He Danggui gave Bai Yangbai a kick, which made him scream and shout. Then she said while she gritted teeth, “Bai Yangbai, I think you should be my good friend. But I couldn’t find you when I want to ask you for help. In my critical moment, not only don’t you help me, but also sneer at me. The most hateful thing is that you have known about the recent disappointments of Childe Duan and wandered around me all day long, but you didn’t tell me, which kept me in the dark from beginning to end. And I went to ask Childe Duan’s colleagues about his recent situation but was given a lesson without reason. You should wait for death, Mr. Qianjun. After you die, I’ll have a good look at your relics.”
Bai Yangbai repeatedly bowed to He Danggui and said, “Master, please allow me to report to you. I just went to the capital 2 or 3 months ago and visited Duan’s Mansion by the way. Seeing Duan Xiaolou was still missing you, I went to persuade him. At that time, his father was still alive, and he also nodded and smiled at me. I don’t know that so many tragedies happened in Duan’s Mansion later, so how can I tell you?”
“Really?” He Danggui said doubtfully.
“Of course, yes!” Bai Yangbai nodded hard and said, “You said it comes to your critical moment, but I’m on the sidelines. Just as the old saying goes, ‘If you are out to condemn somebody, you can always trump up a charge.’ When you were bullied by the middle-aged Second Mistress Luo, it was me who helped you to peep at her bath and destroy her reputation. For a woman, what is more precious than her reputation? For example, Meng Xuan has kissed you, and he regarded himself as your husband because you’ve destroyed your reputation and can only marry him whether he is good or not. He doesn’t consider your request at all. More regret now? You have lost your reputation and everything is too late. This time, you are thoughtless, and these unreasonable demands should be useful when you negotiated before going to have sex with him.”
He Danggui raised the small plum blossom needle and wanted to prick his mouth. Bai Yangbai bowed again, put the dagger of Meng Xuan in his hands and said, “Master, please calm down. That poisonous needle can’t be used for playing around. It’s better to use a dagger. I tried it just now. Cutting the bluestone on the ground is so easy like cutting tofu.”
He Danggui put the small needle away and took the dagger in front of Bai Yangbai. She sneered and said, “Now that you’ve seen the power of this dagger. I don’t want to talk about the nonsense. For the sake of your ears, nose and fingers, you should speak out the event about Childe Duan going to Yangzhou City from beginning to end. Why will he come to Wulin Assembly? He is not a warrior in Jianghu. Will he bring officers and soldiers to disrupt it? When will he arrive? Where will he stay? Where did your news come from?”
Bai Yangbai proudly smiled with arms akimbo and said, “Well, since the power of this dagger is so great, I firmly believe that you, with a kind heart, dare not to approach me, let alone cut my ears. Is that right, master? In fact, I don’t offer a high price. Counting with my fingers from now on and 1 liang for one sentence. How about paying 50 liang silver for every word I say?”
He Danggui weighed her pouch, which were less than 20 liang silver inside. That was to say, she could only buy his 20 sentences. Then she said with full of displeasure, “You have a big house given by the Emperor in the capital, don’t you? It was said that there are countless treasures, such as the precious horse, priceless fur, fragrant carriage and beauties. You are just the scum of the rich people and the rich person of the scum. How dare you be ashamed to ask a little girl for money?”
Bai Yangbai was unashamed to whistle and hum with his eyes focusing on He Danggui’s pouch. He Danggui took it off with anger and handed it to him. Then she bargained, “I’ll buy your words for one night, and I’ll add it next time if it’s not enough. From now on, you should be obedient to me. Answer my questions whatever I ask. Got it?”
“Alright, I didn’t expect that I could be so cheap.” Bai Yangbai emptied all the silver and returned the pouch with fan pendant to He Danggui. He murmured reluctantly, “If I go to the gate of Central Secretariat to beg for several hours, I can get more than that. Next time, I will steal a dozen love letters from Duan Xiaolou in your boudoir’s secret locker and sell them to your ‘fiancé’ Meng Xuan. Thus, I can get at least a thousand liang silver.”
