Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 92
Chapter 92: Roping In
Rather than allowing her to refine pills right away, Lin Zainan instructed Yun Ruoyan to develop better finesse with her flame as the first step to mastering the fundamentals of pillmaking. Spiritual flames were notoriously difficult to control, and she wouldn’t be able to refine pills properly otherwise.
When she returned to the Yun household, Yun Ruoyan shut herself in her rooms to cultivate, while Peony and Xi Lan sat in the yard and embroidered.
“Peony, what if our miss tires herself out from cultivating day and night?” Xi Lan rubbed her needle against her scalp and asked.
“That won’t happen, surely. Miss Yun knows what she’s doing.” Peony continued sewing a delicate phoenix orchid pistil as she spoke.
She’d brought a few designs to Yun Ruoyan to see which one she liked most, and Yun Ruoyan picked the phoenix orchid design immediately. Yun Ruoyan hadn’t liked phoenix orchids in the past, thinking that they were too flamboyant and ostentatious.
“She’ll improve more and more as time goes on, I just know it. The phoenix orchid design was the prettiest!” Xi Lan joked.
Peony’s fingers paused before she too agreed, “That’s right, our miss is getting better and better.”
“Peony, Xi Lan…”
As the two maids spoke, a sudden voice came from afar. They raised their heads and saw Ling Lan standing half-crouched by the far corner of the yard.
Meanwhile, Yun Ruoyan was practicing her control over spiritual flames in her room. In the center of each of her palms was a small, red flame. As she imbued more fire-attuned spiritual energy into her palms, the two flames grew larger and larger, like two blood lilies that were about to bud in her palms.
“Not only do you need to be able to control their size at will, but also their color,” Lin Zainan’s words rang out in her mind. “The red flame is almost incorporeal, with no heat of its own. It can’t be used as the sole flame for pillmaking, but remains essential: it can modulate and regulate the temperature of another flame, and can also serve as a transitory flame while switching to a flame of a different color.”
Yun Ruoyan’s eyes were pinned to the red fire on her palms. She willed them to turn orange, the same orange she’d demonstrated before, but wasn’t able to succeed even after significant time.
With a puff, the two flames went out: Yun Ruoyan had used up all the fire-attuned spiritual energy she had.
Maintaining a spiritual flame is certainly draining on my energy reserves. No wonder Grandfather wouldn’t let me start refining pills right away. Yun Ruoyan glanced at her almost pure-white spiritual vortex and sighed. With this amount of spiritual energy, it’d be hard enough just lighting the furnace! I’d better keep on progressing with my blademaster cultivation as well…
Blademaster cultivation served as the foundation for all other aspects, because such cultivation could both reinforce and expand one’s spiritual vortex, as well as allow one to absorb spiritual energy from the heavens more rapidly.
Because of how quickly she had broken through these ranks, although Yun Ruoyan was a seventh-rank blademaster in principle, her spiritual vortex was still immature and not fully developed. If she didn’t use the bracelet’s power to supplement herself, she would definitely lose a fight on equal footing by running out of spiritual energy beforehand.
Her goal at the moment would be to continuously absorb spiritual energy from her environment and to convert it into part of her spiritual vortex.
With this new goal in mind, Yun Ruoyan planned on retreating to her pocket dimension and beginning her training routine immediately. Just as she closed her eyes, however, someone began knocking at her doors.
Unhappily, she called out, “Haven’t I said not to disturb me when I’m cultivating?”
“Miss, Ling Lan states that there’s something urgent she has to report,” Peony replied.
Yun Ruoyan blinked before allowing them entrance. She sat in bed, Ling Lan bowing in front of her.
“This is what Madam An told you to put into my food?” Yun Ruoyan held a palm-sized flask of wine in her hand. “Do you know what’s in here?”
“Miss, it smells like wine, but I’m not sure what exactly it is,” Ling Lan replied respectfully. “All Madam An told me was to mix it with some of the steamed pork you like while no one’s paying attention.”
Yun Ruoyan suddenly laughed coldly. “To even have found out that I like steamed pork… she must have put some effort into this plan.”
Ling Lan didn’t respond, and only curved her head downwards even more deeply.
When Yun Ruoyan saw her trembling form, she relented. “Ling Lan, you’ve done very well.” She took out ten taels of silver and left it on the table. “This is a reward for your efforts.”
Ling Lan raised her head and saw the silver, but she didn’t reach out for it. Instead, she knelt down and replied, choked with emotion, “Miss, I can’t repay your gratitude enough. If I were to take this silver as well, my father would certainly rebuke me.”
Yun Ruoyan nodded. “How’s Old Zhang doing?”
“My father’s a lot better, Miss.” Ling Lan raised her head and wiped her tears away with her sleeve. “My deepest thanks for summoning a physician for my father, for paying off my brother’s gambling debts, Miss Yun. Please, if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”
Although Ling Lan was a maid that Madam An had planted, Yun Ruoyan found that she didn’t have a bad temperament. Instead, it was likely that she had some troubles that Madam An had taken advantage of.
