Thursday, 20 June 2019

Chapter 8 - Impart Skills


“Zhang Xiaofan!”

A loud shout, the voice sweet but it was deafening. Zhang Xiaofan woke up from his sleep, opened his eyes and suddenly saw a loud mouth, two rows of sharp teeth, horizontal before him, he shouted in shock, “Ah!”

“Ke ke ke ke…” a series of laughs were heard from the back.

Zhang Xiaofan managed to calm down and then realized it was a large yellow dog, almost half a human high, a body of shiny yellow fur, crouched on his bed, and behind the yellow dog, Tian Linger wearing red, tight clothing, laughing till she was bent over.

Zhang Xiaofan secretly glanced at that big dog, it was huge, its teeth sharp, a long tongue lolled to the side, looking very fierce. He had never seen such huge dog, feeling afraid but saw Tian Linger clear smile, stammered and asked, “Senior sister, what’s the matter?”

“What’s the matter?” Tian Linger smiled and said, suddenly her face solemn, frowned and said loudly, “The sun is already up and you are still asking me what’s the matter? Hurry and get up, I am going with you to chop bamboos up the mountain.”

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, asked in bewilderment, “You are going too?”

Tian Linger said, “What nonsense, all new disciples for the first three years have to go up the mountain to chop ‘Black Knot Bamboo’, I started from ten years old and this year is my last. Hey, you are still lying on the bed?”

Zhang Xiaofan quickly acknowledged, carefully went around that big dog and came down from the other side of the bed, scrambled to dress up.

Tian Linger shouted, “Catch.” threw over a firewood axe.

Zhang Xiaofan caught it with both hands, it was an ordinary axe and also felt rather heavy. Prepared and packed, he asked Tian Linger, “Senior sister, do you want to call big senior brother together?”

Tian Linger rolled her eyes at her, said, “Didn’t you hear me, only new disciples are required to do this homework, only you and me are going to chop the bamboos, let’s go.”

After speaking, she waved her hand and before Zhang Xiaofan moved, the big yellow dog suddenly stood up, jumped down from the bed, shook its tail, barked [wong wong] twice at Zhang Xiaofan, bared its teeth and then ran out.

Zhang Xiaofan felt its barks sounded familiar, recalled that he had heard it when he came back with big senior brother, seemed like it was this yellow dog, couldn’t help but secretly exclaimed, “Qing Yun sect is so powerful, even a random dog here is also much bigger than our village ones.”

He followed Tian Linger out of the room, saw the day was still early, it was still dawn, they walked out of the winding corridor and towards the rear mountain, in the distance there was still mist drifting among the mountains.

Two humans and a dog, walked towards Big Bamboo Valley rear mountain.

The mountain which Song Daren carried Zhang Xiaofan over, it seemed a short distance and the journey there was smooth too. However, today he was walking it by himself, only halfway and he felt the mountain was getting steep, the distance seemed to be much longer than he had thought.

Tian Linger beside him, though did not use that ‘Scarlet Red Silk’, was still walking easily,  the red small figure wavered among the mountains, light and quick. That yellow dog was even better, ran ahead and back, a moment scurrying in front and another moment sneaking off, at times worming into the forest beside the path, not knowing what it was doing and after a while, noises were heard from the trees and it suddenly wormed out from another side, looking very excited.

Again another hour, Zhang Xiaofan was already panting heavily, his legs were sore and tired, extremely exhausted.

Tian Linger walking ahead, saw his state, snorted and said, “Really useless, let’s stop and rest.”

Zhang Xiaofan quickly nodded, saw down immediately, pant heavily, the big yellow dog was not seen, not knowing where it had scurried to.

Zhang Xiaofan after a long while, finally caught his breath. He sat on the path, looked down, the Big Bamboo Valley towering and lofty, the surrounding mountains were all shorter, looking rather arrogant.

“Senior sister, I have something that I will like to ask you, not sure…”

Tian Linger heard him asked timidly, looked over, had a moment of being superior, subconsciously arranged her hair, her face solemn, said, “You can ask.”

“Why do we have to chop bamboos for homework? I thought homeworks are all cultivation exercises.”

Tian Linger pursed her lips, said, “What do you know, a cultivated person, his body is the most important. My mother said, if your physical condition is not good, even if you have supreme skills, it is also difficult to cultivate. Like one of our Qing Yun sect supreme amazing skills, ‘Celestial Sword Wield Thunder True Formula’...
Zhang Xiaofan’s body trembled, his expression changed.

