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The Optimistic Heroes

Chapter 4

Treasure · Women · Dogs


       Some people say: Women are trouble.

       Some people say: Without women, life is cold and desolate; with women, even the animals live without peace.

       These sayings were obviously said by men. But regardless of what men say, the world will always need women. Amongst ten thousand men, at least nine thousand nine hundred and ninety of them would rather live ten years less than to live without women. 

       Some people say: Money moves the gods.

       Some people say: Money is Evil.

      But no matter what you say, not a single person can live without money. If you don't have any money, life is like an empty burlap sack, impossible to ever stand up straight.

       These two things can not only turn the smartest of people into fools, they can turn the best of friends into enemies. 

       Four bachelors, and suddenly a women is added to the mix, is just like a chopstick abruptly stretching towards a bowl with four raw eggs, no matter how you stir there is going to be a mess.

       Dash, Big G, Swally, and Forest were living carefree lives. A good life of unrestrained freedom, but that's because they didn't have any money, and there weren't any women around.

       Every morning, they woke up feeling good. The down days of yesterday were already past, and today they were full of hope.

       But, in an instant, both of these things arrived, what confounding recklessness would follow?


       Dash could have been awake for a long time, but he was lying on the floor, not moving.

       He had rolled his cotton blanket into a cylinder, then slowly crawled in inch by inch. He had disappeared inside the cylinder, sealed in on all four sides.

       There were some mice running around on the ground. At first they were a little timid, not getting too close. But eventually they figured he was already dead, and were practically sitting on his head.

       Dash still did not move.

       Forest had been watching him for a long time. In the end he couldn't help it, he quietly walked over, stretched out his hand, and placed it in front of his nose, to check if he was still breathing.

       "I haven't died yet," Dash suddenly said.

       Forest was startled, pulling his hand back, "There were mice climbing on you, why didn't you do anything?"

       Dash: "I don't engage with mice, I would never lower myself to their level—only cats quarrel with mice."

       Forest stood there dazed, "We could certainly use a cat in this place."

       Dash: "We had a cat, Swally brought one back."

       Forest: "Where is the cat?"

       Dash: "He eloped with a cat from the bottom of the mountain."

       Forest stared at him, eyes wide, stared for a long time.

       It was no longer snowing, the moon and the stars were out.

       The moon was shining on his face through the window. His face had a clear outline, a broad forehead, a tall and strait nose, even though he wasn't very handsome, there was a distinct characteristic about him.

       He didn't come across as crazy, he didn't seem to be an idiot, so why did he appear to have mental issues?

       Forest sighed, looking him over, "Where are your two friends?"

       He really needed to find a normal person to talk to.

       "Went down the mountain to go hunting."

       "Hunting? Going hunting in this weather?"


       Forest didn't know what to say, suddenly he understood a certain principle: the friends of a crazy person are certainly crazy as well.

       After a long while, a rumbling noise suddenly came from the darkness, and then another rumble.

       "Strange! Why do the mice even sound different today?" Dash muttered.

       Forest's face went red, "That is not mice, its... its.." Forest slowly replied.


       Forest couldn't hold it in, "It's my stomach growling, don't you people ever eat?" he said loudly.

       Dash laughed, "We eat if there is something to eat, and if there is nothing to eat we just listen to our stomachs growl."

       Forest stood there staring blankly, again, he didn't understand, how could people be so happy if they didn't have anything to eat?

       "You got pretty lucky today," said Dash.

       Forest laughed awkwardly, "Me? I am lucky?"

       "I have a feeling that their hunting produced a good catch, you might even enjoy a nice big..."

       He was about to say "enjoy a nice big feast," but before he could finish, he himself enjoyed a nice big surprise.

       Big G was already back, walking through the door, and sure enough he brought something back. Something that could run, jump, climb a tree, and even shout inconsiderately.

       A monkey.

       If Dash's face could ever turn pale, now was that time.

