Yingtan, the train station.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai walked out carrying two huge wooden chests, which became quite the head-turner. The chests were square, crudely made, of an odd style, and even the handles looked impromptu.
Needless to say, in them were the materials for Dan refinement.
The two recipes needed 34 ingredients in total and they had prepared seven portions of each, which was their limit. Dan-refining was a major task that required all three of capability, skill, and luck. The tiniest error would push them back to ground zero and they would have to repeat the whole process. Hence, the output rate of Dan had always been very low.
They did not raise their hopes too high, though. They would be very content if one out of the seven portions turned out successful.
Yingtan was a small city with minimal attraction. They hailed a taxi as soon as they were out of the station, thinking about heading for Longhu Mountain right away. Xiaozhai got in first. Gu Yu was about to follow when he paused. Somewhere not far, a loudspeaker was chanting an advertisement.
"New Wind-cold Granules! Introduced to the market for the first time! A product of Emei Pharmaceutical! Effective from the first dosage! Effective from the first dosage!"
The two exchanged a look, both attracted by the name "Emei Pharmaceutical".
"I'll go have a look!"
Gu Yu turned around and ran to the pharmacy across the road. He pushed the door open and blurted out, "One of that cold granules, please."
"Are you paying with your medical insurance card?" asked the shop assistant.
"Um, cash, actually."
He winced at his own answer, somehow abashed by those words.
One of the unspoken rules of all pharmacies was that the inexpensive and effective medicines were always stashed in the innermost corners, while the costly but not so effective ones were displayed on the most conspicuous shelves.
The shop assistant took one box of the medicine straight out of the counter. Gu Yu looked at it closely. The packaging was very ordinary, but the name of the manufacturer was emphasized. The ingredient section read: ephedra, kudzu vine roots, perilla leaf, radix sileris, cassia twig, Chinese angelica, dried tangerine peel, apricot kernel...
Effect: relieve exterior syndrome, induce perspiration, and expel wind and cold pathogens; can be used to treat common cold, fever, headache, coughing, etc.
One box contained six sachets, which was to be ingested for one sachet per dosage.
"Excuse me, how often should I take it every day?" he asked.
"Normally one sachet is enough to cure you as long as you don't have a bad cold," replied the shop assistant.
Just then, an auntie—who would make an excellent shill—close by interjected, "I caught a cold the other day and was cured by this—by one sachet! It works like a wonder. Your money is well spent."
Gu Yu felt his temple was throbbing again. He then asked, "Does Emei Pharmaceutical have other products?"
The shop assistant gave him an odd look. "There are two more. A pain relieving cream and a mulberry and chrysanthemum drink."
"I'll have one each."
A couple of minutes later, he walked out with three packages of medicines and got into the taxi. The car started and drove away from the station, heading for Longhu Mountains 20 km away.
Xiaozhai slouched on the back seat, using her boyfriend's lap as her pillow. Her two long legs were forced to bend into an uncomfortable angle—they were not designed for such a narrow space.
She fumbled the packages of the medicines and examined them carefully. All three were made from commonly found ingredients and the formulas were nothing special, either.
They had not seen them in Bai Town and could not be sure if they were sold in the North. But they were certain of one thing: the products were the result of government-organized research and development and would probably be promoted to the whole society in the future.
"It's not as bad as we expected. They have finally turned their attention to people's well-being."
Xiaozhai gave the idea a thumbs-up, then asked, "By the way, how much did all these cost?"
"Here you go!"
He handed her the receipt.
She checked it and was surprised by the figure. The same medicine from different manufacturers would usually have different price tags. For instance, the cold granules of Tong Ren Tang were sold at 13.5 yuan, whereas that of Baiyunshan was 11 yuan and Xiuzheng's 25 yuan .
This one by Emei, however, was sold at 36 yuan.
As for the pain relieving cream, Baiyunshan's was 36.5, Yunnan Baiyao's was 19.5, but this one was 58 yuan. With the 32-yuan mulberry and chrysanthemum drink, Gu Yu had paid 126 yuan in total.
That was quite expensive for some common medicine, but on the second thought, if they were as effective as the advertisement claimed, would one buy a cheaper alternative, which might not cure them with one purchase, or would one rather pay a little more for Emei's product?
