"Young Lady Ding?" Ju Mu'er was quite shocked upon hearing Su Qing shout this out.
"The young noblewoman from the Minister's Residence, the really fierce one." Su Qing stared at Ding Yanshan as she said this, she remembered could still remember it, this defiant young lady was the one who had slapped Elder Sister Mu'er a while ago.
Ding Yanshan crawled to her feet from the ground, raising her head to look at the Ju Mu'er duo. Instantly she felt embarrassed beyond belief, she wanted to continue to pretend and just curse outright, but thinking of where she was right now, she wasn't faring that much better than them either! She surveyed the room, instantly classifying it as scary and desolate, so she bit her lip and refrained from speaking, moving to stand near the table of rotting wood.
"Is she hurt?" Ju Mu'er couldn't hear anything from Ding Yanshan so she turned to ask Su Qing.
Su Qing pursed her lips as she looked at Ding Yanshan a couple times before replying, "She looks alright."
She thought about it for a second, then with her voice raised, she asked, "Hey, are you hurt?"
"I don't need your concern!" Ding Yanshan glared at them.
"Who would want to be concerned about you!" Su Qing's reply was much fiercer.
Ju Mu'er heard how forceful Ding Yanshan's reply was, and assumed that she must be alright, so she didn't make any more noises, merely lowered her head as she continued to think about things. On the other hand, Su Qing and Ding Yanshan both began a fervent staring match, both finding the other increasingly annoying over time.
After a while, Ju Mu'er suddenly asked, "Young Lady Ding, do you know who kidnapped us?"
Ding Yanshan had just been wounded by Long Er's suspicion, and was already unhappy about this, yet here Ju Mu'er was now, asking this again, almost as if she was insinuating that everything was her doing. Instantly, her fiery temper ignited and she jumped to her feet, loudly protesting, "How would I know? Why do you guys all think I did this? Who do you think you are huh, what's there to be so proud about, aren't you merely getting married to Second Master huh! I couldn't care less, and anyway I would never get someone to kidnap you. I've never done such things and I forbid you all from slandering me. Look, even I've been kidnapped, I know absolutely nothing about who they are."
"We just asked one sentence, and you answered with so many." Su Qing's eyes widened, "If you hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have thought of it but actually you're the most suspicious one ah! You might just be acting here, lying to us and pretending that you've been kidnapped too, who knows if it's real or fake? You're just jealous that Elder Sister Mu'er is going to be married to Second Master, you have such a evil personality, plus you hit Elder Sister before! Now you're even involved in things like kidnapping people, it's hardly surprising."
"How dare you accuse me like that, I'll rip your mouth to pieces!" Ding Yanshan's anger was like a storm's rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning, and she pounced in the direction of Su Qing.
Having Long Er accuse her was more than enough, and now a cotton-wearing commoner dared to talk so brazenly to her, how could she not get angry?
Su Qing was completely unafraid of her, and she replied, "Do you want to fight? I'm not afraid of you." She turned around to pick up Ju Mu'er's bamboo staff and said, "Elder Sister, lend me your bamboo staff, I'll go and beat her up."
She even dared to use weapons? Ding Yanshan looked to her left and right, she couldn't worry about looking unbecoming, she picked up the chair intent on giving that horrid girl a lesson.
Before Ju Mu'er could even open her mouth to calm them down, the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard from outside the door. Then, the door was forcefully shoved open, and two somewhat intoxicated bandits appeared. They had a strong scent of alcohol emanating from them, and as they blocked the doorway, they shouted, "What's the racket for?"
Ding Yanshan and Su Qing were both instantly stunned, simultaneously moving to seek refuge by Ju Mu'er's side. Ju Mu'er could hear the muffled sounds of people playing the guess-which-fist drinking game, it seemed like the feast of the bandits was in full swing.
One of the bandits in the doorway said, "Huh, the ladies in this room are really quite energetic, they look like more satisfying than the other two."
The other remarked, "What are you being so impatient about? Big Brother told us already, if we wanted to have them, we can only touch the other two first. The ones in this room we have to wait for later." Just as they were saying this, sounds of shrill female cries and shouting spilled out from the room next-door.
The bandit seemed quite unhappy at this, "Big Brother just wants to have them for himself ah! Bastards, do you guys have to be so loud about it? Leave one for me!" As soon as he finished, he turned to leave.
Soon, Ju Mu'er and the others could clearly hear the female screams and sounds of struggling from the room next to them. Those sounds made their faces grow pale and bloodless, instinctively clinging closer to each other.
