"Wow, that smells amazing!" White steam rolled out of the pot as soon as the lid was lifted up, blowing against Long Qiu's face. She ignored the heat and blinked eagerly at what was inside. They used two wood-fired ovens in the kitchen—the bigger one for stir-frying and the smaller one for cooking rice. Right now, laying inside the latter was a neat layer of white jade marbles. The rice grains were plump, even, closely packed, and well-arranged. Sniffing at it, Long Qiu's little face lighted up with satisfaction. She filled three bowls with rice and carried them to the table. Their meals had always been quite simple. Gu Yu was the cook today and he made crisp fried Tofu, cold celery dressed with sauce, stir-fried lotus root slice, and fish head soup. The preference towards vegetable dishes was getting onto him after hanging around the two ladies for a while. The kitchen came with a seperate compartment, which was used as their dining room. Xiao Qiu tried the rice first and her smiling eyes become two little crescent moons. "This rice is delicious!" "Yep, I'll give it a thumbs up!" Xiaozhai also took some with her chopsticks, apparently quite contented. Cultivation aside, the theory of traditional medicine alone argued that there was vital essence inside human bodies. Exactly where did that essence come from? One source was from doing exercises, where the energy was the product of one's own active physical body; the other source was the food ingested, which would be transformed into energy. Therefore, ancient men were very particular in their diet. They chose different food in accordance with the different seasons and their different health conditions. A healthy diet could satisfy the daily nutrient needs of healthy ordinary people. Cultivators, on the other hand, had proceeded to a different level of living that the intake of secular foods would no longer benefit them, but would instead hamper their cultivation. Only when one reached the Human Immortal state and achieved the real pigu could they say goodbye to food once and for all. At the moment, the discovery of the spiritual rice just happened to fill the gap. The spiritual stones and spiritual rice were the reason they considered the development of Tianzhu Mountain of great significance, for they would fit into two of the most basic daily activities. All in all, it was a pleasant meal for all three of them, who kept refilling their bowls until Long Qiu ran to the pot for another time and returned resentfully with an empty bowl. "We've eaten it all," announced she with an innocent face. "How much did you cook?" Gu Yu was taken aback as well. "Well, about 1.5 kg of rice," recalled Long Qiu. "What?!" An awkwardness immediately filled the air. If a mirror was strutted up in the center of the table right now, they would probably see three pigs reflected in it. "Sigh. I'd never imagined that one day I'd feel sorry over not being able to eat rice." Chewing the last piece of celery sticks, Xiaozhai looked dejected. There were only five kilos in total and they would finish them all in one day if they set their minds to it. Long Qiu was apparently worried. "Brother, do you think our own plot would work? "It's like a lottery. With all their experimental plots, they only came up with just over 500 kg. It's just the three of us, though. 50 kg will be enough to keep us going for a while," said Gu Yu. "I see…" The girl nodded, then asked again, "But, but with so little rice, what if there's not enough for everybody?" 'Hm?' Gu Yu glanced at her. Instead of giving an direct answer, he replied with a rhetorical question, "Xiao Qiu, what do you think people fear the most?" "Um… death?" The girl was uncertain. "Haha, that's correct! Everyone is afraid of dying." Stacking up the bowls, Gu Yu cleared the table with deft movements as he went on, "This rice is no elixir, but is capable enough to boost the health of ordinary people and prolong life. Moreover, it is very beneficial for cultivators in helping with cultivation, especially for those yet to reach the innate state. The spiritual essence produced by this rice is mild and well-controlled, which is very suitable to these cultivators and can speed up their progress significantly. That's why no matter how scarce the resources are, there is never a problem of 'not enough'. It all depends on how many people you want to include." "..." Long Qiu was in a daze when she asked, "Brother, what are you saying? You've completely lost me." "He meant it was a matter of who would eat first, the master or the goon squad." In concise words, Xiaozhai summed it up accurately. The capital, Chishui 1 Lane. Of all seven thousand plus lanes in the capital city, Chishui was only one of them, and a most inconspicuous one. The only thing worth mentioning was that this lane was particularly quiet. For the area it was in was officially a dignitary-only residential area. Xue Zhao was your standard descendant of the bigwigs. His big-shot ancestors could be dated back when the modern state was struggling for its establishment. After much turbulence and turmoils, the entire family left the political world and moved into the business circle. On the surface, the Xue Family was but a big-time business empire. But to those better-informed, the connections of the family were almost boundless. Even in the capital, the family was of some renown. It was dusk at the moment. Xue Zhao's car turned into Chishui Lane and parked outside a courtyard house. A pair of drum-shaped bearing stones stood on either side of the yard gate, but was so dilapidated that the pedestal was the only thing left. The gate itself was of a rather vivid color, however, apparently the result of a modern renovation. "Pat! Pat!" A few pattings of the knocker and a woman