Soon after the five left the Wu Clan territory, the maid couldn’t help asking.
“Wasn’t that a rash decision, young master Hei?”
Hei looked over to the maid, who had a worried face.
“Oh? Which part of it?”
“… All of it. Aren’t you afraid that the patriarch will retaliate?”
The maid had a blank look on her face. How could you go about your business as if nothing happened?
“Retaliate? I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.”
“Looking forward to it?”
The maid felt her knees grow weak. What kind of child looked forward to trouble?
“Mm. To be honest, I have a strong disliking for Wu Dong and the Wu Clan. If they want to do something, let them.”
Bai stepped in.
“Don’t worry. Brother isn’t so reckless. He surely believes that he can weather the storm, or he wouldn’t displace our family like this.”
Hei smiled. This was a good start to developing undying loyalty. She was already giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Tianlan also had something to say.
“Mm. It felt good, but what about our home? At least when we were there, we didn’t have any enemies, but now that we’re on our own, we are easy targets. Not to mention, we slapped the faces of the Wu Clan pretty hard.”
Tianlan was concerned that the Wu Clan would attack their home.
“Well, that’s simple. If they come after us, we go after them.”
“Eh? But they are a whole clan and we are just three.”
Hei understood Tianlan’s hesitation but he had already considered this possibility.
“That makes it better for us. We can do something called guerrilla warfare.”
“Mm. Because the Wu Clan is large, they can’t move agilely. This gives us the advantage. Even if they wanted to get rid of us, we would know all of their movements.”
“Then we can take them out one by one. Whenever a group of juniors go out to train, we’ll be there. If they want to attack our home, we’ll be there. If an elder is wondering about the city, we’ll be there.”
“Mm. And like I said before, we won’t let a single one return with their cultivation intact.”
Bai had something to say about this.
“What about cultivation manuals? We will need a source of information.”
Hei also had a response for this.
“For our information needs, we can go to the Fang Clan.”
“The Fang Clan?”
“Mm. You heard how Wu Dong is planning to have the Wu Clan perform well during the 5-sect summit.”
“We will offer the Fang Clan our services. We will cause a scene at the 5-sect summit and prevent Wu Clan juniors from performing well. If we want to, we can outright attack them, making them unable to participate.”
Tianlan stepped back in.
“What about the Wu Clan elders and the patriarch? They wouldn’t let us run amok.”
“Easy. In these three years leading up to the 5-sect summit, we will go train in the Spring Leaf Forest. There I can cultivate properly. I think I will be able to handle the Wu Clan single-handed by then.”
“Hm. But we will still need to protect our home.”
The maid stepped in at this time.
“Actually, you don’t. Your home is a place of business in Spring Leaf City, so you are under the protection of the Fang Clan.”
Hei had something to say about this.
“Right, but that’s only on paper. There are many ways to cause trouble without showing your face. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that whoever they send won’t be strong enough to deal with me.”
Bai also had something to say.
“Mm. And the fact that we’re a business also adds additional vulnerabilities. While we may be protected from a frontal assault, the Wu Clan could start a business to compete with us, and given their resources, they may be able to suffocate us.”
Tianlan was the one who responded to Bai.
“Actually, you don’t have to worry about that Little Bai. Our bread is special. We’re the only ones who can make it, so if the customers want it, they can only come to us.”
“But what about the use of street gangs and other things to deter business?”
Tianlan was unable to respond to this point, but Hei stepped in.
“Don’t worry about that either. As far as the Wu Clan is concerned, we need cultivation resources in order to grow and without the money from the business, our cultivation will stagnate, but that isn’t the case. Even if business runs dry, we will still get stronger. In three years’ time, we will make a big splash. That will be the day the Wu Clan regrets having offended us.”
Bai and Tianlan now realised why their brother was so quick to act. He had thought of many possibilities and calculated that they would still win in the end.
Bai thought of one more point.
“Brother. What if the patriarch would have attacked us back there?”
“Hehe. I’m not particularly scared of Wu Dong either. Worst comes to worst, I would just start cultivating.”
Both Bai and Tianlan remembered the exaggerated nature of Hei’s intentional cultivation.
“I don’t think he’s all that strong anyway. His suppressive aura was nothing much.”
“That’s easy for you to say. Your defence is just too crazy.”
“Maybe it’s just that your offence is lacking.”
The three laughed, then Hei spoke.
“This is the beginning of the long road to the peak. It all starts at a bakery.”
