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108 Disturbance

    Heavy taps come from the wooden plank that covers the door.

    "Who is it?" Li Yang spoke with caution, as the recent days, have placed him on edge. He could not take it if there were more people wanting to take revenge.

    "It's me." Xue'er replies, her voice is slightly raspy, but her words are coherent.

    The wooden plank is lifted. The first thing Li Yang sees is the young girl who seems to have gotten thinner. Her face was paler than any he had seen before. If not for her standing upright with her dark pupils gazing at him, he would have mistaken her for a corpse.

    "What happened to you?" He asks worriedly. His first instinct was to examine her, upon pulling on her sleeve, he found linen bandages wrapped around her wrist. The bandages were stained with a slightly red liquid that he was fairly certain that it was a recent wound.

    "It's fine." Xue'er says assuredly, pulling back her hand, and covering up the bandages with her sleeve. Though her words did not seem at all convincing, it did not seem like she would tell him much more.

    "Why did you come?" He asked.

    "There are soldiers coming to the border town, but that's not why I'm here. I came to tell you that there might be some poisonings mistaken for plague in a small village south of the border town." Xue'er said weakly.

    "And... you want me to go take a look?" Li Yang asks curiously. Strangely enough, she did tell him about soldiers, but what was it about the village stricken with poisoning that was mistaken for the plague.

    "It's your choice." Xue'er said with a shrug. It did not matter to her whether or not he took a look. It did not matter whether the villagers died or not. Some were born with a compassionate heart for all living creatures that could suffer, some were born with one that wanted all living creatures to suffer. While she... she herself did not yet know.

    Seeing that she already informed him of the matter, she left for the alleyway house. Though she was quite certain that Ruo Furen's husband did not like her much, she still wanted to warn them. Even if not for their sake, for the sake of that unborn child.

    The alleyway was as twisted as always. The maze-like walls covered in heaps of snow. The rickety structures of gray stone that threatened to fall down long ago, still stood erect, and held together, supporting the heavy snow drifting from above.

    "Hello?" Xue'er called, knocking on the door.

    "Anyone home?" Her call was not answered, so she knocked again. Without an answer, she pushed open the door. The room revealed was empty, showing no signs of anyone living here for a while. In the corner, she heard the squeaks of a small creature. It was a small mouse that was out under the legs of the table but immediately disappeared into a hole in the wall at the sudden noise.

    "Ruo Furen..." Xue'er called out again.

    No answer.

    She checked all the rooms. All the clothes were gone, along with the daily necessities. The door did not show any signs of forced entry, and there was no smell of blood within the empty room.

    She came to the conclusion that they had left willingly, Xue'er was quite relieved. It was good that they left, she would not have known how to explain to them that she had seen soldiers who were still hundreds of li away marching towards the border town.

    With a basket in hand, she went back to her little cottage to rest.

    It was daytime, a particularly bright day at the Bordertown. The sun was not accompanied by any sense of warmth, but it was still good to see the sun out after many days of gloom.

    Lady Lan was on the third floor reading through some documents that had been left by madam Lu over the time that she had been away. Her brows furrowed at the strangely occurring deaths of the rich merchant, and boss of the trafficking organization.

    "Wu, wu... "

    Her lips drew into a straight line as she heard the pitiful sobs of the girl downstairs. Though the girl was one floor beneath her, in a room that was far away, with her good hearing, she could hear the girl's low and muffled sobs.

    Ah, curse this good hearing. Her fingers massaged her forehead. What a headache it was, that she was unable to concentrate. Whoever said that brothels were quiet in the morning should be drawn and quartered.

    "Have servant Zhao come here." She ordered.

    "Lady Lan." There was a knock on the door.

    Servant Zhao entered. Her head was slightly bowed, and her hair was slightly unkempt, with wisps of white fraying from her head. Lady Lan closely inspected her. It was hard to imagine that what was once a beauty that had the entire capital vying for her would one day end up like this in her old age, with no children to care for her.

    Lady Lan nodded, when she was certain that the elderly servant was listening, she said: "I couldn't help but hear the sobs of a girl from the lower floor."

    Servant Zhao said, "Ah, that must be Fen Chun, last night Wang Daren came and picked her, you see, after he left this morning, she didn't stop crying." Spoken in a low voice, it seems, though each sentence was clear enough.

    "Make it stop." Lady Lan said abruptly, but after a slight pause, she said, "You can send her off to a quiet place if you wish."

    Servant Zhao curtsied before quickly making her way to the second floor, where she saw Fen Chun lying on the bed, her eyes were red and swollen from crying the entire night. She lay with her back facing everyone, her body was still except for her body which rose slightly, gasping for breath after crying for so long. Unexpectedly, madam Lu was in the room, sitting on the bed. Her hands were patting the girl's thin and helpless back.

    "There, there, don't cry." Madam Lu said in a soft voice. This sound was a little too frightening to the girl who had only heard madam Lu yell.

    "Why are you here?" Madam Lu asked upon seeing servant Zhao show her face.

    "Lady Lan was too bothered hearing the sounds of crying, and had me see."

    "You know what's up, it's not like you didn't put up resistance the first time. Let her be bothered!" Madam Lu did not seem to care what the lady on the third floor though as, to her, anything that could annoy her was something she wouldn't mind doing.

    Servant Zhao whispered in the woman's ears "Lady Lan has said that we can send her off to someplace quiet if we wish."

    "Fine, prepare it if you wish, but I'm warning you, this can't be done for everyone, or I'll lose all my business." Madam Lu stared directly into servant Zhao's old yet bright eyes.

    Servant Zhao wordlessly nodded, before preparing some tea and cakes for the girl to quiet her down. By noon, the Hundred Flower Hall settled down, there no longer any ghost-like wailings could be heard from within in.
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