Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Chapter 122 - Seven Mile Cave


Walking into the narrow tight mountain path, twisting and turning, on both sides of the solid steep stone faces, rocks thrusted out intermittently, if one was not careful, one’s head might hit into it.

And looking at the rock walls surroundings, water droplets were still dripping at most places, tiny water pools formed where the water flows were the heaviest. On the top and bottom of the rock walls, at the dark areas, quite a number of dark green mosses grew on the rocks, contributing a slightly damp cold feeling to the air.

Ghost Li and Xiao Bai made several turns before they managed to turn out of this unknown number of years old mountain path and to see the sun again.

This day, the sun had just risen, different from the hazy weather for the past few days, it instead seemed to be rather sunny.

After just walking out from the dim tunnel, under the sunlight, Ghost Li and Xiao Bai squinted their eyes instinctively, felt that the sunlight streaming down from the sky seemed to also carry a beautiful halo, shining down on them.

After a while their eyes adjusted, from a distance the bustling sounds of activities slowly became distinct.

Both of them looked ahead, the scene opened up abruptly before them, surrounded by mountains, a flat fertile and open land appeared before them.

Rows of buildings and blocks of houses rich with Miao people’s distinctive style rose steeply from the ground or built along the mountains or tightly joined together. And there was even a small clear brook, flowing down from the dense mountains ahead, in this paradise-like land, meandering through. A lot of the Miao houses were built on both sides of the brook.

And above the water, looking from afar, the Miao people built three bridges and all were unalike, one was a wooden bridge and the most simple, two huge trees tied together and laid horizontally across the banks, that became a bridge.

As for the other two, were made from stone and even more distinctive. Built by piling huge stones, crude and solid, placed flat at where the water surface was narrower and then using thick heavy stone slabs to stack on top of it, it became a bridge, this was the simple and practical way of building a bridge in the southern border.

But the last stone bridge was instead made from small rocks and without any bridge pier, it was an arch bridge, each stone tightly pressed together, suspended across the brook, clearly it had the Central Plains distinctive architecture, to see it here, it was really puzzling.

Ghost Li saw it all and was surprised but nothing was shown on his face. He and Xiao Bai continued to walk forward, the crowd gradually thickened and became even more lively. Most of loud chatter around them were in Miao language, to Ghost Li he only heard gibberish and could not understand a single word.

Xiao Bai walked beside him and looked around, many of the Miao people also turned to look at them, because their faces were unfamiliar so mostly took a few more glances but did not show any hostile expressions. After walking for a while, she quietly spoke to Ghost Li, “Seemed like the southern border in these few years has indeed became very much peaceful.”

Ghost Li was surprised, asked puzzledly, “What is it?”

Xiao Bai said, “When I came here the last time, the Miao people were vigilance and on the alert when they saw outsiders, like they were facing a great enemy. At that time, rivalry between the five tribes’ were violent and cruel and fights broke out frequently among the tribes, if outsiders dared to come to this Seven Mile Cave and without any skills to protect themselves, most likely they would not survive. But looking at the situation today, I guessed the fights must have reduced much over the past few years.”

Ghost Li nodded slightly and looked around him, by now they had already walked into the centre of the Miao people, this broad path was on one side of the brook, most of the tightly joined houses of the Miao people were on one side while the other side was the clear river water, with many green trees lining the shores.

At a quick glance, most of the Miao houses were built using wood, its architecture greatly different from the Central Plains, squarish, simple and unadorned, and savage animals’ bones were hung at the houses’ corners, main doors and walls edges, the more ferocious the animals were, the more commonly they were seen, probably it was the Miao people’s custom, to display the bravery of the owner of the house.

Both sides of the path had stalls set up by Miao people peddling their goods but most of the stuffs were wild animals’ furs, raw meat and only further ahead in the centre were one or two stalls selling small jewellery, jades etc playthings.

Xiao Bai smiled and said, “The furs here are all good grade stuffs and the prices are very cheap, if you want to get, buy some here, it is very worth it.”