The maid led the four back to the bakery. When they got there, Hei and Bai noticed how small it was.
The floor had a surface area of around 5 square meters.
There was a sign hanging from the entrance that said, ‘Shao Bakery’.
“Oh my, is that little Xiulan?”
An old lady noticed the group.
“Mm. Looks just like her.”
“My my, it’s been quite a few years since we last saw you.”
Three old people walked up to them. They greeted Xiulan who responded with a smile. She spoke to the three.
“Old Chaoxing, Old Hualing and Old Yong. It’s been a while. I’m glad to see you’re still enjoying our bread.”
The three old people responded happily.
“Of course. Your bread is the best bread in the city, hands down.”
“Mm. None can match the bread made by Shao Chen.”
“That’s right. We just came to pick up some more.”
They all seemed to be loyal customers.
Hei was shocked at what he was seeing.
“Which Mumu is this?”
Tianlan answered Hei’s doubts.
“This is the way Mother usually is. She cares a lot about our baked goods and the customers who enjoy them.”
This was a different side to Xiulan that Hei had only seen glimpses of during the birthday banquets.
“Since you have returned, Little Xiulan, this is a joyous occasion. Does Shao Chen know?”
“No. We just came spontaneously.”
Xiulan said this as she turned to Hei and smiled.
The three Old people then looked to the children and the maid.
“Oh, Is this Little Tianlan?”
“My, how you’ve grown. I remember the last time I saw you, you were only this tall.”
“Mm. And what a handsome young man you’ve become. You know, I have a granddaughter around your age.”
The old people remembered a little blue-eyed boy running around in the past.
“It’s nice to see you again too, old fellows.”
“Old fellows? I’ll have you know, we’re in the prime of our lives.”
The old people laughed.
“OK then. We’ll leave you to catch up with your father, Little Xiulan.”
Xiulan said goodbye to the old people and went into the bakery.
As they entered, everyone could smell freshly baked bread in the air.
Xiulan walked past the counter and went into the kitchen behind it.
“Father, I’m home.”
A middle-aged man was crouched over getting some ingredients out of a cabinet.
He turned around, and when he saw Xiulan, his eyes opened wide.
“Xiulan? Why are you here?”
“What? Am I not allowed to come home?”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
The man stood up and walked to Xiulan before giving her a hug.
“What about the Wu Clan?”
This was Shao Chen’s primary concern. He knew that Xiulan was there against her will, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Hei stepped in at this point.
“No need to worry about that, Grandpa.”
Shao Chen turned his gaze to the three children and the maid behind Xiulan.
“Little Tianlan. And you two must be Hei and Bai.”
Tianlan spoke up.
“It’s been a while Grandfather.”
“Indeed it has. It looks like you have grown into a fine young man. But what about your baking skills. Have they diminished?”
“This… I didn’t get to practice much so, most likely.”
“Ah. We’ll need to get you back into shape.”
“That’s right. It has been too long. Just a few years ago he suggested that old bread should be thrown away.”
“Thrown away? Do you want to buy flour from others forever? You need to reduce costs, Tianlan!”
Shao Chen chastised Tianlan. Tianlan responded in a betrayed voice.
“I already admitted my mistake, Mother. You didn’t have to tell Grandfather about it.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. You obviously need re-education. This martial arts training has dulled your mind.”
Shao Chen agreed.
“That’s right. What is so important about martial arts? Do you know that I was once a powerful expert? Even with that, I am still able to see what’s truly important.”
“You said it, Father.”
Both Xiulan and Shao Chen were on the same page.
‘Uh… Another crazy baker.’
Hei was both surprised and not surprised. Xiulan had to have gotten it somewhere.
Shao Chen remembered something at this point.
“That’s right Xiulan. Your mother stopped by a few years ago. She said she had to leave on her cultivation journey. Something about breaking the mortal coil.”
“I see. Mother truly is too interested in this cultivation. I can’t understand it at all.”
“You’re right about that. I told her that there was nothing much to find and that breaking the mortal coil was some low-level nonsense, but she insisted. With that, she left, and I don’t know where she went.”
“Mm. She will come back when she’s hungry.”
The two were discussing Xiulan’s mother as if her whereabouts weren’t too much of a concern.
‘I smell missing family member plot. This could get sticky.’
Hei was considering this in terms of a story event. He had read many such scenarios in the web novels. It usually unravelled into some giant series of events.
Hei was fixated on one thing Shao Chen said in particular.
“Grandpa. Did you say you were a powerful expert?”
