The carriage continued along its route in silence. Despite his nervousness Michael forced himself to remain calm, continuously mulling over his future plans as a medicinal servant.
'If I'm lucky I'll be left with a good amount of autonomy. I need to prove my worth as a medicinal servant so I can get access to the real valuable herbs. All I need is a seed and… ehe heheh'
A devious grin appeared on the silent Michael's face. Anyone who saw this would think he was some kind of pervert, thinking about the act of defiling a woman.
Archie listened to the inner monologue of his master and shuddered at the perverted laugh. Unbeknownst to Michael, much like a 2-way radio his inner monologue was being broadcasted to the unsuspecting relic spirit who was busy tending the garden.
'Oi! keep it down, I'm trying to work here' he yelled.
After a back and forth consisting of verbal roastings and threatening gestures, Michael ended up retreating, his face flushed red as a tomato.
It turned out that the "2-way radio" had not been turned off since the very beginning. Recalling some of the fantasies his teenage body and mind had about Grandpa Yin's Granddaughter (painted above the fireplace) over the past month had made him almost want to die from embarrassment.
Cursing the stupid Archie, he quickly did as he was instructed and terminated the exchange.
'F***ing little p*ssy Arse son of a wh*re'
'Your mother was a goat, your father a shepherd. Your Uncle…'
He threw a barrage of curses and insults internally to test if he had really succeeded in cutting off his broadcasting, not stopping until he had cursed Archie's 12th generation ancestors. After hearing no witty response nor tears, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
The carriage came to a stop and Grandpa Yin declared. They both emerged from the carriage and were met with an expansive field of medicinal herbs. Michael's eyes had almost turned into gold coins as he took in the view, he could see 30-year-old ginseng scattered around as if they were weeds.
Dividing the fields was a quaint cobblestone path clearly demarcating the different medicinal herbs. To the left were the root type herbs consisting of Ginseng and Lingzhi Mushrooms, whereas to the right were littered with Spirit Grass ranging from 10 to 30 years old.
While Michael was busy ogling the expanse of herbs in front of his country bumpkin eyes, a tall and skinny middle-aged man made his way over the cobblestone path to greet them. He wore a simple dark robe with a white Cauldron under 2 stars depicted on the left side of his chest. A haughty air could be felt from him as he sauntered over toward them, his back was straight as a spear with his hands clasped behind his back, his chest ever-so-slightly protruding as if to show off his rank.
"Ahem. Welcome Daoist Yin, my Master has asked me to receive you" the middle-aged-man cleared his throat and nodded at Grandpa Yin, not showing courtesy that one would show to an elder.
"My name is Randolph Ulster, please follow me" without acknowledging Michael's existence nor waiting for a response from the old man, Randolph turned on his heel and walked back along the cobblestone path.
Michael Instantly disliked this pompous asshole. He looked up at Grandpa Yin who wore an amused smile and felt insulted on his behalf.
'Treating my Grandpa Yin as if he's less than a fart? You better watch your back beanpole'
The three made their way over the path and soon approached a large cottage that overlooked the fields. It was a two-story villa with a large veranda that was double the size of the 2nd floor. Michael could see a few tables scattered around the area with beautiful and exotic plants stationed between them, their intoxicating fragrances danced in the air.
Upon the stairs was an elderly gentleman with clean white robes and a cane. He made his way toward the trio with fluid movements, each step was 2 feet apart, almost as if it were measured beforehand. The cane seemed to be almost decorative as Michael did not see the old man use it as it was intended once.
"Daoist Yin I've been expecting you!" The old man smiled jovially, his brown eyes getting lost within the wrinkles caused by the stretching of his facial muscles.
He bowed slightly toward Grandpa Yin who then reciprocated. "Daoist Yi, thank you for your hospitality"
"Nonsense let's go sit down. It's not often we get to see each other outside of official business" he said with a smile. He then looked at Randolph and made a shooing motion.
Randolph nodded and turned back toward the field, he brushed past Michael and ordered "Let's go".
Michael was startled initially, not expecting to be removed from Grandpa Yin so soon, but also annoyed at the tone of the walking skeleton. He looked over to Grandpa Yin who smiled wryly and also made a shooing motion.
'Ah F*** what's going on now' he complained bitterly before quickly turning around and following Randolph down the path.
The two old men waited till the youngsters were out of site before looking at each other.
"Long time no see you smelly old fool" Grandpa Yin smiled and wrapped his arms around the other old man in a bear hug.
"HAHA I can see what you had for breakfast in your beard you old billy goat" Daoist Yi followed suit and squeezed back, not forgetting to throw an insult back.
Randolph walked at the same pace toward the fields in the back, not once did he talk to Michael on his trip. His nose was pointed toward the sky, as if to look down on everything.
Michael continued to follow the haughty man, his patience beginning to wear thin.
'This pompous asshole won't even spare me a look'
The tall Randolph stopped abruptly once they reached a greenhouse, he turned around toward Michael and without sparing him a glance he handed over a piece of paper with 3 ingredients written on it.
"You are to harvest these 3 ingredients and return to Master Yi before sundown. Should you fail, you will not be qualified to become a servant of the Soaring Dragon Palace."
Before Michael could say anything, Randolph had already walked away.
Seething, Michael almost ripped the paper to shreds. Fortunately he managed to reign in his anger in time before looking down at the list.
The first two ingredients were written in beautiful penmanship, the words seemed to have flowed onto the paper of their own volition. However, the 3rd ingredient looked like it was added in haste as an afterthought. Instantly Michael's suspicion was triggered.
'Judging by the beanpoles attitude toward me, he could very likely be trying to sabotage me'
"50-year-old Spirit Elderflower… what the hell is that?" he mused.
'Master, the Spirit Elderflower is a dangerous flower that saps the lifespan from the person who harvests it. Without proper tools or a higher cultivation, you can't escape the effects' Archie quickly interjected.
"Holy Shit!" Michael almost jumped in fright. "That lanky F*** is trying to get me killed!".
"How am I going to harvest that? I can't exactly go back to Grandpa Yin and complain, it will make me look useless and unwilling to become a servant" He was beginning to doubt his choices.
'Master, we can always store it in the pendant until its time to hand it in' Archie said
"Hmm, but when it comes time to hand it in, I'll still have to take it out and lose my lifespan until they can fix it."
'Let's worry about that when the time comes. There are only a few hours before sundown' Archie said with some urgency.
Michael looked up at the sky and confirmed it.
"Payback's gonna be a bitch toothpick" he stroked his bare chin, a devious grin apparent on his face.