(Story change -Villagers use tea – Beige matter is invention of Ho’s )
Back in Shanghai, Ho took me to his laboratory. It was a suite of four rooms in a run-down area of town, he showed me his process for refining his Beige Matter. I had an inkling that he been struggling to perfect his technique with limited funds, yet I was amazed at the proof. His equipment was old and improvised and yet it was impressive nonetheless. One whole room was filled with glass tubes and pipes and heated with oil driven frames. Everything held together with twisted wires and pieces of wood. It was a system of fractional distillation yet complicated he told me by the strange viscosity of the handflower sap which seemed to have unique properties for a liquid.
It was then he asked if I would like to partake of the beige matter myself and start towards the process of my own Aura Sight.
I said with some trepidation that I would, and enquired if there were any known side effects. He said that the first time he took it caused some disorientation and that the best time to take it would be when one is totally relaxed in a familiar environment.
He asked if there were any places in Shanghai that were familiar to me. I told him that the last time I was here I had visited a very accommodating bordello and perhaps that environment combined with his fine Opium would put me in a relaxed and receptive humour.
He agreed a brothel was the ideal place to try new experiences, but said that he was embarrassed to visit such a place himself. I asked if it was for religious or moral reasons, he said that he simply could not afford to visit the kind of establishment within my means. I assured him that I would foot the bill happily for his service as the administer of the Beige Matter and I would make arrangements for the following evening.
He then talked me through the process of his intriguing distillation device, how certain compounds were needed to be added during the process to keep the compound stable and how he had learned all by trial and error as the substance was so different from most liquids. As he talked I started to understand his leaning towards electricity as a component to achieving transmission of the properties of the Beige Matter.
The following evening I invited Mr. Ho to my rooms at The Astor for a meal. He enjoyed the french cuisine and we talked of many matters mostly to do with the Empire and China. One of the things I admire about Mr. Ho is his ability to offer an opinion on a wide range of subjects whilst being able to restrain from talking about his work, which is a quality unusual in scientists. After our meal we went down to a back door of the hotel where our concierge, ‘Lucky Chen’ had arranged a rickshaw to our destination as he discretely did for all members of the club who visited Shanghai.
We were soon at Madame Hummingbird’s establishment, during our meal we had agreed to relaxation with the fairer sex prior to taking opium and then finally to take the Beige Matter. As I was paying I asked Mr. Ho if he would like one delicacy or two and he said he was unsure how to proceed and bowed to my etiquette. I told him, as my father had told me, that in selecting two girls, it was a mistake to pick one’s first and second choice; instead one should pick one’s first choice and then ask her to pick a partner, this would always produce a better experience. He understood the logic immediately and concurred.
After the first stage of our relaxation was complete and we had bathed we met in a lounge with Mr. Ho’s opium equipment and reclining on opposing chaise lounges we partook of the Opium.
It was then that he opened his bag and produced a round tin of Beige Matter, he bade me to smear it over my gums to give a constant effect.
After some time I had to admit.
“Mr. Ho – I see no effect from this procedure, how long does it take?”
Mr Ho was smiling serenely.
“In truth it takes a long time to see clear Auras, it took me months, my compound makes it swifter, yet there is a aspect to ‘learning’ the Auras that one has to get accustomed to. As far as I know, apart from the monks of Nepal there is no documentation on how this is done except for my experimental recordings. Yet let us try an experiment now. Could you call a girl into the room?”
I reached forward to the small table in front of me which apart from being laden with Opium equipment a bottle of sake and some ‘nibbles’ had a small bell. I took up the bell and rang it and soon a girl came into the room. Mr. Ho then asked me to look at the girl. I looked at her face she was young and beautiful. Mr Ho then said something in Chinese, the girl replied and at that time I felt a certain stabbing pain and imagined I saw a small pinkish flicker of light around her mouth. Mr Ho nodded with approval, then said something to the girl again and she was dismissed.
“By the wince on your face I see you experienced something, what was it?”
“I felt a small uncomfortable sensation and swear I saw a barely perceptible flicker of reddish light.”
“Excellent!” pronounced Mr. Ho ! “If you knew how long it took me to first achieve that – and on your first try!”
“What did you say to the girl?”
“I asked her her name, which she told me was ‘Lily’.”
“And this effect is connected with a persons name?”
“In establishments like this names are never correct, what you experienced for the first time was ‘seeing’ a lie! ”
I thought about this for a while. The implications for ‘seeing’ someone’s intentions are would be huge… militarily, legally, socially.
“I have had reservations about backing your experiments, but having experienced for myself this glimmer of a first manifestation I will join your project.” I declared.
After that I spend the next month in Shanghai enquiring after every aspect of Mr Ho’s plans and working towards an efficient collaboration.