Chapter 28: Meeting an Old Friend
Three days later.
“Use this formula to simmer these medicines, the imperial physician’s waiting impatiently,” a 13 to 14 year old eunuch hailed me with his hand.
I pinched the paper between my fingers and gave it a glance. The written words resembled flying dragons and dancing phoenixes. Tian Shan Mountain Snow Lotus, Thousand-Year Ginseng…though the ingredients for the pill were incomparably rare, their effects were rather ordinary.
“Hey…where are you going?” the young eunuch stopped me with an arm.
I raised my eyes and lazily replied, “Didn’t you tell me to boil some medicine?”
“Wrong, wrong!” he stomped his foot, rapping me with one finger. “The imperial physicians each take turns serving in the palace. Understand?”
I was clueless.
“Let me put it this way,” he looked around, then drew close to speak in a soft voice. “Today’s physician is really hard to please. He doesn’t want any of his prescriptions to be made in the pill room furnace because he has to personally dictate the times and temperatures for the fire. So for this pill, we have to go to his place and have him watch us make it. Only then can we give it to the master.”
— All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.
This wasn’t something for the emperor, so was there a need to go to such lengths?
“Why aren’t you hurrying up…what are you spacing out for?” he gave me a disdainful glance. “Aish, forget it…a newbie girl like you definitely doesn’t understand palace rules. Come on, I’ll show you the way so you can learn a little something. Gong gong’s got lots of things to take care of, so I’ll only teach you once.”
“Thank you, gong gong.” I lowered my head, gathered my ingredients, and straightened. The whole way I followed him left and right, he swished his robes with a haughty air.
Can someone explain to me what this eunuch was acting so arrogantly about to my face….?
Did he think that if I got annoyed enough to poison him, he’d get a new life after being dead and turn into a man?
He suddenly came to a stop and turned around to look at me. “What about you chattering about behind my back?”
I had a sudden moment of panic.
“To answer gong gong’s question, I was saying…” My thoughts were in a knot before I calmed myself down. Suddenly, a fresh scent floated over on the air, and I assumed a posture of sniffing for something. “It’s smells very nice inside this courtyard.”
“You haven’t experienced much,” he backed up a few steps, scooping up his sleeves to point somewhere to my left. “Do you see over there? There’s a pond full of blooming red lotuses, of course it’ll smell nice.”
“Is this the season for red lotuses to bloom?” I was unconvinced. I counted off with my fingers, wondering if I’d remember the time wrong…
“It’s not,” his reply was concise and to the point. A glance swept my way, before he added, “Two days after the crown prince brought back some beautiful stranger, all the flowers bloomed in this pond.”
Tsk. Tsk, tsk.
No wonder, then. Looks like our Fang Hua had some skills. Beautiful, it really was beautiful… Every flower a flower, each petal a petal.
I placed the ingredients for the medicine aside, and leaned against the railings to look down below. A mist hung over the entire pond, and all the lotuses were half-opened, as if shy.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?!”
Fang Hua liked to eat lotuses, but the ones by our house were usually pure white like snow. I’d never seen such a warm, stunning shade of red…
I have to pick one so yifu can taste it.
“Gong gong, you go on first,” I was sprawled on the ground, hand reaching out beyond the banisters. “I’ll find you after I take one.”
He grew nervous, looking around anxiously. Utterly discomfited, he grabbed at my sleeves as if his life depended on it. “You can’t, you can’t pick it…hurry up and stand up.”
You can’t pick it.
I already plucked one…and it was gorgeous, with a huge stem.
“The flowers in the palace aren’t something you can just take so casually! If you do that, then…” he leaned in, making a slicing motion at his throat as he spoke in a very small voice. Then he back up quite a few steps with an expression that clearly said the rest was up to me.
“What…they’ll behead people? Curses, why didn’t you say anything earlier, gong gong?!” I was shocked.
“Hush, what are you making a fuss for? Lower your voice,” the little eunuch covered my mouth with a hand.
Suddenly, the sound of rapid footsteps came rushing from the shrubbery. I looked at him…and he blinked, before releasing me.
— All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.
Panicking, I hurriedly stuffed the fresh lotus inside my robes. It felt a little cold…I shook myself a few times and my neck shrank back, goosebumps showing on my skin.
The little eunuch had a good heart, and hastily bent over to collect the medicinal ingredients, placing them into my hands. He pulled me over to stand by him and squeezed my hand, speaking in a low voice. “Be mindful and follow what gong gong does. Don’t give yourself away.”
I gave him a dumbfounded look, but when our gazes met, there was an implicit understanding.
