi, whereas fist martial art practice trains the external body. Actually, all the disciples in Huanxi mountain villa were like that, they would practice their fist martial arts in the morning and evening and cultivate their inner energy at night. The reason for practicing fist martial art was to train their bodies, and secondly to familiarize themselves with the martial arts movements. Since they were travelling now, training in their inner energy cultivation methods would naturally take precedence over their fist martial arts practice.
Furthermore, according to He Tianshu, inner energy cultivation can replace sleeping at night after it reaches a certain level of cultivation, so one would only need to sit down for a few hours at night instead. Upon hearing all these, Zhang Xiaohua felt a huge wave of jealousy; if he did not have to sleep just for sitting for a while, then how interesting his life would be. However, when he thought back to how his body must sleep after a certain hour and would not wake up no matter how he was called, his heart could not help but feel regret.
While the Piaomiao disciples need not practice their fist martial arts in the morning or night, Zhang Xiaohua was not the same. He did not know any inner energy cultivation methods so he had no choice but to look for a place to train his martial arts, and because he did not want other people to watch him train, every time the party reached a new location at night, the first thing he would do after dinner was to find a hidden spot where he could practice his fist martial arts.
And ever since Zhang Xiaohua obtained the small toy sword, his sword martial arts saw large improvements. The sixteen variations were now imprinted into his body and he could perform any of them at a mere thought, and the angle and speed of his thrusts also became sharper and quicker. The small sword was nimble like an extension of his arm, and the warm flow also increased in thickness by much, and the overall power of his strikes vastly exceeded Zhang Xiaohua’s expectations. Ever since one time he practiced his sword martial arts during the trip and bore a hole straight through a thick tree, Zhang Xiaohua no longer dared to use his full power to strike any object in fear of falling the tree and causing the inn to demand for compensation.
However, Zhang Xiaohua’s worries disappeared before long as the southern part of the journey was not all on highways. After a few days later, they soon reached the muddy and mountainous paths and the inns that they stayed in were all small ones in little towns. Sometimes, they even had to put up their own tentages and build their own lodgings in the wilderness.
On that particular day, Shi Niu was still steering the first carriage when he reached the front of a mountain. The mountain was not high but there was only a single narrow path that curved up the mountain, and there were many shrubs and trees in the forest, so one was not able to see far ahead with a single glance.
Shi Niu immediately stopped the carriage, turned around and asked, “Lady Qiu Tong, how did you pass this place the previous time? The mountain looks dangerous, and if the road is blocked, we will have to turn back instead.”
Qiu Tong looked at the mountain, wrinkled her brows and said, “I had to cross through the mountain the previous time as well, and there was not much danger. There seemed to be a path ahead from the bottom but it deviates quite far, and when I asked the guide, he said that it would take around a day’s worth of time. Since I was in a hurry the previous time, I took the bypass channel.”
Madam Qin pondered for a moment and said, “Since the villa master is travelling on carriage this time, it is better not to risk and take the dangerous route. Looking at the mountain shape, if there are any obstructions on the path, we have an abundance of highly skilled experts who can move the stones away so the road should still be passable.”
Ou Yan disagreed, she felt that it was not wise to take the longer route for safety reasons.
Madam Qin said, “It is at most an additional day worth of journey, and since our trip to Rejuvenation valley is not a short trip, the additional time would not make much difference. Furthermore, your seeds will not sprout in the winter anyway so why is there a need to rush just to save a day’s worth of time?”
The other passengers in the carriage all agreed, and since Ou Yan was an easy-going person, she did not persist in her opinion and under the persuasion of everyone, she relented.
After travelling inside the mountain and forest path for a while, several men in black fitted clothes appeared and watched the carriage from afar, they made some hand signals and activated their qinggong to climb up the mountain.
The passengers in the carriage were still unaware that they have avoided a calamity by playing safe and they continued down their path.
On the second day, the party managed to cross the mountains and returned back to the pre-planned path.
The following road was still not on the highway, it passed straight through the mountains and forests although the path was not as dangerous as the one they had went past. However, Shi Niu, Madam Qin and the other disciples still kept their guards up at all times in watch for any unexpected events.
Unfortunately, life does not go how the way we want it to be. On that particular day just before they entered a path for forest, although there was a saying in Jianghu “do not enter where there is a forest”, the trees were not dense and the leaves have shed by quite a bit. A cold wind was blowing and it seemed to not be dangerous so everyone let down their guards.
Just as Shi Niu was singing his song as he rode through the forest, a “whoosh” sound flew by and an arrow suddenly shot from the trees about ten zhang away in front of the carriage.
The arrow which appeared out of nowhere broke Shi Niu’s song, he immediately took a deep breath of cold air and called out “Yu……” before pulling the reins of the horse and forcing the carriage to stop. The passengers in the carriage were chatting idly when this happened, and they immediately quietened down while the other people at the carriages behind who were with Zhang Xiaohua were also surprised by the sudden change of events, and many disciples hopped off their carriages and pulled out their weapons to prepare for any battle ahead.
