Yun Ruoyan had Mo’er return the spirit crystal, then lay down and enjoyed her first pleasant night of sleep upon coming to the Mingyuan continent.
The next day, she woke up before dawn to practice dancing with Xiao Qing, then continued with the tasks that had quickly become routine. She spent the afternoon choreographing with Xiao Qing as well, then went to sleep exhausted.
And the day after that, it was finally time for her first performance at the Zhang family. The troupe arrived by the back door of the Zhang manor in the morning. Regardless of which continent they were on, courtesans were considered lowly in status, and didn’t have the right to enter through the front door.
As the women entered through the back, they hurriedly began to put on makeup, dress in their costumes, and finish their preparations for the upcoming show. Yun Ruoyan emulated Xiao Qing, who seemed like an island of calm amidst the fuss.
“Is my lipstick applied well?” Xiao Qing asked.
There weren’t enough mirrors for all the women, so Yun Ruoyan served as Xiao Qing’s mirror instead.
“Little rabbit, aren’t you afraid or anxious?” Xiao Qing asked.
“What’s there to be afraid of?”
“You’re not scared of going on stage?” Xiao Qing was astonished by Yun Ruoyan’s seeming indifference. “It’s your first show! You’re not scared at all? You’re not nervous?”
Yun Ruoyan didn’t know what to say. After all, compared to fighting with her life on the line, dancing in front of a crowd really wasn’t anything much. Xiao Qing was only in her twenties, and her mental age was younger than Yun Ruoyan’s. However, because she had treated Yun Ruoyan like her sister these few days, Yun Ruoyan was still very touched by her concern.
“Xiao Qing,” Yun Ruoyan suddenly said.
“Hm? What’s the matter, little rabbit?”
“My name is Yun Ruoyan.”
“Yun Ruoyan,” Xiao Qing murmured, then smiled. “What a good name. Alright, little rabbit, it’s time for us to head on stage.”
The next performers would be Yun Ruoyan and Xiao Qing. As they stepped on stage, Yun Ruoyan noticed a familiar face in the crowd: the housekeeper of the Pi family, who was currently seated with the head of the Zhang family. He was having an animated conversation and wasn’t looking at the stage, but Yun Ruoyan made sure to avoid looking directly at the crowd.
Xiao Qing thought that this was Yun Ruoyan’s stage fright finally coming into effect. She is still small, after all…
After the dance, which seemed to take an eternity, Yun Ruoyan left the stage, successfully having evaded the housekeeper’s attention.
“You said you weren’t scared, but look at how smudged your makeup is from sweat!” Xiao Qing laughed, wiping at her face.
Only then did Yun Ruoyan remember that she had a thick layer of makeup on, so the housekeeper probably wouldn’t have been able to recognize her even if he saw her face.
“Ah, Sister Qing, my stomach hurts…” Yun Ruoyan clutched her stomach. “I need to go to the latrine.”
“What? Go now!” Xiao Qing pushed her away, and Yun Ruoyan ran out from the backstage clutching her stomach.
Once she was outside, Yun Ruoyan straightened up. A maid walked by, and Yun Ruoyan ran up to her. “Miss, may I ask where the latrines are?”
The maid pointed in a certain direction, but Yun Ruoyan pretended not to understand and insisted on the maid accompanying her. As they reached a secluded corner, she lightly tapped the back of her neck, and her body crumpled.
Yun Ruoyan put on the maid’s attire and snuck into the audience, where she stood behind the housekeeper of the Pi family.
“Housekeeper Hu, the vein that I’m in charge of is desperately in need of manpower. You have to hand me this batch of slaves,” the head of the Zhang family insisted.
Yun Ruoyan had overheard snatches of their conversation while dancing on stage.
“Oh, that’s easy. There are quite a few promising slaves in this batch, some of whom can be sent deep into the veins. Of course, the more talented the slaves are, the harder they are to control, so I hope you’ll be able to handle them.”
“Naturally, Housekeeper Hu! I have a whip and I’m not afraid to use it.”
“I’ll send you a few slaves tomorrow. They just came from one of the lower realms, and they’re all tall and sturdy.”
“In that case, let me thank you in advance.” The head of the Zhang family smiled. “Housekeeper Hu, what do you think of that singer? Shall I find you two similar courtesans to accompany you tonight?”
“Oh? I’ll gladly accept.”
Yun Ruoyan slipped away. A batch of slaves from the lower realms… could it be Li Mo and the others? Looks like I’ll have to head to the Pi manor tomorrow.
Once she returned to the inn after the performance, she had Mo’er send Li Mo a letter informing him of what she had overheard. However, Mo’er wasn’t able to find Li Mo, who was currently skulking through the Pi manor in order to try and find Qin Feng. Over the last few days, he had scoured the manor, but had found no trace of him.
Using all sorts of tricks, he had managed to cajole, threaten, and hypnotize the various servants to tell him about the locations of all the prisons and dungeons in the manor, which he then looked through one by one. However, even after three whole days of searching, he hadn’t found anything. There were only two more prisons that he knew of, and if Qin Feng hadn’t been sent out of the manor, he would have to be in one of the two.
