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In the last part of Mr. Mu’s account of the previous events, he had kept a lot of things back, but Ling Zhang had vaguely guessed something. A secluded place as the Millennium Pavilion was, it didn’t seem to be the case that people here were really completely disconnected from the outside world and wanted nothing but peace. Inharmonious voices did exist in this organization, and the Clan Leader didn’t have the final say in everything.
The two of them were new here, and it was because of their relations with Ji Yin that Mr. Mu had told them so much. Ling Zhang knew better than to persist with his questioning and push Mr. Mu to give him all the answers he wanted. Now that he’d already come to the Millennium Pavilion, he was positive that after some time he’d be able to find out the truth about some of those matters. Besides, he still had Ji Yin, his grandfather, at his back. Ji Yin was the Prime Elder of the Millennium Pavilion, and there were definitely many matters that he knew more details about than Mr. Mu did.
Before long, Ji Yin returned. “The Clan Leader is available now. Do you want to go there to talk to him right away or do you want to stay here keeping your father company for some more time?”
Ling Zhang rose to his feet. “Since the Clan Leader is available, of course I’ll go and have an audience with him first.”
Now he was the one in need of help. Although that man named Ji Yanlai seemed quite casual and unbuttoned, Ling Zhang was still not very confident of convincing him to agree to his request.
Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong followed Ji Yin out of the courtyard house onto the island in the midst of the lake.
There was a great hall. When Ji Yin led the two of them into it, Ji Yanlai had changed into another outfit which was yellowish and white, exquisite and of a gorgeous style, imparting a hint of nobility to him but also making him look even younger.
Ji Yanlai was the only one in the hall. Nobody else was around.
Ling Zhang, who had expected to see a scene similar to a court meeting, couldn’t help but feel somewhat surprised.
“Have you seen your father?” Ji Yanlai looked at Ling Zhang.
Ling Zhang gave a nod. “I want to thank you for saving my father’s life, Clan Leader.”
Ji Yanlai said, “Your forgiveness for my being harsh on your mother back in that year is enough for me, and saving your father was no trouble at all. The Prime Elder has told me in a letter what you want and I’ve been giving some careful consideration to it. Your father will get the miracle drug he needs, but I want you to do something for me in return.”
Ling Zhang had thought that he’d have a hard job convincing Ji Yanlai to help, and had spent quite some time pondering over how he should do it, but unexpectedly, Ji Yanlai brought it up before he even asked, and better still, his answer was affirmative, so naturally Ling Zhang was overjoyed. “Whatever you say, Clan Leader.”
However, to their surprise, Ji Yanlai seemed to have no intention of naming his price right away. His appraising eyes raked Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong for a few moments before he said, “What I want you to do is not within your power for the moment. Besides, I myself could use some more time to see how things go before making the final decision. Ling Zhang, although it’s you who’s supposed to accept this condition of mine, to actually meet it you’ll need the help of the man standing beside you.”
After a brief trance of surprise, Ling Zhang looked at Yuwen Tong and held Yuwen Tong’s hand back to stop him from saying what he wanted to say, his eyes moving to Ji Yanlai. “May I ask what it is that you want specifically, Clan Leader?”
Ji Yanlai replied, “You may rest assured that I won’t ask you to take your own lives or do anything that will jeopardize the well-being of the common people. Whatever I do, I do it for the best interests of the Millennium Pavilion.”
Ling Zhang was hesitating. If it were only about himself, he would’ve agreed, but since this also involved Yuwen Tong, he didn’t dare take the risk.
“We’ll take the offer.” Yuwen Tong, however, directly accepted it.
Ling Zhang was startled. “Wait.”
Ji Yanlai’s eyes flashed at him.
Ling Zhang said, “Clan Leader, it’s me who wants to save my father. Can it really not be me who gives you what you want?”
Ji Yanlai smiled, “Actually there’s not much difference. It’s just that…”
Ji Yanlai gave another significant smile and continued, “You’ll see what I mean in future.”
