Note to Readers: Mild emetophobia warning in this chapter that briefly describes the act (as well as details that induced it in the first place).
Manager Jin had been out cold, so how did he take his medicine? If it was a stewed decoction, Mu Linger could pry open his lips and feed him that way, but there was nothing like cookware in the cave to boil liquids? Manager Jin’s eyes flashed with doubt as he looked around them, finally resting his gaze on Mu Linger. He was waiting to see what she’d do now.
Mu Linger immediately went to a corner, where a pile of medicinal plants lay. All of them were freshly picked and laid out to dry. There was also a pile of wild fruits. She hadn’t dared to venture out daily, but every two to three days. Every time she would return with a big harvest of ingredients and wild fruits. The former was for Manager Jin, while the latter was for her own munching stash. Thankfully, she didn’t need to eat much and preferred a vegetarian diet. A normal person in her place might not be able to take eating wild fruits for days on end.
When Mu Linger started walking, the big white tiger immediately followed after her to crouch by the pile of medicinal plants. Mu Linger carefully picked through the pile before selecting a single plant from each of the different varieties to make a mix of seven to eight plants in a bunch. Manager Jin didn’t pay attention to the tiger sticking by Mu Linger’s side, but simply observed her back while considering something. He unconsciously bit his lower lip until she turned and walked towards him.
Seeing all the plants in her hands, he was puzzled. How did this girl deal with these things while he was asleep? Still, he made no sound except to wait and watch. Unexpectedly, Mu Linger simply handed him the batch and said, “Here, these are all for you to eat.”
Manager Jin’s hands slowly formed into fists by his sides. “How do I eat them?” he asked.
“Just like this,” Mu Linger said seriously.
“What do you mean, ‘like this?’” Manager Jin grew somber as well.
“Raw. Chew them to bits and then swallow them,” Mu Linger replied.
Manager Jin’s face finally gained a semblance of expression as he chortled coldly. “Mu Linger, you’re still in the mood to joke with me? Looks like your spirits aren’t bad.”
Mu Linger disliked his scornful attitude, as if she was nothing in his eyes. She had no idea why this man wouldn’t let her go if he despised her so much? If he was determined to stick around, he should show some sincerity, just like how she pestered Qi gege. She had never looked down on him. As long as Qi gege said or did anything, she liked them all. Even if he just sat around doing nothing, she liked him still.
If you like someone, shouldn’t you genuinely like all parts of them?
What kind of “liking” did Manager Jin have?
Mu Linger grew more puzzled the more she thought. She looked at him coldly and proclaimed, “Jin Zi, don’t you have any eyes? Can’t you see there’s no stove or fire here? Tell me, if you aren’t swallowing these plants down raw, how else will you eat them? Are you planning to extract their essence after a few hours and gulp down the contents?”
Manager Jin’s expression turned even odder as she went on, “These plants will only help you, not harm you. Eat them as you like!”
Ignoring his reaction, she stuffed the plants into his arms and turned to stalk off. Manager Jin held onto the bundle while his other hand grabbed hers. “Wait!”
“Can you stop touching me all the time?” Mu Linger shook herself free.
Manager Jin relented and let Mu Linger walk away. She took little Tang Tang from the mother tiger’s side and settled down to lean against the wall. Little Tang Tang was truly too young. She spent most of her time sleeping and was currently dozing again. Perhaps the tiger’s milk was to blame, but her complexion looked lively and tenderly red, like a finely carved piece of powdered jade. It made people want to kiss and pinch her cheeks. Mu Linger’s bad mood evaporated at the sight. She couldn’t help but wonder how happy Tang Li would be after seeing the kind of baby Ning Jing had birthed them; or what this little girl would look like after she grew up, or how many boys would love her, or what kinds of things Big Sis Ning would have to face in the Tang Clan in the future since this was the only baby she could have?
Lost in her thoughts, Mu Linger had no idea that Manager Jin was staring at her with a complicated look this entire time. He seemed to be hesitating about something, but finally spoke up.
“Mu Linger, when I was unconscious...how did...I eat this medicine?”
“They were chewed into pieces and force fed down your throat!” Mu Linger said easily while focusing her attentions on little Tang Tang
Manager Jin knew the medicine had to be chewed up and force fed, but he was wondering who chewed up the plants. But there was no question about the answer. Mu Linger was the only other human in the cave. Besides her, who would chew up the plants? Those two tigers?
Still, Manager Jin could only look at the calm Mu Linger with a face full of doubt.
“Oh,” he said before settling down to sit opposite her against the wall. Just like that, silence fell between the duo again. Mu Linger looked at little Tang Tang almost in a trance while Manager Jin was lost in his own musings. The big white tiger rubbed silently by Manager Jin’s side, occasionally sniffing the plants in his hands as if very fond of their scent. After a while, Mu Linger happened to look up and see that Manager Jin still hadn’t taken his medicine. She was too lazy to bother with him since he was unlikely to die again after regaining consciousness.
“Mu Linger…” Manager Jin blurted out. “You, you…”
Mu Linger looked up again, impatient. “What?”
“You…” Manager Jin averted his gaze from hers and asked, “Did you chew up the medicine in the past few days?”
Mu Linger’s heart gave a lurch before she realized the problem. Now it was her turn to avoid his stare.
“Is that true?” Manager Jin pressed. He wanted answers and Mu Linger needed to admit it herself.
