Huge thanks to for helping me to edit this chapter!
[Chapter 23 - Mountain of gold outside the city] Lan Ji is at Yan Hui(1) inn
It must be said, although the nei gong methods that Nan Mo Ye sent over seemed preposterous, it was actually somewhat useful. After learning it, Duan Bai Yue felt that his entire body had become relaxed and settled; even his internal energy was more stable than before.
Duan Nian could finally be at ease, after worrying for an entire night, fearing that he would become deranged.
People were still going to and fro the Wu dealership; Duan Bai Yue found a tree branch, hidden from sight, continuing to keep watch over the dilapidated guesthouse. After two days, a horse carriage really came inside; it was the servant from the previous time; first he moved the goods, box by box, from the carriage, then carried them one by one on his back into the house; the goods were all wooden components, therefore, not light; he seemed to be unbearably tired.
When he carried another box of items inside, Duan Bai Yue took the chance and leaped into the courtyard, taking a glimpse of the inside through the worn-out window frame, and saw that there was really a secret entrance; it was usually covered by a few pieces of worn-out wood; if not examined closely, it is easily overlooked.
After roughly calculating how much time that worker used to make a trip to and fro, Duan Bai Yue got an idea, intending to go down and see just what's inside.
There was still three boxes left in the courtyard; the servant took a deep breath, exerting all his strength to get the goods onto his shoulder, and walked slowly down the stairs of the secret passage. Duan Bai Yue followed after him silently; after walking for five minutes, only then did they reach level ground, and it's not known just how deep they dug down either.
The lighting was dim, and the servant was also carrying a big box on his shoulder, and doesn't seem to know any martial arts, and thus didn't realize that there was someone behind him. He only cared about walking forward; after they went through a long underground passage, then did it brightened up, and along with it came the sounds of talking and working.
Seeing the servant arrive, the people inside all greeted him, then continued to lower their head and do their own things. Duan Bai Yue hid in the dark places; seeing the scene inside, he frowned slightly. The main hall at the end of the underground passage had at least a hundred people, with shelves for goods built near the walls; various types of wooden components were piled up tidily on the shelves; the jobs of the woodworkers were separated clearly, sitting neatly in three rows, their rapport obvious; it seems like they have worked together for a long period of time.
After the servant put down the box, he wiped his sweat and went out to carry the remaining two boxes. Duan Bai Yue didn't follow him out, but stayed to observe for the moment, confirming that the end product was placed into that wooden box, then a layer of paint was painted on it; after the paint had dried, they were piled up in the corner, waiting to be sent to other places.
A faint fragrance of flowers permeated through the air, unable to be placed, but it was very familiar. When Duan Yao was raising gu, he often used the flower to refine poison; its name is b.u.t.terfly Wing Orchid (2), and has the effect of increasing the potency of the poison. Pants and grunts came from the other end of the underground passage; it was the servant moving in the last wooden box; Duan Bai Yue followed behind him as before, leaving the secret chamber together.
In the relay station, Chu Yuan, looking through the imperial reports, heard eunuch Si Xi announce outside that King Duan is back.
"It looks like you have found something." Chu Yuan raised his head and looked at him, "Or else you wouldn't have returned so early."
"If nothing was found, then isn't Xu Zhi Qiu a little too good at keeping secrets." Duan Bai Yue sat by the table, "Today, another batch of new components were sent into the dilapidated guesthouse again; I followed the worker down the secret passage to take a look."
Chu Yuan, was shocked: "You went down the secret passage?"
"I can't go?" Duan Bai Yue obviously didn't manage to understand his meaning.
Chu Yuan frowned, but didn't say anything.
Duan Bai Yue thought about it, then smiled, "Worrying about me?"
Chu Yuan's ears reddened, a faint anger in his eyes — he seemed to be angry at himself, why was he unable to remain calm just now.
"Since I dared to follow him down, I, of course, know my limits." Duan Bai Yue didn't continue to tease him either, shifting back to the original topic by himself, "That servant doesn't seem to know martial arts, and didn't realize anything anyway. The underground chamber is dug very deep; it's as we have thought previously, there are roughly a hundred woodworkers; neat and tidy with good coordination, they are most likely the people who 'went out to do great business', causing their neighbors to be green with envy."