The tree branches were brushed aside, and a bright yellow robe appeared before our eyes. Since my gaze was lowered, I didn’t dare to see who it was. The little eunuch carefully tugged at me, and I blindly copied his kowtow.
He said your servant greets His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince, and I was filled with a sense of disaster as if thunder was striking my head.
It was just a flower, is it really worth…the attention of such an important person?
I kept kneeling, timid.
Next, I felt someone sweeping their gaze over me before resting on something else.
I lifted my eyes and snuck a peek.
Han Zichuan was neatly attired as a crown prince, a string of pearls hanging from the top of his headpiece. His court dress was embroidered with five dragons, his waist belt ornamented with fine jade, his comportment filled with the air of an aristocrat. It made him even more handsome, if not for the disappointment gracing his face. He seemed to be searching for something.
“Your highness, why did you suddenly run so quickly?” a court lady emerged from the bushes, wiping away her sweat. “The ministers are still waiting for you on the other side.”
His sigh was especially melodious, making him all the more striking.
“Maybe I heard wrong. How could that person be in the palace?” There was a gloomy look in his eyes as he turned. “Let’s go.”
That was a close call…
I watched his retreating form, my hands shaking so much I couldn’t even stand.
“Luckily, we weren’t discovered. Though it’s a small matter if you die, I’d still be tied to a plank and beaten.” the young eunuch’s face was ghastly pale as he helped me up.
—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.
This not-boy not-girl sure knew how to say unpleasant things.
He gave me the cold shoulder for the whole trip as he led me to the wing of a residence. From a very far distance, I could already smell the dense, thick scent of medicine.
The door to the house was softly pushed open, and a wave of heat emerged.
Two rows of pots were currently roasting over fires, tended to by fourteen servants squatting on the ground, fanning the flames.
It was a grand sight…
The lighting was a bit dim indoors, with only a single stream of sunshine coming through the windows. There was a person overseeing the group while reading a volume in his hands. Occasionally, he’d fan himself, seeming leisurely and carefree.
The young eunuch pushed me forward and gave me a Look.
Instead, I stood stunned, surveying the person before me. His finger was slender and attractive, as well as a little familiar.
“Lord Nong, your servant has brought over the medicine you requested,” the eunuch said, pinching the side of my waist.
“Ow,” I blurted. But realizing this wasn’t the time, I hurriedly shut my mouth, eyes blinking.
He turned around, raising his eyebrows as if he wanted to ascertain something from my face. His tone was light as he spoke. “Put the ingredients into the fifteenth pot and heat it over a slow fire.”
I backed out with my body bent over.
But as soon as I turned around, I was gritting my teeth. How unlucky…I ran into all the people I didn’t want to see.
This hateful Nongyu, why did he do things so complicatedly…it was just boiling some medicine, so why did it have to be pot number 15? I dumped everything inside, splashing myself slightly with water.
The flavor tasted a little different.
Maybe they added things in.
I used a sleeve to wipe away the water on my face and sniffed it, before I smiled.
This was pretty smart. Boiling Tian Shan Snow Lotus only fortified the body, but adding in extracts from the Dew of One Hundred Blossoms Pill gave it an extra effect of dispelling poisons.
He knew a few tricks of the trade.
Squatting on the ground, I felt a bit bored as I waved my fan back and forth, watching the fire.
I looked both ways before leaning closer to the fire to warm my clothing. The lotus I’d stuffed inside before had been cold and wet, enough to soak my inner robes and make me uncomfortable.
I pinched the front of my clothes and shook it out a few times.
Then my hand leisurely snaked into and felt around for a bit before my expression changed. My hand slipped out…I didn’t know when, but the lotus inside my robes had lost all its petals, which had scattered over my hands.
What a pity…
And I’d wanted to bring it to yifu.
“What are you doing? Pay more attention.” the person next to me gave a shove.
“Yes,” I sucked in a breath and hastily hid the remains in my robes. There was a cold sensation behind my back, as if someone was staring my way. The fire was blazing hot, and I grew thoughtful as I fanned it back and forth, trying to steal a peek.
Everyone was minding their own business…
Could it be that I was hallucinating?
“All right, it’s about time. Leave the rest to me to finish.” A clear, refreshing voice rose about the heat in the room, making everyone who heard it feel extremely comfortable.
Nongyu lowered his book with a smile, and waved his hand. The servants all lowered their heads and started trailing out. I copied them.
Before I reached the door, though…
A pair of boots appeared below my eyes, and its owner noiselessly blocked the exit.
Nongyu leaned in, eyes curved into a smile as he spoke softly.
-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.
 Gong gong (??) ?title used by eunuchs to refer to themselves in third person.