Author: Su Youbing
Tao Mo ran past two streets again. Certainly, he was a headless fly, rushing around frantically. He even asked a few people around, who absolutely had no idea of what was going on. Having realized that he had no other choice left, he prepared to return home. When he was looking for the yamen attendants, he heard a porter making a racket as he rushed over and screamed, “A dead man! A dead man…!”
Tao Mo’s mind fell into chaos. He lifted his feet and ran toward the porter’s location.
There was a pond in the county which had been abandoned for a long time. It was not vast, but it was deep.
At the moment, dozens of people were gathered around the pond. Tao Mo tried squeezing his way into the crowd a few times, but he could not squeeze in. When he heard the sound of water splashing over there, he shouted urgently, “I’m the current magistrate of this county. Everyone, step aside!”
Sure enough, it was effective.
The tightly sealed human barricade suddenly separated on both sides, revealing a passageway.
At once, Tao Mo squeezed his entire head in, but he only saw Cai Fengyuan’s body that was wet all over, lying motionlessly on the ground. Seeing that his body was rigid, he came to know that it was, indeed, lifeless. A porter sat next to the corpse, panting as he shivered and desperately putting on his clothes. He made a noise in his mouth that suggested bad luck.
“What exactly happened?” It took a long time for Tao Mo to pop this question out. His complexion had already turned blue.
The porter originally wanted to go home without telling anyone, but when he heard Tao Mo inquiring about this matter, his eyes lit up. Since he also had to deal with the coldness he felt, he stamped both of his feet. With trembling lips, he described the whole story.
It turned out that after Cai Fengyuan found out the truth, he already lost all interest in life. The moment he rushed out from the Tongs’ residence, he originally wanted to vent out his feelings, but his will to die arouse eventually afterwards. When he saw the pond, he simply threw himself into it. For fear that his will to die was not strong, he embraced a huge rock when he jumped into it. According to the onlookers, even an average butcher or blacksmith would not be able hold such huge rock in their arms and stand up. However, not only did a weak scholar like him pick it up in one go, he also did not loosen his grip on it for even a bit after falling into the water. It was thus clear how arduous his will to die in his heart was.
After the porter finished speaking, he eagerly looked at Tao Mo.
Tao Mo felt embarrassed looking at him, so he hurriedly praised him by saying, “Thank you for being ready to take up the cudgels for a just cause.”
Ready to take up the cudgels for a just cause?
The porter’s freezing face became even bluer. Dumbfounded, he smiled and said, “Your Excellency, you must be kidding.”
“No, I’m not kidding.” Tao Mo said earnestly. “The weather’s so cold. Not everyone’s willing to go into the water.”
All of the onlookers looked ashamed.
The porter inwardly complained. The reason why he rescued the man was because he thought that man would find a way to return the favor for his kindness. However, he did not expect that the man whom he had pulled up with great difficulty was already dead. He even hoped at first that Tao Mo would consider his heroic act of rescuing the man and bestow him a little reward. Now, it seemed that it was only his wishful thinking.
Tao Mo crouched in front of Cai Fengyuan’s remains. He felt for a pulse and checked if he was still breathing, but when people die, they could not come back to life. Even with a thousand kinds of means, it would be impossible.
While the onlookers were hesitating whether they should leave or not, they heard someone shout. Soon after that, they saw Cui Jiong rush over with the yamen attendants.
“Your Excellency?” Cui Jiong was shocked.
Tao Mo stood up and whispered, “He’s dead.”
Cu Jiong gazed at the body on the ground, and his brows faintly scrunched. Another murder case! The aftermath of Tong Yinghong’s case still had not passed, and yet another life was lost. The beginning of spring was fast approaching, yet the frequent occurrence of murder cases gave him a splitting headache. The more troublesome thing was, he realized that in the two most recent ones, he seems to have seen Tao Mo’s figure, whether it was direct or indirect.
“Your Excellency, please excuse me. I’ll take this matter into my own hands,” Cui Jiong said, then he turned back and faced the yamen attendants to give them the hint with his eyes.
There were quite a few people left at the scene, but the facts they described were virtually the same.
However, Cui Jiong was still not satisfied, so he asked one of them, “Where’s the porter you spoke of?”
The man replied, “He must’ve gone home. That man went down into the water and got his clothes wet. He was cold and kept on shivering.”
“That’s right, that’s right. I can testify.” Tao Mo’s head popped out from behind the man.
Cui Jiong was shocked and said, “Your Excellency, this matter…you can hand it over to this lowly official.”
“I, as the parental official, naturally want to…” Before Tao Mo could even finish what he was saying, he suddenly heard Gu Xiaojia shouting from the other side of the street.
In his mind, Cui Jiong saw Tao Mo’s body transform from a slow tortoise into a little white rabbit, skipping and jumping as he dashed to the other side of the street.
“You, you lot? Came?” Tao Mo spoke somewhat incoherently. To encounter Gu She twice within a day, how could he not describe that as being lucky twice.
Gu Xiaojia pouted to the yamen attendants who were gathered round, waiting anxiously for a response. “A man died?”
“It’s Cai Fengyuan.” Tao Mo looked dejected.
