By now, Ning Chen had already ran out of platitudes to give. With a hint of exasperation in his tone, he simply answered, “I fell.”
The manager’s brows furrowed as he took a couple of quick strides forward and grabbed the teen’s wrist. With his fingers on the teen’s wrist, his face face grew even graver as the artery pulsed beneath him.
“Is there even hope?”
Ning Chen asked with a slight smile.
“Don’t talk like that.”
The manager rebuked him with a stern look. The teen’s internal organs had been severely damaged to the point where it even damaged his heart meridians. There was still hope but it was a slim one.
However, Ning Chen didn’t seem to mind this fact as he laughed, “It’s alright, I had this injury for a while now. There’s no rush to get it treated, you should treat Lady Ling first.”
It was then that the manager noticed the girl behind him, his eyes revealing a strange look as he laid eyes on her. This kid keeps bringing a different girl each time and every one of them was more beautiful than the other.
Ning Chen naturally wasn’t aware of what the man was thinking but looking at the sly grin on his face, he could roughly guess it.
“Just a coincidence.”
He swiftly explained himself to this lascivious elder who doesn’t know how to act his age. To think his thoughts were still in the gutters at this age.
The manager gave a knowing laugh, the only way he could make his meaning even clearer was to state his disbelief.
Ning Chen rolled his eyes at the man and no longer tried to explain himself.
“Miss, this way please.”
The manager extended a hand forward in welcome, turning his attention away from Ning Chen and onto the beautiful girl next to him.
Yue Ling followed the manager into the main hall and sat down before the physician’s table. With her hand over her mouth as she coughed lightly, she promptly extended her other hand.
With the same practised motions as before, the manager checked her meridians. A long while later, his brows furrowed just like before.
“How is it?”
Ning Chen rolled forward and asked in a serious tone.
Her illness was apparent even without the manager’s diagnosis, if it wasn’t for that, she wouldn’t have travelled so far to the Imperial City in order to find a physician.
“Lady Ling, I hope you have made preparations.”
He said with remorseful sigh.
Hearing that, her face barely flinched at the revelations. She had grown accustomed to this answer for a while now and thus there was nothing to be disappointed about.
“How much time do I have?” Yue Ling asked in a soft voice.
“At most a year.”
Her brows furrowed at that answer but she said nothing more. No one knew more about her body’s condition than herself; the manager’s prediction of one year was the longest she had to live.
Even without counting this trip, the number of physicians she had visited was numerous to the point of being uncountable. The same was true as well for the medicines and spiritual pills she consumed, unfortunately all of them bore disappointing results.
“Recently we’ve purchased a thousand-year blood ginseng monarch, but…”
As he said this, the manager threw Ning Chen an awkward look. He had intended to set it aside for the kid.
“Just give it to her, I have no money.” Ning Chen replied in a matter-of-fact tone while pouring himself a cup of tea.
That ginseng sounded really expensive and would probably be wasted on him.
“How much does it cost?” Yue Ling asked, not intending to reject his goodwill in the slightest.
“100 000 taels.”
*Pfft!* Ning Chen spat out the contents of his teacup in an instant before asking in a disbelieving tone, “How much did you say it cost?”
“100 000 taels,” said the manager in a tone as serious as before.
*cough cough* He doubled over from the coughing as he nearly choked on the manager’s words. No wonder this seemingly irresponsible old man was so generous with him and even gave him a small ingot. To think he was so overjoyed by his generosity; it turns out each business deal this man closed was in the tens of thousands!
The manager glanced at the girl without saying anything further. His offer wasn’t that expensive given that this was the price they paid for it in the first place. Selling it to her at this price was on account of her knowing Ning Chen.
Naturally, if Ning Chen was the one buying the ginseng then the price wasn’t even a factor.
This pharmacy was owned by the Zhang Sun family and the herbs were naturally theirs as well. Compared to 100 000 taels, he was more than sure that Her Majesty would choose Ning Chen over the money.
