Chapter 32.1: Luo Rou Begs
Giving Nian Bing the ring, Long Zhi said, “Wear it, nothing of mine remains inside any longer. Even though it is a space magic item, any kind of magic power can be poured into it because of an ingenious magic array. By inputting your power, your items can be stored inside.
Putting the ring on, Nian Bing subconsciously sent some of his spiritual power to probe inside. As expected, he could sense a large space with his possessions. With a thought, he poured magic power into the ring. Under the control of his magic power, the Morning Dew Knife and Flame God’s Stone in his hands were transferred into the space.
He felt a burst of excitement. This was currently what Nian Bing needed the most. Immediately, he turned to Long Zhi and said, “Master, thank you.”
Long Zhi laughed then said, “As a master, this is the sentence that I want to hear most. Okay, we shall begin studying. If you don’t understand something, ask me.”
From that day on, Nian Bing lived a disciplined life. Besides the necessary washing of his face, he and Long Zhi scarcely left the library. Their food and drink were personally delivered by Long Ling. Under Long Zhi’s instruction, Nian Bing was able to understand the books he read much more easily. With Long Zhi sharing his insights and experiences, Nian Bing no longer needed to mull things over on his own. Although the two of them practiced different kinds of magic, Nian Bing’s range of magic understanding had deepened with Long Zhi’s help. The speed at which he read the books on the third floor increased dramatically. Every night at the same time, the Pure Wind House carriage would come pick up Nian Bing. He would hurriedly go there and just as hurriedly return. Studying magic was his greatest desire.
Unwittingly, it was already the final day of Nian Bing and Xue Ji’s promise. Although a month had passed, the Pure Wind House’s business was still exploding, especially since Nian Bing had not repeated a signature dish for thirty days. The prices, which had started at tens of purple-gold coins, had clambered up to the present value of over a hundred purple-gold coins.
After finishing today’s dish, Nian Bing did not hurriedly leave as he had before. These days, he always used Ming Yuan’s special stove to cook. Every time he cooked, he would always ask Ming Yuan to stand next to him and watch. He would try to make his movements as slow as possible so Ming Yuan could see them much more clearly.
“Master Ming, did you clearly see what I just did now?” Nian Bing washed his hands clean, then took off the chef’s hat on his head.
Ming Yuan sincerely nodded his head and said, “I would not have been able to before. Nian Bing, I truly must thank you for teaching me many things this month! Although you are younger than me, it should be I who calls you master.” Having said this, he bowed to Nian Bing.
Nian Bing jumped in fright and immediately helped Ming Yuan up. “Master Ming, you really, really don’t need to behave like that. Although we only interact with each other for less than a hour these days, your insights have been extremely helpful to me. We have helped each other. This is the nature of exchanging pointers.”
Ming Yuan said seriously, “Nian Bing, did you know? Up until now, I had always believed that it would difficult for me to advance my culinary arts. But in this month, you have let me observe your own cooking methods without any reservations and have explained all its mysteries to me. I think that if Liao Feng were to return right now, he wouldn’t be able to beat me. You have allowed me to see another door in the culinary arts. Even if you didn’t use magic, you would be a top-class chef!”
Nian Bing smiled slightly but didn’t say anything else. He lifted the curtain and walked out. Ten meters away from Ming Yuan, he was frightened by the sight in front of him; all of the chefs had stopped their work and were looking at him respectfully.
“What is everyone doing? There are more customers outside waiting. Everyone, continue working.”
“They are thanking you, just like I am thanking you. Nian Bing, you have raised the entire Pure Wind House to new heights!” Turning toward the voice, Nian Bing discovered Xue Ji and his daughter. Following Xue Ji’s lead, thunderous applause came from all sides. Under the gazes of admiration, Nian Bing could not help but get fired up. After all, he was still young.
“Uncle Xue. Thank you for taking care of me the past few days.” Nian Bing spoke respectfully to Xue Ji.
Xue Ji smiled and said, “No, it was me who was taken care of by you. I wish that this month could be delayed indefinitely! But I know that you are an eagle and need to fly off to distant lands. Me and Brother Long have already spoken about your departure, so you don’t need to worry that I will try to keep you here. I only hope that you will have time to return and take a look.”
