Chapter 121: First Concoction

“Wonderful!” When Yun Ruoyan saw that Qiuqiu was willing to teach her to concoct poisons, she was very happy. “I’m always the one getting poisoned, so once I learn how to make poisons, then I can poison others!”

On the other hand, Qiuqiu wasn’t sure if that was the right choice. After all, to teach Yun Ruoyan to make poisons before she learned how to make pills might end up distorting her path. 

But Qiuqiu prized her safety above all. Even if her cultivation were to be sidetracked as a result, it surely would be better for her to poison others than to be poisoned herself.

“I have a question, Qiuqiu. Why must I learn how to make poisons before making antidotes?”

“Because trying to create an antidote against a specific poison requires deep knowledge and understanding about the poison and its refining process,” Qiuqiu explained. “Trying to counter some of the most devious poisons even requires information about the order of the ingredients used to produce the poison in the first place. Those who can cook up poison might not be able to make the corresponding antidote, but all those who can concoct the corresponding antidote can produce the poison.”

“But there are a few exceptions,” Qiuqiu added after thinking for a moment.

“What exceptions?”

“Panaceas. For example, the phoenix bezoar you obtained in the imperial territory, Mistress, or the high-grade pill that the Slaughtering King fed you. Antidotes of such general applicability don’t require knowledge of a specific poison, but are so rare as to be almost impossible to obtain.”

Although Yun Ruoyan’s spiritual and mental energy had mostly recovered, it wouldn’t be a good idea to tax herself before the remnants of the poison had been completely expelled from her body. Rather than begin right away, Qiuqiu instead had her gather the requisite ingredients for her studies.

Yun Ruoyan spent the entire day meditating and cultivating. Yun Moxiao never came to find her, but she wasn’t worried. She’d expected that Yun Moxiao would be warring with himself. It was likely that he’d begun doing so since last night and would continue to have conflicting thoughts for two or three days.

What Yun Ruoyan hadn’t anticipated was that Yun Moxiao had resolved himself after only a single night, and was now enjoying a good day’s rest in his quarters.

Over the next two days, Yun Ruoyan continued to cultivate in her room. As night fell on the second day, Yun Ruoyan’s spiritual vortex was finally brimming with spiritual energy, and her mental energy had also made a full recovery.

“Qiuqiu, I’m ready!”

But Qiuqiu didn’t respond for quite a long time. In surprise, Yun Ruoyan called out again, “Qiuqiu, are you there? Why aren’t you responding?”

“Mistress, have you felt some strange aura around your cottage these last few days?” Qiuqiu suddenly remarked.

Because her mental energy was still recovering, and because she had focused all her attention on cultivation these last two days, Yun Ruoyan hadn’t noticed anything amiss. When Qiuqiu pointed out the strange aura, Yun Ruoyan immediately closed her eyes, circulated her mental energy to its extremes, and tried to probe for any peculiarities around her.

As expected, she found a slight perturbation in her familiar surroundings.

“Could it be a new servant?” The aura didn’t feel particularly strong.

“I thought so at first, but it’s been circling this cottage the last few days. Mistress, it’s best to be careful.”

The rest of the night passed without any interruption. The next day would be the last day of Yun Moxiao’s vacation, and if he planned on returning to the barracks, he would depart then.

After Peony helped Yun Ruoyan dress up for the day, Xi Lan brought her breakfast.

“Mistress, they’ve made your favorite bird’s-nest soup today!” Xi Lan was positively beaming.

When Yun Ruoyan saw that she was still smiling even after she had taken a sip of the soup, she asked, “Xi Lan, do you have good news for me?”

“Miss, don’t you know yet?” Xi Lan glanced at Peony, who shook her head.

“Then I won’t tell you. Someone’ll inform you about it sooner or later, Miss!” Xi Lan rushed out of her rooms with the tray.

“Peony?” Yun Ruoyan looked toward Peony, who wrung her hands. “Miss, I’ve to claim my monthly salary, so please enjoy your meal.” 

Then Peony also rushed out.

“What’s the matter with everyone?” Yun Ruoyan smiled as she continued drinking her soup.

After she had breakfast, she walked into the yard, where she heard Ling Lan humming. Yun Ruoyan strode over, and Ling Lan greeted her cheerily as she approached.

“Ling Lan, you’re the most obedient of my servants. Won’t you tell me what’s making all of you so happy?”

Ling Lan glanced at her feet and stammered a few words incoherently. 

“Oh, alright, I won’t make things difficult for you,” Yun Ruoyan finally gave up and waved her hands, letting her off. As if relieved of a great burden, Ling Lan hurriedly walked off with a broomstick in tow.

Why’s everyone so happy, and why are they keeping it a secret from me? Yun Ruoyan glanced at Ling Lan’s silhouette before her eyes suddenly brightened. Could it be that…

Yun Ruoyan hurriedly rushed to her brother’s quarters, only to find that he had left early in the morning. She returned to her own rooms in dismay only to find Yun Moxiao in her yard waiting for her.

“Brother,” Yun Ruoyan called out, “I was just at your place, but your servants told me you were out!”

“I went to send others on their trip.”