Mu Linger remained looking away without answering.
“Is it? I’m asking you a question!” Manager Jin raised his voice.
Mu Linger only felt the hairs on her scalp stand on end as she stared at the ground and wished she could bury her head inside. Seeing her so tense, Manager Jin stopped pressuring her and looked aside with a silent grin that revealed his attractive white teeth. He took a a piece of plant into his mouth and began to chew on it, sending waves of bitterness over his tongue. The longer he chewed, the more intense the flavor, but he still savored it nonetheless.
After finishing off a stalk, he remarked, “This medicine is really bitter. You’ve suffered much, Mu Linger.”
Mu Linger quickly looked back at him with alarm. “Manager Jin, I didn’t suffer at all. It was the big white tiger who suffered because he chewed the plants for you.”
Currently, the big white tiger was sprawled at Manager Jin’s feet while looking up at him with a devout expression. Manager Jin immediately turned to the beast, who seemed to be grinning at him with his rows of white tiger teeth. In a flash, Manager Jin froze in shock.
Mu Linger couldn’t help but wonder if Manager Jin would find such a feeding method disgusting. She was afraid of shocking him and waited for him to lose his temper, but he actually told her she’d “suffered much.” She was a pharmacist, so she had professional accomplishments. For the sake of preserving her patient’s life, she would do anything it took for them to take their medicine. However, she still felt this whole process to be completely gross.
What’s Jin Zi thinking right now?
Mu Linger gave Manager Jin a look and prepared to ask when he finally had enough and bolted out the door to vomit nonstop.
Manager Jin had been unconscious for so long that all he did was either drink water or take medicine. There wasn’t much he could spit up so he nearly vomited stomach bile. It took him a long time to calm down and walk back inside.
Mu Linger didn’t dare to meet his else, while the big white tiger wasn’t clear on what had just happened. However, he could sense his master’s fury and remained quietly creeping on the ground. For the rest of the day, Manager Jin only gave Mu Linger cold looks as she bore the brunt of his glares. Still, she gave out in the end.
Staring back, she huffed, “What are you looking at? I had no other ways to make you eat the medicine! Your life wouldbe in danger if you didn’t take it!”
“Couldn’t you have chewed it yourself?” Manager Jin suddenly demanded.
“Isn’t that just as disgusting?!” Mu Linger retorted.
“It’s not the same!” Manager Jin yelled.
It wasn’t clear whether Mu Linger was startled by his volume or his words, but her lips thinned as she stared at him resentfully. After a period of silence, the two actually spoke up at the same time.
“Mu Linger.” “Jin Zi.”
Neither one was angry or gruff, but both were very calm.
“You speak first,” they chorused.
Once again, they spoke at the same time. Despite letting the other go first, both of them ignored that to talk again, once more breaking out at the same time.
He said, “Mu Linger, I like you.”
She said, “Jin Zi, don’t like me.”
After a long while passed, Mu Linger finally asked helplesly, “What do you like about me? What’s so good about me?”
Manager Jin only said coldly, “What do you like about Gu Qishao? What’s so good about him?”
The peace between them was shattered with these words. Mu Linger lost her temper and snapped, “My matters with Qi gege have nothing to do with you! You stop making irresponsible remarks!”
“What could ever happen between you and Gu Qishao?” Manager Jin asked instead.
That shut up Mu Linger. That’s right. What could ever happen between me and Qi gege? Nothing’s ever happened before…
“Jin Zi, Qi gege’s the only person I’ll like in my lifetime. I…” Before Mu Linger could finish, Manager Jin flew out of the cave. He refused to listen to the rest of her sentence, but she still finished speaking--perhaps so she could hear her own words.
“I won’t like you. I never will,” she finished.
That night, Jin Zi came back with wild game and a bundle of wood to start a fire. Although he ignored Mu Linger, he still gave her the first pheasant he cooked. Mu Linger had been coveting it for awhile and didn’t pretend to refuse, but munched on it with gusto. She truly was starving. Manager Jin only shot her a cold look that was seven parts doting and three parts helplessness.
With Manager Jin awake, Mu Linger’s diet finally took a turn for the better. The two of them hid away in the cave day by day until the three day deadline was up. Manager Jin never brought up running away to Wintercrow Country again while Mu Linger feigned ignorance and pretended she forgot she was supposed to give him an answer. All these days, she hoped for their rescue team to arrive, but Manager Jin never told her that there were countless crack troops hiding in ambush around this neck of the woods. It was an extremely dangerous location, so there was no hope for them to escape.
Naturally, news of this was brought to him by the tigers outside, which he found out during his first hunting trip. Manager Jin was waiting too--for Han Yunxi’s group to break through Jun Yixie’s defenses. However, someone else besides him and Jun Yixie had been waiting in this part of the woods for a long time as well…
1. This reminds me of the earlier chapters when Mu Linger was running around looking around for special herbs for Gu Qishao in the grounds of the Mu Clan for like, almost a year. She’s definitely no stranger to wilderness survival life.
2. Reminder that Ning Jing took a special medicine to speed up the delivery date of her baby that basically wrecked her chances to ever get pregnant again. Since the Tang Clan would prefer a male heir to carry on the clan name, this might get her in trouble with its elders, who would likely push Tang Li to take another wife to get a boy.
Here, here! Have a random bonus release as I start my catch-up plan for March chapters. These two sure are fun to translate...