In the Pig-Herding Alley…
Inside a small yard…
“I pay my respects to Madam Li and Young Master Li.”
A fine-featured elegant woman bowed to Madam Li and Li Mu. Her dressing was simple, just a short upper garment with a long skirt. She was also wearing light makeup and a hairpin topped with a pearl, which looked lovely against her rosy complexion. There was a baby in her arms. He appeared to be just a few months old and was really adorable.
Standing next to her was an honest-looking man who was about twenty-five. He had thick brows and large eyes and was wearing a light armor while carrying a sword at his waist.
“Dong Xue, this is wonderful. Seeing you here safe and sound, I have no more concerns,” said Li Mu’s mother as she mopped her tears.
Li Mu also breathed a sigh of relief internally.
It took him by surprise that Dong Xue, the oldest one among the four maids, the first who was forced to sacrifice herself by getting married and leaving her master, was the luckiest maid. Although she was sent to the Ning Mansion against her will, she unexpectedly married Ning Jing, the third son the great general Ning Rushan had with a concubine, and turned herself into the wife of the Young Master in the Ning Mansion.
Admittedly, Ning Jing’s status was not high in the Ning Mansion due to his humble mother. He certainly could not rival with his two brothers who were born of the general’s principal wife. Nonetheless, he was a Young Master. Since Dong Xue married him, she at least got a hold of sufficient food and warm clothes. Also, she no longer had to do heavy chores. Later, she gave birth to a boy as the relationship between her and her husband developed steadily. It seemed that she was living a sweet life now.
Today, the news that Li Mu had made a scene in the Zhou Mansion and turned the Heaven Sword Martial Club upside down spread out. When Dong Xue and her husband, Ning Jing, heard it, they broke through layers of blockages and rushed to the Pig-Herding Alley to see him.
“Madam, Young Master, I have not been able to come back and visit you for all those years. It’s not because I am an ungrateful person, but for the fact that I could not.” Tears were streaming down Dong Xue’s face as she explained to Li Mu’s mother. “My hands are tied since the day I went into the Ning Mansion. But thanks to Jing’s care, today I can appear before you like this. My parents-in-law are extremely strict on my personal freedom. My father-in-law once warned me that if I dared to sneak out and visit the Pig-Herding Alley, he would flatten the whole alley…”
The honest-looking man, Ning Jing, also grunted, “Madam, Young Master, it’s true. Dong Xue has been wronged many times in our place. If it had not been for her quick wits and her wise instructions, I, a son of a concubine, might have already… Well, truthfully, Dong Xue never forgot Madam Li. She has been racking her brains all along, trying to help Madam Li every month.”
This son of a concubine in the Ning Mansion seemed good-natured and a little dorky. His voice was deep, and all his emotions were written on his heavy-featured face, which made him appear to be trustworthy.
“Ah! Come to think of it, in the last two years, almost every month there was someone hiring us to wash clothes with unnecessarily high payment…” Grassy caught on immediately.
Xia Ju suddenly realized something and yelled, “Yes, yes, there was. And from time to time, I spotted provisions at the corners of the yard or by the door for no reason. I tried to catch the person who was doing it several times, but I failed. That’s really a mystery. Could that be Sister Dong Xue…”
Li Mu’s mother also held Dong Xue’s hand appreciatively. “You are the smartest one of my four maids. You suffered the most when you were my maid. And it was you who first stepped forward to make a sacrifice for the other three when the Li Mansion compelled one of you four to get married. At that time, the Ning Mansion was rather aggressive. We all knew it was a fiery pit. Whoever went there would probably be smashed to pieces. But you, the kind girl, volunteered. And we did not stop you…” As the old madam recounted the story, her eyes were also brimming with tears.
All of a sudden, the four women hugged each other as they cried.
Li Mu watched all this quietly.
Indeed, Dong Xue was the most beautiful and graceful one among the four maids. And it seemed that she was also the cleverest one. She truly got her reward for being a good person. It could be said that she had a hopeful turn from a desperate situation when she happened to be fancied by the sone of the general and then became his wife. However, based on the couple’s description, they still had to suffer when living in the Ning Mansion.
