Half a day later, Ning Chen left the pharmacy as well. As Ning Chen bid farewell to the manager, he gave Ning Chen an ingot to use as his travel expenses.
His gloomy expression brightened up in an instant upon seeing the ingot in his hand, the melancholy from this morning, totally gone with the wind.
After thanking the manager, he set off with a wide grin on his face. He didn’t mention where he was going since he didn’t know either.
In order to avoid getting captured by Zhang Sun, leaving the Imperial City would be the best choice for him. But before that, there was somewhere he needed to go to. He still had to pay for his two cups of tea in Ling Yan Pavilion.
As he walked through the bustling streets, all manners of bits and baubles caught his attention. From the myriad of accessory stores to the delicious scents from the food stands, there was something at every corner that piqued his interest. This was, after all, the first time he was actually able to stroll through the streets.
Perhaps transmigrating wasn’t as bad as he thought. After leaving this city, he could start a small business, marry a comely lady, have a few kids and etc. As long as he didn’t get captured by Zhang Sun, life was pretty good.
Just as he was busy daydreaming, his fantasies were abruptly cut short by the loud, piercing sound of a gong followed closely by the clip clop of a horse trotting. He turned towards the end of the street and saw a procession of luxurious but strangely dressed people heading down the street. In front of them, the various stores began to close up as they made way for the procession.
“Those Zhenji emissaries sure put on a grand display.”
Amidst the chattering of the crowd, one could pick up on the disgust in their voices. Clearly, these emissaries weren’t welcome here.
Ning Chen was familiar with this country as well. The kingdom of Zhenji was situated to the northeast of Grand Xia. They were a small country but that didn’t stop them from being a drama llama.
They would constantly proclaim themselves as the greatest under heaven and stir up trouble while doing so. The third emperor of Grand Xia finally grew tired of them and dispatched troops to invade them. Since then, they’ve kept their mouth shut.
In recent times however, Grand Xia began to adopt a more peaceful stance. As such, Grand Xia relaxed their control over Zhenji as well, causing Zhenji to mistake this as a sign of weakness.
They began challenging the northeastern frontier of Grand Xia once more, annoying Marquis Buyi to the point where he made several requests to dispatch the troops. However, these were all shot down by the current Xia Emperor.
As he stood amongst the crowd, he flashed them a middle finger while sending his obligatory greetings to their families as well.
With that slight detour out of the way, he prepared himself for his trip to Ling Yan Pavilion. As for those emissaries, well, that was Zhang Sun’s problem.
Back at the Pavilion, business was as sluggish as he had left it that day but this was to be expected. After all, Ning Chen had visited them in the middle of the day. By this time, all their patrons had already left the establishment.
As he walked into the lobby, he was greeted by a lady sitting quietly at side, as if she was waiting for him.
“Young Master is back.” Yue Hanyi rose to her feet and greeted him in a sweet voice, a smile hanging on her lips.
“I’m here to pay back my debts.” While it was said that “It’s difficult to hit someone who had apologized to you”, furthermore this was a coquettish lady he was dealing, he still couldn’t put aside the disgust he held for her.
He took out the silver coins he had prepared beforehand and slammed them onto the table before exclaiming in an arrogant tone: “Keep the change”. With that, he turned around and began to leave.
“Young Master, please wait.” Yue Hanyi stuck out her sleeves and blocked his path, all the while wearing a dazzling smile on her face.
“Hmm?” Ning Chen raised his eyebrows. “A couple of silvers should be enough to pay for two cups of tea.”
She gave him a faint smile and said, “Young master must be such an important person if not he wouldn’t be so forgetful. While a couple of silvers is enough for the tea, Young Master seems to have forgotten about the tables he broke. Those are definitely worth more than couple of silvers.”
Ning Chen froze at that last section, guilt slowly creeping into him. He had really forgotten about those tables.
