en fence separated them.

He felt a little envious of them, wearing his self-made straw sandals.
Those people wore thick clothes; they were snug in the cold.

The people outside the gate seemed to be divided into groups.
They looked at the thin boy on the other side of the gate.
The majority of them looked on with apathy.
Occasionally, one or two people would direct their gaze past the boy and into the town.

Chen Pingan found this situation a bit weird. Don’t these people know that the imperial court placed a ban on the kilns here? What are they trying to do?

A slender young man walked out of the crowd alone, an odd hat on top of his head, a jade pendant hanging from his waist.
Impatient, he went to push the town gate open.
Just when his fingers were about to touch the gate, he suddenly stopped and slowly withdrew his hand.
He put both hands behind his back and smiled at Chen Pingan who was on the other side of the gate, not saying a word, just smiling.

From the corner of his eye, Chen Pingan noticed the people behind the young man displayed a mix of emotions at this.
Some showed disappointment, some showed amusement, some frowned, while others smirked.

Suddenly, a middle-aged man with ruffled hair opened the door and stepped out of the muddy-yellow house.
He was the person in charge of guarding the gate.
“Little fucker, money is everything to you, huh? You came here so early! Can’t wait to die, ah? Can’t wait to see your dead fucking parents, brat?”

Chen Pingan rolled his eyes.
He paid no mind to these foul words.
He grew up in the countryside.
If he got fired up from this kind of stuff, he might as well throw himself off a cliff.
It would save him the trouble of having to live such a sensitive life.
Also, this middle-aged bachelor was considered the laughingstock of the town, often teased by feisty women.
He was rowdy and a punching bag.
In addition, he liked to brag about his “accomplishments” to little kids. 

It would go something along the lines of this: “Heh, did you know I beat the shit out of five big guys at the town gate today? I paved the streets in their blood.
It was a total slaughterfest!”

He grumbled to Chen Pingan, “We’ll talk about this later.”

No one in the town took this man seriously.

However, to outsiders, this man was the gatekeeper.
He held absolute control over their entry into the town.

As he walked towards the fence gate, the man scratched his crotch. 

His back turned to Chen Pingan, he opened the gate and began collecting small embroidered bags from those who came.
He placed them in his sleeve and then let them pass.

Chen Pingan got out of these people’s way and watched.
The eight people were divided into five groups.
There were two children behind the young man with the jade pendant hanging from his waist, a boy and a girl.
The boy wore a festive red robe.
The girl had a fair face and a dainty build.
They looked to be around seven to eight years old.

The boy was half a head shorter than Chen Pingan.
When the boy walked past him, he mouthed something to Chen Pingan.
The boy put special emphasis on his mouth movement, making it clear that what he mouthed wasn’t very nice.

The middle-aged woman, who held the boy’s hand, coughed dryly.
The boy reigned himself in.

The girl behind the woman and boy was led by an old muscular man with a head of pale gray hair.
She turned her head to Chen Pingan and began mumbling to the old man.
She pointed at the boy in front of her.

Chen Pingan could not understand a thing the girl said, but he guessed that she was complaining about him. 

The old man looked at Chen Pingan.
Just one of his glances caused Chen Pingan to take a step back subconsciously, like a mouse coming face to face with a cat.

After seeing this, the girl who was chirping like a hummingbird to the old man seemed to have lost interest in fanning the flames.
She turned her head and no longer looked at Chen Pingan.
It seemed to Chen Pingan that she did not deign to look at him longer.

Although Chen Pingan was just a country bumpkin, he still had an understanding of how these types of people thought.

The group of people went off in the distance.
The gatekeeper smiled and asked, “Do you want to know what they said?”

Chen Pingan nodded, “Yes.”

With a grin on his face, the gatekeeper said, “They were complimenting your appearance.”

The corners of Chen Pingan’s mouth twitched. Do you think I’m dumb?

 As if reading Chen Pingan’s mind, the man grew happier, his smile widening.
“If I thought you were dumb, would I’ve let you deliver letters?”

Chen Pingan did not retort, fearing that if riled up this fellow, his copper coins would fly out the window.

The man turned his head, looking in the direction those people went.
He rubbed his messy beard and murmured, “That woman just now, her legs could choke someone to death.”

Chen Pingan paused before asking, curious, “That miss practiced martial arts?”

The man looked at Chen Pingan in amazement.
He looked down at the boy and said in a solemn tone, “Brat, you’re really dumb.”

Chen Pingan was befuddled.
He had no clue what was going on.

The man told Chen Pingan to wait here.
He took big steps to the house.
When he came back, he had a stack of ten or so envelopes in his hand.
He handed them to Chen Pingan.
“Do you believe dumb people have dumb luck?”

Chen Pingan took the letter with one hand and stretched out his other hand, his palm facing upwards.
“We agreed every letter is worth one copper.
You owe me ten copper.”

The man, fuming, slammed the five copper coins he had prepared in advance into Chen Pingan’s outstretched hand.
Then, he flicked his wrist flamboyantly and said with flair, ”Now it’s only five.
I’ll pay the rest later.”

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