Tian Linger was surprised, “What happened to you?”

Zhang Xiaofan blinked, his face conflicting expression, stammered and said, “Not, nothing, this name seems very long, very powerful.”

Tian Linger stared at him, said, “Of course it is powerful, this is one of our sect unparalleled skills to subdue mountain, not many is able to cultivate it. I heard from my father, to use this skill, the person must use his own body as the stimulant, like celestial army sharp knife, draw down the celestial thunder from the nine skies, brilliant might of the heaven’s celestial power, it is really sweeping away all obstacles, unsurpassed force.”

Zhang Xiaofan sighed and said, “It is.”

Tian Linger continued, “So you think, although you have the true formula to protect your body but the might of the celestial thunder, ordinary humans would have been turned to ash the moment they touch it, the wielder although has deep cultivation but if his body is weak, in a short while most likely he himself would be first struck dead by the thunder and lightning, not to say sweeping away the obstacles?” She glanced at Zhang Xiaofan, continued, “and so my dad instructed you to do this homework is all for your own good, look at your unwilling face.”

Zhang Xiaofan was startled, quickly jumped up and said, “There is no such thing, I definitely definitely will not be disrespectful to Teacher, not to say unwilling. Ah, I have already rested enough, let’s go now, now!”

After speaking, he picked up the axe and strode off at a fast speed. Tian Linger looked at his back figure, smiled and followed.

Finally they reached the small summit, Zhang Xiaofan was already breathless, saw that before the bamboo forest, the yellow dog was already lying there, when it saw them, it barked a few times in their direction, without getting up, it turned its head away.      

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, said, “So fast!”

“Are you talking about Da Huang?” Tian Linger, not looking red or panting, walked from behind.

Zhang Xiaofan pointed to that dog and asked, “It is called Da Huang?”

Tian Linger said, “Yes, don’t belittle it, it is very powerful.”

Zhang Xiaofan muttered, “That, looking at its size, one will know it has been raised for at least twenty years .”

Tian Linger laughed, “Impossible!”

Zhang Xiaofan said in surprise, “It is not twenty yet, Da Huang really grows well.”

At this moment, Da Huang fiercely barked at Zhang Xiaofan.

Tian Linger said, “I am saying how would it that young. Eh, let me count, I think we have it when fourth senior brother came, that is seventy years, no, third senior brother said it was here when he arrived too, that will be ninety seven years already. Ah!” She suddenly exclaimed, startling Zhang Xiaofan, he quickly asked, “What is it?”

Tian Linger feeling very pleased, said, “Now I remember, there was once where my mum argued with my dad when I was still small, in her anger she said to slay that yellow dog that dad reared since young to make a stew of dog meat, dad was so angry, Da Huang also did not dare to come home for a few days because of that!”

Zhang Xiaofan was bewildered, “Da Huang did not dare to go home?”   

Tian Linger said, “Yes, Da Huang has lived for a very long time, he understands human, knows my mum’s powers and really feared for his life and so sneaked away. How is it, amazing right?”

“Amazing!” Zhang Xiaofan sincerely said, not knowing if that was referring to Da Huang or admiring his teacher’s wife. He took a few more glances at Da Huang but Da Huang ignored him, snorted, its tag swished a few times and it turned its head over, lie lazily on the ground.

Both of them by now had reached the forest, Zhang Xiaofan said to Tian Linger, “Senior sister, when I first reached Tongtian Peak, I saw a much bigger beast than Da Huang, heard senior brother referring to it as the ‘Water Kirin’, is Da Huang a spiritual beast like it?”

Tian Linger walked into the forest, shook her head and said, “No, honourable spirit is an ancient beast, a spiritual type from primeval age, far surpassed Da Huang, incomparable.”

While speaking, she led Zhang Xiaofan and traversed the forest, after a while, they came to an area where there was more thinner bamboos, the bamboos were about a finger thick, extremely slender.

“It is here, for the next three months you will only need to chop one daily.” Tian Linger said to him.

“It’s so thin and only one?” Zhang Xiaofan asked in surprise.

Tian Linger humphed, said, “Try chopping it.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, took the axe and walked to one, assessed it and chopped. A loud crisp sound, the axe as if hitting a stone, trembled in Zhang Xiaofan’s palms painfully. The slender bamboo bent forward and then sprang back, Zhang Xiaofan unable to avoid in time, was hit hard on the head, immediately a red mark appeared.

