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Laughter of the Sword God Chapter 19

CSI

Chapter 19 – The little old granny’s mysterious smile

Among the escort agencies in thirteen provinces from north to south, if the Zongbiaotou [Head Escort] of Central Plains Escort Agency Baili Changqing stood up and said that his escort agency was no more than a small agency, that means, in the entire China, no escort agency could use the word ‘big’ to describe their own escort agency.

Which escort agency in thirteen provinces from north to south dared to claim to be number one? None. Because the Zongbiaotou of Central Plains Escort Agency Baili Changqing also said that the Central Plains Escort Agency was only number two.

How many branches did the Central Plains Escort Agency have within the thirteen provinces? Even Baili Changqing himself was not too clear. Too many branches, too resounding reputation. Practically, this fact has enabled Baili Changqing to raise birds [as pet] and grow flowers all day long, i.e. live in ease and comfort.

In fact, Baili Changqing had not escorted any goods for over seventeen years; even sizeable goods were handed over to his Vice-Head Escort Jin Peng to be escorted.

Over the last seventeen years, Baili Changqing has handed over all affairs, big and small, to be handled by Jin Peng. Jin Peng has become his right and left hands, and he had never made any mistake.

Therefore, when Jin Peng came to him to report that everything was in order, he ought to just nod and stroke his beard, and smile a cheerful relief.

But this time, he did not smile.

Not only he did not smile, he still asked with heavy concentration on his face, “Have the routes been surveyed well?”

“Absolutely safe,” Jin Peng said, “For this escort, we have made preparation for almost a year. All security measures have been taken along the route. Zongbiaotou may set your heart at ease.”

“For the last dozen of years, thanks to you, who have never made any mistake, I can set my heart at ease. But this escort really carries a huge responsibility.”

“I know. Thirty-five million taels of gold, how many things that much money can accomplish? Even eighty generations cannot spend it all up.”

“Right, hence there must be no mistake, not the tiniest bit, in this escort job. Let’s not talk about you and me, I am afraid the entire agency will be destroyed. Moreover, this is something that might have our families executed unto the third generation.”

“I know that. That was the reason the Capital has sent Liu Chengfeng, Liu Daxia more than seven months ago to start investigating our route and make preparations for us.”

“Did Liu Chengfeng send any news from over there?”

“The message came every fifteen days,” Jin Peng said, “And each time it only has two words.”

“Which two words?”

“All is safe [安全 – an quan].”

Since all was safe, it was time to hit the road.

For this particular escort, the Zongbiaotou of Central Plains Escort Agency Baili Changqing personally set out to lead the troops.

(Two)

Beef Soup was really, really anxious. In all her life, she has never been as anxious as this time.

She would rather have someone came and killed her with one chop of a saber; it would have been better than being locked up in this big prison, waiting for the execution.

Because waiting will only lead to anxiety, and anxiety has always been difficult to bear, it does not matter who you are.

She really could not stand it. With all her might she beat on the four walls, she shouted at the top of her lungs.

Other than the echo inside the prison, the response she got was only a pair of eyes.

A pair of cold eyes.

And this pair of eyes may not necessarily look at her, it may well be only staring at the empty space in front of her.

Ximen Chuixue was such a person; he always seemed to be indifferent to everything around him. With despair in her eyes she stared at Ximen Chuixue’s cold face. “Are they going to kill us?” she asked.

Ximen Chuixue did not even cast a single glance to her, as if the question was not worth answering.

“Are they going to kill us?” Beef Soup asked again; this time she grabbed and shook Ximen Chuixue’s shoulder.

“They won’t.”

These two words did not seem to come from Ximen Chuixue’s mouth; rather, it sounded like Beef Soup has shaken it out of Ximen Chuixue’s belly, from his belly it rolled up to his oral cavity, and from his oral cavity it squeezed out through his teeth.

It was an emotionless reply, but it has given Beef Soup an infinite hope.

The despair suddenly disappeared from her eyes, a bright radiance arose in its place.

