After turning the Mang Clan’s fortress along with a large area of the Black Demon Mountains into a hello shade sea of flames, Zhang decided it would be best to suspend all herb harvesting operations and focus his attention solely to pill concoction.
Knowing without a doubt that the Mang Clan would definitely notice that their prison was practically void of remains of the deceased, which would most than likely lead to an all-out manhunt and investigation, Zhang deem it would be in his best interest to lay low.
With an ample supply of herbs to work with, Wenji and her helpers were more than able to continue concocting pills for two more months, without the need to replenish their stocks. By the time two months’ past, Zhang believed that the Mang Clan would have given up on searching for the culprit responsible for the events that had transpired.
As calculating as Zhang and Wenji were, however, they would have never been able to guess that instead of initiating a city-wide investigation, the Mang Clan could actually recall all of its members, close all of its businesses and disappear from the public’s eye.
“Young master, it seems the Mang clan has no intention of investigating the forest fire.” Uncle Cheng said as he told Zhang about the daily happenings within Twin Blade City.
“That’s odd… it’s been roughly a week, I’m sure they would have noticed the lack of remains in the prison by now.” Wenji said before taking a sip of tea out of her cup and putting it back onto the stone table beside her.
“Uncle Cheng, if there’s nothing further to report you are free to go. Keep an eye on the Mang Clan and report back to me if there is anything strange.” Zhang said, dismissing Uncle Cheng.
“They must be up to something.” Zhang said to Wenji after Uncle Cheng departed.
“Without a doubt… Even if they were trying to secretly investigate, we would have caught wind of it by now and I’m sure if anyone else were to fall into the same situation, they would have turned the city upside down in order for their secrets to remain secrets.” Wenji said while looking at Zhang.
“Maybe they no longer need to keep the treasure a secret…” Zhang said as after a short ponder.
“What do you mean they don’t need to keep it a secret anymore? After searching for the treasure for a hundred years and keeping everyone else in the dark for so long, why would they not want to keep it a secret anymore? I’m sure the only time they’d allow news to get out if after they found the…” Wenji said before falling silent as she came to a sudden realization from her own words.
“You couldn’t mean they found the treasure…” Wenji muttered in a low tone while leaning in across the table toward Zhang.
“No, I don’t think they’ve actually found the treasure yet. Else after a week, the news would have surely made its way to the city already. However, they might have found some kind of clue that would lead them to the treasure.” Zhang said while leaning in toward Wenji.
Currently, since both Zhang and Wenji were leaning in toward each other, their faces actually ended up being so close to each other that they could feel each other’s breath brushing upon each other’s cheeks.
Before long an awkward silence enveloped the gardens as our duo gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, neither possessing of them wishing to be the first to speak.
With a somewhat ambiguous relationship, Zhang and Wenji couldn’t really be considered a couple nor could they be considered mere friends, thus as the two of them stared into each other’s eyes many different thoughts and emotions flashed through their eyes.
Having experienced life or death situations together and being partners in crime, the only word that could be used, to sum up their current relationship was the word complicated.
“Should I, do it?” Zhang wondered as a sudden thought popped up in his head, causing his cheeks to slightly redden, which in turn caused Wenji’s cheeks to slightly redden for no reason.
Gulping down a mouthful of air, Zhang slowly leaned his face in closer toward Wenji, while his heart began to race and his chest tightened.
Seeing what Zhang was up to, Wenji too felt her chest tighten as her heart raced while a slight tinge of warmth surfaced and began to spread throughout her body, causing her ears to become bright red.
“It doesn’t look like she’s backing away.” Zhang thought as he tried to give himself small boosts of confidence.
“Young master! Young mistress! There’s great news! Something big is happening!” Uncle Cheng’s voice rang throughout the ear, shattering the serene and ideal atmosphere that Zhang was taking advantage of.
“Damnit…” Zhang inwardly cursed as both he and Wenji leaned back to their original sitting positions moments before Uncle Cheng arrived in front of them, both with flushed faces.
“What is it?” Zhang asked in a slightly unhappy tone while glancing at Uncle Cheng.
“Young master, the Mang Clan has announced that they have located an ancient tomb deep within the mountains!” Uncle Cheng said in an excited tone.
“They did find it…” Zhang said in a soft tone as he shot a glance at Wenji who also shot a glance at him.
