OMF V1C116 The Second Face of Ai Hua

Ai Hua and Xiao Dong both tensed sensing the fear of Jing Yi and his mother. Xiao Dong got up and exchanged a glance with her. They had never seen this man but he was obviously on bad terms with their king’s beloved and his family. There was only one conclusion to this thought: They should teach him a lesson! Preferably one he’d never forget.
Xiao Dong cracked his knuckles and lifted a brow at his mother. Ai Hua considered their possibilities for a moment. Being beaten up by a child would definitely humiliate him but … That wasn’t something a human child could do, was it? If the story spread and people saw him with his head of blond hair, they’d certainly react like that boy His Majesty’s beloved had brought along and say he was a demon. That might bring even more trouble. Finally, she shook her head. No, it was better she did this herself.
While Ai Hua was still caught up in her thoughts a fourth man approached the teahouse. He looked at Li Bo and his servants grimly and wanted to go over but suddenly his eyes bulged. He jumped to the side and hid next to the entrance with his back to the building. He clutched his chest and breathed deeply.
“What happened?” Another man came over and worriedly peered into his face.
The first man peeked into the teahouse again but retracted his head at once. When the other man wanted to take a look he pulled him back. “It’s Yi Zan’s sister”, he told him in a lowered voice.
“Ai Hua?” The second man lifted his brows.
Of course, these two were dragons. In fact, the first one was Qiang Wei while the second one was Fu Min. Fu Min and Fu Heng had fetched the demon hunter some mortal weeks ago and brought him back to the dragon realm. After some … questioning, they had finally found out that everything had been a misunderstanding. Fu Heng returned the demon hunter to the mortal realm while Fu Min came over to the teahouse to inform Qiang Wei. None of them had been able to contact their king so … up in the nine heavens the gods still weren’t aware of the fact that nobody was trying to kill their crown prince.
Qiang Wei sighed. “You know she doesn’t like me. I don’t want her to see me.”
“But His Highness is inside.”
“Right. But he has His Majesty’s mark, hasn’t he? You can say whatever you want about Ai Hua but she would definitely protect him.”
“She might tell on you, though. She doesn’t like you.”
Qiang Wei smirked. “Oh? You don’t say?”
Fu Min leaned against the wall next to him and threw him a sideways glance. “Having a sister-in-law can be even tougher than having a mother-in-law, it seems.”
Qiang Wei frowned. “What are you talking about? We’re just friends.”
“Sure …”
Qiang Wei smirked. “Well, it’s true. We’re not like a certain someone and Fu Heng, after all.”
“What are you —” Fu Min had turned around and narrowed his eyes. “We don’t even like each other!”
“Oh?” Qiang Wei only grinned wider.
“Tch. I’m not talking to you anymore.” Fu Min crossed his arms and faced the other side.
Qiang Wei didn’t retort. One couldn’t really fault Fu Min for not understanding how crazy Fu Heng actually was about him. That guy just didn’t understand how to show his feelings and even though he was normally blunt he just couldn’t bring himself to tell Fu Min.
Qiang Wei had no interest in helping him, though. If they couldn’t even start a relationship without help then they’d never make it work. And he wouldn’t want to see two of his friends dying because of something this dumb.
Qiang Wei similarly faced the other side and tried to find out what was going on inside.
Li Bo had reached the middle of the room by now and looked around as if everything he saw was his. Finally, his gaze came to rest upon Madam Zhong. “Aiya! How nice to see you again!” He smiled smugly and his two servants followed suit.
“You had quite a bit of time to deal with your loss”, opened Xiao Nuo. “I hope you took some of it to think about the offer our master made.”
Madam Zhong frowned. They had really come again. And they were still so unreasonable.
Ai Hua, too, frowned. She didn’t know what had happened but neither did she like the tone of that servant nor the smile of his master. Something smelled fishy.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Madam Zhong pulled Jing Yi to her side.
Xiao Guo snorted. “Your husband stole our horses! Obviously, we want you to compensate us.”
“My husband has never stolen anything.”
“So you still dare to deny it. It seems we’ll have to get the justice court involved.” Xiao Nuo nodded at Xiao Guo.
With another smirk at Madam Zhong, the second servant ran outside and waved at two men on the other side of the street. Despite what they said they had already gone and called someone they knew from the justice court over before they even went to confront Madam Zhong.
Seeing this Madam Zhong was sure she wouldn’t be able to persuade the people from the justice court. Whatever ruling was made she wouldn’t be able to contest it. She patted Jing Yi’s head. Partly so that he wouldn’t worry and partly to calm herself down. Let them come! What was there to lose for them? In the worst case, she’d just return to the village with Jing Yi.
The two men stepped into the teahouse and glanced around. “What happened?”, the first one asked, though he already knew.
Xiao Nuo smirked and pointed at Madam Zhong. “Her husband stole six of our horses and now she refuses to compensate us.”
The man turned around to her and smiled just like Li Bo and his servants. “How can you do that? Theft is a serious crime especially if we’re talking about something with such a high value like six horses.”
“My husband didn’t steal anything.”
The man narrowed his eyes.
“See that?” Xiao Nuo hurried forward and stood right next to the man. “She was like that from the beginning! We know he stole them but she just keeps saying he didn’t.”
“That’s not all!” Xiao Guo came forward, too. “She even slandered our master and said he killed her husband.”
