Chapter 3: Ranking Up
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Sounds of footsteps came from a distance as Li Yue appeared behind a round, plump old man whose bolstering was apparent from all over him.
Old Meng, the royal attendant to the Thousand Herb Garden was a sixth rank Scribe.
His face was completely round, his eyes small. However, they widened into full circles as soon as he laid his eyes upon the black spots.
“Are you still not stopping!?” He exclaimed.
Chu Li let go of the thin grass stick and proceeded to wrap his fists before engaging in an elegant bow. “Sir Meng Qinlin.”
“Young Chu Li, what do you think you’re doing?” Meng Qinlin rushed towards him.
He walked towards the Cymbidium to have a closer look, taking a whiff as he did. He then bent over and placed his face near the floor, repeating the same action. Finally, he put a handful of soil in his mouth to taste it.
“It’s not spotted rust!” Meng Qinlin declared, spitting out the soil.
Li Yue served tea to the both of them, his face adorned with a smile.
Meng Qinlin pursed his lips in a crossed frown. The spotted rust was a common illness that afflicted the Cymbidium, and they existed in multiple different forms. The black spots before him were extremely similar to that of the disease. He was almost deceived!
“Young Chu Li…you didn’t try to cure this with the cure for spotted rust, did you?”
“It’s the Dew Eater.”
“The Dew Eater?” Meng Qinlin blinked his small, round eyes in confusion, as something stirred within his memory about the worm. He asked Chu Li, “Are you sure?”
“About forty percent…”
“Why you little! Some nerve you have!” Meng Qinlin held out a cup of tea. “If you kill it doing this…your life will be forfeited!”
Chu Li smiled and took the teacup.
Meng Qinlin saw the confidence oozing out of Chu Li and asked, “How many days will you need till we can see the results?”
“Four days is enough.”
“Alright, we shall wait and see. If they actually wilt, you don’t even have to think about staying here any longer!”
Folding his sleeves, Meng Qinlin turned tail and left. Li Yue followed in his heels, his face still brimming with a wide smile. Chu Li again wrapped his hand over a fist in as sign of bidding farewell. He placed the teacup back down on the table and continued to wipe the juice onto the other leaves.
Chu Li remained in the Cymbidium parterre from dawn till dusk. He continued to channel healthy spiritual force onto the infected plants, while Li Yue took care of the food and drinks for Chu Li. One day while Li Yue was going about his business, he noticed something out of place.
The Cymbidium that were worse for wear were immediately reinvigorated as soon as Chu Li laid his hands on them. It was as if the plants had eaten Energy Pills.
Baffled, Li Yue questioned Chu Li out of curiosity but Chu Li only told him that he had had a knack for it since birth before asking him to shut up and guard the door to make sure no one came in to see what he was doing. Chu Li also told him to not go around spreading the news. Li Yue beat his chest in promise.
The East Garden was indeed a carefree place, but the responsibility they carried was large. If anything were to go south, a harsh punishment would ensue. Knowing this, it was natural for them to panic at the ill flowers. The mere knowledge of the situation left them unable to sLip or eat well.
Now it was different because Chu Li had acquired this ability, he could finally sLip in peace!
In a span of three days, the black spots disappeared. The Cymbidiums returned to their original crystal clear forms, with no sign of the infection from before.
Li Yue invited Meng Qinlin over, who proceeded to praise Chu Li after checking on the Dew Eaters. Looking at to how Chu Li succeeded in saving the flowers, he promised to put in a good word for Chu Li’s ranking.
If a Scribe wanted to be promoted, they could either earn it through work experience by trading in many years of labor, or they could subvert the usual path and skip ahead by making large contributions to the Public House.
In this instance, it would indeed be considered a huge deed if Chu Li’s idea was enough to cure all of them with so many Cymbidium across the province falling ill.
It was very possible for Chu Li to rise in rank because of this.
After Chu Li had finished his lunch. The perfect warmth of the sun lulled him into a laze, and right as he was about to take a nap under the sun, the sound of a jade chime came from a distance. Someone had arrived on the island! Chu Li and Li Yue quickly rushed to the shore to have a look.
Meng Qinlin smiled as he disembarked from the boat, his face brimming with joy.
Chu Li and Li Yue bowed in respect.
“Good, very good!” Meng Qinlin pat Chu Li on the shoulders and spoke with passion, “Young Chu Li, our East Garden is earning some recognition thanks to you!”
