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Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils Chapter 47

CSI
Chapter 47: Camellias blossoming, but for who?
Duan Yu and his entourage rode without stopping. In a few days, they have travelled south from Lingzhou to Gaolan and Qinzhou. Then heading east towards Hanzhong, cutting through Guangyuan, Jiange and finally arriving at Shubei*. Along their journey, they receive updates from Lingjiu Palace’s Xuantian and Zhutian factions. These two factions are female organizations and all their reports indicated Lord Zhennan is heading south. One of the reports mentioned two female companions travelling with Lord Zhennan and at Zitong County, the two ladies engaged in a ferocious battle with no clear victor.

(Not sure about ancient China geography but Shubei and Shunan could also be Northern Shu and Southern Shu. FYI.)

In his heart, Duan Yu easily predicted that one of the ladies is Mu Wanqing’s mother, Qin Hongmian; while the other lady is the mother of Ah Zhu and Ah Zi, Ruan Xingzhu. In terms of martial arts, Qin Hongmian is superior but in terms of strategy, Ruan Xingzhu has the upper hand. With Father (DZC) mediating between the two ladies, there should not be too much trouble. True enough, in less than two days, a report came, saying that the two ladies are presently on good terms with each other. Together with Lord Zhennan, they are enjoying some nice wine in a restaurant. Xuantian faction has already delivered the warning to Lord Zhennan, telling him there is a strong opponent waiting to ambush him in the later part of his journey.

During their travel, Duan Yu, Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen held several discussions. All the three of them agreed that except for Duan Yanqing, the head of the Four Evils, no one else could be the culprit. Duan Yanqing’s martial arts are amazingly good; within DaLi country, except for Emperor Baoding, no one is his match. If he (DYQ) manages to catch up to Lord Zhennan, it will be catastrophic. Presently, all they could do is journey as
 
fast as they can and reunite with Lord Zhennan. With strength in numbers, they will be able to resist Duan Yanqing.

Ba Tianshi state: “If we come across Duan Yanqing, we must drop everything and immediately launch a full out group attack on him. We must overcome him by our superior numbers and never repeat the same mistake of letting him engage in a solo duel with His Lordship.”

Zhu Danchen agreed: “That is right. Here, we have Prince Duan, Miss Mu, Miss Zhong, Miss Wang and the two of us. Adding His Lordship and the two ladies, Minister Hua, Minister Fan, Brother Gu, and not forgetting the Ladies from Lingjiu Palace. With our combined forces, even if we fail to kill Duan Yanqing, we must at least put an end to his bullying.”

Duan Yu nodded: “I share the same idea.”

When their party is about to reach Mianzhou, sounds of horses galloping can be heard. Soon, two riders rode towards them. The two female riders flipped down their horses and called out: “Xuantian Faction of Lingjiu Palace pays their respect to Mister Duan of DaLi.”

Duan Yu hurriedly got off his horse and acknowledged: “The two of you must have suffered. Have you seen my Father?”

On his right, the middle-aged lady replied: “Reporting to Mister, Lord Zhennan has received our warning and accordingly, he is now heading east, planning to make a big detour before returning to DaLi. This is to avoid running into his nemesis.”

When Duan Yu heard the news, he was instantly relieved. Ecstatic, he enquired: “That is a good plan too. Father is an important figure and of royal blood; there is no need for him to personally dirty his hands with common criminals. Poisonous bugs and wild beasts; avoidance is better than engagement. This is wisdom, not fear. Ladies, do you know who is the enemy? Who tipped us off?”

The middle-aged lady explained: “The news originated from a young lady named Ah Bi. She was the person who divulge the information to Miss
 
Chrysanthemum Sword…”

Wang Yuyan was elated: “So it is Ah Bi. I have not seen her in ages.”

Duan Yu added: “Ah, so it is Miss Ah Bi. I have met her before. She used to be Mister Murong’s personal maid.”

The middle-aged lady continued: “That is the same person. According to Miss Chrysanthemum Sword, Miss Ah Bi and her share the same age. With an attractive face, she is adored wherever she goes. The only shortcoming is her Jiangnan accent; sometimes, it is really hard to understand what she is saying. Miss Ah Bi is the protégé of Mister Kang Guangling, the lay disciple of our Owner (XZ). To a certain extent, she is part of our Lingjiu Palace family. Miss Chrysanthemum says Owner (XZ) is accompanying Mister (DY) to the palace for the wedding proposal whereas Miss Ah Bi is going to Xixia in order to meet up with Mister Murong. During her journey, she received word about some formidable foes scheming to harm Lord Zhennan. She says Mister Duan has been kind to her and she wants us pass the warning message.”

Duan Yu reminisced about the circumstances that led him to meet Ah Bi in Gusu. Through her, he got to know Ah Zhu and finally, Wang Yuyan. This time, it was her again who sent him the warning. Filled with gratitude, he inquired: “Miss Ah Bi, where is she now?”

The middle-aged lady replied: “Subordinate (I) has no idea. Mister Duan, according to Miss Plum Sword, the nemesis coming after His Lordship Duan is a dangerous fellow. Therefore, without waiting for approval by Owner, she gave instructions for the two factions, Xuantian and Zhutian to set off immediately. Mister should exercise caution as well.”

Duan Yu thanked: “Many thanks to Elder Sister for your hard work and efforts. How do I address Elder Sister? In the future, when I meet up with Second Brother, I can mention (praise) your name.” The lady was thrilled and she smiled: “We, the two factions, Xuantian and Zhutian, are just doing our job. Mister need not bother with our lowly names. Junior Lady (I) thanks Mister for your kind gesture!” As she spoke, she and the other lady clasped their hands in these sleeves in an expression of respect. Nodding to
 
everyone as a sign of acknowledgment, the two ladies promptly left on their horses.

Duan Yu checked with Ba Tianshi: “Uncle Ba, what do you think?” Ba Tianshi proposed: “Since His Lordship has taken a detour to the east, we can continue heading south on our own. By the time we arrive in Chengdu, we should be just in time to intercept His Lordship.” Duan Yu nodded his head in agreement: “That is right.”

As they rode southwards, they went through Mianzhou City and arrived at Chengdu. Mianguan City is a prosperous and lively metropolis, the most developed city in the southwest region. After spending a few days idling in the city and still not catching any sight of Duan Zhengchun, Duan Yu and company thought: Lord Zhennan is accompanied by two ladies on his travel. Besides wonderful sightseeing, his needs are well attended to. Naturally, he would take his own sweet time. Once he is back in DaLi, all these comforts and carefree ways will come to an end.

Taking up reins, Duan Yu and company decided to head south again. Each step they take brings them one step closer to DaLi, and their spirits are lifted accordingly. Along their route, beautiful scenery can be seen everywhere. To avoid irritating Mu Wanqing and Zhong Ling, Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan rode separately. This way, the two sisters will not feel left out. During their ride, Mu Wanqing revealed the truth to Zhong Ling, telling her that Duan Yu is actually her (MWQ) own elder brother, and that Zhong Ling is actually the daughter of Duan Zhengchun too. The two girls now address each other as sisters. Observing Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan happily interacting and behaving intimately with each other, the two of them can only helplessly watch and sulk to themselves.

This particular evening, near a willow plantation, the weather started changing rapidly. Raindrops as big as yellow beans battered down upon them. Pushing their horses to go faster, they looked around for shelter concurrently. Riding around a row of willow trees, they came across several white-walled, black-tiled houses erected by a small stream. Cheered, everyone slapped their respective horses and rode towards the structures. Nearing the houses, they saw an old fellow standing on a veranda, with both his hands behind his back. He was staring at the thickening rain clouds.
 
Zhu Danchen flipped down his horse and stepping in front, he clasped his hands, asking: “Old Sir, sorry to disturb. My companions and I are travelling through this area when it starting raining. We hope to take temporary shelter in your treasured property. Would you please grant us this convenience?” (humble talk)

The old fellow welcomed: “Well said. Well said. When travelling, it is impossible to bring your house (shelter) with you. Gentlemen, Ladies, please enter.” Zhu Danchen observed that the old man speaking with an energetic voice and without a local Chuannan accent. Additionally, his eyes are brimming with energy. Secretly alarmed, he clasped his hands and thanked: “Thank you very much.”

After everyone has entered the house, Zhu Danchen pointed to Duan Yu and introduced: “This is Mister Yu, my master, who has just visited some relatives in Chengdu. This is Senior Brother Shi; my surname is Chen. How do I address Elder?”

With a small chuckle, the old fellow invited: “Elder’s surname is Jia. Mister Yu, Big Brother Shi, Big Brother Chen, Ladies, please come into the inner hall for a cup of refreshing tea. Looking at the storm, I think you will be here for some time.” Hearing Zhu Danchen using an alias for everyone, Duan Yu and the others were alerted to some possible danger. The group naturally kept their guard up.

Old Fellow Jia led everyone into a particular room. The walls of the room are decorated with paintings and the room itself is in pristine condition; it is completely unlike a typical room that one might find in a village. Exchanging glances, Zhu Danchen and Ba Tianshi increased their awareness level. Noting the vulgarity of the paintings in the room, Duan Yu kept his eyes away from them. Old Fellow Jia remarked: “I am going to get someone to prepare tea.” Zhu Danchen acquiesced: “Sorry to trouble Elder.” Old Fellow Jia smiled: “I hope I don’t disappoint valued guests.” As he spoke, he turned around and left, closing the door on his way out.

When the door was closed, it revealed a painting behind the door. In the painting, there are a couple of stalks of large Camellias. The first stalk is
 
brilliantly painted in red and silver colour while the second stalk is totally white and half-withered. The contrast is extremely gratifying.

