What did Han Yunxi and the others see? A huge bronze medical furnace standing right in front of them about ten meters tall. It was an impressive, solemn sight, its design hailing from the simple lines of antiquity. This furnace resembled the Taoist furnaces used to forge pills of immortality and had a total of three levels. Each level had three doors wide enough for a man as tall as Long Feiye to walk through.
Han Yunxi couldn’t help but think of the Most Exalted Lord Lao from the myths. Even his furnace couldn’t have been this big, right? What kind of treasures was the Medicine Requesting Cave making in this thing? The heat they felt came exactly from the depths of this furnace. Unfortunately, there was no fire in sight. Han Yunxi had to use her hand to shield herself from the heat until she could make out the piles of medicinal ingredients resting in the bottommost layer of the cauldron. There were also pills currently being formed out of pure heat with no flames. Did this count as cultivating medicine? One could only wonder.
In truth, this shouldn’t be called a furnace, but an oven instead. Han Yunxi finally understood why the Pill King wasn’t in charge of the Medicine Requesting Cave. The study of pharmacology had distinct divisions between normal medicine and cultivated pills. Normal medicine hailed from plants and were formed upon mixing the ingredients together. It was used to treat illnesses and wounds and followed the natural principles of the human body. But cultivated pills were created from mineral substances and a small amount of crude drugs as complement. Each had special, Heaven-defying properties of its own. The Medicine Requesting Cave obviously favored cultivating pills instead.
“They can create pills even without a live flame? There has to be a secret to this furnace,” Gu Beiyue said with interest. Although it was very hot, they still circled around the furnace to verify that there really wasn’t a lick of flame to be found.
“Cloud Realm Continent doesn’t have many cultivating pill experts, right?” Han Yunxi asked doubtfully. From what she understood, there was no market for pills here. Even the emperors of its various nations weren’t interested in seeking out miraculous pills of immortality or other similar items. What was the point of keeping this giant furnace here?
Despite their curiosity, Han Yunxi still remembered their mission. They’d suffered through those trials to get the Muscle Growing Ointment. “Is anyone here?” she shouted.
Three shouts later brought only echoes and no reply. Strange. All around them were stone walls. This cave was completely sealed off. Was there really no one around? Han Yunxi was both curious and impressed by the pill furnace, but after circling around it once, her good feelings vanished, to be replaced with doubt.
In alarm, she cried, “We couldn’t have been tricked, right?”
“That shouldn’t be it. The medical cottage is the leader of the medical world. They wouldn’t be so untrustworthy,” Gu Beiyue declared.
“Is anyone there? Someone, come out! Say something!” Han Yunxi shouted again.
Unfortunately, nobody answered her. She looked around in silence as the quiet settled down around them. There really seemed to be nobody else around. Being in a fiery environment only fed impatience. Add that to all the troubles they’d faced, and Han Yunxi finally lost it at the Medicine Requesting Cave. “We’ve already passed the three trials,” she snapped. “What else do you want? Stingy time-wasters, you’re all base and shameless! If you can’t afford to give away the medicine, then don’t agree in the first place! If no one else shows up, this wangfei will destroy this furnace!”
Lil Thing was getting better at reading Mama Yunxi’s moods. It stood on Gu Beiyue’s shoulders and began to grind its teeth. Abruptly, an eerie voice rose in the air. “You’re making a racket! Stinkin’ lass, don’t you dare threaten this old man’s treasured furnace! I’ll give you one chance to apologize to it, or else I’ll never forgive you!”
There was someone here! But where was he? While Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue looked around, Han Yunxi only huffed fearlessly, “Stop playing mysterious and show yourself!”
At this moment, an old man walked out of the topmost level of the furnace, looking in a terrible mess. He had a shrunken neck and messy hair, while wrinkles covered his face. If anything, he looked like an old goblin. Despite his thin and emaciated frame, he was wearing a set of spacious black robes that covered all parts of his body except for his head. He knew they were here for the Muscle Growing Ointment and had been busy searching for it himself when Han Yunxi gave him a headache. He loomed over them all from above and demanded, “Stinkin’ lass, apologize!”
“And if I don’t?” Han Yunxi challenged.
“Suffer the consequences!” the wretched old man grew furious.
Han Yunxi ignored him and asked, “Where’s your master? Have him come out this instant! What’s he worth after going back on his words, huh?”
The old man narrowed his eyes. He’d heard her curse them as stingy and shameless, so he asked back, “Which medicine are you looking for?”
“Muscle Growing Ointment!” Han Yunxi answered.
“Just wait!” the old man turned back and walked into the furnace, descending from the third to the first levels as he sorted through the pills until finally getting a bottle of the ointment. He walked out of a bottom door and headed straight for Han Yunxi. His pronounced wrinkles looked even more terrifying at close distance, but Han Yunxi felt no fear. Still, Long Feiye was quick to pull her behind him.
He faced the old man and said, “You’re the master of the Medicine Requesting Cave?”
“Exactly so! Here, this is the medicine you wanted.” The old man presented the Muscle Growing Ointment in front of Long Feiye, the digits so skinny that they were nothing but bones. His nails were even longer than his fingers and covered in traces of medicine. “The fact that you all passed through the three trials proves you have remarkable skills! Heheh, since you’ve managed to enter here today, this old man can give you more than just some trifling Muscle Growing Ointment. Even the rarest pills will do!”
