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The Vast Desert Chapter 11

CSI

Chapter 11 – Joy From Heaven

Ji Bingyan said, “Among those people, only Wang Chong is rather suspicious.”

“Correct!” Hu Tiehua commented, “I’ll say that ‘Wang Chong’, these two characters are definitely not his real name and genuine surname.”

Ji Bingyan said, “This man, not only his track is somewhat secretive, his martial art skill is also deeply concealed, not being revealed the least bit. He is covering his track like this, he must be scheming something.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly laughed and said, “When you looked at those people, which one do you think has the highest martial art skill?”

Hu Tiehua’s eyes were flashing, he asked, “Are you saying it’s not him?”

“I don’t think it is him at all,” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“Then who is it?” Hu Tiehua asked.

Chu Liuxiang chuckled, he spoke word-by-word, “Princess Pipa.”

Hu Tiehua slapped his thigh again, he said, “That’s right! If she did not know martial arts, she could not possibly have such a brilliant eyesight.”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Not only that, compared to that Wang Chong, she is even more deeply concealed, not revealing anything at all. Unexpectedly on the outside she appears to be too weak to stand up to the wind, but if her inner power did not have deep root of maturity, how could she restraint her qi power that she did not reveal it the slightest bit?”

Hu Tiehua’s eyes were staring at the dome of the tent, he suddenly chuckled and muttered, “A Princess from beyond the Great Wall who is capable of causing the downfall of a city or a state – is unexpectedly a deeply-concealed, not-revealing-anything Wulin martial art master. This is really interesting, very interesting!”

He raised the wine cup and drained it in one gulp. Suddenly there was a dry cough outside the tent, someone said with a laughter, “The three gentlemen are not asleep yet? Zaixia has come with a specific purpose in mind to pay my respect.”

Unexpectedly it was the first hero, the ‘Qingtian Jianke’ [lit. clear/blue sky swordsman] Wu Qingtian [the same ‘Qingtian’ characters] of ‘Wu Shi Shuang Xia’ [pair of heroes from the Wu Clan], who made their name in Jianghu using the ‘Eight-by-eight, sixty-four-hand Longyou [dragon roam] Sword’. With apologetic smile on his face, expressing regret over and over again, he exchanged pleasantries with utmost care.

Chu Liuxiang, three men were still unable to guess his intention, this renowned expert in sword technique said with a laughter, “As for the purpose of Zaixia’s visit, I am afraid three gentlemen would never guess.”

Smiling, Hu Tiehua said, “Not to conceal anything from you, we are guessing right now!”

Wu Qingtian laughed and said, “Actually, Zaixia is here because someone entrusted something to me.”

“Someone entrusted something to you?” Hu Tiehua asked, “Who is it? What is he entrusted you with?”

Pretending to be mysterious, Wu Qingtian laughed and said, “Zaixia was entrusted by the King of Qiuci to ask the three gentlemen’s hand in marriage.”

As soon as he said that, even Ji Bingyan was stunned. “Marriage?” he asked.

Hu Tiehua also laughed so hard that he was rocking back and forth; he said, “This Wangye is indeed too wonderful for words; could it be that he want all three of us as Fuma [emperor’s son-in-law]?”

Wu Qingtian said, “The one he wanted for the marriage is naturally only one of the three gentlemen; moreover, this is not Wangye’s own intention, rather, it is Da Gongzhu [big (could also mean ‘first’) princess], who as soon as she saw, her fragrant heart was secretly taken.”

As soon as he said that, Ji Bingyan already sat to the side. He knew that this Princess would in no way take a fancy to him. But Hu Tiehua immediately felt a bit nervous.

Although on the surface Chu Liuxiang remained calm and collected, the light in his eyes evidently showed that he was also somewhat nervous. With the cool eye of a bystander, inwardly Ji Bingyan was amused.

Until later, it was Hu Tiehua who could not help asking, “But I wonder this Gongzhu actually … (cough, cough) … actually fancies which one?”

He spoke with a somewhat dry voice, which was not to say that he was bent on being the Fuma; rather, he felt that if the one this Princess looked upon was not him, he would inevitably lose a bit of face.

He saw that with a smile on his face, Wu Qingtian was looking at him, and said with a laugh, “The one Gongzhu personally look upon is precisely Gexia.”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Wonderful! Wonderful! This Gongzhu really has the insight to recognize the worth of a hero.”