“Then how do I know your terms won’t do him any harm?” said Ling Zhang.
“Like I said, I’m not interested in putting the common people’s well-being in jeopardy or seeing either of you dead. Besides… don’t you think it’s kind of unreasonable to expect me to give you the miracle drug without having you pay a price? Surely you don’t think I’m a pushover whom you can bully into agreeing, do you?” said Ji Yanlai.
Ling Zhang’s stomach lurched with nerves. Although Ji Yanlai’s tone remained unchanged and his countenance was as casual as always, Ling Zhang was distinctly feeling the pressure that the last remark of Ji Yanlai’s had just put him under.
“Brother Zhang is just worrying about me. There’s no need for you to overthink it, Brother Ji. Since I already said we’ll take the offer, we will hold up our end of the deal,” said Yuwen Tong.
Ji Yanlai said, “I wouldn’t have made this deal with you in the first place if you won’t be able to meet my terms. You’ll get the drug in half a month, and then you may take Ling Zhaowu and leave. Half a month after that, I’ll send you a message telling you what I want you to do for me.”
“Deal,” said Yuwen Tong.
Ling Zhang balled his hands. Now that things had already come to this, he only hoped that he’d be able to make a contribution towards meeting Ji Yanlai’s terms. This was supposed to be his burden to bear, and he didn’t want Yuwen Tong to shoulder it for him alone. The situation in the capital city was complicated enough, and it’d take only one little mistake for the nightmare scenario to occur. He couldn’t afford to put Yuwen Tong to any more trouble.
Knowing what he was thinking about, Yuwen Tong held his hand in a consoling grip, saying nothing.
Unlike Ling Zhang who was worried, Yuwen Tong seemed to have got a shrewd idea of what Ji Yanlai’s conditions might be about. In fact, he’d been sounding out Ji Yanlai’s intentions from their first talk, and now he’d got a grasp of the situation and knew what to expect.
“Let’s go. I had them prepare some wine and food as a gesture of hospitality for our guests coming from afar. You may join us, Prime Elder,” said Ji Yanlai.
“Thank you, Clan Leader,” said Ji Yin, looking somewhat relaxed. Ji Yanlai’s willingly giving his consent had indeed come as quite a pleasant surprise to him.
Ji Yanlai had had servants prepare a tableful of delicacies to entertain Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong. After the drinking had gone through three rounds, Ji Yanlai flicked a glance at Yuwen Tong and said, “I heard that the emperor of the Great Yue is planning to eliminate you?”
Yuwen Tong, totally unsurprised at the fact that Ji Yanlai had learned the news, gave a nod and said, “It’s just a minor annoyance. I’ll handle it. It won’t be a hindrance to me keeping my end of the bargain.”
Ji Yanlai smiled and said no more.
During the meal, Ji Yanlai didn’t talk much, merely asking the two of them about the international situation from time to time or inquiring of Ji Yin whether he’d seen anything interesting in the outside world. Ling Zhang had also discovered a funny fact – Ji Yanlai was very picky about food. The courses on the table were even more exquisite than those prepared by the imperial kitchens of the Great Yue.
“Clan Leader, what do you think of Yuwen Tong’s physiognomies? Does he really stand a chance of becoming an emperor? The Great Yue…”
After the welcoming feast, Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong left, while Ji Yin stayed to have a private talk with Ji Yanlai.
“It’s not just the Great Yue, Prime Elder. Your grandson-in-law is meant for something far greater than that. The world has stood divided for long enough. It’s about time someone unified it,” observed Ji Yanlai.
Ji Yin was astonished. “Are you saying that…”
Ji Yanlai made no explicit reply, but Ji Yin had come to understand what he meant, amazed and overjoyed.
“Why do you think I made the deal with him? On the surface this place is pretty good, but actually it could no longer meet all our needs. The bigger our population gets, the more unsatisfactory our people would find this tiny pocket of land to be.”
In fact, Ji Yin had some time ago had some conjectures about Ji Yanlai’s opinions, so he was not really surprised to hear this. “Are we going to put an end to our seclusion, Clan Leader?”
“Not really. I’m not interested in ruling a country. I just want to get us another place to live. Tomorrow morning, my big sister and her husband will set off to go to the Donghai Sea. I told them to explore the islands there and pick a relatively large one. When the time comes, I’ll have Yuwen Tong cede it to us, and then all of us will move there.”
“Move to an island?” Ji Yin was astonished. “Well… Will the others be okay with that?”
“All the stubborn geriatrics have died. You think any of those who are still breathing could stop me?” sniffed Ji Yanlai.
After a few moments’ silence, Ji Yin said, “Since you’ve already had it planned out, I’ll try my best to be of service to you, Clan Leader. Is there anything you want me to do?”
“Currently we’re not even close to finding a suitable island. Your grandson and Yuwen Tong are the key to the attainment of this goal. After they get the drug, I want you to go with them and make sure Ling Zhaowu is cured – as the saying goes, ‘If you want to help, go the whole hog’,” said Ji Yanlai.
Ji Yin smiled, “Thank you for your kindness, Clan Leader.”
Ji Yanlai replied, “You’re welcome. I’m doing this because the time is ripe. On that day I saved Ling Zhaowu because I could tell that there’s some kind of connection between his destiny and ours. I have to thank you for keeping that from Ling Zhang. If you didn’t, I’m afraid he wouldn’t have agreed so easily.”
Ji Yin remarked, “No matter what, it’s a fact that you came to his father’s rescue.”
Ji Yanlai said, “Incidentally, I can see that the Force of Blood in him is very strong. There’s something peculiar about it, but I have no clue what it is specifically for the moment. I’ll need a day or two to figure it out. Take him back here to meet me in two days.”
Ji Yin asked, “You noticed it as well, Clan Leader?”
Ji Yanlai inclined his head and answered with a thoughtful look on his face, “There’s something intriguing about your grandson, but I cannot draw a conclusion right away. It’s only been a short time since I reached the eleventh layer, and there are still a lot of things I need more time to work out.”
After hearing this, Ji Yin did some thinking and replied, “I’ll take Zhang’er back here to meet you in two days.”
As though something had just occurred to him, Ji Yanlai paused fleetingly and added, “Actually, it doesn’t have to be precisely two days – they make really good roast pheasants.”
Ji Yin was stupefied at first, and then he caught on, somewhat amused.
Ji Yanlai had always been a foodie and a rather picky eater, which was not really something of a secret to people in the Millennium Pavilion.
When Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong returned to that courtyard house, Ling Zhaowu was still sleeping. After going inside to check on him, Ling Zhang walked out to have a talk with Ya.
Mr. Mu glanced at them and then resumed drying medicinal herbs. Yuwen Tong, seeing there were so many herbs in the house, offered to help.
“These herbs are all scarce and precious. Any of these is worth a fortune in the outside world,” commented Yuwen Tong.
“These are only a small portion of what we need. We have to buy most of the drugs from the outside,” replied Mr. Mu. “I heard that Tanyang is rich in medicinal herbs and the Ling family owns herb farms. Is that true?”
Yuwen Tong tossed a backward glance at Ling Zhang who was conversing with Ya, and bobbed his head. “It is.”
“That’s good news. Now that our clan leader has consented to give you the miracle drug, maybe some day we’ll start buying herbs from the Ling family. I mean, we’re acquaintances now.”
Yuwen Tong kept talking with Mr. Mu, telling him about the many methods that military surgeons adopted to treat the wounded. On the other side of the courtyard, Ling Zhang was actually consulting Ya about how to tend Ling Zhaowu.
The drug wouldn’t be ready until half a month later, so Ling Zhang would have to stay here for more than two weeks. Given the condition Ling Zhaowu was in, Ling Zhang had to do what a son was supposed to do. Besides, they were going to leave this place, and when they did, Ya would no longer be there for them to rely on. Also, this might be helpful in treating Ling Zhaowu’s amnesia.
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