Chapter 56: Exchange

Lin Zainan was clearly excited about the prospect of having a successor, and the first technique he imparted to her was one of condensing a spiritual fire. Obtaining a stable flame was the basis for the rest of the pillmaking techniques, and wouldn’t easily be achieved in the short term. As a result, she shouldn’t panic even if she saw limited results despite working diligently.

Yun Ruoyan had lunch at the Lins before heading straight back home. From today onwards, she had to progress through both her usual blademaster training and her spirit fire condensation, so her schedule was packed.

Lin Qingchen walked Yun Ruoyan to the door before handing a thin, lotus-leaf-shaped gauze to Yun Ruoyan.

“What’s this?”

“It’s something I made.” Lin Qingchen took the veil from Yun Ruoyan’s hands and then applied it to her right cheek on tiptoes. “You can use it just like that.”

Yun Ruoyan touched the gauze, feeling an inexplicable urge to laugh. “But if I cover up this fake birthmark of mine, wouldn’t that defeat its purpose?”

“Certainly.” Lin Qingchen smiled. “But others don’t know that it’s fake, do they? After all, sister, your name is known far and wide throughout the capital, and you really don’t have to intentionally scare others around you.” It was rare that Lin Qingchen would joke with Yun Ruoyan.

“Sister Ruoyan, you don’t have to fell everyone with your looks in one swoop. I believe that, in this world, there have to be people who’ll love your character more than your appearance.”

She smiled mischievously again. “In that case, you can remove this gauze. If that person truly loves you, then I’m sure they won’t be frightened, but if it’s all fake, then they’ll be scared half to death. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see?”

It was rare that Yun Ruoyan saw this side of her mature, precocious cousin, and she was in high spirits.

“Alright, I’ll wear it! Let’s see how many people I can scare off, hmm?” Both the girls began laughing in front of the door.

Yun Ruoyan had barely returned to her cottage before one of the Yun matriarch’s servants summoned her over.

Yun Ruoyan followed her into her grandmother’s residence, and as soon as she approached the house, she could hear bouts of laughter coming from within. Recognizing these voices, she couldn’t help but frown.

“Ruoyan, you’re here.” Her grandmother waved and smiled at her as Yun Ruoyan entered the room.

Yun Ruoyao, Yun Ruoyu, Yi Qianying, and Pei Ziao all looked at her.

Yun Ruoyao was dressed in pale blue, her skin snowty, her hair as dark as ink. She walked with a lithe grace, and a lotus-leaf gauze almost the same color as her skin had hidden the ugly birthmark underneath, greatly improving her appearance.

“Grandmother,” Yun Ruoyan responded. “You look particularly hale today, grandmother.”

“What do you mean, today? Grandmother looks hale and hearty everyday!” Yun Ruoyu couldn’t help but comment from the side.

“Haha. If you girls are willing to accompany me frequently, then I’m sure I’ll get more and more lively, day by day!”

Her grandmother bade Yun Ruoyan sit by her side. “Ruoyan, why are you hiding your face? Did the injury get worse?” She tugged on Yun Ruoyan’s hand and said in concern. “I’d been wanting to find a physician to have a look, but delayed it because you seemed to need the rest. How about I send for one today?”

She was just about to summon a servant to find a physician when Yun Ruoyan immediately said, “No, that’s quite alright, grandmother! My grandfather already looked at my wound when I was at the Lins, and he’s given me medicine specifically for it.” As she said this, she peeled the gauze off her wound, revealing the dark red scar. Although it was no longer leaking pus, it was still red and swollen, and uncomfortable to the eye.

Only then did Yun Ruoyao and the others reveal a hint of pleasure: the seemingly beautiful girl they saw in front of them was still the same ugly, useless fool!

“Grandmother, see? It’s already gotten a lot better, and once it forms a scab in the next few days, it’ll be back to its usual appearance once more.”

“Alright, alright. Your grandfather’s medicine is undoubtedly better than anything I can procure.” Her grandmother looked at her pitifully. Even if the birthmark were to revert to its usual appearance, it was still an indelible defect.

“Sister Ruoyan.” Pei Ziao chose this time to speak up. Ever since Yun Ruoyan had entered the room, his gaze kept flitting to her. “It’s been so long since we last talked after exiting the imperial territory! I heard that you were wounded, and I hope you’re alright now.”

“Thank you for your concern, Young Master Pei,” Yun Ruoyan responded politely. She’d clearly displayed her hostility and killing intent toward him during the expedition, but why was he acting as if nothing had happened?

“Good, good.” Pei Ziao stood up and brought out a foot-long scepter. “This is an adamantine scepter that my father made not too long ago. He knows that scepters are your favorite, so he had me specially bring it over.”

The Yun matriarch very much liked scepters, and her preferred weapon of choice when she was young was a two-foot long scepter. Although she had long since stopped sparring with others, her affection toward scepters had only grown.

“Oh, is that so? Show it to me quickly!” She motioned for one of her maids to hand her the scepter. “Not bad. Please thank Master Pei for forging this on my behalf.”

“My father said that, when I was injured and fell into a coma, his actions in the Yun estate were disrespectful towards you, so this is a token given in apology.” Pei Ziao bowed, his attitude humble.

