The Fallen Snow Villa, unlike what its name would suggest, wasn’t a villa at all. Instead, it was an inn, an extremely, extremely run down inn. It was also the one and only inn within a hundred li radius. It was set against a mountainous backdrop while its front stared right into a majestic river. Scaling over those mountains required an inordinate amount of time and crossing that river wasn’t any better either. Thus, this inn became a necessary stopover for anyone rushing through these lands.
However, this month’s business wasn’t all that good for the Fallen Snow Villa. That was because, just like what was stated in its name, it suffered from an extremely, extremely long period of snowfall that blocked off the roads and sealed off this place. As Xiao Se sat there, clad in his giant white furred coat and back against the wooden supports of the main door, he stared listlessly at the pouring snow outside the window. A sigh escaped his lips.
That sigh, was every bit a Xiao Se’s sigh – dreary, just like the meaning behind his name.
Scattered all around were waiters who were busy napping on the tables, waking up every so often due to the cold. Violently shivering, they would sweep their eyes over the inn only to find their boss, in all his self-proclaimed sophistication, still leaning against those same wooden beams watching the snow fall. At that point, they promptly fell asleep once more.
Naturally, a bit of silent grumbling was inevitable, “There are those who aren’t willing to travel through the heavy snowfall and decided to stay in our inn. However, our boss stubbornly refuses to fork out money to repair the inn. Thanks to that, every room is full of holes and even the most ardent of guests will willingly set off after experiencing the freezing cold for a few days in their room.”
Still, this boss of theirs, known as Xiao Se, once chided them as such, “This inn of ours, with its back set against verdant mountains and front facing a body of emerald green water… If it were to possess that additional sense of desolation, it would exude an even greater air of sophistication. Now that is the feeling that the travellers yearn for.”
The waiters, thoroughly confused, asked, “So what exactly is that feeling then?”
“Sigh. The feeling of wanting to set off, of course.” He shook his head slowly with a deliberate sense of profoundness.
The waiters nodded their heads as if they understood him.
All that continued till one fateful day when a travelling hulk of a man, after suffering enough of the howling winds and the clattering windows, punched a giant hole in one of the rooms. What happened next was a month of hard labor handed down by their boss.
Naturally, it wasn’t that the man didn’t try to resist, rather it was just that as he was about to raise his fist, he was promptly thrown out the door by Xiao Se. To be exact, the instant he stood up, the first scene he and all the waiters were greeted with was their boss smoothly raising his rod. At which point, it didn’t even have a chance to fall before the man himself fell to his knees.
In truth, there was still an ongoing debate amongst the waiters about or not that rod ever fell at all. A sharp eyed waiter claimed that the rod briefly vibrated for a second before a myriad of afterimages of that rod burst forth. In that brief instant, it almost felt like their rickety inn became even more run-down. At the end of the day however, that hulking man came out unscathed so no one could say for certain whether or not the rod actually fell. Although, it had to be noted that the man was remarkably silent throughout that one month of labor. The moment someone even tried to ask him about it, he would run away.
After he sighed, Xiao Se got down to settling the books. He was fussing over whether or not to sell this inn. After all, he had been offered several times before by Li Yuanwai from Grand Road Town a hundred li away. Even if someone wanted to buy his inn now, they first had to be able to reach this place.
Perhaps he could fire a few waiters first but given how frosty this whole region was, those waiters without any martial background would have nowhere to go.
Suddenly, Xiao Se was struck by inspiration. If he actually fired them, they would have no choice but to stay. If they stayed, that would make them guests and guests would have to pay. Wouldn’t that solve everything then? At that very instant, his lips couldn’t help but curl into a grin.
Yet just as he figured all that out and just as that load on his shoulders lessened, he caught sight of what looked like a smote of red not too far away. He blinked his eyes, unsure whether or not it was a merely a trick on his eyes. However, that smote of red was clearly becoming more and more visible by the second. He blinked his eyes once more before calling out in a lazy drawl, “We have guests…”
Lazy that call may be, it was more than enough to frighten the waiters into attention in an instant.
In the meantime, that smote of red had already zipped its way in front of Xiao Se.
“Dear guest, will that be a room or…”
However, the smote of red had already fleeted his way past Xiao Se. All Xiao Se could feel then was that the snowfall felt even more xiao se (dreary).
The waiters, on the other hand, were stunned.
