Yu Zhunyao was only an apprentice in the medical arts.
She was well-educated and knew quite a few base techniques, but the art of medicine is one of the most complex fields of study, even without the mystical aspects. She was barely an adult, and was still one disciple among many. In comparison to her peers, she wasn't any great talent. She had to work hard to keep up.
Rather than being unusually brave...she was unusually resolute that if something went wrong, she'd have nothing left. That was why, when demons sieged upon Hyacinth Palace, she locked herself away in a cupboard instead of fleeing or attempting to support those who tried to fight back. It wasn't because she was trying to be brave, or was too cowardly to move.
It was because she had forgotten her notes!!
Yu Zhunyao couldn't bear to leave her hiding spot, and she could feel and hear the progress of the entire siege. When they broke through the walls, when they captured the practitioners, when they began raiding the rooms…
Yu Zhunyao spent a day and a half inside an empty pickling jar, steeling herself for death.
It was quite strange. How was it they got through? There was no sect or group capable of breaching Hyacinth Palace's wards, she was told. While it was impressive that they could shatter through Yufeng's walls, the arrays over the palace were ‘1000 years of blessings’. Could an array reinforced for 1000 years be forced into with brute strength?
She expected the palace to be razed, considering the power required to take over by force, but on the third day…
The demons got to doing repairs.
Yu Zhunyao didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Were the demons were taking up residence?? This is a sect!! Not a summer home!!
The demons worked at all hours, and made it troublesome to sneak around. She could only peer from her pantry, watching them take equipment past the kitchens. They seem to have done quite a bit of damage, with all the things they brought in.
Under fall of night, Yu Zhunyao scrambled back to the medical wing. It was untouched!! Thank you heavens!! Those on earth, for whatever reason fate lead you away from this place of work, thank you as well!!
She ran without caution to her work station, and stuffed her book of notes into her robes. She worried so much, but things really did turn out fine. Maybe things weren't so dire?
Yu Zhunyao looked around the medical ward, but it seemed exactly the same as it was the day before the raid. Everyone really had either fled or fought. Even if some hid like she did, they'd probably left by now. It was so still, she could almost feel dust filling the halls.
Yu Zhunyao was not unusually brave, but she was unusually resolute. If something went wrong, it was the end for her.
So…if she tried to escape and failed, it was a huge problem. She'd be executed, yes? She'd be at minimum strung up, yes? The death sentence has been popular in regimes across history, and demons were traditionalist, yes? Also, they were doing so many repairs, they were always outside, yes?
At that time, Yu Zhunyao smiled serenely, and hid in the alchemy lab's closet to sleep.
The medical ward had no visitors, and the area around it didn't need repairs, so it was easy to camp out inside. She could return to her studies as usual, without worrying about being caught or interrupted. When she was hungry, she ate the plentiful alchemy ingredients. The alchemy lab also had no windows, so it was a great place to stay up late reading in.
Yu Zhunyao complimented herself in her sound decision-making. She really had made the best of her situation; her Master would be proud.
A month passed by like this, and without the worries of being observed, she felt she could be more loose with her practice. No one was around to look down on her or fret over her failures. If she made a mistake, mistakes were made. If she succeeded, then that meant she could progress. It was very freeing. When she scrubbed her robes in a pill cauldron and carefully did her hair, she felt like a powerful and impressive master of medicine.
She amused herself, one day, by sitting at the table her master usually read at, with her master's books spread out before her. She kept her back curved back like an elegant lady, and tried imitating the hand signs listed in the old silk scroll before her.
With a flourish, she activated a Hand Art; Pheromone Of Kings. This art was one of her favourite types, where it had more than one purpose but had to be used carefully. Just learning about them made her feel smarter.
Pheromone of Kings made one's meridians slowly dilate, oozing off their body in a heady aura of power, which many people responded positively to. And as so much energy was seeping out of the body into the cells, they became resistant to damage. However, what it was actually doing was draining energy from the body, which was extremely dangerous.
Yu Zhunyao tried it out just to understand it a little better, and immediately became light-headed. Her meridians drained in an instant. It was as she thought...the common populace just weren't designed to cultivate at this level.
She meditated a little until her dizzy spell passed. The most important thing was that she was capable of using hand arts, and she should be satisfied with that.
Surely, if she could perform such a technique, even pill-making wasn't far out of reach…?
She smiled to herself, gathered some key notes, and headed to the door.
Just as it slammed open.