After dinner, Lin Zainan called Yun Ruoyan and Yun Moxiao into his pillmaking chambers. He pulled out a bottle and poured its contents onto a porcelain dish. The dark red liquid slid viscously out of the bottle and emitted a strange, unpleasant odor.
“Grandfather, what’s this?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
Instead of replying directly, Lin Zainan pulled out a silver needle and held one end in the liquid. In an instant, the needle tarnished and blackened.
“Grandfather, that’s a strong poison!” Yun Moxiao exclaimed.
Lin Zainan carefully held out the needle in his hands. The three of them all peered at it closely—despite the short duration of contact, half the thin needle had turned black.
“This is the poisoned blood that was forced out of Ruoyan’s body.” Lin Zainan’s tone was grave, his expression solemn.
Both Yun Moxiao and Yun Ruoyan jerked back in shock before looking at the viscous blood with complicated expressions on their face.
Yun Moxiao even slammed his palm down on the table. “Who dared to use such a malicious poison on Ruoyan?!”
Yun Ruoyan turned to Yun Moxiao. “Brother, there’s something you need to know, but you have to remain calm.”
Yun Moxiao frowned. Before they’d arrived at the Lin estate, Yun Ruoyan had already mentioned something of that nature. However, she then proceeded to tell him about her own poisoning.
Yun Moxiao thought that that was precisely what Yun Ruoyan had wanted to tell him, but her expression seemed to suggest something even more serious.
“Grandfather, please speak.” Although Yun Moxiao tended to be rash and impulsive, his training in the army had quickly trained him to remain calm and collected as necessary.
“Xiao’er,” Lin Zainan began quietly, “your mother was poisoned to death!”
Although he was mentally prepared, Yun Moxiao couldn’t help but stand up in shock when he heard those words, his hands clenched into fists. “Grandfather, you mean… Mother’s death wasn’t the result of a strange illness?!”
“Xiao’er, your mother was poisoned to death,” Lin Zainan repeated. “The poison that slew her is the poison in this dish, and also the poison with which your sister was poisoned!”
Yun Moxiao turned to Yun Ruoyan in shock, but she nodded and explained, “When Mother was poisoned, she was pregnant with me. As a result, the poison spread through the placental cord into my body, manifesting as my birthmark.”
“Not only is this poison malicious, it has a number of unusual characteristics,” Lin Zainan continued. “The incubation period is surprisingly long, and the poison is asymptomatic at the outset. Nevertheless, once the poison is triggered, the victim will surely die. Luckily, Ruoyan managed to find a panacea during the imperial expedition. Otherwise, if the poison had triggered…”
Yun Moxiao forced himself to calm down, but he couldn’t help smashing his fists against the wall in frustration. As he did so, the entire chamber seemed to quake.
“I swear I’ll find the culprit and tear him to pieces with my bare hands!” Yun Moxiao’s voice was filled with anger, hatred, and bloodthirst.
Yun Ruoyan and Lin Zainan could clearly detect the remnants of spiritual energy in his blow, and they were both amazed to find that Yun Moxiao was already an eighth-rank blademaster.
Lin Zainan glanced at his grandchildren in front of him. A peak seventh-rank blademaster at thirteen, and an eighth-rank blademaster at eighteen… It would be very difficult to find their match in age and talent, even among the entirety of the Li kingdom. Judging that they were capable enough, Lin Zainan decided to tell the siblings about the result of his research.
“In the last month, I’ve spent most of my effort trying to discern the origins of the poison.” Lin Zainan turned to the shelves behind him and pulled out a worn tome. He opened it up and spread it out on the table, and Yun Ruoyan and Yun Zainan both craned their necks to have a look.
The tome was old and heavy, the pages made of silken cloth. On its cover were blazoned in gold the words “Records of the Native Species on the Chenyuan Continent”.
The Chenyuan continent initially consisted of a large number of ancient tribes of different species, which gradually formed the four modern kingdoms. This tome of records described the history of those native tribes in great detail.
As Lin Zainan leafed through the pages, he announced, “By analyzing the properties of the poison, I judged that the poison did not originate from the Li kingdom. After perusing many such tomes and records, I finally found a description of a very similar poison in this book.”
He pointed at a particular paragraph on a certain page. It was lavishly illustrated with descriptions of poisonous insects and grasses that Yun Ruoyan had never before seen, as well as some strangely dressed indigenous people.
