Book 15 Chapter 10 - Clues
The four men got off the carriage outside the gate of a building. After looking around to make sure the place was secure, they flipped over the front of the roof, and after scurrying past several buildings, soon afterwards their target, the courtyard, appeared in front of them, across a small alley ahead.
As soon as they saw it, they knew the situation was not good.
Although there was a horse-drawn carriage at the open space in front of the house, there was no horse to pull it.
The complex consisted of three sections, with two courtyards connecting them, but the doors and windows were tightly shut. It looked like there was not a single soul living in it.
"Oh no!” Kou Zhong said dejectedly, "All the witches, warlocks and female demons [yao fu, yao gong, yao nu] are scared of us and ran away.”
Song Shidao was surprisingly quiet; he spoke in low voice, "Let's go in and take a look, maybe we'll find something.”
Ba Fenghan said with a sigh, "I say it's just a waste of energy; Yin Gui Pai has always been known for their secrecy, they can't possibly leave any clues to be found, otherwise other people would have caught up with their old nest.” [Translator's note: here, and in subsequent paragraphs, the word ‘they' was feminine.]
Shaking his head, Song Shidao said, "This time it's different. I am almost certain that it was only after Shangguan Long's identity was uncovered last night that they moved out in a hurry, for fear that others might find their whereabouts. Granted that they must be very careful and took necessary safety measures, but anything can be easily overlooked. With this thinking, it was hard to avoid an oversight. This is what we are looking for.”
All three men were emotionally moved. Suddenly they had a whole new level of respect toward Song Shidao, this Second Young Master.
With a ‘Come on!' Song Shidao took the lead by jumping down into the courtyard.
The hall was exquisitely arranged, there were even paintings and calligraphy hanging on the walls, but just as Ba Fenghan anticipated, everything was neat and clean; other than ordinary household utensils, nothing was left behind.
Yet Song Shidao was unwilling to neglect even one cun square. When the other three lost interest, he picked up pieces of tealeaves from the floor and brought it to his nose. Taking a sniff, he said, "If I am not mistaken, this ought to be yellow sprout leaf, the shape is straight, in terms of color and luster, there is green within yellow, as delicate as a brush, similar in shape and appearance as duck tongue; it is a gourmet tea.”
Listening to that, the three were dumbfounded, thinking that only children and disciples of large and influential family like him would be able to tell that much from a single tealeaf.
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Even if we know what kind of tea this is, what can we do about it?”
Kou Zhong joined in, "In my opinion, Yin Gui Pai's female demon can't possibly carry these tealeaves around, it must be Shangguan Long who prepared the tea to show filial respect to them.”
Song Shidao happily said, "That possibility is very high. The Heavenly Street has several tea stores, three of those carry yellow sprout tea, but only Shan Jing Ju [House of Mountain Scenery] sells first-class yellow sprout tealeaves from Jin Gang Tai [lit. diamond plateau]. I have been hanging around their boss quite often these days, it would be very easy to find out if Shangguan Long is addicted to this kind of tea. If that is the case, we have one more trail to pursue.”
Listening to him, the three were sincerely convinced and ready to concede.
Tea can be addictive as well; when one is used to drink some kind of tea, although occasionally they can substitute their personal preference, but in the end it would be difficult to completely change their taste in such a short period of time.
This time, Shangguan Long must be recuperating; if he happened to send someone to buy tea, then they would have a chance to find him.
Song Shidao went another round, but did not find any new discovery, so he walked toward the inner hall.
Since the three already regarded his ‘investigation' ability like a deity, they hurriedly followed behind him.
Song Shidao entered one of the bedrooms. The gauze bed screen was down, inside, the bedding was in disarray, which corresponded with their expectation: not only the people left in a hurry, they left in the middle of the night. If it were during the day, the bedding would be tidied up.
Copying Song Shidao earlier, the three examined everything carefully. But Song Shidao lifted up the screen and sat on the bed. Picking up the pillow, he sniffed at it with full concentration.
The three followed him blindly; they waited patiently for him to speak.
Seeing the three were staring at him blankly, Song Shidao put the pillow down and said with a smile, "Actually, there's nothing serious about it. It's just that I always pay particular attention about families' livelihood, and as luck has it, in this aspect, Yin Gui Pai people are also rather particular, hence I am able to pick up some things out of it.”
Emotionally moved, Ba Fenghan said, "What Er Gongzi said is extremely useful. All along Jianghu people always thought that Yin Gui Pai is hiding deep in the mountains or some remote valley. But now it looks like their old nest might be in the heart of bustling downtown area of the Big Capital, which is outside other people's expectation. Otherwise, they would not pay particular attention to these kinds of thing.”
Kou Zhong also humbly asked, "What exactly are they paying particular attention to?”
Song Shidao replied, "This bed screen and the beddings are scented with certain perfume, but the pillow smells of different fragrance, and that must be the perfume this particular woman like to use.”
