Chapter 5: Going home
(1) Breaching (2) The past (3) Yelang (4) The Pine tree (5) Proposal (6) The wolf (7) Home
Qianqian exchanged clothes of Han style, bid thee farewell to the grassland, followed Zhang Fushou, escorted by a dozen military officers, embarked a long return. On the way, Zhang Fushou treated Qianqian as an important guest. He let her accommodated in the official camp, and rode together with him in the carriage. She was also accompanied by a servant, serving her all the needs daily. The squadron quietly passed through the Qilian Mountain. The Icy Jade Palace was still on mid-level of it when the bald eagles were hovering between the valleys.
Daxia’s officials hosted a banquet for Zhang Fushou. He invited Qianqian to come. At the banquet, they were celebrating and proud of successfully expel the Jing Jiao monks. Qianqian was sitting among them. She couldn’t enjoy the feast at all. She was just drinking by herself and getting annoying.
Gradually, they seemed to have no other topics, they turned to Qianqian. One of the Daxia officials asked in fluent Chinese: “Where does the ancestral home of you? We will be back to the Great Song after going through the Yanzhi Mountain tomorrow.”
Qianqian has no intention to talk to them, but for just being polite, she answered: “My family is in the Bashu.”
Zhang Fushou heard that it was in the Bashu, naturally asked: “Which state is it of Bashu?”
Qianqian was baffled, thought: Songhu Island is Songhu Island. It has been there for two hundred years. Has anyone ever asked me which state it is in Bashu? She was rolling her eyes, when dozens of others were looking at her, waiting for her answer. She then said calmly: “My family is in the Bashu for two hundred years, but there is no state as I know.”
“Songhu Island?” These officials were looking at each other. It seemed that no one has heard of it. Qianqian now realized that even though Songhu Island is so famous in the rivers and lakes, but it is just an uncivilized outsider in the red dust of reality. She couldn’t help but sighed, and felt that she has nothing in common with them. She stood up and bowed, said courteously: “I am just too young and too ignorant to understand the official’ s interest.” Then she turned to Zhang Fushou, said: ” Officer Zhang, could I ask your permit to go back to the camp first.”
Zhang Fushou smiled and said: “There is too vast of the territories in the Great Song. Although some places are within the territories in the map, they lost in the rivers and lakes. It is not surprising that they are not in the record. Don’t you care too much!”
Qianqian smiled, curtsied, then turned and left. She was sorrowful with the absolute loneliness. She had a hunch that this time even she returned to the Central Plains, everything would be no longer the same.
On the following day, the squadron was led by officials of Daxia, taking the advantage of using the official road, though when they arrived at Lanzhou was already late at night. The prefect of Lanzhou greeted Zhang Fushou outside the city gate. When the two met, they whispered. After the prefect has said something, Zhang Fushou looked very embarrassed. He then followed the prefect to the government hall, and put Qianqian in the guest house.
Qianqian was promised of given a horse, and will return to Songhu Island on her own tomorrow. Thinking of soon she will be home, she was very excited. But when she thought of she will be father and farther apart with Yueqiao, and doesn’t know when they can ever reunite, she was feeling sad. Looking out the window of Lanzhou ancient city in the shadow of moon light, this remoted border town was haunted by the Yellow river day and night. Everything looked so absurd to Qianqian.
She has just fell asleep shallowly, but awakened by a sharp knocking on the door. Qianqian was slammed in her heart. In the middle of the night, what happened, why was so disturbing?
She quickly got up and opened the door. There stood outside was a soldier. He looked flustered, said :”Qianqian, the girl, Officer Zhang asked you to go immediately. He has something very important to discuss with you.”
Qianqian wondered: “What is the matter? Why must have to talk at this time?”
The soldier hesitated for a while before he replied: “I heard that they caught a Jing Jiao monk who returned to the Central Plains illegally. Officer Zhang urged Qianqian, the girl to the government hall to identify him.”
“Jing Jiao monk returned to the Central Plains?” Her heart was pounding. She immediately thought of Yueqiao, but soon she denied. She believed that Yueqiao was impossible to escape back to the Central Plains. This person they caught even is a Jing Jiao monk, it is impossible to be him.