Shao Chen was surprised by Hei’s sudden question. He also wasn’t used to being called ‘Grandpa’.
“That’s right. At one point I could roam the world freely and do whatever I wanted.”
“Eh? Then how did you end up here in the lower eastern continent?”
Shao Chen was hesitant to respond. There were many crazy events in his life that led him to this point.
“Let’s just say, there were disagreements with my clan and I abandoned my cultivation and came here.”
“Then where are you originally from?”
Hei was curious to know this. This grandfather of his seemed to know a lot about the world.
“The middle continent.”
Shao Chen said with a little disgust in his voice.
“The middle continent and you came here? Even if you had disagreements with your family, there was no need to go so far away, was there?”
Hei was confused. Even if there were problems, he could just move to another city. To move to another continent, and the lower part of that continent at that, he found it to be an odd choice.
“Because they are a little aggravating. They would have tried to cause me problems if I were to stay in the middle continent, so I made a deal with the eastern guardian to let me stay here.”
‘This plot is pretty thick. I hope I don’t get stuck in it.’
Hei could see all sorts of ways Shao Chen’s past could hinder his progress.
Shao Chen also had something to say.
“You sure do ask some interesting questions. Why are you able to do that?”
“That’s because I’m from another world.”
Bai stepped in.
“Don’t listen to him, Grandfather. He has been saying this for years, but he has no… proof…”
Bai’s words trailed off at the end when she saw the shocked look Shao Chen was giving Hei.
“Grandfather… You don’t believe him, do you?”
“This… The eastern guardian said I had to guide the one from beyond the outer boundary. That was the condition under which I was allowed to live here…”
Bai was shocked. Were her brother’s claims true the entire time?
Shao Chen then turned to look at Hei.
“Did you see it?”
“You mean the flaming bird?”
“So you have seen it.”
Shao Chen placed his hand on the back of his head and rubbed it.
“I guess you’re the one I am supposed to guide. To think it would be my own grandson.”
“So… What exactly is this guidance?”
Hei was interested in this point. He also wanted to know what business the eastern guardian had with him,
“Well, to be honest, I’m not sure… All I know is, you’re in for a great deal of trouble.”
“Sigh. I knew it would be like this. Can I just opt out? It doesn’t sound worth it.”
“It’s a lot of trouble, but I think the reward is pretty generous. The eastern guardian told me it had something to do with the throne of the world.”
“Throne of the world?”
Hei eyes shined brightly. This sounded like what he was looking for. Surely the throne of the world is for the world’s strongest.
“Mm. Even I don’t know too much about it, but apparently, the one who sits on the throne is the ruler of the five worlds.”
Hei was surprised by this. Was this setting one in which he would have to go to multiple worlds?
“Mm. Just like there are the middle continent and the four directional continents, there is the middle world and four directional worlds. We are in the eastern world and the throne is in the middle world.”
“This… It looks like the road is ahead is a long one indeed.”
Hei was kind of disappointed. He would have to go through a whole lot of trouble in order to get home.
Shao Chen then remembered something.
“You said not to worry about the Wu Clan. What do you mean by that?”
“We openly cut ties with them, so there is no need to worry about it.”
“Cut ties? How did you do that?”
Shao Chen was confused. If it was so easy, he would have done it a long time ago. Why would he let his daughter stay there?
Tianlan jumped in.
“This… We insulted the patriarch and beat the juniors. Then we walked away…”
Shao Chen placed his palm on his face.
“That. How is that cutting ties? All that is, is slapping faces. Do you think they won’t come for revenge?”
Bai then stepped in.
“Don’t worry Grandfather. Brother is very strong and has considered many angles. Even if the Wu Clan were to come after us, we will be able to handle it.”
Shao Chen looked at Hei with interest.
“But you have an Innate Shadow Physique. Did you consume a large number of cultivation resources?”
“No. You see, the eastern guardian is not the only one who has come to cause me trouble. Even the heavens want me to do something for them. In exchange, I am able to cultivate null element Qi. That is the theory we have come up with anyway.”
After a while, Hei had the thought that it may not have been his high affinity with Qi that allowed him to cultivate passively.
As he discussed it with Bai, they came up with the heavens having granted Hei this kind of cultivation in order to help him complete the task which he was given.
Shao Chen was shocked.
“Null element Qi? And you don’t have null element spirit roots?”
Bai then responded.
“Null element spirit roots? There is such a thing?”
