Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Zhang Xiaohua followed the footsteps from the mountain shrine to descend from the mountain.
However, he soon realized that the footsteps belonged to two people, one with a deep imprint and another with a light trail. Nevertheless, they both had a common similarity because they were both widely spaced, the distance between each footstep was enough for Zhang Xiaohua to walk several footsteps. Zhang Xiaohua was astonished, how could someone’s legs be so long?
Furthermore, when he got down the mountain, the person also went somewhere steep but Zhang Xiaohua was unable to climb the slope so he had no choice but to look for a gentler slope to climb before tracing the footsteps again.
After walking for some while, Zhang Xiaohua finally understood everything. Because there was a small forest at the base of the mountain, when he walked to the front of the forest, the footsteps disappeared and reappeared at the other side of the forest. By that time, Zhang Xiaohua who had dipped his feet in the world of Jianghu knew enough to know that the footsteps he was following belonged to a martial art expert.
However, why did these martial art experts come to visit this mountain shrine? Zhang Xiaohua was not interested in the reason though, he was only concerned if these tracks would lead him back to civilization.
After walking for another half a bell, Zhang Xiaohua found himself in another problematic situation, the two set of footsteps separated and trailed off in different directions.
In this difficult situation where he had to choose one out of the two, Zhang Xiaohua did not hesitate and picked the correct answer immediately.
Just by using his legs to think, Zhang Xiaohua knew that the person with the deeper imprints on the ground was not as skilled as the person with the lighter footstep traces. If the latter whose qinggong was better became excited and flew too far ahead, wouldn’t his footsteps become untraceable and Zhang Xiaohua’s effort gone to waste?
Since he had made his mind up, Zhang Xiaohua continued to follow the “never met before” martial art expert and walked in the direction of where the sun was rising from.
These footsteps did not let Zhang Xiaohua down, even though they were not very deep, it was still enough for Zhang Xiaohua to notice and follow, and throughout the route, there was no difficult passage of up and down inclines which made Zhang Xiaohua feel grateful to no end. Thus, he was unaware that at that moment, the shopkeeper who wanted Zhang Xiaohua to freeze to death was cursing in his heart at the dog poo youngest Mei for choosing such an out of the way location to meetup, didn’t he know how cold the weather was? Thanks to that, he had caught a cold and needed to spend some money to visit a physician.
When it was close to noon, Zhang Xiaohua felt slightly hungry but he only brought a little dry rations to be meant for a single meal, and now that he had no idea where he was and his food was already finished, he would have to spend the night with an empty stomach if he still could not reach civilization by that day. Just as Zhang Xiaohua’s thoughts began to run wild, he suddenly saw a line of smoke blowing from the front side of the horizon and felt a wave of joy swept over his body. He immediately turned towards its direction and ran towards the smoke while ignoring the footsteps he was following earlier.
The immediate consequence was that shopkeeper Liu who was about to leave his store with money in his hands immediately stopped sneezing. He shook his head and rubbed his nose before thinking to himself, “Perhaps there is really karma in this world. I did not kill the village child in the mountain shrine personally and let him freeze to death after sealing his acupuncture point. In comparison, I should have simply ended his life immediately, so I would not accumulate interest on my bad karma and spend money to visit a physician. It seems that I have to learn from those upper people and kill upon sight without any mercy, because that is what a real expert would do.”
When Zhang Xiaohua left the trail he was following and headed in the direction of the smoke, he passed by a mountain route and crossed a bridge before finally reaching a small town in the rural countryside in the afternoon.
As he looked from afar at the small town and the surrounding houses as well as the cattle being reared by these households, Zhang Xiaohua felt a wave of emotion as he finally found his way back into civilization. He no longer had to worry about spending the night in the wilderness or enduring hunger anymore.
Zhang Xiaohua took quick steps along the small path that led to the town. The town was a typical countryside town which was smaller than Lu town by several times. Now that it was the New Year, there were many people on the streets wearing their new clothes and carrying smiling expressions on their faces, and the atmosphere was overall lively and harmonious. There were many youths who were of the same age as Zhang Xiaohua carrying incense or New Year goodies in their hands, it was a typical sight during the New Year.
