Chapter 117 Sticking up for the WeakThe Taibai Mountain was carpeted with primeval forests. At that time, it looked like a sea of green leaves, which was quite a fine scenery.
Riding a dark-maned horse, Li Mu was strolling along the government-built road that led out of the mountains.
Closely behind him was Zheng Cunjian, who was also riding a dark-maned horse.
This time, Li Mu decided to take a trip to Chang’an alone. So, he did not bring any servants along, except Zheng Cunjian, his captive who was familiar with Chang’an and could serve as a navigator.
Chang’an was in the northeast, about 700 miles away from Taibai County.
There was only one government-built road that was a hundred years old connecting the two places. The road weaved through the mountains like a white snake zigzagging around the peaks. Twittering of wild birds and howls of beasts and wolf packs could be heard all the way down the road. Towering trees and protruding rocks could be seen on both sides of the road. Admittedly, the view was spectacular.
When Li Mu approached the outskirts of the mountain area, the land grew flat and the mountains were gradually out of sight.
The road also became wider.
He could also see more travelers on the road.
Li Mu had been very curious about this world that resembled ancient China on Earth. Thus, he carefully observed everything on the road, and occasionally struck a conversation with some passersby. Though what they chatted about was all insignificant stuff, he had a lot of fun just by talking to strangers.
Zheng Cunjian, by contrast, remained quite silence behind him.
Since Zhao Ling, the arrogant swan of the Taibai Sword Faction, refused to treat his legs, he had to let the doctor from the Medical Center to do the treatment. Naturally, the result was not so good as pharmacist Zhao Ling could have done, and he was still suffering from the injury.
At dusk, the two of them arrived at the Peace County, which was 400 miles away from Chang’an.
That county was as large as Taibai County. But it seemed more bustling.
When night fell, the streets were lit up by the warm light from many houses.
Li Mu settled down in an inn. Now, he was sitting cross-legged on a bed to practice he Xiantian Skill.
His sharp senses told him that the Spiritual Qi in the air was getting thinner and thinner as he headed out of the Taibai Mountain.
The richness of Spiritual Qi in Peace County was, of course, not comparable to that in his county government which was protected by the Earth Evil Polaris Formation. But even if putting that aside, it was still much thinner than the normal regions of Taibai County.
“Plants and mountains, rivers and waterfalls, birds and beasts, earth veins and air… All of those are sources of the Spiritual Qi. The Taibai Mountain area is underdeveloped and has the minimum human activities, so the air is refreshing and the environment is primitive. That’s probably why it has richer Spiritual Qi than other places. And the area out of the mountains has been altered by human beings to a large degree, so they have little Spiritual Qi.”
Li Mu had an inspiration during his meditation.
“Perhaps the reason that Earth has no Spiritual Qi is the transformation and pollution people did to nature. With the tempered places on Earth off the charts, the foul air became so overwhelming that nature failed to produce more clean air. Given that the copious Cultivation Methods and martial arts techniques the old faker mastered could not work devoid of Spiritual Qi, like a tree without roots, they were hardly effective as they were supposed to be.”
“If the pollution on Earth got under control, would Spiritual Qi gradually come into being on Earth?”
“Or else, ten thousand years ago… No, even one thousand years ago, when mankind had not had the industrial revolution, Earth was still in a relatively primitive stage. At that time, could there be any Spiritual Qi?”
After being hit by the new idea, Li Mu walked out of his room and began to roam the streets in Peace County.
Ambling through the streets and alleys of antique beauty, he seemed quite accustomed to the ancient scene. Except for getting a lot of curious peeks from passersby due to his short and thick black hair that was out of tune with others, he gradually became fond of the antique but boisterous atmosphere.
“Have a dumpling soup! The most famous dumpling soup in the whole Peace County from Chief Wang!” A waiter shouted in front of a restaurant.
“Try our noddle with lamb chops! You will certainly want to have more!”
“Brown-sugar jello… If not tasty I will charge you zero!” The peddlers were all hawking their foods for sale.
The streets were very broad and built with uneven slab-stones. Lined the streets were one-floor tile-roofed shops with a plate displaying their time-honored brand at the front door. Many vendors were crying their wares with their unique voices. The whole place was busy and clamorous.
Every night, the streets were packed with food stalls.
“Master, would you like a bowl of vegetarian noodles? One bowl of our Zhou’s Noodles only costs you a penny…” An old woman wearing a sweat towel on her head hailed Li Mu with an ingratiating smile.
Being called a ‘Master’, Li Mu was at a loss whether to cry or to laugh.
The granny-like woman clearly thought he was a traveling monk because of his short hair.
