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Chapter 1: Flaming Passion
Translated by: GX, Demenious
Edited By: M2t5, Sad Horse
Continent of the Five Elements. Southern Fire Empire, western region, Lihuo City.
In the Southern Fire Empire, Lihuo City could at most be considered a medium-sized city, but despite its small size, it was famous in every other aspect. While the garrison was a mere 2000 soldiers, its security was better than most other cities. It was hard to find a single speck of dust on its broad red granite streets. Red granite is a special kind of rock, which can only be made using the Southern Fire Empire’s special production technique. Not only is Red Granite extremely fashionable and artistic, it is also very durable: as long as nobody tried to destroy it, it could last for hundreds of years without any imperfections.
In the Southern Fire Empire, Lihuo City.
Evening was ending, and the sunset had arrived, basking the city in a red glow. Lihuo City calms down as people stop working, and start to rest. At this time, the late night entertainment is just winding up.
Flaming Passion, one of the most popular bars in Lihuo City, was located on the principal street of the golden district. Like many of the buildings in Lihuo City, it was red. But the red of this building was even brighter than those that surrounded it. The bar occupied a grand two-floored building, and an outdoor plaza that was situated right at its doorway. This plaza was what attracted the majority of the bar’s customers.
This outdoor plaza was about 500 square meters, and in the center there is a circular bar, ten meters across, made of stone. Every evening, Flaming Passion Bar’s most famous bartender will come to this bar and mix drinks for the customers. Even on rainy days, there is never a lack of customers, as they could easily pull up a canopy large enough to cover the entire plaza.
Since the Southern Fire empire never experiences winter, this patio has never been unoccupied, even during the night.
Right now, the bartenders of Flaming Passion were in position, as the customers slowly filled the outdoor plaza. This time was in fact the busiest point of the day.
An old man wearing a luxurious red gown walked towards the outdoor plaza. As soon as he stepped into the plaza, a waiter greeted him, leading him deep into the central area of the plaza. This section was composed of ten tables which directly surrounded the bar; all of these tables were reserved for VIP guests. There was no doubt that this old man dressed in a red gown was a VIP. Not only was he a VIP, but he was guided to the best table in the entire patio, the one that faced the street!
This red gowned old man had short white hair, a brandy nose, small eyes, and a skinny build. No matter what feature you looked at, there was nothing you could call extraordinary. However, whenever that small pair of eyes blinked, a faint red glimmer flashed through his eyes, making one’s heart tremble.
“Yang-lao, the usual?” A middle aged man in a ceremonial robe arrived next to him, bowing graciously as he asked. Only the VIP’s could elicit such treatment out of the bar owner.
Yang-Lao was bored, he said, “Besides your Flaming Passion here, nothing else in the world can catch my interest.”
The owner smiled slightly and said, “Please wait a moment.” before turning to the central bar and signaled to the oldest bartender. The bartender knew exactly what to do. He took a clean shaker made of crystal, and prepared the first and most important order of the day.
In an instant, all sorts of liquor were poured into the shaker, the bartender then put in a filter and sealed it nicely. The bartender shook the shaker so vigorously that it was almost as if it was performing the ‘happy flying dance’.
Since the shaker was made of transparent white crystal, one could clearly see the colors of the liquor blend and mix during the shaking process. The bartender was very skilled, as he shook, you could see the red liquor dance from the top to the bottom, like a raging flame. It was extremely beautiful. When the fiery blaze of color in his hands calmed down, the lid magically disappeared, the shaker had already opened. He poured the dark red liquor into a martini glass, and dropped a flame on the drink. Immediately, a spice hot fragrance floated across the patio.
The moves of the Flaming Passion Bar’s veteran bartender were as smooth as water. When the scent of the cocktail reached the nearby customers, they applauded and smiled happily. Yang-Lao was no exception, and nodded to the bartender, his eyes still on the cup; impatiently waiting to taste the drink.