The soldier urged again: “Qianqian, the girl, please go with me right away!”
Qianqian was wondering, but considered Officer Zhang sending her back from a thousand miles away. And he has been treating her so well. It would be too rude if she rejected to go. She thinks: If this person is not Jing Jiao monk, I identify him to set him free, it isn’t a bad thing to do. Then she followed the soldier out of her room in the middle of night.
The soldier led Qianqian walking around, but did not go directly to the government hall. Instead, he quietly passed through the dark corridor hidden under the city, went to the cellar where the prisoners were hold. Qianqian went down to the gate and abruptly felt cold sweated. She stopped, then the soldier said: “Officer Zhang is interrogating the escape. I heard that the escape is very tough. He didn’t say anything. Qianqian, the girl must to identify him.”
Qianqian has a feeling that the fact was not as simple as he said. But, what can she do? She looked up the sky, there were only stars. If officer Zhang really wanted to hurt me, where can I escape? Aunt Mu entrusted him to send me back. He has no reason to harm me! Why I became so suspicious now?
She noticed that the soldier was looking anxiously. He must be afraid that Officer Zhang would blamed him taking so long. Thus, she followed him walking down the stairs. She didn’t expect that on the edge of this arid desert, the walls of the cellar were so wet. At the end of the stone steps, the soldier opened the iron gate to let her in. Inside the cellar, Officer Zhang was sitting at the table with hands covered his face. The swaying candlelight illumated the cellar slowly while she was walking in, but except Officer Zhang, there was no any other people. Qianqian stopped moving, frightened. She felt something very unusual and bad. She suddenly turned around, wanted to escape. Unfortunately, it was too late. A few men flashed in front of her, and then a fascinating floral fragrance spread over. Qianqian before she fainted, heard a burst of laughters around her ears.
In the coma, Qianqian faintly saw Zhang Fushou standing before a man in a brocade robe, said: “Even if she was really wanted by the court, she is just a girl! Do you need to treat her like this?”
Qianqian was horrified, how did they treat me? She raised her ears to listen. The man said: “Zhang Fushou, do you want to watch the Empress’s order again? This woman eavesdropped on the court’s secret. She is the number one wanted by the court. And you treated her as a guest. You have to protect her or to keep your head? I am afraid that if the Empress once blamed, you will not be guaranteed?”
Zhang Fushou realized that he was only a lower level official. He was ordered to secretly return the Jing Jiao monks. His duty has just been completed, he really has no reason to provoke the Empress her majesty. He sighed and shook his head then handed Qianqian to this man. Once his figure was removed, Qianqian saw this man, sitting at the table, with his hands playing a daggar which was the relic from her mother. This man was not anyone, of course, was the evil thief Duan hunling.
Qianqian knew that this evil thief would not let go of her, sooner or later she will fall into his hands, but she was resented to be sold by Zhang Fushou. She said coldly: “Duan hunling! You are the best among those despicable villains, and you have never tired of being that.”
Duan hunling listened to the calmly statement she made, he couldn’t help but impressed. He pull his corner of mouth, lifted his eyebrows, sneered: “The rivers and lakes are treacherous, you must be not suffered enough for that you are still stiff neck. But you can be assured. This time you fell into my hands, I will let you suffer enough to learn to be good.”
While speaking, he was flipping the dagger. The blade reflected his eyes impassively. Qianqian wanted to stand up and seize the dagger from his hand, said: “Don’t touch my mother’s relics!” but she found that her feet have been buckled up with a pair of lead rings, one left and one right, each weighed more than a hundred pounds. Don’t say walking, it was difficult to just standing up. Qianqian realized now what the suffering he meant. She loathed him, but indeed, was terrified. Duan hunling stood up and laughed: “ You finally know that you are scared? I tell you! It’s just the beginning, I want to see if your neck harder, or my means.”
Hence, he laughed and sneered a few times before he stepped out the cellar. Once the gate was closed, the cellar was suddenly thrown into darkness with extremely unpleasant moist odor. Qianqian couldn’t stand up, so she kept lying down. She clenched her fists with hatred more than fear.