“Mm. With the measurement methods they use in the lower continent, it’s no surprise that you are unaware of them. Null element spirit roots allow cultivators to cultivate null element Qi.”
“Are they common?”
“Not really. Every now and then there are people born with them, but in the middle continent, null element Qi is not as abundant as it is here, so those people are usually quite weak.”
“Then why not come somewhere like here where the null element Qi is abundant?”
“Because of the eastern guardian. Even if they were to come here, their cultivation would be restricted by the eastern guardian. Then when they got back to the middle continent, they would still be weak.”
“And those in the lower continent’s don’t have a good amount of information which shackles the ones who could actually use null element Qi to the fullest.”
“Exactly. As a result, null element cultivators are weak across the world. They never have any kind of outstanding performance. It’s a shame because if a null element cultivator born in the lower continents, was given a profound null element cultivation technique, they could easily become one of the world’s peak experts.”
At this point, Hei stepped in.
“Hehe. Well, we are those exact cultivators.”
Shao Chen was surprised.
“Even if you can cultivate null element Qi, you are lacking the cultivation methods. Nothing will come of it.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Grandpa. We have created our own technique based on my passive cultivation and referencing other cultivation techniques. If we keep this up, we could create a cultivation technique for every realm ourselves.”
“This… Is this true?”
Shao Chen couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Three little kids managed to create a cultivation technique by themselves?
“Indeed it is.”
“But what about Qi deviation? You could have died.”
After hearing these words, Hei’s body involuntarily jolted. He remembered all of the pain he had gone through for a moment.
Shao Chen was confused at Hei’s words.
Bai stepped in.
“Brother has an amazing healing ability, so he practised the technique to make sure it was safe for us. It took quite a few tries, but we succeeded in the end.”
Hei looked at Bai.
‘Why do you make it sound like a game? How many times do I have to respawn before you’re happy?’
Shao Chen now had some understanding of how they did it.
“But still. To create a cultivation technique, it would require a certain level of genius. Who was it that did it?”
“That would be Little Bai.”
Shao Chen looked at Bai for a moment before turning back to Hei.
“So, even without spirit roots, you are able to cultivate? If the world knew about this, there would be no end of trouble. It almost sounds like the envoys of the heavens.”
Hei was surprised by Shao Chen’s intuition.
“That’s what it is. The envoys have returned and you’re looking at them.”
Shao Chen was speechless for a moment.
“You… Are an envoy of the heavens, on top of being the eastern guardian’s chosen?”
“Ah, your life sounds so bothersome. I had my fair share of crazy adventures, but it’s nothing compared to that. Good luck.”
“… I thought you were supposed to guide me…”
“That was before I knew all of this. Since the eastern guardian never actually told me how I was supposed to guide you, I’ll teach you the art of baking. How about that?”
Hei was speechless. He thought he had found some kind of old master, who would point out the way for him.
‘I guess I did. But it was the way of baking…’
Xiulan stepped in.
“You should quickly accept, Little Hei. There aren’t many bakers as skilled as Father.”
Hei stared at Xiulan who was giving him an urging look. Her eyes were brighter than he had ever seen them.
‘Is this how I look when I talk about Mother?’
“OK. Please teach me everything you know, Grandpa.”
Hei agreed. It wasn’t Shao Chen’s fault that the agreement with the eastern guardian was ambiguous.
Besides, he wanted to learn skills that he could take back home. If he was able to bring new secret recipes for the Dinner Forging Manual, it would be time well spent.
Shao Chen then said.
“Alright. Since the four of you are here, I suppose we’ll need some more beds. Make yourselves comfortable, I’ll be right back.”
Shao Chen turned and walked towards the outside.
The maid stepped forward and said.
“Wait! Mr Shao. I-I will come with you.”
Shao Chen then turned to the maid.
“Shui. You can tell your parents that there is no need for you to be my maid. I didn’t help them to get something in return. The truth is, I just happened to be passing by and decided to help on a whim.”
The maid fidgeted a bit before responding.
“My parents already know this. It is I who wants to repay your kindness. Please don’t reject my gratitude.”
“… Do as you like, but you can leave whenever you want. Don’t feel obligated to stay because of something that happened in passing.”
The maid happily nodded her head. She then followed after Shao Chen and they both left the bakery.
“Alright! We should begin your training as soon as possible.”
Xiulan wasted no time in rolling up her sleeves.
She picked up a sack of flour and handed to Hei.
“Today, you learn the family trade!”
‘Which version of Mumu is this?’