Chapter 7.3 – Fusion of Ice and Fire
Zha Ji frowned and wrinkled his brow, “I don’t understand, but improvements are always welcome. Give yourself a quick wash, and then we will return to Peach Blossom Forest. Leave those clothes you’re wearing. I can see that washing them won’t do much.”
Nian Bing agreed at once and turned around to return to his room’s bathroom to wash himself. After looking at Nian Bing’s chubby figure, Zha Ji displayed a somewhat thoughtful expression and sighed, saying, “Everything happens according to fate.”
Pulling the wood cart, Nian Bing followed at Zha Ji’s side, slowly walking to the city’s exterior. The day’s weather was exceptionally sunny and there was not a cloud to be seen in the pure blue sky for thousands of miles. They felt particularly comfortable, with the refreshing morning breeze continuously brushing against them.
Just as they reached the northern city gate, the sound of horses’ hooves could suddenly be heard from outside the city gate. The Ice Moon Empire Soldiers guarding the city stood in an orderly arrangement on either side. Amongst them were also people that were on the street who were preparing to exit and enter the city that had hurriedly stepped aside.
Three carriages quickly entered the city. The carriages were white, embedded with a large silver six pointed star on either side. At the center of the six pointed star was a meticulously crafted ice flower. Seeing such a symbol, the commoners of Ice Snow City could not help but feel deep veneration toward the carriages, so much so that even a few had saluted the carriage. Of course, Zha Ji and Nian Bing were not among them.
Nian Bing could not be more familiar with the symbol of the ice flower. As he clenched his fists tightly, his eyes displayed an aura of intense hatred. It was them. They were the ones that had robbed him of his happiness!
The chariots quickly galloped past. Zha Ji coughed, signaling them to continue. Nian Bing’s expression was like a pine tree. He said to himself, ‘Currently the difference between our powers is too great. Patience, I must have patience.’
Although the road from Ice Snow City to Peach Blossom Forest could not be regarded as far, but as they were going by foot, they did not reach their wooden home until noon. After handling what they had purchased and brought back, Zha Ji had Nian Bing return to his room and rest. Tomorrow, he would resume the study of the culinary arts. Nian Bing had just entered the realm of the fire and ice origin, yet he still wanted to meditate more in order to increase his own magic power. After eating Zha Ji’s deliciously prepared lunch, he returned to his room to rest.
Days passed by. Nian Bing gradually grew under the instruction of Zha Ji. From the day after he had returned from Ice and Snow city, he had understood why Zha Ji had originally said those words to him. In order to learn the culinary arts well, he must experience fatness from thinness, and then the process of thinness from fatness. Naturally, if he were to sample Zha Ji’s food everyday, he would be able to differentiate many of these food’s flavors and receive great amounts of nourishment, naturally turning into a small fatty. In comparison, the process of thinness from fatness was relatively painful. Zha Ji’s method was quite simple. He would have Nian Bing take responsibility of making his own meals everyday. Whatever one cooked would be what one would eat. He would simply give his morning lecture and provide him with a bit of guidance. He wanted Nian Bing to slowly figure the rest by himself. Thus in a year, Nian Bing would become thin and again change back into that originally delicate and refined youngster. What kind of smell could the food cooked by a novice produce? It is perhaps impossible for anyone to not lose weight after having tasted delicious food and then having tasted the food that a novice produced; it would be truly difficult to swallow.
Two years of time had given Nian Bing a solid foundation. From the start of his third year, he had already entered the formal process of learning the culinary skill. What Zha Ji demanded of him was exceptionally strict. Practice everyday would always leave Nian Bing utterly exhausted. Nightly meditations would be his greatest rest. Not only could he recover from his tiredness, during the process of meditation and and learning culinary skill, his spiritual power progressed not one bit slower than his magic power. The greater the time spent learning, the more mystical Nian Bing’s display of culinary skill became. Zha Ji’s mind actually stored all methods of cooking, like a deep and immeasurable ocean. Nian Bing appeared to have already forgotten his hatred, and was wholeheartedly absorbed in learning culinary skills. Under Zha Ji’s guidance, his understanding gradually grew, and he became capable of frequently proposing a few novel opinions and was engaging Zha Ji in deep discussions of a mutual level. At last, in the fifth year, Nian Bing was already no longer completely learning from Zha Ji, but rather was discussing with Zha Ji, gradually combining magic and culinary skill. Like this, not only could he promote his culinary skill, but this was also the best method of practicing his control of magic power. All of the magic fused with his cooking to repeatedly create gourmet dishes, and attached to his body were the inherited Demon Chef’s skills.
