"Alas, dad and mom, leave me alone. Look, there's such nice weather today! Why not take a stroll at the downtown park or at the reservoir in the suburb? There must be many people over there. Since I trained really hard today, I'd rather stay back and watch the store for you today!"
After lunch, Zhang Tie diligently cleaned the house and then pushed his dad and mom out. His dad worked six days a week in the mill, which meant that he often had poor air quality. His mom was even more miserable. She had to stay in the rice brew store six days a week. Thus, at each weekend, in order to make his dad and mom live a better life, he would always persuade them to take a walk, so as to breathe fresh air outdoors. As for himself, he would help them look after the rice brew store.
Seeing their son being obedient and sensible, his dad and mom were naturally happy. However, when they left, his mom still muttered to Zhang Tie, "Remember not to increase the price of the rice brew. When frequent customers come, tell them about the increasing price of rice and grains. Tell them that if the purchasing prices are still that high next week, then we'll have to increase the price a little bit in response. Since they are frequent customers, don't make them feel like we're greedy!"
"I know, mom. You've mentioned it more than thirty times. I've grown up already!" explained Zhang Tie. "I'm already fifteen, you don't need to tell me like you would a small kid or a slow-witted guy. It really hurts my self-esteem!"
"I haven't said it thirty times, five times at most!" His mom pretended to glare at Zhang Tie furiously. At the same time, she also pretended to twist Zhang TIe's ears. In response, Zhang Tie hurriedly slid backward and grimaced at his mom. He then ran into the brew store and yelled loudly, "Zhang family's fresh rice brew. Fragrant, sweet, and delicious. Men will grow stronger with it, and women will be more beautiful with it. Hey, you passersby, six copper coins for a bowl. More sales, less profit…"
"This kid..." Dad shook his head with a smile.
Seeing his dad and mom disappearing at the end of the street hand in hand, Zhang Tie touched his fuzzy jaw with one hand. He stared at them for a long time before moving his gaze to their shadows. As his dad and mom have been married for dozens of years, each time they walked outdoors hand in hand, it served as a reminder to Zhang Tie that they were not simply just a couple who had married for many years, but rather a couple of youths who are still passionately in love with each other. This gave Zhang Tie an indescribable feeling.
"Is this love?" Zhang Tie wondered. To be honest, he was not experienced enough to have feelings about it; however, seeing how his mom and dad treated each other, he felt a sense of happiness inside.
After they left, Zhang Tie sat in the rice brew store boringly. He took a fly whisk to drive away the flies. Since rice brew gave off a sweet scent, it naturally attracted flies, even more so on hot days.. Summer would arrive in a couple of months. When it arrives, the door of the rice brew had to be fitted with a bamboo curtain to prevent the flies from entering. However, the delicate exhibitions on the counter would also be covered by the bamboo curtain. As a result, business in the store would decrease. This happened every year in this manner without exception.
It was right in the afternoon when the sun was still hanging in the sky. All the birds were silent as they perched on the parasol trees. After a cold winter, they were finally emerging from their nests, jumping and singing happily as the mottled spots and shadows of the trees were cast onto the streets.
A board had been hung outside the door of the rice brew store: "Sorry, due to the rising prices of grains and other raw materials, it's expected that the price of our rice brew will rise…"
"Lovely dad, if it were Donder, he would definitely have increased the sales price of the rice brew as soon as the price of rice increased," Zhang Tie admired.
After sitting in the rice brew store for half an hour, Zhang Tie sold seven or eight bowls of rice brew. He put the scattered copper coins into a drawer and soaked the empty rice brew bowls and spoons left by the customers into the bowl washing barrel. Watching the rising sun, the hand flicking the whisk became more and more powerless. Zhang Tie felt bored. Surprisingly, as an adolescent, he stayed in here to drive away the flies while other boys his age were playing outside! However, the more bored he was, the more he admired his mom, as she stuck to this for twenty years.
People would always do something when they felt bored, Zhang Tie was no exception. At this time, he practiced the Mental Arithmetic by Abacus, which included many states. The lowest state was what Zhang Tie had reached last night. Before he is able to use the abacus within his mind, he had to close his eyes and think quite a while to form the abacus in his mind. In the second state, one didn't need to close their eyes. Within a few blinks, one could form the abacus in their mind and use it. After all, this was a mental arithmetic skill, which meant it was a practical skill. Naturally, it would be useless if you had to spend hours to form it within the mind with eyes closed.