Judging by her appearance, Li Mu could tell she was at least over sixty. She was grey-haired and a little humped. But her smile did not look like the well-trained beams those peddlers wore. Instead, it appeared that she was not in the business.
“Brother, have a bowl of noodles. It’s delicious.”
A skinny little girl in all patched clothes threw an expectant look at Li Mu and spoke hopefully as she helped her granny wiping the tables and chairs.
Obviously, their business was not good.
There was a maroon table at the corner with two coarse stone bricks one on top of another supporting its broken leg. On the table lay several dark porcelain bowls and chopsticks that were shining because of hard polishing. At the foot of the granny was a shabby shoulder pole, on end of which was a box of noodles and condiments, the other was a simple stove. On the stove was a small pot with milky soup boiling inside.
But Li Mu shook his head.
Vegetable noodles were too plain. It certainly was not very attractive on the street full of tempting food.
“Perhaps the old woman has mistaken me as a monk who is not allowed to have meat and that’s why she approached me of her own accord?”
But his subconscious rejection made the face of the granny darkened with disappointment. That thin little girl also got anxious. She gently tugged Li Mu by the sleeve and pleaded, “Brother, just try one, please. It’s really good…”
Li Mu was softened when he saw the sadness in the girl’s look.
“Alright, I’ll have one.” Li Mu walked over to that damaged maroon table.
The girl immediately acclaimed jubilantly, “Thank you, brother!”
“Seat, have a seat… The noodles will come up in a minute.” The wrinkled face of that granny also showed great joy.
She hurriedly turned around and staggered to the noodle box. As she took the dark-colored and crude-looking noodles out, Li Mu saw her hand was callused and her body was so hunched that it looked like a mountain about to cave in.
Soon, the little girl brought over a bowl of simple vegetable noodles and put it down before Li Mu.
A few unknown leafy vegetables were floating over the noodles, which looked appetizing.
As the little girl stared at him ardently, Li Mu tucked in.
“Brother, do you like it? Isn’t my granny really good at cooking noodles?” asked the girl, who was wishing to obtain his recognization like a kindergarten baby.
Smiling, Li Mu nodded and replied, “Yes, it’s so delicious that I almost bit my tongue in a hurry.”
The girl instantly cheered.
Her over-bony cheeks were written with pleasure as if she had just heard the most amazing praise.
Li Mu had another mouthful and swallowed down very slowly.
In fact, it tasted awful.
Being used to all kinds of delicate foods with assorted condiments on Earth and in the county government on this planet, Li Mu found this bowl of vegetable noodles rather boring. Adding that the condiments were all made by vegetables by that granny, it was hardly tasty.
Nevertheless, with the expectant smile of that emaciated girl and the appreciated looks on the granny’s wrinkled face fixed on Li Mu, he quickly wolfed down all the food.
“Good, this is good. Please give me two more. I’m hungry today,” said Li Mu with a chuckle.
“Re-really?” The little girl stammered, gawking at Li Mu in disbelief.
Li Mu nodded at her sincerely and pretended to be relishing the flavor. He then took out three pence and handed them to the girl.
“That’s wonderful… Granny, that brother wants two more…” yelled the girl happily. She bounced over and took the money. Clenching the coins tightly as if she was afraid of losing them, the girl scooted to one of the carrying pole, fished out a small moneybag and put the pence in. Then, she started counting the money with her fingers and muttered to herself, “We have three pence more. And just another 300 pence will do.”
Watching her serious face, Li Mu felt a mixed feeling swell up in his heart.
He could not help but wonder where the parents of the girl went. He could not understand how they could let such an old woman and their daughter make a living on the street. The image of that girl counting the money with her fingers already stuck in his mind and made him could not think of anything else for a long time.
“Granny, I’ll take a bowl of noodles.”
As a waft of fragrant wind passed by, a pleasant voice sounded from behind.
A woman in full white robe wearing a round gauze cap settled herself on the opposite side of the maroon table before placing her white-sheathed sword on it with a clatter.
Li Mu took a sneak peek at the woman in spite of himself.
She seemed quite young and slim. Her unadorned white robe was as clean and pure as snow. Her thick, shining, black hair draped down the gauze cap like a cascade. Although her features were fuzzy due to the veil, he vaguely captured their elegant curves. And the hand she casually placed on the table was white and smooth as jade-made, which gave her a sense of natural beauty and made her extraordinarily appealing.
Based on all that, Li Mu was sure she was an extremely gorgeous lady.
Without much thinking, his eyes lingered on her for a while.
“Little monk, behave yourself.” The woman in white suddenly spoke.
Li Mu was first taken aback and then felt both amused and embarrassed at the same time.
Because he had been mistaken as a monk again.
Apparently, that woman was a little annoyed by Li Mu’s studying gaze.
