The Plough – Chapter 29

The riddle is solved.
In the beginning, Hong Xiaoguang didn’t know that this person was Mr Li, the owner of New Moon Cafe, he just thought that the other person was a madman. But this person directly took out a large sum of money to change his entire wardrobe, took him to the barber’s to fix up his hair and rented him the room at 36 Hengtong Road, so Hong Xiaoguang started to believe him.

Even though the lodgings at 36 Hengtong Road were not particularly luxurious, it was already the best place that he had ever lived in. The walls were freshly painted, the room was well-lit and there was an actual bed and wardrobe.

Before when it rained, the old house that he used to live in would leak water. It was impossible to fix it, he could only leave a pot underneath to catch the water droplets, listening to the water droplets dripping through the night whilst he tried to sleep. After he awoke he would notice that his arms had bite marks from the old rats that had bitten him in the night.
Such nightmarish memories, compared to what Mr. Li offered him, it was like he had left hell and been taken to paradise.

Hong Xiaoguang didn’t say it, but in his heart he was no longer willing to go back to his previous situation.

But after all that, Mr Li was not in a hurry for him to see Du Yunning.

He started by making Hong Xiaoguang learn some etiquette, read books and study Chinese characters.

Hong Xiaoguang recognised a few Chinese characters, which he had learnt when he was a paperboy. He had some quick smarts and his brain reacted quickly, many things he was able to pick up immediately. He could deduce many things easily so Mr Li was very satisfied with him.
Mr Li hired a couple of teachers – one to teach him to read, one for etiquette, the former mostly concentrated on poems and songs whilst the last one taught him Western etiquette, how to eat Western food properly and how to properly treat a lady. Mr Li told him that nowadays there were many women, particularly the ones who were educated1新学堂 more specifically those who had been educated on Western teachings, that particularly liked this kind of stuff.

Finally, after a while, Mr Li told Hong Xiaoguang that he could stop studying but he still couldn’t meet Du Yunning yet. Instead he arranged an experimental date for him. If he was successful in wooing this person then he would be considered ready.

“Was it Ah-Lan?”

Listening up to this point, Ling Shu started to put the pieces together.

Hong Xiaoguang nodded weakly: “Can you give me some water?”

Ling Shu: “Where would I find any water here?”

Hong Xiaoguang: “There’s some stuff to eat next door, there’s also some Kvass and Brandy.”

Ling Shu thought to himself, if you get drunk now, will you still be able to carry on the story?

But he didn’t say it out loud and just got up to go next door.

Sure enough, there were some parcels piled up in the corner, which had been opened with a dagger. There were some dry goods inside, and a few bottles of alcohol beside them.

Ling Shu picked up two bottles and went back.

Hong Xiaoguang was already at the point of dying but Yue Dingtang wasn’t in a better state. He was resting with his eyes closed and the dagger in his shoulder still hadn’t been pulled out.
Ling Shu opened a bottle of strong alcohol and poured it onto his wound. Yue Dingtang’s body shook, his eyes sprang open and he stared at him.

“Disinfecting it.” Ling Shu passed the alcohol to him, “Do you want to do it yourself?”

Yue Dingtang’s mouth twitched, perhaps it was to save himself some energy, he didn’t say anything.

Ling Shu laughed to himself, then gave the other bottle to Hong Xiaoguang.

Hong Xiaoguang used a lot of effort to bite open the bottle. He just managed to take a sip, when the bottle was forcibly ripped from him.

“Hurry up and speak!” Ling Shu used the gun to tap him with a face like “Rascal you can’t do anything”.

Hong Xiaoguang:……

He could only lick his lips and continue his story.

Hong Xiaoguang thought that Mr Li must have been watching Du Yunning for a long time.

He even knew that Du Yunning had a personal maid who couldn’t speak. He also seemed to know the maid’s daily duties and habits.

Ah-Lan didn’t go out everyday, she only left the manor once a month, sometimes it was once every two months. She couldn’t speak, she looked down on herself and didn’t want to be abused by others so she always went to the same shop.

But one time, she went to her usual shop, and she bumped into Hong Xiaoguang.
She accidentally knocked something that Hong Xiaoguang had in his hands onto the floor, but the other party not only wasn’t impatient but had spoken to her kindly. Knowing that she was unable to speak, he helped her ask the shop owner for some suitable embroidery pieces and even asked the shop owner to give her a discount.

