She forced herself to calm down, looked at the two masked men in black in front of her, and asked loudly, “Who are you people? I’m just a child of a fishing family, and I don’t have any grudges with you guys. Could it be that you have mistaken me for someone else?”
The masked men looked at one another. The shorter one laughed grimly and asked, “Are you Yu Xiaocao of Dongshan Village?”
Xiaocao’s heart sank. Since they were able to say her name, it was impossible that they had gotten the wrong person. After she looked around, her heart turned completely cold. This was the most remote section of the mountain road. On one side was a steep cliff, while a dense forest was on the other side. It was the best place to murder someone and then destroy the corpse!
The two masked men blocked all her routes of escape in front and behind her. The thickets of the forest next to her was even taller than her, so it was nearly impossible to quickly jump in there and hide. The cliff on the other side was even worse. If she jumped, she would definitely die without a corpse. What should she do? Was she going to die today?
Yu Xiaocao secretly took a deep breath and said it a low voice, “That’s right, I am indeed Yu Xiaocao! However, I don’t think that I have ever done anything ruthless and unlawful. I also don’t recall having any enemies. Why are these two strong warriors attacking me with weapons without any reason?”
The taller man had a slightly sharper voice, which sounded grating on the ears, “Heh heh… Someone spent two hundred taels for your life. As for who it is—go and ask in the underworld!”
[Little Glutinous Dumpling, are you there? If you don’t come out now, then your master is going to die!] Yu Xiaocao desperately called for the little divine stone within her heart. This little fellow usually jumped out when it wasn’t needed, so please don’t let her down at such a critical moment ah!
The little divine stone’s voice slowly emerged within her mind, [Humph! Don’t call me Little Glutinous Dumpling! What kind of stupid name is that? It’s not impressive at all. Change it!]
[Is this the time to be worried about your name? Do you want me to die so that you can change your master ah?] Yu Xiaocao was so angry that she forgot about being scared. Her fierce expression made the two bandits looked at each other again. They were very baffled in their hearts—was this little lass so scared that she had turned into a fool?
The little divine stone slowly said, [Of course I would like to change to a more powerful master, but… Ay! It’s hard to bind with people who aren’t in the same magnetic field ah! This Divine Stone has no other choice but to accept you as my master. There’s nothing I can do ah!]
[Since you can’t change your master, shouldn’t you hurry up and help me?] Yu Xiaocao was about to die from anger because of it. This tactless thing, it was such a critical moment right now, yet it was still dawdling!
The little divine stone replied in a leisurely and unhurried manner, [Don’t worry. My help won’t be needed! You ah, you’re really lucky, so there’s no way you will die!]
At this moment, the bandits had already lost their patience. They raised their swords and rushed towards Yu Xiaocao. Yu Xiaocao was so scared that she immediately got under the donkey cart. The bandits missed their target and were about to bend down to stab her under the cart when the sound of horse hooves came. A clear voice shouted, “To rob and assault people in broad daylight, do you really think that there’s no law in the Great Ming Dynasty?”
Her savior had finally appeared! Yu Xiaocao was so excited that she burst into tears (Author’s note: Are you sure it wasn’t because you were scared?). She breathed a long sigh of relief and relaxed her stiff body under the donkey cart.
The bandits looked towards the direction of the sound and saw a white horse galloping over at full speed. With the neighing of the horse, an agile figure jumped off the back of the horse and landed near the cart. The bandits were only ordinary hooligans in town. When that person approached them, they were swayed to commit a crime at the sight of money. Moreover, they had heard that the target was just a weak little girl, so they agreed to take up this job.
Although they looked savage and cruel, they were actually very nervous. They usually just engaged in some small-scale bullying of the weak, gang fights, and so on. It was actually their first time being hired as hitmen. At this time, seeing that this deed had been exposed and that the person who came seemed to know martial arts, they naturally didn’t dare to fight him. Thus, they immediately picked up their swords and ran at a speed that was even faster than a rabbit.
From afar, Zhu Junxi had seen the two masked bandits in black aiming their broadswords at the little girl. Thinking that the bandits had blocked the road in order to rob her, he hastened his beloved steed and rushed over. He had prepared to fight for justice, but unexpectedly, the two cowards had run away in fear before he had even stood still.
But, since he had encountered this situation, how could he allow the bandits to get away? With a few strides, he had caught up with the bandits. He had expected a fierce battle, but who knew that they were like a pewter spearhead that shone like silver—impressive-looking but useless. They were defeated and captured in a few moves. Zhu Junxi felt unsatisfied—weren’t they too easy to defeat?
Two streams of tears flowed down the bandits’ faces, ‘Big brother, can you not hit so hard?’
When Yu Xiaocao came out from the bottom of the cart, she saw this scene: a bandit was kicked away by a handsome guy in white, hit a big tree and bounced back. He was spitting blood while lying on the ground and unable to stand up for a long time. With his arm twisted, the other bandit was being pressed facedown on the ground. Hearing a clear ‘cracking’ sound, she reckoned that his arm was probably useless now!
After taking a closer look, she felt that this handsome guy in white looked rather familiar. Wasn’t he one of Princess Consort Jing’s sons? Anyways, he was definitely the princess consort’s son! She hadn’t expected that a young master of the Prince Jing’s Estate would actually be skilled in martial arts.
