In order to ease Little Junior Brother’s worries, Mo Chen did not urge him to practice martial arts again. He simply had Little Junior Brother tag along with him.
After half a day, Xiaodong realized that as the Eldest Senior Brother, Mo Chen did not have it easy. Master was a hands-off shopkeeper. He ignored all the matters going on in the sect, and the attendants all sought Eldest Senior Brother’s instructions. Master would only occasionally conduct tests and give pointers to them martial siblings, and usually, Eldest Senior Brother was the one teaching them and giving them support too. The number of things he had to go through was of a considerable amount, and as Xiaodong watched him work throughout the day, he felt as if Eldest Senior Brother had become a housekeeper. He did not have much rest after coming down from Sword Conferring Peak either, and Xiaodong’s heart ached seeing Eldest Senior Brother like this.
Eldest Senior Brother had a lot on his plate, and putting aside how Xiaodong was unable to help reduce his workload, Xiaodong had even troubled Eldest Senior Brother with his own matters. With this in mind, Xiaodong cheered himself up and helped Eldest Senior Brother with some miscellaneous tasks.
Though, in the first place, there wasn’t much miscellaneous work he could do, coincidentally something had to be delivered to Master. Xiaodong thus seized this errand, carried the box and headed right over. Master was not present. He seemed to have gone out with Senior Liu again.
As Xiaodong was getting out after putting the box inside Master’s residence, he could not help but turn around and give the place another look.
He remembered that there was a hidden room in Master’s place, and he could even remember how to enter it.
If it was before, he might still have mere suspicions of its existence and gone over to confirm it. However, there was no need for that now. Ever since Eldest Senior Brother gave him that stone monkey, he no longer needed any other proof. Xiaodong realized that the things he saw in his dreams were all real.
After heading out of Master’s residence, he encountered Senior Liu’s two junior nephews. Xiaodong hurriedly bowed. “Senior Brother Song, Senior Brother Shi.”
Calling ‘Senior Brother Song’ was alright, but ‘Senior Brother Shi’ sounded a little strange. Shi Shinior Brother?
Senior Brother Song was polite as he replied with a smile, “Junior Brother Yun.” Senior Brother Shi however had a cold look and did not utter a word. He looked as if he had lent others some money but hadn’t gotten any back yet.
“We’re here to look for Senior Uncle. Is he perchance here at Senior Li’s residence?”
Xiaodong shook his head. “Master isn’t here, and neither is Senior Liu. I heard that they went out.”
Still smiling, Senior Brother Song replied, “In that case, we shall be returning now.”
Xiaodong was not familiar with them and so did not chat with them any further. Senior Liu was dressed in cloth and wore hemp sandals, yet these three juniors were all dressed considerably well. The headscarf that Senior Brother Song wore was decorated with pearls. Even if Xiaodong did not have much knowledge about them, he at least understood that they were definitely expensive. His extravagance was completely different from how anyone on Returnflow Mountain looked.
Xiaodong could not be bothered with how others dressed, but in his mind, he could not help but imagine how Eldest Senior Brother would look like in the same attire. He would definitely be a lot more handsome than these guests, alright. Though the two were dressed well, their looks and demeanor were a far cry from those of Eldest Senior Brother. Eldest Senior Brother’s smile gave people the feeling of a spring breeze. Although Senior Brother Song similarly had a constant smile on his face, Xiaodong could only think of him as a smiling tiger.
Furthermore, what was the using of dressing well? His actual capabilities were bad. Otherwise, why was Eldest Senior Brother the only one who could tag along for the conferring of swords?
After turning around, Xiaodong had only taken two steps when suddenly someone behind him called out, “Stop there.”
Xiaodong was stunned for a moment before looking back.
Senior Brother Shi coldly sized him up. “How long have you learnt swordsmanship?”
Before Xiaodong could reply, he continued, “I’ve heard that the sword techniques of Returnflow Mountain are self-made and unique. Since Junior Brother Yun is carrying a sword too, why don’t we have a little spar?”