In the third state, in order to reach the essence of Mental Arithmetic by Abacus, one would have to form an imaginary abacus in their mind and be able to get the answer instantly when they saw any mathematical question. At this stage, one should be able to create an abacus with two to eleven vertical beams, or perhaps even more in mind. Finally, one would be able to form several abacuses in their mind simultaneously and would be able to get the answer within a single blink. This was the sublime state of Mental Arithmetic by Abacus. Once one got to this stage, they would be a super human-sized calculator.
Zhang Tie actually doubted whether it was possible or not for humans to achieve the sublime state. However, when he remembered the blurry words, "Recommended after-class reading for preliminary school students", Zhang Tie heaved a deep sigh. No comparison, no anger. "What are these preliminary school students? They must be really motherf*cking smart." Finally, Zhang Tie even began to think that this book might really have been fetched from the ruins of the Catastrophe. Since the age before the Catastrophe was lustrous and dazzling, things from the ruins were strange and diverse. Expensive crystals used to practice cultivation in this age were just decorations in that age, a time where many people even looked down on it. What if this strange book was truly an ordinary after-class reading material for preliminary school students?
"Whatever, I will practice it and check its effects. It seems that I can recover spiritual energy by practicing in accordance to Mental Arithmetic by Abacus." Zhang Tie intended to confirm it; however, when he thought of the word "whatever", Zhang Tie became absent-minded and the abacus with two vertical beams in his mind instantly collapsed.
Naturally, he needed to treat it seriously…
He found this really hard to accept.
Zhang Tie tried it many times and lowered the time needed to form an abacus with three vertical beams in his mind from ten minutes to approximately five minutes. Unexpectedly, two people suddenly appeared in front of Zhang Tie.
Fatty Barley and Doug were on a bicycle. Doug awkwardly rode the bicycle with difficulty but with happiness as sweat covered his entire forehead. Barley was sitting behind the bicycle cunningly. The moment Zhang Tie noticed them, Fatty Barley, who was glancing over the two sides of the street, also found Zhang Tie.
"Right here, stop!" Fatty Barley shouted and deftly jumped off the back seat of the bicycle and stood on the ground. Hearing this, Doug, who was riding happily, was frightened and shouted, "Argh, brake, brake, how do I brake? Argh... help..."
"Bastard, this is a new bicycle dad bought for me!" Barley screamed bitterly.
With his hands on his forehead, Zhang Tie became speechless and closed his eyes…
Two minutes later, Barley and Doug, who were gritting their teeth and rubbing their butts, appeared in front of the Zhang Family's rice brew store. Seeing Doug, who was taking in deep breaths of the aroma of the rice brew and swallowing his saliva, and the obscene smile covering Barley's face, Zhang Tie cursed inwardly. He took out two sets of bowls and spoons and opened one clay pot. He scooped a bowl of rice brew for each of them using a huge spoon and pushed it in front of them. Their eyebrows instantly danced. Without even a word of courtesy, they held the bowls, wolfed down its contents, and cleaned the bowls with their tongues instantly. "Can you be more disgusting?" Zhang Tie complained. The bowls had to be sterilized with boiling water.
Seeing the insinuating smiles over their faces, Zhang Tie instantly collected their bowls and spoons and became serious. "That was my treat just now. Now, it's six copper coins a bowl, do you want more?"
Doug instantly cast his sight towards Barley. Fatty Barley slapped his waist and put a handsome amount of copper coins onto the desk. "Delicious! Two more bowls!"
Zhang Tie also felt it was natural to put their money into the drawer and scooped another two bowls of rice brew for them. Soon after, they finished it. Under the fascinated gaze of Doug, Zhang Tie put their bowls and spoons into the water basin. When Doug moved his sight onto Barley, Barley automatically ignored him and started to talk to Zhang Tie.
"Well… well… what was that? Rice brew?"
"Yes, rice brew! What's up?"
"Heh, heh, home visits are a good tradition of our Hit-Plane Brotherhood!" Barley laughed.
