Having paid the tailor a visit, their next stop was the pharmacy. With hands on wheelchair, Ah Man pushed Ning Chen forward in search of the remedy store. In the south, they were known for producing remedies such as stones, medicinal reagents and needles for acupuncture. Judging by all the merchants filling the streets, it was a booming industry.
Upon reaching the pharmacy, the teen immediately broke into a buying spree. Given that he had just dumped over a hundred taels on that roll of silk, what was a couple dozen more taels?
It wasn’t long before Ning Chen had in hand, a gunny sack stuffed full of remedies. Judging from the huge variety within, there had to be at least 23 remedies inside.
With the shopping done, the pair immediately returned to the prince’s manor. Door slammed shut and locked, Ning Chen began messing around with his trove of substances.
Of the gamut of remedies purchased, the majority were basically duds meant to fool the people stalking him. Prince Yue and Marquis Li Yu were both equally conspicuous about their desire to attain this formula so this bit of caution was necessary.
“What’s that?” Asked Ah Man, eyes glued to the strange cloth implement Ning Chen crafted from the cotton roll he purchased.
“A face mask,” the teen answered simply, hands never stopping for a second as he did so. Back when he mixed this formula in the palace, the residual chemicals had nearly choked him and Officer Ling to death so this time, he took extra effort in preparing the necessary safety measures.
Having stitched a few layers of cloth together, Ning Chen prepared to put on his completed mask. Yet just as he was about to do so, he looked at the princess standing next to him. A mischievous smile cracked across his lips. “Ah Man, lower your head for a second.”
“Hm, what for?” Not noticing the strange smile on the teen’s face, she obediently lowered her adorable little head.
“You’ll know soon enough.” He carefully put on the mask for her and retreated a couple of steps to have a good look…truly a crime against one’s eyes…
Glancing at his hands, he mused. This hand, it might as well just be a foot; no matter what it did, it couldn’t do it well.
Finally noticing the strange look in Ning Chen’s eyes, Ah Man walked up to nearby mirror and after looking at the face reflected within, exclaimed, “That’s disgusting!” Her mouth couldn’t help but curl as she took in the horrifying sight.
Could she be any less direct? She could’ve at least considered his feelings for a second. Ning Chen muttered in his heart, head slightly lowered in shame.
“It will get really stuffy later so you’d better keep it on, got it?” Ning Chen explained in a slightly unsure tone.
“No way.” Head shaking as she refused him without a second’s thought.
“…” Ning Chen silently took off the mask then wore it himself. If you won’t wear it then I will…go make one yourself since you think it’s so ugly.
The second he thought that, he was hit with a sudden urge to bang his head against the wall. Ah Man actually ran off to the roll of cloth and after a few short moments, had a mask sewn together that was infinitely better than his own…
Hmph, everything in this world has their own good points, whether it’s objects or people. Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it will block out the residual chemicals. Having nothing but a wounded pride left, that was all he could do to comfort himself.
Saltpeter was the main substance that caused the choking effect in the formula so that was handled by Ning Chen himself. As for grinding the charcoal, that was the safest and least toxic task available so naturally that was handled by Ah Man.
“*cough cough* Grind a little more.” Ning Chen reminded the girl in a worried tone peppered with coughing.
“Kay.” Ah Man replied simply before tossing another piece of charcoal into the mortar and pestle.
“*cough cough* Aren’t you choking?”
“It’s alright.” Ah Man casually replied as she added another piece of charcoal.
“Then why am I coughing so much?” Ning Chen asked as he turned his head around.
“… …” Why is this girl so dense, doesn’t she understand what he was implying by that question?
“How about I wear your face mask instead and you make another one?” With no other choice, Ning Chen laid out his intentions plainly in a slightly embarrassed tone.
“Alright then.” Ah Man nodded her head before standing up and handing over her face mask after which she went to the corner of the room to sew another face mask for herself.
“Such a nice girl.” Ning Chen murmured to himself before swiftly suppressing that emotion. It’s time to get back to work. Truth be told, their current state wasn’t that bad for both of them.