“Ke ke…” Tian Linger bent over with laughter, after a while, said, “You will continue here, I will go and do my own homework,” After speaking, she smiled and left.

Zhang Xiaofan rubbed the painful area on his face, saw only a faint white mark on the bamboo, sucked in a breath of cold air. The whole morning, Zhang Xiaofan chopped, slashed, saw, grinded, pressed, tore and other methods and after four hours, the afternoon sun rose up in the mid-sky, his entire body in sweat, his hands and legs sore and weak, only made a small hole in this black bamboo.

At that moment a song was heard, Tian Linger was humming an unknown song, skipping over, saw Zhang Xiaofan’s miserable state and the bamboo, shook her head, raised the axe and was about to chop.

Zhang Xiaofan hurriedly said, “Senior sister, what are you doing?”

Tian Linger impatiently said, “Helping you to chop.”

Zhang Xiaofan shook his head firmly, panting heavily said, “Not needed, thanks senior sister but this is my homework, I will finish it.”

Tian Linger snorted, pointed at the sky and said, “Do you know what time it is now already?”

Zhang Xiaofan’s character was stubborn, clenched his teeth and said, “Even if I have to chop until night time, I will…”

“Idiot!” Tian Linger suddenly placed her hands on her waist and scolded loudly, Zhang Xiaofan was shocked, turned speechless.

Tian Linger with a superior air, angrily said, “You did not consider the time or think about others. If you chop until its night time then do I have to accompany you until then? If you really want to prove your worth, then you should come here everyday from now on and work hard, try your best to complete the homework in four hours, and not only think of yourself with such words!”

After speaking, she chopped down, [pi pi pi pi] four sounds, that bamboo immediately fell, Zhang Xiaofan stared in shock.

Tian Linger glanced at him, indifferently said, “Let’s go back.” and started to walk out. Zhang Xiaofan felt ashamed and secretly decided to use hundred and twenty percent of hard work on his homework.

Trudging his tired self back to the Big Bamboo Valley, it was already noon, Tian Linger without speaking walked to the rear hall of the Observed Silence Hall. Zhang Xiaofan was lost for a moment, shifted his direction with difficulty and headed to his own room, in the winding corridor he saw Song Daren standing there.

Song Daren smiled and said, “How is it, little junior brother, must be exhausted?”

Song Daren looked at his young age but his character was so stubborn, couldn’t help but laugh, walked back to his room with him, said, “There is usually hot water in the kitchen, you can take some for your bath next time, after a while we are having lunch soon, you rest first and I will come over to call you, after lunch we still have homework.”

Zhang Xiaofan was taken aback, “There is still homework in the afternoon?”

Song Daren saw his reaction, was surprised and then understood, laughed and said, “Oh, its my mistake, afternoon is usually our disciples train their cultivation, I will impart some beginner skills to you today.”

Zhang Xiaofan heaved a sigh of relief, felt surprised and happy, whispered, “Big senior brother, those skills are very powerful, is it hard to learn?”

Song Daren smiled and said, “As you cultivate to a deeper level, it is naturally powerful. As to whether will it be difficult, it depends on the individual aptitude. But even if the aptitude is poor, it is no concern, you have also heard what Teacher said last night, ‘Tao teachings are infinite, diligence as your boat’, as long as you are determined, work hard and train, even how difficult it is, you will also succeed.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded earnestly.

During the lunch, Tian Buyi asked about Zhang Xiaofan’s homework, Tian Linger reported with much flavour, making Zhang Xiaofan turn red and ashamed to look up.

Tian Buyi heard his daughter's report, shook his head, waved and only say two words, “Let’s eat.”

Tian Buyi couldn’t be bothered to reprimand Zhang Xiaofan but to Zhang Xiaofan, he felt that Teacher cared much for him but yet he couldn’t do well, Teacher did not reprimand him, extremely magnanimous, it was really a rare mentor. He felt guilty, did not speak much and only swore in his heart to work hard in the future to repay his mentor.

After lunch, Tian Buyi as usual strided and swagged back to his Observed Silence Hall. The other disciples headed to Taiji Cave, only Song Daren and Zhang Xiaofan came back to the room, said, “Little junior brother, our branch focus extremely on the foundation, since you are new, I will first impart you the basics, after you memorized it, train on your own, if you have any questions you can come and find me, understand?”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, his heart excited.

