Don’t Be a Kept Man
Chapter 130: Apothecary
Humans are iron, rice is steel; no matter what you do, you cannot work with an empty belly.
Not eating a meal has already made him so hungry; those who could starve themselves were truly ruthless people.
Xiao Feng Wu couldn’t be one of those, and especially given how he spent a lot of energy on Qin Ming Yue’s body last night, he felt a bit weakened in the bright and early morning.
There were a total of 32 medicinal shops in Yan Cheng, and most of them had once relied on the Xiao family for their livelihood.
Now that the Xiao family crumbled into dust and scattered into the wind, the Min family had taken over their place.
Only, this Min family was not at all generous in their actions, gathering all the shops into their hands and buying low, selling high.
But due to their family’s status, no one dared to utter a single word of frustration, only able to endure and swallow down their grievances.
Bright and early in the morning, Xiao Feng Wu dressed up in his full attire and headed to a physician’s store on East Street.
In Yan Cheng, there were no end to ability, wealth, and reputation; if there was no Min family’s Qian Jin Tang, then there was the storefront of the Tang family, Xing Lin Ge, and not to speak of the Xiao’s family’s expertise that has been passed down to many a people.
It was a bit too pitiful to be here and looking at such a physician’s store where its name couldn’t even rank amongst any of them.
The business plate was very aged, with only three words written on it: Hui Chun Tang.
On the pillars whose paint had almost completely faded away was a pair of poems and the red paper they were written on had already corroded, with only the edges left.
Xiao Feng Wu fanned away the strong smell of herbal medicine from his nose, and with his eyebrows furrowed and an expression that clearly expressed distaste, he walked in for whatever reason he had on his mind.
“Is there anyone here?”
The fellow who had been napping at the counter jotted awake.
Seeing a customer, his chubby face immediately smiled and, faster than an arrow being shot, he opened up the counter latch and rushed over.
Pushing up close to Xiao Feng Wu in his eagerness, he said,
“This Lao-ye, where do you feel uncomfortable, come come come, please sit, I will call my master over.”
And then used a cloth to wipe away the dust collected on the chair before yelling loudly and hurriedly towards the inner door,
“Master! There’s a patient! Come out quick! Come out quick!”
Seeing his enthusiastic yell, who knows how long it has been since this place saw any business.
Xiao Feng Wu already regretted coming here, regretted having the sudden motivation to do this at all.
The old and greyed curtain separating the outside and the inside was lifted up by an old wrinkly hand and out came an elderly man with a head full of white hair and a long mustache.
In his hands he held an alcohol gourd and with a hoarse voice that sounded like he had drank quite a bit, he said,
“Mhmm, where are you uncomfortable?”
No one could have expected then that Xiao Feng Wu would rise up from his chair and respectfully give him a bow,
“Elder Qian, Feng Wu respectfully greets you.”
Qian Lang-zhong1 raised his eyebrow upon hearing him and lifted his pair of hazy eyes to take a look over him in detail,
“So it is the young boy from the Xiao family.
What, what kind of illness is it that you and your family cannot heal?”
“Elder Qian must be joking.
Now that I am in a state where it is hard to help myself, I have no other way than to think I had to come to the respectable you to find a living.
I even hope that you will not find me annoying.”
This Qian-Lang had received their Xiao family’s help before and had even lost to the Xiao Lao-tai-ye in a battle of medicine.
Since then, he has stepped away from the public view, only guarding away a poor and empty physician’s store to live out the rest of his life.
Time and time again, he would go to the Xiao family to drink some wine, but for whatever reason later on, he had never appeared again.
Qian Lang-zhong took another swig of wine.
Seeing Xiao Feng Wu smiling giddily in a manner of humbleness, he blinked and said,
“I’m only a poor and useless physician, without much business.
If you want money, I have none.
I cannot afford to hire you.”
Xiao Feng Wu said,
“As long as you can feed me three meals a day, that will be enough for me.