He Danggui angrily replaced the dagger with a small needle, pointed it to his nose and shouted in a cold voice, “You dare to peek at my personal letters. Bai Yangbai, you are really an old rascal that you’ve done so many excessive things over these years. Just wait for the death of poison…”
The words were hardly out of her mouth, Bai Yangbai suddenly held her down like a mountain. When He Danggui was about to scold, his lips touched her lips. Although he moved away in a flash, it still made He Danggui be startled. The next moment, an old woman in black ran from the thick growth of wormwood in the distance. She didn’t look at them when she passed by, and just ran straight to the disordered crowd on the field.
After the old woman in black ran away, Bai Yangbai immediately turned over and fell on the grass. Before He Danggui spoke, he explained, “I didn’t mean to. When I held you down, your needle just pierced my arm, and I had a fake skin on my mouth, so you just kissed my skin. This is nothing, okay?” He took off two layers of skin from his lips, which immediately changed from dark red to cherry red. Because he took it off so fast that even took off some parts of his chin. As the night wind blew, the fake skin on his chin swung up and down with the wind, which seemed weirder than the scene of Qian Mudan’s corpse.
Seeing He Danggui had been always staring at his chin, Bai Yangbai started to tear the skin from his chin. Then he tore up his fake face disguised as “Doctor Li’s face” like an artwork.
Bai Yangbai said with a smile, “I’d better go to your yard to wash clothes for you tomorrow. The work of selling medical candy at the gate of the academy is too tired. I slept later and got up earlier, but I only earned 5 liang silver without offering eating and drinking in a month. What I’ve done to Qian Mudan made me be too embarrassed to stay at Chengxu Academy. Her father was so sad and angry that he couldn’t find the culprit. Because he can’t provoke Childe Meng Xuan, who just treated her daughter, he must provoke me first.”
As he spoke, he had gradually changed from an old man with white beard to a young man who looked like the same age with Meng Xuan and Peng Jian. Although he was not as handsome as Meng Xuan and not as dashing as Peng Jian, he gave her an approachable feeling, as if the spring breeze kissed her face. Because his true skin couldn’t see the sun all the year round, the color of his face was morbid white, but a pair of clear and flexible eyes were full of vitality, forming a great contrast with his white sick face.
He had Yuanshan eyebrows (a kind of eyebrows like seeing the far mountain), Asian eyes, aquiline nose and cute mouth like a cherry. Who could have thought that such a young Taoist Sage, Bai Yangbai, had been 35 years old? And who could not have a strong desire to explore his way to remain his young face? He Danggui explored him for 5 or 6 years in the previous life, and this life she also kept pestering him for nearly a year, but she was still confused about the legendary “secret recipe for maintaining youth bath”. She even began to wonder if he had such a secret recipe.
He Danggui had been studying medicine for more than 20 years. In her childhood of the previous life, she was taught by Dou Haizhen, a master of acupuncture. After returning to Luo’s Family, she also secretly reviewed the medical skills she had learned before. At the same time, she tried her best to learn to read and find a way to get access to the library of Luo’s Mansion in order to read medical books. Only because she found a letter left by her grandfather Luo Duzhong in her gold lock.
She was only 4 years old when she left her mother, so she didn’t know that there was a mechanism hidden in the gold lock at first. She could open it by touching with a pin. Later, she learned acupuncture with Dou Haizhen and fiddled with several needles every day. She wanted to prick to practice the flexibility of her fingers whatever she saw. One day, she pricked her gold lock and saw it divided into 4 small petals like blooming with a splat. One contained a small half box of finely ground spices, one contained a handful of silver needles, and the other were 2 large stacks of smooth and bright white silks, which were extremely light and thin. These were what her grandfather had left her.
Although she was a miss of a wealthy and influential family, she had a very narrow vision. She seldom saw the cotton cloth, let alone such beautiful silk. After pulling it out with her thin fingers, she opened them one by one towards the sun and looked for a long time. They were all white silks without flowers or words. But there was her grandfather’s seal with Recluse Dongguo in the corner of each silk. It was her grandfather’s literary name, so she still had an impression.