“How is the Mang Clan’s discovery of an ancient tomb deep in the mountains, great news for us? Wouldn't that bad news?” Zhang asked in an unhappy and stern voice, still slightly angry at Uncle Cheng for ruining his ideal moment to advance his relationship with the girl of his dreams.
“It is great news because they merely found the ancient tomb, but are not capable of entering it.” Uncle Cheng responded.
“Unable to enter it?” Wenji asked in a soft voice.
“There appears to be a very powerful barrier that is preventing them from opening the tomb. The Mang Clan is now calling for Tiger Claw Dojo, the Jiang Clan and any other able cultivator in the city to cooperate with them in opening the tomb, which will take place in three days.” Uncle Cheng said excitedly.
“What’s the catch?” Wenji asked with one of her eyebrows raised.
“Yea, there’s always a catch. They wouldn’t just give everyone the opportunity to benefit from their hard work so easily.” Zhang added.
“They are asking thirty percent of all of the valuables found in the tomb to be turned over to them as a finder’s fee. Considering the strength of the Mang Clan and the fact that they are unable to open the tomb by themselves, I think it would still be a very profitable venture even after the thirty percent finder's fee.” Uncle Cheng replied promptly while expressing his thoughts.
“Only thirty percent?” Zhang asked while making a questioning expression.
“Yes, young master, they are only requiring thirty percent of whatever is found in the tomb be turned over to them.” Uncle Cheng replied.
“It’s probably a trap. Thirty percent is too little.” Wenji said while slightly shaking her head.
“A trap? Too little?” Uncle Cheng asked in a confused tone.
“Asking the likes of the Tiger Claw Dojo and the Jiang Clan for thirty percent of whatever they find is reasonable, since those two forces basically control the rest of the city, however asking only thirty percent from people like us who have yet to make a name for ourselves is without a doubt too good to be true.” Zhang said, agreeing with Wenji.
“If your clan had been searching for something for the past one hundred years, would you be willing to allow some no named stranger to reap most of the rewards? Of course, you wouldn’t.” Wenji asked Uncle Cheng, prompting him to slightly nod.
“Since it’s a trap I take it we won’t be participating?” Uncle Cheng asked, showing hints of reluctance in his voice.
“You won’t be participating; however, we will be.” Zhang replied with a chuckle.
“Instead I have a small business venture that I would like you to oversee for me.” Zhang said with a chuckle before leaning over and whispering into Wenji’s ear, causing her to chuckle.
“Uncle Cheng if you can gather all of the ingredients on this list for me. As many batches as you can within a day.” Wenji said with a bright smile as she proceeded to wave her hand and withdraw a piece of paper, a brush, and ink from her interspatial ring and then jotting a few things down
“I’ll go and make preparations right away.” Uncle Cheng said as he excused himself, walking out of the garden once again after tucking away the list that Wenji had just written into his robes.
“How many do you think can be made before the day the tomb opens?” Zhang asked with a chuckle after Uncle Cheng had disappeared from view.
“If we decrease the potency a bit by diluting the ingredients we can probably make a few thousand of them with little effort.” Wenji replied with a devious smile.
Like a quick breeze, three days had passed since the Mang Clan had announced their discovery of the ancient tomb and ever since then a wide variety of people had slowly gathered within Twin Blade City.
Spreading like wildfire, news of the ancient tomb’s discovery made its way into the ear of nearly every single person who lived within a one-hundred-mile radius of Twin Blade City. From beggars to small sects to secluded villages and clans, upon hearing the news, everyone began to make their way to Twin Blade City with utmost haste, hoping to put their luck to the test.
With so many people gathering within Twin Blade City, it could be said that the before the ancient tomb was even opened, all of the owners of the various businesses within the city had already struck gold.
Inns and hotels were brimming with people to the point where people would pay to sleep on the ground in the hallways, restaurants were able to sell plain boiled and unseasoned vegetables that they would usually toss away for what could only be called extortion, and various supply stores found their previously stocked shelves to be empty.
“Come one, come all! We are selling heavenly healing dans! Only one hundred gold coins each! Hoping to join the great Mang Clan in exploring the ancient tomb? Afraid of the hidden dangers within the tomb? Fear not! With a heavenly healing dan in your possession, even if you're already one foot in the grave you'll still be able to escape death!” A certain middle-aged man named Uncle Chang could be seen yelling as he stood in front of a large stall located within the center of Twin Blade City’s open-air market.
You there! Yes you!” Uncle Chang yelled as he pointed at a beggar dressed in rags sitting in an odd position on the opposite side of the street.
