Yue Dingtang suspected that the Second Master had come for the pagoda, but he didn't expect them to immediately ask to buy it.
"Second Uncle, why do you say that?" he asked.
"Oh, come on, Dingtang, we're family, no need to play dumb. To be honest, I never thought that the old master had this treasure in his possession, and he specifically left it for you. But let's face it, if he had revealed it earlier, it might have been snatched up by my eldest or fourth brother. Now, although they are hesitant to act due to the old master's will, can you guarantee your safety once you step out of the Guan family's gate?"
Seeing Yue Dingtang's thoughtful expression, the Second Master continued to press on.
"You will have to take the pagoda all the way back. First, you need to take a train from Fengtian to Tianjin or Beijing. Then, you will have to transfer trains and go through many twists and turns before you can return to Shanghai. Along the way, you will encounter many people with ulterior motives and many who would not hesitate to kill. Can you guarantee that you will safely bring the box back? Some people not only rob, but also take lives. They collude with the local authorities and are in cahoots with the bandits. The Yue family may be powerful in Shanghai, but what about outside of Shanghai? Surely not everyone in China knows someone with the surname Yue, right?
"Furthermore, even if you make it back safely without anyone targeting you, what about in Fengtian City or the three provinces in the east?"
The Second Master leaned in, lowering his voice. "This is Japanese territory. Can they not get what they want? They have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves. You never know what they'll come up with next. They'll lay traps for you left and right. One day, they'll just throw themselves in front of you and demand exorbitant medical fees. If you can't pay, they'll take your Buddhist pagoda as collateral. Will you take it or not? By then, you'll be left with nothing."
He spoke with confidence, explaining everything in detail. He was indeed the person in charge of external affairs for the Guan family.
"Second Uncle is right," Yue Dingtang nodded in agreement.
But then he reversed the question, "How can you guarantee that the Japanese won't come after you once you have the Buddhist pagoda?"
The old man said, "Your uncle was able to establish himself in Fengtian back then, naturally with the help of various connections. The mayor of Fengtian and my father also had some friendship. As long as we handle it properly, there won't be any problems. This thing is delicate and can easily be damaged during transportation. Even a slight bump could cause a missing piece, turning a rare treasure into a regrettable loss for all eternity. I have been collecting antiques for many years and I cannot bear to see it end up like this... sigh!"
Yue Dingtang asked, "Since it is a rare treasure, does Uncle have a suitable price in mind to evaluate it?"
The old man smiled and said, "Dingtang, I want to discuss something with you. Name your price, and even if my brother-in-law has to sell everything he owns, it doesn't matter. But you have to leave me a room and provide for my family's basic needs. After all, I have a wife and children to support. I'll write you an IOU, and if it's not enough, I'll slowly pay you back later. How about it?"
"Master, you can't say that. From the beginning, I didn't want you to sell your property for this useless pagoda. You didn't listen and insisted on going your own way. This thing is a hot potato. When you go bankrupt buying it, where will you get the money to take care of yourself?"
The wife of the old man's brother-in-law was named He, and she was as beautiful as a fairy. Her voice was clear and melodious, like pearls falling to the ground. No wonder the old man doted on his young wife and fulfilled her every wish.
With a flick of her charming eyes, Mrs. He exuded natural charm. "Speaking of which, your nephew shouldn't be so heartless as to demand exorbitant prices and leave our whole family begging for food, right?"
The couple chimed in unison, as if Yue Dingtang had already agreed to sell the pagoda to them.
"Second Master, may I say something?"
Ling Shu, now fully energized after a satisfying meal, spoke with great vigor.
The Second Master's mouth twitched, wanting to send Ling Shu away, but considering that this Ling surname could brainwash and influence Yue Dingtang, he decided to let him speak. After all, he didn't want to ruin his own good fortune.
"Go ahead." Ling Shu smiled and said, "The Buddhist pagoda is precious, everyone knows that. Old Yue doesn't have a greedy heart to keep it for himself. But unfortunately, it was left behind by the old master's request and he can't return it. If you want to buy it, it won't violate the old master's last wish. However, with so many people in the Guan family, who the Buddhist pagoda will be sold to is a difficult decision for Old Yue."