"Well, let's get to the point since time is money"
"Have you heard of the Red-scarf Burglars?"
Hearing the words "Red-scarf Burglars", Zhang Tie was surprised. "Yea, what happened?"
Barley looked around before lowering his voice and repeating the news that Zhang Tie had heard from his brother, "I heard about it last night. That's why I came here to tell all of you today. It's estimated that only a few people know about this news. Whatever, these days, you have to watch out and stay home at night. Do not go out of the city casually. Those Red-scarf Burglars are all cold-blooded butchers. Isn't there a proverb in your Chinese clan that a fire on the city gate brings disaster to the fish in the moats? I hope my brothers won't be those unfortunate fish!"
"You came here today to tell me this?"
"Of course, you think Doug and I like to come out to be burned by the sunlight? After warning you, I still have to warn Sharwin and Hista. Well, I won't disturb your business…"
Seeing the fatty's face, Zhang Tie was slightly moved. "Thank you, brother!"
"Another free bowl for us?" Barley smiled obscenely.
Zhang Tie stretched out his hands and rubbed his fingers. Everyone knew the meaning.
"Ha… ha… see you. We still have other brothers to warn!" Barley slapped the seat of the bicycle and urged Doug to get on immediately. Doug pushed the bicycle a few steps forward before turning around and looking at Zhang Tie as he murmured, "Barley said... men should learn how to ride a bike for the sake of girls!"
"Trust me, I won't tell the others about it. You are really good at riding!" Zhang Tie raised his thumb.
Doug was satisfied. He nodded and awkwardly got on the bike and took Barley away…
It was really unexpected that the news of the Red-scarf Burglars would spread so fast. People in Blackhot City has already become worried about them within two days…
"Never mind, I will keep practicing Mental Arithmetic by Abacus earnestly. Is there any relationship between the Red-scarf Burglars and a trivial person like me?" A self-deprecating smile appeared on Zhang Tie's face.
In the evening, Zhang Tie's dad and mom came home with news. The city defense of Blackhot City has become strict. Identification was required to access Blackhot City in the evening.
After supper, Gregory, the magistrate of this area, knocked at the gate of the Zhang family with a barn lantern in hand. He was sending a notice door by door and told them not to keep strangers at home in the evening. Besides that, they should instantly report any suspicious individual. Additionally, from midnight onwards, night meals in Blackhot City were forbidden…
Half a day after the fatty left, the news of the Red-scarf Burglars had completely spread throughout Blackhot City. An uneasy atmosphere covered the entire city.
However, this had nothing to do with Zhang Tie. After supper, when the magistrate left, Zhang Tie brushed his teeth, washed his feet, and then entered his small room. He then entered the Castle of Black Iron and threw a bag of garbage into the Pool of Chaos. After that, he patted his hands and opened the Basic Attributes Panel of the Castle of Black Iron, staring at the latest attributes of the Castle of Black Iron ——
——Castle of Black Iron
——Length: 1 Krosa
——Width: 1 Krosa
——Spiritual Energy: 1.8
——Merit Value: 43
——Basic Energy Storage: 0.5
——Special Output: Void
5 merit value for watching the rice brew store for dad and mom for one day, 3 merit value for doing housework, 8 merit value in total; 1.1 spiritual energy for sprouting potatoes; 0.3 basic energy storage for a bag of rubbish. That was all I gained today...
He took a look at the Manjusaka Karma Fruit Tree again.
103 hours before the first leakless fruit becomes ripe...
Being unable to sleep, Zhang Tie took out the crystal that had been dried under the sunlight for a day. With his legs crossed in the Castle of Black Iron, he started to practice igniting the Shrine burning point. Through a few days of experience in the Castle of Black Iron, Zhang Tie found that he could calm down and easily enter the state to practice cultivation by staring at the colorful mist that swirled in the Castle of Black Iron.
He soon entered the state to practice igniting his burning point in the Castle of Black Iron. Even though it was the first time, he took several breaths and the Shrine burning point soon radiated with indigo colored flames.
Only by making yourself powerful could you survive in this age. There was no shortcut, except for diligent work — this was the belief that Zhang Tie held for the past fifteen years.
It was the same even in the Castle of Black Iron...