Chapter 31.1: A Second Master
Nian Bing could feel the aches all over his body as he stretched languidly, slowly awaking from his dreams. The feeling of the gentle sunlight shining on him was indescribably comfortable. This was the first time he had not meditated to rest, but instead had gotten true sleep in an entire month.
As his consciousness gradually awoke, Nian Bing recalled everything that had happened last night. Since Long Zhi had held back in the fight, Nian Bing was not truly injured. The reason he had spit up blood and lost consciousness was because his magic and spirit power had been depleted. Right now, he was not fully recovered, but it wasn’t in the way of him doing anything.
As he slowly sat up in bed, Nian Bing was shocked to discover that someone had changed him into cool, fresh clothing. He immediately touched his chest and was frightened when he found that the Flame God’s Stone, Morning Dew Knife, Proud Sky Knife, Holy Brilliance Stone, ghost carving, and the cloth bag containing his utensils was nowhere to be seen. Everything he owned was missing; even the magic scrolls he had bitterly toiled for had disappeared. Thankfully, the one reason that he could stabilize his feelings, the Heavenly Flower Tile, was still in his robes when he checked.
Cold sweat trickled down his forehead. Since he had left the Peach Blossom Forest, this was the first time that Nian Bing had felt such terror. The Flame God’s Stone and the Ice and Snow Goddess’ Stone was the last thing his parents had given to him at the Ice and Snow God Pagoda. If they had actually disappeared, how could anything be okay? Did Long Zhi take them? No, there was no way. He was of a great value to Long Zhi. Yesterday, the people who were last to support him were Long Ling and Shi Jiu. The scariest option was Shi Jiu. If it was him that took Nian Bing’s belongings then…
Suddenly, the door opened with a small noise that attracted Nian Bing’s attention. He immediately laid back down on the bed, resuming his former position.
Light footsteps pattered across the floor before a very soft sound indicated something being placed on the table. A faint fragrance told Nian Bing who it was. From all the girls he knew, only Long Ling used this kind of orchid scent.
“Nian Bing, how come you’re not awake yet? Father said, with your abilities, you should have woken up this morning!” As expected, the gentle voice which was full of concern was definitely Long Ling’s. Hearing her voice, Nian Bing felt his heart warm up. Long Ling really liked him; she really was such a good girl. Maybe…….
“Nian Bing, wake up soon, okay? Do you know how much you’re making me worry? Father already told me that I should get close to you. He places a lot of importance on you. He even, even hopes that you will become my husband. But your attitude to me and Jing Jing is exactly the same. Even Rou’er, who has always been looking higher, was attracted by you. Right now, I don’t know what kind of feelings I have for you. Perhaps I really like you, but you have always been so mysterious. I was afraid. Yesterday, I thought about it the whole night and decided to bury my feelings in the depths of my heart because I don’t hope for a husband that I’ll have to worry over. Worry that you will suddenly change, worry that you’ll be snatched away by some other girl. An ordinary husband will probably be more suited for me. Actually, did you know? Ling’er is really weak and afraid of getting hurt. I don’t want you to ever have these kinds of heart aching feelings. From now on, I will regard you as a friend. Looking at you like this is better for me. I am not as smart as Rou’er, and I am not as unyielding as Jing Jing. So I can only give up.”
When she said the last part, Long Ling’s voice was already choked up with sobs. Nian Bing’s heart that had been warming up, once again grew cold. That’s right! What can I give Long Ling? She is so warm and gentle, so kind-hearted. She is not suited to be with me. If she was with me, she might even be injured. Her reasoning is correct. Could it be that this girl, who I have always treated so ambiguously has such feelings? Nian Bing, oh Nian Bing. Just as Ling’er says, you can’t give her anything. For you, who values father and mother the most, it is best to abandon these things as soon as possible. Men have a road they must walk themselves.
He suddenly felt something soft and moist on his forehead. Nian Bing could only feel his whole body go stiff as the fragrance hit his nostrils. It seems that it was Long Ling’s lips. She kissed him softly and murmured, “Nian Bing, I wish you well. I will wish you well forever.”
