Published at 29th of May 2019 06:51:38 AM

Chapter 95

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Cold Night, River, Leakage and Expose (1)

As the night wind blew, Minglan gave a gentle sneeze. The bear-like man handed a pot of wine to the woman with good swimming skills. The woman drank several mouthfuls. When she saw Minglan shuddering with cold, she held out a small cup of wine to Minglan. The cold breeze puffed across the river and a faint aroma of wine drifted into Minglan's nostrils. The woman smiled, "If you don't mind, you can drink some wine to warm your body up."

Minglan immediately looked up at Gu Tingye. Anyway, children should listen to adults. When he met Minglan's big bright eyes, Gu Tingye felt a sense of satisfaction and nodded slightly. With his consent, Minglan reached out a hand from the quilt and took the cup. Then she raised her head and emptied the cup at one draught. Minglan handed the wine cup back to the woman and said brightly, "Thank you."

The wine tasted mellow. Minglan felt her body getting warmer at once.

The woman and the rest of men on the boat were slightly surprised by Minglan's forthright manner. The ladies of prestigious families they had met were pampered and demure. They didn't expect that this girl, who looked beautiful and delicate like a lovely doll, in fact, was frank and straightforward without any artificial shyness. The bear-like man held up his thumb and praised in a gruff voice, "You are such a forthright girl!"

The woman smiled and introduced herself, "Lady, don't take offence. My husband always has dealings with various people from all corners of the country and is cheeky in speaking. By the way, my name is Che Sanniang."

Minglan looked carefully at the woman who was about eighteen or nineteen years old with big eyes and a wide mouth on her slight black face, beautiful-looking and active. Che Sanniang pointed at the men on the boat and introduced them to Minglan one by one: The bear-like man was her husband, Shi Keng. A boy beside Shi Keng, who was a little bit shorter than him, was his younger brother, Shi Qiang. A white-faced comely young man standing in the bow of the boat was called Yu Wenlong. They were all members of Cao Bang. A middle-aged man standing beside Gu Tingye, who was dressed like an intellectual and always had a smile on his face, was called Gongsun Baishi. Behind him was his nephew, Gongsun Meng, a vigilant and sharp-witted boy who looked like his uncle.

Minglan struggled to reach out the other hand from the quilt and made a bow with hands folded in front, and then said politely, "Though I never heard of you, I have been looking forward to meeting you for a long time."

Shi Keng and Shi Qiang were ingenuous and didn't understand what she meant. They even enthusiastically bowed to Minglan in return. Che Sanniang, Gongsun Baishi and Gongsun Meng couldn't help laughing at her words. Yu Wenlong stole a glance at Minglan and blushed at the sight of her bright and beautiful face. He lowered his head with shyness. Gu Tingye turned around with an expressionless face, but his eyes lit up as shiny as stars in the sky.

Another boat came over and all people except Shi Keng and Shi Qiang jumped onto it. Che Sanniang sat beside Minglan and smiled, "There should be no pirates on your ship now. Let's go back to the ship first. You can change your clothes. They are going to deal with the rest of the pirates. The members of Cao Bang are all good at swimming. I'm sure they can get your maids back."

Minglan expressed her gratitude repeatedly, even though she didn't understand why Cai Bang lent a hand to stop this disorder.

The fighting on the river gradually calmed down. Shi Keng and Shi Qiang were at the stem and stern of the boat separately to protect them. Che Sanniang put her arm around Minglan and was on the high alert. As they approached the ship, Minglan couldn't help but turn around to look at Gu Tingye, who     put one foot in the bow of the boat and held a longbow in his hands. He straightened his back, drew the bow and shot an arrow, his arm muscles bulging. And blood spread in the river where his arrows landed. The arrows had hit the pirates under the water. The men around him also shot arrows one by one. At this moment, the pirates, whose heads were exposed over the water, became sitting ducks.

Under the faint moonlight, Gu Tingye's face clouded over. He looked down at the bodies floating on the river. When he saw some pirates wailing mournfully or struggling, he shot them to death. He stood with a murderous look on his face, his eyes sweeping from left to right, which scared Minglan. She couldn't help shivering.

Shi Keng and Shi Qiang were very skilled in rowing. They rowed the boat fast toward the ship but the sounds of the poles slapping water were low. Minglan chatted with Che Sanniang along the way. The woman was very forthright in character. After asking her a few questions, Minglan got some information and was shocked when she knew that Shi Qiang was the new vice-leader of Cao Bang. Minglan had thought him an ordinary member of Cao Bang as she had heard him call Gu Tingye "big brother".

