There were dye and lacquer extract in the beast park. After all, the beast park belonged to the imperial family, so, therefore, the materials were much better than those used by the civilians.
The wooden box had six sides. The bottom was lain completely down flat and the other five boards were placed face up. Sawdust was sprinkled on top, pressed down, and swept clean. This way, the eyelets were evenly filled with sawdust.
An unknown fruit had been used to make a blue-black dye mixed evenly with the lacquer extract and then painted on the surface. Thus, the few wooden boards became dark blue in color.
Ren Baqian set the completed wooden panels to one side. From the darkening sky, he estimated it was about time for his meal and went to the kitchen to eat.
Outside the rear kitchen was a large courtyard where more than ten tables were arranged.
This was the time of the day when most people from the beast park gathered.
Regardless of gender, everyone gathered over here.
There were also children baring their bottoms and wrestling. The adults were stationed a slight distance away and happily watched them.
Ren Baqian saw a kid of about six or seven years old fall down and scrape his knees. He unconcernedly stood up, shouted, and rushed about again. He made threatening gestures just like a crab, and the little rascal's natural stance to fight was imposing.
Children brought up in such an environment are accustomed to such rugged habits.
"Caretaker Ren, please sit here." Someone called out to him; it was Tie Dao.
Although he had spent quite some time in the beast park, he seldom had the chance to eat with everyone. Including today, it was only his second time. Normally, if he wasn't busy with something, Ren Baqian would be in the palace and would only go to the kitchen to fire up the stove after dark.
Ren Baqian sat with Tie Dao and the others. Together with the ten men under him, they filled one table.
The dishes served were roasted mutton leg, roasted mutton rib, boiled beef cubes, as well as a pot of wild herb soup, and vegetable omelette.
When the dishes were served, no one paid any heed Ren Baqian. In the blink of an eye, the plate of vegetable omelette was gone. One scooped a bowl of wild herb soup and another gnawed at the mutton ribs.
Ren Baqian blinked his eyes and was left speechless. He only saw a group of dirty people with hands sweeping around and everything was gone in a flash.
In Dayao, meat was cheap and vegetables were expensive. Almost all meals consisted of meat and if there were two vegetable dishes, they would disappear in a blink.
Moreover, they did not have the habit of using chopsticks as that originated from Great Xia. Only the rich and officials knew how to use them. But these people over here, they used their hands to grab their food.
Ren Baqian managed to take a sip of the wild herbal soup, nibbled a piece of the lamb chop, and ate some dried food from this world.
This type of dried food was a kind of coarse grain: very rough, a little prickly to the throat, and slightly sour.
However, nobody belittled it. There were refined rice and noodles, but only the rich could afford them. To be able to eat this, it was considered decent for the people in the beast park. It was said that the people in the mountains ate meat every day and supplemented their diets with berries and wild vegetables.
On Earth, meat was considered as pretty good food. But over here, it was the most basic food.
If you were to exchange one catty of vegetable for a few catties of meat, there would be many takers.
Fortunately, Dayao had one more resource and that was tea leaves from the wild tea trees which grew abundantly in the mountains. Thus, there was no need for them to fight over a brick of tea as compared to the people in the grasslands.
After the meal, he returned to where Tong Jia worked. The dye was almost dry, he turned the panel upside down on the ground and knocked it twice with a hammer. When he picked up the panel again, the fragments had fell off, revealing empty holes in their original wood color.
He had only just seen the wooden board, Ren Baqian was already happy. Although it was not up to his requirements yet, this first step had reached his expectations.
Subsequently, he followed suit for the few other wooden boards and then arranged them together. Ren Baqian was expressionless for a while.
On the dark blue wooden boards light-coloured stars, two starry trails, and a nebula decorated the tops. It was exactly like what he'd seen in the sky the night before.
Subconsciously, he raised his head and looked at the sky. It had just turned dark, so only a few were visible. They were sparse and fragmentary, just like pockmarks, and were drastically different from yesterday's elegant and magnificent sight.
