Zhu Xian Chapter 1-10

Chapter 1 - Qing Yun

Qing Yun mountains lofty and towering, dominating the Central Plains, the northern side had a great river, ‘Hongchuan’, the south had a important town ‘HeYang City’, guarding the world’s throat, its position extremely important.

Qing Yun mountains undulating for hundred miles, ranges of summits rising, there were seven that were the highest, towering into the clouds, in the usual days white clouds could be seen covering from the middle of the mountains, obscuring the real height of the mountains. Qing Yun mountains covered densely with forests, waterfalls galloping from cliffs, rare birds and animals, many existed, the landscape perilous and high, well known all over the world.

But even more famous, was the cultivated sect on this mountain - ‘Qing Yun sect’.

Qing Yun sect had a long history, it had been two thousand over years since the sect was formed, and was the leader of the two factions, good and evil. It was said that the founder of the sect was a Jianghu fortune-teller, down on his luck for half of his life, soured by the loss of one’s hopes. When he was forty- nine years old, roaming the world, he passed by Qing Yun Hill and at one glance, noticed the beauty and potential of the place, gathering the spiritual energy of heaven and earth, it was definitely an excellent place. And so there and then ascended the mountain, endured the hardships and cultivated and trained, not long, actually found a secret cave deep inside Qing Yun mountain and in it, obtained a nameless ancient scroll, in it recorded numerous enigma skills, profound and
dry but had infinite powers and wonders.

The fortune-teller receiving such rare encounter, wholeheartedly trained. In a fleeting twenty years, he had a small achievement and left. After a few tussles in the Jianghu, although not able to dominate the world but he became a powerful man. Gradually on Qing Yun Hill, he started a sect, named ‘Qing Yun’. As the writings in the ancient scroll seemed to be from Taoism so he dressed like a Taoist and called himself, ‘Qing Yun Zi’, the later disciples addressed him as ‘Qing Yun Reverend’.

Qing Yun Zi lived for three hundred and sixty seven years and took in ten disciples, before he passed away he instructed, “What I have learnt half of my life was fortune-telling, my proficiency in geomancy. This Qing Yun mountain is a rare spiritual place in the mortal world, our Qing Yun sect occupying the mountain here, in the future will definitely prosperous, you all must not give up. Always remember , always remember!”

The ten disciples at that moment all nodded, without any doubt, Qing Yun Zi thus then passed away. Unexpectedly in the hundred years later, not knowing if Heaven was making fun of them, or maybe Qing Yun Zi’s geomancy skills was not proficient, Qing Yun sect did not prosperous and instead declined.

In the ten disciples, two passed away young, four died in Jianghu enemy battles, leaving, one disabled, one missing, passing down two branches. As such fifty years passed, earthquake occurred one hundred miles around Qing Yun mountains, mountain torrents burst down, the earth and mountains shook, numerous casualties, and again killing off one branch. Leaving the sole survivor but limited by his aptitude, his ability was far from Qing Yun Zi’s fame, instead that ancient scroll, invited outsiders to fight for it, after a few blood battles, if it was not for the few powerful magical weapons left behind by Qing Yun Zi, most likely Qing Yun sect would have long been exterminated. And that state continued on for a total of four hundred years, Qing Yun sect had no improvement and almost could be described as on its last legs. Until the end, they were even bullied on their doorstep, among the seven summits, other than the main summit, ‘Tongtian Peak’, the rest were occupied by enemies, there were even ferocious bandits and robbers who used it as their stronghold, plundered everywhere, crimes were rife. Many had the misunderstanding that Qing Yun sect had
degenerated into that, although the disciples explained to them and had the intention to exterminate the enemies and correct their reputation but they did not have the means to do so, pitiful and lamentable. Now thinking of that, that was really Qing Yun most bitter period.

Until one thousand three hundred years ago from present, the conditions started to change.

