A Rain Of Blood Stains Flowers Red Chapter 1
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Spring represents the beginning of a new year!
Spring thaws out the earth and rejuvenates it!
Spring makes the withered trees come back to life, makes the bald poplar and willow branches shoot forth tender buds—a tiny green regeneration.
Spring is a kind of new wish—the year's plans depend on spring!
The spring sun is nice and warm, enough to stir up your dormant heart with ripples of youthful vigor.
The spring sun melts new snow, moistening the parched fields.
Spring kindles love like fire—
Spring stirs ripples of l.u.s.t in the heart—
The spring breeze is far-reaching—
Flowers blossom all over the spring cities—
Onset of spring, end of spring, late spring, spring twilight, spring love, cherished spring, lamentable spring, poetic spring, pitiful spring, spring outings, memories of spring…
The sights of spring vex one till he can't sleep, when will the happy days arrive? Spring rains stain flowers red, “Spring River on a Flower Moon Night”, “Ride the spring breeze to success”, “Spring has come back to the earth”, “Bright, radiant days of spring”…
Ai ai… too much, too intimate, it would take forever to sum it all up. The world really loves dearly “spring”. Autumn and winter, by comparison, get the cold shoulder. After enduring the long, bitter winter, people look forward to the arrival of spring the way people look to the clouds for a rainbow presaging rain during a big drought. And spring lives up to expectations as it quietly arrives—
And so: “the duck is the first to know when the spring water is warm”. When the flocks of ducks fan their wings and light on the ponds and splash around in the water, then you know that spring is here. And you, well then you can doff your fur hat and throw off your old cotton-padded coat! Face the morning sun and stretch your back and proclaim, “What a wonderful spring!”
A young shop a.s.sistant, “Pillar”, propped opened the window sash to let the spring sun s.h.i.+ne in.
The hundreds of icicles dangling from the eaves melted in the dazzling sun, drip drip dripping pearls of water—
The saying that “dripping water can pierce a stone” is really true. Never seen it? Just follow the path from the rooftiles to the eaves and down to the ground, where it is littered with tiny pits. This shop must have been around for many years. It was not a big shop, but it had a nice name—”Spring Greetings”. From the sound of it you might not know, is it a tavern or an inn? Or a soybean shop? An oil mill?
In fact, none of those guesses would be wrong. It was all of those things. It sold wine, food, had all the furnis.h.i.+ngs for guests who wanted to stay the night, and it extracted oil and ground soybeans to make tofu.
Every year when spring arrived, Spring Greetings was bound to profit again. The fur traders came back from beyond the pa.s.s, at least a hundred or so of them, and they all stopped here.
These people brought their newly-skinned animal hides and arranged them here, set them out on racks to dry in the sun and the wind, then they'd beat, rub, sc.r.a.pe, and knead, making them soft. Pack them up, bundle them together, completing their fur preparations…
Don't think this was a simple matter. It took a month or so to complete.
They had products, and their bags held money. They had been hard at work all winter and this month at Spring Greetings they warmed up, these men, a bit loath to move about. All day they ate and drank and idled away their time playing around, and when they had dillydallied enough, they sought the docks.
Spring Greetings had good, aged wine, first-rate food—air-dried chicken, seasoned ham, and game that was hard to come by in other parts. It had it all: deer jerky, frozen rabbit, whoo boy! Heat it up, tear off a strip, and get some aged sorghum liaquor to go with it. No need to mention how good that would taste.
Spring Greetings could not be compared to other small shops. That signboard had been hanging there for nigh on seventy or eighty years.
Mentioning “Spring Greetings” made one think of the shopkeep, Zuo Dahai. Zuo Dahai was nicknamed “Fiery-eyed Diamond”. It was said he used to be a leader of a band of mountain outlaws beyond the pa.s.s who had later reformed, broke up his gang and turned over a new leaf and took root here, opening this shop for business.
Maybe it was because of his former reputation, plus the fact that he was an expert at making money, but in any case ever since he opened the shop, all the way to the present day, the place's business never once let up!
It was no easy feat to be able to do decent business in this impoverished land, which was frozen up with ice and snow for half the year. In the past there had been two other inns, but both closed down because they couldn't compete with Spring Greetings. Now, Spring Greetings outs.h.i.+ned all others in this “Ice River Town”. It was honored as the number-one shop, and that was a fair enough t.i.tle.