Hearing this, her face remained as unchanging as before and simply nodded before saying, “Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll have my people send the taels over, I hope that you will reserve this blood ginseng monarch for a day.”
Ning Chen sighed in his heart. He didn’t even have a hundred taels and that was after robbing so many people…how infuriating.
The manager thought on this for a second before standing up and leaving for the back hall. A while later, he came back with an exquisitely carved wooden box in hand.
“Since you’re old acquaintances with Brother Ning, you may have this blood ginseng first. Just have the taels sent over tomorrow.”
As he said this, the manager handed over the wooden box under the twitching but watchful eyes of the teen. That was 100 000 taels…if she ran away with the ginseng without paying, would the manager murder him?
Yue Ling gave the teen an astonished look. She didn’t expect this unassuming teen to have such impressive connections, 100 000 taels wasn’t a small sum after all. Even she had to have her subordinates prepare for a day before sending over this fortune.
Ning Chen gave her a shy smile: it’s just my winning personality.
With that settled, the manager wrote a prescription for her detailing what else she had to take with that blood ginseng. As for the herbs, they weren’t that expensive to begin with so he merely gave them to her.
As Ning Chen sat idly by the side, he calmly downed cup after cup of free tea while waiting for the pair.
In his eyes, Yue Ling was one of the more interesting acquaintances he knew. Her nonchalance towards life and death juxtaposed with her unwillingness to give up was something that gave him pause.
After writing that prescription, he wrote another for Ning Chen. There weren’t many ingredients on his list but they were all expensive herbs.
“800 taels.” He handed it over to the teen and blandly declared.
*cough cough* He nearly choked once more as he received the prescription. After staring at it for a long while, he pointed at the top most herb and said in an unsure tone, “Is this Frost Caltrop Flower really necessary…how about we leave it out?”
The manager threw him a derisive look and said, “That’s the main ingredient of the medicine.”
Ning Chen had no response to that and buried his head once more, looking for more unnecessary ingredients. Pointing at another herb, he probed the manager, “How about this one?”
The scorn grew deeper as the manager blandly answered, “That’s the medicine’s guide, what do you think?”
Such a headache-inducing problem…
Making up his mind, he unabashedly answered, “I’m broke.” A dead pig wasn’t afraid of scalding water after all.
The manager strode behind the counter and with a bang tossed an abacus onto the table. Without raising his head, he asked, “How much do you have?”
With unwillingness written in his eyes and pain in his heart, he took out a tiny pouch and emptied it with a series of clacks. Counting it with his fingers, he meekly replied, “75 taels.”
The manager thumbed down several beads in his abacus and said. “You can keep 5 taels for yourself, leave the rest behind and the remaining sum will be placed on your tab.”
His heart ached even more as he heard that but he had no choice in this matter. With a pained look on his face, he picked up a five tael ingot and shoved the rest towards the manager.
“Ning Chen, Debt: 730 taels.”
The manage took out an accounts book from the drawer beneath and dutifully wrote down his name and debt in glaringly large words in a glaringly empty page of its own.
As his eyes traced the movements of the man’s brush, his heart pounded with every word he wrote. In just a short span of time he managed to accrue such a huge debt.
He wasn’t some rich young master and all he knew how to do was chop wood so exactly how was he going to repay this debt?
Ning Chen descended once more into his habitual daydreaming, though this was more of a nightmare than a dream. As mulled he over how to repay this debt, he didn’t even realize that Yue Ling had already wheeled him outside of the pharmacy.
As for the royalties from his soap recipe, he simply couldn’t bear the shame of asking the little girl for that money.
“Are you really short of money?”
Yue Ling asked in a soft tone laced with curiosity. She simply couldn’t understand this teen and his thinking that seemed so out of line with the majority of people.
He scratched his head in embarrassment as he heard that. He was short of cash. Really short of cash. Ever since he came to this world, his biggest worry had been the lack of money.
