Qiao Baishi recollected his senses and pulled himself together before pushing and entering through the door. What greeted him was a fragrance that gladdened his heart and refreshed his mind, giving him the feeling of having mistakenly stumbled into a lady’s boudoir.
He lifted his head to see a well arranged room. It was akin to the room of an unmarried girl from a respectable, cultured family. There were several hints of the charming playfulness of a young girl amidst luxurious opulence.
If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, Qiao Baishi would’ve been hard pressed to believe that this was the room of a middle aged female elder.
“Qiao Baishi? Hehe, can it it be that I know little of what goes on in this world recently? When did our Skylaurel Kingdom gain another young, handsome genius in the world of pills?”
Qiao Baishi was thirty some years old and it wasn’t quite a stretch to label him as a young, handsome genius.
Qiao Baishi cupped his hands and chuckled, “Your praise is far too high, far too high. It’s rather Elder Ning who is a national beauty and possesses the wondrous reputation of an unaging legend. Although I’ve always humbly abided in the Eastern Kingdom, I too have long admired your name.”
That so-called “unaging legend” was naturally fulsome flattery.
But these two words had flair and innovation to them. They were different from the usual tripe.
Indeed, when Elder Ning heard these words, she was naturally pleased and a smile like spring blossomed on a face from which age was impossible to discern.
“An unaging legend? Who said that? How come I’ve never heard it before?” Elder Ning’s exquisite eyes danced. Light rippled through her naturally mesmerizing eyes, as though water would drip out at any point.
“Eh? Elder Ning has never heard of this before? But of course, elder, you are a sage, indifferent to wealth and fame, aloof and detached from public opinion. You no longer care about your reputation in the outside world.”
Another wave of fulsome flattery came crashing over and the smile on Elder Ning’s face became even more unconcealed.
“Hehehehe…” Elder Ning smiled. “Qiao Baishi, is it? You are truly an interesting person. Did you say you come from the Eastern Kingdom just now?”
“The Eastern Kingdom is quite far from here, what brings you to the Skylaurel Kingdom?”
“Would you believe me if I said I was attracted by your fame? You probably don’t know that in the noble circles of the Eastern Kingdom, all of us admire your sketches in private. The noble circles take pride in collecting your sketches. Although I too desire to collect them, unfortunately, my funds are low and I have no way of competing with those great nobles. I truly hold regrets within my heart. However, now that I’ve been received by you in person, I will have much to boast about when I go back this time.”
Qiao Baishi scratched his head quite “honestly” when he spoke of this and laughed dumbly.
One had to say, women should never listen to men’s lies. Qiao Baishi’s lies had reached the level of being truer than the truth, giving Elder Ning no choice but to believe his words.
Elder Ning was obsessed with beauty and was exceedingly narcissistic. Add that to the fact that she did possess uncommon beauty and was talented at dressing herself up, she looked twenty years old even at an age greater than forty.
This was what she’d always been proud of.
She’d had a stiff face on originally and wanted to see what this foreigner had come for, but now that Qiao Baishi had flattered and teased her, she was all giggles and a flutter, unable to remain reserved even if she wanted to.
Retracting her smile with some effort, she patted her chest, “Alright, Qiao Baishi, I admit that I’m starting to admire you a bit. Did you say you were here on behalf of the Wishing Tower?”
“Yes.” Qiao Baishi didn’t deny this at all. “I’m here to grant Elder Ning’s wish.”
“What?” Elder Ning found it even more difficult to remain reserved. She surged to her feet and padded over with her bare, jade-like feet. “You can grant my wish? Do you know what wish I’ve made?”
“Of course! You wish to remain ever young and maintain an unaging appearance for the next thirty years.”
“You… you really have the methods to do that?” Elder Ning’s eyes widened greatly as fervent expectation suffused her charming eyes. Her expression was one anxious for a personal favor and worried that she would lose it, as if deathly afraid that Qiao Baishi would give a negative answer.
“If I didn’t have the ability to, how would I dare call upon you?” Qiao Baishi smiled.