Song Daren with a serious face, said, “There is another matter, I have to warn you first. Our sect amazing skills, profound and ingenious, demons and evil spirits, wants to know it. You must swore solemnly, after learning it, if it’s not own sect, you can never impart to others.”

Zhang Xiaofan, a rush of emotions, felt faint for a moment but then became alert, his little face determined, said, “Yes. The heavens above, disicple Zhang Xiaofan in the future if reveal Qing Yun sect secret skills, will suffer the five thunders and die without a burial place.”

Song Daren nodded and smiled, made him sit before the table, first taught him how to meditate, deep thoughts and roughly explained to him the body meridians and energies, and finally imparted the ‘Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way’ first level skills.

‘Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way’ is the supreme foundation skill of Qing Yun sect, and it was comprehended by Qing Yun Zi two thousand years from the nameless ancient scroll, refined by generations of Qing Yun leaders, until today, it was already a supreme skill that could challenge the creation of heavens and earth.

Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way had a total of three realms; Jade, Shang and Tai, Qing Yun disciples, including many intelligent and clever ones, in their lifetimes, would not be able to break past Jade, but even though it was so, with Jade realm skills, it was already rare in the world.

In Qing Yun sect, there were almost a thousand disciples but those that could break past Jade to Shang, with Reverend Daoxuan as the leader, there was only slightly more than ten. But with these people, Qing Yun sect became one of the most powerful sects. As for the legendary supreme realm, Tai Qing Realm, it was said that only that rare genius of a generation, Qing Ye Founder was able to reach it.     

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Chapter 7 - The Beginning


It was dinnertime, the sky had already turned dark.

In Big Bamboo Valley, the rear mountain was covered in large patches of bamboo forests, the buildings were all at the front of the mountain, the biggest and also the most important was the main hall, Observed Silence Hall, Tian Buyi couple and their daughter lived in one of the rear halls. Beside the Observed Silence Hall was the disciples’ dormitory winding corridor, but because of their small numbers, the buildings were more than the population, everyone occupied one room, even the newcomer, Zhang Xiaofan, also had one room. Comparing just the housing condition, surprisingly Big Bamboo Valley surpassed their fellow branches.

What was left were only the training Taiji Cave, kitchen and dining area. Right now the disciples were all gathered in the dining area, lao liu (translator’s note: number six) Du Bishu, who was in-charge of cooking, brought in the dishes one by one, most were vegetables and less meat dishes. The disciples one by one sat on the right side of the long table, Song Daren sat the foremost, Zhang Xiaofan sat at the end seat. At the head of the table and opposite, a large chair and two smaller ones were placed, seemed like those were for Tian Buyi and family.

Zhang Xiaofan glanced at the empty seat beside him, it was lao liu Du Bishu’s seat who was still busy, after a while, he finally served all the dishes, washed his hands and sat back at his seat, waited together with the rest for teacher.

Du Bishu looked rather young, his face thin and sharp, big eyes forming triangle, looking sneakily and active, very witty. After he sat down, he glanced at Zhang Xiaofan, smiled and said, “Little junior brother, what is your name?”

Zhang Xiaofan replied honestly, “Zhang Xiaofan.”

Du Bishu nodded, pointed to himself, said, “I am your sixth senior brother Du Bishu.”

Zhang Xiaofan respectfully called out, “Sixth senior brother.”

Du Bishu coughed lightly, patted his shoulder, smiled and said, “You can try your senior brother’s cooked food later.”   

Zhang Xiaofan looked at the table full of dishes, the smell of food assaulting him, couldn’t help but swallow his saliva and nodded readily.

Du Bishu suddenly laughed, extremely suspicious, pointed to the great hall entrance, said, “Little junior brother, in a while teacher, teacher’s wife and little junior sister will be coming in from there, let’s make a bet alright?”

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, the others also turned around, their faces smiling, lao wu Lu Daxin who was sitting before Du Bishu, laughed and said, “Lao liu, your urge to gamble started again?”

Sitting beside, He Dazhi who looked gaunt and keen-witted, laughed and said, “It must be he has not won for a long while, and now planning to scam a little child?”

“Shoo, shoo, shoo!” Du Bishu waved his hands successively, ignoring the rest, smiled and said to Zhang Xiaofan, “Little junior brother, you guess who will be the first to step through this door? Hmm, you have just joined the sect, I'll let you guess first, don’t say senior brother bully you.”

