How ominous? The night was still so young, yet the playful moon has already decided to abandon this city, leaving it well within the comforts of the shadows. [Oh, but it may be better for the city to be shrouded in the dark tonight. There is after all, far too many curious incidents taking place right now] an amused but equally frustrated Meng Su thought to herself. Her eyes kept observing one of the main causes, Liu Ding Yiu. [My darling Ding Yiu, you’re such an instigator of unpredictability as usual. And that means, effort] Meng Su continued to silently think.
As though catching onto Meng Su’s dissatisfaction, Liu Ding Yiu finally turned to address her, “What is it?”
Meng Su looked at Liu Ding Yiu for a moment. Liu Ding Yiu is a daughter of the prominent wealthy merchant family. Though her position within the family has always been contested due to her not being the birth child of her current step-mother, original owner of the family business. Liu Ding Yiu’s father had remarried into his current wife’s family sometime after Ding Yiu’s birth mother was mysteriously murdered. [And to uncover the truth about your mother’s death] Meng Su smiled, [Ding Yiu, you even dare to get involved in the underworld business like this].
“Ah, my Ding Ding, must you even ask?” Meng Su finally replied. “You’ve just bought off some slaves from that hateful underworld merchant, with almost all our money. Are we having a massive party I was unaware of?”
“You’re talking nonsense,” Ding Yiu said, “Come and help me release all of them.”
Meng Su twirled the umbrella in her hand and obediently followed Ding Yiu towards the small locked warehouse, currently imprisoning the slaves. It’s been quite some time since Liu Ding Yiu has set foot into the underworld business. She’s so far survived quite well, but Meng Su nevertheless worries for her. Liu Ding Yiu remains a decent person despite the dealings and tricks she has played within the underworld. Such as tonight, even to Meng Su’s frustration, she has done another good deed by buying and freeing some slaves that were most likely kidnapped or taken by force by the underworld merchant.
CLICK. Ding Yiu had unlocked the door with the keys. A small creaking sound swiftly followed as she pushed open the door. Already oozing from within its cold walls was a stench of filthiness. Meng Su and Ding Yiu could only very faintly see clumps of body huddling, chained, or lying on the floor from the weakly flickering candlelight in the furthest corner of the room. Ding Yiu took a step into the filthy confinement. Almost at the exact same time, a shadowy figure hiding behind the door had lunged forwards towards Ding Yiu. The action was fast. But Meng Su reacted faster by hitting that outstretched hands holding the broken shard, with her umbrella, otherwise Ding Yiu would’ve been hurt.
“Ahh…” the shadowy attacker cried as Meng Su knocked them to the floor with her umbrella.
Meng Su stepped in front of Ding Yiu, facing the attacking slave. “Why are you attacking us? We’ve only just arrived you know.”
“Die, you evil people,” the attacking slave yelled, getting back up to attempt another attack.
“We’re here to set you free,” a very calm Liu Ding Yiu shouted, making sure she could be heard loud and clear.
Her words seemed to have worked as the attacking slave froze on the spot. The other more timid and scared slaves in the room also turned their gaze towards Ding Yiu. Only one thing was on their minds – is what this person said – true?
“D-did you say,” a very scared young boy in the corner voiced.
Ding Yiu pushed the door open to its fullest and stepped to the side. “Exit is this way. Do as you please. We won’t stop or hurt any of you.”
The slaves in the room glanced nervously at one another, not understanding the current situation.
“What schemes are you playing at now?” the slave who attacked demanded.
Annoyed, Meng Su lightly grabbed the slave’s shirt and pulled them towards her. Short hair, skinny build, and an annoying pair of watery glaring eyes. “Now little boy,” Meng Su spoke, “Stop being rude to us. We’re just here to open the door and give you a chance to escape.”
“C-can we really go?” one slave questioned.
“You’re really setting us free,” another called out.
Ding Yiu tapped the door with her hand a few times, a little impatient. “You can either leave or not leave. I can’t control what you do. However,” her tone became serious, “if you are leaving, then head north. Don’t go south. The underworld merchant who imprisoned you all is staying in an inn south.”
No more needed to be said. An unforeseen hope had been given to these desperate people and they waited no longer to embrace this chance. The slaves, even the most physically weak and struggling ones now dashed towards their freedom.
