The Dragon King’s Weakness
“Okay.” Salamandhys gulped down another mouthful of saliva, then used his claw to press down on the pot lid. Other than through the small holes in the pot’s lid, the building steam could not escape. The fragrance of the meat and the soup blended together perfectly, to produce a tantalizing scent. It wasn’t just Salamandhys who was drooling; even the mercenaries could not stop swallowing their saliva.
After some time, Nian Bing released his spells. “Okay, you can remove your claw now.” Salamandhys lifted up his claw. Nian Bing opened the pot and put in some soy sauce and salt. The boiling soup mixed with the seasoning, the soup, and the pork chop together. When he added the salt in the end, it was a carefully engineered decision. If he added salt at the start it would permeate the flavor more deeply, but then the meat would take too long to stew and the flavor would take a hit. He took out Proud Sky and cut a piece of meat underneath Salamandhys’ violent gaze. He blew away the steam and popped into the mouth and chewed lightly.
Salamandhys was immediately angered once he saw Nian Bing’s euphoria. . He lifted his claw, about to punish this human who had dared to eat his delicacies, but then he heard Nian Bing say, “En, this is pretty good, although a bit rushed, it is edible.”
Salamandhys’ claw hovered in midair as he said excitedly, “I can eat it? Great!” The arduous wait finally came to an end.
Nian Bing used Proud Sky to cut another chunk of meat and nodded at Salamndhys. Salamandhys wasn’t polite as he directly stuck the pork chop in the scalding pot with his claw. He then put it in his mouth and chewed loudly. He looked at Nian Bing’s scowl. In merely a few chews the entire pork chop had been devoured.
Nian Bing furrowed his brow. “How did it taste, mighty Salamandhys?”
Salamandhys was infatuated. “Delicious, truly delicious!”
Nian BIng stared at him. “It was only delicious?”
Salamandhys didn’t understand. “Delicious is not enough? For I, the mighty Salamandhys, to call your food delicious, it is your greatest honor.”
This comment made Nian Bing snort condescendingly. “How much of the flavor could possibly be deciphered from eating in one gulp? My painstaking efforts were a waste.”
Salamandhys went blank. “Is eating so complex? Isn’t it all just chewing then swallowing?”
Nian Bing said arrogantly, “Cooking is a very precise art; eating is similar. Qing Meng, come.” He called Zi Qing Meng over. She walked over, confused. Nian Bing gave the chunk of pork chop he had cut to her. “Try this, then describe the taste of the porkchop to me and the mighty Salamandhys.”
Zi Qing Meng took the Proud Sky Knife and placed the pork chop in her mouth. After chewing carefully, she finally swallowed. A light of admiration shone in her eyes. “Because of the two types of magic, the pork chop contains a hundred different flavors. The meat itself is tender and fragrant, but not greasy. The most peculiar thing is the magic allowed it to better retain the flavor of the wine. As for the seasonings: the natural flavor of the meat is complemented perfectly by them and the magic and strong wine act to unify the flavor. This truly is a delicacy of the world! Especially the fire control: it was immaculate. Even my cooking would not be able to reach such heights.”
Nian Bing took back Proud Sky from Zi Qing Meng, then turned to Salamandhys. “You hear that? The things I make need to be carefully analyzed in order for their true essence to be understood. The more you know and the more you appreciate, the more bliss you will find in food. Just wantonly eating everything in a few bites will only give you the tiniest taste of the real flavor; an ignorant “delicious” your only response. Don’t you think that all that flavor dissolving in your stomach, untasted, is much too wasteful?”
Salamandhys blinked then muttered, “Your argument seems quite reasonable, but how should I do that?”
Nian Bing smiled. “Since you wanted me to stay, then from now on, we have lots of time to exchange pointers on the many delicacies I create. So, will you let my friends go? If you do all the tantalizing foods I can make will be prepared when you desire.”