“But, why me?”
Qiao Baishi spread out his hands. “There are not that many why’s and how’s. There’s a saying in our Eastern Kingdom that women are in charge of appearing as beautiful as flowers, whereas men are in charge of earning money and supporting the family. Women exist to be beautiful and to pursue beauty is both part of their innate nature and their responsibility. Men have the heaven sent task of thinking of various methods to protect a woman’s beauty.”
“Haha what!” When had Elder Ning ever heard such refreshing words before? She was so delighted that flowers were blooming in her heart. She was also filled with curiosity towards Qiao Baishi at the same time, but she spoke in false, cute anger, “Don’t you tease me and exaggerate as if we’re husband and wife.”
“Heh heh, I spoke in error. However, should it not naturally be the greatest wish of all men beneath heaven to fulfill Elder Ning’s wishes?”
Elder Ning was so amused by these words that she couldn’t stop smiling and laughing as she completely discarded the image of a demure lady. She was beside herself with joy and was almost capering with joy on the spot.
“Mm mm, Qiao Baishi, I realize that I admire you more and more. I’ve decided that no matter whether or not you can help me fulfill my wish, I will hire you to be my assistant. And, I will help you obtain the identity of a fifth rank noble to the best of my abilities. You are simply too interesting!”
Elder Ning had promised the position of a sixth rank noble and simultaneous recuitment as a follower on the wish scroll.
But now, the position of follower had turned into assistant and the sixth rank noble had risen to a fifth rank noble. One could see from this just how amused Elder Ning was by Qiao Baishi.
Qiao Baishi made use of every single second, sighing, “Elder Ning, to be honest, this matter had been one hundred percent assured of success. But, I have a business partner who’s gotten himself into a bit of a sticky situation. Now, I have a pill recipe in my hands for retaining youthful looks named the Four Seasons Eternal Spring Pill, but it lacks that last bit of medicinal lead.”
“What sticky situation?” Elder Ning was a bit panicked when she heard these words.
“Well, here’s the situation. My friend obtained this recipe through a fortuitous encounter. He gave me the recipe, but didn’t give me the last ingredient. He was waiting for me to finish gathering money before giving me the last ingredient.”
“Money isn’t an issue. How much is he asking for?” Elder Ning wasn’t short on money at all.
“I’ve already gathered the money, but now he’s been caught up a matter that seems a bit tricky to handle.” Qiao Baishi said with a bit of depression.
He was purposely taking this circuitous path to make Elder Ning’s heart anxious, to make her curious, make her itch in the heart but be unable to scratch it, and to make her ask voluntarily.
“Just what has happened?” Elder Ning was frantic. “I have quite a network within the Skylaurel Kingdom. What matters can possibly exist that my Southern Palace can’t handle?”
“He killed someone.”
“So he killed someone. How big of a matter is this? I’ll immediately send someone to bring him out. The Dragonteeth Guard locked him up right?” Elder Ning was quite straightforward.
“He killed a robber.”
“A robber? Since when was it a crime to kill a criminal? Does the Dragonteeth Guard even know how to handle their cases anymore?”
“The main thing was that the robber he beat to death comes from quite a strong background.” Qiao Baishi continued to lead her on.
“A strong background? As strong as this background is, is it bigger than even mine, an elder of the Southern Palace?” Elder Ning snorted delicately and was a bit displeased.
Qiao Baishi sighed, “To speak candidly, he beat to death a disciple of the Northern Palace.”
“The Northern Palace?” Elder Ning exclaimed softly, and then immediately nodded meaningfully. “I truly do believe you now. The Northern Palace has always had the style of bandits and villainous thieves.”
“Ai, I’ve heard that the Northern Palace is giving the Dragonteeth Guard a lot of pressure to make this case of justified self defense into one of murdering someone on the street. They seemed to have sent out the tough message to discourage anyone of even thinking about going against them in this issue, no matter who it is who makes an appearance or how much face this person can command.”
