Chapter 17: Distant Travels

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Chapter 17: Distant Travels


“I will have some people inquire about the little tiger cub’s cousin.
As for the rest, you need not think about it.” When Yun Yang heard Jiang Ling’s idea, he immediately turned it down. 

“Why not? If it really is the Manichaens’ doing, we can warn everyone not to go to that bothersome Xiyu for business!”

“Do not think this master does not know what you are thinking.
You are clearly thinking to take your revenge.” Yun Yang hit the mark. 

“So what if I am.
Can we not take our revenge each day those evil thieves hide beyond the pass?” Jiang Ling straightened her neck and faced Yun Yang.

“Revenge? You know of Xiyu, but the reality is one hundredfold, ten thousandfold more adverse than you have read of in books.
When the time comes, before you can get your revenge, it will be your life that is lost.
Naïve!” This was the first time Yun Yang had used such harsh words and flinty looks. 


“Go back.
There is no need to think of these matters again.” 

Jiang Ling was ordered back to her room by Yun Yang. 

“Shifu is so unreasonable.” Jiang Ling sat on her bed and grumbled. 

“Shifu doesn’t want anything to happen to us again.” Yun He said. 

“I understand.” Jiang Ling rolled herself up in her bedding.
She understood, but once the idea to go investigate appeared, like bamboo shoots after a spring rain, she could not stop its sprouting. 

At the first glimmer of dawn the next day, Yun He rapped on Yun Yang’s door. 

“Shifu! A Ling left!”

When Yun Yang heard her words, he immediately got up. 

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“Shifu, I will come back, please don’t worry.” Jiang Ling had left a note behind on her desk. 

“Reckless!” Yun Yang and Yun He went down the mountain directly to bring her back, but with Jiang Ling’s skills , if she wanted to run, no one could stop her. 

“Shifu, let’s go to Longxi.
Jiang Ling knows Shangguan Qing of the Longxi Yueluo Sect.
She is unfamiliar with the area, so she will definitely go see her.” Yun He said. 

“We will set out forthwith.”

Jiang Ling descended the mountain and walked quite the distance to another comparatively large town.
There she exchanged the belt given to her by Yun Yang and looked for an escort company. 

“What do you want to send, miss?” The head escort was a big, stalwart man of about thirty years of age with a square face.
He was stripped to the waist, displaying half of his well-muscled body.
This was their biggest form of advertisement. 

“Da-ge, is there an escort going to Longxi?”

“Coincidentally, there’s a group heading out today once they finished packing.
Miss, what item do you want to send?”

“May I join your escort group?” Jiang Ling was not familiar with the path to Longxi, but this escort company definitely did, “I don’t want any compensation, only some food to eat on the road.”

The head escort seemed like he had heard something enormously shocking and opened his mouth wide to say, “Miss, for someone skinny like you, it’ll be us protecting you.”

“If da-ge doesn’t believe me, you can test me.” Jiang Ling did not play coy.
She stretched her arm out and assumed a fighting stance. 

If you beat me, you’ll be a member of the Yunping Escort Company from today onward.” The head escort was likewise a bold person and immediately answered Jiang Ling’s challenge. 

The two of them signaled the beginning of the match.
At that moment, the head escort’s other brothers came to see what the bustle was about.
As the match began to grow even more lively, people even placed bets on who would win or lose. 

The head escort’s eyebrows rose and his fists tightened.
His fist rushed toward Jiang Ling, bringing with it a strong gust of wind. 

Jiang Ling turned sideways slightly, skillfully blocking with both palms and deflecting the head escort’s fist.
She dropped under and advanced to the back of the head escort, twisting her hand to chop down on his shoulder.
In an instant, the match was concluded. 

“Outstanding moves.” The head escort readily acknowledged his defeat.
If that palm strike had fallen on any other spot, he would have been knocked out then and there. 

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The crowd called out a series of ‘good fight!’s. 

“I will honor my word.
You will join our escort today, and when we reach Longxi, you shall be with us.
Miss, if you don’t mind, from this day onward, you will be my, Wang Tianqi’s, younger sister.” Wang Tianqi said with a heroic air. 

“Thank you, Wang-dage.”