Lao er Wu Dayi who was sitting afar, called out loudly, “Little junior brother, since it’s a bet, ask him first what would he do if he loses, what would he do if he wins?”

Du Bishu snorted, said, “Are you all afraid that I would go back on my words? I, Du Bishu, roam the world, depends on my good reputation of being a honourable gambler, (the rest laughed: You never won before!) little junior brother, if you win, I will help you with bamboo cutting for ten days, if you lose, you will help me wash with ten days of dishwashing, how is it?”

Everyone laughed again, Song Daren laughed and scolded, “Good-for-nothing.”

Zhang Xiaofan looked at his senior brothers’ warm smiles, their attitudes kind, totally treating him as their own, his heart felt warm and said, “Alright.”

Du Bishu slapped his thigh, his entire self immediately looking alive, his face beaming, said, “Little junior brother, then who do you think will come in first?”

Everyone looked at Zhang Xiaofan, Zhang Xiaofan pondered, Qing Yun sect honoured respecting teacher, most likely Tian Buyi teacher will first come in. Immediately said loudly, I guess teacher will be the first.”

Everyone laughed, Lu Daxin shook his head and said, “Didn’t expect that today would be tricked successfully by lao liu for once.”

Du Bishu was extremely happy, saw Zhang Xiaofan’s perplexed face, happily said, “Little junior brother, let me tell you, actually every time when teacher and his family arrives, usually little junior sister will be the first to dash in. Ha ha, later you will come and help me to wash the dishes.”

Zhang Xiaofan scratched his head, couldn’t help but laughed, nodded and said, “Yes, sixth senior brother.”

Lao san, Zheng Dali who looked short and stout, laughed and said, “Lao liu, aren’t you ashamed?”

Du Bishu rolled his eyes, said, “What are you talking about lao san, I didn’t force or coerce, you bet you pay, right little junior brother?”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, suddenly Song Daren said, “Teacher is here.”

Everyone was surprised, all stood up, faced the entrance, receiving their teachers. The next moment, Tian Buyi’s short and fat figure appeared at the entrance, and then behind him was…

Nobody.

He came alone.

Everyone was stunned, Du Bishu couldn’t help but ask, “Teacher, where is teacher’s wife and little junior sister?”

Tian Buyi glanced sideways at him, indifferently said, “Your teacher’s wife brought little junior sister back to her mother’s place.”

Everyone was surprised but the next moment, someone laughed out, looking as Tian Buyi walking leisurely in, Zhang Xiaofan looked embarrased, wanted to laugh but did not dare, Du Bishu stare dumbfoundedly.

Tian Buyi sat at his chair, waved his hand and said, “Let’s eat.”

The disciples then sat down, each one looking amused and glancing at Du Bishu. Tian Buyi glanced at Zhang Xiaofan, said to Song Daren, “Have you told him the sect rules and taboos?”

Song Daren nodded and said, “Yes, twelve sect rules, twenty taboos, I have told little junior brother. As for the foundation training skills, disciple saw that little junior brother looked quite tired on his first day, intend to formally teach him tomorrow.”

Tian Buyi nodded, expressed his consent, said to Zhang Xiaofan, “Lao qi.”

Zhang Xiaofan did not register yet, Du Bishu pushed him, this then made him realized that teacher was calling himself, quickly stood up and said, “Yes disciple is here.”

Tian Buyi shook his head, reduced a few degrees of confidence towards this slow-reaction, said, “You will first follow big senior brother, remember to learn sincerely, Tao teachings are infinite, diligence as your boat, even though aptitude is poor but if you are determined and hardworking, you might be able to succeed, understand?”

Zhang Xiaofan, as if receiving emperor's command, respectfully replied, “Yes.”

Tian Buyi waved his hand, said, “Eat.”

Zhang Xiaofan was still young and small, held his big bowl and sitting on the chair, he was unable to get the dishes which were slightly further, but Du Bushi beside him was rather kind, took some for him a few times, quietly smiled and said, “Little junior brother, eat more.” He didn’t look like he minded losing, his sportsmanship was indeed good.

Zhang Xiaofan felt gratitude, nodded successively, ate a while, quietly asked, “Sixth senior brother.”

Du Bishu turned his head and said, “What?”

Zhang Xiaofan said, “Why did teacher’s wife still has her mother’s place?” in his little heart, Qing Yun sect members were all celestial-like, would not be having secular relations.   