With one look, Duan Yu was instantly filled with gladness. Then he noticed a column of words next to the drawing: The Crown of Flowers Camellia, 71 in variety, as big as a peony, resembling a fire _ cloud _, mammatus _.

There are several blanks in the writing. This string of verses originated from Dian Zhong's <The Annals of Camellia>, which Duan Yu has memorized since young. There are actually 72 varieties of Camellia but in the verses, it is written as 71. Noting a complete set of stationery laid on the table, he could not help but lifted a brush and dipped it in ink. Under the '1' he added another horizontal stroke, turning it into a '2', after the word ‘fire’, he added a word 'like', after the word 'cloud', he added a word 'formation', after the word 'mammatus', he added a word 'wonder'.

In the blink of an eye, the words now read: The Crown of Flowers Camellia, 72 in variety, as big as a peony, resembling a fire-like cloud formation, mammatus wonder.

The verses are written in <Chu Suiliang> font and Duan Yu used the same font. Nobody could tell that the words have edited.

Zhong Ling clapped her hands and cheered: "With you filling up the blanks, the painting is now complete and perfect."

Not long after Duan Yu replaced the ink brush, Old Fellow Jia pushed open the door. After entering, he was closing the door when he discovered that the blanks in the painting have been filled up. His face brimming with joy, he chuckled: "Valued Guest, Valued Guest. Old Man has been lacking in respect. This painting is drawn by an old friend; his memory is terrible and could not recall the exact verses. Initially, he wanted to return home and refer to his books, planning to fill up the blanks the next time he visits. Ai! Upon reaching home, he fell sick and never recovered, leaving me with this incomplete drawing. I did not expect Mister Yu to possess such deep knowledge and finally fulfill this dying wish for my dead friend and I. Wine! Wine! Bring out our wine!" He yelled as he left the room.
 
A brief moment later, Old Fellow Jia re-emerged in a brand new silk robe, inviting Duan Yu and company to the main hall for wine. The group gazed out of the window and could see for themselves that it is raining cats and dogs. On the ground, countless streams of rainwater are gushing through and fro. It is impossible to leave for the next few hours. Faced with Old Fellow Jia's sincere pleading, they cannot bear to reject him anymore and proceeded to the main hall. On the dining table, there are over ten dishes of fresh fish, game meat, poultry and vegetables. Thanking their host, Duan Yu and the others sat down.

Pouring wine into cups, Old Fellow Jia introduced: "This wine is fermented in our own village and it is not as strong as what you usually get. Mister Yu, Old Man (I) is actually born in Jiangnan. In my younger days, I mastered some basic martial arts and during a fight, I killed two enemies by accident. Unable to continue staying in my hometown, I was forced to flee to this place. Ai. Although I have been here for decades, I still miss my hometown. Back there, our wine tastes much better than this." As he spoke, he continued pouring wine for everyone.

Hearing him talking about his background, nobody believed it is entirely true. But since he confessed he knew some martial arts, they are less suspicious of him. After he poured wine for everybody, he exclaimed: "Let me toast everyone first as a sign of respect!" In one mouthful, he swallowed the full cup of wine. Duan Yu and the others find it reassuring that the wine is not poisoned and started drinking too. Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen barely drank. They also waited for Old Fellow Jia to eat from the dishes first before eating from the same dish.

The dinner and drinking has concluded but the rain has not. Old Fellow Jia again sincerely offered accommodation for the night so Duan Yu and company spent that night in the village.

Before retiring, Ba Tianshi secretly conveyed to Mu Wanqing: "Miss Mu, tonight, keep your guard up, as this place still gives me some evil vibes." Mu Wanqing nodded her head. That night, she slept fully clothed and her poisonous arrows are tucked in her sleeve. Throughout the night, the pitter- patter pitter-patter sounds of raindrops occupy her ears. Drifting in and out of sleep, she woke up next morning without any incidents.
 
As they are washing up, they noted that the storm is over and bade farewell to Old Fellow Jia without any delay. Old Fellow Jia escorted them out of the house and accompanied them for some distance before sending them off. All this time, his behavior is entirely respectful and courteous.

Leaving the property far behind, everyone is still befuddled by the episode. Ba Tianshi remarked: "This Old Fellow Jia, what is he up to? Everything is so mysterious and honestly, I cannot decipher his tricks, if there is any in the first place." Zhu Danchen mused: "Brother Ba, my guess is that Old Fellow Jia originally had evil intentions but after he discovered Mister filling up the missing words, his attitude changed. Mister, the painting and the words, is there any connection between the two of them?"

Duan Yu shook his head: "The two stalks of Camellia are pretty common. One stalk is the ‘Fenhou’ variety’ the other is ‘Xueta’ variety. Although they are special breeds, they are not rare in the market." Unable to make head or tail of the situation, everyone stopped talking about it.

Zhong Ling joked: “It will be great if during our journey, we are able to encounter more paintings with missing words. Once our Mister Duan filled up the blanks, it will be a wonderful bargain. We will profit two meals of dishes and wine, one night of accommodation, all without spending a single cent.” Everyone was tickled and starting laughing.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Although Zhong Ling was simply kidding; during their journey, Duan Yu and company are indeed confronted by a series of paintings. All the paintings are related to Camellia; some paintings are missing words; some contain words that are written wrongly, etc. There were even instances of drawings of flower stalk without the actual flower or the flower and stalks are drawn but the leaves are missing. Whenever Duan Yu came across a defective painting, he would rectify it without hesitation. Once the correction is completed, the owner of the painting will welcome everybody with the best hospitality: serving the best wine and food but never asking for a single cent in return.

Several times, Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen tried to probe for more information. Amazingly, every painting owner has the same reply template: Due to circumstances, the original artist is unable to complete the work,
 
thanking Duan Yu profusely for remedying the painting and filled with deep gratitude. Duan Yu and Zhong Ling are young and naïve, treating these errands as a game. They hope for more incomplete paintings to come along. Seeing Duan Yu in a happy mood, Wang Yuyan is happy too. All along, Mu Wanqing has been a fearless character; whether the host is kind or evil, she couldn’t be bothered. Only Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen are increasingly worried. Reviewing the enemy’s meticulous planning, they suspect a grand scheme is unfolding. However, they are unable to detect any loopholes or evidence.

Whenever Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen received warm hospitality, they would carefully scrutinize their surroundings and keep a lookout for poison in their food and drink. Sometimes, it is hard to detect slow-acting poisons, as they require taking several doses in order to cause harm. Ba Tianshi is observant and streetwise, if someone tries to poison his food, he would be able to catch him in the act. However, he is unable to detect any abnormalities. Moreover, the owners of the paintings shared their meals, proving that the food is safe for consumption.

It is now early October as they sustained their southwards voyage. It has yet to turn cold and during their travelling, they are mostly surrounded by mountain ranges, thick forests and overgrown grass. Compared to the northern region of Xixia, the environment is vastly dissimilar.

This singular evening, the group is riding near a sea of grasslands, with the jade green and wild grass reaching out to the horizon, as far as the eye can see. On their left is a dense and extensive forest. Scanning their surroundings, there are no signs of human civilization. Ba Tianshi advised: “Mister, this is unsafe territory. We should quickly seek accommodation.” Duan Yu nodded in agreement: “You are right. We are unlikely to go through these grasslands by today. I wonder where can we rest for the night?”

Zhu Danchen warned: “The sea of grass is heavily populated by venomous mosquitoes and other bugs. Furthermore, there is the presence of smog. The Osmanthus smog is nearly over and the Hibiscus smog is just starting. When these two smog are mixed together, its toxicity is even more
 
devastating. If we are unable to find accommodation, we will have to spend the night in the trees, thereby avoiding the smog and venomous insects.”

Everyone proceeded to make a left turn and rode towards the forest. Since this is the first time she is learning about smog and their toxic effects, Wang Yuyan quizzed Zhu Danchen about Osmanthus smog and Hibiscus smog. Zhu Danchen described: “Smog is the poisonous fumes that are released from swamps in wild mountainous areas. The Peach flower smog from March and the Durian flower smog from May are considered the most toxic. Actually, these fumes are all the same but due to different time periods, we use the names of flowers to label them by the month. Between March and May, the rise in temperature is the most significant, leading to mass breeding of venomous bugs, creating the worst season for smog. At this time of the year, the effects of smog are generally limited. However, in this specific area, the air is humid, catalyzing the rot and decay of dead vegetation, therefore exacerbating the power of the smog.”

Wang Yuyan asked: “Hmm, is there a smog named after Camellia?”

Duan Yu, Ba Tianshi and the others broke out into laughter. Zhu Danchen clarified: “We, the people of DaLi, adore Camellia, and would never link Camellia to the nasty smog.”

As they spoke, the group has already entered the forest. The hooves of their horses are treading in mud and every step is a sinking sensation followed by a tedious pulling out. It is a horrible experience. Ba Tianshi suggested: “I think we need not move any deeper into the forest. Tonight, let’s learn from birds and make a nest on the trees. When the sun is out tomorrow and the smog has diminished, we will continue our trip.” Wang Yuyan asked: “When the sun is out, the smog will be weakened?” Ba Tianshi educated: “That is right.”

Suddenly pointing to the northeastern direction, Zhong Ling worriedly exclaimed: “Aiyo, this is bad, there is a smog cloud rising in that direction. What kind of smog is that?” Everybody’s eyes followed the direction of her finger and gaze. True enough, there are several waves of clouds rising out from within the forest.
 
