She sat down on the table, while being under the impression that her attitude towards Korin was still very firm.

 

  In fact, sitting down and waiting for the other person to finish cooking was not something an irritated person would do, but that wasn’t something she could know as a 3-year-old jiangshi that had zero social experience.

 

  “Wait one second! It will be done in an instant!”

 

  In the end, Hua Ran decided to overlook his actions without stopping him.

 

  “…I’m not eating if it’s not good,” she whispered in a soft voice that wouldn’t even reach the person sitting next to her.

 

  Hua Ran had been upset ever since Korin beat her in the bet.
Although her discontentment wasn’t as intense as fury, it was inevitable for the loser to be very annoyed by the winner who would not accept a rematch. 

 

  The reason she didn’t attend the group meetings was to pay him back and was a way to express her irritation.
He tried to persuade in a funny way but her mind was very firm.
She was wholeheartedly displaying her irritation and her unwillingness to forgive him.

 

  Well, sitting down to have the meal cooked by the person who made her upset meant it was already over but Hua Ran did not know that.
She was even contemplating whether she should forgive him if the food tasted decent or not.

 

  Regardless of her internal turmoil, Korin continued cooking in the kitchen.

 

  – Chiiik! 

 

  For a short moment, Hua Ran savored the scent of the frying fish.
Soon, Korin placed down on the dining table the entire ‘wok’ that had the dish inside.

 

  ‘The whole thing?’

 

  Inside the large steel wok was something colored in deep reddish-brown.

 

  “…What’s this?”

 

  “Braised Mackerel.”

 

  It was a quick dish that was made by adding chunks of mackerel, potatoes and radish and braising them in a marinade.

 

  “It’s delicious.
Even in the army… I mean, even in some camps, you eat this very often.
Debone the fish and mix the rice into the sauce here and… Kyaah~.
It’ll just be amazing.”

 


  Korin gently placed pieces of mackerel, cooked radish and potatoes into a smaller bowl.

 

  “…”

 

  Meanwhile, Hua Ran silently gazed down at the dish.
Seeing the red sauce that seemed like the magma of an active volcano, she couldn’t even guess how to approach it. 

 

  While she was hesitantly looking at the fish with the chopsticks in her fingers, Korin walked up to her back and came closer. 

 

  “Here.”

 

  Taking her two chopsticks and carrying one each in his hands, Korin started separating the bone from the flesh.
He removed the large spine and the small bones which revealed the white flesh inside. 

 

  After using a spoon to scoop up the marinade inside the wok, he poured a generous amount onto the white flesh of the fish. 

 

  “Have a taste.”

 

  Hua Ran carefully cut the fish into bite-sized pieces.
She carried one of them into her mouth.
As for the taste…

 

  ‘Not terrible.’

 

  If she had to give it an evaluation, she would say it was crude and miserable compared to the fine-dining restaurants in the city but it was still edible.

 

  While thinking to herself that it wasn’t so bad that she would return the food to the kitchen, Hua Ran continued moving her chopsticks.

 

  ****

 

  I came to Hua Ran’s room after the meal.

 

  The room only had a bed, a desk and a densely packed bookshelf and gave off a very desolate feeling.

 

  “That wasn’t very nice.”

 

  “You were enjoying it weren’t you?”

 

  After living a few years by myself, I inevitably ended up acquiring some cooking skills.
Although the menu was very limited, I was quite good at making fried rice and braised mackerel.

 

  “I’ll make you fried rice or something else next time.”

 

  “…”

 

  ‘I’m not eating if it’s bad,’ Hua Ran added at the end but there was a slight sense of expectation embedded into her gaze.

 

  The fact that she accepted the dinner I made meant our reconciliation had already been decided.
There was still some remaining sharpness to her voice and word choice but it was understandable since she was still a child that wasn’t used to getting angry.

 

  “Buy meals instead.
That’s more delicious.”

 

  “Of course my cooking is not going to be as good as the ones made by chefs.”

 

  What would you do with your living expenses if you buy every meal outside? I would have asked that question to anyone else but not her.
From what I could tell based on the pouch of gold coins that she prepared in the blink of an eye as well as her unhesitant investment for the inn plan… it seemed that she was more loaded than I expected.

 

  But since she wasn’t the type to work to save money, her possession was probably the inheritance of her ‘father’.

 

  Right.
The two keywords of Hua Ran’s scenario were ‘father’ and ‘original self’.

 

  I knew why she was acting strong the whole time, as well as how important power was to her.

 

  “Do you know how long it takes for chefs to cook one dish?”

 

  “They take less than 30 minutes.”

 

  “It’s 10 years.”

 

  “???”

 

  “From finding good ingredients to preparing and cooking them.
It seems that normal chefs require up to 10 years until they can show their own dishes to their customers.
Well, that’s probably not the only case but still.”

 

  “…”

 

  “Apparently the old owner of your favorite fish restaurant drank only water his entire life to protect his sense of taste and wears gloves all year long to protect his hands from the heat of the summer and the coldness of the winter.”

 

  “…What are you implying?”

 

  “It took me 3 years, to learn enough martial arts to put you down on your knees once.”

 

  I reflected on my desperate days.
I first started with Eight Trigrams.
It wasn’t because of anything special and it was simply because that was the first martial arts related book that I found in the library.