Most probably Qing Yun Zi’s geomancy predictions finally came true, or maybe the heavens were tired, did not want to make fun of Qing Yun sect anymore, at that time, in Qing Yun sect eleventh generation, an exceptional talented, leader of the pack figure - Qing Ye Priest. Qing Ye secular family surname was Ye, was actually a poor scholar, his aptitude excelled others but repeatedly failed the examination selections, later by a chance of luck, became the last disciple of Qing Yun sect tenth generation sect head Wu Fangzi, he was twenty-two years old. After Qing Ye joined the sect, in a short period of one year, comprehended all of Wu Fangzi’s sword techniques, came out first among the disciples. And again another year, even Wu Fangzi could only barely to finish in a draw against him using his advanced cultivation. Wu Fangzi was both shocked and delighted, firmly decided to hand that ancient scroll which was passed down from the ancestors, to Qing Ye to comprehend himself. And hence, Qing Ye at the ‘Illusory Moon Cave’ studied in seclusion, and the seclusion lasted for thirteen years.

It was said that when he came out of seclusion, it was a full moon night. That night the cold moon hung high, the entire Qing Yun mountain Tongtian Peak was like daylight. Suddenly gusts of wind blew, whistling sounds like dragons singing were heard from the rear mountain, reverberated for hundred miles, not one did not change countenance. Later some said there was faint auspicious purple glow, charged up to the sky, a loud bang, the Illusory Moon Cave suddenly opened wide, Qing Ye’s hair had turned all white, a smile on his face, clear glow on his body, he slowly strolled out, the crowd was shocked, thought he had became celestial.

And after that, Qing Ye officially renounced to be a priest, with his surname Ye, adopted Qing Yun ‘Qing’ and named himself ‘Qing Ye’. That day he smiled and parted with his mentor, Wu Fangzi, said, “Teacher please wait, disciple will go out to handle some matters, will return in a day.”

The others did not know the reason and after a day and night, Qing Ye wielded his sword and returned, the enemies at the other six summits, had been completely exterminated. Qing Ye Taoist priest’s skills were powerful and resolute, for a moment his fame shocked the world, Qing Yun sect’s reputation soared.

And again another year, Wu Fangzi passed the sect head position to Qing Ye and went to cultivate in seclusion, never to be involved in the sect matters. After Qing Ye took over, he did all he could to build up the sect, stringently selected and picked his disciples, including what he had comprehended and learnt from that nameless ancient scroll, had unfathomable powers. Qing Yun sect from there started to flourish, within fifty years, it was already the pillar of Good Faction, and until two hundred years later, it was already the leader of the various Good Faction sects.

Qing Ye Priest passed away at the age of five hundred and fifty years old, his entire life he was very strict in his selection of disciples and only passed down to seven people, assigned them with the seven summits, and instructed the seven branches to continue on the sect together. Among them the eldest branch was the main summit Tongtian Peak, was the core of the sect.

And until the present, Qing Yun sect had nearly thousand of disciples, their elites were as many as clouds, its reputation illustrious, classified together with ‘Tianyin Temple’, ‘Fenxiang Valley’ as the present three great sects. And sect head Reverend Daoxuan, his cultivation could already comprehend the enigma heaven and earth creations, transcended the worldly, and was even the number one exceptional figure of the present.

At the foot of Qing Yun Hill, about northwest fifty miles from ‘HeYang City’, there was a small village named ‘Grasstemple Village’. It had about forty over families, the people were simple and honest, most of them were woodcutters and traded with Qing Yun sect for some silvers for a living. The villagers frequently saw Qing Yun disciples flying here and there, looked amazing and extremely revered them, thought they had attained Tao and became celestial. And Qing Yun sect had always looked around the surrounding commoners, and treated the villagers here quite well. This day, the sky was gloomy, the clouds hung low, giving one a suffocating feeling.

Looking out from Grasstemple Village, that lofty Qing Yun mountain piercing through the horizon, the strange summit and rocks, indistinctly carried some savages.

Just that, the villagers had resided here for generations, seen such scenery countless of times, were not bothered, not to say innocent children.

“Stinky fellow, where are you running to?”  A loud curse, with some mocking, came from a child’s mouth, he looked twelve or thirteen years old, appearance dashing, led four or five boys and girls, pursuing another child in front. That child ahead of him was younger by two years, his stature also shorter, his face was smiling broadly, ran ahead with his all his efforts, in-between even turning his head around and made a funny face.

“Zhang Xiaofan, stop if you have guts!”  That child behind shouted. The child who was called Zhang Xiaofan with a [pei] sound, shouted  while  running,  “You  think  I’m  an  idiot!”   after speaking, ran even faster.

Pursuing, these children gradually ran into the dilapidated grasstemple at the east of the village. Looking from the outside, this small grasstemple was extremely broken-down, nobody knew how many generations it had experienced.