You can think of it as hiring a disciple for free.
Whether it is to make medicine or deliver things, I can do anything.
If you have money to give me, then give, otherwise if there’s nothing, it will be fine too.”
Qian Lang-zhong sat down and crossed his legs.
He didn’t say anything for a while.
In the end, he patted his empty alcohol gourd and said,
“When your grandfather had taught you the art of healing, you had despised a patient’s stank, not willing to touch a side of healing.
Look at you, aren’t you still going back onto this path…… fine, since I have drank so much good wine from your family, it should be time for me to repay it back and take you in as like a disciple.
If there are patients, then there will be pay; if there are none, then there won’t be any.
But at the very least, three meals a day and shelter can still be provided.”
Xiao Feng Wu was satisfied,
“Thank you Master.”
Qian Lang-zhong shook his head and didn’t acknowledge his reference call.
He poked his chubby and confused disciple who was looking from the sidelines with a wrinkly old finger,
“This is De Gui, this old man’s disciple.
Not a good one at all, ah, not good at all.”
And then dragged his sandals against the ground with his hands behind his back, returning back inside.
De Gui was blanked out, not understanding how his master had suddenly taken in another disciple.
Xiao Feng Wu was not one to be shy and pushed up his sleeves to head inside to grab some water from the well and clean his hands.
Then he went into the kitchen to grab two mantous made from harsh grains, before saying to Qian Lang-zhong sleeping on the rocking chair,
“Starting from today, it will be up to you to care for this young disciple’s food.”
Qian Lang-zhong answered him back by snoring, looking to be sleeping quite well.
Xiao Feng Wu walked back into the main hall, and seeing De Gui mashing seeds in a medicine roller2, he asked as he ate,
“Has there been any patients these past days?”
De Gui was still a bit unfamiliar with him and shook his head to say,
“Gong-zi, how could there be any patients.
All those who come are only from poor families and Master himself has to use some of his money to pay for treatment. When he is drunk off his feet, Master cannot even make any diagnoses, so this place is almost unable to feed us.”
Xiao Feng Wu was not surprised and pointed at the medicine roller,
“Silver monkshoods are not like ginger roots.
After you mash them, you cannot leave them for more than three days as the medicinal effect will be gone.
If there are no patients, don’t mash so much.
De Gui purely had nothing to do and was finding things to do.
Hearing this, he immediately stopped and widened his eyes to ask,
“Gong-zi, you know about medicine huh.
Ah, for my master to teach something, he’ll rest for three days out of five.
I’ve been riding along without really learning anything.”
Xiao Feng Wu was full from his mantous and was currently feeling very satisfied.
He crossed his legs on the chair and said,
“I know a thing or two.
Don’t call me gong-zi, just call me directly as Sixteen.”
De Gui was very simple minded and he had no tact.
Hearing this, he said,
“Sixteen? You are numbered sixteenth in your family? Then your mom must be one who can birth children.”
Xiao Feng Wu gave him a look before closing his eyes.
He rested his legs on the chair beside him to take a nap, thinking about whatever he was thinking about.
He called out to the system,
“Ah, look, I’ve found something for me to do now and I can earn money to feed myself.
Go, leave now.
Find someone else.”
Xiao Feng Wu was thinking, quick leave, then I can leave.
The injuries on those patients are either full of pus or overflowing with blood.
Some might even have cut through the flesh, and with the bubbling blood, he really couldn’t take it.
He doesn’t want to heal at all, only wanting to rely on Qin Ming Yue to take care of him.
How comfortable it is to lie in his home, sleep until he’s awake, then eat until he’s full and then go back to sleep again.
[ Ding~ The period of working is too overly short, we still need more time to observe~ ]
Xiao Feng Wu opened his eyes,
“How long is long? One day? Two days? One month?”
[ Usually, it is at least one year, my dear.
There’s not a maximum, no finite period.