Because Mo’er didn’t manage to find Li Mo, it wasn’t able to deliver Yun Ruoyan’s letter. More and more worried, Yun Ruoyan decided that she would head to the Pi manor tomorrow to have a look at what was going on.
Li Mo and Lin Qingchen, on Pi Yang’s special approval, were allowed to leave the prison and live in two small coal cellars instead. Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue were still in the prison; in order to prevent Zhuo Yifeng from being recognized by Pi Yang, Lin Qingchen had given him a fake birthmark, much like Yun Ruoyan’s original one, that covered up half his face.
Pi Yang had glanced at him a few times and hadn’t recognized him. Otherwise, he would certainly have dragged Zhuo Yifeng out of the crowd and tortured him to death, given how Zhuo Yifeng had humiliated him by leading him along with a bowstring around his neck, as though he were some sort of farm animal.
Before dawn the next day, a few swordsmen came into the prison, woke the gathered prisoners up, and rushed them outside their cell.
“Where are you bringing us?” Black asked.
One of the swordsmen cracked his whip, and an ugly red welt appeared on Black’s body. “You’ll go where we lead you!”
Before the slaves could react, they were herded out the back door of the Pi manor and into wagons framed by bars all around them. Zhuo Yifeng pulled Lin Qingxue into the same wagon that he was in. With another crack of the whip, the five wagons, each with about a dozen prisoners, began moving westward.
Yun Ruoyan watched the proceedings carefully by a secluded corner of the streets near the back door of the Pi manor. Because she was afraid she would arrive too late, she had waited by the back door ever since midnight.
In the second-to-last wagon, she clearly saw Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue. Zhuo Yifeng’s disguise was one that Yun Ruoyan commonly employed, and it naturally wasn’t able to trick her. However, she didn’t see Li Mo and Lin Qingchen, so she guessed that they still remained within the Pi manor.
With Li Mo around, Yun Ruoyan wouldn’t have to worry about Lin Qingchen, but she wasn’t sure where Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue would be brought to. After thinking it through for a moment, she decided that she would have to save them first.
She followed behind the wagons as they left the Pi city, preparing to find an opportunity to save the two prisoners during the journey.
Neither Li Mo nor Lin Qingchen were aware of what had happened that morning. Li Mo had been trawling through the prisons all night long, and he only returned to the coal cellar in the morning. The moment he lay down, the door was kicked open, and two drunken hulks walked in: Pi Qiu and Pi Hou. Their leader and elder brother, Pi Yan, had been killed by Li Mo, so they had asked Pi Yang to be able to kill him in revenge.
However, Pi Yang rejected their request instantly. Insultingly, he had even brought Li Mo out of the cell and sent for a physician on his behalf. This greatly stoked the two brothers’ displeasure, so they were frequent visitors at Li Mo’s cellar. Although they didn’t dare beat him to death, they were certainly able to inflict quite a bit of pain.
In addition, because Li Mo was pretending that he hadn’t recovered his cultivation, he couldn’t retaliate against the blows, and neither could he protect himself with a spiritual membrane. After the last few days, his skin was mottled black and blue all over.
“Oho? You’re sleeping rather soundly, aren’t you? Get the hell up!” Pi Huo upended the contents of his wine flask over Li Mo’s sleeping form, then kicked him in the ribs.
“The scum who killed our brother’s right in front of us, but we can’t kill him,” Pi Qiu murmured, so drunk he was stumbling left and right.
“If we can’t kill him, then we’ll just beat him up until he begs for death!” Pi Huo shouted.
The two men flung Li Mo onto the ground and began kicking him all over. Li Mo curled up into a ball, shielding the softer parts of his body. He lay still, his mouth clamped shut.
The two swordsmen felt as though they were beating a log and couldn’t derive any sort of enjoyment from the beating. Once they got tired, they stopped.
“Not afraid of pain, are you? But I’m sure there has to be something you care about in this world,” Pi Huo thundered.
“Oh, there is!” Pi Qiu replied.
“A woman. Remember how this dumbass gave up his chance of escaping to save a woman? It has to be his lover or relative, someone of great importance to him!”
“Right, right!” Pi Huo’s eyes opened wide. “She was standing there and coldly watching Brother’s bout with this scum, wasn’t she?”
“Let me think…” Pi Qiu rapped his head. “Ah, her name’s Yun Ruoyan, isn’t she? I even saw a portrait of her!”
“I remember it too,” Pi Huo added. “Yun Ruoyan. Pretty, even by our standards. I wonder how she compares to the prostitutes of the Pi city?”
Pi Huo’s words caused Li Mo’s eyes to glint murderously.
“Who cares? We’ll catch her, bring her back, and kill her. Let this scum have a taste of having his loved ones die in front of him.”
“No, no, what a waste! We’ll have a good time with her first—” Pi Huo was interrupted halfway through his drunken tirade. Li Mo had stood up, one hand plunged into his back and sticking out of his chest, Pi Huo’s bloody heart in his palm.
Pi Qiu’s eyes grew wide. By the time he reacted and opened his mouth, an icicle had speared his brain through his mouth...Previous Chapter Next Chapter