Editor: Areth Kyntaul
The End of the Year is Coming
“Safe travels, Boss.” I saw Boss off at the door and then took my time returning to the inside of my room.
I looked at the northeast corner of my room and laughed, “Why not come out for a meeting, esteemed visitor.”
Somebody had snuck into my room while I was talking to Boss Shen.
The intruder possessed extremely profound Qinggong, evident by the fact that Boss didn’t even detect their presence.
Boss is always inside Liu Shan Men. If their target was her, they wouldn’t need to go out of their way to sneak into the room, meaning their target was me.
I didn’t call the intruder out at the time so that I could face them one on one.
“You did not leave the entire time. It looks like you have quite the grudge against me.” The remark was delivered using Voice Transmission to the location of the intruder.
There was a vague shadow of someone in black clothing on the pillar of the room. The individual suddenly dropped down from the pillar, like a falling star. The floor and pillar aren’t too far apart, but they came down like a meteorite. This demonstrated that they expended no effort, but free-fell down. Their Qinggong was so superior that it is honestly rare to behold.
However, that wasn’t what surprised me. What surprised me was, their Qinggong technique… was my creation!
“How do you know Night Steps?!”
The intruder still refused to speak up. They somersaulted out of the window while I was surprised.
I stood in place, instead of giving chase. I had a rough guess of how advanced their Qinggong skills were from the last few movements they made. If they weren’t in the Divine Realm, I was confident I could catch them before he escaped Liu Shan Men’s main courtyard. I was not, however, confident that I could catch them before being seen by others.
As such, I had to resort to shouting, “We have an assassin!!”
The intruder turned around to glare at me as if to say “consider it your win”.
The sounds of men moving about to search for them could soon be heard.
By the time I caught up, there were over ten constables beat onto their backs in the courtyard. I didn’t see the intruder in sight.
I wondered to myself, ‘Who was that? Why did they know Night Steps, which I created? I’ve only taught it to my Second Junior Brother and Liu Zi. Don’t tell me something happened to them. Liu Zi is touring around, while my Second Junior Brother is still at Night Fortress. He shouldn’t be here’
I thought long and hard, but I couldn’t find any answer. I had no choice but to put it aside for now, go change and get ready to enter the palace to see the emperor.
It’s said that three major incidents happened in the capital recently.
One of them was the Orange Prince’s capture and how he was going to be dealt with. The Orange Prince is the empress’s biological son. The emperor has always respected the empress, so it’s unlikely he’d be beheaded. However, this is treason we’re talking about.
Although this dynasty doesn’t have any extermination of nine generation practices like Northern Xinjiang, treason would definitely cause the extermination of your entire clan. Even the Orange Prince would be locked up for a century and live a life worse than animals.
He’d only be spared the death penalty since the reigning emperor is kind. If a crueller emperor was reigning, forget imprisoning the Orange Prince, even the empress would be punished for raising her son poorly.
The matter gave the emperor a headache, while the people were all watching on eagerly. They all wondered. “What sort of consequences will the first prince to revolt be subjected to?”
The second incident was the young master of the Gold and Silver sect who proved himself to be competent, replacing the previous leader as the new leader of the sect a few months ago. His achievement of becoming a leader of the one of the Seven White Champion Princes before the age of thirty was a record none had achieved before.
He would enter the palace to meet the emperor, and for the emperor to bestow upon him land and territory, as per tradition. The young man had sorted out the sect’s internal affairs and was now preparing to enter the capital to see the emperor.
If you ask me, that incident was as strange as Long Zaitian’s demotions, which I couldn’t explain.
I know the former leader of the Gold and Silver Sect. He’s an easy-going hearty man, who’s high in spirits and walks like an imposing old grandpa. He’s trained internal arts for a long time, so his cultivation is profound. He should be able to live for another thirty or forty years, logically speaking. His son isn’t old, so why did he decide to hand him the baton already?
The third incident was what the emperor had said in his speech at the Flying Fish Pavilion. He said that the victor of the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament could have Princess Hongzhuang’s hand in marriage and be crowned Hongzhuang Fuma.
