Quickly afterwards, the guards who had received the reports of a murder rushed to the Yichun brothel, and the crowd immediately made way for him. As they walked into the brothel, they saw Pei Ziao with a bloodied spear in his hand, standing amidst a pool of dark blood. By his feet were the corpses of seven or eight bouncers, as well as the madam of the brothel, the whites of her eyes showing.
The guards didn’t dare to head to the second floor. Instead, they simply loitered by the stairs, dully looking at the scene above. The guard captain recognized the spear-wielding man as Pei Ziao; the Pei family had spent considerable effort making connections with the magistrate.
They had connections to the emperor’s relatives, high officials of court, men of the magistrate, jailers and executioners, all cultivated over a considerable period of time with a not-insignificant sum of money.
Pei Ziao was very glad for such a connection at this moment.
“Young Master Pei, what’s going on?” the head of the guards shouted from afar.
Pei Ziao slowly raised his head to look at the guards, and his icy demeanor slowly melted to reveal a pained expression. “I don’t know, I don’t know anything… I was set up!”
The head of the guards, having seen countless such crimes before, had an inkling of what was going on in his mind. “Young Master Pei, no matter what, please put down the weapon in your hands and head to the magistrate’s office with us.”
Pei Ziao was only dressed in undergarments. Blood dripped down his body, both his own and others’. After the fight, his nose was bruised, his hair matted and in disarray, and his eyes were bloodshot. He looked nothing like the young master of a noble family.
When the guards escorted him out of the Yichun brothel, he suddenly saw a familiar face amidst the crowd: Yi Qianying! He looked at her, and she at him, all sorts of emotions being conveyed over a single glance.
“Uncle, another bowl of porridge, please!” Yun Ruoyan was still sitting at her original spot right opposite the brothel. Because of the drama, her appetite was unusually good.
“Lad, did you manage to find your elder brother?” the old man asked curiously upon seeing Yun Ruoyan so happy.
“Ah! It turns out that my brother wasn’t here at all.” Yun Ruoyan continued making up her story as she sipped her porridge and looked at the crowd, coincidentally spotting the silhouette of a familiar girl.
The drama she’d planned was over, but it seemed that another was about to take place.
Yun Moxiao was training in his quarters when he suddenly sneezed. Frowning, he touched his nose and ended his training. It had been a few days since he’d last visited his sister, so he headed to her cottage to have a chat.
However, when he arrived at her cottage, she was nowhere to be found. He knew that his sister tended to cultivate in the early morning and evening, and would usually be up by this time to dress and have breakfast.
That she was nowhere to be found meant that something had come up. Under Yun Moxiao’s relentless pressing, Peony finally told her in a hushed tone that she had gone out almost at dawn, wearing a man’s outfit.
Yun Moxiao decided to wait in his sister’s cottage for her. When Yun Ruoyan jumped into her quarters through the back window and saw Yun Moxiao staring at her, she almost stiffened up in shock.
“Brother, my goodness!” Yun Ruoyan clutched her chest. “Why’re you hiding your aura? You frightened me!”
“Where did you go this morning, dressed like this?”
“I just went out for a breather.” Yun Ruoyan shut the window again. It was on the cusp of autumn, and a crisp, chilly wind was already blowing through the room.
“A breather?” Yun Moxiao was clearly doubtful.
“I got tired of having bird’s nest soup for breakfast, so I thought I’d try something different---and I also got to see a good show!” Yun Ruoyan walked to her brother’s side and poured herself a cup of warm tea. She’d eaten too many steamed dumplings, and had to wash down the remnant taste in her mouth.
“What show?” Yun Moxiao continued interrogating her.
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help laughing out loud as she recounted Pei Ziao’s affair in the Yichun brothel.
“Brother, do you think Young Master Pei will be executed after murdering so many people?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“Ruoyan, did Young Master Pei offend you in the past?” Yun Moxiao suddenly asked.
“No, why?” Yun Ruoyan immediately tried to restrain her expression. She too knew that she was being far too excited for a mere onlooker, but she simply couldn’t calm down!
“Based on how happy you look, it’s as if he owes you a blood debt…”
Yun Ruoyan reflected for a moment. Although she had to hide her grievances from her past life, she could surely reveal those from the present. As a result, she then told her brother about what had happened within the imperial territory: how Pei Ziao had, along with Yi Qianying, Yun Ruoyao, and Yun Ruoyu, tried to trap and kill her and the Lin siblings.
“That damn bastard!” After hearing Yun Ruoyan’s recounting, Yun Moxiao slammed a palm against the table and only barely restrained himself from going after him immediately.
“Brother, will Pei Ziao be sentenced harshly for committing such a crime in the capital?”
“As you said, he likely fell into someone’s trap.”
“Ah?” Yun Ruoyan glanced at her brother, shocked. “Why do you say that, Brother?”
Yun Ruoyan was shocked by Yun Moxiao’s perception and the fact that he could glean such a conclusion from a second-hand retelling of the events.
“It’s quite obvious, isn’t it? If that Huahua’s as grotesque as you claim, so much so that any man who looks at her will be revolted, then isn’t it suspicious that Pei Ziao would spend such a huge sum of money to have her first night?” Yun Moxiao continued, “And the reason that he began killing people in the morning is surely because he lost his rationality after finding out that he had slept with such a hideous woman while being of unsound mind.”