Ba Tianshi answered: "Miss, that is Making Dinner smog." Zhong Ling anxiously asked: "What Making Dinner smog? Is it powerful or not?" Ba Tianshi laughed: "This is not a smog; it is the smoke being produced when someone is making dinner." True enough, from the green cloud, there are tinges of black smoke and white steam, like a gentle fog. Everyone started laughing. Encouraged by their new discovery, they cried: "Let's look for the Making Dinner smog." Zhong Ling was so embarrassed her face turned completely red. Wang Yuyan consoled her: "Sister Ling, fortunately, you discovered this Making Dinner… Making Dinner smoke. Otherwise, we will all be sleeping in trees."

The group rode towards the rising smoke. In closer proximity, they observed a clearing in the forest where several wooden cabins have been erected. Besides the houses, there are stacks of chopped wood. It appears that this is the accommodation for logging workers. Pushing his horse forward, Zhu Danchen shouted in a loud voice: "Head of the timber mill, we are passer-bys and would like to spend a night in your prestigious estate. Is that all right with you?" After some time, there was still no reply from within the house. Zhu Danchen repeated his request and it was again met with silence. On the roof, the chimney is still emitting smoke, indicating that the house is occupied.

Retrieving his weapon-fan made of iron spines from his bosom, Zhu Danchen held it in his hand as he gently pushed open the door and entered the house. At first glance, the house is empty and yet, he could hear the 'bi bo bi bo' sounds of crackling firewood. Zhu Danchen walked towards the back of the house and arrived at the kitchen, finding an old woman tending to a fire stove. Zhu Danchen enquired: "Old Grandma, is there anyone else beside you?" The old woman stared at him with a dumbfounded expression. Zhu Danchen asked again: "Are you alone?" The old woman pointed to her own ear and mouth, producing a few 'ah ah ah' sounds, signaling that she is a deaf-mute.

Zhu Danchen returned to the main hall. By then, Duan Yu, Mu Wanqing and the others have already investigated the rest of the cabins. Among all the property, there is nobody except for the old woman. In every cabin, there is a wooden bed but there are no mattresses or blankets. It looks like
 
the loggers have not started work. Ba Tianshi circled the area twice and did not find anything suspicious.

Zhu Danchen indicated: "This old Grandma is deaf and mute; I cannot communicate with her. Miss Wang Yuyan is the most patient among all of us. It is better for you to interact with her." Wang Yuyan nodded with a smile: "Sure. I will give it a try." Entering the kitchen, she gesticulated to the old woman and even presented a tael of silver to her. Eventually, the old woman approximately understood the intrusion. After the old woman has finished her cooking, Duan Yu and company managed to procure some rice from her. The wooden cabin does not store any meat or wine. By eating the cooked rice and some dry rations, the group managed to stave off their hunger.

Ba Tianshi instructed: "We will stick together and everyone will sleep in this house." The males promptly slept at the east wing while the females slept at the west wing. In the main hall, the old woman placed a lighted oil lamp on the table.

After everyone barely got into bed, the sounds of ‘ta ta’ can be heard from the main hall. It is clear that somebody is trying to light a fire with firestones but is unsuccessful. Opening the door, Ba Tianshi went out and noticed the oil lamp on the table has been extinguished. In the dark, he could still hear the ‘ta ta’ noise, which came from the old woman trying to re-light the lamp. Using firestones to start a fire is not easy; if the paper charcoal (fire starter) does not catch the sparks, it could be a trying process. Ba Tianshi immediately retrieve his firestones from his bosom and with one ‘da’, he managed to light up oil lamp. A slight smile formed on the face of the old woman. Gesticulating to Ba Tianshi, she wanted to borrow his firestones. Pointing to the kitchen, she probably wanted to start a fire there. Ba Tianshi handed over his firestones and returned back to his room to sleep.

Soon thereafter, from the main hall, sounds of ‘ta ta ta ta’ began to occur again. Duan Yu and company barely caught a few winks before they were fully awakened by the fire-starting noise. Seeing the lack of illumination between the seams of the wooden walls, they guessed the oil lamp must have been extinguished again. Zhu Danchen laughed: “The old woman is
 
really unlucky.” At first, he wanted to ignore her but the ‘ta ta ta’ sounds did not subside. It felt as if the old woman is planning to strike the firestones throughout the night if that is what it is going to take to relight the oil lamp. Finally losing his patience, Zhu Danchen got up and walked to the main hall. In the dark, he could vaguely envisage the arm of the old woman moving up and down, trying her best to strike the firestones. Retrieving his own firestones, Zhu Danchen got a light at his first strike and lighted the oil lamp. The old woman grinned at him and made some hand gestures, indicating that she wanted to borrow his firestones to light a fire in the kitchen. Zhu Danchen loaned her his firestones and went back to his room.

Unexpectedly, a brief moment later, the sounds of ‘ta ta ta’ came out from the main hall again. Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen were boiling with anger. They cursed: “This old hag, what is her problem!” Still, the ‘ta ta ta’, ‘ta ta ta’ noise went on incessantly. Ba Tianshi jumped out of bed, went to the old woman and grabbed her firestones. Striking them, not a single spark came out. Feeling the firestones, he realised the firestones are not his. In a loud voice, he demanded: “Where are my firestones?” Once the words left his mouth, he half-laughingly chided himself: “Why am I venting my frustration on a deaf-mute old grandma?”

At this juncture, Mu Wanqing came out too. Producing her own firestones, she asked: “Uncle Ba, are you trying to make a fire?” Ba Tianshi explained: “The old grandma is really bizarre. The oil lamp was reignited and extinguished, reignited and extinguished. We have been at it for ages.” Receiving her firestones, with a ‘da’ sound, sparks came out and the oil lamp was lit again. The old woman had a look of satisfaction on her face and she smiled broadly as she stared at the fire in the oil lamp. To Mu Wanqing, Ba Tianshi commented: “Miss, you must be tired from all the travelling. Please have an early rest.” Then he returned to his room.

Before the time needed to drink a cup of tea, the ‘ta ta ta’, ‘ta ta ta’ sounds arose again. Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen leapt out of their beds simultaneously, each ready to confront the noise. In a flash of realization, both men thought: This peculiar old woman is certainly suspicious. There must be some evil at work.
 
The two men softly shook hands once and stealthily crept out of the room. From the left side and right side, they separately sneaked towards the old woman. Just as they are about to pounce on her, both of them concurrently caught a whiff of light fragrance. It turned out that the person striking the firestones is Mu Wanqing. The two men immediately recovered from their attacking stance. Ba Tianshi checked: “Miss, is that you?” Mu Wanqing answered: “Yes, I have a bad feeling about this place and I wanted to light a lamp and explore around.”

Ba Tianshi remarked: “Let me have the firestones.” However, with a few tries and the ‘ta ta ta’, ‘ta ta ta’ sounds, he could not create any sparks. Stunned, he highlighted: “This firestone is broken, it must have been switched by that old grandma.” Zhu Danchen ordered: “Quickly locate that hag; don’t let her escape.” Mu Wanqing rushed to the kitchen while the two men dashed out of the wooden house. With a speedy search, they discovered that the old woman has disappeared. Ba Tianshi reminded: “That’s enough chasing. Protecting Mister is our priority.”

Back at the wooden house, Duan Yu, Wang Yuyan and Zhong Ling were roused by the loud commotion.

Ba Tianshi demanded: “Who still has his or her firestone? Let’s light a fire before talking.” Two voices spoke out in unison: “The old woman has borrowed my firestones.” The voices belonged to Wang Yuyan and Zhong Ling. Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen secretly lamented to themselves: We have exercise extreme caution; nevertheless, we fell into the enemy’s trap.

From his bosom, Duan Yu produced his firestones. ‘Ta ta ta’. After a few strikes, no sparks were seen. Zhu Danchen questioned: “Mister, has the old hag borrowed your firestones before?” Duan Yu responded: “Yes, that was before dinner. After she used them, she returned them back to me.” Zhu Danchen surmised: “The firestones must have been switched.”

For a short spell of time, nobody spoke up. In the darkness, all they could hear were the sounds of forest bugs. It is a moonless and starless night; there is no natural lighting they can rely on. Gathered in the house, the six of them can barely make out each other’s silhouettes. In their hearts, they felt as if they are being surrounded by an unseen danger. Ever since Duan
 
Yu started filling up the missing words in the painting and receiving dedicated hospitality from Old Fellow Jia, the six of them are being blinded and lured into coming to this wild and secluded spot. Although they could somewhat guess that something is amiss, no one could comprehend the evil scheme or even identify any evidence that points to such a scheme. Everyone thought: If the enemy physically confronts us in an open battle, we can have a proper contest. Now that the enemy is sneaking around in the darkness, we are unable to take any precautions.

Mu Wanqing reasoned: “The old grandma has stripped us of our firestones. She wants to keep us shrouded in the dark in order to execute her evil plans.” Zhong Ling suddenly shrieked out loud: “What if they release centipedes and venomous ants to bite me in the dark? That will be my worst nightmare!” In his heart, Ba Tianshi shuddered once. He state: “If we are assaulted by venomous insects in the dark, we would be entirely defenseless.” Duan Yu suggested: “Why don’t we get out of here and hide in the trees?” Zhu Danchen forbade: “I think the trees are already planted with venomous bugs.” Letting out a scream ‘Ah!’, Zhong Ling grabbed onto Mu Wanqing’s arm. Ba Tianshi comforted: “Miss, do not be frightened. Let us light a fire before talking.” Zhong Ling wondered: “Without firestones, how do we start a fire?” Ba Tianshi strategized: “It is hard to fathom the enemy’s plan but since they want us to stay in the dark without fire and lighting, we shall purposely create a fire. We certainly cannot go wrong with that.”

