I looked around the Grand Courtyard that had once been empty now filled with rows upon rows of food stalls, merchant carts and and game stalls. There was even a giant stage at the far end set up for the performances.
Since it was still a few more hours before the official start time, most of the staff are still busy with the final set ups for the event.
Such a grand event has never happened before.
Previously, all our New Year celebrations just involved the Sect Master giving a small talk on a small stage which I already think is a waste of time. The nearby Minor Sects would come and visit, bearing a few gifts which they will exchange with us.
Normally I would find a reason for myself to be excused from such trivialities.
In fact, had this year's been the same, I would have just fabricated a reason for my disciples and I to be absent. No need for them to be subjected to such unnecessary torture.
But now that it has turned into such a big celebration, of course I'll let my cute disciples enjoy the festivities.
Honestly, I had wanted to opt out of participating in the event and just let my girls go on their own, probably the remnants of my past self who preferred to coop himself in his room.
Thankfully, my girls were there to look at me all teary-eyed, asking me to accompany them to the celebration.
Even Cai Hong had pulled at my sleeve and said, "Papa? Go?"
How could I say no to that?
So here I am, in the Grand Courtyard a few hours before the festivities officially start and surrounded by my disciples who were busy admiring the sights around them.
The girls were all dressed up in kimonos that Lian Li had personally sewn for each of them.
"Mmm Not as good as Masters" Lian Li commented after taking a bite of the Candied Hawthorn she had gotten from a nearby stall that was serving snacks to early birds.
"Fufufu~ It is true that the food here is a little lacking compared to Master's personally made ones," Manami agreed, her hand holding a small piece of Peanut Cake.
Cai Hong was holding on to my hand, currently busy stuffing her face with a big roll of cotton candy I had made for her.
She had been disappointed that the food currently available here were below her expectations, even going so far to state that the pocket candies I give her taste better.
Well I only gave them the recipes, their skills were probably still not good enough to reproduce the quality yet.
To soothe that pouting face, I just grabbed a fist full of sugar and used my Fire quarks to melt it before spinning it into strands on a stick with my Air quarks.
I also managed to procure a few fruits to squeeze their juices into the sugary strands, creating different flavoured cotton candies.
Of course I made one for everyone, it's just that the cotton candy Cai Hong was holding was already her third serving.
She offered her cotton candy stick to me.
I patted her head with my free hand before plucking a small piece to put in my mouth.
"Master Taste" Eris offered an oblong shaped pastry with chocolate icing on top.
"Oh? You managed to make the Eclair I taught you?"
I let her pop the pastry into my mouth.
"Mmm Sweet. It's good," I complimented her.
Her smile was so bright I was almost blinded.
"Master," Diao Chan called out from behind. "Masters Leizhui and Taoyan of the Xi family are ahead. They used to be from the Heavy Sky Grand Sect that is ranked third in our continent and those two were the top ranked Masters. Now they work as enforcers for the Xi Family."
I looked ahead, spotting the two afore-mentioned Masters looking at my direction. Both of them looked wiry and thin. Leizhui looked to be in his early forties while Taoyan had a wrinkled face that made him look to be in his late sixties.
I sent Diao Chan a quick nod of thanks.
She had been studying hard.
With her supposed experience in court intrigue, she had voluntarily studied up on our Beiyang continent's Sects and influential people in her free time. She is scarily adept at this part to the point she even knows about their hobbies, pastimes and even their likes and dislikes.
Don't ask me how she knew, I'm pretty sure the history books I gave her said nothing about that.
I had tried asking her what my standing was and she just blushed and looked away, unwilling to answer.
The two Masters approached me when I got near.
"Oh! Isn't this Master Lin of Heaven Sect?" Leizhui called out dramatically.
"Yes, I wonder if Master Lin knows about us two lowly Practitioners?" Taoyan asked, stroking his beard slowly.
"Master Leizhui, Master Taoyan. Well met. I wonder if the two former top Masters of Heavy Sky Sect is enjoying our little celebration?"
The two seemed taken aback, surprised that I even knew about them.
