C87 – Feeling Such Damn Good!!!
The night air was brisk, prompting Tang Yue to arrange for a fire pit on the grass. He also instructed the kitchen to provide a freshly slaughtered pheasant and some mushrooms, which he placed atop the fire to stew.
This way, they could both warm themselves by the fire and satisfy their hunger, effectively accomplishing two tasks at once.
In fact, it felt like accomplishing three tasks at once, as they listened to Zhao Sanlang’s captivating tales while sipping the comforting chicken soup.
Zhao Sanlang’s storytelling prowess was evidently superior to that of the Noble Heir of State Duke Heng. His narratives were incredibly vivid, to the point that even the bodyguards who had lived through the events found them believable.
“Come on, have a bowl of soup to soothe your throat,” Tang Yue served up a bowl of chicken soup for him and allowed everyone to take a brief break.
Zhao Sanlang portrayed the bandit eradication as a saga rivaling the Three Kingdoms’ tales. It was a grand spectacle and a grand narrative, with a noticeable emphasis on Wang Zizhao. It was clear that this young man held Wang Zizhao in high esteem.
“It would be perfect if we had a pot of wine,” Zhao Sanlang lamented with nostalgia.
Tang Yue refrained from disclosing that wine was indeed available but opted not to bring it out. They intended to indulge in it tomorrow when Wang Zizhao departed, celebrating to their heart’s content, away from prying eyes.
“Chicken soup warms the belly, while wine takes a toll on the body. Let’s stick to the soup.”
“Don’t mention it; Tang Xiaolang’s soup is exceptionally delectable. Why is it that the manor’s chefs can’t replicate this flavor?”
Tang Yue pondered, “This might be the power of passion. The chefs at Prince Zhao’s Mansion possess exceptional insight. They can deduce even the subtlest of details.”
“They are all chefs. There shouldn’t be such a significant gap, right?”
“If you enjoy it, have some more. If you find the time, do come visit Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion. You won’t be short of delicious meals there.”
“This Noble Heir wishes to come too!”
Tang Yue turned around with a smile. “Noble Heir still needs to remain at the Marquis’s Mansion for a few more months. There’s no need to rush.”
Ping Shun slumped to the ground with a heavy sigh, his expression filled with profound disappointment.
Evidently, he had overlooked this detail, presuming that he could continue to revel in food, drink, and merriment upon returning. He had been overly optimistic.
“Young masters, His Highness has instructed everyone to retire early,” a young man who seemed vaguely familiar approached and spoke. Tang Yue studied him under the flickering firelight and eventually recalled him as the one who had once been his assistant.
He had always been intrigued by the unique talents this youth possessed. To have remained in Wang Zizhao’s company for so long, he had a pleasing appearance. His skin was smooth, his features finely sculpted, and he boasted an appealing physique, with a little plumpness in all the right places.
“What’s your name?” Tang Yue inquired, tilting his chin.
“I’m called Ke,” the young man replied, lowering his head.
“That’s a nice name,” Tang Yue complimented and then asked casually, “Is it given by Wang Zizhao, by any chance?”
“Young master is perceptive. Indeed, it’s a name bestowed by master.”
Tang Yue let out a dry chuckle, not at all interested in such praise. He examined Ke from head to toe, and the more he thought about it, the more his mind started to wander.
The servant who attended to him was decent, and he even had a name now. He followed him everywhere, even sharing the same room. Who would believe there was nothing peculiar about this arrangement?
It explained why Wang Zizhao could flirt with him so confidently. It seemed that he had considered him an innocent person.
“Has Wang Zizhao retired for the night?” Tang Yue suppressed the twinge of jealousy in his heart and inquired.
“Master intended to rest, but the young masters were quite lively. They chatted for quite a while, so Master decided to read more books.”
The underlying message was: You guys are so noisy; how do you expect anyone to get any sleep?
Tang Yue didn’t think Wang Zizhao could hear them from such a distance. Nevertheless, it was true that he could occasionally catch snippets of their conversation.