The Thousand Herb Courtyard was in charge of all the herb-related medications within the Public House. The East Garden belonged to the Third Lady, Xiao Qi, while the West Garden belonged to the eldest Master, Xiao Tieying. These two factions were in constant strife for fame, and Meng Qinlin himself was under the East faction.
“Have they all been cured?” Chu Li asked with a smile.
“A total of three hundred Cymbidiums!” Meng said with a hearty laugh.
Li Yue piped up with a question, “Sir, is Chu Li getting a promotion?”
“Starting from today, you are now a rank nine Scribe, young Chu Li. As for you, young Li Yue — you’ll also benefit from this; you’re now rank eight!”
Meng Qinlin smiled and took out two banknotes.
“Ten thousand taels for Chu Li, and a thousand for Li Yue. The money is from the Herb Garden.”
“Thank you, Sir Meng Qinlin.” Chu Li wrapped his fist with a smile.
To be able to give this big a reward, Meng Qinlin definitely tried his best.
“Great job Chu Li, you have potential!” Meng glowed with happiness. “Now we’re giving Gu Litong a run for his money!”
“Gu Litong didn’t find the cure? But he’s a genius!” Li Yue asked in surprise.
Gu Litong had joined the Public House three years ago. He was a rank eight Scribe, and one who had achieved promotions through merit twice in his career. He had also brought in two unique flowers, and was a Scribe that people said to have a bright future ahead of him.
Meng Qinlin raised one of his large hands. “He’s not in the right state of mind for this.”
“Sir Meng Qinlin, I have a small request.” Chu Li proposed.
“I would like to visit the Herb Garden.”
“Hoho… such wild ambitions. You want to go into the herb garden?”
“I’ve heard many things about it, naturally, I’m curious to see it for myself.”
“Hmph…” Meng Qinlin pondered for a bit before cracking a smile.
“Very well, but you may only enter the rank nine herb garden!”
“My gratitude abounds, Sir Meng Qinlin!”
“It’s not as beautiful as you make it out to be, but let’s go!”
Meng Qinlin led them aboard the ship, with Chu Li directing the boat and Li Yue rowing it. They landed on a small island after a half hour’s journey.
Four middle-aged Protectors approached them, their gaze as sharp as arrows. As Meng Qinlin presented his waist badge to them, they nodded and backed down, allowing them through.
Li Yue covered his nose, looking uncomfortable like he was about to vomit at any moment.
Chu Li shook his head while the smile on his face faded. The smell of the island was extremely pungent, with a number of scents mashed together. A confusing mess of fragrance and stink assaulted their noses, overloading their sense of smell, almost torturing it.
Meng Qinlin smiled at Li Yue. “Young Li Yue, if you stay here long enough, you’ll end up smelling just like the place! It’s almost impossible to wash away! How is it? Isn’t it pleasant? Haha!”
“How am I supposed to go to the New Moon Brothel now? What kind of girl can stand this!?” Li Yue said bitterly.
“You think the generous pay is for nothing?” Meng Qinlin smiled.
The three of them entered the courtyard.
Chu Li’s Omniscient Mirror scanned the courtyard across a one mile radius and noticed that it was segmented into multiple yards, which were in turn all connected. Every single one of the segments consisted of different species of herbs.
The yard they were in had herbs spanning the whole field, specifically the Dog Tail Grass. Chu Li was able to discern that this was Hollow Grass, a spirit herb rated quite highly in the top list of rank nine herbs.
A skinny, middle-aged man was bent over carefully tending to the herbs, afraid of disturbing the Hollow Grass. The hoe in his hand was made of jasper; small and delicate.
“Sir Meng,” The middle-aged man turned his head as soon as he heard the footsteps coming towards him, wrapping his fists and bowing thereafter.
Meng Qinlin greeted him with a wave of his hand. “Young Jing Zhihai, continue your tasks. I’ll bring them around.”
“Are they new?” Jing Zhihai asked cheerily.
“They were promoted through merit. I’m bringing them around the herb garden as a reward,” Meng Qinlin replied.
Jing Zhihai’s facial expression changed. “Many apologies. Please make yourselves at home, both of you.”
He wrapped his fists and bowed again.
To be promoted was not an easy feat. People who achieved such a feat usually had a bright future. If there were any good openings for good jobs or duties, it was always assigned to Scribes with outstanding contributions.
“Sir Jing Zhihai, may I touch them for a bit?”
“…Of course, but you’ll have to be very careful. They aren’t the strongest of herbs.”