Just as everyone was feeling anxious, a person appeared on horseback from the forest, his figure was tall and large and his clothes were simple. He held a spear in one arm and sat on an unimpressive horse which tottered over to the party slowly. When he got near, everyone could see that he had a square face which was slightly bony, his eyes were lively and were focused on the four carriages.
He stopped when he walked to the front of the arrow, and used both hands to raise the spear. Everyone was surprised, they thought, “He could not be thinking of charging towards us just by himself right?” Subconsciously, everyone gripped their weapons tighter but a moment later, they heard the person shout aloud in a tone even louder than Shi Niu, “This mountain is ours, these trees are ours, you will have to pay a toll if you want to pass here.”
The voice was loud and crisp causing several birds to fly from their roost, but the only thing was, all the passengers were secretly amused at the situation as they looked at the single person who was blocking their way as though they were looking at a fool saying a joke as though it was real.
The person who shouted saw that nobody was responding, and the large hero who was steering the first carriage did not have any change in his expression as he stared coldly back at himself and could not help but flare up, “What are you looking, weren’t you singing just now? What rubbish you were spouting, it was so unbearable to listen to, causing pollution to my ears. Hurry and bring your money and I’ll let you go or else…” He then brandished the spear on his hands in the air to demonstrate his threat.
Shi Niu initially wanted to see what ability the other party had, but upon hearing the man insult his singing, it hit a raw nerve and he grew extremely angry, jumped off the carriage driver seat and threw an empty fist towards the man. Upon seeing the driver jumped off and charging to himself, the man could not help but become astonished and as Shi Niu got closer to him, he raised the spear with one hand and used his other hand to pull the horse’s reins.
The people from Huanxi villa thought that he was going to charge his horse forward and thrust the spear towards Shi Niu, and even though they knew that Shi Niu was a top exponent in external martial arts, they still sweated beads of perspiration in worry for their comrade.
But contrary to their expectation, the man pulled his reins not to bring his horse forward but back instead!
Not just Shi Niu, everyone was stunned at the moment.
What was he doing?
While everyone was feeling astonished, the person disappeared into the forest without leaving any traces behind.
Shi Niu wrinkled his brow and just as he was about to return to his seat, he heard a gong sound echoed from the trees, and from inside the forest, horses after horses charged out. Behind the horses were ten over heroes wielding weapons rushing out.
The men on horseback immediately stopped in front of Shi Niu and formed a row of four. Apart from the frail looking scholar on the extreme side, the other three men were all well built with a large blade in their hands, sitting upright on their horses without saying anything.
The man who was dressed as a scholar brought his horse forward and asked, “Where are you from? You have some guts indeed to dare stand up against a bull, I guess that you must have some background.”
Shi Niu wrinkled his brow and said, “Why do you care about where I am from? If you are smart enough. Hurry and clear the road for us to pass or don’t blame us for not being courteous.”
The scholar did not laugh but the group of men behind him did as if they had not met such a proud victim before.
The scholar said again, “This brother, I can see that you are big and strong with a dignified experience so I guess you know some martial arts and have some secret moves. However, can’t you see who you are facing up against, not just the three of us but our ten over brothers behind? No matter how strong you are, how many nails are you able to hit? Why not just leave behind some gold and everyone can save themselves some injuries and not spoil our relationship?”
Shi Niu laughed boomingly and said, “Your grandpa Shi would only steal other people’s thunder, who would dare to steal anything under my nose instead. If you upset me, I will beat my way to your nest and take all your gold for myself.”
At that moment, the middle horseman wrinkled his brows and said, “Leader, why bother talking so much, we have the advantage and I am not afraid of whatever martial arts he has. Let’s just take the carriages and grab any gold we see, frighten any women we see, wouldn’t that be more exciting?”
The people from Huanxi mountain villa were initially split between a group standing outside and a group still in their carriages as they all watched the spectacle, and upon hearing the other party say such words with the intention of humiliating their villa master, they grew angry and all jumped off the carriage with weapons in their hands. Apart from some female disciples who were standing guard at the perimeter of the carriages, most of the people were standing at the front behind Shi Niu.
He Tianshu instructed Zhang Xiaohua softly before drawing his sword and guarding beside the carriage where Ou Yan and the rest were in, and Zhang Xiaohua did not get off the carriage but walked to the front and sat beside the disciples who were in charge of the logistics, looking out expectantly at the scene from the window.
Upon seeing that the carriages had many people wielding weapons, the advisor’s face changed colour and he said to the leader, “Please be appeased, Jianghu is no longer the same as before, we are no longer as barbaric as in the past and everything can be reasoned out. Like even though I say that I would rob the rich to help the poor, one must still keep up with the times or he will be laughed at by his peers. As the saying goes, one rather throws money than to throw his face, even if we die from failing, are we still strong heroes who have our own ambitions and dreams.”