Although he was speaking pleasant words, the fact was that his heart was a bit sour. Although his face was showing a smile, the fact was that his heart was upset. This was not to say that he was jealous; rather, he just felt a little disappointed, a little unexpected, also a little lose of face – he could never have imagined that the Princess was not looking upon himself.

He saw even the cup in Hu Tiehua’s hand fell upside down, the wine splashed all over his body, but he did not notice one bit. Inwardly he was very happy, but on the surface he put up an angry face and shouted loudly, “Absurd! Absurd! How could she take a fancy to me? You must be wrong?”

Wu Qingtian smiled and said, “Such an important matter, how could Zaixia be wrong?”

Hu Tiehua cast Chu Liuxiang a glance, as if he was showing off, but his mouth still loudly said, “You must be mistaken; go back and ask again!”

Wu Qingtian said, “No need to ask again. As soon as Gexia agrees, Zaixia will go back to report the completion of my mission.”

Ji Bingyan could not help laughing and said, “This is such a big thing, how could it be decided in a hurry? Gexia also ought to let him think about it first.”

Wu Qingtian pondered a little; he said, “Since that’s the case, Zaixia will wait for half a sichen and then I’ll be back. Three gentlemen might not know, this is not because Zaixia is anxious, but that Gongzhu … ha ha …”

While his mouth was still making ‘ha ha’, he withdrew.

Chu Liuxiang looked at Hu Tiehua and said with a laugh, “Congratulations! Congratulations! You have been playing bachelor for many years, I never expected that you were waiting to be a Fuma.”

Hu Tiehua roared in laughter and said, “Dead Rooster, you listen: it is rare that a woman would take a fancy to me and not take a fancy to him; he is going to be sour and jealous.”

He laughed so hard that he fell onto the short couch; that he could not even speak. This time even Chu Liuxiang was overpowered by him, how could he not be happy?

Stroking his nose, Chu Liuxiang said, “I am jealous?”

Hu Tiehua also could not help saying, “I know that you are not jealous at all, just a little uncomfortable inwardly; that’s all.”

Chu Liuxiang broke into hearty laugh. The three laughed together. This matter was indeed too absurd, it was simply too wonderful for words, yet it was clearly real.

Catching his breath, Hu Tiehua said with a laugh, “A man who, even the Laobanniang [female boss] of a small wine shop did not look upon, suddenly is looked upon by a princess. Isn’t it like the sky suddenly drop a big meat pie?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Did you see how proud he is of himself? We’d better go find Wu Qingtian now, lest the two of them wait anxiously.”

Hu Tiehua suddenly jumped up and said, “No!”

Chu Liuxiang was stunned, “What do you mean ‘No’? Are you saying you don’t agree?”

Without even smiling Hu Tiehua opened his eyes wide and said, “Of course I don’t agree.”

Chu Liuxiang asked in surprise, “Seeing you this happy, plus earlier you toppled over that princess and prostrated yourself in admiration, when she poured the wine for you, even your bones nearly turned into flaky pastry, why now suddenly you don’t agree?”

Hu Tiehua said, “To be honest, toward that princess, I really like a little; if the one she took a fancy to was not me, perhaps I would be more broken-hearted and disappointed than the Old Stinky Bug. But if she really wanted to marry me, it is absolutely cannot happen.”

“Why not?” Chu Liuxiang asked.

Hu Tiehua anxiously replied, “It simply can’t.”

Ji Bingyan unhurriedly said, “I think he is afraid that his old weakness would flare up again; others don’t like him, he is like a housefly seeing blood, fixing his gaze on others. Others like him, he put on airs instead.”

Hu Tiehua anxiously said, “Only grandson would have that kind of thought. I am just … just …”

The more anxious he was, the more speechless he became.

“Just what?” Ji Bingyan asked.

His brow was beaded with sweat, Hu Tiehua said, “You guys think, a man like me, how could I have a princess as my wife? Can I support her? If you want me to follow after her and be a Fuma, it’s not going to happen, even if you kill me.”

Chu Liuxiang blurted out laughing, “You are thinking too far. Our problem is now.”

“That’s right,” Ji Bingyan said, “Others show such a magnificent thought, if you don’t agree, our plan would come to nothing. I’ll say that this time, by all possible means, you must not disagree.”

Hu Tiehua roared, “If you force me, I am going to run away.”

Ji Bingyan smiled and said, “With Chu Liuxiang and I in here, can you run away?”