Ghost Li’s lips twitched but he did not speak, continued to walk straight ahead. He slowly walked to the river bank and looked down, the water was extremely clear, from the banks, even the rocks at the river beds could also be seen, the number of big and small fishes swimming and frolicking in the water were even innumerable.

At a distance, a bird seemed to flit past, flapping its wings it landed onto the water, raised its head and looked around, and then contentedly closed its wings and moved gently on the water surface.

The living creatures of Heaven and Earth, in this place, unusually harmoniously.

Xiao Bai slowly came over, Xiao Hui who had somehow again gone over to her shoulder, curiously stuck out its head and peered down into the brook.

“What do we do now?” Ghost Li indifferently asked.

Xiao Bai contemplated for a while, said, “Well to say the matter was also three hundred years ago, if at that time that person did not have our level of cultivation then most likely he had already passed away, we better first find the whereabouts of the person.”

Ghost Li silently nodded, said, “Where is he?”

Xiao Bai smiled, pointed ahead with her finger, said, “There.”

Ghost Li looked up, suddenly was taken aback. Where Xiao Bai had pointed was an area deep inside the Miao habitation, built halfway up the mountain, a stone terrace building far high up from the ordinary Miao houses.

Ghost Li frowned and quietly said, “Altar.”      

Xiao Bai smiled and said, “That’s right.”

Ghost Li did not speak but in his heart, he felt slightly alarmed, not for anything but the fact that the altar in southern border had a special significant.

He had frequently visited the southern border for the past years, although he was preoccupied and wholeheartedly searching for the mysterious black shaman tribe and therefore did not pay much attention to the southern border custom but as for some basic things, he was still aware.

At the southern border land, Zhuang, Miao, Tu, Li and GaoShan these five tribes, controlled different areas and maybe because each tribes were different and so each had different beliefs,  deities and religions but within the different tribes, they all had a specific place to worship their deities and ancestors and that was the altar.

The altar among the southern border tribes, indeed had a high status, to the majority of the tribes people, most of the times when the shaman in the altar spoke and the words spoken by the great mysterious deity, there wasn’t any difference. In the past when the wars among the five tribes were at their peaks, it was the same before each battle, to first consult the shaman in the altar and explain the situation to the deity, until the deity -- also meaning the great shaman personally giving permission, the tribe leader then could launch a fresh new war.

As such it could be seen, the altar and the shaman in it, what kind of status they had in southern border!

And to what he knew, those shaman had always seldom receive outsiders.

Ghost Li after remaining silent for a while, turned and spoke to Xiao Bai, “That is Miao people’s altar, the person that you mentioned, don’t tell me…”

Xiao Bai smiled faintly and interrupted him, “That’s right, three hundred years ago, what I saw here, was that the great shaman in the Miao tribe using Soul Return powerful art, saving that Miao person whose one soul and three mortal forms had been absorbed by the mountain spirit evil demon.”

The great Miao shaman…

Ghost Li’s lips twitched again, if to say that the shaman in the altar had revered position in the southern border tribes, then as being the most powerful and with the highest status, and delivering the deity decree personally each time, the shaman could be also be said as the deity in the common people’s eyes.

If someone dared to offend the great shaman, Ghost Li did not have any doubt at all, that all of the Miao people in this land and even all of the Miao people in the entire southern border would with all of their might, fight him.

Xiao Bai looked at Ghost Li with interest, smiled and said, “So how, what do we do now?”

Ghost Li glanced at her, the early dawn rays landed on her face, as if refracting it out, carrying with it a faint warmth.

He did not speak a word, turned over and towards that altar halfway up in the mountain, unhurriedly walked.

Xiao Bai smiled and followed along.

This place, known as Seven Mile Cave, naturally covered an area as wide and known as the biggest inhabitation of the Miao people in the southern border, as they went deeper in, they could see more and more Miao people.

From the fairly large path that they were travelling on, smaller paths constantly branched out to the sides, like an exuberant large tree branching out and expanding.