The Second Master frowned, "You just came back and someone else has already visited you? Don't try to fool me."
Ling Shu replied, "Wait a moment and someone else will come. If you don't believe me, you can wait a little longer."
Buying the Buddhist pagoda was an idea that the Second Master came up with, so how could others not think of it?
Sure enough, not long after, the second person arrived at the door.
It was the Eldest Master.
As soon as the Eldest Master saw the Second Master and his wife, his eyes widened. "Ha, Little Brother, I knew you were a hypocrite with a heart full of wickedness!"
Second Master's face darkened. "Big Brother, what nonsense are you spouting? Since Dingtang came to visit, his aunt hasn't even had a chance to properly meet her nephew. Now that I brought her over to say hello, you're still not happy?"
Big Master sneered. "I'm afraid some people use greetings as an excuse to set their sights on their nephew's belongings!"
Second Master asked, "Then what are you here for?"
Big Master plopped down on a chair and said carelessly, "I'm also here to visit my nephew!"
The two brothers stared at each other in disbelief.
Second Master was at a loss. Big Master's butt was like sticky gum, impossible to drive away and insulting to scold.
Seeing that the conversation couldn't continue, Second Master had no choice but to stand up and bid farewell. "Rest well, Dingtang. Tomorrow we must go up the mountain to kowtow to the old master. Don't be late. I'll go take care of things now, no need to see me off," said Second Master as he left.
With Second Master gone, Eldest Master became excited.
"Dingtang, I have a business proposition. Do you have any interest?" he asked.
Yue Dingtang replied, "Eldest Uncle, I am not a businessman. I am just a teacher. I'm afraid I cannot handle the business you speak of."
Eldest Master waved his hand dismissively. "Bah, let's not speak in formalities. I have the deed to this house. It's worth at least five or six hundred taels of silver. If you're willing, I'll trade it for the Buddhist pagoda. I'll even throw in the rice mill and farm that the old master left me. You won't lose out on this deal. You can sell everything and exchange it for silver bills at the bank in Shanghai. It's better than carrying a Buddhist pagoda all over China, isn't it?"
To be honest, Yue Dingtang was quite impressed with the old master's idea.
"This house has so many people living in it now, what will happen to them if we sell it?" Yue asked.
The Eldest Master shrugged, "They'll have to find somewhere else to live when we divide the property. But since I hold the deed, they can't do anything about it."
"Uncle, let me think about it," Yue Dingtang said.
The Eldest Master nodded and didn't waste any time, "I'll be going now. Don't believe anything your second uncle says. He's a liar who talks big but can't back it up. He'll probably say he wants to buy your Buddhist pagoda, but he won't be able to come up with the money. My offer is real, so think carefully and don't make any foolish decisions!"
After seeing off both groups of people, Yue Dingtang couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief. Ling Shu grinned with delight, "This is just the opening act, the real show is yet to come. Don't be too quick to sigh."
Yue Dingtang replied, "I think I'll just close the door and refuse any more guests."
Ling Shu retorted, "You can avoid the first day, but you can't avoid the fifteenth. It's better to listen to all their conditions first and then make a plan."
Soon, the third group of guests arrived at the door.
It was the Fourth Master and the handsome young man Ivanov.
Fourth Master was just a guide, the real negotiator was Ivanov, who proposed even more favorable conditions than the previous two.
"Mongolian horse trading?"
Yue Dingtang repeated his words.
Ivanov nodded, "Yes."
Yue Dingtang asked, "How can you, being in Fengtian, decide on Mongolian horse trading? And from your appearance, it seems like you have nothing to do with the Mongolian people."
Ivanov smiled slightly, "I have some connections with the Duke of Germany. Not only horses, but also cattle and sheep. I heard that the Yue family has some influence in the Nanjing government. If we add my connections, we can not only have a say in the court, but also make money for ourselves. Why not do it? Please consider it carefully, Mr. Yue."
His proficiency was excellent, and his Chinese was almost without any foreign accent. Either he had stayed in China for a long time, or he had a special tutor.
Yue Dingtang said, "I don't understand."