Long Ling walked away and the room again became quiet. Nian Bing sat up once more and looked at the tray on the table next to the bed. The tray had a familiar bowl of congee, two mantou buns, and a dish of pickles. It was the same breakfast he had every day. Suddenly for no reason, he discovered that his previously ravenous appetite had been replaced with a feeling of being unable to swallow food, a lump rising at his throat.
“Long Ling, sorry. I also wish you well forever and ever. If, there is a day when I return and it’s not too late, I will definitely come find you. And eat your breakfast everyday.”
A new day, a day where the sun is shining, is also a day when Ice and Snow City boils over.
First thing in the morning, the news of the Grand Pavilion’s defeat at the Pure Wind House circulated through the entire city. It was unknown who had circulated the news that Nian Bing’s culinary skills were almost god-like. The name, Magic Chef of Ice and Fire, had been spread to every nook and cranny.
Although Xue Ji had already anticipated this outcome, he didn’t think that it would be this crazy. Early in the morning, the entrance to the Pure Wind House had already been blocked by all the customers who could afford to eat there. Everybody wanted to see what this chef who used magic to cook and could make the Golden Chef Liao Feng admit defeat of his own accord looked like. The business of the Pure Wind House had multiplied several times. In order to maintain order, Xue Ji could only announce that the Nian Bing, the Magic Chef of Ice and Fire, would make only one dish every day. This dish would be auctioned off for guests to taste. The other dishes at the Pure Wind House would not change. Of course, if the Pure Wind House did not have such a power supporting it, there would be some nobles who would come and cause trouble.
In opposition, whereas the business of the Pure Wind House was booming, the Grand Pavilion’s business plummeted. The Grand Pavilion was completely deserted for the entire day. Customers had little pity. The whole Grand Pavilion gave off an abnormal cold. Even the girls responsible for greeting guests at the entrance yawned in boredom.
In the day time, Nian Bing did not go to the library but stayed in his room to meditate the entire day because he needed to recover his lost magic power. At the same time, he needed to calm down and forget the troubles of this morning.
At nightfall, he had recovered a good portion of his magic power and was picked up by a carriage to quietly go to the Pure Wind House. Receiving him was Xue Jing.
“Hey, you blockhead! You didn’t say anything the whole way here.” Xue Jing immediately spoke in an unsatisfied tone to Nian Bing upon their arrival to the Pure Wind House. On the way she had told Nian Bing the details of the Pure Wind House’s business today. She had almost talked nonstop, but Nian Bing did not even respond in the slightest. He only sat there and listened.
“You wanted me to say something? Jing Jing, this is actually the thing I feared the most. Master told me that if I showed my skills somewhere, I should immediately leave. Since I have made an agreement with Uncle Xue, I have already violated Master’s teachings. I feel that this month will be very trying.”
Xue Jing was blank for a moment. Then she asked, “Could it be that you don’t want to be famous?”
Nian Bing’s brow wrinkled as he looked at the menacing girl in front of him. “Do you believe that I learned magic for fame? If you believed that, I can tell you that you were wrong; I have never been motivated by fame. However, since I promised Uncle Xue that I would stay here for a month, I will complete a month’s work.”
Xue Jing looked at Nian Bing. Suddenly she asked, full of concern, “What happened to you today? I feel you’re acting strange.”
Nian Bing shook his head. He said, “Don’t worry. I’m fine. After I’ve finished making a dish, can I please go back to the Association in the carriage? While you’re at it, say thanks for me to Uncle Xue for his understanding.”
Xue Jing said, “Actually, there’s no need for thanks. Father said that the rarer something is, the more precious it is. Making only one dish everyday causes the things you make to be very expensive! Moreover, we don’t want you to be too tired.”
The carriage arrived. Nian Bing followed Xue Jing into the Pure Wind House. In the distance, he heard the sounds of a noisy argument. Unexpectedly, he was overcome with a burst of irritation. After successfully cooking the food, he faintly heard the people in the Pure Wind House yelling prices as he exited from the back door. The highest had already reached twenty purple-gold coins. One dish is really worth this much?