With the medicinal substances all ground up, it was time for the most crucial step in this process. With scales in hand, he carefully measured out the required amounts of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur before mixing them together.
“What’s that?” Ah Man asked, neck craned as she peered curiously at the mixture.
“What is it used for?”
“Do you know of explosives?” Ning Chen asked in a slightly unsure tone. Did this term exist in this era?
That makes explaining a lot easier then. Ning Chen quietly breathed a sigh of relief. His arms swung wide open. “This mixture is able to create a gigantic explosion.”
“Oh.” Ah Man nodded her head in a manner as if she knew what he was saying yet didn’t at the same time. “Why’d you make this stuff?”
“A certain person pissed me off so I’m going to blow up his front door tomorrow.” Ning Chen answered, teeth grinding against each other.
“No fighting.” The girl immediately chimed in with a worried look on her face.
“No fighting.” Ning Chen answered.
“I want to come along as well.”
“Alright, we’ll go together.” He had intended to bring her along in the first place so promising her wasn’t really an issue.
The next day, at the crack of dawn…
Having brushed his teeth and freshened himself up, he took off spiritedly with his homemade weapon of mass vengeance hugged snugly in hands.
At the entrance way of the manor was the adorable sight of Ah Man eagerly waiting by the ornate doorway. Seeing the teen, she dutifully walked behind him and began pushing him.
Around them, the sounds of the morning bustle rang out in their ears as they proceeded unerringly towards Marquis Li Yu’s manor. By now, the various street vendors had just finished opening their stores in time to welcome the morning traffic and another day of hard work.
Soon, the giant gates of the marquis’ manor loomed into view.
“The two of you, I need you to step aside for a moment.” Ning Chen called out to the guards stationed in front of the doors.
The two men frowned at abrupt command but stepped aside anyway.
“A bit further away.” Feeling that they hadn’t moved far away enough, he called out to them again.
The two guards stepped away again, throwing each other a slightly confused look. What was this kid up to?
Handing over the bomb in his hands to Ah Man, he reached for the fire inch-stick he prepared just for today and turned towards Ah Man, “Ah Man, can you place that object at the door and light up this string, once you do that, I need you to drop everything you were doing and run.”
She nodded her head at his request though she was still slightly confused by it.
Throwing one last look at the giant door of the manor, he coldly chuckled in his heart. You want a demonstration of its power, right? You don’t want to be disappointed, right? Well, you can experience its power first hand yourself!
As instructed, Ah Man walked up to the door and placed the bomb on the ground. Bending down further, she lit up the fuse trailing behind the object and then sprinted away towards Ning Chen, tossing away the fire inch-stick in her hands without a second thought.
The hiss of the fuse seemed to drown out the surrounding sound as it ominously counted down the time to detonation like a stopwatch. Just as Ah Man took the last step to reach Ning Chen, a deafening blast rocked the air behind her, sending a giant cloud of stone of wood flying into the air and raining onto the earth a second later.
The door had completely disappeared, turning into the manmade hailstones pelting the ground around them. Next to it, the stone wall surrounding what was once an impressive entranceway had been reduced to rubble as well.
Ah Man was shocked and so were the guards who stood there dumbfounded looking at the falling rubble from god knows where rain down, with eyes wide open and slack jawed. Even now, their brains still hadn’t registered what just took place in front of their very eyes.
At Ning Chen’s side, Ah Man was the first of the three to come to her senses. Immediately, her lips broke into a wide, beaming smile.
Seeing that smile, Ning Chen felt a chill run down his spine. She actually still had the mood to smile. Shouldn’t a first timer be scared out of their wits?
Ah Man’s world was truly something he didn’t understand…
“Is there going to be another?” Ah Man asked, excitement dripping from every word.
“…” Ning Chen’s eyebrows jumped slightly before he hurriedly shook his head, “No, I only made that one bomb yesterday.”
And thank the gods that’s all he made otherwise this girl would’ve set them all off like fireworks.
“Oh…” was the simple but disappointed response from the girl.
“Let’s go, if we stay any longer we might just end up in a fight.”
It was then that the two guards finally came to their sense. Yet just as they were about to stop the pair, a deep voice boomed from behind, “There’s no need to chase them.”
