Zong Yue remained quiet and went over to feel her pulse, only to be shunned by her.
"Quack... I think I... have been given... aphrodisiac..."
"Only beauties are targeted by aphrodisiac, so why you?"
Meng Fuyao laughed weakly, lacking in energy to bicker. "Is it treatable? If not... leave now... don't tell me about Yin and Yang... neutralizing... if it has to be that way... I'll... despise you... for life."
Zong Yue smiled. While he appeared gentle, he wasn't one to smile. Now that he did, it was as if the sun had sprinkled its rays from behind the clouds so compassionately and warmly.
"I don't actually mind that..." He added lightly, reaching forward to carry her, only to have her jolt and ready to struggle free. In response, he added, "We're at the back entrance of the King De Residence. You've been through so much already, so can't you persevere until we get in?"
"...you can deactivate my acupuncture point, but you choose to let me suffer..." she cursed lowly.
Zong Yue lowered his head, observing the redness on her cheeks and her droopy lids. It was possibly the most beautiful combination, of willows and peach blossoms in spring, and jade clear water and lotus pond in summer.
He savored the sight before him. His usually steady hand slightly trembling. Meng Fuyao opened her eyes abruptly, and her gaze was bright and limpid; like the stream whose every grain of white sand was clearly visible.
Zong Yue no longer said anything. He carried her into his own garden, deactivated her acupuncture point and fed her a pill before treating her wounds. He did everything himself and, upon completion, stood by the window for a long time, muttering to himself with his hands cupped behind his back.
When Meng Fuyao regained consciousness, she first checked her clothes to see if she had intercourse with anyone during the time she had been burning with desire. The fire snakes, which had been roaming within her whole body, seemed to have returned to their cave and were no longer wreaking havoc. However, there also was a hot sensation lingering deep within her pubic region. She attempted to regulate her energy, and as if realizing something she sat, cross-legged, and asked, "You can't eliminate it completely?"
Zong Yue turned around, knitting his brows. "It isn't an aphrodisiac but something more potent called the Emotion Lock. It's made from the essence blood of female brothel keepers, which has been stored for thousands of years. The victims will feel an overwhelming sexual desire, day and night, but excessive intercourse will only lead to internal injuries. The victims can only stand such a deranged, promiscuous lifestyle only three months at most. Death is certain."
"Igniting desire at the expense of life?" Meng Fuyao mumbled. "What a wicked invention."
"Guo Pingrong's master is Fang Yimo, also known as the Starlight Sage." Zong Yue's expression seemed a little peculiar as he continued, "It was said that Fang Yimo had fallen in love with a girl when he was young, but the girl eloped with another man when he was journeying around. He concocted this thing upon his return to punish the adulterous couple. They went at it all day and night until one died from excessive ejaculation and the other from withered blood vessels."
Meng Fuyao drew a deep, cold breath before sighing. "It's no wonder Guo Pingrong became this immoral - his Master is not a good person either."
Zong Yue added faintly, "Guo Pingrong has been indulging in women and wine so much these past few years that his cultivation progress is not even a third of his master's. Sir Fang shields him a lot as well."
Upon noticing that there was not the slightest trace of fear in Meng Fuyao's eyes, Zong Yue sighed. "Your fur coat, dipped in Poison-Dispelling Fragrance, should be effective in most cases. You should've been fine, if not for the fact that your body already contains a poison like that in the Emotion Lock. It's traceless and symptomless but fatal when mixed with certain types of poison. Fortunately, you have yet to come into contact with any of those in the past 17 years. If not for the Poison-Dispelling Fragrance, just the Emotion Lock alone would've been enough to kill you on the spot..."
"Having said so much, you're just afraid that I'll call you a charlatan. Why else would you blame me for the ineffectiveness of your medicine? Seems like you're unable to do anything about this poison?" Meng Fuyao raised her brow, asking. "No way... holy doctor?"
"If I can't find a way, no one will be able to," answered Zong Yue. He was certain and somewhat haughty. "But I have a way to reduce its potency."
"By medication. You can transform the poison into a real aphrodisiac. As long as you're willing to..." Before Zong Yue could finish his sentence, Meng Fuyao started putting on her shoes and getting off the couch.
Zong Yue let out a bitter laugh, only continuing when she had reached the door, "There's one more way. Since it is a mix between aphrodisiac and poison, it can be converted into either one. However, as long as the poison remains in your body, you can't get aroused, or you'll bleed from all seven apertures, resulting in death. Take your pick."
Meng Fuyao walked back and sat down, cross-legged and carelessly. "Is there a need to ask?"
Zong Yue stood by the window, looking at her, his face basking under the bright sunlight. His pale complexion and lips appeared whitewashed, as if heavily troubled. A long time later he asked, "You... sure?"