Salamandhys swept his eyes over the crowd. After a moment’s hesitation he said, “Okay, but I have a condition.”
Nian Bing frowned. “A condition? Mighty Salamandhys, you really are worthy of calling yourself ‘mighty’. Whatever you say is like a rushing wave.”
Salamandhys chuckled. “Of course I will keep to my words, but you are evidently very crafty. In order to keep you under control, I have no choice but to be on guard. A brat like you will not submit to me unless there is a threat on your life. If you attacked me, it would allow me to end you at any moment. If you attack me, your friends will be released immediately ” A greater dragon who had lived for over ten thousand years would never be easy to deal with. Nian Bing had little choice in the matter.
Even despite the concerned cries of Feng Nu, Long Ling and the others, Nian Bing did not hesitate to lightly wave the Proud Sky Knife, sending a wind blade towards Salamandhys. After making contact with his scales, not even the slightest mark could be found and Salamandhys roared in excitement, loud enough to shake the heavens. Red light radiated off of his massive body dying the air around him then diffusing to wrap around the thirty or so people. His massive wings flapped once, propelling him and the others through the gaping maw of cave far above Nian Bing who had been sent staggering by the violent gale of wind.
Long Ling looked at Nian Bing through a veil of tears and shouted, “Nian Bing, you have to survive! You promised we would talk!”
Feng Nu also shouted, “Nian Bing, you definitely must live. Live! And satisfy your vengeance! Live! And I might even consider being your girlfriend!”
Zi Qing Meng joined in. “Big Brother and I are going to the Profound Orchid Empire to seek refuge with the Silver Feather Cavalry. If you leave here alive, come and find us!”
Nian Bing smiled and waved at them, his expression tinged with sorrow. “Feng Nu, remember what you said. Ling’er, give me a chance, don’t marry Shi Jiu.”
Long Ling couldn’t stop her tears from rolling down her face. “Idiot, I lied. I was never engaged to him. I’ll be waiting for you in Ice and Snow City, even if it’s for my whole life. You promised Father that you would participate in the Rising Mage Tournament, so for us, you definitely must live.”
“What are you all troubled about? Is being parted in life and death so interesting?” Salamandhys suddenly increased his flying speed. Long Ling, Feng Nu and the others could no longer be heard.
Watching their departing figures, Nian Bing’s vision blurred. His prison was large and with a dragon as his warden, leaving would be easier said than done. Now he could only do things step-by-step, and hope that the “mighty” Salamandhys would forever be a glutton; at least he would be able to live then. He gazed at his healed right arm. Nian Bing simply sat down on Salamandhys’ treasure pile. He was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about his situation. He was still thinking about the word ‘imitation’ and mulling over how he should cultivate his Ice and Fire Source Magic. Rather than hope for luck, it would be way better to work hard to raise his strength. He didn’t have such extravagant hopes as to be able to fight against the greater fire dragon Salamandhys, but as long as he increased his strength, he would have a chance. Since his parents had been killed by the Ice God’s Pagoda, he would never give up.
Not too long after, the ground shook again. The “mighty” salamandhys had returned. “Boy, I have already fulfilled my promise and given your friends their freedom.”
Now free of worries about what happened to them, Nian Bing coolly appraised Salamandhys. “So you’re saying I should thank you? Also, don’t call me boy. My name is Nian Bing.”
Salamandhys was angered slightly. “Bastard, is that the tone you take when talking to the mighty Salamandhys? Don’t forget, you attacked me; I can claim your life with but a single thought.”
Nian BIng smiled thinly. “I’m afraid you won’t be doing that. After eating my food, I don’t think that you could have any interest in any other person’s food. Let’s do an exchange. You tell me about imitation magic, and I’ll teach you how to enjoy good food. How’s that?”
