Chapter 4-Peerless Genius
Covering a small area, the yard of Yu’s Restaurant was decent and surrounded by flower beds, with only a stone path leading to its inside. Some stone tables were placed triangularly in the yard. Sitting beside them was like sitting in the sea of flowers full of pleasant fragrance.
Li Tianlan entered the yard and saw an old man in his 70s lying in a wooden lounge chair, sleepy in the sun.
The old man was thin and short about five feet, grey-haired and face-wrinkled. He looked pleased lying in his chair, which was much bigger than him, giving an air of a decayed man in his late life.
Li Tianlan looked serene.
Having noticed that someone entered his yard, the old man opened his eyes and glanced at Qin Weibai, speaking up with a smile, “Are you here hoping for a free meal again, young lady? You have all kinds of delicacies to enjoy. I thought it would be pretty hard for you to cherish my rough cooking.”
“No, your cooking is not rough at all; otherwise, the big bosses in Zhongzhou State would not have been so reluctant to leave your restaurant. You are my teacher, anyway. This place is like a second home to me. Is there any problem for me to go home and have a meal?”
Qin Weibai simply took a seat by the stone table closest to the old man and replied with a smile.
“No, it’s not true. Your home is not here and I can’t afford to feed you. You know what, when you had your meal here last time, my granddaughter gave you a nickname— sister big eater, for you can eat what can feed my granddaughter and me for three days at a meal. We don’t have extra food for you, young lady. We will appreciate that if you come here less frequently.”
The old man turned up the whites of his eyes in the chair. He had a deep relationship with Qin Weibai, so, he said what he thought with no much deliberation.
“I know Qingyan very well. She would not give me such a terrible name. It must be you that made up this name. As the runner of a restaurant, you fear those customers who eat a lot. How weird!”
Qin Weibai smiled gently.
“What kind of customer you are, young lady? You never pay for your meal!”
The old man had an expression of indignation and desperation on his face.
Qin Weibai changed the topic with a smile, pointing at Li Tianlan sitting beside her while saying, “I want to introduce him to you. He is named Li Tianlan, just arriving here from the southwestern border. Since we’re friends now, he may come here to have free meals every other week as well.”
On hearing this, not only Li Tianlan but also Flaming Fire, who stood behind them, could feel the imperceptible expectation in Qin Weibai’s words.
The old man finally turned his eyes to the calm Li Tianlan, and a sliver of light escaped his eyes.
The atmosphere in the yard immediately became oppressive.
The old man rose up from the chair and stared at Li Tianlan with keen sparkling eyes.
“Senior Yu, I’m Li Tianlan.”
Li Tianlan spoke to him first.
“How have His Highness Honghe been doing?”
The old man suddenly asked with a complex feeling. “You bear a striking resemblance to His Highness, especially your manner. I guessed your identity at first sight on you.”
Highness was a word to address the people whose power had reached an extremely high level. Over the past hundreds of years since Zhongzhou State was established, quite a few people could be addressed so.
“My grandfather is doing all well, Senior Yu.”
Li Tianlan bowed slightly to the old man and answered respectfully.
The old man signed, looking as if he was musing over past memories. He tried to say something, opening his mouth, but at last, he only said, “I’m Yu Donglai, one of the guards of His Highness in the past. You can have your meals here, by the way, chatting with me as a company. We have a lot of time ahead of us to talk about the old days of His Highness and me.”
Li Tianlan nodded, remaining serene.
“No matter what your real character is, at least, from the looks of it, you’re neither too humble nor arrogant. Boy, which realm are you in?”
Yu Donglai cast a long glance at Li Tianlan and suddenly asked him.
Li Tianlan looked calm and answered in a flat tone, “I’m yet to reach the Four Realms of Martial Arts, so, I’m not in any realm actually.”
He knew his answer would let the old man down, but he did not want to lie to him.
The Martial Arts he practiced attached great importance to the mental state, emphasizing that no matter how constantly the word changed, one’s mind should be determined. It indirectly rebuilt his character, making him a man free from the influence of arrogance and impetuosity, a man undisturbed either by favor or disgrace.
He seemed not to talk too much, but, he never withheld the words that he should speak and never utter a word he shouldn’t. When facing Yu Donglai, he knew what kind of attitude he should have and the expectation of this former guard of his grandfather. In such a case, being honest was the best way. It might sound disappointing that he had not reached any of the Four Realms of Martial Arts, but, it was more comforting than telling a lie.
