Chapter 374 – Shi Ziran
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
When he shot the arrow, he had made sure to aim it accurately at Jing Rong. Where did this bastard sprout from, to block its path?
Zhao Huai picked up his bow for another shot, only to see a shadow land nimbly right in front of Jing Rong, obstructing his aim.
The left half of Shi Ziran’s face was covered by his sweeping bangs which hid his black eyepatch from view. He emanated an untouchable aura and a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude as his almond-shaped right eye glared at Zhao Huai who stood atop the fortress walls.
Another person suddenly emerged from the cover of the trees behind, standing beside Shi Ziran. Shi Zijin stared at him coldly, asking, “Weren’t you at the temple?”
Shi Ziran replied, “Why do you care?”
“I don’t care about you, but would you take responsibility if His Highness were to get hurt?”
“What rubbish are you talking about? Did I ask His Highness to come here? I only returned last night and was dragged here by him. How is it my fault?”
“But how could you come without backup?”
“His Highness said not to sacrifice any more people than necessary; he will save his own consort. You useless thing – you can’t even enter this stupid bandit cave. What have you been doing with your life?”
“You’re the one who’s wasted your life. Didn’t you see? The exterior’s impenetrable – I can’t enter even if I wanted to.”
“That’s only for you – there’s no place in this world where I can’t enter.” Shi Ziran shot her a disdainful glare. He crossed his arms in front of his chest with his sword snugly fitted in between them, tapping a foot arrogantly. “Forget it, I’ll look after His Highness’s safety. When we enter later, you just protect that Princess Consort Rong, in case she gets hurt in the fight.”
The sight of those two bickering was commonplace; Shi Ziran was Shi Zijin’s biological older brother! The person Shi Zijin hated most in this world was none other than her arrogant older brother; while the person Shi Ziran disliked the most was this sister of his, whose martial arts skills were subpar. The two of them grew up together with Jing Rong. Even though they were siblings, their personalities were worlds apart; Shi Ziran was arrogant and had a viciously poisonous tongue, while Shi Zijin was more aloof and did not speak much at all. The two of them however, did have something in common – both of them had a fierce streak.
Half a year ago, Shi Ziran wanted to practice and meditate at the Buddhist temple deep in the mountains, claiming that he wanted to cleanse his soul. Jing Rong was about to leave the Capital then to investigate the ‘Lin Capital Case’, and so approved his plan. Now that he finished his journey, he travelled without rest to catch up to Jing Rong’s party.
Jing Rong pretended that he had not heard the siblings’ conversation as he hopped off his horse. He looked up at Zhao Huai, posture upright and regal as he coldly remarked, “Since I’ve already avoided this arrow, I’m sure that the First Master of the Gaoshan Gang wouldn’t go back on your words, would you?”
Zhao Huai slapped his fist on his thigh in frustration as he threw his bow and arrow to his underling, ordering, “Open the gates.”
Jing Rong strided in with Shi Ziran following calmly behind. Shi Zijin, however, was much more cautious as she whispered in Jing Rong’s ear, “Your Highness, we shouldn’t go in.” Jing Rong ignored her.
Shi Ziran rolled his eyes at his sister, “Busybody.” Damn you, idiot!
The gigantic gates slammed shut as the three of them entered.
Those bandits stared at them so intensely that they could almost tear a hole through their skins. Zhao Huai had by then arrived as well, stepping before Jing Rong as he cocked his head to one side dismissively. “You’ve got guts to walk in just like that. Aren’t you afraid that I’ll kill you?”
Jing Rong replied, “I’ve said it already – you can give it a shot.”
“Spoken like a Prince of the Great Lin Empire – I like your spirit.” He waved a hand, “Men, prepare some strong wine – today’s our Gaoshan Gang’s lucky day, to have a Prince grace our halls.”
Jing Rong and the Shi siblings sat down within the camp with the bandits’ booing, and jar after jar of strong wine was served.
Jing Rong had already sussed out the entire layout of the Gaoshan Village as he entered. Unlike the outside, security was much weaker inside the village itself; in military terms, it was as if a large net had divided the exterior and interior – entering and exiting this place was the hardest part! The village did not remind him of a bandit cave, but resembled a proper army camp – the dead Old Master had quite astonishing capabilities.
Zhao Huai picked up a bowl of wine and held it towards Jing Rong, “Since I’ve decided to invite you in for some wine, then we must drink till we’re drunk. Taste it, see if it’s sweet or bitter – this is my Gaoshan wine.”
Jing Rong picked up a bowl of wine with a stoic expression. Shi Zijin stopped him before he could put the bowl to his mouth, “Your Highness, don’t drink.”
Zhao Huai chuckled, “Why? Scared that I’ll poison the wine? If I wanted to kill you all, I would have done so outside, why wait till now, here? I, Zhao Huai, would never do such a thing.” He downed his wine in one shot.
Jing Rong followed suit. He put down his empty bowl as he swept his glance across the room, scoffing, “This Gaoshan Village is indeed a fine place. If it were situated at the crucial point along the border, it could surely defend the people from enemy invasions.”
“That’s only natural. My Gaoshan Village is laden with traps – you couldn’t enter even if you had great martial arts skills.”
Shi Ziran could not contain his laughter, “I can enter this stupid village if I wanted. What traps? They’re just gimmicks.” Ahh, how proud he was!
Zhao Huai sized him up defensively, scoffing, “The only person who has deflected my arrow up till this moment is you – it looks like you’re quite skilled.”
“I’m so-so. I rank third in the Jianghu.1”
“Then who’s number two?”
“Then number one?”
“Was it you who killed them?” Zhao Huai asked.
Shi Ziran snorted, his eyes narrowing, “That’s not it. I heard that it was because of their arrogance that they were slaughtered by a group of Jianghu members. For this, I even practiced Buddhism in the mountains for half a year to cleanse my soul, to avoid… following in their footsteps.” He pointed at his left eye, “This eye’s already given me the lesson I needed.” His words held deeper meaning.
Zhao Huai was sharper than expected, “What do you mean?”
“I just wanted to remind you that one shouldn’t be too full of yourself, in case you die without even noticing.”
Hearing this, Zhao Huai’s eyes fired up with killing intent as shot a glare towards Shi Ziran. Jing Rong just side-eyed Shi Ziran, “Ziran, mind your manners.”
“Understood, Your Highness.”
Jing Rong smiled at Zhao Huai. “My subordinate has been rude and acted out of line. The First Master need not pay too much attention, since if my men disobey me and get themselves killed, others would only complain that their master did not train them well.”
Pfft – Jing Rong and Shi Ziran were the perfect duo, singing an impeccable duet!
Shi Zijin, on the other hand, was quite shocked at this exchange.
ChouFleur Rants Corner
Shi Ziran sounds like he’s going to be fun:)
- 1.The community of martial arts practioners. ↩