Three days later.
In the afternoon, in the study hall of a private college within Huang Manor, near the iron mine. 
"Im leaving, Juanjuan!"
A girl with double braids carrying a cloth satchel waved at her good friend who was still inside the study hall.
Song Yunjuan smiled at her from her seat. 
"Hurry and go, or your parents will scold you again if you're late."
That girl skipped away in a light jog as she left under the evening sky. She went further and further away, until she was no longer visible.
Song Yunjuan waited till she could no longer see her good friend before withdrawing her gaze. She looked around at the empty study hall; everyone had left, leaving only her behind.
"I should get back too," carefully, Song Yunjuan kept her brush, ink and straw paper from her desk. She stuffed them into her little satchel, stood up and tidied herself, then walked out of the study hall.
Under the evening sky, Huang Manor looked especially still and faint.
A few of the women who had been chatting by the walls hurriedly rose and left as soon as they caught sight of Song Yunjuan exiting. Seemingly, they had no wish to even lay eyes on her.
In the distance, there were a few boys aged around seven or eight. They had been fooling around, yet the moment they caught sight of Song Yunjuan, the boys were instantly scared into fleeing at top speed.
"RUN! The jinx is out!"
Song Yunjuan seemed not to mind. Lowering her head, she spruced up her little satchel and headed in the direction of her house.
The Huang Manor was only a few li away from her house, which was not far. However, for a girl like her who was barely ten years old, it was an extremely long distance.
Actually, everything at home had been fine up till a few years ago. Then, her father, mother, and her grandparents were all alive and well.
However, ever since two years ago, Big Bro began to grow obsessed with concocting pills to attain immortality, even forfeiting the Annual Examinations. All through the day, he would go on and on at home, burying himself in cultivating immortal magic and pill concocting methods. Worse, he had wantonly wasted the familys assets to buy various rubbish and nonsensical manuals on immortality and pill concoction.
From then on, their life had taken a turn for the worse.
First, it was Grandpa and Grandma who had vanished after a day out hiking, never to return. Then, both Father and Mother, while they were still in mourning for the grandparents, were involved in an accident. The horse carriage they were in had crashed and plummeted down a cliff.
Afterwards, there had been no one else at home to restrain Big Bro. He thus began to concoct pills and cultivate immortality with deranged fervor, as if he had been possessed.
As for the other brothers and sisters, most had left their home in disappointment. Even until now, only she and Big Bro remained living in the Manor. In order to concoct pills, Big Bro had sold off everything of value within the house, such that the entire Manor was now barren. Not even thieves were willing to visit. The house servants had also all been dismissed, leaving just the two of them behind.
Song Yunjuans fair face showed some hints of dejection. She was beginning to miss her grandpa and her father.
"Also, Mothers osmanthus cake was really yummy" lowering her head, she gently rubbed at her eyes, which had once again turned moist. She quickened her steps towards home.
Sadly, she had nothing left now. Thankfully, Mister Chen at the private college took pity on her family circumstances and didn't chase her out just because she couldn't afford to pay the silver, and allowed her to remain to take the lessons.
Trudging along the entire way, Song Yunjuan used a straw string to gather up all her shoulder-length short hair. After walking swiftly on the journey, she finally arrived at the entrance of the house just as night had fallen.
The main door of the Song Manor was unlocked and opened a crack. All the surroundings were in pitch-black, without a single soul in sight.
Song Yunjuan had long since grown used to it. Pushing hard onto the main door, she entered. Then, she turned round to lock the door and placed a thick, heavy beam across it.
Having locked the main door, she swept the ash off her hands and turned to head towards the courtyard.
Fallen leaves and dry twigs lay strewn on the ground. Inside, the room was pitch-black; even the fires were not lit.
Borrowing the moonlight, she headed in the direction of the side hall.
Within the barren and deathly silent rectangular courtyard, only the pitter-patter sound of her footsteps rang out. Her worn-out deer-skin moccasins struck against the stony floor, causing tuk tuk tuk sounds to ring out constantly.
Song Yunjuan had long since gotten used to such a sight. She walked quickly to the side hall and took a look. It was dark and dim inside; moonlight shone off the barren dining table in the middle.
Nothing was on top of it.
Sighing, she could only head towards Big Bros sleeping quarters.
Crossing over the stone bridge, she walked towards the largest room on the left and lightly pushed onto the door.
The friction of wood striking against wood screeched shrilly across the whole Manor, piercing through the silence.
It was dark and gloomy inside the room. Song Yunjuan could only barely make out the arrangement within the room thanks to the moonlight.
The left corner of the room was cast entirely in shadows. Under the moonlight, one could faintly see that an object of enormous size sat there.
Song Yunjuan knew that that was Big Bros pill furnace.
She craned her neck to look to the right, where she could see a square table. She could faintly see some bowls on it.
"Big Bro, youre still concocting pills?"
"Mm, just concocted a few," a male voice drifted out from the silence.
Song Yunjuan entered the room. Groping around, she made her way to the dining table, before feeling for the pair of chopsticks and preparing to tuck in.
However, once she tucked in, she realized that the dish was actually cold. Fine. She could accept that fire couldnt be lit at night. But now, food cant even be heated up? What sort of cold concoction method was this that didn't even require fire?
"Big Bro, you didnt heat up the dishes again?"
"Yeah. I prepared them this morning and havent had the time to heat it up," a reply sounded out from the dark.
Song Yunjuan sighed.
However, what she could not see was that not even a single soul was present in the darkness behind the pill furnace!
No one was there. So where did that voice come from?
No one knows.