Minglan sighed in surprise and said gently, "It's an honor to have the vice-leader pole the boat for me, though I have met with the calamity tonight." Che Sanniang blinked and smiled, "Now you seemed to have an easy conscience." Minglan threw her hands open and replied honestly, "I can't row a boat, so I can do nothing but sit aside. Or maybe I can cheer him on."

Che Sanniang burst into laughter and lightly patted Minglan twice on the shoulder.

The ship of Sheng family was not seriously damaged. As soon as Minglan boarded the ship, she saw Xiaotao standing on the deck and glancing left and right. Dangju stood next to her with an anxious look. They quickly threw themselves into Minglan's arms at the sight of their lady. Minglan was stunned and looked helplessly at them crying and laughing at the same time. After walking into the wing-room, Minglan eagerly asked, "Why are you still on the ship? Are you okay?" She looked them up and down and felt confused when she found them not injured at all.

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Xiaotao was proud of herself and answered, "I couldn't swim fast in the situation of helping Dangju. So I taught her how to hold breath and then we hid under the ship. I secretly took her out of water before we ran out of air, and then sank under the water again. The pirates were busy chasing others and had no time to search the ship's bottom. Furthermore, it was dark tonight. So we weren't found. Afterwards I wanted to swim across the river, but a group of men came and fought off the pirates on the ship. It was safe on board, so we came back."

Minglan gazed at Xiaotao with admiring eyes, silent for a long time, and thought, 'What a brave and clever girl!'

Dangju helped Minglan change into clean clothes. Then she dried Minglan's hair and simply coiled her hair at the back of her head. Che Sanniang was a little taller and stronger than Minglan, so Xiaotao found some Yun'er's clothes for her to change. After that, Minglan asked someone to do a head count. Most of the servants and guards of Sheng family were safe and sound, and only two boatmen had died and seven or eight people had been injured. Minglan had Dangju write down their names so as to comfort and compensate them or their families in the future.

Two family retainers dragged three old female servants in and threw them on the floor. Dangju gnashed her teeth with hatred at the sight of them and said, "Lady, it's the three of them who told the pirates our whereabouts!"

Minglan sat on the seat of the host, looking sideways at an oil lamp on the table, which sent out weak light. A creepy atmosphere filled the room. She bowed her head and stroked her embroidered velvet jacket, which was made of the finest brocade from Jiangnan, soft and silky. The three old female servants kneeling on the floor kept kowtowing and crying, their hair loosened and tangled around their shoulders, their face wet with tears.

Minglan asked calmly, "What happened to you at that time?"

One of the old female servants looked at the other two servants beside her and worked up the nerve to defend herself, "Lady, please make a fair judgment. After those pirates caught us, they flew into rages and wanted to kill us because they found no money and valuables on the ship. I was so scared, so I told them... Lady, I didn't mean to betray you. Please spare my life!"

The three old servants kept pleading piteously and begging for mercy. The family retainers gave them several kicks in anger. Dangju was also overwhelmed with rage when she recalled the alarmingly dangerous situation. She blamed loudly, "The Sheng family pays and maintains you, so it's your duty to protect your lady with your life. I have already asked the others about what happened. At that time, the pirates just beat you and threatened you with violence. Why didn't you follow lady's plan to tell them that our masters and ladies had sailed boats to the opposite bank with all belongings? You were so afraid of death that you told them everything in a panic. You almost killed Lady Minglan!"

Minglan sat expressionless and continued touching the decorative patterns on her coat with her head bowed. A few seconds later, she slowly raised her head and sighed. "Lock them up," she said to the guards and then turned to the old servants. "After we return to Youyang, I will ask Grandmother to penalize you." The old female servants tried to beg for forgiveness but Minglan waved her hand and interrupted, "It was justifiable for you to make mistakes when you got scared. You cherished your lives; however, you endangered the lives of others. I won't punish you, but I don't think I can forgive you. So I won't keep you by my side anymore."

After these words, Minglan asked the guards to take them out of the room. Just then Che Sanniang walked in and saw this scene. She smiled, "You are a kind girl. In our gang, a man who betrays his brothers or gives secrets away will be forced to stab through his own thighs three times in front of Guang Yu's statuette. It will leave six wounds on him."

TN: Guan Yu is one of the protagonists in Romance of Three Kingdoms who is respected and often worshipped for loyalty and bravery.

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