       Seeing Dash's facial expression, Big G almost killed himself laughing, "Don't worry this monkey is male, not female," he said gasping for breath.


       "Is your friend scared of female monkeys?" a sweet, pretty voice asked from behind Big G.

       Big G laughed even more intensely, "He is definitely scared, how many men are not scared of their wives?"

       "Very funny, just hilarious, absolutely hysterical, how is it possible that someone could be so witty," Dash said with a straight face.

       Forest didn't know what was so funny, and he didn't want to know.

       All he noticed was a sudden brightness, as if thousands of lamps were lit, illuminating the dark room. 

       All of the light was emitting from one person. This person was wearing clothes made of coarse cloth, carrying two baskets, one in each arm, and was following Big G inside.

       There were three other people following behind her: an adult and two kids. The children were dressed well, but all the adult was wearing was a leopard skin.

       This was already more than enough to take in, but that wasn't all. Other than the people, there were two dogs, a large bundle of swords and spears, a few gongs, and five or six bamboo poles.


       "I knew he always wanted to see if he could best Swally, to see who could bring back the most things, but he shouldn't humiliate him with such a devastating loss," Dash muttered.

       Swally was leaning by the door, smiling, "Although I lost badly, I have to give him credit, I went out twenty times, but the things I brought back were not even as much as his first trip."

       Big G laughed, "Although these friends of mine have foul mouths, they are good people. Come on, let me introduce you, this young lady is... "

       "Why don't you let me start. My name is Sour Plum, this is my older cousin 'Flying Leopard,' and these are my little cousins, 'Little Jade' and 'Little Paladin'," the young lady said with a smile.

       Who was "Flying Leopard?" An actual introduction wasn't necessary, you could tell just by looking at him.

       But the two children looked exactly the same, they both had large eyes, with combed braids sticking up, with dimples when they laughed.   

       They didn't even have dimples on opposite sides, they were both on the right side.

       Dash couldn't help but ask, "Which one is Little jade? Which one is Little Paladin?"

       "Take a guess," the two children replied in unison.

       Dash was blinking repeatedly, "Little Paladin is standing beside Little Jade, and Little Jade is standing beside Little Paladin, am I right?"

       Both kids laughed at the exact same time, one of them quickly ran over to Dash, and whispered into his ear, then smiled and said, "This is our secret, you can't tell anyone."

       The child's laughter sounded like silver bells, she was a girl.

       Big G took the other child's hand, "Little Jade is your older sister, isn't she?"

       The boy shook his head, "Nope, she is my little sister."

       Before he was finished speaking, Little Jade was yelling at him, "You stupid donkey, I always knew all boys were stupid, he tricked you with one silly question."

       Little Paladin started to blush, "And you aren't stupid, if you are so smart why are you dressed like a boy?" he said in defiance.

       These kids didn't play with words, they went straight for the kill—women look down upon men, think that men are stupid, but they always want to be like men; this is the greatest fault of women.

       Forest was staring openly at Sour Plum the whole time, "These names obviously are not your real names," he said all of a sudden.

       Sour Plum sighed, "We are street performers of martial arts, even our ancestors would be completely embarrassed, what's the point of having real names," she replied bleakly.

       "What's wrong with performing martial arts on the streets? Some people can't even make in on the streets," Forest replied with a sigh.

       Sour Plum looked at him, "It seems like you have something weighing on your heart..."

       Big G suddenly interrupted her, "He has always been like a girl."

       Forest glared at him, his facial expression slightly changed.

       Sour Plum interjected with a laugh, "Really, only girls have emotional problems? If that was the case, then all men would be nothing but heartless fools."

       Forest looked at her with eyes full of appreciation.

       Big G shrugged his shoulders, "Even if all men were heartless, they at least have stomachs."

       Sour Plum chuckled, "If you hadn't mentioned it, I nearly forgot..."