Meng Fuyao waved. "Don't be so wishy-washy."
"Do you really think you won't fall in love your whole life?" asked Zong Yue. "You're in the prime of youth. What makes you so sure that you'd be able to resist any temptation?"
"Love shouldn't even be in my life equation." Meng Fuyao pursed her lips, a slight distraction apparent in her face. "Now that I'm thrown into this situation, I'll just take it as a reminder not to stray from my intended goals... hey, it's actually great."
She lifted her chin up slightly and smiled, with a tinge of regret and resignation. After a short pause, she spoke with finality, "This is it."
Wuji Nation, winter, the 15th year under the emperor's reign.
A rebellion took place in the southern border of Wuji Nation, to which the crown prince passed on a decree: Prince De, Zhangsun Jia, shall be crowned King Rong and shall lead his troops to put down the revolt in the southern border, with General Guo Pingrong serving at the front line.
As King De had yet to recover from a former affliction, he spent a significant amount of money to invite Zong Yue along. Upon hearing that there were all kinds of rare plants that could be used for medicine, Zong Yue had naturally agreed.
As Sir Zong's little servants, Fuyao and Yao Xun followed the army as well. While leaving the city, Meng Fuyao passed by the Deepspring Brothel, only to realize that the money-squandering establishment had been seized. Its former reputation and glory were gone like the wind. Meng Fuyao stood before the empty building, and as if having thought of something, a small curl made its way to the corner of her lips before gradually disappearing the next moment.
Some time passed, in silence, before she finally turned around. Suddenly she heard a soft breathing sound coming from behind the back wall. She reached a hand out and grabbed hold of a small person.
It was a child of not more than seven years old. She had on a thick slab of makeup, which had already been smeared significantly. Upon being pulled out, the girl opened her eyes wide in panic but did not cry.
Meng Fuyao found her familiar, and after some thought recalled that she was the child prostitute, Yuan Zhaoxu had spoken to that night. Meng Fuyao knitted her brows and asked, "Isn't the brothel being sealed for the kidnapping of southern tribal girls? Hasn't the court provided a place for you girls? Why are you here, alone?"
The little girl's eyes were fixed on Meng Fuyao. "Xiao Dao wants to go home."
The child spoke simply, her voice containing a rarely heard metallic quality that was unavoidably sharp. Meng Fuyao was somewhat worried that the child had become mentally unstable from the trauma and stress.
Xiao Dao held onto Meng Fuyao's sleeve, tugging at it firmly and repeating, "Xiao Dao wants to go home."
Meng Fuyao tried to leave a few times, but she simply couldn't bear to swing the girl's frail hand away. Neither was she willing to use martial arts to pull herself away. Eventually, she dragged Xiao Dao all the way back to where the rest were.
Upon catching sight of a kid following behind Meng Fuyao, Yao Xun pricked his brows. "Xiao Dao wants to go home," Meng Fuyao answered before he could even ask.
Just like that, an additional little servant had been added to the troop. Xiao Dao remained quiet, her eyes fixed on the southern direction.
Meng Fuyao turned around, toward the direction of the Canglan Temporary Imperial Palace, a smile forming on her face. 'Is that particularly handsome man and his narcissistic guinea pig basking in the rare, golden warmth at this very moment? Is the fat guinea pig fast asleep with its pink belly exposed on his owner's palm? What about the first snow on the roof? Has it melted and flowed back into the crystal clear lake?'
Meng Fuyao hadn't bid farewell to Yuan Zhaoxu. She had decided to follow King De for a few reasons. Firstly, King De was going to handle all matters regarding the southern border and its neighboring land, which included the issuance of clearance medals. Secondly, she was still looking for a chance to obtain the antidote from Guo Pingrong, whom she had heard had become a whole different person. Thirdly, she wanted to stay away from Yuan Zhaoxu.
She wasn't supposed to involve herself in matters of the heart. Since her transmigration, from feeling anxious to accepting reality, she had undergone a choppy mental journey. Now that her heart was calm, it became apparent that she was willing to live in seclusion, and to battle against time and luck.
Meng Fuyao was going to reach the apex eventually, as long as she pressed on.
Nevertheless, life was inevitably mutable. Such changes, coupled with an irresistible stroke of luck, had approached her, and she had already foreseen the outcome those would bring. She wasn't going to let years of perseverance and dreams go down the drain because of trivial matters.
Meng Fuyao hoped to extinguish the spark between them that Yuan Zhaoxu hadn't completely ignited. As such, there wouldn't be a need for her to hesitate at the most crucial moment just because of longing and the 'what-ifs.'
She hoped to live this life without leaving any trace. The last thing she would want was for her to alter the destiny of others and her own, as she did not belong in this world.