Chapter 13.1 – The Making of the Golden Aromatic Ring
Nian Bing’s heart trembled. Suddenly, he snapped out of his flashbacks and secretly cursed himself. How had his guard relaxed this much? It seemed that the charm of a beautiful woman was truly not small! “Miss, what do you mean by also?”
Xue Jing glared at Nian Bing and said, “Weren’t you shouting “you, you” just a while ago? Why has it suddenly turned into ‘Miss’ now?”
Nian Bing helplessly said, “I forgot my manners a moment ago. I should have addressed you with ‘Miss’.”
Xue Jing waved her hand in impatience before saying, “Forget it! Today, I’m very frustrated and only want to find someone to chat for a day. So, you don’t need to call me Miss. Call me Xue Jing. At first, I wanted to have a good talk with Ling’er, but she doesn’t seem to understand this kind of thing, and on top of it all, she even managed to make me muddle-headed. Oh! That’s right, what’s your name again?”
“I’m called Nian Bing.”
“Now, you tell me, what kind of woman do men like the most?” It took all the courage for Xue Jing to ask this question, and immediately after, her face started to flush red.
Nian Bing inwardly thought, ‘The Pure Wind House’s Miss’s fear is about love.’ “Miss, er, no… Xue Jing, I’m also not very clear about this matter, but with your beautiful appearance, I’m certain it is what most men like.”
Hearing those words, her beautiful eyes once again were filled with tears. “You’re saying nonsense! If that was the true, then why doesn’t he like me? I always appear strong and ruthless, but even when other people gossip about me, he doesn’t join them and doesn’t pay attention to them.”
From the point of view of an outsider, how could Nian Bing know about the true circumstances of a relationship between others? He forced a smile and said, “Miss, I’m afraid you need to ask him about this matter. Perhaps, he didn’t open his mouth to say anything because, in his heart, he might like you?”
Xue Jing wiped her tears and said in a somewhat surprise tone, “Is what you said true?”
Nian Bing hesitated. “It must be. Since you like him, you should approach him often and then, where there’s a will, there is a way.”
Xue Jing punched Nian Bing with her fist and said, “I am girl. How can a girl take the initiative in this kind of matter? Nian Bing, earlier, you said that I was the kind of beautiful girl that most men like. Then, do you like me too?”
“Cough! Cough!” Nian Bing almost choked to death with his saliva. “Miss, stop joking with me! Our statuses is different!”
Xue Jing persisted saying, “It doesn’t matter since we’re not taking status into account right now. Let’s suppose we are friends. Do you like me or not?”
Inside Nian Bing’s heart, he preferred girls who were similar to Long Ling’er or, maybe, Feng Nu, who were gentle and soft. As for the beautiful girls that were bold and vigorous like Xue Jing, he wasn’t really interested in them. However, at this moment, when he looked at Xue Jing’s teary eyes, he really couldn’t say any words of rejection. He could only nod lightly and answer awkwardly. “Yeah, I like.”
“Humph! You seem very reluctant. However, you better remember the words you said today. Later, if I want to make you do anything, you are not allowed to refuse. Do you hear me?”
Nian Bing bitterly smiled at the promise that was forced on him. At this moment, even if he didn’t want to agree, he also didn’t know how he could refuse. Xue Jing turned back and once again faced the moon, mumbling, “Oh! He’s indeed very stylish. Although his appearance is not as beautiful as mine, he’s a Great Swordmaster approaching the Martial Master’s rank. The way he looks when he holds the sword is especially handsome. That feeling of might, it just makes you want to fawn on him. What I like the most is people with that kind of heroic spirit, like him. This won’t do! I must look for an opportunity to find out about his feelings. If not, whatever is said, I won’t be able to resign myself to give up on this love.”
All night, until the coming of dawn, Nian Bing accompanied Xue Jing as they sat on the top of the pavilion. Then, Xue Jing lead him to the exit of the garden and let him leave. The whole night, he hadn’t even had a wink of sleep. This was the first time in many years for Nian Bing to not meditate at all during the night. When he returned to his room, he didn’t go to sleep yet. Instead, he used healing spells on his injuries. He hoped they could make the imprint of the palm on his face go away. He had to be presentable for when he would go to look at the magic spells at the Mage Association. Unfortunately, contrary to what he had hoped, the basic effects of the healing spells were really limited. The palm imprint was a little bit lighter now, but it was still quite evident. Grudgingly, Nian Bing had no other alternative but to take advantage of the first light of dawn to stealthily leave, in order to find a 24-hour-open pharmacy, buy some white gauzes and tape them in a stack on the left side of his face. Although doing so didn’t make it look better, compared to showing the red palm imprint, this was many times better.
