“Ah, why leave in such a hurry?” Li Mu protested without thinking, “Don’t you need to take a bath after getting up? I say, this lake is quite clean and the environment is very picturesque…”
Abashed and speechless, the woman in white clapped her hand on her forehand.
“Little monk, you… want to watch me take a bath?” She suddenly leaned close to Li Mu, her face only an inch away from Li Mu’s. Her eyes firmly bore into his, as if she was going to see through his pupils to exam his soul.
A bit taken aback, Li Mu drew back in haste. He then put on a politely sheepish smile and said, “Er, don’t take me wrong. I’m just making a fairly necessary suggestion under a specific circumstance.”
“Humph, lustful monk,” the woman in white teased and said with another giggle, “you haven’t completely gotten rid of mundane desires. I figure you master will bring you back and cut off your lower part and give you detentions soon or later.”
Li Mu said, “Merciful Buddha! My master takes pride in me. He won’t do that to me.”
“Well then, let’s drop this.” The woman in white gave him a bright smile, retreated and regained her solemn look before saying, “Last night, you meddled in something you shouldn’t bother about. You’ve caused trouble. You might as well leave the city of Chang’an as soon as possible. Goodbye, I bet you won’t see me again.”
After that, she turned to leave. Her body flashed forward and leaped to mid-air. Like a swan flapping its wings to soar up, she flew away and rapidly disappeared into the distant greed woods and hills with surprising elegance.
Gazing in the direction of the spot where the woman in white vanished from sight, Li Mu felt a little down as if he had just lost something precious.
“She simply went away like that?”
“Isn’t it a tradition that when a beauty is saved by a hero, she is supposed to pledge to marry her savior?”
Li Mu slowly stroked his chin, lost in reverie.
“D*”mn! I already practiced the Xiantian Skill, the best one to calm the mind. But when this dangerous beauty was around, I still felt easily stirred by her every single word and smile… Wow, she is truly a devil.”
Undeniably, a woman’s beauty was, in some cases, a very deadly weapon.
But Li Mu also understood it well that though it was fine to flirt with such a beauty, he could not have any relationship with any women like her in reality.
Because they belonged to different worlds. Li Mu had no intention to waste his time and energy in this world, nor did he want to be entangled with any issue here, for the weight on his shoulder was already quite heavy. Anyway, the woman in white was so different from simple and innocent women like Hua Xiangrong. If Li Mu had to choose between the two, he would definitely pick Hua Xiangrong instead of the woman in white.
Thus, even though he was infatuated with that beautiful woman, deep down, he was perfectly clear about what he should do and what he should not.
For that matter, he restrained himself from inquiring the name of that woman in white through the whole time he spent with her.
To him, life was as unpredictable as patches of drifting duckweed. A few random encounters did not always mean he and the woman in white had the luck to be friends. Thus, he found it pointless to dwell his mind on her anymore.
“Well, I, a member of the Li family, am a man of principle.”
Li Mu gave a dried laugh and then jumped into the nearby lake with a flop. Icy cold water stung his body, gradually covered, drowned, and eventually extinguished the hint of throb.
Then, Li Mu swam up to the shore, got dress, and set unhurried steps down the mountain.
After traveling several miles away from the mountain, he arrived at the streets in the western region. As he went on, the road was getting more and more clamorous.
The city of Chang’an was divided into five regions—the eastern, the western, the southern, the northern, and the central region. The last one was the smallest among all the regions, but it was the administrative district of Chang’an. All the political issues in Chang’an, as long as they were important enough to be dealt with at the provincial level, they would be decided by the government organs on all scales within the central region.
Aside from it, the remaining four regions were of the nearly same size, but they were strikingly different in terms of wealth.
Take the western region as an example. Compared to the other parts, it was basically a slum area.
The residents here were mainly at the middle or lower class. And the buildings also seemed battered and outdated.
What was more, in the western region sat the most famous military grave in Chang’an, which was called the Chang’an Tomb. There lay all the military men who had sacrificed their lives for the Empire of the Great Qin Dynasty since Emperor Guangwu relocated the capital.
Li Mu strolled along the main street of the western region.
He turned on his spiritual force and quietly observed everything around through his Third Eye so as to hone its power and search for more potential uses of it.
As he walked on and on, he suddenly noticed that he had already come near the Chang’an Tomb.
Being the patch of land housing the military tomb, the place was quite busy, packed with streams of people coming and going. Peddlers were crying their goods on the sides of the street. Most of them were selling a variety of food as well as incense, sacred offerings, and Joss paper that people would use when they went to the tomb to mourn for their deceased family members. Every now and then, Li Mu could hear someone sobbing. That was because the visit to the military tomb caused them to recall the painful loss of their loved ones. They could not suppress their grief and simply broke into violent lamentations.
At the sight of those poor people, Li Mu was overwhelmed by emotions.
In particular, when he saw young widows who were holding the hand of their little kids entered the tomb to mourn for their late husband, he felt his heart was squeezed with anguish.
“Sad is it that when the soldiers were reduced to skeletons by the river, their wives were still calling their names in dreams.”
Li Mu bitterly shook his head.
He was not fond of such depressed atmosphere. Thus, he came to a halt when he was at the head of the main street of the Chang’an Tomb lined by large-scale memorial arches.
Looking up, he saw a great number of overlapped memorial arches.
There were over twenty memorial arches on this large-scale memorial arch main street of the Chang’an Tomb. Each of them was very spectacular, displaying the utmost aptitude of skilled craftsmen. On those arches carved an array of patterns—dragons twining around pillars, flying birds and phoenixes, various rare beasts, and sculptures of all kinds of weapons and warriors. And only the commanders or higher officers could have a memorial arch of their own on this main street after they died. To put it in other words, here rested more than twenty accomplished commanders of the Empire of the Great Qin Dynasty who had died on the battlefield.
