Chapter 22 Coping with Crisis
The door leading to the courtyard that Qian Su resided in had been left open. Just a slight push was needed for the door to allow entry. Yan Liqiang entered and was greeted with the sight of Qian Su lying down with his eyes shut, enjoying the cool air of a noon break. He was in a deck chair under a grape trellis in his own yard, leisurely rocking the chair back and forth.
For the past few days, Qian Su had been happily living a debauched life outside. Today, however, he remained in the quarter to recuperate and didn’t leave the camp at all. After lunch, he stayed in the quarter to rest.
For some unaccountable reason, the moment he saw Qian Su acting like his, Yan Liqiang recalled a time in his previous life where he saw two men relaxing in the resting area of the bathing and recreation center after brandishing their beloved ‘swords’ for two hours.
"Cough...cough…" Yan Liqiang cleared his throat twice.
Finally, Qian Su’s eyes fluttered open. Upon seeing Yan Liqiang, he sat up from his deck chair and gestured for him to come over.
Qian Su sized up Yan Liqiang from head to toe with a glance, a teasing smile appearing on his face. "I heard Zhou Yong gave the Horned Python Bow from his collection to you?"
"Under the circumstances, it wouldn’t have done me any good to refuse it." Yan Liqiang hadn’t been surprised in the least. Although Qian Su wasn’t present at the barracks earlier this morning, any matter big or small that happened in the Weaponsmiths Quarter could ever escape him. As the Quarter Master, if he didn’t even have such ability, then wouldn’t that be disgraceful?
"Hahaha! Since you’ve already accepted it, you should just take it! That Horned Python Bow is worth at least a hundred and thirty gold taels. It’s worth a fortune and it’s a strong bow of five piculs. Zhou Yong was struggling when he attempted to use it, and the bow has since been in his care for a number of years. Seems to me that you are fated to have it and that it has been made for your sake!"
"Big Brother Zhou was just being too courteous!"
"Although I am not a Martial Warrior, I still know that there must be a reason as to why archery is the first of the Confucian Six Arts. A lot of different tribes even place the art of archery on par with martial arts. Especially in the military, the bow is an effective weapon in war. The layers in the art of archery greatly surpass that of martial arts. If a man can establish his foundation to some extent in archery, he can also achieve meteoric success. Upon entering the military, the highest rank that a newly advanced Martial Warrior can achieve would be the same rank as me, a Feiyang Commandant. However, even if the man hadn’t established his foundation and wasn’t a Martial Warrior, if his cultivation in archery reached the realm of the Third Heavenly Layer, he would be a Yingyang Commandant upon entering the military, a rank higher than mine. Not only that, but they are favored more by the upper echelons…" After he finished his meaningful and heartfelt words, Qian Su reflected on what he just said and smacked his mouth. Soon after, he recalled that Yan Liqiang was here for something, "Oh right, what is it that you need? Do you want to leave the quarter?"
"Uhm…I’ve stayed in the quarter for half a month. I want to take a breath of the fresh air outside and relax for a bit. I have never been to Huanglong County before, so I wanted to take a stroll around the county to relax so that I can improve even further!" explained Yan Liqiang as he smiled.
"Two days ago if you wanted to head out of the quarter alone, I’m afraid I would’ve had to arrange two soldiers to follow you so I can feel at ease. But after seeing your performance today, after your passing of the Horse Stance Stage, I’m aware that regular folk are no longer your match. Thus arranging two of my men to tag along with you will not be of much use!" Qian Su pondered for a moment, then took out a token. "Let’s do this, take my token and hold on to it. I’m well-acquainted with Constable Zhu and the other county officers of Huanglong County, and they also recognize my token. Should you encounter any problems that you can’t resolve in the county town, reveal this token and say you’re my nephew. Nobody will dare to do anything to you!"
"Thank you very much, Uncle Qian!" Yan Liqiang took the token and glanced at it before tucking it safely in his clothes. Soon after, he bid goodbye to Qian Su.
He had just reached the entrance of Qian Su’s courtyard when Qian Su’s voice once again rang out behind him, "Remember! Lascivious activities can lead to bitter consequences. You’ve just passed the Horse Stance stage, so it’s normal to be prone to outside attractions. But be careful not make a mistake on this matter, it’ll destroy your future as a result!"