       She put down the baskets and opened the cover, ripping off a leg of chicken, "You know, women have stomachs too, sometimes we are just embarrassed about eating too much," she said with a smile.

       Little Paladin: "Then why is it you are never embarrassed?"

       Sour Plum knocked him on the head with the chicken leg, he grabbed half the chicken and ran away. The monkey was jumping up and down incessantly, the two dogs were yelping. 

       Dash was shaking his head, "This is the most excitement this place has seen in ten years," he muttered.

       Big G: "Don't worry, it's going to be an exciting few days."

       Dash: "A few days?"

       Big G's eyes were resting on Sour Plum's graceful silhouette, "Many days, I heard they were looking for a place to live, so I took the liberty of renting out the five rooms in the back to them."

       Dash nearly choked on the sip of alcohol he just drank, "How much?"

       Big G stared him down, "Who do you take me for? Some kind of penny pincher? You think I would actually ask for rent money? If it wasn't for me, these kind of guests would never stay with you."

       Dash just looked at him, for a long time, giving a long sigh he finally said, "I am having troubles understanding something," he smiled bitterly.

       Big G: "What's that?"

       Dash: "Does this house belong to you? Or does it belong to me?"

×      ×      ×

       If there was anything in this world that could cause a lazy, dirty man to get his act together, that would be a women.

       The next morning, Dash was lying in his "cylinder." Big G had already fetched some water, and Forest was looking for something around the house.

       Dash couldn't help but ask, "What are you looking for."

       Forest: "A washbasin, washcloth, and a cup to rinse out my mouth."

       Dash laughed, "I have not seen any of those things in a long time, haven't even heard anyone mention them."

       It was as if Forest was suddenly struck by lightning, he just stood there with his mouth open, "You... ... you don't even wash your face?" he muttered.

       Dash: "Of course, only I do a little wash every three days, and a big wash every five days."

       Forest: "What does a small wash look like? How about a big wash?"

       Dash: "Swally, wash your face for Forest."

       Swally stretched lazily, "I washed my face yesterday, it should be your turn today."

       Dash sighed: "Then you should at least bring the little face washer over."

       Big G just finished bringing in two buckets of water. Swally used the old broken bowl to scoop out some water, and then took a yellow and black piece of cloth hanging from the wall, it was impossible to say what the original color of the rag had been.

       Dash reluctantly sat up, took a sip of water and held it in his mouth, spread out the cloth with his hands and gargled the water around his mouth. Then he spat the water on the cloth and rubbed his face with it, with a sigh of relief he said, "There, I am washed."

       Forest looked like he had seen a ghost, his face went pale, "This... this is what you call a little wash?"

       Dash: "Nope, that was a big wash. It would be outrageous if a little wash was so annoying."

       Forest's lips looked a little blue, as if he was going to pass out any moment. After a long, long while, he finally let out a long sigh, "If anybody could find someone dirtier then you guys, I would willingly bow before them."

       Dash: "You can start bowing, there are people dirtier than us all over the streets."

       Forest shook his head vigorously, "I doubt that."

       "Although we are dirty, we have clean hearts, not only clean, but exceedingly pure. If someone has an impure heart, even if they washed with soap ten times a day, they wouldn't be considered clean," Dash replied casually.

       Forest thought about it with his head hanging sideways, with a sudden clap of his hands he said, "Makes sense, makes a lot of sense. If someone is enjoying life, with a clear conscience, than it doesn't matter if they have plenty to eat or don't wash their face." He threw back his head and laughed loudly, ran into the courtyard and started rolling around on the ground, "I finally understand, I understand... why did it take me this long to understand," he said ecstatically.

       Dash and Swally watched him with big smiles. They were happy for him, because they had all known that he was dealing with a heavy issue.

       He had been doubting himself this whole time, but now he was certain that he had made the right decision.

      Life should be lived with a clean conscience, that is what matters most.

       Big G was washing his face, "Washing your face, not washing your face, it's all good, right?" he muttered.

