The Plough – Chapter 33

Turn around, I'll scratch it for you.
“Seeing me…. got you that excited?”

Yue Dingtang looked him up and down, with an odd expression on his face.

The gold bars hadn’t been obvious in his coat, but under his thin pyjamas, the feeling of gold under him along with the movement of his body felt like pebbles pressing against his flesh.

Ling Shu forced out a weak smile.

“We can count ourselves as friends who have been through in adversity1患难之交 a friend in times of tribulations (idiom); a friend in need is a friend indeed who managed escaped death by the skin of our teeth2死里逃生 mortal danger, escape alive (idiom); a narrow escape; to survive by the skin of one’s teeth, how could I not be excited. How did you get out afterwards?”

Yue Dingtang was injured on one shoulder and could hardly push the wheelchair with one hand, so he used the crutch to support himself and limped over to Ling Shu’s bedside and sat down.

“There’s heating in this room and you’re still so cold? You still have to snuggle with your coat under the covers?”

Ling Shu hugged his coat a little tighter. “This is also my brother in arms, no one can separate us.”

Yue Dingtang’s expression was exactly the same as Ling Yao’s a few minutes ago.

He sighed and took a palm-sized piece of paper out of the pocket of his hospital gown.

“First, take a look at this.”

The piece of paper was a page from a document.

At least that was what it used to be.

Ling Shu could only see about four or five lines of English words and phrases on that piece of paper, all of which were still incomplete.

The edges were charred black and withered with small burnt black holes in the centre of the writing.

Knowing Yue Dingtang’s character, if he could have brought out the whole document, he would not have taken out only this scrap piece of the paper.

The situation, at the time, must have been more critical than Ling Shu could have imagined.

When Yue Dingtang handed over the piece of paper, Ling Shu realised that half of the other’s arm beneath his hospital gown also bore some burn marks.

“From the only words that remain on it, it should have something to do with the source of those weapons. “Ling Shu carefully identified the words on it, “United British Logistics Company3英国联合运输公司 Literally translated……”

“There is also another name in the middle, but it was hard to read. This company transported shipments of matches and medicines to China in 1920, in response to a potentially dangerous situation that was about to occur back then. ”

“The back of the paper is all burnt up. Well, there’s another word, let’s see, street fighti …… the last two letters are ‘n’ and ‘g’ maybe? Street fighting? Why is street fighting mentioned?”

“There’s only so much we can infer from this, and we’d only know more if we could get a whole document.”

“The fire was spreading so quickly that I didn’t have time to salvage the documents and almost lost my life there.”

Yue Dingtang recalled the scene back then. In that crucial moment, he did not run after Ling Shu and the others, but instead turned around and went to the entrance they came in. Just before he left, the impact from the explosion triggered the collapse of the basement, but Yue Dingtang managed to run to the upper floor of the basement, but with Mr Li in hot pursuit coming up behind him.

Yue Dingtang had wanted to take Hong Xiaoguang with him, but Mr Li refused to let the latter go, seemingly fearful that he would reveal too much, and so he took care of Hong Xiaoguang with one shot. Yue Dingtang and Mr Li fought on the upper basement level, wasting quite a lot of time so when the second explosion happened, he was also almost buried in the fire.

Ling Shu stroked his chin.

“It doesn’t matter, we can probably infer the whole picture from a corner. We can still guess the rest.”

“That batch of arms that were hidden in the Yuan family’s basement should have been shipped with the goods listed on this document. It could also have been possible that these so-called matches and medicines might just have been a front for these weapons.”

“I remember that in 1919, not long after the war, Europe and the United States joined with Japan and imposed an arms embargo on China4The United States and the European Union stopped exporting arms to China after 1989 following the violent suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square. In practice, however, this measure was not always implemented.”
Yue Dingtang: “Yes that’s right. Many weapons can still be shipped in parts, and Warlords from all over China continued to buy weapons from the West, but they definitely had to conceal it on the surface, which is why they used the cover of buying medicine.”

Ling Shu: “This stuff never left Shanghai since it arrived, so it’s clear that the people who ordered the goods had intended to use them here, but they just didn’t come in handy later. So the question arises, what were these ‘dangerous situations that might have come’ that happened in Shanghai around the 1920’s?”

For something that happened more than ten years ago, it was indeed confusing, it was hard for them to recall that on the spot.

