Chapter 8 - Conflict
Yuan Tu had been in pain for three days now; ever since he got flogged because of the spirit apples that were damaged by Lin Mu. Not only did he get physical punishment, but all the wages of the peasants for this month were cut to compensate for the damages. He had been watched with eyes of dislike by a lot of the peasants because of that.
"At least I did not have to pay it from my own savings, or worse having to use my property to compensate for it. It was a saving grace that only Lin Mu had his property seized. Though, now, each and every peasant hates Lin Mu."
The key harvest period for spirit apples was a major part of the peasants earnings for the year. During this period most of the peasants, and even their children, would help out to earn more for their families. The Mayor allowed any willing person to be employed for the harvest, and at least one person from each family worked in the orchards during this period.
Even though spirit apples grew all throughout the year, they were most abundant a few months before winter and usually started at the end of summer. It was one of the chief exports of Wu Lim city and brought a large revenue for the city mayor each year. But at present there were fewer people because of the plague that spread last year, delaying the process.
The supervisor was under pressure from the city mayor to speed up the harvest and complete it before winter comes, so that the spirit apples could be exported to other cities in the south. The supervisor, Li Peng, in turn put pressure on the peasants to hasten the speed of harvest; especially since from the incident three days ago he wanted no more accidents.
Yuan Tu was working in the orchards, along with his group, in the morning. They were assigned the area at the very end of the orchard along the transport road. He was working when he saw carriages and a lot of armed men coming from the forest; not recognising either carriages nor the men having gone into the forest. The only other way for them to come to this part of the forest would be to go through the other route, which passes from inside the western part of the forest.
The route from the western forest was dangerous, and the area was populated with mid-tier beasts. Even hunters would not take the risk if they could just use the safe route from Northern town. Yuan Tu looked at the men, trying to find anyone familiar when he spotted a boy walking behind the carriages. As soon as he saw him clearly, his eyes filled with hatred; as it was the same boy who was the reason for his punishment and suffering.
Lin Mu had come close to the orchards when he heard the man who was glaring at him shout,
"HOW DARE YOU SHOW YOUR FACE HERE LIN MU! AFTER ALL THAT YOUVE DONE!"
Before Lin Mu could reply, the man spoke again,
"After the supervisor confiscated your property, why would you come here! Youre not welcome to stay here anymore."
By this time, the other nearby peasants had heard Yuan Tus shouting and some had come to check what was happening. Lin Mu was getting nervous as more and more people gathered. He looked at their faces, and every person was looking at him with a repulsive look. Lin Mu gathered his courage to reply:
"Uncle Yuan Tu, Im not here to stay. Im just visiting the town to sell and buy some things."
Yuan Tu answered disparagingly,
"What would you even sell after all your property was confiscated And if you still have money, you should compensate us instead."
The other peasants all agreed in a irritated melody:
"Yeah! If you have anything to sell, you better compensate us first!"
Lin Mu did not even know what to reply, as he had no way to compensate them, anyway. Looking at the silent Lin Mu, the peasants kept on rambling; knowing there was no practical chance that Lin Mu could compensate them. They were simply venting their anger.
Lin Mu decided to just walk away as he could not listen to the peasants anymore and wanted to do nothing with them. Lin Mu took a step back and turned around when someone grabbed his shoulder.
"Where do you think youre going Today we will settle our debts."
Yuan Tu was gripping his shoulder hard. If Lin Mu had not broken through to the fourth stage of body tempering, his shoulder bones would be broken. Yuan Tu, who himself was in the fourth stage of the body tempering realm, was a little surprised seeing that Lin Mu was not hurt at all. Lin Mu squirmed and pushed away Yuan Tus hand.
"Let go of me Yuan Tu. Ive already paid by getting my property seized, youve no right to stop me."
Yuan Tu, now furious, rushed to hold him once again while shouting,
"Grab this kid! Hell compensate us with his bones and blood!"
The other peasants, who were standing there, also attempted to catch Lin Mu. He had been surrounded at this point on three sides by the indignant peasants. Lin Mu started running around, while all the peasants chased him.
By this time, the towns guards had noticed the commotion and informed the supervisor: Li Peng.
Hearing that the peasants were creating a commotion and had stopped working even when they were already behind in terms of completing the harvest, Li Pengs face turned red with anger and he ran towards the location the guards had mentioned. The guards were following behind Li Peng, unable to keep up with his speed.