“Now that’s a harsh accusation. You’re damaging his reputation. In fact, you should compensate him for that, too.”
Madam Zhong kept quiet. What was there to say?
Satisfied with her reaction, Li Bo stepped forward. “I’m afraid this young woman wouldn’t be able to afford to compensate me for both. She was out of her mind when she made that accusation so I won’t hold it against her. But the horses … I’ll need them back.”
Madam Zhong lowered her gaze. Six horses? They had gotten some from the bandits and maybe Zhong Gang could give her the remaining ones. It wasn’t fair but he would certainly do it for his relationship with her husband. She looked up fiercely. “Then you’ll get these horses. Tell me where to take them.”
Li Bo pressed his lips together. What? That woman really wanted to give him six horses? What would he do with six horses?! He wanted the boy! The boy! The secret to boosting his business!
Xiao Nuo and Xiao Guo knew the plan of their master. Xiao Nuo snorted. “Give them back? Do you think that would help? You’ve used these horses for so long and you don’t know the first thing about them. They’re practically worthless by now.”
“Right. You should compensate our master with money!”
They looked at the official from the justice court. The man pursed his lips. “Six horses? And they were good horses, I guess?”
Xiao Nuo and Xiao Guo nodded fervently. “They were! Extremely good horses!”
“Then … a thousand liang in gold should be appropriate?” He looked at Li Bo who nodded with satisfaction.
“Indeed. They would be worth that much.”
Madam Zhong clenched her fists. A thousand liang in gold? She wouldn’t even be able to earn that much in ten lives!
“You heard it, Madam. A thousand liang in gold. Can you pay that?”
Madam Zhong pressed her lips together. Her expression was answer enough. The official sighed as if he found it to be a pity.
“Then you’ll have to spend time in prison, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t! Don’t be hasty!” Li Bo waved as if to placate the official. “I’m sure she had nothing to do with it. It was all that husband of hers. She shouldn’t have to suffer for his sins. How about I let her compensate in another way?”
The official lifted his brows. “Oh? Mister Li has a proposition?”
“Mn. She’s without her husband now and has to take care of such a large teahouse. She doesn’t have much time on her hands anymore, I’m afraid. I’ve seen that she has a young son. How about I’ll take him in as a servant? He can work for me to pay off his father’s debt and he’ll even have someone to look after him! Wouldn’t that be great?”
Madam Zhong clasped Jing Yi’s shoulders. So that is what he’s after! “You’ll never get my son!”
The official shook his head. “Woman, can’t you see that Mister Li is already accommodating you? You either pay the one thousand liang in gold, go into prison or let him have your son. You choose.”
Madam Zhong just hugged Jing Yi. What could she do? She’d never give up her son but she also couldn’t pay the one thousand liang. So … would she have to go into prison? She smiled. “Then I’ll have to follow you to prison. Just let me bring my son home first.”
Li Bo frowned. Why was this woman so stubborn? “Why would you want to harm yourself? I sincerely advise you to give your son to me. It’ll be good for you and good for him, too. Everyone would be happy!”
Ai Hua couldn’t take it any longer. Everyone would be happy? Kindly explain to her how she would be happy if His Majesty returned and found out that someone had made his beloved a slave! And this guy was just too despicable trying to force a mother to give her child away!
She slapped the table, stood up and lifted her chin. “A thousand liang in gold is it? Fine. You’ll get that. I’ll even give you a bit more for insulting you!”
She leaped and in a spell, she already stood in front of Li Bo. Her foot met his chest and Li Bo flew out of the teahouse like a big lump of dough someone had dropped. He crashed to the ground, his fat pads shaking for a moment longer.
The people out on the street screamed and jumped aside. Then they just stood there, pointed at him and whispered to each other. Everyone who had had the bad luck of getting to know him rejoiced at his misfortune.
Ai Hua wasn’t finished with Li Bo, though. She strode to the entrance and looked down on him. “Lying and accusing people of things they haven’t done, killing a man and trying to force his widow to give up on her only child, bribing an official for the whole charade. You’re despicable! And ugly! I’ve never seen such an ugly man before! You want one thousand liang in gold? Here! Have some!” Ai Hua took out a purse with money and threw it at his feet. “You think that poor widow was falsely accusing you? Don’t you worry! I’ll pay for her so you can’t come and pester her again!” She took off the bracelet on her wrist and threw it next to the purse. “I said shameless and degrading things about you? Fine! Let me compensate you for that, too!” She ripped an expensive looking pin out of her hair and threw it. The hairpin flew forward and the sharp end embedded itself into the ground. Just a little bit higher …
Li Bo grew pale. “You! You! Don’t you go overboard! I know the emperor!”, he screamed at her.
Ai Hua stood with her hands on her hips and laughed. “And I know the dragon king!”
The people around started to laugh, too. So it seemed Li Bo had just been lying before. He didn’t even know the emperor! They had to tell that to their families! They would finally not have to accept everything he did!
Madam Zhong followed Ai Hua to the door to see what was going on. Her heart beat wildly when she finally saw the man who had caused her husband’s death on the ground. She sighed in relief. Maybe now, everything would end and they would be able to look into the future.
Jing Yi hurried after her. But before he could even take a glance at the man on the ground he saw him: The man he was sure would change the rest of his life.

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