“You’re yet to reach the Four Realms of Martial Arts?”
Yu Donglai had an expression of disbelief on his wrinkled face. “Boy, how old are you?”
“I’ll be twenty in three months.”
Li Tianlan told him the truth.
Yu Donglai looked very upset after hearing Li Tianlan’s answer. For a while, he looked at him in a dumbfounded way with no words.
The Four Realms of Martial Arts were the world-widely accepted classifications of people’s power, representing the core force of the world.
They respectively were the Qi-controlling Realm, Ice-condensing Realm, Fire-flaming Realm, and Thunder-shocking Realm.
Those realms were not gained through Internal Strength but the limitation of human’s physical strength exerted by their muscles and bones.
Above the four realms was the Invincible Realm.
That realm was abstruse, beyond the most of people’s understanding. In that world, everyone in the Invincible Realm was an unattainable legend.
Almost all the ordinary geniuses in that world could reach the Qi-controlling Realm before eighteen. That realm was the elementary one of the four.
Those who below the four realms could only be nobodies.
Therefore, it was really disappointing that Li Tianlan had not reached the elementary realm at his age.
“Well, forget about it. I’ll personally make a meal for you to welcome you. Lady Bai, come to help me.”
The disappointment in Yu Donglai’s eyes flashed away quickly. He looked normal again and spoke in a calm tone.
Qin Weibai answered him and nodded at Li Tianlan before following Yu Donglai into the kitchen.
The moment the door of the kitchen was shut, Yu Donglai abruptly turned back and stared at the expressionless Qin Weibai while asking in a serious tone, “How did you strike up a relationship with His Highness?”
“I have no relationship with Li Honghe. I’m just connected with Tianlan.”
Qin Weibai answered calmly, but, Yu Donglai could feel a strong dissatisfaction from her tone when she mentioned Li Honghe.
Yu Donglai was rather surprised at that but asked her indifferently, “What’s the difference between them? Can you deny that you helped Li Tianlan because of His Highness’s power of the Invincible Realm?”
“Of cause, I can.”
Qin Weibai continued frankly, “It was true that Li Honghe was in the Invincible Realm, but it was twenty years ago. I’m not sure if he is still in that realm now. How would I help his grandson because of that? I just want to help Tianlan, and this has nothing to do with others.”
Yu Donglai murmured the name, and he finally realized the unusual softness in her tone. He looked at her intently, eyes wide open, and asked her in a tone of disbelief, “Don’t tell me that you fell in love with him.”
Qin Weibai neither admitted it nor denied it. She took two steps forward, picked up an eggplant, and put in on a chopping board after clearing it.
“How could it be possible? Though he is a good boy, he is twenty now and hasn’t reached any of the Four Realms of Martial Arts yet; he is barely gifted. Moreover, he is five years younger than you, and even not handsome, a nobody. Normally, you shouldn’t have gotten to know him at all. I didn’t expect that you could connect with His Highness, and now, you even… That doesn’t make sense.”
Yu Donglai had an astonished look on his face as he spoke.
“You won’t understand.”
Qin Weibai replied serenely, back to him.
“Yes, I don’t understand that, but I know what kind of a situation we’re in. Now, nobody knows Li Tianlan’s real identity except us, but, how long can we hide this secret from others? One year? Or two years? Once his identity is exposed, there will be countless people wanting to kill him, both because of the case of treason and his identity as Li Honghe’s grandson. By that time, how long can he live as a normal man without any Martial Arts? You’re causing yourself big trouble.”
Yu Donglai said with a cold smile.
Qin Weibai ceased her moves and asked flatly, “So, you’ll turn a blind eye to Tianlan’s arrival?”
There was a long silence before Yu Donglai spoke again. “I owe His Highness a great debt of gratitude, so, in no way will I keep out of the affair. Nevertheless, there is not much that I can do. He is barely gifted. If he’d like to be a normal man, I can manage to keep him safe with others’ support, and this is what all of us pleased to see. Of course, there is a condition— you’ll not have any connections with him anymore.”
Yu Donglai spoke his mind. Qin Weibai was not powerful at that moment, but she held tremendous potential. However, Li Tianlan had an identity concerned too many forces. Once the two people were united together, there would be many people coming to put them down without hesitation. If that happened, Yu Donglai would not be able to help them.