Ice River Town had no more than a hundred households, about half of them farmers, the other half hunters. On both sides of the vast Ice River were large old-growth forests, filled with birds. But if you wanted to hunt for large bear or more profitable pangolin scales or sable then you had to go outside town and beyond the pa.s.s, which was really close by.
To the north was the ma.s.sive Mount Hua, most of it closed off by ice and snow. Even at midsummer the peaks were still covered with a thick layer of snow. It was an offshoot of Mount Tian, an undulating mountain range, like big long-moustached carp twisted around there for more than a hundred miles!
To the east was the post road leading to the interior. The post road had very deep cart wheel grooves, only suitable for large carts and carriages pulled by postal-relay horses. Other smaller carriages often ran aground in the tracks—what a headache. So it was said that Ice River Town was forever guarded, and the dispositions of its people were like the terrain itself, aloof and standoffish toward outsiders.
On the flip side, the south was the most rich and populous area.
There, crops were grown year-round, millet, spring wheat, and other food grains were all grown there. Every spring and summer, the vast land was always green!
It was warm and sunny here, birds singing and flowers giving off their heady aromas!
This area connected with Ice River Town, but did not belong to Ice River Town. Even the residents of each place were a bit different, as if they lived in separate areas!
This place was called “Pine Ridge” and housed ten-thousand households. It was much wealthier and populous than Ice River Town.
If it wasn't for Pine Rock Road linking the two places, there would be no connection at all between them.
Pine Rock Road was like a long bridge linking the two naturally unequal brother towns together and preserving the only bit of relations between them. Otherwise, given the dispositions of the people in both places, they would have long ago had a falling out.
Ice River Town was the poor older brother, and Pine Ridge was the wealthy younger brother. Though the younger brother had money, the older brother was proud and stubborn and would never ask the younger brother to borrow money. If the younger brother had any feeling for this poor older brother, he ought to take the initiative and look after his older brother, otherwise the older brother would not be a social climber, and the two would not get along.
The morning sun of early spring shone on the green glazed rooftiles of the number-one wealthy and influential family in Pine Ridge, the “Tan” family, yet at the same time it shone on the number-one shop in Ice River Town—Spring Greetings!
The Tan family was the most prosperous in Pine Ridge, and Spring Greetings was the only prosperous business in Ice River Town. The two places were close together, one at one end, the other at the other end, the only thing separating them the rather lavish Pine Rock Road.
Spring Greetings' owner, Fiery-eyed Diamond Zuo Dahai, was the most important person in Ice River Town. Normally, he always looked down on everyone, but he didn't dare offend the influential Tan family, so much so that he took special care not to.
The patriarch of the Tan family was of unknown background and he rarely went out. He had a big home and a large enterprise, and he conducted himself well, it was just that he was something of a loner. Perhaps all rich men were kind of like that. In any case, since he rarely rubbed elbows with other bigwigs, it was difficult to understand him.
Fiery-eyed Diamond Zuo Dahai not only outwardly revered Tan, he admired him deeply! Even though they barely knew each other, Tan thought highly of him, as every year the old rich man would look after Zuo Dahai with a few thousand taels of business.
Zuo Dahai was also in the fur trade, and his furs were not like those other fur traders' who had to go through all kinds of hards.h.i.+ps to s.h.i.+p their pelts to the interior to sell them, as he only had to sell to one household—the Tan family.
He needed only the Tan family, in fact just old Master Tan himself, to move his lips and say: buy! And the Tan family steward, Mr. Hu, would take a carriage over and buy up all he had, and when he was about to leave, the s.h.i.+ning silver would be handed over and not a tael short!
Not to mention the good deal Zuo Dahai himself got, any fur trader standing close to him would be like a “bald head following the moon”—they would benefit a lot as well.
The reason Zuo Dahai revered Old Master Tan, on the surface seemed to be because of this. No one knew if that was really the case, only the man himself knew!
Spring Greetings had taken on a new look inside and out in order to welcome the fur traders coming in from beyond the pa.s.s.
There were a dozen tables in the downstairs dining room, all wiped down and cleaned. Five or six a.s.sistants were busy going back and forth, wiping down the oven with a chicken feather brush to clean off the rancid grease. Manager Zuo smoked a long-stem pipe, a corner of his kidskin fur-lined gown tucked in his belt, revealing his silk trousers tied at the leg. He walked around, giving instructions.
He was in his fifties and still looked hale and hearty, no wrinkles on his face, and his voice was frighteningly loud. When he gave a long, hacking cough, you could hear it clearly from a hundred feet away.