       He finished washing his face, and then started wiping down his clothes with the cloth, and then his boots.

       Swally looked at him coldly, "You might as well take your boots off and wash your feet as well."

       Big G laughed, "I was thinking the exact same thing, but too bad there isn't enough time."

       He ran out the door in a hurry: "They must be up by now, I am going to go have a look back there."

       Forest: "Me too."

       They bolted out together, as if they were hurrying to put out a fire.

       Dash glanced sideways at Swally, "Gentle maidens long for a man of noble character, why aren't you going?" he said smiling.

       With a long face, "I am not noble," he casually replied.

       Dash: "You don't seem to like Sour Plum very much."

       Swally remained quiet, "What do you think they are up to?" he said all of a sudden.

       Dash rolled his eyes, "Are they not street performers of martial arts?"    

       Swally: "You are a fool if you actually think they are street performers."

       Dash: "Why?"

       Swally: "Haven't you noticed that the monkey and those dogs don't listen very well, like they found them last minute to put up a front. And then there is Flying Leopard, wearing that bizarre outfit, when in fact he is actually quite well mannered. He doesn't talk much, his hands are delicate and slender, how is it that he carries boxes and takes care of the dogs all day?"

       Dash listened quietly, lastly nodding his head, "I never realized that you pay so much attention to details. But if they aren't street performers then who are they?"

       Swally: "Who knows, they might even be thieves."

       Dash smiled, "If they were thieves they probably would have stayed away, it's not like there is anything here that they would be after."

       Before Swally could reply they heard an alarming cry from the back.

       It was Big G.

       Someone like Big G, wouldn't cry out in surprise like that even if he had seen a ghost.

       There wasn't much in the world that could cause him to cry out in that way.

       Swally was the first to rush over.

       Dash also moved.


×      ×      ×

       The back courtyard was a little smaller than the front courtyard and it was full of bamboo. Long ago, when the moon was full and there was a gentle breeze, the old master would lay down here, listening to the blowing bamboo like the waves of the ocean.

       Like many other courtyards that grew bamboo, it was also named the "Sounds of Bamboo" courtyard, and the five rooms in the back were named the "Sounds of Bamboo Veranda."

       By the time Dash became the new master, he changed the name to "The Meatless Bamboo Veranda." Although he felt that the "Sound of Bamboo" was very elegant, it was too cliché now.

       He thought the first person to use the "Sound of Bamboo" name must have been a refined intellect, but the eightieth person loves clichés to the point of being an obnoxious moron.

       The courtyard was not only meatless, most of the bamboo had been cut away as well.

       Bamboo poles could be used to dry clothes, they were also good for making little shelters. So Dash would often trade bamboo in exchange for meat. In times of hunger, most people will forget all about being elegant.

       Sour Plum, Flying Leopard, and everyone had stayed here last night. But now, everything was gone, even the monkey and dogs. Big G and Forest were just standing there staring.

       There were several chests by their feet, brand new chests. 

       Dash: "Have your guests left without saying goodbye?"

       Big G nodded.

       "So they left, no need to make a big fuss crying out like that about nothing," Swally said coldly. 

       Big G didn't say anything, but passed them the piece of paper that was in his hand.

       The words were written with charcoal, "Five chests, please accept them as rent, until we meet again."

       Swally: "They should have to pay rent, what is so odd about that."

       Big G sighed, "Not exactly odd, it's just that I think they overpaid."

       Dash: "What is in the chests?"

       Big G: "Nothing really, just some stinky copper wares."

×      ×      ×

       If you said that money smelt like stinky copper, then these five chests were more than enough to cause thirty-eight thousand people to pass out. Four of the chests contained nothing but gold ingots. Small ones, big ones, every kind of gold ingots you could image, the smallest one was 500 grams. Even if you didn't pass out from the smell, the pressure would be unbearable.

       One of the chest was full of gems. All types of precious gems: pearls, jade, onyx, and a great many that nobody even knew what they were called.