Gu Xiaojia asked curiously, “Who’s Cai Fengyuan?”
Tao Mo replied, “He’s Miss Tong’s lover.”
Gu Xiaojia thought for a moment, then asked, “Oh! Wasn’t he that one who ran out from the Tongs’ residence?”
Tao Mo nodded.
“How did he die?” Gu Xiaojia asked.
Tao Mo responded, “He committed suicide by throwing himself into the pond.”
Gu Xiaojia was taken aback. He asked, “Died for love?” He did not expect that there really was such a thing as following someone in life and death.
“Get in.” Gu She’s voice came over from inside the carriage.
“Wait a moment.” Tao Mo ran back to the corpse’s side and apologized to Cui Jiong, then he immediately ran back.
The moment Gu Xiaojia climbed into the carriage, he suddenly remembered something. He tugged on his trouser legs and said, “Wait, have you ever touched the corpse?”
Tao Mo looked back at him and answered honestly, “Of course.”
“Don’t get in and touch my Young Master!” Gu Xiaojia wanted to drag him out of the carriage.
Tao Mo barely wanted to comply, but he felt a fan gently press on his shoulder. Gu She indifferently said, “There’s no harm.”
“But…” Gu Xiaojia still wanted to say something, but Gu She coldly said, “Drive.”
Gu Xiaojia had no choice but to look helplessly at Tao Mo as he climbed up into the carriage.
After Tao Mo got into the carriage, he felt uneasy. Not only did he desperately curl up into a ball, but he also did his best to be careful and not to let his hands touch the inner walls of the carriage.
“Have some tea.” Gu She poured the tea.
Tao Mo felt extremely flattered as he picked it up.
“Cai Fengyuan really died?” Gu She asked.
Tao Mo’s eyes that brightened up because of Gu She’s thoughtfulness dimmed once again. “That’s right.” The man who was as doughty as a dragon and lively as a tiger unexpectedly became a corpse who did not know love and hate within a short period of time.
Gu She suddenly popped out the sentence, “He was still able to fulfill what he wished for.”
Tao Mo said, “But if Miss Tong would find out about this from under the ground, she’d definitely wish for him to keep on living well, instead of following her and die.”
Gu She said, “Even if he lives, he would also live his life in remorse. Rather than living like this, it would be better to die a hundred deaths in order to free himself from his guilt.”
“You can’t say that.” Tao Mo rarely retorted him. “As long as you live, there would always be hope.”
Gu She saw his face was filled with many emotions as he spoke and pursed his lips, but he no longer argued.
The carriage turned around.
Seeing that Gu She no longer spoke and just slowly drank his tea, Tao Mo felt upset. He regretted and thought that he should not have disagreed with Gu She. For several times, Tao Mo had wanted to open his mouth, but he did not know where to start, so he had no other choice but to lift the curtain and look outside the window from the couch. Since he did not check and had no idea where they were, a single glance outside had made him frightened, so he asked, “Where are we going?”
“To the county’s yamen.” Gu She responded. “I’ll send you back.”
Tao Mo’s cheeks were red. He actually looked very happy.
The county’s yamen was not far away, so it would not be long before they arrive.
Tao Mo had never hated before that the county’s yamen was so close.
He reluctantly jumped out of the carriage and turned to look at Gu She.
Gu She spoke, “Tomorrow at dusk, I’ll come and pick you up.”
Tao Mo was dumbfounded and wanted to ask why, but when he was about to do so, the carriage had already gone along and sped away to the other end of the street.
Tao Mo returned to his room. Just when he wanted to ask the servants to help him change and take a bath, he suddenly saw Hao Guozi enter in a secretive manner and whispered, “Young Master, do you know that Young Master Yiyu already left Pingcheng?”
Tao Mo was startled.
With regard to this Young Master Yiyu that Hao Guozi spoke of; he was distant, and yet he knew him well; he was close, and yet he felt unfamiliar. Tao Mo took quite a while before he was able to compose himself and ask, “How did you know?”
Hao Guozi answered, “It was mentioned in the letter that was sent for Old Tao.” He saw Tao Mo staring at him. He drew back his neck and whispered, “I saw it unintentionally. I didn’t expect Old Tao still pays attention to news about Pingcheng until now.”
Tao Mo gently sighed and said, “He’s doing it for me.”
“Where do you think did Young Master Yiyu go to?” Hao Guozi asked. “Could it be that he got married and started a decent life? Or perhaps he followed that…”
“Guozi!” Tao Mo interrupted him.
Hao Guozi, himself, realized that he made a slip of the tongue. He looked very embarrassed. “Maybe he’s coming to look for you, Young Master.”
“He won’t. He won’t come.” Tao Mo lowered his head.
Hao Guozi saw that Tao Mo looked dejected, as if he was immersed in the memories of the past, so he hurriedly said, “It’s hard to say. After all, he was pretty good to you before, Young Master.”
Tao Mo was reticent for a long time, then he said, “Let bygones be bygones.”
Hao Guozi hastily nodded and said, “Yes, yes, yes, Gu She is definitely much better than Young Master Yiyu.”
“Gu She.” Afer Tao Mo said his name in a soft voice, his train of thoughts had long drifted to his appointment tomorrow at dusk.