Chapter 161: The Challenge Remains Valid

As Yun Ruoyan looked outside the window, Li Mo followed her gaze. When he only saw someone chasing after a thief, he looked away. Yun Ruoyan thought that skinny monkey-like thief was familiar, but she couldn’t remember from where.

On the other hand, she had quite a clear impression of the man chasing after him: it was none other than Wang Meng’s servant and henchman, Wang Gang. And since Wang Gang was present, his master was undoubtedly nearby. When Yun Ruoyan looked at the crowd, however, she couldn’t find any sign of Wang Meng.

“What’re you looking at, Yan’er?” Li Mo asked, seeing that her gaze was still fixed to the window even after the thief had long since vanished.

“Nothing much.” Yun Ruoyan turned and gave Li Mo a smile.

As the dishes were served, Yun Ruoyan picked up her chopsticks and began eating immediately. Li Mo pulled a silver flask out of his robe and began sipping from it as he watched Yun Ruoyan eat.

Just then, a man’s outraged voice rang out by the stairway. “That damned thief got away from me! Young Master, should we report the theft to the magistrate?”

“If you can’t even catch the thief, what’s the point? This is the first time I’ve been targeted by a thief before, and it’s rather an interesting feeling,” the young master replied.

“Young Master, aren’t we going to do anything about it?” the older man seemed particularly affronted.

Right when they’d entered the restaurant, a skinny, monkey-like figure had knocked into Wang Meng. Swiftly, he noticed that a jade pendant by his waist was gone. The man had run away quickly after the encounter and had scampered into the crowd. Although Wang Gang gave chase immediately, the man still managed to escape.

“We’ll talk about it after lunch,” the young master replied calmly, a cold smile hanging on his lips. 

Yun Ruoyan was sitting with her back facing the stairs. She was currently picking up a piece of braised pork, but she froze upon hearing that voice.

“An opponent of sorts,” she explained in response to Li Mo’s curious gaze, before scowling and consuming that piece of meat.

Wang Meng and Wang Gang sat down at a table right next to Yun Ruoyan’s. Out of anger or weariness, Wang Gang was panting harshly. He slammed a fist on the table and shouted, “That thief better not show up by my side again, or I’ll wring his neck to death!”

Wang Meng frowned, turned to Wang Gang, and unintentionally noticed Li Mo sitting at the table right behind me. His aura was unusual: a far cry above that of an ordinary guest. He had a relaxed demeanor as he imbibed from a silver flask, his inky hair draped over his dark robes.

Wang Meng tried to probe his cultivation, but couldn’t seem to capture his aura. If he were deliberately hiding his cultivation, then Wang Meng wouldn’t have been able to detect anything unusual about him. If his cultivation were weaker or slightly stronger than Wang Meng’s, then Wang Meng would have been able to identify his approximate rank.

But Li Mo’s ephemeral aura was clear evidence that his cultivation was leaps and bounds ahead of Wang Meng’s—and this sort of person was exactly whom Wang Meng wanted to meet, learn from, and then surpass.

Rather than recognizing Yun Ruoyan, Wang Meng had instead been attracted by her companion, Li Mo. Actually, Li Mo and Wang Meng had come into conflict with each other at the auction hall within Yuelu Villa, but neither of them had officially met. As a result, they were still strangers to each other.

“Why the enmity between the two of you?” Li Mo asked Yun Ruoyan. He could sense, but pretended not to notice, Wang Meng’s gaze.

After having a bite of braised pork, Yun Ruoyan had a little fish. Without raising her head, she said, “His name is Wang Meng, and he’s a famed pillmaking genius from the Wang family of the Yue kingdom. I have a pillmaking match with him set for two years down the road.”

Li Mo repeated this name in his heart: he had heard of him on several occasions during his excursions.

While travelling around the Yue kingdom, he’d heard people speak of him as a rare pillmaking genius that would only appear once in a century. Because of Wang Meng’s relentless challenges to pillmasters all over the continent, the pillmasters of the Li kingdom had been taken by storm.

Li Mo probed at Wang Meng’s cultivation and frowned: despite his young age, he was already a sixth-rank pillmaster. As far as Li Mo was aware, Yun Ruoyan was currently a fourth-rank pillmaster, two ranks apart from Wang Meng. Although two ranks didn’t seem like a lot, it was a large barrier to overcome.

Not only did cultivation get harder and harder, both parties would be advancing at the same time. If Yun Ruoyan wanted to surpass him, she would have to advance even more quickly than he did. And although Yun Ruoyan had considerable talent at pillmaking, it wasn’t far superior to Wang Meng’s.

Li Mo thought that he would have to help her at least a little so that she could secure victory.

Wang Meng wanted to get acquainted with Li Mo, but he didn’t make a move right away. Having travelled the four kingdoms, he knew full well that experts like Li Mo didn’t like to be interrupted, especially not while they were entertaining guests. 