Du Bishu spat, “Of course she would have, teacher’s wife is also human. Just that teacher did not mean her real parents’ place, he was referring to where she came from, Little Bamboo Valley, where Shuiyue Master is.”

Zhang Xiaofan was surprised, “What?”

Du Bishu suppressed his voice and said, “Teacher’s wife is from Little Bamboo Valley, and Little Bamboo Valley’s branch leader, Shuiyue Master, is her senior sister, on very good terms. However, for some reason, teacher’s wife who is as beautiful as a flower, actually married teacher, heard that at that time many male teacher uncles couldn’t get over it…”

[Pa!] a chopstick hit Du Bishu’s forehead, immediately leaving a red mark. Both of them startled, it was Tian Buyi who was looking infuriated, a chopstick missing from his hand. Du Bishu turned and stuck out his tongue at Zhang Xiaofan, both of them dared not make a sound, quietly ate.

At this moment, Song Daren said to Tian Buyi, “Teacher, this time sect head Reverend called for seven branches martial gathering, why did only Shuiyue Master not come?”

Tian Buyi snorted, took up another pair of chopsticks, said, “Isn’t it because that old nun pretended to be sick, dispatched someone over and told sect head senior brother that she had a fever and couldn’t make it, sect head senior brother is also at fault, actually believed it. Humpf, today if she is also here, even if I am unable to get the good one, I would also not be befallen…”

The fourth disciple He Dazhi coughed dryly and quietly said, “Teacher, Shuiyue teacher aunt’s branch never accepts male disciple.”

Tian Buyi paused, shook his head and said, “And your teacher’s wife, once she heard that Shuiyue is sick, immediately took Linger over to visit, as if the sky has collapsed, really.”

The disciples looked at each other, everyone in glee, Song Daren hesitated and asked carefully, “Teacher, then I wonder how many days would teacher’s wife stay over at Shuiyue teacher aunt there?”

Tian Buyi glared at him, unhappily said, “What do you mean how many days, today she went over, tonight she will be back.”

“Ai!” The disciples sighed, each one looking disappointed. Tian Buyi looked around, snorted, said to Song Daren, “Today teacher’s wife checked your trainings again?”

Before Song Daren could reply, lao er Wu Dayi spoke first, “Teacher, you don’t have to ask him, big senior brother today escaped at the last minute, so no sense of shame.”

Song Daren angrily replied, “Nonsense, I was following teacher’s instruction to help little junior brother…”

The rest immediately hissed and booed.

After about an hour, the group dispersed, Zhang Xiaofan instead stayed and helped Du Bishu with the dishes, Du Bishu smiled and said, “Little junior brother, many thanks, but I can handle it here. You have won the bet, don’t worry, tomorrow I will help you with the bamboo cutting.”

Zhang Xiaofan felt rather embarrassed, was about to say something but Song Daren’s voice was heard, “Lao liu, don’t help him.” He walked in from the entrance, said to Zhang Xiaofan, “Little junior brother, come, I will bring you to your room.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, Du Bishu instead asked, “Big senior brother, what did you say?”

Song Daren said, “Little junior brother has just joined, he needs to build his foundation, it is not the time to skive.”

Du Bishu scratched his head, said, “You are right, why not like this, little junior brother, consider this I owe you, next time if you need me to help you with anything, just let me know, alright?”

Zhang Xiaofan said, “Sixth senior brother, why not let’s forget it, anyway…”

Du Bishu turned solemn, righteously said, “What do you mean, am I someone who can’t differentiate good from bad, loyalty and villainous, person, I’ve promised you therefore I must do it, if not I will be subject for ridicule next time by the other brothers.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded but in his heart, he didn’t understand what this had to do with good and bad, loyalty and villainous.

Song Daren pulled Zhang Xiaofan’s hand, said, “Little junior brother, come, I will bring you to your new room.”

Both of them walked out, the sky had darkened, a clear bright moon slowly rose, hung in the East. They walked past the Observed Silence Hall, Zhang Xiaofan peered in, saw that all lights had extinguished, leaving darkness, only moonlight shone before the hall, appearing rather eerie.

After walking a while, he returned to that winding corridor where the disciples stayed, Song Daren brought him to the back last room on the right, said, “Little junior brother, earlier in the day the room that you woke up in is my room, the other junior brothers’ rooms are in accordance to their seniority, all are on the right, the seven rooms on the left are empty.” After pausing for a moment, he asked, “You are staying by yourself, will you be afraid?”

Zhang Xiaofan shook his head.

