Shao Xuan followed the old man, who was circling around the mountain. The old man plucked plants he needed whenever he saw them.
The old man cut off a section of some brown grass, peeled bark off a spiral-like tree and plucked several kinds of flowers Shao Xuan had never seen before.
“You are going to…” Shao Xuan looked at the old man and asked.
“Get rid of the rats!” The old man sounded with strong anger. He was determined to get the plant he suspected to be the “Thousand Grain Gold”. He would never let those wild rats eat the grains!
“By poisoning them?” Shao Xuan asked. It was a huge swarm. The amount of herbs needed to kill all of those wild rats would be huge, unless the old man was able to create a special medicine.
But it seemed like the old man didn’t want to poison them.
“No, leaving these wild rats in this deserted mountain would be very useful. We might need them to discover more “Thousand Grain Gold” in the future. That’s why we can’t poison and kill all of them, I just wanted to poison them slightly so they’ll faint.”
The mountain was quite barren and there weren’t many types of plants for the old man to pluck. However, because the old man was speedwalking to be on time and managed to recognize the places where the plants he needed might grow, his hands were full of herbs in just the blink of an eye.
“I’ll take it, you can continue.” Shao Xuan took the collected herbs over.
The old man did not hesitate and gave those herbs to Shao Xuan. He retorted, “Be careful, don’t touch the broken parts. Don’t touch nor smell the sap. If you faint in advance, I won’t be able to get rid of those wild rats by myself.
Both of them started to speed up when they heard noises from the wild rats. This meant that the grains on the mountaintop were ripening soon. They had to hurry up.
While following the old man, Shao Xuan also learned a lot but he didn’t manage to pluck herbs as fast as the old man. This was because they were in a hurry and the old man wouldn’t say much. Therefore, Shao Xuan could only look at it and try to memorize it as this might be helpful in the future.
There were many dwarf trees and weeds everywhere on the mountain. For people like the old man, Old Ju, it was as if treasure was everywhere. It was up to one to decide if it was trash or a treasure to him. Some plants might not have a huge impact on its own, but it would be different when all of them were combined together. The old man wanted to create a kind of medicine by combining multiple kinds of plants.
“Alright, just these will do.”
The old man sat down and started to make medicine with his tools.
A small copper tripod cauldron and a few oddly shaped knives were all he needed to create the medicine.
“Shao Xuan, go down the mountain and bring me more “One-lined sorrow”. Find those that have a small fracture. Don’t get those that aren’t open nor those that are already fully opened,” Lao Ju instructed Shao Xuan without looking up. He was so busy that he had no time to leave and also because he couldn't compete with Shao Xuan’s speed.
“Ok.” Shao Xuan didn’t say much. He knew which type of plant the old man was talking about as the old man had taught him during their journey.
Shao Xuan remembered, “One-lined sorrow” were plants that grew within the deepest part of the valley of two mountains. He had seen some of it along the way.
“One-lined sorrow” was a shrub that had a height lower than Shao Xuan’s waist. The name was coined by the old man himself.
While running down the mountain, Shao Xuan searched around him and finally found one “One-lined sorrow”.
“One-lined sorrow” was named because a line would appear on the fruit’s hard shell when the fruit of this shrub was about to turn ripe. Then, the fruit would split down the line. After days of exposure under the sun, the fruit would be dried and only a small core would be left. The moment it ripened, the cracked fruit would be fully opened and the kernel would then spray out.
Shao Xuan had once experienced this firsthand. It was quite painful when the fruit sprayed the kernels at him. If it wasn’t because of Shao Xuan’s strong body, the kernels might have even caused some injury.
Generally, there wouldn’t be any other beasts nearby when the fruits of these plants started to crack. That was why the old man always said, “When you see these lines on the fruits, you would become anxious and worried. You can’t approach those fruits as you might get hurt.”
If the fruits were not picked properly, it will also stimulate the fruit to split and shoot the kernels out in advance.
Therefore, the old man demonstrated the right way to pick “One-line sorrow” to Shao Xuan twice.
There were more fruits with cracks on the tree compared to two days ago. Shao Xuan was unsure about which were the ones that the old man needed. Some fruits only had a light split on it, which didn’t match the old man’s requirements.
After thinking about it for quite some time, Shao Xuan immediately chopped off the few branches that had most of the fruits. Shao Xuan went back up the mountain after collecting a dozen branches containing many fruits.
The old man mentioned the wild rats would only be able to get what they really wanted when the grains reached a specific time during ripening. Therefore, those wild rats had to wait. Perhaps those bigger wild rats were so huge because they had eaten the Thousand Grain Gold before. Should he eat some of it too?
While Shao Xuan was thinking about it, he went back up the mountain with those branches of one-lined sorrow that he chopped down earlier.
When Shao Xuan arrived, the old man had already started a fire. The brew was almost done. There was a pungent smell wafting out from the copper tripod vessels.
“You stay away from it”. The old man waved, gesturing for Shao Xuan to go far away after he put down the stuff that he was carrying. After all, Shao Xuan did not have a body that could detoxify itself like him. He was afraid that Shao Xuan might faint if he inhaled the fumes.
In fact, Shao Xuan felt slightly dizzy when the smell hit him. He got up and shuffled ten meters away from the vessel.
The fire was burning fiercely, steam rose out from the copper tripod vessel. The old man squatted and stared at the small tripod, stirring with his knife.
The old man shouted excitedly. He put out the fire and took the branches that Shao Xuan brought, quickly picking fruits that complied with his requirements. He then held the fruits in one hand and two oddly-looking knives in the other hand. He scraped some powder from the small tripod vessels and pushed the powder into the fruits through its cracked lines.
Each fruit was only as big as a quail egg and the cracked lines on the fruit were narrow. However, with a knife, he was able to push those powder into the cracked lines with minimal powder fallout.
No wonder the old man carried so many weird-looking knives with him, now Shao Xuan knew the purpose of them.
After filling the fruits with the powder, the old man covered the cracked lines with a thin layer of transparent-like cuticle. This will prevent the fine powder from leaking out.
After the picked fruits were all filled with the medicine and sealed, the old man picked up the fruit that contained the least medicine and looked around him.
There was a bird nearby eating a worm, the old man aimed and shot the fruit. The fruit hit the floor and made a “click” sound- it cracked open, the kernel and the powder inside were ejected at the same time.
Shao Xuan saw the bird flap its wings twice, intending to fly and then dropped.
“What do you think?” the old man looked at Shao Xuan proudly, obviously satisfied with what he just created.
Shao Xuan looked at the unmoving bird and then looked at the empty fruit husk that was completely open. Truthfully, he said, “it’s a treasure indeed!”