The Lan Province is the eighth largest of the thirteen provinces in the State of Yue. It is located in the southern region of the State of Yue. Despite its small size, it is said to be quite wealthy, second only to the Xin Province. With fertile land, countless rivers, lakes, and canals running through the region, as well as constant favorable weather, the province was extremely suited to growing grain and rice. Thus, it became the State’s largest producer of crops.
Located in the center of Lan Province was Jia Yuan City. Although it wasn’t the Lan Province’s capital, it was, without question, the largest city its province. The Great Lu Canal, which spanned from the north to the south of the province, passed through the center of the city. In addition, several roads and waterways also ran through the city. As a result, the city’s transportation was highly developed and could be considered the hub of water transportation, as well as the main road of trade and commerce in the region. Every year, an innumerous amount of merchants and travelers passed through, spurring an enormous amount of trade at this location. Therefore, the fact that Jia Yuan City became the largest city in the province was not strange in the least.
In Jia Yuan City, there was traffic of all sorts. Docks and boatmen were numerous, and could be found anywhere in the city. Boatmen, cart drivers, and unskilled laborers were as many as number of the hairs on an ox. There were several tens of thousands of people, including Sun Ergou, who relied on the harbor to make a living.
(TL: ???: Sun Ergou. Sun being a surname (not the star in the sky) and Er’gou meaning Second Dog)
Like his name suggested, Sun Ergou had long, slanted eyebrows and crooked eyes. In addition, he had the appearance of a ruffian, a cross between a rotten pear and a spoiled jujube. However, because he was skilled in flattery and reading body language, he had actually been able to secure the position of minor gang leader. Managing several tens of unskilled porters, he made a living off the harbor transporting the goods and luggage of passing merchants.
This was the reason why Sun Ergou’s many subordinates had hastily gathered at early dawn and respectfully addressed him with “Good morning Grandpa Er!” and “Grandpa Er has come!”
(TL: In Confucianism, status is often associated with age. That is why you often see in Chinese stories, “I, your father.” or “This grandpa [referring to self]”, as a way of acting arrogant.)
Hearing these greetings, Sun Ergou could not help but be somewhat smug. After all, being addressed as “Grandpa” indicated that here, he was someone of status. Consequently, he exhibited an air of arrogance. He finally responded to his subordinates’ greetings after snorting from his nose, “Who is Grandpa Er? Shouldn’t it be Grandpa Ergou?”
“It should, but here, there’s only a two-legged dog imitating a man!”
(TL: A play on words from his name. ?? Ergou, Er ? Two, Gou ? Dog.)
“Haha! Haha! …”
The burst of mocking and ridicule could not mask the words that entered Ergou’s ear.
After Sun Ergou had heard this, his face suddenly sunk, and his mood dropped in an instant.
He slowly turned his head and looked to the several tens of people at the other side of the dock. He brought his gaze down to a large, burly, dark-skinned man as a hint of hate flashed in his eyes.
Among all the people that Sun Ergou hated the most in the entire city of Jia Yuan, this large, dark-skinned man would absolutely make it into his top three. If someone were to tell him that he or she would use the wealth of Sun Ergou’s entire family to thoroughly make this large, dark-skinned man disappear from the world, Sun Ergou might hesitate, but if he or she changed it to only half of Sun Ergou’s wealth, he wouldn’t hesitate to agree in the least. Naturally, this was because he led a life of decadence; the so-called entirety of his family’s wealth wasn’t much to begin with.
No one had known what the dark-skinned man’s name was for quite a long time. The people at the harbor either addressed him as “Grandpa Black”, or his nickname, “Black Bear”. He was the leader of the small gang “Iron Fist Group” while Sun Ergou held a similar status in the “Fourth Level Gang”. As a result, these factions had arrived at this dock to supervise the porters of their respective sides.
A mountain cannot hold two tigers, let alone this minuscule dock. As a result, the two gangs have had tense relations since. After several conflicts over merchant customers, their relationships grew even more vile. Whenever the two gangs saw each other, they would sneer in contempt and shove each other aside, falling short of a full-on conflict.
If the subordinates acted in this manner, then what was there to say about the greatest beneficiaries of the business here, Sun Ergou and Black Bear? These two figures looked at each other with great dislike. However, as the young gang leaders, these two knew that the Iron Fist Group and the Fourth Level Gang were allied gangs. They had united to fend off the comparatively larger “Poison Dragon Gang”. As a result, although the two had wanted to drive the other away from this place and monopolize the dock, they could only restrain themselves for the time being. However, they accumulated resentment and fury against one another and vented their feelings through their subordinates’ verbal conflicts. Their exchange of insults had become a common occurrence that took place every morning.
As a matter of fact, Sun Ergou’s subordinates did not even wait to initiate a conflict. Many clever, eloquent subordinates struck back without a trace of politeness.
“Do you know what animal is the most stupid of them all?”
“Which of bears are the most stupid?”
“Black bears without a doubt!”
When Black Bear had originally heard his own subordinates ridicule the other party, his face wore a proud expression. However, his elated face darkened after hearing these words. Sun Ergou started to smile. Pleased, he patted the shoulders of several subordinates to further encourage them.
Black Bear’s subordinates were not to be outdone. Those on Sun Ergou’s side were not polite either. A great deal of filthy words spurted out from both sides. Everyone became each other’s old grandpa, and neither side feared the other. Naturally, the conflict at the dock was not pleasant to hear. Vulgar unpleasantries of all kinds were exchanged.
As the leaders of their respective gangs, Sun Ergou and Black Bear cooly looked at each other. Since they were people with status, they naturally could not join in the abusive, quarrelsome racket.
Just as these two sides’ mouths and tongues were about to dry, saliva suddenly splattered. One of Sun Ergou’s subordinates cried out in alarm, “A boat is drawing near!”
These words roused Black Bear’s near one hundred cursing subordinates, who all exhaled in surprise. They all stopped making noise and immediately turned their gazes toward the river bank. After all, shining white silver was far more attractive than the fleeting verbal delight.
However, when Black Bear’s group looked toward the boat in the dock, they were somewhat disappointed. It was only a small flat boat. At best, it would only have three to five merchant customers, which was not a large amount of business at all.
This was not surprising, given that this dock was rotten and small. In addition, its location was far from the city. Under these circumstances, it was only natural that no big boats would come here. However, during peak season for trade and commerce, other docks would have no space for large boats, so merchants would have no choice but to disembark here.
After this small boat stopped at the dock, two people climbed off board. One appeared to be a common youngster about seventeen to eighteen years old. The other was a large man at least two heads taller than an ordinary person.
The youngster wore a common azure garment, and a small yellow bird perched on his shoulder. Just as he stepped off board, he looked around. He had the appearance of a rural villager that had entered the city for the first time. The huge man wore a green gown and a mantle over his head. His facial appearances were unclear because he wore his clothes in a strange manner. The huge man followed close behind the youngster, refusing to fall even a step behind. Based on his appearance, it seemed that he was a servant.
The huge man and the youngster were actually Han Li and Crooked Soul; they had traveled on the road for three consecutive months before arriving at Doctor Mo’s homeland.
TL Note: This is the start of Book Two. You’re in for a great ride.
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