Chapter 9: “The missing young lady Li.”
Mingchuan became prosperous through its tea, so the local people relied on growing tea plants and picking tea leaves to make a living. The courtyards of each and every family all had tea leaves drying out in the sun, and even the streets were filled with the earthy fragrance of tea.
High officials and noble people were all quite fond of Mingchuan’s tea, and cultivators were also part of the tea market. It was reasonable to say that even if the families here weren’t rich, they should still be at least somewhat well-off.
However, this Li family only had four bare walls for a home.
Sweeping through the entire place with his spiritual sense, You Jiang discovered that there wasn’t even a single chair in the hall. This family’s situation was truly quite miserable.
According to the information provided by the teahouse owner, the old father from the Li family was called Li Yunian. When he was young, he worked as an armed escort guard in Chang’an1.
Afterwards, during one of his escorting tasks, Li Yunian ran into bandits and injured his legs. The escort team leader gave him some silver so he could return to the countryside and enjoy a life in retirement. Thus, Li Yunian returned to Mingchuan, before marrying a wife and settling down.
Li Yunian travelled extensively, so he actually had some money. Although he had a disability, the life he lived was still pretty good.
It was a pity his wife died early, only leaving behind one daughter to him, known as Li Xiaopu.
Mingchuan’s most precious Coloured Glass Tea must be plucked by unmarried young girls. When Li Xiaopu was fourteen years-old, she was chosen as one of the tea leaf pickers by the Azure Sky Mansion.
Every morning, she would enter the Rain Monarch Cave to pick tea leaves. By noon, Li Xiaopu would return home to tend the plants and feed the livestock with her father.
The father was gentle and kind while the daughter was obedient and filial. The two of them relied on each other for survival, and got by in a peaceful manner.
Unfortunately, all of this changed the day Li Xiaopu disappeared. The most important thing in Li Yunian’s life was precisely this daughter of his. In order to find her, he would keep watch by the Azure Sky Mansion every day, waiting for any news.
Afterwards, more and more people went missing in the city, so Qiu Yuebai became too busy to spare time for anything else. Thus, Li Yunian began giving away the valuables in his home to invite robust men in the city to look for his daughter. He even gave a large sum of money to a caravan and begged them to go to Yuncheng in his stead, to ask the Profound Sect for help.
Li Yunian hadn’t worked for many years. After searching for his daughter like this for three whole months, he completely used up all his savings. He even pawned off everything that could be sold.
However, despite giving up all of his family’s wealth, Li Yunian still couldn’t exchange it for his daughter’s peace and safety.
After three months, the gossip during tea time for the people within Mingchuan had long changed to the wishing well and the Azure Sky Mansion. The only time they would recall Li Xiaopu was when people mentioned the gossip about the Zhang family.
What everyone paid attention to was the cultivators, strong people, high officials and the nobles. Nobody cared about how an ordinary person would pass their days.
After the bystanders who joined in on the fun had all left, the only person who remained was an old father who kept watch in front of his door every day, waiting for his daughter to return home.
Li Yunian was also a person who had once travelled all around the world. With his Red Tassel Gun2, he had beaten back countless mountain bandits.
Unfortunately, even heroes were bound to have a time where they were past their prime. The passing of time whitened Li Yunian’s hair and made his spine hunch. The once strong and mighty Red Tassel Gun that was held by the man’s hand, had long been exchanged with a walking stick that had experienced the vicissitudes of life.
Li Yunian’s past, younger self—who had once escorted thousands of treasures safely to their destinations—would never have thought that there would be one day where he couldn’t even protect a little girl.
Today, Li family’s house was in a completely neglected state. However, from the looks of the elderly man in front of the door, one could still faintly make out what his heroic appearance would have been like in his youth. Calluses, produced only by diligent training, even remained on both of his hands.
However, Li Yunian’s mental state was already on the verge of collapse. He appeared just like a lifeless stone statue standing among the dark red glow of the setting sun. Only a pair of murky eyes stared spiritlessly into the street, as if he was hoping his daughter would suddenly appear.
The vicissitudes of a hero’s end could only be understood by people in the jianghu. When You Jiang and Fu Hongye saw this scene, both of them fell silent.
In the end, it was Fu Hongye who took the initiative to step forward and salute, “Excuse me, may I ask if the missing young lady Li lives here?”
Merely this one sentence roused the elderly man’s will to live. Li Yunian was a knowledgeable man. With just a single glance, he was able to recognize that the cloud pattern on the hem of Fu Hongye’s sleeves was precisely the symbol of the Profound Sect.
The old man was immediately so excited, even his voice trembled, “Yes, that’s right, she’s precisely my daughter. Has the young hero seen her? Is she safe and sound?”
A reaction like this made Fu Hongye’s gaze dim a bit. If an ordinary girl was snatched away by a demonic thing for over three months, he was afraid her future was only fraught with grim possibilities.
Fu Hongye was someone who had never been good at telling lies. At this moment, he truly didn’t know what he should say.
But contrary to what one might expect, You Jiang waved his fan before he expressionlessly helped the youth diffuse the situation. “This guy wants to meddle in your business and help you find her. If you have any clues, quickly tell him.”
“Yes, of course, many thanks to the young hero! If you want any reward, just say it!”
Everyone knew the power and prestige of the Profound Sect. The moment Li Yunian heard You Jiang’s words, his tears immediately began falling.
Completely disregarding how his legs were already numb because he had sat for so long, the old man suddenly stood up. Li Yunian relied on his walking stick to walk around the house, trying to find anything that was valuable.
But all his efforts were to no avail; everything that had been useful had long been pawned off by him so he could hire the wandering cultivators in the city to search for his daughter. After rummaging for a while, Li Yunian was only able to find a bag of rice.
Offering it with both of his hands, he earnestly told Fu Hongye, “I still have some rice. Wait, there’s also this house. As long as you can find my daughter, you can take it all!”
In order to save money so he could use it to find his daughter, Li Yunian completely stopped caring about his own life. Thus, the rice he was offering right now was nothing more than the cheapest brown rice. In a normal situation, the old man probably wouldn’t even be able to hire a small worker with this.
However, when Fu Hongye saw Li Yunian’s actions, he merely sighed. Pushing back Li Yunian’s hand, Fu Hongye softly said, “Elder, I don’t need any reward. Could you please tell me where young lady Li went before going missing? Has she had any conflicts with other people?”
When he heard this, the old man became even more moved. Li Yunian quickly told them all the information he knew. “Many thanks to the young hero! My daughter’s name is Li Xiaopu. This year, she is exactly eighteen years-old.”
“She works in the Rain Monarch Cave. Three months ago, she left early in the morning to pick tea leaves. The daughter of the Wang family who works with her said she still saw my daughter when work was done, but then she disappeared afterwards.”
“My daughter is a good girl, and she has never argued with other people before. She is also extremely filial to the children and the elderly. I don’t know who kidnapped her, or how she is doing now……”
The longer Li Yunian spoke, the more moist his eye rims became. You Jiang knew that in accordance with Fu Hongye’s personality, the youth would probably spend a while to comfort him. Thus, You Jiang rushed to ask first, “Didn’t other people say the Master of the Zhang family wanted to marry her?”
When he heard You Jiang mention this matter, Li Yunian blanked out for a moment. Somewhat puzzled, the old man replied:
“This did happen. Last year, the Zhang family suddenly sent over some betrothal gifts. However, this lowly one couldn’t bear his daughter becoming a concubine, so we didn’t agree. Afterwards, the Zhang family dropped this matter. However, that Zhang family’s Master has also gone missing, but my daughter still hasn’t returned ah.”
Li Yunian’s attitude made it seem like he hadn’t regarded the Zhang family’s Master as the culprit. Upon seeing this, You Jiang’s forehead wrinkled slightly. “Have you gone to the Rain Monarch Cave before?”
The Zhang family sending them a betrothal gift had been something that happened last year. Currently, it was already approaching late autumn, so Li Yunian himself had almost forgotten this matter.
Although he didn’t know why they mentioned the Zhang family, the old man only pointed at his own legs before sighing helplessly. “The Rain Monarch Cave is located in the mountains. With this old man’s legs, even leaving the city is a difficult matter. So it’s impossible for me to go there ah.”
He was telling the truth. If it had been easy for Li Yunian to move around, why would he wait anxiously at home? He would have long searched everywhere for his daughter himself.
However, the slip of paper in the wishing well couldn’t have appeared out of nowhere. If the name of the Zhang family’s Master hadn’t been written by Li Yunian, who else could have had animosity with the Zhang family and wanted him to disappear?
The demonic thing involved in this matter was also very strange. Among the twenty-nine people who had gone missing, there were rich merchants like the Zhang family’s Master, wandering cultivators who had lived in seclusion, and also the evil tyrants within the city. Even a widow with a bad reputation had gone missing.
Among all these people, other than how their names had been written on a slip of paper and thrown into the wishing well, there were practically no other similarities between them.
You Jiang pondered inwardly. When demonic cultivators kidnapped people, they usually chose young boys or girls so they could refine them into spiritual furnaces. They wouldn’t be interested in someone like the Zhang family’s Master, a bag of old bones who had no spiritual energy.
If this was a supernatural, man-eating beast, choosing someone with tender flesh to eat would be the end of the matter. There was no need for it to take great pains and create a wishing well.
Currently, it seemed that other than making everyone feel anxious, the wishing well had no other effects. For the demonic thing to create something like this, exactly what did it plan to do?
Immediately after Li Xiaopu went missing, the Azure Sky Mansion had dispatched people to investigate. But although they searched the entire Rain Monarch Cave, they didn’t find any traces of the girl. The Li family didn’t have any clues about this situation either.
After asking the old man these questions, Fu Hongye said some placations and told Li Yunian to rest early. Following that, the youth held You Jiang’s hand and pulled him onto the street.
Fu Hongye thoughtfully analyzed, “The first person who went missing because of the Rain Monarch Cave wasn’t the Zhang family’s Master, but Li Xiaopu. I think the way to use the wishing well was deliberately released by someone to the public. As long as we find the first person who passed on this matter, we should be able to find some clues. Fengzhi, what do you think?”
What other thoughts could You Jiang have? Since the old man Li didn’t recognize Fu Hongye, it seemed like the youth had fallen into someone’s trap before he even had a chance to start investigating Mingchuan’s matter.
Useless, rotten brat. Quickly yield the “strongest person under the heavens” title to him ah!
You Jiang had lived for a very long time. He had seen many instances of people dying, so he didn’t feel much for this fiasco.
As the demonic leader sneered at Fu Hongye in his heart, he suddenly realized that this youth’s words had a lot of logic behind it. With Fu Hongye’s current behaviour, nobody would believe he had qi deviated.
When he thought of this, You Jiang couldn’t help but harbor suspicions. “You seem quite clear-headed right now. Why do you become crazy the moment you encounter this lord?”
Fu Hongye’s heart demon was really too strange. He avoided everything that was related to the demonic way’s leader, while also turning a blind eye to how You Jiang was using demonic cultivation.
Even if You Jiang stood in front of him, Fu Hongye would only call out the name the demonic leader had abandoned a long time ago. It was like the youth had completely ignored that You Jiang was a demonic cultivator, and only treated Fengzhi as a righteous companion with a bad temper.
The same thing was happening right now too. The youth ignored the demonic patterns at the corners of You Jiang’s eyes. He also didn’t ponder over why this person’s speech and conduct were so abnormal.
Instead, Fu Hongye reached out with a smile. “Fengzhi, let’s go. Let’s join hands to eliminate demons and defend the Dao.”
Punching cotton truly did not feel great, but You Jiang couldn’t do anything to the youth. After all, if he really provoked Fu Hongye until the youth went crazy, You Jiang was afraid they’d have to fight another round in bed.
No matter what, for the safety of his butt, You Jiang decided he had to quickly find a way to restore Fu Hongye’s sanity. However, eliminating demons was one thing, but You Jiang didn’t want anything to do with a nasty matter like defending the Dao.
Thus, the demonic way’s leader immediately warned the youth in a frosty tone, “Don’t get the wrong idea. This demonic thing clearly knows this lord has arrived, but it didn’t leave the city to welcome me. For it to be so egoistical, it ought to die anyway. So this lord is just carrying out the practices of the demonic way. It has nothing to do with you.”
The demonic cultivator spoke in an arrogant manner. The way those phoenix eyes squinted coldly at him really made Fu Hongye want to pinch the other’s cheeks and ask if he couldn’t act cuter.
Luckily, the youth still retained one last strand of sanity, and didn’t actually do something that would definitely make You Jiang angry. Fu Hongye only replied with a gentle smile, “Okay, I understand.”
However, in You Jiang’s eyes, this smile of his looked precisely like it was filled with hidden ridicule. The demonic way’s leader immediately glared at the youth, “Rotten brat, why are you smiling? This lord will slaughter that demonic thing first, but the second thing I’ll do after is to refine you into a spiritual furnace!”
Restraining himself didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Fu Hongye helplessly watched the other man wave his sleeves and leave.
Even though Fu Hongye was still in a delusional state, he could still sense that he was being scorned. The youth could only sigh deeply in his heart.
Alas, so unhappy.
He really wanted to practice the sword.