Ling Shu felt like he had accidentally dug a hole and buried himself in it.
The remaining half of the duck egg yolk also lost its flavor.
He decided to take the initiative.
"I'll be upfront about it. I've played the role of a disciple and even pretended to be bald. Now it's Old Yuan's turn. Among the three of us, there's a young wife and husband, and an old man. I acted like a grandson in front of Mr. Song, so it's only fair that you guys call me dad now!"
Old Yuan touched his own face and said, "Brother, it's not that I don't want to give you face, but do you think anyone would believe that I, with this face, could pass as a woman or a young girl? You have delicate skin and tender flesh, while no matter how much makeup I put on, I can't hide those wrinkles and creases on my face. It's just a few hours of inconvenience for you. When we arrive outside Beijing tomorrow, we can go our separate ways. You and your friends can go back to Shanghai. Except for me and Old Yue, who else would know about you pretending to be a woman? Don't you think so?"
"No way, this is not negotiable!" Ling Shu's attitude was very firm.
He picked out the egg yolk with three or two strokes and put it in his mouth, resolutely not leaving a single bit for Old Yuan.
"I just said it casually. We don't even need to disguise ourselves. The train passes through Jinzhou and Shanhaiguan. If we really encounter Mr. Song, can't we just say we're going to Jinzhou to join our fellow martial artists?"
Old Yuan replied, "Of course not! He just arrived and we're leaving right after him. It's obvious that something's not right if we follow the coffin together."
Yue Dingtang added, "In Fengtian City, the Jin family is a prestigious family and we know quite a few people there. If someone investigates carefully, they will definitely notice that we are strangers. Unless we pretend to be their concubines."
Old Yuan agreed, "That's right. Mr. Jin said that two members of the Jin family will be traveling with us this time. They are loyal, reliable, and have good judgment. However, both of them are old. If we pretend to be their concubines, it's better than five grown men traveling together and arousing suspicion."
Ling Shu nodded, "Makes sense. How about this, one of you can pretend to be a concubine of the Jin family. If you're willing, I won't say another word. Is that fair?"
Old Yuan remained silent. He slowly shifted his gaze towards Yue Dingtang.
As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
Yue Dingtang seemed to have missed Old Yuan's hint. He kept his eyes down and finished the last bit of porridge in his bowl.
Even in his new clothes, Yue Dingtang seemed to have forgotten his own background.
Despite the plain dishes served by Mr. Song, he acted as if he was dining at his own home, without any hint of discomfort.
Old Yuan couldn't take it anymore.
He poked Yue Dingtang's arm, "Brother, how about you play the female family member?"
"Sure," Yue Dingtang replied without hesitation.
Ling Shu and Old Yuan were both surprised.
"But you have to find me a piece of women's clothing that fits me. It can't be ill-fitting. My request is reasonable, right?"
"Of course, it's reasonable!"
Old Yuan slapped his thigh and went straight to the basement, bringing out all the boxes and cages he had stored with the old master.
"Inside are all the clothes the old master had the tailor make. There are all kinds of styles. Although they can't compare to the trendy clothes in Shanghai, there are still qipao dresses, flower cotton jackets, and even wigs I got from the opera troupe. Just put on a wig and tie it up in a bun, and you'll be a pretty little girl!"
His words showed that he had no practical experience.
Even if these burly men put on women's clothing and painted their faces with all the colors of the rainbow, no one would think they were women. They would just turn and run.
Yue Dingtang shook his head and picked up a large floral cotton jacket. He took off his own outer garment and put on the jacket. The sleeves were too short, exposing his wrists.
He then picked up a silk skirt and put it on his lower body. The skirt was also too short, revealing his socks on his ankles.
Yue Dingtang shrugged, clearly indicating that it was not his unwillingness to cooperate, but that none of the clothes here fit him properly.
Old Yuan: ...
Ling Shu had long been laughing so hard that he couldn't lift his head from the table.
"Old Yuan, I think you can wear that floral cotton jacket that Old Yue is wearing. You're just a bit shorter." He laughed so hard that his speech was interrupted.
Old Yuan was so angry that he was embarrassed: "If you want me to wear it, I'll wear it. Will you dare to wear it?"
"If you want, I can risk my life to accompany you."
After finishing his meal, Ling Shu was feeling lazy and didn't want to move.
He sat there, still as a statue, except for the fact that he was missing a furry tail to wag back and forth and a sun hanging above his head.
Despite this, his fur was stretched out and his front paws were curled in front of him, as if he was about to yawn and start hibernating any moment.
Suddenly, Old Yuan was provoked and immediately rummaged through a box to pull out a set of short jackets and skirts.
"I'll show you by wearing them myself!" he exclaimed.
Everyone present was a grown man, so he didn't bother to be discreet and began to loosen his clothes.
In no time at all, he was stripped down to nothing and then put on each piece of clothing one by one.
Ling Shu looked surprised, not because Old Yuan suddenly became stunningly beautiful in his new outfit, but because of the delicate way he fastened the buttons on his skirt.
"Old Yuan, do you have a beautiful lady living inside you?" he asked in amazement.
Old Yuan rolled his eyes in response. "You don't know anything, I used to work in a theater troupe as an extra. Although I never played the lead role or wore the beautiful costumes, I've seen enough to know what to do. I can even help you with your disguise, the old master of the Deqing troupe taught me some tricks!"
He put on the dress, posed with a delicate hand gesture, and gave Ling Shu a seductive look.