Li Peng was in the eighth stage of the body tempering realm. If he could learn a qi cultivation technique, Li Peng would have already become a qi cultivator since the minimum level at which one could become one was the eighth stage of body tempering. Only at the eighth stage was the body strong and durable enough to handle spirit qi.
If anyone attempted to use a qi cultivation technique before the eighth stage, they would, in the best case, cripple themselves or possibly end up dying.
Lin Mu, and the peasants who were chasing him, heard a thundering voice coming from behind them.
"STOP RIGHT THIS SECOND! WHAT IS THIS STUPIDITY! WHY HAVE YOU IMBECILES ALL STOPPED WORKING!"
The thundering shout startled Lin Mu and the peasants, stopping them dead in their tracks. Turning around, they saw the supervisor sprinting towards them with the guards in tow. In a few seconds, Li Peng was right in front of them.
"Explain to me right this instance why you are all not working before I sentence everyone to be flogged!"
The peasants were frozen with fear and could not speak. Yuan Tu was gritting his teeth as he was the one who wanted to take revenge on Lin Mu the most, but now that the supervisor had shown up he did not know what would happen.
The supervisor looked at the silent peasants with a grim look and said,
"Whatre you waiting for, omens! SPEAK!!!!"
Before any peasant could utter a word, Lin Mu cried,
"The peasants attacked me when I was passing by the orchard, I did nothing to provoke them."
Looking at the boy, Li Peng found him to be familiar and then remembered him to be the same boy who caused the loss three days ago.
Knowing that he could not let Lin Mu talk anymore, Yuan Tu spoke up:
"Hes lying, Sir Supervisor. He has come here with ill intentions. He has no reason to be here, yet here he is."
With slight panic in his voice, Lin Mu shouted,
"Thats completely false, sir. I was just visiting the town to sell and buy some things. I had no intention to interact with these people. Yuan Tu was the first one to shout and attack me."
"LIES!!!!" Yuan Tu yelled.
"SILENCE!" The supervisor shouted, looking at them with an irritated face.
Li Peng felt something wrong with their statements; someone was definitely lying. Thinking about the boys situation, he did not think the boy would be courageous enough to attempt something like provoking these peasants. He switched his gaze over to Yuan Tus eyes and found him staring at Lin Mu with eyes filled with animosity.
Yuan Tu sensed the supervisor looking at him, thus averted his gaze from Lin Mu and said,
"The boy is clearly lying, Sir. He says he is going to sell and buy things from the town, yet I dont see him carrying anything to sell and I dont think he has any money left after the punishment."
With a sinister look in his eyes, Yuan Tu continued,
"Sir Supervisor, I suspect he is here to take revenge by stealing the spirit apples from the orchard. I was just trying to stop him from attempting anything."
At this point, Yuan Tu was just saying whatever that could get Lin Mu incriminated. Li Peng scanned the boy from top to bottom and indeed found him to be carrying nothing that could be sold. The dread within Lin Mu was increasing second by second, thus he did the only thing he could think of. He started to chant the Calming Heart Sutra in a silent voice.
The fear and dread within Lin Mu was washed away by the calming waves, and his mind stilled; no stray thought arising. In Lin Mus mind, minutes may have passed; yet for others it had been just a few seconds. With his mind free from fear, Lin Mu thought about how to find a solution to his current predicament. With lightning quick thoughts, he found a solution that may work if he played his cards right.
Lin Mu put his hand inside the empty, small money pouch that was tied to his waist and withdrew the black-horned rabbits horn from the ring. Pulling his hand out from the pouch, Lin Mu showed the small horn in his hand to the supervisor and spoke,
"Sir, I wanted to sell this horn in the town, so that I could buy some grain or rice to eat."
Looking at the small black horn Lin Mu was holding, Yuan Tu was stumped, as he was sure that the boy was not carrying anything in the pouch. During the chase, his hand had also grazed the money pouch tied to his waist and he definitely felt nothing in it. The reason Yuan Tu was sure that he could incriminate Lin Mu was that he had felt like he had verified the boy had nothing to sell. This had put Yuan Tu in a quandary.
Li Peng stayed silent while looking at the horn in Lin Mus hand, then spoke...