Song Daren smiled and said, “This is right, we as a man, how can we fear loneliness! Come, let’s go in.”

Zhang Xiaofan looked at the unfamiliar yet would be his future residence, a small yard, on the left a pine tree, on the right five, six tall bamboos, about the height of two, three humans. In the centre, small pebbles formed a small path, lawn grasses on both sides of it, the night breeze blew over, the bamboos rustled, a faint grass fragrance drifted over, refreshing.

Song Daren opened the room door, went in and lit the lamp, said, “Little junior brother, come in.”

Zhang Xiaofan walked in, saw that the room was furnished as simply as Song Daren’s room, table, chairs and bed, nothing else.

Song Daren said, “I have cleaned up the place today, you can just stay here for now. Living in the mountains is quiet and hard, and you are still young, maybe you will feel lonely but we as cultivators, by right should bear the various hardship trainings, you should also look after your own daily needs from now on.”

Zhang Xiaofan said, “I understand big senior brother.”

Song Daren nodded, looked around and said, “If there’s nothing else I will go back now. You are also tired after a day, have an early rest too.”

Zhang Xiaofan acknowledged, sent his big senior brother to the door, suddenly recalled something, said, “Big senior brother, why is it that it has just got dark but none of the senior brothers are out for walks?”

Song Daren smiled and said, “You are unaware, we have been here learning for at least ten over years, seldom leave this place, we are already very familiar with the Big Bamboo Valley and so can’t be bothered to walk around, like lao si love to read books, lao er love to sing, those like lao san who are more hardworking will be training in their rooms, most don’t come out.”

Zhang Xiaofan comprehended then, Song Daren laughed and smoothed his head, after giving a few more instructions, turned and left.

Zhang Xiaofan returned to his room, closed the door, in that instant the entire world seemed to turn silence suddenly, not a single human sound. He quietly walked to the table, sat dumbly for a moment, with nothing to do, he blew out the candle, removed his outer clothing, lay on the bed, tossed and turned for some time and fell asleep.

“Ah!”

In the darkness, Zhang Xiaofan cried out softly, turned and sat up, panting. He had dreamt he was back to the village, saw his parents and his other friends, and his uncles and aunts, joyous and harmonious, but suddenly they all turned into corpses, blood flowing like rivers, extremely horrific. His body trembled and woke up in shock.

He sat for a while on the bed, his breathing gradually calmed, his eyes accustomed to the darkness, saw the windows slightly ajar, the moonlight faintly shone in, onto the grey bricks ground, like frost.

Zhang Xiaofan fully awake, sat up and walked to the door, [zhi ya] opened and walked out.

The surroundings was silent, indistinctly sounds of insects could be heard, one, twice, quietly, the moonlight like water, spilled onto him.

He lifted his head at the sky, saw the multitude stars, the moon was bright and clear in the sky.

“I wonder how Jingyu is now, is he too finding it hard to fall asleep?” he quietly muttered, sighed and turned back to his room, suddenly his bosom loosened, something fell out from his inner clothing.

Zhang Xiaofan was surprised, bent and picked up, it was that deep purple, dark bead, there was a tiny hole in the centre of the bead, seemed like it was strung on Puzhi’s jade meditation beads. These days he had been through eventful days, he had long forgotten about this and suddenly recalled that Puzhi had instructed him to throw this bead away.
Thinking about that, his heart suddenly felt anguish, his parents did not leave anything for him, Puzhi though had brief affinity with him but after a night, he felt like family, and this ugly-looking bead, was the only thing Puzhi left him.

Zhang Xiaofan raised his hand, held the bead up, facing the moon, against the moonlight, the bead’s colour actually turned lighter, became light purple, translucent, indistinctly there was also a faint green colour churning within it, as if alive and wanted to break out. Just that each time it came near the surface, a tiny ‘卍’ character, blocked it back.

Zhang Xiaofan watched it for a while, felt rather fond of it and as this was the only item that he could remember Puzhi by, he couldn’t bear to throw it away. After thinking for a long time, he took a red string from his neck, it was given by his parents for longevity and keeping him safe. Most families would hung some golden pendant, silver lock but his family was poor and so it was only a red string.

He tied the bead with the string securely and hung it around his neck, near to his chest, it was not cold to the touch and instead felt somehow warm. He laughed to himself, again looked up at the moon, turned and walked back to his room and slept.

His first day at Qing Yun sect, ended just like that.