Even though the way Zhang Xiaohua was dressed could not be considered tattered and worn, it was not tidy and considered inappropriate for the occasion. When the townsfolks saw him, they gave the boy strange gazes since no matter how poor a family was, they should still be able to afford an exchange of clothes for their children. As for children like Zhang Xiaohua who had no new clothes to wear, they were few and sparse so by the looks of it, they thought that he must be a village orphan.
Why would Zhang Xiaohua care about how the others viewed him?
He was only concerned with finding a place to eat, but after searching for a while, he suddenly realized that it was currently the New Year so all the shops were celebrating with decorations and most were not opened for business, so where was he going to buy what he needed? Zhang Xiaohua secretly felt the coins in his money pouch and could not help but smiled bitterly, he had never been in possession of so much money before but now that he was, he still had to bear his hunger, the heavens were really unfair this time.
Seeing that most of the shops were closed for eh New Year, Zhang Xiaohua smiled bitterly, must he wait until the sixth day of the New Year before he could buy something to eat? He highly doubted if he could still survive until that day.
Zhang Xiaohua sighed deeply, this could not do, he had to find a household and knock on their door to purchase some food from them.
At that moment, a twenty plus year old youth was walking from the opposite direction wearing bright clothes while even humming to a tune, Zhang Xiaohua quickly ran to his front and cupped his hands in greeting, “Excuse me for a while, elder brother.”
The person was naturally feeling irritated for being interrupted from whatever he was doing, and when he saw this poor village child in front of him, he frowned even harder and cursed his own luck, was this child a beggar who wanted money from him? Since it was the New Year, it was inauspicious to deny his request, yet he was still unwilling to part with his money, and thus, he went into a dilemma.
The young man asked, “What is the matter?”
At the same time, he reached his hand into his breast to fish out a coin which he could use if the other party was begging for money.
Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he asked, “May I know, elder brother, what is the time now?”
The person was surprised, so this child was not asking for money, his heart lightened and he smiled back in reply, “It is three quarters to noon.”
After finishing his sentence, when he was about to walk away Zhang Xiaohua asked again, “Pardon me, elder brother, you have mistaken my question, I wanted to ask which day is it today?”
The person became even more surprised, he studied Zhang Xiaohua from head to toe before asking, “Has this little brother caught a fever, how can you not know what day it is?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled obligingly and replied, “I strayed into the mountains and have lost track of the outside world, and thus, I do not know what year it is now.”
The person could tell from Zhang Xiaohua’s manner of speech that he was unordinary so he became respectful and replied in a serious tone, “Today is the sixth day of the twenty third year in the new haven, may I know when this little brother entered the mountains?”
Zhang Xiaohua cupped his hands and replied in a mannerly tone, “About the beginning of the twelfth lunar month of the twenty second year in the new haven.”
The person smiled in reply, “Admirable, admirable indeed! Such a rare fortune has been bestowed in you.”
Zhang Xiaohua snickered secretly in his heart and asked again, “I would still like to ask elder brother, is there any place I can go to buy something to eat in this town? Anything is fine as long as it can satisfy my stomach.”
When the person was about to speak, his eyes suddenly gleamed and smiled, “Where would you find shops that are still opened during the New Year? However, since little brother’s requirements aren’t high, there is indeed a place you can go to.”
Zhang Xiaohua joyfully replied, “Would this elder brother elaborate further?”
The person pointed to afar and said, “If you walk straight ahead and turn left at the junction, then turn right at a grocery store, there will be a restaurant at the end of the street which might be open today. If it is not open, then I am afraid this little brother would have to endure his hunger.”
After listening to the other person’s advice, Zhang Xiaohua thanked him profusely and ran along the street in the direction he was guided to.
Behind him, the youth pursed his lips before breaking out into laughter as he walked away.
When Zhang Xiaohua reached the restaurant that he was given directions to, he could not help but feel dazed at the scene before him.
It was not because the restaurant was not open, but rather because the restaurant had long lines of people queueing to get it, and the entire place was bustling with customers. Actually, the restaurant was the most prosperous eatery in the entire town and since the New Year was a period when it was busiest, why would they not open their doors?
Except that Zhang Xiaohua was not expecting to visit one.