The glass was quickly brought to Yang-Lao, who directly took the glass from the hands of the waiter. Yang-Lao took a small sip, completely ignoring the fact that the liquid was still burning. He took a deep breath before looking at the bar owner, “Good! Only this drink, which burns with passion, has the right taste. Even after drinking this every day for five years, it still enchants this old drunken tard. No wonder your business is so prosperous.
The bar owner said with a respectful smile, “As long as you’re pleased with it.”
Right at this moment, a voice broke the pleasant scene, “Humph, You call that a fine liquor? It is nothing but rubbish!” The voice wasn’t very loud, in fact it was slightly coarse and powerless, yet despite that, it was filled with an unshakable arrogance.
“Hmm…?” The bar owner and Yang-Lao both turned simultaneously to look at where the voice came from. They were astonished to see a little beggar with a petite figure and worn out clothes squatting near the table. They had no idea how he entered this place. But his eyes were focused on the cocktail, his weary eyes were filled with dissatisfaction.
The bar owner slightly wrinkled his eyebrows, glancing at one of the nearby waiters with displeasure. The waiter had only just noticed the little beggar, and he hastily walked over to the owner and said, “Sorry, I didn’t see him enter.”
The bar owner waved his hand, signifying to get rid of this little beggar as quickly as possible. But he didn’t want to use force in front of Yang-Lao and disturb his business.
The little beggar stood up, his face dirty while he had a diminutive figure. He seemed to be around 11 or 12, with disheveled hair, and an unpleasant smell surround him, which indicated the countless days since his he had last bathed.
The waiter was repulsed, and was about to drag him out when Yang-Lao spoke up, “Wait.” There was no need for the bar owner to do anything, the waiter already knew to stop. He looked at Yang-Lao, puzzled.
Yang-Lao looked at the little beggar, “Little friend, you said that this glass of Flaming Passion is no good? I don’t know where you could have tasted something better, but please tell me about it.” For Yang-Lao, searching for fine liquor was the passion of his life.
The owner quickly said, “Yang-Lao, what could a mere beggar know? Don’t let him disturb your drinking mood.” The people in the Southern Fire Empire love to drink and thus, the competition in the bar industry is extremely fierce. The owner was scared that this little beggar will say that another bar has better liquor and lure his honorable guest away. Yang-Lao drank here everyday for the past five years, the amount of profit generated of him alone was uncountable.
Yang-Lao shot a glare at the owner, he clearly understood the thoughts of the bar owner. He then turned back with a smile and said, “How about this, little friend, do you have any suggestions on how to improve this drink? If what you say is the truth, this gold coin will be yours.” A gold coin landed on the table. One must know, the Flaming Passion was the most famous cocktail of the Burning Passion bar, and is worth one gold coin per a cup. This very same gold coin could feed a family of three for a month in Lihuo city.
But to everyone’s surprise, the beggar didn’t even look at the gold coin, but raised his hand and pointed at the central bar and proudly said, “If you wish to drink a real ‘Flaming Passion’ then let me go there and provide the necessary ingredients.”
“You can mix drinks?” Both the bar owner and Yang-Lao questioned incredulously. The nearby waiters couldn’t suppress their laughter and snickered. One must know that the position of bartender was very highly regarded in the Southern Fire empire. Without the accumulation of experience, how could one become a remarkable bartender? In everyone’s eyes, the filthy little beggar was trying to play a trick on them.
Yang-Lao’s expression became serious, “Little friend, do you know what the most important value that a person must have? It’s his honesty.”
The bar owner relaxed. He believed that the beggar was only talking big, nothing more, and that he wasn’t a threat to his bar.
The little beggar with both hands on his back, coldly said, “Why don’t we let the facts speak?”
Yang-lao frowned, “Can you really mix a cocktail that is better than this Flaming Passion?”
Anger flashed in the eyes of the little beggar, “If I cannot, I will give you my life.”
Seeing the anger in the eyes of the little beggar, Yang-Lao was surprised by the impression of unquestionably strong self confidence and arrogance within this thin little body. He was clearly only a small beggar, but where did all the confidence come from?
At this point, the event had already attracted the interest of many people. They became curious as to what the little beggar would make, and they had already started chanting “Let him try it.”