“Death seems to be a must for an army general fighting a hundred battles; a true man is who returns in ten years with his corpse wrapped.”
Li Mu certainly held those resting at this place in reverence.
No matter in which era or which world, the military men who carried great weight on their shoulders and fought for peace until they died in battles were always respectable.
After hesitating for a while, Li Mu finally decided to step onto the main street and go to the Monument to Martyrs at the front gate of the military tomb to offer them a piece of incense.
The atmosphere here reminded Li Mu of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Beijing that he visited back on Earth.
He followed the bustling crowd down the main street for about a kilometer and arrived at the front gate of the military tomb.
Like a black sword thrusting to the sky, the massive Monument to Martyrs that was over twenty meters in height stood there in silence. In front of the stone base were three huge censers molded with pure black rock. Under the supervision of the tomb guards, those who came to mourn for the dead carefully placed their offerings on the table and lit the incense and Joss paper.
Li Mu also bought three large sticks of incense from a peddler along the roadside. He lit them and brought them to the monument. After bowing deeply to the stone base, he placed the sticks of incense into one of the huge censers.
When that was done, he briskly turned around to leave.
Because there was no need for him to go into the military tomb.
However, when he had only taken a few steps, a heartbreaking wail pushed away all the other noises and landed into Li Mu’s ears.
“Officer, officer, please! Just let me in to look at my son. He was buried here four years ago. Ooh… I and my granddaughter hurried here from Peace County, a place several hundred miles away. But on our way, we ran into a bunch of bandits and got robbed of all our money… Please, I am aging, perhaps there won’t be another chance for me to visit my son here…”
An old woman was crying loudly out of sorrow and despair.
Her voice sounded a little familiar to Li Mu.
He wheeled around to find that at the entrance of the military tomb, a hunchbacked, grey-haired, and weathered-looking granny was on her knees, urgently imploring the soldiers guarding the military tomb. She also kept kowtowing to them, and her forehead was already bleeding.
It was Granny Cai.
That kind granny selling vegetable noodles at Peace County.
“Uncles, nice uncles… let us in. Caicai doesn’t have a mummy, and it’s been four years since Caicai’s daddy slept here. Caicai wishes to go in and see him. It must be very cold down there… Daddy must be very scared.” Granny Cai’s granddaughter, Caicai, was also kneeling beside her and pleading for a pass. Her hair was fuzzy and disheveled, her face was dirty, and the clothes she was wearing was so ragged that her body was barely covered.
“Get out! Get out! On the order of His Honor, everyone who wants to go in and mourn their death shall hand in fifty pennies as the entrance fee. No money, no enter! Now, screw off. Stop whining. You’re not at my funeral!” A beefy, rough-looking soldier with thick beard mercilessly lifted a foot and kicked Granny Cai sideways.
At this scene, people in the vicinity all began pointing and whispering.
The other dozen guards, instead, all burst out laughing gloatingly as if they just watched a funny show.
“Granny, granny… No, don’t hit my granny!” The little girl named Caicai flung herself over in horror. She hastily helped Granny Cai up from the ground. Tears flushed down her dust-covered face, leaving two winding trails on her cheeks. She was palpably skinnier than days ago.
“Officer, please, allow me to have a last visit to my son… All my three sons have died for our empire on battlefields. No remnants of my first and second son were ever found. Only the body of my third son was located and buried here.” Granny Cai propped herself up, immediately crawled over to the feet of the officer and continued to beg. “Chang’an is too far away. I may not make another trip here. Please, please, officer, let me in and cast a last look at my dear third son.”
She pleaded earnestly, her cries grief-stricken and extremely touching.
Caicai, who had dirt all over her undernourished small face, also knelt down beside her grandma docilely and pleaded wholeheartedly.
At the scene, people going in and out of the tomb closed around them. A lot of them started gesticulating at the dozen guards and murmuring, “How malicious they are! How could they do such a thing? The sons of this old woman have all sacrificed their lives for the country, but as their mother, she doesn’t even get a chance to visit the tomb of her son. It’s really mean of them to extort money out of such a poor mother. What they’re doing will certainly discredit them in the next world!”
“This is so not happening!”
“Right! If they dare to rake in this money, they’d better watch out because their sons will be born with no ass!”
“Our family had bled to death on the battlefield for the empire. But they have rested here in order to give those jerks a chance to extort our money, haven’t they?”
Many who came here to mourn for their relatives felt for Granny Cai and her little granddaughter. They all began to accuse those guards indignantly.
Being pointed fingers at by so many people, the dozen soldiers reckoned they could not just stand there and let themselves be humiliated.
The heavily bearded rough-looking man, who seemed in charge, now looked quite furious out of shame. He snarled, “Shut up, you darn old lady. How dare you gather a crowd of people to make a disturbance at the entrance of the military tomb. I think you’re sick of being alive. Guards, arrest her! Hang her to the pillar for caning!”
Upon his order, the soldiers behind him dashed over like hungry wolves and tigers.
“No! Don’t take granny, don’t take granny… Ooh…” The little Caicai panicked. She ran to her granny and gripped a corner of her clothes. Frightened and alarmed, she was as helpless as a baby duck ditched by the world and lost in a storm, and the only hope and support the little girl had now was her granny.
Li Mu slightly raised his brows as he saw the incident.
He could imagine how many hardships Granny Cai and her granddaughter had endured on their way to the city of Chang’an and how heartbroken they were when they heard the death of Caicai’s father. However, they were blocked by the final hurdle just outside the military tomb… “How saddened I am by the grief of the common folks! Well, in any world, those living at the bottom of the social ladder share similar misery.”
However, once he bumped into such an unfair case, there was no way he could disregard it.