Li Mu held his horse still at the entrance of the Pig-Herding Alley. He stayed for a while, lost in thought.
He was an imposter, not the real Li Mu on this planet. But he still decided to take in the real Li Mu’s mother, because, for one thing, that was something he could do to compensate the real Li Mu for impersonating him. After all, no matter whether he was dead or still alive, judging by the things he did before, he was a talented and dutiful son. For another, he felt pity for the suffering the real Li Mu’s mother had endured. He hoped the old woman who had been deceived by fate could be able to live a happy life in her twilight years.
Adding that he had not enjoyed parental love on Earth and that had left a hole in his heart, he was longing for such experience.
However, no matter how similar he and the real Li Mu looked, he was not the same man. What if the real Li Mu’s mother discovered his real identity? That would be quite awkward.
In truth, Li Mu was not afraid of being exposed.
He was confident that given his current power, he could go live anywhere in the world. Even if one day he could not be the magistrate of Tai Bai County, he could totally start over in another place.
What really worried him was that once the old woman recognized that he was not her son and inquired him about his son’s whereabouts, how would he answer it? If he told her the truth that the real Li Mu and fell down a cliff and died, he would dash her last shred of hope. The old mother would certainly be devastated. That would conflict with his original intention.
The Pig-Herding Alley was a by-lane in the slum. The trail was muddy, the walls were low, and the air smelled funny, like feces and sludge mixed together.
That repulsive smell was actually the same that Li Mu had experienced when he was in the slaughter house of Randengsi Village on Earth.
There were only a handful of people in the alley. Occasionally, one or two stray dogs scooted past. Compared with the boisterous night market on the main street, this alley was a totally different world, a place be utterly forgotten.
Once in a while, a few people could be seen bustling in and out of the alley. Some looked dull and bony, the others seemed fierce and aggressive. They all came and went in a hurry, which emphasized the complex and harsh living environment in the alley.
Those walking in the alley all flickered curious looks at Li Mu and Zheng Cunjian.
Judging by their clothes, the two did not belong to the Pig-Herding Alley, let alone the two handsome black-maned horses they were riding. The residents in the alley could not help wondering why the two who apparently were from another world had come here.
“Young Master?” Zheng Cunjian spoke softly, “Your mother really lives in this alley. I’m sure my memory didn’t fail me…”
Li Mu waved at him.
“Let’s go in.” He finally made up his mind.
Li Mu got off the horse, grabbed the reins, and started trudge along the muddy trail towards the dark end of the Pig-Herding Alley.
On both sides of the alley erected low clay walls and battered wooden doors. Through the cracks on the walls, Li Mu saw some houses were dead silent, and some were lit up with flickering candles. Every now and then, he could hear kids playing. And at doors with red lanterns stationed some skimpily-clothed women of varied age. They were all coquetting with the passersby, but when they saw Li Mu and Zhen Cunjian coming, they fleed to the inside. They knew such big-wigs in the world out of the slum, though might be wealth, were not the clients they could handle.
The Pig-Herding Alley was only two hundred meters long.
And the house of the real Li Mu’s mother was located right at the depths of the alley.
“You old pig, today I’ll bring this bitch back whatsoever. If you dare to stop me, I’ll break your legs, too!” A hostile voice sounded from the small yard of the real Li Mu’s mother ahead.
Then, a woman’s cry and pleading were heard, followed by a man’s laugh.
Li Mu’s eyes narrowed with concentration.
There was a carriage sitting by the door of a small yard. Two beefy men, who looked like the waggoners, stood at the door while holding the reins. They glowered at every passerby and fiddled with the broadsword attached to their waist. Like a pair of forbidding-looking door-gods, the two did not seem good-intentioned.
“What’s going on?”
Li Mu turned to look at Zheng Cunjian.
But the latter was clearly baffled as well.
Li Mu then headed straight towards the door.
The two brawny men were alarmed at once. They glared at Li Mu dangerously, obviously warning him not to come nearer.
“What are you up to?”
One of the burly men yelled, who grasped the handle of his broadsword and stared at Li Mu.
“Well, go home,” replied Li Mu nonchalantly as he tethered his horse to a stump in front of the yard.
Then, ignoring the two burly men, he reached for the door.
“You’re not allowed to go in!”
The two burly men snapped at the same time and they made to grab Li Mu’s shoulder.
If it were other common folks, the two would have hacked them with their broadsword. But since Li Mu and Zheng Cunjian dressed like the upper class, they guessed the two ought to be someone of high status. Thus, they did not dare hurt them. It was evident that the two burly men were not belonging to the upper circles, for they did not recognize this Heartless Scholar who could easily make the entire Chang’an shake in fear.
However, the two burly men merely closed their fingers on air.
Unflustered, Li Mu already opened the door and went in.
“Hey, do you want to die?”
Startled, the two burly men chased after him.