As he spoke, he entered the kitchen and came back with two pieces of firewood. Handing them to Zhu Danchen, he instructed: “Brother Zhu, turn these firewood into wooden splints, the finer the better.” Hearing his words, Zhu Danchen immediately understood his idea and agreed: “You are right, why should we remain as sitting ducks?” From his bosom, he took out a dagger and started paring the firewood. Duan Yu, Mu Wanqing, Wang Yuyan and Zhong Ling joined in as well. Retrieving their own daggers or small knives, they assisted by cutting, chopping or grinding the wooden chips, turning them into wood kindling. Duan Yu sighed: “Unfortunately, I do not possess the incredible power of Grandmaster Kurong from Sky Dragon Monastery (TianLong Monastery). He can ignite this wood kindling by focusing his internal energy. I think Jiumozhi has this ability too.” In
 
actual fact, the accumulated internal energy in Duan Yu has long surpassed Grandmaster Kurong and Jiumozhi. However, he does not know how to utilize this power.

As everyone worked tirelessly on breaking down the firewood into minute portions, there is hardly any peace in their hearts. Fully silent, they paid full attention to their hearing, the only ability they could depend on to detect any enemy activity. Everyone thought the same: Since the old grandma has conned us of our firestones, she probably will not wait too long before taking action. Even in the next moment, we could be under attack.

With his hands feeling the wood kindling, Ba Tianshi estimated that he has enough to fill a typical rice bowl. Gathering them into a pile, he added some charcoal paper (fire starter) to it. Holding his own knife in his left hand, he borrowed Zhong Ling’s knife and held it in his right hand. In a swift movement, he scrapped the blunt sides of the knives against each other with a ‘zheng’ sound. Fire sparks erupted in all directions and some of them came in contact with the wood kindling, causing the kindling to start burning. Unfortunately, the fire died down as soon as it is lighted, and did not spread to the charcoal paper. As everyone sighed with disappointment, Ba Tianshi continued grinding the two blades against each other. ‘Zheng Zheng’ the sounds rang out relentlessly. After more than ten tries, the charcoal paper finally started burning.

Duan Yu and everyone else cheered and whistled in delight. Using the charcoal paper, they managed to reignite the oil lamp. Afraid of the wind snuffing out the lamp, Zhu Danchen gathered and lit up all the oil lamps from the kitchen and the two bedrooms. The flames are weak and make everyone’s face appear with a greenish tinge. The smell of smoke is thick and irritating to the nose. Nonetheless, the fire was created after much difficulty and everyone is in high spirits, feeling as if they had just won a big victory.

The wooden house itself is sparse and from the gaps of the door, wind is blowing continuously into the cabin. The six of them glanced at each other, hands on weapons, pricking their ears for any suspicious sounds. However, except for the sound of wind rustling the trees or the standard squeaking of the bugs, everything else remains normal.
 
After a prolonged period, there are still no signs of enemy activity. As a result, Ba Tianshi started exploring the interior of the wooden house. He noticed a few pillars are being wrapped with grass mats and the grass mats are secured in place by grass ropes. From his recollection, there were no grass mats and grass ropes when he first entered the house. He cut the grass ropes at once and with it, the grass mats fell off the pillars.

On two of the pillars, Duan Yu saw that a pair of couplets is engraved on them. The upper verse goes: Spring river flowing water _ camellia. The lower verse goes: Summer valley _ rise red lychee. There is a missing word in each couplet. Turning around, he saw that Zhu Danchen has dismantled another two grass mats from another two pillars, revealing another pair of engraved couplets. They go: _ in green robes a familiar face; _ camellia blossom with grace.

Duan Yu declared: “Along our journey, I have been filling up blanks in paintings. Good, bad, who knows? Since they (enemy) have wrapped the pillars with grass mats, they evidently do not wish for me to see the couplets. We have always acted unconventionally, desiring to see what tricks the enemy is going play.” With that, he stretched his hand out. With sounds of ‘chi chi’, he has written the word ‘white’ next to the word ‘camellia’ and the word ‘mist’ next to the word ‘valley’. The perfected couplet now reads: ‘Spring river flowing water white camellia; summer valley mist rise red lychee’. His internal energy is profound and wherever he exerted strength, wood kindling would fall out. Clapping her hands, Zhong Ling giggled: “If we knew about this, you can simply scrap your fingers against the firewood and we would have wood kindling. There is no need for us to expend so much effort.”

Immersed in his own world, Duan Yu is now at the other pillars filling up the blanks, muttering to himself as he wrote: “Beauty in green robes a familiar face; September camellia blossom with grace” As he chanted, he swayed his head (like poets when composing poems) while stealing glances at Wang Yuyan. Wang Yuyan’s delicate face glowed red and she turned her head away. (embarrassed)

Zhong Ling highlighted: “I wonder which tree does this wood come from? The fragrance is pretty nice.” Everyone took a few sniffs and agreed that
 
from the engraving hole made by Duan Yu’s finger, there was an enchanting flowery scent. The fragrance seems to resemble osmanthus or rose but is neither of them. Duan Yu, too, exclaimed: “Nice aroma!” The fragrance became thicker and thicker and after inhaling it, the body became more comfortable and alert.

Zhu Danchen’s face instantly lost colour and he warned: “Not good. I think this scent is poisonous. Everybody, cover your nostrils.” Hearing his reminder, everyone hurriedly used their handkerchiefs or sleeves to seal his or her mouth and nose. By now, everyone has breathed in a considerable amount of the fragrance. If it is poisonous, there should be signs of dizziness or discomfort. However, no one felt any signs of uneasiness.

After a short while, everyone was in need of oxygen and naturally started breathing again. Feeling no signs of poisoning, everyone gradually removed their seals. Discussing the situation, nobody could offer a good explanation for the enemy’s scheme.

A long wait later, the air is suddenly filled with a series of buzzing noises. Mu Wanqing was alarmed and cried out: “Aiyo! The poison has been activated. I keep hearing a weird noise in my ears.” Zhong Ling wailed: “Me too.” Ba Tianshi instead clarified: “That is not a weird noise in your ears. It sounds like a huge swarm of bees are flying towards us.” True enough, the buzzing sound became louder and louder, signaling the approach of thousands of bees.

Bees are actually nothing to be afraid of. Still, this is the first time everyone has heard such a loud buzzing sound. Nobody could even confirm if the buzzing sound actually came from bees or something else. For a split second, everyone was stunned on the spot, not knowing how to react. As the ‘weng weng’ sounds grew closer and closer, it sounded like countless vampires howling and dashing towards them, ready to bite every person. Zhong Ling is basically grabbing onto Mu Wanqing’s arm while Wang Yuyan is holding Duan Yu’s hands as tightly as she could. Everyone’s heart is thumping like a beating drum. Although they expected an enemy concealed in the darkness, no one expected such a horrifying noise to herald the arrival of their attackers.
 
Abruptly, with a ‘pai’ noise, it sounded as if a small object has knocked onto the wooden wall of the wooden house from outside. Following that came a continuous stream of ‘pai pai pai pai’ sounds, as if scores of small items are knocking at the wall. Mu Wanqing and Zhong Ling screamed in unison: “They are bees!” Ba Tianshi rushed to close a window and out of the blue, the air is pierced by the dreadful long cries of horses and sounds of their stomping. Zhong Ling shrieked: “The bees are stinging the horses!” Zhu Danchen announced: “I will go and cut the ropes binding the horses!” Tearing the collar of his long robes, he wrapped the cloth around his head. As he barely pushed open the wooden door with his left hand, a gust of wind brought thousands of bees into the house. Zhong Ling and Wang Yuyan instantly screamed at the top of their voices.

Ba Tianshi dragged Zhu Danchen back into the house, and with his knee, he knocked the door close. However, the house is already filled with bees. Once they entered the house, the bees started stinging everyone and in a few minutes, everyone’s head, arms, face have all been stung several times. Opening his folded fan, Zhu Danchen smacked randomly in the air. Tearing his own collar, Ba Tianshi used it against the bees as a weapon. Enduring the painful stings, Duan Yu, Mu Wanqing, Wang Yuyan and Zhong Ling also did their best in smacking the bees.

When Ba Tianshi, Zhu Danchen, Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing attacked the bees, they utilized their maximum internal energy. Soon, there are only a few dozen bees left in the house. Strange enough, these bees are like moths attracted to fire. Despite the circumstances, they continued stinging everyone relentlessly. Another brief skirmish later, everyone finally realised that all the bees within the house are dead. Zhong Ling and Wang Yuyan are both crying profusely due to the pain. In the ears of everyone, the sounds of ‘pai pai’ outside the house are as dense as ever. There could be another tens of thousands of bees waiting to penetrate the wooden cabin. Paled-faced, everybody temporary ignored their bodily pain and hastily tore at their collars or sleeves, using them to plug every single gap in the wooden house.

Numerous red and swollen marks occupy their six bodies and faces; everybody looked the worse for wear. Duan Yu consoled: “Luckily, we are able to seek shelter in this wooden house. If we are outside in the open
 
wilderness and with these millions of wild bees coming after us, we will be slaughtered.” Mu Wanqing warned: “These wild bees are being lured here by our enemies. Will they give up now? Or will they try to break down the wooden house?” Zhong Ling let out a shriek and asked: “Sister, you… you are saying that they will break down this wooden house?”