“Me? What do you want?” The beggar asked with a confused look on his face. Upon closer inspection, this beggar, of course, was Zhang.
“Judging from the way you're sitting, I take it both of your legs are cripple?” Uncle Cheng asked, as a small crowd of people had gathered around his stall.
“Sir, if you’re looking to make fun of my disability the I beg you to find it in your heart to spare me the ridicule. Haven't I suffered enough? Being born this way, and being abandoned by my parents was not something I asked for!” Zhang said as he pretended to wipe away tears from the corner of his eye.
“Although the heavens may have scorned you and given you that accursed affliction, I have a solution to all of your problems! Like with all problems, there is always a solution!” Uncle Cheng said in a dramatic manner as he raised his hand into the air while holding a brown colored pill between his fingers.
“Hmph, I don't know if that pill you're selling is heaven-defying or not, but do you think I can afford to buy one with a hundred gold coins?” Zhang said with a ridiculing laugh.
“Worry not! To demonstrate the wondrous effects of the heavenly healing dan, I will give you one for free. Once you recover the use of your legs, with those looks you’ll be able to live a regular life like everyone else” Uncle Cheng said as he tossed the brown colored pill within his hand toward Zhang, who caught it moments before it fell to the ground.
“Take it and show the world that these pills are truly heaven-defying!” Uncle Chang said while laughing really loudly, attracting an even larger crowd to gather around his stall.
“I-I ca-can't believe it!” Zhang said as he slowly rose to his feet, prompting the crowd that gathered around him and Uncle Cheng’s stall to fall into silence and gasp moments before breaking out into a wild cheer.
“I can walk!!! I can finally tell her that I love her!” Zhang yelled as he ran toward a stall selling tofu not too far away, where Wenji could be seen standing dressed in ordinary looking clothes and with a peculiar looking bruise-colored smudge on her face.
“Miss, after begging here for months, I've come to fall in love with you! Please marry me!” Zhang yelled at the top of his lungs.
“Marry you? Bu-but with this birthmark on my face, I don't even dare look at other people in the eye.” Wenji said as she pointed to the weird looking smudge on her face, causing a few looks of disgust to surface on the faces of the people in the crowd.
“Worry not! Your love has touched this old man’s heart. I'll take a loss and not only give out one heavenly healing dan but two!” Uncle Cheng said as he tossed Wenji a brown colored pill that looked identical to the pill Zhang had taken moments ago.
“Th-this pill can even cure my ugly appearance?!” Wenji asked in an astonished voice as she held the brown colored pill in her fingers.
“Of course, it can!” Uncle Cheng said with a smile, as Wenji placed the brown colored pill in her mouth and swallowed it.
“It-it burns!” Wenji yelled as she covered her face.
“It'll itch for a bit, but soon enough we will be able to see the wondrous effects of the pill.” Uncle Cheng said with a laugh, a few seconds before Wenji lifted her hands away from her face, prompting a few people in the crowd to fall over.
“Sh-she’s so beautiful!” Someone yelled as the crowd became mesmerized by Wenji’s beauty.
“Hahaha, do you all see now? With the heavenly healing dan, be it a disability, ugliness or grave injuries, everything can be cured! Even poverty can be solved!” Uncle Cheng said loudly.
“I'll take ten pills!” A young man yelled.
“I'll take twenty pills!” Another man yelled.
Of course, these two men were a part of a group of people who all happened to be employed by the Zhou Manor, which meant they all worked for Zhang.
“I must apologize but it seems that I am low on supplies. Although I wish to sell a pill to everyone, the ingredients needed to make heavenly healing dans are very hard to come by. “Uncle Cheng said after giving the two young men who worked at the Zhou manor, thirty brown colored pills.
“Low on supplies? I'll pay one hundred twenty gold coins for five pills!” Someone within the crowd yelled.
“One hundred twenty? I'll pay one hundred fifty for five pills! If it can make my wife look like that I’ll pay two hundred gold coins if I have to!” Someone else yelled, sparking the beginning of a bidding war.
As people tried to out but each other and obtain a heavenly healing dan, prices eventually climbed to four hundred gold coins for a single pill.
Perhaps if these people ever found out that these pills cost Zhang and Wenji twenty copper coins each to produce, they would probably vomit blood. That is of course if they survive the initial anger when they discovered these pills were not as wondrous as they were made to believe.