As long as you are not dead, the testing will never end~ ]
Xiao Feng Wu narrowed his eyes slightly upon hearing this, and an overwhelming frosty feeling descended onto him.
He was naturally a lazy spirit, without much aspirations.
The one thing he hated the most was someone trying to force him.
Even though the Xiao family was no more, there was still at least a little small actor who was willing to take care of him, so his passing days shouldn’t be that bad.
He had never thought such an obstacle would come out of nowhere, so much so it made his teeth grind in anger.
Without making a single noise, Xiao Feng Wu’s hands tightened into a fist,
“If I could earn money? Earn a lot, a lot?”
[ Dear, if it is to rely on your own efforts in a legal way to earn money, then there is hope to shorten the testing period.
Perhaps you could even become history’s fastest self-reliant, self-sufficient host hmm.
My dear, I look upon you with favor~ ]
Hui Chun Tang really didn’t have any patients at all, not even a single fly visited in the afternoon.
Qian Lang-zhong had woken up once, only to grab some money from the counter to buy some Apricot wine from a nearby village.
De Gui only found out that they only had half a string of money left when he wanted to buy some rice.
Xiao Feng Wu: “……”
Sometimes when you don’t work for it, you will never know what it means to have despair.
At last, De Gui boiled a pot of cornmeal porridge and with the leftover mantous from this morning, the both of them covered their own lunch.
Xiao Feng Wu sat on the seat with one hand over his forehead and an unclear expression as De Gui munched on his mantou,
“Sixteen, you look like a clever person.
Go find work at some other apothecary.
I heard those who work in Qian Jin Tang get half a dozen silver taels in a month.
I have to take care of my master until the end, or otherwise I would have gone.”
Xiao Feng Wu’s eyes didn’t even move, thinking, who knows who is going to be the one sending the other off,
“It’s not that simple.
Can’t really tell the truth from rumors.”
Those other apothecaries had relied on the Xiao family before, and each one of them were wolves lurking in the dark.
If he really had gotten employed under any of them, he would have been mocked to death.
Besides, they cared more about the diagnosis and treatments passed down in the Xiao family’s ancestry, so who knows what kind of things they would have done.
In the late afternoon, Qian Lang-zhong came back with his alcohol, which was already more than half empty from his trip.
De Gui went up to say,
“Master, there’s no more money in the cabinet and there’s only a few bags of cornmeal and white flour.
No rice left at all.
Zhou Da-ye’s grandson just came by and said his headache is back and he can’t even walk over, only able to lie on his bed, and they want you to do acupuncture.”
Qian lang-zhong annoyedly waved his hand,
I’ll go another day.”
De Gui said,
“It’s sowing season.
Zhou Da-ye and his grandson need to be working now for their livelihood.
If they miss the timing now, they won’t have any money.
That headache could end up taking their lives.”
Hui Chun Tang was Yan Cheng’s cheapest apothecary, and although Qian Lang-zhong wasn’t very dependable, his skills as a physician were passable.
Those who could not afford a physician loved to find him.
De Gui was worried about the empty drawers in their cabinet and he grabbed a medicinal box and hooked it onto Qian Lang-zhong’s shoulders, lying and coaxing him to treat Zhou Da-ye.
Xiao Feng Wu’s butt was hurting from sitting on the stool for so long and he finally stood up to stretch his waist.
He took a look in the medicinal cabinet and found that quite a few drawers were empty of herbal medicines.
He counted as he wrote on paper with a calligraphy brush and said to De Gui,
“The rest is fine, but pollia, mugwort, atractylodes, pinellia, cardamom and tuber fleeceflower need to be restocked, as these are used quite often.”
De Gui draped himself over the counter, a bit powerless,
“I’d want to but that all requires money.”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t want to even say another word.
Seeing the sun setting, De Gui was too lazy to keep the store open and went to lock the front door.
Xiao Feng Wu wanted to mooch off dinner before heading off so he didn’t leave, sitting quietly to pass the time, when two knocks came from the entrance, so loudly that the dust was vibrating in the air.
