Chapter 375: A Strange Village
Yun Jiuge held Zi Shang's hand and steered him towards the ground. After that, she walked towards the middle-aged woman who was wiping her tears. She asked, "Madam, where are we right now? You seem perfectly fine, so why are you crying?"
"This place is called Stone Village. We can't do any farming because the soil is terribly dry today. My husband fell sick again, so I could only sell my daughter to Official Liu for ten silver taels. Because of this, she became his new wife. I have failed her as her mother," the middle-aged woman said as she sobbed.
"Will Official Liu treat your daughter badly?" Yun Jiuge asked again.
"Official Liu is not a local here. Eight years ago, he came here with his two newborn sons and settled down at Jiuxi Town. Shortly after that, he married the daughter of a small family that resided in that town. Soon after their wedding, that lady passed away. I heard that her corpse looked like she was mauled to death by a wild beast.
Half a year later, Official Liu married another lady. She also passed away shortly after the wedding. He claimed that she fell from a cliff to her death, so he could not find her corpse.
Everyone in this town said that he would bring bad luck to his wife, so no decent family would let their daughter marry this man.
Thereafter, he went to poor families in villages and paid money for their daughters. He married five wives consecutively and they passed away one after another. All of their dead bodies were missing."
"My daughter, He Hua, is his eighth wife. I am really scared that she will meet her demise after she marries him!" Tears and mucus were streaming down that middle-aged woman's face. She looked extremely pitiful.
"Since you're aware that Official Liu is a horrible man, why do you still want to let your daughter marry him?" After finding out that this middle-aged woman pushed her daughter into a lion's den for ten silver taels, Yun Jiuge felt that she did not deserve her sympathy.
At that time, I had no knowledge of this. I only heard about this afterwards from a peddler.
I wanted to bring my daughter home, so I hurriedly brought the remaining five silver taels to his residence and told him that I will repay the rest to him in the future. Unfortunately, a robber snatched the money away from me.
Since I did not have any money, Official Liu refused to let her go. My daughter resented me, so she did not want to see me at all. I have really done her wrong!" The middle-aged woman cried even louder.
"Could it be that the reason why your daughter did not want to return home was that Official Liu threatened her with the lives of her family?" Criminals often used this method to make people do what they wanted.
"It must be like that. Young man, you look like a kind person. Please save my daughter!" The middle-aged kneeled, intending to kowtow to Yun Jiuge.
"Madam, please don't act like this. Please stand up quickly." Yun Jiuge helped the middle-aged woman up immediately and consoled her, "I will head to the town now and help you to check on her. However, I am afraid that He Hua wouldn't believe that we are there on your behalf. Do you have any token that can prove our identity to her?"
"I do." The middle-aged woman pulled out a red string from her pocket, which was adorned with many patches, with her trembling hand. She said, "He Hua loved to wear this before she married Official Liu. As soon as she sees this, she will definitely believe you."
Yun Jiuge took the red string from her. After she asked for directions to the town, she comforted the middle-aged woman and gave her ten silver taels to let her husband visit a doctor.
"Young man, you are really generous." The middle-aged woman was very touched by this gesture. She also gave a silver lotus hairpin to Yun Jiuge and said, "The last time I visited my daughter, she instructed someone to pass this to me in private. I have no use for this now so please return this to her.
If she still feels reluctant about coming back and wants to stay with Official Liu instead, then please tell her to take care of herself and save some money for herself. It's my fault for being such a useless mother. When she married him, I didn't even have the capability to prepare some dowry for her." After saying this, the middle-aged woman started crying again.
"Madam, please rest assured that I will pass your message to her." Yun Jiuge accepted the silver lotus hairpin and left the Stone Village to walk to the Jiuxi Town.
"This is merely an illusion. I didn't expect you to be so invested in this." Zi Shang saw that Yun Jiuge was enjoying this experience.
"That middle-aged woman was really worried about her daughter." As long as the middle-aged woman's emotions were sincere, Yun Jiuge felt that it was worth helping her, despite it being an illusion.