Zhang Xiaofan was the first to dash in, unexpectedly he did not notice and was tripped by the door, [pu tong] a sound, fell. The few children behind were delighted, swarm up and pressed him down, that dashing boy looking conceited, laughed and said, “You are now caught by me, this time you have nothing to say right?”

Who knew Zhang Xiaofan rolled his eyes, said, “Not counted not counted, you sneak attacked me, how can it be counted?”

That  boy  was  stunned,  asked,  “When  did  I  sneak  attack you?” Zhang Xiaofan said, “Good ah you Lin Jingyu, you dare to say this door plank was not placed here by you?”

The boy who was called Lin Jingyu shouted, “There is no such thing!”

Zhang Xiaofan pursed his lips, tilted his head, a determined not to submit, unyielding look. Lin Jingyu’s anger rose, grabbed his throat, angrily said, “We agreed if you are caught you will admit defeat, do you concede?”

Zhang Xiaofan ignored him.

Lin Jingyu’s face turned red, putting more strength in his hands, loudly said, “Concede or not?”

Zhang Xiaofan’s windpipe was choked by him, his breathing gradually became difficult, slowly his face also turned red but he at his young age, his character was actually extremely stubborn, refused to speak. Lin Jingyu became even more incensed, his strength increased, repeated said, “Concede or not? Concede or not? Concede or not?”

By then, the other children noticed something amiss, quietly retreated, leaving these two innocent children, because of their personal feelings, each being stubborn, continued on.

Looking as a major accident was about to happen for no reason, suddenly a Buddhism chant was heard from the inner section of the temple, someone said, “Amitabha, quickly stop.”

A withered hand, struck out, stretching two fingers, flicked on Lin Jingyu’s both hands. Lin Jingyu like being hit by lightning, entire body shook, his hands naturally let go.

Zhang Xiaofan gulped in air, evidently was severely choked. Both of them stunned at their spots, came back to their senses, recalled what had happened, looked at each other, each turning more and more afraid. Lin Jingyu spoke in daze, “Xiaofan, sorry. I also don’t know why…”

Zhang Xiaofan shook his head, his breathing gradually calmed down, said, “It’s alright. Eh, who are you?”

The children looked at his direction, in this temple, a elderly monk stood there, his face was full of wrinkles, wearing torn old kasaya, his entire body looking dirty. But his hand was holding onto a string of jade beads, glittering and translucent, dazzling to the eyes, emitting faint green light. The strange thing was, among this several similar sized, bright and clear green jade beads, there was a not-jade-not-stone, deep purple, dark round bead.

Chapter 2 - Puzzle

That old monk did not reply, only watched the two children intently and couldn’t help but glance at Lin Jingyu a few more times, thought to himself, “Good aptitude, but why is his temperament so extreme?”

At this moment Zhang Xiaofan stepped up and said, “Hey, who are you, why didn’t we see you before?

The Grasstemple Village was located near to Qing Yun sect, Taoism was respected here, Buddhism disciples were rarely seen and hence Zhang Xiaofan’s question.

The old monk glanced at him, a smile revealed on his lips, he instead asked, “Little patron, just now your life was of great concern, you only need to admit defeat, why did you have to hold on, if it’s not for old monk me, most probably you would have lost your life for nothing!”

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, felt that the old monk’s words were not wrong but things happened so fast and he was still unable to say out the reason, only stood stunned. Lin Jingyu stared at that old monk, pulled Zhang Xiaofan’s hand  and  said,  “Xiaofan,  this  old  monk  is  weird,  let’s  not bother about him.” He pulled him and headed out, the other few kids also followed, clearly following his lead.

Zhang Xiaofan subconsciously also walked but after he walked out a few metres from the temple, he couldn’t help but glance back, the sky was darkening and he could still see that old monk standing there, but his face was already indistinct.

Deep in the night.

A sound of thunder, strong wind scattering the last clouds, the dark clouds churned at the horizon.

The storm was approaching, a blanket of harshness.

The old monk was still in the grasstemple, meditating on the floor. Lifting his eyes, Qing Yun Hill in the distance was hazy, there was no human sounds in the wild countryside around it, only swift wind and loud thunder. What a big storm it was!

A flash of lightning pierced through the sky, this solitary small grasstemple illuminated for a moment, that old monk was already standing at the entrance, his face solemn, looked up at the sky, his brows tightening.