Not accounting the fact that Zhang Xiaohua had never eaten in a restaurant his entire life, even during the journey to Pingyang city when the horse carriage would stop at pit stops, Zhang Xiaohu would order their food for them, not to mention that the customers in this restaurant either came via their own private carriages, or were dressed in silks and satin, and ordered their food in excess. Evidently, the clientele for this restaurant named ‘food as sky’ was quite high class so Zhang Xiaohua deliberated if he should enter the restaurant or not.
While he was deliberating, his stomach rumbled like a wild beast.
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua toughened his hide and walked up to the restaurant.
The restaurant had a waiter at the door welcoming the guests and when the waiter saw a village youth walked hesitatingly towards his direction, he could not help but wrinkle his brows and muttered in his heart, “Village kid, can’t you tell what kind of place this is, why do you even send yourself up to the door?”
Just as he was about to give Zhang Xiaohua a good scolding as the latter walked up the stairs, he realized that Zhang Xiaohua’s clothes were not made of the common material worn by the villages even though it was old. The waiter had sharp sight indeed, and he studied Zhang Xiaohua’s attire carefully and ascertained that the clothes were tailored to his size so it must not have been stolen, so even though they were not new clothes, he could not make out the boy’s identity. Hence, he quickly changed his frown into an obliging smile and asked, “This little brother, may I know why you have come to this restaurant?”
Zhang Xiaohua saw the waiter’s response and thought secretly that he was quite professional for treating him properly despite his young age.
Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he replied, “I have come to the restaurant to eat, why else would I come here for?”
The waiter’s face turned red, that’s right, he assumed that the child had no money to spend and came over instead to look for someone or ask about some matter, but never expected that he could come to the restaurant to purchase a meal. As the saying goes, one cannot judge a book by the cover, he could not look down upon this child as he turned out to be quite wealthy after all.
Hence, the waiter hurriedly bowed and motioned Zhang Xiaohua to enter the restaurant.
When Zhang Xiaohua entered the restaurant, it was an eye-opener for him because even though it was no longer the peak period for a meal, the restaurant was still crowded with almost no free seats. Zhang Xiaohua was at a loss of where to go and the waiter smiled beside him as he said, “Does this customer wish to go to the second level where the lounges are?”
Upon hearing this, Zhang Xiaohua thought secretly, “Trying to push me to spend money? Who knows if there is an additional charge or minimum spending to sit on the second floor, and even though he had not gone to a restaurant before, as the saying goes, “does one need to see a live pig to know what it tastes like?” The books have written about such sharp business methods that some restaurants partake in, and he would never allow himself to fall into such a trap.
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua quickly raised his hands and said, “Here is fine, it is livelier.”
The waiter did not insist so he found a small table and guided Zhang Xiaohua to sit there.
Afterwards, the waiter poured a pot of tea and brought over the menu to let Zhang Xiaohua select his choices. As for the famous specialties written on the menu, Zhang Xiaohua was not quite sure what that meant but he could understand the prices written below their names, so he flipped the menu page by page but even up till the end, he pursed his lips and wondered why the prices were so high, and what food were they serving here because he was unwilling to spend his money.
When the waiter saw Zhang Xiaohua flipped through the entire menu and still not decided on what to order, he smiled and said, “If this customer is unsatisfied with our selection, our restaurant still has some special secret dishes that I can suggest to your liking.”
In a single breath, the waiter called out several fanciful names which made Zhang Xiaohua surprised, this restaurant was indeed different from others, even the names of their dishes sound like songs. However, when he casually asked for the price of one of them, he was immediately stunned because it was much more expensive than the dishes listed in the menu.
Zhang Xiaohua rolled his eyes and asked, “Waiter, how do you sell plain rice in this restaurant.”
The waiter was surprised and he answered thoughtlessly, “Plain rice is free of charge.”
Upon hearing this, Zhang Xiaohua became thrilled, he immediately clapped his hands and said, “Alright, I want this, bring me five large bowls of plain rice!”
Gosh….. the waiter choked and he almost threw the menu that Zhang Xiaohua was holding. If they were not surrounded by so many guests and if he was not afraid of disrupting the restaurant’s business, the waiter would have immediately grabbed Zhang Xiaohua by the neck and throw him out ruthlessly. Was this boy fooling around with him?
Seeing the angry expression on the waiter’s face, Zhang Xiaohua became surprised but he put on a smiling expression to ask, “Waiter, what are you waiting for, why don’t you get to work and bring me my plain rice?”