After eating merely two mouthfuls, she couldn't really stomach the food anymore. The meat inside seemed to have gone rancid, as if it hadnt been prepared just this morning.
"Today I talked to Chen Meiqin, shell come over to our place in a few days to play, Big Bro"
"Mm, Im listening," that voice answered.
"Can you accompany me at home in the day?" Yunjuan asked softly.
"I need to concoct pills," was the short reply.
"You cant accompany me for even a day?" Yunjuans eyes brimmed with disappointment.
"I need to concoct pills," that voice repeated.
Yunjuan clammed up. Lowering her head, she continued to eat in silence.
She seemed not to realize at all that a tall, large shadow had approached soundlessly from a corner of the room and gradually loomed behind her.
That shadow had a pale, miserable countenance. It was a male face that was devoid of any trace of emotion.
He lowered his head to look at Yunjuan. Slowly, he stretched out a hand, in which was gripped a pair of scissors, dripping in blood
"Bang, bang, bang!"
Suddenly, violent knocking could be heard on the main door of the courtyard.
Song Yunjuan stood up in a heartbeat.
"Whos that?" Hurrying outside, she arrived at the main door.
"Anybody home? Were hikers in the area, and happened to pass by here. Were stuck here temporarily because a mountain boulder had fallen in the way, so we're hoping to take shelter here for the night," a crisp male voice, somewhat warm and friendly, rang out.
Song Yunjuan hesitated for a moment. Currently, only she and her Big Bro were in the manor. If these people were up to no good
"Little girl, are any of the adults home? We can pay the required silver in advance, a night is all we need," the person again called out. "Were not bad people. These are the expenses for staying the night."
A tart sound could be heard as a string of large currency was thrown in over the wall dividing them.
Song Yunjuan sprinted over to take a look and picked it up.
Eight huge copper coins twice the average size had been strung together on a black string. It shimmered copper-black in the moonlight.
She counted them carefully. There were actually eight huge coins, which was equivalent to a tael of silver. For this person to part with eight large coins so flippantly, this man was clearly not short of money.
Song Yunjuan deliberated over the matter. Remembering that there was a man, her Big Bro, in the house, she lifted the beam over the door and exerted all her strength to swing the door open.
The door opened wide to reveal three muscular men standing by the entrance. From one look, it was clear that they were young men who practiced martial arts.
In the lead was a man wearing grayish-white Confucian robes, looking somewhat like a scholar; yet even the loose scholarly robes could not conceal the mans bulging muscles and robust physique.
Song Yunjuan laid eyes on the three of them, her gaze gradually lowering to fall on the hilts of the sabers that they carried on their bodies. Immediately, her heart began to pound violently.
"Little miss, are you alone at home? My name is Lu Sheng and we happened to pass by here. We did not expect at all to meet with a mountain landslide, and for the moment, we cant head back. Only this manor is the safest among those in the vicinity; the high walls keep out the wild beasts. Thats why we hope to stay the night." This scholar attempted his best to convey warmth and friendliness, but his intense murderous aura and rippling muscular build, as well as the long saber hung horizontally across his back all clearly indicated that that this man was no kind soul.
"My Big Bro is also home. However, hes concocting pills, so if theres no issue, dont disturb him," Song Yunjuan instructed seriously. "Also, its okay if you stay, but don't light any fires. My Big Bro doesn't like it to be bright."
"How can we not light fires?" Duan Mengan, who was behind Lu Sheng, could not help but mutter under his breath.
Song Yunjuan bit tightly on her lips, sensing that the three before her were a menace. She was rather frightened and shrunk backwards.
"If if you must light any fires, then you do so where you are staying. Dont bring it out, or my Big Bro will be mad. When hes angry, its really scary"
Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes and gazed towards the interior of the Manor. Indeed, it was pitch-black within. Quite a number of lanterns hung around the area, yet not a single one of them was lit.
"Alright, well just light our own room, is that alright?" He smiled warmly at Song Yunjuan.
Song Yunjuan clung tightly onto the string of huge coins. The house had truly run out of any remaining money; to her, this amount was really crucial. With a bit of scrimping and saving, she would have enough to settle the school fees for the next half of the year.
Standing aside, she allowed Lu Sheng and the other two in.
The main door shut tight and a beam was once again lowered across it.
Song Yunjuan led the three of them towards the guest room.
Song Yunjuan was rather ashamed by the fallen leaves and withered twigs that littered all over the ground. From the dilapidated scene, anybody could tell that this family had come to ruin.
After sending each of them to their individual guest rooms, Song Yunjuan turned to return to rest.
"Dong dong dong."
Suddenly, someone else was again knocking on the door.
"Ill go take a look," Song Yunjuan ran over hurriedly to the main door. She wasn't that worried over whether Lu Sheng and the rest were the sort to loot the house; everything of value in the house had long since been emptied and sold by Big Bro. All that remained were old and broken miscellaneous items that even hoarders would despise.
Lu Sheng followed the little girl running off, then surveyed the derelict courtyard and the sinister surroundings.
"Its hard on this little lass."
"Never did I expect that someone actually lived here," Duan Mengan felt slightly nervous.
"Whats so strange about people staying in this manor?" Another among them, Ning San, was a choice man that Lu Sheng had specially selected for this expedition.
They had disguised themselves as passers-by precisely to delve deeper into the situation within this Manor.
 ED/N: Yeah, private college. I thought it was a mistake as well, since who would actually have a dayum college inside their house, that maybe it was a study or something... but no, the raws don't lie. It's a dayum college. Also, it's a different manor.
 ED/N: Just to clarify: Yunjuan is her name, Juanjuan is her nickname created off the "-juan" part of her name.