Chapter 443. An Ambush
Wang Sheng’s mouth was almost dry from the long talk. When lying back onto his bed, he still felt that what was happening was somewhat unreal, so he stole a glance at the guard impersonating Tao Xiaomei, bewilderedly wondering if he was in a dream.
“What’s the matter?” asked the guard, who was resting his mind with his eyes closed. He knew that Wang Sheng was looking at him, though he didn’t open his eyes.
The man’s voice made Wang Sheng jump, jerking him out of his trance. “Nothing, nothing. You may continue.”
Wang Sheng hastily shut his eyes, not daring to let his mind wander again.
The next day, after daybreak, Wang Sheng and the guard walked out of the bedroom and started doing household chores as usual, pretending nothing had happened. Mr. and Mrs. Tao and their grandson, Stonie, all didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about ‘Tao Xiaomei’. Secretly relieved, Wang Sheng was once again awed by the miraculousness of the disguise skills and also astonished that the guard could actually speak in a female voice.
As noon drew near, the atmosphere in the house grew increasingly stressed and subdued. Wang Sheng drummed it into Stonie that he was to stay close to ‘Tao Xiaomei’ at all times, that on no account should he lag behind. His words made Stonie quite nervous and even faintly scared.
The guard drew the boy over and consoled him, “There’s no need to be nervous. Just stay close to me.”
Stonie looked up at the guard, finding the tone of ‘his mother’ somewhat strange, but there seemed to be some kind of power contained in those words, which struck him as reassuring. The boy nodded vigorously.
Wang Sheng also cautioned Mr. and Mrs. Tao about what they needed to do. The old couple also repeatedly promised they wouldn’t forget.
In comparison with the stressed and subdued mood in the Tao family, the atmosphere outside was one of excitement and expectation. A lot of people were anticipating the arrival of that moment.
After lunch, when every member of the Tao family’s nerves were on edge, someone knocked on their door. It was a man who came to check whether or not they’d changed. He also told them to get ready to go to the village square to assemble at a moment’s notice.
Mr. and Mrs. Tao were walking in front, Wang Sheng and the guard following in their wake, taking Stonie with them. As they exited the courtyard, they found that all the other villagers were also headed in the direction of the square.
The square was sited in the midmost of the village, in front of the village head’s residence.
Most villagers had already arrived, the village head standing at the front. Members of the caravan were also present, all clothed in skintight black outfits, eyeing the villagers ferociously. Everybody on the square was dressed in black. The large black crowd struck people as some kind of bad omen.
“Is everybody here now?” asked the village head aloud. “Next you’re to help our honored guest transport his goods to the checkpoint. If we get the job done, our honored guest will give us everything he promised us, and we’ll never have to worry about the sale of our pottery or food or money again. This is a godsend for Taowang Village. You must accomplish the task!”
“Yes!” Many of the villagers were fanatical supporters of the village head, but there were also some who, like the Tao family, agreed to help because they didn’t have a choice.
Wang Sheng’s eyes swept across the village head’s face and then rested on the so-called ‘honored guest’ standing before the village head. He knew that that man was the very person his boss was looking for. The man’s bushy beard obscured more than half of his face, making it impossible for others to get a clear view of his features. He seemed to be… much stronger than his father-in-law had said he was. Even the man’s eyes, which his father-in-law had described as “mild”, appeared quite fierce at this moment. Wang Sheng couldn’t help but feel worried, unsure whether he’d got the wrong person.Read latest chapters at Listnovel.com
He nervously asked the guard impersonating Tao Xiaomei, “Sir, do you think it’s possible that we got the wrong person?”
Got the wrong person? The guard asked Wang Sheng what he meant and the latter explained to him. Then the guard said, “He’s wearing disguise.”
Light suddenly dawned on Wang Sheng. “Just like you?”
The guard replied with a slight nod, “Don’t look at me again, and don’t speak unless you have to. Be careful not to rouse their suspicions.”