"A hundred people and more, there are that many people?" Chu Yuan asked, "What are they all doing?"
Duan Bai Yue said: "I don't recognize it, it seems to be some kind of trap, they were all put into the wooden boxes we saw that day, and they seem to contain the poison of gu."
"It's that complicated?" Chu Yuan frowned deeply.
"Although I don't know what it is, I can still remember the approximate shape of the parts.", Duan Bai Yue asked, "Do you want to find someone to ask about them?"
"Find who?" Chu Yuan guessed, "Tian Yu?"
Duan Bai Yue nodded, "Although he's young, he's this city's best woodworker, and likes to listen and read stories, it's not impossible that he knows about it."
Chu Yuan nodded in approval, "Good."
"There are too many people in the day, I will bring him over at night." Duan Bai Yue said, "The time is still early, there are a fire performance outside, do you want to see it?"
"Go out?" Chu Yuan, in doubt, "What if we are seen by someone?"
"If we are seen then we are seen, is there anyone who can say that the emperor is not allowed to go out to see a performance?" Duan Bai Yue can't help but laugh, "I can simply put on a disguise."
Staying in the house for a whole day, it's certainly a bit stuffy, so Chu Yuan didn't object any further.
The fog was heavy and the weather was cool; before going out the door, Duan Bai Yue took a cloak, lightly placing it on his shoulders.
Eunuch Si Xi thought happily, Xi Nan King is certainly considerate, he even picked a thicker cloak.
As for the so-called fire performance, it was nothing but a way of the folk performers to amuse kids, building a platform, pulling on a piece of cloth, playing the Suona(3), beating the drums, and a scene matching that of a Goddess was acted out. The adults in the city had nothing to do after eating their dinner, thus when they passed by, they also stopped to see for a while; there was a lot of people, so it was lively too.
The show wasn't really worth seeing, but Chu Yuan somewhat liked standing in the crowd. No one realized that the emperor was right beside them, everyone was laughing and talking, eating melon seeds, their smiles sincere and real.
Thus Chu Yuan's eyes also had a hint of a smile.
Duan Bai Yue bought a bag of roasted melon seeds, passing it to him: "There's yan jing(4) powder added, it's sweet."
Chu Yuan felt like laughing, and exchanged a glance with him.
"What are you afraid of, those old foxes from the court also can't see this." Duan Bai Yue said quietly by his ear, "No one will jump out and say the royal decorum is lost."
Chu Yuan grabbed a handful of melon seeds from his hand, leisurely and slowly cracking them between his teeth.
The stage creaked and squeaked, the people on it were performing the show with rough voices. When the lovers were finally reunited, the audience started a thunderous applause, all saying that the story was fantastic.
Chu Yuan also threw a few small pieces of gold towards the stage: "Let's go, it's time to go back."
Duan Bai Yue tied up his cloak, forging a way out of the crowd using his shoulder, returning with him to the relay station.
Eunuch Si Xi opened the door for the two of them with a smile, thinking in his heart that it was rare to see the emperor like this, even his eyes were brightly lit.
"If you like it, next time I can bring you to see others." Duan Bai Yue helped him put the cloak to one side.
Chu Yuan nodded, "Yes."
"It's almost time, I will go and bring Tian Yu over." Duan Bai Yue said.
"Xiang Lie is around." Chu Yuan said, "Let him go instead."
Duan Bai Yue had his doubts, but switched to happiness instead.
This seems to be the first time the emperor kept the king by his side of his own accord.
Chu Yuan avoided his sight, "He's just a minor artisan, and didn't see you before; it's to prevent him from getting shocked, just in case."
"Yes." Duan Bai Yue pulled a chair over and sat by his side, "I'm so fierce, it's better for me to not run around." His tone was very serious.
Chu Yuan pretended not to have heard him, and reached out to pour himself a cup of tea.
After roughly half an hour, Tian Yu was secretly brought to the relay station by Xiang Lie. As he had met the emperor before, and knows that he is quite kind and not fierce, this time he is much more relaxed.