It was raining outside so Hong Xiaoguang gave his umbrella to Ah-Lan and called a rickshaw for her to take her back to Yuan Manor. At that time, the people at Yuan Manor were very curious. How come the frugal Ah-Lan would come back in a rickshaw.

Having borrowed the umbrella, she naturally had to return. This had all been arranged in advance, the ploy didn’t need to be original as long as she took the bait.

All her life, Ah-Lan had never met a man like Hong Xiaoguang. He didn’t mock her, and was gentle and courteous, and he was even a scholar.

She quickly fell into enemy hands. She hid her affections for him, not daring to reveal them but how could Hong Xiaoguang not see. He was secretly proud of his own charm and began to put into motion his plan for Du Yunning.

Having succeeded with Ah-Lan, Hong Xiaoguang put his efforts into understanding Du Yunning’s every move and thoughts. When Du Yunning went to the bookshop, he used a limited edition poetry anthology that Mr Li had acquired for him to attract her attention, and used it as an excuse to strike up a conversation with her.

Hong Xiaoguang, who had already memorized the collection of poems upside down, not only did he not slip up when he spoke to Du Yunning but was able to make a real impression on Du Yunning.

Du Yunning never expected that this well-dressed and polite gentleman in front of her would be the rickshaw puller that she hadn’t even looked at not long ago.

At that time, Hong Xiaoguang never expected that this unattainable goddess in his mind would often lie in his arms in silk pajamas, crying to him about her husband’s neglect.

Hong Xiaoguang couldn’t help falling into his own trap. He really fell in love with Du Yunning. They had an affair behind the backs of Yuan Bing and all the members of the Yuan family. It was not only thrillingly dangerous but also exciting.

Furthermore, Hong Xiaoguang didn’t have to worry about money. Mr Li continued sending money to him, so that he could buy all kinds of goods for Du Yunning, making Du Yunning more confident that she had met her real knight in shining armour.

But the good times didn’t last long, Mr Li came to see Hong Xiaoguang to tell him that he must fulfil his end of the bargain.

According to Mr Li’s plan, he must have Yuan Manor. Yuan Bing and Du Yunning had no children even though they were both no longer there, the Yuan Manor would naturally be re-possessed by the government and then re-sold at auction, and then it would have been easy for him to get it.

Yuan Bing was a serious opium addict, a pleasure seeker. He was beyond help, it wouldn’t be hard to push him over the edge. The problem was Du Yunning, although she was lonely, she didn’t really have any unhealthy addictions or vices.

On the other hand, Du Yunning and Hong Xiaoguang’s relationship was progressing day by day. Under the influence of Hong Xiaoguang, she also began to smoke opium. The more she listened to and relied on Hong Xiaoguang, the more she would tell Hong Xiaoguang of her grievances with Yuan Bing, and the more she longed for his comfort.

She began to tell Hong Xiaoguang about her past, her upbringing in the Du family, how she met Ling Shu, breaking off the engagement with Ling Shu, marrying Yuan Bing, she told him everything.

The goddess stepped down from the heavenly altar and unmasked her veil. Hong Xiaoguang discovered that Du Yunning was not as immortal as he imagined. She had a weak personality, back then she liked Ling Shu but did not dare to resist against her family’s wishes. She hated Yuan Bing’s philandering but didn’t want to part with the glory and wealth of her status as his wife. She kept saying that she despised those who smoked opium but she couldn’t help falling into the abyss herself.
Weakness seemed to be the story of her life.

From Du Yunning’s stories, Ling Shu entered into Mr Li’s plans.

“The few times that Du Yunning wanted to see you was actually orchestrated by Mr Li. He wanted me to ask Du Yunning to elope, and then find the opportunity to kill her, other people would naturally make a connection with you, this way we could push all the blame on to you.”

At the same time, Du Yunning had already fallen madly in love with Hong Xiaoguang and had already told him a massive secret. This was that Yuan Bingdao had stored gold bars underneath Yuan Manor and that the key to get into the basement was in her hands.

In order to show that she was not lying, Du Yunning had even personally shown him the basement.

On the lower level of the basement, Hong Xiaoguang saw with his own eyes the boxes of gold that were displayed down there, filling his line of sight with gold all at once.

In his lifetime, had Hong Xiaoguang ever seen so much gold?

it wasn’t just Hong Xiaoguang, he believed that Mr Li would never have seen it either.