Word came from the town gates that the first horse cart had entered the pa.s.s. An a.s.sistant, Guo Shun, came running in covered in sweat and out of breath, coming in so fast he tripped over the threshold and fell flat on his face.
Zuo Dahai frowned. “What's all this? The year is not over, so what are you doing?”
Guo Shun got up, his face red. “Manager, carts are coming! Seven big carts in all, more people than before!” Not only was he happy, the a.s.sistant manager at the counter, Xu Li, the accountant, Pocky w.a.n.g, and the gorgeously-dressed manager's wife, “Black Hornet” Hua Sigu, along with six or seven a.s.sistants, all ran out of Spring Greetings.
With the ice only just melted and the air cold, especially the frigid air blown up from Ice River, the cold cut like a knife or a pair of scissors, yet everyone was grinning.
The creaks of cart wheels came from the post road, kicking up spring mud, and the ice crystals in the wheel channels became two large water ditches, splas.h.i.+ng water up high as the cart wheels pressed over them.
The driver cracked his big whip, louder than a string of firecrackers.
And why not, there were seven large carts trundling westward, closing in like a long snake! There were only a few scattered white clouds in the deep blue sky. The sun was not hot but warm, just enough to melt the ice. The men were stamping their feet, hoping to drive the last trace of cold from their bodies! A few black eagles circled the sky, crying out nonstop, as if it were a special welcoming.
All household doors in Ice River Town opened and they all came out, shop a.s.sistants, young women, wives, old men and women, all of them come as if in welcome, faces wreathed in smiles, the annual greeting of this group of traveling traders!
Some among the fur traders were their old friends.
These wealthy friends were all willing to spend money, be it a bowl of “Old No.2” clear sorghum liquor or a fur coat, or a case of face powder or rouge, as far as the people of Ice River Town were concerned they were all great gifts.
Naturally, love was in the air as well. Young ladies who had held firm through the bitter winter could once again see their sweethearts. Those ostentatious, unconstrained fur traders invariably seemed heroic and spirited, far better by comparison to the local young men.
The large carts wended their way closer—
The driver of the first cart, “Ol' Jacka.s.s”, was best at wielding the whip. He snapped it out in a figure eight, two sharp cracks that could be heard for two miles!
The cart arrived and Ol' Jacka.s.s leapt down smartly, the first one off. Look at him, fur coat open, bearded mouth grinning as he went up to Manager Zuo with his hand cupped over his fist in greeting.
“Greetings, Manager… I've brought you some business!”
“Thank you, thank you!” They clasped both hands together, and in Ol' Jacka.s.s' palm was a big silver ingot worth ten taels.
An old custom, an understanding between them. If the giver did not mind, then the receiver even more so!
Right after the second cart arrived, the third… until all seven carts had stopped.
According to precedent, every cart for Zuo Dahai meant profits for them, so all the drivers were so happy they couldn't stop grinning as they set about unloading their cargo. Sixty to seventy a.s.sistants jumped down from the seven carts, every one of them in high spirits.
The townspeople crowded around, calling to one another at all the goods. This was the liveliest time of year for Ice River Town.
Zuo Dahai personally oversaw the trade, greeting everyone he knew, and he was even friendly to those he did not know.
By the time the travelers entered the shop every one of them, and the donkeys and horses were put up, it was already past noon.
With the bustle just starting up, the boss' wife, Hua Sigu, headed to the kitchen herself and killed chickens and sheep with the help of seven or eight big lads, and they got to work, Sigu giving instructions. She knew the tastes of this group of traders very well, and every dish that came out was met with high praise.
In the dining room, Zuo Dahai held a bowl of “Old No.2” in both hands and went around to each table offering toasts.
The man wearing the ermine coat inside out was Ge Xuesong, undoubtedly the leader of the company.
He was around thirty-two or thirty-three but still a bachelor, big and tall and said to be quite the martial artist. The others called him “The Next Lü Bu”. He was a bold lad with plenty of vigor, and though he was still young he had already ama.s.sed quite the fortune.
Zuo Dahai favored him exceptionally well.
He clapped him on the shoulder and gave a hearty laugh. “Excellent, Brother, you're really something! Men are men and business is business. Come, drink with me. Your big brother here will act as matchmaker. Whatever girl you like, brother, just say the word!”
Then he craned is neck back and downed the whole bowl of liquor.
“The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong laughed heartily and drained his bowl of Old No.2 as well till there was not a drop remaining.
