Thursday, 28 January 2016

Chapter 101 - Old friends sentiments


Outside the death marsh, on the ancient path leading away from Big Wang Village and towards the West, Zhou YiXian and Xiao Huan unhurriedly walked.

Xiao Huan’s pair of bright eyes looked around, the ancient path was overgrown with weeds, wild and fertile. They had walked out of Big Wang village for quite some time but until now they had not even see any glimpse of human life.

Looking as far as she could, she only saw wilderness, there was no hill, the sky looked high and the grass grew long. Occasionally the wind blew over the meadow, the wild green grass rolled like waves, creating a nice scenery and also broadened one’s heart.

Zhou YiXian’s lazy voice was heard from beside, he said, “What are you looking at?”

Xiao Huan smiled and said, “Grandfather, when we passed by here a few days ago, because we were rushing for time so we didn’t have the luxury to take a good look at the surroundings. Today the weather is so good, look, the scenery is really not bad!”

Zhou YiXian looked at the open country beyond the ancient path and felt his spirits lifted but then he muttered to himself, “Isn’t it just wild grass? What is there to see, if it was made of gold then..”

“Grandfather!” Xiao Huan interrupted his words and stared at him peeved, she said, “You only think about money all the time and to say that your name still has the character, immortal, in it, so uncouth!”

“Uncouth?” Zhou YiXian flared up, said, “You dare to say I am uncouth? Me this old man, an out-of-this-world master, a well-known all over the world living Buddha to thousands of families giving benefits to the common people and bringing salvation to all living things…”

Xiao Huan stared at him. Zhou YiXian, under the bright eyes of his granddaughter, started to lower his volume and lost his stamina, until the end he raised his head and snorted, said, “How would you this young girl know how great your grandfather is?”

Xiao Huan [puchi] laughed out, shaking her head and looked elsewhere. Zhou YiXian, after being ridiculed by his granddaughter, felt depressed, sighed and said, “Why do I have to bump into you at that time, if I had known, I would have left you by the roadside and let you cry to your death!”

Xiao Huan stuck out her tongue, an innocent and adorable expression on her snow-white face, she smiled and said, “Isn’t that because grandfather has a good heart?”

Zhou YiXian gave Xiao Huan a stare, crossly said, “Good hearted my ass, I had raised you for so many years and you only vex me all the time!”

Xiao Huan was unafraid and even more not angry, it seemed like those words were said many times before. She walked to Zhou YiXian, her eyes rolling around and she suddenly said, “Yi, Grandfather! Why did you take me away at that time?”

Zhou YiXian was surprised, actually he and Xiao Huan were used to being casual and would not really get angry but after listening to Xiao Huan’s question, it triggered some memories and his expression became melancholy, he gently sighed and said, “At that time in HeYang City, you were only a two, three years old girl who fainted beside the road and nearly dying from hunger, even your cries were hoarse, my heart softened and so I carried you up.”

He suddenly glared at Xiao Huan and said, “At that time you were so young but considered you were very smart, immediately you stopped crying and made me this old man thought I really had affinity with you, since then I couldn’t abandon you.”

Xiao Huan made a cheeky face, tugged his clothes and endearingly smiled and said, “Isn’t this good hearted? In the future you will definitely have good karma. Ah! Look, all these years I have helped you to read fortune and also earned quite a bit for you right?”

Zhou YiXian subconsciously nodded, beamed and smiled, “Um, this is also true…” Suddenly he realized and his face changed, he angrily said, “What truth? Nonsense!”

Xiao Huan covered her mouth and snickered, after a while she thought of something and said, “Mhm grandfather, then why were you at HeYang City at that time, isn’t it located at the foot of Qing Yun Hill? I remember that you have always been unwilling to go near there. These few years it seemed like only ten years ago, because of that Qing Yun disciple Zhang Xiao Fan, out of curiosity we went over to take a look but at that time we didn’t go too near too.”

Zhou YiXian’s expression turned slightly dark, he sighed and said, “Isn’t it all because of your that deceased father whom you never knew, his remains and spirit tablet are in HeYang City. That year on his death anniversary, I stayed at his grave for a long time and saw you once I came out to the road, I was grieving then and saw your pitiful state, so I decided to adopt you.”

