[Chapter 25 - Gui Lai Village(1)] Raging fires
[Chapter 25 - Gui Lai Village(1)] Raging fires
On a solitary night, Duan Bai Yue was lying on the bed with one leg crossed over the other, staring at the roof of the bed, lost in thought .
Beside the pillow lay a big spider; it was innocent, innocent, really innocent!
In the room next door, Chu Yuan was tossing and turning restlessly in bed, so he picked up a book from the table wanting to kill time -- eunuch Si Xi bought it back when he went out to buy pastries just now; he said that it's the annals of Xi Nan King; it is a very good read; everyone likes it; one must even queue up to buy it .
On the first page was a large painting; Xi Nan manor has been drawn into a nest of a hundred insects; not only were there spiders, but there were also all kinds of snakes and poisonous insects . Duan Bai Yue was drawn as a demon with a scorpion's tail, tearing apart a lamb's leg with his upper body bare, and a sinister expression .
He closed the book with a "pa"; Emperor Chu felt that he must send down an imperial decree to purge the folk customs, and let the people see some more appropriate stuff .
. . . . . . . . .
The both of them tossed and turned the whole night; on the morning of the second day, Chu Yuan heard Si Xi talking outside . After another moment, the doors of the courtyard creaked; it was Duan Bai Yue's voice .
Chu Yuan put on his clothes and got out of bed; Si Xi came in to attend to him washing up, and carefully asked in passing; Xi Nan King has already bought breakfast, does he want to partake in it, or get the relay station to make another meal .
Chu Yuan wiped his face clean with a handkerchief, pushed open the door then went out; he then saw that Duan Bai Yue, who was carrying a sword, was sitting on the stone seat while leaning against the pillar of the veranda . In front of him was a big food container; it was still emitting steam .
"Do you want to eat?" Seeing him come out, Duan Bai Yue asked, "It's a lamb's leg bun, apparently the cook was hired by the restaurant boss from Xi Yu(2) . "
Lamb's leg . . . . Chu Yuan remembered the drawing from yesterday .
"What's the matter?" Seeing that he just stood there without talking, Duan Bai Yue asked .
Chu Yuan pursed his lips, holding in his laughter, "I will eat it . "
Duan Bai Yue was somewhat uncertain; he's this happy?
But Chu Yuan had already went back into the room .
Eunuch Si Xi followed behind, and tried to make eye contact with the Xi Nan King; the emperor seems quite happy now, don't ever bring that spider out again, just seeing it makes one panic .
A golden yellow crispy bun with roast lamb seasoned with paprika; a normal person will think that it's too oily to eat in the morning, moreover Chu Yuan always had mild tastes . This time however, he wasn't fussy about it, and even had quite an appetite instead .
As a prince that grew up in the palace, his bearing was naturally orderly . In other people’s hands, the bun will drip oil all over, and yet he can stubbornly eat it nicely and in a refined manner; there's not even a little bit of sound or crumbs .
Duan Bai Yue felt that even if he doesn't eat it himself, it was still quite good to just look at him eat .
Chu Yuan finished drinking the last spoon of soup; his entire body was warmed up .
Duan Bai Yue asked, "Regarding the mountain of gold outside the city, what should be done with it?"
Outside, eunuch Si Xi shook his head; what's the matter with Xi Nan King, why did he start discussing official matters right after the meal .
"Eh?" Chu Yuan wiped his mouth .
"Lan Ji is leaving in three days . Before that, she must have thought of a way to empty out Xu Zhi Qiu's private warehouse . " Duan Bai Yue said, "Although it can still be taken back if it's transported to Tian Sha sect, it's the best if we simply let her be unable to bring it out the city walls . There are too many things happening at once, one thing solved is one less thing to worry about . "
Chu Yuan nodded, "That isn’t too hard, we have initially thought about it too . It just so happens that there are forests of trees near the cliffs; they were bought from Nanyang(3) for cultivation with a lot of money by the authorities; they have yet to adjust to the climate . Xu Zhi Qiu had reported about this in his records a few times; if we wish to go and take a look, it can't be considered as being too sudden . " More troops could be brought along at that time; no matter how daring Lan Ji is , she won't dare to snatch the gold away from under the eyes of the imperial family .
