༺ III ༻

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꧁༺࿅ིཽ• –– •❈• –– •࿅ིཽ༻꧂

Shen MingxiaShangzihua, the outskirts

     After I finished eating, I headed towards the forests to gather some herbs for Healer Liang Chen. Since we shared our lands with several types of malicious yaoguai, we had to be vigilant and pay close attention to our supplies. And it was all the more reason for my mother to try to keep me inside.

On my way to the forest, I passed Xieren and her friends. I was in a hurry, so I was grateful that she didn't waste my time by throwing meaningless insults at me. However, she still threw a glare my way and roughly brushed past my shoulder, which caused me to slightly stagger. I regained my balance and continued on my path, ignoring the annoying giggling behind me. I continued walking until their incessant laughter was drowned out by the distance between us. I couldn't help but wonder why my parents were acting so strangely. I had wondered if they had planned on telling me the truth in that I wasn't really their daughter and I was some kind of monster. My mind wandered back to the scene before I left my house:

"Mingxia, make sure you come home before nightfall," my mother urged me once more.

I turned to my father as if to ask for help, but he shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, xiǎo yún, but your mother is right. Try to gather as much as you can for Healer Liang and then come straight home."

There was something about the desperation in their voices that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was strange that my father agreed with my mother about it because he was usually supportive of my outings. He understood that I needed to feel like I wasn't a prisoner in the village, but at the same time, he valued my safety. It's impossible to be mad at them for that because I knew that I would do the same thing if I were in their position.

When I got to an open meadow lush with various plants, I started looking for osmanthus and astralagus, which were two of the strongest herbs that would help combat sickness. Healer Liang had specifically asked for these two distinct herbs since there have been so many sick people in the village lately. Though he would never admit it around the patients, he feared that what the village was going through was the start of a pandemic.

It made sense, we were an impoverished village that the Emperor never reached out to and never will. The people were malnourished due to the low abundance of food. And because we didn't have sufficient amounts of the right foods to keep us strong, we were more susceptible to pesky infections and viruses.

I picked up a flower with small yellow petals and inspected it closely. Its lively apricot aroma and bright, dainty appearance confirmed that it was osmanthus. These would be used to treat those that struggled with respiratory infections and severe allergies. In its raw form, it serves as a relaxing incense that is strong enough to make a person forget their deepest worries. In its liquid form, it serves as a powerful tea that can temporarily relieve a patient of their throat and chest pains.

I carefully gathered copious amounts of the yellow flower and placed them on the right side of my basket to make room for the astralagus root. I headed over to the shrubbery patch on my right to begin my search for the plant. I immediately stuck my hand in and began feeling around for the leafy herb. I would recognize it instantly because its leaves were smooth and delicate.

When my hand met with my object of the search, I swiftly removed it from the bush. Unfortunately, I managed to pick up more than the plant, so my hands ended up caked with dirt. I sighed in exasperation and placed the astralagus on the ground before attempting to wipe the dirt off. I scoffed in annoyance when the action only caused the dirt to smear across my skin. I wafted the air around the plant towards my face, reveling in its deep earthy smell. I smiled as I placed a large amount on the left side of the basket.

A Celestial Requiem (Book 1, The Secrets of Tarot series) ✔Where stories live. Discover now