Salamandhys snorted. “Your thought process is not wrong, for lowly human that is. Know that you have no right to negotiate with me, the mighty Salamandhys.” Nian Bing felt his body being squeezed, then lifted aloft by Salamandhys’ massive claw. A scorching aura pervaded his body and his clothes immediately turned ash grey. Salamandhys then thrust Nian Bing away and onto the ground. His skin was scraped away and ravaged by the uneven ground. The intense pain caused Nian Bing to groan, his head hazy. He promptly passed out.
“Hey, hey, you can’t be that flimsy.” Salamandhys couldn’t help but feel frightened by Nian Bing’s unresponsive, crumpled body. Of course, he could care less about whether Nian Bing lived or died, but his meals were of importance.. Even after the pork chop had entered his belly, the succulent flavor lingered on. This was something he had never experienced before. He knit back together the wounds which covered Nian Bing’s body with a light spell in the fear that Nian Bing might die. Salamandhys checked Nian Bing’s condition, then began to slumber beside Nian Bing’s unconscious form.
When Nian Bing woke up, the light that had trickled down from above had dimmed. He found that he wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable, though his magic power was only at about half of it’s full capacity. Using a flame spell, he illuminated the surroundings. The greater dragon Salamandhys was reclining next to him, asleep, while his treasures sparkled under the flickering glow of the flame. His heart jumped. He loudly called out to Salamandhys, but the dragon was sleeping too deeply. There was no response. Nian Bing’s heart jumped. Although he didn’t believe he could escape, how would he know for sure until he tried?
“Mighty Ice and Snow Goddess! Please, lend me your anger to send me onto the opposite bank– Snowstorm.” Ice element swirled beneath his feet. He carefully manipulated his magic so he wasted less of his magic power and pushed himself higher and higher, towards the cave’s gaping maw. Normally, the snowstorm spell would not be capable of taking him so high, but with the help of his top tier magic stone, the Snow Goddess’ Sigh, the spell was much more powerful and continued to carry him farther and farther into the sky. For the first three hundred meters Nian Bing was still scared of waking Salamandhys so he took it slow, but after, since Salamandhys had yet to respond, he grew bolder and sped up.
As the mouth of the cave drew nearer, Nian Bing could already see the multitude of shiny stars dotting the dark night sky and the moon shining like a jewel as it peeked over the the distant horizon. His eyes moistened. Was he finally free? Just as he grew level with the cave’s exit, a large head obscured his vision popped up in front of him. “Hey, boy, where do you think you’re going!?” The familiar voice boomed and a red light flashed around him. The owner of the gigantic head was the fire dragon, Salamandhys. Nian Bing’s heart sunk like a stone. Just when he wanted to say something when he saw Salamandhys claw swipe lightly. The snowstorm beneath him immediately disappeared without a trace. When he attempted to use to use magic, he realized that Salamandhys’ fire magic sealed it away. He suddenly felt weightless as he fell down towards the ground like a shooting star.
I’m done for. Was Nian BIng’s first thought as he came to terms with his current predicament. Falling from such a high place, perhaps none of his bones would be left intact. The intense weightless sensation made Nian Bing forget everything else. His memories began to flash before his eyes. At this moment, the very first thing he recalled was the palpable despair in his parents eyes as he used the space scroll to escape. Father, Mother, Nian Bing cannot avenge you.
Suddenly his body grew light; something had caught him. His descent slowed, his whole body shook, and then he felt himself drifting. When he managed to steady himself, he found himself on Salamandhys’ broad back. “Thinking of running so soon. You humans really have no trustworthiness.” From his tone, Salamandhys did not seem to be angry.
After landing back on the ground, Salamandhys shook of Nian Bing from his back, though he caught him in his claws before setting him on the ground. Because of the red light like fire emitted from him, Nian Bing could see his surroundings clearly. He was smart, so he didn’t ask Salamandhys why he didn’t killed him. Instead he asked, “Are you hungry?”
Salamandhys stared blankly. He obviously didn’t think that Nian Bing would respond that way and involuntarily nodded. “That pork chop you made was not enough to even fill the cracks between one of my teeth.”