In the village located in the west, a wave of black energy appeared, thick like ink, churning incessantly. The old monk stood in the temple, staring intently at this black energy.

Suddenly, that black energy rolled, spiralled upwards, directly heading outside of the village, towards the direction of the grasstemple. Its speed was extremely fast, in a blink it arrived. The old monk’s sharp eyes, with one look he could see that a child was trapped in it, it was Lin Jingyu.

The old monk’s face turned serious, without hesitation and he did not seem to be making any stance, his withered body abruptly leapt up, directly into the dark energy.

Deep within the darkness, a surprised voice said, “Eh?” A few muffled sounds, the dark energy suddenly stopped, unable to spiral up the temple. The old monk grabbed Lin Jingyu, slowly descended, a part of his robes at the back was tore.

Using the faint light, Lin Jingyu’s eyes were tightly closed, his breathing calm, not knowing if he was sleeping or had fainted.

The old monk did not put him down, looked up at that mass of black energy, said, “Mister is highly skilled, why attack an innocent child and lose your status?”

A hoarse voice was heard from the dark energy, said, “And who are you, dare to meddle in my affairs?”

The old monk did not reply, said, “We are below Qing Yun Hill, if Qing Yun sect knows mister is creating trouble here, I’m afraid mister will not have it easy in the future.”

That person [pei] a sound, his voice disdained, said, “What is Qing Yun sect, they are only depending on their numbers. Old buddhist monk stop your talks, quickly hand that child over to me if you are smart.”

The old monk clasped his palms together, said, “Amitabha, monks have mercy at heart, old monk me cannot stand by and watch as this child is harmed by you.”

That person angrily said, “Good bald thief, you are looking for death.”

After speaking, in the dark energy which was spinning, a dark red ray flashed within it, in that instant around the temple, yin wind blew strongly, ghostly aura increased.

“Poisonous Blood Flag!”  Anger appeared on the old monk’s face, “Evildoer, you dare to practise such heartless and evil thing, today definitely will not let you go!”

That hoarse voice sneered, did not reply, a whistle was heard, red light exploded, from the mid-air, a strong stench and a two zhang red flag slowly rose. At this time, ghost wailings became more mournful, as if numerous grieving souls were crying, sounds of bones were also heard, extremely terrifying.

“Bald thief, receive death!”  That person shouted, from the red flag, a hideous ghost face appeared suddenly, three angles and four eyes, sharp teeth and fangs, [ka ka ka ka] bones cracking sounds everywhere, the four eyes on the ghost face suddenly opened together, [hou] a sound, solidified and charged out from the flag, carrying the smell of blood, attacking the old monk.

The monk looked even more infuriated, knew that the more powerful this Poisonous Blood Flag was, the more innocent people were implicated during cultivation. To cultivate to that level of power, most probably it would need the blood essences of more than three hundred people.

That evil person was really utterly devoid of conscience!

Looking as that ghostly object was about to charge at him, the old monk did not put down the child, using only the meditation jade beads in his left hand to draw a circle in the air before him, he single-handedly formed a Buddhism lion seal, five fingers bent up, golden light indistinctly glowing at the fingertips, the next moment a golden wheel appeared before him, dazzling with golden light, resisting that ghostly object.

“Small  tricks,  also  dare  to  show…”  Before  the  old  monk could finish his sentence, suddenly his body shook, he felt a bite on his right hand which was carrying Lin Jingyu, a feeling of numbness immediately travelled half his body, darkness before his eyes, the golden wheel before him wavered and looked as if it was collapsing.

And at this moment, that ghostly object had another strange change, on the forehead above its four eyes, [ka ka] two sounds, a red huge eye opened, gust of blood stench blew, the power increased, a sound of ghost wailing was heard, a flash of red light, that ghostly object hit the golden wheel into pieces, hitting heavily onto the old monk’s chest.

The old monk was hit flying backwards, a few muffled sounds were heard along the way, most likely his ribs were all broken, Lin Jingyu also fell onto the ground. The next moment, his withered and thin body crashed onto the temple wall, [zhen] a sound, dust flew, the entire wall collapsed. “Ha ha ha ha…”  The man in the darkness laughed wildly, extremely arrogrant.