Could it be that Qian Su thought the reason why he wanted to go to the county town was to brandish his ‘great sword’? Having been rendered speechless, Yan Liqiang turned around to cast a glance at Qian Su. "Uncle Qian has reminded me twice! I won’t make a mistake!"
"Then that’s good. Then that’s good!" Yawning, Qian Su lay back down on his deck chair.
After leaving Qian Su’s courtyard, Yan Liqiang immediately made a beeline towards the entrance of the quarter. The soldiers manning the Weaponsmith Quarter’s entrance warmly greeted Yan Liqiang when they saw him. "Master Yan, are you planning to head out?"
"Yeap! I’ve been cooped up here for too long. I plan on taking a stroll around the county town!"
"If you’re heading to the county town by foot, you’ll need to walk for the time it takes two incense sticks to burn in order to reach the place. It’s quite a distance to walk. How about Master Yan takes a ride in our quarter’s cart? The quarter’s cart just so happens to be going to the county town today to buy salt, so it’s just along the way for them to drop you off…"
"What a coincidence! May I know when will the cart depart? If it’s too late, I will just walk on my own!"
"Ah! There’s no need to wait! No need to wait! Look, Master Yan, it’s already here!" The soldier pointed. As Yan Liqiang turned around, he was greeted with the sight of a servant from the Weaponsmiths Quarter driving a horse cart from around the corner.
The driver of the cart was an old servant working in the Weaponsmiths Quarter’s kitchen so naturally, he recognized Yan Liqiang. The servant promptly requested Yan Liqiang to get on after Yan Liqiang stopped him at the entrance to explain his intention.
The horse cart was used to pick up goods, thus the lack of comfortable seats in the back. There were only a couple of boards, but Yan Liqiang wasn’t picky, so he promptly leaped into the cart and sat on the board behind. After that, he left the Weaponsmiths Quarter in the small cart, arriving at the main road outside.
The servant driving the cart, on seeing that Yan Liqiang was seated in the back, felt uneasy so he turned around to say to him. "Young Master Yan, this cart is used to pick up goods so it’s uncomfortable to sit behind. Why don’t you sit in front? I can get off and walk while leading the horse, it makes no difference to me!"
At the front of the cart, there was only enough space for the cart driver so should Yan Liqiang choose to sit there, the servant from the Weaponsmiths Quarter could only get off.
Yan Liqiang smiled and waved his hands. "Hahaha! No need! No need! It’s the same if I sit behind here. Aren’t there a couple of boards here too? I can sit on these. Don’t worry..."
The servant asked a couple more times, and after realizing that Yan Liqiang really didn’t mind, he laid his heart down to rest.
"Right, uncle! Are you familiar with Huanglong County’s county town?"
"Familiar? Of course, I’m familiar. There’s nothing I don’t know about it. I’ve lived in Huanglong County for decades!"
"Then do you know if there are any places that are fun or interesting to see in Huanglong County?"
"There are a lot…."
On hearing Yan Liqiang’s inquiry, the cart-driving servant spirit was lifted. As he drove the cart, he introduced a variety of things that were available in Huanglong County to Yan Liqiang. In return, Yan Liqiang eagerly listened to him with great interest.
Throughout the entire journey, Yan Liqiang hadn’t found chatting with the cart-driving servant to be a bore. It only lasted a total of ten minutes, and the horse cart that he was on eventually entered Huanglong County’s county town through the south gate. The soldier manning the entrance to the county town seemed to be aware of where this horse cart originated from. He didn’t deliberately try to make things difficult for them nor make any effort to examine the cart. Just like that, he allowed them entry.
It was only the afternoon and the streets of Huanglong County’s county town were already bustling with activity. It was congested with horse carts and people bustling about at this hour, making it out to be incredibly lively. Casting a glimpse around, Yan Liqiang noticed that the streets of the Huanglong County’s county town were definitely much more spacious and wider than Qinghe County. The high-rise stores on the street were also greater in number, and there were also many incoming and outgoing merchants and businessmen. The entire county town was also two or three times larger than the county town of Qinghe County. It was almost on the same scale as a city.
Yet, the only similarity that the county town of Huanglong county shared with the county town of Qinghe County was that the majority of the strong youths in the street had weapons such as sabers or swords strapped to their waist. Everybody seemed to be accustomed to this.