“Master, what do you want to eat at noon today? Recently your body’s condition has not been the best. I’ll catch two fish so I can make soup. A few days ago, I researched a bright flame fish soup that will certainly spark your appetite.” After Nian Bing completed the day’s required firewood practice, he arrived at the door of Zha Ji’s room to inquire about it.
Zha Ji sat at the desk chair in his room. His wrinkles were much deeper compared to a few years ago. “Nian Bing, come in and sit down. Master has a few words to speak to you.”
Nian Bing stared blankly for a moment. He walked into the room with large strides and pulled a chair and sat next to Zha Ji. “Master, what’s going on with you today? My skill in wood knife slicing has already reached great success, you don’t want to see? I should cook you a meal. Your stomach isn’t good. If you don’t regularly eat on time, your old stomach problems will probably come back.”
Zha Ji looked at Nian Bing’s deeply concerned gaze and smiled saying, “Eight years ago, you came to me, here, eight years ago. In eight years of time, you grew up from a child to an elegant youngster. Master also doesn’t have much left to teach you. With your present skill, you already reached the realm of the student surpassing the teacher. Foolish boy, your master had been deceiving you all along. Wood knife slicing, so long as you can accomplish the realm of even slices, you already achieved great success. Fundamentally, you need not achieve false suspense or stillness, neither wire length cuts continuously. Your knife work has already far surpassed the realm of the peak years of your teacher. I did not expect that you would be able to go as far as to truly accomplish a few theories born out of passing thoughts. It is an awesomely brilliant feat, there are none before that have accomplished such. I no longer have anything to teach you. That is why, you should leave.” He was already an eighteen year old disciple that appeared exceptionally handsome. Although his whole attire was that of commoners, he was unable to conceal his heroic illustriousness, tall stature, and thick shoulders, long golden hair. He was almost perfect.
Nian Bing stared blankly at Zha Ji, “Master, you’re saying I can already finish my apprenticeship?” When he had just began to follow Zha Ji in learning culinary skill, not once had he thought he was capable of soon mastering Zha Ji’s skills to the point of needing to depart. However, people all have emotions. Getting along for eight years, although Zha Ji was extremely strict towards him, a deep relationship had arose long ago between them. Hearing Zha Ji tell him to leave at this moment, his heart was surged with an indescribable feeling of loss. Compared to eight years ago, his master had aged much. “You are already so old. If I leave, who will take care of you?”
Zha Ji smiled and said, “Foolish child, before you came, was I not already alone? Be at ease. Don’t tell me that I, the great Demon Chef, would starve to death? Your culinary skills much like mine during that time, already reaching a bottleneck. If you continue to stupidly stay here, there will be no improvement at all. Only by much exploration on your own, will you be able to gain deeper experiences and not waste what I have taught you.”
Nian Bing’s eyes flashed, “Master, I can’t bear to part with you!”
Zha Ji pulled Nian Bing’s thin, big hands and lightly sighed, “Stupid boy, don’t tell me you want to stay here forever and accompany me? Even if you were to stay here with me, there will inevitably be a day when I die. To take you as my apprentice was completely from my own selfishness, I only cared about passing my skills on. Not only did you not blame me, but you still intently followed me in learning culinary skill. I’ve troubled you for all these years.”
Nian Bing’s whole body shook, “Master, you already knew?”
Zha Ji smiled and said, “When you took out that ice stone, when you looked at the Ice God Pagoda’s chariot, you displayed an intense hatred. I had realized at once. At that time, the hypnotism had no effect. Did you know? At that time, I was somewhat fearful in my heart. You were only ten years old then, but you had such profound thoughts. I absolutely had not anticipated it. I truly did not know whether I should be happy to have such a clever and calm apprentice, or be afraid of your scheming. However, now everything isn’t important anymore. I am convinced that you are a good child. In your heart, you certainly hid a story, the story pertaining to your parents.”
“Master, I will tell you all of it.” Nian Bing’s voice somewhat trembled. Seeing Zha Ji’s benevolent face, he suddenly felt an ominous premonition.
Zha Ji shook his head, “Leave it in your heart. I believe that your parents had something to do with the Ice God’s pagoda. That is why you displayed such heavy hatred when you saw that carriage. Child, hatred isn’t wrong. But it was just as I said when I attempted to hypnotize you. When you don’t have enough strength, you must conceal your hatred at the bottom of your heart. Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Nian Bing firmly nodded, “I promise you that before I have the necessary strength, I will not make any attempt to take revenge against the Ice God’s Pagoda.”
Zha Ji faintly smiled, “That’s good. Nian Bing, originally my master had told me this before, practice cooking for ten years, comprehend cooking for ten years. These words, I’ve remembered my entire life. But since I’ve arrived to this Peach Blossom Forest, I’ve added more words behind me. They are: Live a life of solitude, one defeat will be your downfall.”