       Any one of these chests was more than enough to buy all of Prosperity Villa.

       Dash and Swally were staring blankly.

       After a long time, Swally finally managed to speak, "When they arrived last night, they didn't have these five chests with them."

       Big G: "Nope."

       Forest: "Then where did the chests come from?"

       "Stolen or pillaged from somebody," Swally laughed coldly.

       Big G: "The stamps on these gold ingots are all different."

       Swally: "Of course, no one family would have this many gold ingots at home, these were clearly stolen from countless different families."

       Dash sighed, "Whoever can steal this much in one night has some insane skills."

       Swally: "Nothing uncommon about that, master thieves could rob hundreds of houses in one night."

       Big G: "They put in so much effort to steal all of this, and then just leave it here, not many thieves like that."

       Swally: "Perhaps they are trying to frame us."

       Big G: "Frame? Why would they want to frame us? We never did anything to them."

       "Did you really think that she was falling for you, and she specifically came to give you these five chests as a dowry?" Swally slowly asked.

       Forest: "Who cares about all of that, what are we supposed to do about these five chests now?"

       Big G: "What to do? Since they gave them to us, we might as well accept them."

       "This guy has a real knack for something, no matter how complicated the situation, with one word everything is just so simple," Swally exclaimed.

       Big G: "What's so complicated about that."

       Dash: "It's complicated."

       Big G: "What's so complicated?"

       Dash: "They definitely would not leave us all this gold for no reason, they must have a hidden agenda."

       Swally: "Besides, all of this is stolen, if we keep it, doesn't that make us criminals too?"

      Dash: "I am ok with almost anything, but I will never stand for stealing. If you steal once and make an easy buck, you will never want to do another day of honest work for the rest of your life."

       Swally: "Not only that, your children will become thieves too, a whole family of crooked thieves."

       Big G laughed, "No need to make a stink, although I tried being a thief once, I not only didn't enjoy any loot, I lost my only sword in the process."

       Dash: "Stealing takes a special kind of skill, it's not like anyone could be a thief."

       Forest: "I think it is best if we return these things to the rightful owners."

       Big G: "Return them to who? Who knows from where these things were stolen."

       Swally: "We can always ask around."

       Big G: "Where are we supposed to go to ask?"

       Swally: "The base of the mountain. Since all of these things were stolen last night, they must have been stolen from the surrounding area."

       Big G was staring at the chest of gold, sighing, "You were right, this is not a poor place... Any place with this much gold, is not considered poor."

       He suddenly laughed, "It looks like Prosperity Villa will actually be wealthy for at least today."

×      ×      ×

       Although Prosperity Villa wasn't prosperous for very long, they were happy.

       Because they made a wise decision.

       They renounced riches, but kept their integrity.

       This was perhaps the closet they ever came to being wealthy. They had no desire for wealth and fame; they were not willing to accumulate wealth through greedy, vile, or treacherous ways. Hence they were always happy, like flowers bathing in the spring sun.

       They knew that happiness would always be more delightful than material wealth.


       Old Mr. Barley.

       Old Mr. Barley was the name of a little restaurant, it was also the name of a person.

       Old Mr. Barley's BBQ smelt so good it was said that all the people and dogs within ten miles couldn't resist the smell. Old Mr. Barley was the owner of this little establishment, the master chef, and waiter.

       Other than barbecued meats, Old Mr. Barley only sold plane white rice and congee. If you wanted to drink, you had to go to the liquor store next door and buy some, or you could take your meat and go eat next door.

       People tried to persuade Old Mr. Barley, why don't you sell alcohol, wouldn't you make a lot more money?

       Old Mr. Barley was stubborn. Most people like Mr. Barley from the Canton region were stubborn, so if you wanted to drink, you had to go buy it yourself. If you were not happy about this, there wasn't anywhere else you could go.


       Because Old Mr. Barley not only had the best BBQ, it was also the only restaurant around.