"Good, let's do that . " Duan Bai Yue said, "I will also find out the locations of those elderly and Mu Zhi Lao Ren as soon as possible . "
"Going to disguise as Wei Zi Yi once again?" Chu Yuan looked like he was fiddling with the tea cup, his tone casual .
"Of course not . " Duan Bai Yue said, "Wei Zi Yi's goal is to get riches, now that Lan Ji has already promised to split a part to him, if he frequently goes to find her now, it's more likely that she will find it odd instead . "
Chu Yuan asked again, "Then are you disguising as someone else?"
Duan Bai Yue laughed, "Why must I keep disguising myself?"
Chu Yuan thought, of course you should get a disguise; look at how much fun you had last night .
"Yesterday, Lan Ji had said that Tian Sha sect will have a Bai Gu Qing(4) on the third day of next month; it sounds rather prestigious; as the sect leader, she must rush back in time . " Duan Bai Yue said, "She won't be staying in the city for long; if she wishes to leave, even if she can't take the gold away for now, she will still bring the elderly along . "
Chu Yuan asked: "Do you need help?"
"For people of Xi Nan manor to deal with a demonic sect, there should be enough to spare . " Duan Bai Yue said, "Till those elderly are rescued, it's still not too late to investigate Xu Zhi Qiu then . "
Chu Yuan said: "Yes . "
"For the next few days, I'm afraid I have to keep watch over Yan Hui inn . " Duan Bai Yue continued, "Although Lan Ji is unlikely to act against the imperial court, more precaution must be taken . "
Chu Yuan continued saying: "Yes . "
Duan Bai Yue smiled: "Then I'm leaving . "
Chu Yuan nodded, and saw him walk out of the courtyard, before asking Si Xi to call Xiang Lie in .
After leaving the relay station, Duan Bai Yue first made a trip back to his own inn . Duan Nian was eating breakfast by the table, and almost choked on his noodles when he saw him walk in; is the lord possessed, why did he buy such an ugly set of new clothes; it was goose-yellow and willow-green .
Duan Bai Yue's expression was calm; he sent a palm flying .
Duan Nian cradled his head, feeling that he was very blameless .
At the magistrate, Xu Zhi Qiu recently had a bout of heatiness; his mouth was full of blisters; he was venting his anger at his servant when he suddenly heard his housekeeper announce that the emperor had arrived; he quickly changed into his official robes in a panic, and went to greet him .
"Official Xu doesn't seem well . " Chu Yuan leisurely skimmed the foam on the tea away .
"Replying to Your Majesty, this lowly official had some excess heat and has been feeling weak these few days . " Xu Zhi Qiu replied, "I have already been seen by the physician and have gotten a few prescriptions . "
"This official is such a pillar of the state, you must take good care of your body . " Chu Yuan put down the tea cup, "We have stayed in this Da Yan city for quite a while; yesterday, we suddenly remembered that this official had said before that there's a young forest of trees from Nanyang on a hill outside the city and that their growth is pleasing; we wonder if they're still there?"
"They're still there . " Xu Zhi Qiu said, "All of them have already grown quite a lot, a forest will be established after a few more years . "
"In the imperial gardens, it's hard for even a southern pipa or a northern qiandu to survive . We really didn't think that Nanyang trees could be successfully grown here . " Chu Yuan said, "We have nothing to do today, we wonder if this official is willing to accompany us to take a look?"
"Of course, of course . " Xu Zhi Qiu agreed repeatedly, "This lowly official will go and prepare immediately . "
The son of heavens was going on a tour; it was naturally not low profile; thus at noontime, the people saw an imposing troop of imperial soldiers leave the city; the squadron was so long that the front can't be seen at a glance .