When the morning came, Weng went to the cellar to take Qianqian out. Qianqian dragged with her heavy lead rings, moving out the prison. The sun in the morning of July was sharp as thorns, Qianqian stopped at the gate, raised her arms to block the sun. Weng shouted immediately: “Hey! don’t you walk faster!”
Qianqian has been buckled up with two heavy plumbs, how could she walk faster? Does this man has any sympathy to me? She was spiteful, she would never beg to these kinds of evil. She tried very hard to walk fast, but she could only lift her legs once at a time. Weng looked at her and felt amusing, then he took the horse to her and said: “Look at you! Walked like a snail. Don’t walk anymore! Get on the horse!” Qianqian glimpsed at this long-beard man, doubted: For what you are nice to me? So she just stood in front of the horse without moving. Bai, the youngest brother came from behind and said: “Would you like to get on the horse? Let me help you!”
While speaking, he reached out his hand to grab Qianqian’s waist, but was driven away by her. Her palms was very fast though she couldn’t move her leg at all. Bai didn’t expect she was still able to defend after sunk with two giant lead. He was shocked and retreated. He looked at her, angrily wide opened eyes, but lips were tightened. He stood and enjoy watching her. More she resisted him, she seemed more desirable. He reached out his hand to pinch her chin. Qianqian bended gently her waist to avoid it. Bai failed again then turned furious, he immediately attacked her with palms continuously but all blocked by her bare hands. She remained still and composed. Her feet never had moved a bit. Weng watched by the side, teased: “Bai! What do you want to do with this turtle?”
Of course, Bai was not convinced. He was thinking if he couldn’t attack her in the front. he could grab her waist from the back. Her feet was locked up, wouldn’t she has eyes on the back. So, he sneered arrogantly, went behind Qianqian, trying to grab like a bear to kiss her cheek. When he just moved, unexpectedly, Qianqian bended her body backwards in an instant, with her palms to push him away. Because her feet were stabilized with heavy lead, her lower part of body became as firm as an old tree, and her hands were as free as wind. She was even more untouchable. Bai was really embarrassed and shameful, so he violently throw his fists to Qianqian. However, no matter how aggressively he attacked, he just couldn’t touch her anywhere. He finally exhausted, staring at her cold silhouette with hair fluttering in the breeze. Her heels were still locked on the ground, looked unconquerable. Bai was admired. Probably the first time in his life really admired a woman. He felt even more craving for her.
Weng thought that Bai should have enough vexing! He smirked and said: “You deserved it if you asked for this kind of trouble. After we go back to Kaifeng, there are much more girls, gentle and beautiful. Why do you have to pick this spiky thorny cactus?”
Speaking of that, he came to lift Qianqian’s left feet on the stirrup, said: “When I lifted your right leg, you push yourself over the saddle, can you!?”
While Weng was trying his best to push Qianqian up on the horse back, Duan hunling and Zhang Fushou was walking out from the government hall. They were talking and laughing so amiably: ”
Qianqian finally got on the horse. Looking back to Zhang Fushou respectfully bowing to Duan huling, she was not reconciled. She shouted: “Zhang Fushou, you sold me!”
Zhang Fushou listened to her shout, he just turned around and quickly walked away. Qianqian was desperate, thinking of once she was brought away by these villains, who else will save her? She turned to cry and plead: “Officer Zhang! save me! Officer Zhang! Save me! Please!”
However, no matter how she beg now, Zhang Fushou pretended he didn’t hear. He rushed behind the door, slammed it with the bar lock tightly. Qianqian could only see a pair of copper lion rings on the red painted door, insensibly. After Duan hunling got on the house, he yelled: “Go!” Qianqian was pulled by Weng abruptly. She hurriedly hold the horse’s neck. Bai followed after. Four horses cracked the road of yellow sand, rushed out of Lanzhou city, heading east to the captial.
Out of Lanzhou Prefecture, along the eastbound of river Wei, they arrived the courier station of Lonxi in the evening. The sergeant saw that they were transporting a prisoner of the court, he immediately served them with the best food and wine they could find in this remoted courier station.