The bar owner bowed down and whispered into Yang-Lao’s ear, “How about we let him try it?”
Yang-Lao nodded lightly and looked at the little beggar, “I hope you will give me a surprise. Bar owner Zhao, give him the ingredients he asks for, I will pay for them.”
The bar owner, Mr. Zhao, smiled and said, “There is nothing of much value which he can use, how could we let you pay for it?” In order to get one Yang-Lao’s good side, he was willing to absorb the loss in profit. He waved his hand at the waiter, signalling for him to bring the beggar to the bar.
Hearing their conversation, the beggar didn’t wait for a second. He turned and walked towards the central bar. The bartenders in the bar naturally didn’t believe that the little beggar that came out of nowhere could be any kind of threat. So they all willingly let him enter the bar, and watched his actions with interest.
The veteran bartender who made the Flaming Passion mockingly smiled, “Little friend, should I introduce you to all the liquor here?” While pointing at the liquor cabinet behind the bar, which contained hundreds of different fine liquors.
Another young bartender’s mouth twitched, enigmatically saying, “Nowadays even beggars dare say that they can mix drinks. I really don’t know what the boss is thinking, letting such a filthy beggar come back here. Is he not afraid that the beggar will mess up the bar?”
A senior bartender glared at him, and said with a low voice, “Don’t speak so loudly, don’t you see that Yang-Lao has taken an interest in that little one? Otherwise why would the boss let such a little beggar enter the bar so easily?”
The little beggar seemed not to pay any attention to them. He straightened his thin and small back perfectly, and the eyes burned with arrogance. He walked to the bar, and ordered what he needed, not even sparing a glance for the young bartender.
“Tomato juice, freshly pressed lemon juice, worcestershire, sauce, tabasco, chilli oil, and some salt and pepper.”
The young bartender from before couldn’t resist a tsukumi and asked, “Are you going to cook, or mix a cocktail.”
At that time, Mr. Zhao and Yang-Lao had arrived at the bar, hearing the words of the young bartender, Zhao’s face darkened and he said, “Do what he said, don’t you have the slightest discipline?”
The young bartender from before glared at the beggar thinking, “I anticipate your failure.” He turned around and left to get the ingredients.
Again, the beggar didn’t react to the exchange. It was as if he didn’t hear or see anything. He turned around and walked to the sink in the middle of the bar and started to wash his hands. He was very focused, he first wet his dirt caked hands, then took some liquid soap, rubbing both his hands carefully; washing each of his fingers with patience, not even the gap between his finger and the fingernail was ignored. Every part of his hand was washed with caution and care, not even the wrist was spared. After cleaning both of his hands, they contrasted quite starkly with his dirty face.
The veteran bartender who made the Flaming Passion, was at first startled, and then became dignified and serious. Seeing the actions of the little beggar he slowly nodded. Being a bartender was not all about mixing drinks, one must also respect the liquor they are mixing, the customers and even themselves. He saw a thread of sincerity in the corner of the little beggar’s eyes. It was very clear to him that the little beggar really didn’t hear the remarks directed at him earlier, he was completely absorbed in the task of preparing the drink. This was something that was hard for even him to do, but this 11-12 year old beggar was doing it as if it was the most natural thing in the world. With just one look at the cabinet, his sincere and crazed eyes were filled with attachment as he decided which drink to use. Just his hand washing process taught the veteran bartender a lot about the little beggar.
There was a hint of a smile on the face of Yang-Lao, talking to himself, “Interesting.”
After washing his hands, the little beggar went to take a bottle of liquor from the liquor cabinet. The bottle he chose was stored in the highest slot, and he could only barely reach it, standing on his toes. By the time he had retrieved the bottle, the ingredients he requested were laid out for him on the board. One could see how long it took him to wash his hands.
The veteran bartender took the initiative to put a shaker made from polished crystal in front of the beggar. The beggar opened the shaker, took out the filter, and for a moment displayed a nostalgic look, as if he is recalling something.
The customers had already crowded around the stone bar, they were all anxious to see what this little beggar could make. The little beggar raised the bottle of liquor, pouring its contents into the shaker.