The people in the third carriage were a mixed bunch.
In the early years, Ling Shu would also take the third carriage.
Some of the most famous literati, in order to save money, would rather ride in the third carriage.
But this did not add any literary atmosphere to the third carriage.
Those who carried goods from north to south, those who traveled thousands of miles to visit their hometowns, and those who went on long journeys while they were young, were all crowded into this dusty carriage.
Looking around, almost everyone wore the same gray-black long robes, with the occasional person wearing a Western suit, which was also stained with dust.
After a long journey, the vast majority of them looked tired, and few could enjoy the leisurely and elegant pastime of looking out the window like the passengers in the first and second carriages.
As the sky gradually darkened, the inside of the carriage was dimly lit by swaying electric lights.
Ah Cai had to hold his kerosene lamp and flashlight high in order to barely recognize each passenger's face.
Some people were dozing off and were awakened by the light, not too happy about it.
They were about to get angry, but as soon as they saw Ah Cai's attire, they immediately quieted down and grumpily turned over to continue sleeping.
Train attendants like Ah Cai often had a bad attitude towards passengers in the third carriage, often scolding and arguing with them. Passengers, thinking it was better to avoid trouble, tried not to provoke them.
Shi Er was being escorted by Ling Shu and obediently followed them.
"Boss, I didn't see a bamboo hat." Ah Cai raised his eyebrows and stared at the empty space behind them. "There's no one else back there, just cargo. You're not trying to trick us, are you?"
Shi Er looked mournful. "I swear on my life, I wouldn't dare lie again! When I was finishing up with him, he gave me the gold leaf and we settled our debts. He didn't tell me where he was going!"
Ling Shu said, "Let's go check it out."
The last two cars of the train were filled with various goods, each packed in tall wooden crates with clear labels indicating their numbers. They were headed from Nanjing to Tianjin.
Ling Shu walked through the aisle between the crates and turned to ask Shi Er, "What's in here?"
"I heard them say that they were all enamel, shipped from Nanjing Enamel Factory to Tianjin for sale. Someone will pick them up at the station. It's hard to breathe here, even for a short while. He shouldn't be here, right?" Shi Er hesitated.
The carriage had no lights, and the air was even more stuffy than the third carriage. Large boxes stood like beasts in the darkness, with only a glimpse of them visible from flashlights and kerosene lamps.
In the aisle and further into the darkness, there were many shadows that could not be detected. The sound of the train rushing on the tracks outside seemed to be separated by a layer, like another world that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Ah Cai was timid, and even with Ling Shu leading the way, he still felt scared.
The lights on the tracks outside flashed by quickly, leaving shadows that flickered at their feet.
Ah Cai couldn't help but look down to see. The more he looked, the more the shadows seemed to have a will of their own, drifting and flickering about.
After the crowded train car emptied out, it suddenly became desolate and quiet.
Suddenly, Ah Cai's gaze froze. He thought he saw a dark shadow flicker by.
Doubting his own eyes, he rubbed them and looked again.
The shadow was gone.
Meanwhile, Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang had split up to search for someone.
Ah Cai felt a bit scared and hurried to catch up with them. Lost in thought, he tripped over a wooden plank and fell flat on his face.
As he got up, Ah Cai saw the shadow behind the box flicker again. He looked again and saw Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang leading Shi Er in another direction. He cautiously approached the shadow.
Without shouting out at the first moment, he was afraid that Ling Shu and the others would come over and find it was a false alarm, blaming him for being overly nervous.
Ah Cai felt that he could at least help the two bosses and maybe even earn some silver as a reward like Shi Er did just now.
But a few seconds later, he regretted it.
Just as Ah Cai approached the box, a hand suddenly reached out and dragged him in!
Ah Cai didn't even have time to call for help before his mouth was covered, and then a sharp pain shot through his back!
A dagger pierced straight through his heart from behind.
One blow, one kill.
Ah Cai didn't even have a chance to look back before he died, so he never saw the face of his killer.
But if he had turned around, he would have seen a small, withered figure standing on top of the box, holding a bloody knife in his hand.
The commotion surrounding Ah Cai's murder was drowned out by the noise of the train speeding past outside, but Ling Shu still sensed that something was amiss.
"Ah Cai!" he called out, raising his voice, but there was no response.
Ling Shu looked up and in the dim light, he noticed that Yue Dingtang was also looking in his direction.
They exchanged a meaningful glance, and Ling Shu thought that Yue Dingtang was signaling for him to come over and take Shi Er from his hand. However, Yue Dingtang stood up and walked over himself.
Shi Er was feeling uneasy. He had seen the skills of the man in the bamboo hat before.
Although he was short in stature, his movements were as quick as lightning. He didn't even need a gun, as his short dagger was faster than any firearm.
In close combat, a gun was often ineffective, but a sharp weapon could catch one off guard.
Shi Er was starting to regret confessing so easily about the man in the bamboo hat.
With the other side being so ruthless, if Ling Shu and his team couldn't subdue them this time, he himself might not be able to escape.
Yue Dingtang took step by step towards the box.
Behind the box, the hooded man also tightly held the short knife in his hand.
As long as Yue Dingtang took one more step forward, he could strike lightning-fast and stab the other person to death.
But, Yue Dingtang stopped right where he was.
Just one step away, neither more nor less.
The hooded man was secretly frustrated.
Was it possible that Yue Dingtang had grown an extra pair of eyes beside him?
The sound of footsteps stopped, and even the sound of breathing couldn't be heard.