“Others? Whom?”

“Those guards of mine, of course. Our vacation’s almost over, so they have to rush back to the barracks.”

Although Yun Ruoyan had more or less guessed what was going on, she couldn’t help feeling agitated to hear Yun Moxiao’s decision from the man himself. However, she still had to pretend as if she didn’t know anything.

“Brother, you… why are you sending them off? Are you going to be returning on your own?”

Yun Moxiao rubbed Yun Ruoyan’s head lovingly. “Ruoyan, I’m not leaving.”

“Brother… Brother, you’re not leaving?!” Yun Ruoyan had guessed that this would be a likely outcome, but the spoken admission left her with such happiness and relief that it was as if she hadn’t known.

“What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” Yun Moxiao hurriedly wiped at his sister’s tears.

Yun Ruoyan clutched his hand, placing it against her cheek. As she felt his palm’s warmth, her tears only fell even more quickly. How many times in her past life had she woken up in the middle of the night, crying after having dreamt of Yun Moxiao’s icy corpse?

That nightmare would never materialize in this life. Never, ever!

“Brother, you’re not just humoring me, are you?” Yun Ruoyan wanted him to confirm it again.

“Oh, my silly sister.” Yun Moxiao embraced Yun Ruoyan. “No, I won’t leave you behind anymore. I’ll stay right here and accompany you.”

A sense of security enveloped Yun Ruoyan.

“The young master revealed that he wouldn’t be leaving the afternoon before,” Peony began as she came out of nowhere, “but you were cultivating then, Miss, so we didn’t want to disturb you.”

“I really wanted to tell you, Miss, but wouldn’t it have been more exciting for the young master to inform you of his decision himself?” Xi Lan also walked over, and Ling Lan nodded fervently by her side.

“Oh, you three girls!”

The two siblings then went to the Lin manor. When Yun Moxiao revealed his intentions to stay and seek out his mother’s murderer, everyone cheered.

“But if you don’t return to the barracks, what’s your father going to say?” Lin Zainan questioned after the initial rush of excitement.

This wasn’t something that Yun Ruoyan had considered. She firmly believed that, as long as Yun Moxiao was willing to stay, nothing else would be a problem.

“I still haven’t told him about it,” Yun Moxiao replied. “I’ve already written to my master. As soon as official word comes back from the army, he won’t be able to change anything. At worst, I’ll receive a scolding.”

Lin Zainan patted his grandson’s shoulder. “Good, good! A man must not only be able to protect his kingdom, but also his friends and family. Xiao’er, I’m relieved to have you back here.”

When the initial commotion died now, Yun Ruoyan advanced another topic. “Grandfather, my spiritual energy’s almost all recovered now, so I’d like to continue with my pillmaster training.”

They all moved to the pillmaking chambers. Yun Moxiao, Lin Qingxue, and Lin Qingchen were all watching eagerly as Lin Zainan and Yun Ruoyan sat in front of the pill furnace.

“The first step is to light up the furnace with a red flame,” Lin Zainan began.

As he spoke, Yun Ruoyan lifted and cupped her hands, from which a red spiritual mist seeped out. She manipulated the mist to revolve in tighter and tighter spirals. Just as it formed into a vortex, Lin Zainan called out. “Alright, now light up the furnace!”

With a shove, she pushed the mist into the center of the furnace. A small explosion rang out, and the furnace successfully lit up with flames.

“She did it, Ruoyan did it!” Lin Qingxue yelled out excitedly.

Lin Qingchen smiled, longing to emulate her cousin’s success herself. In her mind, she set a goal for herself: not two years later, she would reproduce the same feat, lighting up a pill furnace and starting down a long and illustrious path as a pillmaster!

Yun Moxiao, who had previously been unaware of his sister’s accomplishments, could only gape in shock. How could he have imagined that the timid girl who was crying in a corner four years ago would have become so talented?

He stared at Yun Ruoyan, deeply moved.

“Today, we’ll be refining the low-grade darkened heavens pill.” Lin Zainan had long since prepared all the required ingredients for the pill. He stood to the side, his hands clasped behind his back, not intending to provide Yun Ruoyan with further guidance.

Yun Ruoyan glanced at the twenty or so different herbs and grasses strewn across the stone counter, knowing that this was a test of sorts. She closed her eyes, thinking back to her grandfather’s demonstration from a while back, trying to recall each and every gesture of his. Opening her eyes, she began by throwing heaven’s sedge into the furnace, followed immediately by three other herbs.

The flames that she infused into the furnace turned orange, then yellow; the rate and intensity at which she emitted spiritual energy was almost an exact match to that during Lin Zainan’s demonstration.

As her flames crackled, the herbs began to harmonize under the effect of the three colored flames. In the end, they combined to form a pill that gave off a medicinal scent.

“Retrieve the pill!” Lin Zainan exclaimed, nodding in satisfaction.

Yun Ruoyan reached out to the top of the furnace. As if feeling her spiritual energy tugging on it, the pill floated into Yun Ruoyan’s open palm. She smiled at her creation, but whether her attempt was successful would have to await Lin Zainan’s evaluation.

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