The Li family had withdrawn from the Special Warfare System of Zhongzhou State for twenty years. Both the rivals of the family and the people who had been benefited from the withdrawing would not like to see it rise again.
“All of us pleased to see?”
Qin Weibai’s voice was frosty. “At least, I’m not pleased to see that, neither Tianlan. Old man, what do you think that Tianlan came to Huating for? If he wants to be a normal man, it’d be better for him to stay at the border. It may be dangerous staying there but better than staying here and facing the dilemma of exposing himself.”
Yu Donglai was slightly dumbfounded and before he could speak, Qin Weibai continued, “He came here, not to enjoy the life as a normal person; he is the freshman of the Sky Academy this year.”
Yu Donglai changed his expression rapidly and shouted angrily, “The Sky Academy? Is he mad? Sky Academy is a place with a mortality rate of 30%. With his talent, he has no chance to go through all sorts of ordeal there. Is he going there to serve as cannon fodder? No, it’s not true. He wants to go there… Is he trying to investigate the case of his father’s treason? Damn, he is so stupid! What he should do the most is to stay away from the Special Warfare System, not to get himself involved on his own initiative. Otherwise, once he is exposed, over a half of the people in the Special Warfare System will be his enemy till their death.
“He is courting death.”
Yu Donglai said in an iron tone.
“For that, I’ve planned to go to Bili State recently. If everything goes on well, Tianlan will gain a card to save his life. At worst, it will earn him more time to grow stronger.”
Qin Weibai smiled, and her voice turned even more mysterious.
Yu Donglai’s hands trembled as he heard her, and the streaky pork he just took out fell to the ground from his hands.
“You… You’re out of your mind! You should not touch what doesn’t belong to you. Can’t you understand that?”
Yu Donglai shouted at her, exasperated.
“As I understand it, if I want it, it’ll be mine.”
Qin Weibai’s voice was gentle, but her manner suddenly turned overbearing and chilling.
Yu Donglai felt helpless deep inside.
Once there was a legendary Taoist who was regarded as a half-immortal by numerous big shots in Zhongzhou State. He had given his comments on all the heroes in the state. When he talked about the head of one top family in the state, he described that person as “Internal Saint and External King”, and that comment was widely spread even nowadays. Some people still could recall it.
As what Qin Weibai was now, she was absolutely not a hero in that Taoist’s eyes and unqualified to be commented by him, but, quite a few people knew that when the Taoist visited Huating, he had come across Qin Weibai, who was twenty at that time. He had given his comment on her as well.
A comment opposite to what he gave to the head of that top family.
The comment was “Internal King and External Saint”.
As a young girl who was known to and remembered by more and more people in Huating, nothing could change her mind once she made her decision.
Nobody could, neither Yu Donglai.
“If you can return alive from Bili State, it’s true that Li Tianlan will gain a card to save his life, but, is it worth it?”
Yu Donglai took out another piece of streaky pork and asked Qin Weibai in a complicated tone. Before she could answer, he continued, “I have no other choice but to help him even if it will cost my life, as he is the grandson of His Highness. However, you needn’t to do so. I’m really curious about how you came to know him? This is quite baffling.”
Qin Weibai answered in a soft voice as she picked up a kitchen knife and chopped the vegetables. “Long long ago, when he did not even know me, I got to knew him.”
She took a deep breath and slowed her speaking. “Old man, I know you have a good relationship with the headmaster of the Sky Academy, where I have little voice in their matters. I hope that you can help Tianlan when it’s necessary after he enters the academy.”
“I’ll have to see.”
Yu Donglai replied impatiently and added, “I cannot figure out why you like him. He has nothing special, and I would not spare him a glance if he was not the grandson of His Highness. I think Wang Xiaoyao is much more like the right person for you. He has been wooing you for years with great infatuation.”
“He is not good enough for me.”
Qin Weibai raised her eyebrows. She was brightened up, showing her unparalleled beauty.
“If there were only one person to be remembered in the next hundreds of years, that person could only be my man. Wang Xiaoyao isn’t able to achieve that, so, he doesn’t deserve me.”
“Li Tianlan can’t achieve that either. Let me say it, three words are enough to describe him—an ordinary man.”
Yu Donglai said in a bad manner.
“Well, what a coincidence! I have three words for Tianlan as well.”
Qin Weibai said gently.
Yu Donglai asked her with interest.
Qin Weibai lifted her tone and answered, clearly and loudly.
“A peerless genius!”