Zhuge Yue nodded, and Yue Qi brought several servants to clear the path in front. Swiftly sweeping his gaze through the entire market, he could hear the weeping girl slaves. Turning his head, he saw that these children are merely around eight to 12 years old, and wore shabby clothing that could barely cover their body. The old man looked like he was over sixty, and wore a luxurious set of bright red clothes with gold embroidered ingots. Right now, he donned an evil smile, while perversely touching the girls' tender faces.
Zhuge Yue's brow knitted together, and his eyes were full of disapproval and disgust. He waved his hand, and signaled Zhu Cheng over. Zhuge Yue instructed, "Go, buy those kids."
"Master?" Zhu Cheng was stunned. "Why are we buying slaves? It would be inconvenient along the way."
"When I tell you to buy something, it means you do it. Why so much confusion?"
Having being admonished, Zhu Cheng shuddered, and immediately moved out. At this time, he heard some loud sounds of scoldings. Zhuge Yue turned to observe, and saw that a neat and graceful male slave was kicked to the side. He crawled up, looking excited, as if he was trying to say something. That man was too far away from Zhuge Yue, so his words were inaudible.
Zhuge Yue did not mind either, but unconsciously, he saw in the corner of the cage, there was a frail teenager slumped in the corner. Their shoulder and the clothes were blocked by other slaves, and only the hand and the lower half of the body could be seen.
All of a sudden, it was as if he had been struck by lightning! Zhuge Yue's eyebrows locked together, and his gaze sharply scanned the cage. Although it was just a hand, he felt a strong sense of familiarity. It was as if his blood started boiling, and his heart sped up with the boiling blood. Without much thought, a senseless recklessness sent him jumping off his horse, and pushing into the crowd forcefully.
The crowd was overwhelming and messy, and his shovelling of people brought about scoldings. Not caring about them, Zhuge Yue remained frowning, and after much effort, arrived at the front of the crowd. Holding the iron bars of the cage, he sought for the owner of that hand.
The cage reeked of filth, and was full of cowering bodies and terrified eyes. Many cautiously looked at him, and upon noticing his piercing gaze, immediately avoided eye contact.
Not here, not here, still not here! Anger rose within him. Unsatisfied, Zhuge Yue looked again and again, but was unable to spot any traces. Could he really have seen wrongly? Exasperated, he stood in front of the cage, with his frown even deeper than before.
"Master!" Yue Qi joined him, and confused by his demeanor, cautiously said, "We can leave now."
"Master! Master!" Zhu Cheng trottered forward with almost a dozen young girls trailing behind him. These young girls had suddenly been traded again, and all heaved a sigh of relief knowing that they need not serve that infamous pervert. Frightened, they darted their gazes at their new master, and quickly realized that they were in luck. The slaves in the cages looked at them with jealousy, and desperately hoped that this rich young man would be compassionate enough to purchase them as well.
"Master?" Zhu Cheng carefully called out. The young master had been staring intently at the cage for a while. Could he have spotted another slave of interest?
"Let's go." Zhuge Yue turn around, and brought his servants away from this moral grey zone. Just when he turned around, a blood curdling scream sounded. But alas, that scream had been washed out by the combined cheers of the spectators as they spotted a batch of female slaves going up on the stage! Because of that, Zhuge Yue had not noticed at all, and took his men away from Boss Mu's store and headed towards the Water Transport Yamen.
The sleeping lady let out a shriek of pain, and slumped into Liang Shaoqing's bosom. The old doctor waved the arrowhead at Boss Mu and stated, "Look, such a long segment stuck in her shoulders. If it was left in the shoulders for even one more day, even the gods would not be able to save her!"
In the tent behind the cage, Boss Mu impatiently snapped, "As long as this kid is alive, it'll be fine. Later, there will be rich people coming along. Mix him in and sell him. After he leaves us, I do not care if he lives or dies." With that said, he turned and left the tent.
Liang Shaoqing heaved a long sigh of relief, and thanked the doctor. "Doctor, I really appreciate your help."
The doctor seemed to be a man of compassion. He sighed. "This person just needs rest to recover. On the other hand, in order for him to get treated, you got beaten up. I can tell you are a scholar, how can you survive that? How unfortunate!"
"Doctor, do not fret, I am fine."
"Come here, I will examine you too."
The crowd was boisterous, and the sky was clear, devoid of clouds. Deep into June, the climate of the southeastern region became very warm. Birds of all species flew in the air above the crowds, painting a scenery of prosperity.
Zhuge Yue sat atop his horse in deep contemplation, without uttering a single word.