Seeing that expression on his face, Yue Hanyi felt a deep sense of satisfaction. “What Young Master doesn’t know is that our tables and chairs are made from top grade Heavenly Phoebe wood. Our tea sets were crafted by a renowned craftsman in the Imperial City.”
“This lady has already done the calculations for Young Master. Excluding the cost of the tea, Young Master still owes us 112 silvers. But since Young Master is so forthright about returning the money, I’ll round off the number, bringing it to 100 taels.”
“One hundred…taels” He stammered as he raised up one finger.
Yue Hanyi nodded as her grin grew wider and wider. Who you told to be so arrogant, let’s see if you can keep up that anger of yours.
Ning Chen trembled as he reached into his pockets and pulled out all the possessions he had. “But…I only have four taels left on me.”
The small ingot the manager gave to him was only worth 5 taels. He had only spent 2 wen on a biscuit. The rest were in his hands right now. He had assumed that this would last him for a while and had no way of knowing that he had incurred a giant debt of 100 taels.
“Young Master can return home to retrieve some money, this lady will wait right here.” Yue Hanyi smiled as she “kindly” reminded him.
“I can’t go back.” Ning Chen was extremely frustrated right now, if he was able to return home, he would’ve done so already.
“So you don’t have any money?” Her mouth corners rose as she said this.
“I don’t have any money left.” He sighed and nodded.
The smile on her face immediately disappeared before she blandly said, “Then you can work here till you pay off your debt.”
“Li Er, bring him to the back hall to do the laundry.”
“Okay.” As she finished saying this, a pretty girl who looked to be around 12 to 13 years old walked out and dragged the stunned Ning Chen to the back hall.
As she dragged him along, he stared wistfully at the entranceway; he didn’t want to go in at all. After all, he still had an escape to make.
“What do you mean I? You dare to be so arrogant even though you owe Big Sister Yi money. Do you know how long she has been waiting for you?” Li Er would have none of his struggling as she dragged him along with both of her arms.
“Aunty Liu, Aunty Zhao, you can take a rest for now. Just leave the laundry to this guy.”
As they entered the backyard, he caught sight of two women busily washing the mountain of clothes beside them. As those words left her mouth, he quietly exclaimed to himself.
Seeing the tiny mountain of clothes had nearly caused him to faint from shock.
How long would it take to wash this many clothes…furthermore…there’s no washing machine…
“Get to it, or there’ll be no dinner for you.” Li Er snapped at him as she stood there with her arms at her hips.
“It’s just laundry, there’s no need to be so fierce about it.”
He whispered to himself before reluctantly proceeding to wash the clothes, all the while consoling himself. Good men don’t argue with crazy women.
Just as he sat down and prepared to work, he noticed that something was conspicuously missing. He searched around the vicinity but still couldn’t find it.
“Li Er, where’s the detergent?”
He raised his head and asked after an extensive search.
Li Er raised her eyebrows at his question: “Detergent? What’s that? Are you talking about soap beans? That’s used by the wealthy to wash their hands, why would you use that wash clothes?”
“Then how am I going to do the laundry?” He asked in an annoyed tone as he looked at the little girl. What century is this?! Why isn’t there any detergent!
“So stupid…” She muttered as she brought over the club lying besides the mountain of clothes. She gave the clothes a giant whack before saying, “Do you see that? That’s how you wash clothes!”
“I…, brute force is the solution everything?” He was shocked by what he saw. If this was how they did their laundry, he’s screwed.
“Wash them well. I’ll be back to check up on you before night fall.” She threw out this last sentence before humming a tune as she left.
Ning Chen looked at the tiny mountain of clothes and sighed “I should’ve just been a eunuch. I guess this is what they mean by out of the frying pan and into the fire…I need to find a chance to escape soon…what a bother!”
As the sun made its way westward, the mountain of clothes began to shrink as well. Finally as the sun set, the last piece of clothing was done. His entire body ached as he stood up after sitting down for the entire day, the blood instantly rushing into his head, nearly causing him to faint.
“You’re done? That was quick.”
