# 172. There are None Like Me Upon this Land Xu Qi’an had little experience in the way of making noodles, and the reasons were as follows: One; factory made noodles did not taste that good, and two; anyone can boil some noodles, but making them delicious was very difficult. In fact, ninety nine percent of people could not make a really good ramen. *At the very least I’m making the noodles myself, the enthusiasm is present…* In the kitchen, Xu Qi’an mixed up the dough and kneaded it thoroughly, an expression of focus on his face. Once kneaded he stretched out his noodles, and put them to one side, before cutting up fatty pork and rendering out the fat, putting the cooked pork bits in a plate to one side. He then used the pork fat to fry up an egg. Putting the noodles in a pot of boiling water to cook, he then took out the small bottle from his robe, and poured some simplified chicken bouillon into the boiling water. A thick savoury fragrance filled the kitchen, making one salivate at its smell. Xu Qi’an hadn’t eaten yet, and swallowed in anticipation. On the other side of the tower, Chu Caiwei was just coming down the stairs with Princess Huaiqing. Princess Huaiqing, her long dress trailing on the stairs, glanced over at Chu Caiwei and said in a casual tone: “How did you come across that haunted house anyway?” Chu Caiwei paused for a moment, before understanding the eldest princess’s intention, saying lightly: “Xu Ningyan wanted to buy a house, and I went with him to look at its feng-shui.” “I know that much, I’m asking, how did you discover that house?” The eldest princess asked. “Princess, what do you mean, the old estate agent introduced it to us.” Chu Caiwei replied. *The estate agent?* The eldest princess’s beautiful eyes suddenly flashed, as in an instant a lot flashed through her mind. She tentatively asked: “Was there anything special with him?” “He was a fairly nice guy.” Chu Caiwei fished out a snack from her deerskin pouch, and putting it in the middle of her tender palm, offered it to the eldest princess. *A nice guy?* The eldest princess waved her hand, turning the snack down, asking: “What do you mean?” “Xu Qi’an thought that that haunted house was cheap, yet the guy put a lot of effort into convincing us against it, fearing that it would cause an accident.” Chu Caiwei happily stuffed the snack into her own mouth. Huaiqing was her favourite friend; she never competed for food with her. Xu Ningyan that dastardly man on the other hand, with her merely showing some perfunctory politeness, he would have probably just eaten it. “…” the eldest princess fell silent for a long time, before finally sighing. She was the one not clever enough here, she shouldn’t have even attempted to get anything out of that girl. Asking her about recent news was all good, but anything deeper than that, well that would just be like flashing one’s eyebrows to a blind man. Thinking this, Princess Huaiqing’s brows suddenly furrowed, as she examined her good friend: “Recently you’ve been too close with Xu Ningyan.” “Have I?” Chu Caiwei was at a loss. “Have you had as many dealings with another man? — excluding your brothers in the Sitianjian.” Chu Caiwei thought for a moment, before finally coming to a realisation: “Ah, yeah, he’s always finding ways to come ask me to play.” Princess Huaiqing pursed her lips, as if deep in thought. Just then, she smelled a faint whiff of savoury fragrance, a type of savouriness that made one’s stomach rumble. “That… that smells good… did someone bring back something delicious? Mm, it smells so savoury, I can’t have eaten it before.” Chu Caiwei swallowed down saliva, as longing flashed from her large eyes. … “Plucking the stars with moon in hand, there are none like me upon this land.” Suddenly, a deep intonation resonated within the kitchen, making Xu Qi’an jump with fright. Turning his head, he saw that it was a white cloaked arcanist, who stood with his back turned. *What bloody mental disorder do you have, you’ve nearly given me a heart disease…* Xu Qi’an made a stern face, and said lightly: “You’ve come.” His voice was light yet steady, as if talking to a friend he had known half his life, full of the echoes of years apart, of a time long past. That made the figure hesitate a bit, before he replied with a similarly steady and emotionless tone: “I’ve come.” After he spoke, he waited expectantly for what the person behind his back would say. What came over was a long sigh, and a hoarse voice, exclaiming: “I would have never expected, that after twenty years apart, you still like to face away from the masses.” *Face away from the masses!?