Zheng Cunjian shook his head at behind. He had a vague feeling that tonight someone would definitely be in trouble, big trouble. Considering Li Mu’s temper, which he now knew very well, once he was incensed, he could even create a hole in the sky.
Nevertheless, the imminent trouble, no matter what it was, was none of his business.
Therefore, he unhurriedly tied his horse beside the door, took down from the horse some groceries and clothes that they just bought on the road before entering the little yard. Now that the two burly men had rushed in to stop Li Mu, there was no one to stay in his way.
When Li Mu stepped int the yard, he was greeted by the following scene.
A middle-aged woman wearing a shabby linen dress was standing in the middle of the yard, holding a worn broom. She was shielding a girl of about eighteen who was hiding behind her back. Like a chicken protecting its babies, the woman looked both angry and panic-stricken.
The eyes of the middle-aged woman were unfocused and overcast. Clearly, she was blind. Even though she had lost her gleaming eyes and was in such a threadbare dress, she was nonetheless beautiful, just like a rose accidentally fell to the earth. After all those years, despite all the torments and hardships, she still had an honorable and elegant aura.
Without the need of guessing, Li Mu knew that middle-aged woman was the real Li Mu’s mother.
Frankly, her image was way different from the grey-haired hunched woman Li Mu had pictured. But after giving it a thought, Li Mu realized that was how she was supposed to look like.
After all, she used to be the most outstanding beauty from the royal family, who had won numerous men’s hearts.
And the girl behind the real Li Mu’s mother looked unsophisticated. Although she was not stunningly beautiful, it could be said that she had fine, cute features and smooth skin. But at that moment, she was bathed in tears and thunderstruck, while a clear and swollen mark of a hand could be seen on her cheek. Her clothes were more high-classed, but half of her upper was ripped off, revealing her fain arms and shoulders. She was folding her arms tightly to cover her plump breasts…
Yet, her exposed fair skin was strewn with all kinds of lash marks, some of which were red and swollen.
The relevant information instantly crossed Li Mu’s mind.
Zheng Cunjian had told him that the real Li Mu’s mother had several loyal maids, but they were forcibly sold to other families one after another. Not long ago, the last one was also compelled by the brute to be a concubine in another family. Thus, there should be no maid left to take care of the real Li Mu’s mother.
“But this scene… Erm…”
“Perhaps that maid who was sold out to be a concubine has escaped and now her husband has chased her here?”
Given what he had heard before he entered the yard, Li Mu came to that conclusion.
Standing opposite the real Li Mu’s mother and the girl was a stout man in his mid-life. He was wearing a luxurious silk robe, and shouting abuse with hands on hips. Next to him were four ferocious-looking henchmen, all of whom were carrying broadswords and brandishing horsewhips. They were grinning wickedly, as if they were watching a comedy.
“Haha, you old pig, I actually wanted to cut you some slack this time considering you used to serve His Honor. But who knows you’re so ungrateful! You dare collude with that bitch and steal my treasures. Now, you’re still protecting that bitch! Do you think I really have no guts to hit you?”
The stout man let loose a torrent of abuse. The mole with a lock of black hair standing on the end at the corner of his mouth made his features more savage and cruel.
Then, he suddenly looked over his shoulder and caught sight of Li Mu, who was walking into the yard.
“Who are you?” roared the stout man in surprise.
Li Mu said, “I am the master of this house… And you are?”
At that point, the two burly men guarding the door scurried in.
The stout man realized what had happened and immediately put on a furious look, “Who are you, thickhead? How dare you play dumb in front of I, the prestigious Mr. Zheng… Wangcai, Laifu, you’re supposed to guard the door! But how come you let this bald dork in?” Obviously, he also mistook Li Mu a monk.
And the two burly man who chased after him was called Wangcai and Laifu respectively.
“Master, he forced in…”
“He is sly! Please be careful, master!”
The two burly men reported.
“Take him out, take him out… Break his legs!” The stout man who claimed to be Mr. Zheng stamped his feet and snarled angrily. Undoubtedly, he was irritated for the interruption.
The two burly men instantly unsheathed their broadswords and lunged at Li Mu.
But Li Mu, without even looking at them, raised a hand casually. A wave of energy poured out and threw the two burly men up to the air. As if two kites broke away from its string, they flew backward before landing on the muddy road out of the wall and feeling silent.
Then, Li Mu said, “Uh-huh, another man surnamed Zheng.”
At that remark, Zheng Cunjian, who just came in, shivered unbiddenly. He hurried to clarify, “Young Master, I don’t know him. We are not related.”
The real Li Mu’s mother and her maid were also taken aback and a little confused about the situation.
Since the real Li Mu’s mother was blind, she could not see Li Mu’s face, so she did not know what kind of man just entered her yard.
But that young maid, who was as terrified as a duck hearing a thunderclap, quickly pulled up her shattered clothes and studied Li Mu with a puzzled look. But she just saw him ward off the two burly man, so she knew this stranger was her last hope. Summoning all her courage, she anxiously pleaded, “Young Master, please help us out…”