Chapter 193: A Great Lead

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

 

Now that the old mad has made up his mind, he ordered his fellow farmers to lock up Hao Dong within the ancestral hall. At this, Chang San and Duan Tingxuan breathed a sigh of relief. Chang San addressed the other servants, “Now that this thing has happened, someone should go and report it to the master. I think we’ll let Liang Shou go, ba. That fellow’s lively and quick on his feet. It’s only right that we send should him on an errand like this.”

The others all chuckle. A glance at the sky showed that it was close to noon. Who wants to travel under a blazing sun like this? Moreover, since their manager ‘Place work above blood ties’, no one has any complaints to this arrangement. With everyone in agreement, Chang San reached into his bag, brought out a Fried Dough, and handed it over to Duan Tingxuan, remarking, “Well, go swiftly and come back swiftly. This Fried Dough is the lunch your wife made for our trip. Have my portion, eat it on your way, alright?”

Duan Tingxuan sported an expression of unwillingness, but then appeared reluctant to disagree. Finally, with a dejected air, received the Fried Dough and sadly made his way towards the side of the ancestral hall where they had tethered their horses. The horses were still grazing at the grass, looked after by two local men.

Under the laughter of the other servants, he mounted a black horse and turned towards the direction of Dongning county and soon disappeared from sight.

On Duan Tingxuan’s side, as the horse tore across the main road towards Suzhou. As it was galloping down a cliff side road, it suddenly collapsed for no reason. Luckily, he noticed the change quickly and was able to slide off the horse before it went down. Otherwise, who knows that would have happened. Even then, he suffered a bump in the head and his face was covered in road dust and mud.

The horse continued to pant laboriously in place, Duan Tingxuan pretended to look over the horse carelessly, before settling himself on a large rock by the roadside with a muttered curse and ignored the poor beast. He took a few bites out of the Fried Dough and cast his eyes about aimlessly. He was, in fact, investigating the area earnestly.

This was where Long Pingzhang met with his ‘accident’.

He had discovered that the person who had been spying him on the sly was this Hao Dong person. After some investigation, he found that this man’s origins did not quite add up. However, since he was just a servant, Su Dong Lou did not bother to look too deeply into his background. Moreover, he also realized that Lu Feng Yu must have arranged spies to investigate him and just pretended not to know. After all, having spies around could be a useful way to convey whatever information he wanted. Unfortunately, because of this carelessness, Duan Tingxuan nearly gotten into trouble.

Luckily, this Hao Dong character has a desperate greed for money. Therefore, when Duan Tingxuan heard from Chang San there was a priceless ebony box within this town’s ancestral hall, he immediately hit upon a plan to get this guy into trouble. As expected, with the precious ebony box as bait, that Hao Dong himself impatiently jumped into the trap and was immediately buried up to the neck in trouble.

With the spy out of the way, Duan Tingxuan finally had the opportunity to investigate this place in peace. His hearing was unusually sensitive, if anyone had followed him, he would realize it immediately. As for his current little act? Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Who knows, someone might be observing this place from the opposite mountain. If he arouses their suspicion, wouldn’t he lose all opportunity to investigate Long Pingzhang’s death?”

He took his time nibbling the Fried Dough, once that was gone, Duan Tingxuan finally stood up to investigate the horse’s condition. He had used some trick to secretly make the horse cramp up, how could it just miraculously recover after half an hour? The horse snorted and whinnied in protest when he prodded it. It clearly wanted to rest some more. Duan Tingxuan feigned bored listlessness and began to walk about in a seemingly aimless manner. Suddenly, he touched his waist, and shot upright. He began to pat himself all over and looked about frantically, as though looking for some lost item.

With the initial performance done, he finally began his earnest investigation on the area. However, as Su Dong Lou had mentioned, there was nothing to find. Also, it had been a few months since the incident, what could be there to find?