* A simple phrase to be sure, but one which gave that white cloaked figure a huge sense of immersion, as if he was the strongest amongst all men, lonely and cold atop his peak, with none able to reach him. Thinking for a moment, he replied lightly: “But even like that, I’m attracted towards you.” *What a natural response… this king of posturers isn’t letting down his title.* Xu Qi’an thought for a moment, before sighing in regret: “I always knew, that when these Nine-fold Golden Cores were done, would be the day you would show your hand. You still don’t want to let me go.” “Hmph. Treasures are held by those virtuous to deserve them.” “Heh, Yang Qianhuan, have you been beaten before?” Steam swirled around, floating around between them. In an instant the atmosphere in the kitchen felt as if daggers had been drawn, yet just then a crisp and cheerful voice broke the mood. “What are you two doing?” Chu Caiwei stood in the doorway, looking blankly at the two of them. Xu Qi’an immediately lowered his head, stirring the noodles in the pot, trying to hide the roaring torrents of awkwardness in his heart. Yang Qianhuan was unmoved, standing resolute with his hands behind his back, facing away from everyone. He snorted: “Given that my sect sister wishes to plead your mercy, I will not…” Chu Caiwei said: “Brother Yang, what are you doing in the kitchen?” Yang Qianhuan: “…Oh, uh, I’ve come for noodles.” Chu Caiwei ran happily towards the stove, drooling somewhat, staring deeply at the pot of noodles, saying with a smile: “How did you know I hadn’t eaten?” *Because I timed it…* Xu Qi’an smiled: “I agreed to make you noodles, remember?” Conveniently, the noodles were done by then. Xu Qi’an looked at the women in the doorway in the pink palace dress, and asked tentatively: “Princess, do you want a bowl?” The cold and aloof eldest princess hesitated for a moment, as her eyes slid towards the pot without her control. She nodded somewhat awkwardly: “Alright.” Having taken into account Chu Caiwei’s appetite, Xu Qi’an had a lot of noodles to go around, and if it were split out between the four of them, would perfectly be a bowl each. He took out the noodles, putting them in cold water, and then filled each bowl with some of the stock, before evenly splitting the noodles between them. Finally, he laid on a fried egg, and scattered on some scallion slices and those fried pork scratchings. “Brother Yang, come eat with us.” Xu Qi’an waved, thinking it would be a perfect time to see what he looked like. Just as that thought appeared in his min though, he saw magical formation runes appear under his feet, as his figure suddenly disappeared, a bowl of noodles going along with him. Chu Caiwei carried her bowl over to the table. She first ate a pork scratching, and nodding in satisfaction, excitedly drank a mouthful of the noodle soup. Her eyes suddenly flashed, as her taste buds experienced something they had never done so before. Every cell in her body was screaming: Delicious! Delicious! Delicious! *For someone who has eaten food with enhanced umami for the first time, this is indeed something hard to forget…* Xu Qi’an laughed proudly, and looked towards the eldest princess. The eldest princess ate very gracefully, but very quickly. Sensing that Xu Qi’an was looking over, she stopped eating, and looked back without any expression. Xu Qi’an laughed dryly, before attacking his own noodles. The eldest princess immediately followed suit, eating small mouthful after small mouthful, as if she didn’t want to waste a single second. In a quiet room, with no one around, Yang Qianhuan facing away from the masses squatted in a corner, slurping noodles with great enthusiasm. *That boy really is something, he knows alchemy, he knows how to speak, and his noodles are also good…* thinking this, Yang Qianhuan suddenly froze. This type of admiration by the masses, wasn’t this what he always wanted? *This boy… is my biggest rival!