Chapter One (Part 1)
Luo Yang Province.
West of the busy streets of Luo Yang Province, two young women were resting in a quiet alley.
'Mistress, can you withstand the pain?' Su Wu asked.
Tao Tu Yun's back was leaning against a wall.
'Su Wu, you don't need to worry,' Tao Tu Yun said. 'I only need to rest for a bit and I'll be alright.'
But Tao Tu Yun's pale face, sweat on her forehead and her hand that was slowly rubbing her chest contradicted her words.
'Mistress, you knew you would be in pain yet you still...' Su Wu said.
Su Wu sighed. She knew her advice would be useless, her mistress' heart was too compassionate.
Tao Tu Yun smiled despite her pain.
'Look what I found,' a man said. 'Two beautiful young ladies.'
Tao Tu Yun and Su Wu turned around. A group of men were leering at Tao Tu Yun.
Su Wu stood in front of her mistress and spread her hands to shield her mistress.
'Who are you?' Su Wu asked. 'What do you want?'
Zhang Huo the leader of the group was smiling slyly.
'You don't need to be weary of me,' Zhang Huo said. 'It looks like your mistress is ill. I want to invite your mistress to my home to recover.'
Zhang Huo gestured for his servants to detain Su Wu. His servants pulled Su Wu away from Tao Tu Yun.
'Help!' Su Wu cried out. 'Help! Let go. What do you people want?'
The men were too strong, Su Wu could only cry out for help.
Zhang Huo stretched his arms toward Tao Tu Yun but his arms touched air.
A tall young handsome man dressed in a blue outer robe was holding Tao Tu Yun against his chest.
Zhang Huo swallowed his saliva. The young man in front of him had dangerous dark eyes that were glaring at him.
Zhang Huo didn't dare to say anything. He and his servants ran away without looking back like they were being chased by bandits.
Su Wu was relieved she and her mistress were saved. But she knew her mistress was in immense pain.
'Let go!' Tao Tu Yun said.
Tao Fang Ao looked at the woman he was holding in his arms. She looked too fragile as though if he held her tighter then she would break. But the fierceness in her eyes looked like she wanted to injure him so he reluctantly let her go.
Tao Fang Ao felt a strange feeling in his heart. But he quickly disappeared from the alley and strode to busier streets.
Tao Fang Ao walked into a busy inn.
'Why won't you careful?' the inn caretaker asked a waiter. 'How could you let the kitchen catch fire?'
The inn caretaker sighed helplessly.
'Luckily the fire was extinguished and only the kitchen was burned,' the inn caretaker said. 'Otherwise our customers could have been injured and they would want compensation. What cause the fire?'
'A stray cat jumped into the kitchen and caused a mess,' the waiter said. 'While the head cook was chasing the cat away, the stove was left unattended and the kitchen caught fire. But a strange incident happened before the fire.'
'What strange incident?' Tao Fang Ao asked.
'Second master,' the inn caretaker and the waiter greeted at the same time.
In the Luo Yang Province everyone knew the Tao Household. The Tao Household were renowned for their years of charity work. Each month the Tao Household would distribute bags of rice and buy medicine for poor households.
'What strange incident was everyone talking about?' Tao Fang Ao asked.
Tao Fang Ao ignored the customers' eyes that were focused on him.
'Second master, before the fire there were two young lady customers,' the waiter said. 'The elegant young lady requested to see the caretaker. She warned the caretaker to be careful that the kitchen would catch on fire today. The caretaker was furious she dared to jinx the inn and he kicked the two young ladies outside the inn. Not long after they left the kitchen caught on fire. Second master, don't you think it's a strange incident?'
Tao Fang Ao carefully assessed everyone's reactions.
'Were the two young ladies not Luo Yang Province locals?' Tang Fang Ao asked.
'I don't think they were locals,' the waiter said. 'I've never seen them before today.'
Tao Fang Ao left the inn like an angry puff of smoke. He thought carefully about the fire incident.
End of Chapter One (Part 1)