As a son of a concubine in a large family, he was not better off than a senior housekeeper or servant. If his mother had a very humble status, such as a maid, he was probably less important than a senior housekeeper. Adding that Ning Jing was honest and simple-minded, he must find it quite difficult to deal with the others living in that kind of mansion. Perhaps he had been bullied all the time. But he was a lucky guy because he married a smart and kind woman like Dong Xue, who offered him advice and schemes. With her help, though he had to walk on eggshells every day, he miraculously survived the complicated life in the Ning Mansion.
It was kind of like the saying ‘stupid is as stupid does’.
Then, through the conversation of the other two maids and Li Mu’s mother, Dong Xue learned Qiu Yi’s death. Struck by sorrow, she almost fainted.
Staring at them from sideways, Li Mu was seized by mingled feelings.
From their conversation, Li Mu realized that it was the news of his turning the Heaven Sword Martial Club and the Zhou Mansion into a mess that gave the couple the chance to visit the Pig-Herding Alley. In fact, when the Ning Mansion heard the wide-spread rumor that the son of a poor old lady in the Pig-Herding Alley who had left her eight years ago had returned as a Great Master, Ning Rushan, the general, summoned Dong Xue and Ning Jing in person and asked them to take some gifts he prepared to Dong Xue’s home, the Pig-Herding Alley.
“My father only told us to visit Dong Zue’s family. He said nothing other than that. My wife has missed Madam Li so much, so I took her here,” Ning Jing said in a low, muffled voice.
Li Mu smiled but made no comment.
Ning Rushan was titled as the Mighty General. He definitely had some maneuvers for thriving in Chang’an for so many years. This time, he sending Dong Xue and her husband here was likely an indirect friendly gesture. It was a very delicate way of cozying up to Li Mu, showing no eagerness for instant benefits.
According to the file Zheng Cunjian provided him, Li Mu was clear that that general and the magistrate, Li Gang, were never easy to deal with.
As the flock of women continued their talk, abruptly, Li Mu’s expression altered a bit.
He detected there were newcomers in the Pig-Herding Alley.
And they were all martial arts cultivators.
One of them had very strange breathing. Li Mu could hardly tell whether the breathing was strong or weak. Moreover, even with the power of his formation, he could not find out what level that man was at.
“Boss, this is the big score you told us to secure?” asked the ‘Marvelous Mathematician’, Li Chunfeng, who was standing at the entrance of the Pig-Herding Alley with an embarrassed look. “Boss, don’t be too hard on yourself. Li Mu is a young Great Master. If you duel with him on your own, you will lose.”
The owner of Xiongfeng Martial Art Club glared at him and snapped, “What are you talking about? I’m not here to duel with him, am I?”
That made the Marvelous Mathematician more surprised, “Are you really going to marry Li Mu? Boss, don’t be reckless. You’re already in your twenties, but I heard that Li Mu is only fifteen. The age difference is striking. Plus, you are a short-tempered person. Even if you two do tie the knot, which of you will be the one calling the shots in the future? When you have conflicts, you can’t fight against him because he is too powerful. When you get beaten up, even if the brothers of the club want to give vent to your anger, we can do nothing about it…”
“Hold your tongue,” the owner’s sweet face turned sullen, “Who told you I’m marrying him?”
“Um? You are not? Then, what big score will you strike here?” questioned Li Chunfeng, the Marvelous Mathematician, as he inwardly grumbled, “Hum, everyone in the city of Chang’an has learned that you’re the number one single girl in the universe. Of course I would think like that.”
The owner answered with confidence, “I will persuade Li Mu to join our Xiongfeng Martial Art Club. Haha, these days the boy Li has been very popular. He can be our best advertisement. If he joins in, our Xiongfeng Martial Art Club will domineer the industry in Chang’an. Thousands of people will fight to be our disciples. If we charge each of the disciples ten pounds, we will be rich and never need to worry about money! Hahaha…”
“Who is the boy Li?” inquired Li Chunfeng.
“Li Mu, of course.”
“Emm, Boss, has Li Mu agreed on the name?”
“It doesn’t matter. He will agree.”
The two of them went into the Pig-Herding Alley as they bickered.
Before, the road in the alley was muddy and strewn with stinking puddles of water. But since Zheng Cunjian ordered some workers to put slab-stones on the mud so as to please Li Mu, the entire Pig-Herding Alley looked tidier.
