Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
“Big Brother Donghuang! Big Brother Donghuang!”
It was almost noon. Not long after Lin Lan had left, Zhou Donghuang, who had just calmed down and was beginning to practice, was startled by a voice from outside.
The voice belonged to a girl, and it sounded tender and musical to the ears.
Zhou Donghuang opened his eyes, and memories from a thousand years before surfaced in his mind, causing the corners of his mouth to be pulled upwards in a slight smile.
He had been ten years old that year.
He had seen a little girl, five or six years old, being bullied by several boys about the same age as her on the main street. He had stepped forward, grabbed one of the boys, and hit him hard, scaring away the other boys.
From then on, the little girl often came to the Magnolia Guild seeking his company, following him and Chen Dandan around, calling them “Big Brother Donghuang” and “Big Sister Dandan.”
That’s right, today is the nineteenth, , the twelfth month, 1, 1227 in the Ziyun Era.
On this day in my previous life, Xiaoyu came to invite me out for a meal… but because of Chen Dandan’s betrayal and the precarious situation of the Magnolia Guild, I was in a bad mood and rejected her invitation.
Zhou Donghuang recalled the incident just as he opened the door.
Outside stood a girl who looked about eleven or twelve years old, delicate looking and with well-formed features, and it was not hard to imagine that she would grow up to be a beauty.
Qin Xiaoyu was eleven that year and was from a branch of the Qin family of Qingshan Town.
In the past, Qin Xiaoyu’s position in the Qin family was ordinary, but ever since her father had a breakthrough and became a level-one adept of the gathered qi and an elder in the Qin family three years ago, she had become the little princess of the Qin family in one fell swoop.
“Big Brother Donghuang, I have been invited for a meal at the earthly dining booth at Yunxuan Restaurant… Let’s go together, shall we?”
This scene played out exactly as he remembered it.
At first, Zhou Donghuang was planning to reject the invitation just like he had previously, but seeing the look of longing on Qin Xiaoyu’s face, his heart melted, and he agreed.
“Big Brother Donghuang, whenever my father brings me for a meal at Yunxuan Restaurant, we only go to the people’s dining booth and never the earthly dining booth… I heard that the earthly dining booth is magnificent; there are more dishes on the menu, and there is a minimum expenditure of thirty liang of silver.”
Qin Xiaoyu’s excitement was plain to see during their journey to Yunxuan Restaurant after leaving the Magnolia Guild.
“Xiaoyu, who is hosting the meal?” Zhou Donghuang asked curiously.
Ordinary people couldn’t usually spend the money to eat in the earthly dining booth at Yunxuan Restaurant. As the son of the guild master of the Magnolia Guild, he was naturally somewhat aware of the costs involved.
The great hall did not have a minimum expenditure. The booths, however, did have a minimum expenditure.
The lowest class of booths was the people’s dining booth, with a minimum expenditure of twenty liang of silver, and the slightly better earthly dining booths had a minimum expenditure of thirty liang of silver.
The next class above the earthly dining booths was the best class of heavenly dining booths, with a minimum expenditure of a hundred liang of silver.
Even when the heads of the lesser families of Qingshan Town went to eat at Yunxuan Restaurant, they would only go to the earthly dining booths at most.
They would only reserve a heavenly dining booth if they had an important guest to entertain.
A hundred liang of silver for a meal was a great expenditure even for the head of a lesser family.
In Qingshan Town, an ordinary family of three would spend at most eight to ten liang of silver in a year.
“It’s Zhong Gang of the Zhong family. He lost a bet with Big Brother Qin Fei, so now he has to treat Big Brother Qin Fei to a meal in the earthly dining booth of Yunxuan Restaurant.”
Qin Xiaoyu giggled. “Big Brother Qin Fei brought me along and told me that I could bring someone else along, anyone I wanted… the first person I thought of was you, Big Brother Donghuang.”
The Big Brother Qin Fei that Qin Xiaoyu mentioned was the first young master of the Qin family, who was a year older than Zhou Donghuang.
Be it the Zhong family or the Qin family, all the lesser families of equal status to the Wang family each had a level-two adept of the gathered qi in command. They were considered the most illustrious person in the family.
Zhou Donghuang felt a surge of warmth in his heart at Qin Xiaoyu’s words. This little girl did not forget him when such an opportunity presented itself.
At that moment, Zhou Donghuang was thinking about how he would bring Qin Xiaoyu to the heavenly dining booth in Yunxuan Restaurant some day in the future for a good meal and let her eat her fill.
He was now the owner of Yunxuan Restaurant, and the entire Yunxuan Restaurant was his business. He would not even need to spend money to eat at Yunxuan Restaurant.
Zhou Donghuang and Qin Xiaoyu were soon approaching Yunxuan Restaurant.
As the best restaurant in Qingshan Town, Yunxuan Restaurant was located in the bustling center of Qingshan Town and occupied an area comparable to any of the family mansions in Qingshan Town.
With Qin Xiaoyu leading the way, they both entered an earthly dining booth on the second floor.
As they walked through the main entrance of Yunxuan Restaurant, Zhou Donghuang spied the chief steward of Yunxuan Restaurant, Li Xian, whom he had met two days ago. Li Xian was calculating a bill with his head lowered and had not seen him.
“I knew that if I allowed Xiaoyu to bring someone, she would surely look for you at the Magnolia Guild, Zhou Donghuang.”
As soon as he entered the booth with Xiaoyu, Zhou Donghuang heard a familiar yet distant voice from his memory. It was the first young master of the Qin family, Qin Fei.