“Brother!” Zuo Dahai said, getting back on topic. “You're not a young man anymore—forget a son, you're late with the grandkids!”
“Elder Brother Zuo, you're making fun of me!” This ordinary matter was enough to make Ge Xuesong's bushy eyebrows scrunch together.
He forced a smile and said uncomfortably, “You can't just get married by drawing lots with a matchmaker, and I am so busy going here and there, it will just have to wait.”
“Don't tell me out of all of Ice River Town and Pine Ridge there isn't a girl you like, Brother? Just what sort of girl are you looking for?”
“I—” Ge Xuesong held his tongue and smiled. He was a handsome lad, especially his teeth, each like a kernel of white corn, neat and straight.
“Let's not talk about that—”
“Alright!” Zuo Dahai changed the subject. “How was business this trip? Pretty good, right?”
One of his buddies sitting down—”Black Tiger” Tao Hong, roared with laughter. “Fine indeed! All things considered, it wasn't all for nothing. There's thirty or more pelts of just bear, not to mention everything else!”
“Wonderful!” Zuo Dahai laughed. “I really have to congratulate you all!”
“Black Tiger” Tao Hong pointed to Ge Xuesong. “Manager, you ought to congratulate our leader here. That White Archfiend who runs amok on Snowy Mountain was felled this time by our leader's own hand!”
Zuo Dahai recoiled in surprise, he couldn't contain his delight. “Really? You got the pelt?”
“White Archfiend” was a well-known, enormous white bear that had been haunting Snowy Mountain for years. The local residents, livestock, and crops had been harmed severely, and for the past few years a reward had been offered, and the government had sent people to hunt it, but it had killed more than a dozen hunters. No hunter had been known to even be able to get close to White Archfiend, so suddenly hearing that it was now dead and killed by “The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong, was both a surprise and a delight.
“The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong nodded happily and chuckled. “I was just lucky, that's all. Serves that d.a.m.n beast right, it deserved to die!”
“This is a joyous occasion, Brother, don't you realize?” Zuo Dahai stared at him wide-eyed. “If that really is White Archfiend, not only is the reward from Liangzhou prefecture a thousand taels of silver, but the pelt alone will bring five thousand taels!”
“Is that so?” Ge Xuesong gave a sideward glance and laughed. “Then I heard wrong. I heard someone was willing to pay ten-thousand taels!”
Zuo Dahai was taken aback. “Who'd you hear say that?”
“What's the difference!” Ge Xuesong took a drink and said slowly, “At any rate, I'm in no hurry to sell.”
“Fiery-eyed Diamond” Zuo Dahai laughed. “Yes yes—If you've got a pig's head, why fear not being able to find the temple doors?”
His laugh was rather forced. Just as he was getting annoyed, the a.s.sistant, “Pillar” from outside called out, “A guest is coming—”
Zuo Dahai was caught off-guard. “More guests? Impossible!” Everyone else was dumbfounded as well because their group of carts was the only one outside the pa.s.s; there was no way there would be a second group. On that long, desolate road it was simply impossible to travel alone, unless it was a local, and even then a local traveler wouldn't have to put up at an inn, right?
Zuo Dahai couldn't help but run out with a.s.sistant Manager Xu Li and Accountant Pocky w.a.n.g to welcome the guest.
It was dusk, and sure enough there was someone coming. Not in a carriage, but on a horse!
The person was all alone with a long, thin purple robe draped over him, and a winter cap of the same color on his head. Wind rustled his robe, and in the distance he really cut a das.h.i.+ng figure, yet there was also an air of humble melancholy about him.
The guest rode a thin, long-haired horse that was all black. It looked to be in the same poor state as its rider.
The lingering light of the setting sun shone on horse and rider and in a few blinks of the eye they were before the shop entrance.
Hooves kicked up snow and mud, the rider's robe flapping in the wind as he slowed his mount and trotted straight for Spring Greetings.
a.s.sistant Manager Xu Li was with Zuo Dahai and had seen it all clearly himself. He couldn't help but praise, “What a das.h.i.+ng figure!”
Zuo Dahai seemed unusually concerned. “You mean this person came from outside the pa.s.s?”
Xu Li squinted. “Must have—”
Xu Li stepped forward and reached out to grab the black horse's bridle bit ring, but he never imagined this thin horse would be so capable. It saw he was about to move him and it suddenly raised its forehoofs and neighed and opened its mouth to bite his hand.
Xu Li of course was not about to get bit, but it gave him a good fright.