After all, he was not in the world on Earth. People on this planet were more conservative. And a monk staring unblinkingly at a young lady was definitely not compliant with the rites.
“Sorry, I was just zoning out.” Li Mu smiled, not bothering to clear the misunderstanding.
His casualness, in turn, had made the woman put down her guards and chortle.
“Hey, you monk, you seem a good guy despite your young age.” As the woman spoke, her voice that was clear and smooth like pearls falling down to a jade plate struck everyone’s heartstrings.
Li Mu was dazed. A second later, he realized the woman in white certainly had seen him force the first bowl of noodles down his throat but still order two more for the sake of the granny and the girl.
“Wow, this woman in white must also be kind-hearted.” Li Mu guessed hopefully.
“She wants to follow my example, so she came here to order a bowl of noodles, too.”
Li Mu just nodded with a beam and fell silent.
Shortly, the girl served them three bowls of vegetable noodles.
Before eating, the woman in white rolled up the veil a little and revealed her impeccable and exquisite face.
Li Mu felt everything in the surroundings became colorless in the presence of that beautiful woman.
“How could such beauty ever exist?”
That thought popped up in his mind at once.
The face under that veil was breathtakingly beautiful. Her eyes were glinting like stars and her lips were red as roses. Her features were neatly cut, and her skin was fair without any flaw. Although Li Mu could not think of why she was more stunning than the standard image of beauty, he simple knew this woman had unparalleled glamor.
Only one peek at her gave him a feeling of having an electric shock.
Unintentionally, his eyes were fixed on her again.
This time, the woman in white was not flustered when she detected Li Mu’s gaze. She just picked up the chopsticks and began to eat her meal with grace. She moved so gently and courteously that she did not look like a Jianghu expert carrying a sword around but a royal princess who had been abiding the protocols of the noble all life.
“Crap! Even watching her having a bowl of noodles is an enormous enjoyment.”
Li Mu finally recovered from his reverie.
Only then he understood the real meaning of the phrase ‘a beauty to feast one’s eyes on’.
“Brother, your noodles are served.” Noticing that Li Mu was not eating but in a daze, the undernourished girl reminded him softly, “You’d better eat them quickly, otherwise, the taste won’t be so good.”
Li Mu blushed at once. After mumbling an “Okay”, he pulled the bowl closer, lowered his head and began to devour the noodles.
“That was embarrassing.”
Li Mu was scolding himself inwardly. He never knew there would be a day he went stupefied for a woman’s good looks.
However, he did not feel anything except for the admiration of beauty, nor did he consider whether he would try to pursue her.
His momentary numbness was perhaps merely the instinct of a male creature.
After gobbling down several mouthfuls of noodles, Li Mu quietly activated his Xiantian Skill and his mind immediately calmed down.
When Li Mu finished his two bowls of noodles, the woman opposite was also done with hers.
Then, she extracted a gold ingot that was worth about ten pounds and stuffed it into the little girl’s hand and added, ” Keep the change.”
“Ah?” The girl was shocked by that. With a dazed look, she held the gold ingot with two hands and had no idea if she should take it.
Her granny next to the stall also got quite a turn. She hastily rejected, “We can’t take it, can’t…” As she spoke, she grabbed the gold ingot from the girls and crammed it back into the hands of that woman in white. “You only have one bowl of homemade noodles. A gold ingot is too much. We dare not accept it. You only need to give us one penny.”
A hundred pence were a pound.
Thus, the gold ingot must worth a thousand pence.
That generous tip of the woman in white really astonished the poor girl and her grandma.
Watching them fuss about the money, Li Mu could not help shaking his head disapprovingly.
He knew this woman in white meant well, but her way of showing it was a little inappropriate.
The gold ingot was probably nothing to her. But it was a huge fortune for most of the vendors in Peace County. If the granny and the girl who had been struggling at the bottom of the social ladder took it, since they could not protect themselves, that fortune would not help them but instead send them in big trouble.
By then, Li Mu was nearly 100 percent sure that the woman in white was from a wealthy family and born with a silver spoon. She clearly had no knowledge of the misery in the world, especially how the lower classes ran their lives, and that was why she did such an unexpected gesture.
By contrast, Li Mu, who was also trying to help the granny and the girl, did not indulge them with gold. He simply ate that tasteless bowl of noodles and ordered two more. That way, he not only gave the help that was acceptable to them but also protected their dignity. Although that woman in white had a bowl of noodles as well, her help was more like doing charity as the payment she offered was way higher than the price of the noodles.
Even in light of charity, what she did had exceeded the top limit.
It was just like the saying: too much water drowned the miller.
At that time, many people in the vicinity already noticed what was going on.
Some cast scorching looks on that dazzling gold ingot.
