Little Tao tucked her thick bear fur coat tighter around herself to ward off the cold weather. This year’s winter was far colder than the previous years’. Rumor had it that many warriors did not leave their homes due to the Ice Knife from a few days ago.
In spite of this, Little Tao’s heart was not cold in the slightest. On the contrary, it was warm and cozy. She did not exercise qi and blood, so she was not able to go outdoors wearing simple clothes like other people. Everyday, she would go bright and early in the morning to a greenhouse and garden to pick some vegetables and fruits the Chen Family cultivated themselves. This bear fur coat was something the young master specially gave to her out of fear she would freeze. The girl looked at the fresh coriander that filled her basket, pondering about the coriander beef hotpot she was preparing for the young master today.
Other people all jeered at the young master’s incompetence, but Little Tao had always felt the rest lacked eyesight. In her heart, there was no one in Azure Dragon Town that was smarter than her young master. This was not a boast. On the basis of the mandarin ducks hotpot1 that the young master initiated, he was superior to Azure Dragon Town’s people.
Every winter on the twelfth lunar month, the mandarin ducks hotpot was but the most exciting occasion in a house.
Imagining the aroma of the hotpot now, Little Tao could not help but drool.
These days, she did not know what the young master was doing. Today, Little Tao decided that she and her sisters would properly let young master enjoy a good meal. As her thoughts wandered in elation, a few youths dressed in long robes signifying their noble houses walked before her. Their qi and blood were like fire. These were warriors she was familiar with. Little Tao’s smile vanished. The girl lowered her head and quickened her pace.
When it came to the serenity of Azure Dragon Town’s environment, everything was great, except for how narrow-minded the people here were. They always were at odds with the young master, and they also mocked and ridiculed the maids serving him. They were very displeased that Chen Mo received such good service. Every time Little Tao went out and encountered these people, they would not hesitate to ignore honor and propriety to hurl sharp and unkind language at her. The girl truly loathed them to death.
“If it isn’t Little Tao!!”
“To carry so many vegetables on such a cold day, let us help you.”
“We can’t let these freeze.”
Tsk, again with unbecoming words of how exhausted she must be serving that trash young master…Huh…Little Tao froze, suddenly noticing something apparently wrong about their words.
She looked to see two young warriors beaming from ear to ear as they inquiring about how she was doing. They had a very nervous appearance, as if falling over each other in their eagerness to help an old grandmother cross the street. In the young master’s words, kindhearted people indeed ought to help old grandmothers across the street.
“What are you two doing!” Little Tao vigilantly asked. Were these people thinking of stealing the coriander. On such a cold, wintry day, it was said that Azure Dragon Town’s fruits and vegetables were in an extreme shortage. It was thanks to the “vegetable shack” the young master invented that the Chen Family was able to eat fresh produce everyday.
“You misunderstand, it’s a misunderstanding.”
The two of them smiled.
“There were many times before when we were very offensive. We were blind as bats and ask that you understand, Little Tao.”
“Right, we were deceived by the Qing Family and hope that Little Tao and Young Master Chen Mo will not bother about us.”
“We heard that Young Master Chen Mo is a genius, that he planted a large and fresh vegetable shed, the envy of untold numbers of people.”
“En, en, who dares say that Young Master Chen Mo is a cripple. We will be the first ones to not forgive them.”
Did these people take the wrong medicine?
Little Tao was left in a haze by their glibness. Only after they took their leave did she come to her senses. What happened to the warriors that normally went out of their way to harass her and mock the young master?
Little Tao dealt with them in a daze. After the two men left, they muttered behind her.
“I never imagined that Chen Mo would be too shrewd.”
“En, he was hidden so deeply, to surprisingly be able to defeat the entire Qing Family.”
“What do you say is the cultivation method he practices to be so strong? As the rumor goes, at Azure Dragon Mountain yesterday, his staff swept through the Qing Family’s warriors without any resistance at all. Even the Qing Family’s elders sustained grave injuries.”
“These lorded families, we really cannot look down on them. We have to be careful from now on.”
“Ai, to be born into a noble family really is a privilege.”
“But I heard he let a Star General go. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is true, then that was too stupid.”
“It must be a story the Qing Family concocted for the sake of their face. What warrior would let a Star General go and not kill her.”
“As you say, ha, ha.”
Hearing their conversation, Little Tao’s creased.
On the road, Little Tao noticed that something seemed to be different about Azure Dragon Town.
The people on the street all came to greet Little Tao one after another. Their language that previously taunted her now became flattering. The disdainful gazes had become respectful, and their attitudes of contempt had become envy and admiration.
By the time Little Tao returned to the residence, her mind was already overloaded by the politeness she received today.
“Young Master, I’m back. Today was really weird…” Little Tao had just wanted to speak with the young master about what happened on the road when she looked around. The main hall was filled with many people, including some from the Shen Family, Liu Family, and Azure Dragon Town’s other noble houses. Each person bore gifts and brimmed with cordial smiles. Her young master sat in the center making conversation with them.
“Sister Little Tao, you’re back.” A sister called her over in a hurry.
“Little Ping,2 what’s going on?” The girl asked her sister.
“I don’t know. So many people came to visit the Young Master today. From what I heard, it seems the Young Master did something really amazing yesterday.”
“Little Tao, you came back at just the right time. In a moment, we will prepare the mandarin ducks hotpot. I invite everyone to have a meal.”
“Young Master Chen Mo is too gracious.”
“How could we let the Young Master invite us so kindly.”
“And I myself do not like to eat spicy. A hotpot is honestly a bit out of my palate.”
Several men were somewhat apologetic.
Chen Mo smiled. “My mandarin ducks hotpot can be eaten with seafood or spice, and it is available for everyone to eat. Eating a hotpot is supposed to be lively, and it just so happens I want to chat with you all.”