While he was serving in the palace, Zhang Sun severed all his income sources without even leaving him a cent to himself. The money he used to abscond was given to him by the manager out of friendship and even that was taken away by Yue Hanyi in order to repay his debt.
“Where does Young Master Ning stay?”
It was getting dark and she wanted to head back. If his home wasn’t on the way back, then they would have to part ways here.”
“Ling Yan Pavilion.” He answered,
“The brothel?” A strange look crossed her beautiful face as she asked that.
“Mhm.” He nodded awkwardly at her question. For some reason, both of their meetings ended up involving a brothel.
“Let’s go then.”
Yue Ling started pushing his wheelchair once more as she said that. Coincidentally, she stayed rather close to that brothel.
By the time the pair reached the Pavilion, the sun had almost set. By now, this plot of land had turned into the busiest area in the entire Imperial City. Every inch of free space was worth gold as the masses flocked to it at night.
As she stood at the front door of the Pavilion, Li Er’s worried face whipped around from right to left as she searched for the teen. It’s already this late and yet that fellow hadn’t returned yet.
Did he end up getting captured by that fierce woman again?
It wasn’t long after that Ning Chen rolled into her sights, pushed along by Yue Ling. Seeing this, she stormed up to the teen and yelled. “Look at the time! Exactly what were you doing out so late?!”
“Haha.” His face flushed in awkwardness. Should he talk back to her? She was just a kid after all…but letting her scold him without putting a fight was truly embarrassing for his image, especially in front of Yue Ling.
In the end, he chose to forsake his image.
As the little girl fumed, the initial drizzle sounded turned into a raging downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. Just one crack of her voice alone was enough to smother any flames of resistance within him. It wasn’t that he was cowardly, the enemy was simply too strong for him.
After what seemed like half a day’s worth of scolding, Li Er finally stopped, having grown slightly thirsty. It was then that she finally noticed the girl standing Ning Chen. A strange look flashed across her face as she wondered.
Didn’t he just go out for a day? How did he end up with such a beautiful girl already…such speed.
Taking advantage of the momentary respite in the storm, Yue Ling finally interjected herself and said with a thoroughly amused look on her face, “I should go now.”
“May we meet again.” He bid her farewell with a nod of his heed.
Seeing her leave, Li Er lowered her head and whispered in Ning Chen’s ear, “Eunuchs love beautiful women as well?”
His internal wounds tore open at that instant but he had nothing to say to that question.
Was he a eunuch? No! Definitely not! Absolutely, positively not!
“I’ll leave that to your imagination.”
He threw down those exasperated words before promptly wheeling himself to the back hall. He was no longer in the palace and yet he still couldn’t shake off this eunuch identity, how saddening and how exasperating!
When will he ever be able to stand atop the walls of the Imperial City and shout to the heavens, “I’m not a eunuch!”
Due to his dejectedness, he stuffed himself with two additional bowls of rice before returning to his room to rest.
The bustle of the Pavilion continued till midnight before it finally died down. After midnight, everyone went back to their respective rooms to rest, whether it was the courtesans or the guests.
(TL: I finally remembered what’s the word I wanted to use. Courtesans not prostitutes.)
The frosty winds of night shimmered under the luminescent moon, giving the night a certain frigidness. The frosty moon of winter was always exceptionally beautiful, perhaps it was its cool unapproachability that stirred that hearts of men.
Within the back hall, Ning Chen’s eyes shot open as he wheeled himself to the room’s door, his eyes colder than the winter’s moon.
It was then that the piercing flash of a sword cut through the air, brighter than the moon and faster than the wind.
He threw his body back, retreating back into his room and shutting the door with a bang.
A sword stabbed right through the door, however it’s target was no longer there.
At the same time, an inky black sword pierced through the same door, stabbing right into a warm, bleeding body.
She couldn’t see Ning Chen but Ning Chen could clearly see her, because the moonlight outside was exceptionally bright…