Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Entering the city
When the carriage began to move off, there were two new additions to the passenger list. One was a gentleman wearing silk while carrying a fan in his hands, looking very suave while the other was a pudgy youth with small beady eyes. The two new passengers were obviously unfamiliar with each other as they looked for their own seats separately.
Like how similar people stick together, the young scholar Li Jinfeng and the silk-robed gentleman clicked together and began chatting not long after the carriage started to move. Hence, the rest of the passengers also got to learn that the silk-robed gentleman was named Shangguan Yun, and he came from Xu town. However, their conversations were not too personal so he did not share his reason for going to Pingyang city. Shangguan Yun appeared to be quite proud as he only spoke to Li Jinfeng while completely ignoring Zhang Xiaohua. Even when he looked at Zhang Xiaohua occasionally, a wrinkle would form between his brows, and even though Zhang Xiaohu was too preoccupied with his thoughts to notice, Zhang Xiaohua could naturally pick up his signals very clearly. It made him wonder as he bent his head to look at his and his brother’s clothes, but there did not seem to be anything unusual as they were new clothes their mother had prepared for their journey. Hence, Zhang Xiaohua grew more anxious and his forehead began to perspire.
Actually, Zhang Xiaohua would not be able to understand that he and his brother’s rural backgrounds were evident from their attire and behavior. Anyone who would observe them for a short while could tell that they were from a remote village, and it was their first time travelling on such a long journey. The previous passengers did not have any outstanding background so they were less affected by these brothers’ companionship, and Li Jinfeng is a scholar who advocates equal treatment and would not show his disdain on his face even if he feels so. However, this Shangguan Yun was different from the rest, even though he was not being intentionally mean and lofty, his wealthy background meant that even his servants were better dressed and mannered than the two Zhang brothers. He had chosen not to use his own carriage to try the commercial carriage for the experience, and upon seeing the two country bumpkin in front of him, he would naturally feel some irritation despite having no ill intent. Hence, his behavior would cause Zhang Xiaohua to be confused.
The pudgy man who was sitting beside could also see Shangguan Yun’s expression, and as he looked over to Zhang Xiaohua, he pursed his lips and squint his eyes although one cannot be sure to whom he was disdained of. However, seeing that he has repeatedly tried to enter the conversation between Shangguan Yun and Lin Jinfeng, it was more likely that the pursed lips were meant for Zhang Xiaohua.
Shangguan Yun was chatting with Li Jinfeng, and suddenly he asked, “Brother Li, having stayed in Pingyang city for such a long time, do you know of the Lotus escort?”
Li Jinfeng was surprised and he said, “Of course I do, almost everyone in Pingyang city would have heard of this escort station. They are located in the west of the city, and the place seems to be quite big. I have heard that their influence is widespread, and they have opened many branches across country Yu. Brother Shangguan, why would you suddenly raise them up, do you have any business with them?”
At that moment, the pudgy man who was sitting at a side finally found his chance to interrupt, he cupped his hands and said, “Dare I ask if gentleman Shangguan is also going to Lotus escort for the interview?”
Shangguan Yun looked at the pudgy man in surprise, and asked, “May I know if you are doing so as well?”
The pudgy man said, “I am Yu Lun, and am indeed heading to Lotus escort.”
Shangguan Yun smiled as he said, “I did not expect this neighbor to be someone who is on the same road as me, I have failed to pay my respects. However, has brother Yu ever gone to Lotus escort before?”
Yu Lun replied, “I have been to Pingyang city, but that trip was for leisure so I did not have the opportunity to visit there. When I heard that the Lotus escort was calling for new members, I decided to come along and try my luck to see if I get picked. However, brother Shangguan seems to be quite well-off, may I know why you chose to join this escort business?”
Shangguan smiled bitterly as he answered, “I came here secretly without informing anyone. The people in my household are always forcing me to study literature, but my head would get dizzy when I see those books. A few days ago, one of my subordinates mentioned the Lotus escort to me, and feeling that it is pretty good, I decided to go over and try out as well. Given that I have been taught some martial arts for health since I was young, I think that there should be no problems for me to enter the organization. Once I gain some real ability, I will be able to return home without looking at the faces of those old fogeys at home, and my life would be peaceful from then on.”
After saying this piece, he turned to Li Jinfeng and said urgently as though out of guilt, “Brother Li, I am not putting down any of you scholar-like people, but I never had an interest in books since I was born, I hope you don’t take any offence from my words.”
Li Jinfeng smiled as he said, “Of course not, everyone has his own calling, and there is no problem with just saying.”
However, he was displeased in his heart and thought that they were all a bunch of reckless martial artist wannabes.
At that moment, Zhang Xiaohu who was sitting at his corner spoke up and asked, “Excuse me, do you know if this Lotus escort has any relations with the Lu town’s Lotus escort?”
Shangguan Yun maintained his silence so it was Yu Lun who answered him, “This little brother must be from Lu town right, Lotus escort is a very large organization that has many branches in different places, Lu town would naturally have one of their branches as well.”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded and said, “En, I know this, but I have another question.”
Yu Lun smiled as he said, “Little brother can ask as he please and I will try to answer what I know.”
The pudgy man lifted his cheeks and smiled like a well-meaning teacher while Zhang Xiaohua continued to ask, “What does an escort station do?”
“Dang” the pudgy Yu Lun’s head struck on the hood of the carriage and he fell onto the carriage floor.
Li Jinfeng and Shangguan Yun were equally astonished as they looked at Zhang Xiaohua in disbelief. Zhang Xiaohua felt strange and he asked, “What is the matter with you two? Do you not know what an escort station does as well?”