When a large boiling mandarin ducks hotpot was placed onto the table, the others were stupefied.
The hotpot used a sheet of copper to split it into two section. One one side was a fresh soup of seafood while the other side was beef in chili oil. There was a small stone beneath it, burning with a vigorous flame. This charcoal was a smokeless and odorless fuel, easily able to burn for a long time, and the soup cooked from it would have a distinct aroma. The cost for this type of fuel was considerable. Even Azure Dragon Town’s Qing Family rarely used it.
As expected of Chang’an mansion.
There were many pieces of this charcoal.
“I have never seen such a curious soup. Did Young Master Chen Mo invent this?” A man exclaimed.
“Yes, yes, one side is seafood soup, and the other is chili soup. Wonderful.” The old man who previously said he was unable to eat spicy food apparently had his interest piqued by the mandarin ducks hotpot in front of him. “This design is a bit like the Supreme Ultimate. This Old Man is truly impressed that you were able to devise such a unique soup.”
“No need for pleasantries, let’s eat together. Iron Blade, Little Tao, the others, too, come on.” Chen Mo called them over.
“Slave Servant must still serve wine for the young master and guests.” While she that Chen Mo treated the maids like family, even forgoing the constraints of etiquette, Little Tao still knew that in front of guests, there was still a difference between master and servant. This was a rule in the Great Chong Dynasty, and this also pertained to the face of the Chen Family.
Chen Mo grunted.
To eat a hotpot on a cold winter day was a wonderful thing. Very quickly, the mandarin ducks hotpot attracted the others. At the very start, they were very wary, minding their table manners, but after seeing Chen Mo eat heartily, they could not help but eat with gusto as well. In the words of the old man, three meals in one day at the Chang’an Mansion was something no noble family could compare to.
To eat this fresh beef, coriander, and seafood during the winter was a luxurious thing.
It was because Chen Mo decisively defeated the Qing Family that these people meticulously curried favor with Chen Mo, to avoid having him bring up the past. They knew about the attitudes their families’ youngsters treated Chen Mo with. This was inevitably without tacit agreement.
Chen Mo knew that their actions made clear their attitudes.
Through their discussions, the maids all realized why the noble families of Azure Dragon Town had a 180 degree flip in their attitudes towards Chen Mo. When they learned that Chen Mo defeated the Qing Family all by himself, pure elation and joy was written all over the faces of each maid. They were happier than if they had become Star Generals themselves. As maids, their thoughts were pure and innocent, not understanding the full implications of this. They only felt extreme happiness that their young master was able to cultivate martial arts.
But Iron Blade was already Qi And Blood Eight Turns. The man who most recently was breaking through to Qi And Blood Nine Turns was nevertheless very astonished.
For a warrior who was not yet Qi And Blood Eight Turns to be able to practically overwhelm all of the Qing Family’s warriors was practically outrageous. If it was not the fact he knew these people used to treat Chen Mo with attitudes that were undoubtedly poor, Iron Blade would have believed these people were flattering him.
Seeing Chen Mo’s easygoing bearing. Iron Blade felt the Fish Scale with some excitement in his heart. He had not chosen the wrong person to follow.
“For the time being, Young Master Chen Mo must be careful of the Qing Family.” The old man lowered his voice.
“Are you saying they will take revenge on me?” Chen Mo smiled.
Several people said: “Revenge, that Qing Family absolutely does not have the audacity for this, but we heard that the Qing Family’s Ancestor has left seclusion.” They spoke over each other, one after another worried for Chen Mo.
Chen Mo immediately realized what they meant.
“To have the Qing Family Ancestor come out should mean they want to hunt down the Star General.” Chen Mo picked out a few pieces of coriander and fatty beef, chewing a large mouthful.
“How can this Star General be so easy to kill. The Qing Family is gambling everything this time.” A middle-aged man pursed his lips, appearing very disapproving of the Qing Family. To kill a weakened Star General indeed was able to net a person an enormous benefit, but on the contrary, should they have offended her, if the Star General was giving an opportunity to catch her breath, her maturation speed would leave any noble family, sect, or even the royal family eating her dust.
Most of Azure Dragon Town’s warrior noble families were aware that the Star General entered Azure Dragon Town, but only a few people with ambitions as high as the sky dared to go kill her.
“Do you feel he will succeed?” Chen Mo followed up.
“I fear there is great hope.” The Liu Family’s old man concluded. The Qing Family’s Ancestor had the highest cultivation in Azure Dragon Town. A few years ago, he condensed the “Essence Flower” of Three Flowers Overhead. The chance he was able to kill a weakened Star General was very great. This was also why the other noble families did not participate. For such a Three Flowers Overhead old man to show his face, none of the other warriors would have any room. On the contrary, they would be throwing their lives away.
“I heard the Qing Family’s Green Snake Sword was even given to Qing Wan. It appears this Qing Family has pushed its future treasures onto her.”
“In other words, if the Qing Family Ancestor kills the Star General, the Qing Family will achieve meteoric success.
“I feel this may not necessarily be the case.” The middle-aged man slowly said.
Everyone looked at him and asked why.
The man said that the Tao Family’s Tao Jingfeng had already returned to the mansion, bringing one of the Heavenly Bow Sect’s Ten Great Disciples named Lu Kezhou with him. Reportedly, the two of them already entered Azure Dragon Mountain together. They said that they entered the mountain depths to hunt Demon Beasts, but it was possible they had designs on the Star General. Furthermore, that Lu Kezhou also had the early levels of Three Flowers Overhead. Add on that the Heavenly Bow Sect was a famous school in the Great Chong Dynasty, they had some advantages over the Qing Family.
Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to Azure Dragon Mountain.
Chen Mo ruminated.