“Is there anyone here?! Open the door!”
De Gui impatiently went over,
“Who is it! Who is it! So noisy! Master hasn’t come back today, so we’re not open for business!”
That person was not willing to let it go,
“It’s a matter about a human’s life! Quick, go find Qian Lang-zhong! My mom’s almost at her last breath!”
De Gui could only open the door, and he was greeted with the sight of a fairly muscular man carrying an elderly woman on a door with another old man.
They had parked themselves right in front of the doors to Hui Chun Tang and the moment the muscular man saw De Gui, he dropped to his knees onto the ground with a loud “pang”,
“Physician, I beg of you, you must save my mother!”
De Gui could recognize him.
This man was Jiang Ping An, a jail guard who worked at the local office.
He was addicted to gambling, always losing all that he had earned and even what his family had saved up which made his mother faint from anger one too many times.
De Gui crouched down and pried Jiang’s mother’s eyes open before testing her breathing through her nose and the pulse on her wrist before saying,
“Ack, this I really cannot treat.
The woman is not breathing, and my master’s gone to the neighbouring village to diagnose and treat another family.
You best hurry to Qian Jin Tang and get her checked there.
I cannot help you at all.”
Hearing his words, Jiang Ping An, as a proper male of 7 feet, suddenly burst out crying.
He stuffed a small scattered amount of silver taels into De Gui’s hands,
“I did go, but they said if I can’t pay their fee upfront, they won’t treat her.
And then even when I tried, they said they couldn’t do anything.
My mother was originally breathing, but now that they have delayed so much that she is at her last breath.
Doctor! Doctor! This is all that I have.
If you can really treat my mother, even if you want my life, I will give it to you! It is all my fault, I should not have gone gambling.
Mother, it was me who angered you to death! Wu wu wu ……”
A crowd was beginning to gather around to watch the spectacle and they were all shaking their heads,
“Jiang Ping An, let it go.
Let her rest in peace.
Hurry and prepare the funeral for your mother, and don’t gamble in the future.”
“Ah, if you knew this now, why did you act the way you were before.”
Jiang Ping An was crying rivers, breathing very irregularly and his face was blushing red.
He knelt on the ground and would not leave even when dragged.
De gui didn’t even know what to do when he was suddenly lightly pushed from behind.
A familiar voice floated over,
“Move aside, let me see.”
He turned his head around and realized that it was Xiao Feng Wu.
Then he saw Xiao Feng Wu pull out Qian Lang-zhong’s bag of acupuncture needles that he must have found from somewhere before half kneeling on the ground to take note of Jiang’s mother’s pulse.
Then he folded a thick handkerchief a few times before prying open her mouth and used the folded handkerchief to pull her tongue out.
De Gui yelled in shock,
“Sixteen! Don’t fool around!”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t respond at all and instead pulled out a triangular needle used to release blood from the bag.
He turned his head to the side to avoid what was coming next, and everyone could see him poke Jiang’s mother’s tongue.
A burst of blood immediately spurted out and soaked the white handkerchief.
This caused all onlookers to freeze with fear,
“What is he doing, the woman’s dead, and she still has to suffer this kind of treatment.”
Some of the blood had even splattered onto Xiao Feng Wu’s face.
After he finished his treatment, he went straight inside to get water to wash his face.
The moment he left, Jiang’s mother, who was lying on the ground, suddenly groaned once, and began to slowly wake up.
Opening her eyes hazily, she looked around as if she hadn’t come back to her senses yet.
Seeing her like this, Jiang Ping An froze in shock before throwing himself over with great surprise and joy,
“Mother! Mother! Look at your son! I am Ping An!”
Those who were in the crowd all shouted with curiosity,
“Woah! What a miraculous sight! What did he do, saving someone who was already not breathing! This is even more amazing than the physicians at Qian Jin Tang!”
