Thousand Autumns - Chapter 24
First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: Goosebumps eventually disappear if one has enough of them.
It was the servant from the inn. He was holding a soup bowl and a plate in his hands.
"Mister, here is the medicine decocted according to the prescription you've written. The kitchen has also prepared lotus seed syrup and some desserts. You two can have some for now, and we'll send the other dishes over at dinner time."
Filling a prescription and decocting the herbs should have been the work of a pharmacy, but since Yan Wushi offered enough money, it was no longer a problem. He had been throwing money all over the place, so of course, the inn treated him like a god of wealth, attending and fawning on him as hard as they could.
Yan Wushi took over the bowl of medicine and said to Shen Qiao, "You need to recuperate from your injuries, and this medicine can speed up the process. Here, I'll feed it to you."
Shen Qiao: "…"
Words as soft as water poured out from that face which one could tell was extremely arrogant from a glance. It was so incompatible no matter how one looked at it. The servant didn't know that they just had a little confrontation inside the room. Listening to this wringing-wet tone alone had already made him dumbfounded.
That mister appeared to be somewhat sickly, but he was a grown man no matter what. Could it be… that they were cut-sleeves?
The servant couldn't help but shiver.
Shen Qiao was truly scared of Yan Wushi now. He had no idea what the other person was playing with this time.
Just a moment ago, he had been trying to force out the evil intentions in Shen Qiao's mind with Enchantment, and yet in the next second, in front of an outsider, his attitude had turned 180 degrees. The speed of him switching faces was definitely beyond impressive.
Yan Wushi ignored the other two people's reactions. He stared at Shen Qiao almost dedicatedly and spoke with an even softer tone, "Don't be afraid. I already blew it cold for you. It's not hot anymore."
Shen Qiao squeezed out two words with much difficulty, "Sect master…"
His mouth was immediately stuffed with a spoon. The bitter and astringent medicine filled his mouth in a split second, forcing him to swallow the liquid first before saying anything else. One spoon after another, Yan Wushi finished half of the medicine in just a moment. He was gazing almost dotingly and meticulously, and together with the tenderness on his smiling face, it seemed like he was staring at his true love.
Shen Qiao couldn't see Yan Wushi's expression, but the servant could. Feeling all of his hair standing on end, he thought to himself, if he stayed any longer, what should he do if this cut-sleeve mister fell for him as well and asked the landlord to take him away?!
He immediately put down the food and smiled apologetically, "Enjoy your meal, misters. I'll leave for now. Just ring the bell if you need something else!"
Yan Wushi grunted in reply and didn't even turn his head back. The servant heaved a sigh of relief. He wiped away the cold sweat on his forehead and sloped off in a hurry.
Right after he left, Yan Wushi promptly pushed the bowl into Shen Qiao's hands. "Drink it yourself."
Shen Qiao: "…"
He could tell from its smell that all of the ingredients in this bowl of medicine were good for qi recuperation and blood regeneration. But the change in Yan Wushi's attitude before and after was indeed too bizarre that he couldn't help but ask, "Sect Master Yan, were you suspicious of the identity of that servant?"
"Then how come…"
Yan Wushi suddenly laughed, "Why? Don't tell me you're so addicted to being fed now that you want me to feed the rest to you as well."
Shen Qiao: "…"
Yan Wushi held Shen Qiao's chin in his hand and commented, "From what I see now, you're actually quite good-looking. Most of the disciples in the three Demonic Sects practice Enchantment and they all have good appearances. However, if you weren't so sick all the time, you would look even better than them."
It would be a different case if he was manipulated by others like this when he was seriously wounded since he wouldn't be able to resist anyway. But Shen Qiao's mind was completely clear now. He couldn't help but lean his head backwards, pushing Yan Wushi's hand to the side.
The other person didn't force him either. He simply let go of Shen Qiao.
"Have you ever heard of a 'lip-cup'?" asked Yan Wushi.