“Son of a—” he cried out, and he reached around the horse's neck and smacked it.
That smack made the horse pull back and set its hooves down, snorting and huffing.
The rider laughed. “It's fine, I've got him.”
He got down from the horse, and now Xu Li noticed he was wearing sky blue satin thin-soled shoes, and they had not a speck of mud on them.
In fact, his entire garb, including his long, collared, purple robe, was spotless!
It was not often one saw such a neat freak in this small place.
The purple-clad guest led his horse with one hand to the shop entrance and Zuo Dahai cupped a hand over his fist and said, “Brother Zuo Dahai!
Now the three of them got a good look at the guest. He was around thirty with a fair face and long, elegant brows, deep and clear eyes. The air of an affable scholar about him. Though he had journeyed a long distance, he didn't seem like a man of the jianghu, and he didn't look to be fatigued from travel.
His baggage roll was still on his horse, wrapped with green waterproof silk.
He nodded, smiling, when Zuo Dahai stated his name. “I've long heard of Manager Zuo. You flatter me!”
“What is your honorable name, traveler?”
“Ah! My surname is Sang, like mulberry tree, that Sang.”
“Have you come from beyond the pa.s.s, Mr. Sang? Make a killng out there?”
The guest nodded. “Yes, I've come from outside the pa.s.s. I'm in the fur trade, but I don't know about making a killing!”
Zuo Dahai and Xu Li couldn't help but look him over again at hearing he was in the fur trade. There was no question about it, they had never seen this unfamiliar face before.
Zuo Dahai seemed curious as he looked again at the man's baggage. It was just a bag roll and a long rectangular bag made of leather, how much could they really hold?
The horse was led to the trough.
The guest was led inside.
This guest named Sang probably never expected there to be so many people inside. He took an astonished glance around and took a chair in the corner.
Everyone's eyes couldn't help but give him the once over.
A lone traveler not carrying any pelts, Zuo Dahai found that a bit odd, but he didn't pay it much mind. Besides, there were still a lot of guests that needed to be waited on!
Sang removed his long purple coat. Underneath he wore a black robe. It was too early in the year to be wearing something that thin.
He doffed his winter cap, revealing long hair tied up in a thick, short braid like a ponytail, loose at the end. It hung down over his left shoulder and made him look quite handsome and charming.
He must have caught a cold on the road, for the blue silk ribbon he wore on his head, three fingers wide from his forehead to the roots of his hair in back, contrasted with his slightly emaciated face. He really did look to be a bit under the weather.
His bag roll and leather bag sat on the table in front of him. The a.s.sistant, Pillar, came up and took his order. He ordered two horns of liquor and a small hot pot and two baked wheat cakes.
Food and drink arrived quickly.
Sang drank his liquor slowly as he looked out the window.
A few large bald eagles were flying around in the twilight, circling low and calling out.
Enchanting red clouds sat on the horizon, set off against the glazed rooftiles of the Tan household, reflecting a riot of color.
——The look in his eyes was like he was calculating something. He watched and watched… as if he had a lot weighing on his mind as he downed cup after cup of the strong Old No.2 liquor.
The guests in the dining room were getting tipsy, and after a long day, needed to rest.
The a.s.sistant manager and two a.s.sistants called everyone upstairs to rest, and the guests dispersed one after the other, until only the group at the middle table remained, consisting of “The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong and a few of his buddies.
“Fiery-eyed Diamond” Zuo Dahai and “Black Hornet” Hua Sigu accompanied them at the table.
The wife's enchanting eyes flitted up, as if she were stealing glances at the man named Sang.
“Master Ge, you go out beyond the pa.s.s often, have you ever seen that one before?” Black Hornet motioned with her eyes at the man named Sang.
Ge had already noticed him earlier.
He shook his head and mumbled, “No. What's he doing? A student come to sit for the imperial exams?”
“Pfft—” he laughed. Even he felt that was too funny, impossible.
Zuo Dahai laughed. “Brother, funny you should mention it. That Sang fellow is in the same line of work as you all!”
“What do you mean?”
“The fur trade.”
“Oh—” Ge Xuesong sized up Mr. Sang and shook his head. “No way! Manager, you must be mistaken.”
“That's what he said himself!”
“He's bulls.h.i.+tting!” Ge Xuesong was adamant. He shook his head again. “No way, no way!”
Hua Sigu curled her lips. “I don't think so either. Look at him, does he look like the type for heavy manual labor? Hmph—
“First time metting him, where does he get off with that load of bull!”