Looking at the two of them from a distance, the road underneath them led straight to that altar in the distance, therefore also saving them the hassle of asking directions.

Just that as they went deeper in, the number of Miao people noticing them traversing also increased, the whisperings around them unceasingly. Almost about the time to brew half a cup of tea, they came to the foot of the lofty enormous mountain where the altar was.

Then, they stopped, not because they hesitated but because the Miao soldiers stationed at the foot of the mountain prevented them.

Ghost Li felt slightly agitated but the situation before them was not exactly unexpected. Of course! As the holy supreme altar of the Miao people, if there was no increased surveillance, it would instead be unusual.

The number of Miao soldiers guarding the mountain foot were in fact not little, a quick glance, there were at least several able-bodied men, either near or far they stood at the road leading up to the mountain, standing guard.

Right now blocking their way were two Miao men who stood at the forefront, they were dressed like ordinary Miao people but the only difference was a tough-and-tensile-looking rattan-made wooden shield on their chest and their hands holding long pointed spears, seemed like that was the difference between Miao soldiers and ordinary Miao people.

The two Miao people assessed Ghost Li and Xiao Bai from head to toes a few times, after which most of their gazes lingered on Xiao Bai’s beautiful face and then loudly said, “Ji li ji li hu lu lu, hua la hua la lu lu hu…”

Ghost Li turned his head and looked at Xiao Bai, Xiao Bai shrugged and said, “Don’t ask me, being incarcerated for so long, how would I still remember these local languages?”

Ghost Li kept quiet, turned back and thought for a moment, said, “We have an urgent matter and wish to pay a visit to your great shaman.” Because he had a favour to ask so it was unusual that his speech now was slightly more polite.

But evidently, this Miao inhabitation was far from the civilised innkeeper and waiter in the TianShui Stockade inn who could understand the Central Plains language, after hearing Ghost Li’s words, the two Miao people frowned even deeper, looked at each other but also held up the long spears in their hands, their faces solemn, loudly shouted, “Hu hu lu lu hua la la, lu lu hu hu ji li li…”

Ghost Li was taken aback and for the moment helpless, truthfully speaking he had, for BiYao, ran around for the past ten years trying to find the black shaman tribe and now with much difficulty he had managed to find some leads but instead was blocked by these Miao soldiers, he was actually very agitated and really wished to knock down those people straightaway, dashed into the altar to find that whatever great shaman and let him cure BiYao.

Just that after all he was no longer that ignorant young man and knew that right now he must not be rash else if things became worse, it would produce the opposite of his desired outcome. But while he hesitated, because of their communication breakdown, he used his hand to point once at that altar located in the middle of the mountain, using a polite voice said, “We want to go up to your altar and pay a visit to the great shaman.”

He did not know if the Miao people understood his words but when he pointed towards the altar, immediately all of the Miao people in the surroundings, including those Miao soldiers standing in the distance and also including those Miao people who were following them to watch the fun, became incensed and started to scold and shout loudly, the Miao soldiers even [hua la la] surrounded them, besieging them.

Ghost Li was shocked, Xiao Bai beside him said in a low voice, “Oh dear, you might have violated the Miao people big taboo.”

Ghost Li bewilderedly asked, “What did I do?”

Xiao Bai looked at the surrounding angry crowd, quietly said, “To the Miao people the altar is a holy and untouchable place, even in everyday conversations it cannot be casually mention, using your finger to point towards the altar is an even more disrespectful action, the most insulting gesture to the Miao people.”

Ghost Li glared at her, angrily said, “Such an important thing and you actually didn’t tell me beforehand?”

Xiao Bai laughed lightly, as if revealing some of her loveliness, gently said, “Think about it too, I had been imprisoned for three hundred years, how would I still remember so much…”

Ghost Li was lost for words again, for the moment felt his head was swimming.