“It was all in an attempt to save you, and his anxiety was understandable.” She had her maid stow the scepter away carefully before continuing, “Ruoyan’s the one whom you really should thank; after all, you know how precious the core foundation pill is.”

“Yes, yes.” Pei Ziao quickly turned to her. “I’ve always wanted to thank you for your kindness in saving my life, Ruoyan, but I never got the chance, and we didn’t get to talk much within the imperial territory either.” 

Yun Ruoyan understood that he meant to paper over the incidents that had happened within the imperial realm. Because she had also taken some actions that she couldn’t well account for if they were brought to light, she went along with the flow.

“It was nothing, Young Master Pei,” Yun Ruoyan responded coolly. It’s just a matter of time before you die!

At this point, Yi Qianying, who had remained silent during the conversation, finally spoke up. “Grandmother, I heard that the phoenix orchids on the Minghuang mountain are finally blooming. We sisters have just returned from the expedition and haven’t had a chance to go see the flowers, so how about we all go together tomorrow?”

“That’s right, Grandmother, it’s been a long time since you’ve gone out,” Yun Ruoyao added. “The phoenix orchids up on the mountaintop are filled with spiritual energy, and smelling their fragrant scent will surely help with your recent insomnia.”

The Yun matriarch was clearly excited about this idea. “The weather’s looking to be good for the next few days, so let’s go tomorrow.”

Yun Ruoyan was just about to decline when she turned toward her. “Ruoyan, go to the mountains with your grandmother. Hasn’t it been so long since we last went out together? Your mother used to love phoenix orchids.”

Her grandmother’s statement had cut off her exit route, and Yun Ruoyan could only nod politely.

Pei Ziao smiled. “Grandmother, I’m the only scion of the Pei family. Even if I go out on an excursion, I’m all by myself all the time. Would it be possible for me to tag along?”

“The more the merrier.” The Yun matriarch nodded.

Yun Ruoyan’s eyes drooped.

As they left the Yun matriarch’s residence, Yun Ruoyan walked at the very front. Pei Ziao suddenly called out to her from behind.

Yun Ruoyan turned around, looking at him with a sidelong glance.

With the afternoon sun as a backdrop, and with pale blue clothes on her slender frame, she looked elegant, even somewhat ethereal. Her covered-up birthmark revealed a natural beauty that he hadn’t known she possessed.

Pei Ziao suddenly thought that her act of impaling his chest within the imperial territory was suddenly very minor.

“Sister Ruoyan, I was wrong to leave you behind following your sisters’ wishes in the fight against the saber-toothed tiger, and I shouldn’t have allowed them to shake your group off within the snake cave. So I fully accept your strike with my spear as punishment, and now we’re even. I don’t blame you for it!”

“You don’t blame me?” Yun Ruoyan looked at him somewhat strangely, his tone seeming to suggest that Yun Ruoyan very much desired to be in his good graces. “Then I’ll have to thank you, Young Master Pei!” Yun Ruoyan’s tone was caustic and taunting.

“”I know you’re still angry at me, and my father’s given me a good scolding about this whole chain of events. He told me I had to gain your forgiveness or be punished.”

Pei Ziao’s handsome face revealed an overcast expression, and the handsome face of this sixteen-year-old youth would surely have charmed all manner of young, teenage girls, just like Yun Ruoyan’s past life, or the Yi Qianying of the present.

But for the present Yun Ruoyan, Pei Ziao would never be anything less than odious!

She was about to continue mocking him when she suddenly remembered that she still had a use for the Pei family. “Has Uncle been doing well recently?”

Seeing that Yun Ruoyan’s attitude seemed to be positive, Pei Ziao grinned. “My father’s always been healthy, and he keeps saying that, since he didn’t treat you all that well the last time you visited, to invite you to our residence again.”

“Actually, I know what Uncle’s afraid of.” Yun Ruoyan suddenly changed the topic. “He’s worried I’ll spread the secret you revealed during the expedition, isn’t he?”

What Yun Ruoyan referred to was the existence of the thousand-herb valley. As for the deaths of the group from the Yue kingdom, they all shared partial responsibility for that affair, so none of them would bring it up.

But the thousand-herb valley was different; it was a secret that was deeply entangled with the imperial family!

Yun Ruoyan finally got to the point. The only ones who knew this secret and were hostile to the Peis were Yun Ruoyan and the Lin cousins, and the Lin cousins would naturally listen to Yun Ruoyan. This was why Pei Yingxiong had instructed Pei Ziao that, no matter what, he had to prevent her from saying anything about it!

“You don’t have to speak in a roundabout fashion,” Yun Ruoyan crossed her arms and said leisurely. “Last time, I traded a core foundation pill for your family’s top-grade furnace. This time, let's do another trade.”

The goodwill that Pei Ziao had been feeling about Yun Ruoyan suddenly dissipated like the mist. Stuffily, he asked, “What sort of trade?”

“I have a canine from the saber-toothed tiger, which I’d like to be made into arrows.”

“Sure.”

Seeing him respond so straightforwardly, Yun Ruoyan continued, “As well as a high-grade pill.”

“What?!” Pei Ziao couldn’t help but raise his voice.

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