"Oh Ermm Yes. It is quite adequate," Taoyan muttered. "Nothing as grand as our Xi Family's New Year Celebrations, of course. The city's festival would be funded by our Xi family which would fill the whole street with food and wine. But I suppose this is good enough for a Sect that is way out in the middle of nowhere."
I nodded at his words, "Yes, it is such a shame that so many Grand Sects and families had sent a last minute request to be able to join our festivities that this event was organised in a rush. We are but a humble Sect, you see. Putting up grand celebrations has never been our thing."
"Oh? Is the Heaven Sect too poor to afford a grand celebration every year?" Leizhui asked.
I chuckled, "Hardly! Our Sect just prefers to be more practical, that's all. We would just rather spend the new year with people we care about rather than going somewhere far to butter up others."
A vein popped in Leizhui's forehead, "What? Are you suggesting that we are shamelessly buttering up to Heaven Sect?"
I gasped, feigning surprise, "Oh? Did it come out that way? I assure you I did not mean it like that. I was just stating what our Sect believes in."
Taoyan nodded, "But of course, I apologize for Leizhui's outburst. The long journey to this extremely backwater place got to him, we're weren't even sure we were at the right place with all the peasants roaming around."
I laughed, "Yes. Isn't the natural beauty of this place astounding? Away from the hustle of the city and fully immersed in nature, definitely the perfect place to cultivate. I have no doubt it is because of such an environment I was able to reach where I am today."
They scowled at me, clearly my words had irked them. Before they could say another word, Diao Chan had stepped beside me.
She curtsied, "Well met Master Taoyan, Master Leizhui. The festivities will start in a few moments. Please proceed to the Grand Hall as Sect Master Long will be making a welcome speech. It will not do well for either of you to show up late."
The two of them looked at her up and down, their faces carefully schooled in a poker face. But unfortunately for them, I could see the edges of their lips curling upwards slightly.
"Hmph We shall carry this conversation later," Leizhui scoffed.
The two left, flicking their wrists in perfect synchronization.
We watched them leave in the direction of the Grand Hall, neither of them sparing a glance back.
Cai Hong turned to me, "Papa? Bad men?"
I patted her head, "No Just some silly men. Did they scare you?"
Cai Hong shook her head, "Cai Hong not scared because Papa is here!"
Oh well, those two will probably be the first batch of visitors I'll have to face.
It's kind of obvious to me they're just trying to upsell themselves in front of my disciples.
You gotta try harder man.
They're not going to just buy into your sales pitch so easily.
You want us to visit your Family as guests so you can profit off us? Dream on.
Especially since your Xi young master is there too. No way am I going to get myself entangled in that kind of messy business.
I turned to my girls, "Now, you girls should go listen in on Sect Master Long's welcome speech as well."
"Do we hafta?" Eris whined.
"Yes, you do." I rebuked. "Now why don't you girls run along there first? I need to talk to some of the organizers about some things before I join you."
The girls bowed before making their way towards the Grand Hall, leaving me alone in the centre of the Courtyard.
I circulated my quarks, forming the Technique that teleported me across the Sect to the giant peach tree.
A group of four Practitioners were huddled under the tree, all of them dressed in black robes that hid their features.
One of them was trying to uncork a vial filled with a poisonous looking purple liquid.
Didn't need to be a genius to figure out they were trying to poison the tree.
I had already sensed this group of people entering here with ill intentions a mile away.
Ok, that was a lie.
Remember that little 'WE KNOW' note I burnt? I had cast a tracking spell on it when it burned that allowed me to know who had sent it to me.
And right now, that person is right there uncorking the bottle.
"Alright, I'm here to kick ass and chew bubblegum," I called out. "And guess what, there ain't no bubblegums in this place yet."
The group of Dark Sect members stood up in a panic upon hearing me.
I cracked my knuckles.
"Maybe next time you shouldn't send a stupid note written in blood before doing whatever you plan on doing. Not that there will be a next time after I'm done with you all."
Also, no one messes with my peaches.