As far as he could remember, Shanghai had become increasingly prosperous since the opening up of the city, and there have been many major incidents that occurred.

It was still a time when the Warlords were in conflict, and Shanghai —— seemed to be the territory of the Anhui Clique.

Duan Qirui, Xu Shuzheng, Duan Zhigui ……

A list of names popped up one after the one through Ling Shu’s mind.

These familiar names were all leading figures of the Anhui Clique at the time, but of course, now that more than ten years have passed, some of them have passed away and many locals may not know about this past, but what do they have to do with these weapons?

Ling Shu suddenly had a flash of inspiration and thought of a possibility.

Indirect gains.

“The original owners of Yuan Manor were British.”

Yue Dingtang suddenly spoke up.

“At the time, the Anhui Warlords had allied with the Japanese, and this probably led the British to worry that the interests of the Japanese would expand dramatically, eventually erupting into a conflict, spreading to the International Settlement here. As a result, the British made preparations with this batch of weapons in case of any possible future need. But later, when the situation changed and Anhui began to lose power, the weapons lost their purpose.”

Therefore, it seems that the Englishman who bought the house must have had some special identity. However, including why he suddenly left the house and its contents and then subsequently put it up for sale in the first place, or whether he was alive or dead today etc would be hard to find out as many details were simply too old to trace.

As for Yuan Bingdao, it was likely that he did not know the secret beneath the gold, otherwise he would not have hidden the gold bars he had acquired from Sichuan on top of the weapons. It was also unknown who recommended the house to Yuan Bingdao in the first place and whether the person who recommended him the house also knew the secret hidden beneath the house.

And it was likely that the people whom San Cai obeyed had learned the secret from the information left by the British, or from other sources, and that was why they sent Mr Li to gain possession of the Manor by any means possible.

“What happened to Mr Li?” asked Ling Shu.

Yue Dingtang shook his head: “After the fire was extinguished, the policemen who were in charge of cleaning up the aftermath only found two bodies so far. They have been initially identified as Hong Xiaoguang and the old butler, but we cannot rule out that there will be subsequent discoveries.”

The old butler was knocked unconscious by San Cai at the entrance to the first floor, and then the following scene was too chaotic and everyone had been too busy to think of a way to rescue the unconscious old butler.

Ling Shu: “And the New Moon Cafe?”

Yue Dingtang: “It’s been looked into. Smith personally led men over there. None of the employees escaped, all of them were arrested, but from the preliminary interrogation, it seems that they do not know anything. In their eyes, Mr Li was a thoroughly good man and their benefactor.”

This was the conceivable outcome.

The more people who knew, the quicker things would have unravelled, and with Mr Li’s schemes, he certainly wouldn’t have revealed himself in such small details.

If Hong Xiaoguang had not come forward to confess, they might not have been able to connect the dots with Mr Li so far, and even if they had suspected something, it would have been difficult to prove.

Ling Shu asked about Shen Renjie.

Yue Dingtang: “He had some burns and also broke a leg, but he’s not in any grave danger, it’s better than being killed.”

If there are no more surprises, the case will soon be closed.
The murderer of Du Yunning emerged, heaven’s net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it 5天网恢恢 (idiom, from Laozi 73, the writer of Tao Te Ching); fig. the way of Heaven is fair, but the guilty will not escape; you can’t run from the long arm of the law with the real culprit having died in the fire. Where there’s a start, there’s a finish, it fully fulfilled the idea of cause and effect that the public loved so much to hear and see.

The fact that Yuan Manor had been reduced to rubble and the real culprits were burned to death at the same time saved the trouble of tracking them down, it was exactly the result that Smith had wanted as it was a clear explanation for his superiors and a story that they could feed to the papers, no matter what the Municipal Police were able to claim enormous credit for their work.

For Ling Shu, the fact that he had been completely cleared of suspicion was of course not a bad thing.

Not to mention……

“You’re not feeling well?”

Yue Dingtang watched him squirm slightly under the covers.

The action was small, but it was enough to be noticeable.

“It’s okay, my back is a bit itchy.”

“How could you not be itchy when you’re hugging a filthy coat?” Yue Dingtang frowned and reached out to take the coat away.

“Where does it itch? Shall I call the nurse to scratch it for you?”