Yun Moxiao had gotten to the heart of the matter so quickly that Yun Ruoyan was worried that he would soon figure out that she was the culprit behind this incident. Just as she was about to change the topic, Yun Moxiao continued, “Where’s that Huahua? You haven’t mentioned anything about her. If the brothel owner’s dead, then where did she go?”
“Ah? I’m not sure…” Yun Ruoyan lowered her head and continued sipping her tea.
“If Huahua ran off, then it’s even more clear that there’s something amiss about this incident.”
“Even if there truly was a conspiracy, he’s still killed almost a dozen people, hasn’t he? Doesn’t he have to take responsibility?!” Yun Ruoyan couldn’t accept the scenario that her brother had presented.
“Although I’m not frequently in the capital, I often hear my master talk about how certain families in the capital have really grown tremendously in the last few years. One of these families is the Pei family. With their wealth and connections, taking care of this affair is an easy matter. Furthermore, the dead are all regular civilians in jobs of some degeneracy. What’s more…”
Yun Moxiao turned to Yun Ruoyan. “Just like you, he’s been accepted to Kongming Academy, so he wouldn’t be given the death sentence even if he were convicted.”
Yun Ruoyan knew that it wouldn’t be so easy to get rid of Pei Ziao, but his name within the capital had truly soured after this series of events.
“It’s not any of my business, anyway,” Yun Ruoyan smiled. “Brother, I’m going to go find Sister Li Luo at the Slaughtering King’s manor today. Why don’t you go with me?”
Li Mo was right: the Slaughtering King’s manor was now wide open for her. As soon as she got off the carriage, the guards at the door immediately announced, “Miss Yun, please enter!”
Yun Ruoyan walked to the entrance as she scrutinized the two guards. “Is His Highness drunk today, too?”
“Our Highness isn’t here, Miss,” the shorter of the two guards replied. “But he instructed us quite a while ago to welcome you as though you were the lady of the household, no matter where he is or what he’s doing.”
Hearing these words, Yun Ruoyan’s cheeks slightly reddened, and Yun Moxiao frowned.
“Is Miss Li Luo present?”
“Yes, Miss!” the taller guard responded this time. “Miss Li Luo has just returned from the market, so she’s probably in the kitchen right now.”
Because there were so few servants in the Slaughtering King’s manor, everyone was very familiar with each other. Yun Ruoyan nodded, and she and her brother walked into the Slaughtering King’s manor.
Yun Moxiao was also quite taken aback by how quiet the manor was, and the fact that there were leaves in the hallways that no one had yet bothered to brush aside. And without a servant to guide their way, he had no clue where anything in the manor was.
“Ruoyan, do you know where the kitchen is?” Yun Moxiao asked.
“No.” Yun Ruoyan shook her head. She’d only been to the Slaughtering King’s manor twice, sleeping overnight in a guest room, enjoying snacks in the back garden, and waiting in a side reception chamber for Li Mo.
But as a person with a poor sense of direction, she wouldn’t be able to locate any of those places at the moment.
Just then, a middle-aged maid walked by one of the corridors to their right. Dressed in a blue cotton smock, she looked to be one of the servants responsible for menial labor in the manor.
“Excuse me, are you Miss Yun?” the heavyset woman asked Yun Ruoyan.
Yun Ruoyan and Yun Moxiao were both startled: in the Yun manor, the servants responsible for menial labor had no right to speak to honored guests.
Even the personal attendants of the young misses and young masters had to bow their heads upon seeing such guests. Without being explicitly spoken to, or by the command of their masters and mistresses, even they were forbidden to interact with these guests.
But this woman didn’t seem to have been trained in such a fashion. Instead, she beamed at Yun Ruoyan. “Miss Yun, are you here to see Miss Li Luo? She’s currently brewing some tonic in the kitchens. Let me bring you over.”
Yun Ruoyan nodded, and the two siblings followed the woman to the kitchens.
“Sister Li Luo!” Yun Ruoyan was the first to enter the kitchen, and she called out to her upon seeing her before the stove.
Li Luo smiled when she saw Yun Ruoyan. “Miss Yun, I’ll be ready in a moment. Please don’t step inside: the smoke’s quite strong at this moment.
“Oh, it’s fine.” Yun Ruoyan stepped into the kitchens, and Yun Moxiao followed suit behind her.
Li Luo was a little startled to see Yun Moxiao appear out of nowhere.
“Miss Li Luo, is your senior brother alright?” Yun Moxiao tried to ease the awkwardness upon seeing Li Luo’s shocked expression.
“Oh, he’s much better, thank you. How did you end up visiting the manor along with Miss Yun?” Li Luo stared at the two siblings, still uncomprehending.
“Let me introduce the two of you.” Yun Ruoyan walked up to his front and said, “He’s my brother, do you know his name?”
Li Luo thought back to that brief moment outside the Yuelu Villa where the man had introduced himself, stating that his name was Yun Moxiao. Only then did Li Luo make the connection.
“Yun Moxiao!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter