Master Fang naturally referred to Master of the Fang Family, Fang Nianjun, who was killed by mountain bandits.
Although County Magistrate Li had not been an official then, he knew of this old incident.
When thinking of that incident, his smile reached his eyes. Obviously, he was very pleased.
"It really is such a distant memory. They're quite slippery this time," he said. "We've been foiled several times."
"If they managed to avoid it again, they still must return here. There will be a thousand, ten thousand paths that lead to King of Hell's palace," the voice in the prison said with obvious mirth. He was then attacked by a fit of violent coughing.
"Can you hold on?" asked County Magistrate Li in concern.
The violent cough stopped after a while.
"Oh, I can hold on. I've been holding on for so many years, I'm afraid I'm at my end," he said, wheezing.
"Yes, you have been wronged," said County Magistrate Li. "But this is all we can do to find Young Master Fang as soon as possible, and cut through the tangled hemp."
The voice inside responded affirmatively.
"Well, I'll go wait for the news. I reckon all will be well soon. This time they won't be able to take a detour," said County Magistrate Li.
The voice inside didn't say anymore, agreeing.
County Magistrate Li turned and walked out, then took a break for a moment.
"Deliver the meal," he shouted, commanding the runners to push a strange scented dish into the cell.
A single hand poked out of the cell, grabbing the plate. The shackles clanged with the movement, and. the dry grass the prisoner was sitting on rustled as he shifted. He pushed back his dried-weed-like hair, exposing Shopkeeper Song's face. He lowered his head and started eating the food in the plate ravenously.
"Make do with these meals, and you'll be able to eat a beheading meal in a few days. It will be rich," said the prison guard.
Song Yunping lowered his head and chuckled.
"Yes, beheading, beheading. I'll be beheaded," he said.
The prison guard simply took him for a crazy and went out humming a little song.
In scorching hot June sun, dust kicked up on the road, making the travelers look even more travel-worn than they were.
Now this group of dusty, travel-worn people stood under the sun and looked down at the towering gully ahead, cutting an even sorrier figure.
"Noble Son Jiu, we surveyed it several times. There really is no problem," Manager Gao said, raising his arm to wipe off his sweat and flicking his sleeve. "What is your instinct saying now?"
Zhu Zan rolled his eyes at him.
"I just sense something is not right," he said.
Manager Gao knew what this statement meant after having heard it throughout the whole trip.
"Noble Son Jiu, this is the only path we can take. We really cannot go around it," Manager Gao said helplessly.
Zhu Zan looked before them and frowned.
"How many enemies have you provoked?" he asked. "How can you have such an unpeaceful travel? I have really lost on fees."
'There really was no peace on the road, but all of this was just you getting startled by nothing, seeing an enemy soldier in every bush and tree,' thought Manager Gao.
Until now, he hadn't seen what his instincts sensed.
The atmosphere was as quiet as usual.
But no worry. Even when faced with awkward silence, Zhu Zan could easily continue talking.
"Never mind." He waved his hand. "If we can't go around it, we will go through it. Who cares if it's not peaceful. Just kill as we go. I am a hot-blooded man."
Then why didn't he say let's just kill as we go during the previous unpeaceful encounters?
Was it because there was no way to go around that he wanted to kill his way through?
Was that what he called hot-blooded?
Being hot-blooded shouldn't be just doing things because they can't be helped...
Manager Gao felt a bit awkward.
"That's nonsense hot-bloodedness. It's just stupidity," Zhu Zan said. "If you can avoid it, why take risks? To show that you're brave? Being brave is not to die pointlessly. Being brave is to live. Making through danger alive is hot-bloodedness."
Stupidity? Bravery is not to die, but to live?
Miss Jun thought about it in the carriage. When she found out the truth, she shouldn't have rushed to the imperial palace to kill the emperor. Instead, she should have settled down, bore with the humiliation, lay on the firewood and tasted the gall until she could achieve her revenge?
She couldn't think about how she might have achieved that.
No matter if she pretended not to know or not, the emperor was always on guard against the siblings.
There may have been another way, but Princess Jiuling was dead. She didn't need to wonder what she would have done if she was alive. She should think about what she should do as the living Jun Jiuling.
"Speaking of this..." Zhu Zan raised his eyebrows. "Why would you want me to risk my life if we could go around. You gave me ten thousand taels, and you wanted to buy my life? Are you stupid, or am I stupid?"
'I'm stupid,' Manager Gao said in his heart. 'You are right.'
He looked to Miss Jun in the carriage.
"Just do what Noble Son Jiu says," said Miss Jun.
She always said this exact sentence.
Manager Gao assented.
"Go on, go on. Line up, everyone," he shouted, moving his horse forward. "Through the gully."
"Through the gully," the team shouted out in unison.
Their voices echoed in the gully. On one hand, this was a clear road. On the other hand, if there were bandits, they would think about it twice when there were this many people.
Zhu Zan did not ride his horse, but rode in the carriage, too. He played with a knife absentmindedly.
On the side, a bow was slung on his horse's side. It was covered by a cloth.
The bow was a government manufactured weapon. An ordinary person could not obtain it.
"I really feel like I'm losing here," he said. "I got too little money this time."
"Because of the bow?" asked Miss Jun.
"Yes, you can even obtain this bow, so you obviously have great status. If someone so powerful is forced to escape, you can see that the other party is even more powerful," Zhu Zan said.
"In fact, we are not fleeing," Miss Jun said after a moment's thought.
Zhu Zan turned and fixed her with a weird look.
"What the hell! I'll lost even more then," he said suddenly.
Lei Zhonglian did not understand the dialogue between the two
If they weren't escaping, he would lose more?
Luckily, even though this man was a chatterbox and all of his noise turned people speechless, sometimes, listening to him was relaxing.
When he gave a detailed explanation, there were numerous times when his passionate deluge made one realize just how smart he was and how foolish they were.
"So it was a bait," Zhu Zans said, looking at Miss Jun, then at Fang Chengyu. "You're quite courageous."
Bait? Lei Zhonglian was surprised.
An idea flashed through his head. This time, he did need to wait until Zhu Zan explained, because shouts came from all around him.
"This road belongs to me!"
"I grew this tree!"
"If you want to pass through!"
"Pay the fee!"
The voices mixed and blended together perfectly. They shouted, one right after the other. The entire valley echoed with their voices. It was like a trap falling from the sky, like a net, snapping up from below.
The travelers were thrown into confusion, and the guards looked surprised. The horses raised their hooves and whinnied.
Lei Zhonglian stiffened as he clenched the rains.
He looked in front of him and behind and saw people emerging like bamboo shoots after a rain. They stood with their clubs and other weapons raised, dressed in holey clothing as they yelled loudly. Instantly, goosebumps covered Lei Zhonglian from head to toe.
The scene from his nightmares was back.
These people had come again.
"Sure enough, it's a big loss," Zhu Zan's said, his voice ringing from the side. He put the knife back into its sheath at his waist and jumped out of the carriage. He exhaled and stroked his chin. "There is quite a bit of firewood."