She walked up to the clothes rack and inspected the fluttering clothes. With a satisfied nod, she muttered, “Passable.”
“Let’s go, I’ll bring you to the dining area.”
Having said that, she turned around and prepared to leave. However, upon seeing Ning Chen stand there stock still, her little hands grabbed onto her hips once more as she said in an annoyed tone, “Didn’t you hear me?”
By this time, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with her feelings. He raised his hand and said, “Li Er, come give me a massage, my legs are numb.”
“Is that true?” She asked in a disbelieving tone. “Are you sure this isn’t some attempt at molesting me?”
He nearly choked on his spit as she said this. He gave a chest a quick glance and…I’ve gotta say…it’s not that flat.
“Pervert!” Noticing the direction of his glance, her face flushed as she stamped down hard on his legs before leaving.
That stamp caused him to bite down on his teeth as he sharply inhaled. It wasn’t that she used too much force but rather it was the fact that getting stamped on while one’s feet was numb wasn’t a very pleasant experience.
“Wait for me!”
Seeing that Li Er really had no intention of helping him, he started hobbling after her.
By the time he got to the kitchen, it was already devoid of people. He casually grabbed a pair of buns and a plate of dishes before heading back to courtyard. He sat down on the stone seat and solemnly munched down on his food.
As she stared at his slightly pitiful back, Li Er couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to confront him. She walked up to him and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
“Hey, you should just apologize to Big Sister Yi. Big Sister Yi is a pretty reasonable person.”
Ning Chen lifted his head and with a toothy smile, said: “Not happening.”
She was absolutely livid as her trembling finger pointed at the boy before her. She had never seen such an ingrate before.
“Li Er what happened to your parents?” Ning Chen ignored the little girl’s tantrum and quietly asked.
“Parents?” She was stunned by his question. To her, this word was nothing but an unfamiliar and distant term.
Seeing her darkening expression, he lightly sighed before standing up and ruffling her hair. In his original world, little girls like Li Er were still being treated as little princesses by their parents. They didn’t have to sell themselves in order to survive. It wasn’t a stretch to say that even her innocence was no longer in her own hands.
As he thought of this, the disgust he felt towards Yue Hanyi grew even stronger. To think she would even prey on such a young girl…what a cold hearted beast.
“Li Er, do you wish to leave this place?” Ning Chen asked in a prodding manner. He knew that what he could do was limited and that there was simply no way for him to help everyone but if he tried his hardest, he was sure that he could at least save this little girl.
Li Er pondered upon his words for a while before lightly shaking her head. “No.”
She was raised in Ling Yan Pavilion from a young age. To her, this was her home. Even if she left this place, what would she do? How would she survive? Furthermore, she was still a slave, no matter where she fled to, this wouldn’t change.
Ning Chen stared at her unhappy little face and after a bit of deduction, immediately knew what was going on. He earnestly apologized, “I’m sorry. That was thoughtless of me.”
“It’s fine, you should finish your meal quick, I’ll bring you to your room later.” She calmed her emotions down once more before replying in an overly cheerful tone.
Ning Chen didn’t press the matter any further and continued eating his food. He swore to himself that he would find a proper home for this kind little girl.
As promised, Li Er brought him to his room after he had finished his food. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as he had thought. Besides the fact that it was sort of small, everything else was in order.
After exchanging a couple of brief good nights, Li Er closed the door behind her as she left. Now that he was alone, Ning Chen finally took out the golden scroll that he had stashed in his clothes. Regarding this “Body Strengthening” cultivation technique, he was nothing if not curious.
“The Scroll of Life, such a grandiose name.”
As he looked at the name, he couldn’t glean any further clues from it and so continued reading. Thankfully, the body he had transmigrated into, knew how to read and write, saving him a ton of trouble.
Ten breaths later, Ning Chen fell silent.
A minute later, he continued his silence.
An hour later, he was still silent.
Two hours later, an exasperated voice could be heard screaming into the night sky, “I don’t understand a thing!”