Still, he persisted, but after searching for a while, he finally stood up with slump shoulders. However, his eyes were sharp as they scanned his surroundings. He allow his mind to empty itself when suddenly, something flashed in the corner of his eye. Duan Tingxuan turned towards that direction immediately. There, under a large maple tree, among the lush green grasses was a round white stone.

Duan Tingxuan’s heart kicked up a couple of beats, and he continued with his ‘looking for lost item’ act as he made his way towards the tree. Once there, he crouched down, pushed aside the long grasses and saw that the white round rock was placed on top of two rocks in the shape of a π. Perhaps having been hidden by the grasses, and being mere rocks, had managed to escape notice until now.

Immediately, the little marquis’ hands were slick with sweat and his heart rate increased, his mouth felt dry as he stared at the little rock formation.

When they had been students, he and Long Pingzhang, as well as a few good school friends often engrave random symbols and word combinations on white jade as puzzles for others to guess. The answer could be a single word or a poem. Wu Qinghu was a master at this game. As someone with a sharp mind, Duan Tingxuan enjoyed the game as well. In fact, Long Pingzhang was the one who was least proficient at this. Every time they played this game, he always ended up with the least points and was often punished by the host.

Remembering the anecdotes of the past, and then recalling that his friend was no longer in the world of the living, pain stabbed through Duan Tingxuan’s heart. He reached out with a shaking hand for the white rock. While he was still far away, he noticed that the rock was a round flat shape, and therefore should not be sticking up above the grass. It was this unnaturalness that caught his eye in the first place. He really hadn’t thought he’d be able to find anything here. To think that he’d actually find a dying message left by Long Pingzhang.

The white rock was perfectly smooth and glossy, and no matter how hard Duan Tingxuan looked, he could not find any writing on it. In desperation, he picked up the two ordinary looking stones that acted as pillars and spotted a pattern at the corner of one stone. It was not a writing, but a few vague, undulating lines. Duan Tingxuan was very familiar with these lines. Almost every piece of clothing he owned has these lines on their cuffs and hems. It was the cloud pattern.

He looked up at the tree branches, below the tree was the white rock, and below that were two rocks and only one of them has the cloud pattern corner. Could this be… a secret message that Pingzhang had left for him? But what could it be? Maple tree, white rock, cloud pattern… from the literature point of view, these three things easily brought to mind a Tang Dynasty poem written by Du Mu[1] called <<Mountain Tour>>.

A stone path winds up the mountain,

White clouds part to reveal a village

The carriage stops ‘neath a beloved maple tree,

Red leaves shone with frost on a February night

The short poem escaped from Duan Tingxuan’s lips as he cast his eyes towards the horizon. He said to himself, “Pingzhang, is this a clue for me? Did you manage to discover something and left this clue here? What are you trying to say? Is it a person’s name? A place? Or, could it be an event?”

After thinking for a long time, Duan Tingxuan still could not guess the meaning behind this and he had no choice but to put the rock away into his bag. He gave his surrounding one last look. Finding no other clues, he sighed. It was already a miracle to have found this message from Long Pingzhang.

He glanced up at the sky and sighed, “Pingzhang, somehow I keep feeling that you’re right beside me, you must have ‘Died with your eyes opened’. Your vengeful spirit must still be around. Very well, watch as I chase out your murderer and get revenge for you. Once I’ve exposed King Xiangyang’s conspiracies you may rest in peace. Pingzhang, you must watch and wait. I will make sure this day comes.”

 

[Gumihou: I found a blog that translates the same poem, but I think I did a better job. Lol! What do you think? I also change the translation for the title]

 

 

[1] Du Mu – a Tang Dynasty Poet. Very famous.

    山行 杜牧(803-852)

远上寒山石径斜,白云深处有人家。
停车坐爱枫林晚,霜叶红于二月花

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Du_Mu

http://poetrychinese.blogspot.com/2009/06/du-mu-driving-through-mountains.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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