It was as the man said—business in the restaurant hadn’t been going very well. There wasn’t a single customer in sight. The couple seemed to be the owners of the restaurant.
The restaurant was two-storeys high. On the lower floor, there were only three tables beside the counter and kitchen.
Miao Yi threw a glance at the woman called ‘Hong Hong’ and realized that her facial features bore some similarities to Lin Pingping’s. Their ages seemed to be similar as well, so he couldn’t help asking, "Are you two the owners?"
To which the man replied, "Yes. Indeed we are. This store belongs to us husband and wife."
"Milord. It is more spacious upstairs. Please have a seat there." Lin Pingping quickly interrupted, seemingly afraid that Miao Yi would probe deeper.
Miao Yi shot a glance at her, but he didn’t say anything else and nodded his head. He allowed her to lead everyone up the wooden steps onto the second floor.
The second floor was clearly more spacious, and was fitted with six tables. It was clearly enough to accomodate them all.
Miao Yi and a few others sat at a table beside the window. The rest of them sat at a table of their own liking.
"Honorable guests. What would you like to eat?" The boss asked in a deferential manner.
Miao Yi turned to Lin Pingping beside him and said, "You’re familiar with this place. You help us order."
Lin Pingping immediately told the couple, "Bring out all the best dishes your restaurant has to offer."
"Yes. Of course. Please wait a moment, honorable guests," replied the boss before quickly going downstairs.
The lady boss was about to pour tea for everyone, but Lin Pingping stood up and went over to tell her, "Go and do your work downstairs. I will help you serve them." After that, she carried a pot of tea over and started working her way around table by table.
When she finally sat back down next to Miao Yi, he asked, "It seems you’re very familiar with the owners of this restaurant?"
"I am—!" blurted Lin Pingping, before faltering towards the end.
Suddenly, they overheard the conversation between the couple downstairs. It made Lin Pingping’s cheeks flush red with shame, and the air became extremely awkward.
"Why is your mother here again?" It was the boss’s voice.
The lady boss muttered, "But didn’t she bring us many customers?"
"Don’t you know how your mother is? Yes, she did bring us customers. Yet later if she asks us for the earnings that we made from these customers, we will have to give them to her. Then it would have been a wasted effort for us."
"I think this should be the last time."
"These are your words. You go talk to your mother later on. Hong Hong. I don’t mean anything by it, but business has been bad for us. Our lives are not faring any better than hers. Our eldest child has also reached the age where he should be saving money for marriage. All these years, we have always provided for her. She should spare some consideration for us as well…"
The couple downstairs thought their voices were low enough because they were whispering, but they didn’t realize what sort of people were sitting upstairs. It was such a short distance between the two floors, that everyone heard what they said loud and clear.
The gaze of everyone upstairs went to Lin Pingping. Her face was red all the way to her neck as she bit her lip with her head bowed, feeling unbearably embarrassed.
Miao Yi furrowed his brows and asked, "The one below is your daughter?"
The couple downstairs could not have made things any clearer. Lin Pingping knew that she couldn’t hide it any longer, and awkwardly nodded, "Milord. They are my daughter and son-in-law."
Everyone exchanged glances. This mother and daughter pair looked almost around the same age. The daughter even seemed to be slightly older among the two. They never expected her to be Lin Pingping’s daughter.
However, in the cultivation realm, this wasn’t unheard of. After all, a cultivator aged much slower than a normal person did, so it was understandable.
"I knew it was strange how there wasn’t a single customer when we entered. My guess was that the food here probably tasted bad, but a certain someone said that a restaurant she knew had exquisite food and insisted on bringing us here." Luo Shuangfei didn’t mince his words, and continued, "It turned out they were family. This Lord’s sharp judgement saw through your ruse long ago. The cat’s out of the bag now, don’t you think?"
He turned to Miao Yi, "Milord. Don’t you see now? It’s not that I am biased against her. Even her daughter and son-in-law do not look upon her kindly." He stood up and swept his gaze over everyone, then began pulling back his sleeves to reveal a pair of fair and slender arms. "I doubt there will be anything delicious here. Why don’t we just raze this restaurant to the ground?"