"What's that?" The other person sounded way too serious. Shen Qiao didn't suspect him leading the conversation elsewhere.
Yan Wushi laughed, "When prostitutes in a brothel feed wine to their customers mouth-to-mouth, it's called a 'lip-cup'. Well, it's not a problem for me if you want me to feed the medicine to you the same way."
Shen Qiao was an upright gentleman who had always kept a pure heart and few desires. When had he ever heard flirtations like this? He immediately pursed his lips, but his pale face was inevitably suffused with a thin layer of redness. However, rather than shyness, it was caused by fury.
Yan Wushi finally had enough teasing. Seeing the change in Shen Qiao's expression, he burst into laughter and seemed to find it very amusing.
Shen Qiao's face was livid with rage.
Ever since then, Yan Wushi seemed to have his mind set on some weird interests. It was as if he was addicted to teasing Shen Qiao. He often play-acted in front of others just to see Shen Qiao change his expression.
Shen Qiao's temperament was good, and his mind was secure as well. After a few rounds, he was already able to keep a straight face in front of all sorts of harassment and harsh comments. However, Yan Wushi didn't lose interest in him at all. In fact, he even pushed further as if he was determined to find the other person's bottom line.
Fortunately, although he asked Shen Qiao to travel together with him, Yan Wushi didn't restrict Shen Qiao's freedom. Of course, it was inconvenient for Shen Qiao to go other places, so he spent most of his time in his room sitting by the window, listening to the wind, the rain, and the rustling outside. He tried not to cause any trouble for others.
Occasionally, there would be exceptions as well. This was a big inn with lots of people coming and going, including merchants and government officials. It was reckoned to be one of the largest inns in the whole City of Ying Prefecture, the best place to gather information. The most beautiful courtyard in the city was certainly not the only reason why Yan Wushi chose to stay here.
The inns and taverns at this period of time were already separated into common dining-halls and compartments on the inside. The compartments were divided into big compartments and private compartments. The private ones were reserved by small groups for private meetings, while the bigger ones were classified according to scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants by the innkeepers in order to attract customers.
Merchants could ask to sit in rooms where there were a lot of merchants. Even if they didn't know each other beforehand, they might be able to become friends after the meal, and they could also expand their networks and even set some deals by embracing the opportunity. It was indeed a benefit for both sides. Same for the scholars and the martial artists. Of course, there were also merchants pretending to be scholars and they insisted on joining the scholars' compartments, but they ended up becoming laughingstocks most of the time. Generally speaking, people wouldn't want lose their faces like that.
Yan Wushi should have belonged to the pugilist group, but he had another identity. Ying Prefecture was already within the borders of Northern Zhou. If he were to reveal his position as the Junior Preceptor of the crown prince, perhaps even the officials of the Ying Prefecture would come over to kiss up to him. Surprisingly though, he didn't join either side. Instead, he led Shen Qiao into a merchant compartment.
Shen Qiao was now gradually getting used to being in the dark. Having Yan Wushi guide him, he slowly followed with the help of his bamboo stick. He didn't need anyone to support him, but Yan Wushi insisted on holding him by his wrist. This intimate scene induced everyone to glance at them from the corner of their eyes. Shen Qiao wasn't able to pull back his hand, so he had to let Yan Wushi have his way.
Ever since they arrived at the City of Ying Prefecture, whenever there were other people around, Yan Wushi would treat Shen Qiao as gently and softly as possible.
The others didn't know the story behind their relationship. Looking at the two of them, especially the ambiguity in which Yan Wushi stared at Shen Qiao, they simply classified Shen Qiao as some sort of boytoy. It was just that they had never seen a blind boytoy. When they saw the two of them walk in, they all found it strange yet amusing at the same time as they gazed at Shen Qiao.
