The vegetable stall owner felt emboldened by her son's presence.
Her husband had betrayed her when she was pregnant. So, after her son was born, she had showered her son with all the love she was capable of giving, including the love that she once had for her husband. As a result, she ended up spoiling the child rotten. Literally, in this case, because her affections had turned her son into an arrogant punk who neglected his studies in favor of picking fights and fooling around with women. He was the type of guy who would settle any disagreement, no matter how inconsequential, with his fists.
Anger swirled inside Li Yundong's chest like a ball of hot gas, and the feral glint in his eyes grew brighter and brighter as the sharpness in them intensified. However, before he could move in and show the knife-wielding douche who was boss, he felt a tug on the back of his shirt.
Li Yundong turned around and saw Su Chan shaking her head at him.
"Forget it," she said. "Let's just go."
Su Chan didn't want to cause any more trouble than she already had. If things escalated into a fight, she'd be forced to use her powers, which would most definitely draw the attention of her enemies. Needless to say, she'd be totally screwed if her enemies knew she was here.
Li Yundong tamped down his anger. From his pocket, he fished out a hundred-yuan bill and tossed it at the woman.
"Here's your filthy money," Li Yundong said. "I hope you can still sleep at night knowing that you're nothing but a swindler!"
Er Lu, the vegetable stall owner's son, was practically undressing Su Chan with his eyes when Li Yundong was fishing out the hundred-yuan bill from his pocket. However, the lust and amazement in Er Lu's eyes vanished when he heard Li Yundong's snide remark. He took a step forward, his eyes wide and round.
"What did you just say?" Er Lu said menacingly. "Are you tired of living, punk?"
The ball of anger inside Li Yundong's chest could no longer be contained. It was like some kind of valve inside his sternum had opened, causing a gush of heat to surge towards the top of his head with an unstoppable momentum. Li Yundong burst forward with a powerful step while his hands moved in tandem — the left hand reaching for the Er Lu's knife-wielding hand and the right for Er Lu's neck. In the blink of an eye, the knife was wrenched out of Er Lu's hand and Er Lu was raised several inches above the ground in a single-handed chokehold.
Er Lu's butt crashed onto the stall's countertop.
Li Yundong raised his hand into the air, then brought it down swiftly.
The tip of the rusty iron knife plunged into a spot on the cement slab between Er Lu's legs. Amidst the multitude of rolling cabbages and flattened tomatoes around the stall, the bystanders stood completely still, aghast at the sight of the blade which was now lodged more than three inches deep into the slab.
A moment later, Li Yundong's thundering voice shook the entire marketplace.
"WHO’S TIRED OF LIVING NOW!!!"
To say that Li Yundong looked like he was about to commit murder was an understatement; he looked more like he was about to skin someone alive.
Li Yundong had scared the living shit and, apparently, the faculty of speech right out of Er Lu.
Seeing that Er Lu had nothing else to say, Li Yundong sneered and left the stall with Su Chan in tow. When Li Yundong and Su Chan were about three meters away from the stall, Er Lu finally snapped out of his stupor. He quickly examined himself and found that aside from his wounded pride, he was otherwise unharmed. Mortified, he leaped down from the countertop and reached for the iron knife that Li Yundong had stabbed into the cement earlier.
He yanked on it, but the knife wouldn't budge at all. It was as if roots had grown out from the tip of the blade and had extended into the cement!
Er Lu's head was spinning due to his anger. Without thinking, he grabbed another knife from the counter and charged towards Li Yundong.
Like everyone else, the owner of the vegetable stall had witnessed the whole thing right from the start. She had already begun to regret her actions up to this point. She wouldn't allow her son to go around swinging a knife for a measly hundred yuan. It just wasn't worth it. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her son before he could take more than two steps away from the stall.
His mother's desperate attempt to hold him back gave Er Lu the perfect excuse to avoid a fight (that he wasn't sure he could win) without losing face: Hah! See? I didn't go after him because my mom's stopping me. I'm not a coward, just a son who listens to his mother! Even so, that didn't stop him from mumbling and cursing at Li Yundong for humiliating him. It wasn't until Li Yundong and Su Chan had left the marketplace that Er Lu remembered the knife that was still firmly lodged in the cement slab.
Er Lu studied the knife and tried pulling it out from various angles, but nothing he tried worked. In the end, he got desperate and began pulling it with all his might.
The blade snapped in two with a part of the blade still stuck inside the cement.
"F*ck!!!" Er Lu hurled the broken knife away as hard as he could, then began staring intently at the section of the blade still lodged inside the cement. For a while, he kept staring at it unblinkingly. It was like he had turned into the cement himself, lifeless and unmoving. The only signs of life in him were the sporadic flickering of his eyes and the seamless change in his expression which was becoming more and more violent by the second.
Everyone in the area, stall owners and grocery shoppers alike, soon crowded around the cement slab to study the knife.
"Holy cow, just how much force does it require to stab the knife in so deep?"
Er Lu was instantly brought out of his trance.