Qianqian was taken along with the horses to the stable. Two guards were standing outside, while the others were enjoying their feast in the pavillion with singers and musicians. Qianqian looked up the swinging silhouettes cluttered with the fragrant red sleeves, loud music and drunk singing. She despised: “What a wolf and dog party! The Empress betrayed her oath first, and conniving this traitors after. Isn’t it the omen of being subjugated as master said before?”
She then sighed: “I will end my life before that probably! Why I care about that?” So she closed her eyes to mediate. She remembered the power the breathing method taught by Miaoyin. After she practiced, she felt much better control of her internal strength, she thought: Miaoyin is sinister for sure, but the method of breathing he taught seemed all real. In order to learn the Master’s three swords from me. He has to use the true method to exchange. He can do whatever for his martial arts, his love is true to it, at least.”
Then she thought about Yueqiao, she muttered, “How can I give up my life after many hardships with you? I have to live whatever, for you. ” Then she raised her arms to practice breathing. She has to fortify herself to survive, and get rid of these despicable villains. She closed eyes and started to practice the internal method taught by Maioyin. She practiced deeply, too deep that she has almost lost herself. She has entered the state of embryonic breath. All the sounds were completely isolated, and for a long time, she didn’t breath at all, but her face was still rosy, her mind was simple, pure with no desire and fear.
Suddenly, a voice from far away, calling her. Qianqian smiled without respond, then she was abruptly shook by someone. She broke the mediation and woke up. She opened eyes and saw Weng. He said: “What kind of mediation you are practicing? You looked so fascinated?”
Qianqian was awaken in the halfway, she sighed and muttered: If it wasn’t still shallow, I’m afraid I would be in deviation. She surprised: The method that Miaoyin taught was really profound. She pressed her hands on DanTian to soothe her breath, then said: “Nothing, what are you yelling for?”
Weng looked at her carefully and said: “Girl! You are looking more and more sophisticated. When you were in the Western Region, must have met someone special, have you?” saw her just opened mouth without responding, he then frightened her: “However, unfortunately, you are now in the hands of my brother. Once you are returned to the capital, you will be sentenced and beheaded in front Wumen.”
Qianqian was really frightened by what he said. She immediately turned her head and stared at him absurdly. Weng laughed and put the food on the ground. Qianqian saw there were chicken, fish and vegetables, looked so delicious. She felt hungry instead of frightened. She picked up the chopsticks and gorged without hesitation. Weng saw this girl was really cute and simple, he smiled and said: “You eat slowly!” then he shook out a bottle and two cups, sitting on the ground, poured two glasses of wine and said: “I see you a smart girl, how come you always do stupid things?”
Qianqian drank a cup of wine, asked: “The stupid thing you said is offending that despicable villain like Duan hunling, right?”
Weng sighed and said: “You are smart, I have no doubt, but why your neck is so stiff?”
Qianqian swallowed a mouthful of food, sneered: “You are one of them, why are you so good to me today? You wanted to be good person now?”
Weng shook his head and jeered: “You are simple empty fool head! I am good to you, then I am a good person. My brother is not good for you, then he is a bad person?”
Qianqian put down the chopsticks, couldn’t believe someone would say that Duan hunling is not a bad person. She wasn’t convinced: “He killed uncle Cao, I saw it with my own eyes, and he tried to put me to death many times, how can I deny it?”
When she mentioned Cao Hook, Weng was provoked: “When Cao Hook was doing evil, you were not even born yet! When my brother first entered the Qinglong Gangs, how did Cao Hook bully him, have you seen it?”
“Have you seen it?” Qianqian still refused to be convinced. Weng smiled and said: “Of course I have seen it….brother Duan has no nepotism in the rivers and lakes. If he didn’t have some means, how could he earned his status today?”
After hearing that, Qianqian was silent and no longer refuted. Weng then took his time to explained: “I was a salt smuggler in Jinling, and I had dealt with Qinglong Gangs. At that time, Cao Hook had just become the head of white tiger. In such a position, he was of course very arrogant. One day I took my goods to him for business. Brother Duan at that time was only a small potato in Qinglong. He wanted to attract the attention of Cao Hook. Boldly came out to pick up the goods alone, but he didn’t know that Cao Hook had looked down on his humble origins and had no martial arts background. When he knew that brother Duan wanted to please him, he purposely embarrassed him.