“You—” Zuo Dahai sighed. “Woman, don't be so judgmental, how do you know what he's up to? He's still a customer, isn't he?”
The woman narrowed her captivating eyes and nodded slowly.
“That's a good point. He could be a customer. Mm! He looks like it. That baggage roll is probably full of silver!”
“Tch—” Zuo Dahai looked sideways at his wife. “Silver, you only see silver. Everyone is silver to you!”
Hua Sigu c.o.c.ked her brow, ready to sa.s.s her husband when her eye caught something new—
“Hey! Look who's here—”
She didn't have to tell them. They all saw for themselves.
Zuo Dahai saw before she did.
Ge Xuesong noticed even before him!
They all had their eyes fixed, all except the man named Sang in the corner by himself, who still has his head lowered, drinking.
——How could he have not seen? It's just that he had something on his mind and would not be distracted.
——Perhaps he didn't recognize the person. But it was a rare thing to run across someone you didn't know in these parts.
The young woman sitting on her silver, patterned saddle, was around nineteen or twenty with large, limpid eyes… long and black hair that fell loose past her shoulders, and a tender pale face partly obscured by her red fox-fur cloak—
Her cloak hung from her saddle all the way to the ground, nearly touching it just like the purple-robed traveler's had.
A scarlet camellia flower was stuck into her hair at the temple, a beautiful flower, but the girl was even prettier, and with her horse being a b.l.o.o.d.y bay as well, horse and rider looked like a red cloud in the distance. In the blink of an eye she was before them.
“Fiery-eyed Diamond” Zuo Dahai shot to his feet at the sight. “Miss Tan—”
His voice was low, but his face betrayed boundless respect and admiration.
All eyes were drawn to the girl's graceful bearing. Anyone from a hundred miles all around who didn't know of Miss Tan must be deaf, and he'd have to be blind to not see her unsurpa.s.sed beauty!
Despite the fact that she lived in the same area, it was rare to get a chance to look up at this young lady's pretty face.
The Tan estate was a big mansion with a magnificent flower garden that covered a dozen acres, big enough for any amount of play, a large area indeed given that they rode horses around within the estate. The locals only had a chance to see her pretty face when she was in the mood to go out for a hunt.
Zuo Dahai had seen her several times, and it was always at such times.
Miss Tan sat her rouge horse, a carved, ornamented bow in her hand, her quiver loaded with white-plumed eagle feathered arrows, servants and retainers along with her, some with staged falcons, as well as barking dogs running along. One look at the lady's beautiful, faintly smiling face was enough to set everyone's hearts to thumping!
Such a beautiful, n.o.ble lady as her was a rare sight even within the interior of the Central Plains or apricot-blossoming Jiangnan, much less a small frontier town like this!
It was even more rare to see her out all by herself. What was she up to this time?
Her rouge mount stopped in front of Spring Greetings and Miss Tan tapped her saddle lightly and sprang down onto the ground before the steps like a flaming cloud blown by a fierce wind.
Just her deft lightness skill alone was astonis.h.i.+ng.
The a.s.sistant, Pillar, didn't wait to be told but deferentially hauled the doors open, and his perceptive eyes, as fiery as their boss', caught a quick glimpse of her and he was just about drooling!
Miss Tan seemed to be in a bit of a huff, her face cold as a clear spring as she flung the hood of her red fox-fur cloak back and whisked inside.
All eyes in the dining room turned to her—
Even the newcomer named Sang, but he only took a quick glance and looked away, ruminating on his own affairs.
“Fiery-eyed Diamond” Zuo Dahai and his wife, “Black Hornet” Hua Sigu went over to her at the same time.
Zuo Dahai, wreathed in smiles, stepped forward with a bow. “Miss Tan, what brings you here to patronize our humble shop?”
Miss Tan eyed him moodily. “What, am I not welcome?”
“Of course you are… of course!” He kept wringing his hands. A man his age, he still had an old habit of blus.h.i.+ng and losing his voice before a pretty woman.
Black Hornet, though, had a glib tongue. She helped him out. “Miss, how can you say that? We only hope you won't avoid us, or else we would invite you over!”
Miss Tan's limpid eyes s.h.i.+fted to “Black Hornet” Hua Sigu's face.
Women always seemed more affectionate when meeting other women.
“I know you—” Miss Tan smiled. “You're Elder Sister Hua Sigu!”
Black Hornet smiled. “Ai yo! Miss, you favor us, such a rare treat. Just call me Hua Sigu, Elder Sister is too important sounding!”