I always considered the idea retarded, but the emperor did declare it, after all.
The tournament was called off midway through, yet he didn’t lose the thought. I heard that he was planning to re-select a Fuma.
If you ask me, Princess Hongzhuang may be a little different to Princess Jingan, but she’s a great beauty. She’s upright and decisive. It would be a pity if she just married some random young talent.
I thought about these incidents as I changed before heading to the palace.
Every time I step onto this Vermilion Bird Road, I get the feeling like I’ve had two life times. Of course, that’s how I feel every time, after staying at home for over ten days without leaving, so it wasn’t anything rare.
This was the first time I left my room during the day in twenty days. I was shocked by the sight of the streets as soon as I got to the streets.
The last time I wandered the streets was almost a month ago. It was still winter at the time. Snowfall had just begun to fall and the hawkers on the street were the same as always.
This time, however, hundreds of stores had changed.
Every house had auspicious messages written on red sheets hung up. Every store was covered with red paper with auspicious messages written on in black.
I heard firecrackers as soon as I got to the streets. Red sheets of paper swayed with the smoke. Kids in baggy red pants, with their hair done up as twin buns, ran around on the streets with adults chasing after them from behind. They weren’t exactly trying to stop them, but rather, afraid that the children would trip.
The Vermilion Bird Road was congested with traffic. There were men and women moving goods, couples taking strolls, basically, nobody was free.
The closer it got to the end of the year, the more evident it became.
How long has it been since I last celebrated New Year?
Back when I was at Mount Daluo, I was sick in bed, so my juniors would go to the village together to play with the villagers at the end of the year. Meanwhile, I’d be bedridden all alone.
Shiyi would come into my room carrying a bowl of steamed dumplings with a giggle. She’d tell me eating together made it taste better.
She’d feed me the majority of the dumplings in the bowl before eating the few remaining cold ones, but she’d eat them like they were delicious, nevertheless. She said that dumplings had to be enjoyed together with the family. She didn’t have any family, so I was her family.
As I recalled those times, a unique aroma of glutinous rice mixed with sesame found its way to me.
An old lady not too far away was kneading a ball of dumpling wraps mixed with lard and sesame. She rolled it into a round dumpling, and it was done. This was a dumpling stall.
“Auntie, give me a bowl of dumplings.”
She chuckled. She teased me cheerfully, “Hey, is one bowl enough for a big boy like you?”
The mischievous auntie didn’t stop working even while she spoke. She continued until she formed thick round dumplings and then tossed them into the boiling water one after another.
I smiled and replied, “I need to taste test them first, don’t I?”
“My dumplings are famous here. I use premium ingredients. I guarantee the flavour. Ask around on this road. I guarantee there’s nobody that doesn’t know of me. Here, one bowl. That’ll be two coins.”
“I’ve got to give them a try then.”
There were ten smooth dumplings that were clear as jade. The aromatic soup reflected the bustling road behind me. I held the bowl up, but I didn’t dig in.
The auntie then ignored me and resumed calling out to attract customers. Another bowl came out from the pot.
A person who passed by me said, “You got to come here to eat when you miss home. It’s New Year, man. Who doesn’t eat a bowl of dumplings?”
I lingered for a long time before having a dumpling. I bit into the glutinous rice. The warm flesh entered my mouth and mixed with the glutinous rice. It was sweet, yet contained a hint of saltiness.
I finished the bowl in silence.
“They’re good.” I nodded like I was kowtowing, “Your dumplings are the second best dumplings I’ve ever had.”
“Of course.” She chuckled as she took the bowl back, “There’s no place that can beat the dumplings at home.”
She was right.
Regardless of how delicious other dishes were, I missed the bowl of dumplings Shiyi fed me back then.
I miss home a little, now. I miss the people at home, now.
Is this what it feels like to miss family during festivals?
I can’t be like this. I need to recharge myself.
My eyes shot in a specific direction like lasers, and I began to tread into the bustling market.
Braised pork shoulder with soy sauce! I’m coming for you!!!