After an entire day and night of cultivation, the pill in the furnace finally took shape: a purplish-red ball that gave off a bitter, astringent smell.
“Mistress, add in the last ingredient, and the pill will be finished,” Qiuqiu instructed.
Yun Ruoyan picked up a black sprig of herb and circulated spiritual energy through her palm, generating a spiritual flame and incinerating it. She tossed the black powder into the furnace, instantly changing its color to a deep purple and causing the astringent odor to vanish entirely. She extended her hand toward the furnace, and the deep purple pill landed in her palm.
“Mistress, you’ve succeeded!” Qiuqiu chirped in excitement. “This is a mid-grade pill, the pill of false death!”
“A pill of false death…” Yun Ruoyan glanced at the pill on her palm in excitement. “I’ve finally succeeded!”
Over the last day and night, Yun Ruoyan had tried to refine the pill twice, only to fail at a critical juncture each time. Now, she had finally succeeded on the third attempt, and her success marked her as a fourth-rank pillmaster.
“Anyone who ingests this pill will show symptoms of death,” Qiuqiu explained. “Over three days, the person will enter rigor mortis and behave no differently from a corpse, and no one will be able to tell the difference. After three days, the person will slowly recover from the corpse-like state and gradually come back to life. Thus, the effect of this pill lasts six days from the moment of ingestion.
“Given how sly the Pi family is, are you certain even they wouldn’t be able to discover it?” Yun Ruoyan had to be certain: after all, this concerned an important member of her family.
“Don’t worry, Mistress,” Qiuqiu added. “Once the pill takes effect, the body will soon look as though it’s decomposing severely. No ordinary physician, let alone any member of the Pi family, would dare step close to the corpse.”
Having learned her lesson from having her message intercepted by Pi Batian’s cloud-swallowing glutton, Yun Ruoyan handed the pill of false death to Feng Yicheng and tasked him with bringing it to Li Mo.
When Li Mo received the pill, he immediately had Lin Tianming consume it, then had Lin Qingchen call over the Pi housekeeper. Almost as soon as he arrived, Lin Tianming began to spasm, sweat, and then froth at the mouth. His eyes rolled up, and he slumped to the ground.
Pi Batian wasn’t in the Pi manor, so the housekeeper immediately went to report the matter to Pi Yan. He was the one who had caught Lin Tianming many years ago, but Lin Tianming had become useless as soon as Long Yin was caught. Like a piece of trash, Lin Tianming had been discarded in the prison cell. If not for Li Mo’s reminder, Pi Yan wouldn’t have remembered him at all.
“He’s dead?” Pi Yan glanced at a red invitation in his hand, not even sparing Housekeeper Hu a glance. “Are you sure?”
“He isn’t breathing, Lord Pi,” Housekeeper Hu replied tentatively. “He suddenly spasmed and died in front of me, before I could do anything about it.”
“Deal with the corpse,” Pi Yan replied dismissively.
“Yes, milord.” Housekeeper Hu turned to leave. He was used to working under Pi Yang. Even Pi Batian was a little scary to him; as for this Lord Pi, who rarely stayed in the Pi manor for extended periods of time, even an errant glance from him scared him stiff.
“Hold it,” Pi Yan called out. Housekeeper Hu instantly stopped and turned around. Despite only exchanging a few words with Lord Pi, his back was already drenched with sweat.
“Your command, milord?” Housekeeper Hu volunteered with some trepidation.
“What’s that Li Mo up to?” Pi Yan asked.
“He has left his coal cellar, milord,” the housekeeper replied. “There doesn’t seem to be anything strange about him.”
“Nothing strange about him…” Pi Yan mumbled to himself. “Surely he now knows that Yun Ruoyan isn’t dead. In that case, where could she be, and how can I find her?”
As if he were doing it deliberately, the housekeeper waited two days before dealing with Lin Tianming’s corpse. It had been left in the coal cellar for two days and was slowly starting to decompose. The smell of rot permeated the coal cellar and had spread even to the main cottage.
Only then did the housekeeper call for servants to dump him outside the manor. According to custom, he would be left as carrion for wild dogs.
The servants who showed up all wore thick clothes, masks, and gloves.
“Move him quickly!” Housekeeper Hu commanded from a distance. “It’s only been a few days, hasn’t it? Why does it smell so disgusting?! I hope it isn’t some new strain of infectious disease!”
Lin Qingchen frowned as she glanced at the ring on the housekeeper’s hand, the same ring that her grandfather had given her. Before she could reclaim it, it had somehow found its way onto his grubby little paws.
“This coal cellar will have to be sealed for one month,” he declared. “In case this death was caused by something virulent, everyone living in the coal cellar must remain confined there.”