“Really?” she said, “They are really not going to kill us?”

Ximen Chuixue neither shook nor nodded his head.

Yet Beef Soup was nearly dancing and gesticulating for joy. She said, “I know what you mean; you are saying that since they put knock-out drug and not deadly poison in the wine, that means they are not going to kill us, is that right?”

“No, no, not right,” Beef Soup answered herself, “If they are not going to kill us, then why lock us up here?”

It was apparently a question worth pondering.

Why did they lock Beef Soup and Ximen Chuixue up and not just put them down with a blade?

They were already worthless.

Lu Xiaofeng was dead, they came here to avenge him; not killing them would only increase the risk without any benefit at all.

It was impossible for Beef Soup to find the answer to this question. No matter how she racked her brains, she simply could not find it.

Because the answer was inside the minds of that bunch of Huangshi Town murderers.

Ximen Chuixue seemed to be already aware of this fact; therefore, he might as well close his eyes.

“Why not kill Ximen Chuixue?”

This question was raised by Sha Dahu.

Apparently, even Sha Dahu did not know the answer.

“Right, why not kill Ximen Chuixue?”

This time the grocery store boss and the coffin shop boss asked the same question together.

It seemed like only one person knew the answer to this question. Because the eyes of those people asking the question were looking at that one person.

“The reason we did not kill him,” Gong Susu stood up and said, “Is for his sword manual.”

“Sword manual?” Sha Dahu said, “Why would we want to have his sword manual?”

“Don’t you want to learn his unrivaled-throughout-the-world sword technique?”

“At first I wanted to, but now I don’t.”

“Why?”

“Because very soon we will become very rich and powerful; why would we want to learn any sword technique?”

“After you have the money, you don’t want to train martial art anymore?” Gong Susu asked.

“You are correct. Do you know how much is our share?” Sha Dahu asked.

“I can’t figure it out.”

“I can’t either, but I know that with our share, even our sons and grandsons to the eightieth generation won’t spend it all in food and drink.” Sha Dahu swept the others with his gaze, “With so much money, why don’t we eat, drink and be merry properly? Why do we have to train any sword?”

The coffin shop boss, whose countenance was originally like a dead man’s face, suddenly appeared flush from excitement; practically it was like he had changed into a different person, from a dead man to an emperor. With an extremely happy tone, he said, “That’s right, we only care about spending our life in drinking and pleasure; why do we care about sword technique?”

“Besides,” Sha Dahu said, “By leaving Ximen Chuixue alive, we increase the number of our threat by one.”

“Don’t you worry, even ghost cannot escape that big prison, much less a trivial Ximen Chuixue?” Gong Susu looked at everybody; she said, “All of you only want money, I’ll take that sword manual for myself. Leave Ximen Chuixue to me.”

“But …” Sha Dahu seemed to hesitate.

“You are afraid he might fly out of my big prison? Don’t worry, leave it to me.”

“Why leave it to you alone? This matter should be our collective responsibility.” With leaps and bounds the little beggar came in. As soon as he was in, he said these words.

“You know what we are talking about, right?” the lady boss said.

“And you know what I am talking about too, right?”

“What is it?”

“The thing that we agreed on, of course!”

“Are they here?”

The little beggar nodded; he said, “They are here.”

They? Who was ‘they’?

(Three)

The little old man seemed to be very familiar with the roads around Huangshi Town, he deliberately made seven turns and eight detours before reaching the outskirt of Huangshi, just when the sun was setting.

“You see, didn’t I tell you so?” looking at the setting sun the little old man said, “I told you that we are going to arrive at Huangshi Town exactly at sun down; I didn’t deceive you, did I?”

“Not on this point, you didn’t. But you deceived me on another point,” the little old granny said.

“Another point? How did I deceive you?”

“You deceived me to take half a day of pointless trip.”

“No, I didn’t,” the little old man said, “I only told you that we should arrive at Huangshi Town right around sundown, and you said it should be around noon. I said you were wrong, and you said let’s go and see, and so we just went. Isn’t that right?”