“This is called those who are really experts all hide amongst the people without a name to themselves.
This poor and shabby apothecary is really hiding a master among them huh.”
De Gui took the money Jiang Ping An passed to him as his mother’s treatment fee, feeling as if he was in a dream.
He didn’t care about the onlooking crowd and quickly ran into the back courtyard.
And what did he find but a Xiao Feng Wu holding onto the wall and vomiting.
The sound of it was gut wrenching and Xiao Feng Wu’s face was completely pale and white.
Xiao Feng Wu spent quite a long time like this before he was even able to straighten up.
De Gui muttered,
“Why is he vomiting? He’s not even pregnant.”
Xiao Feng Wu couldn’t stand seeing such dirty sights, and the fact that it even spurted onto his face, he felt even worse.
This was the reason why he didn’t love being a physician.
He used a clean cloth to clean his face and then reached out towards De Gui,
“Treatment fee, give me half.”
The rule technically was that all the money the disciples earned belonged to their master, but at this point in time, with the current state of the store, there wasn’t really any reason to say no.
De Gui happily counted half and gave it to him,
“Ack, that woman was already not breathing, how did you save her from death?”
Xiao Feng Wu washed his face again,
“That is because her anger had gone straight to her heart and the blood in her brain coagulated.
Pricking the tip of her tongue to let the blood out can save half her life, and the other half will depend on her fate.”
Then he straightened his sleeves and said,
“I’m heading back.
I’ll come back tomorrow.”
De Gui said,
“Ah, no dinner?’
Xiao Feng Wu’s face had been splattered with blood so how could he still have the appetite to eat.
He waved his hand in the air and then headed outside,
When he got back, it was just twilight.
Zong Bo was making dinner in the kitchen as Qin Ming Yue was dressed in his acting clothes, practicing << Qiannü’s Soul Leaves Her Body >>3.
His body was long and lean, and he looked so lonely and full of regret and hatred.
‘Ye ye ah ah’, as he sang, with his sleeves looking so gentle and soft, as if they had a soul in his hands.
Xiao Feng Wu pushed the door open and he was unexpectedly slapped across the face by Qin Ming Yue’s water sleeves.
Seeing that it was Xiao Feng Wu, Qin Ming Yue quickly pulled his sleeves back.
He lightly ‘hmph’ed at Xiao Feng Wu before turning away to head back into the house, taking off his clothes and dropping them onto a folding screen.
Xiao Feng Wu’s face was still aching in pain and his nose was still caught up in the scent of perfume.
Upon seeing this, he slightly raised his eyebrows and followed behind.
Seeing Qin Ming Yue sit in front of the mirror and not talking, he crossed his legs and said,
“I have never seen you in a good mood every time I come back.”
Qin Ming Yue looked at the mirror and found that his face really did not have a pleasant expression and he stared back at Xiao Feng Wu,
“You think this is a brothel? Coming and leaving as you wish, while I still have to be here to smile at you.”
Xiao Feng Wu couldn’t stop his mouth,
“If this is a brothel, what are you?”
The moment these words left his mouth, he knew he shouldn’t have said them.
He waited for Qin Ming Yue to blow up, but the other gave no reaction at all.
The only action he took was to walk closer to Xiao Feng Wu to grab his sleeves and sniff a few times.
Only when he confirmed that there was no scent of perfume did he go sit back down.
Qin Ming Yue said,
“Full of the scent of herbal medicine.
What did you head to the apothecary for today?”
Xiao Feng Wu really wanted to compliment him,
“Your nose is even better than a dog’s.”
Qin Ming Yue ignored him and said,
“Your family’s been involved in the medicinal business since long ago and I could already guess that what you can do is only in this kind of business.”
“Who said that.
I could even go to Cui Yun Guan hmm.
This kind of body, no matter what, I would be the titled one, the number one.”
Qin Ming Yue stood up with a bang,
“You really are amazing huh!”
“No, couldn’t be for this life.”
