Cough, cough, cough… Wang Shijing quickly patted his wife’s back, as Shao Yunan choked on his own saliva. Jiang Kangning hurriedly offered him a cup of tea. After taking a sip of water and suppressing his cough, Shao Yunan, in a less than dignified manner, wiped his mouth and looked at Jiang Kangning, saying, “Is Hengyuan Marquis really done for?”
Jiang Kangning replied, “Done for? Should we have kept him around to anger the Emperor further?” Shao Yunan sighed. “Hengyuan Marquis was completely betrayed by his own son.” Jiang Kangning calmly said, “Hengyuan Marquis is not done for now, but he will be in the future. When the Emperor was still Crown Prince, he claimed to be neutral, but was actually not supportive of the Emperor. If he had supported the Emperor financially back then, the Emperor wouldn’t have faced such difficulties.”
Shao Yunan nodded. “That shows how shortsighted he was, but what about Wei Hongwen? He’s different from Wei Hongzheng. It’s such a shame that he has been sentenced. We have some friendship, after all. Can’t you ask Elder Weng to intercede for him? And his brother, too. They seem to have a good relationship.”
Jiang Kangning smiled and said, “You can rest assured about that. The Emperor has sentenced the Marquis of Hengyuan’s family to imprisonment, but he hasn’t sent anyone to arrest Wei Hongwen. There might be some leniency towards the two brothers. Wei Hongwen has been serving the Empress and he is in need of capable people right now. Naturally, he won’t blame him for this. As for Wei Hongru, we can’t be certain what the Emperor and the Empress have in mind for him. However, I believe the Empress will show some favor to Wei Hongwen. Wei Hongru is different from the Marquis of Hengyuan; he is a true and capable person. He is talented.”
Shao Yunan replied, “That’s good to hear. We do have a friendship and we can consider ourselves friends.” Jiang Kangning added, “By the way, Wei Hongwen should thank you. If you hadn’t shown him the way, he wouldn’t have escaped this disaster.” Shao Yunan, without false modesty, said, “This tells us that we need to align ourselves with powerful figures!”
Jiang Kangning, “…”
Shao Yunan and Jiang Kangning received urgent letters from the capital. Shao Yunan received a letter from Elder Cen, while Jiang Kangning received one from Elder Weng. These letters provided them with detailed information about the situation in the capital. Elder Cen had sent two letters, one informing him about the Empress’s health and the other about the Emperor’s awareness of the Empress’ recovery, thanks to the tonic he had prepared, as well as the suspicions of the Emperor, Elder Weng, and General Dai regarding this matter.
They urged Shao Yunan to be cautious. The second letter revealed the Emperor’s decision regarding the Marquis of Hengyuan’s family. However, Elder Cen did not mention the Emperor’s plans for Wei Hongwen, leaving Shao Yunan uncertain about the Emperor’s intentions toward him and Wei Hongru.
Shao Yunan was deeply moved by the concern Elder Cen had shown for them from so far away. As for Elder Cen’s worries about the health benefits of the food he prepared, Shao Yunan was not concerned. With Brother Tiger around, he could easily claim that Tiger Brother led them to a spiritual water source. When they had become acquainted with Brother Tiger was entirely up to them. However, with the Empress’s health now improved, it wasn’t in vain that he had used so much spirit milk throughout this time.
Shao Yunan was currently very busy. He personally handled and processed all the Qimen red tea. Furthermore, he discovered extensive groves of Dahongpao trees on the cliffs of the deep mountains. In the modern world, there are only six mother trees of Da Hong Pao and the tea produced from these six mother trees was something even the wealthy couldn’t afford to drink. One pound of tea leaves from these mother trees could sell for millions.
In the modern world, Da Hong Pao grows in the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian. However, in this place, Xiusui Village, you can find (Qimen) red tea, (West Lake) Longjing, and (Wuyi Mountains) Da Hong Pao, all within the same vicinity. Shao Yunan couldn’t explain why this happened. Perhaps, this world was just full of such peculiarities. Different types of tea leaves could harmoniously coexist in the same area. Considering that a miraculous herb like the immortal grass grew here, the distribution of tea leaves wasn’t too surprising
The harvesting and processing techniques for Da Hong Pao were highly complex, just like those for Qimen red tea. It could be said that both Da Hong Pao and Qimen red tea were top-tier red teas, and their processing complexity matched their quality. The preciousness of Da Hong Pao went without saying, while Qimen red tea was one of the world’s four top red teas, known as ‘a vessel becoming famous solely for its tea, pleasing all guests with its tea aroma.’
Harvesting Qimen red tea involved plucking one bud and two to three leaves. This task could be handled entirely by Wang Shijing and Tang Genshu. However, harvesting Da Hong Pao required Shao Yunan to do it alone. Unlike regular black or green tea, Da Hong Pao’s fresh leaves had to be picked when the new shoots’ buds and leaves reached maturity (three to four leaves unfolded), with no surface water, damage, freshness, and uniformity. The fresh leaves couldn’t be too tender or too old, they had to be just right. Additionally, harvesting had to be avoided on rainy days or when there was dew, making it quite challenging. So, after arranging matters at home, Shao Yunan ventured into the mountains with Brother Tiger and Little Gold.