Xu Zhi Qiu followed behind in his litter, sighing in despair from the bottom of his heart . He wasn't afraid that his private warehouse will be found; the mechanisms are elaborately designed after all, and Lan Ji isn't so stupid as to go into the mountain to dig up the gold when she knows there are so many imperial guards around . He could only be annoyed at himself for being too lecherous in his daily life, and lowered his guard too much, thus falling into the trap of a demonic sect; he could only look on helplessly as large sums of money are snatched away; all his efforts these few years were for nothing .
But luckily, Qiu Feng village was still here; Wu dealership was still here; he only had to wait till the city becomes peaceful again before he can once again turn Gui Mu Xia into riches .
It's the season for the trees in the mountain to branch out and germinate; the tender green was very pleasing to the eye . And on an empty ground that's specially cleared out, those trees from Nanyang are growing robust and vigorously; a row of exuberant vitality .
Chu Yuan is gratified: "Official Xu is truly a genius . "
"Your Majesty flatters me, this lowly official only bought the tree sprouts . As for the methods of cultivating, it all depends on the few people who are watching over the forest . " Xu Zhi Qiu said, "They have kept watch over this forest and mountains for their whole lives; this batch of sapling had went through a long and arduous journey; when they arrived the roots were withered and the leaves fallen . Luckily, due to their tremendous care, without sleep or rest, then did the saplings manage to survive . "
"Oh?" Chu Yuan became interested, "We wonder where are these keepers of the forest now? We want to meet them . "
Xu Zhi Qiu quickly sent a bailiff to the back of the mountain to bring the keepers of the forest over . There are seven people in total; all looked to be in old age . But because of their activity in the mountains, their bodies were very robust . Da Yan city is a city of woodworking; in order to have a livelihood they must have forests; to be able to become a forest keeper, first they must have lots of experience . Chu Yuan talked with them for a while, and found out that their methods of germination are indeed insightful, and thus is extremely pleased; not only did he immediately bestowed them rewards, he even ordered for the imperial guard to remain there to keep watch over these few seniors who are writing their experiences into a book . He even specially got a painter from the city to draw down how the different types of saplings should be planted .
Xu Zhi Qiu did as instructed, and even had a little bit of schadenfreude . As the current situation goes, Lan Ji probably won’t dare to come anymore; although he can't get back the money himself either, but it's still a nice feeling to be able to hinder her .
In just a short while, the mountain outside the city were filled with imperial guards . The people from Tian Sha sect went to look around three times, and also tried to indirectly worm out the facts from the locals; in the end all of them said that it should take at least a month, and even then it's not sure if they will be finished by then .
Lan Ji was enraged upon hearing this, but was also at her wit's end .
"Sect leader . " An attendant said, "why don't we first leave the gold here; that Xu Zhi Qiu probably won't have any wild ideas; after the imperial soldiers have left, it's still not too late for us to then come and retrieve it . "
Lan Ji waved her hand impatiently: "Do as you say; two days later, we are returning to Xi Nan . "
Duan Bai Yue, listening outside the window, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly .
Of course, in order for a beginning to have an end, he pretended to be Wei Zi Yi and visited again, asking just when the money can be given to him . Lan Ji was currently in turmoil, and naturally has no mood to think about other things; and after hearing him talk about money constantly, she only felt her head become sore; she hurriedly drank a few cups of wine, and half heartedly made him leave . After he went out the door, a burden sild from Duan Bai Yue's shoulders; he also threatened Duan Nian, saying he is not allowed to tell anyone about this .
Duan Nian bowed and promised, holding in his laughter with much difficulty .
Two days later, Tian Sha sect indeed brought a few large carriages and left the city by pretending to be merchants, rushing back to Xi Nan to hold Bai Gu Qing . The guards at the eastern city gates were Xu Zhi Qiu's men, and so they were let out easily . Duan Bai Yue followed behind them silently; two days later, in the evening, the group stopped by the roadside and created piles of wood, looking as if they were going to cook there . Cai Tian instead brought five attendants into the forest hurriedly; after walking for five minutes, then did they stop at a burial mound; it's not known where the mechanism was activated, but a lone grave split open slowly under the moonlight .
