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Chapter 56: The Missing Girls

The night passed quietly. Early the next morning, Gu Yunlan left with Xuanyuan Meng and Xin’er. As for Bai Wanchun, she was even more accident prone than her; it’s best not to bring her along!

The doubts in Gu Yulan’s heart grew with every visit to a missing victim’s household. The girls all left home at differing times and the person they were spotted with was inconsistent.

The three walked out from a household of a missing girl, their brows all tightly knitted.

“Yunlan, why did the young lady of the house leave in the middle of the night? The doorman/concierge said he vaguely spotted her round a corner with a man and ran off…” Xuanyuan Meng frowned in confusion. Could it be that she eloped, and was taken by her lover? 

“And the previous household’s girl went missing on the way to school, along with her footmaid.” Xin’er carefully supported Gu Yunlan as they walked to the main street.

“En!” Gu Yunlan fell silent, she didn’t quite understand. Gu City is only this big, so then if Jiang Chen drank the blood of all the young ladies, where are the corpses? They couldn’t have been eaten by the ants, right? Goosebumps started raising on her skin as she imagined that. In addition, Uncle Li hasn’t ever mentioned how Zhuting went missing…

“Eldest Miss!” A guard hurriedly ran over, and stood in front of Gu Yunlan respectfully saluting to her, “Chief urges you to come back quickly!” 

“Let’s return!” Gu Yunlan glanced at the other two people, then started walking back. Perhaps Uncle Li found some new information.

As soon as they entered the gates, the three were stopped by An Jiaona.

“Big Sister!” An Jiaona looked at her with a pleasantly surprised gaze.

“Madam Yang!” Gu Yunlan nodded her head slightly but her smile did not reaching her eyes.

“Big Sister! Can you please allow me to return to the mansion to sleep? I’m afraid of that rapist!” An Jiaona’s voice was very quiet, her face clearly showed her fear. She was too afraid of getting captured!

“Didn’t Madam Yang get married already?” Gu Yunlan looked at her quizzically; Only now she’s scared!

Seeing Gu Yunlan and the people by her side looking at her with a puzzled look, An Jiaona’s face reddened a bit. She explained a bit awkwardly, “I… he…- we aren’t living together, he says- says to wait until he has more money, then we can have a big wedding…”

“Huh!” Gu Yunlan jolted, seems like there really is something like this. She remembers Yangjin had never ever directly touched her in the past life, not even holding her hands. Maybe Yangjin prefers men? Or does he have severe mysophobia?

Seeing Gu Yunlan’s group of three holding back their laughter, An Jiaona’s face reddened even more. Stomping her feet in anger, she turned her head to leave.

Xuanyuan Meng turned her pupils, yelling, “Stupid! You weren’t poor, but found someone to make you poor!”

Xuanyuan Meng’s shout caused An Jiaona to stagger a bit, making Xin’er and Gu Yunlan laugh out loud.

Seeing An Jiaona’s figure in the distance, Gu Yunlan suppressed her smile, then turned to enter the mansion. With a woman who fears death so much like An Jiaona, Yangjin’s green hat is there to stay even when she’s found a man.

TLN: Wearing a green hat means he’s being cheated on.

Seeing Gu Yunlan entering the house, Xuanyuan Meng and Xin’er giggled at each other as they followed her in.

“Uncle Li!” Gu Yunlan sat down in front of the desk in her study room.

The only person in the study room was Li Yiteng, his face was a bit pale as he paced around the study room restlessly. Seeing Gu Yunlan come in, he brightened and he hurriedly said, “Yunlan! There’s news of Zhuting!”

“Tell me quickly, Uncle Li!” Gu Yunlan brightened, there’ll always be a clue.

“Take a look at this!” Li Yiteng took out a sheet and placed it on the table. When Gu Yunlan finally came back, he could finally release a relieved sigh. From Zhuting’s words, Yunlan was a useful friend. He sincerely prayed for Zhuting to be safe.

