Jiang Chen stood expressionlessly in the crowd. He observed the middle-aged man, then the girl. The man’s skin was smooth and pale on his palms, the backs of his hands, neck, and face. Rather than an ordinary cultivator, the details screamed a silver spoon bearer.
And the girl, although clothed in crude hemp, was obviously not a servant from a destitute family. The two of them should be more than simple wandering cultivators.
The jeering and heckling from the crowd became a little hard to endure. He suddenly made up his mind and walked out of the crowd to take the man’s pulse.
With an “aiya,” the girl hurried to say, “Don’t touch him, he’s poisoned.”
But Jiang Chen frowned and gestured for her to stand back. He came to a general conclusion after taking the man’s pulse for a moment.
“Girl, it’s a type of poison from pollen. I need to brew an antidote. If you trust me, take me to an apothecary.” His sincerity, devoid of wicked desires, made him appear extremely forthright.
The girl’s innocent eyes seemed to take his measure. After a moment, she nodded and stood up, struggling to roll her father up into a woven mat.
Upon seeing this, Jiang Chen offered, “Allow me.”
He lifted the fellow on his shoulder with a single hand, then took the lead and cut through the crowd. The girl hurried after him in a quick shuffle, walking by his side in total silence. She glanced at him now and then with innocent eyes, still a little timid and worried.
Rather than explain himself, Jiang Chen merely said, “Show the way to an apothecary. We don’t have much time. The poison will be uncurable soon if your father goes without an antidote.”
The girl trembled. She nodded and picked up the pace.
“Hey, kiddo, what’re you doing? Trying to snatch her from us just like that?” Some spectators couldn’t endure it any longer.
“He must be! Kid, that’s not how things are done around here! It’s a fair competition. Are you trying to get her with a scam?”
“Stop him! A hero saving the damsel in distress? Who’s he trying to fool with that cheap trick?”
For these treacherous fellows, the girl was a fruit ripe for the plucking, so Jiang Chen’s interruption was naturally unwelcome. They rushed forward to make off with her.
Jiang Chen abruptly paused. A golden ray fired from his Evil Golden Eye straight into the souls of those in the crowd.
Their reactions proved identical to captain eye-patch. They blanked out after a spasm ran through their body. Their very souls seemed on the verge of collapse. The fearful sensation halted their forceful steps and made their hearts quaver.
“Follow me if you want to die.” Delivering an eerie warning in a detached tone, Jiang Chen turned and left.
Soon after, the girl brought him to an apothecary. She paused at the door, her hands twisting the hem of her clothes, her face contorted in anxiety.
“What’s the matter?” Jiang Chen smiled gently. “Worried I’ll scam you?”
The girl shook her head rapidly. “N-No.”
“Then let’s go inside.” He started forward with an easy smile, but the troubled girl grabbed his sleeve. Her pure eyes were split between nervousness, unease, and embarrassment.
“I-It’s better if I find another way.” Like a mosquito, her voice was quieter than a needle hitting the floor.
“You still don’t believe me?” Jiang Chen spread his hands.
“No, it’s really not that.” The girl’s exquisite cheeks flushed bright red. She quickly looked at her shoes, her voice almost inaudible. “I… I don’t have any money.” She didn’t even have enough for food and lodging, to say nothing of spirit herbs.
Jiang Chen laughed despite of himself. “Let’s go, I have money.”
Paying no attention to her mood, he boldly strode inside and asked the associate, “Little brother, give me a stalk of Goldcoin Bamboo, a stalk of Wonder Camouflage Grass, two Origin Shellfish Pearls…”
Many ingredients spilled forth from his mouth. They weren’t incredibly rare. Sitting somewhere between earth-level and sky-level, they weren’t top-notch on Myriad Abyss Island.
The fellow dutifully grabbed the items. “That’ll be two hundred sixty thousand sky spirit stones, sir.”
The sum was equivalent to twenty six million sacred spirit stones, not too pricey for Jiang Chen. He still had many of Shu Wanqing’s spirit stones left, so he paid without further ado.
“Where do you live?” He looked at the girl.
She blushed again. She and her father had run out of money and had been chased out of their lodgings two days ago.