Xiao Huan became quiet after hearing it and after a while she said, “Grandfather, speaking of which, we have again not visited dad for another ten years.”

Zhou YiXian counted and nodded, “That’s right, so fast and it’s another ten years.” He made a wry smile and said, “Alright, since for now we have nowhere to go, why don’t we go to HeYang City and pay a visit to your dad!”

Xiao Huan nodded and said, “Great!”

Zhou YiXian waved his hand and said, “Let’s go! This remote wild place makes one frustrated.”

Both of them walked ahead, Xiao Huan after all was still young and the matters were all past events, furthermore she had a lively personality and so very soon she moved on from that sad episode. While walking along, she admired the surrounding scenery and happened to turn back, she was startled and said, “Grandfather, look behind us.”

Zhou YiXian was stunned and curiously asked, “What is it?” and turned around to see.

Xiao Huan said, “That Wild Dog Taoist seems to be following us?”

Zhou YiXian looked carefully and really, Wild Dog Taoist was followed them from afar, slowly walking and maintained a certain distance from them.

Now that they stopped and turned around, Wild Dog seemed to be surprised too and also stopped, he looked hesitant and slightly embarrassed and then stood at a side and turned to look up at the sky.

Zhou YiXian was suspicious and stared at him for a while more. He turned and pulled Xiao Huan to continue walking, at the same time he whispered, “Why did that fellow follow along?”

Xiao Huan was bewildered and said, “You ask me, who do I ask?”

Zhou YiXian held his breath for a moment and suddenly stared at Xiao Huan, “Unless that fellow has some lascivious thoughts and intend to do something indecent towards you?”

Xiao Huan got a fright, her face instantly turned red and rebuked, “Grandfather, how can you say such things!”

Zhou YiXian snorted and said, “Why can’t I say it, in this world now the bad guys run rampant and  beside you look beautiful, it is very hard to say!”

Xiao Huan gave him an angry stare and said, “Well to me! Although Wild Dog Taoist is from the Evil Sect and does not have a good reputation but I have never heard of him harming any girls but instead committing murder, arson, robbery in daylight, those I heard plenty.”

Zhou YiXian turned white and immediately became nervous, he said, “That fellow won’t be thinking of robbing us two paupers right?”

Xiao Huan humphed and said, “It’s hard to say, furthermore the silvers on you Grandfather, I’m afraid is much more than a pauper!”

Zhou YiXian quickly lowered his voice and said, “Shh! Don’t say it too loud.” He looked around, frowned and said, “Not good, there is nobody here and it is a good place for robbery. We better get away fast?”

Xiao Huan was surprised and saw Zhou YiXian taking out a yellow paper amulet from his bosom, looked like he was going to execute his move, an escape from earth skill ‘Handed down secretly from Founder’ to flee without a trace, she could not help but find it funny and frustrating at the same time, she quickly held onto Zhou YiXian and said, “Grandfather, wait a while.”

Zhou YiXian looked behind and said, “That fellow followed us again, wait why wait?”

Xiao Huan smiled and said, “Grandfather, although this escape from earth skill is a secret art passed down by founder but you can’t control where we will appear after it is executed. I am telling you, we are still not far from the death marsh, if you unexpectedly headed inside there then we will really be dead and gone.”

Zhou YiXian was stunned and stammered, “Our luck is not that bad right?”

Xiao Huan stared at him and said, “Do you feel your luck is good or bad?”

Zhou YiXian thought and then firmly said, “Bad!”

Xiao Huan smiled happily and said, “Then that concludes isn’t it, so we cannot take the risk.” She then went near Zhou YiXian, her eyes signalled to her own left hand and whispered, “Grandfather, you have forgotten that I still have a protective magical weapon from PingEr sister and besides, that Wild Dog Taoist isn’t any highly skilled Evil Faction guy, it will not be difficult to deal with him.”

Zhou YiXian lowered his head and pondered, and then heaved a long sigh and said, “You are right, ai! I don’t know why these few days I keep feeling jumpy and ill-at-ease. Most likely I have seen too much highly-skilled cultivators in the death marsh and treated Wild Dog as one of them.”

Xiao Huan smiled and said, “Besides, that Wild Dog Taoist doesn’t seems to be a bad person, didn’t he lend us his umbrella at that time?”