Gu Yunlan took the sheet on the table just to see a few messy words scribbled on it: “The following eighteen girls will be staying in our Hazed Mountain Stronghold. Bring some money if you want them back! Of course, we wouldn’t mind keeping them as our women!”

Below were the names of eighteen girls, with Li Zhuting’s name on top.

“When was this sent?” Gu Yunlan rubbed this piece of paper, Hazed Mountain Stronghold? A bandit hideout right? If she remembers correctly, the list of missing girls were up to more than thirty. Then the remaining girls… her pupils flashed as she hurriedly put down the paper in her hand and grabbed the materials from before.

“It was sent in the morning, pretty much all eighteen households got it!” Li Yiteng looked at Gu Yunlan nervously, he really hoped that she could deal with this. Zhuting is his only family!

Gu Yunlan carefully read over each of the situations around a girl’s disappearance. It was as she thought; those ten-some aside from those eighteen all disappeared the same way, all kidnapped at midnight.

She lifted her head, and asked, “There were no specific conditions?”

“The messengers only said to send one person up to speak!” Li Yiteng immediately said.

Gu Yunlan once again sunk deep into her thoughts, what do the bandits mean by this?

“Young Miss! The Zi Family sent an invitation!” Xin’er’s voice sounded from the entrance door.

“Bring it in!” Gu Yunlan hesitated, Zi Family sent another invitation? What’s going on?

“Creak!” As the door was pushed open, Xin’er who was holding a golden invitation card walked in, “The Zi Family’s old man’s fiftieth birthday!”

“Fifty years old? When?”Gu Yunlan put down the materials in her hand and received the invite. She carefully flipped it open, on top was written in bold, fancy letters, “Next month on the fifth, I will be turning fifty, hope thou can come!”

“What day is it today?” Gu Yunlan creased her brows, go to the Zi Household? She doesn’t dare go by herself, that Bai Linlong isn’t some weakling!

“The twenty fifth!” Li Yiteng said. 

“En! Uncle Li will go up the mountain and negotiate by himself, Mengmeng and I will watch secretly.” Gu Yunlan put down the invitation, and instructed Li Yiteng. Her thoughts are becoming more and more messy, constantly feeling as if something wasn’t quite right. As she kept thinking it through, she can’t help but feel that something isn’t connecting.

“Yes!” Li Yiteng let out a breath, then turned to leave.

Seeing Li Yiteng’s figure leaving, Gu Yunlan once again sunk into deep thoughts. Why didn’t Uncle Li tell her earlier that Zhuting had also been captured? Also, why would a bandit want someone to go up there to talk!

“Young Miss!” Xin’er called out softly.

“Get lunch ready! After eating we’ll head up the mountain first!” Gu Yunlan leaned backwards, her mind was in a mess.

“This, we won’t wait for Chief Li?” Xin’er asked hesitatingly.

“Hurry up now! We won’t be waiting. Meng and I will head up first. Tell Yiran to protect him!” Gu Yunlan closed her eyes slowly.

Xin’er immediately nodded her head, and closed the door on her way out.

During lunch, Gu Yunlan and Xuanyuan Meng, while wearing light black clothing, sneakily exited from the back door.

Hazy Mountain Stronghold was in the Hazy Mountain. Hazy Mountain was six kilometers to the right of the Shing Wong temple, so they must pass through the temple again. This was also a reason why Gu Yunlan chose to go at noon. If it was in the evening, they’d have to jump through the sky!

There wasn’t much on the Hazy Mountain other than thornberries. During the winter, the skies would look like cloudy lights, hence the name ‘Hazy Mountain’. With countless thorns and the bandits, the area would be even more ferocious. Not many people dare to venture there.

The two of them carefully pathed through the Shing Wong temple. Half an hour later, they finally arrived at Hazy Mountain. The two repeatedly released sighs of relief. Even if they went there directly at noon, they still had a hair-rising feeling.