Before Mu Wanqing could reply, a loud ‘PONG!’ sound was heard above her head. A large rock has apparently landed on the roof. The rafters of the roof went ‘ge ge’ as it shook. Fortunately, the roof remained intact. The ‘ge ge’ sound barely ended when another two large rocks broke through the roof and landed in the house. The oil lamps were instantly extinguished.

Duan Yu hurriedly held Wang Yuyan in his bosom and covered her head and face. Faced with ear-deafening buzzing noise, the group realised fighting is futile and quickly used their robes to cover their faces. In seconds, their arms, legs, shoulders are pierced by thousands of stings. Shortly, everything went black as the six of them fainted simultaneously.

Duan Yu has ingested the Crimson Buffalo Toad and originally, he is immune to poison. However, these bees are raised by humans. Besides the venomous bee sting, sleeping drugs are applied to the bee’s stinger. After being stung consecutively by hundreds of bees, he succumbed as well. Nevertheless, his internal energy is overwhelming and among the six, he was the first to regain consciousness.

The second he woke up, he immediately reached out his hand to hug Wang Yuyan. However, he is unable to move his arms. At the same time, he realised that Wang Yuyan is no longer in his bosom. Although his eyes are wide open, all he could see is complete darkness. It turns out that his arms and legs are securely fastened; his eyes are blindfolded with a black cloth and there was a large walnut stuffed in his mouth. His breathing is limited and speaking is impossible. All over his skin, he can feel countless small but painful spots, the places where the bees have left their marks. He could sense that he is in some underground chamber but has no idea where he is or how long he has been knocked out.

In his state of helplessness, Duan Yu suddenly heard a firm female voice reprimanding: “I have expended so much energy, planning to capture the
 
old dog surnamed Duan from DaLi. Why did you catch this little puppy instead?” Duan Yu felt that this voice is familiar to him but for the time being, he could not recognize the speaker.

A voice from an old woman replied: “Servant (I) has followed your instructions carefully and nothing was neglected.” The lady snorted: “Humph, I believe there is some funny business going on. The old dog was heading south from Xixia, taking the main road and passing through Xichuan; why did he abruptly head east? All the drugged wine that we carefully prepared along the journey was consumed by this puppy instead.”

In his heart, Duan Yu knew the ‘old dog’ she mentioned is his own father Duan Zhengchun. In her rude terms, the ‘puppy’ is therefore Duan Yu himself. Based on the walled voices of the lady and old woman, they are probably speaking in another chamber, probably the chamber right next to Duan Yu’s.

The old woman mused: “On this trip to the Central Plains, His Lordship Duan has already spent a considerable number of days. When he abruptly head east…” The lady scolded: “You still address him as His Lordship Duan?” The old woman answered: “Yes, in the past… Mistress instructed me to address him as Mister Duan. Now that he has aged…” The lady snapped: “Stop talking about him.” The old woman acknowledged: “Yes.” The lady released a light sigh and dejectedly continued: “He… He has aged…” In her voice, signs of pity and vulnerability can be discerned.

Duan Yu was instantly relieved. He pondered: Initially, I was puzzled about her identity. Turns out that she is Father’s old girlfriend. She has a grudge with Father and she is probably doing it out of jealousy. Oh yeah, her venomous bees scheme is originally used to kidnap Father but due to a complicated coincidence, I took the rap instead. Since this is the case, she would not cause any harm to us. Still, I wonder who this lady is? I have definitely heard her voice before.

The lady started speaking again: “The incomplete paintings that we prepared in all the houses and inns; did that puppy really make all the right corrections? I am still in doubt. The old dog has managed to replicate all his education in the puppy? Is there such a coincidence in this world?” The old
 
woman reminded: “Whenever the Father recites his poetry, the son will be influenced. There is nothing strange with that.” The lady angrily cursed: “Dao Baifeng that uncouth and uneducated girl grew up in the countryside. How did she give birth to such a talented son? I will never believe this as long as I live.”

Hearing her insult her own mother, Duan Yu was incensed. Unconsciously, he wanted to scold her in return but the minute he tried to move his lips, he was reminded of the giant walnut in his mouth. Under such restraint, how could he speak out?

Next, he heard the old woman advising: “Mistress, these events happened decades ago, why are you still clinging onto them? Moreover, the person who mistreated you was Mister Duan, not his son. You… you… You should spare the young man. Our ‘Drunken Bees’ have inflicted large amounts of pain on him; it should be more than enough.” In a shrill voice, the lady exclaimed: “You are saying I should spare the kid surnamed Duan? Humph, Humph, I will cut him into a thousand slices before I spare him.”

Duan Yu thought: Father has offended you, not me; why did you hate me so much? So the bees are known as ‘Drunken Bees’, I wonder how did she accumulate so many bees that will only attack us? Who is this lady? She is not Madam Zhong. Their voices are completely different.

Out of the blue, a male voice can be heard: “Maternal Aunt-in-law (Wife of mother’s brother. Will use Maternal Aunt in future), your nephew pays his respects to you.”

Duan Yu was greatly shaken. In his heart, a mystery has been solved. The male speaker is Murong Fu and the lady whom he addresses as Maternal Aunt is naturally Madam Wang of Gusu Moon Flower (jimsonweed / thornapple) Manor. She is the mother of Wang Yuyan and his future mother- in-law. Simultaneously, Duan Yu’s heart is thumping uncontrollably. His emotions are going haywire and his brain is utterly confused. In his mind, the episodes at Moon Flower Manor are being played out like a cut scene:

Regardless of Camellia or Moon Flower, the best grown are those from DaLi. The quality of camellias from Gusu is deplorable, with the most
 
being produced by Moon Flower Manor. Their variety is pathetic and the cultivation method is erroneous; either the farmed flowers are smaller than usual or they wither faster than normal. Funnily enough, why is the Manor named as ‘Moon Flower Manor’? Except for camellias, no other flowers are planted at the Manor; what is the reason behind this peculiarity?

Moon Flower Manor has its own set of laws. Any male who enters the Manor uninvited must amputate both his legs. Additionally, Madam Wang insisted: “If the male happens to be from DaLi or is surnamed Duan, he must be buried alive.” When the disciple of Limitless Sword Sect was captured by Madam Wang, although he is not from DaLi, he was still buried alive because his hometown is less than 20km away from DaLi.

Another time, Madam Wang seized a young gentleman, and ordered him to go home and murder his official wife. Afterwards, he must marry his private mistress as his official wife. If he disagrees, Madam Wang will take his life on the spot, giving the fellow no option but to accede.

Duan Yu remembered Madam Wang instructing her maidservant: “You shall escort him (as a prisoner) back to Gusu City and witness him killing his own wife with your own eyes. Once he has married Miss Miao, you may come home.” The gentlemen pleaded: “My wife has no enmity with you; you are not acquainted with Miss Miao either. Why are you helping her, forcing me to kill my spouse and remarry?” That occasion, Madam Wang laughing replied: “Since you are a married man, you should not seduce another virgin lady. By sweet-talking her and involving her in a relationship, you have no choice but to marry her as your wife.” Based on her revelations, the maidservant Xiaocui alone has already handled seven similar cases in Changshu, Danyang, Wuxi and Jiaxing.

Duan Yu is from DaLi and surnamed Duan. If not for his knowledge in growing camellias, Madam Wang would have sentenced him to death. Instead, he was invited to attend a feast at Yunjin Hall (Hall of Brocades). Unfortunately, while Duan Yu and Madam Wang are discussing about the different breeds of camellia, they mentioned a specific breed: white petals with a red streak, nicknamed: Beauty maimed her face. Duan Yu corrected: “There are many types of white camellia with red streaks. That is not ‘Beauty maimed her face’, it is ‘Fence-leaning Beauty’. Madam, please
 
think about it; all beauties are generally refined and gentle. If she occasionally cuts her face, that is acceptable. But if a beauty’s face is full of cuts, that means she is always picking fights with others. How can someone like that be considered beautiful?” These words caused Madam Wang to blow her top and she berated him: “Where did you hear this nonsense from? How dare you create this twisted logic and insult me? Are you saying that a girl who practices martial arts is ugly? Refined and gentle; what’s so good about that?” She had him instantly dragged out of the feast and nearly executed him.

From these incidents, at that point in time, Duan Yu concluded that Madam Wang is someone without compassion. Except for ‘absurd’, he could not find a better word to describe her. Presently, aware that the lady in the neighbouring chamber is Madam Wang, he was enlightened: She is another old flame of Father; that explains her dedication towards camellia and her extreme hatred for DaLi residents that are surnamed Duan. Since Madam Wang is so fond of camellia; her relationship with Father decades ago must be intricately linked to camellia. When she chose to bury men from DaLi or men surnamed Duan, she must be venting her frustration on Father, who himself is surnamed Duan and from DaLi. Father must have abandoned her and she bore this grudge till today, implicating innocent men. Whenever she forces men with mistresses to kill their official wives and remarry, it reveals her long hidden wish. She hoped that one day, Father would kill his official wife and marry her. When he (DY) unintentionally stated that a lady always getting into fights couldn’t be beautiful, she immediately lost her temper. Back then, because of her affair with Father, they must have had a big martial arts fight. Of course, during the fight, Father would naturally make concessions for her.

Although Duan Yu finally unraveled many suspicious mysteries, there is no mental relief for him. Instead, it felt as if a gigantic boulder is pressing on his chest. For certain reasons, he could not articulate it. To a certain extent, he felt that Wang Yuyan’s mother and his Father’s past affair is something he is awfully uncomfortable with. Deep in his heart, he suddenly experienced an earth-shattering fear. Unwilling to face this most fearsome thoughts head on, he was petrified with unspeakable trauma.
 