The hooded man perked up his ears and leaned forward.
Suddenly, a dangerous alarm bell made him instinctively turn his head back!
It was too late by half a step.
The back of the hooded man's head was hit by a hard object.
The hooded man knew that Yue Dingtang didn't want to kill him.
He needed to extract more information about the source of the Tibetan script on the gold foil from the man himself.
Since he didn't want to use force, he decided to be blunt!
Without hesitation, he spun around and delivered a flying kick.
Yue Dingtang retreated, trying to escape the carriage, but found the door locked.
He had no choice but to turn around and face his attacker, hoping to take him down before dealing with anyone else.
In a split second, Yue Dingtang didn't raise his gun - he wouldn't have had time to shoot anyway - but instead met the assassin's dagger head-on!
Just then, a gunshot rang out from the other side.
The assassin screamed in agony and fell to the ground, dropping his dagger.
Yue Dingtang seized the opportunity to grab it, and two more gunshots were drowned out by the train's whistle. Ling Shu walked over and pointed his gun at his head, speaking in a light and cheerful tone.
"You're called Douli, right? We don't want to kill you, but if you keep moving, you won't just hurt your leg. There are plenty of places on your body that we can hit without killing you. Your life isn't worth much anyway, so letting you slowly suffer to death isn't a bad idea, is it?"
Douli's wound was bleeding profusely, and he was sweating coldly, only able to gasp for air.
Yue Dingtang immediately began to search his body.
Ling Shu then strode over to check on Ah Cai's condition, shaking his head after a moment.
Douli had a lot of things on him, all sorts of odds and ends.
Aside from finding a book wrapped in thick cloth, there were also several silver dollars, some loose change, a dagger, and even a hand grenade.
Yue Dingtang unwrapped the thick cloth layer by layer.
Several white thin slices came into view. The object was about the size of a palm and felt slightly cold to the touch.
It was neither made of gold, nor jade, nor bamboo.
So what could it be?
"It's ivory," Ling Shu declared, the first to recognize it.
His fingers followed suit and traced over the surface.
Tiny characters, as small as grains of rice, were carved into the thin ivory piece.
"An ivory-carved scripture?"
Beneath the ivory-carved scripture lay an even thinner layer of gold foil, more intact and exquisite than Shi Er previously obtained. Its value was naturally beyond comparison. The gold foil was also engraved with characters, but they were too small to read clearly. One would need to examine them under broad daylight.
"Where did you steal these things from?"
Douli clenched his teeth and remained silent.
The next second, Ling Shu stepped directly on the gunshot wound on his leg.
For someone who could kill two people in a row, someone who was ruthless and merciless, there was no need for Ling Shu to show any mercy.
"Brother Douli, if you don't speak up, this leg might be useless. If you confess, we'll bandage you up and take you to the police station to recover. Maybe there's still a way out for you."
Douli closed his eyes.
"I got it from that person Zhang Chaofeng!"
"Who is Zhang? The person you killed in the dressing room?"
"How did you know he had these things on him? And where did these ivory carvings come from?"
"He used to work as a pawnshop attendant. When he drank too much, he loved to brag. One time, I happened to be sitting at the table next to him and overheard him boasting to his friends about how he had come across a sucker with plenty of valuable items in his possession. He claimed he could sell them for enough money to buy several mansions and never have to worry about food or drink for the rest of his life. I was in desperate need of money at the time, so I became interested..."
The voice under the straw hat grew quieter and quieter until Ling Shu lightly kicked him, causing the man to yelp and raise his voice again.
"After he left Fengtian, I followed him all the way to Beijing and then to Nanjing. He met many people, seemingly trying to sell his treasures. He always had someone with him, so I never found an opportunity to make a move. That's when I thought of doing it on this train. And then, well, you all saw what happened!"
Ling Shu asked, "Where did these things come from? Did that man surnamed Zhang say anything?"
Douli panted and replied, "He did mention it, but I can't quite remember. It was something like... surnamed Guan... yes, it was Guan! The Guan family from Fengtian! Many people know about them. Their second young master, Guan Qizhi, always sells things cheaply. He said that the Guan family loves antiques but doesn't know their true value. With just a few words, they can easily get their hands on things without any effort!"
Ling Shu remembered that their destination this time was also Fengtian.
What a coincidence! Yue Dingtang's uncle is also surnamed Guan.
Yue Dingtang nodded slightly at Ling Shu.
It was indeed the Guan family. So, it turns out that a man named Zhang, who is a distant relative of Yue Dingtang, managed to get a set of treasures from his second cousin's hands. He then sold and traded them around, but was eventually targeted by Douli who coveted the treasures. Douli planned to attack Zhang on the train and then escape after getting off at the next stop. Little did he know, he would run into Ling Shu and his companions, and after a series of twists and turns, the treasures ended up back in the hands of the Guan family.
"Zhang had also m-mentioned, the Guan family is going through some changes right now. There's a lot of turmoil and many of the treasures that were once held tightly by the old lady Guan are now up for grabs. It's a great opportunity to buy them at a low price. The Guan family has a rich history and who knows, you might even be able to find some rare and valuable treasures!"
Douli winced in pain as he had revealed more than he intended to under Ling Shu's pressure.
Yue Dingtang asked, "How many sons does Elder Guan have? They are all grown up, so even if he suddenly passes away, his family shouldn't fall into chaos. Where would the instability come from?"
Douli replied, "It's a complete mess. If you go to Fengtian, you'll see for yourself! I, I've told you everything!"