 

  Through the Eight Trigrams, I learned how to use the fist and the spear and immersed myself into them until I met my master.

 

  Compared to my party members who all used fancy styles like the Singular Sword of Arden, Flying Swords and elemental magic, my skills were very pathetic. 

 

 『Master.
When are you going to teach me some killing moves and secret arts? How long would it take for me to kill those monsters if I continue learning basic stuff like this…?
』 

 

  That was why I complained to my master about teaching me secret moves from the get go so that I could stand on a similar page as them.

 

  “You said weaklings will stay weak even if they practice spearmanship and stuff.”

 

  “…”

 

  I reached both of my hands forward to the silent Hua Ran.

 

  “Try grabbing my hands.”

 

  “What?”

 

  “Here.
Make sure our palms are touching each other.”

 

  After slight hesitation, she carefully aligned both of her palms against mine.
I closed my fingers and held onto her tiny hands.

 

  “I will now try my hardest to escape from your grip so make sure to hold onto me so that I can’t escape.”

 

  – Gripp!

 


  She started clenching her hands as soon as I said that.
It felt like my bones would be cracked with one mistake but while withstanding the pain, I pulled my body back in an attempt to escape from her.

 

  “Knnngg…!”

 

  I pulled as hard as I possibly could but I just could not escape from her grip.

 

  – Flop!

 

  I even tried to use my legs but it didn’t work and all that happened was me losing my balance, so the two of us ended up falling onto the bed.

 

  Hua Ran was pretty much lying on top of me but she was still holding onto my hands to make sure she would not lose the contest.

 

  “I lost.
I lost!”

 

  Her lips curved up after hearing my declaration of defeat as if she was satisfied by her victory.
But at the same time, there must be a rising doubt in her mind.
If I was as weak as this, and a lot weaker than herself… How was I able to defeat her back then?

 

  “It’s interesting right? I’m a weakling compared to you.
You can beat me as easily as this so why did you lose back then?”

 

  “…I didn’t lose.”

 

  “Yes yes.
But you did get on your knees.”

 

  “…”

 

  “Did the skill I used to block your punch appear like an amazing move?”

 

  Hua Ran didn’t reply but she silently showed her agreement.
Actually, the skills I used to put her down onto her knees were block, pull and push.

 

  Such simple actions were just used in a timely manner when she was least expecting them.

 

  “The spearmanship I learned is similar to your favorite fish.
It starts from choosing the ingredients.
And it starts with a simple punch.”

 

  – You start from the small basics.

 

  『Child, you must always give your very best no matter how trivial they seem.

 

“If you give your very best to everything, you’ll learn how to be caring.Learn how to be caring, and it will leave a mark on your personality.

 

If it leaves a mark on your personality, it will show on the outside.

And if it shows on the outside, you will become brighter,

If you become brighter, you will move other people,

Move other people and you will change.

And if you change… you’ll become mature.”

 

 『That is why only the people that give their very best sincerely to everything are the only ones that can change the world.』 

 

  Hua Ran, who was quietly listening to my words, suddenly asked a question.

 

  “Would something change by learning things like that?”

 

  “As in by diligently preparing ingredients and practicing one spear move on repeat? Nothing might change from just one of them, but…”

 

  This was not a proverb that guaranteed success.
It was about one’s attitude to life.
Even though it was a very idealistic proverb that might be very difficult to fulfill…

 

  “At least you won’t lose to me again right?”

 

  “…”

 

  “Rather than complaining without doing anything, it’s better to be proud after doing something.
I want you to try it at the very least.”

 

  “…You only know how to talk big.”

 

  “Huhaha…! That’s true too! Anyone can give encouragement and tell you to try your best.”

 

  Hua Ran started carefully inspecting my palms.
While flipping my hands back and forth, she looked at the deep calluses around my hands and curiously fidgeted with them with her tiny hands.

 

  Only after a long time did she let go of my hands.

 

  “We’re good now, right?”

 

  “Hmph.”

 

  “Good.
Give me a high five!”

 

  I opened my palm and raised it into the air but her expression was still very cold.
Thinking that it was a bit too much, I was awkwardly retrieving my hand when Hua Ran headed to the desk and picked up a notebook before tossing it to me. 

 

  “What’s this?”

 

  Opening the book, I discovered that it was a report on the spearmanship posture that we prepared for this assignment and its principles.
It was the research that she was supposed to be in charge of.

 

  “You did this already?”

 

  Turning her head away, she pretended like she didn’t hear me.
It seemed that she had been working on this even though she wasn’t attending the group meetings!

 

  “You adorable little cutie!”

 

  I rustled my fingers through her well-organized hair.
Her disheveled hair was quite the sight.

 

  “Go away.”

 

  “Yes Ma’am.”

 

  Taking the research report that Hua Ran prepared, I walked out of her room.

 

  “Oh right, the next meeting is at 4:30 pm tomorrow.
Let’s meet at our usual spot.”

 

  Although she didn’t reply, I knew what type of person she was.
She would definitely come out despite a few complaints.

 

  As I expected, Hua Ran came to the group meeting with the same cold and indifferent expression on her face as usual.

 

Translator’s Note:

Reference to Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi

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