Wang Tianqi looked coarse, but his manner was fine.
He knew that Jiang Ling was a lady, and it was not suitable for her to be in a group of men.
This time he arranged for some female escorts to join, too, so they could support each other on the way. 

The journey may have presented a threat, but was not truly dangerous.
Although they encountered some mountain bandits, each of the escort brothers were skilled and strong, and with Jiang Ling’s martial arts, every time they met with a foe, Jiang Ling would take down the leader.
Indeed, this trip was much easier than previous ones. 

Wang Tianqi seemed like he had picked up a treasure.
Many times, he wanted to persuade Jiang Ling to genuinely join their Yunping Escort Company.
Jiang Ling declined apologetically and said that if she was available when she finished her business, she would come and help out. 

The escort group arrived at the Guanzhong Plain.
The scenery was already completely different from the central plains; rather than the forests and countryside as far as the eye can see, it was more a bare landscape of yellow dirt.
The wind started to pick up sand and the sun bore down on one’s body; no wonder Shen Xiuqi and others were so tanned.
While Shangguan Qing had taken care of her skin and was not so tan, her skin was not as fair as women of the central plains or Jiangnan. 

Wang Tianqi was riding his horse as Jiang Ling sat on the escort carriage, speaking about Longxi and their current location.
There were some sparse trees, and the local farmers could grow grains, at the very least.
Once they passed further west of Zhangye, there would not be any people at all.
The land beyond the Yumen Pass was Xiyu, where yellow sands stretched as far as the eye could see; a place that could truly be called desolate. 

“How do people live in Xiyu?”

Have you heard of them?” Wang Tianqi asked. 

Jiang Ling replied, “I’ve heard of them,” in books, anyway. 

“Those oases are deep in the desert, like islets in the sea.
The Xiyu people live on those fragmentary islets.”

“So the Xiyu people have no alternative but to go to the area within the Pass, or even to the central plains?”

“Exactly.” Wang Tianqi continued, “In recent years, there has been a period of frequent trade between Xiyu and the central plains.
You may know of the gemstones of Xiyu, each and every one as big as your fist!”

Jiang Ling did not continue her questions.
She thought of the sizable gemstone worn by He Xi.
The one on her forehead had already been crushed by Jiang Ling.
Her subordinates had been wearing quite a few, as well. 

Another few days passed.
Some people had already entered Longxi City, and Jiang Ling bid Wang Tianqi farewell. 

Wang Tianqi was still reluctant to part with her and gave her a bag of silver, which, when compared to the remuneration, could have only been greater.
He also entreated Jiang Ling to not go further west, having heard that some people in trade caravans that traveled there had fallen ill.
While the sickness was not severe, and people would recover within a few days, lest it be a febrile disease, it was better to not go.
Once she finished her business and she wanted to return, she could find the division of their escort company in Longxi. 

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After she separated from Wang Tianqi, Jiang Ling wanted to go find Shangguan Qing.
She considered whether shifu and shijie would also come to find her, so she bought herself a horse, some rations, and enough water, asked for directions, and at long last, arrived at Zhangye. 

Zhangye was a trade town, with people coming and going.
Owing to the fact that it was located on the border, the climate in Zhangye was terrible, and houses were built with layers of stacked stones.
While simple and crude, teahouses, restaurants, and inns were plentiful, and many caravans walked to and fro.
There were also far more Xiyu people than other areas within the Pass.
Most of the Xiyu people were tall and large statured, with deep brows and prominent nose bridges.
Some had their faces covered with cloth. 

All kinds of camels and horses were tied by the side of the road, the scene extraordinarily bustling. 

Jiang Ling also discovered that the town’s herbal medicine shops were quite busy.
So it was true that there was some strange disease; she needed to be cautious. 

She led her horse as she searched for an inn.
Just as she was conversing with an innkeeper, a palm suddenly patted Jiang Ling’s shoulder.
Jiang Ling vigilantly raised her sword, ready to take action, but all she saw was Shangguan Qing standing in front of her, smiling. 

“A Qing!” Jiang Ling had never thought that she would run into Shangguan Qing here. 