Ivanov asked, "What else don't you understand, Mr. Yue?"
Yue Dingtang replied, "Is this pagoda really that attractive to you? What you promised has far exceeded the value of the pagoda itself. Even if I agree, I'm afraid I won't be at ease."
Ivanov laughed. His beauty was enhanced by his smile, and Ivanov's appearance transcended gender. Even in women's clothing, no one would find it odd.
"You are very calm. Even when faced with such a large profit, you have not lost your rationality. I am very confident in doing business with you. In fact, I was also entrusted by someone. Years ago, the Duke asked me to help him find a seven-story pagoda, which he said was his family heirloom. It was lost for some reason many years ago. I have been traveling to and from China for so many years, and only today have I seen a Buddhist pagoda that resembles his description. Although it may not be the one he is looking for, I am willing to try and fulfill my many years of friendship with the Duke."
Yue Dingtang said, "Your deep affection for your friends is truly moving, but I need to think about this matter carefully." Ivanov nodded, "Of course, this is a big matter. Take your time to consider and just give me a definite answer before leaving Fengtian."
The Russian man stood up to bid farewell, but the fourth master couldn't resist imparting some wisdom and sentimentality. He held onto Yue Dingtang's hand and chattered away, even throwing in a couple of auspicious sayings. He said that Yue Dingtang had a valuable destiny and even if he didn't become extremely wealthy, he would never have to worry about food and clothing. He had a noble and pure destiny, and the gift of the Buddhist pagoda to a destined person would surely bring good karma and blessings.
Ling Shu couldn't help but join in the fun.
"Uncle Four, can you take a look at my destiny too? How is it?"
"You?" The corners of the elder's mouth twitched, and he really wanted to push away Ling Shu's face that was getting too close.
"Didn't I already show you before? You had a great calamity in your youth, but you survived it." Ling Shu laughed, "You only talked about the past, what about the future?"
Fourth Master remained expressionless, "Grandmaster Huang is resting, I can't show you. Please make another appointment when he comes down to earth."
Ling Shu was puzzled, "Then how come you showed it to Old Yue?"
Fourth Master took a deep breath and said slowly, "I see that although you will face difficulties in your life, you will always encounter noble people who can turn bad luck into good fortune. Anyone who appears by your side could become your noble person. Remember to show respect and seek advice from them, don't offend them. Then you will have a peaceful life."
Ling Shu asked, "So, is Old Yue my noble person?"
Fourth Master looked mysterious, "If you think he is, then he is. If you don't think so, then he isn't."
Ling Shu nodded, enlightened by the advice. "I think that Second Master is also my benefactor. Thanks to him, we have delicious donkey meat hotpot to eat and a warm kang to sleep on," said Ling Shu.
This made Fourth Master furious. He thought to himself, "Aren't I also your benefactor? Why didn't you mention me? Just because of a pot of donkey meat hotpot, you're easily swayed?"
Ling Shu either truly didn't understand or was pretending not to see Fourth Master's anger. He continued to count on his fingers, from the number of people in the Guan family to Ivanov, but he forgot to include Fourth Master.
Ivanov had already seen through Ling Shu's game and didn't want to anger Fourth Master any further. He found an excuse to take the Fourth Master away and before leaving, he left a sincere message for Yue Dingtang.
"Mr. Yue, I will visit again tomorrow. Everything can be discussed and considered. If you agree, I can immediately go to the Duke and obtain his personal letter and advance payment as a gesture of sincerity."
Finally, the two men left.
To be precise, one was driven away by Ling Shu's anger.
Yue Dingtang glanced at him sideways.
The latter treated today as a monkey show and was in a good mood, humming a tune.
Yue Dingtang asked, "The entire Guan family has been offended, and you're still happy?"
Ling Shu replied, "Well, even Officer Yue seemed to be enjoying the show. The Duke he mentioned can't be the same one as Duke De, could it?"
Yue Dingtang said, "It should be that same one."
The two of them were like playing charades, but they understood each other perfectly. The so-called Duke, whose full name is Dmitry Tsekhanskoy, Duke of Lupton, is a Mongolian nobleman and one of the warlords who holds significant power in the region. He is ambitious and well-known in Mongolia and even in the northeast.