Duan Bai Yue hid in the shadows, looking at them jump in one by one, coming out after a moment; indeed behind them were an additional group of elderly . All of them had their mouths gagged, but didn't have their limbs tied; Tian Sha sect probably thought that they are of old age, and could not escape .
Duan Bai Yue counted one by one, there are exactly twenty six people, but the location of Mu Chi Lao Ren is still not known .
"Quickly!" Cai Tian urged, "As long as you obey and listen to us, you will still live later on . If you want to escape, don't blame me for being rough!"
The elderly have spent their entire lives doing wood working in the city; when have they ever seen such a scene . That night, everyone was originally sleeping, when they suddenly smelled what seemed like a sweet fragrance and became dizzy; and when they woke up they have already been imprisoned underground, not knowing when it is, and also not knowing just what had happened . They hadn’t seen sunlight for these few days, as well as being threatened by a demonic lady like this, they all began trembling; even their walk wasn't stable .
Although Cai Tian was fierce on the outside and irritated on the inside, she didn't dare to treat them as harshly as the usual captives; after all, they painstakingly kidnapped these elderly, and still had to bring them back to the sect to make traps; disorder cannot happen .
The twenty plus people are all of old age, and would probably be harmed if taken forcefully; moreover Duan Bai Yue doesn't wish to act before the whereabouts of Mu Chi Lao Ren is known, thus he only followed them all the way back to the campgrounds .
At the other end, meals have already been cooked; the elderly were given flatbread and a bowl of soup each, and were all squatting on the ground to eat . Duan Bai Yue flicked a finger, and threw a pill into a bowl of one of them . The person seems to be at least seventy years old; he had difficulty swallowing, but was afraid that he would be beaten if he didn't eat, so he relied on the soup to force everything down; in a short while he completely finished the bowl of soup .
"Sect leader, will we continue to travel tonight?" Cai Tian asked .
"Let's walk for two more hours . " Lan Ji said, "There's fewer people deep in the mountains . "
Cai Tian nodded and agreed, calling for everyone to pack up, and brought three carriages over, splitting the elderly up and letting them go in .
"Ah!" Within the group, someone cried out in alarm .
"What are you making noise for!" Cai Tian lifted an eyebrow and raised a palm, wanting to hit someone .
One of the elderly was covering his chest; he fell on the ground, convulsing; his complexion was deathly white and he was gasping; it looked as if he had gotten a heart attack; before long, he simply closed his eyes and stopped breathing .
Cai Tian kicked the old man twice; there were no more sounds from him so she asked how they should deal with it .
Lan Ji had a headache: "Throw him back into the graves, bury him a little deeper so that he won't be found by people . " He's someone who should have been burned to death in the charity hall after all, he can't appear once again by a roadside .
Tian Sha sect has killed quite a few people, but this is their first time burying someone . A few attendants worked together and excavated a huge hole, burying that old man completely before leaving .
The torches by the road got further and further away; in the quiet darkness, Duan Nian brought people along to dig up the dirt, wrapped the elderly in a cloak and brought him back to the city . The poison of Xi Nan manor can let someone pretend to be dead for three days, and wake up after eating the antidote .
Seeing their companion die a violent death in front of their eyes, the remaining elderly became even more depressed, and sat in the horse carriages with their heads lowered, not speaking a word . On the other hand, Lan Ji is very satisfied with this; as long as they don't die or go crazy, it's also a good thing for them to be quieter -- it's more of a headache if they were chatterboxes like Mu Chi Lao Ren, who even roared and shrieked occasionally .
Duan Nian lashed his whip; his fine steed sped along the mountain path, and used only a day to bring the old man back to an inn in Da Yan city; and he also handed a letter over to Si Xi . An hour later, Commander Xiang personally came and fetched everyone to the relay station .