Wang Sheng hastened to shut his mouth, not daring to utter another word.
The villagers finished assembling. Almost the whole village were present. Young children who were unable to keep pace with the adults were staying, but all those over ten years old were going.
“All right. Now follow the instructions. Go there to carry the goods.”
Outside the village.
“Childe Ling, they’re making their move.”
Ling Zhang said with a head bob, “Tell everybody to get ready.”
“Yes, Childe Ling.”
Meanwhile, there was an escalation in the activities of the rebel soldiers stationed near the checkpoint in Jiangzhou. The army of the imperial court, under orders from the General Zhongwu (AKA the General of Loyalty and Valor), had mobilized, poised to attack.
It was now afternoon and the sky began to darken, threatening rain.
Finally, some movements broke the semblance of quiet of Taowang Village. Distantly, Ling Zhang and the others could see a group of masked villagers in black walking out of the entrance of the village, who were carrying bags on their backs or shoulders or pushing wheelbarrows laden with goods.
“Hidden among those goods is gold. We’ve confirmed it.”
Yao Yi had returned from inside Taowang Village after he found solid proof that concealed amid those goods were indeed the gold ingots which they’d always conjectured Shan Congyi would transport to Jiangzhou.
The look in Ling Zhang’s eyes went cold. Staring at those musclemen from the Wan Kingdom who were going out with the villagers, he said, “Good. Now that they’ve come, we’re not letting them return.”
Those were not common goods at all and were all very heavy, and all the villagers were having a tough time transferring them, but anybody lagging behind would be dressed down and whipped by the musclemen. Worse still, their fellow-villagers would hurl abuse at them too.
“These bastards.” Mr. Tao muttered a curse. “How could they do this to their fellow-villagers? Their conscience must’ve been eaten by dogs.”
Seeing some people were being insulted by their fellow-villagers, Mr. Tao was consumed with anger and intended to stick up for them.
Wang Sheng hurriedly seized his arm to stop him. “Calm down, Father-in-law. We can’t afford to get ourselves into any trouble at this point in time.”
Those musclemen were keeping close watch on them. If Mr. Tao walked up to and confronted those who were insulting their fellow-villagers, it wouldn’t make any difference and would only serve to attract those musclemen’s attention. If things came to that, it would be very difficult for them to carry out their plan.
Teeth clenched, Mr. Tao hesitated for quite a while before he resignedly gave up. Of advanced years and having much less physical strength than he used to have when in the prime of life, he wouldn’t be able to last long if he carried a bag of goods on his shoulder, so he, along with his wife, his ‘daughter’ and his grandson, were pushing a handcart, which was also fully loaded with goods. The ‘Tao Xiaomei’ accompanying them was a fake and had great strength. Because of his secret help, Mr. and Mrs. Tao hardly needed to exert themselves. Still, the guard had to do it covertly lest anybody become suspicious.
Wang Sheng, who was carrying a bag on his back, was progressing much more strenuously, hunched from the effort.
Hidden among these goods were heavy, solid, gold ingots.
The residents of Taowang Village were proceeding arduously. Ling Zhang and his men were tailing them, maintaining a long distance from them, subduing their rage and urges to kill those people from the Wan Kingdom, waiting for them to walk into the trap that had been laid for them.
The team traveled for a very long time. Dark clouds began to mass on the horizon, gusts of wind picking up, thunder rumbling in the sky. This kind of weather, naturally, lowered the visibility considerably, and the villagers had no choice but to slow down. The musclemen from the Wan Kingdom started to hurry them. “Move faster if you value your lives!”
From their fierce tones of voice and their whips, even a fool could tell that they were by no means common musclemen working for a caravan. Those villagers who’d been hoodwinked by the village head’s promises and the money the caravan had offered them gradually came to realize the truth, but those musclemen holding whips looked as ruthless as cacodemons capable of killing people, rendering the villagers too afraid to resist.