* … Finishing up, Xu Qi’an looked at Chu Caiwei, asking: “How is it?” “It’s really good.” Chu Caiwei’s head bobbed up and down. “This is my secret recipe, an essence extracted using my very own alchemical skills.” Xu Qi’an said, “And this is what I will teach you, to help you attain Master of Alchemy.” Princess Huaiqing, who was just wiping her mouth with a silk handkerchief, suddenly paused, her eyes flashing. “Is it hard?” Chu Caiwei was most worried about this project’s difficulty. “It’s very hard, as after all I’ve only dabbled in it.” Xu Qi’an said. Seeing Chu Caiwei’s face fall, he added sternly: “If you can’t produce this, then in the future you won’t be able to eat these noodles, nor anything more tasty.” The young beauty’s big almond eyes widened, as suddenly a burning fighting spirit surged in her heart. “You made this yourself?” Princess Huaiqing asked. “Mhm, I put in my blood, sweat and tears to invent this for Miss Caiwei.” As soon as he stopped speaking though, he regretted ever speaking in the first place, how could he say that in front of his big wife? As expected, Huaiqing’s gaze became that much deeper, as she replied with a hint of a smile: “You care quite a lot for Caiwei.” “Miss Caiwei has helped me greatly before, of course I care about her.” Xu Qi’an replied. “How much do you care?” Hearing that, Chu Caiwei was rather happy. “I will rise to any request.” Xu Qi’an replied aloofly.[^1] Then remembering that Huaiqing had also been his benefactor, he added: “And to the Princess the same.” …. Princess Huaiqing still had other matters to attend to, and so after sitting a little while bade them farewell. Xu Qi’an then took out his pre-prepared *Secrets of Alchemy*, which recorded the method for making chicken bouillon, as well as a general concept of MSG. After discussing it with Chu Caiwei for a long time, Xu Qi’an said: “I have a matter to ask of my brothers in the Sitianjian.” He planned to ask one of the arcanists to help save the poor boy in the welfare home, and the reason he avoided Song Qing, was that he was afraid that this “man-beast” concept would stimulate his insane raving mind. Perhaps he would use “curing” in name only to study the boy, and even though his heart would be in the right place at the start, who knows what a half-rate alchemist would mess up with that. Or perhaps he wouldn’t even get a chance to conduct any experiment before being stopped by Hengyuan, and they would have a falling out. “Plucking the stars with the moon in hand, there are none like me upon this land.” Yang Qianhuan’s figure appeared behind them, asking: “What’s the matter.” Xu Qi’an glanced at the innocent and naive Chu Caiwei, hesitating: “Could I have a word with you outside?” He came outside with Yang Qianhuan, and told the latter about the poor boy. “Brother Yang, that boy cannot survive more than three days, I wish to ask my brothers at the Sitianjian for help.” “Of course!” Yang Qianhuan agreed, “Why did we need to avoid Sister Caiwei?” Xu Qi’an shook his head: “Why should we tell her?” Yang Qianhuan nodded, “Good, you have the same high quality of character as me.” … Late at night, the welfare home. Hengyuan, in meditation, suddenly opened his eyes, as his senses felt something. He left the room, feet quick as wings, and quickly arrived at the back yard. The door to the firewood shed was open, and in the dim moonlight, he saw that in the darkness of the room was stood a white-cloaked man. Hengyuan stopped, as his ears twitched. Hearing the boy’s steady breathing, his expression calmed, and he asked: “Sir is?” “Plucking the stars with the moon in hand, there are none like me upon this land.” The white cloak said lightly. *What haughtiness…* hearing this, even Hengyuan, who had long become a monk, could not help but raise his eyebrows, feeling a slight sliver of fighting urge. This feeling could be summed up very bluntly as: I can’t ever get used to your damn swaggering. The white cloak snorted, laughing coldly: “Seeing your pose, it seems you do not know me. In the capital, there are those who do not know me?” *He’s provoking me… this person is not good to be around…* Hengyuan’s brows furrowed. The white cloak laughed disdainfully, as magical runes appeared under his feet, and he suddenly vanished. Hengyuan let out a long breath, as he relaxed his tense muscles, no longer as on guard. He blankly waked into the firewood shed, and lit an oil lamp, inspecting the boy’s condition. *Breathing steady, blood pumping alright, much better than in the day.* Just then, from the faint lamplight he noticed that besides the boy was laid a porcelain bottle, as well as a medicinal recipe. *Medicine… white cloak… he’s a Sitianjian arcanist.* Only then, did Hengyuan realise that this man had come to look at the boy’s illness. He didn’t know, and even thought that the guy was there to provoke him. Hengyuan carefully stowed away the medicine and recipe, before suddenly coming to a realisation: that white cloak was a Master of Formations, an arcanist of the fourth rank. *I can’t believe, Sir Xu managed to ask over a fourth rank arcanist to save this boy…* Hengyuan’s expression moved, shock coursing through him. --- [^1]: The original chinese reads: 有求必硬, lit. “have request must hard” — the last character is homonym with 应 “answer”.