Chu Yuan took a pile of papers, asking Si Xi to pass to him: "Does this young teacher know what this is?"
Duan Bai Yue disguised himself and wasn't removed, standing behind him as an imperial guard.
"This?" Tian Yu flipped through two pages, shaking his head, "I don't have much of an impression."
"Don't be anxious." Chu Yuan said. "Look through it slowly."
Tian Yu didn't dare to remiss, examining it closely for a long time, before saying, stunned, "Could it be Gui Mu Xia(5)?"
"What item is Gui Mu Xia?" Chu Yuan heard these three words for the first time.
"That is a box trap prohibited by the ancestors." Tian Yu hesitated, "But this commoner can't be certain whether this is it or not, I have never seen the real item before, not even the blueprints; it's only mentioned when the elderly are telling stories to the kids."
"Why is it prohibited?" Chu Yuan asked.
"This...." Tian Yu kneeled on the ground, "The elderly all said, a predecessor originally only wished to create a concealed weapon, that can kill and yet is invisible, protecting his life in times of crisis. So, he single-mindedly researched on it for many years; who knew that in the end he gradually fell into temptation, finally creating Gui Mu Xia just before his death. When opened, a great number of needles can shoot out; the head of the needles are dipped in poison, gu chong is hidden in the needle hole. Once the Gui Mu Xia is opened, even if facing seventy or eighty men, it's still hard for them to defend against; no matter who it is, as long as they are infected by the gu chong, they will instantly be killed and become rigid."
"It's this cruel?" Chu Yuan frowned.
Duan Bai Yue also shook his head on the inside, if Xu Zhi Qiu is really creating this item in private, then he really should be killed.
"Gui Mu Xia was well regarded for a while, until the descendants started massacring each other, causing entire families to be killed; only then did an ancestor of good moral standing and prestige ordered to put to the torch all of the Gui Mu Xia, even the blueprints were burned to ashes under the eyes of the entire clan." Tian Yu said, "Ever since then, Da Yan city revived its reputation by creating all kinds of tables, chairs, stools, horse carriages and beds, eventually gaining the reputation of being the founding place of carpentry; And so, Gui Mu Xia became just a rumor, and has never appeared again."
"So it turns out." Chu Yuan said, "So in this world now, there shouldn't be anyone alive who has seen Gui Mu Xia before."
"It should be this way." Tian Yu nodded.
"We troubled this young teacher." Chu Yuan indicated to Si Xi to bring him away and reward him.
"Eunuch, there's no need to worry." Tian Yu placed the notes into his sleeve, "This commoner knows what can be said and what cannot be said."
Eunuch Si Xi laughed, getting Xiang Lie to secretly send him back.
A clever person; he will be liked wherever he goes.
"It's most likely this then." Duan Bai Yue said, "When I went down to the secret chamber today, I certainly smelled a hint of the fragrance of b.u.t.terfly Wing Orchid; this flower originates from Xi Nan and is only used when refining gu."
"Scoundrels!" Chu Yuan's eyes are cold, visibly extremely angry.
Duan Bai Yue sighed internally, patting his hand lightly, "No use being angry, as matters stand, what must be done is to think of ways to solve this problem."
With such a number of Gui Mu Xia, obviously it wasn't bought by someone in Jianghu. The sales of Da Yan city's wood products are very good, even the merchants from Nanyang are vying for it; if they want to hide thousands or even ten thousands of wooden boxes in the normal goods, it would be quite easy -- in just a batch of normal red wood closets, a few hundred Gui Mu Xia can be hidden inside secretly without anyone noticing.
As for why other countries are willing to buy such items at high prices, it does not need to be said.
A single Gui Mu Xia can possibly take the lives of tens of Great Chu's officers and soldiers; thinking about it now, Chu Yuan only hates that he can't hack Xu Zhi Qiu into a thousand pieces.
Duan Bai Yue stood behind him, his warm and dry hands gently covering his eyes.
Chu Yuan froze.
"Don't have the look of murder in your eyes." Duan Bai Yue said softly, "These matters of slaughter, just let me handle it."
"Xu Zhi Qiu, just where did this impudence of his come from?" Chu Yuan stood up abruptly.