“Right.”

“So you see, isn’t the sun going down the mountain?”

“Yes.”

“Hence I was right, I did not deceive you, I did not cheat you to take half a day of pointless trip.”

“Alright, alright; let’s just say that you did not deceive me. But you were still wrong.”

“I was wrong? Wrong about what?”

“Wrong about the setting sun.” The little old granny pointed to the remaining half of the sun and said, “You said that we would arrived at Huangshi Town at sundown; you were wrong. I said arriving after sundown is correct.”

“No, not right; right now we are entering Huangshi Town, aren’t we right on time?”

“No, not right; we are not entering Huangshi Town.”

“Why not go in?”

“Because we want to find Ximen Chuixue.”

“Don’t we have to go in to find Ximen Chuixue?”

“We don’t.” The little old granny pointed to the white tent outside the town, “Do you see that? Isn’t that Ximen Chuixue’s traveling tent?”

Naturally no one was in the tent.

However, this did not seem to surprise the little old man and the little old granny.

What surprised them was that when they were inside, they heard hoof beats outside.

Hoof beats should not be surprising either; what surprised them the most was that after the hoof beats, there was a sound of a long string of heavy wheels grinding the ground.

“What’s that? Are they escorts?” the little old man asked.

“Do you know the best answer to that question?” the little old granny said.

“What is it?”

“Go out and have a look.”

Before she finished speaking, both the little old man and the little old granny were already out of the tent.

(Four)

Central Plains Escort Agency’s banner was fluttering against the evening breeze, making a flapping noise.

Baili Changqing sat erect on the horseback, his eyes were bright and full of expression.

“Jin Peng, ahead is the Huangshi Town you mentioned?”

“That’s right.”

“Absolutely safe?”

“Our people came here once three months ago to investigate, everybody in town is locally born and bred, except one Sha Dahu.”

“Sha Dahu?”

“Sha Dahu is an exiled aristocrat from out of the area, he dug the hill outside Huangshi town and suddenly found gold, hence he settled here. Because he is wealthy, occasionally he offered shelter to some fugitives.”

“Fugitives?”

“But these fugitives’ martial art skill, we only need to use one finger to knock them down.”

“So, it seems to me that tonight we will be able to sleep peacefully.”

“I think so too.”

“What do you think?” the little old man asked.

“I think,” the little old granny said, “There is only one condition that they may be able to sleep peacefully tonight.”

“What condition?”

“Only the dead can have the most peaceful sleep.”

“How could they die?”

“Carrying that much money, coming to this Huangshi Town, which looks tranquil on the surface, but like a roaring sea underneath, aren’t they just looking for death?”

“How do you know that they are bringing a lot of money?”

“Didn’t you see the wheel marks on the ground? Did you see how deep they are? Perhaps what they are bringing is gold.”

“Probably not.”

“Oh?”

“If they are bringing gold, how come they only take a few people?”

“So, what do you think they are escorting?”

“Stone.”

“Stone?”

“Right, stone.”

“How do you know?”

“Must be. I think their carts must be loaded with stone. Only by pretending would they be brazen enough to enter Huangshi Town with only a few people.”

“Do you know who these few people are?”

“Who?”

“Their Head Escort Baili Changqing, Vice Head Escort Jin Peng, Emei Heroines Situ Feng, Situ Huang, Situ Ying, Situ Yan, and Jing Cheng (Taoist) Priest Jian Xuan [sword mysterious].”

“Really?”

“Have I been proven wrong?”

“Then they are really bringing gold?”

“I don’t know.”

“I know, I know. The best way is go and have a look.”

Sha Dahu’s house was already brightly lit.

To Sha Dahu, it was the biggest day of his life.

To be able to receive the Head Escort of the biggest escort agency in thirteen provinces from north to south, it was something that he did not even dare to hope for.

Therefore, other than telling his cook to prepare special dishes, he himself had been waiting at the main gate for the arrival of the honorable Baili Changqing.

