Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
On the road
The weather in mid-April was obviously hot, and Zhang Xiaohu and Zhang Xiaohua started to sweat all the way to their backs after walking for half a bell worth of time.
At first, the two carried many thoughts in their hearts, and they also missed their family. Hence, they did not talk and the journey became a very quiet one.
However, as they walked for a longer time, their moods began to lift, and the beautiful scenery around them slowly opened their hearts, revealing smiles on their faces and they began to share some conversation.
Seeing the occasional horse that would run past, Zhang Xiaohua could not help but ask Zhang Xiaohu, “Second brother, it seems like there is quite some distance between Lu town and Pingyang city. How long do you think we will take to reach there?”
Zhang Xioahu looked at Zhang Xiaohua and smiled. He said, “It seems to be a few hundred li of distance. If we were to travel on foot, it should take roughly seventy to eighty days of time.”
Zhang Xiaohua was stunned and he asked, “So long? Then wouldn’t the weather start to cool by the time we reach Pingyang city?”
Zhang Xiaohu replied, “Of course we will not be walking for the whole journey, haven’t you heard what teacher Liu said? There is a carriage from Lu town to Pingyang city so after we reached Lu town, we will have to look for a carriage that is heading towards Pingyang city and give them some money. If not, we will be enjoying the autumn cool by the time we reach there, and our clothes will be tattered not to mention the shoes we have to wear while walking. From that, I could tell that you were not listening attentively when teacher Liu was talking.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face turned red as he said meekly, “I do not recall teacher Liu telling these to us, why don’t I remember?”
The two people conversed as they walked so they did not get bored, and finally, they managed to reach Lu town by noon.
This was the first time Zhang Xiaohua came to Lu town after the New Year incident, and when he saw the unchanged bustle of the streets, he felt complex emotions turning in his heart. Unknowingly, he stopped in his tracks while his mood turned clearer and his eyes turned brighter and the events that happened half a year ago flashed across his mind. His originally tender heart gradually matured as his thoughts went back to the sentimental times of his youth.
Zhang Xaiohu walked a few steps and noticed that Zhang Xiaohua was not following behind, so he turned around and patted on the latter’s shoulder. He said, “Why are you dazed? This is not the first time you came to Lu town, and it won’t be too late to become dazed when you reach Pingyang city.”
The slap woke Zhang Xiaohua out of his daydream and he smiled, “It has been a while since I came so I was thinking a little. I wonder where those two bullies are, hopefully we will not get to meet them.”
Zhang Xiaohu glanced at his surroundings warily and said, “En, but that is not unlikely. Lu town is only as big as a palm; it would be quite possible to meet them again.”
Zhang Xiaohua looked at Zhang Xiaohu’s expression and he said, “It is alright, second brother. There is no need to worry because even if we do stumble across them, they would probably not recognize us. After all, their attention was drawn towards the sister-in-law and hero Wen at that time.”
Zhang Xiaohu also felt that he was overreacting but he still said, “There is no harm playing on the side of caution. Let’s find a carriage and leave this place quickly. The sooner we leave, the safer we will be.”
After asking a passerby on directions to the nearest carriage station, the two hurriedly went to the “BiaoChi” carriage situated in the west of Lu town. After asking the owner, they learnt that a carriage has already set off in the morning, and the next trip will be in an hour’s time. Zhang Xiaohu quickly asked for a quote and reserved two seats on the carriage before he finally relaxed. Even though his heart felt reluctant from the casual expenditure of a few silvers, it was still necessary to avoid the long journey on foot. Hence, he took out the money from his pouch and paid the owner.
The two people did not dare to venture too far off, so they waited under the shade of a tree, opened their knapsacks and took out some of the dry rations their mother had prepared to eat hurriedly, before going over to the carriage station to get some water. Finally, they sat under the shade of the tree and waited for their departure time.
Not long after, the time for the carriage departure arrived, and all the passengers boarded the carriage. Including the two Zhang brothers, there were a total of seven people, an elderly couple, a middle aged woman with a younger lady, and a young scholar.
When it came to Zhang Xiaohu’s turn to board the carriage, he felt nervous as it was his first time using such a large carriage. The carriage was five to six times larger than the wagons commonly found in Guo village, and there were two horses that were pulling it. When Zhang Xiaohua drew the curtains to step inside the shack, he looked at the interior with curiosity, there were eight small tables placed together, several small mats arranged around them presumably for people to sit, and two windows on each side of the walls with their curtains drawn. Although there was nothing else that was particularly useful, and the mats were slightly worn, how could Zhang Xiaohua mind these details? He found a mat close to the window and sat down, while Zhang Xiaohu chose the seat beside him.
The other passengers also chose their seats, leaving only the young scholar who wrinkled his brow and pondered for a long time before taking out a white piece of cloth and setting it above a mat which he sat on. However, he shuffled after sitting down as though he was uncomfortable and glanced around at his surroundings. His eye brightened when he saw Xiaohua’s seat which was beside the window and a table, and he asked Zhang Xiaohua, “This little brother, I plan to read my book when the carriage is moving later. The light here is not too good, do you mind exchanging seats with me?”
