The village patriarch of Brightstone Village readily accepted Wen Jiu’s halfhearted proposal, even going to the extent of kowtowing for a second time to prevent the handsome man from reneging on his promise.
Nonetheless, An Fei noticed that the countenances of the group of youths were suffused with bitter despair and sorrow as they departed.
“…I don’t remember you being so coldhearted to order the youths to absolve their cultivation,” the young girl finally asked as they stepped towards the wooden gates of Brightstone Village.
“Wouldn’t killing them be a simpler matter? Forcing those who have become addicted to the pleasures of cultivating to live a mortal’s life would be the same as inflicting a constant torture for the remainder of their lives.”
The handsome man glanced upon the bloodstained and corpse-ridden plains below Chunwoo Battlegrounds, and his brows creased in hidden rage.
“Who said they were addicted to the pleasures of cultivation when half of them had yet to surmount the first pillar of the Body Tempering Realm?” Wen Jiu snorted.
“And indeed, I did force those youths into forfeiting their life as practitioners of spiritual essence, but didn’t kill them. Is that necessarily coldblooded? If that is coldblooded, then what about those of Bei Tang when they massacred and pillaged innocent Great Yong citizens at the border cities?”
“They slaughtered strong and weak, young and elderly, children and adults. All were killed, raped, brutalized without the cultivators of Bei Tang even blinking an eye or breaking their breath – is that not coldhearted?”
A breath of silence breezed between the gates of Brightstone Village, only to be broken by the young girl’s light sigh of breath.
“Anything can be interpreted from a subjective perspective,” An Fei tapped a shattered bone with her right boot.
“More importantly, do you know of the nearest settlement that we can go to? After all, it would be unlikely that we would be offered residence at this village, not after you ruined their entire capacity of cultivating talents.”
“En… that is a question that has no answer. However, I do know that for every cultivator Bei Tang loses, three hundred citizens of Great Yong survive a bloody massacre.”
The handsome man awkwardly turned his head away, his cheeks blushing with shame upon realizing their predicament.
Alas, when the young girl besides him reached into the leather bag and withdrew a rolled-up object, Wen Jiu’s eyes widened to their limits.
“I-isn’t that Old Uncle Shen’s beloved map of the entire Shattered Star Continent? Why do you have such a priceless artefact!?”
The handsome man of the Wen Clan, a reputable clan of the Hundred Clan Coalition, could hardly believe his eyes upon witnessing the object grasped between An Fei’s hands. Moreover, after witnessing how the young girl casually handled the sacred map that the Shen Clan Patriarch would “die before lending to outsiders”, the handsome man felt his heart shatter into pieces.
“…young lass, sometimes you can be more coldhearted than I am – Hey! What are you doing!?”
Wen Jiu howled in shock and frustration as he found a leather scroll tossed at the bridge of his nose.
Catching hold of the continental map and nearly loosing his heart to the depths of the abyss, the handsome man thoroughly scolded the young girl for her careless behavior.
“Since you were the one that made us unable to find lodging, find this ‘Chunwoo Battlegrounds’ as well as the nearest settlement! I don’t know about you pristine cultivators, but I, this mortal girl, don’t ever want to sleep on top of corpses and bloodsoaked soil!”
You don’t want to sleep on a forsaken battleground stained with blood and curses?
…you don’t think that I don’t want to as well!?
The handsome man found himself utterly speechless at the young girl’s order. After resigning himself to his task before the Brightstone Village gates, however, Wen Jiu was discovered to be more efficient than An Fei could ever be, locating the miniscule Chunwoo Battlegrounds on the continental map as well as numerous towns and cities nearby in a matter of seconds.
Goeun was a neighboring city of the Chunwoo Battlegrounds, located directly south to the infamous training grounds of the Violet Jade Pavilion.
The city located a mere fifteen kilometers from the entrance to the unfathomable and dangerous jungle of Bei Tang was a rivulet of lifeblood and resources to the Violet Jade Pavilion as well as the dismal yet mighty empire of Bei Tang.