The waiter clenched his teeth and smiled obligingly, he said, “Customer, the plain rice is free of charge but you have to order some accompanying dishes along with it.”
Zhang Xiaohua was stunned, he said, “You did not mention that previously.”
The waiter lowered his head and said, “That was my oversight, please bear with it.”
Zhang Xiaohua asked, “So I have to order a dish?”
The waiter replied, “Yes.”
Zhang Xiaohua asked again, “Are you sure? I have to order a dish?”
The waiter answered confidently, “Yes, I am extremely sure of it.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “Haha, if you don’t mention it, how would I know that I have to order something else as well? Since you say so, I shall just order a dish. Alright, give me this.”
Zhang Xiaohua pointed to the cheapest “spicy chicken cubes” on the menu.
When the waiter saw his choice, he asked, “Is this customer sure of his choice?”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded and said, “Yes, I want to order that as well.”
The waiter asked, “Will you definitely not regret your decision?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “I won’t, I am a man of my words. As the saying goes, a quick horse will not be able to chase after a gentleman’s words, that saying would be referring to this.”
The waiter nodded and asked, “So will the customer not be ordering anything else.”
Zhang Xiaohua shook his head and said, “That is unnecessary, however, I still want those five bowls of plain rice.”
Hence, the waiter kept back the menu and said, “Please wait for a moment.” He then left with this chest full of anger.
After the waiter left, Zhang Xiaohua poured himself a cup of water and gulped it down immediately. After finishing the cup, he still felt unsatisfied and drank another three consecutive cups before cooling off. He thought, “This tea from the restaurant is still pretty ordinary and is far off from the spring water in my house. However, it seems to be free so I will have to drink more of it.”
However, just as he was about to pour himself a fourth cup, Zhang Xiaohua realized that the pot was empty so he called out, “Waiter, can you refill more tea?”
The waiter just went into the kitchen and passed the order to the chef when he heard Zhang Xiaohua called him over, his heart became puzzled as he remembered refilling the pot of tea for this customer earlier on? Had he remembered wrongly?
When the waiter refilled the pot again, Zhang Xiaohua poured himself another full cup and drank it before turning his head to study his surroundings.
It was already long past mealtime so most of the customers in the restaurant were idling while chatting over some wine. Zhang Xiaohua was seated close to a table of five well-fitted heroes who were drinking wine while chatting.
Perhaps because they were seated not far apart, or because those heroes had loud voices, Zhang Xiaohua still managed to overhear their conversation despite not intending to do so.
He heard, “Curses, it is the New Year now so how did I get transferred over to this poor and backward place, what kind of life do I have to pass here?”
Another person said, “That’s right, I would still get to spend my past New Years with my wife and children, yet how did we end up at such a distant place this year?”
The first person said, “What choice do we have, the client said it was urgent so we have no choice but to work over the New Year.”
The other person replied, “However, the remuneration isn’t bad this time, it is double of before.”
Someone else said, “What rubbish are you spouting, the official rules are that holidays should pay thrice the normal salary, so where did the excess go?”
The other person answered, “Really? How come I am unaware of it, this won’t do, I will have a good chat with head Zhang and not let us be taken advantage of.”
The first person said, “Head Zhang is still new so even though he has some prestige recently, he still will not be able to overturn the station’s head’s decision. It is better if we investigate this personally.”
The other person replied, “But we still got to let him know at least, perhaps he is unaware of it himself.”
The first person said, “That is fine as well, head Zhang is quite cool usually and he treats people well, so perhaps there might be some results by talking to him.”
Another voice said, “Let’s discuss this later when we get back, isn’t the restaurant a place for us to drink instead? Only after we finish this job quickly can we go back and fight for our rights. In this backwards town, only the wine in this restaurant is up to standard, there isn’t even a place to drink some flowered wine.”
The first person said, “There will definitely be one somewhere, but would it be to our liking? Furthermore, it is the New Year now so they will have to go back home as well, so how many will still be around to wait for you to patronize them?”
The few men then continued talking about some adult things that Zhang Xiaohua could understand now that he was older, but his ears still turned red and he immediately covered them and drank his water continuously to distract himself. Without realizing it, the teapot became empty again.
Zhang Xiaohua had no choice but to call out again, “Waiter, refill my pot.”