As if on cue, the footsteps of a gang came nearer.
“Hey, Granny Cai, she gave you the money of her own accord, so why not take it?” A playful voice with a hint of undisguised ridicule rang from the other side of the road.
A bunch of rascals who appeared to be goofing around on the streets swaggered over to the noodle stall while doing grimaces.
The one taking the lead had a horse-like face. He was tall and heavily built, and was grinding two shining steel balls against one another in his right palm. When he grinned, two lines of yellowish teeth were revealed. The one who just spoke to that granny was exactly him.
“Aaah, Mr. Ma…” The granny’s face paled the moment she caught sight of the gang.
Startled, she winced and did not know what to say.
The little girl was also terrified, who hurried to hide behind her granny and nervously clutched her granny’s apron.
“Well, you poor people are really fastidious. Having one bowl of noodles for a gold ingot is a fair price.” The horse-faced man with yellowish teeth feigned a smile. Then, he directly snatched the gold ingot from the granny and weighed it with his hand. Giggling viciously, he said, “Now that you don’t want it, I will take it for you. Let’s say, this is the money you ought to hand in this month. Hahaha!”
“No, no, no, Mr. Ma, this… this isn’t mine, I…” Granny Cai broke off, too frightened to say what was on her mind. She looked truly pathetic.
“It’s not our money. It belongs to that beautiful sister over there. You can’t take it. Give it back to her!” clarified the girl hiding behind her granny. She was clenching her fists, trying to pluck all the courage. Though her voice was trembling, she managed to finish the sentence on the score of her sense of justice.
“You damn girl who has no parents, what do you know about? Are you seeking for a death?” A gangster raised a foot and knocked over a chair.
The girl was so afraid that she was on the verge of tears.
“Put down the gold. Get on your knees and apologize. Then, get out!” snapped the woman in white.
“What?” The horse-faced man was taken aback at that command. He darted his eyes on the young lady and immediately leaned in towards her while grinning cheekily, “Whoa, never knew such a beautiful fairy has come to our county. The picture of you eating the noodles just now almost took our breath away… Sure, I can put down the gold, provided that you have a drink with us. If so, we can give a gold ingot in return. How does it sound?”
The other gangsters instantly burst into wild laughter.
At that moment, the eyes of that veiled woman reflected a sharp flash of light that was visible even behind the veil.
Apparently, she was ready to kill.
An idea suddenly flitted across Li Mu’s mind, and he stood up to speak, “Ah, merciful Buddha, you benefactors had better stop looking for trouble. Please head back, in case you unintentionally court a fatal disaster.” Now that he was regarded as a traveling monk, he decided to play that role to the end.
He meddled in this because he hoped to prevent the woman in white from getting violent here.
He believed that the woman was not an ordinary person and she was definitely capable of murdering a few scoundrels in a second. He was also convinced that no one could stop her from leaving after she did away with the gang. However, the tricky issue was how the granny and the girl could stay out of trouble when she murdered those people at their food stall and took her departure.
The rest of the gangs in Peace County would certainly take their rage on the granny and the girl and turn their life upside down, not to mention the investigation and prosecution of the government.
Since that woman in white was used to issuing commands, her condescending way of fixing a problem was obviously not suited in the case of handling normal people’s conflicts.
Now that Li Mu intervened, the woman in white surely hesitated and decided to back off.
But that head of the gang grinned darkly and looked over his shoulder to stare at Li Mu. In a menacing voice, he growled, “Little monk, how many heads do you have for us to chop now that you dare put your nose in our business? Two days ago, there was a man from another county trying to ruin our business, but do you have any idea where his body is now?”
“Haha, that man had internal qi and he claimed to some martial arts expert. But guess what, we caught him with knockout smoke, lime, and traps for animals. Then, we hacked off his four limbs, gouged his eyes out and cut off his tongue…”
“By now, his body has been ripped to bones by the wild dogs in the west of the town. Hahaha!”
The rest of the gangsters were also laughing gleefully.
“Merciful Buddha tells you to drop your butcher’s knife and be a good man.” Li Mu looked quite composed. He was still earnestly persuading them as if an eminent monk. “You benefactors, you have committed grave sins and please repent and make a fresh start. If not, your doom is looming…” Despite his ostensible calmness, Li Mu was already eager to kill them.
Because those villains were so evil that they even treated human life as if it were not worth a straw. They did not deserve to live in the world.
“Your fucking bald dork, babbling what shit? Do you want to die?” The horse-faced man rapidly showed his maliciousness. He shouted, “You just don’t pick up the hints, do you? Still don’t get your ass back home? Good. Brothers, let’s first cut off this dork’s legs, make pickles with his flesh and then let him taste it!”