Editor: Areth Kyntaul
Indian Naan Bread and the Puzzle
The hawker was from the Central Plains. He didn’t get flustered when he saw me. Instead, he chuckled and replied, “Hi, Sir. Happy New Year. Were you looking to buy a painting?”
“Happy New Year. Happy New Year.”
I thoughtlessly responded and then violently snatched the paintings in his hands.
“Let me see them. I’m not stealing. It’s just one copper coin.”
I can’t believe my likeness is being sold on the streets! I wasn’t sure if somebody drew me when I was strolling around in the west, back then. If they really did, my days in the capital would be over.
I flipped through the “Records of Famous People of the West” book.
I froze up on the busy street. I heard “Candied haws for sale~”, “Indian naan bread” and “Bread rolls. Bread rolls straight from the oven~”, every once in a while.
I was still stuck staring at the painting.
‘Who… is this?’
This Lord San Shen looked like the one I fooled the Princess with, just before. He wasn’t from the Central Plains. He looked disgusting. He had black hair, black eyes, wavy hair, and you could tell he wasn’t from the Central Plains from his facial features. The guy looked like he was in his fifties. He was covered in black hair. The book was twenty plus pages, filled with paintings of this uncle from different angles.
‘Good grief! So ugly!’
I took in a deep breath and then grabbed a naan bread from a hawker by the side. I took a bite.
I then gave him three copper coins. I then let out a big sigh.
‘It’s not me!!!’
It was obvious that it was fake.
‘But what’s so good about posing as Lord San Shen? What, there are counterfeit fugitives now, too?’
Li Hongzhuang rushed over from behind. She glanced at the book and then in a curious tone, asked, “This is how Lord San Shen looks? He…”
I angrily exclaimed, “That’s not him! He’s not even one of his ancestors!”
The hawker retorted, “How is he not? Look…” He lowered his voice, “There is this one, too. It has paintings of the demon Ximen. He is as famous as Lord San Shen. However, this is a hardcover version, so it costs twenty copper coins. Look…”
He flipped to another page. Ximen Chuideng looked the way he should, and he was drawn surprisingly well.
‘How did I turn into an old Indian man, though?!’
“I-Is there a hardcover version for Lord San Shen, then?”
“Yes! Of course! Say so sooner.”
The hawker narrowed his eyes with a smile and handed me a new book. It was clear that the paper quality was superior and the threads were done up sturdier, It was much better than the graffiti on toilet paper just now.
I flipped it open and took a look. The Indian uncle appeared again.
I threw the book away and flashed my token again. I grabbed the hawker’s shoulder and said, “Punk! You’re selling fake paintings on the street. Did you know that Liu Shan Men hates scammers like you the most? Come with me.”
“Please no! Sir! Please don’t! Please don’t! I did not know that it was fake!” The hawker started to get a little panicked, “These came from a few recent foreigners. How would we peasants know what the people from the west look like? We just know what they say.”
‘A few foreigners? They sold these? Now you’ve got my attention.’
Though my painting was completely inaccurate, Ximen Chuideng’s painting was very alike.
‘Why have foreigners started selling these, all of a sudden?’
Noticing that I was silent for a long time, the hawker panicked and said, “Please believe me! These paintings have been spread through Bright Lane. Everybody in a family that worships the White God has a copy.”
“Every family has a copy of this junk?!”
Li Hongzhuang frowned. The six flower petals on her head shook, making her look less pretty.
“What are you so worked up for? It’s not easy for him to get by with this small business.”
‘That’s a stupid question! This is the same as swearing at me right to my face!!’
But I had to show the Princess respect, so I released him.
The hawker’s expression, now, didn’t look so grim. He revealed a mysterious smile and said, “Sir, calm down. I still have plenty of goods. This is a one-and-only exclusive. I promise that it is the official version. This is it, Lord San Shen X Ximen Chuideng. I will only take two taels…”
“Get lost! Run for your life!! Hey! Miss Li, what are you buying that junk for?!”