Regardless of whether the Duke's family heirloom mentioned by Ivanov is true or false, as long as the Duke he represents is real, this deal is not a loss for Yue Dingtang.
At the very least, it is more reliable and cost-effective than dealing with the Eldest and Second Masters.
This pure gold pagoda is so exquisite and precious that it cannot be dropped or touched during transportation from Fengtian out of the city, and it must pass through various obstacles. Even if it were Chairman Jiang, he would not dare to guarantee that nothing would go wrong.
Yue Dingtang is well aware of this, and so are the others.
Therefore, when these people come to their door, they are all aiming for this and proposing conditions for exchange.
"Captain Yue, are you tempted?"
Yue Dingtang snapped out of his distant thoughts and looked at Ling Shu's excited expression.
"If it were you, would you be tempted?" he asked Ling Shu.
"Of course, among these people, Ivanov's conditions are the most favorable. However, his relationship with the Duke is only known through his own words. Who knows if it's true or if he's using the Duke's name to deceive you?"
Ling Shu shrugged. "Why not take another look? I think the Fifth Master will come knocking soon."
As they say, speak of the devil and he shall appear.
But it wasn't the Fifth Master who arrived.
It was his classmate, Kagesawa.
With impeccable manners, Kagesawa exchanged pleasantries before revealing his purpose.
He inquired about the situation in Shanghai and reminisced about his own visit years ago, where he found the city to be just as bustling as Paris. He even considered settling there if not for his studies.
After three cups of tea, they still hadn't gotten to the point.
Kagesawa glanced at Ling Shu and smiled, "I have something I'd like to discuss with Mr. Yue alone."
Yue Dingtang replied, "Ling Shu, could you please check with the Second Master if the new guest room is ready?"
Even though the Second and Fourth Masters had just arrived, Yue Dingtang didn't ask them to leave. But with just one sentence from Kagesawa, Yue Dingtang was willing to comply.
Ling Shu was surprised but quickly stood up, "Take your time, gentlemen."
Watching Ling Shu's figure disappear into the distance, Kagesawa changed the subject and brought up a person instead of the Buddhist pagoda.
"I wonder if Mr. Yue knows an old friend of mine who used to live in Shanghai for a long time. He was a passionate philanthropist and had a deep affection for Shanghai. Unfortunately, he passed away at a young age, which is a great pity."
Yue Dingtang replied, "I don't seem to have any friends who died young around me."
Kagesawa nodded and said, "I may have been presumptuous, but perhaps you know a Mr. Cheng."
Yue Dingtang asked, "Is it the Mr. Cheng who died in a plane crash with the movie star, Miss He You'an?"
Kagesawa replied, "Yes, that's him."
Yue Dingtang said, "I only met him once and have heard of him for a long time, but we were not very familiar. Mr. Cheng's sudden death was a great loss. The newspapers in Shanghai at that time also reported on it. It was indeed a pity that he and Miss He were both talented and beautiful."
Kagesawa said, "To be honest with you, Mr. Yue, I am here on someone else's behalf."
Yue Dingtang smiled and replied, "Someone else just told me the same thing. It seems like there are many people here today on behalf of others. But Mr. Kagesawa, how does the matter you are about to discuss relate to the late Mr. Cheng?"
Kagesawa didn't smile. "I'm sorry to bother you, but since I've been entrusted with this task, I must do it faithfully. Two people have entrusted me with this task. One is Mr. Liu from the Municipal Office. He was my senior in college, several years ahead of me. The other is your relative, Mr. Yue Dingjin. Before you left Shanghai, Mr. Yue Dingjin must have contacted you. After Mr. Cheng left, no one took over his business. After discussing it with Mr. Liu and Mr. Yue Dingjin, they both hope that the Yue family will take the lead. The specific details will be discussed with Mr. Liu in person, and there will be a result."
He paused and continued, "Also, if you need it, Mr. Liu can have the Buddhist pagoda shipped to your home in Shanghai on behalf of the Fengtian Municipal Government. You can have someone wait to sign for it, so you don't have to carry it all the way and risk losing it, which could cause trouble."