“I,” was all that Xiaodong managed of his reply before he was interrupted by Senior Brother Song, who pulled Senior Brother Shi back. “What are you saying? Junior Brother Yun has only just been apprenticed for a while, you know that, don’t you? With the way you are now, are you trying to bully the weak?”
Senior Brother Shi did not give into his persuasion. “I don’t want to bully the weak either, but great Senior Brother Mo doesn’t take our puny skills seriously. We can’t seek him out for pointers even if we want to. I’ve heard that Junior Brother Yun has a good relationship with Senior Brother Mo, so he must have considerably good martial arts. If we’re able to at least have a spar with Junior Brother Yun, coming to Returnflow Mountain would no longer be a wasted trip.”
When Senior Brother Song saw that Senior Brother Shi wasn’t listening to his persuasions, his expression began to sink a little. “What are you saying? Senior Uncle will definitely lecture us if he hears about this. We’re not staying here for more than a few days, too, and you’re afraid that you won’t get an opportunity to seek pointers from Senior Brother Mo? Hurry up and head back with me.”
After lecturing his junior brother, Senior Brother Song said to Xiaodong, “This person speaks his mind and doesn’t think things through. Junior Brother Yun, please don’t feel offended.”
What else could Xiaodong say?
He could see that this person surnamed Shi was really dissatisfied with Eldest Senior Brother. Most likely it was because Eldest Senior Brother could head up to Sword Conferring Peak while none of them could, thus he felt dissatisfied.
There were people who envied Eldest Senior Brother. Xiaodong felt a little proud, but at the same time, a little worried.
It was naturally worth being proud of having such an incredible senior brother.
But this person was the type who seemed dislikeable with a single glance, and he even wanted to trouble Eldest Senior Brother. What should Xiaodong do?
This matter weighed heavily on Xiaodong’s mind as he returned. However, the moment he saw Eldest Senior Brother, he understood.
The capabilities of the person surnamed Shi were incomparable to Eldest Senior Brother’s, and so he could only vent his frustration on a minor character like Xiaodong.
The more Xiaodong thought about it, the happier he became. His feet felt so light it was as if he was about to fly.
He was not the slightest bit frustrated at having abusive and cold language thrown at him, instead, he was filled with happiness for his senior brother.
This was the first time Xiaodong was passing into the new year on Returnflow Mountain. It was not much different from celebrating it outside the mountain. Everyone was dressed in new clothes, there was meat to eat, and Senior Brother Jiang had even prepared firecrackers and fireworks for Xiaodong. Senior Brother Jiang brought him to the front of the main hall and they played with the sparklers together on the empty grounds.
Xiaodong held onto a sparkler, saying awkwardly, “Senior Brother, I’m not little anymore,” as he played happily without end. The colorful fireworks looked especially bright in his eyes.
In the past, no one had brought him out to play with sparklers before. Xiaodong was drenched in sweat as he ran about. Li Fulin stood by the stairs and watched, commenting, “It’s been awhile since he came to the mountain, but this is the first time I’ve seen him enjoying himself so much.”
Mo Chen, who stood behind him, softly said, “Little Junior Brother is usually obedient and rule-abiding. Since we’re passing into the New Year today, it should be fine to let them enjoy themselves.” After pausing for a moment, Mo Chen asked, “What is Master’s decision on the suggestion brought up by Senior Liu?”
Li Fulin couldn’t even remember. “What suggestion?”
Mo Chen reminded him, “Regarding Little Junior Brother’s situation.”
“Ou.” Li Fulin remembered now.
Actually, he did not have any plans of sending Xiaodong away. Liu Hengmao had always been the type that spoke without thinking matters through. There had never been any cases of a disciple being sent away after already being apprenticed. If Li Fulin had been concerned about the child’s aptitude, then he wouldn’t have accepted taking the child as his disciple back then. Though ‘taking him in’ and ‘taking him in as a disciple’ might sound the same, the meanings behind them were completely different. Back then, Li Fulin could’ve just taken him in, and then as Senior Liu had suggested, recommend the child to another sect. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have the reputation or connections to do so.
Since he had already decided to take him in as a disciple, would it be make sense for him to regret the decision he had already made?