Wang Shijing wanted to accompany them, but if he went, there would be no one to oversee the tea production at home. While Yan Fusheng and the others knew how to harvest the tea leaves, they were clueless about the subsequent processes. Shao Yunan knew he couldn’t let them in on these details and or allow them to discover the truth. Therefore, Wang Shijing had to watch helplessly as Shao Yunan entered the mountains alone. Well, not entirely alone; he brought Jiang Moxi along. Jiang Moxi… must follow, must follow. He grabbed Shao Yunan’s clothes and would not let go.
With the three big tigers, Shao Yunan had the ability to protect himself, so Wang Shijing had no choice but to agree to let him bring Jiang Moxi into the mountains. However, this time, they informed Jiang Kangning, who naturally had concerns, but the timing for the tea leaf harvesting was crucial. He couldn’t convince Jiang Moxi otherwise, so he had to compromise.
Wang Qing and Nizi also wanted to go, but Wang Shijing insisted they stay at home. In the eyes of outsiders, it seemed impossible for Shao Yunan to take three children into the mountains. Wang Shijing instructed Wang Qing to study diligently at home and Nizi to practice the zither. However, when Jiang Moxi became determined, not even a team of oxen could pull him back, so there was no way around it.
Once they entered the mountains, Shao Yunan sent Big Gold, Little Gold, and Jiang Moxi into the space. He rode on Brother Tiger’s back and headed straight for the groves of ancient Da Hong Pao tea trees. This stretch of mountains near Xiusui Village was a vast natural treasure trove for Shao Yunan. It wasn’t just because it was where Brother Tiger had given him the immortal grass, the main reason was the vast, unpopulated deep mountains that stretched for miles.
In ancient times, with a sparse population and limited productivity, people mostly stayed on the forest outskirts and the forest interiors were rarely explored. Shao Yunan had Brother Tiger, Big Gold, and Little Gold as his forest overlords and they ventured into the most dangerous and deep parts of the mountains. It was like discovering a giant gold mine that no one else could compete for.
In this world, perhaps only their family could ride tigers through the mountains like this. Riding on Brother Tiger’s not-so-soft back, Shao Yunan had his hands full. Whenever he spotted something valuable, he asked Brother Tiger to stop and give him time to collect it. Brother Tiger had a good temper and as long as Shao Yunan ensured he had enough spring water daily, and sometimes a drop of spirit milk when it was abundant, Brother Tiger would agree to whatever Shao Yunan asked of him.
Shao Yunan couldn’t ask Brother Tiger and Little Gold how they had discovered his spring water. In theory, Brother Tiger and Little Gold should have been living deep within the mountains. The tea gardens he and his elder brother irrigated were still on the outskirts, and there should have been no intersection between them. However, unless Brother Tiger could speak, this question would forever remain unanswered.
The treasures within the deep mountains were abundant. There were wild fruits Shao Yunan had never seen before and precious herbs that Brother Tiger informed him were edible. He even dug up a ginseng root that might have been several hundred years old and a large Lingzhi mushroom. After digging them up, he promptly transplanted them into the field and irrigated them with spring water. Meanwhile, little Gold and Big Gold played in the space, not too far from Jiang Moxi, who was busy ‘crafting.’
The reason Jiang Moxi insisted on following Shao Yunan was twofold. He wanted to read books (many of which couldn’t be taken out of the space), and he wanted to engage in handicrafts. Previously, he had dismantled the ship model that Shao Yunan had given him, then reassembled it by himself. After that, he repeated the process of dismantling and reassembling it multiple times. Now, he had stopped doing so and had become interested in building things from scratch. In this regard, Shao Yunan and Wang Shijing completely indulged him, providing him with the tools and materials he needed, allowing him to explore and learn on his own.
This time, Shao Yunan planned to complete the entire process of making Da Hong Pao tea directly within the space. When he returned, he could simply bring some tea leaves with him as a cover. Such a precious item naturally required the use of his most professional tea-making tools within the space.
The process of making Da Hong Pao tea included withering, spreading, rolling, shaping, fixing, kneading, drying, and processing into raw tea. Among these steps, shaping, water-drenching, and roasting were particularly crucial. Shaping was a highly technical process that combined withering and fermentation. It required specific techniques and skills that couldn’t be learned in a day or two. Given the tight schedule, Shao Yunan had to do it himself, and this skill would likely remain confidential for a long time.
As for water-drenching and roasting, it required the use of a bamboo basket within a closed-roasting room, and involved the ‘flowing water method’ at different temperature ranges. The entire process demanded speed and intense labor and had to be completed in just over ten minutes. It was often referred to as the ‘water-scooping roast.’
This was another skill that Shao Yunan had accumulated through a long period of practice and could only be carried out independently. After revealing the secret of the space to Wang Shijing, he had Wang Shijing set up a well-equipped tea-making facility in a secluded area within the space. Whether it was black tea, green tea, or flower tea, different types of tea had different production methods and he could carry out all of them in the tea-making facility in the space.
Shao Yunan knew the technique for making Da Hong Pao tea because, although the mother trees of Da Hong Pao were rare, there were many Da Hong Pao bushes propagated from cuttings of those mother trees. As a dedicated tea connoisseur, how could he not be familiar with Da Hong Pao?
While Shao Yunan, Wang Shijing, Jiang Kangning, and others were busy working toward the same goal—tea production, the soldiers guarding the border at Huguan Pass received a special visitor.
Edited by: Jaisland