"So this is how they want to play. Let's see who can do it better then." Lin Xulian squinted her eyes with a cold smile, causing the skin of the men in the room to crawl. But strange enough, it made them feel thrilled. Especially the members of the Lin Mercenary Clan who had known how their boss can be merciless if she wants to.
Standing in front of the familiar towering gates of the emperor's palace, Lin Xulian felt her nerves surging in unexplainable emotions. She really didn't expect that after a few days of working as Imperial Doctor Yi Rong's "apprentice", he would bring her inside the emperor, Feng Jun Yi's chambers. Not that she is against it since honesty it made her plan run smoothly. Too convenient in fact. But still she can't help but feel flustered and uncertain whether she is ready to see him yet.
"Miss Gu, there's nothing to be worried about. His majesty is unconscious and won't demand your head even if you mess up. And you are my apprentice. No one would dare make things difficult for you." Yi Rong said in assurance with discernible elated mood. Lin Xulian wanted to roll her eyes in his words. She could tell that he is only treating her well because he was able to learn her method in extracting pure essence from medicinal ingredients. As of this moment, he is too engross in improving his previously formulated medicines that he totally forgot his promise of "improving" Lin Xulian's skills. Not that it matter to her anyway.
"Then this one can finally ease my heart. Many thanks Head Imperial Doctor Yi for your furtherance." Lin Xulian responded showing the relief in her tone.
"That's a matter of course. But is your servant going to be fine being left behind? Since I can only bring you alone." Yi Rong said in fake concern. He obviously doesn't have any qualms about whether Gu Kei will get into trouble or not since he has no use of her other than running errands.
"Gu Kei is more sensible than this one. Rest assured she would not cause you any trouble Head Imperial Doctor Yi."
"Then I will take your word on that. Let's get going then. The emperor's treatment wouldn't wait." Yi Rong said before going forward with proud steady stride towards the emperor's palace under the respectful gazes and greetings of the servants and imperial guards.
Following behind him, Lin Xulian took one step after another along the familiar path that she used to walked on for years. This cause a nostalgic pain twisting a knot in the pit of her stomach. The distance felt painfully long for her as if she can relive all her memories in that short five years like a flashback. However not a single emotion could be detected from her masked covered face. But she couldn't control the cold sweat drenching her palms and the involuntary trembling of her fingertips. She had no choice but to hide them under her sleeves. When they finally arrived in the entrance of the emperor's chambers, it is as if the world lost all its sounds.
"I know you've been looking forward to finally meet this country's emperor. However, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you for now Miss Gu. Apparently, the emperor's visitors are limited." Yi Rong's voice echoed and broke the silence caused by Lin Xulian's nerves. This however, gave her relief. Since at the final moment, she realized she wasn't ready.
"This one doesn't dare to protest. This one knows my place, Head Imperial Doctor Yi." Lin Xulian promptly responded, completely hiding her internal struggle from earlier.
Then Yi Rong took out a roll of paper from his sleeves and handed it to her. "The servants will take you to the adjacent room. There is a complete set of equipment you needed there. Follow the prescription. I will let you concoct the emperor's medicine from now on. Take a look. Do you think you can handle it Miss Gu?"
Lin Xulian was taken aback from the sudden responsibility. It is either Yi Rong is confident about her skill or he couldn't care less if she would fail. She only took a brief scan on the list of the medicinal ingredients but she almost want to tear the paper apart. Everything listed are not really rare or precious ingredients. However they are uncommonly seen in Gonglu and rather expensive. But what infuriates her more is the fact that they can be replaced by some common herbs and even improve its effectiveness.
By effectiveness however, Lin Xulian can tell that the medicine doesn't even have the capacity to detoxify any poison or toxin. It can only sustain the patient's life during his unconscious state. She felt complicated nonetheless. 'They obviously didn't have any intention to slowly kill Feng Jun Yi. It even looks like they are just buying time. But what is their purpose in doing so?' Lin Xulian thought while still having her eyes glued to the piece of paper.
"How was it? Can I entrust this responsibility to you Miss Gu. Any concerns regarding the rare herbs on the list?" Yi Rong said in a gentle manner. But to Lin Xulian it sounded rather provocative.
"This one have read enough about how to handle these herbs but it would be the first time for this one in doing so. But with Head Imperial Doctor Yi's teaching for the past days, this one is confident." Lin Xulian responded politely yet in a confident manner.
Just before Yi Rong could continue however, one of the servants who looked around her late twenties immediately stepped up to protest. "Forgive this servant for interrupting. But as his majesty's the emperor's handmaid, it is this one's concern that your grace Head Imperial Doctor is putting your trust in an outsider and a stranger. His majesty's body is not an object for a nobody to use as a practice material. Please reconsider." The handmaid then kotowed. The other servants behind her also followed her example. Anyone can tell that they consider her as the leader.
With the servant's sudden outburst, Lin Xulian completely threw her worry in meeting Feng Jun Yi again today at the back of her mind. She was then able to clearly observe the people around her. Some of the servants' and eunuchs' faces are familiar but most are not. But she is certain that none of them were the servants of the emperor's palace during the time she was there. She concluded right there and then that all of them were either replaced or punished. After all Feng Jun Yi had his accident in his own palace despite the number of servants and guards around him.
But what caught Lin Xulian's attention the most is the two guards standing on either side of the emperor's chamber. They are not only unfamiliar but she can also sense their overwhelming internal energy. In her memory, none of the imperial guards in Gonglu possessed these level of strength. 'They are from the Liu clan.' She concluded.
"In lieu to your retort and reasoning, then I am not qualified to treat the emperor as well, am I?" Yi Rong said causing the servants to look at him in confusion. "I am an outsider as well, have you all forgotten?"
Realizing her fault, the servant broke down in cold sweat and tried to reason albeit futile. "This- this lowly servant didn't mean it that way… I-I—"
"Yes. You are just a lowly servant. If you want to climb in ranks by being the emperor's woman, his majesty needs to be cured first. So do not interfere with my decisions, for this is the task given to me by your masters. Trying to act like a concubine this early will only cause you your humiliation." Then he faced the eunuchs. "Replaced all these servants with obedient ones! And someone escort my disciple to the adjacent room." He continued before entering the emperor's chamber while stressing the word disciple causing the eunuchs to become more respectful towards Lin Xulian and the servants to panic while kotowing for forgiveness.
Lin Xulian on the other hand quietly followed her guides and secretly scoffed while thinking. 'As expected. The women in this palace never changed. Still looking at him with hungry eyes.'