However, facing his eldest disciple, Li Fulin asked in return, “Is your Little Junior Brother too foolish to the point that it has made this Eldest Senior Brother despise him?”
“Master, you’re joking.” Mo Chen knew that Master had always liked to crack jokes. “Little Junior Brother is still young and has yet to be enlightened, but he’s willing to work hard and has a kind heart. Though it hasn’t been long since he came onto the mountain, he has good relationships with all his senior siblings. This is also the fate he has with our Returnflow Mountain.”
“Mn.” Li Fulin nodded and said, “I’m not the ambitious type that needs my disciples to be dragons and phoenixes either. I think this child Xiaodong is pleasing to the eye, and he’s not stupid either. Though his bones are a little frail, he just needs to work hard in his training. Though, I’m usually the type to sit behind the desk and wave his hands. I will have to trouble you as the Eldest Senior Brother to spend more effort on this.”
“Master, don’t worry. With Master watching over them, my junior siblings will definitely not stray on the wrong path.”
Li Fulin quietly smiled.
He knew that as their Master, he was too incompetent. Fortunately, he had an eldest disciple who was serious and mature. At such a young age, this eldest disciple was already able to share his worries.
Xiaodong played the entire night. His footwear was already soaked by the snow, and his clothes were also drenched in sweat. Mo Chen thus called him to his own room to sleep. On the morning of the second day, a new and clean set of clothes had already been placed next to the bed. His footwear was also placed in front of the bed, fuzzy and warm. Xiaodong knew that Eldest Senior Brother was definitely the one who had someone prepare them. Not daring to continue lazying on the bed, after he swung open his blanket and, while feeling the chilling cold, he hurriedly dressed himself.
On the first day of the New Year, the martial siblings stood neatly in a row and kowtowed in front of Master as a new year greeting. Master chuckled as he told them to stand, and gave every single one of them a red packet. Even Senior Liu gave them one each. However, Xiaodong felt that there was a high chance Senior Liu did not prepare these himself. He did not look like someone that would care about such etiquettes.
However, being able to receive two red packets was still a happy occasion. Senior Brother Jiang was the best talker among them. As he tucked the red packets into his clothes, he said, “Thank you, Senior Liu. It would be great if you could just come to Returnflow Mountain every year. We martial siblings will then be able to receive even more blessings.”
Senior Liu simply revealed a slight smile, though Li Fulin threw a glance at his chubby disciple as though he wanted to beat his disciple into a pulp immediately. He’s so happy with receiving red packets, but he did not think about how since Senior Liu had given them, Li Fulin had to give red packets to his juniors too? Li Fulin would have to spend a lot more that way, did he know that?
However, he then calculated in his heart. He had a lot more disciples here, so after calculating the amount he would receive compared to the amount he had to give out, his side wasn’t actually losing out here.
Outside, a long whip struck out and the ground was then scattered with confetti. Just like how it was beneath the mountain, they ate dumplings on the mountain as well. Everyone had a bowl each with an equal number of dumplings. Steamy dumplings that looked like round and fatty ingots filled the table. Xiaodong actually did not like eating dumplings too much. Returnflow Mountain’s food had a heavy taste. Not only were they salty, they had a lot of flavouring as well. Tons of ginger, onions, fennels, and fragrant noodles were stuffed inside. Though he did not eat dumplings often, he had eaten a considerable amount of buns and the like. He couldn’t get used to eating them.
Xiaodong did not mean to be picky. But the moment he tried a dumpling, he felt a little surprised.
The dumpling’s taste was not the slightest bit heavy at all, but instead was rather light. The fillings were dried vegetables and eggs, coupled with things like tofu and mushrooms. These were all plain fillings, yet they resulted in an original, fresh and sweet taste.
Was this dumpling made with a new recipe? Was that why the taste was different?
Or was his bowl the only one with dumplings of this taste, while the others had different ones?
It wasn’t as if Xiaodong could snatch someone else’s bowl and look at their dumplings. His gaze swam around the table. Eldest Senior Brother sensed his behaviour, raised his head and hinted at him to eat quickly.
Xiaodong understood now. With his head lowered, he picked up a dumpling and sent it to his mouth.