The old monk stood up stumbling, a burning feeling in his throat, he couldn’t help but threw up hot blood, dying his robes red. He felt giddy, his entire body in pain, the tingling numbness feeling soon came near his heart.

He forced himself to calm down, his gaze swept to Lin Jingyu who was still unconscious on the ground, noticed within his clothes, a colourful centipede slowly crawled out, the strangest thing was, its tail was split into seven, as if it had seven tails. And each tail had a different colour, the colours bright and beautiful, it was a terrifying beautiful sight.

“Seven-tailed  Centipede!”  The  old  monk’s  words  sounded like a moan.

The dark energy on his face turned deeper, blood continued to flow out of his mouth, it was as if it was hard to hold on but he was still forcing himself to. He looked at that mass of dark energy in the air, said, “You put the world’s rare venomous animal onto this child, and deliberately hide your power, waiting for a chance to attack me, you are here specially for me right?”

The man with a [he he] sneer, said, “That’s right, I came especially for you Puzhi bald donkey. If I did not do so, with your Tianyin Temple skills, you would not be easy to deal with. Alright, better quickly hand over ‘Sinister Orb’ over, I will give you the antidote to the poison and spare your life!”

Puzhi with a miserable laugh, said, “To think that my name still has a ‘intelligent’ character, didn’t expect that you have trained in this Poisonous Blood Flag evil object, how would you not lust after Sinister Orb.” His face turned solemn, firmly said, “Want me to hand over the most sinister object in this world to you, dream on.”

The man was enraged, “Then you can go and meet your Buddhism ancestors.”  Red light flashed, the Poisonous Blood Flag fluttered in the wind, ghost wailings started, the huge object spun and again attacked Puzhi.

Puzhi shouted out, his robes swell without wind, his thin body seemed to expand greatly. His left hand used strength and a crisp sound was heard, the meditation beads were broken, several beads did not fall down and instead kept spinning, each emitting dark-green light, floating before Puzhi, only that dark purple bead, dropped down.

Puzhi flipped his hand, caught the dark purple bead, both hands forming a bottle seal, both of his eyes big and staring, golden light glowed from his entire body, word by word he chanted, “An ma ni ba mi hong!”

“The six words great bright incantation.”  The man in the darkness tone immediately became more serious.

Following the old monk incantation, all of the jade beads burst out in brilliance, at the same time, the ghostly object had already arrived, the blood stench assaulted over. However, once it touched the beads’ radiance, it immediately froze where it was.

Even though it was so, Puzhi’s body still wavered, the Seven- tailed centipede was the world’s most poisonous animal, with his several hundred years of cultivation, it was still hard to resist. But on his darkening face, a faint smile appeared, looking awe-inspiring.

[Dai!]

Puzhi with a loud shout, like a lion roar, the shout shook the four corners, the beads before him seemed to be stimulated by Buddhism energy, their radiance increased, suddenly a bead broke, forming a Buddhism word in the air, swiftly charged ahead and hit onto the ghostly thing face.

[Wa...ah!] That object made a miserable cry, immediately retreated a few steps, the red light around it receded greatly, clearly injured. The man angrily said, “Good you this bald donkey!”

He was about to make a move but it was too late. Just at that moment, seven or eight beads turned into Buddhism characters and hit the ghostly object. That object howled incessantly, kept retreating, making a cowed appearance, at the ninth bead attack, it finally let out a long howl, its five eyes cracked completely, sounds of bone cracking filling the air, with a loud rumble fell onto the ground, struggled a few times and finally stiffened, transforming into blood, extremely pungent.

At the same time, Puzhi [wa] a sound, threw up another mouthful of blood, and the blood colour, was already black. “Ah” a sharp cry, at this critical moment, was heard from the temple door.

Both of them had a shock, looked towards the door and saw the child, Zhang Xiaofan, not knowing why he had came to the temple and was standing at the entrance, staring dumbfoundedly at this scene.

A sneer was heard from the dark energy, without any action from him, the seven-tailed centipede on Lin Jingyu suddenly swished its tails and flew up, as swift as lightening, towards Zhang Xiaofan.