Nian Bing thought for a moment before saying, “Uncle Xue, I think that you should continue with the auctions. I think Master Ming’s ability should be able to keep up. Tomorrow, you should go through the auction first before announcing the news that I have left. The people who will have tried Master Ming’s dish should not be dissatisfied.”
Ming Yuan came forward at this moment. Nodding, he said, “What Nian Bing said is reasonable. As long as they are not true connoisseurs, it would be hard for them to taste the difference between my food and Nian Bing’s. Nian Bing, I really want to know what percent of your true skills you have used. I understand, that in order for the Pure Wind House to continue on, you didn’t go all out, right?”
Nian Bing smiled and said, “It was about seventy percent.”
Ming Yuan sighed and said, “I can’t even reach seventy percent. Cooking really has no limits. I hope that you will continue to advance.”
Nian Bing nodded and said, “That is my goal. Relax, I will definitely work hard to progress.” While saying this, he poured magic power into the space ring on his finger. Ten magic scrolls along with a piece of paper immediately appeared in his hands. Every scroll was bound with a different colored ribbon.
Nian Bing passed the scrolls and the paper to Xue Jing. “These are my promised scrolls. Every one is the fruit of my blood. I have clearly indicated each of their functions on the piece of paper. They are all dual magic scrolls. In times of danger, you only need to open the scrolls to use them.”
Xue Jing took the scrolls, but did not look at them. Her eyes exuded a faint light as she asked softly, “Are you really leaving?”
Nian Bing nodded his head resolutely. “I have chosen the path I must walk, and I will not turn back.”
Xue Ji said, “Jing Jing, send Nian Bing back.”
Xue Jing sighed softly. She took the lead and headed outside of the kitchen. After saying his goodbyes to Xue Ji, Ming Yuan, and all the other chefs, Nian Bing followed her out.
The night was quiet, with only the occasional sound of the breeze blowing through the tree leaves, disturbing the silence. As he walked down the alleyway to the back gate of the Pure Wind House, the sweet odor of the plants tickled his face.
“Nian Bing, do you hate me?” Xue Jing, who had been walking in the front, suddenly stopped.
Nian Bing walked up to her. “Why do you say that?”
Xue Jing turned around. Looking at Nian Bing, she said, “If that’s not so, then why are you always avoiding me?”
Nian Bing smiled slightly and said, “Don’t you like Yan Feng? If he was looking for you and he saw you with me, wouldn’t there be a misunderstanding?”
Xue Jing’s voice suddenly went several notches higher. “What? That is your reason? Don’t tell me you didn’t know that during the competition between the Pure Wind House and the Grand Pavilion, Yan Feng had already left Ice and Snow City because he was called back by His Majesty, the King?”
Nian Bing was blank. Then he said, “I really did not know. Besides the Pure Wind House, I have always been at the Mage Association Library for the past few days. How could I have known?” Although he said this, it was lucky that Yan Ju Hua1 had already left. If he had tried to find Nian Bing, the latter really did not know how to face him.
Xue Jing snorted and said, “Never mind. Go.”
“Oh. I will go. Probably, when I leave the Ice and Snow City, I will not notify you guys.” Having said this, Nian Bing strode in the direction of the back gate.
“You’re really going!” Xue Jing’s unsatisfied voice came from behind, making Nian Bing unable to help turning around.
A red cloud pounced on him fiercely. Nian Bing’s body shook and nearly lost its balance. Subconsciously, he embraced Xue Jing’s supple and delicate body. His shoulder hurt. When he lowered his head to look, he saw that Xue Jing was biting down hard on his shoulder. Nian Bing did not move; he did not cry out in pain. He only forced a smile as he looked at the fierce, menacing maiden in his arms.
Xue Jing pushed Nian Bing back fiercely. In a biting tone, she said, “Get out of here, you heartless person.”
Seeing her bright red eyes, Nian Bing sighed silently. Right now, he did not dare to linger on. He quickly exited the Pure Wind House. Watching his receding figure, Xue Jing suddenly smiled slightly. “Hmph. Go ahead and leave. You may have legs, but this miss has legs too.”