Xiao Feng Wu took off his shoes and lay onto the bed to sleep,
“I don’t want dinner tonight.
Eat by yourself.”
Just like how the Emperor would never be in a hurry but his eunuchs would, Qin Ming Yue didn’t even know what he was mad about.
Before, Xiao Feng Wu had never liked to study and only wanted to play.
At least back then he had his family status and wealth so he could never starve to death.
But the him now, it was different! All different!
Seeing Xiao Feng Wu cover himself with blankets to sleep, Qin Ming Yue sat on the side of the bed with his eyebrows furrowed.
In a rare gesture of warmth, he gentled his voice,
“What you want to do, then do it.
Even if you were to become a disciple, I would not stop you.
But don’t take it out on your body.
Quick, now, let’s go eat.”
Xiao Feng Wu really did not have an appetite and he couldn’t even eat a spoonful.
He closed his eyes to pretend he was sleeping, not willing to care.
Qin Ming Yue stared at the side of his face, and leaned against a bedpost.
He suddenly muttered quietly,
“For you to be like this, what could happen in the future.”
He was after all only a lowly, tiny little theatre actor, without status or power, so he could not help at all.
Qin Ming Yue’s life was even worse than Xiao Feng Wu.
If he knew it was going to be like this, he would have sang a few more songs when he was young to earn more money.
But for whatever reason, he was getting into stitches for someone else even while his own future was still uncertain.
Qin Ming Yue quietly lay himself on top of Xiao Feng Wu as he lightly said,
“Sixteenth Master, say, when the both of us are old, would we still be together?”
This would depend on whether Xiao Feng Wu was willing or not.
His heart had never been caught by another, and he liked to be by himself.
He could think about today, never thinking about what would happen in the future.
Xiao Feng Wu wasn’t asleep but he didn’t say anything.
Evidently, he was not willing at the present time.
Qin Ming Yue loved to sing but he was not someone with a lot of feelings, daring to love and hate.
Yet he tripped himself over Xiao Feng Wu, his heart flying onto Xiao Feng Wu and unwilling to leave, being caught without a spot to land or fly, and it was truly a difficult, hard to describe kind of pain.
Qin Ming Yue said,
“Sixteenth Master, would you be marrying a wife and having a family in the future?”
Xiao Feng Wu thought his questions were getting more crazy as time went on.
Qin Ming Yue said again,
“Probably going to have a family hmm.
As, after all, you would have to have an offspring.
When I was still at your estate, I had never coveted anything, and now, I could not even hope for anything at all.”
Xiao Feng Wu was too lazy to care about him.
Qin Ming Yue finally quietly said,
“Sixteenth Master, if, in the future, you want to start a family, then let me know.
You don’t need to say it to my face, just leave me a letter, that will do.
I will leave myself, and I won’t bother you one bit.
“Did you know, I am a very jealous person, and I cannot see you being in love with someone else.
When you are by yourself, I will accompany you.
But when you are not by yourself anymore, I will pack up and leave, never to hold onto you, never to have a relationship with you……”
Xiao Feng Wu’s eyes were tightly closed, his face not showing a single expression.
He had never known that Qin Ming Yue could think like this.
Xiao Feng Wu had always seen Qin Ming Yue as so fussy and loud, but he was really gentle and weak, without much of a decisiveness in him, a little small actor who was always plunging head first into love, being twirled around in the illusion of love.
He never knew that his heart was thinking such grand ideas, thinking that what needs to end, he will end, and this, this was way stronger than what quite a few people could do.
*1 Lang-zhong: This is similar to Lang which was referenced before but with “zhong” added to the end.
It can also reference the same thing (like gentleman/someone “respectable” (but in Xiao Feng Wu’s case, had also been used to humiliate him) and some other references like official, but mostly as a doctor/physician.
*2 medicine roller:
*3 Qiannü’s Soul Leaves Her Body: Might be more well known as the film A Chinese Ghost Story.
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