There they sat, face to face and completely silent, both Lei Wujie and Xiao Se. Between them was the ostentatiously linear arrangement of Sangluo, Xinfeng, Zhuyu, Songlao, Changan, Tusu, Yuanzheng, Guihua, Dukang, Songhua, Shengwen and Bore Wine. Cup by cup, they downed the wine with amazing endurance, faces not even the least bit tipsy even after all that alcohol.
“Originally, we guessed that you would be able to climb up twelves floors so I ordered these twelve wines.” Only after downing the last cup of Bore did Xiao Se finally speak.
“We?” Lei Wujie paused for a second. “Who else is there?”
“Me.” A lazy drawl echoed from behind. Lei Wujie turned around and found a blue robed man with a goatee sauntering towards them.
“Is that your brother?” He asked after some thought.
The goateed man yawned slightly, his mouth barely opening in the process. An instant later, the last few sips of Bore Wine flew right into his mouth.
Lei Wujie’s eyes went wide. He had heard of moving objects across a distance, but never had he heard of someone drinking wine across a distance.
“The wine’s ready?” Xiao Se asked.
The man smiled, shook his head then proceeded to sit down beside the two of them. “It’s still missing a bit of moonlight.”
“Who might this be, if I may so ask…” Lei Wujie knew that the man was an expert so his voice was a lot more respectful than usual.
“The owner of this establishment.” The man narrowed his eyes slightly. “The alcohol content is a little strong in this Bore Wine, even makes me a little tipsy.”
‘The owner of this establishment? With that level of alcohol tolerance?’ Lei Wujie wondered to himself, choosing not to voice that out in the end. With nothing left to drink, Xiao Se began toying around with the cups while giving the man a thoughtful look. “These twelve wines… I’ll be honest, they are all priceless in their own right. Even the famously peerless White Autumn Wine of the capital is at best on par with these wines. Did you make them yourself?”
The man closed his eyes a little, seemingly drunk from the cup he had. “Naturally.”
“The Dashing Snow Moon is even more sublime than these?” Xiao Se narrowed his eyes as well.
“When it’s done.” The man shut his eyes then, taking a deep sniff in the process.
However, Lei Wujie merely shook his head, clearly not reading the mood of the situation as he said, “I still prefer the fiery white wine I drank in the Fallen Snow Villa.”
“The Fallen Snow Villa?” A sliver of white cracked open in the man’s otherwise shut lids.
“No need for the bootlicking, whatever you owe me must still be paid, don’t forget that.” Xiao Se lowered his cup onto the table, neither too quickly nor too slowly.
“But this Dashing Snow Moon still isn’t the best wine.” The man suddenly continued.
“Oh?” Xiao Se was intrigued at that point. “What would be more sublime than that?”
“The…Soup…of…Granny Meng.” The man stuttered after every word.
“The Soup of Granny Meng?” Lei Wujie furrowed his brows. “Isn’t that what you drink only when you are down below?” What Lei Wujie was referring to was the often talked about ghost legend where a person who drank that soup would forget all his worries, his love, his hate, everything. It was said that when a person died and became a ghost, he would cross the Naihe Bridge. When it was time for him to be reincarnated, Granny Meng would be there quietly waiting with a bowl of soup in hand. With a single gulp, that person would make a clean break with his previous life.
“That’s right, the Granny Meng’s Soup. Just one cup and you would forget everything that happened to you. Once you awaken, you would be a new man -how great that would be. Yet I just can’t seem to brew it.” As he said that, the man slowly lowered his head like he was completely drunk. Finally, his body slumped over on the table and he fell asleep.
Even so, the desolation in the man’s voice was clear to Xiao Se. He stood up and walked to the entrance of the store. By now, the skies darkened and the moon had risen. Eyes glazed over, Xiao Se merely stared into cold moonlight in a daze. Shortly after, Lei Wujie came out as well to sit down and gaze at the distant Tower of Ascension. Suddenly, he asked. “Xiao Se, did your home use to be in Revelations City?”
Xiao Se paused for a second, taken aback by the question. “Why do you ask that?”
“You bring that city up all the time, as if you’ve stayed there for a long time.” Lei Wujie softly said.
“That’s just a place I used to stay in.” Xiao Se folded his arms into his sleeves and stared into the distance. “I have no home.”
The two fell silent at that point, both merely standing there while staring into the distance. After some time, a cold breeze blew past the store, a breeze so cold that Xiao Se couldn’t help but feel a little chilly himself. That owner was probably sleeping for real, he thought to himself. In all likelihood, that Dashing Snow Moon wasn’t going to happen tonight. Xiao Se sighed at that point. “Let’s go, Lei Wujie.”
“Mhm.” Lei Wujie answered and turned around. Yet the moment he did so, he found that the blue robed owner had already awoken. The man stood up and flashed them a thin smile. “May every night have such a fine moon for being drunk. The wine, it’s complete.”
The man turned around and left for the backyard. Xiao Se and Lei Wujie glanced at each other for a second before following the man. Upon stepping into the backyard, all they saw was him standing in the middle of the yard. The yard itself was stacked full of wine vats of varying sizes. Yet on the table in front of him was merely a small wine jug. Atop the jug, a single camellia danced in the air.
“Since the wine’s done, how about a cup?” Xiao Se said.
“Don’t be hasty.” The man merely smiled before waving his hand. A second later, the entire content of that jug came gushing out in a stream as if on command. The man then leapt onto the rooftop with the wine still pulled out in a stream. As it flowed through the air, it almost resembled the white sleeves of a palace dancer. With how the wine caught the moonlight, it looked just like a miniature milky way, sparkling and mesmerizing.