Watching as the other slaves were really set free, the one Meng Su called a little boy felt tears running from his eyes. But those tears quickly stopped as he suddenly got very distressed. “Let go, woman,” he shouted, “Let go.”
“So rude,” Meng Su complained, “I’ll let go when you apologize.”
“LET ME GO NOW,” the young boy demanded again, “PLEASE BEFORE ITS TOO LATE…”
“Meng Su,” Ding Yiu spoke.
“Until he apologizes,” Meng Su repeated again.
The young boy became more desperate, his emotions running high. “I don’t have time for this. My mother… they took my mother. She’s with the others. I need to rescue her.”
“What about your mother?” Meng Su questioned, her grip loosening slightly.
“My mother was taken away with a few other women by those bastards,” the little boy spoke up, “I need to find her.”
“So that’s the reason you were attacking anyone opening the door,” Ding Yiu realized, “you just wanted to find your mother.”
“That’s not the issue here,” Meng Su pointed out, “we’ve been cheated. We bought off all the slaves they had, but they took away a few of them behind our backs.”
“What?” the boy gasped hearing Meng Su say that. “You bought…us…”
Meng Su let go of the boy. “Yes, well,” she pointed at Ding Yiu, “she was the one who paid a god load of money for you lot of slaves.”
The boy turned to Ding Yiu, “but you set everyone free.”
Ding Yiu nodded, an extremely faint smile on her face, “that was always my intention.” She approached the boy, “returning freedom to all the slaves I bought tonight is my intention. That includes your mother.” She outstretched her hand to him, “let me help you.”
The boy couldn't help but stare at Liu Ding Yiu before him. He could faintly make out her striking features in the dimly lit space. She appeared to be even younger than himself yet, her collected expression calmed even him. Now captivated by those soul-piercing eyes of Ding Yiu, the boy reached out to take her hand as though in a trance.
"Good," Ding Yiu said. "Meng Su, it appears we will be having a party after all. But with Mr Merchant."
Meng Su said nothing and led the way out. She recognized that silent, angry aura about Ding Yiu and knew things would be taking a more amusing turn. A rather dry night, but like a proper 'lady', Meng Su loved opening her flowery patterned umbrella to cover herself from the skies. She also angled it to make it less obvious she was observing the boy that tagged along. The boy had pulled himself back together, acting slightly more composed than their initial interaction. [Hmm, this boy may not be so bad], Meng Su eyed him up and down, [though he does give off a strange 'girly' feeling].
Unknown to Meng Su, she wasn't the only one observing. The boy quietly following Meng Su and Ding Yiu was also making mental judgements. He noted the blabbermouth with the umbrella was called Meng Su. She definitely wasn't the friendliest, but there was no denying she was one exceptional mature beauty. Meng Su was wearing a rather lavish, silk fitted dress that enhanced her curves and endowed figure. [Well, nothing more to say about that woman] the boy thought as he kept glancing towards Ding Yiu. [I wonder what her name is?] Compared to Meng Su, Ding Yiu was much younger. And for what she has done so far, the boy couldn't stop developing a sense of gratitude towards her. [I want to thank you].
It wasn't long before the three began to hear the voices of the underworld merchant's men. Laughter and banter came from the small inn in a short distance ahead. This time though, Meng Su wasn't quick enough to stop the boy from charging in like a suicidal chicken. He literally bolted towards the inn shouting his mother’s name.
"What are we going to do?" Meng Su queried, seeing the situation was now out of hands.
Ding Yiu confidently followed after the boy, who somehow managed to knock a few of the merchants guard to the ground and rush inside. Meng Su sighed and followed swiftly.
"M-Mi Hou," one of the merchants men shouted, clearly recognizing the two as they leisurely stepped inside.
"Oh heavens," Meng Su muttered, seeing the boy already detained on the floor by three guards. He had a massive bruise on his cheek too.
"Did you say Mi Hou?" another man repeated, turning to look at Ding Yiu, "why are you here?"
[Mi Hou?] the boy looked towards Ding Yiu, [Your name is Mi Hou?]
Ding Yiu spoke loud and clearly, "I'm here to close the business deal with your boss."
And before another word could be spoken, Meng Su moved. Her actions were so immediate and elegant, it appeared she was dancing through the room, but with each step she took towards the other side, one man falls to the floor unconscious. The boy watched amazed. It was in three breath takes that the room was silent.
