133 The Vicissitudes of Life 2
"Stop!" Van shouted.
The head of the gang that had just stormed in finally saw the stranger standing in their midst. His small, mean eyes flashed. He exchanged a glance with his fellow gang members and saw that they also did not recognize the stranger. Looking at his strange robes and their dirty state, the head of the gang did not bother being polite.
"Who the fuck are you!?" He sneered.
Van smiled and calmly said, "I just found it unsightly that five big men like you were harassing an elderly man and two small children. Tsk tsk, how shameful."
The man at the lead flushed red. He turned around and barked, "What did you stop for? Keep smashing!"
The four other men resumed their vigorous beating of the shelves. The tablets fell off the shelves and smashed into shards. The ink bottles clattered onto the ground.
Van couldn't keep the smile on his face any more.
The head of the gang smiled in response, "Not so brave anymore, huh, kid?"
The red-haired youth saw the other's satisfied expression and felt disgust well up within him. He lifted his fists, ready to settle things with force. Just at that moment, the old grandfather rushed over and used his walking stick to push down Van's fists. Van could only unwillingly lower them.
The old grandfather kneeled down and sobbed, "Please, don't smash anymore. We will do whatever you want, please just return my son! I am already old and cannot live for much longer. For these two small ones, please, return their father!"
The grandfather knocked his head on the wooden floor again and again until it bled.
The little round-faced boy suddenly ran up and hugged the lead gang members tightly.
"Please, return my daddy!" His tears soaked his red face until it was completely wet.
His older sister's face was pale white and pinched as she stared at her grandfather who was begging so pitifully.
Even the hardest heart would be softened by this combined scene. The gang leader hmphed and pulled the little round-faced boy off his leg.
"You want your father back? Then have him! Let him tell you personally what a wonderful thing he's done!"
The leader of the gang nodded sharply at his colleagues. Two of them went outside and shortly returned with a limp figure dangling between them. The figure's face was bruised and dirtied, making it hard to recognize the person but the two children would recognize their father anywhere.
"Daddy!" The little boy ran forward to rug his dad but before he could get there the two men let go and the slumped figure fell onto the wooden floor.
The leader of the gang drew a slip of paper from his sleeve that had several red stamps and a finger print on it. The grandfather's expression sunk – that slip of paper was too familiar!
The gang leader sneered. "Senior Chen, this is how much your son owes us. Two hundred silver taels!"
The grandfather felt extremely faint but he still mumbled a few words.
"How can this be? Impossible!"
The gang leader sneered, thrusting the slip of paper into the old grandfather's hands.
The grandfather read the black words on the white paper. His hands trembled.
Two hundred silver taels. Two hundred silver taels! The family of four only earned 2 silver taels a month if business was steady. Now they wanted two hundred silver taels! A coppery taste welled up in the old man's throat but he swallowed it down.
The gang leader aimed a sneer at the figure on the floor, "Remember the deal, Little Crow. Smashing your shop is just the first warning. If you can't give us what we want in three days' time, the consequences will be worse!"
With those parting words, the gang leader and his goons left, leaving desolation and silence behind them.
The little boy crawled to his daddy's slumped over form and tapped his cheeks. A weak groan answered him. The round-faced boy smiled happily. What was most important was that the person was still alive! Daddy had returned!
His sister came up to him with a damp towel and started cleaning up their father's face carefully.
The grandfather watched the men leave with dull and lifeless eyes. A minute later he looked at his son slumped on the ground. As if suddenly reinvigorated, the grandfather leapt up onto his feet and kicked his son in the gut. "Wastrel! Useless son!" He spat angrily, spittle flying.
Van had an odd expression on his face. The scenery had simply changed too fast - he had no idea how to react!
The sharp pain from the kicks caused the figure lying on the ground to splutter loudly and crack open his eyes. The little boy was elated to see his dad wake up.
"Stop kicking, grandpa. Don't kick Daddy!" The little girl pleaded, shielding her father from her grandfather's kicks.
The grandfather's wrinkled face was turning red and purple with rage, "Making us worried sick for two nights before returning like this. What a filial son I raised! Have you left our Chen family with any face left? Have you thought about your mother in heaven?! Your wife!? If you weren't my son, I would have told you to scram! Ungrateful bastard!"
Van saw the grandfather suddenly sway from side to side. He rushed forwards and smoothly supported the elderly man, preventing him from injuring himself.
"Grandpa!" The two children yelled. They were now torn between their dad and grandpa. Neither knew what to do.
Van saw the grandfather's complexion was not good and hurriedly lowered him into a chair.
The elderly man wearily thanked him, one eye still glaring belligerently at his son.
"Tell me!" He barked, "What good thing did you do this time to bring down the wrath of Signor Lu's cronies onto us?!"
Under his daughter's careful ministrations, Little Crow's facial features were gradually revealed from beneath the caked-on dirt. He shared about four tenths of his father's features, but while the grandfather had fierce eyebrows and a hard mouth, the son's features were softer – resembling his mother. One could easily see that if Little Crow's skin wasn't so yellowed and his body less wasted away that he could have been a decently handsome man once.
Little Crow's eyes were filled with shame. He bowed his head down.
"Water," he rasped out. His daughter rushed off and brought a cupful of water back. Once he had wet his lips, he began to tell his story.