"Humans die for riches, just as birds die for food(6)," Duan Bai Yue said, "It's not that strange to be tempted; selling Gui Mu Xia will earn an actual mountain of gold."
Chu Yuan said, "No matter how many he sold previously, from today onwards, this item must absolutely not escape out of the city again."
Duan Bai Yue nodded, "Yes."
During their talk, eunuch Si Xi announced outside once again, saying that Commander Xiang was seeking an audience.
"Summon him!" Chu Yuan sat back by the table, indicating for Duan Bai Yue to temporarily hide behind the screen.
"Your Majesty." Xiang Lie greeted after coming in, "There has been some activity at the magistrate."
"What activity?" Chu Yuan asked.
"The person from the demonic sect went to find Xu Zhi Qiu again, the two of them have already reached an agreement, tomorrow afternoon they are going to dig up the mountain of gold at Lie Ya(7) mountain.
"Xu Zhi Qiu is going personally?" Chu Yuan continued asking.
Xiang Lie nodded, "Yes."
"We have troubled Commander Xiang." Chu Yuan said, "Continue to watch him, see just how much is in that mountain of gold."
Xiang Lie received the order and retreated, bafflement still in his heart.
Why is there someone behind the screen again.
Just who is this, why are they staying in the emperor's bedroom everyday.
Duan Bai Yue asked, "Want me to go and keep watch too?"
"There's no need, with Xiang Lie, it's enough; with too many people, you may act rashly and alert the enermy." Chu yuan said, "Let's just see what will happen first."
"That's also good." Duan Bai Yue crouched by his side, "The time is not early, want to rest?"
Chu Yuan shook his head, distraught with anxiety.
"I understand." Duan Bai Yue said forlornly, "I didn't feel this way just now, but looking at you like this, I really want to slaughter Xu Zhi Qiu."
"If the law is violated, a justice of peace will handle him." Chu Yuan said, "The laws of the country are greater than heaven's, no one can escape it."
"You see, you even know the reasoning, yet you still can't get over it." Duan Bai Yue stood up, arranging his collar, "Even if you don't sleep for this night, what will happen, other than tiring your body, there doesn't seem to be any other use."
Chu Yuan said: "We don't want to hear you talk about reasoning."
Duan Bai Yue smiled: "You don't want to hear my reasoning, then what should I talk about. How about endearments?"
Chu Yuan stared blankly, feeling that he seemed to have heard something wrong.
Duan Bai Yue looked at him, a smile hidden behind his eyes; under the candlelight, his eyes are full of gentleness.
Then, eunuch Si Xi heard a sound of clattering from the room.
A moment later, Duan Bai Yue came out from the room, and sat on the steps, looking at the moon calmly.
Eunuch Si Xi looked at him with a profound expression.
With the personality of the emperor, it can't be rushed, it can't be rushed.
On the second day, after having his meal, Xu Zhi Qiu, as expected, sneakily got on a horse carriage and went out of the city.
Although there's Xiang Lie keeping watch, Duan Bai Yue still followed him all the way. There's nothing to do at the relay station anyway, why doesn't he come out to solve the problem instead -- it can prevent a certain someone from being bothered about this matter all day and night, and eat without tasting the food.
After the carriage left the city, it stopped by the roadside; Xu Zhi Qiu got down and walked a patch of the road by himself, turning and going uphill and downhill, until finally stopping below the cliff of a hill.
There were already two women waiting there; Duan Bai Yue is also familiar with them; they are both attendants of Lan Ji, and even s.n.a.t.c.hed Duan Yao before in the forest.
Seeing Xu Zhi Qiu, one of the attendants smiled and said, "This lord is certainly generous and giving."
Xu Zhi Qiu felt his heart ache, his body ache, and didn't have the mood to tease her back, only throwing the key bluntly towards her.
The attendant wasn't angry either; after picking up the key, she put it into a mechanism in a stone; a faint rumble came from the ground; the cliff wall, originally full of vines climbing all over, slowly split apart into a small crack.
Duan Bai Yue shook his head on the inside; this is really a city of traps. Even a private warehouse is designed so elaborately.
