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    Chapter 91: Stop Right There

    Despite having a reasonable plan in place, the floodwaters below the mountain had yet to recede, preventing Peng Wang from descending the mountain to seek help from the county magistrate.

    In such circumstances, all they could do was wait patiently, hoping that the waters would withdraw sooner rather than later.

    With ample herbs purchased the previous night, He Zhiran planned to organize the villagers to continue boiling the medicine once matters were settled here.

    Perhaps Village Officer Liu had unintentionally let it slip, for the villagers were now aware of their affliction with the plague.

    The villagers, at this moment, were somewhat agitated, unwilling to remain in the cave and wait for death. Their only thought was to escape this place.

    Although Village Officer Liu had a clear head and trusted He Zhiran's words, he forbade anyone from leaving without her consent.

    However, the villagers, gripped by fear, had lost all reason. One man's authority, no matter how respected, was insufficient to hold them back.

    He Zhiran and Mo Jiuye arrived at the entrance of the cave to witness the villagers pushing past Village Officer Liu in a desperate attempt to flee.

    Mo Jiuye bellowed, "Stop right there!"

    The leading villager was taken aback but then brandished the axe in his hand threateningly at Mo Jiuye.

    "You want to die, stay here then. Don't hinder us."

    How could Mo Jiuye let these villagers leave? He stepped forward and blocked the entrance to the cave.

    He Zhiran followed closely, and the couple stood firm at the entrance together.

    The village leader had only intended to scare Mo Jiuye away with the axe. Now that the man was blocking the entrance, he dared not swing it down.

    For nearly half a minute, both parties remained in a deadlock.

    Peng Wang heard the commotion and arrived with the bailiffs, blocking the cave entrance while drawing their sabers.

    Seeing that the other side was armed, the villagers' bravado waned.

    "Sir, please let us go! We don't wish to die."

    He Zhiran stepped forward, shielding the speaker.

    "Who said you have to die?"

    A villager, with a pained expression, spoke up, "Some of us have already been infected with the plague. If the officials find out, they'll surely lock us up and burn us alive."

    Hearing this, He Zhiran, with great patience, inquired, "Did all of you take the medicine I gave you last night?"

    The villagers nodded, not quite understanding the relevance.

    He Zhiran then pointed at Li Tiezhu, who was being supported by his wife. "Be honest with everyone. Do you feel much better now than you did yesterday?"

    Li Tiezhu subconsciously touched his jawline.

    "It's true, the swelling here has indeed gone down."

    He Zhiran turned to the other villagers who had exhibited symptoms before.

    "And you few, has the fever and vomiting subsided since taking the medicine yesterday?"

    They nodded blankly, "I haven't vomited since I took the medicine."

    "I only feel a bit dizzy now. All other symptoms have improved."

    He Zhiran nodded, casting another glance around the crowd.

    "You all heard that? Those who have been infected with the plague have seen their conditions improve after taking my medicine. Given this situation, if you continue to take the medicine, I promise you'll be back to normal within three days. I'm sure you've all heard about the severity of the plague. Once infected, there's virtually no chance of survival. If you don't wish to die, then stay here and continue taking the medicine obediently. Of course, if you insist on leaving, I won't stop you. Just make sure you don't regret your decision later."

    Upon hearing He Zhiran's words, the villagers hesitated. What he said made perfect sense. Even if they managed to escape, without medical treatment and nowhere safe to go, their fate would remain the same – death. Soon, some of them began to understand this logic.

    "I'm not leaving either. At least if I die here, it's still in my homeland."

    "I won't leave either. I can't risk spreading the virus to more people."

    Seizing the opportunity, Village Officer Liu continued to persuade the villagers, who gradually regained their composure and returned to the cave.

    He Zhiran handed the herbs to the village officer, asking him to arrange for someone to continue boiling the medicine.

    The commotion caused by the situation was significant enough that both the exiled convicts and the officials were aware of the plague.

    Initially, they shared the same boundless fear as the villagers.

    Gradually, with Peng Wang and Mo Jiuye's persuasion, their thoughts of fleeing subsided.

    To the Mo family, this was a life-and-death moment.

    At this juncture, unity was crucial, and they needed to support Mo Jiuye and He Zhiran.

    Mo Hanyue, along with her sisters-in-law, surrounded He Zhiran, attending to her every need.

    "Ninth Sister, to be with our family, even in death, I have no fear. Whatever needs to be done, just command me."

    "Yes, Ninth Sister-in-law, we of the Mo family aren't afraid. If there's anything you need assistance with, feel free to speak up directly."

    "..."

    He Zhiran was once again touched by her family's support. She smiled warmly, soothing them all.

    "Sisters and Hanyue, there's no need for concern. Not only does my medicine possess the efficacy of treating the plague, but it also serves as a preventative measure against infection."

    "You've all taken the medicine, so the likelihood of infection is significantly reduced," she assured them.

    With He Zhiran's reassurance, everyone sighed in relief and felt immensely grateful that Ninth Brother had married such a capable wife before his exile.

    The family members were warm and genuinely eager to assist, but there was truly nothing that He Zhiran needed them to do at the moment.

    Gently dismissing them with kind words, she turned around only to discover that Mo Jiuye was nowhere to be seen.

    Assuming he had merely found a spot to attend to his needs, He Zhiran didn't give it much thought.

    It wasn't until half an hour later, when the medicine had been boiled and distributed to everyone, that Mo Jiuye returned with several wild chickens and rabbits in tow.

    He Zhiran finally understood. So this guy had gone hunting.

    Having martial arts skills really made a difference. In just half an hour, he had managed to bring back so much game.

    Unfortunately, there were too many people seeking refuge here. The amount of wild meat Mo Jiuye had brought back was merely a drop in the bucket.

    At times like these, they had to be a little selfish. They needed to make sure their own family was fed before thinking of others.

    Mo Jiuye thought the same way, so he sent the game straight to his sisters, asking them to roast it and share it among the family.

    Peng Wang and Village Officer Liu arrived at Mo Jiuye's side almost simultaneously.

    Both of them wore pleading expressions on their faces...

    "Brother, I know you have the ability. Can you endure one more hardship for us...?"

    His words grew weaker as he spoke, but he had no choice but to continue.

    To avoid starvation, their only hope was to seek help from Mo Jiuye.

    Village Officer Liu also looked at Mo Jiuye eagerly, hoping he would agree to Peng Wang's request so that he could benefit from it as well.

    Forget about eating meat; even a bowl of chicken soup would be a blessing at this point.

    Given Mo Jiuye's skills, under normal circumstances, hunting some game in the mountains would be effortless for him. However, today was an exceptional situation.

    Disregarding the slippery roads, perhaps due to the heavy rain, he had exerted his lightness kung fu to search far and wide, yet he had only managed to find a few wild chickens and rabbits.

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