“Have you noticed?” Halfway through the alley, the owner suddenly spoke.
Baffled, the Marvelous Mathematician asked, “Notice what?”
“The Spiritual Qi here seems a little richer than the outside.”
“Really? Yes, it does. No, not a little, but much richer. At least, it’s three times thicker than the outside.”
Immediately, the two’s expressions became stern and serious.
They gazed up at the yard in the far end of the alley. It was surrounded by flourishing bamboos and white mist, which made it seem quite ethereal and remote. Especially for the whirling white mist, they had an illusion that they were heading towards a surreal fairyland, as if the stone road stretched all the way down and would never end.
What was more, on the front gate of the yard hung a large plaque.
The plaque bore two words—
It was the name of the house.
Surely, naming one’s house like that was uncommon. But that was not the point. What was more important was that the yard with green bamboos looked so odd that it seemed in another world. It was dreamy, desirable, yet unreachable.
“Is this a magic formation?”
It suddenly dawned on the two why there was such a strange view.
Before Li Mu’s arrival, this place was definitely free of any magic formation. They were sure of it. Thus, the only possible explanation was that Li Mu had set up the formation after he came here… “Is this martial arts Great Master also a warlock?”
“A double cultivator of fifteen who has reached the Great Master Realm… That fu*king guy is not a human being! He is a monster, right?”
As the two were exchanging astonished looks, creaks of carriages, neighs of horses, and hurried footsteps were heard from behind. It appeared that a group of people was hurtling towards the Pig-Herding Alley.
“Out of the way! Get out of the way!” The anxious-looking waggoner on the first carriage waved his whip fiercely. His carriage rumbled in the alley like a flash of lightning and did not slow down when it was about to crash into the two.
“Fu*k, I…” The owner of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club swore at once and almost lost her temper.
The Marvelous Mathematician hastily held her back and said, “Boss, they’re from the Zhou family. Let’s take our time and watch the scene first.”
Then, they stepped sideways, letting the four carriages of the Zhou family sweep past and pull up before The Shack.
“Zhou Dedao, the head of the Zhou family, requires a meeting with Great Master Li Mu.” Walking to the front door, a senior expert the Zhou family employed announced their arrival in a booming voice.
However, there was no response.
Dreary cries and screams suddenly broke out from one of the carriages. The desperate shrieking startled the whole alley.
Next, Zhou Dedao, the president of the Dafeng Chamber of Commerce, got off his carriage and yelled outside the yard, “Mr. Li Mu, our Dafeng Chamber of Commerce has caused offense to you, but please open your door and let me talk to you face to face. I’m willing to pay you any compensation. Please raise your hand high in mercy and spare my son! He is my only son. And I had him when I was already old. So I always spoil him. He is a pampered boy… But from now on, he will no longer be indulged. He will correct his errors and be a new man!”
Zhou Dedao’s speech sounded quite sincere.
But no matter how wholeheartedly he pleaded, the yard still replied with silence.
The thin wall of green bamboos was like a natural moat, rendering it impossible to get to the other side.
That was because the wall of green bamboos was conjured up by a young Great Master.
The Zhou family begged for nearly an hour in front of the wall of bamboos. Even though Zhou Dedao’s voice had become broken on the account of all the yelling, no one answered them at all. Bitter-faced, Zhou Dedao was furious for getting cold-shouldered. However, he dared not show his rage, because Zhou Yu was howling like a pig about to be slaughtered and probably could not hold it together any longer.
The owner of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club and the Marvelous Mathematician now were crunching by the wall and staring at the Zhou family from the sidelines. Each of them was holding a handful of cooked melon seeds. Eating the melon seeds while watching the scene of bustle, they looked quite gleeful and in high spirits.
Even the residents of the Pig-Herding Alley leaned against their walls and stuck out their heads to watch the drama.
Just at that point, a jet of light suddenly streaked across the eastern sky and lunged towards the little yard.
It was sword light!
A jet of sword light!
A very dreadful jet of sword light.
The Light of Divine Sword.
The expressions of the owner and the Marvelous Mathematician rapidly altered.
Men of the Heaven Sword Martial Club were around the corner!