Chapter 3: The Eccentric Old Man in the Mountains
“Leave?!” The old man widened his eyes, bawling incredulously, “You’re my test subject and you dare think of leaving!”
“The call of vengeance for my family and nation must be answered!”
“Fine! Go! Go right now then!” The old man was literally hopping mad, “With that kind of a rare poison in your body, you’ll be dead in three days if you step foot outside this house. Hurry up and leave then!”
Jun Huang started, vaguely recalling that the concealed weapon that the Eastern Wu emperor had thrown at her on the cliff had been poisoned. The heavens had left her alive, but only given her a few days to live. Since she couldn’t take revenge, what was the point of living? Her mood quickly plummeted as grief threatened to overtake her mind.
“Haha, feeling scared now, aren’t you!” The white-haired old man was quite proud of himself. “I’ll tell you something else. Other than me, those who can cure your poison in this world are few and far in between! You’d best be a good test subject if you don’t want to die! I might cure your poison if I’m in a good mood.”
Jun Huang caught the key points of the old man’s proud speech, and her eyes lit up. “You can cure my poison?”
“Of course! There’s no poison in this world that I, Ole Cragfiend, can’t cure!” The old man crowed proudly, “I’ll cure your poison if you be my test subject!”
“I can’t. I can’t stay, I have things to do!” Jun Huang grit her teeth, “Cure my poison and I’ll come back to be your test subject when I’m done with what I need to do.”
“No way! What if you don’t come back after I cure your poison?” Ole Cragfiend was obviously no fool. “You be my test subject and I’ll cure your poison. You’re not allowed to go anywhere!”
“I’ll be your test subject for a month and then leave for my business afterwards. If I’m still alive once that’s completed, I will surely return,” Jun Huang was forced to compromise. She had yet to recover from her grave injuries, and she still didn’t know what the situation was out there. It would indeed be dangerous if she recklessly charged out. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to spend a month beneath the foot of the cliff.
Ole Cragfiend scratched his head and finally made up his mind, “I don’t know how long you’ll take to settle your matters. A year, that’s all I’m giving you! If you don’t come back after a year, you’ll die!”
“Alright,” Jun Huang heard herself agree.
The moon was very clear and bright as the shadows of the trees danced on the ground. Jun Huang was curled up at the head of the bed, her gaze deep as she looked outside the window. She seemed to glimpse her mother’s gentle face in the rocky reaches of the far mountains. Her world and nation had changed drastically overnight. She’d fallen from a princess of Western Que, recipient of the adoration of thousands to an orphan with no home to return to. “Royal father, royal mother,” she murmured, an emotional tear slowly sliding down her face. “Huang’er will always be a princess of Western Que. Huang’er will find Hao’er and avenge Western Que!”
The bottom of the cliff.
A man was holding a torch, personally leading his men in a search pattern in the dead of the night.
“General, over here!” a soldier suddenly cried out with surprise.
The man instantly flashed over to the speaker when he heard this, suppressed agitation in his cold voice, “Found her?”
“In response to the general, just this…” The soldier hesitantly offered up the item in his hand. It was a blood-dyed white shirt made of extremely fine material. The man immediately recognized it as cloth found only in Western Que’s royal palace. He took the shirt and was silent for a while before asking softly, “Where did you find it?”
“In response to the general, over there,” the soldier pointed at the tree over his head. The man hoisted the torch up high and inspected the scene closely. The branches and ground were spattered with blood traces, the deep crimson of fresh blood particularly eye-catching beneath the moonlight.
“General, many wild animals pass through the depths of the mountains. It’s most likely that the Western Que princess is…” The soldier hesitated when he saw the man’s ugly expression, and swallowed the second part of his words.
The man had already guessed that chances were slim for Jun Huang to have survived such a high fall, but regret still filled his heart when his guess was verified. Western Que had fallen, and the last of the royal bloodline was also gone. He’d still been a step too late.
“General?” The soldier couldn’t help but call out when he saw the man fall into silence.
“Let’s go back,” the man closed his eyes. Remoteness suffused them when he opened them again. “Hold a funeral in the Western Que capital for their emperor and empress in three days. Western Que is in national mourning!”
The straw hut, beneath the cliff.
A night had passed, and Jun Huang had thought that Ole Cragfiend would immediately start testing medicines on her, but the old man disappeared after flinging a few medicine books at her. Although she was befuddled by his behavior, Jun Huang wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The books were handwritten, and although they covered profound topics, they were written in a very easy to understand manner. After a day of study, she found that she understood most of the subject matter.
The old man finally came back in hot pursuit of the setting sun as dusk turned into night. He was carrying an enormous wicker basket filled with herbs on his back, and immediately sank to the ground after entering the hut. His energetic complaining belied the exhaustion his body displayed, “I’m old, old I am! Damn old! How many medicines will I need to recover my energy after the hardships of these past two days?! Oh my waist, me poor waist!”
Jun Huang showed her consideration and offered him a cup of water. As she held it out to him, she peeked inside the basket, curiosity ripe in her voice, “Did you go out picking herbs today?”
“Damned tarnation, what do you think?? How am I supposed to test medicines without herbs?!” The old man glared huffily at Jun Huang and snatched the cup from Jun Huang’s hands, gurgling the water down. Jun Huang’s eye twitched. Ole Cragfiend’s answer made sense, too much sense for her to retort back.
After the old man had rested for a while, he’d finally regained the mood to talk to Jun Huang, “How did your reading go today?”
“I’ve just about understood it all,” Jun Huang responded honestly. She didn’t know who’d written those books, but they were all written very clearly and logically despite the mountains of content within. Jun Huang possessed a quick mind, so she understood most of what was written within in a short period of time.
“You understand them after just a day?” The old man huffed indignantly, glaring at Jun Huang. “Fine then, I’ll test you! What are the eight extraordinary meridians?”
“The Conception Vessel, the Governor Vessel, the Thoroughfare Vessel, the Girdling Vessel, the Yin and Yang Lin Vessels, and finally, the Yin and Yang Heel Vessel Meridians.”
“Eh? Not bad. Then what of the three yin meridians in the hand?” The old man’s compliment was laced with surprise.
“The Tai Yin, Shao Yin, and Jue Yin meridians,” Jun Huang responded.
“The attributes of the five organs?”
“The heart is of fire and governs the mind; the liver is of wood and governs the digestive functions and blood flow; the lungs are of metal and regulates breathing as well as the administration of respiration; the spleen is of earth and governs digestion and purification of the blood, the kidneys are of water and holds the essence of life and qi.”
“You actually do understand!” The old man leapt to his feet in excitement and stared at Jun Huang incredulously. “You really understand them all after a day!”
Jun Huang thought back carefully and shook her head, responding honestly, “It’s more that the books you gave me had everything all written out very clearly. I only needed to read them all once to remember most of it.”
“Damned tarnation, I wrote those books!” The old man circled Jun Huang, examining her in astonishment, tsking in amazement. “You’re a rather good seedling for medicine, but a pity, what a pity!” He suddenly smacked his head, “Damn it, I almost forgot! Quick, go and fetch some hot water!”
He hastily lifted an enormous wooden bucket and placed it in the middle of the room. He rummaged around, chucking large handfuls of herbs inside of it.