Ling Shu: “No, I’m a man, it’s improper for men and women to engage in physical contact6男女授受不亲 – a saying from Mengzi, a Confucian scholar, it means that men and women should refrain from touching – very common expression especially in ancient novels, I’ll just do it myself later. ”

Yue Dingtang:……

He remembered the scene of Ling Shu laughing and cuddling the dancer on the dancefloor of Florence Dancehall. He also looked at the lipstick marks on the cards delivered to Ling Shu on the table. It was hard to connect that to the man who had just said “it’s improper for men and women to engage in physical contact”.

“Turn around, I’ll scratch it for you.”

“I can’t ask you to do that? You should go back and rest first. I can see that your injuries are quite serious. Hurry back now to rest, don’t mind me!”

Before he could finish his words, Yue Dingtang had already lifted his blanket.
The hospital gown had been pulled up by Ling Shu himself, revealing his white belly which had a gauze in the middle, covering where he had previously been stabbed.

This area which had never seen the light of the sun. His skin looked smoother than a woman’s.

“What are you doing!”

Ling Shu hissed and was about to resist, but because he had tried to move his injured hand, his teeth chattered from the pain and then his body had already been turned over.

Four small gold bars were in full view.

The gold shimmered and glowed in the light, exhibiting unbelievable temptation.

Before Ling Shu had time to reach out, the other had already taken away the gold bars which had not even warmed in his hands yet.

“Give them back to me!”

“Where did you get these gold bars?”

Yue Dingtang raised his hand so high that Ling Shu couldn’t reach it and he couldn’t roll over and get up to grab it.

“My sister gave them to me! What do you want to do? Is the young master7Lao Si = Fourth son as YDT has two elder brothers and an elder sister of the Yue family really going to become a robber in broad daylight. Shame on you!”

Yue Dingtang smiled, “The gold given to you by da-jie still has the “Chongzhen” 8崇祯 = reign name of last Ming emperor (1628-1644) engraved on them?”

Ling Shu’s face did not turn red, nor did his heart skip a beat: “What of it? Our Ling family was once wealthy for a while, so are we not allowed to have some remaining assets?”

Yue Dingtang: “Naturally, it’s possible. In that case, I’ll go back and ask da-jie first, and if it’s really from her, and then I’ll return it to you. If not, I’ll help keep it for you so that you don’t squander it so freely on those dancers again. ”

Ling Shu laughed with anger, “The one surnamed Yue, you’re too shameless!”

Yue Dingtang pocketed the small gold bars with a profound expression on his face.

“You’ll thank me soon enough.”

The following days of recuperation were not only boring but dry as dust, so Ling Shu wanted to be discharged, but was mercilessly suppressed by Ling Yao.

On the other hand, Yue Dingtang was allowed to be discharged and go home to recuperate and did not have to remain trapped like he did.

Yue Chunxiao came to see him every two to three days, and even if she couldn’t come herself, she would send someone over to bring some soup or tonics. After ten days, Ling Shu could finally get out of hospital, not only had he not lost any weight, he’d even gotten a little rounder.

Once back at the police station, Cheng Si clicked his tongue when he saw Ling Shu.

He was about to give him a pat, but not before Ling Shu showed an expression of pain so he hurriedly withdrew his hand.

“Are you alright? You still haven’t fully recovered?”

“My wound is tearing!” Ling Shu gave him a blank look, “You saw how Yuan Manor was burnt down. Would you have been able to heal so quickly if it were you?! I was trapped in the hospital for so long that I really couldn’t stay there any longer so I begged the doctor to discharge me!”

Cheng Si smiled: “That actually turns out to be a good thing. It’s double the happiness9双喜临门 = when two simultaneous happy events occur. Today you’ll have to treat us all to a celebratory meal, you’re injured so you can’t drink and I won’t not force you, but you can order for us to drink ah!”

Ling Shu had a look on his face like you’re out of your mind: “How is it double the happiness?”

Not only had his wounds not yet healed, he also wanted to rip Yue Dingtang’s head off to make crispy fried fish10酥炸黄鱼 See here for pic, everytime he thought about his four small gold bars11小黄鱼 – In chinese, a nickname for gold bars is Xiao Huang Yu – Little Yellow fish/yellow croaker.

Cheng Si: “You’re getting a promotion!”
Author Note:

— Mini theatre unrelated to the story —

Yue Dingtang: Today was another sweet chapter.

Ling Shu: ? Are you insane, how was it sweet?

Yue Dingtang:Four bars of gold.

Ling Shu:???

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