He spun and turned to leave, pleased by his intelligence. If it truly were some sort of infectious disease, it would be best for all those groundhogs to die. What good did his master Pi Yang see in them to shield them so? Pi Huo and Pi Qiu had suddenly vanished, and the Pi swordsmen had started rumors that it was because they were dissatisfied with how Pi Yang was shielding those lowly groundhogs. Pi Yang’s reputation among the Pi swordsmen had already been concerning, and his status had been weakened considerably as a result.
“What are you looking at? Don’t make me dig out your eyeballs!” He suddenly noticed Lin Qingchen’s gaze and stared back at her with beady little eyes.
Lin Qingchen lowered her head, still thinking about how to reclaim her ring from him.
Lin Tianming was finally loaded up in a pushcart and dumped unceremoniously by a clearing next to the forest, where wild dogs lounged in wait for the next corpse. The odor from the decomposing Lin Tianming immediately caused them to salivate and run over, and wild wolves were even emerging from the forest. The Pi slaves hurriedly dumped Lin Tianming’s corpse out of the pushcart and rushed back to the safety of the Pi manor, and the wild dogs and wolves began swarming on Lin Tianming’s corpse.
Suddenly, they began to howl: the slash of a sword had killed half a dozen beasts in one strike, and the other dogs and wolves began to run away in panic.
Feng Yicheng stepped out from behind a tombstone and walked to Lin Tianming’s side. The revolting odor forced him to cover his nose with a sleeve. Lin Tianming’s corpse was a blotchy gray all over, and his thin, emaciated form made him look like a corpse that had lain out in the open for weeks rather than days.
Feng Yicheng really doubted that he could truly be revived once more, but he still leaned down, wrapped Lin Tianming’s corpse up in a thick sack, then began flying toward the small town in which the courtesan troupe was staying.
Lin Tianming had thought himself dead, but when he woke up, he saw two girls, as pretty as flowers, beaming at him. He thought that they were children from the underworld greeting him in death, but how could beings from the underworld look so pretty?
Only when Yun Ruoyan and Lin Qingxue called out his name did he suddenly realize that he wasn’t dead, that he had even been saved!
“You’re Ruoyan, and you… you’re Qingxue!” His shrunken eyes filled with tears in his agitation. His many years of imprisonment and pain had left him numb and forlorn. Although he held out a meager amount of hope for his eventual salvation, he had all but given up on ever being saved.
“The heavens are truly kind to me,” Lin Tianming rasped, his voice hoarse. He swallowed a few spoonfuls of soup and tonic that Yun Ruoyan had prepared, then quickly fell back asleep.
“Don’t worry. Uncle’s just too weak from his imprisonment, and I’m sure he’ll quickly recover now that his living conditions are far improved,” Yun Ruoyan consoled Lin Qingxue.
Feng Yicheng stood by the side of the room. Ever since he had brought Lin Tianming’s corpse to the little town, he had stayed by Yun Ruoyan’s side. As a result, he had personally witnessed Lin Tianming slowly come alive.
He couldn’t help admiring Yun Ruoyan. Never had he seen a young woman so accomplished as to be able to concoct such a miraculous pill, and he made up his mind to recommend Yun Ruoyan to the head of the Feng family as well—she might be as promising a catch as Li Mo.
After a few days of recuperation, Lin Tianming’s body slowly recovered. One day, he called Yun Ruoyan and Lin Qingxue to his side, intent on telling the two girls about Yun Ruoyan’s parents.
“Ruoyan, I heard from Li Mo a few days ago that you’ve been searching for the whereabouts of your parents. I’m going to tell you everything I know.” Then, he turned to Lin Qingxue. “As for you, Qingxue, I need to tell you about your father, Lin Tianhai.”
Yun Ruoyan and Lin Qingxue both nodded silently, their eyes filled with anticipation and hope.
“I, Tianhai, Long Yin, and Yun Lan were four very good friends,” Lin Tianming began.
He described how they had gone on all sorts of adventures together. Long Yin was supposedly the descendant of a faraway but regular household. Because of his impressive talent, he had been sent to the capital in hopes that he would be able to attend Kongming Academy. During this process, Long Yin had met and befriended Lin Tianming, Lin Tianhai, and Yun Lan, and had become good friends with them.
Subsequently, he met Lin Yuemei and fell in love at first sight. Their courtship and subsequent relationship had been witnessed by the Lin brothers and Yun Lan. Although Long Yin’s parentage was a source of concern, his talent and appearance were Lin Yuemei’s equal. Although Lin Zainan had initially been against the relationship, he relented after the Lin brothers’ continued badgering.
But, just as everyone thought that Lin Yuemei and Long Yin would marry each other, Long Yin suddenly vanished...Previous Chapter Next Chapter