The leader at the side spat and said, “This old me had done countless robberies, why would I behave like this today? Who cares about being civilized, does the other party look like they want to talk? They are already carrying their weapons so what are still waiting for?”
The main leader said, “Old second, take a step back and cool your head. Now is not the time for us to argue among ourselves, if we do not aim high, how will we get any support? I believe that our advisor’s argument is reasonable, if we cannot convince the other party by force, it will not be too late to take action later.”
As the strong men were discussing among themselves, their conversation could not be hidden from the people from Huanxi mountain villa who grew more surprised as they listened, were these people here to rob or talk?
At that moment, the leader rode his horse forward and shouted to Shi Niu, “This brother, you can see that we are not a group of rowdy gangsters but people who are doing things for the greater good. Even though we asked you to leave behind your money and we will let you pass, we are actually not willing to fight upon seeing your fighting prowess. Just count yourselves as lucky to have met me, this humble person has recently come back from studying overseas and brought back new methods of robbery which can solve this situation. Since you all have come to our territory, you naturally have to listen to my words and as long as you can pass my test, we will let you go scot free. If not, you will have to leave behind your money and women or not blame us for being too brutish, what do you think?
Even though they could understand his words, everyone did not know how to reply. When they met with robbers in the past, they would just go straight to the fighting yet this foreign robber actually talked about some rules making their thoughts confused.
At that moment, Ou Yan who was still in the carriage and had yet to reveal herself extended her hand from the carriage and motioned a female disciple over. The disciple went over and Ou Yan muttered some instructions, the female disciple then walked over to Shi Niu and relayed some instructions.
Shi Niu’s brows wrinkled upon hearing and he said to the group of string men, “Alright, my master has spoken. You can share your plan and we will accommodate you, I just want to see if you will walk away upright or with your backs bent at the end of this.”
The advisor was overjoyed when he heard the reply, he said, “That would be best, we can compete fairly without shedding any unnecessary blood. Sigh, there are still people in Jianghu who would fight as soon as the next opportunity arises, that is not too good. Even if no one gets injured, it is not nice to spoil the surround trees and flowers, or hurt any potential relationships. Oh, I won’t say any further, now that you are in our territory, you will have to follow our rules. Three of your people will versus three of ours, and you pass if you can win two of the matches. If you lose at two matches, then you will leave behind the four carriages and all the ladies, what do you think?”
After the people from the mountain villa heard their explanation, they slapped their foreheads, oh my gosh, after speaking for half a day, all they were asking for was a battle of three matches? What a waste of time, but at least they were upfront about it, although such an idea sounded like it came from some wild chicken rubbish sect since they explained it in such a disarrayed manner. Still, it was probably considered one of the most organized explanations in the world of bandits.
Shi Niu naturally did not dare to agree without consulting the villa master, he walked quickly to the carriage and explained the match to Ou Yan. These strong people were indeed good at calculating, himself, if they added him and He Tianshu together, they still needed one more person. However, Shi Niu was reluctant, he said, “Villa master, I alone can handle this group of riff-raff, why bother going through all the actions.”
Madam Qin smiled and said, “After coming out for so long, we are all feeling bored and anxious since rushing to our destination was the only thing in our minds. Now that something fun has served himself up to us, why don’t we enjoy and savour the moment? I have not seen such an interesting bandit in my many years of roaming around.”
Shi Niu was not someone who did not know propriety, since the villa master and Madam Qin have stated their opinion, he was too lazy to bother about their reasons and went back up to say, “Alright, our master had agreed. However, we have another question. What happens when we win? What are you going to do?”
The advisor smiled apologetically and said, “We have not thought of this yet, but since this is my territory and I call the shots, the rules will be set by me. Hence, we will let you pass our territory if you win the match.”
Shi Niu was too lazy to discuss any further, he waved his hands and said, “Are the three matches occurring at the same time or one after another?”
The leader rolled his eyes and said, “Of course they are happening at the same time. Time is money, and the earlier it ends the longer we can rest. You guys will also be able to cross sooner, what do you think?”
Shi Niu was about to agree when an oriole-like voice came from inside the carriage, “Improper.”
When the strong men heard the voice, their eyes gleamed as they turned their gazes towards the carriage hoping for some great beauty to appear.
Unfortunately, when Madam Qin came out, everyone almost scratched out their heads and felt huge pangs of regret, the voice was so melodious so how could the person look so plain?
Madam Qin stood at the head of the carriage and said, “If the three matches are happening simultaneously, don’t we have to hold them in different places? Won’t our carriages be in danger if your subordinates do not follow our rules and rushed up to attack us? I suggest that we hold each match one after the other!”