       The people from the mountain town even tried to cut down on burning oil, let alone spending money on eating out. So even if someone wanted to compete with Old Mr. Barley, they would be out of business in a few days.

       Old Mr. Barley never had any ill feelings towards Dash, Big G and friends. Although they were poor, they always paid their bill.

       Every time they came, they always had a couple silver pieces. They always ate a lot. Regardless of the restaurant, no owner would detest customers who eat a lot.   

       Diagonally opposite of Old Mr. Barley was Dash's "uncle."

       His uncle meant the pawnshop.

       Pretty much every time they came to eat they stopped by their uncle's place first. Every time they came out there was a little more bounce to their strides.

       But not today. 

       They walked right past their uncle's place, with their chests held high. You could tell by the way they walked that their pockets were definitely not empty.

       Old Mr. Barley was relieved but perplexed, "Ugh yah blokes thieves now? Scads money out the blue?"

       Blokes was not always an insult, sometimes it totally implied affection.

       There was four of them this time, and Old Mr. Barley welcomed them before they got to the door. He spoke the Canton Mandarin poorly, "You be gitten so early?"

       Fear not heaven or earth, but be very afraid of Mandarin spoken by the Cantonese.

       Big G was used to it, even if he didn't understand everything he could guess his meaning. "It's not that we are early, it's that we got paid earlier than expected. Cut up two roasted goose, five pounds of crispy skin, and a soy sauce chicken," Big G said with a smile.

       Old Mr. Barley blinked, "Ya drinking?"

       Big G: "Of course, bring us a keg, will pay you all together when we are done."

       He spoke with confidence, because the gold ingot he was carrying weighed at least 500 grams.

       Since they were trying to find out who had been robbed, there was no harm in spending a little bit of their gold. When you are hungry who has the energy to even talk, let alone make inquiries.

×      ×      ×

       As the alcohol slowly flowed out of the keg, their feelings of responsibility started to rise up.  

       They were drinking on someone, so they should help that someone out.

       They were definitely not free loaders.

       Consequently Big G had to ask, "Anything interesting happen these last couple of days?"


       The most exciting news around town was Mrs. King, the owner of the general store gave birth to twins.

       This was getting strange.

       Big G: "Maybe they didn't steal from here."

       Swally: "It certainly was."

       Big G: "Then why wasn't anyone from around here robbed? So much stolen during the night was sure to be a big deal, people should be going crazy."

       Swally: "They are not willing to talk about it, it's not that it didn't happen."

       Big G: "There is nothing embarrassing about getting robbed, why wouldn't they say anything?"

       Swally: "If they made their money through illegitimate means, and then were robbed themselves, all one could do is suffer in silence."

       Big G smiled, "Sounds like we tried our best, and this has nothing to do with us anymore, right?"

       By this time, pretty much most of the alcohol was already in his belly, and squeezed out any sense of responsibility he had left. He suddenly felt at ease, "Bring us another keg," he said loudly.

       Old Mr. Barley hadn't made it out the door when three people walked in all of a sudden.

       The first person was very tall, clothes glistening gold, he looked magnificent. The second person was even taller and abnormally thin. But they didn't get a good look at them, because all of their attention was focused on the last person.

       This person was dressed all in black. Black clothes, black pants, black boots, black gloves, with a broad brimmed black hat tightly wrapped around his head.

       If he wasn't wearing the broad brimmed circular hat, you still wouldn't be able to see his face. Even his face and head were wrapped in black cloth. All that was showing was a pair of eyes, staring out like daggers. 

       This was something you would wear in the middle of the night, something you would wear to accomplish secret deeds during the cover of dark. But he was dressed like this openly in the middle of the day.

       What did he look like?

       What kind of person was this?

       Nobody knew, they couldn't see anything. There was absolutely no part of his body showing, not even an inch.

       But for some reason, everybody had the feeling that every inch of him was dangerous.

