Wei Chi Feng had no idea that Lin Tingjun’s reluctance to continue speaking was due to his hunger. It was nearly noon, and he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything all morning.
Lian Youyou continued with a casual tone, “Moreover, this person seems to have been living in the mountains for a long time, surviving on who knows what. There’s a lot of dirt in his claw marks.”
She pointed to the dirty wound on Liu Dong’s wrist, which had a fair amount of mud and even some unidentified animal hairs stuck in it.
Lin Tingjun inspected the wound, and couldn’t hide his disgust. The wound had dirt residues in it, and it seemed like this person hadn’t bathed in at least a year.
Hearing this, Wei Chi Feng slammed his hand onto Liu Dong’s head and scolded, “Did you hear that? You saw a person! From now on, watch your mouth! If you spread rumors and cause trouble again, I’ll throw you in jail!”
“Yes, yes, yes. I know my mistake. I know my mistake,” Liu Dong bowed and begged sincerely.
When Liu Dong heard that it was a person he had seen, he had actually believed it from the start, and he felt much relieved. He certainly preferred it to be a person.
Who in their right mind would want to be involved with a monster? They were sinister and not like fox spirits who could lead you to some pleasurable experiences. A male monster? Forget about it. He had been genuinely scared this time, and he had lost face.
“So it’s just a person, huh?” The villagers from both villages finally realized and suddenly felt more at ease. If it was a person, what was there to be afraid of?
Wei Chi Feng stood up, placed his large machete at his waist, and raised his hand dominantly. “Now, we need to go up the mountain and capture this troublemaker. Make way!”
Immediately, the soldiers on both sides moved forward and cleared a path by pushing the villagers to the sides which created a passage.
The villagers had been busy all morning, abandoning their work just to witness a supposed monster hunt. They were looking forward to sharing this exciting story and bragging about it later. Now that they knew it was just a person, they were eager to join in and help catch the “monster.”
The guards responsible for watching Li Xiangu, Guo De and Guo Gang, didn’t want to miss out on the fun either. They were soldiers after all, and they preferred action to idleness. Who would want to stay behind and guard this lady? It was too boring.
Guo Gang gave Guo De a signal, and Guo De immediately approached Wei Chi Feng. “Leader, what should we do about that fairy?”
Wei Chi Feng glanced briefly, frowned at the sight, and waved his hand dismissively. “Drive her away! Warn her that if she continues to deceive people or cause trouble, I’ll personally throw her into prison!” With that, Wei Chi Feng made a grand gesture, and his steps were like the wind as he left.
Guo De returned to Li Xiangu, who had been sitting dumbfounded on the ground and he kicked her. Li Xiangu raised her head in a daze.
Guo De urged, “Go, go, go. The general is letting you off today. If you don’t run fast enough, we’ll catch you next time!”
Li Xiangu snapped back to her senses. The general? Could it be General Wei Chi Feng, the commander of Qin Prefecture? There was only one general in Qin Prefecture! Li Xiangu was immediately frightened and jumped to her feet. She ran away in a hurry, leaving behind her magical tools on the table.
As Wei Chi Feng led his troops forward and took a step out the door, he sensed something was amiss. He turned around and saw a crowd behind him. What in the world was going on back there?
The guards had already exited the door, mounted their horses, and were ready to go. Only Guo De and Guo Gang remained beside Wei Chi Feng.
Wei Chi Feng pointed to the villagers who were arming themselves, “What are you all doing?!”
“We’re going to help the general catch the monster!” Liu Dong’s father stood at the front, and declared, “He injured my son, and I want to settle the score with him!”
“That’s right! We’re going to catch him!”
The commotion had escalated to a point where it seemed like they weren’t just planning to capture but to potentially harm or even set the mountain on fire if the culprit wasn’t caught.
“What’s all this noise?!” roared Wei Chi Feng again, his booming voice shaking the crowd as he pointed at the villagers.
“What do you think you’re doing? Planning to kill someone? Catching people is my job! Are you all so idle that you’re causing a disturbance?”
“General! My son was injured, and I want justice!” Liu Dong’s father who was both stubborn and confrontational, and refused to back down. When he got aggressive, no one could restrain him.
Gen. Wei Chi Feng’s eyes widened in anger. He had long been fed up with these unruly villagers. Just as he was about to shout again, Lian Youyou stepped forward, smiling and gesturing to block him.
“Please, let’s not get agitated. There are so many of you going up the mountain; it might cause even more chaos, and the person might escape,” Lian Youyou said, her tone neither too soft nor too stern.
Her words had a calming effect on the crowd. Coupled with her role in solving the mystery of Liu Qiang’s death, the villagers were beginning to show her respect.
With that newfound respect, their perception of Lian Youyou had changed. They now felt more comfortable and trusting when looking at her, as if she had a soothing presence much like a goddess statue in a temple which brought inner peace.
Lian Youyou continued with her gentle smile, “Leave this professional job to the experts behind me. They are skilled in tracking and are all exceptional martial artists. One of them is worth a hundred of you. Going up there might only disrupt things further. What if you can’t catch the person? How would you explain that to Liu Dong’s family?” Lian Youyou deliberately glanced at Liu Dong’s father, the instigator.
Hearing her words, the villagers nodded in agreement, and even Liu Dong’s stubborn father begrudgingly put down his hoe.
“I believe we should proceed with the burial of Liu Qiang’s body,” Lian Youyou said, extending her neck and pointing to the courtyard.
The villagers then began to disperse and turn their attention to the partially buried body of Liu Qiang.
Meanwhile, Lin Tingjun had been silently observing Lian Youyou’s actions for a while now. He noticed how she had gone from being dismissed as a foolish girl to gaining the trust of the villagers. Her tactics of manipulation were reminiscent of someone he knew well – the true leader of the Ninth Gate, Yao Canzheng, also known as Yao Guang.
“This scorching weather might lead to the outbreak of disease,” Lian Youyou continued, redirecting Lin Tingjun’s thoughts. He fixed his sharp gaze on her face.
He had a gut feeling that Lian Youyou had an ulterior motive for pushing for Liu Qiang’s prompt burial. Her earnest tone raised suspicion. The way she manipulated the situation was eerily similar to the tactics employed by the old man from his own organization, Yao Canzheng or Yao Guang.
However, why was she so insistent on an immediate burial? The weather though hot wouldn’t cause disease to spread within just a few days. There was more to her request than met the eye.
The mention of disease instantly made the villagers nervous, and many of them began to tremble. Even a mother holding her child by the door took a few steps back. Plagues were as terrifying as tigers, and nobody wanted to risk falling victim to one. This fear was deeply rooted in the instinct to avoid death.