Tian Qingfeng and the rest were speechless. A cultivator that would dare to destroy a follower’s restaurant in the capital city must be tired of living.
Lin Pingping had experienced how bloody ignorant Luo Shuangfei could be. He was someone who would dare openly lay a hand on her in the halls of the Celestial Nation Chamber of Commerce. If he didn’t even hold the Celestial Nation Chamber of Commerce with any regard, how could he be bothered with such a small restaurant?
Lin Pingping hastily stood up and pleaded to Luo Shuangfei, "Sir Luo. Please spare them. The both of them can only rely on this small restaurant to survive. You mustn’t destroy it. I just wish to help my daughter gain some business for her restaurant. I don’t have any malicious intent."
She turned to Miao Yi and knelt, "Milord. The fault all lies with me. Please grant them your benevolent mercy and pray do not make things difficult for them."
Miao Yi reached out to support her arm, "There is no fault in helping to bring your daughter’s restaurant a little business. It is something anyone would do, so there is no need to blame yourself so."
"Hey! If you’re going to talk, talk. What do you think you’re doing getting all touchy?" Luo Shuangfei ran over and pushed Lin Pingping aside, slapping away Miao Yi’s hand that was holding onto Lin Pingping’s arm. He glared at Miao Yi and chided, "The situation is already clear as day, yet you’re still taking her side. Tell me honestly. Do you fancy her? I knew you had some interest in her long ago, and now you actually dare to take advantage of this situation to win her fancy. You finally reveal your true intent!"
This information was beyond shocking. Tian Qingfeng and the rest gazed at Miao Yi in surprise thinking—‘How come we never thought about that? Could it be that Luo Shuangfei realized something as we descended the mountain?’
Lin Pingping was stunned. Gazing at Miao Yi in a daze, she thought—‘He’s taken a fancy to me?’
Miao Yi was furious. He slammed the table and abruptly stood up, "GET LOST! I can’t stand a subordinate like you!"
"You’re chasing me away because of her?" Luo Shuangfei’s eyes widened in disbelief. He pointed at Lin Pingping, then at himself, then also burst into a rage and thrust his hand out. "I don’t want to serve you anymore either. Return Zi’Er to me. I’ll leave immediately after you do."
Completely taken by rage, Miao Yi immediately pulled out the beast sack from inside the lower hem of his robes and threw it at Luo Shuangfei. He pointed out the window and shouted, "Get out of my face!"
He had enough of this bastard’s vexatious tendencies. He was fine with letting go of such a disobedient subordinate. Since he couldn’t control the purple marten himself anyway, he had no qualms about giving it back.
"Fine! You’re the one asking me to leave. Even if you beg me to in the future, I won’t come back." Luo Shuangfei snorted indignantly, and turned around to leave, rushing down the restaurant with quick steps.
Everyone gazed at Miao Yi in shock, thinking—‘Could Milord really have taken a fancy to this woman who still retained some of her once graceful bearing? Otherwise, why would he chase away Luo Shuangfei, whose willfulness he always tolerated. Is it truly because of Lin Pingping?’
Lin Pingping was quite restless as well. She fidgeted around, unsure of what she should do.
Unexpectedly, they could hear the thumping of footsteps coming up to the second floor once again. Everyone turned to look, only to see that Luo Shuangfei had come back. He had on a calm expression as if nothing had happened. Then brazenly sat back down at his seat right beside Miao Yi.
Everyone’s jaws almost dropped to the ground. ‘He looked so angry just now. Yet why, in the blink of an eye, did it seem like the incident just moments ago had nothing to do with him?’
Even Miao Yi’s anger had yet to simmer down. How could anyone have calmed so quickly? He stared in astonishment as Luo Shuangfei began leisurely sipping his tea beside him.
"Why did you come back?" Miao Yi asked pensively.
"Haha, it’s a trivial skill," said Luo Shuangfei, raising his cup with one hand and waving the beast sack in the other. He smiled at Miao Yi, "If I didn’t do it like this, how could I get you to return Zi’Er to me?"
