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It was high noon and the sunlight was scorching, so much that even the occasional breeze that wafted by burned as it touched me.
The drowsy assistant of the Hundred Grasses Pavilion was starting to doze off, and the shopkeeper was nowhere in sight. I was fanning myself as I rapped my fingers against the mahogany table. The noise startled the assistant awake, and he blearily rubbed his eyes to look at me.
“Call out your shopkeeper. I’ve come with some medicines, see if he wants any.”
“Oh!” The assistant exclaimed with a panicked look, bowing and scraping in reply. “Please have a seat, young master, this one will be with you right away!”
I thought it was kind of funny.
He probably didn’t recognize me. Usually, this assistant called me a little black whelp, but now he was earnestly using ‘young master.’
Sweeping my robes aside, I took a seat on a chair, tapping my knuckles as I looked around, bored. I dug in my sleeves and took out the medicine bottles, giving them a glance before tilting them over, pouring a few pills into my hand.
The spherical pills were dark in color. I brought them to my nose and took a sniff, catching the scent of Fishy-Smellgrass and hundreds of different flowers, cool and refreshing beyond compare.
This should be the Five Measure Dispersions.
Just by keeping one in your mouth, you could render all sorts of poisons ineffective. I took another sniff, before putting it back.
Actually, I could guess what it’d be even without looking. Every time Fang Hua made pills, they were either for dispelling unusual poisons or prolonging one’s life. After staying by his side for so long, I’d picked up a few tricks of the trade as well.
He was very familiar with the properties of different medicinal plants and able to concoct antidotes for any type of poison. Gradually, I began creating strange mixes of my own.
He claimed that a mix of seven parts Stomach-Cutting Grass with three parts Five Stone Dispersions would end a life, but I didn’t think so. I’d mix up the plants in proportions of five parts to five, two parts to eight, or four parts to six to try them out. Although the effects weren’t as effective as three parts to seven, it still amused me.
If you wanted to destroy the five organs (heart, liver, lungs, kidney, spleen) but preserve a person’s life, then a two parts to eight formula was the way to go.
If you wanted to leave them half-dead, tossing and turning for three days until death, then a four parts to six formula was the most effective choice.
As for a violent death, nothing could beat a one parts to nine formula.
I stuck my hands inside my sleeves and gave a sigh.
“So it seems the pill residence not only had a Young Master Han, but another excellent young master as well. Please pardon me for not coming out to greet you earlier.” The shopkeeper lifted aside the door curtains as he entered.
I opened my eyes and looked at him.
“What pills did you bring over today?” He took the ones in my hand, gave them a sniff, and brightened. “Shall we still use the usual prices?”
“It’s up to you.” I gave a casual wave before pulling out the porcelain bottles, tossing them up and down in my hands.
“Young master, please…be careful.”
I looked at him, eyes sweeping over the pills in his hands before giving a derisive laugh and a hmph. Then I continued tossing the bottles as before.
“I…i-it is a little low, I’ll add a bit more,” his lips twitched into a smile as he pulled out two more taels of silver, adding them to the group on the counter to make five.
I gave him a genial smile and tossed the bottles over. “Thanks.”
Sweeping the silver into my bag, I tied it by my waist. With a pat, I turned to head out the door when…someone knocked past me.
I felt around my waist and found it empty.
Curses, what a classic setup.
I turned around to chase after a familiar figure. These little thieves, they purposely picked on strangers and weak, elegant-looking lordly types, but today they actually messed with me…
“You rascal, stop running!”
At my shout, he ran even faster. Look at this guy’s sturdy arms and legs. He must have stolen quite a bit from Fang Hua in the past, or else how could he have eaten enough to look so robust? His smooth getaway left a trail of dust behind. The more I saw, the angrier I got.
I lifted some internal energy from my dantian region and used some of my lightness ability to chase after him, wiping sweat all the while. I couldn’t believe I had to do such strenuous exercise in this type of heat. Just wait, after I caught up he was going to pay me two more taels of silver as compensation.
Before long, a sedan chair appeared in front of us. It looked like the boy was going to use the chance to duck behind one side and slip away. I groped around in my robes until I pulled out two paper packets filled with powder. Then I tossed them out before me.
His footsteps faltered, and he crashed against the sedan chair, causing the whole thing to shake. The paper pellets hit the ground, dispersing the powder.
I raised a sleeve to cover my face, still staring at the thief.
A wind picked up and stirred through the trees, scattering the powder in everyone’s faces. The sedan-chair bearers and assorted company exchanged looks with each other, their faces shocked.
“Protect…the imperial physician…” Even before they finished speaking, their eyes rolled up into their heads, and they collapsed.
This time, it wasn’t just the little thief who fainted, but seven or eight people surrounding the sedan chair as well.
Without really grasping the situation, I bent down to rummage around boy’s clothes. Suddenly a cat meowed, giving me a fright. I quickly tugged out a money bag and tested its weight in my hand…it was quite heavy.
“Next time, don’t learn to steal from others, or else big brother will take you to court.” I prodded him with my foot before standing up and preparing to leave. Strangely enough, heat seemed to be radiating from his hands and toes…and he wouldn’t stop groaning.
Wait a minute…
How could this have happened?
Why was this kid’s face so red? I hurriedly looked around me and saw…all the people surrounding the sedan chair paralyzed on the ground, eyes closed as their hands feverishly pawed through their clothes.
I trembled three times and took a step back.
“This elder brother looks young of age, yet his methods are so sinister and ruthless.”
A voice as cool and bright as jade rang out from behind the curtain of the sedan chair. It was both serious and earnest, neither gentle nor sickly, but the words seemed to travel straight into my ears. Immediately, my face turned red. I gave a hmph and lowered my head. Someone lifted the curtains of the sedan chair, and the person inside stepped out.
His steps were very firm, and his robes swayed with each step. Those ripples of fabric billowed…in a trance, I looked up at his face. Then I sucked in a breath to restrain myself.
I hadn’t been poisoned, so why was I heating up?
“Why did this young master block my sedan chair and release poison?” he asked with a smile, his tone temperate and mild.
“I didn’t meant to offend you. By chance I came across a thief, so I had no choice.”
“Your opponent is just a child. No matter how grave his mistake, you shouldn’t poison him like this.” His eyebrows knitted together, and his expression took on the look of a sage.
Oi, nice guy. I’ve got plenty more poisons where that came from.
How did I know I’d pick that particular one? Not to mention…if things were desperate, I would’ve used it anyways.
But then again, exactly which poison did I use? It couldn’t have been…?
Startled, I ignored him and turned around, feeling inside my sleeves. One by one, I took out my paper packets of powders and examined them under the sunlight. Slowly, I read the handwriting on each one.
I didn’t use any of the Three Steps Idiotic Laughter, Tickled Laughing Buddha, or the Memory Loss Powder.
“Stop looking, you used a Drunken Dream of Lovemaking.”
 young master (??) – gong zi, while this usually means “prince” or “lord,” it’s often used to generically refer to people of high rank (or at least well dressed people who look the part). For instance, there’s also ?? jun zi, which is a term for scholarly/gentlemanly types.  this one (??) – xiao de, literally “little me”, or the “humble I.” Just as there are special titles/pronouns for people of high rank, people of low rank use opposing terms to refer to themselves in an obsequious, third-person manner. The waiter who says this is clearly putting himself at a lower social level than his customers.  Fishy-Smell grass (???) – Yuxing or Houttuynia cordate, a so-called “fishy-smell” grass traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat pneumonia. Also known as fishmint, heartleaf, bishop’s weed, etc. Has small white flowers.  Five Measure Dispersions (?????) – wuzhang xiaomi san, the “five measures disappear and scatter”, rather tricky to translate. Zhang doesn’t really have a specific meaning here, beyond as a unit of measure. It was also a traditional way to hail a male elder.  dantian (??) – an area inside the body just around the belly button, where Qi circulates. Cultivators and martial artists alike use this area to store, rotate, and take in/expel their internal energies. Think of it as a furnace, powering up energy for magical abilities for the rest of the body.
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