with grizzled hair pulled the door open. She smiled. "Oh my, Ah Zhao's back." "Auntie Chen, it's been a while. You haven't changed a bit, even looking younger than before." "Haha, you smooth talker! Come on in. Dinner's ready and we're all waiting for you." The woman was the family nanny who had brought Xue Zhao up herself; she was even older than his parents. They did not go by pretentious addressing such as "My Lord", "My Lady", or "Young Master", but always used their full names or nicknames. Xue Zhao went straight into the dining room. A middle-aged man was sitting by the table reading a newspaper. It was none other than his father, Xue Ming. "Dad, what's the rush? Why did you ask me to come?" Sitting opposite his father, Xue Zhao asked. "Nothing, just want to share a meal with you." His father put the newspaper down and as if half-intentionally, he accentuated the word " meal 2 ". "..." Xue Zhao took the hint right away and asked immediately, "It's here?" "Yes. They gave us 15 kg." "15 kg? That's as good as nothing!" He raised his voice involuntarily. "Keep your voice down! The Zhangs only got 20 kg and we're lucky to even have some at all. How much do you think there is in total?" Xue Ming scolded him. "Tsk!" Xue Zhao went quiet. The Zhang Family was much higher up the ladder than his own family, yet they were only 5 kg better off. It seemed this stuff was indeed very scarce. "Are we going to get it on a monthly basis?" he asked another question. "It's a lump sum for now. We don't know what it is going to be in the future. They haven't set up the standards yet." "It's not going to be a per capita thing, is it?" "Hard to say. That's actually quite possible. 100 g per person per month… haha!" Xue Ming chuckled unexpectedly as he went on. "Back when life was tough and the living standard low, things were indeed distributed that way. Never thought I'd live to see it happen again…" He let his sentiments show for a brief moment before casually changing the subject. The father and the son sat there like a pair of paupers, discussing the ratio of distribution. It might seem ridiculous, but with the circle they moved around in, even a single gram was worth fighting for. Before long, Auntie Chen served the dinner. The meal started with a few simple dishes, preceded by wheaten food, and finally, two bowls of porridge. It was extremely thin. The liquid was so clear that there was barely any tackiness about it. A few rice grains floated on the surface. Auntie Chen whined as she put out the dishes. "I can't for the life of me understand this menu. Why this thin congee? I mean, this is unbelievably thin. Can it even fill your stomach?" "I've had too much dinner parties lately, need this for an internal detox." Xue Ming waved at her with a smile. "You don't have to wait up on us. We can take care of ourselves." "Fine, fine, like I want to meddle with your business." Mumbling, the woman left the dining room. Only after she was completely out of sight did the other two raise their bowls. The way they stared into the porridge was somewhat ridiculous. They couldn't help it! They were so nervous! After much pondering from above, Xue Zhao lowered his head and took a sip. He savored it between his teeth. Normal thin congee was tasteless and watery, but this one was nothing like that. The fragrant and smooth liquid slid down his throat and settled in his stomach. A few more seconds later, he felt a thread of warm current flowing out from inside. The sensation reminded him of gulping down a potent medicinal liquor, but not as aggressive. Instead, it was seeping into his limbs and meridians in a mild and gentle manner. What Xue Ming felt was not much different and a mixture of emotions fleeting across his face. It was real! It was indeed as they were told! Even if they had known it all along, they still couldn't help but feel exhilarated now that they were tasting it themselves. Raised as a privileged boy, Xue Zhao had always preferred modern cuisines and porridge had not been on his menu for as long as he could remember. Right now, he would not waste even one drop of it—he even wouldn't mind licking the bowl clean. "Ha…" It was quite a while before he exhaled and spoke again, "That's the full quota for a day?" "Yes. They have ran some serious tests. The human body will not be able to withstand anything above this amount," explained Xue Ming. "Sigh, such a pity…" Xue Zhao felt sorry for such an arrangement. He paused before adding, "Oh, by the way, Dad, my friend told me about a very capable man recently. They thought I should pay him a visit." "A capable man? Not a Taoist priest, I hope?" Xue Ming asked immediately. "No, just some folk." "Good, I was afraid you would meddle with the priests. They have all been registered nation-wide and we'd better steer clear of those people." "Tsk. Just to let you know, I'm cleverer than I look, ok?" Xue Zhao thought little of his father's warning. "It's not as serious as you put it, really. Of all these families in the capital, I bet everyone is trying something behind closed doors. I heard even those palm-readers and fortune-tellers have raised their price." "They're not us and we're not them!" "Yeah, yeah, don't worry. I know what I'm doing." They talked for a little bit longer before Xue Zhao left with a small bag. In it was a third of the spiritual rice. Xue Ming trusted his son a great deal. As a result, he had forgotten to ask him an important question. For if he had, he would definitely lock the young fellow up in his room—the place where Xue Zhao was going was called Shengtian. TL/N: meaning "pool water" TL/N: in Chinese, the expression of "having a meal" literally means "eating (cooked) rice" (吃饭). Therefore, the father was actually emphasizing the word "rice".