“Make them go faster.” Shan Congyi glanced in the direction of the wood beside Xiaofeng Village which was not far away, raised his head to look up into the sky from which rain was about to drop, and then impassively instructed the man beside him to press the villagers.
“Yes,” the henchman answered before pivoting around to whip the villager closest to him. “Hurry up, all of you! Whoever lags behind shall be beaten to death! Move faster!”
With another stroke of his whip, a villager’s pained cry was heard.
Ling Zhang in the distance clenched his fists, anger smoldering in his eyes. Suppressing his fury, he hissed, “Get ready, everybody. We make our move as soon as they enter the wood.”
“Yes, Childe Ling!”
“General, the rebel army of Jiangzhou is mounting an attack!”
“Then we fight back!”
“Yes, Childe Ling!”
The neigh of warhorses and the beating of war drums filled the air at the same time. The vibrant drumbeat was resounding around the whole space, making people feel as though it were their hearts that the drummers were beating. Rain also started falling callously from the sky at this moment. The heavy shower poured down, splattering against the ground. The large group of residents of Taowang Village were astounded by the atmosphere, fear spreading among them.
“Move, move! Faster! All of you!” The musclemen began to lash the villagers mercilessly. The war had commenced. If they were to successfully transport the gold into Jiangzhou, they must quicken their pace and take advantage of the gap that the rebel army of Jiangzhou had opened up for them in the enemy’s defensive line.
“They’re entering the wood. Get ready, brothers!”
As Wang Dashan gave the order, all twenty-four bodyguards took action and with that a large-scale smokescreen formation sharpened by the advantageous weather and terrain was immediately activated!
Apart from the leaden sky, the howling wind and the elemental fury of the rainstorm, Shan Congyi and his men, after entering the wood, found themselves faced with thick fog as well, which was making it difficult for them to tell the direction.
Eyelids twitching uncontrollably, Shan Congyi had a sense of foreboding that something was wrong. “What’s going on?! How come there’s fog coming in at this hour?!”
The village head of Taowang Village was grabbed and marched out of the crowd. Soaking wet with rain, the village head cutting a sorry figure finally felt fear as he was brought to Shan Congyi. Trembling all over, he said, “I–I have no idea either. Never has anything this weird happened in this wood before. I can’t remember a single occasion when fog closed in at this hour.”
The musclemen brought several villagers to Shang Congyi in succession and questioned them, but they all said that they didn’t have a clue what was going on, their faces etched with horror.
Shan Congyi, who didn’t think any of these villagers had the guts to lie to him, believed that the cause of this fog was indeed a mystery to all of them. At this juncture, even the slightest delay could lead to the failure of his plan.
“Find someone familiar with this wood to lead the way. I’m a prince, and these people will get my goods through this wood, even if they have to crawl!” said Shan Congyi through gritted teeth.
“Yes!” his musclemen chorused and then began to force the village head to find someone who had an intimate knowledge of this area.
The village head, whose hands started shaking violently as he heard Shan Congyi call himself ‘a prince’, told the musclemen which one of the villagers was familiar with this wood immediately after they pressed him.
“What a gutless coward.” Mr. Tao was beside himself with rage.
Wang Sheng looked around him. He was uncertain as to what kind of situation they were in either, but he had a sneaking suspicion that they might have entered the ‘trap’.
“This fog is going to thicken. You need to take advantage of this opportunity to get your parents and all those willing to go with you out of this place. I’ll tell you which direction to run. Now go and gather them. Hurry,” said the guard disguised as Tao Xiaomei.
Wang Sheng hurriedly dropped the bag, grabbed Stonie’s hand and said to Mr. and Mrs. Tao, “Father-in-law, Mother-in-law, it’s time to go.”
Mr. Tao came to himself, released his grip on the handles of the handcart, raised his arm and called, “Brother San, bring the others here! Hurry!”