Next minute, he heard Madam Wang speaking: “Oh, it is Nephew Fu. You look great. I believe you will soon become the Emperor of Great Yan. When is the coronation?” Her speech carried a tone of ridicule.

Murong Fu instead solemnly answered: “That is the bequest of my ancestors. Nephew is incompetent. Roaming through the martial arts world for years, I am still back at square one. I was about to seek some guidance from Maternal Aunt.”

Madam Wang coldly sniggered: “What guidance can I offer? Ours is the Wang Family. Yours is the Murong Family. We are surnamed Wang, and have nothing to do with your Murong Family Emperor dream. I forbid you from entering Moon Flower Manor and forbid you from meeting Yuyan, all because I do not wish to get involved with your Murong Family issues. Where is Yuyan? Where have you brought her?”

‘Where is Yuyan?’ The three words struck Duan Yu’s ear like a lightning bolt. This is his utmost concern right now. When the venomous bees are attacking him, Wang Yuyan was right in his bosom. Currently, where is she? Listening to Madam Wang’s tone, she appears to be telling the truth.

He heard Murong Fu retort: “Where is Cousin? How would I know? All along, she has been accompanying Mister Duan from DaLi. Who knows, the two of them may have already went through marriage ceremony and have become husband and wife!”

In a quivering voice, Madam Wang scolded: “You… What utter rubbish!” With a loud ‘Pong!’ she heavily slammed her palm on the table. She furiously reprimanded: “Why didn’t you take care of her? Letting her, a young lady, roam the martial arts world randomly? Don’t you care for her as a Cousin?”

Murong Fu remarked: “Maternal Aunt, why are you so upset? You are afraid that I will marry Cousin, afraid that she will become the daughter-in- law of the Murong Family and follow me in my Emperor dream. Presently, everything is looking good. When she marries Mister Duan from DaLi, in the future, she will be the official Empress of DaLi country. Isn’t that a fantastic outcome?”
 
‘Pong!’ Madam Wang landed another palm on the table. She hollered: “Nonsense! What kind of fantastic outcome is that? It will never be allowed!”

In the chamber next door, Duan Yu is already in a state of anxiety. When he heard the words ‘it will never be allowed’, he groaned in despair: “Suffering, suffering, Yuyan and I eventually cannot have a smooth sailing relationship. Her mother even stated that our marriage ‘will never be allowed!’”

From a window outside, someone sang out: “Not right, not right. Miss Wang and Mister Duan are a match made in heaven, a pair made on earth. Madam is mistaken when you say it will never be allowed.” Madam Wang angrily threatened: “Bao Butong, who gave you the permission to contradict me in this act of insubordination? If you continue to be rude, I will order someone to assassinate your daughter.” Bao Butong is originally someone who fears neither the deities nor the demons. But after hearing Madam Wang’s sharp censure, he instantly kept his mouth shut and became as quiet as a mouse.

In his heart, Duan Yu was wishing: “Third Brother Bao, Third Uncle Bao, Third Master Bao, Third Grandmaster Bao, please continue contradicting Madam Wang. Her words are entirely illogical. Only you are a true hero who posses the guts to pick a fight with her.” Against his wishes, the voice from the window became completely silent, as Bao Butong no longer dared to speak out. Actually, Bao Butong is not afraid of Madam Wang sending a killer after her daughter Bao Bujing. The truth is that for generations, Bao Butong’s ancestors have served the Murong Family. He himself is a loyal subordinate. Since Madam Wang is a Senior related to the Murong Family, indirectly, she is his owner (mistress) as well. Even if he loses his temper, he would not neglect this master-servant status.

Now that Bao Butong has committed to silence, Madam Wang’s fury decreased by a little. To Murong Fu, she demanded: “Nephew Fu, now that you are here, what tricks are you up to? This time round, what do you plan to swindle from me?”
 
Murong Fu laughed: “Maternal Aunty, Nephew is your relation. In my heart, I am concerned about you. Can’t I even pay you a visit? Why did you say I am here to swindle you?”

Madam Wang scorned: “Hey hey, to think you still have a conscience and are concerned about Maternal Aunt (me). If you have shown more concern, Maternal Aunt would not have landed in this pathetic state today.” Murong Fu chuckled: “Maternal Aunt, if there is anything bothering you, by all means, share them with Nephew. Nephew guarantees you a satisfactory conclusion.”

Madam Wang spat: “Pui Pui Pui! After a few years of not seeing you, I wonder where you learnt how to sweet talk!”

Murong Fu clarified: “It is not sweet-talking. If it were some strangers, I cannot tell what is bothering them. But for the issue bothering Maternal Aunt, even if Nephew (I) cannot be 100% correct, I would at least be 80% correct. In order to give Maternal Aunt a satisfactory conclusion, not that Nephew is bragging, but I am 80% confident of success.”

Madam Wang challenged: “Why don’t you try guessing? If you start spouting nonsense, don’t blame me for giving you a tight slap.”

Swaying his voice, Murong Fu recited: “Beauty in green robes a familiar face; September camellia blossom with grace.”

Madam Wang was taken aback and in a trembling voice, she asked: “You… How did you know? Have you been to the wooden house by the sea of grass?” Murong Fu deflected: “Maternal Aunt need not know how I found out. Maternal Aunt only needs to tell Nephew, does she want to see this person or not?” Madam Wang stuttered: “See… Who do I wish to see?” Her tone has softened at once, carrying a pleading tone. Compared to her earlier serious and icy tone, the two tones are worlds apart. Murong Fu remarked: “The person Nephew is talking about is the same person Maternal Aunt has been thinking about. Spring river flowing water white camellia, summer valley mist rise red lychee!”
 
In a quavering voice, Madam Wang questioned: “Tell me, how can I meet him?” Murong Fu described: “Maternal Aunt has expended plenty of effort and resources in order to apprehend this person. However, due to one misstep, he avoided your trap. Nephew has been thinking; it is not difficult to encounter him but there is no use in purely meeting him. Ultimately, it makes more sense to capture him and make him completely obedient to Maternal Aunt. When Maternal Aunt wants him to head east, he dared not head west. If Maternal Aunt wants him to draw her eyebrows, he dared not apply rouge on her cheeks.” The last two lines are highly disrespectful but Madam Wang’s emotions are in a state of turbulence and she paid no heed to them. Sighing once, she commented: “My scheme is well-planned and brilliant, still, he managed to evade it. I cannot think of any better idea.”

Murong Fu suggested: “Despite that, Nephew knows the whereabouts of this person. If Maternal Aunt trusts me, please provide Nephew with the details of the scheme. Maybe I can add some perspective to it.”

Madam Wang explained: “After all, we are one big family and trust is never an issue. This round, my scheme is known as ‘Drunken Bee’ scheme. At Moon Flower Manor, I kept a few hundred bee hives. Besides camellia, the Manor does not plant any other flowers. The Manor is far away from mainland, so the bees on the island will not pick honey from anywhere else.” Murong Fu noted: “That is right. Except for camellia, these ‘Drunken Bees’ will develop a dislike for the fragrances of other flowers.” Madam Wang continued: “It took me more than ten years of effort in cultivating these bee hives. In the honey consumed by the bees, I gradually added sleeping drugs and other sedatives. When these ‘Drunken Bees’ sting someone, the person will be knocked out for four to five days.”

Duan Yu was shocked: “Have I been unconscious for four to five days?”

Murong Fu praised: “Maternal Aunt’s brilliant scheme is truly hard to overcome. Nevertheless, how do you get the bees to sting a specific person?”

Madam Wang explained: “You have to add a certain drug to the person’s food. This drug is not poisonous, is colourless and odourless. However, it has a bitter taste so you cannot put the entire dosage in one go. As you
 
know, this person (DZC) himself is a master of trickery. His subordinates are all wise, highly skilled and talented in various areas. Using poison or sleeping gas against him will be futile. Therefore, I came up with this plan. By sending my staff to provide all his meals and wine, we are able to dope him in small dosages.”

Duan Yu was instantly enlightened: It turns out that along the journey, all the defective paintings were baits laid by Madam Wang to lure my Father. Once the paintings were rectified, the spies planted by Madam Wang will identify the presence of His Lordship Duan of DaLi. They will accordingly spike the food and wine before serving them.

Madam Wang bemoaned: “Unexpectedly, due to some ridiculous coincidence, that fellow skirted off elsewhere while his son stepped right into the thick of it. The little ruffian actually memorized his father’s library of poems, verses, songs and records. Of course, he is another blatant womanizer and lecherous wanderer. On his trip, the little ruffian filled up all the painting blanks correctly. As he unreservedly wined and dined, he has consumed all the drugged wine and food on behalf of his father. Finally, he arrived at the wooden house near the sea of grass. Inside the wooden house, the oil in the oil lamps is all laced with drugs. I hid more drugs in the wooden pillar, waiting for the little ruffian to break it. The different drugs and the fragrance mixed together will attract the ‘Drunken Bees.’ Ai, there is no flaw in my plans; it is the wrong person who spring the trap. This little ruffian has ruined my grand scheme! Humph, if I don’t dismember him into seventeen or eighteen pieces, I cannot appease the hatred in my heart.”

Listening to her vile words and fierce tone, Duan Yu cannot help but was frightened at her threats. He thought: Her plan is truly brilliant and all- encompassing - by hiding drugs in the pillar and luring me to fill up the missing words in the couplets; once I broke the pillar, the drugs would seep out. Ai, Duan Yu ah Duan Yu! One step at a time, you have entered a trap set by the enemy, yet, you did not detect anything amiss. You are an absolute fool.