Once, when she was at the Lins, she’d asked Lin Qingchen to look into the matter for her. As expected, Ling Lan’s family was destitute. A serious illness had befallen her seventy-year-old father, and she had no money to help him seek treatment. Her only brother was addicted to gambling, and had racked up severe debt of his own.
And so Yun Ruoyan asked Lin Qingchen for a favor: to help treat Ling Lan’s father, and to pay off her brother’s debt with Yun Ruoyan’s money.
When Ling Lan found out about this, she was understandably grateful—the result Yun Ruoyan had been hoping for.
Although Madam An was skilled at deceit and trickery, she was a harsh and merciless mistress. She knew of Ling Lan’s plight, but the amount of money she gave her was only sufficient to get by, ensuring that she would forever be in Madam An’s grasp.
Yun Ruoyan felt that Yi Qianying was far more adept at manipulating people’s hearts.
“Stand up,” Yun Ruoyan lifted Ling Lan and continued, “Don’t worry, this money is a reward for your information last time. Take it and use it for your family.”
In fact, it was Ling Lan who had informed Yun Ruoyan that Yun Ruoyu was planning on poisoning the tea she would serve to her elder sister. That day, Ling Lan was just about to report on Yun Ruoyan to Madam An when she heard them discussing the matter in her rooms.
Ling Lan immediately notified Peony about the matter, who transmitted the information to Yun Ruoyan.
Yun Ruoyan picked up the silver and stuffed it into Ling Lan’s hands, who trembled and thanked her profusely. She smiled at the silver in her hands, her eyes still brimming with tears.
The Yun servants had a decent monthly salary of five copper coins, but ten silver taels was equivalent to two years’ salary.
Madam An had only given her at most two silver taels at a time as a reward, and Yun Ruoyan’s position in Ling Lan’s heart became even more elevated.
But Yun Ruoyan still wasn’t quite done. Despite the respectful look in Ling Lan’s eyes, she felt that another layer of security was only prudent. “I heard your brother passed the imperial exam?”
Not expecting Yun Ruoyan to ask about her brother, Ling Lan couldn’t help but hesitate for a moment. “My brother did pass. He’s really quite talented, but our family wasn’t able to pay the master examiner’s fee, so even though he passed…”
For the civilians of the Chenyuan continent, there were two major routes to advancement. One was to cultivate and become strong: a third-rank blademaster would easily be able to find a position as a guard and make a living. A fifth-rank blademaster would even be able to work in a noble family, or even as a martial officer in court.
But most people didn’t have the talent for cultivation, or had such meager talent that even becoming a third-rank blademaster was impossible. In that case, they could only try the second route: the imperial exam. Ling Lan’s brother had clearly chosen the second route. However, corruption ran rampant through the court, and the current emperor Li Xiu was much more invested in generals than scholars.
Because Ling Lan’s brother was unable to pay the “examiner’s fee” to pass the imperial exams, he was repeatedly barred from the opportunities that should have been available to him. After this had happened a few times, the deep trauma caused him to turn to gambling.
Lin Qingchen had recounted all this to her. She also intimated that, after all his setbacks, Ling Lan’s brother would likely turn back to gambling if he were to simply remain at home.
Yun Ruoyan walked to her desk, wrote a brief note, and handed it to Ling Lan. “Give this to your brother and tell him to head to the pharmacy operated by the Lin family. They’ll give your brother a job.”
“Miss, wh—what?” Ling Lan opened her eyes wide, somewhat disbelieving of what she’d heard.
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help laughing at her stupefied appearance. “The pharmacy’s owned by my grandfather’s family, and my cousin and I are the ones handling it at the moment. Do you remember her? The girl who treated your father.”
Ling Lan immediately thought of Lin Qingchen. Coincidentally, that was the day that debt collectors from the gambling den had found their way to her house, claiming that they’d burn it down if she didn’t pay her dues.
How could Ling Lan allow them to do that? Her ill father was still inside! But just as she felt hopeless, a beautiful girl had appeared out of nowhere. Not only did she pay off her family’s debt, she had even treated her ill father.
In Ling Lan’s eyes, Lin Qingchen and Yun Ruoyan were both people to whom she owed a lifelong debt.
“Tell your brother to hand this note to Miss Lin. I’m sure she’ll take him in,” Yun Ruoyan repeated.
Ling Lan’s trembling hand reached for the note. She was almost completely dazed—never had she expected that the two problems that plagued her and her family’s lives would be resolved in such a short period of time!
Now that they weren’t destitute, their lives would improve by leaps and bounds. Her brother had even found reputable work, and it was with one of her saviors.
Ling Lan didn’t know why, but she was confident that her brother would finally shrug off his vice of gambling once and for all. Her struggling days would finally come to an end.
She knelt deeply in front of Yun Ruoyan and kowtowed, her head hitting the floor with a dull, resounding thump. “Miss, please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do for you. My life is yours to command!”
Yun Ruoyan nodded, satisfied, before helping Ling Lan up.
After Ling Lan left, Yun Ruoyan uncorked the little bottle and sniffed it. Suddenly, a strange smell crept up her nose, causing her to sneeze violently. “What in the world is this?!”