They took a seat and shared the table. Yan Wushi politely refused the servant's help and personally arranged the tableware for Shen Qiao. He then grabbed Shen Qiao by the hand and pointed out where and what the dishes were one by one. He was acting so considerately that even if people from the Cleansing Moon Sect were present, they probably wouldn't dare to recognize Yan Wushi.
If it was a few days ago, Shen Qiao would have felt uncomfortable from head to toe. But goosebumps eventually disappear if one has enough of them. He took over the chopsticks without the slightest change in his face, thanked Yan Wushi for it, then slowly tasted the food.
Seeing how they completely ignored others around them, everyone started to lose their interest. They simply cursed a few times in silence, then went back to their original topics.
Everyone present was a merchant traveling through the country. They might be strangers toward each other, but when they decided to eat in this compartment, they more or less had the intention to exchange information and make friends. Not to mention that merchants were naturally good at socializing. After exchanging a few sentences, the atmosphere was once again as lively as before.
Someone said, "I heard that the Emperor of Zhou was planning on going down south to attack the Chen. Is it true? If any of the brothers sitting here is well-informed, please be kind and give us some suggestions. I've been traveling back and forth frequently this year and would like to prepare in advance. It's not a big deal with the goods, but I'd rather not lose my life over it!"
Many people echoed after hearing what he said, "That's right!"
Someone asked him, "Xu Er'lang, where did you hear about this?"
Xu Er'lang replied, "I heard it from my relative. He's a servant that lives in the residence of the local Sir Governor. His information should be reliable."
Another person said, "I heard about it too. It's most likely true. Just think about it. Ever since the Emperor of Zhou returned to the throne, His Majesty has been very aggressive and he has made vigorous efforts to build a strong state. A populous and affluent land as the South is nowadays, the Chen Dynasty also occupies vast territory. If the Emperor of Zhou wants to unify the whole country, he'll certainly try to seize the Chen Dynasty first!"
"Well, I don't think so!" Someone immediately disagreed, "Just two years ago, Chen and Zhou were still allies against the Qi during the Northern Expedition in the Taijian era. If what you predicted is true, that means it won't be long before the Zhou Dynasty casts aside their alliance and decides to turn around and attack the Chen Dynasty. In that case, they'll surely lose their righteousness and be held in contempt by the whole world!"
"Huh! What a funny joke! Losing one's righteousness? We as businessmen still need to consider whether we can make enough profits. How much do you think righteousness is worth? Can it fill our stomachs?"
Everyone started talking at once. Seeing that a fight was about to start, Xu Er'lang quickly tried to smooth things over, "All of you, don't take it seriously! 'Amiability makes you rich.' That's the most important thing for us businessmen. As for military and political events, those are what the big guys need to worry about! How does it concern us? What we care about is just which parties are involved in the war or whether there will be a war or not!"
Due to his interruption, the slightly awkward atmosphere was finally relieved. The two people who were debating both looked a bit embarrassed and sat back down to enjoy their food and wine.
Among the customers, a Southern-looking man in casual clothes who had been quiet previously suddenly spoke, "In my opinion, all of your conjectures are wrong. If the Emperor of Zhou wants to start a war, the Chen Dynasty definitely won't be his first choice. It should be safe to travel between Chen and Zhou to do business for the time being."
The others asked, "How so?"
He explained, "People always pick the weak members of the herd. Compared to the Chen Dynasty, the Qi Country is obviously more of a pushover. Even if Zhou is not coming after the Qi, it will probably be the Tujue. Briefly speaking, in the short term, the Emperor of Zhou will not be in a hurry to start a war with the Chen Dynasty."
Shen Qiao also put down the chopsticks in his hand. He straightened his back and listened attentively.
Though he was once the head of an entire sect, the leader of the Daoist school, since Mount Xuandu had secluded itself and he also did not pay any attention in this area, he knew very little of the outside world compared to these merchants that traveled all over the country. This shortcoming was gradually exposed after he left home, and he was very aware of it himself. Therefore, every time he heard others talking about the situation of the world, he would listen with rapt attention.