"What are you looking at!" Er Lu yelled at them. "I can do it too!"
Then, he raised the knife in his hand and stabbed it down with every ounce of his strength.
A minuscule white dot formed on the cement, but the body of the blade failed to withstand the tension and snapped in half.
Hoots of laughter rang out.
"What are you guys laughing at! I'll f*cking chop up anyone who laughs!"
That threat of bodily harm dispersed the crowd.
Meanwhile, Li Yundong and Su Chan were on their way back to the apartment. "Those money-grubbing f*ckers!" Li Yundong yelled. "It's like they've never seen a banknote before! Motherf*ckers even had the balls to threaten me after they tried to rip me off! If I didn't show them that I'm a tiger, they'd think I'm a f*cking Hello Kitty or something!"
"What's a Hello Keedee?"
Apparently, not even a Jindan-enhanced outburst could hinder Su Chan's curiosity.
Li Yundong glanced at her pretty face. And, just like taking the lid off a pot filled with hot steam, his anger dissipated instantly. "Oh, it's just a cat. I'll buy one for you next time!"
Su Chan stuck out her tongue.
"What would I need a cat for? Aren't cats everywhere? Why do you even have to buy them?"
Li Yundong burst into laughter, the unhappy episode at the market just now all but forgotten.
Rip-off? What rip-off?
"Fine, fine. I'll pick up a Hello Kitty from the streets next time. Happy?"
Seeing that he was no longer mad, Su Chan smiled at him.
"Um... Just now, it was all my fault. This only happened because I didn't pay for the vegetables. I'm sorry..."
Li Yundong waved off her apology.
"Nah, it's fine. People forget things. It's part of being human. It's totally normal!"
Wait a minute... Could it be that this girl has no money on her? Li Yundong thought. Well then. Guess I have to find a chance to give her some cash. You can't survive in this world nowadays without having some form of money on you at all times...
Li Yundong began working his magic once they got home. Despite the hundred-yuan incident, the trip to the market wasn't a complete waste. Li Yundong managed to buy 250 grams of meat, a whole carp, 500 grams of tomatoes, 500 grams of eggs, and some bok choy. Using all those ingredients plus the cucumber that Su Chan had "bought," Li Yundong whipped up three dishes: stir-fried cucumber and meat; scrambled eggs with tomatoes; bok choy flavored carp soup.
Inside the kitchen, Su Chan's eyes were sparkling with admiration as she watched Li Yundong perform various culinary tasks (chopping, sauteing, seasoning, pan flipping) with practiced ease.
"Wow, that's amazing..." Su Chan said. "So you really know how to cook, and it smells so good!"
Vain is a man whom a woman praises; needless to say, Li Yundong's vanity had just gotten substantially juiced-up.
"Yeah? Just wait till you actually taste it! You know, these are actually nothing. Just simple dishes. I'll make something better next time. I'll make you a feast!"
The gleam in Su Chan's eyes was probably brighter than a thousand suns.
"Yes, really," Li Yundong said smilingly, transferring the food from the wok into a bowl.
Su Chan watched Li Yundong prepare dish after dish, the aromas of which were so tantalizing that she was practically drooling.
She had spent her entire childhood deep inside the mountains, training in the art of Cultivation. Needless to say, life inside the mountains was primitive. She had never even seen, let alone tasted, such delicious dishes.
At long last, Li Yundong brought out the final dish on the menu for the night. Dinner was officially served. The two of them sat in the living room, one sitting on the couch while the other sat cross-legged on the carpet.
Su Chan was already eyeing the dishes eagerly with her chopsticks in hand. Despite being utterly famished, Su Chan had suppressed her hunger and forced herself to wait (submission!) for Li Yundong. Su Chan stole a glance at Li Yundong. "Can we eat now?"
Li Yundong nodded with a smile. However, a moment later, he decided that he'd been right earlier about a mini cyclone having wreaked havoc inside his fridge. Because, this right here? This was a cyclone right in front of him. An adorable and gorgeous-as-hell cyclone true, but destructive nonetheless, especially considering the way she was literally cleaning out the food on the coffee table. Seriously, when did she have her last meal anyway? Eight-hundred years ago?
At first, Li Yundong could still watch the whole cyclone thing with an amused smile. But a while later, the only expression he seemed to be capable of was a scowl. "Hey! That's not fair! Leave some for me, will you! F*ck! What am I supposed to eat if you gobble up everything!"
Well, he really shouldn't have said that. Because it was a waste of precious time; another portion of food on the table was gone by the time he finished speaking. Li Yundong gasped, appalled at Su Chan's behavior.
Holy shit! This girl! She doesn't even care whether I have anything left to eat!
At that moment, Li Yundong came to a decision: chivalry be damned. He might as well be having oxygen for dinner if he kept acting like a gentleman. No, a gentleman wouldn't stand a chance against this cyclone of a pretty girl on her feeding warpath. To hell with it. He was going to fight tooth and nail for every piece of meat and every drop of soup.
