The mountain path was as empty as it can be. There were no carriages, no passerby, nothing was there, not even wild rabbits.
This situation should not be possible. Tian Shu passing through this path was personally arranged and recorded in the book by Ming Ge Xingjun. He was an ordinary human now, he absolutely cannot escape fate. However, old man Ming Ge clearly told me it’s in the morning, why hasn’t he shown up until afternoon?
Several dozen guards sweat through their clothes. Li Siming’s stomach made gurgling noises; this immortal lord’s hunger was raging. Should I use toilet as an excuse to go to a secluded place and ask an earth deity?1 Just as I thought about it, soft words swept by above me, “Tian Shu Xingjun’s carriage encountered bandits two li from here. He’s already kidnapped into their base. Quickly go!”
When I heard it my mind roared. Old thing Ming Ge, was it fun cheating me!
First things first, getting hold of Tian Shu was essential. I called Leader Wang to me. “Is there a bandit hideout on this mountain?”
Leader Wang said, “Reporting to young lord, there’s one or two gangs of vermin gathered and hid in the mountain”
I waved my sleeve, “Line up our brothers. We’ll deliver that gang of vermin to the mountain authorities.”
The manor’s guards were well-trained. Despite having doubt on his face, Leader Wang didn’t blab anymore. He passed on the order. The guards got up from the shrubs and advanced up the mountain.
They call it a mountain, but really you can only call it a hill, it didn’t even have a proper name. Shang Chuan people nonchalantly call it the Big Slope. Several lumberjacks trod out of the small path, moving through its winding, twisting way. *I carefully led the guards up until we reached a quarter of the mountain. A chill swept through, two men jumped out from the trees.
“Those on this road, come pay your respects to my Hei Feng stronghold!”
The two lowlifes had messy hair, dirty face, tattered clothes. It was clear their business was not going well at all. They haven’t even made a name for themselves in the newspapers. The guards swarmed and took them to the ground, tied the two men up and into a ball, threw them to the curb. We advanced towards the hilltop.
There was only a worn out temple for a mountain god on the hilltop. In front of it stood a fancy banner with three huge words inscribed on it — Hei Feng Stronghold.
Inside the temple were about ten to twenty ragged bandits and a robust self-proclaimed robber king. The guards charged into the god’s temple. In under half an hour all the mountain bandits were bound on the ground. I personally combed through the temple but didn’t see any trace of Tian Shu. I lifted a small bandit at random to ask, “Where did you hide the man in that carriage you seized today? Get him out, I’ll let you all go in return.”
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The crowd of small bandits and their king perked up their ears and heads. The small bandit I asked promptly grinned, he said, “Turns out the nobleman is looking for that sickly guy. The mountain God statue is hollow, that incense burner is a switch, turn it left to open a hidden door. The people are inside.” The small bandit shifted his body, saying quietly, “About ten days ago we targeted it thinking a carriage guarded by four-some-guards would have a big fortune. Who knew inside was only one sickly guy, this is more unlucky.”
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In the ink black secret room, several people were scattered leaning down. They must have passed out from the sleeping gas those bandits poured in.
I silently chanted the Immortal Eyes technique.
Within the dim darkness, one man’s body was covered by faint silvery light. Clear, crisp, and translucent, the Dubhe star’s divine glow. This person had to be Mu Ruoyan.
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Before leaving we released the bandits, they acknowledged their crimes. This immortal lord had always been merciful. In war there are mutinies and rebellions, even getting a bowl of meal was not easy.2
Tian Shu Xingjun was brought back by me to the manor without a hitch.
I should have seized this person, how did it turned into saving him instead?
I told Li Siyuan there was a tip that these people are Nanjun spies, but a search didn’t result in anything. Because Li Siyuan was currently busy with a ton of the manor’s affairs, he said: ‘this matter shall be left to third brother, you can investigate them after watching for a while’. And Tian Shu was carried into the third young lord’s courtyard accordingly.
Following Ming Ge Xingjun’s plans, once Mu Ruoyan woke up I will claim I had fallen for him. In the courtyard I let out two sighs at that face on the stretcher, then told attendants to take him to be thoroughly washed from head to toe.
A red light flashed when I went inside the bedroom. Ming Ge Xingjun stood beside the table. His old face wrinkled as he smiled wide at me and cupped his hand. “Song Yao Yuanjun, the first mission was a great success. Congratulations!”