Especially now, when most of the urban residents were covered by medical insurance, that premium was not going to make them sweat.
Gu Yu waved his hand and set up a confinement, then said loudly, "Wang Qi was right. This is indeed a major operation. They are tasting their first bite of meat!"
"Huh, they're selling medicine for cold for the time being, god knows what they will come up with in the future. Qi-nourishing powder, strength-enhancing capsule, life-prolonging paste, you name it. In two or three generations, the physique of the people will be improved as a whole. Tsk, that is indeed very provident, not to mention lucrative," said Xiaozhai.
"Anyone rising that high will take their entire clan into consideration. In the worst scenario, as long as they're not too greedy and can take common people's well-being into account, I would say they're not doing a terrible job," said Gu Yu.
Would the three new medicines benefit the common people? Sure!
Would money flowed into the pockets of those top dignitaries who were behind all this? Even surer!
In most countries, one would consider such outcome not without merit.
The two chatted on. Despite their moving lips, no sound was escaping the confinement. After a while, the driver seemed to notice something and peeked into the rearview mirror.
Gu Yu sensed it right away. He was going to simply stop talking. However, Xiaozhai wrapped her arms around his neck and dragged his head closer, then began to torture his lips with her tongue.
The driver saw what was going on and could only sigh inwardly for the loss of decency in this world.
"This place is magnificent!"
Carrying the chests, Gu Yu looked up at the three vermilion gates. Admiration escaped his lips.
"Seriously? They look so fake!" Xiaozhai despised them.
"We're at the birthplace of their sect. Aren't we supposed to say that?" A sarcastic remark of his was as ready as always.
The Celestial Master Temple was also a tourist destination, but no tourists could be found today. Of the three vermilion gates, the two on either side was closed, leaving only the middle one wide open. Apparently, the temple was prepared for their visit.
"Layman Gu and Laywoman Jiang, I presume?" They were greeted by a priest receptionist.
"That is right. We are here to see Celestial Master Zhang." Gu Yu returned the greeting with a bow.
"The master is waiting inside. Please follow me."
With that, the receptionist led them inside. They went to the dormitory to put down their luggage first before arriving at the Three Gates.
The so-called Three Gates was the private residence of the Celestial Master Temple. After entering the gate, they saw a courtyard wall first, beyond which was the Palace of Celestial Masters. The palace consisted of three halls. The front one was the hallway, the middle one the living room, and the back one the inner chamber.
Zhang Jintong was sitting cross-legged on the low bed in the inner chamber.
The man was in his late fifties and had a weary, gaunt face, which gave him a pent-up look. He wore an ordinary blue gown and seemed to be resting with his eyes closed.
Relationships were complicated in the Celestial Master Temple of Sihan.
The government had suppressed the power of various religions—Buddhism and Taoism included—after the establishment of the modern state. The 63th generation Celestial Master could stand the pressure no further and took refuge overseas. As a result, no Celestial Master was appointed after that.
The old Celestial Master had a nephew, who had set up his own altar and named himself the 64th Celestial Master.
Zhang Jintong was a descendant on the mother's side and the old Celestial Master was his maternal grandfather. After the government gave permission to preach again, they raised Zhang Jintong and changed his surname. As for that Zhang Miaoxian, he was actually a legitimate heir to the surname Zhang. His paternal grandfather was the old Celestial Master's younger brother.
However, Zhang Miaoxian was ousted to Wanshou Palace of Xishan, where he spent his days as an idle abbot.
Therefore, Zhang Jintong only jumped on the wagon halfway through the journey. His lineage had always been seen as unconvincing and calumny would rise every now and then, slandering his name. He had actually made some great contributions to Longhu Mountain, including repairing the old houses, promoting the Taoist orthodox, and raising an exceptional direct disciple like Zhang Shouyang.
The priest receptionist entered the room and called Zhang Jintong several times before he finally opened his eyes. "So, the guests are here?"
"Yes, they are in the living room."
"I see. You may leave now. I will attend to them myself."
After dismissing the pupil, he straightened up his clothes before walking out. Arriving at the living room, he saw a man and a woman drinking their tea. They were remarkably distinguished and admirable, and their elegance looked otherworldly.