The man waved his hands once more, closed his eyes then started to dance.
“Often do my dreams travel to the moon, where the fair maiden dances in the air with me in tow, thus do I raise a cup of wine to the heavens in tribute. Yet who is that who loves the moon just as I, standing high atop with jade flute in hand and a song on his lips.”
Having finished his recitation, the man stowed his sleeves and stopped dancing. With a flick of his finger, he sent the wine flying back into its jug. Leaping nimbly, he landed softly on the ground, left hand catching the camellia flower that was swimming the wine river not too long ago. With his right, he grabbed a cup and gave the wine a quick scoop. Another wave of his hand later, he sent the cup flying gently into Xiao Se’s hand, then another, right into the hands of Lei Wujie.
“Drink, that’s the Dashing Snow Moon at its peak.” The man no longer had a lazy dullness in his eyes. Instead, they held a sparkle in them that seemed to reflect the moon itself.
The two of them raised their heads and downed the wine, then they fell silent.
“How is it?” The man asked.
“Refreshing like the wind, exquisitely soft like a flower, silent like the snow and desolate like the moon.” Xiao Se answered.
“A good wine has one taste within it, the White Autumn Wine of the capital has three. What about this wine of mine? Can you taste four?” As he said that, the man’s voice resounded in the air with a certain sense of pride.
“All the tastes of the world…” Xiao Se answered without much emotion. Suddenly, he leapt onto the rooftop and sat down facing the north. He raised his head and stared right into the moon hanging high above. Finally, after a long silence, he said, “That’s right, my home is in Revelations City. One day, I will return to it.”
Lei Wujie gazed at that back facing the north. At that very instant, Xiao Se seemed foreign to him. Still, he laughed and said, “Silent like the snow and desolate like the moon… that’s not the wine I like -small is what it seems to me. What I like are the fiery wines that burn like an inferno.”
Unexpectedly, the brooding Xiao Se actually replied him, “I know, the Old Fiery Wine from my Fallen Snow Villa.”
“Hah, I just knew you understood me.” Lei Wujie raised his head and downed his wine. However, the wine didn’t feel all that soft and exquisite on his tongue. Instead, it burned on his tongue like a molten blade running across it. It almost felt like his entire body was lit on fire in that very instant. A blazing qi rushed through his body, and his eyes turned red -his blazing arts actually activated itself without his command. Wiping the sweat off his brows, Lei Wujie sucked in a deep but ragged breath before turning towards the man, “What’s happening?”
The man seemed unconcerned however. He merely poured some wine into a cup and gently said, “I give you my word, every cup you drink will bring you one level up that tower, how about it?”
However, Lei Wujie didn’t have any energy to spare for his words. Right now, he was in a furious clash with the rampaging qi in his body. A full incense stick’s worth of time passed before that burning qi finally subsided. He opened his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. After enduring that ordeal, his body felt strangely relaxed. Naturally, he knew what had just happened to him after downing that cup of wine. Wide eyed and eyes glued to the man, he said, “Who are you exactly? And what exactly is this wine?”
“I’m just the owner of this wine cellar, and that’s my Dashing Snow Moon. Let me ask you again, do you want another cup?” The man swirled the wine in his hands.
Without wasting another word, Lei Wujie snatched the wine cup from the man and downed it right away. Yet the wine barely made contact with his stomach when he roared. Other than that jug containing the Dashing Snow Moon, the other twelve vats of wines instantly exploded and flooded the backyard with liquid and the pungent smell of wine. Xiao Se, on the other hand, continued gazing towards the north, never looking back for a second as if what was happening below was just idle gossip.
“Right now, you should be able to ascend to the fourteenth floor. This third cup…do you dare to drink it?” The man waved his sleeves and another cup of wine landed before Lei Wujie.
However, Lei Wujie didn’t reach for it this time. With his eyes blazing and his muscles taut, he mimicked what the man did just now and forcefully sucked the wine into his mouth.
“Good.” The man smiled slightly as he praised Lei Wujie.
Lei Wujie then plopped himself down onto the ground with a loud thud. Instantly, the spilt wine within ten meters of him evaporated. Seemingly affected by that scorching aura as well, the blue robed man picked up the wine jug and slowly retreated a step. “This fourth cup…do you want it?”
Lei Wujie said nothing but merely extended his arm out.
“After drinking this cup, you will definitely die.” As he said that, the man tapped the wine jug.
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Even so, Lei Wujie’s hand never faltered. His gaze burned just as brightly as before, as if they were trying to set the man on fire.
“If you’re dead, there won’t even be a need to ascend the tower, you can just ascend to heaven directly.” The man chuckled, not at all daunted by the burning gaze.
Lei Wujie clenched his fist, and through gritted teeth, said, “Give it to me.”
“Ha ha ha.” The man’s laughter echoed clearly in the night sky. Suddenly, he raised the jug into the sky and downed it himself. Following that, he lowered the jug and wiped the corners of his mouth.
“You’re drunk.” He said with a slight smile.
Lei Wujie then collapsed with a thud.
Three cups later, Lei Wujie’s Blazing Arts had advanced a full three tiers. According to his teacher, Lei Hong, he would have ordinarily required three years of hard training to reach such a stage. Yet, he did so today with just three cups of wine.
That’s right, he was drunk, drunk into the high heavens.