       The most dangerous part was clearly the sword at his back.

       A dark, black scabbard, four feet seven inches long.

       Not many people used this kind of sword, because it wasn't easy to pull such a long sword out of the scabbard. That would definitely require a certain kind of dexterity.

       A person who could use such a sword would not be an easy opponent. Taking such effort to draw a sword, it wouldn't be sheathed so easily.

       By the time it was sheathed, there would be blood.

       The blood of others!

×      ×      ×

       After the three of them walked in, they sat at the inner most table in the corner. As if they were not willing to bother others, more importantly, they didn't want anyone bothering them.

       What they ordered: "Anything."

       Meaning they were not here to eat, were not concerned about eating.

       If people were not concerned with eating, they were either depressed or had to have something on their mind. No matter what they were thinking about, it most definitely wasn't something that would make you happy.

       Forest was staring at the sword the whole time, "The sword is still sheathed, and the atmosphere is murderous," he muttered.

       Dash: "More like a murderer, not a murderous sword."

       Forest: "Do you know who that person is?"

       Big G sighed, "Nope, all I know is that even if I was stupid drunk there is no way I would pick a fight with him."

       "I know the other two," Swally said all of a sudden.

       Big G: "But they don't know you."

       Swally smiled, "Who am I, why would such famous people know who I am," he replied casually.

       Big G: "They are famous?"

       Swally: "The one sitting on the outside, super tall and skinny, he is called The Rack, or The Rod."

       Big G: "He kind of looks like a rod. The Rack, that is interesting."

       Swally: "The rack refers to an instrument of torture, no matter how slippery the thief, when they are on the rack, they will say whatever you want them to say, would even call you daddy."

       Big G: "He could do that?"

       Swally: "Rumor has it that he can make anyone tell the truth, he could even get a confession from the dead."

       Dash: "He is definitely ruthless."

       Swally: "His nickname is The Rod, he is known to beat people on sight. No matter who he gets a hold of, they are going to be bruised and bloody. When criminals catch sight of him, it's as if they saw the grim reaper or the devil himself."

       Dash: "What does he do?"

       Swally: "He is the head constable of Qinghe county in charge of catching criminals."

       Dash: "Although Qinghe county isn't very large, looks like there was some hidden talent."

       Swally: "That's why he hasn't been promoted, because his methods are too extreme. But no matter where there is an important, unsolvable case, they all have to go to Qinghe county for his assistance."

       Big G: "What about that dear old chap with sparkling gold clothes?"

       Swally: "His surname is Gold, and he loves the color gold, so he is called the Golden Lion; although, behind his back, they call him the Golden Retriever Poodle."

       Big G laughed, "To be fair, this person doesn't look like a poodle at all."

       Swally: "Have you ever seen a poodle?"

       Big G: "I have seen all kinds of dogs."

       Swally: "What is the biggest thing on a poodle's face?"

       "The nose!" Forest interrupted.

       Swally: "What is the smallest?"

       Forest: "The mouth."

       He had a good laugh, "When I was a child I raised several poodles," he explained.

       Swally: "Have another look at that person's face."

       From their angle, they just had the right view of the Golden Poodle's face.

       No matter who looked at his face, there was no way of avoiding his nose.

       His nose took up an entire one third of his face.

       Most people have mouths wider than their nose, but his nose was in fact wider than his mouth; if you were looking down from the top of his head, there was no way you could see his mouth, because it would be completely blocked by his nose.

       Big G could barely hold back his laughter, "That is one big oversized nose."

       Dash: "His eyes probably aren't very good."

       "How would you know?" Big G asked curiously.

       Dash: "Because his eyes are divided by his nose, so his left eye can only see things on the left, and his right eye can only see things on the right."

       Before he finished his sentence, even Swally couldn't hold back his laughter.

       Big G: "I still haven't found his mouth."

       Swally held back his laughter, "The little hole under his nose, that is his mouth."