“How can you say that! People are all the same, two eyes and a nose, no one is better than another.”
She grabbed a stool as she talked. “Elder Sister Hua, come sit and chat!”
Hua Sigu was naturally pleased, but she didn't dare sit down, she just looked and smiled. Zuo Dahai quickly put in, “The lady wants you to sit and talk with her, so go sit!”
Only then did Black Hornet sit down. She smiled. “Miss, would you like something to eat?”
“Oh of course! I'm starving!”
“Oh—” Miss Tan sighed faintly, her eyes welling up briefly. “I got angry at home and came out for a bite to eat!”
“Okay, okay…” Hua Sigu wasn't about to inquire any further.
“I'll fix you up a few dishes.” She counted them off on her fingers. “Air-dried chicken, braised bamboo shoots, golden eel strips, ground mutton, and then…”
“That's enough! Forget the mutton, I can't eat that much by myself!” Her long eyelashes lifted, her sharp watery eyes involuntarily alighting on the handsome traveler named Sang seated across the room.
She seemed surprised—like the others had been. It was not often one saw such a gentle, quiet, handsome person around here.
She looked him over with her big eyes, then s.h.i.+fted her gaze to the other tables.
Hua Sigu said, “What kind of soup do you want?”
Miss Tan said, “Something mild.”
“In that case,” Hua Sigu said quickly, “how about bean sprout tofu soup?”
“Okay, that will do!”
Miss Tan laughed, revealing faint dimples on her cheeks, her eyes still not able to keep from glancing at Sang.
Black Hornet turned around and followed her gaze. She smiled. “Someone from out of town, also in the fur trade.”
“Who?” Miss Tan pretended not to know who she was talking about.
“That guy.” Hua Sigu furtively pointed at the traveler named Sang.
“Ah—” Miss Tan blushed. “Who cares!”
Black Hornet paid her no mind. “His surname is Sang. He looks quite clean and neat, doesn't he, not like the men we have around here, who all look like they've been rolling around in coal like our manager here!”
“Pfft—” the lady laughed, then pulled a long face.
“Alright,” Hua Sigu said, standing up. “I'll see to the kitchen. It will only be a moment, Miss!”
Miss Tan smiled and nodded. She idly fondled the mottled bamboo handle of her horse whip. Her white, tender little hand lifted the whip and she turned it in her hand, studying it with innocent, childish contentment.
Zuo Dahai went back to the middle table and was surprised to see “The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong staring at Miss Tan unblinking. His buddy next to him, “Black Tiger” Tao Hong, and another called “Mt. Chang Snake” Ji Benli, were also staring with their mouths hanging open, their eyes fixed right on her.
Zuo Dahai was well aware of Miss Tan's temper, so he elbowed Ge Xuesong lest some trouble arise.
Ge Xuesong was jolted out of his stupor as if jerked awake from a dream—
Zuo Dahai laughed and raised his bowl. “Drink!”
Ge Xuesong was of a hearty, candid disposition, but he seemed somewhat uncomfortable, his handsome face blus.h.i.+ng slightly as he downed his liquor.
Zuo Dahai kept his voice down and said, “What do you think of that one?”
With an awkward laugh, Ge Xuesong dipped his finger in his bowl of liquor and wrote on the table “peerless beauty”, then rubbed it out, smiling faintly, a miserable smile.
Zuo Dahai said in a low voice, “Not just here, you're unlikely to find anyone better in the whole Gan-Liang area. Whose daughter do you think that is?”
Zuo Dahai gave a deep chuckle, and with a liquor-dipped finger wrote “Tan”.
Ge Xuesong jolted. “Tan Yanling?”
He said it a bit loud.
Miss Tan, still playing with her whip, suddenly turned her head and looked over with a sharp look.
Ge Xuesong hastily lowered his head.
Zuo Dahai chuckled and stood. “Miss, has your food not arrived yet?”
Miss Tan blinked and looked Ge Xuesong up and down, then noticed the s.h.i.+fty-eyed looks from “Black Tiger” Tao Hong and “Mt. Chang Snake” Ji Benli and a cross look appeared on her face. Though she didn't want to start anything, so she just snorted and looked away.
But “Black Tiger” Tao Hong didn't know who she was, so he kept on looking at her as before and let out a big laugh.
That laugh was really sudden and without reason, causing everyone to jump due to how loud it was. Even Sang, sitting calmly, couldn't help but look over.