“Oh? Aren’t you General Fang’s goddaughter? Who did you offend? You have actually attracted such a fatal disaster?” After getting a good look of the dirty face of the little girl who crawled out from under the cart, Zhu Junxi was surprised to realize that she was an acquaintance, so he asked.
Yu Xiaocao dusted off her body and mumbled, “I want to know, too. Who exactly wants this little life of mine?”
Zhu Junxi frowned slightly and pondered for a moment, “You come from an ordinary family, so if it was for money, they wouldn’t have chosen you. Little girl, think carefully, who have you offended recently? Or who has a grudge against your family?”
Yu Xiaocao scratched her own face with her index finger, leaving several gray marks on it. She furrowed her brows and wondered, ‘If it’s someone who hates them, then Madam Zhang can be considered one. However, Madam Zhang is only a village woman, so she isn’t bold enough to hire a hitman. Moreover, with Madam Zhang’s stingy character, there’s no way that she would be willing to spend money to hire a hitman. As for other people who has a grudge against us… I really can’t think of anyone.’
Seeing that the little girl had turned her own face into a dirty little kitten, and with a troubled expression, she still couldn’t think of anything for a long time, Zhu Junxi decided to give up and said, “Forget it. I reckon we should just take these two to the yamen. After getting flogged, I’m sure they will honestly tell the truth!”
“This hero, please spare our lives ah! Please have mercy on us!” Upon hearing that they would be sent to the yamen, the bandits panicked. They would get beheaded for the crime of murdering someone for money!
The taller bandit sobbed loudly, “This lowly one deserves to die. I have been momentary led astray by the money and accepted this job. This lowly one swears that this was my first time doing this. This lowly one doesn’t dare to do this again. This hero, please show mercy and let this lowly one go!”
The shorter bandit quickly kowtowed and said, “That’s right, that’s right! This lowly one will definitely turn over a new leaf. Please be merciful and forgive this lowly one this time!”
Yu Xiaocao snorted and kicked the bandits, who were tied together like a sticky rice dumpling, fiercely. Then she shouted angrily, “Let you guys go? If it wasn’t for Young Master Zhu’s timely arrival, would you have spared me? Speak, who ordered you to come?”
Zhu Junxi looked at the little girl in front of him with slight admiration. Had it been another young girl who experienced the dangerous situation earlier, she would have already burst into tears due to fright. There was no way that she would be able to face the bandits directly and interrogate them calmly.
The taller bandit quickly cried, “The person who approached us was a young girl who appeared like a maidservant. She offered us two hundred taels and told us to ambush you here. If we can throw you and the cart off the cliff and make it seem like an accident, then the two hundred taels will be ours! Little lady, please show mercy and don’t send us to the yamen! This lowly one doesn’t dare to do this again!”
“Make it seem like I accidentally fell off the cliff? You guys were holding broadswords and flinging them at me as if you wished you can cut me into pieces. That doesn’t seem to match with what you’re saying ah?” Yu Xiaocao calmly looked at the bandits, who had ugly and cunning appearances without their masks, and asked.
The taller bandit hastily shook his head and said, “The broadsword is just used to frighten people. The edge of the blade isn’t sharpened! After thinking about it, we thought that, little lady, you’re just an inexperienced little girl, so it would be easier to act after you faint from being scared. Thus…”
Yu Xiaocao picked up the broadsword and looked at it. It really hadn’t been sharpened. The bandits wanted to commit murder on the road with unsharpened swords. How ridiculous! It was no wonder that they immediately ran away when Young Master Zhu appeared!
“Speak up! Who sent you guys? Leniency towards those who confess their crimes and severe punishment to those who refuse to do so. If you come clean, perhaps this lady’s heart will soften and let you guys go?” Yu Xiaocao just wanted to know who would be so cruel and want her life.
With a panic-stricken expression, the taller bandit repeated, “It was really a maidservant who came to look for us. This lowly one also doesn’t know who she is ah! But, based on her attire, she should be the servant of a rich family.”
Maidservant of a wealthy family? She only knew a few wealthy households in town. However, she seldom came in contact with them, let alone have any grudges against each other. So, who would hire someone to kill her?
The shorter bandit was obviously a cunning man. His eyes darted around, and then he asked, “Are you really going to let us go if we tell you who hired us?”
Yu Xiaocao’s eyes lit up and asked, “You know?”
The shorter bandit nodded and said, “At that time, that maidservant only gave us half of the money and said that she will give us the rest after the deed. This lowly one was more cautious and afraid that she would stand us up after we completed the job, so I secretly tailed the maidservant. She walked around town several times, and then entered an estate…”
“Entered an estate? Whose estate?” Yu Xiaocao’s heart tightened and asked.
A trace of slyness appeared in the shorter bandit’s eyes and he bargained, “It’s natural that I will tell you if you let us go!”
“Let you guys go? If you’re lying and don’t actually know who hired you guys, then who should I look for after releasing you two?” Yu Xiaocao wasn’t stupid, so of course, she wouldn’t be deceived by him. However, she promised, “Don’t worry. As long as I can find the mastermind, I promise that I won’t send you guys to the yamen, nor will I kill you!”
The shorter bandit was also just taking a gamble. He looked at Young Master Zhu, and after he received his guarantee, he said, “That maidservant went inside through a side door and it seemed like there was someone helping her. There was no sign on the small door, so this lowly one went around to the front entrance and saw the two big characters written on top…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
"...two big characters written on top..." Any guesses?