Zhou YiXian [pei] a sound and said, “What us, is lent to you, old man me was drenched almost half to death in the rain and you this girl actually still remained unconcerned, really unfilial.”

Xiao Huan stuck out her tongue, smiled and said, “Grandfather, I did pass it to you to shelter together but you yourself did not want.”

Zhou YiXian humphed again and strided forward, still grumbling, “Anyway you and that unfilial father are both the same, always making me angry, so disobedient!”

Xiao Huan smiled and shook her head, followed behind.

At the back part of the ancient path, Wild Dog Taoist seemed to hear laughter from ahead, he frowned and his expression changed but eventually he still followed them.

Between Heaven and Earth, the wind blew over the wildlands, making a [wu wu] sound.

Walking for less than an hour, Zhou YiXian felt tired and pulled Xiao Huan, he said, “Rest a while.”

Xiao Huan nodded and saw a medium-sized bluestone near the road, went over and brushed it, she said, “Grandfather, come and sit over here!”

Zhou YiXian nodded and placed the bamboo pole with a white cloth banner with the words, ‘Immortal Guide’ slanted against the bluestone and sat down, he was feeling breathless and shook his head slightly, he said, “Why do I feel that recently my body is weaker, I have only walked for a while and I have already started to pant?”

Xiao Huan took out a water canteen from her bundle, she heard the words and a worry expression flashed past her eyes, she walked over to Zhou YiXian and passed him the canteen and at the same time she said, “Grandfather, drink some water!”

Zhou YiXian nodded, took the canteen and raised his head to drink a few mouthfuls, heaved a long sigh and then turned back to see, as expected there was still a human figure standing a distance away.

Zhou YiXian looked for a long while and suddenly laughed, ignoring that person and passed the canteen back to Xiao Huan. Unexpectedly just when he turned around he was taken aback, Xiao Huan sat beside him and without knowing since when, she was already happily eating a stick of bright red sugar-coated haw.

Zhou YiXian shook his head heavily, earnestly said, “I say Xiao Huan! Look at how old you are now, how can you still like a little girl, still love to eat this sugar-coated haw so much?”

Xiao Huan gently spited out a seed from a small haw at the roadside, smiled sweetly at Zhou YiXian and said, “But I like to eat it!”

Zhou YiXian was speechless, sighed and said, “Ten years ago at that HeYang City, there were so many cakes and snacks, why did I just have to go into that small alley beside the road and buy this sugar-coated haw for you?”

After speaking, he shook his head and sighed ceaselessly, Xiao Huan smiled and did not speak, gently savouring the gourmet food in her hand. Maybe it was because of the sugar-coated haw bright red exterior, her lips seemed to have a stain of bright red.

Zhou YiXian sat for a while and felt his strength returned, he was about to tell Xiao Huan to continue on, unexpectedly just when he turned his head, from the corner of his eyes he saw a pair of human legs appeared before him.

Zhou YiXian was shocked and thought, “Don’t tell me because we were inattentive for a moment, this Wild Dog fellow actually took the opportunity to sneak up, how dreadful is this? Seems like this young girl’s words cannot be easily believed, old man me have roam the world for hundred of years, don’t tell me today the turtle falls, the boat capsizes in the canal?”

While he was imagining things and thought of calling Xiao Huan to stand up, suddenly he heard that person spoke in a gentle and calm voice, “Are you still reading fortune?”

Zhou YiXian and Xiao Huan both stood up, raised their heads and saw a middle-aged guy standing in front of them. He had slender brows and a square-shaped face, a scholarly look with both eyes bright and piercing, his forehead was full and carried himself with a refined but imposing demeanour. A suit of scholar robe, a light purple jade ornament hung from his waist, exquisitely carved and emitting a faint auspicious aura, very beautiful and obviously not a common item.

Just that the grey hairs at the side of his forehead looked incompatible with his face, turning him a few years older.

Zhou YiXian’s expression suddenly became weird, he stared hard at this person, under his sleeve where nobody could see, both of his hands were tightly clenched into fists. Only on his face, after the initial shock, an expression of agitation, relief and someone who had been through the adversities of life.

Xiao Huan looked carefully at that man and then looked at her grandfather, she noticed something strange with Zhou YiXian’s expression and was about to say something when Zhou YiXian suddenly said, “Xiao Huan, go aside, wait until grandfather calls you over.”