She only knew that these handkerchiefs were given to her by her grandfather, she was reluctant to move them, so she put them back. Until she left the farm to live an extravagant life with her mother, she found that a miss’s handkerchief of a rich family was meaningful. It should be with flowers, patterns, embroidery and small words of the owner. For example, her handkerchief was usually embroidered with “Qingyi” or “Qingxiu”. No matter which female embroider crafted the embroidery on the handkerchief, she could sign her name as her work. It was an unwritten rule among the ladies and also an open secret in a small area.
These exquisite artworks played an important role on many game activities at the banquet, such as passing round a spray of blossom, poetry solitaire and talent show. Misses could show their own ability to all guests with their handkerchiefs. The most important role was to select 1 or 2 best works for the man’s mother and grandmother when they were proposing marriage. It was an important indicator to judge the ability of this young lady. After all, childes could ask painters to paint more for themselves, and then sent several pieces of pictures to each matchmaker so that more marriageable ladies could see their appearances. However, women couldn’t be bold and open to give their portraits to men unless their marriage had been engaged. Therefore, the embroidery and implied emotion of that flower on their handkerchiefs had become their important answer when they proposed marriage.
All in all, lacking knowledge and experience, He Danggui knew that the beautiful white silk cloth in her gold lock was far from the legendary “a miss’s handkerchiefs” when she was 9 years old. She didn’t understand the reason why her grandfather kept packing the pieces of silk cloth with quality below the average in her gold lock before his death from her mother and grandmother. At that time, with a broad vision, He Danggui had known that the color of silk would be tacky and be regarded as inferior material if it was too bright. However, she, who intended to finish her first embroidery in her life, took these silk cloths and immersed them in water to remove the dust. The cloth which had been dry for 5 or 6 years showed lines of writing. It turned out that this was a letter left by her grandfather.
There were 9 pieces of silk cloths, six of which showed characters when being wet. The other 3 pieces were blank silks no matter how long being soaked in water.
Through this “silk note”, He Danggui, who had no impression of her grandfather’s appearance, outlined the face of a kind and amiable old man. The old man told her that although the Luo’s Family was a literary family, people were numb about kinship with conflicts accumulated over time. He tried his best to write He Danggui and her mother into family tree and compiled them into Fourth Branch, but he was worried that He Danggui and her mother would depend on no one in Luo’s Family after his death. So, he left his lifelong work Joint San Qing Acupuncture to his granddaughter, so that she could study hard and develop his medical skills. And she would have some confidence in Luo’s Family. He also specially told He Danggui not to show off in front of others before the success of medical skills, nor to claim that she learned this skill from him, so as not to cause dissatisfaction among the people from other three branches.
Since then, He Danggui began to go to the library of Luo’s Mansion to get the Joint San Qing Acupuncture, which was left by her grandfather. She also wanted to see if it was as magical as the “Wuming Acupuncture” taught by Dou Haizhen. However, only when arriving at the Luo’s Mansion did she know that the library was a relatively advanced place for reading. Only the masters of the family could go into it, and servants wouldn’t be allowed to enter. She had proposed several times that she would like to go to study, but there was always someone opposing. The reason was that He Danggui couldn’t read, so they were afraid that those rare books collected carefully would be scattered and damaged by her. They thought that she should go to the study to read the basic medical books, instead of going to the library of higher learning.
At that time, she couldn’t find any word to defend herself, because she didn’t read much. When her grandfather hid what he left to her in the library, he probably didn’t expect that his beloved granddaughter would be rejected because of illiteracy.
Finally, one night, she secretly slid into the library, holding a slender candle and finding a long letter written by her grandfather to her in the middle of the bookshelf. When she held the large stack of paper in the thick paper envelope in her hands, she felt warm and relieved, as if it was a letter that her grandfather wrote to her from another world. Suddenly, her candlelight attracted the guards of Luo’s Mansion’s. There was a clamor outside the library, which made her panic. So, she quickly threw away the candle, but it burned the chair.