"Thank you. I will consider the proposal for the Buddhist pagoda. As for Mr. Liu, please ask Mr. Kagesawa to tell him that I will go visit him after I pay my respects to the old master on the mountain tomorrow morning," Yue Dingtang replied.
Kagesawa happily stood up and said, "That's great. I'll take my leave now."
After Kagesawa left for a while, Ling Shu came back with his hands behind his back and said, "The Second Master is really annoying. He almost chased me away with a broom. But the guest room is being prepared, and you should be able to move in today."
Yue Dingtang waved at him and said, "Come over and have some tea."
Ling Shu looked suspiciously at Yue Dingtang and asked, "The sun rises from the west?"
Yue Dingtang replied, "Why, don't you want to know what he said to me?"
Ling Shu replied, "If you don't tell me, I won't ask. I'm not someone who likes to pry."
Yue Dingtang chuckled, "I'm afraid you'll scratch your head and can't sleep at night."
Ling Shu clasped his hands together and focused on his breathing, "I am empty in the four elements."
Yue Dingtang smiled slyly, "On the night when Second Master invited us to eat donkey meat hotpot, you left midway. Was it just to go to the bathroom?"
Ling Shu replied, "Didn't I tell you? I went to buy silver needles to test for poison."
Yue Dingtang said, "The silver needle you used to test for poison was actually a silver hairpin from the silver shop. So why did you feel that someone was going to harm us as soon as you arrived at the Guan family and even went to the silver shop?"
Ling Shu rubbed his nose and said, "To be honest, I was following a beautiful girl all the way until she disappeared into the silver building. I didn't want to seem like a stalker, so I just randomly bought something. Do you happen to have a change of heart and want to reimburse me, Captain Yue?"
Yue Dingtang listened to Ling Shu's nonsense with a straight face, his lips becoming flatter and flatter until they formed a straight line. He knew that Ling Shu had many unconscious habits when he lied.
These habits had been present since their school days, and Ling Shu had forcibly changed many of them over the years, but some details remained.
For example, he would tap his finger on the table incessantly, a very subtle movement that would go unnoticed if one didn't pay close attention.
As soon as Ling Shu realized that Yue Dingtang was looking at him, he immediately stopped moving. But by doing so, he immediately looked guilty.
Yue Dingtang looked at him and smiled with a deep meaning.
Ling Shu also smiled innocently.
"Ling Shu, I don't think staying by my side is a good choice for you. If I were your enemy, I would rather kill a thousand by mistake than let one go. I would never consider the old friendship of classmates," said Yue Dingtang half-jokingly.
Ling Shu laughed and replied, "But you are not my enemy, Captain Yue. I am just a small secretary who depends on you to survive. Please don't blame me. To be honest, I went to the silver house because I met a beautiful girl. I still remember what she looks like. Shall I draw her for you?"
Yue Dingtang joked, "I'm afraid you'll draw He You'an and tell me it's a ghost."
Ling Shu chuckled, "You really have a sense of humor."
Yue Dingtang said, "Kagesawa knows Mr. Cheng."
Ling Shu was surprised, "So he suspects the death of He You'an?"
Whether his surprise was genuine or fake, Yue Dingtang cut straight to the point and went straight to the topic.
"You know Old Yuan."
It wasn't a question, there was no counter-question, it was a statement.
Ling Shu denied it quickly, with a very genuine look of innocence on his face.
"I don't know him, how could I know him?"
"You said you went to Sichuan, Yunnan and other places to wander after returning to China, but your accent has not been influenced by the local environment and has not changed slightly. On the contrary, even the local dialect has been eliminated to some extent. This shows that you did go out to wander, but not to Sichuan or Yunnan.
"You always claim to love money more than anything, yet you gave all the reward that He You'an gave you to He Lixin. I also know that you are still secretly investigating Chen Youhua's death. What are you suspecting? Hasn't He You'an's case been closed?
"Today, when everyone was present, Old Yuan saw you and his reaction was different from when he saw others. He hesitated for a moment. I don't know if anyone else noticed, but I did."
Yue Dingtang looked at him and gradually became stern.
"Ling Shu, I'll ask you one last time. Do you know Old Yuan or not?"