"Young Master Yan, the Myriad Abundance Grain Shop is just up ahead, right around the left corner of the main street. May I ask where Young Master Yan is planning to go to? I can drive you there first…"
"Thank you, but there’s no need for that. I’ll just get off here!" said Yan Liqiang, swiftly leaping down from the cart. He then stood to the side of the road.
"Will Young Master Yan be using the cart to head back? If you want, I can wait for you at the county town’s entrance at the south gate once I’m done picking up the goods!"
"It’s alright. I’ll go back on my own once I’m done strolling about…" said Yan Liqiang as he waved his hands at the cart driver. In the blink of an eye, he had already made his way into a crowd of people.
Seeing that he had gone, the cart-driving servant smiled and shook his head. Without any further delay, he drove his cart away to purchase goods.
Yan Liqiang strolled about on the main street of the Huanglong County town, in search of a shop that made ice.
Within the county seat of Qinghe County, there was an ice shop. And since Huanglong County was wealthier than Qinghe County to an unaccountable extent, it made sense that there had to be an ice shop around somewhere.
From his conversation with the cart driver on the way here earlier, he had already obtained quite a lot of useful information. He discovered that the number of ice shops within the Huanglong County town wasn’t only one, but three.
One of these ice shops was located near Chaoyang Alley whilst another one was situated not far from the county office. In addition to those two, a third ice shop could be found at a place called the Great Water Well up north of the county town.
It was Yan Liqiang’s first time here. Although he already had prior knowledge of where the ice shops were situated, he was still unfamiliar with the structure of the town, so he could only slowly fumble around as he searched for them.
And as for the reason why he was in search an ice shop, was naturally not for the sake of buying ice. But rather, for the sake of purchasing another kind of item: saltpeter.
Half a month earlier, when he’d seen the sprinkled sulfur in his room after just having arrived at the Weaponsmiths Quarter, the idea had already been formed within his mind.
The reason why he came to Huanglong County was to avoid misfortune, and this misfortune came from the Hong Clan. The Hong Clan and his own household were both situated in Liuhe Town, he could run but he could not hide forever. Whenever he thought of the underhanded methods that the Hong Clan used, Yan Liqiang’s heart was overwhelmed with a great sense of crisis.
As a normal person, he naturally wouldn’t resign himself to his fate, waiting for the Hong Clan to carry out their schemes on him, destroying his future prospects. After the day that he found sulfur in the Weaponsmiths Quarter, Yan Liqiang spontaneously crafted the plan to create gunpowder.
There was no such thing as gunpowder at this current time in this world. But as a man from modern times and a youth who had been baptized by ‘Landmine Warfare’  since young, Yan Liqiang was very familiar with the formidable might of gunpowder. If only he could create gunpowder, then he might be able to use it to make something and obtaining a trump card for use in crucial moments. Perhaps it could even save his own life.
There was a lot of sulfur in the Weaponsmiths Quarter and the place wasn’t lacking in charcoal either, but the exception was saltpeter.
This was a bizarre world; the vast majority of the things found here were difficult to explain in the name of science and logic, so Yan Liqiang honestly had no clue either whether he could actually create gunpowder. But this thought and the gunpowder formula had always been on his mind. If he didn’t even give it a try, it would be something he would always regret.
If his adversary was only Hong Tao of the Hong Clan, even if Hong Tao had learnt Iron Palm, the current Yan Liqiang was confident that he could still beat the crap out of Hong Tao. However, Yan Liqiang understood that if the Hong Clan truly wanted to prevent him from advancing as a Martial Warrior then the Hong Clan’s plan m was in no way simply Hong Tao himself...
During the martial arts preliminary exam, the Hong Clan had made use of ice ants and even had the resources to bribe his own friend. That clearly proved that for the sake of dealing with him and for the sake of protecting their clan’s position and their interest in Liuhe Town, they were ready to resort to any means necessary.
Even though he had passed the Horse Stance stage, it did nothing to relieve him from the threat that was the Hong Clan. A man who had just passed the Horse Stance stage wasn’t enough for the Hong Clan to hold him in any regard at all. In the nearing Martial Arts County Trial that would be hosted half a month later, he was beginning to dread that this crisis was already imminent. Since the Hong Clan had already made the first move, they definitely wouldn’t allow him to survive until next year...
This was the basic conclusion that Yan Liqiang had towards his predicament with the Hong Clan.