Currently, there were three people in the booth besides Qin Fei, and they were all people whom Zhou Donghuang could recall from memory.
The first young master of the Zhong family, Zhong Gang, second master Zhong Yi, and third lady Zhong Xiu.
Of course, other than the six of them, there were two servant girls standing aside to serve them. This was the standard in the earthly dining booths of Yunxuan Restaurant.
“Little Sister Xiaoyu, why did you bring him? In two days’ time, he will no longer be on the same level as us.”
Zhong Xiu looked at Zhou Donghuang with scorn.
As the third lady of the Zhong family, Chen Dandan’s betrayal and the peril that the Magnolia Guild was in was known to Zhong Xiu.
“What do you mean not the same level? Whatever happens, Big Brother Donghuang will always be my big brother!” Qin Xiaoyu said with annoyance, giving Zhong Xiu a hard stare.
“Everyone here is a guest… let’s take a seat, the food should be served soon.”
Qin Fei intervened just as the atmosphere in the booth turned awkward.
Qin Xiaoyu took Zhou Donghuang’s hand, led him to a table, and then sat down beside him. During the whole process, it was obvious to Zhou Donghuang that Qin Fei’s careless gaze had a touch of coldness to it, and there was an element of jealousy in that coldness.
Does this Qin Fei have designs on Xiaoyu?
As a man, Zhou Donghuang naturally saw through Qin Fei’s intent, and his heart froze suddenly.
If he was not wrong, Xiaoyu would be only eleven that year.
This Qin Fei was a beast!
“Zhou Donghuang, listen to me, you maimed Wang Feng on the streets several days ago, right?” Zhong Yi asked as he narrowed his eyes. He was sitting beside Zhong Xiu.
“Yes.” Zhou Donghuang nodded. “He blocked my way, and I asked him to move his arm. He refused, and I merely helped him do it.”
Zhou Donghuang skimped on the details, as though maiming Wang Feng’s arm was something inconsequential.
In fact, it really was a small matter to him.
Zhong Yi did not expect Zhou Donghuang to answer in this manner. His eyes narrowed, and his mouth twitched involuntarily.
“Zhou Donghuang, you must realize… the head of the Wang family, Red Crane Wang has put out the word that he wants your life as compensation for maiming his son’s arm!” Zhong Gang warned, looking seriously at Zhou Donghuang.
“Really?” Zhou Donghuang was rather shocked. “I have not heard of this… anyway, I have been at the Magnolia Guild and have not been out the past few days, and he has not come looking for me. He probably was just joking,” Zhou Donghuang said as he scooped up a cup of tea that the servant girl had just poured and took a gentle sip. His expression was as calm as before.
“Zhou Donghuang, are you really dumb or just acting?” Zhong Xiu laughed coldly. “Now, you can still turn to the Magnolia Guild for support, and the Wang family cannot easily do anything to you… do you think the Lin family of the prefecture capital will let your Magnolia Guild off for leaking the formula? In two days, the Lin family will surely send someone to expel your mother, Lin Lan from the Lin family, and recall the level-two adept of the gathered qi from the Magnolia Guild. When that happens, the Magnolia Guild will live on in name only… do you think the Wang family will let you off?
“Your mother is only a level-one adept of the gathered qi; can she protect you?”
As she said this, the cold smile on Zhong Xiu’s face became even more pronounced.
“Big Brother Donghuang!”
Seated beside Zhou Donghuang, Qin Xiaoyu’s expression changed. Although she had heard rumors, she was still young and did not fully understand the peril that Zhou Donghuang was in.
“Zhou Donghuang, although your mother is a level-one adept of the gathered qi, the Wang family has no fewer than five level-one adepts and even a level-two adept.”
Zhong Yi looked at Zhou Donghuang and laughed.
“The Magnolia Guild will lose the support of the Lin family from the prefecture capital, and it will soon cease to exist… When that happens, how will you stand up to the Wang family?”
“That is my problem; I do not wish to burden you with it,” Zhou Donghuang said casually. From the beginning till now, there had not even been a ripple across his calm expression.
Seeing this, both Zhong Xiu and Zhong Yi felt a sense of helplessness.
Just then, there was knocking at the door.
It was the head chef of Yunxuan Restaurant, who had personally come to serve the dishes. As he served each dish, he matched it with a quote from literature.
However, just as he was preparing to give the quote for the second dish, Zhong Gang dismissed him rudely. “We are here to eat, not to hear your nonsense… you may leave.”
The head chef retreated.
After the dishes had all been served, Qin Fei invited them all to eat, taking on the role of a good host.
“We get to eat in this earthly dining booth not even twice a year… Qin Fei, my gratitude to you for your treat, letting us have a taste of the delicacies in this earthly dining booth,” Zhong Yi grunted as he shoveled food into his mouth.
At this, Qin Fei’s expression changed immediately.
Zhong Xiu and Zhong Gang, who were seated beside Zhong Yi, knitted their brows, and Zhong Xiu even kicked Zhong Yi under the table, giving him a shock.
Immediately, Zhong Yi realized he had let the cat out of the bag, and an awkward expression came over his face.
“Big Brother Qin Fei, isn’t Zhong Gang treating us to this meal? You told me that you lost a bet to him, which is why this is his treat, right?”
Qin Xiaoyu looked at Qin Fei suspiciously, and Qin Fei could only smile awkwardly. “Xiaoyu, Zhong Gang and I have been close friends for many years, the bet was just for fun… him or me, it makes no difference whose treat it is.”
Zhou Donghuang raised his eyebrows.
Right then, if he still could not tell that this meal was a farce arranged to provoke him, he would really have wasted a thousand years of life.