And that was how a simple meal got turned into a warzone with clashing chopsticks and ricocheting saliva. In just ten minutes, an entire pot of rice and table of food was wiped out.
The disappointment in Su Chan's face was plain as day when she finished her last piece of meat and saw that there was nothing left on the table. Then, she glanced longingly at one of the plates, which contained some leftover gravy. She picked up the plate and literally licked the gravy dish clean.
Once the plate was squeaky clean, her eyes swept across the table to look for more plates that required cleaning. Only then did she notice the look of amusement that Li Yundong was giving her.
Su Chan blushed and lowered the plate sheepishly. With the back of her hand, she wiped the lingering oil stains on her lips.
"Just... It was just too delicious..."
Pride coursed through every fiber of Li Yundong's being, culminating in the form of a warm sensation blooming inside his chest. Despite being nowhere near full, he felt like he had achieved something worthwhile today. Li Yundong laughed heartily.
"Alright! If it's that good, then how about I cook for you every day!"
"Every day?" Su Chan's sparkling eyes were filled with delight and gratitude.
"What? Is that so weird? If I'm not going to cook, then who else is going to do it? You?" Li Yundong said.
Then, he caught a glimpse of some oil stains on the corner of her lips, a spot that she had missed just now. He grabbed a napkin and, with as much tenderness and warmth he was capable of, dabbed it against the corner of Su Chan's lips.
His actions threw Su Chan into a daze, causing her to stare back at Li Yundong blankly. After a while, she found herself asking the question that she had been dying to ask: "Why are you so nice to me?"
Li Yundong smiled. I could ask you the same, you know. Why are you even following me around? Believe it or not, you're actually the first girl who liked me on her own accord. However, those words never made it past his lips. Instead, he asked, "Has no one ever been nice to you?"
Silence filled the room as Su Chan pondered his question. Loneliness crept into her countenance and she shook her head slowly.
"Me neither," Li Yundong said with a wry smile. "I didn't even have anyone to take care of me. Which is why I've always wanted to find a girl who would be nice to me, and whom I can be nice to..."
Su Chan raised her head and stole a glance at Li Yundong. Her voice was barely audible when she spoke next.
"Aren't you going to ask where I come from and who I am?"
Li Yundong thought over her question briefly.
"I just assumed that you'll tell me when you're ready."
Something flickered inside Su Chan's eyes, a hint of surprise and gratitude. She rose to her feet, keeping her head low.
"I'm going to bed," she said. "Where am I sleeping?"
Li Yundong pointed to his bedroom.
"Take my bed," he said. "I'll just sleep outside."
They started dinner early, so the sky wasn't dark when dinner concluded. Even so, neither of them decided to do anything other than go to bed. The apartment was silent with two of its occupants staying in different rooms. One lay on the bed, struggling with ambivalent feelings and conflicting thoughts while the other lay on the carpet, using his forearm as a pillow, staring up at the ceiling.
Somehow, a beautiful girl ended up moving into my place, Li Yundong thought. But I have no idea what's going to happen in the future...
It wasn't that he didn't want to ask Su Chan about her past or about who she was. He was actually dying to know, just that he dared not ask in fear that she might head for the hills once he started to push. The fact that he was still the proud owner of his V-card implied that he had never before been this close to a woman, let alone one this beautiful. God, she was so beautiful that everything almost seemed surreal, like this was all just a dream. All of a sudden, he was struck by a sense of fear; he feared waking up from this wonderful dream.
If this really is a dream, then I don't ever want to wake up...
Li Yundong allowed his eyes to flutter closed, though a smile still adorned his lips as his mind drifted off into a universe of possibilities.
Lying there with his eyes closed, Li Yundong began to mentally recite "Sidixiang," a beautiful poem by Wei Zhuang about a teenage girl's passionate pursuit of romantic love. Looking at his current circumstances, he couldn't help but notice the similarities between the poet's portrayal and Su Chan's sudden appearance in his life. There was now a teenage girl who was crazy enough about him to be chasing after him, and even crying at the first sign of him leaving.
All was right in the world.
While Li Yundong was indulging in mental poetry, Su Chan was curled up into a bundle on his bed, hugging a pillow to her chest.
"Master, it’s true that the mortal world is scary, but I don’t think that all of them are bad people," Su Chan mumbled. "This guy is so nice to me. But... I have no choice but to perform Yang feeding on him... Ugh… Why did he have to swallow my Renyuan Jindan..."
"But… Master, why is it that I feel so guilty and sad whenever I think about this?"
A series of rustling sounds ensued as Su Chan rolled back and forth on the bed in a fit of frustration. Then, she covered her ears with the pillow and engaged in a bout of self-hypnosis: "He stole my Renyuan Jindan... He stole my Renyuan Jindan!"
She recited the mantra several dozens of times before she managed to calm her tumultuous heart.
Yes! That's it! This guy stole my Renyuan Jindan, so I can’t show him any mercy!
Su Chan's heart lightened as her resolve strengthened.
A sly glint formed inside her eyes, brightening with each chuckle she released.