The bandit who hadn't left, stared at the Ju Mu'er trio and coldly scoffed, "If you all still have energy, then save some for later. There are many of us brothers, so the time will come when you need to scream and shout loudly. If it wasn't for the fact that we don't have enough rooms, we wouldn't have put you all together. Don't think that it's so you all can spend time together chatting and quarreling. Be good okay? Otherwise, if you dampen our fun, you'll have to bear the consequences."
The three young ladies were frightened out of their wits, tongue-tied they could only nod their heads. The bandit was pleased by their reaction, slammed the door shut and left.
The moment he left, Ding Yanshan instantly bawled, the scary sounds they just heard coming from next-door, were enough for all the fight to go out of her. The vivid fear felt so real and close by, she was really scared, she didn't want to end up like them.
"You two must escape." Ju Mu'er said.
"Escape?" Ding Yanshan jumped in fright.
"What do you mean by 'you two'?" Su Qing was in an even greater shock at her words.
Ju Mu'er didn't answer, instead she asked another question, "Young Lady Ding, how were you brought here?"
Upon hearing this Ding Yanshan couldn't continue to focus on the bad feelings between her and Ju Mu'er, she hastily answered, "I went out because I wanted to go to the Yun Residence to talk to my elder sister, but after walking halfway, I was knocked unconscious by someone. When I woke up again, I found myself swaying on the back of a horse. Before I could do anything, I was dragged off the horse and brought here." She paused for a second before continuing, "I'm not lying to you all, I'm not pretending to be kidnapped, I definitely didn't do this!"
"A guilty conscience needs no accuser." To one side, Su Qing glared at her disdainfully.
"What did you just say? How dare you accuse me!" Ding Yanshan walked past Ju Mu'er intent on giving Su Qing a slap. Su Qing thrust the bamboo staff out horizontally and instantly poked her in the chest. The front of Ding Yanshan's breasts ached, and she felt even more mad. Just before she blew her top, she heard Ju Mu'er's serious voice, "Both of you, close your mouths."
Su Qing used the tip of the bamboo staff to point at Ding Yanshan but obediently closed her mouth. Ding Yanshan clenched down hard onto her teeth but also remained silent.
Ju Mu'er said, "Young Lady Ding, there are three possibilities as to why you have been taken. One is that the bandits came across you by chance, and conveniently took you with them. The second is that this matter is connected with someone from your family or one of your close acquaintances. They had you kidnapped so your family or your close acquaintance would not fall under suspicion. The third possibility is that the bandits intend on using you as a hostage, perhaps they plan to do some vile things and with you in their hands your family would be more cautious. If your father or your elder sister's husband have things to be cautious about, then the government officials will also be affected. That way the bandits will have an opportunity to have their way, delay things or even make a successful escape."
Ding Yanshan didn't say anything, but her heart sank. The second and the third possibility both pointed to the matter being tied to her family. If it really was connected to her family, then having Ju Mu'er kidnapped too, could it possibly be an attempt to deal with Long Er?
The instant Ding Yanshan thought of this, she felt a strong sense of shame. The one thing she was most unwilling to experience was losing face in front of Long Er and Ju Mu'er. Her anger might not be easily swallowed, but she still wanted face. If the kidnappings were really the doing of her family, how could she ever hold her head up high in front of Long Er ever again?
"Young Lady Ding, regardless of which possibility it is, you are in grave danger."
"What danger?" Ding Yanshan was still lost in the shame of the possibility of her family members being involved, and wasn't able to clearly process what Ju Mu'er had just said.
"If it's the first type, then all of what's happening next-door could easily happen to you too." Ju Mu'er bit her lip as she tried to stifle the feelings of fear and disgust in her heart, she hurried to add, "If it's the second possibility, then the person behind your kidnapping, has shown that they can sacrifice you to hide the truth, and this means they have no qualms with forcing you to sacrifice even more. You have no idea who they might be, so you cannot possibly understand what might happen if you remain here."
Her words were like knives harshly slicing into Ding Yanshan, she couldn't bring herself to imagine that someone close to her would do such a thing to her. That person would have been by her side yet that person was also willing to sacrifice her...
Ding Yanshan couldn't say anything, but Ju Mu'er wasn't concerned about her, she continued to explain quickly, "If it's the third situation, then you're in even greater danger. Once the bandits achieve their aim, and force your family to give in to their demands, then who knows what they might do to you. Or if their threats don't have any effect, then you'll become useless to them."
If she became useless, then the fate awaiting her was one all the girls were aware of.