Duan Yu then changed his thinking perspective: Along the trip, I have been filling up blanks in paintings, thereby misleading Madam Wang’s spies, giving them the impression that I am my Father. With all their attention on
 
me, my Father was able to escape this predicament. Bearing this calamity for my Father, I have no regrets. In fact, I am grateful for this development.

As Duan Yu thought up till this point, he felt his sacrifice is not a big issue. But eventually, he cannot help but wonder: After capturing me, Madam Wang is going to dismember me in seventeen or eighteen pieces but if the person she captured was my Father, she would obediently oblige and serve him. Looks like the end consequence between my Father and I are vastly different.

Next, he heard Madam Wang grumbled with hatred in her voice: “I got this maidservant to masquerade as a deaf-mute old woman, giving her full authority to command the operations. Despite personally knowing and recognizing that person, the entire scheme fell apart like one big joke.”

The old woman debated: “Mistress, Maid (I) has already reported to you that Mister Duan (Senior) is not present in the group. I proceeded to con them out of their firestones so that they cannot put up a light. Furthermore, I used grass mats to conceal couplets on the pillars, preventing the ‘Drunken Bees’ from being lured to the house. Unexpectedly, these people are simply a magnet for trouble. At the end of the day, they still managed to light a fire and unmask the couplets.”

With a snort, Madam Wang insisted: “Regardless of what you say, you are plain useless.”

Duan Yu thought: “When the old woman cheated us of our firestones and wrapped the pillars with grass mats, she is actually doing it for our own good. I did not see that coming.”

Murong Fu enquired: “Maternal Aunt, after the ‘Drunken Bees’ have stung someone, what happen to the bees?” Madam Wang replied: “Once the bees have stung someone, they will die shortly after that. However, the bees that I have been rearing are in the ten of thousands. A few hundred dead is of no consequence.” Murong Fu applauded: “That is wonderful. First, we grab the junior, then we get the senior; the sequence doesn’t matter. Nephew has a suggestion, if we are able to retrieve a identification item from junior, either a pendant, weapon or some significant object, we can present it to Maternal
 
Aunt’s … that… that guy. With it, we can easily lure him to the wooden house near the sea of grass.”

With an ‘Ah!’ cry, Madam Wang stood up and praised: “My good Nephew, after all, as a young man, your brain is more resourceful. When Maternal Aunt’s (my) scheme fell apart, I was disappointed and empty of ideas. It did not cross my mind to extend the scheme. You are right. The Father and son share a deep bond. If he knows his son is being detained by me, he would surely try and save him. By repeating the ‘Drunken Bee’ trap, we can still accomplish the mission.”

Murong Fu laughed: “When that really happens, even without the bees, there is nothing to fear. By adding sedatives to his wine and forcing him to drink it, he would not reject in order to save his son. In fact, when he sees Maternal Aunt’s exquisite complexion, all the ‘Drunken Bees’ and sedatives will be useless. He will be fully intoxicated by your beauty.”

With a ‘pui’, Madam Wang scolded: “You rascal, how dare you utter rubbish in front of Maternal Aunt!” But thinking of reuniting with Duan Zhengchun and drinking wine with him, she unconsciously revealed a joyful smile. Her blissful heart fluttering to the sky, she sweetly agreed: “Correct, not bad, we shall go with this idea.”

Murong Fu said: “Maternal Aunt, Nephew’s idea is pretty good, isn’t it?” Madam Wang chuckled: “If everything concludes successfully without any accidents, Maternal Aunt naturally would not forget to reward you. Our first step is to investigate the actual whereabouts of that heartless fellow.” Murong Fu disclosed: “Nephew is in possession of some news regarding his location. With regards to this, there are some complications.” Madam Wang frowned: “What kind of complications? As usual, you love to withhold stuff from others.” Murong Fu revealed: “This man is currently being detained by another captor, and his life is danger.”

With a ‘Qiang Lang’ noise, a delicate bowl was accidently swept by the sleeve of Madam Wang. Falling onto the floor, it shattered into pieces.

Duan Yu had a big shock too. If not for the walnut stuffed in his mouth, he would certainly have cried out.
 
In a trembling voice, Madam Wang inquired: “Who… Who is his captor? Why didn’t you say so earlier? We could have thought of a plan to rescue him.” Murong Fu shook his head: “My dear Maternal Aunt, our opponent this time possess incredible martial arts, even Nephew is not his match. We can only rely on our wits and not by force.” Hearing his tone, Madam Wang felt that Murong Fu is hardly in a state of urgency or anxiety. Slightly comforted, she continued interrogating: “How do we win by relying on our wits? What clever plan do you have?”

Murong Fu reasoned: “ We can still utilize Maternal Aunt’s ‘Drunken Bees’ scheme. We only need to change the pillars and engrave new words on them. For example, we can engrave ‘DaLi Country is presently ruled by Emperor Baoding Duan Zhengming’. When that person sees this, he would certainly rage about it. When he uses his fingers to erase the words ‘Emperor Baoding Duan Zhengming’, the drugs will seep out from the pillar.”

Madam Wang guessed: “So his captor is that fellow who is competing against Duan Zhengming for the throne of DaLi. I think his name is Duan Yanqing.”

Murong Fu confirmed: “That’s right!”

Madam Wang was petrified: “He… He… If he is in the hands of Duan Yanqing, his days are numbered. All along, Duan Yanqing has been dying to kill him. Maybe… Maybe by now, he has already… Has already executed him.”

Murong Fu coaxed: “Maternal Aunt need not worry too much. There are some critical conditions involved that you have not considered.” Madam Wang demanded: “What critical conditions?” Murong Fu elaborated: “Presently, the Emperor of DaLi is Duan Zhengming. Your Mister Duan (senior) has already been conferred with the title of Imperial Successor. Everyone in DaLi knows about this. Duan Zhengming is lenient in his punishments and taxation, practices good governance and loves his people. He is widely praised as a compassionate ruler while Lord Zhennan himself is popular with the citizens of DaLi. The monarchy is stable and established. For Duan Yanqing, killing Lord Zhennan is as easy as lifting a
 
finger; however, the minute Lord Zhennan is killed, the Imperial Court of DaLi will be in chaos. There is no guarantee that Duan Yanqing can smoothly ascend the throne of DaLi.”

Madam Wang agreed: “What you said makes sense, but how did you come to these conclusions?” Murong Fu answered: “Some of these information are what Nephew learnt from others; while the rest are my own deductions.” Madam Wang realised: “All your life, you are thinking of becoming an Emperor. Naturally, you would spare no effort in obtaining information in these areas.”

Murong Fu articulated: “Maternal Aunt has given me too much credit. It is Nephew’s wild guess that Duan Yanqing would not execute Lord Zhennan immediately after capturing him. Instead, he should think of a way to let him ascend the throne first before abdicating and transferring the throne to Duan Yanqing himself. This method will be official and upright. Regardless of DaLi ministers, generals or citizens, no one could object to this arrangement.” Madam Wang quizzed: “Why is this official and upright?” Murong Fu explained: “Originally, Duan Yanqing’s father is the Emperor of DaLi. Due to a power tussle by corrupted statesmen, Duan Yanqing’s disappearance was engineered during a succession, allowing Duan Zhengming to become the Emperor instead. Duan Yanqing is the true blue Prince Yanqing of DaLi. This is common knowledge in DaLi. When Lord Zhennan ascended the throne and he is without an heir, it is only befitting to confer Duan Yanqing as the Imperial Successor. Therefore, this process is completely official and upright.”

Madam Wang was bewildered: “He… He… He obviously has a son. Why did you say he is heirless?” Murong Fu laughed: “Maternal Aunt, have you forgotten your earlier words? Didn’t you say you are planning to dismember the surnamed Duan fellow into seventeen or eighteen pieces? I don’t think he can still become an Imperial Successor when he is in seventeen or eighteen pieces.” Madam Wang cheerfully exclaimed: “Right! Right! This b@5tard which came out of the cheap lowlife Dao Baifeng. His living existence only serves to annoy me.”

Duan Yu thought: This time round, it looks like my life is in extreme danger. I wonder where is Yuyan? If she begs for mercy on my behalf,
 
maybe Madam Wang will spare my life.

Madam Wang declared: “Since his life is not in immediate danger, I am relieved. I will not allow him to become the pointless Emperor of DaLi. He must accompany me to Moon Flower Manor.” Murong Fu reasoned: “After Lord Zhennan has abdicated, he would naturally accompany Maternal Aunt to Moon Flower Manor. Even if he remains in DaLi, there is nothing for him there. Duan Yanqing will not appreciate his presence too, for Lord Zhennan could be a source of trouble for him. Nonetheless, it is necessary for Lord Zhennan to ascend the throne. Let him enjoy the throne for ten days or even up till two weeks. Once we have the upper hand, we will show no mercy. Otherwise, Duan Yanqing would not agree.” Madam Wang dissed: “Pui! Whether he agrees or not, it has nothing to do with us. Once we have captured Duan Yanqing and rescued Mister Duan (senior), we can simply kill him. Who cares about his consent?”

Murong Fu let out a sigh: “Maternal Aunt, I forgot to mention something. Before we could capture Duan Yanqing, there is still a big hurdle we need to overcome.” Madam Wang commented: “You already knew where he is. My good Nephew, Maternal Aunt fully understands your character. When the mission has been accomplished, what kind of reward do you want from me? Let’s get this issue out of the way first. Feel free to make your most daring request.” Murong Fu rejected: “We are relatives. For Nephew to assist Maternal Aunt, no reward is necessary. Nephew is just doing my best and have no desire for any benefits.”