With how the snow roared outside, they somehow had a visitor who was merely clad in a simple red garment with his chest bared for all to see. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the alluring peaks of a woman’s that were out on display now but rather a toned pair of pectoral muscles. The owner of these muscles had an unusually handsome face that belonged to a teen no older than eighteen or nineteen years old. His eyes, on the other hand, sparkled like a jewel that was more beautiful than the eyes of any normal girl.
As a whole, this newcomer was the perfect combination of the masculine and the feminine. However, what was truly astonishing was that despite his lack of clothes in the dead middle of winter, heat seemed to radiate off his body. Just like that, the heat surrounding him seemed to gush out as he plopped his butt down onto a nearby seat under the watchful eyes of the waiters, warming up the frosty inn ever so slightly.
Xiao Se was already in a bad mood as is because of the teen’s rudeness, that was further ruined by the fact that this rude teen was actually as handsome as he was. However, his ire was swiftly placated as he laid his eyes on what the teen had slung over his back. It was an extremely, extremely, extremely, and even more extremely, big sack. With the weather being what it was, most sane people wouldn’t carry much with them. If they did, there was no doubt their bags would be filled with something valuable.\
That was why that sack had to be valuable! That was why…this guest had to be rich!
“Dear guest, do you require anything else?” Asked the prompt waiter who was naturally aware of this logic as well.
“One bowl of Yang Chun Noodles and one bowl of Fiery White Wine!” Replied the red-shirt teen in a voice just as spirited.
The waiter nearly stumbled. So did Xiao Se as his muscles leaning on the wooden beams seemed to cramp up in that instant.
The red-shirt teen then gingerly fished six copper pieces from his pockets before carefully laying them out on the table, “That will be six coppers, am I right?”
The waiter, who had somewhat calmed himself down, “Dear guest, a bowl of Yang Chun Noodles is five copper pieces, a bowl of Fiery White Wine is three copper pieces, that’s eight in total.”
The teen was stunned. “What? But I just passed by Grand Road Town, their Yang Chun Noodles was just four coppers and their Fiery White Wine was just two coppers!”
The waiter instantly gave him the evil eye, “Dear guest, if you walk out of the main entrance and head straight, you can find a bowl of Fiery White Wine for just two coppers nearby… Within a hundred li or so.”
At that, the red-shirt teen blushed, his head lowered and brows knitted together in hesitation. “In that case…I’ll pass on the Fiery White Wine, just give me a bowl of noodles.” Having said that, he carefully stowed away one of the coppers.
Unable to bear this sight any longer, the waiter turned to face his boss. Yet all he saw was that Xiao Se had long turned around to stare at the falling snow.
That one stare lasted an eternity, interrupted only by the incessant slurping noises of noodles which started to cause a rumble in Xiao Se’s stomach. Just as he was about to call for the waiter, he noticed a bunch of silhouettes pass by. He focused his eyes and found that it was ten or so men. He wanted to smile at this point, but it wasn’t long before that smile was wiped off his face. Those men looked extremely poor…
With just one glance, Xiao Se could tell that while the red-shirt teen was a little lacking with his spending, his clothes showed that he was anything but poor. His red garment was made from a material known as Phoenix Fire, a material that, unless one was a store on the level of those in the imperial capital, one wouldn’t even be able to afford as a single roll would cost as much as the entire store itself. In contrast, these newcomers were all clad in hemp coats, stuffed full of muscles. Plus, they were all armed with blades.
On the other end, those same men gave Xiao Se a more interested stare before stepping into the inn. Those stares were what truly irked Xiao Se – these men were the definition of rude. He was angry, yet he still maintained a smile on his face. After all, he was the boss of this inn and he still wanted to run a business here.
Though it had to be said that such matters were usually handled by the wife of the innkeeper.
A waiter stepped forth to welcome the men at which point they yelled, “Bring us your finest wine and best meat!”
“How much?” The waiter anxiously nodded his head.
“As much as you have!” The hulking man yelled back.
“That’s…” The waiter hesitated.
“HUH?” The hulking man shot the waiter a furious glare.
“Dear guests, our inn operates on the principle of ‘pay first, dishes later’. As such, it would be better if you tell us how much meat and wine you need.” Xiao Se returned their furious stares with a thin smile.
“Who are you supposed to be?” The hulking man eyed him with bulging eyes.
“This humble one is known as Xiao Se, the owner of this inn, the Fallen Snow Villa.” Xiao Se replied with that same smile and with a level of courtesy worth a solid 12/10.
“Well, we have no money.” The hulking man stabbed his blade into one of the nearby tables.
“But I’m sure you have some!” The man’s pointed his finger at Xiao Se.