Long Feiye only felt disgusted by the sight of the man’s hands as his mysophobia flared up once again. He used two fingers to pick the bottle of ointment from the man and tossed it straight to Gu Beiyue for safekeeping. Then he started pushing the man’s wheelchair to get out of the room. Han Yunxi was going to leave as well. They’d already gotten what they came for and the room was so hot. Why would they stay longer than necessary? Besides, who knows if the temperatures could make them sick later.
“Stinkin’ lass, stop right there!” the old man called after them. “You want to leave after cursing me? It’s not that easy.”
Han Yunxi turned back with an impatient snort. “Don’t tell me you had no idea what your subordinate did! Don’t tell me you didn’t know we were waiting here for ages, either. Is it wrong to call you shameless and stingy?”
The old man examined Han Yunxi and suddenly felt a wave of nostalgia. In all these years, there was only one other person who dared to talk to him like this---that young brat he used to dote on once upon a time. Despite the similarities, he was still incensed by her words. Like a stubborn child, he exclaimed, “This old man doesn’t care! No matter what, you have to apologize and kowtow to my precious furnace! You’ve scared it with your words!”
Han Yunxi was beginning to suspect that there was something wrong with the old man’s wits. She was too anxious to treat Gu Beiyue’s wounds, however, so she didn’t bother wasting any more words. “Finefinefine! Precious furnace, I’m sorry. I said the wrong thing just then.”
She could say sorry, but she was in no mood to kowtow. Yet the old man insisted, “Kneel down and bow!”
Before Han Yunxi could flip out, Long Feiye lost his temper first. “You and your foolish act! Don’t be stupid enough to reject a life-saving offer!”
The old man immediately summoned a ball of fire out of thin air. Seeing this, Han Yunxi and the rest were shocked. What kind of madness was this? She felt that summoning poisons out of thin air was already an impressive feat, but this old man could even generate fireballs at will!
What kind of martial arts is that? Is it related to the lack of fire heating this pill refining furnace?
In a flash, Han Yunxi realized how dangerous this entire cave could be. Even the flames in the old man’s hands seemed strange and abnormal, nothing like ordinary fire.
“Who was the one that passed the first trial? They can stand on the side,” the old man said irritably. It almost sounded like he was giving that tester a free pass.
Han Yunxi stepped out from Long Feiye’s back and declared, “It was me.”
The old man gave a start before he furiously extinguished his flames. He stared at Han Yunxi while muttering to himself, a conflicted expression on his face. Eventually, his features scrunched up until he looked like a shriveled….tangerine. He tugged on his expansive black robes as he paced back and forth in pain. Han Yunxi only found the sight alarming. There has to be something wrong with his head!
Nobody was scarier than an insane man, because you could never predict what they’d do next. Gu Beiyue and Long Feiye both watched with furrowed brows as they thought of the same exact person: Pill Fiend Gu Qi Sha!
Although there were many differences, similarities still existed between the two figures. Either this old man was feigning his insanity or he was truly eccentric to the extreme. No matter the case, they didn’t have time to dawdle. Leaving quickly was the solution because this place was too abnormal.
“Let’s go!” Long Feiye muttered under his breath.
But the old man suddenly looked towards Han Yunxi with a cold smile. “Tsk, tsk! I never expected a mere lass to be so formidable! Sun Zhong was right to accept someone like you as his disciple!”
His words were full of misogyny. Han Yunxi ignored it and said, “Old senior, we’ve already passed the three trials and I’ve apologized to your furnace. Can we leave now?” She had already secretly resolved to set Lil Thing loose to eat up all the man’s pills if he refused.
But for some reason, the man seemed to have changed his attitude completely. “Since you’re already Sun Zhong’s disciple, this old man won’t accept you as my own. Help me find someone instead and this old man will leave you in charge of the Medicine Requesting Cave. How is it?”
Now Han Yunxi was thoroughly convinced that the man was insane! Completely insane!
She immediately agreed so they could leave faster. “Fine, who are you looking for?”
“My own disciple,” the old man said as he fell into deep thought. It was hard to tell what he was thinking, but his wrinkled face actually split into a smile that made his face less old and dreary looking.
After a while, he finally spoke. “He should be over 20 years old by now. He’s a genius...no, no, a fiendish genius. When he was just a child, he could identify over thousands of medicinal ingredients, and create no end of prescriptions…”
Hearing this, Han Yunxi’s group exchanged glances, because the first person they thought of was none other than Gu Qi Sha---also known as Gu Qishao! Such a reputation belonged exclusively to that man!
“What’s his name?” Han Yunxi asked urgently.
The old man just laughed. “Little Loony! Haha, I’m the Old Loony and he’s the Little Loony.”
“What does he look like?” Han Yunxi asked next.
The old man immediately dug out a drawing. On it was a picture of a boy about 10 years old with exquisite features and a pair of narrow peach blossom eyes. He was a very pretty boy. Once again, Han Yunxi thought of Gu Qishao as her heartbeat quickened.
How did he know the Muscle Growing Ointment could be found at the medical cottage in the first place? It’s usually impossible to chase him away, but why did he preemptively refuse to tag along this time?