Since Xue Jing couldn’t send Nian Bing back because the Pure Wind house was too busy, he returned to the Mage Association alone. He hadn’t seen Long Zhi and daughter all day today. When he had finished meditating it had already been nightfall, so he could only go with Xue Jing to the Pure Wind House. As a result, the whereabouts of his belongings were still unknown.
“Brother, you returned so soon. I thought you would be gone for at least another two hours.” Nian Bing had just descended the Pure Wind House carriage when he heard Shi Jiu’s voice come from the Association gatehouse.
“Big Bro, you came to wait for me specially?” Nian Bing asked in surprise.
Shi Jiu smiled as he said, “Yeah! Master made me wait here for you. He wanted me to tell you when you got back. He is there waiting for you. That’s right, you owe me one. Yesterday night, I changed your clothes and helped you wash. It was okay, you weren’t too dirty. Ai, I don’t know why, but Long Ling has been unhappy these days. I was coaxing her all day and there was no change.”
Nian Bing suddenly become aware that Shi Jiu wasn’t all that hateful. At the very least, his feelings for Long Ling were genuine. Saying goodbye to Shi Jiu, Nian Bing headed for the library. Since he had returned to the Mage Association his mood had become a lot calmer. The things he wanted to do most right now was to leave behind the clamor of Ice and Snow City as soon as possible. Until then, however, learning all the necessary magic was the most important thing.
As he stepped onto the third floor of the library, Nian Bing gaze was drawn to a standing Long Zhi. In his hands was a very familiar book. It was the magic array book Nian Bing had been reading yesterday.
Closing the book, Long Zhi’s gaze turned to Nian Bing. “You’ve returned.”
Nian Bing walked up to Long Zhi, “Have you been waiting for me this whole time?”
Long Zhi smiled faintly and said, “I have waited here the whole day because I wanted to know why, that if we do the same thing, you can produce different results. Could you tell me the answer?”
Nian Bing smiled slightly and answered, “Comprehension.”
“It’s that simple?”
Nian Bing nodded his head, and grabbed the magic book from Long Zhi’s hands. He said, smiling, “Actually, the answer is not in here. It is on the second floor. There’s a book of basic magic theory there. President, if you have the opportunity you should read it very carefully. The reason I can make magic arrays with such efficacy is not entirely because my magic control exceeds my magic power. You should understand that the most important thing is that I did not just rote memorize these things. Instead, I added them to my understanding. Comprehension of the implications of the magic arrays.
Long Zhi’s eyes twinkled. “Comprehension. It’s a good word.”
Nian Bing smiled as he spoke. “Actually, the first day I learned cooking from my master, he taught me that learning culinary arts does not rely solely on practice. Although it is admittedly important, finding a good way to practice, can let you do half the work with twice the success. Finding this way can only be discovered by your own comprehension. Every person has their own forte. Finding the straightest road makes for the shortest time to reach you destination. It’s like this for cooking, and it’s the same for magic.”
Long Zhi smiled. “Young’un, do you know why I was waiting for you here today?”
Nian Bing shook his head.
Long Zhi smiled slightly, “I wanted to be your teacher. But I didn’t think that I would be getting a lesson from you instead. Right now, I am doubtful whether I have the qualifications to be your master.”
Nian Bing’s eyes glowed. “Of course you have the qualifications. Your years of magic experience is far greater than mine.”
Long Zhi sighed and said, “Not true. In terms of overall magic understanding, I am probably better than you. Towards understanding the true meaning of magic however, you are already above me. I hope that you can agree to a condition of mine.” He paused here.
Nian Bing watched Long Zhi. He knew that this condition would be extremely important for the relationship between him and Long Zhi. If he agreed then Long Zhi would continue to help him without hesitation. In the present situation, did he have any choice? Of course not. To have the help of a magister, a magister who shared a mutual enemy would save innumerable time and energy. He did not have any reason to refuse the condition. Nodding his head, Nian Bing said, “Tell me, and I will do it.”