Not only did the city serve as the major source of fermented food products including bok choy, kimchi, and red pepper paste referred to as gochujang, many of the younger generation present were more than willing to offer themselves to be of service to the Violet Jade Pavilion.
That was be it through discipleship, servitude, or marriage to cultivators of the Violet Jade Pavilion.
Regardless of the presence of cultivation, or moreso because of its presence, human life was exceptionally fragile in the Shattered Continent, particularly the empire of Bei Tang that favored strength over the weak.
For those who could not obtain strength through direct means, they had to make up for the deficit in influence by forming connections with entities with sufficient strength.
As such, many wished to ride upon the coattails of the Great Sect, even if it instantiated that they reduce their entire life to mere servitude. That way, they could preen their feathers before the masses and those without influence, while preserving their lives and a sliver of their dignity before those with greater influence.
Alas, what the young girl was concerned about was not the overall atmosphere of competition and flattery, but the overpowering smell of kimchi and fried food liberally slathered with gochujang.
It was overwhelming and dominating of the soul. Each breath into the lungs triggered a wave of guaranteed submission, and those who dared to breath in without ample preparation were coaxed into raising the white flag within moments of resistance.
“My god, this is terrible! You called this fried pancakes with scallions? Why does it look like you burned the gochujang then fried it in black oil!? How did you even manage to burn gochujang in the first place!?!?”
Just because Goeun City was the major source of gochujang within Bei Tang, didn’t necessarily mean that its residents knew how to cook using the special pepper paste.
They were willing to survive, even if it meant that the streets of the marketplace were polluted with an eternal scent of burnt sentiments, hopes, and dreams…
“It’s burnt and crumbly! What is this nonsense, did the person even use any oil while frying it in the first place!?”
In the commercial streets of Goeun City, a certain young girl sobbed over a plate of fried pancakes, her heart feeling utterly betrayed by the world.
She wailed while shaking her fists at the handsome man standing besides her, not even daring to look at the object on which she had just spent fifteen bronze coins.
“The gochujang smells weird and tastes more sour than spicy! The onions and mushroom are flakes – what even is this!? And what was that man saying – his ‘jeon’ are the best of all of Goeun City!?!?”
Wen Jiu’s lips twitched upon watching the young girl toss the fried pancake onto the ground, before raising her boot to stomp directly onto the center of the pitiful, circular pancake that was the culmination of a certain man’s hopes and dreams.
When he remembered that the same boot had trekked through a whole fifteen kilometers of blood-soaked and corpse-ridden plains, the handsome man’s stomach directly sought to liberate itself from its owner.
Just the thought was sufficient to give him a bad time for the remainder of the day at the least. Nonetheless, Wen Jiu had a more important concern.
“Young Miss, this is your first time to Bei Tang, and to this city as well, correct?”
“That’s right, ah,” An Fei scowled as she scanned the street only to return in disappointment.
“Only, I regret coming to this city after experiencing this hell. Should we have gone to Angu City instead?”
“…since this is your first time coming to Bei Tang, how did you recognize the appearance of gochujang at first glance, much less know how to properly cook with it?”
“Intuition! And my family taught me how to cook with it!”
“Family? Young Miss, the Xu Family is stationed in the northern regions of Great Yong, right?”
“That’s correct! Is something the issue?”
“…how does a family of the northern regions of Great Yong know how to obtain an exclusive staple that Bei Tang defends with its fearsome army, much less have the necessary experience and knowledge in cooking with it?”
“En… that’s a question that has no answer! Don’t you think that the japchae on the right looks a little too watery? No wonder it’s being sold at a bronze coin for two dishes!”
An Fei would need much more than courage to admit to Wen Jiu that she came from a different world!
She required utter insanity of the mind, and the young girl was hellbent to ensure that she was perfectly sane, even if the little raven perched on her shoulder disagreed with its pure and innocent heart.
Stupid lass, this Esteemed Immortal remembers you mentioning about a carbine rifle…
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