And not only him, but the rest of Huangshi Town people were also waiting respectfully by his gate.

Everybody had a very proud expression on his face. Because, just like the little beggar said, “They are here.”

By ‘they’, naturally he was referring to the Central Plains Escort Agency people.

Actually, to be more precise, going a layer deeper, what the little beggar meant by ‘they’ ought to be the escorted money in the carts.

— The gold that would not be spent in food and drink for eighty generations.

“They have entered Sha Dahu’s house,” the little old man said.

“Wow, the fish have entered the net.”

“What do we do?”

“What do we do? Go watch a good show!”

“You still want to watch a good show at a time like this?”

“Well, what do you think we should do?”

“Go save them.”

“Save them? Save who?”

“Those people, of course.”

“Those people? They are not in any danger yet, they have not eaten their fill, they are not drunk, how could they be in danger?”

“That …” the little old man did not know what to do.

“Let’s go save them,” the little old granny said.

“Didn’t you say they are not in any danger?”

“I wasn’t talking about them, I was talking about other people.”

“Other people? Who?”

“He is not a who, he is Ximen Chuixue.”

“Him? Do you know where he is?”

“Of course I do, otherwise, how could I propose to save him?”

“Why do you think he needs somebody to save him?”

“Because he is not in his tent, moreover, I saw Sha Dahu and the others are very happy. If Ximen Chuixue is still outside, would they be that happy?”

“Why do you want to save Ximen Chuixue?”

“Didn’t I tell you that he is my little friend?”

“And the little friend needs to be rescued?”

“Because right now this little friend can help us do a lot of things. For example, to see whether the carts are really loaded with stone, or with gold?”

“Why didn’t we hurry up then?”

Before the little old man even finished speaking, he already ran away.

But he could not run away, because the back of his collar was being pulled by the little old granny.

“What are you doing?”

“I am the one who should be asking you this question: what are you doing?”

“Saving people, of course!”

“Saving people? Saving people is that way.”

Night. Moonless night.

The prison cell that was usually very gloomy and eerie, in this kind of night, it looked even more gloomy and extremely eerie.

Looking at such gloomy and eerie prison cell, the little old man could not help furrowing his two eyebrows! As he furrowed his eyebrows, the little old granny also could not help furrowing her eyebrows.

“Why are you frowning?” the little old man asked.

“Because you are frowning!”

“Does my frown have anything to do with your frown?”

“Of course it does.”

“What is it?”

“Because your frown looks like someone.”

“Like the one that I think you are thinking?”

“Yes.”

“Who is it?”

“Lu Xiaofeng.”

“Really? I can look like Lu Xiaofeng?”

“That’s right. It’s just that your eyebrows and hair are grey. In other words, you look like Lu Xiaofeng with head and face filthy with grime [idiom: dejected and depressed].”

The little old man laughed. He felt very proud. “As long as I look like Lu Xiaofeng, why do I care about his hair and eyebrows?”

Suddenly he sighed. “Ay! Too bad …”

“Too bad Lu Xiaofeng is dead?”

“That’s one …”

“And the other?”

“Too bad right now we have some business we have to deal with; otherwise, I wanted to treat you to eat and drink.”

“Why?”

“Because no one ever said that I look like Lu Xiaofeng.”

“What’s so good about looking like Lu Xiaofeng? Some people even call Lu Xiaofeng Lu Xiaoji [little chicken].” The little old granny said, “Besides, Lu Xiaofeng’s already dead, what’s so good about saying that you look like a dead man?”

The little old man did not respond; he merely walked stealthily toward the prison door.

But his step was suddenly stopped by the little old granny.

“What are you doing?” the little old man said.

“What are you going to do?” the little old granny asked him back.

“Aren’t we going to save people? Lu Xiaofeng is dead, we can’t let Ximen Chuixue die too, can we?”

“I suddenly think that there is one thing more important than saving Ximen Chuixue. After we accomplish this one thing, it won’t be too late to save him then.”

“What is it?”

The little old granny did not answer, she only smiled a mysterious smile.

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