At that moment, the bodyguard who was keeping quiet at a side spoke up, “Little brother must be going out for the first time right.”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded while the bodyguard began to explain, “An escort station is where people who know martial arts would gather at, and they either help to deliver valuable goods or act as bodyguards to protect their client.”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded despite not understanding the explanation as he thought in his heart, “Hero Wen said that if our household faces any problems, then we can bring the plaque to the Lotus escort in Lu town. I guess that the Lotus escort must have some relations with Piaomiao sect.”
Zhang Xiaohu also felt embarrassed as he watched Zhang Xiaohua asked his questions, but these were also questions on his mind which he did not dare to ask. Since Zhang Xiaohua has asked them, at least he could listen from his side.
At that moment, the pudgy Yu Lun sat back up while Li Jinfeng and Shangguan Yun regained their composure. However, Zhang Xiaohua asked again, “Then are elder brother Shangguan and elder brother Yun going to Lotus escort to become bodyguards?”
The three people lost their bearings again.
Yu Lun laughed as he explained, “Little brother, it is like this. The Lotus escort does not only provide protection services, they would teach their own members martial arts as well. We are going to the Lotus escort to learn martial arts from there.”
Upon hearing his explanation, Zhang Xiaohua and Zhang Xiaohu’s eyes brightened as they exchanged glances and thought of the same thing. Zhang Xiaohua asked again, “Elder brother Yu, how does the Lotus escort choose its members?”
Yu Lun replied, “It should include a test of strength, fist and weaponry mastery at a minimum, although I am not too clear of the details myself.”
When Zhang Xiaohu heard his answer, he quietly remembered it in his heart.
Shangguan Yun was at the limit of his patience and he said, “Why do you ask so many questions, are you interested in participating yourself?”
Yu Lun said, “Little brother is too young so they will not accept you as a member. However, your elder brother here may try out for their trials.”
Zhang Xiaohu asked, “Really?”
Yu Lun blinked his eyes and said, “Yes, you will have no problems.”
Zhang Xiaohu was overjoyed and he asked, “In that case, can you bring us along when you go over tomorrow? We are unfamiliar with the place.”
Yu Lun smiled as he said, “That is no problem, we can all go together tomorrow.”
Then, the three men started discussing about some other topic which Zhang Xiaohu and Zhang Xioahua could not understand, and the two brothers happily turned their attention to the scenery outside, as though looking forward to the hope that the first ray of sunlight would bring the next day. Unfortunately, they were still inexperienced with the world so they did not notice the frown between Shangguan Yun’s brows and the snide in Yu Lun’s gaze. Only the bodyguard caught these signals, but when he thought of how this was the two brothers’ first trip, it would be natural for them to face some obstacles and since these were not major problems, he decided not to intervene.
The carriage travelled under the darkness of the night towards Pingyang city. Thus, the two Zhang brothers who were looking forward to a view of the city had their hopes extinguished as they could only see the city entrance swallowing the other carriages like a monster’s mouth, and the swaying oil lamps outside the doors of the houses along the streets.
The carriage went further into the city for quite a distance before it stopped at a rather remote location. Everyone got off the carriage, and they were indeed greeted by another “Biaochi” carriage station signboard, which meant that they were probably at the Pingyang city branch in the carriage station. It was already very late at night so the carriage station person invited the passengers into the store where they had a casual meal before separating to their respective rooms. The two Zhang brothers naturally chose to sleep in the common sleeping room again, while Zhang Xiaohua did not know where the other three men headed to. Although he wanted to ask about going to Lotus escort together on the next day, the three men appeared exhausted so despite opening his mouth, no words came out of it.
The common sleeping room at the carriage station in Pingyang city was cleaner than the ones in the other towns, and there were fewer fellow travelers as well. After a long day of travelling, Zhang Xiaohua could not resist the temptation as he jumped into bed and fell asleep immediately, while Zhang Xiaohu carefully kept the knapsack and slipped them under his head as a pillow before going to falling into a deep sleep.
In the morning of the next day, the two brothers woke up very early and had their breakfast before waiting outside at the entrance for the other three men to come out. However, after a period of fruitless waiting, the two brothers became anxious and went back into the carriage station to inquire on the three men. Then, they learnt that after Shangguan viewed the rooms, he felt that it was not comfortable enough so he called Yu Lun and Li Jinfeng to find another inn, and hence, this scholar Li Jinfeng’s beat on his chest in guarantee and the pudgy Yu Lun’s mouthful of promises disappeared with the wind. The two brothers exchanged glances as they wondered, how could these people be so flippant with their promises?
The two brothers debated on whether to go Piaomiao sect or Lotus escort, and Zhang Xiaohu made the final decision to go Piaomiao sect, but where was it located at? The two brothers went back to the carriage station to ask for directions, and fortunately the person manning the counter had a good attitude, and the Piaomiao sect’s name was so widespread so they found their answers without much difficulties. It appeared that Piaomiao sect was not located within the city walls, but were at Piaomiao mountain villa ten li east of the city.
The carriage station was in the west side of the city, so the brothers had to cross the whole city to reach the east entrance. Hence, the two brother left the carriage station after they received specific directions from the man at the counter.
The carriage station was located in a remote corner at the west side of the city, and even though the sun had risen high up into the sky, there were not many people around. After the two brothers walked for quite a distance, crossed an alley and turned at a bend, they involuntarily stopped in their tracks, while Zhang Xiaohua stared at the scene in front of him as he asked Zhang Xiaohu, “Second brother, is it the New Year again?”