While yawning, Uncle Li went out of his room. He took a breath of fresh air as he stretched his body. Then, he turned his head and glanced at the door of the other room. He thought aloud, “Nian Bing, this youngster, I don’t even know if he came back last night. Ah! Young people these days… They just want to have fun.”
“I’m sorry Uncle Li. Yesterday night, I did return quite late. “ Nian Bing pushed the door to go out. He had returned from outdoors not long ago. After sneaking back in, he had barely been able to pick up the black gown and the mask before going back, not even having the least bit of time to sit down.
Uncle Li looked at the gauzes on his face. He couldn’t help but ask in surprise, “What happened to you? How did you get injured?”
Nian Bing smiled wrily and said, “Yesterday, when I was walking down the road, I wasn’t careful and didn’t know which way I was going. As a result, I fell down on my face. I have no choice but to put some medicine on it now. The doctor said it would take three or four days before it heals completely.”
Uncle Li laughed. “Ah! You! You really are clumsy. You are such a handsome young man. It wouldn’t be good if it left a scar on your face. You should be more careful next time. Let’s go! We should go eat breakfast.”
Nian Bing was really hungry since he hadn’t had anything to eat since last noon, when he had eaten with Feng Nu. With Uncle Li guiding, they both walked towards the distant kitchen. As the kitchen’s doorway came into view, there were two rows of long wooden tables, with roughly thirty or forty people dressed in white-colored cooking uniforms sitting at them, eating and drinking. Nian Bing said, “Ah! The kitchen people really rise early.”
Uncle Li replied, “Of course they need to rise early. Morning is the busiest time for them. They have to prepare all the required ingredients needed for the rest of the day. All the ingredients used at Pure Wind House are very carefully selected, of the highest quality. All the carefully selected ingredients have three or four people in charge of them. Let’s go see what’s on today’s menu.”
Breakfast was steamed buns and congee. Most of the chefs recognized Uncle Li as he went around the table to introduce Nian Bing, greeting them one by one. Nian Bing discovered that beside those tables, there was one with a single person sitting there, eating by himself. The other chefs were all conscious of that table.
“Nian Bing, that person is our Pure Wind House’s head chef. That man is the renowned Clever King of the Kitchen. He is called Ming Yuan or Master Ming. Let’s quickly go to meet him. Head Chef, this is Nian Bing. He’s the new employee who is helping me. His hands and feet can be considered quick and diligent. In the future, we will trouble you a lot to look after him,” Uncle Li earnestly introduced Nian Bing on his behalf.
Ming Yuan’s build was average, neither fat nor thin.When he heard uncle Li introducing Nian Bing, he lifted his head to look at Nian Bing. He seemed to be past his forties. Although his appearance was ordinary, his eyes made Nian Bing feel a sense of familiarity. His eyes had the same expression as Zha Ji, but the similarity stopped there. There were too many differences when compared to Zha Ji. His teacher had once told Nian Bing that a competent chef’s expression would be different from that of an average chef’s. That difference was caused by the single-minded devotion a chef had towards his kitchen skills, every single day of each year. Zha Ji also told Nian Bing that even though he had completed his studies on kitchen skills, there was still a disparity with his heat control and his perception. As for his perception, he just needed to develop it as a support.
Ming Yuan’s expression seemed very cold and detached. He slightly nodded his head to Nian Bing and continued to eat his breakfast.
Uncle Li led Nian Bing to take place at the long table next to Ming Yuan’s table. They also ate their breakfast. The steamed buns were stuffed with ground meat, but the flavor was lacking by far. However, since he had been hungry for a while, he didn’t really care about anything else, except to stuff himself until he was full.
Just when Nian Bing had eaten his fill and was preparing to go back to work with Uncle Li, he saw someone he didn’t ever wish to see again. A strolling fiery red silhouette had arrived.
“Uncle Ming, the things that you’re eating this morning look good. Did you leave some for me?” Xue Jing’s apparition caused all of the the kitchen staff members to hurriedly stop what they were doing. One by one, they stood up and greeted her. Only Ming Yuan stayed seated as he was before. He gave a soft pampered look to Xue Jing and said, “You, this girl… Hasn’t our light breakfast already been delivered to you? How come you are still running off to this place trying to take my things?” At this moment, his ice-cold facial features changed into a faint smile.
Xue Jing hadn’t slept for a whole night. However, at this instant, her mind didn’t seem to be tired in the slightest. “That’s not important, I really can’t look out for you? As your niece, I’m thinking about you, but you clearly don’t believe me!”
Ming Yuan laughed out loud and said, “You thought about me? I see. You only think about me when you want me to make you some snacks! Let’s see, today you want to eat WoWo, sweet fruit roll-up or do you still want to eat the Golden Aromatic Ring? This morning your uncle doesn’t have any matters to attend to, so I have time to make you some.”