“Such an egotistic tone!” Elder Ning was long since become drunk on the brew that Qiao Baishi had been offering. How would she possibly give thought to the idea that the connotations of Qiao Baishi’s words were to direct her to a certain conclusion and even to purposefully stoke her anger?
“I’d like to see how this is the case. This is still the land of the Ye family and the territory of the Skylaurel Kingdom. So the Northern Palace runs rampant in the western region of the kingdom, do they seek to blot out the sky with one hand in the capital as well?
“Qiao Baishi, I’ll write a note for you. Give it to the Dragonteeth Guard and have them handle the case impartially.”
Elder Ning was an elder who had actual power within the Southern Palace. Her position was high and her influence strong. She was ranked slightly lower than only a few people. Her words held great authority within the Southern Palace, and she was a notable character within the Skylaurel Kingdom.
Her note wouldn’t be any less important than those of nobles and officials holding power at court.
Qiao Baishi was overjoyed upon hearing these words, “Things will be easy with the elder’s personal note. This is the recipe that I’ve received. I offer it to you for your perusal first. Once my friend is released and the recipe is combined with the last ingredient, then the Four Seasons Eternal Spring Pill will come to fruition!”
Elder Ning happily accepted the recipe, the evaluation of Qiao Baishi in her heart rising another level again. She thought that Qiao Baishi was definitely sensible since he didn’t attempt to hide or withhold the recipe. Who would’ve thought that a man from a small place like the Eastern Kingdom would have a greater bearing than the men of the Skylaurel Kingdom?
The capital, in the Myriad Treasures Palace.
There were two people who held actual power within the Myriad Treasures — one of them was the head, Zhuge Yan, and the other was the vice head Shi Xiaoyao.
At this moment, vice head Shi Xiaoyao was sitting in his yard and leisurely tasting wine.
This time every day was the moment he enjoyed fine wine. He had maintained this habit for decades, unshakable under any circumstances. He’d still have to have his wine even if the sky was caving in.
It wasn’t until he’d drank the last drop of wine, put down the wine cup and smacked his tongue and lips that he sighed, “Fine wine must be had, but it’s a pity that although there is much fine wine beneath the heavens, only their taste is good. Those that are fine to the point of striking one’s heart and soul are as rare as the feathers of a phoenix and horn of a unicorn. What a pity… a pity… when can I have another sip of the Nine Magnificence Dew Wine?”
Like a blemish in an otherwise perfect thing, vice head Shi gave a drunken belch. This kind of life was most satisfying and enjoyable to him.
Seeing that at last, he had finally finished drinking his wine, a follower cautiously approached him. “Sire, there’s a Myriad Treasures disciple called Feng Yan waiting outside, asking to see you. He’s waited for about an hour upon hearing that you were tasting wine inside.”
“Feng Yan?” Vice head Shi narrowed his eyes. His mind did seem to remember that there was a such a disciple within the Myriad Treasures Palace.
Except, there were thousands and tens of thousands of these sorts of disciples within the Myriad Treasures Palace. Shi Xiaoyao could only remember his name.
“What, do you think that I have that much time on my hands? So much so that even an ordinary disciple can come and ask for an audience?” Shi Xiaoyao’s temper was even more proud and aloof than Elder Ning’s.
“No… not at all. Your subordinate also hinted to him that with his status, he had no right to directly ask for an audience. But, no matter what I said, that fellow wouldn’t leave. He seemed quite anxious from his appearance.”
“When did our Myriad Treasures Palace accept such a disciple who doesn’t understand the rules?” Shi Xiaoyao’s face darkened as he became unhappy.
“He said he was so bold as to ask for an audience because of a Wishing Tower matter.” The subordinate had to respond honestly.
“What? Wishing Tower?” Shi Xiaoyao who had originally been lethargic seemed as though he had been suddenly been revived and pumped full of blood. His body sprang up like a spring. “Where is he? Quick, send him in. What the hell are you guys doing, why didn’t you notify me of such a big happening earlier?”