Li Hao walked to the kitchen first.
He did not want to venture into the latrine unless he couldn’t find the stone in the kitchen. If the stone was in the latrine, Li Hao didn’t think he wanted to find it anyhow. He didn’t want to soak it in the water and… he couldn’t even give that to Black Panther to drink, much less himself!
He had the jade Starry Sky Sword anyway!
“Black Panther, follow me!” called Li Hao as he walked to the kitchen. Black Panther ran after him enthusiastically.
The kitchen hadn’t been used in so many years. When he pushed the door open, he saw a dusty large pot on the stove. The iron pot had long rusted and the wooden lid was rotten.
“Black Panther, see if you can find it there. Please don’t mind the smell,” said Li Hao, pointing to the large pot on the stove.
The kitchen hadn’t been touched in many years. There was a faint smell of dust commingled with the smell of oil and smoke. Black Panther was a little dizzy with all these smells. It had sniffed this place before but hadn’t found anything.
Black Panther jumped at Li Hao’s words and approached the pot. It sniffed it. The tip of its nose was covered with dust and soot.
Li Hao walked around and looked into containers. He paid close attention to things that had been repaired around a decade ago. Only in those things could he expect for the stone to be hidden.
The people who controlled the red shadow might now have paid attention to the rusted things in the kitchen. Would the saber be hidden here somewhere?
Li Hao obviously wasn’t careless. He knew that those people who were after the stone took this seriously as well. He saw signs of the kitchen having been searched, even the ashes under the stove had been stirred. If the ashes were undisturbed, it wouldn’t look like this
‘They were looking for it too. They didn’t even spare the furnace. They are really very dedicated,’ thought Li Hao,
Black Panther found nothing. Li Hao was disappointed. ‘Is it really in the latrine? Disgusting!’
As he was lamenting at the prospect, Li Hao’s eyes rested on the chimney over the stove. The kitchen of old houses was all equipped with brick chimneys. Without a chimney, it would be hard to cook with all the smoke.
Li Hao suddenly had an idea. ‘Was Uncle Zhang repairing the chimney when he hit Zhang Yuan that day?’ He vaguely remembered it.
Li Hao looked at Black Panther. The dog was not very big, it was still a pup. ‘Could it climb a chimney?’
Black Panther was still sniffing the pot. Li Hao carried it and placed it at the mouth of the chimney. “Try and see if you find anything here.”
Black Panther looked at him helplessly. But it sniffed the area. Its nose twitched. A familiar smell filled its nose.
“Woof! Woof!” barked Black Panther happily.
Li Hao was ecstatic. ‘It’s really here!’
Those people probably had searched around the chimney and hadn’t found anything. But their red shadow couldn’t really go through bricks! They might have expected some kind of a box, or a small compartment to hide the stone. Who would have thought the Zhang family hid their ancestral heirloom in a brick chimney?!
The gray walls were already flaking off. There were bricks on the inside. Li Hao scraped at it and more of the outer layer came off. There was a small space inside, a very insignificant space. But it was there. Li Hao’s eyes lit up.
‘This is it!’ he thought. Li Hao vaguely remembered the stone. It was no bigger than a fist. He scraped more of the wall and found the stone inside. ‘Uncle Zhang did respect his ancestors!’
Li Hao didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He had disliked it when Zhang Yuan’s father had hit his son for this. But now, he was thankful to the old man for hiding this here.
Of the eight families, Li Hao didn’t have any idea what their families did with their heirlooms. Li family’s sword had been easier to pass down because it was only a small pendant that can be worn around the neck. But it must not have been easy to come up with a way to explain this piece of stone while passing it down to other generations.
‘Perhaps it had looked different before?’ thought Li Hao. ‘Maybe it turned to stone when it was passed down to Uncle Zhang.’
Li Hao had no energy to think about that for now. He looked at the stone in his hand happily. It hadn’t been easy to find it!
Li Hao looked at the chimney. He wished there was a way to return it to the way it was before. The place where he had scraped the wall was very obvious.
Having worked at the Inspection Office, he had learnt a thing or two. He knew that those people would be back to see why Li Hao had come here in the first place.
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