Hu Tiehua jumped up; he said, “This is a major turning point of lifelong importance to me, why are you forcing me? Can you still be considered my old friends? You guys … you guys are practically selling friend to seek glory.”

Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan looked at each other. Chu Liuxiang suddenly stood up and said, “Since this is the case, let me go and turn it down on his behalf!”

Ji Bingyan sighed and said, “This is originally the matter between the three of us; since he is unwilling to have consideration for friends, what can we do? Tomorrow we will be driven out and that’s the end of it.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed and said, “I just feel it’s a pity. A beautiful princess capable-of-causing-the-downfall-of-a-city-or-state, also a deeply-concealed-not-revealing-anything Wulin martial art master, this kind of wife he does not want, it would be strange indeed if he would not regret it for the rest of his life.”

The two men, one throwing the other blocking, one playing [a wind instrument] the other singing, unconsciously Hu Tiehua listened with blank expression on his face.

Chu Liuxiang shook his head as he was walking out, while his mouth did not stop muttering, “I feel sorry for that passionate Princess; when she hears this news, I wonder how heart-broken will she be?”

Hu Tiehua suddenly called loudly, “Wait a minute!”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Why wait? Won’t it be better to let her know earlier so that she could put her heart to death?”

Sticking out his chest, Hu Tiehua said, “I have thought it over for a long time, and I decided to sacrifice my life for my friends; who told me to have many years of friendship with you guys?”

Chu Liuxiang exchanged eye-signals with Ji Bingyan, but his mouth loudly said, “No way! No way! Marriage is a major turning point of lifelong importance; as your friends, how could we let you sacrifice your life for us? Let me go and turn them down!”

As he spoke, he started to walk out again. But Hu Tiehua pulled him back. Smiling apologetically, he said, “Besides, other than that …”

Chu Liuxiang pretended not to understand. “Other than that what?” he asked.

Rubbing his head, Hu Tiehua stammered, “I think, marrying a princess is troublesome, but it is much less trouble than going around in circle in the desert. Besides, I … I really can’t bear to make others broken-hearted either.”

He spoke in deadly earnest, which made the others doubling up in laughter.

Ji Bingyan laughed and said, “I have long known this shortcomings of yours; a toast you don’t want to take, but clearly you want to drink a forfeit.”

Suddenly they heard someone outside the tent responding with a laugh, “What drinking a toast, drinking forfeit? Zaixia is just waiting to drink happiness wine!” [Translator’s note: it is difficult to carry the nuances into English – jingjiu (toast wine), fajiu (drink as the result of losing a bet), xijiu (toast drunk at wedding feast).]

Although the night was already deep, every tent was still bright with lantern light.

Shi Tuo was still with his camels, he meticulously looked after them. It appeared that only by taking care of others would he be able to forget the pain in his own heart. However, who on earth would be willing to have this ugly, weird, and handicapped person taking care of him? Therefore, he could only use this pair of tender hands to take care of the beasts.

This moment, the camels were asleep, but he was still sitting there in a daze, under the starry night sky. Such a solitary, such a lonely man.

Such a bleak scene.

But actually, this moment he was not completely alone. Not too far from him, unexpectedly there was someone looking at him, lost in thought, in fact, he has been looking at him for quite a long time.

Naturally Shi Tuo was not aware of him. But Chu Liuxiang saw it – as soon as he walked out of the tent, he discovered Wang Chong was staring at Shi Tuo.

Wang Chong himself was a mysterious figure too.

Why would he pay so much attention to a handicapped man?

Chu Liuxiang knitted his brows. He was just about to walk over, Wang Chong already sensed his presence; immediately he walked away.

Chu Liuxiang still wanted to ask him to get to the bottom of this matter, but he was just chasing over for a few steps, suddenly he heard a silver-bell-like tender laugher. A black-naped-oriole-like voice said with a laugh, “Didn’t you say you wanted to go to bed earlier? How come you turned into a roaming-in-the-night deity?”

Chu Liuxiang did not need to look back, he knew it was Princess Pipa. Forcing a laughter, he said, “I am afraid Zaixia is not the only roaming-in-the-night deity here.”

Princess Pipa said, “Other people, I don’t care, but you are not asleep this late at night, are you thinking of peeking other people bathing?”

Clearing his throat, Chu Liuxiang said, “Originally perhaps I did have that intention, but now there are too many roaming-in-the-night deities around here, so I’d better go back to sleep!”