The surrounding Miao people saw them not showing any fear and instead looked composed and quietly chatted among themselves, the man at least still looked anxious, that woman instead looked totally unconcerned about the surrounding Miao people, smiling sweetly, gazing around.

There were many Miao women around them, watching Xiao Bai’s graceful appearance, they were all secretly envying but when they saw many more Miao men’s eyes glowing while watching Xiao Bai, immediately there was a stir in the scene, instantly [ji li hua la] sounds repeatedly rang out, most were that to this adulterous pair insulting the holy altar, their crimes could not be forgiven and should be executed by the deaths of a thousand knives.

While about it, there were several young men who could not help but tried to dispute with a few words, said that the one who had insulted the altar was that man and the woman did not commit any wrong, why not kill that man and leave the woman, it would also be good to made her my wife etc…

Before they could finish, those few men were immediately drowned in the Miao women crowd, by their mothers, elder sisters, younger sisters, aunties, third auntie, sixth auntie and even Miao women who had no relations to them, hit by their hands or kicked by their legs or their hairs pulled or their ears grabbed, punched on their eyes or hit on their chests, anyway hands and feet poured from the sky, wailing like ghost and howling like wolves, after a while, [pu tong pu tong] sounds were heard in succession, those men one by one with bruises and swollen faces were flung down into the brook, creating huge water waves.

The fierce Miao women, could be clearly seen.

Those Miao soldiers did not expect such a big reaction from those Miao women and that they were actually more infuriated than those soldiers who were only qualified to guard the altar because they were the most loyal and steadfast, felt such abhorrence towards the outsiders who had insulted the altar and beat up those who made any slightest plea or opinion.

That Miao soldier at the forefront seemed to be the leader of those Miao soldiers, he took a glance at those young men who were still crying their faces out in the river, coughed once and looked at Ghost Li and Xiao Bai, immediately his face turned frost and without looking at Xiao Bai at all, stared unwavering at Ghost Li, as if he feared that this man might slipped off or afraid that his own gaze might wandered, in a loud angry voice he said, “Ha ha lu lu ji li li, hua la ji li hu lu lu!”

Over at Ghost Li, he was also very worried, although he did not know why suddenly there would be a large group of Miao women coming together and bash up those few young Miao people and threw them into the river but assumed that the Miao people was from a different tribe and most likely had some strange custom, and so kept his composure.

But as he could not communicate with those Miao people and he himself had unknowingly infringed the big taboo of Miao people, enraging the Miao people. As the surrounding Miao people around them increased, although both he and Xiao Bai were Central Plains cultivators and definitely not afraid of the large number of Miao people or that they were tall and robust but unfortunately right now he really needed a favour from this Miao tribe.

Those ten years, from hope to disappointment and to almost despair, it was really agonizing. Now that suddenly there was such a wonderful hope igniting once again, no matter what he was not willing to let it go easily. But right now he could not communicate with them and if he gestured again it might not convey well, and what if again he unwittingly committed another Miao taboo, it would be too unjust.

He stood there, unable to force his way through and even unwilling to walk away, in a dilemma, it was really an awkward predicament.

And the surrounding Miao people after seeing that those two people were unrepentable and still standing there wordlessly, the guy still had some anxiety expression but that woman actually smiled even more dazzling and seemed to be even happier being surrounded, her smile became more and more sweeter and in fact still smiled to a few Miao men who was staring at her, immediately making those men swooning.

The surrounding Miao women saw it all and immediately like a pot exploded, it was really enough was enough, the uproar became louder and almost drowning out the two of them in saliva.

Looked like the crowd was going out of hand, the Miao women in the crowd was about to charge up, to properly teach this coquettish seductress a good lesson, in the name of the deity in the altar to vent their grievances, a loud shout came from behind those soldiers who were guarding the mountain path.

The voice was imposing and vigorous and could actually suppressed the clamour made by so many people, and the voice was filled with authority. The surrounding Miao people seemed to recognized the voice and quietened down at once, looked up to the mountain, evidently this person had a high prestige among the Miao people.


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