At that, Xiao Se furiously shook his head. “I’m sorry to break it to you but our little inn hasn’t made a sale in almost a month. I’m about to owe them salaries myself…”
“Like hell if I care!” The hulking man smashed his palm down on the table. “Even if you have no money, that fur coat of yours should at least be worth a hundred odd silvers.”
“NONSENSE!” Xiao Se yelled, eyes wide open and gaze as sharp as daggers
The hulking man was stunned. His body shivered involuntarily for that split second.
“I, Xiao Se, ride only the finest horse and wear only the richest threads! This fur coat of mine was specially sewn by some of the finest seamstresses in the imperial capital in the August Threads. Just sewing it took three whole months, shipping it, another one. Hmph, a hundred silvers? That’s not even enough to buy the sleeves of my coat!” Proclaimed Xiao Se with resolute vigor.
“Brat, were you even listening to me?!” The hulking man yelled after having recovered from being told off like that. He yanked out the blade he stabbed into the table and sliced it apart in one swift motion.
“Two silvers!” Xiao Se furrowed his brows.
“What do you mean two silvers?” The hulking man’s overbearingness was snuffed out once more.
“I’m talking about the table, two silvers!” Xiao Se snapped back.
Instantly, the hulking man’s anger was stirred up once more, his face turning a blood red from the stifling fury within him. “You little brat, we’re here to rob you! We’re not here to book a room! Bring me your wine, your meat, and bring out all your valuables while you’re at it. Else I’ll slaughter all your men and burn down this inn!”
“A robbery?” The red-shirt teen lowered the bowl in his hands and wiped the soup off the corners of his mouth.
“So what if it is?” The hulking man waved his blade and eyed the boy.
“Well then, I can’t stay silent.” The red-shirt teen stood up, all prim and proper before declaring as such.
“You? Who are you exactly?”
“Lei Wujie!” The red-shirt teen smiled as he raised his head to face the man. His voice was confident, clear, and contained a certain degree of arrogance within it. As for the ten or so newcomers, each of them had on a shocked expression.
Only the hulking man, their leader, furrowed his eyebrows. “Who?”
By itself, the name, Lei Wujie, carried a certain domineering quality to it. Let alone when it was declared in such a haughty manner by that teen. By all rights, it felt proper that such a name would belong to some renowned person and yet they just couldn’t recall who it was!
“This is my first step into the martial world, it’s only natural that you guys haven’t heard of me. However, that’s alright. Very soon, this name will resound across the lands.” The red-shirt teen’s eyes were raised as high as they possibly could and his face was the very picture of haughtiness.
However, the burly newcomers were incensed instead.
So it was just some wet-behind-the-ears brat!
“What Lei Wujie?! How dare a nameless kid like you flaunt about in front of us!?” One of the burly men charged forward and swung his blade down upon the teen.
The teen deftly dodged backwards. His finger lightly tapped the oncoming blade but instead of being cut by it, he used the burly man’s momentum to launch himself backwards instead.
That man, on the hand, was in shock. With just a light tap, that teen seemingly nullified all the force behind his blade and prevented it from advancing another inch! Even though that inch was all he needed to slice apart the brat! All he could do was watch helplessly as the teen deftly evaded his strike.
He couldn’t accept this outcome, he wanted to press the assault further. However, before he could do that, he suddenly heard a faint sound. It was the slightest of cracking sounds and it came from his blade.
Not only was that sound audible to him, everyone present could hear it as well. It was just a faint sound at first, one that seemingly came from the edge of his blade. It wasn’t long before it became that much louder and that much more distressing…
“Toss that blade away!” The leader-like man hurriedly yelled.
The man immediately came to his senses and tossed the blade into the air.
An instant later, an explosion was heard and the blade promptly shattered into dozens of shards propelled forward by the fiery light of the blast. The razor sharp fragments rampaged throughout the inn, forcing everyone to take a hurried step backwards. The waiters could only duck under the tables to seek shelter.
Only that teen was left standing there with his hands behind his back, a grin on his face as he looked at the stunned men.
Lei Wujie… That definitely wasn’t the name of some nobody. At the very least, his surname resounded loudly across the martial world. So loudly that those who heard it had no choice but to take cover far away, lest they wanted to be blown to smithereens.
“The blade-sealing, sword-shattering Incendiary Hall of Jiangnan’s Lei clan!” The man yelled through the seams of his gritted teeth.
“That’s right. I am Lei Wujie of the Lei clan.”