Nie Chun first rushed in to put out the fire. After he stepped on the burning chair into coke, several guards outside the door asked him if there were thieves inside. Nie Chun looked up and found He Danggui, who was covering her mouth. Then he told guards in a deep voice that there was no one inside. After those guards left, Nie Chun told her in a cold voice that she should not make any mess in the future, otherwise her mother would live hard in Luo’s Mansion.
Although Nie Chun was fierce, he was not the same as others. He Danggui felt intuitively that he would not hurt her, so she followed him back to the West Lateral court and ran back to her room quickly. Then she hid in the quilt to read the letter written by her grandfather.
According to the letter, there were 74 volumes of Joint San Qing Acupuncture, which were all collected in a bookcase in the library. There were several other medical books in it for her to read in detail. There was also a prescription in the letter, which said “for Chai Dan, my beloved wife, to cure relapse”. So, He Danggui secretly made up the medicines and tried to add into Madam Luo’s diet, or made snacks for Madam to eat, so that her health gradually improved. And this prescription was the beginning of “lifesaving prescription”, the heirloom of Luo’s Family, which made her die.
Finding no chance to secretly go into the library, she had no chance to find the bookcase and couldn’t learn “San Qing Acupuncture” of her grandfather. Therefore, she continued to practice “Wuming Acupuncture” from Dou Haizhen.
The first time when she went into the library above board was that she came back to visit her relatives from Daning City at the age of 18. People in Yangzhou City had already heard that she had almost become a hostess in Lord Ning’s Mansion in the north. She was very capable and highly appreciated by Lord Ning, so people never looked down upon her with their disdainful eyes. Some of them even showed some flattering expressions, which made He Danggui feel extremely flattered. Of course, the library of Luo’s Mansion was no longer “forbidden” to her.
She walked into the library naturally and strolled through the sea of books. Then she found the dark green iron case mentioned by her grandfather in his testament among a pile of old bookcases covered with dust, and found that her grandfather’s Joint San Qing Acupuncture and all kinds of letters’ weight were dozens of Jin. With the time from the beginning of his twenties to the end of his sixties, he never stopped writing letters of medical knowledge for decades. He gave them to his granddaughter who was crying day and night in her infancy rather than any of his three sons. Even at that time, he was not sure whether she could grow up successfully.
He Danggui was deeply moved by the timeworn medical books and letters with precise diction. She felt that she had found a second relative besides her mother in Luo’s Family. It was her grandfather Luo Duzhong, the hearsay famous doctor. His medical skills were closely followed under Senior Lord Luo Maitong’s.
Thinking that the other three branches of Luo’s Mansion were his descendants, she had less rejection and resentment towards them. Now that she had received her grandfather’s kindness, so she should benefit the whole people of Luo’s Family. With this idea in mind, for the rest of days, no matter how those people treated her and her mother, she would first think about the kindness of her grandfather, and then mediated with them. After all, her grandfather was unwilling to see his children and grandchildren became ungrateful.
At that time, she found that although her grandfather’s San Qing Acupuncture was not as ingenious as Senior Lord Luo Maitong’s, her grandfather had many of his own originality, which could even be said to be his own school. In the next few years, she combined San Qing Acupuncture and Wuming Acupuncture, and then created “Yunqi Acupuncture” by her own. Later, she found that her acupuncture could always save some birds and small animals which had just died.
On one occasion, in her grandfather’s acrostic poems, she found that there was a secret note left under the blue stone slab of the ancestral hall of Luo’s Mansion. So, she went there and read that letter. Then she realized that her grandfather once had found a secret about the elixir of immortality many years ago.
But at that time, she was trying to get the prescription of maintaining youth from Bai Yangbai. For a period of time, she even doubted that Bai Yangbai was so mysterious and precious about that prescription. Could the so-called prescription of maintaining youth be the “secret elixir of immortality” mentioned in her grandfather’s letter?