As he said that, Marquis Li Yu stomped out of his manor, face as black as his blackened doorway. Glancing at what used to be his door, he then glared at the distancing silhouettes of the two youngsters, his eyes blazing with anger and heart dripping with cold, murderous intent. Mixed within these emotions was a distinct sense of fear as well.
A thousand and one calculations and still he underestimated this kid’s terrifying political machinations and death-defying guts.
As the pair made their way back to the prince’s manor, Ah Man glanced at the seated teen in front of her, and asked in a confused tone, “Why didn’t he chase after us?”
Ning Chen smiled and replied, “Because he still wants the recipe for that object. If he were to capture me just like that, I might just stonewall him out of spite. Plus, he was the one who asked for a demonstration of that object’s power, I was just following instructions.”
After some thought, she nodded her head and exclaimed in the sincerest tone she could muster, “You’re so devious.”
“…” Hearing that, Ning Chen almost choked to death.
By the time the pair reached the prince’s manor, Prince Yue was already in the main hall waiting for them. Clearly his spies had already reported this morning’s happenings to him.
Amidst the shock written all over the prince’s face was a trace of glee. What shocked him was the sheer ferocity of that object he had heard so many stories about. What pleased him was that from the looks of what Ning Chen did today, he had thoroughly severed ties with the marquis. Don’t forget, he had just blown up a person’s doorway, that was nothing but a tight slap to one’s face.
Seeing the two enter the main hall, he immediately stepped forth to welcome them back but just as he was about to speak, he was interrupted by Ning Chen’s hand.
Ning Chen knew that it was time to continue their boring farce so he turned to his lovely companion, afraid that she would get bored, “Ah Man, go back to your room for now, there’s some matters I need to discuss with Prince Yue.”
“Mhm.” She obediently nodded and then left.
After ensuring that she had left the room, Ning Chen turned to the Prince and in an apologetic tone, said, “Prince, I apologize for my rude actions just now but there are some matters I do not wish for Ah Man to find out.”
“This Prince understands, however, you were too rash this time,” the prince chided.
With a dissatisfied look on his face, Ning Chen coldly harrumphed, “They were the ones who pushed me this far!”
“Sigh.” Prince Yue sighed lightly before patiently trying to persuade Ning Chen once more. “Even so, Marquis Li Yu is a military marquis christened by the Xia Emperor himself, slapping him in the face like that will surely incur his wrath.”
After a pointed pause, Ning Chen shouted, eyes blazing with fury and arrogance, “I dare him to!”
Seeing that, Prince Yue sneered momentarily. Looks like he’s just a kid after all; there’s a limit to his patience.
“Ning Chen, you mustn’t be so rash, just stop and think about it for a second. Even if Her Majesty favors you, you can’t expect her to protect you every time, Prince Yan even less so. While Third Brother’s martial accomplishments are extraordinary, he wields no political authority. Standing up to a military marquis as strong as himself is no easy feat.”
Prince Yue gently persuaded the teen, appealing not only to his logic but also his sentimentality hoping that he would realize the error of his ways.
As expected, after hearing the prince’s explanation, Ning Chen’s face began to lose some of its color, growing paler by the second as if it had just dawned upon him what kind of trouble he had just caused.
Seeing that his words had the desired effect, he immediately pressed the issue, hoping to strike while the iron was hot, “How about this, this Prince will mediate this matter for you and stop the marquis from lashing out at you.”
“But…Marquis Li Yu is a military marquis and Your Highness is just…” Ning Chen left that sentence hanging as he threw the prince a disbelieving look.
“Haha, you underestimate this Prince. A mere military marquis like him? This Prince can handle him easily!”
Prince Yue laughed boisterously, taking advantage of this opportunity to show off his power so that the teen could have a rough grasp of his power.
A conflicted look flashed across Ning Chen’s face. “Then what’s the price I have to pay?”
“Heh” Prince Yue chuckled before shaking his head, “Price? You don’t have to act so distant, Ning Chen. This Prince truly admires your talents. As long as you agree to help this Prince, Yue Manor will always be your most stalwart backer.”