Ling Shu suddenly woke up from his drowsiness and the sleepiness disappeared.
To be fair, the person was still the same person, with the same old wrinkled face and a pair of men's shoes under the dress, which was quite comical.
But with Old Yuan's act, he actually had a bit of femininity.
This act's mature charm was also quite charming.
Suddenly, Ling Shu understood how this person had been able to stay by the old master's side for years without being discovered.
Old Yuan's brother was a man of few words, with a gloomy disposition. He could go days or even weeks without speaking a single word. Such a person was undoubtedly the most reliable confidant of Master Guan. He had no social life and would never reveal any secrets.
However, Old Yuan was completely different. He had a fiery temper and could talk a lot every day. When he was with Ling Shu, he would chat endlessly about anything and everything.
In order to play the role of a good brother, he had to become a living mute, trying his best not to speak and suppressing all his fiery temper under his cold and gloomy exterior.
Surprisingly, ELdest Master Guan and his brothers did not notice that their father's confidant had already been replaced.
It seemed that Old Yuan was also a good actor and could endure a lot, but he just didn't want to pretend in front of his own people.
"Be patient, don't be anxious. Let me put on some makeup and wear a wig." Old Yuan picked up the cosmetics from the trunk and placed them on the table. He began to apply them to his face in front of the mirror.
Ling Shu watched in amazement as Old Yuan seemed to perform a magic trick. With a stroke of the brush and a few touches of his fingers, deeper wrinkles appeared on his face.
His eyes now had a hint of dark circles, making him look like a woman who had been working hard all day taking care of her family.
After putting on a wig and fixing any imperfections, he wrapped a dark scarf around his neck to cover his Adam's apple.
Ling Shu couldn't help but take a few steps back and examine Old Yuan closely. It was truly amazing.
Although he could still recognize Old Yuan's original appearance, the sharp edges and corners had softened. Without speaking, no one would suspect his gender.
This is the look of an ordinary woman who has lived in Northeast China for a long time. She is not stunningly beautiful, but rather plain and low-key. She looks dusty and worn, and people wouldn't give her a second glance on the street.
Even Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang were a bit stunned by her appearance.
Their reaction pleased Old Yuan immensely.
"It seems that my skills haven't deteriorated," he thought to himself.
But as soon as he opened her mouth, his quacking voice made Ling Shu burst out laughing.
Old Yuan glared at him and cleared his throat before speaking again.
"Alright, I'm ready. Now it's your turn, brother."
Ling Shu rubbed his forehead. "I just remembered, isn't the entrance to the secret passage still not cleaned up? I'll go check it out!"
Old Yuan quickly grabbed his arm. "What, you want to back out?"
Ling Shu looked over at Yue Dingtang. The latter looked helpless, as if to say 'whether you stick your neck out or not, you'll still get the same result. Just give in.'
Ling Shu: ...
As the saying goes, what goes around comes around, and it's not that there's no retribution, it's just that the time hasn't come yet.
Old Yuan chuckled to himself, determined to regain the dignity he had just lost from being mocked.
"Come on, try this one."
The cotton cheongsam made of purple-red winter jasmine flowers looked brand new, with delicate stitching.
"I've measured it, and it should fit you perfectly."
Ling Shu: ...
Old Yuan gave him a sidelong glance. "What, having second thoughts?"
Ling Shu didn't want to give up without a fight. "The cheongsam won't work. I just had surgery on my leg and it's still wrapped in gauze. Wearing a cheongsam will definitely expose it."
"That's easy," Old Yuan said, rummaging through his things and pulling out a long cheongsam from the bottom. It was a dark blue cheongsam embroidered with orchids, which would cover his wound and exuded a delicate charm.
But Ling Shu was not a delicate flower, nor did he want to be one.
Ling Shu said, "This won't do. It's too luxurious. We are here to assist the Jin family with their funeral. We can't dress like this."
Old Yuan replied, "What's wrong with it? It's not red, and it's already quite plain. We don't have much time left. We need to hurry down the mountain to meet the Jin family. Don't be more indecisive than a woman!"
Yue Dingtang added, "Ling Shu, just bear with it for now. When we return to Shanghai, I'll have Uncle Zhou make you some delicious food."
Ling Shu began to complain pitifully, "Boss, look at me. I only earn a few coppers a month. This time, I came out with you and not only did I get shot, but I also had to wear women's clothing. Look at me, where can you find a subordinate more miserable than me?"
Yue Dingtang replied, "I'll give you a raise."
Ling Shu said, "With this injury, I'm afraid I won't be able to work for a while."
Yue Dingtang said, "I'll give you a long vacation."
Ling Shu said, "Actually, I really want to eat Uncle Zhou's braised lion's head."
Yue Dingtang said, "I'll have him make it for you every day."
Ling Shu said, "And also..."
Yue Dingtang said, "If you can't walk, I'll carry you."
Ling Shu was at a loss for words and forgot what he wanted to say.
"Alright, alright, hurry up and change your clothes!" Old Yuan urged impatiently, already taking the initiative to help Ling Shu take off his outer garment.
"I'll go keep watch outside. You have forty minutes to prepare, so hurry up," said Yue Dingtang, looking at his pocket watch before striding out the door.
Mr. Song was an overly suspicious man, and Yue Dingtang couldn't help but be cautious. He walked out and went almost halfway down the mountain before turning back.
As he re-entered the courtyard, he saw a person in a blue cheongsam turning around.
Their eyes met, and Yue Dingtang was slightly taken aback.
This is... Ling Shu?