Chapter 34: Worrisome Poetry Prodigies of the Empire
The chili sprouts were growing quite well in the fields. Cheng Dalei was originally worried that it might be too hot, so he even built up some shading using branches, bark, and straw to keep the sun off of the sprouts. From the looks of things, his efforts did no go to waste. The sprouts made a healthy and shining patch of green, and should be ready for harvest in another month or two.
Cheng Dalei felt a strange sense of accomplishment. Then he remembered the conversation he was having with Huang Sanyuan, “What information do you have on it?”
“The squad for escorting the gift caravan will be passing below the Blackbull Mountains in a bit over ten days. Based on the information that the other camps have gathered, this time, Xue Banzhou should be dispatching Lu Heng to lead the escort.”
“Lu Heng? How much do you know about him?” Cheng Dalei knew that Huang Sanyuan was originally from Blackstone City, so he had a far better understanding of the personnel inside Blackstone than anyone else.
“Lu Heng. About 30 years old this year. Preferred weapon is a staff. He’s an orphan, and Xue Banzhou basically raised him. This person have no parent, no family, and recognized no one else besides Xue Banzhou. He’s someone strong.” Huang Sanyuan said.
“Of course he’s strong. Xue Banzhou wouldn’t be sending him on this mission if he wasn’t.” Cheng Dalei spoke as he looked at the chili sprouts before him, “How do the other camps plan on doing the robbery?”
“Basically by a night raid, poisoning, or setting ambushes on the road.” Huang Sanyuan spoke, “Basically, each have their own plans for going about it. Boss, are we really not going to join in?”
Cheng Dalei thought it over before letting out a long sigh, “They’re a pack of dogs fighting over a bone. With just what our Toad Bandits have, even if we want to throw our hat into the ring, we have to have the people to fight with first.”
With that, he stared down from high above. He could faintly smell the scent of powder from the woods below. Of course, there aren’t really any gunpowder left on the Blackbull Mountains, but even so, that unstable scent just waiting for a spark had already spread everywhere.
“Waner, Waner, come here. I need to show you something nice!” Li Xingzai entered the room with long strides and waved at Li Waner.
“Brother, can you stop showing that perverted expression of yours? It makes me think that you’ve stolen the maids’ underwear again.” Li Waner said.
“That… Don’t keep bringing up stuff from the past. Come on, I got to show you something outside.”
“Just what is it though?” Li Waner followed Li Xingzai out of the dirt house with a very unwilling expression.
They climbed upward following the paths within the Toad Camp, and in the end, Li Waner arrived before a pool with a covering made of straw over it.
“Brother, what is this? A bath? But open air?” Li Waner asked.
“No, what’s important is the stuff inside the pool.” Li Xingzai looked very excited, “The spring water flowed down from the mountain and is drawn to the pool, which is covered by straw so that bugs and dust can’t get in. Plus, the pool also has in it gravel, charcoal…”
“Charcoal? Can you still drink it with charcoal in it?” Li Waner questioned.
“You can. They also said that charcoal can hold off the tiny bugs in the water.”
“There are tiny bugs inside the water?” Li Waner questioned.
“That… I don’t really understand all that much myself. Still, they purposefully spent so much effort to dig out a pool like this, so it has to be useful, right?” Li Xingzai said, “Let’s go, I need to show you this other thing.”
As Li Xingzai then dragged Li Waner off to their next destination, Li Waner frowned, “Brother, what are you bringing me to the outhouse for? Doesn’t it stink?”
“Let’s go. Look inside.” Li Xingzai insisted.
“Alright, fine. If you don’t want to then don’t. I’ll tell you instead.” Li Xingzai spoke, “This outhouse is linked with the horse stable and pigsty underground by a big pit. They say that there are tiny bugs in the outhouse too, and they can fly into peoples bodies, which will make them sick. In the future, they can dig the stuff out to fertilize the fields.
“Brother, this… What’s the point of that?” Li Waner was drawing a complete blank.
“I… I don’t know what the point is either, but I keep feeling like there’s a great use for all this.” Li Xingzai clapped excitedly, “Walk a thousand kilometers and learn a thousand things, as the saying goes. Waner, do you still think that this camp is as simple as it appeared?”