Chu Li nodded as a sign of appreciation, then reached out for a stalk of Hollow Grass. The spiritual energy of purity rushed into him, completing a cycle of the Minute Pulse cultivation.
Only two years were needed now for him to master the Minute Pulse.
A rank nine spirit herb would accelerate the process this quickly. If Chu Li ever got his hands on a rank one spirit herb, the acceleration would be near infinite.
The energy from the herb fused with the Minute Pulse technique, its effect was as great as the Transformation Fruit itself. The fruit was one of many functions, capable of cleansing one’s body, completing one’s foundations, and many more. Unfortunately, the fruit was merely a legend that had been passed down through time.
The energy of the herb was similar to the Five Grains Energy of a human body. If both were expended, the energy disappeared. However, the effects of the medication were separate from its energy.
Inner strength was used to convert the Five Grains Energy into inner energy. There was a limit to the energy that could be gained from the grains, but energy from the grass and trees were limitless. If the source of energy went from grains to grass and trees, the potential progress in training would increase dramatically.
This train of thought made him feel all too hopeful for the future.
“Young man,what beautiful things grace your mind today?” Meng Qinlin said as he interrupted his thoughts.
Chu Li let go of his hands and smiled.
“We’re heading off to look at other places. Jing Zhihai, please continue as you were.” Meng Qinlin said as he went ahead with Chu Li and Li Yue.
Jing Zhihai hospitably sent them off to the door.
The three of them visited the next five yards. Chu Li came into contact with many herbs one after the other. However, the Hollow Grass was by far the purest. He needed to quickly ascend his ranks to be able to train here.
Three of them returned with Li Yue rowing the boat yet again, with Meng Qinlin still smiling at Chu Li. “Young Chu Li, do you want to join the garden?”
Chu Li nodded.
“You’re not going to stay in the East Garden anymore?” Li Yue shot a question at Chu Li.
“I’ll go both sides.”
“Young Chu Li, you’re underqualified. You’ll have to wait a few more years.”
“Sir, there’s always a way.”
“Of course, you’ll just have to contribute more!”
“And I’m expecting some friendly guidance from you, Sir Meng Qinlin!”
“You know that Gu Litong is studying the Moonlight Orchid now, right?” Meng Qinlin said, brimming with cheer.
“As long as you extend its life before he does, I can assure you, you will enter the rank nine herb garden.”
“The Moonlight Orchid…huh.” Chu Li contemplated within his mind.
It was a plant which had leaves that curved like a crescent moon, emitting a white light in the darkness. Hence the name, the Moonlight Orchid.
It only grew on the foreign Moonlight Island. If it ever left its soil, its lifespan would be shortened to a mere month. It was deeply sought after due to its ethereal beauty.
It would cost him at least two hundred silver taels to even buy a single stalk over.
That amount of money could buy a small house over at Chong Ming Town.
Chu Li was a rank nine Scribe. Earning ten silver taels a month was considered a generous sum but even then, affording the Moonlight Orchid with that would be difficult at best.
With such an expensive flower, it was unclear how many researchers were working on extending its lifespan. No one had succeeded so far; only Gu Litong, proud and arrogant as he was, dared to challenge the prospect.
“Are you backing out?” Meng Qinlin questioned them.
Li Yue incessantly winked at Chu Li, hinting him to give up.
“Alright, I’ll give it a shot,” Chu Li nodded
The two of them returned to the East Garden after sending off Sir Meng Qinlin. Li Yue complained as he rowed the boat.
“Brother, you idiot! It’s the Moonlight Orchid we’re talking about!”
“There’s no harm in trying,” Chu Li said, facing the distance.
“Gu Litong would definitely not be happy if he caught wind of this.”
A smile appeared on Chu Li’s face.
“Ha…. You really do have guts…” Li Yue shook his head helplessly.
He admired how carefree Chu Li could act as if he were free of worry, able to let anything slip through him. However, this disposition could easily give the wrong impression to others and get Chu Li into trouble.
Chu Li could tell that Li Yue was concerned and said, “I don’t think he would dare to break into the East Garden, eh?’
“Definitely not, but his strength still isn’t something to scoff at. There’s nothing he won’t do. If you ask me, he’ll definitely get you in trouble.”
“Then we’ll keep our mouths shut and do it in secret!”
“That’s fine by me!” Li Yue bellowed.
Chu Li shook his head in exasperation. Li Yue was a straightforward and pure, secrets were something he would never be able to keep.
“I won’t say a word about it!” Li Yue exclaimed.