Du Yunning gradually accepted the idea of the two of them eloping and put all her thoughts into finding a way out for the two of them. In her opinion, it was impossible to move such a large amount of gold but they only had to ship out one box and they would be set for life.

As Du Yunning’s personal maid, Ah-Lan must have also been aware of all of this.

Du Yunning didn’t hide it from Ah-Lan and had actually planned to take her away with them.

But Du Yunning didn’t know that Ah-Lan also liked Hong Xiaoguang.

That kind of love that slowly ferments in one’s heart, not daring to express it to anyone.

Hong Xiaoguang regretted what he had done.

Originally he never wanted to kill anyone, after Du Yunning told him about the secret gold, he just wanted to leave with his beauty and the money to somewhere only they knew, unable to be found by the Yuan family, nor Mr Li,from then on living an unfettered and free life.

Although at the beginning, he approached Du Yunning with mere vengeance and the bright future that Mr Li had constructed for him. After spending some time together, he gradually developed some affections, although he wasn’t sure if these affections were born from his protective feelings for the beauty, or the reluctance to part with the gold.

But how can a fledgling young beast escape a cunning and sly hunter?

“Mr Li somehow found out that I wanted to take Du Yunning away, and he threatened to hand me over to the Yuan family if I dared to escape his grasp. I realised that San Cai, a subordinate of the Yuan family, was also his spy and that my every move had been under his watchful eye.”

“So you killed Du Yunning?”

“I didn’t have a choice! I didn’t have a choice……he made me do it, if I didn’t do it, he was going to kill me you know!”

Hong Xiaoguang’s face showed pain as he stared at the bottle in Yue Dingtang’s hand, wishing he could snatch it away and get drunk, forgetting the world’s troubles once and for all.
“That day Du Yunning gave me the key to the basement and that night Mr Li made me take action. It, it was the first time I had killed someone, seeing her struggle in my arms,gradually losing consciousness,I really didn’t want to kill her,but Mr Li and San Cai were next to me……”

Ling Shu: “Did Ah-Lan witness everything?”

Hong Xiaoguang nodded absent-mindedly: “San Cai had wanted to kill her as well, but Mr Li stopped him. He said that it would be harder to explain more than one death. He asked me to persuade Ah-Lan first and seduce her with some assets. Ah-Lan also promised not to say anything.”

Ling Shu: “Then after that why did Ah-lan have to die, did Mr Li regret his decision?”

Hong Xiaoguang: “Ah-lan thought that Du Yunning had died with grievance, and she was being overly suspicious plus you were beginning to investigate the case. Mr Li was afraid that she’d talk, so just in case, he got San Cai to kill her.”

Ling Shu: “Did you kill the noodle shop owner, Xiaoji? And also when we went to the noodle shop that night, was it also you that was trying to kill us?”

Hong Xiaoguang: “When lao-ban decided to frame you, he had already begun to track you, I….*cough cough* I was only obeying orders. That night, he purposely attracted you there, he originally wanted to kill your partner and then push the blame on you. He said that the one surnamed Yue was from a powerful family. If he died, you would absolutely not be able to get away from the charges and then you’d have taken all the blame, so it wouldn’t matter what we did. It wouldn’t attract the attention of others……but I messed it up, I don’t have a good aim or perhaps I just couldn’t do it. I don’t want to kill anyone……could you just let me go, I didn’t do any of it with my own volition!”

Ling Shu ignored his pleading.

“What exactly is Mr Li’s background?”

That was the answer that he wanted to know the most.

A normal person, even if they had evil intentions such as conspiring to steal the Yuan family fortune, would not be able to raise a hitman like San Cai. San Cai had been hiding in Yuan Manor the whole time without anyone discovering him.

Ling Shu had said to Yue Dingtang before, if that day it was San Cai holding the gun and not Hong Xiaoguang, then Yue Dingtang would have definitely lost his life that night.

“I don’t know……I don’t even know his real name. I only know that he is ruthless and he’d definitely not let off anyone who dares to betray him, if I had known then I wouldn’t have gone down this road!”

Hong Xiaoguang burst into tears.

His handsome and extraordinary face was now crumpled, weak and hypocritical, like a perfectly packaged peacock with its colourful plumes plucked off, only to find that it was actually a bare featherless bird afterall.

If Du Yunning saw him now, maybe she would slap herself twice, and regret she ever laid eyes on him.

But it was too late. From the moment she stepped into the game set by Mr Li, she was destined to become a sacrifice.

Compared to Du Yunning, in truth, Hong Xiaogong was not much better off.