Zhang Xiaohua had no objections, he could not read and the reason he chose a window seat was to look at the scenery when the carriage was moving. Since the scholar was sitting at the outmost corner of the carriage, he could still peek out of the curtains to enjoy the scenery so the two seats were no different to him. Hence, Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he nodded, and he lifted his body to switch seats with the scholar who cupped his hands gratefully.
When everyone was finally seated, a person from the carriage station drew open the curtains to invite a muscular man with a blade on his belt to sit in the last seat, before introducing the newest addition to the rest of the passengers, “This person is master Wang who will be taking care of your safety during this journey, please do not hesitate to find him if you encounter any problems.”
The muscular man cupped his hands towards the rest of the passengers and said, “This person here is Wang Qisheng, please take care of me during our trip.”
Finally, an old, slightly hunched man with a face full of wrinkles and a whip in his hand smiled towards the passengers and said, “This old man is your driver, I hope that we will have a smooth trip.” After finishing his sentence, he did not stay any further and walked off.
The person from the carriage station smiled and explained, “This driver Wang has an eccentric personality, I hope you are not offended, and I wish you a safe trip as well.”
After he finished his sentence, he pulled down the curtains and the carriage began to move off slowly.
Zhang Xiaohua peeked through the curtains that were lifted up by the wind to look at the trail behind. He felt the speed of the carriage picking up, and knew that he was getting farther away from home, and having left his old lifestyle, what would come next? An uncertain future. Even though the journey in the morning marked the beginning of his departure, he was still familiar with his surroundings. However, as the carriage started moving, he was stepping into unfamiliar territory, and his heart began to pump faster and his eyes turned watery. Nevertheless, Zhang Xiaohua continued to encourage himself, he has told his mother in the morning that the cry would be his last, and he would grow up and not cry anymore.
Zhang Xiaohu seemed to have noticed the change in his younger brother’s expression so he extended his hand to grab on to the latter, and smiled without saying anything. Zhang Xiaohua could understand his intention through his gaze, and his emotions began to stabilize.
As the carriage moved, the familiar surroundings grew more and more distant, but Zhang Xiaohua’s hope for the future grew as well.
During the journey, the passengers were not familiar with each other so there was not much conversation. Since it was the first time Zhang Xiaohua and Zhang Xiaohu had traveled so far from their home, Zhang Xiaohu did not know what to say and he only held his brother’s hands. However, following the rhythm of the carriage, and adding on the fact that he did not have a good night sleep, his eyes slowly closed themselves and his body sprawled on the table as he fell asleep.
Zhang Xiaohua released himself from his second brother’s grip and pondered if he should pull a blanket over him. However, the afternoon weather was still hot, and a gentle breeze came in from the windows of the carriage, so he put away the idea.
The driver for their journey was pretty skillful, even though the two horses were galloping across the main road at a high speed, the passengers inside the carriage did not feel too much instability. Hence, most of the passengers were asleep like Zhang Xiaohu.
Zhang Xiaohua also wanted to sleep, the journey was long and he could not possibly entertain himself with the scenery for the whole trip. He felt that something was strange with his body, even though he had no problems sleeping at night, he could not fall asleep in the day no matter how hard he tried. He remembered that this had not always been the case, he would use to go to the shade under a tree every day after lunch to take a nap. Since when did he lose this habit? What a pity, he wanted to experience napping on the cool large rock under the tree beside his field. Whatever, he should stop thinking of the fields, and the rock can be left there for his eldest brother to sleep on. However, Zhang Xiaohua was also mystified, he had heard from his eldest brother that nobody was able to wake him up before the sky turned lighter, what could be the cause of this? Furthermore, about his dreams, he always had the same dream every night. Zhang Xiaohua pondered until he was annoyed and he shook his head in confusion.
Oh right, his strength has also grown by quite a stretch. Even though he has not competed with his eldest brother or second brother in strength, he was confident that he would not lose. Thinking of this made him happy, he was only thirteen years old so by the time he reached his elder brother’s age, his strength must have grown even more, and he would be an even greater help in the fields, ah, why did he think of working in the fields again? He should concentrate on picking up martial arts since protecting his family in the case of an emergency was his highest priority, who knows if the Xicui mountain bandits have really let go of their revenge?
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua continued to let his imagination run wild as the carriage continued to move throughout the whole afternoon until the sky darkened. Then, the carriage began to slow down.
The other passengers in the carriage also began to wake up one by one. Zhang Xiaohu rubbed his eyes and stretched his lazy bone. Then, he looked out of the window and asked Zhang Xiaohua, “Xiaohua, have you slept? Where are we now?”
Zhang Xiaohua gloomily replied, “I did not sleep, however, I do not know where we are at.”
Zhang Xiaohu smiled as he said, “You would be an immortal if you did.”
At that moment, the scholar sitting beside Zhang Xiaohu said, “We are reaching Bao town, which is a town around the same size as Lu town.”
Zhang Xiaohu was surprised as he said, “Bao town, what a good name. Could there be any treasure (Bao) in the town?”
The young scholar was also surprised by his response, and sniggered as he replied, “This elder brother is humorous. I have not heard of any treasure in Bao town, but the town got its name because there was a famous person named Bao who came from this city.”
Zhang Xiaohu suddenly felt embarrassed.