Exiting the Pure Wind House, Nian Bing did not sit on the prepared carriage. He slowly walked through the roads. He had been constantly studying magic these past few days, and needed a moment to relax.
He was walking not far from the center of the road. Suddenly, the sounds of hooves and wheels appeared caused Nian Bing to turn his head. In his mind he thought, Could it be that carriage is chasing after me? It wasn’t the Pure Wind House’s, but Nian Bing recognized it.
The carriage stopped next to him. Luo Rou’s pretty mien that seemed to look down at people from above stuck out from the carriage. “Get in.”
Nian Bing wrinkled his brow and said, “Thanks for the good intentions miss, but I will walk by myself.”
Luo Rou was a bit displeased when she spoke, “Am I like a surging flood and wild beasts2? Besides the first time I’ve seen you, why do you always run away whenever you see me?”
Nian Bing forced a smile and said, “Miss, did you forget? You are someone with a fiance. It is inappropriate for a single male and female to be alone together.”
Luo Rou’s eyes suddenly exuded a faint hurt. “Will you get in or not?” Although it was a request, an extreme fragility could be heard from her tone. Nian Bing did not hold any ill will for Luo Rou, so he finally stepped into the carriage.
Sitting across from Luo Rou, Nian Bing looked at her as he asked, “Miss Wise Girl, what did seek me out for?”
Luo Rou looked at Nian Bing. At this time, she was still looking fragile. “Nian Bing, call me Rou’er. Since we are friends, I waited outside for you because it is your last day at the Pure Wind House.”
Nian Bing looked at Luo Rou and said, “You seem to be worried about something? In Ice and Snow City, you could be said to be a daughter of heaven. Even Jing’er and Ling’er are not any better than you. But you still have difficulties?”
Luo Rou nodded her head and said, “Of course I have them. Do you know why everyone, including those officials, are so respectful to me? It isn’t because of my intelligence, but because of my marriage.”
Nian Bing’s heart jumped. He said, “So what you’re saying is that your fiance has a very high status in the Ice Moon Empire?”
Luo Rou replied, “That’s right. My fiance is the fifth prince of His Majesty, the king of the Ice Moon Empire. He is the most beloved prince and has the greatest chance of succeeding the kingship. Since I was small, I have always loved to show off my intelligence. This brought me a lot of honor, but how could my young self know that it would also bring me the greatest of troubles. I was unaware that my exploits had reached the royal palace. At that time, my father was still a lowly baron. I don’t know where His Majesty, the King learned of it, but he personally called in my father and I to the imperial banquet. His Majesty asked me three difficult problems. At my young age, I was impetuous, and answered all of them correctly. My greatest troubles started at that year.”
Nian Bing then said, “His Majesty, the king, definitely admires your brilliance. With your appearance and noble background, he decided to betroth you to the fifth prince, right? Since the fifth prince has the favor of His Majesty, the King, then he must not be too bad. If that is the case, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with marrying him.”
Luo Rou snorted and said, “Nothing wrong with marrying him? Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the phrase, ‘entering the palace is like submerging yourself in the deep sea?’ The fifth prince is definitely outstanding, with his looks also being top of the line. But his abilities are also displayed in other areas. According to what I’ve heard, he currently has sixteen concubines. Do you think that I’d be happy marrying that kind of guy? At most, I will be the queen, but that’s not the kind of life I want to live. I am already eighteen years old. I will turn twenty in two years and marry the fifth prince who is two years older than me. You said I don’t have any troubles?”
Nian Bing replied, “So what are you going to do? Marry him or not?”
Lu Rou replied in distress, “Of course I will marry him. Do I have any right to choose? I have to think of my father and mother. If I marry the fifth prince, father’s position will shoot up. If I don’t marry, my family might suffer a calamity. I really do not have a choice.”
“Rou’er, I don’t understand what you want. You didn’t find me today just to tell me these things.” Nian Bing discovered that he had been moved by Luo Rou. He directly cut to the chase. He hoped his own problems wouldn’t be complicated by her.