Only, the two sweated profusely as they saw the thornberries before them. Besides the proper path, there were no other paths to take. What now? They two looked at each other; they could only brace themselves, and carefully and slowly tread through the thornberries.

An hour later, the two finally got rid of the thornberries. They rejoiced that the mountain isn’t tall!

“Someone’s here!’ Xuanyuan Meng grabbed Gu Yunlan and pulled her to one side, avoiding the scouting bandit.

“We’ll circle past from behind!’ Gu Yunlan pointed behind the bandit, they can follow from behind.

The two traveled haltingly and sneakily, finally arriving outside the stronghold at about 3 o’clock. It can’t be helped that such a small mountain stronghold would have been built so secretively. If they had potential then they would have a base even when the world is in chaos.

Finding this both safe and secret place, and hiding away. Looking from here, they could directly see and hear the circumstance around the invited guest.

They could see Li Yiteng walk into the mountain stronghold by himself from afar. They could even see Bai Yiran hiding in a dark area. He was very strictly on guard, not even daring to enter the stronghold.

They saw that Li Yiteng took something out as he arrived at the gates, only then did they easily let him in. With one person leading the way, they directly led him to the drawing room.

If one were to ask how Gu Yunlan knew about the drawing room, then the answer would be by relying entirely on her spirit power. Using spirit power to scan the surroundings, she discovered a subordinate entering that room to inform him where Li Yiteng is.

Seeing Li Yiteng walking in, the owner of the stronghold stood up smilingly, and introduced to Li Yiteng, “I am Ma Haicheng, Hazy Mountain Stronghold’s master. You must be Chief Li, Li Yiteng right?”

“Correct! Where is my daughter?” Li Yiteng tightened his brows and asked directly.

“Haha! Chief Li really is frank, this master likes this kind of people!” Ma Haicheng waved his hands, and laughed out loud.

Here Gu Yunlan clearly saw that the other person was a young man about twenty years of age. With delicate features, he looked nothing like a bandit.

“Since you are so straightforward, then let me see whether my daughter is safe!” Li Yiteng creased his brows deeply, this man acted like they were friends despite not knowing each other.

Ma Haicheng hooked up the corners of his mouth slightly, then shouted towards the screen behind him, “Come out!”

Just as he called out, a figure wearing red directly rushed out into Li Yiteng’s embrace, “Papa!”

“Zhuting?” Li Yiteng softened his brows, as relief spread in his heart. His daughter is fine. He immediately pushed Li Zhuting away, and looked at her up and down, “Are you ok? Why would you stay here?”

“Papa! Zhuting is fine! He- he is very good to me!” Li Zhuting’s ears reddened a bit unnaturally.

Gu Yunlan and Xuanyuan Meng looked at each other. That’s not right! Something’s different about Zhuting’s expression! There must be something else going on between them!

“Tell me! What conditions do you want for their release!” Seeing his daughter safe and sound, Li Yiteng started the negotiations. He asked as he pulled his daughter behind him.

“Sit!” Ma Haicheng was full of smiles. He sat down on a chair, and playfully watched Li Zhuting who was behind Li Yiteng, “Leave her behind, and I’ll release all other girls!”

“What did you say?” Li Yiteng stepped forward, and immediately took out a gun as he pointed at him with glaring eyes.

“What did I say? Leave behind Zhuting and I’ll release everyone else!” Ma Haicheng retracted his gaze, and looked at him firmly. That gaze says that for Li Zhuting, he would be willing to do anything.

“Nonsense!” Li Yiteng’s hands were shaking.

Gu Yunlan on the other hand, could clearly see Li Zhuting giving Ma Haizheng a meaningful look from behind Li Yiteng’s back.

“Respectable father in law, what’s the need to be so angry about? Have you asked for Zhuting’s opinions?” Ma Haicheng stood up slowly, still smiling like the spring wind.

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