The tome spoke of an ancient, shamanic tribe that lived deep in the forested mountains of the Yue kingdom. Such a location was a haven for all sorts of poisonous herbs and insects, and that tribe concocted all sorts of poisons using these readily available materials.
One such poison, the carmine embrace, appeared to be an exact match for Yun Ruoyan’s poison. Lin Zainan read from the page, “When applied to a pregnant woman, this poison possesses an unusual incubation period dependent on the relative fortitude of mother and child. Both will fall prey to the poison’s insidious effects; the stronger shall watch the weaker die.”
How the culprit must have hated Lin Yuemei to use such a vicious poison on her!
“Grandfather, I suspect that Madam An is the culprit.”
Yun Moxiao’s eyes shot up. “Madam An killed Mother?”
Yun Ruoyan shook her head. “It’s only a guess, and I have no evidence.
“Although Madam An would have the motives to do so, it’s unlikely that she was the culprit.” Lin Zainan shook his head. “Yuemei was poisoned while she was pregnant with Ruoyan, and Madam An was pregnant at the same time. In addition, Yun Lan was protective enough of Yuemei during that period that Madam An, as a concubine, surely wouldn’t have been able to touch her.”
Yun Ruoyan found herself agreeing with Lin Zainan’s analysis. If Madam An truly were the culprit, the shrewd Yun Lan would likely have noticed something amiss almost immediately.
“If not for Madam An, who could it be?” Yun Moxiao muttered.
A pregnant silence descended on the conversation. Lin Yuemei wasn’t one to antagonize others. If the culprit weren’t Madam An, the most obvious suspect, who else could it be?
“I think we have to start from the poison,” Yun Ruoyan spoke up. “Since this poison originated from a shamanic tribe in the Yue kingdom, that’s where we should start our search.”
Lin Zainan sighed. “My contacts in the Yue kingdom determined that the tribe had vanished many years ago.”
It was then that Lin Zainan’s investigations had ground to a halt, and the three fell silent once more.
Yun Ruoyan flipped through the tome distractedly before suddenly coming across a certain paragraph, mentioning how a religious schism had proceeded to split up the tribe into multiple factions, some of which had left their native, mountainous habitat.
“Grandfather, it’s very possible that this offshoot of the tribe also possessed knowledge of this poison,” Yun Ruoyan hypothesized. “Could it be that they were the ones who manufactured and sold the poison that my mother ingested?”
“It’s extremely likely,” Lin Zainan responded after a few moments of thinking. He continued reading, “Two warring modes of thought split the shamanic tribe: those who sought immortality, and those who sought reincarnation. Neither mode was compatible with the other, and the resulting infighting grew so pronounced that half the tribe was purged and expelled.”
Yun Ruoyan continued on the following page, “Those who believed in reincarnation never found an ideal abode. Instead, by circumstances both external and internal, they adopted a nomadic lifestyle that saw them spread far and wide across the Chenyuan continent.”
“Could they have passed through the Li kingdom as well?” Yun Moxiao suggested.
“It’s almost a certainty, from the looks of it. Mother’s poison must have come from them, so if we can find them now… The problem, of course, is how large the Li kingdom is. If we’re searching aimlessly, it’ll be like searching for a needle within a haystack,” Yun Ruoyan sighed.
But Yun Moxiao’s gaze was resolute. “Even if I have to dismantle the haystack one straw at a time, I won’t stop until I’ve found it!”
“Look here,” Lin Zainan murmured, pointing at a certain illustration. That illustration depicted a statue of a Guanyin and a Buddha sitting back-to-back, and was captioned as “the idol of worship for those from the faction of reincarnation.”
“Grandfather, why are there two figures shown on this idol?”
Lin Zainan continued reading through the tome. “The idol of reincarnation comprised two personalities: the Guanyin, reflecting worship of the present, and the Buddha, reflecting worship of the future. Devout believers would worship the Guanyin during the day and the Buddha at night, keeping incense burning day and night.”
“Grandfather,” A thought suddenly came to Yun Ruoyan, and she perked up. “If these believers have to worship their idol day and night, how do they make a living?”
“Ruoyan, have you thought of something?”
“Ruoyan, don’t keep us in suspense! Do you have an idea?!”
“Could these devout believers be hiding in a shrine or temple? Only in such a location would there be incense burning day and night, and only then would they be able to gratify both personalities of their deity.”
As soon as Yun Ruoyan advanced this theory, Lin Zainan and Yun Moxiao’s eyes brightened. In order to consecrate and worship their deity, they might even have constructed a temple on its behalf!Previous Chapter Next Chapter