“A Ling, so it is you! I thought it must be you I saw on the road just now!” Shangguan Qing had likewise never thought that she would run into Jiang Ling here.
She had parted with her three years prior and had never communicated with her; it was not that she did not want to contact her, but she had left so suddenly that she did not know how to reach her, so they had been separated. 

The two had reunited after a long parting and could not hold themselves back from hugging each other. 

“Innkeeper, this lady’s room is on me.” Shangguan Qing said with bold generosity, then brought Jiang Ling to her own room.
As it turns out, Shangguan Qing was staying here, too. 

The inn’s fixings were quite simple and neat: one bed, one table, and two chairs. 

“A Ling, how have you been these last three years? Why did you come here?” Shangguan Qing had heard of Gu Yun’s death and Jiang Ling’s coma at the time and had cried tears of sadness.
When she had no choice but to return, Jiang Ling had not yet woken up.
Later, she had heard that Jiang Ling was well, and she could feel relieved. 

Jiang Ling’s eyes grew misty. 

Shangguan Qing hurriedly apologized, “I was wrong, I should not have made you remember your painful memories.”

Jiang Ling wiped her tears away: “It’s no matter, these things need to be said.
That day, the evil Manichaen thieves knocked the elder of the Hall of Swords out with a blow and stole the blade.
They did not expect to be discovered by Gu Shi-shixiong and got entangled in a fight.
When I went out for a break, I noticed them, and then my shixiong came looking for me.
You know what happened afterward.”

“So, you came this time for revenge?”

Jiang Ling nodded, then shook her head.
She had not expected that ‘Xiyu,’ this humble name, would in reality be a land far larger than any she had seen.
Since she had entered Zhangye, she knew that finding someone in that boundless, sandy sea was akin to fishing for a needle in the vast ocean.
Since she had already come, she would check things out to get a clear understanding.
Who could say if she may gain some unforeseen results. 

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“Not entirely.
And you?”

“You probably know that people in trade caravans have been getting infected with a strange disease.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Our Yueluo Sect has also had people fall ill when they go beyond the Pass for business, with a fever that leaves them muddled.
Originally, we thought it was an ordinary illness, but after inquiring, we found that many people had gotten it.
Shifu had my shixiong and I come to investigate what the illness actually is.
If it’s a febrile disease, then it is no small matter.” Shangguan Qing explained why they were here. 

Jiang Ling was pleasantly surprised to find that they had the same goal.
It was better than muddling along in her investigation alone. 

“I didn’t expect that you were here to check on this as well.
I have some other things to check, too.
Down the mountain, a young man’s cousin came this way for business, but he has not come back in a year, and there has been no news that he is well.
He asked me to help him search.”

As soon as she heard that she had come looking for someone, Shangguan Qing’s expression shifted.
She drew near Jiang Ling and said in a low voice: “This is another one of our reasons for journeying here.
People have also asked our Yueluo Sect about missing loved ones, hoping that we could use our influence in the region to help find them.
This inexplicable case of missing people is definitely a big problem.
While there are always fearless people who brave the vast desert, most of the missing people are from trade caravans.
People say that they get sick on the road and stay over there for treatment.
Whether they were cured or not is unknown, but they disappear.
Because there are not many people like this, there has not been much stir about the situation.
Who could say if it might have some relation to the Manichaens.”

Jiang Ling was also surprised.
The situation here was indeed dire. 

Shangguan Qing took over the matter regarding the little tiger cub’s cousin.
She was investigating, anyhow, and Jiang Ling’s matters were likewise incidental. 

The server came over to inform Jiang Ling that her room was ready.
Just as Shangguan Qing and Jiang Ling were going to return to their respective rooms, they saw Shen Xiuqi come in with some of his shidi and shimei. 

When Shen Xiuqi saw Jiang Ling, his heart lit up, and he walked over to look. 

“Stop looking, A Ling came by herself.” Shangguan Qing rolled her eyes at Shen Xiuqi. 

Shen Xiuqi and Jiang Ling exchanged greetings then returned to their own rooms. 

“Your shixiong?”

“These past few years, he’s been training diligently so he may defeat your shijie one day.
This time, I fear he may have been disappointed that you came alone.”

“Truly a fool for martial arts[1].” Jiang Ling laughed.
If otherwise, then she thought that Shen Xiuqi must have other intentions toward her shijie.

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