Long Ling, Reunited
Long Ling’s face flushed. She forcefully pulled her hands away from Nian Bing’s and stepped back. Quietly, she said, “Mage Nian Bing, men and women are different. Please be mindful next time.”
Nian Bing stared blankly, then inclined his head to Ka Luo. “Is Ling’er participating in this operation?”
Ka Luo nodded and replied, “Yes, Magic Scholar Li De brought Great Mages Long Ling and Feng Yun to take part. Since you’re all from the same association, you should all mesh very well together.”
Long Ling politely nodded at Ka Luo. “Please, don’t worry, President. We will definitely assist you to the best of our abilities. It is already late, however, so please excuse me.” She didn’t look at Nian Bing again, and simply returned to the courtyard.
Ka Luo smiled a not-smile at Nian Bing. “Is there a misunderstanding between you and Miss Long Ling? Ah, young people. You really don’t want to whittle down your spirit because of too many emotional entanglements.”
Nian Bing forced a smile and shook his head, preferring to stay silent. But the horsemen who had yet entered the courtyard looked at him with different expressions.
“Another one. You really are a lecherous wolf.” Zi Qing Meng bumped into Nian Bing, then went into the courtyard.
Zi Qing Jian sighed at him, then turned back to look at Feng Nu before following his sister.
Nian Bing laughed bitterly in his heart. Who did I offend? Why am I a love-em-and-leave-em bastard in their eyes? I have been wronged!
Everyone else had already went into the courtyard, leaving only Feng Nu and Nian Bing lingering at the entrance. Feng Nu walked up next to Nian Bing and stopped to watch him with a face of hesitation. With a soft smile she said, “You don’t need to explain anything. We are friends, so I choose to believe you.”
Nian Bing’s heart filled with joy. Finally someone saw reason. However, his excitement very soon turned into an illusion, because of Feng Nu’s next words. “We’re just friends.” She who cultivated the Nine Flames Qi, suddenly felt a layer of chill around her.
The night was deep. As he stood in the cold, Nian Bing felt a wave of helplessness. He walked around and looked around aimlessly. Anyway, he wasn’t doing anything bad, so he didn’t need to care about how other people saw him. Silence is golden, silence is golden!
The next morning, Ka Luo announced that they would rest for a day. They were to carry out their planned purchases in Tian Dang City. Nian Bing had quickly written a list of all the food related purchases, then retreated to his room for the whole day.
Night had fallen when a knocking sound suddenly came at his door. “Nian Bing, let’s eat dinner,” came Zi Qing Jian’s resonant voice from outside the door.
Nian Bing sighed deeply and roused himself from his meditative state, feeling the magic power brimming inside him. The events of yesterday seemed to have turned into the past. Feng Nu was fine, Long Ling was fine. His goals wouldn’t be affected by them.
Opening the door, Zi Qing Jian spiritedly charged in. “Brother, you didn’t eat lunch. What were you doing in your room all alone? Let’s go and eat. It’s all been prepared. President Ka Luo is going to describe the particulars of the operation.”
Nian Bing smiled. “Big Brother Qing Jian, your mood seems to be very good today!”
Zi Qing Jian laughed loudly. “Happy occasions make a happy man. Today, I asked Miss Feng Nu many questions related to martial arts. I have gained much. Miss Feng Nu is far above me in terms of martial arts talent.”
Nian Bing’s heart was filled with an indescribable forlornness, but he soon returned to normal. “I must congratulate you, Big Brother. The more you exchange pointers with people stronger than you, the better your own strength becomes.”
Zi Qing Jian then shut the door behind him. His words were solemn. “Nian Bing, what is your relationship with the girl from yesterday?”
Nian Bing went blank, but then frowned and said, “Big Brother, this is my private matter. I don’t wish to speak of it.”
Zi Qing Jian said, “That miss looks very fragile—like a strong wind would knock her down. I saw her several times today but she never smiled. Her iciness was full of sorrow, while you refuse to tell me what relationship she has with you. Nian Bing, did you do something that you need to be sorry for?”
“Enough.” Nian Bing’s eyes flashed dangerously. As he looked at Zi Qing Jian, his body emanated an intense chill. “Big Brother Qing Jian, I don’t want to talk to you about this. As I said, this is my private matter, so please do not interfere. Let’s go and eat.” After he said this, he walked around Zi Qing Jian, opened the door, and left.
Zi Qing Jian stood in place, dumbstruck. This was the first time he had seen Nian Bing lose his temper. Just now, Nian Bing had been exploding with an abnormally powerful aura. Even with his great swordmaster strength, he was actually unable to breathe.
Dinner was held in the inn’s eating hall. Before Ka Luo had arrived, the entire inn was reserved by his underlings. Besides the inn staff, everyone was a member of the Ice Moon Mercenary Group.
Dinner was very filling. Chicken, duck, fish, and meat was served in great bounty. All the dishes had been served by the time of Nian Bing’s arrival; though of course, this food was nothing in his eyes. Nian Bing took a look around, seeing Li De, Long Ling and the great mage Feng Yun sitting at the head table. There was an empty space next to Li De. Without asking, he knew that it was for him. After all, he was part of the Ice Moon Empire Mage Association. Without hesitating, he strode over to the empty spot, calling out in greeting to Li De and the others, then sat down.