I watched on with disbelief as I watched the heroic Princess purchase the Lord San Shen X Ximen Chuideng book. She revealed a short-lasting charming smile and then said, “It’s just paintings. What are you all worked up about? There might be a clue. It’s quite thick, though. Lord San Shen X Ximen Chuideng… What sort of story is it? A martial arts duel painting?”
‘… I wish you nice dreams tonight.’
I tried to find out where the foreigners were staying from the hawker, then continued walking through Bright Lane with the Princess. This isn’t a small place, but neither is it large. However, there just had to be so many narrow alleys that it would take some time to get through the entire area.
We walked for a while. Peering suspiciously at the building behind us, I sighed to myself.
‘This aside, Ximen Chuideng’s painting circulating among the people isn’t normal… I must get to the bottom of this.’
I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I made a cup-fist salute and apologetically said, “Miss Li, I have remembered something I must attend to and must take my leave for a bit.”
Li Hongzhuang glanced at me. She didn’t say much. She gave a blunt response, “I am grateful that you were willing to come today. How about we part ways here since you have work to do?”
I looked at her silent eyes. It seemed she understood the current situation.
I apologised, “I am very sorry for ruining your mood, Miss. I shall treat you to Indian naan bread next time if I get the chance.”
“You do what you have to, Brother Ming. This place is very interesting. I want to go around on my own. I shall take my leave now.”
I stood in place as I watched Princess Hongzhuang’s beautiful, slender silhouette walk off into the distance. She, genuinely, is a girl that’s straightforward. She wouldn’t be able to make friends in the palace with that straightforward personality of hers, would she?
‘I must introduce General Manager Bai to you if I get the chance. The two of you would definitely be good friends.’
After seeing her go off into the distance, I bluntly said, “You people can come out now.”
A few black silhouettes emerged from the corner. Another four or five that I noticed before jumped out from the small buildings. There were around roughly twelve or thirteen of them. All of them had their faces covered and dressed in either black or grey robes that’d be suited for moving about at night.
“You sure have dangerous eyes. We brothers hid well, if I may so say myself. Yet, surprisingly, we couldn’t escape your eyes.”
The leader of the group did his best to alter his voice, but I could still tell he was around forty to fifty. He had a fat physique and struggled to move.
“Who are you people?”
The fatty in black, who was the leader, laughed and said, “Why not take a guess?”
“You’ve got your faces covered in bright daylight. There’s a few too many of you, making you too conspicuous to be thieves. You’re not robbers, are you?”
The fatty laughed and replied “Correct. We’re robbers. Are you going to surrender or are you going to stubbornly resist? It’s up to you, but I have to capture you, regardless of your decision.”
Both their martial arts skills and their experience were far inferior to the Black Winds Thirteen Wings, let alone Mystery’s level. It looks like they don’t know the details and are just being used as mere robbers.
But I couldn’t ask for anything better.
I chuckled and asked, “Do you know why you’re capturing me here?”
The fatty in black laughed, “We’ll capture you wherever you stop. Is that even a question? Did I scare you silly? Hahaha.”
The others laughed with him. They filled the narrow alley with their laughter, but then it gradually died down. All that was left was the echoes of the dry laughter before it died down altogether. Silence engulfed the narrow alley again.
This narrow alley ended here as a dead end. There was nowhere left to go. The closest street with people was over a hundred steps away.
“Heh, how interesting.”
I tilted my head and then lowered it. I took in a breath. My inner energy surged up in waves. I gently raised my hand to throw a gentle palm strike behind me. The stone house behind me couldn’t withstand the pressure of the strike, causing half of the wall to collapse.
The sound of stones dropping to the ground filled the narrow alley, while dust and a small wind blew into their faces.
I could see various emotions in their eyes, including terror, confusion, regret and panic.
I, on the other hand, only had a desire to smile in my eyes.
“Let’s play a game. Those who tell the truth won’t turn into naan bread. Fatty, you start.”