Jiang Chen made a rough guess of her situation from her reaction, so he stopped his inquiries. After leaving the shop, he found an inn and booked two rooms. Lodging in this place was truly expensive. Still, it was no issue for him.
“Go look after your father while I make the antidote.” Since he’d decided to help, he would see things through to the end. For him, the exercise was a piece of cake.
After a couple hours, he knocked on the room opposite his. The girl beamed with happiness and a bit of bashfulness when she saw him. “Is… Is it done?”
“Give it to your father.” Jiang Chen didn’t plan on going inside. “One first. Then four hours after he wakes up for another one. He’ll make a full recovery that way. Your room is paid for for ten days, so you two can stay here.”
He’d acted only out of mercy. He stuffed the antidote in her hand, casually waved goodbye, then made a beeline to his room. Inside, he sat cross-legged and meditated for a while, ready to head out soon to make some inquiries.
Someone knocked on his door about an hour later.
“Who is it?” he asked coldly.
“I-It’s me,” the girl’s voice came from outside.
“Come in.” Despite his surprise, Jiang Chen didn’t act like a stranger.
She still looked a little haggard, but most of the worry deep in her eyes had vanished, giving her steps a spry bounce.
“Your father must be awake.”
“How… how do you know?” She froze in faint surprise as she came in, a little awkwardly restrained as she stood not too far and not too close from him.
“Of course I know. I made the antidote myself. Anyways, you don’t owe me anything. I don’t have any hidden agendas, so don’t be afraid. Don’t let your mind run wild. Just go back and look after your father.” He didn’t know her background, but he didn’t want to become a psychological burden for her.
The girl looked at him in amazement. She hadn’t expected the young man to help her without demanding repayment with her body.
She sighed inwardly with relief, but also felt a little disappointed because Jiang Chen hadn’t even batted an eyelid when talking. He truly didn’t think much of her.
The heart has its reasons that the mind knows not, especially the heart of a young girl.
Even so, she stayed true to her upbringing. She curtsied deeply before declaring in a clear voice, “Honored benefactor, this humble girl is called Xing Tong. My deepest gratitude for saving my father.”
Jiang Chen nodded. “Xing Tong, that’s a good name. I’ll remember it.”
Xing Tong blushed. “Then I’ll take my leave and won’t disturb you further. But if you have any commands, be assured I won’t ever refuse.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “Don’t let your imagination run wild. This matter ends here. Go back to your room. Your father’s only begun to recover, he needs you by his side.”
Xing Tong was indeed a pleasing girl, but that had been far from his mind when he’d decided to help. Not to mention, no matter how beautiful, who in the world could compare to Huang’er? And who could replace his wife Dan Fei?
Urgent footsteps suddenly sounded from the corridor.
“Inspection from the city guards! All the guests are to gather outside and present their residency seals!” A man shouted with a voice like a broken gong.
Xing Tong bit her lip. “It’s the city guard. These inspections are common and they’re very violent. If your seal’s expired, they’ll arrest you and might even kill you on the spot.”
Jiang Chen asked, “Do you have one?”
“We paid for a temporary one. There’s still a month left on it. Sir, there’s no issue with yours, right?” she asked with faint worry.
“I arrived today, so mine’s still new.”
Someone pounded on the door. “Cut the chit chat. Gather outside in three breaths. Otherwise, you’ll be marked as unwilling to cooperate and treated as such!” These people sounded more like fiendish bandits rather than guardsmen.
“Miss Xing Tong, go attend to your father.” Jiang Chen walked outside. The inspection was irksome, but he’d rather not meddle with local customs.
Xing Tong returned to her room before coming out, her father’s arm draped over her shoulders.
More than a hundred guests in total were driven to the empty rear courtyard. They were puzzled when they spotted a dozen guards.
“Strange. Normal inspections have three to five guards at most. Why are there so many this time? Is there a suspect here?”
“That’s right, things are a little unusual today. I can feel something’s about to happen.”
“Forget it. Just be quiet and lay low.”
Standing in the back row, Jiang Chen was unconcerned. The inspection had little to do with him, so there was no reason for pointless fears. He looked around before spotting Xing Tong helping her father. The duo happened to be looking at him. She waved with a radiant and pure smile, her eyes brimming with gratitude.