       Big G: "That is his mouth, I thought it was his nostril."

       Forest: "How is it possible that there is a moustache growing from his nostrils?"

       Big G: "I thought that was nose hair."

       Dash: "When he eats, nobody can even tell where the food disappears. "

       Although they were trying their hardest not to laugh, they couldn't hold it any longer.

      Big G was laughing so hard he practically was slipping under the table. 

       The Golden Poodle suddenly turned his head and gave them a look.

       Just one look and then turned back around.

       That one look was enough.

       Everyone could feel the sharp edge from that one glance. His eyes did indeed have the appearance of a lion, even his eyeballs were yellow.

       They had already been trying to keep it down, and were even quieter now.

       Big G: "What is this person supposed to do?"

       Swally: "He is also a constable, two years ago he was the chief officer from the capital. Recently, I heard that he is in charge of all nine of the northern provinces."

       Big G: "He is dressed like a little flower prince, not some famous constable."

       Dash: "You also don't appear to be a penniless scoundrel."

       Forest: "What talent is he known for?"

       Swally: "His nose."

       Forest: "His nose?"

       Swally: "He does have a big nose, but it's not completely useless. I hear that his nose can pick up smells better than a dog, any person that he has caught scent of, no matter how they have changed their appearance, he can find them."

       Forest: "That sure is a real talent."

       Swally: "These two are top level masters from the Six Gates sect, they wouldn't be involved unless there is a major case, so..."

       Dash: "So you are wondering why they would suddenly come to a place like this."

       Swally: "I am certainly curious. If they are here because of what happened last night, how could they have gotten word so fast?"

       Just then, a women's scream could be heard from the street, as if someone was stepping on a chicken's throat.

       A women came running out from a house across the street, hair disarranged, with a short, plump man trying desperately to drag her back inside.

       She ended up sprawled out on the ground, crying loudly, "I don't even have enough money to buy a coffin now, why can't I tell people it was stolen?... You can't shut me up," she said sobbing.

       She became even more desperate, hitting her head on the ground, "Oh God, damn those thieves, have you no mercy, couldn't you leave me anything?... All of my gold, and my jewelry, any kind hearted person who returns it to me can have his share," she yelled, crying loudly.

      The man's face was changing from red to white, with all of his strength, he barely managed to dragged her back inside. He poked his head outside laughing uncomfortably, "What gold? Nothing was stolen."

       Big G and Swally exchanged glances, and were just about to ask Old Mr. Barley, "Who is that?"

       But The Rod was quicker.

       His voice was deep, speaking slowly, as if every word out of his mouth took great effort. It made people feel as if they better listen to every word.

       Old Mr. Barley: "I heard that this couple was from Kaifeng. They used to run a cotton business, saved up more than a thousand silver taels, then came here to downsize and live out the rest of their lives. It would certainly be odd if they had that much gold stolen."

       He wasn't one to talk much, but it seemed as if his jaw had been greased, even his Mandarin suddenly seemed to be a little better than usual.

       The Rod was listening.

       He spoke slowly and listened even more attentively; as if he was trying to chew on every word, swallow it all, never to be seen again.

       Waiting until Old Mr. Barley finished, "What is his last name?" he asked.

       Old Mr. Barley: "The man is Gao, and I think the women's family name is Luo."

       The Rod suddenly got up and quickly strode outside.

       The person dressed head to toe in black hadn't said a word, "Is it noon?" he suddenly asked.

       Old Mr. Barley: "It's just after one."

       Person in black: "Hand it over."

       The Golden Poodle hesitated, "This isn't the best place."

       Person in black: "It will do."

       With what seemed to be a sigh, the Golden Poodle pulled out a piece of gold, weighing close to 1 kg, placed it on the table and gently pushed it over.

       The person dressed all in black took it without saying a word.

       With a long sigh, the Golden Poodle stared out the window, "What a short day."

×      ×      ×

       But to some people, it seemed as if the day would never end.

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