Chapter 8 Yaocheng’s crazy nightmare Part 2
Yan Changqing looked at the woman dressed in all red: “Do you recognize this person?”
The woman sobbed, “This person…she is my cousin.”
As she cried she continued with her explanation. It turned out that this lunatic tied up like a zongzi was the daughter of a jade merchant in Yaocheng, named Xue Rubi. Hundred Cliff Stronghold was a bandit stronghold on Hundred Cliff Mountain on the edge of Yaocheng. In the past two years, the bandits in the stronghold have been harassing Yaocheng. The situation has become increasingly troublesome and intense. They relied on the fact that their location was on the outskirts, far away from the emperor, to occupy the jade trade. Not to mention, these perverts also took it upon themselves to set an unwritten rule. Now, all the brides in Yaocheng had to be escorted by the bridegroom to Hundred Cliff Stronghold for their wedding night. The bandits over-glorified this affair by stating that this was the way the gods of Hundred Cliff Stronghold bestowed their blessings upon all newlyweds. But everyone knew that the minds of these bandits were only on every bride’s maidenhood.
It was not that no one has ever reported it to officials in the past two years. The government officials had long been bought out by the bandits, they were in cahoots. When they saw an official, they were dragged to prison regardless of the consequences until they were honest. It was not that no one wanted to go to Hundred Cliff Stronghold to vent their anger. However, how could commoners fight with fierce bandits? One by one, they were thrown out half-dead back to their homes by the bandits, where the bandits would extort them.
After a while, no one dared to resist. The girls in Yaocheng, who heard that they would go to the bandit’s den on the wedding night, were all frightened and at a loss. The bolder ones would secretly get together or elope with their sweetheart. The timid ones would vow to never leave the boudoir and be an old lady (one who doesn’t get married). And the girl Xue Rubi in front of them was the timid kind.
“Then if she decided to be an old lady, why was she still sent to Hundred Cliff Stronghold?” Helian Rongchuan asked.
“Hai, there are policies at the top and countermeasures at the bottom!” Without waiting for the woman in red to answer, the boss stole the conversation. She said: “Those group of bandits, seeing that the girls in Yaocheng were afraid to marry, thought of another trick. Whoever was willing to take the initiative to send a girl who had not left her boudoir, will be sent a stone vein for mining jade.”
There were thousands of stone veins around this Yaocheng, all of which belonged to the people of Yaocheng. However, now they were robbed by Hundred Cliff Stronghold. If they wanted to redeem it, they would have to exchange their daughter’s innocence for it.
In the beginning, no one was willing to exchange stone veins for their daughters. After a while though, the people who were cut off from their money gradually began to have second thoughts. Married daughters were like spilt water that can never be retrieved but a stone vein was an important source of livelihood for the family. People successively changed their minds. They sent out their daughters and took back the stone veins. Those who did not have daughters, saw silver sent into other people’s pockets, and their eyes turned red with envy.
Therefore, although Xue Rubi was not married, due to her parents’ temporary financial obsessions, she was tied up by her hands and feet and sent off to the stronghold in a sedan chair.
One single night passed, and then another but Xue Rubi was not sent back. Only the people who occasionally went up to the mountain to do small jobs for the bandits came back and said that they had seen Xue Rubi along with the first few girls who were sent over, all dressed in gold and silver waiting on the bandits until they laughed with delight. Therefore everyone in Yaocheng said that Xue Rubi was greedy for the glory and wealth of the Hundred Cliff Stronghold, and refused to come back.
Seven or eight girls were sent away by their parents in this way but never returned.
“What about their parents? Are they not worried at all? They don’t want them?” Yan Changqing asked.
The boss looked at Yan Changqing with an unbelievable look: “Why bother? She was a lady eating at home who wouldn’t have married, waiting to die. Now that she had a stroke of luck and found a new home and they redeemed stone veins as well, it’s the best of both worlds!”
The people around were silent for a while, but several people agreed with the boss and nodded. Only the woman in red cried more fiercely when she heard these words. While crying, she carefully wiped off the blood on Xue Rubi’s face with her sleeves.
Looking at it now, Yan Changqing noticed that this Xue Rubi was very beautiful. It’s a pity that now her eyes were dull and her behaviour abnormal. He didn’t know what she had suffered or what evil she had been cursed with.
Suddenly, Yan Changqing thought of something. He turned to Helian Rongchuan and asked, “How did you lead that Xue Rubi away? Did you make out something strange?”
Yan Changqing regretted his words immediately. Helian Rongchuan seized this opportunity, raised his bloodied right hand and said, “Now you finally think of me? What a coincidence. Just a little while longer and my wound would have healed up by itself.”
Yan Changqing couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty. After all, Helian Rongchuan was the Prince of Dongyun. He was also injured while helping him, but he ignored it, indeed acting neglectful. He quickly fetched the medicine box from the room, tore off a piece of white silk, and carefully bandaged Helian Rongchuan’s hand.
He was rarely this close to Helian Rongchuan. His eyes averted and long eyelashes hanging down, led Yan Changqing’s profile to sway from the usual indifference that was thousands of miles away in the past, to a touch of gentleness. Helian Rongchuan looked up at his profile and suddenly, somewhere in his heart, he felt as if he was gently pressed against by a furry, cat-like soft palm.