He pulled open the lower hem of his robes, and tied the beast sack back onto his waist. Then, he took another sip of the tea in his hands in satisfaction.
Miao Yi was lost for words—‘Did I get tricked just like that?’ He furrowed his brows, "Since I’ve already returned the thing to you, aren’t you already free to go as you please? Why are you still here!?"
"Ayii!" Luo Shuangfei sighed, putting his cup down. Then, he grabbed Miao Yi’s arm with both his hands and pulled him back to his seat. Pushing a cup of tea up to Miao Yi, he said, "Drink some tea and cool yourself down. It was just a small matter. Do you really need to be so angry? I’ll admit it’s my fault, alright?"
Then, he slapped himself on the chest, "I am someone who keeps my promises. Since you’ve already returned Zi’Er to me, I will honor my end of the agreement and follow you. That’s why I told you that you should have returned Zi’Er to me first, otherwise I wouldn’t feel secure. Now do you see how trustworthy I can be? I am just as great a man as any other—I keep my word!"
After which, he pursed his lips towards Lin Pingping and transmitted his voice to Miao Yi, "Take a look at how pitiful a Loose Cultivator can be. I really don’t want to be a Loose Cultivator either. Since you’ve given me the chance, I naturally wouldn’t let it pass."
Miao Yi was surprised by the unexpectedly fortunate turn of events. ‘So does this mean that I won’t have to worry about this bastard running away ever again?’
Miao Yi turned to Lin Pingping who was still looking lost by the window, and pointed to the empty seat beside him. "Tell me. Why does your daughter and son-in-law look upon you with such disfavor?"
Lin Pingping slowly walked over and sat down, smiling bitterly as she shook her head and replied, "Milord. Truth be told, it isn’t their fault. I am the one to blame for causing so much trouble for them. Usually, I have a hard time finding any work to do, so I won’t have any income. When it comes to food, I could head deeper into the mountain and make do with some wild game. However, since I am living in the capital, even if it is inside a cave; I have to pay rent every month. I do earn a little from various odd jobs, but whenever I am at my wit’s end, I would ask for some money from them. They were already under a lot of pressure from their own lives. You heard it yourself. After some time passed, they naturally began to find me bothersome."
Miao Yi furrowed his brows, "Since you know that you can’t survive in the capital, why not leave?"
Lin Pingping’s expression was anguished as she replied, "There are still more opportunities in the capital. Once I leave the capital, my chances become slimmer. I also hope to be able to make something of myself one day and give them a better life. What’s more, they are my only relatives. I don’t wish to part from them. I don’t mind that they find me bothersome. Sometimes, even looking at them from afar is enough to make me happy."
From his end, Tian Qingfeng said, "I’ve heard before that for the Loose Cultivators in the capital to survive, they will tend to look for a dual-cultivation partner and give birth to a child. Once the child is grown, he or she will become a normal follower of the capital. When these Loose Cultivators can’t find any work to do, they will rely on their children to support them. After all, their children can find work just like any other mortal."
Lin Pingping nodded, "There are indeed quite a number of Loose Cultivators who do this, and a majority of them are able to survive in the capital for a long time because of this, before finally receiving assistance from a benefactor. These Loose Cultivators will have their lives changed overnight, and then share their fortune together with their children. This is also why many Loose Cultivators like to adopt this method."
Everyone couldn’t help but sigh after listening to her. Even though cultivators are said to possess profound transcendence energy, they couldn’t help but feel that Loose Cultivators sometimes had it worse than even mere mortals.
Miao Yi asked, "What happened to your dual-cultivation partner?"
"Milord. Even though there are plenty of Loose Cultivators in the capital that do this, I am not like them. I cannot simply be with someone just to birth a child. I am a runaway from Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. My husband’s family was once famous in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, but we eventually came across a strong enemy. All the members of my husband’s family were killed, and my husband himself died then. It was only because a band of loyal, old servants risked their lives that I had the chance to escape Flowing Clouds Dune Sea with my newborn babe still in her swaddling clothes." Lin Pingping painfully recounted her past.