All along he never looked back. This moment, while saying that, he started walking away. But he heard Princess Pipa sighed and said, “Hey … come back.”

Chu Liuxiang sighed; he had no choice but to stop and slowly turned around.

Under the starlight, he saw her fluid glance was as bright as the Milky Way, yet on her beautiful face, there was a hint of coquettish anger; pursing her lips, she glowered at Chu Liuxiang and said, “Let me ask you, why do you ignore me?”

A bitter taste seemed to appear inside Chu Liuxiang’s mouth. Smiling wryly, he said, “How could Zaixia ignore Gongzhu? However, if there’s nothing else, Zaixia still want to go back to sleep.”

Princess Pipa’s eyes grew even bigger. “Who said I am looking for you for no reason?”

Under the starlight, her white cotton clothes appeared to be transparent. Her face, her hands, her head … under the starlight also appeared to be transparent.

Even the merciless wind, when it got here, it seemed to become exceptionally gentle and soft; gently and softly blowing the sleeve of her clothes.

Her entire being seemed to become a fairy that was molded out of crystal.

Chu Liuxiang’s heart was suddenly beating faster. Although he was doing everything he could to control himself, he was still unable not to think about her beautiful naked body in the dusk, under the setting sun, in the pool, looking like a blooming hibiscus; the sparkling and translucent water droplets flowing along her sparkling and translucent breasts. He felt that he was practically committing a crime.

He coughed desperately and spoke with an especially loud voice, “Why is Gongzhu looking for Zaixia?”

Princess Pipa bit her lips. Suddenly a smile broke on her face. This moment, the stars filling the sky seemed to be brighter, more glorious.

Princess Pipa smiled sweetly and asked, “I just wanted to ask you, why did others call you Old Stinky Bug?”

The starlight was so gentle and soft, this affectionate beautiful princess was already given to marriage with his best friend, but why did she now come to look for him?

Chu Liuxiang could only desperately rub his nose; he really had nothing to say.

But Princess Pipa’s fluid glance still refused to let him off.

Chu Liuxiang could only hang his head low, but then he saw under the lower hem of her robe that was blown by the wind, a pair of bare, slender and white, delicate ankles.

Princess Pipa spoke softly, “Why don’t you answer my question?”

Chu Liuxiang had no way out; he smiled and said, “You should not have asked me that question, right? You should go ask whoever is calling me that name, right?”

Princess Pipa cocked her head to think about it. Apparently she had not guessed the deep meaning behind his words.

Right this moment, the big matchmaker Wu Qingtian hurriedly came. Chu Liuxiang relaxed immediately. Laughing loudly, he asked, “Has Wu Xiong successfully accomplished your task?”

Wu Qingtian laughed and said, “Zaixia has reported back to WangyeWangye is really happy. Although he knew that three gentlemen are travel-weary, he is so happy that he cannot wait to have a chat with three gentlemen.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “There’s no harm in doing it. Such a happy day, we won’t be able to sleep anyway.”

Intentionally or otherwise, he cast a glance toward Princess Pipa; his meaning was really obvious, but who would have thought that Princess Pipa still did not understand? Unexpectedly she pursed her lips toward him and spoke with tender laugh, “Whatever you say, I will ask you this question again; you can’t run away from me.”

Lightly and gracefully she turned around and walked away like she was flying.

Stunned, Chu Liuxiang could only stare blankly; he really did not understand what she meant.

He heard Wu Qingtian laughed and said, “Since that’s the case, Wangye has already prepared wine and late-night snack in his tent, asking three gentlemen to come over. The matchmaker’s two legs have already running fast back and forth, this cup of wine simply must be drunk.”

Inside the tent, the candle was burning bright.

Princess Pipa was leaning by her daddy’s side, pouring wine for him. Seeing Chu Liuxiang, Ji Bingyan and Hu Tiehua walking in, she pursed her lips and laughed.

But Hu Tiehua’s face turned red.

He really did not expect that this bride-to-be would dare to show her face in front of other people. Even more unexpected for him was that his future wife was unexpectedly ten times more natural and relaxed than him.

Laughing aloud, the King of Qiuci said, “You are here! Good! Good! The dish is warm, quickly sit down and drink a cup.”

Wu Qingtian laughed and said, “Not so fast! The future son-in-law ought to pay his respect toward the father-in-law first.”