Madam Wang indicated: “If you say so. In the future, if you bring this up again and I refused your request, don’t you dare to be upset.”

Murong Fu guffawed: “Since Nephew has declined any reward, I will stick to it. In the future, when you are really feeling generous, feel free to reward me with a few thousand taels of gold or a few martial arts manual from Langya Jade Cave. That will suffice.”

Madam Wang snorted once ‘Humph’ and remarked: “If you need gold for your daily expenses and come to me for them, why would I reject you? If you wanted to browse the secret manuals in Langya Jade Cave, you are more than welcomed! I am only worried if you waste your life away and do
 
not seek to improve yourself. I really have no idea what is going through your mind. All right! Regarding the capture of Duan Yanqing and the rescue of hostage, what is your idea?”

Murong Fu began: “The first step is for Duan Yanqing to escort Lord Zhennan to the wooden house by the sea of grass, am I right?” Madam Wang nodded: “That is right. How do you plan to lure Duan Yanqing to the wooden house by the sea of grass?” Murong Fu responded: “This is easy. For Duan Yanqing to become the Emperor of DaLi, he needs to accomplish two tasks. First, he needs to apprehend Duan Zhengchun and force him to abdicate. Second, he needs to kill Duan Yu, making Duan Zhengchun heirless. After all, ‘Among the three failures, heirless is the gravest.’ With his capture of Duan Zhengchun, Duan Yanqing has completed the first task. Duan Yu that fellow is still alive in this world. We will bring an identification item of Duan Yu and show it to Duan Zhengchun. Duan Zhengchun would obviously want to save his son and Duan Yanqing will escort him here. Therefore, when Maternal Aunt has captured the Duan junior fellow, it is not a mistake at all. Because of the captured Duan Yu, we now have a fragrant bait to catch the golden tortoise.”

Madam Wang giggled: “You are saying the Duan junior fellow is a fragrant bait?” Murong Fu laughed: “I think he is half fragrant and half stinking.” Madam Wang asked: “Why so?” Murong Fu explained: “Half of him from Lord Zhennan is fragrant. The other half from the lowlife Zhennan Princess must be stinking.”

Madam Wang burst out laughing and remarked: “You little sweet-talker; you really know how to please Maternal Aunt.”

Murong Fu chuckled: “Nephew might as well work on this immediately. The earlier we finish, the earlier Maternal Aunt can begin a life of happiness. Maternal Aunt, please summon that fellow.” Madam Wang updated: “After he has been stung by the ‘Drunken Bees’, he would only regain consciousness in about three more days. This kid is in the next chamber. If he is awake, based on our loud voices, he would have overheard everything. There is something else I wanted to ask you. This… This Lord Zhennan may be a heartless cad but he is a righteous hero after all. How is Duan Yanqing going to force him to abdicate? Is he going to use methods of
 
torture and cause him… cause him plenty of suffering?” As she spoke till this point, her voice is full of deep concern.

Murong Fu sighed once and advised: “Maternal Aunt, regarding this, you should not probe any further. If Nephew told you, you would certainly be angered.” Madam Wang anxiously demanded: “Quickly tell me. Quickly tell me. Stop hiding things from me.” Murong Fu sighed: “When I say the DaLi Duan fellow is heartless, I am entirely correct. With Maternal Aunt’s breathtaking beauty, academic background and martial arts skills, even if someone carries a lantern and search throughout the lands, there will not be a second one available. This Duan fellow must have accumulated plenty of good karma in his previous life to win the love of Maternal Aunt. By then, he should have stayed loyal and cared for you. However… Ai, to think that such a muddle headed fool actually exists; ignoring the bliss right before his eyes. Instead of loving the Moon Goddess ChangE, he chose the sow rolling in the mud…”

Madam Wang was incensed: “You are saying he… he… that heartless cad is involved with other women? Who is she? Who is she?” Murong Fu advised: “These lowlife and cheap women; they are not even fit to carry the shoes of Maternal Aunt. Those women beside him are only the wife of Zhang San* and the daughter of Li Si*. Maternal Aunt must maintain your prestige. There is no need to get upset over these kind of women.”

(derogatory term for anonymous women)

Madam Wang blew her top and slammed the table several times ‘Pong! Pong! Pong!’ She bellowed: “When he dumped me and returned to DaLi and become a Lord, I do not hold it against him. He is married with a wife; I also do not hold it against him. It is my own bad luck for meeting him after he got married. But he… But he… You say he has been hanging out with other women? These women, who are they? Who are they? Speak!”

In the next chamber, Duan Yu heard her throwing a huge tantrum and he could not help but was traumatized as well. He thought: Yuyan is such a gentle and easygoing person; why is her mother such a fearsome character? It must be quite tough for Father to date such a woman.
 
Duan Yu then realised: All of Father’s old girlfriends have weird tempers. Aunty Qin ordered her daughter to assassinate my Mother. Aunty Ruan gave birth to a daughter like Sister Ah Zi; her own temperament cannot be any better. Aunty Gan has obviously gotten married to Zhong Wanchou and yet she is still entangled with my Father. The wife of Beggar’s Sect Assistant Chief is crazily obedient. Even my own Mother is peculiar. Instead of cohabiting with Father, she chose to be a nun in a temple outside the city. Even Imperial Uncle and Imperial Aunty cannot persuade her to change her mind. Ai, why did I list my Mother among the old girlfriends?

Murong Fu comforted: “Maternal Aunt, there is no need to lose your temper. Please catch your breath and Nephew will slowly tell you everything.”

Madam Wang professed: “Even if you are unwilling to speak, I already guessed as much. Duan Yanqing must have captured a cheap woman who is accompanying the surnamed Duan fellow. This is to force him to abdicate after becoming the Emperor. If he refuses, the cheap woman will be subjected to torture. Am I right? The silly character of the surnamed Duan fellow, don’t I know him well enough? No matter how you force him, even if you put a steel knife to his neck, he would rather die than comply. But if you are threatening a woman that he loves, he is willing to agree to anything, even sacrifice his own life. Humph. How does the cheap woman look like? That foxy vixen, I wondered how did she seduce him? Speak quickly, who is this cheap woman?”

Murong Fu warned: “Maternal Aunt, I will say it out. Please do not be angry. There is more than one cheap woman.” Shocked and infuriated, ‘Pong!’ Madam Wang heavily slammed the table once and shouted: “What? There are two of them?” Murong Fu sighed once and slowly replied: “There is more than two of them!”

Madam Wang is completely filled with disbelief and rage: “What? In his trip, he is still busy womanizing? One is insufficient, he needs two, even three companions?”

Murong Fu shook his head: “Presently, there are four females accompanying him. Maternal Aunt, there is no need to be upset. In the
 
future, when he becomes the Emperor, his harem will be filled with beauties. Although DaLi is a small country and cannot be compared with Great Song or Great Liao, even if he does not have three thousand concubines, he would at least have three hundred ladies at his beck and call.”

Madam Wang scolded: “Pui! Pui! That is why I forbid him from becoming the Emperor. Speak, who are the four cheap women?”

Duan Yu was puzzled as well. He only knew about Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu who are accompanying Father. Where did the other two ladies come from?

Next, he heard Murong Fu started: “One is surnamed Qin, one is surnamed Ruan…” Madam Wang cursed: “Humph! Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu; these two vixens are intertwined with him again.” Murong Fu added: “There is one more but she is a married woman. I hear them calling her Madam Zhong. It appears that she is looking for her daughter. This Madam Zhong kept a respectful distance and her relationship with Lord Zhennan seems to be platonic. Lord Zhennan treated her respectfully in return but he always lovingly addressed her as: Baobao, Baobao!” Madam Wang berated: “It is Gan Baobao the cheap woman. What respectful behavior rubbish? It is all fake and putting up a show for others. If they are indeed prim and proper, they should be miles apart. Yet, they are sticking together. Who is the last cheap woman?”

Murong Fu clarified: “Number four is not a cheap woman. She is the official wife of Lord Zhennan, Zhennan Princess Consort.”

Both Duan Yu and Madam Wang were utterly astounded. Duan Yu thought: Why is Mother here as well? Madam Wang let out a ‘Ah!’, as this is beyond her expectation.

Murong Fu chuckled: “Does Maternal Aunt find this strange? Actually, if you think deeply about it, it is nothing extraordinary. Lord Zhennan has left DaLi for more than a year. Central Plains has countless beauties. Since there are attractive women like Maternal Aunt, there would surely be h0rny
 
(horny) vixens like Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu. Surely Zhennan Princess would be worried about Lord Zhennan, right?”

Madam Wang went ‘Pui’ and chided: “How dare you compare me with those h0rny vixens! These four women, are they all still with him?”

Murong Fu laughed: “Maternal Aunt can rest easy. After a vicious battle on a red sand beach near Double Phoenix Station, Lord Zhennan’s side suffered a complete loss at the hands of Duan Yanqing. Regardless of male or female, the acupoints were all sealed and everyone became a prisoner. Duan Yanqing was busy fighting Lord Zhennan and his companions, failing to detect me, who is hiding nearby and witnessed everything. Nephew rode tirelessly and now I am about 50km ahead of them. Maternal Aunt, time is of the essence. Let’s prepare the ‘Drunken Bees’ and the sedatives. At the same time, let’s send someone to lure Duan Yanqing…”

When he said the word ‘Qing’, suddenly, from afar, there came a sharp and ugly sounding voice, saying: “I have been here for some time already; there is no need to lure me. You should prepare the ‘Drunken Bees’ and sedatives instead.”

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