As a result, when the waiter served Wang Meng’s table, he took out a flask of treasured wine, which he had been planning on serving his own father as a gift, and had him take it to Li Mo.

The waiter smiled as he went up to Li Mo and respectfully handed him the red-brown flask of wine. “Master, the young master at that table over there would like to offer his regards.”

Yun Ruoyan frowned at the sudden interruption, glancing at the wine in the waiter’s hands and then at Li Mo’s face. Having taken Wang Meng’s silver, the waiter was all too happy to help him out.

“Set it down,” Li Mo replied coolly.

The waiter left the flask of wine on the table and turned to leave.

Yun Ruoyan cocked her head at Li Mo. “Did he recognize you?”

Not many people on the Chenyuan continent knew Li Mo personally, but almost everyone knew of him. Anyone who had even the slightest dream of becoming a cultivator knew that the Slaughtering King had inky hair draped over his shoulders, never tied back, and was always dressed in an unadorned dark robe. Despite his careless appearance, he had an imposing, exceptional presence.

There really weren’t many people on the continent who would fulfill such criteria. As soon as Wang Meng had a drink, he realized this fact, and his eyes shone even more brightly as he looked toward Li Mo once more.

Li Mo, who had been inclining his head and sipping at his wine, suddenly raised his head to look back at Wang Meng, before slowly tipping his cup at him.

Exulted, Wang Meng immediately raised his cup and downed it in one gulp. He left the empty cup of wine on the table, stood up without hesitation, and walked over to Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan’s table.

“Wang Meng from the Yue kingdom greets you, Sir. May I have the honor of knowing your name?” Wang Meng cupped his fists at Li Mo.

“Li Mo,” he replied coolly.

“Li Mo!” Wang Meng couldn’t hide his excitement. “The Slaughtering King himself—it’s truly my honor, Your Highness.”

“You should be quite honored,” Li Mo responded drily. “Not only were you able to meet me, you’ve even seen my little consort. Not everyone has such luck.”

Wang Meng hesitated before he turned to the person sitting next to Li Mo and revealed an expression of even greater shock. “You? Miss Yun, you’re actually the Slaughtering King’s consort?”

Wang Meng had heard that the Slaughtering King wasn’t fond of women. Although he had long since passed marriageable age, he was still single. How had a consort appeared out of nowhere? Even more coincidentally, that consort was the girl with whom he had scheduled a challenge, Yun Ruoyan.

No, that doesn’t make sense! Wang Meng suddenly recalled that, that day at the Lin mansion, Yun Ruoyan had asserted that she wasn’t yet of marriageable age. How could she have become a consort in such a short period of time?

Wang Meng bowed to Yun Ruoyan. “Miss Yun, I never expected you to be the Slaughtering King’s consort at such a young age. I apologize for my impetuous actions back at the Lin manor.”

He then turned to Li Mo and continued in vexation, “Back when I was visiting the Lin manor, I challenged Elder Lin to a pillmaking contest, but your consort accepted the challenge on behalf of Elder Lin as his disciple. Your Highness, please forgive my disrespect.”

Although Wang Meng apologized humbly to Li Mo, he had no intention of calling the challenge off.

Li Mo looked coolly at Wang Meng, but before he could respond, Yun Ruoyan spoke up. “I’m not yet the Slaughtering King’s consort. We’re currently betrothed, and my contest with you will proceed as usual.”

Both confirmations of the betrothal—both at the empress’ flower-viewing party and when Li Mo visited the Lin manor—were verbal promises only, and there had yet been no proclamations or gift-giving to finalize the affair.

Given how quickly rumors spread throughout the capital, Yun Ruoyan really didn’t dare to claim herself as the Slaughtering King’s consort. Furthermore, she had accepted the challenge as one of Lin Zainan’s disciples, and news of the challenge had already spread to the relatively small pillmaster society within the Li kingdom. If she were to use Li Mo’s name to force Wang Meng to retract the challenge, it would surely damage Lin Zainan’s reputation.

As a result, Yun Ruoyan had to allow the challenge to occur!

Wang Meng queried Li Mo in a somewhat embarrassed fashion, “Would that be acceptable, Your Highness?”

Li Mo continued drinking wine, his face cool and unreadable. “My consort’s will is my will. When the time comes, I shall observe the match personally.”

Then, Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan began chatting with each other, seemingly with no intention of talking to Wang Meng further. Standing idly by the table and feeling a little embarrassed, Wang Meng bowed and turned to leave.

“Hold on,” Li Mo commanded just as Wang Meng turned around.

He hurriedly turned back. “Is anything else the matter, Your Highness?”

“This wine is good, but not to my tastes. Please take it back.”

Wang Meng flushed in embarrassment as he retrieved the flask of wine once more. As he turned around, a spark of viciousness crept into his gaze. He went back to his original seat and began eating once more. Although he appeared perfectly unfazed, he chewed and swallowed mechanically without tasting the food at all.

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