Xiao Huan was surprised, this was something that had never happened before but looking at Zhou YiXian’s solemn face, he did not seem to be joking and both of them seemed to know each other, she acknowledged and turned back to pack her bundle and walked to the back.

While walking, she frequently turned her head back to look and saw her grandfather and that middle-aged guy were still facing each other and seemed not to have spoken at all. She felt worried as although it was the first time she had seen that man but in that short period of time, she had inexplicably developed a fear of him, a feeling of dread in her heart.

Over the past ten over years, she was always with Zhou YiXian and yet never knew her grandfather actually knew such powerful person!

While she was thinking in a trance, she didn’t realize that she had walked quite a distance and suddenly a shadow appeared in front of her, she quickly stopped and almost knocked into that person. She looked carefully and saw that it was Wild Dog Taoist, she quickly said, “Sorry Priest.”

Unexpectedly Wild Dog Taoist’s expression was also extremely weird, panic flashed on his face and his eyes were staring straight ahead, full of fear.

Xiao Huan was surprised again, following his line of vision, it was that middle-aged man. Who exactly was that person that could make Wild Dog Taoist this afraid?

Xiao Huan mulled over it, she could not help but whispered to Wild Dog Taoist, “Priest, who is that person, do you know him?”

Wild Dog Taoist got a shock and seemed to regain his senses but the fear on his face did not fade, he looked at Xiao Huan beside him and stammered, “You don’t know him?”

Xiao Huan nodded and said, “Yes! This is the first time that I see this person but my grandfather seemed to know him. Oh right, do you know him? Who is he?”

Wild Dog Taoist’s lips moved and looked like he wanted to say something but he suddenly kept quiet and his eyes continued to stare straight at that middle-age man in front.

Xiao Huan frowned and felt there was something strange with Wild Dog Taoist’s reaction, although there was fear but now there seemed to be some anger too!

Zhou YiXian and that middle-aged man stood side by side, standing by the ancient path, looking towards the wildlands.

A light breeze blew over, the grey hairs at the sides of his forehead seemed to describe the years, the adversities of life.

“We have not met for many years isn’t it?” That middle-aged man suddenly indifferently said.

Zhou YiXian looked far away, a mix of emotions on his face, after a long while he said, “Some decades I guess!”

That man smiled faintly, said, “Are you still well?”

Zhou YiXian was silent for a while and said, “Wandering about the ends of the world, life’s a game, it can’t be said it's good or bad.”

That man seemed to have some sentiments, turned and looked at Zhou YiXian, said, “Do you still blame me?”

Zhou YiXian laughed bitterly, shook his head and said, “It was not you who have let me down, why should I blame you?”

That man smiled and said, “Actually being in your situation is also not bad, letting go your heart, enjoying the world, come to think of it, it is also an immortal’s way of life, it also did not let the immortal character word in your name down.”

Zhou YiXian looked at him and suddenly said, “If you want to live my kind of life, what is so difficult about it, old friend?”

That man heard Zhou YiXian’s sudden mention of the word ‘old friend’ and was surprised but he smiled after that and looked far, he slowly said, “I am not the same as you.”

Zhou YiXian indifferently said, “You are naturally not the same as me, since young you have thirst for power and until today, I guess you still cannot let it go.”

That man frowned, anger seemed to flash past deep inside his eyes, it seemed like no one had ever dared to speak to him like that but when he turned to look at Zhou YiXian, he saw his hair had turned all turned white and looked even older than him, suddenly he felt loss and that anger also dissipated.

“Why do you look so old?”

Zhou YiXian shook his head and said, “I am old but instead you, who have cultivated and by right should not…”He hesitated for a while but eventually said, “Your daughter’s incident, I have heard, you…”

That guy’s expression turned downcast and shook his head, interrupted Zhou YiXian’s words and said, “That time when we were still young, you had once under the Majestic Fox Mountain, used ‘The Big Dipper Divine Prediction’ to read my fortune, do you still remember?”

Zhou YiXian was stunned.

That guy raised his head and looked at the sky, slowly said, “I still remember it very clearly, you were full of vigour and were frank to me in everything, you said the deathly aura in my life was too strong and it would curse my wife and children, if there was no way to resolve it, in my midlife I would definitely lose my wife and have no children. Now it actually one after another came true.” while speaking, his voice gradually turned desolated.