The physician has already long been waiting with his medicine box; the old man had already ate the antidote previously; after drinking a bowl of warm soup and having his body wiped with warm water, he woke up slowly not long after that . It's only that the moment he opened his eyes, he saw a group of people by his bedside, and almost fainted in shock again .
Eunuch Si Xi quickly went forward to hold him; after consoling him for half a day, only then did he calm down .
"His Majesty?" The old man was very astonished at hearing this, not daring to believe it, he began trembling .
"Yes, it's His Majesty . " Si Xi said, "This senior need not be afraid . "
"Your Majesty . " The old man's tears overflowed, and wanted to kneel, not caring that his body was weak; he covered his chest and coughed repeatedly again . Xiang Lie quickly went forward to hold him, and also brought a cup of warm tea over .
"No need for manners . " Chu Yuan said by the bedside, "About just what had happened over these few days, this senior just has to be concerned with saying everything; we will find justice for you . "
The old man was called Chu Fu(5), he was an old artisan from this city; without sons or daughters, he had been staying in the charity hall all this while . He was over seventy years old, neither blind or deaf, and his thinking was still clear . Although he went through a calamity this time, after drinking a few bowls of hot soup, he managed to recover, and roughly recalled what he went through these past few days .
"Qian Hui Huan(6)?" Chu Yuan frowned .
"Yes . " Chu Fu said, "After we woke up, someone came and asked who knows who to create Qian Hui Huan; everyone started shaking our heads, but she said that we were deceiving her . "
"This senior truly doesn't know what item that is?" Chu Yuan asked .
Chu Fu nodded: "The workers in this city all usually just make tables, chairs and stools; even if traps are made, it's usually some common concealed weapons . For anything bigger, first the authorities don't allow it, second no one buys those, and third the blueprints are also few and far in between . What this Qian Hui Huan is, don't even talk about making it, everyone hasn't even heard of it . "
"Since you didn't know of it, why did the demonic sect still wanted to bring everyone away?" Chu Yuan frowned .
"We said that we didn't know, then they simply pulled out swords and wanted to kill people; someone got a fright, and said that they can try . " Chu Fu said, "Everyone simply nodded along confusedly, wanting to protect their lives first . Moreover we heard that Mu Chi Zi has been captured by them too, so maybe it can really be created . "
"Mu Chi Lao Ren?" Chu Yuan continued asking .
"That's him . " Chu Fu nodded, "Mu Chi Zi is unlike the rest of us, he doesn't make tables and stools, knows martial arts and only has an interest towards concealed weapons; he spent his whole life researching traps; the concealed weapons in Jiu Xuan Ji were his creations . "
"Did those people mention where Mu Chi Lao Ren is at now?" Chu Yuan continued his query .
Chu Fu said: "This wasn't mentioned; they only said that we will be able to see him a few days later . "
Will be able to see him a few days later . Chu Yuan rubbed his chin, looks like he still hasn't been brought out of this Yan Yun province .
. . . . . .
A person had already died before they started really moving, and the rest of the people also looked rather sickly . Cai Tian said worriedly: "I'm afraid we will have to slow down . " Otherwise, if a few more elderly dies, solving Qian Hui Huan will only get more difficult .
"The journey is long, even if we move any slower, it can't be slow enough for these old people to die off countlessly . " Lan Ji reclined in the carriage, "I will write a letter; you deliver it to Gui Lai village telling Qi Zui Meng(7) that Tian Sha sect has met with trouble, and have to stay at his place for a few days . "
"Yes!" Cai Tian received the order, and tried asking: "What should we do with the people we have captured?"
"Of course it's to bring them to Gui Lai village too . " Lan Ji said lazily, "These people are captured for dismantling the traps, it's not a must to bring them back to Xi Nan either, a quiet place will do . With twenty plus days left to rush back, we shouldn't miss Bai Gu Qing . "
Cai Tian nodded, going outside to prepare .