The sun is shining bright in the sky; from Duan Bai Yue's direction, the inside was a layer resplendence; to talk of it like a mountain of gold or silver doesn't seem like an exaggeration at all.
Xiang Lie also clicked his tongue in his heart, truly pitying the elder Lord Xu; looks like he will be losing a son in his old age. This kind of corruption, even beheading ten heads is not enough.
The attendants went into the cave and examined it, and were extremely satisfied, saying to Xu Zhi Qiu, "This place has nothing to do with this lord after this, after my sect leader finishes taking away the items, we will return the key to this lord."
"I have already given the money, the matter that your sect leader promised me, you better accomplish it!" Xu Zhi Qiu spit rudely.
"This lord doesn't need to worry, our Tian Sha sect has always walked our talk." The attendant's voice was crisp and clear; after hearing this, Duan Bai Yue felt that it was laughable; this evil woman does have a thick skin, she even dares to declare that her own demonic sect is trustworthy.
Xu Zhi Qiu sighed and sighed again, and didn't want to stay any longer, turning to return to the magistrate; Xiang Lie also followed him all the way, fearing that someone may assassinate him along the way. Duan Bai Yue followed those two attendants secretly, returning to Da Ya city's Yan Hui inn.
"Congratulations to sect leader, congratulations to sect leader." The attendants said outside the door, "The items have been taken."
Laughter came from the room, with Lan Ji opening the door personally: "I have troubled these two Hu Fa(8).
In his hiding spot, Duan Bai Yue rubbed his chin, he totally didn't think that Lan Ji would personally come here.
When he returned to the relay station, the sky has thoroughly darkened; Chu Yuan had just finished listening to Xiang Lie report about today's matters, and was drinking tea inside.
"The King has come a little late today." Eunuch Si Xi quickly whispered, "The emperor hasn't even had his dinner. Instead, he kept waiting."
Duan Bai Yue smiled, and after saying thanks, reached out and opened the door.
Chu Yuan put down the teapot in his hands, "Where did you go today?"
"Yan Hui Inn." Duan Bai Yue replied, "Lan Ji is staying there."
"The leader of Tian Sha sect?" Chu Yuan said, "Then did you see Mu Zhi Lao Ren or the rest of the elderly from the charity hall?"
"I searched the whole place, they are not there." Duan Bai Yue shook his head.
Chu Yuan sighed, "We still don't know just where they're hidden."
"Since they were kidnapped and not killed, then it shows that they have some use, they won't have danger to their lives for the time being." Duan Bai Yue said, "We can simply search slowly."
Chu Yuan replied, "Yes."
"Is today's meal still vegetables and beancurd?" Duan Bai Yue asked suddenly.
Chu Yuan: "........."
"Seeing that a mountain of gold was found, let's eat something good." Duan Bai Yue's eyes were sincere.
"The mountain of gold is Xu Zhi Qiu's initially, and now it's Tian Sha sect's, what does it have to do with you." Chu Yuan's tone had laughter in it; he bent his finger and knocked on the bridge of Duan Bai Yue's nose, "You get a bowl of vegetarian noodles at most. It is up to you whether or not you want to eat it."
(1) Yan Hui: 雁回 - lit. wild goose, returning. Since the city is called Da Yan city, so it's a reference to that.
(2) b.u.t.terfly Wing Orchid: 蝶翼兰 - I just translated it literally.
(3) Suona: 唢呐 - A Chinese musical instrument.
(4) Yan jing powder: 盐津粉 - lit. salt, sweat, powder. I can't find the equivalent term in english so I'm not quite sure what it is either, but it should be the white powder that is found on dried fruits sometimes, such as preserved dried melon. Despite the name it's sweet. Should be something like caster sugar?
(5) Gui Mu Xia: 鬼木匣 - lit. ghost wood box.
(6) Humans die for riches, just as birds die for food: 人为财死，鸟为食亡, an idiom.
(7) Lie Ya: 猎崖 - lit. hunting cliff.
(8) Hu Fa: 护法 - lit. protect, law. I think the author is using it to mean a position in the sect - the deputy head of the sect in this case. The actual meaning is "protector of Buddhism".