Lady Helian spoke a few more words with the man in the shadows, then went with him into the alleyway. Su Xiaoyu quietly tailed them from behind, her figure slipping quickly into the darkness. No matter how mature she acted, Su Xiaoyu was still a child. She didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until she was deep into the alleyway, where a group of black-robed figures appeared to block the way behind her.
Alarmed, she realized that she’d long been found out.
“Lady Helian, just who are you?” Su Xiaoyu demanded.
Unfortunately, neither Lady Helian nor the man beside her ever turned back. They kept walking forward while the team of black-robed figures surrounded Su Xiaoyu. She wanted to leap for the roofs, but there were figures perched up there as well. Then she shouted for help, but had hardly cried twice before they gagged her. As she watched Lady Helian’s figure fade into the distance, she slowly lost consciousness.
“Why make things difficult for a little child? Even if she recognized me, what can she know?” Lady Helian’s tone sounded helpless.
The man replied in a low voice, “Better to kill the wrong person than lose the chance later. Don’t see me again during this time.”
“The Duke of Qin’s estate will definitely investigate if that child suddenly disappears with no reason!” Lady Helian reminded.
“Don’t worry. As long as you’re good and listen to me, it won’t lead back to you or your son,” the man laughed coldly.
Lady Helian was already preparing to leave when she looked back one more time and asked wistfully, “Must you kill that child?”
“That’s not for us to decide. Whether or not her life is worth it is all up to the Lord Master,” the man said impatiently. “Go back already.”
Lady Helian sighed before lowering her head and hurried away. Once she emerged from the alleyway, she acted as if nothing had happened and left.
When Su Xiaoyu didn’t return by nightfall, Zhao mama sent people to ask for her at Pill Fiend Pharmacy. Only then did she discover that the girl hadn’t been seen there all day. Anxious, Zhao mama went to the ancestral hall to report the news to Chu Xifeng.
“Little Chu, little Yu’er isn’t a child who hankers after fun and games. Ever since we moved to South Ning, that girl’s either been at the Duke of Qin’s estate or Pill Fiend Pharmacy. She’s never gone anywhere else. Something must have happened to her!”
Chu Xifeng’s gaze flickered with complex emotions before he immediately issued an order, “Someone come, search the entire city!”
“Head Guard, should we do it in secret?” one of his subordinates asked.
“Why keep a secret when she’s already missing?” Chu Xifeng said coldly. “Send someone to the commander-in-chief’s estate at the capital to tell General Baili. Have him send reinforcements. Everyone will split up and search together! Su Xiaoyu is currently esteemed wangfei’s favorite, so you lot better watch your heads if you can’t bring her back!”
“Head Guard, what if the culprits kill little Yu’er if the matter gets blown out of proportion?” the guard asked anxiously.
Zhao mama was frightened by those words. “That’s right, that’s right! Search in secret first!”
“What are you worried about?” Chu Xifeng grew irritated. “How could a citywide search scare the likes of anyone like them? It’d only scare you lot!”
Although his subordinate didn’t agree, he didn’t dare to defy Chu Xifeng. Meanwhile, Zhao mama didn’t understand these cases at all and wholly believed the man.
“Hurry and go! That’s right, send someone to ask around the Han Estate first, maybe she went there!” Chu Xifeng suggested.
“She wouldn’t!” Zhao mama declared firmly. “Unless it’s with esteemed wangfei, little Yu’er won’t go. This old woman’s already asked, she’s really not there.”
Chu Xifeng nodded without a word. Once Zhao mama left the scene, Gu Beiyue strolled over while leaning on a cane. His legs had all but recovered, so now he was just rehabilitating himself with help from his walking stick. Despite this, his back was ramrod straight. Even crippled, his spirit had never submitted. Beneath the faint clouds and light breeze, he gave off a magnanimous air.
“You’re making it the talk of the town on purpose?” he asked simply.
Chu Xifeng avoided the question and asked, “How is the grand imperial concubine doing? I need to send a letter to Celestial Mountain in a few days, so I’ll include that in the report.”
Gu Beiyue was a perceptive man. Since Chu Xifeng wouldn’t answer, he didn’t press the issue. Instead, he took out a letter and handed it over to the man. “Details on the grand imperial concubine are all inside.”
As Gu Beiyue predicted, news of the Duke of Qin estate’s missing servant girl would raise a ruckus within the entire city overnight. All of the families in the town, commoners and nobles alike, would find out. Unfortunately, the Duke of Qin’s guards and the commander-in-chief’s soldiers searched the city for three days and three nights without even finding a trace.
Three days later, the news reached Han Yunxi. She had been cultivating for many days, but the news of Su Xiaoyu going missing raised waves within her heart. Why would she have disappeared? Did Su Xiaoyu leave on her own, or was she kidnapped? After losing her memories, Su Xiaoyu had been nothing but loyal and steadfast. Why would she wander off on her own? And if someone had kidnapped her, who could that be? Why did they only kidnap Su Xiaoyu?
While she was worrying over the child, she grew more apprehensive about the hidden implications. If Su Xiaoyu had truly been stolen away, then there was something fishy going on. She immediately penned a letter to Chu Xifeng, asking him to probe Chu Tianyin. Soon enough, the reply revealed that Chu Tianyin had no idea about the missing girl.
The two Chu elders are still in Long Feiye’s hands. Chu Tianyin’s busy on the warfront, so there’s no need for him to steal a servant girl for any schemes.