Taking the opportunity, the boy got onto his feet and quickly ran towards the bedrooms where he came face to face with the underworld merchant that kidnapped, imprisoned and sold them. He still had three guards with him. They had only just gotten out of one of the bedrooms.
"Where's my mother?" the boy shouted in rage.
The underworld merchant, unaware Ding Yiu and Meng Su was here, took his time to adjust his dishevelled clothes. He licked his lips, "Your mother? Inside there, dead. Shame because she had a decent body for a good ramming session."
There was no time to process anything more. The word 'dead' was all that mattered to the boy as he ran straight into the bedroom. [Please don't be true] he chanted in his mind, [be alright]. But his heart froze at the sight of his dead mother, her body covered in bruises. There were a couple of other corpses of women near his mother as well. He knelt beside his mother, gently hugging her. "Mother, it's me... I came for you," he said as his shaking arms wrapped tighter around his mother's body. "Speak to me. Say something... please," the boy pleaded. There was no response. The boy cried, tears falling out his eyes uncontrollably. "Why? Why did this happen to us? Mother," he cried. [It’s not our fault], he looked at his mother, [I'm sorry I'm so weak. If I... I was stronger...] The boy stared out the room, realizing that monster was getting away, but his grief and pain was making it hard for him to move. [Help] he thought, [Help me! Stop him]. Ding Yiu's face suddenly came to his mind and then he heard loud painful shrieks outside. It sounded like the merchant.
The boy forced himself to leave the bedroom and go back outside. Shocked. The three guards and the underworld merchant all lay on top of each other like sacks of rice. They were unconscious but still breathing. [It's them. They did this], the boy thought, turning to look at his saviours. Speechless. To the side, Meng Su and Ding Yiu were busy looting the money and valuable goods from the Merchants luggage. [Where did they get this stuff from? No, when did they have time to do all this?]
"Oh, little boy," Meng Su said noticing him watching them. "Did you find your mother?"
The mention of his mother triggered him. He ran towards the pile of goods Meng Su was sorting, grabbed the gold plated dagger and headed towards the underworld merchant. "Thanks to you, she's now dead," he screamed, raising the dagger in the air, "DIE! YOU MONSTER. GO TO HELL!"
A strong grip met with the boy's wrists before the dagger reached the merchants flesh. The boy glared at Ding Yiu, who dared to stop him. "Let go. This has nothing to do with you. I'm grateful you set us free, grateful you got me here but..."
Ding Yiu ignored the boy. She exerted strength into her grip, hurting him so much that he had to release the dagger. Meng Su stood watching as Ding Yiu then slapped the boy across the face.
"Foolish and pathetic girl," Ding Yiu condemned, "you're mother won't be able to rest in peace if you turned into a monster like him. Don't throw away your mother's efforts to protect you."
"G-girl," Meng Su uttered, surprised. "He... is a girl?"
Ding Yiu tilted her head, "didn't you know she was a girl? I thought you called her boy to make fun of her short hair and boyish attitude."
Meng Su was gobsmacked. She placed a hand on her forehead, fully embarrassed. Now that she recalled, the girl never admitted to being a boy. But she also didn't say anything either. [Damn you] Meng Su silently thought, [so embarrassing].
The girl fell to her knees, crying again. "Even if you say that, even if I understand, I can't just let him go like this. What he did... what he did..." she clenched her fists, wanting to be determined again to take his life.
Ding Yiu knelt down besides the girl, "you're right. That monster needs to die. But it doesn't need to be you who does it." Ding Yiu grabs the dagger, "there are other ways."
The girl looked at Ding Yiu. Just like before, there was a strong desire in her to trust Ding Yiu, a strong instinct telling her this person is right. "Help me," the girl asked, her voice more assertive than her shaken expression.
"What are you planning?" Meng Su instantly asked. She didn't whinge or play around this time. She too wanted to exact revenge for this girl.
Ding Yiu stood up, "Meng Su, you take care of the scene here. Then help this girl take her mother's body to a safe place."
"And you?" Meng Su questioned.
"I'm going to lure this monster's rightful killer to the scene," Ding Yiu shouted as she hurried away.
Meng Su and the girl watched Ding Yiu disappear.
"I," the girl began.
"Just call me Meng Su," Meng Su stated. "But what does she mean by rightful killer?" She kept pondering on what Ding Yiu meant. Then it clicked and a worried expression quickly crossed Meng Su's face.