Helian Rongchuan said: “You must have noticed what this woman’s actions were similar to?”
Yan Changqing was taken aback. The movement of someone who had just risen from the cold ground appeared in his mind. That kind of stiff one-joint-reflexive movement was simply not something a normal person can do.
It’s almost like…
“The living dead?!”
The moment Yan Changqing blurted it out, he suddenly remembered what he had experienced a long time ago when he was fighting the Nanyao Kingdom.
He was only a teenager at that time and had just finished the seven hundred-mile chase across the desert of Hu Hun soldiers which in return gained him his reputation. To chase the group of main enemy forces, he went deep into the mountains and old forests on the border of Nanyao. The rich forests cannot compare to deserts. Everywhere there were swamps, countless poisonous insects, rats and ants. The group of enemy troops didn’t take long to lose their shadows to the darkness. When running left and right and finding no way out, not knowing what’s going on, suddenly, countless ragged, unkempt “living dead” burst out of the ground. Most of their muscles and bones were rotten, revealing their teeth and claws. Then, they pounced.
Whether it was a knife or a hand-to-hand fight, the group of living dead had no sense of self-preservation at all. They were like fearless dead men. Surrounded by hoards of them, Yan Changqing and his men were riddled with scars. Right before he was about to fall unconscious, a raging fire ignited from nowhere. A wave of golden and red fire swept across, and Yan Changqing finally lost consciousness. When he woke up again, they were still in the deep forest, but there was no trace of the living dead around them. Everything seemed to be like a dream, there were too many unexplainable instances. Rumours circulated frequently that stray people would have hallucinations in Nan Yao’s dark forest. Yan Changqing had always wondered whether these “living dead” really existed or were just hallucinations induced by the forest.
Yan Changqing still remembered the appearance of those living dead who got up after being knocked down. The twisting movements of those joints were so similar to this Xue Rubi!
No wonder he thought the movement familiar at that moment.
Helian Rongchuan observed Yan Changqing meditate in silence, watching his expression: “Surely you have noticed the girl’s actions were quite strange. There was no self-awareness, much like the living dead.”
“How can a perfectly fine person be suddenly controlled like that?” Someone in the crowd couldn’t help asking.
Helian Rongchuan’s words caused the crowd to explode in murmurs.
“Using Gu? Aren’t these just rumours?”
“This kind of thing exists in the world? It’s too frightening!”
Helian Rongchuan: “I have heard that these insects are all thirsty for blood. When I used blood to lure Xue Rubi earlier, sure enough, it worked. It must be Gu.”
Yan Changqing was lost in thought. Nan Yao had people who were good at Gu techniques, but to cast beans to become soldiers and use bones as his general, it’s not something that he had ever heard of.
Helian Rongchuan: “I dare to ask everyone: the bandits from Hundred Cliff Stronghold, did they come from Nan Yao?”
The crowd exchanged looks but did not dare to answer. There was only a seven or eight-year-old boy, who dared to say: “I haven’t heard of any male Yao or female Yao (sounds like Nan Yao), but once I ran into someone from the Stronghold. I heard them say something about bringing back the money to Landou.”
Yan Changqing’s heart dropped. Landou was the capital of the Nanyao Kingdom.
Helian Rongchuan said: “People all know that Nanyao believes in ghosts and gods, and worships them, but they don’t know that Nanyao also has many Gu techniques. But these are not all simple speculations. Although there are very few Gu masters, they do exist in Nanyao. When a person affected with Gu loses their self-awareness, their limbs become stiff, and he only listens to the Gu master’s call.”
The onlookers took a few steps back after hearing this, panicking. The boss was shocked and started to sweat: “Gu Master? Do you mean the person who planted the Gu? They could be here?”
“Not necessarily.” Yan Changqing said: “If someone indeed was releasing Gu here, they wouldn’t want to leave survivors .”
The boss touched her chest and asked: “Since no one is controlling her, how can this Miss Xue be crazy like this?”
Yan Changqing thought while saying: “Presumably Gu is the same as other poisons. It would occur at a specified hour. Perhaps this Miss Xue who could not bear the torture of the Gu poison tried to escape, but she did not expect to be attacked. As for why she would meet with this man…”
The boss patted her thigh and suddenly realized: “Hey, it must be Miss Xue who ran away suddenly having her Gu flare-up, then she happened to be picked up by this man! No wonder when I saw this woman being taken into the inn, she was behaving a bit strangely. The man was impatient and his face lecherous. Such a dog… But I have seen a lot of men and women like this, so I did not bother asking for details. Who would have thought that there would be such an understated Gu technique, I have never read about it in books…”
Yan Changqing looked at the man who fainted to one side, covered in blood but not seriously injured. It was clear in his mind. If Xue Rubi were controlled by Nanyao’s Gu technique, it would be the same as the living dead he encountered in the deep forest, with stiff limbs and no fear of cold and pain, just like a puppet. But even as a puppet, it feared fire. No wonder this Xue Rubi used a candlestick to hurt people. The man must have taken the candlestick in his hand, but he didn’t expect that the bright candlelight was what Xue Rubi feared the most. Thus, she made a move and hurt the man.
As for why this Xue Rubi’s Gu became unbearable after it lit up…