But if Su Xiaoyu had recovered her memory, she would have left to find Chu Tianyin for certain. With these thoughts in mind, Han Yunxi concluded that the girl had been kidnapped by someone else. Long Feiye was still in confinement, so she couldn’t leave Celestial Mountain on her own. Chu Xifeng would have to take care of the matter for them. She only hoped that Su Xiaoyu would stay smart. If her temper made her stubborn against her kidnappers, how much would she suffer for it? Han Yunxi was about to destroy the latest letter when Lil Thing suddenly jumped up, snatched the paper, and started chewing.
She looked at him in bewilderment. “You can chew on these things too?”
Recently, Lil Thing had been acting odd. It would chew on anything it laid its eyes on. If Han Yunxi didn’t stop it, it might even chew everything in this room into pieces, including the wall to the hidden chamber containing Long Feiye. Han Yunxi wouldn’t let Lil Thing destroy anything, so it could only chew on its own claws. Soon enough, Lil Thing had polished off the letter and bared its two front teeth at Han Yunxi, indicating that it wasn’t enough.
Han Yunxi scooted over and pried open its mouth for a look. “But you haven’t grown any new teeth! Just what’s going on with you?”
“Awoooawoooawooo…” Lil Thing didn’t cheep anymore, expressing its discontent instead. If Han Yunxi didn’t know it well, she might have been frightened by his wails of distress. It sounded exactly like a wild beast of the woods.
“Hey, be quieter. If someone outside hears you here, we’ll be done for!” Han Yunxi warned.
Lil Thing didn’t dare to make another peep, but it threw itself at Han Yunxi. It seemed half insane, half spoiled as it nuzzled against her aggressively.
“You’ve already eaten a lot today. If you keep going, I’ll go broke!” Han Yunxi said seriously.
Lil Thing ignored her and kept rubbing against her aggressively. If this kept on, it’d leave a hole in her robes. Finally, Han Yunxi had no choice but to take Lil Thing into the poison storage space and have it gnaw on the poison plants. Soon enough, a huge patch of them were gone, making her heart ache!
She thought it over before wondering to herself, “Could it be that it’s in heat?”
Suddenly, sounds of an argument broke out from outside. Curious, Han Yunxi walked to the gardens to be able to listen better. The sounds grew louder, but it didn’t seem to be coming from the Abstinence Courtyard. Rather, the source seemed to hail from the location of Celestial Mountain’s grand hall. Although she was intrigued, Han Yunxi didn’t take a single step out of her courtyard. Long Feiye had already been locked up for over 10 days. Besides stopping for meals, she herself did nothing but cultivate. Sometimes she’d forget to eat too.
No matter the fuss, this was still Celestial Mountain. Whatever happened had nothing to do with her. She was about to go back inside when a servant girl arrived with a bowl of sweet soup.
“Esteemed wangfei, it’s been muggy recently. This servant has prepared a mung bean lily soup for you to drive away the heat.”
“Many thanks,” Han Yunxi accepted the bowl without much comment. Aside from her three meals, she’d never gotten such favors from the kitchens.
But the servant girl persisted, “Esteemed wangfei, your poison skills are so formidable. You must have heard of the ice serpent before, right?”
A tiny prick of alarm stole into Han Yunxi’s heart. Of course she knew of the ice serpent. It was a rarely seen poisonous viper that lived in high, snowy plateaus. Anyone bitten by the creature would be afflicted with Frost Poison and would literally freeze to death.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Han Yunxi replied.
“Esteemed wangfei, a bunch of ice serpents suddenly showed up at the Celestial Mountain Grand Hall. Some people were even bitten, though I don’t know how they’re doing now,” the servant girl added.
Without a word, Han Yunxi carried her soup inside her room and shut the door behind her.
You want to trick me outside with a cheap ploy like this? Duanmu Yao and Cang Qiuzi must be underestimating her intelligence. But still, they had some skills to find ice serpents in the first place. As Han Yunxi enjoyed her mung bean soup, she stared at the tightly shut stone door. She had started staring while enjoying her soup, but soon forgot to drink it at all as she lost herself in her thoughts.
But soon enough, she recovered to sit on the ground in front of the stone door and continue her cultivation. Long Feiye must be working hard daily on the other side of the wall. She couldn’t just sit there doing nothing, she had to chase after his footsteps.
However, Long Feiye wasn’t working hard. He was actually fighting for his life!
Within the sealed room, all was dark and empty. Long Feiye sat on the ground with his torso bare, his face colder than ever. His eyes were shut, and sweat dripped from the ends of his eyelashes. He was quiet now, but his body was a clear account of the suffering he’d endured for the past ten days.
What was “beaten black and blue?”
His exposed chest was covered densely with whip marks, some shallow, some deep. It was a shocking scene that would have driven Han Yunxi to tears.
What was “covered in a mass of bruises?”
How about a body that gained new wounds upon the old, day after day?
Suddenly, an overpowering force erupted from Long Feiye’s body. It was formless yet tangible, pressing down upon the room until the very walls distorted. Right now, Long Feiye was extremely weak. He was like a man who had been stripped of all his internal energy and apt to topple at a single gust of wind. But still he stood up and undid the whip at his waist. With a vicious lash, he gathered the massive energy to his weapon. Despite gripping its handle tightly, the whip refused to submit and moved restlessly beneath his hands.
After releasing the energy of the Lustbite Seal, he had to reabsorb it all back into his body. But the only way to bring it under his control was…
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