Gui Lai village, Qi Zui Meng .
Duan Bai Yue raised an eyebrow; he didn't think that this person was actually connected to Tian Sha sect, and seems have some level of trust too .
Gui Lai village can't be considered a proper martial arts sect, and yet it has a bit of a reputation within Jiang Hu . This was because sect leader Qi Zui Meng brews good wine which was hard to get even with money . Xi Nan manor had also bought a few jars before; Duan Yao's insects liked it a lot, hanging in it everyday, drunk and entranced, not coming out .
Since Chu Yuan wants Mu Chi Lao Ren, Duan Bai Yue naturally will think of everything to get him out completely . Thus, he was extremely patient, setting up camp and accompanying Tian Sha sect at the same place for a full three days before Qi Zui Meng's reply was received .
"He's certainly a businessman . " Lan Ji clicked her tongue, "Knowing that our sect is in trouble, the lion opens its large mouth; his appetite isn't small . ”
"What does he want?" Cai Tian asked .
Lan Ji said, "The Bodhi Heart sutra . "
Duan Bai Yue, eavesdropping, turned apprehensive .
Cai Tian sneered: "If he wants the Bodhi Heart sutra, why doesn't he go and find that half-man, half-ghost Nan Mo Ye, what's he doing asking us?"
"Whatever, if we are able to successfully capture the young master of Xi Nan manor, we will throw him to Qi Zui Meng to interrogate for two days . " Lan Ji waved her hand, "It's not a big deal . "
"Then when are we going to Gui Lai village?" Cai Tian asked .
"Immediately . " Lan Ji's face had a look of disgust, "After travelling for so many days, I'm getting all smelly . "
Gui Lai village wasn’t far from where they stopped; it could be reached in half a day .
Qi Zui Meng seemed to have known that Lan Ji would agree to his demand, and was waiting at the bottom of the mountain . The village occupied a large area in order to store all the wine making equipment; jars are placed everywhere; for one who gets drunk easily, if they were to go in just to smell, they will definitely get drunk .
Duan Bai Yue followed in easily, and saw Lan Ji and Qi Zui Meng go into a house together, and thought they were going to discuss some serious matters; in the end, it was not long before wanton noises came from the room, sounding very pleasurable .
. . . . . . . . .
Xi Nan King felt that he was quite unlucky .
Those elderly were settled in a small courtyard, with people guarding them all around . After Cai Tian set up everyone's living arrangements, she hastily ate a few buns to fill her stomach, and didn't wait for dinner or the sky to darken before going into her room to sleep; it seemed like she had something to do at night .
As expected, at midnight, she went out of Gui Lai village alone, and went down the mountain on a small road .
The corners of Duan Bai Yue's mouth lifted, after waiting for so long, he has finally held out until the appearance of Mu Chi Lao Ren .
The horse raced quickly, but with Duan Bai Yue's qing gong skills, it was not a difficult thing to tag behind silently . Two hours later, Cai Tian got down the horse, reached out a hand and grabbed on to a vine hanging on a precipice, nimbly climbing up .
Duan Bai Yue didn't expect that Lan Ji would actually hide Mu Chi Lao Ren in such a hidden area .
Two people climbed up the precipice, one after another, but their expressions changed suddenly .
Not far away, a wooden house was blazing with fire; the strength of the fire aws roaring, even dyeing half of the sky red .
(1) Gui Lai Village: 归来庄 - lit . to return, come around, village
(2) Xi Yu: 西域 - Western region . Han dynasty term for places beyond Yumen Pass .
(3) Nanyang: 南洋 - southeast asia .
(4) Bai Gu Qing: 百蛊庆 - lit . hundred insect celebration .
(5) Chu Fu: 褚付 - lit . Chu(surname, different from Chu Yuan's surname), to pay .
(6) Qian Hui Huan: 千回环 - lit . thousand returning ring/loop .
(7) Qi Zui Meng: 齐醉梦 - lit . Qi(surname), drunk, dream .