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    Chapter 96 - Ox Horn Mountain

    After hearing Zhou Laoba's words, He Zhiran had already guessed that this might be the mountain Peng Wang had mentioned they would have to cross.

    Peng Wang took the initiative to come before Mo Jiuye and He Zhiran to clarify their doubts.

    "This mountain is called Ox Horn Mountain. The peak of the mountain resembles the shape of an ox's horn, hence its name. If we hadn't lost so much time earlier on our journey, we could have chosen to walk around the foot of the mountain, but that would have added another seven or eight days to our trip. We've crossed this mountain before, and there weren't any large wild beasts; instead, there were plenty of pheasants and rabbits, so we can hunt for some game to satisfy our cravings."

    Looking up, He Zhiran saw exactly what Peng Wang had described: two horn-like peaks atop the mountain. The name was indeed apt. Moreover, the mountains seemed to stretch endlessly, and even from the foot of the mountain, one couldn't help but feel a sense of grandeur. It was easy to imagine how physically demanding it would be to climb over them.

    By now, most people had found suitable spots to set up their tents, sitting inside to rest.

    Mo Jiuye approached He Zhiran and pointed at the newly erected tent, saying, "After a day's journey, let's take a rest inside!"

    Indeed, He Zhiran was somewhat fatigued. She acknowledged his suggestion and followed Mo Jiuye into the tent.

    After a brief respite, He Zhiran asked Mo Jiuye to accompany her up the mountain for a look around.

    Her primary reason was that her family mostly consisted of womenfolk, and she wished to gather some branches to craft makeshift walking sticks for them. These would provide support in case they encountered difficult terrain on their ascent.

    Together, they crafted ten simple walking sticks to bring back.

    Seeing these new tools in their hands, the Xie and Fang families inquired about their purpose and promptly followed suit.

    Having spent a peaceful night, everyone woke early the next morning. After a simple breakfast, they packed their belongings and slung them onto their backs before setting off with the officials up Ox Horn Mountain.

    At first, everything went smoothly. Everyone, well-rested from the previous night, had ample energy. However, after an hour or so, the group began to lag behind.

    The He family, in particular, struggled. They either carried or supported He Ming, which often left them trailing at the back of the procession.

    Despite the officials' attempts to intimidate them with whips to hasten their pace, the entourage was unable to move any faster.

    With no other choice, Peng Wang could only lead the group in a stop-and-go journey.

    This sluggish pace actually worked to Mo Jiuye's advantage.

    He would occasionally seize the opportunity to hunt game from the roadside bushes or elsewhere.

    He Zhiran, accompanied by the ladies of the household, would also take the time to gather medicinal herbs along the way.

    Peng Wang, observing the slow pace of the journey still yielding such rewards, significantly diminished his discontent towards the He family.

    With this intermittent journey, by afternoon, the large group had ventured deep into the mountains.

    One could not help but acknowledge that this place was a genuine, untouched natural oxygen haven bestowed by Mother Nature.

    Looking down the mountain, one felt as if perched atop a peak towering over thousands of feet. From this vantage point, a vast expanse of cloud sea stretched out, with mountain peaks seemingly floating amidst it. The nine winding paths through the range inspired a sense of openness in the heart and a blissful forgetfulness of one's return.

    Amidst such a breathtaking scene, He Zhiran temporarily set aside all her worries and immersed herself in the soothing embrace of nature.

    Just as she was lost in reverie, a woman's scream echoed from below.

    Everyone turned their attention towards the source of the sound.

    They saw Lady Zhao sitting on the ground, her face twisted in agony.

    He Zhiran rushed over promptly.

    "Mrs. He, my mother-in-law just stepped on a rock; I think she sprained her ankle," explained Fang's daughter-in-law, holding onto He Zhiran, describing her mother-in-law's condition.

    Without a second thought, He Zhiran lifted Lady Zhao's pant leg to inspect the injury.

    As she observed the protruding ankle bone, it was clear that this was far more severe than a simple sprain.

    "Auntie, you seem to have fractured your ankle."

    As He Zhiran spoke, her gaze began scanning the surroundings.

    Upon hearing that she had broken her bone, Lady Zhao's tears immediately flowed down her cheeks. "It's all my fault; I can't even walk properly." As she spoke, she subconsciously glanced in the direction of the He family. At that moment, He Ming was being carried by several women, struggling to make his way towards them. Lady Zhao didn't wish to become a burden to her family like He Ming. Seizing the opportunity when her daughter-in-law's attention was elsewhere, she closed her eyes and rolled down the slope beside her. She fervently hoped that the King of Hell would swiftly come to take her away, determined not to be a liability to her loved ones. Nobody could have anticipated Lady Zhao's desperate act. By the time they realized something was amiss with her, she had already tumbled several meters down the slope. "Mother!" "Lady Zhao, what are you doing?"

    "Mother, stop please..."

    The Fang family members rushed uniformly towards Madam Zhao's direction.

    Unfortunately, the terrain there was steep. One misstep could lead to the same predicament as Madam Zhao's.

    Due to this, despite the Fang family's pursuit, they were nowhere near as fast as Madam Zhao's rolling speed.

    As Madam Zhao's body tumbled further and further away, the Fang family had lost all hope.

    Just then, they clearly saw Madam Zhao's rolling body suddenly come to a halt. Mo Jiuye stood firmly in front of a large tree, having already stopped Madam Zhao from rolling any further down.

    The Fang family heaved a sigh of relief while cautiously approaching them.

    Through everyone's combined efforts, they finally managed to bring Madam Zhao back to her original location.

    Fortunately, Madam Zhao only sustained some superficial skin abrasions. Otherwise, she was unharmed.

    Seeing the anxious expressions of her loved ones, tears once again poured out of Madam Zhao's eyes like a flood.

    "Why do you insist on this? Our Fang family has already suffered enough misfortune. Why must you stay and burden us... Sobs sobs sobs..."

    Seeing this, Fang Chuanzhou's tears also fell.

    He understood that his wife was doing this so they could travel without any extra burdens, but he couldn't accept such a sacrifice.

    "We have three sons, and then there's me, an old man. Four strong men escorting you on the journey – how could that be a burden? You mustn't think in such a negative way!"

    "Yes, Mother, we brothers have plenty of strength to take turns carrying you. It won't be a burden at all."

    "Mother, I, your daughter-in-law, can also attend to your daily needs. You mustn't entertain such thoughts."

    Upon seeing her loved ones' deep concern, Zhao's tears flowed even more uncontrollably.

    At that moment, Peng Wang arrived. Hearing that Zhao had broken her leg and then attempted suicide, he felt both anger and frustration towards her.

    Thus, his tone when speaking to her was far from cordial.

    "Madam Zhao, if you dare to take your own life and disrupt the rules here, I swear I'll have your family whipped every day after your death, ensuring their lives become a living hell."

    These words held far more weight for Madam Zhao than any pleading from her family.

    Startled, she immediately vowed,

    "Sir Official, please don't harm my child. I promise I won't even consider it anymore."

    Now, she was filled with dread, fearing that her family would suffer consequences if she actually died.

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