Long Ling’s expression remained very level. Just as Zi Qing Jian had said, her cold aura was tinged with sadness. He sighed silently. Ling’er! Am I really worth so much to you?
Long Ling did not seem to see Nian Bing and kept her gaze fixed straight ahead. Li De and Feng Yun nodded to Nian Bing, but no one said anything. Someone as smart as Nian Bing naturally understood where their coldness was coming from. But he didn’t mind it and sat down, digging into his meal while looking around him.
Feng Nu and Zi Qing Meng were seated at a table not far from him. At the moment, Zi Qing Jian walked in and sat down next to Feng Nu. Nian Bing had a calmness that not only stopped in his outward expression but also continued in his heart. He simply thought about the stage of his magic cultivation and did not get upset by the awkward atmosphere.
“Good, everyone’s here now. Dig in everyone; this is our last dinner before we set off. Early morning tomorrow, we will enter the Tian Dang Mountains. Horses and unnecessary items will be left at the inn. I have already paid the inn for three months. If the task goes smoothly, we should be back in time.
“We, the Ice Moon Mercenary Group, have set out with our full strength to accomplish the task requested of us, and we have also obtained the great support of the empire’s mage association. I am full of confidence that we can complete the mission, but there is one thing I want to remind everyone: Though we are strong, there are many unknown dangers in the Tian Dang Mountains. If anyone pushes us back because of their own carelessness, then don’t blame me for being merciless. We should all be working for the entire group’s interests. I won’t say anything else, for the majority of you are veterans of the mercenary group. I believe in you.”
Ka Luo’s gaze was powerful as he watched the faces of his troop. He emitted an equally powerful aura.
Nian Bing watched Ka Luo. There was a forty-year-old person on either side of him. The one on the left had an ice-cold face, dressed in the same leather-armor of the mercenary group as an obvious attempt at coordination. Although he was getting along in his years, he still faintly had the svelte of his youth. It was just a pity that his handsome face was marred by a deep, jagged scar on his left side.
The one on his right was a woman. She was also the only in the whole Ice Moon Mercenary Group who wasn’t wearing the standard mercenary outfit. She wore a fiery red dress, which gave her bucket-like figure an unharmonic feeling. Her short brown hair was all tangled, and her large, flatbread-like face was caked in makeup. Even so, it could not disguise the hemp seed-sized bumps all over her face. Every time her gigantic body shifted slightly, a layer of cosmetics would float down. Anyone who saw her would probably have their appetite take a hit.
When he felt Nian Bing’s gaze, the middle-aged man made no outward indication of it, but the ‘bucket’’s eyes sparkled and flashed Nian Bing a smile, immediately cracking her makeup. A mouthful of jagged yellow teeth made Nian Bing almost spit out the tea in his mouth. Forcing himself to smile, he quickly turned in a different direction, feeling a chill that made his hair stand.
Finally, he began eating. Nian Bing partook of his meal neither quickly nor slowly. Learning from his past experiences, he did not dare to randomly look around. Now, Ka Luo had walked over to him. With a smile, he said, “Nian Bing, come with me. I will introduce you to the two vice-captains of our mercenary group.”
Nian Bing laughed bitterly inside. Without guessing, he knew who the vice captains were. Following Ka Luo, Nian Bing went over to his table. Ka Luo first pointed to the middle-aged man Nian Bing had saw before. “This is one of the vice captains of the Ice Moon Mercenary Group, Jia Te Lin, martials expert. He is much stronger than me.”
Jia Te Lin and Nian BIng exchanged looks. He then bruskly said, “Hello.”
Nian Bing smiled and replied, “Hello, I am Nian Bing.”
“Get, get, get, Jia Te Lin, you go over there. Don’t bar my introduction.” A pungent fragrance made Nian Bing nearly pass out. Jia Te Lin was shoved over to the side by the ‘bucket,’ his face not changing at all. The ‘bucket’ laughed. She was actually just as tall as Nian Bing, yet her figure was full enough for four Nian Bings. As she stood there, her figure resembled a wall. She might have even weighed more than Zi Qing Jian. “Hello, Little Brother Nian Bing. I am Hua Rui1, but you can call me Rui Rui. I am also a vice-captain of the Ice Moon Mercenary Association. From now on we will become much closer.”
When Nian Bing heard the nickname ‘Rui Rui’2, his heart grew cold. If all flowers looked like you, there might not be any flowers on the continent. “Hello, Miss Hua Rui. It is very nice to meet you.”
When she heard Nian Bing address her as ‘miss’, Hua Rui immediately burst with joy. “Hee hee, Little Brother Nian Bing, what discerning eyes you have. With one look you knew I was a maiden; I have never been married.” While saying this, she gave Nian Bing coquettish eyes.
Nian Bing lowered his head, saying silently, Looking ugly is not your fault, but coming out and scaring people is.
Ka Luo naturally knew that Nian Bing was uneasy. He hurried to say, “Good, now everybody eat.”
When he returned to his spot, Nian Bing found that he had lost his appetite. Li De suddenly asked him, “Nian BIng, I heard President Ka Luo say that you met on the way here. What were you doing with those people the same age as you.”
Nian Bing answered, “They are my friends, and they are also warriors.”
Li De looked over Feng Nu. “And is that girl your girlfriend?”