Chapter 28 Night Rain
The rain seemed to be black.
Where water met the sky, in the deep darkness, fishing lights flickered faintly, like ghostly apparitions from the other side. The last note of the qin string dissipated, and the night became unusually quiet.
At this moment, a woman’s sharp scream shattered the silence of the long night.
In the distant small boats gathered around the painted boat, the guards were sitting together, waiting for Fan Cheng’s signal when they heard the mournful cry, they all froze.
“What’s going on? Why is there a commotion after all this time?” the leading guard asked.
“The young master hasn’t sent a signal, so let’s wait a bit longer,” someone suggested.
Having served as Fan Cheng’s guards for many years, their most important task was to understand their master’s intentions. Such occurrences were commonplace, as Fan Cheng had been the young master of the Fan family for many years. Apart from the women he personally stuck to, he had also taken advantage of many young women from respectable families. On a night like this, such situations had occurred more than once. They would bring those poor women onto the boat or to another residence, and Fan Cheng would violate them. Afterward, they would be given some money and sent away. Those women came from humble backgrounds and had no place to appeal, so they could only accept their fate.
He Yan was about to become one of them.
Originally, Miss He had deep feelings for Fan Cheng, and there was no need for such trouble. Who knew that after the altercation outside the Fan family’s mansion, Fan Cheng had truly lost his temper and wanted to force himself on her. She had decided to end things with him. However, Fan Cheng was relentless, and he resorted to force when his soft approach failed.
What the guards had to do was bring He Yan to Fan Cheng and handle the aftermath.
“I don’t think this is right,” the leading guard stood up and looked towards the painted boat. The boat where Fan Cheng was located was swaying violently in the river, as if someone was fighting inside.
“Something’s wrong! There’s a problem!” he exclaimed. “Everyone, get up! Hurry over; something strange is happening on the boat!”
The others were all startled and quickly rowed their small boat towards the painted boat. As they got closer, they suddenly saw a woman rushing out of the boat. She stumbled and seemed to be avoiding someone. It was He Yan, wearing clothes that matched her description. She looked panicked, and with a cry, she fell into the river.
The surging river quickly submerged her, and there was almost no sound. It was as if a stone had fallen into the water, only causing a small splash on the surface before all was calm again.
“Master!” one guard couldn’t help but call out.
No one cared about He Yan’s life or death. When the small boat was about to reach the painted boat, the leading guard relied on his qing gong* to leap over the bow and climb onto the boat. He took a few steps into the boat and saw a man with his back to him, covering his face with a sweat cloth, only revealing his eyes, which were indistinct in the dim light. At his feet, Fan Cheng was lying on his back in a pool of blood.
* type of martial arts skill that allows practitioners to move swiftly and lightly, almost as if they are floating on air
The masked man held a dagger in his hand.
The guard was shocked. He didn’t expect someone to be on the boat. Seeing Fan Cheng, he feared the situation was dire. Without thinking, he rushed towards the masked man, “How dare you!”
The masked man sneered and engaged in a fight with the guard.
The sound of the fight echoed in the boat, and the boat shook even more violently. The other guards caught up with the boat, and the masked man saw that the situation was unfavorable, so he no longer lingered and leaped into the river with a single leap.
“Capture him!” the leader of the guards shouted. “He killed the young master!”
Everyone followed, but they found that the masked man was very cunning. The guards all got on this boat, thinking he would jump into the river, but he ended up on the small boat they had just arrived in.
In the middle of the river, some people could swim, but on such a dark night, it was inevitable that danger lurked. However, the small boat was light and glided quickly along the current, while the painted boat was heavier, and even with several people rowing together, they still fell behind the masked man by half a step.
In the rain, one in front and one in the back, nobody saw this fleeing scene in the middle of the river.
When they were about to reach the shore, the masked man threw the wooden oar in his hand, pointed his toes, and leaped onto the riverbank, disappearing from their sight. The leader of the guards said, “Leave two people to find the city guards. The rest of you, follow me in pursuit!”
Although it was night, it was not yet deep into the night. Spring had arrived, and there were still peddlers doing business on both sides of the river. Suddenly, a masked man rushed from the dock, running so hastily that he bumped into numerous stalls, with a group of guards following closely behind, their murderous intent chilling.
“What’s going on? Why is he in such a hurry?” The peddler whose stall was overturned dared not say much, and he bent down to pick up the scattered fruits and melons from the ground.
“It seems like a homicide. Judging by the people chasing him, they’re not ordinary folks.”
“Poor Heavens, why is it so unsettled lately?”
The waters by the riverbank exuded a fishy smell. Suddenly, a hand emerged from the water, first grabbing onto the stones at the shore and then pulling out the whole person, bringing with them the smell of dampness.
He Yunsheng’s entire body was trembling. He dared not move too early, afraid of being discovered. He had been lurking underwater for a long time, quietly swimming downstream. At the moment, his face was pale, and his lips were darkened. It was unclear whether it was from soaking in the cold river water for too long or simply from fear.
He still tightly held a basket in his hand. Inside the basket were the clothes that He Yan had prepared for him from the tailor’s shop. It was a basket with some snacks that He Yan had put the clothes into and covered. The clothes remained clean and dry, not soaked by the water. He took off the woman’s clothes on his body, crumpled them up, and threw them into the basket. Then he tied several slightly heavier stones to the basket and threw it into the river.
The river immediately swallowed the basket.
He put on the new spring clothes. The clothes fit him well, and the style was very beautiful. There was also a headscarf of the same color, just enough to hide his wet hair. As he put on the clothes, his throat choked up.
However, there was no time for him to be afraid here. He Yan’s words were still ringing in his ears.
“You have to change into clean clothes and sneak back home, make sure you’re fast.”
Make sure you’re fast.
His footsteps staggered as he took a shortcut and hurried back home.
It seemed that the city guards were arresting people all over the city. As He Yunsheng walked, he overheard people talking on the street.
“I heard someone was murdered on a boat on the river, and it was a brutal death.”
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know, but it was the young master of a wealthy family. Haven’t you seen the city guards searching everywhere?”
“With so many people, the killer won’t escape. Maybe they’ve already been caught. Ah, this rain seems never-ending. My clothes are all soaked.”
The voices gradually faded away until they could no longer be heard.
Faster, even faster.
The youth in the green robe and headscarf hurried past the street. His spring clothes were still thin, and on such a rainy day, he must have felt cold. He shivered and tightened his collar, quickly heading home.
The rain grew heavier, and pedestrians without umbrellas hurriedly sought shelter. The peddlers took cover under the eaves, loudly calling out to passersby, just as they did on the previous night. Tonight seemed no different from last night.
“Sister…” Someone murmured softly, like a breeze on a spring night, falling silently in the drizzle.
The young man walked forward, not looking back, tears silently falling down.