Unexpectedly Princess Pipa also laughed tenderly and said, “That’s right! Quickly get down and kowtow!”

Hu Tiehua practically never imagined, not even in his dream, that she would also tease him. He originally thought that the skin on his face was thicker than the city wall, but right now it was turning as red as a piece of red cloth.

Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan signaled each other with their eyes, and then both men gave Hu Tiehua’s back a gentle push.

‘Poof!’ Immediately Hu Tiehua was down on his knees, but he was blushing profusely that even his neck was red.

The King of Qiuci laughed aloud and said, “Good! Good! Good!” He said the word ‘Good!’ seven, eight times in succession. From his bosom he fetched a shiny bluish green precious stone, about the size of a pigeon egg, and handed it over to Hu Tiehua, while saying with a laugh, “Tianfang [Arabian] Stone, bringing luck to the wearer. Take it!”

Under the lantern light, they saw the precious stone’s brilliant rays were flickering unceasingly. Even if Hu Tiehua was absolutely clueless, he could tell that this precious stone was an invaluable object. Blushing profusely, he stammered, “Such a generous gift, how could I dare to accept?”

Chu Liuxiang smiled and said, “Old Mount Tai bestowing gift on meeting, if you don’t accept it, you are being disrespectful. You’d better accept it!”

But he was knowledgeable; in just one glance he knew that this precious stone was unexpectedly the Kitten Eye, a stone that was rarely seen in the Central Earth, it was extremely valuable, definitely not under the ‘Star of Happiness’.

This King of Qiuci so casually gave this precious object as a gift to others, but why was he so serious about the Star of Happiness’ whereabouts?

Although on the surface Chu Liuxiang was still smiling, in his heart the misgivings were growing.

Suddenly he saw a young girl with bright eyes and virtuous glance, and beautiful and sweet smile, walking in gracefully from the back. Bowing to the ground, with voice like black-naped oriole, muttered some Qiuci words that no one else understood.

They heard the King of Qiuci laughed while stroking his beard, “Wangfei’s [princess, imperial concubine] illness has turned for the better; letting her come out to sit here will be good.”

The second hero of the ‘Wu Clan Twin Heroes’, the ‘Baiyun Jianke’ [white cloud swordsman], Wu Baiyun [same characters] laughed and said, “Could it be that Wangfei also wants to come to see her son-in-law?”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “Precisely. She has been ill for a long time, and never thought that there would be a happy occasion today, unexpectedly she is able to come out and move about. Is it possible that this is caused by what the people of the Central Earth call powerful happiness?”

Amidst the sound of laughter, there were several young girls wearing brocade clothes, supporting an out-of-the-world beauty, who was wearing long skirt that was dragging along the floor, her slightly messy cloud of hair was rolled up in a bun, carrying a noble bearing – walking out slowly.

Her starry eyes were slightly unfocused, her countenance was still showing thirty-percent sickly look, yet it was somehow increasing her tenderness and beauty. Although she could not be considered young anymore, her beauty was still shining with some kind of heavenly-looks and national-appearance.

Everybody present could not help hanging their head down and did not dare to make direct contact with her eyes.

Chu Liuxiang was the exception; he thought that since God has created such remarkable beauty, if you cannot appreciate it, not only you let down God’s good intention, you will simply mistreat yourself.

With timely smile on her face, Princess Pipa rose up to welcome her. The King of Qiuci also stood up, while repeatedly saying, “Quickly help Wangfei to sit down … Quick … Quick … how come the curtain outside has not been drawn yet?”

It was obvious that this romantic and lover-of-beauty King of Qiuci was very much in love with his Wangfei, as if he was afraid that she would suddenly go with the fierce wind.

The Queen of Qiuci sat down gracefully. Although she was sitting still, in that instant, her fluid glance was already exuding ten thousand kinds of amorous feeling, so that they were nearly unable to breathe.

Unexpectedly Princess Pipa pointed to Hu Tiehua and said with a laugh, “It’s him!”

The Queen of Qiuci sweetly said, “Good! Very good!”

She made a signal by stretching out her white-jade like slender lily-white hand, a young girl appeared from behind, carrying a jade tray. On the jade tray, the precious stones were gleaming; it was unclear how many stones were on the tray.

Princess Pipa laughed and said, “This is my mother’s gift to you. Take it!”

This time, not only Hu Tiehua did not dare to refuse, he could not even utter any polite words.

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