My face grew bitter. “Xingjun, you played me. I clearly heard seize the man on a mountain path before noon. How did it turn into saving the man in a mountain stronghold.”Ming Ge Xingjun drily smiled, “The line is brief in the book. In the grand scheme it doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter.” Ming Ge fished out his book, flipping it over to get to one page. I went and had a look. The expressive words on it said, ‘At Chen hours, Mu Ruoyan seized on the mountain path. Li Siming captured Mu Ruoyan’.
Ming Ge Xingjun saw that my complexion looked bad. He tucked the book back into his sleeves and put on an earnest look. “All things have variables, destiny also does. Things have turned out like this anyway, and really, it’s a good thing Tian Shu owes you a favour in return.”
I was completely unmoved. “Oh?”
Ming Ge Xingjun raised his sleeves, “Yuanjun accepted Jade Emperor’s order to torment Tian Shu’s incarnations with love trials his whole life. To someone who feels deeply, heartache grieves them the most. Heartache, heartache, what would be the most ruthless pain?”
My heart shook. “Don’t tell me I have to make a show of love and coax Tian Shu to fall for me?”
Ming Ge Xingjun said in a profound manner, “There’s another method: being arrogant and imposing. The choice is left to Yuanjun.”
My face stretched out. All immortals knew this immortal lord had numerous ill-feelings towards Tian Shu Xingjun. Jade Emperor surely thought if I went down I would be ruthless. Whether Tian Shu’s heart will be determined to only love Nan Ming Dijun or moved to have feelings for me, both were fine. No need to care about the method used, whatever misdeed and whatever act would do.
With Ming Ge Xingjun gone, I paced back and forth in the room, circling many times before finally stepping outside.
A maid came to report that that person was clean and presentable now. He was put in an empty side room.
I dallied till I reach the side room, then pulled open the door. I walked to the front of the bed and stared in a daze.
Lying on the bed was the Tian Shu Xingjun I often saw up in heaven. The five facial features were exactly the same as before except for a little difference, yellowish under the white complexion. The man was also a bit thinner.
Intimidated by that portrait from before, seeing this appearance, I immediately felt I have picked up a treasure. In front of this face, Jade Emperor also didn’t seem that cruel.
The pitch-black hair was still damp, it laid loose on the pillow coming down his shoulder. On the other pillow was a piece of jade. I picked it up to check, smooth lustre and sleek, as if someone’s hand frequently stroked it. Could this be the love token Nan Ming Dijun gave him?
Tian Shu Xingjun, whatever *I do from today onwards, don’t you blame me. This Song Yao Yuanjun is not someone who will use official matters to deal with his private complaints. It was Jade Emperor’s orders, I had no other choice. If not me, Jade Emperor would still send another immortal to go down. In this lifetime you will have to take in extreme sufferings
I put the ink jade back near the pillow.
The breathing of that man on the bed slightly changed, his eyelids moved. I pulled myself together as I stood straight by the bed.
A clear gaze with a sliver of distrust was set on my face. I casually smiled at the elegant features I was familiar with for millennia.
“You woke up, young lord Mu?”
His bewildered expression slightly changed. The waxy white face grew even whiter. My cheeks pulled back, deepening my smile a little.
“This humble one is Li Siming, my honourable father Li serves as Eastern County ruler. I had long admired young lord Mu and by chance found out you’ll pass through the county. I would like to specially invite young lord to stay in my humble home.” Ming Ge Xingjun had made it clear, make sure to immediately tell Tian Shu I had fallen for him when he wakes up. This is suddenly striking first and taking advantage of his still unsteady foothold.
Sooner or later it’ll happen. Once his heart opened up, put away the easy smile and change it into a mocking one.
“I once had a dream many years ago. In the dream, there was a celestial being who spent the night with me at Mountain Wu.3 Today, as soon as I saw young lord Mu I knew the celestial being from that dream was in front of me.” I grasped Mu Ruoyan’s skin-and-bones hands and squeezed them with some force.
“Ruoyan, I must have you by my side for life, I will never let go.”
 Local Earth God, each place has different deities looking after it, other gods may summon them to ask about their area. ↑
 In war there are … desperate times, desperate actions. ↑
 “Story of Mountain Wu”: King fell asleep on one of his journeys, in his dream a beautiful woman offered him her woven mat pillow to use. The King accepted it gladly, they meet a couple more times, the woman had a connection to the Mt.Wu. They supposedly had relationship and the phrase meaning could range from innocuous harmony of heaven and earth bringing plentiful harvest to implied do the do. 巫山云雨, 一夜巫山 ↑