114 Questioning A Madman

    The chamber was not the only place that the stone staircase led to. Apparently there was a small archway that led to another room. The walls dividing this chamber and the room was rather small. Xue'er could only presume that it was to keep out any sounds that would echo from the front chamber.

    As she entered the room, she found it to be rather dark, but her eyes could make out a long table filled with all types of medicine in small jars. There were occasionally the leaves or flower petals that had fallen out in preparation but were never swept up. Small wooden bowls of freshly dried herbs laid in one section of the table, for convenience of concocting.

    Her eyes seemed to glimmer a bit as she looked at the bowls. She licked her lips before forcefully removing her gaze from the table, and inspected the room.

    The room was smaller than the chamber outside, and with burned-out candles that lined the stone wall, providing light in the darkest place. There was also a scent of spice that carried with it a tint of sourness.

    Sitting at a wooden armchair, there was a figure of an elderly man with slightly disheveled hair. His clothes were worn, and he seemed to have been there for a while. This scene reminded Xue'er of her encounter with a corpse in the rain, and Xue'er wasn't too keen on the man's prospects, but since she could not smell a rotting stench, she was quite certain he had not died yet.

    As she inched closer, she could hear his faint and ragged breathing. His body seemed to be stiff, without any signs of movement, as though he was some puppet, having been set into such a position by someone.

    As her footsteps were practically non-existent, the moment she stopped three steps from him, he did not seem to notice her.

    It was only when she said, "Excuse me, sir, I think I might have gotten lost." That he moved for a bit and opened his eyes. As far as he could tell, the voice was not familiar. Yet he could barely make out a short figure in the darkness. Instinct said there was nothing to fear, but he still put up a bit of caution.

    He did not move, merely observing the figure that was standing there. As though observing some inconspicuous details, but there was nothing to observe. There was merely the outline of a person, and the voice sounded like that of a little girl's.

    [How did such a girl enter this inconspicuous place?

    No, that couldn't be right, how can a child enter this place?]

    He himself knew of the many barriers that protected this place from being discovered, and there was no chance that a child or any person could have stumbled upon it by chance.

    Xue'er waited for a reply, but when that didn't come, she asked in a lower voice "Sir, if I may ask you a question."

    She was sure that he heard her. After all, in the light, she could see his eyes that were opened and silently judging her. His eyes were old and filled with wisdom, like those of a sage. But she knew he was no sage. She could hear the thumping sound of his heart.

    "I know you're awake." Her voice had fallen into a whisper this time, and she could hear his heartbeat racing. This man was perhaps the same age as her grandfather, but much more cowardly. It was no wonder he had fallen to such a state.

    She smirked as she listened in silence to the thumping heart. It was not her first time hearing a fearful heart, but it was her first time causing such a scene, and she could not help but feel a bit proud.

    The man opened his mouth and said "What do you want to ask?" his voice was coarse and uneasy on the ears as he had not spoken in a while.

    Xue'er thought for a moment [So he finally decided to answer] Her voice was as calm as ever as she asked him "Why do you experiment on the young?"

    "Because they adapt very well." He did not bother to ask for clarification of the question, merely answering in context.

    She could almost hear the proudness in his voice that was filled with pride, as though he deserved some kind of great award, with the masses groveling at his feet and thanking him for his work.

    The tone was one that she abhorred, especially when given the context. Yet after all her emotions had passed, she was unable to make herself feel any hatred towards him.

    She strolled over and silently lit a candle, placing it on the table. Such that the man could better see who he is talking to. Perhaps it was too bright a first or that he had been adjusted to the darkness for days, he instinctively closed his tired eyes.

    Xue'er tilted her head to the side, watching him curiously.

    With an imitated sense of sympathy, Xue'er asked, "But, haven't you failed every time? Why continue?"

    "Who says I have failed, if I continue, who is to say that I will not succeed one day?" The man sitting in the chair opened his eyes and asked her.

    "Alas, you have already landed yourself in this state, what is the point of doing so?" Xue'er asked with a raised eyebrow. "Sometimes it is better to give up when our predecessors have already failed." Though her words were filled with sympathies for the man, all he heard were mockeries, jarring at him for not giving up when something was impossible.

    The man fell silent. Seeing this, Xue'er did not care much, the candle flickered, as she walked past. Stopping at the table, Xue'er touched the dried herbs.

    "I've never been one to like dried herbs." She said with a smile as she took a few leaves and placed it into her bag, along the way, she snuck some into her mouth, relishing it as she would candy. Considering this man did not seem to be needing to use this medicine in the near future, she would take it from his incapacitated hands.

    Soon, the entire place was almost entirely devoid of herbs. The man nearly felt like falling over if he had the ability to. His entire stash of most valued herbs had been emptied in just one day.

    "Hey, come back here!" He yelled behind her as she was leaving. He yelled many more times, it was the only thing he was capable of doing, but the girl was already out of his sight. Even her shadow could no longer be seen.

    "Don't worry, I will." Xue'er whispered. She was quite certain that he could not hear her, she still decided to say so anyway.
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