"Master? Master?" Zhu Cheng shouted at him several times before Zhuge Yue finally noticed. The young master snapped back to reality and asked, "What happened?"
Zhu Cheng sighed, and answered, "Shall I buy a few horses and a carriage? There is no way these children can follow us all the way on foot, right?"
Zhuge Yue turned back, only to see that the young slaves were sweating and panting profusely from chasing after his horse with their short legs. The bunch looked at him with eyes full of anticipation, although traces of fear still could be found.
"Alright," Zhuge Yue approved, "while you are at it, buy some new clothes too."
"Roger, I will go ahead now." Zhu Cheng left, and the entourage moved on. Some of the servants gossiped quietly. "The master is so kind to slaves."
"You didn't know? The master has always been kind to slaves."
"Shut up!" Yue Qi turned around and admonished those gossipers.
The entourage moved slowly, and after an hour, had distanced itself from the marketplace. The streets gradually quieted down, and the Water Transport Yamen was in sight.
"Master!" The sound of many horses galloping came from behind, as Zhu Cheng and a few servants brought the horses and two carriages over. "Master, it has all been done."
Zhuge Yue nodded, and glanced past the horses. Suddenly his brow knitted together, and his eyes squinted, like a leopard who had just spotted its prey. He nudged his horse forward and approached one of the pitch black horses. That horse was different from the other horses, as it was on high alert as he approached. Although in reins, it still took a few steps back, looking at him with suspicion. Anxiously, it was digging the ground with its hooves. Its body was full of wounds. Clearly, it had been beaten up before being bought.
"Liu Xing?" His deep voice resounded. That horse instantly lifted its ears, and looked at him in surprise. Zhuge Yue's face changed, and he continued to speak, "Liu Xing, it is really you?"
The horse cheered, and passionately moved up. It nuzzled against Zhuge Yue's hands as if it had met an old friend.
"Where did you buy this horse?"
"It was at the horse market in front."
"Master, we are running late. Maybe we should not..." Zhu Cheng replied.
"Bring me!" Zhuge Yue bellowed, and his face was completely serious. Zhu Cheng was startled, and dropped to his knees. Not skipping a beat, he responded, "I understand."
Dashing to the horse market, the horsekeeper thought there was something wrong with his horses, and quickly came out to enquire.
"This horse, where did you get it from?"
The horsekeeper's face instantly changed, and he put on a huge smile. "Master, you must be kidding. This horse is my own horse that I brought up since young."
Zhuge Yue's face turned black. He grimly asked, "Let me ask you again, where did you get it?"
"I-I did not lie!"
"Are you going to answer?" Yue Qi pulled out his sword, and set it on the horsekeeper's neck.
"Forgive me and give me one more chance!" the horsekeeper dropped down on all fours and pleaded. "This horse was spotted riderless at Tang Ma Ridge when I was travelling! I never thought it was your horse! If I knew it was yours, even if I had ten times my courage, I would dare not touch it!"
"Giddyup!" Zhuge Yue turned his horse around and sprinted down the original path. Zhu Cheng was stunned yet again. As he caught up, he asked, "Master? Where are we heading?"
Zhuge Yue's frown had once again surfaced, and his face was completely devoid of any expression. But in his gaze, one could vaguely feel a sense of passion that was hard to conceal. He replied slowly, but firmly, "To the slave market."
The streets were bustling, and as their horses raced past, the pedestrians tumbled and fell. Zhuge Yue continued to nudge his horse to go even faster, as his deep blue clothes fluttered in the wind, much like a huge falcon spreading its wings.
Rewinding back to when Zhuge Yue had just left the slave market, another group of personnel arrived shortly after. The butler jumped out of the carriage as Boss Mu entertained and followed him.
Slowly, Boss Mu said, "You have finally arrived. The slaves were already prepared for you, just waiting for your picking."
The butler was easily over 60, and wore a neat and clean blouse. His hair was combed impeccably, and he looked really competent. Walking in front of the slaves, he scrutinized them for a short while, before starting to point at them. "This one, this one, that one, and this one..."
Boss Mu followed him, and took out a notepad to write everything down. In a short while, the butler had picked out 25 slaves. Turning around, he said, "Alright, that is all."
"What?" Boss Mu was stunned. "Just these? Won't you look around some more? There are still a lot more strong slaves. Do you want to look at the back as well?"
"I said, that is all, didnt I?" The old man firmly asserted his decision.
Boss Mu was startled, and immediately nodded in agreement. "Yes, indeed. I had spoke too much."
Just when the old man was about to leave, a crisp voice sounded out. "This wise mister, please give me a minute!"