He lowered his head to analyze the wooden boards. The only problem was the uneven dispersion the color. But, this was a small problem and painting two coats should fix it up enough. Ren Baqian then picked up the dye and painted one more layer over the surface. This time, he was not worried about the dye seeping into the holes. So long as the overall appearance was alright, it should be acceptable.
"Caretaker Ren, is this okay?" Tong Jia approached Ren Baqian and asked loudly.
Ren Baqian flipped his clothes and intended to find some small pieces of silver to give Tong Jia as a reward for his craftsmanship. You cannot always let a horse work without giving it grass to eat.
However, Ren Baqian did not have any silver with him as he usually did not bother to take any along when he did not intend to go out of the palace.
"Beautifully done." Ren Baqian gave a thumbs up.
"Leave it here first, I will collect it tomorrow." Ren Baqian patted the carpenter who was taller by half a head and had bronze shoulders which were wider than his.
"Alright! Do I have to pack it up?"
"No need to, this is fine. Wait till the paint has dried before moving it into the house. Give it another coat of paint tomorrow," Ren Baqian told him, clasped his hands behind his back, and sauntered away.
Tiantian was sprawled outside sleeping while Gungun was sitting on a stone platform about ten plus centimeters high, with its head on the ground and legs in the air.
Ren Baqian approached them and heard a slight grumble. The two little chaps heaved their bellies. He gave them each a pat as he walked by. They grunted, rolled their bodies to the side, and continued to sleep.
The next morning, Ren Baqian stored a few silver ingots in his clothes and then pulled Tie Dao and Teng Hulu to carry the few wooden boards out.
He got ready to inlay the melted silver into the empty holes which were arranged like stars in the sky.
A dark blue background, dotted with silver galaxy of stars. It surely would be an extremely magnificent sight.
When he reached Tong Jia's place, Ren Baqian took out a piece of fragmented silver which was approximately equivalent to one tael of silver and passed it to him.
"Take it, this is for you."
"How can I accept money when I'm working for Caretaker Ren? I am paid a monthly salary." Tong Jia waved his hands to reject the offer.
"This is to reward you, cut the nonsense." Ren Baqian tossed the piece of fragmented silver across and a parabola was formed in the air. Tong Jia promptly caught it in his hands.
"Thank you Caretaker Ren." Tong Jia held the silver and smiled foolishly. This piece of silver was worth more than half a month of his salary.
"Alright!" Ren Ba Qian nodded his head and carefully inspected the few wooden boards. The dye had barely dried, but compared to the previous three times, it was much more beautiful. Although there were some uneven patches due to the different wood textures, it was still rather beautiful.
After Tie Dao and Teng Hulu let out a shout, each carried two to three wooden boards and followed behind Ren Baqian.
After walking halfway, Ren Baqian took the silver from the front of his clothes and put it into the waist pocket. Silver was heavy and it gave a sinking feeling. Putting it near his chest was very uncomfortable for him.
They reached Baishi District and went to the same blacksmith shop.
"Shop owner, smelt this piece of silver and drip it into the holes. It must be spread evenly." Ren Baqian took out a piece of silver and tossed it in his hands.
The shop owner took a closer look and then looked at the piece of silver in Ren Baqian's hand. He said concisely, "Not enough, one more piece of silver is needed."
Ren Baqian tossed another piece of silver over and the shop owner finally nodded his head. "Can do, come back in four hours."
Ren Baqian led the two to the shop at Jingyang Road and checked the progress of the shop. In the end, after briefly turning into Jingyang Road, they heard an angry female voice coming from a shop by the side of the road.
"This piece of hide was processed with a lot of effort. It is a white tiger hide without any blemishes. How can it only be exchanged for half of dou of salt?"
Ren Baqian heard the voice, turned his head to look, and saw two familiar figures in the shop. One of them was the lady called Na Gu and the other should be her brother.
He did not expect to meet the two of them again after only a few days.
In their hands was a roll of hides. Among them, one of the hides was torn apart by them to display its quality.
"It is up to you two whether you want to exchange or not. We are the only one on this road who can offer this price. Both of you can go to other shops to check. I'm certain that you will not even get half of dou of salt," The storekeeper said with confidence.