Miss Tan, who was already not happy, now could not help taking on an angry look.
Zuo Dahai was taken aback. “Brother Tao, what's gotten into you?”
Tao Hong ceased laughing and said loudly, “This a case of wearing out iron shoes in fruitless searching, only to find it without looking. Manager Zuo, weren't you just talking about acting as a matchmaker for Brother Ge? Well here is—”
Zuo Dahai and Ge Xuesong were shocked.
Ge Xuesong flatly shot him down. “Stop it with this nonsense!”
Tao Hong started, then laughed again. “What, Brother, you don't like—”
Before he could finish, the young woman over there shot to her feet and shouted, “Shut up!”
She held a chopstick in each hand, and she shot her hands up swiftly and flung them sharply, like arrows sprung from a bowstring, at Tao Hong's face.
“TheNext Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong was next to Tao Hong. He was quick of eye and deft of hand, and he shot his right hand out in surprise and knocked the chopstick closest to him to the floor with a chop from the edge of his palm.
He deflected the left-hand one, but couldn't reach the right, and the other chopstick sunk like a knife deep into Tao Hong's right cheek!
“Ai yo!” Tao Hong cried, and he pulled the chopstick out, blood spilling down his face.
These fur traders were treated as honored guests wherever they went, plus “Black Tiger” Tao Hong was a martial artist himself, so how could he take this from a woman in front of everyone?
“You s.l.u.t!” he screamed. He slammed his hand down on the table and flew up out of his seat.
Zuo Dahai stamped his foot over and over at the urgent turn of events. “s.h.i.+t!”
But it looked to be too late.
“Black Tiger” Tao Hong shot up just as Miss Tan sat down as if nothing had happened and took a fresh pair of chopsticks from the container on the table—
In the blink of an eye, Tao Hong's strong, powerful fist, was bearing down on Miss Tans' head!
“The Next Lü Bu” Ge Xuesong knew nothing about the girl's skill, but since her father was “Tan Yanling”, he could conclude without a doubt that the girl was highly-skilled in martial arts.
“Black Tiger” Tao Hong had insulted her, so there was no one else to blame for her getting angry, but the situation was getting out of control, so Ge Xuesong said loudly, anxiously, “Third Brother Tao, stop!”
But he needn't have worried, for Miss Tan was prepared. Just as Tao Hong's fist was about to come cras.h.i.+ng down on the top of her head, she suddenly turned to the side.
Now they were facing each other.
Just then, her hand holding the chopsticks shot up and she grabbed Tao Hong's fist between them.
Tao Hong was tall and husky, a manly man, his arms as thick as posts.
Miss Tan was as charming and gentle as a supple willow branch trembling in the wind, but she had grasped his fist with just a pair of chopsticks in her pale delicate hand, which was thin as a lotus root.
Tao Hong tried to force his fist down but could not. Not only that, he tried to pull his hand back but could not move it at all.
In a flash, Tao Hong's swarthy face took on the color of pork liver, veins bulging out on his forehead, beads of sweat as big as soybeans rolling down his face. No matter how much force he exerted, he couldn't throw off Miss Tan's chopsticks!
Zuo Dahai was shocked. He bowed deeply to Miss Tan. “Miss, for my sake, please forgive this brother's insolence. I would be forever grateful!”
Miss Tan laughed icily. “Boss Zuo, this doesn't concern you. This man spoke rudely, I want to put him in his place!”
“Uhh…” Zuo Dahai said, anxious.
But Tao Hong overestimated his ability. His right hand was locked up in those chopsticks, but his left hand was still free. He suddenly brandished it, aiming again for Miss Tan's head.
Miss Tan's brow arched up. “Alright!” She flicked the hand holding the chopsticks over her head. “Get lost!”
Tao Hong did as told, his whole body flying through the air and out the open window!
He slammed down outside and tumbled over. When he got up he was covered in mud. Just then, “Black Hornet” Hua Sigu came out carrying some dishes. She jumped when she saw the scene before her. She hastened forward and said, “Miss Tan, what happened?”
Miss Tan's anger seemed to disappear at once as she looked out the window at the man covered in mud. She smiled and turned to Hua Sigu. “Nothing, he asked for it.”
A Rain Of Blood Stains Flowers Red Chapter 1
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A Rain Of Blood Stains Flowers Red Chapter 1 summary
You're reading A Rain Of Blood Stains Flowers Red Chapter 1. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Xiao Yi, 蕭逸 already has 112 views.
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