“There’s only six of them in total, so what if they’re not simple?”
“Yeah, it’s only six of them, so why put through all the efforts of being so thorough…” Li Xingzai’s eyes flashed with an unusual shine, “The leader of this camp has quite the plans.”
“Brother, can you stop staring at the outhouse with a perverted look already.” Li Waner pinched her nose shut, ‘Besides, you too are…”
“Shush! Quiet!” Li Xingzai reacted alarmingly and his voice quieted down.
At night, the dirt house was illuminated by candlelight, which shined out beyond the paper screens over the windows.
“How’s the writing going?” Cheng Dalei came into the house then.
“I’ve been writing the whole time.” Li Xingzai said, “This is what I’ve seen and heard in the Capital Province.”
“Keep on writing then.”
Cheng Dalei grabbed a piece of finished paper and started taking in the information of this world like a starving man. Cheng Dalei knew nothing of the Empire’s 13 provinces and 108 cities or where they’re all located. Cheng Dalei also needs to know the Empire’s history. He managed to learn some stuff from Su Ying, but Su Ying’s knowledge obviously doesn’t compare to that of Li Xingzai.
“Boss, what’s the point of you learning all this?”
“To write a book.” Cheng Dalei made something up randomly on the spot.
“Write a book!” Li Xingzai and Li Waner’s eyes widened in shock.
“You’re a poet, and I’m a writer. My dream is to write a great work that will be passed down across countless generations.” Cheng Dalei raised his head, “Do I not look it or something?”
Li Xingzai and Li Waner were utterly flabbergasted. To say that he does look it would be too hard a lie for them to say, yet if they say that he doesn’t, well, they’re currently under Cheng Dalei’s power.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a poet?” Cheng Dalei spoke, “Write a poem then. Let me take a look.”
“Ha, I did actually write a few. The boss can go ahead and enjoy and maybe give me your appraisal on them.”
Li Xingzai pulled out a few pages from the pile of papers and handed it over to Cheng Dalei.
Cheng Dalei only had a single look before visibly grimacing, letting out a strange [hmm] sound.
“What? Is my poems bad or something?” Li Xingzai is actually quite confident when it comes to this point. Back in the Capital Province, he had been known as one whose poetry is peerless, and even great poets have appraised his works as powerful.
“For this to be considered poetry…” Cheng Dalei’s grimace practically reached beyond his face, “This is a poetry prodigy of the Empire huh. Hmm. That’s really worrisome.”
“Hey, do you really understand? My brother’s poetry is famed across the entire Capital Province.” Li Waner couldn’t hold herself back from rebutting.
“Alright, alright. I’ll show you a thing or two then and let you know what’s really poetry.” Cheng Dalei took up the brush, dipped it in ink, raised his head, and saw Li Xingzai and Li Waner both staring at him, “Ha, if just this single line from me manages to get out, then likely as not all the poetry prodigies of the Empire would no longer dare to take up the brush anymore.”
“Hmph. You’ve got quite the mouth at least.”
Li Waner let out a cold humph, but her gaze still fell to the tip of Cheng Dalei’s brush. She looked a bit dazed, but in her mind, she was thinking, ‘This person spoke so confidently, but I wonder how his actual ability matches up.’
Cheng Dalei tightly held onto the brush, touched brush to paper, and begun awkwardly drawing a line of characters slantingly like he’s drawing some talisman or something. Li Waner couldn’t hold back her laughter at his terrible penmanship, but just as she was about to let out a few insults, she fully took in the contents of those character and her eyes widened in response.
Cheng Dalei stopped his brush and gave the stunned pair a look before speaking casually, “Alright, it’s late already, make sure to rest early.”
“One line. Why’s it just one line?” Li Waner couldn’t stop herself from asking.
“One line is enough. If I bring out more, it might kill you with fright.” Cheng Dalei shot back from the door.
Li Xingzai was already in a daze. He held up the ugly and warped characters written as he muttered, “I can’t say for the prodigies of the world, but just this once line is enough to make it so that I’m unable to take up the brush again in this life.”