“Why don’t you make a trip to the apothecary and fetch a dose of Requiem Medicine? Take a bowl of it, and I assure you your master will slumber until dawn.”
Ke furrowed his brow, casting a brief glance at Tang Yue. “The servant has already conveyed the master’s wishes. All young masters should retire for the night.”
Tang Yue rose, dusting off the grass from his seat. “Very well, let’s turn in. Tomorrow, we must rise early to see Wang Zizhao off.”
Zhao Sanlang finished his bowl of soup and stood, stretching. “We can’t keep His Highness waiting.”
As the group dispersed, the night finally settled into tranquility.
The following morning, Tang Yue stirred from his slumber, rubbing his bleary eyes. He turned and noticed an empty bed across from him.
“Oh dear!” He swiftly rose from the bed, neglecting his morning ablutions and clothing. He inadvertently collided with a basin of water by the door.
“Young sir, are you alright? Are you hurt?” Shan set down the basin and reached out to examine Tang Yue.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Has Wang Zizhao and the others departed?”
Shan’s lips quirked. At the designated time, His Highness and his entourage embarked on their journey. However, he mentioned before leaving that you had been fatigued over the past two days and shouldn’t be disturbed.”
Tang Yue gave his head a gentle pat. Without an alarm clock, he struggled to wake up punctually. The human alarm clock in the mountains was far from reliable; Wang Zizhao had proven forgetful even with a few instructions.
“Young sir, hurry inside before you freeze,” Shan urged Tang Yue, guiding him into the tent. He deftly prepared a warm towel and assisted Tang Yue in locating his clothing, nearly dressing him entirely.
Naturally, this was because Tang Yue didn’t allow him to do so. Otherwise, Shan would have taken care of everything, from meals to attire.
With no tigers or monkeys in the mountains, the departure of the two key figures, Wang Zizhao and Hu Jinpeng, left only three people at the camp unburdened by the need to save time. The atmosphere was so relaxed that even the lowest-ranking servant wore a contented smile.
Furthermore, Tang Yue was a jovial troublemaker. He organized an afternoon picnic and an evening bonfire party, thoroughly enjoying himself.
Zhao Sanlang had never imagined there could be so many forms of entertainment. He had grown weary of drinking and feasting, but Tang Yue opened a gateway to novel fun. Even simple activities like kicking stones seemed enjoyable.
“Come on, come on! The three of us are having a blast playing ‘Landlord,'” Tang Yue recruited a local blacksmith to craft a wooden board. He meticulously drew various numbers and symbols, explaining the rules to the others before enthusiastically commencing the game.
After four hours of play, Tang Yue let out a tired yawn. In contrast, his two companions grew increasingly invigorated. Their card hands improved, and they steadily matched the game’s pace.
“No more games, folks. It’s time to turn in,” Tang Yue announced, tossing his cards aside and feigning departure.
“Don’t leave!” Zhao Sanlang and Ping Shun both grabbed Tang Yue, their eyes pleading. “Let’s play three more rounds, or better yet, ten!”
Tang Yue settled back into his seat and let out a yawn. “How about I give Shan a call to join you guys?”
Simultaneously, both of them turned their attention to the aging man with graying hair and exchanged disapproving headshakes. If it had been an attractive person, they might have considered it, but they had no interest in entertaining an elderly man without a pleasing appearance or physique.
“Then let’s order three more dishes. No objections allowed. Young Master Ming needs to head up the mountain to gather herbs.”
“Gathering herbs?” Zhao Sanlang exclaimed. “Why don’t you have your servants do that?”
In Zhao Sanlang’s world, there was no reason to do something that could be delegated to others.
Tang Yue gave him a sidelong glance. “Are you confident that these people here know anything about herbs?”
“Well…” Zhao Sanlang glanced at the guards he had brought along. Each of them was robust and well-suited for combat, but if asked to gather herbs, they probably wouldn’t even recognize common wild plants.