These two people were just two chess pieces in the hands of Mr Li.

Then what about Mr Li?
Was he the chess player?

Or was he also a chess piece?

“Something’s not right.”

Yue Dingtang suddenly said.

“The one surnamed Li wouldn’t have known about the existence of the gold, so what is his reason for plotting against the Yuan family?”

“It was because of…..”

Hong Xiaoguang started to hyperventilate.

“Something underneath the gold!”

This astonished them both.

Ling Shu couldn’t help looking at Yue Dingtang.

The latter’s face showed the same general surprise as his.

Did Yuan Bingdao know that there was something underneath the secret level. Was it something else that he had put there?

Ling Shu was about to ask but Hong Xiaoguang had already fainted from losing too much blood.

His breath was weak under Ling Shu’s fingers but he was still alive.

Ling Shu retracted his hand and went towards Yue Dingtang.

“First let’s find Shen Renjie, when we get out……”


A sound of a gunshot cut off what Ling Shu was saying!

Both of them were startled.


Shen Renjie thought that all the mishaps he had met tonight, was more than all the things added up from the last few years.

He was just an ordinary policeman. Why must he suffer like this?

If he hadn’t been so hot-blooded this evening and momentarily lost his head, he wouldn’t have followed Yue Dingtang here.

And he wouldn’t have met all the subsequent situations.

Shen Renjie thought with a heart full of sorrow, while looking back on his short and ordinary half a lifetime.
He used to feel ashamed of his inactivity and always wanted to find a chance at risking his own life, but in the end he realised that it was better to be inactive.

Peace is a blessing!

“Lao-ban, the car is ready, it’s waiting outside.”

The sound of someone speaking brought Shen Renjie back to his senses.

He saw San Cai go over to a man wearing a Changshan.

The latter nodded, his gaze from under his hat fell onto Shen Renjie, making the latter feel like he was being watched by a viper.

“This, this renxiong2仁兄 a very polite way to address someone, could be translated as “dear friend”, I was sent here last minute to take up duty, I don’t know anything and I don’t want to know. How about this, you guys go first, don’t worry about me, just let me stay here, I definitely won’t say anything, your great kindness is something I will definitely repay!”

Shen Renjie’s tongue was in a knot. He was so incoherent at the end of his sentence that even he didn’t know what he was saying.

“First get him in the car and wait. I want to meet them.”

San Cai nodded, roughly dragging Shen Renjie outside.


Shen Renjie heard a gunshot.

His legs were weak.

But he discovered that he didn’t feel any pain on his body, the gun wasn’t shot at him.

On the other end, Mr Li and San Cai were already in the room beginning a gun battle.

The two were originally working together, suddenly they were fighting amongst themselves.

What was happening here?

Shen Renjie’s jaw dropped and he subconsciously rolled to one side, crawling and hiding behind a shelf.

“The dog I trained with my own hands is now trying to kill me.” Shen Renjie heard Mr Li say sorrowfully.

“Teacher, you can’t blame me. This is an order from above, the superiors clearly said they wanted the gold, but you have a different intention and want to take it all for yourself, naturally the superiors are not happy about it.” San Cai replied.

Shen Renjie had met San Cai a few times. At that time, the man had cowered away, when asked three questions and he’d answered one. He looked like a country bumpkin who had never seen the world, honest and timid. But now this San Cai, who calmly raised his gun and killed without hesitation, was like two different people.

He couldn’t help but shrink his body into a corner, hoping that these two arseh*les would kill each other, preferably both of them would die so that he could still hold on to his little life.

“I have worked bitterly hard for them. But the thing that they’re looking for, I really can’t find it. I only want a bit of gold and they want to kill me for that. Probably because they are afraid I know too much. San Cai, have you ever considered that you will also end up like this?” Mr Li sneered.
“I won’t.” Sancai’s voice was calm, “We are not of the same people, of course, our hearts diverge.”3He uses 族类 (zúlèi) which means clan or race, I’ve used people but I think it’s indicating that he and the people above them that they are working for are not Chinese. From the comments on JJ – most people are speculating that he might actually be Japanese.

Shen Renjie did not react too much to these words, but Mr Li’s reaction was huge.

“So it’s you——good good good!”

He said the word good three times in a row and fell abruptly silent.

*Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!*

Several shots in quick succession. All the overhead lights went out!

Shen Renjie’s eyes were immediately plunged into the pitch black darkness.

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