"Where did the ten silver taels come from?" Zi Shang asked.
"When we decided to travel to the Lei Kingdom back then, I was afraid that we couldn't use Spiritual Jades to purchase items, so I prepared some money just in case. I also have a lot of gold, silver and precious gems in my Magical Bottomless Bag. Do you want to take some from me so that you can buy some things?" Yun Jiuge grinned.
"You should keep them with you so that you can give them to Official Liu in exchange for He Hua's freedom!" Zi Shang did not mind indulging Yun Jiuge.
Before long, they reached Jiuxi Town.
Jiuxi Town was a small town, as there were only a few hundred people living in this town. Its name came from the nine bends of a creek that flowed through the entire town.
Yun Jiuge went to a small teahouse. After she ordered some tea, she inquired about Official Liu from a thin waiter that served her.
Everything that the waiter told her lined up with what the middle-aged woman had said. Official Liu really had the reputation of a man who jinxed his wives.
However, he was a very nice man. He had donated a lot of money to repair the bridge and roads in Jiuxi Town. He was known as a philanthropist.
Yun Jiuge asked about Official Liu's new wife, He Hua. The thin waiter told her that Official Liu doted on his new wife. He not only brought her out to dine in restaurants, he also brought the best clothing and jewelry for her. This showed how much he loved her.
"What's the use of asking them? We should just visit their residence directly to see her." Zi Shang could not stand seeing Yun Jiuge waste her time on this matter.
"Then let's go there now!" Yun Jiuge and Zi Shang went to Official Liu's residence.
Official Liu was a benign man in his forties. He was a fair-skinned man without a beard.
When he found out that Yun Jiuge was He Hua's relative, he welcomed Zi Shang and her warmly. He even asked He Hua to come out and meet them.
He Hua was a pretty lady. She was clad in brand new clothes made from lilac-colored satin. She was so thin that a strong wind could blow her away.
When she noticed the red string that Yun Jiuge was holding, she said flatly, "My mother worries too much. I'm living a comfortable life and my husband also treats me well. Please tell my mother not to agonize over this."
"Oh please, you're all skin and bones. I'm not convinced that you are living a good life at all." Yun Jiuge thought.
Yun Jiuge believed that He Hua did not have such a skinny figure in the past. Otherwise, she would not be able to work in the fields and help her family with the crops.
However, when she saw Official Liu smirking at her from the side, she did not want to overstep her boundaries. Therefore, she left it at that and took her leave.
As soon as Yun Jiuge stepped out of Official Liu's residence, she asked Zi Shang, "Did you notice anything amiss?"
"I only know that we're in an illusion." Zi Shang had an uninterested expression. No matter how he looked at it, everything was an illusion. What else was there to it?
"This illusion is definitely not as simple as it seems. Let's try to find more information about this place." Yun Jiuge took Zi Shang's hand in hers and walked around the town. After they asked various townsfolk about Official Liu, they learnt more about him.
Firstly, Official Liu came to this town with two newborn babies eight years ago. However, during these eight years, no one in this town had ever seen Official Liu's children outside his residence.
Secondly, every lady who married Official Liu would start to experience nightmares after their wedding. They said that a large monster and two small monsters were harassing them in their dreams.
Lastly, Yun Jiuge found it extremely weird that everyone in this town was as gaunt as He Hua. This was such an odd coincidence!
"Official Liu is either a Mountain Spirit or an Evil Spirit." After Yun Jiuge thought about it carefully, she came to a conclusion.
"If we want to force him to appear in his true form, we must fulfill certain conditions." Zi Shang finally showed some enthusiasm.
"Let's meet He Hua again tonight and ask her about it!" Since Official Liu was present by He Hua's side throughout their visit earlier, even if she had something to tell them, she would not dare to inform them about it.
"If she refuses to leave, then let's knock her out and take her with us." Although they discussed the matter at length, Zi Shang still loved to use violence to solve problems.