"In that case,” Ba Fenghan said, "The woman sleeping here can't be Junyu, because she has never used perfume.”
Song Shidao said, "The scent from the bed curtain is taken from the Masson pine rosin [Pinus massoniana, Chinese red pine, horsetail pine]. Don't think that this is merely for pleasure, in fact, the rosin added moisture proof, rot proof, and bug-repellant characteristic to the fabric.”
He added, "As for the pillow, the perfume is derived from the extract of best quality orange osmanthus flower; ordinary people cannot afford it. Although there are more than a dozen perfume stores in Luoyang, only Ping Fu Lao Dian [lit. peaceful happiness old store] sells this kind of expensive goods.”
Ba Fenghan asked in surprise, "Er Gongzi really knows Luoyang businesses like the back of your hand.”
Smiling, Song Shidao said, "I have been to Luoyang five times. Whenever I have time to spare, I always stroll along the street, while also helping Luoyang's economic development; you know what I mean?”
Xu Ziling said, "Now that we have tealeaf and perfume, these two clues, what do we do next?”
Song Shidao said, "Let's look around everywhere else first, then we'll talk! But Ba Xiong was right, anything that can be carried, they can't possibly leave it behind.”
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The carriage moved out speedily toward the Heavenly Street.
In this pursuit of Fu Junyu, Song Shidao has ‘changed shape in a single shake', and has become their de facto leader.
"I still don't understand,” Kou Zhong wondered aloud, "How come several times we fought against Wanwan, she has never used Yu Yi to threaten us?”
Song Shidao said, "That is indeed a proof that Junyu has really fallen into their hands; they are afraid others might know about it. Even if Zhu Yuyan is without the slightest scruple, she still inevitably has misgivings toward Fu Cailin. Unless she is really forced into a corner, she would never use Junyu to bargain with you to get the ‘Secret to Duke Yang's Treasure'.”
The afternoon sun penetrated the clouds. After raining for more than half of the day, people felt the outdoor was bright, fresh and clean.
Song Shidao took this opportunity to close his eyes to restore his spirit. The three did not dare to disturb him; they simply sat quietly, while taking a peek at the scenery along the way.
Arriving at the Heavenly Street, Song Shidao slipped off the carriage, while the driver pulled the carriage to wait in a side street.
Ba Fenghan took the opportunity to ask the driver for a favor to find the lodging of the Tiele people.
The driver proudly said, "Ba Ye, rest assured. This kind of trivial thing, Xiaoren [the lowly one] will definitely handle it properly for you.”
Finished speaking, he jumped down the carriage and left.
The three stayed at the carriage to wait.
Recalling the unfinished conversation with Kou Zhong earlier, Xu Ziling asked, "You said Dong Shuni was deceiving you, what's going on?”
Kou Zhong hatefully replied, "This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly.”
And then he explained the full story around Wang Shichong's fake assassination scheme. When he was done, he said, "In order to maintain and reinforce Wang Shichong's confidence, I brought Zhai Jiao and Tu Shufang to see him. This old fox was immediately full of smile, and discussed with me the assassination plot. Humph! His mother! Do you know what he proposed?”
Naturally the two could only scratch their heads to indicate that they had no idea.
Imitating the tone of Wang Shichong's voice, Kou Zhong said, "The day after tomorrow Rong Fengxiang is going to have his birthday party at his mansion. Anybody in Luoyang who has head and face would join the fun. Originally I was thinking of not going, but now I simply have to go, otherwise that old man Huang won't have the opportunity to assassinate me.”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan looked at each other. The latter said, "What's going on? Didn't Rong Fengxiang have his birthday party last night?”
Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, "That's why I said that lass was deceiving me. But I really don't know why she harbored evil intentions toward me.”
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, "She was laying out a trap to kill you, but this matter has nothing to do with Wang Shichong.”
Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, "But why does she want to kill me? It could be that she is merely trying to get away from here, but by doing this, what good would it bring her? Won't she be afraid Wang Shichong would be angry at her?”
Ba Fenghan laughed in spite of himself; he said, "Other than Dong Shuni herself, I am afraid only Laotianye would be able to answer your questions. What kind of utterly heartless thing did you, this kid, do to other family's Miss?”
Kou Zhong cried out to Heaven for the wrong he received; he said, "What's that supposed to mean? Besides, it was she who took the initiative. Don't look at her young age, she has more experience than the three of us combined.”
Seeing the two men's burning gaze at him, Kou Zhong spread out his hands and said, "What? I am a man! Taking advantage of an opportunity is just a human nature; right?”
Xu Ziling said, "Based on Dong Shuni's character, this matter must have something to do with man-woman relationship.”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, "It's possible that you came across a jealous husband. Dong Shuni happened to be carrying out her natural instincts, which is always regarding romantic love as a game, and believe it or not, you came.”
Kou Zhong was about to speak, when Song Shidao returned with excitement on his face. "We finally see the light!” he said.
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 Clues - orig. Spider's thread and horse track.