Zhou YiXian bowed his head, after a long while, he suddenly raised his head and determinedly said, “Now that we both are almost halfway into our graves, I too have words to be truthful to you.”

That guy suspiciously said, “Go ahead.”

Zhou YiXian stared at him and said, “At that time when I said those words, it was all totally nonsensical stuffs to bluff you. Old man me have always been frustrated with these fortune-telling things, how would I have the patience to learn it. As for that The Big Dipper Divine Prediction, naturally it revealed something but how would I understand? So those words were just because you had such an arrogant face and I was feeling indignant so I deliberately said those words. Don’t dwell on it in your heart already!”

That guy’s body shook, he never expected such words from Zhou YiXian, after a long while, he suddenly shook his head and laughed loudly, his laughter rang loud and clear until he was bending over with laughter, where was the initial dignified demeanour?

Far away, Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist both stared in shock.

After a long while, that guy slowly stopped laughing and his expression gradually resumed its calmness and dignified look but the anguish in his eyes seemed to increased.

Zhou YiXian quietly looked at him.

They stood side by side for another while, then Zhou YiXian indifferently said, “Why did you come here?”

That guy looked at him and said, “Don’t you always claim to be clever? What do you think?”

Zhou YiXian snorted and said, “You plan to go to the death marsh?”

That guy leisurely said, “That’s right, I am about to go there. Why, don’t you want to go take a look? Old friend?”

Zhou YiXian smirked and said, “Your reputation is too bad, people will find it weird if I travel with you. I better stay far from you.”

That guy looked at Zhou YiXian, suddenly laughed in spite of himself and said, “The ancient path to the end of the world, to be able to see an old friend it is also considered a rare affinity. Today we meet, in the future we do not know when will we meet again, please take good care of yourself.”

Zhou YiXian snorted and said, “Old man me is living well and has no intention of dying, instead it's you who have enemies more than the foxes on the Majestic Fox Mountain, better think for yourself!”

Xiao Huan stood beside the road and waited for a long time, suddenly she saw her grandfather and that man walking over together and quickly went up to meet them and walked over to her grandfather’s side. That middle-aged man looked at Xiao Huan and then looked at Wild Dog Taoist who was behind.

Wild Dog Taoist’s face changed and he slowly lowered his head.

That man looked at him for a while and suddenly said, “You are the Wild Dog Taoist who followed Ghost Li?”

The fear expression on Wild Dog Taoist’s face deepened, he hesitated for moment and in a low voice said, “Yes.”

Xiao Huan stood beside Zhou YiXian and could not help but quietly asked Zhou YiXian, “Grandfather, who is he?”

Before Zhou YiXian could reply, that middle-aged man seemed to be able to catch even this soft voice, turned and smiled, “Why, young lady don’t know me?”

Xiao Huan was shocked and shook her head in perplexity.

That man smiled and said, “Just call me Wan RenWang!”

Xiao Huan was stunned.

That man looked deeply at Zhou YiXian, suddenly flung his sleeve, turned and strided, never turned back. In his stride there was an air of disdain, gradually radiating.

The people behind him, saw his figure walking along the ancient path towards the death marsh, they suddenly heard that man sang loudly, “The road to the end of the world, has always been far. The lovers’ thoughts, have always been foolish. The tall sky and broad sea of eight thousands zhangs, all mortal beings crawl beneath it. The thousands stars, the bright first moon, the Heaven is cold, as cold as frost. It is laughable all living things are like straw dogs, Laughing at all living things as straw dogs, who for the tricks that produce the rain and who for the clouds?...”

[Translator’s note: (as researched online) The song has a meaning of mocking the ignorant humans who like straw dogs can only wait for death in face of natural calamities and nobody can play any tricks before disasters. Straw dogs are offered as sacrifices to gods or ancestors during ancient times and thrown after the ceremony]
The voice was crude, although not gentle or soothing to the ears but it had a feeling of force within the desolation of the singing. They saw under the sky, on the ancient path, the free clouds and the lonely wildlands, that man clasping his hands behind, walked, an indescribable stubborn and intractable disposition.

The singing gradually faded, that person had already gone far away.

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