Ju Mu'er added, "Now while their vigilance is lax, you two need to think of a way to leave this place. Any later, if something happens or we end up being separated, we won't have another chance."
"But what methods can we use?" The more Ding Yanshan heard Ju Mu'er explain, the greater her fright grew. She wanted to leave, but she had absolutely no idea how.
"Why do you keep saying 'you two'?" from the beginning Su Qing had been particularly resistant to this choice of words, "It should be us, Elder Sister, we'll escape together."
"I can't escape with you guys. I can't walk fast and will be a burden. The two of you need to leave on your own, if you can make it out of here by walking, then go and get help. If you bring me along, all of three of won't be able to make it out of here."
"No way, if it's without Elder Sister then I'm not leaving." Su Qing threw the bamboo staff aside and caught hold of Ju Mu'er's arm.
"Why can't the two of you focus on the important things? Now isn't the time to be talking about who should or shouldn't be leaving, the point is on how." Ding Yanshan saw how Su Qing was chattering on one side and instantly felt anger. She gritted her teeth and said in a low voice, "We don't even have a route we can follow, forget about the fact we're currently locked in here, and there are a few bandits on guard outside, even if we could escape this room, once we reach the thick forest, if we lose our way, we'll end up feeding the wolves."
Su Qing glared at her, "Then you can just wait until those evil people cut off your fingers, cut your ears off and send you home, or wait until they've eaten and drunk their fill before they come to deflower you."
"You..." Ding Yanshan was so mad she wanted to retort angrily but was stopped by Ju Mu'er.
Ju Mu'er asked Su Qing, "Qing'er, have you memorized the way?"
"I have." She usually came to the mountain to pick flowers, plus she often walked through all the big streets so her sense of direction was really strong.
"Alright, from this moment on, we need to unite and work together, you two can't continue bickering with each other."
Su Qing and Ding Yanshan sent each other a final glare but obediently nodded their heads. Then they remembered that Ju Mu'er couldn't see them so they replied, "Alright."
Ju Mu'er was satisfied with this and she added, "Can I trouble Young Lady Ding to go to the door to keep watch on what's happening outside, Qing'er, that window is too high up, move the chair over there. I'll help you balance it, you climb onto it and see what's outside."
The three of them instantly got into action, Ding Yanshan placed her ear against the door and waved her hand, indicating that everything was alright. Su Qing moved the chair over, placed it carefully, then Ju Mu'er held it to make it stable, the broken leg of the chair had to be held tightly in order to balance. Then, Su Qing stood on it, and fortunately it was just enough to see past the window sill.
She peeked out through the window, and saw a patch of thick forestry. This room happened to be in the rear-most area of this residence, and was very close to the forest. However, her line of sight out the window was limited, and after looking for a while Su Qing realized she couldn't she if anyone was outside. She wanted to pull the window further open but the moment she pulled, it didn't move. After a closer glance, she noticed that the bottom half of the window was bolted.
Su Qing passed on the information, and Ju Mu'er asked, "Is there anything in this room that we can use to prise open the bolt?"
Su Qing and Ding Yanshan rapidly scanned the room, but they couldn't find anything. Just then, Ju Mu'er said, "Things like hairpins will do too."
Ding Yanshan reached up to her hair, "I have one, I have one."
She took the hairpin out of her hair and ran over to pass it to Su Qing. Su Qing took it from her, and using the pointy end of the hairpin, began to prise open the bolt. Watching from beneath, Ding Yanshan was extremely agitated and started saying, "Can you do it? If you can't let me."
"Quit talking nonsense, go and listen for them." Su Qing was already nervous from working on the bolt and with her bothering her she got quite unhappy.
Ding Yanshan mulled over this, then bit her lips and went back to stand by the door.
After a while, Su Qing finally succeeded in prising open the bolt, and just as she wanted to celebrate, Ding Yanshan flattened her voice and anxiously said, "I think someone's coming."
As she said this, she ran back to them. Su Qing jumped down from the chair in shock, and together with Ding Yanshan they both dragged Ju Mu'er towards the bed.
However, they had forgotten that the chair had a broken leg, the instant Ju Mu'er let go of it, the chair began to wobble, and it looked like it was seconds away from falling. But at the same time, the sound of footsteps outside the door had grown heavier, and it was obvious that the person had reached their door.
The three young ladies couldn't worry about anything else, they speedily backtracked to the side of the bed, the three of them huddling together, fearfully keeping silent.
The sound of the door being unlocked was soon heard, and as for the chair beneath the window, it was still standing, but wobbling with every passing second.
End of Chapter