Tang Yue rubbed his eyelids and played three rounds of the card game “Fight the Landlord” with the two of them. After the three rounds, he abruptly threw down his cards and made a hasty exit.
Hu Jinpeng was absent. Tonight, he had opted to sleep alone in a separate room. The vacant room felt somewhat eerie, causing him to experience unsettling nightmares during the night.
Flames raged all around him. He shouted until his voice gave out, but there was no one else in sight. Corpses littered the surroundings, masks ablaze, and agonizing screams filled the air.
In his previous life, Tang Yue had been a physician. He wouldn’t claim to have amassed a wealth of virtues or exceptional deeds, but he had certainly never caused harm, let alone taken a life. The mountain fire from that fateful night had left a lasting mark on him.
Even when he deliberately avoided thinking about the countless lives lost in the fire, the memories would unfailingly surface in the dead of night, unsettling his thoughts.
The next morning, when Tang Yue opened his eyes, he still felt a lingering unease, yet the exact images from his dreams eluded him. All he could recall was the sensation of being engulfed by flames.
He released a long sigh, rose from bed, freshened up, and changed into clean clothes.
“Fetch Sparrow for me.” It was time to put to use the skills of this reputed herbal expert.
“Young sir, what do you require of me?” Sparrow inquired with a respectful bow.
Tang Yue donned a simple and practical ensemble of brown attire, which he had acquired from a woman along the way, intended for his son. Regrettably, his son had never worn it. Although the clothes were slightly oversized, they felt snug when he fastened the belt. He had also traded his footwear for a pair of comfortable gray canvas shoes, a creation of his skilled maid.
With his attire complete, Tang Yue shouldered a basket backpack and armed himself with a small hoe, ready to ascend the mountain. A retinue of guards trailed behind him, some carrying knives and swords. To an unknowing observer, it might seem as though the leader of a bandit gang was emerging from the mountains.
“Wait…” came a shout from behind, where Zhao Sanlang was hurrying to catch up. He was adjusting his belt, evidently just roused from sleep.
“Wait…” Zhao Sanlang yelled from behind, hastily adjusting his belt as he ran. It was evident that he had just awoken.
Tang Yue paused until Zhao Sanlang caught up before inquiring, “What’s the matter?”
“Tang Xiaolang, how could you leave me behind?”
Tang Yue looked at him with an innocent expression. “I’m going herb picking!” Did he really need to take them along?
“We’re coming too!” Zhao Sanlang hollered from a distance. It seemed that the portly Noble Heir was trailing behind.
Tang Yue hadn’t intended to bring these two extra burdens, but he glanced at the breathless Pingshun and relented.
Mountain climbing was a great form of exercise, after all!
“Fetch two sets of bows and arrows for the young masters, along with some lunch,” Tang Yue instructed.
Zhao Sanlang’s eyes gleamed with excitement. He could handle this. He patted Tang Yue on the back and commended, “Tang Xiaolang has thought of everything!”
The group ascended the mountain, with Tang Yue leading the way. He had to pause at times to identify herbs, causing the others to stop as well.
The region might be infested with bandits, discouraging locals from venturing too deep. The mountain’s flora was abundant, with no signs of prior harvesting.
On the sunny mountainside, Tang Yue stumbled upon an extensive patch of Mandara flowers. The flowering season had just ended, leaving them lush and vibrant, numbering at least a thousand.
Mandara was his primary ingredient for crafting anesthetics, and an abundance of it was welcome. He instructed someone to retrieve a cloth bag and gather the seeds first. Then, he selected a small area to harvest and dry.
After half a day, the haul was rather impressive. Tang Yue even unearthed two-hundred-year-old ginseng and a young ganoderma mushroom. These were precious treasures.
These completely natural herbs were priceless in the modern era. They were uncontaminated, eliminating concerns of adulteration.
Tang Yue pondered whether he needed to rush into cultivating medicinal herbs once he returned. His family’s fields might yield a wealth of medicinal herbs without the need for haste.
The sensation of being surrounded by such wealth was nothing short of delightful.