Puzhi frowned, right finger pointed, a jade bead swiftly flew out. That centipede seemed to have spiritual intelligence, knew the power of the bead and so dared not receive it, shook its tails and like having wings, dived into the dark energy and disappeared. The man eerily said, “He he, indeed one of the four great holy monks of Tianyin Temple, even seriously injured, still able to break free from my ‘Poisonous Bloody Corpse King’, but you have received a blow from the bloody corpse and also from the Seven-tailed Centipede, how long more can you hold on? Better be obedient and give me the ‘Sinister Orb’”

Puzhi’s eyes were even starting to bleed dark blood, with a bitter laugh, he hoarsely said, “If old monk me today have to die here, I will first get rid of you this evil person.”

Once he finished speaking, all of the beads before him lit up, the person in the mid-air immediately became alert, suddenly a whistle, an object glimmering with dark-green light hit the dark energy from the back, it was that bead which was directed to attack the centipede, after flying for a distance in the air, it was controlled secretly by Puzhi, launching an attack secretly from the rear.

The person in the air made an angry roar, clearly was caught unprepared, [pong pong pong] a few disorderly loud sounds, where the light flashed, the dark energy was in disarray and finally scattered and vanished. A tall thin man slowly descended, his entire body covered tightly with black robes, unable to see his face or age, only a pair of eyes, flashing fiercely, behind him, a long sword was tied to his back.

Puzhi quietly said, “Mister has such a level of skills, why do you not dare to let others see you?”

The person harshly spoke, “Bald donkey, today I will let you die without burial here!”

After speaking, [sua] a sound he pulled out his long sword, the sword was as clear as autumn water, bright but not glaring, with a faint clear glow on it.

“Good sword!” Puzhi couldn’t help but exclaim.

That man with a low sneer, his hand forming a sword gesture, stepping on seven stars and walked seven steps in succession, his long sword suddenly stabbed the sky, chanting these words: “Nine  heavens  profound  shrines,  transform  into  divine thunder. Brilliant heaven might, with sword as the lead!”

Dark clouds in the horizon immediately started to turn turbulent, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed incessantly at the boundaries, a stern atmosphere immediately covered the earth, wild winds started.

“Divine  sword  wield  thunder  true  formula!”  Puzhi’s  face turned ashen, and then shock, despair and an inexplicable fervour.

“You are actually from Qing Yun sec!”

“An ma ni ba mi hong” words which Puzhi chanted, was the famous “six words great bright incantation”, also known as “Goddess of Mercy inspiration true words”. Recorded in Buddhism
scriptures: The incantation encompassed the creations of Heaven and Earth, understanding it would be able to escape the dust, cleanse your heart and reach the Land of Ultimate Bliss in great joy. It was one of the most well-known Buddhism classic incantations.

Chapter 3 - Grand Aspiration

To Zhang Xiaofan, the clouds in the sky, no matter whether white or grey, were never as close to the earth as the dark clouds today, the thunders were never such deafening, lightnings never that dazzling, he almost could not open his eyes.

As if, the sky was about to collapse.

He stood dumbly there, watching the black robed person and the old monk staring at each other in fury, fighting each other.

Suddenly, a thunder exploded beside, his ears rang with the loud sound. He saw a bright flash of lightning in the sky, struck down, onto that black robed person’s sword.

Instantly the person’s robe puffed up, both of his eyes staring widely, as if about to explode. At this moment, in this grasstemple, under the illumination of the lightning, it was like day time. The lightning at the sword tip showed off its splendor in the dark night, it was so beautiful, even Zhang Xiaofan held his breath, and in Puzhi’s eyes, a strange fevour appeared again.

“This is Taoism true way great ability and power?”

The black-robed person was only heard giving a loud shout, his left hand making a sword stance, using all of his strength to shake his wrist, thunder rumbled, the lightning at the sword tip swiftly struck towards Puzhi. Along its journey, the vegetation and broken stones, flew up from the force of it passing through, the ground below, a deep burn mark was seen.

Puzhi retreated three steps, removed his hand seal, clasped his palms together, his face solemn, his entire body radiating golden light, quietly chanted, “Buddha is merciful!”

[Pa!] a sound, the remaining seven jade beads broke and crumbled, formed a huge Buddha word three chi before him, dazzling with golden light, unable to view it directly. This moment, the lightning and that Buddha word, collided.

Zhang Xiaofan suddenly felt his heart jumped violently, as if his entire blood channels in that instant flowed backwards. His hands and legs felt weak, unable to breathe, in that instant the wind stopped, the thunder ceased, the entire world stopped.

Then, he involuntarily flew backwards, before he could even start to feel afraid, he only saw white light and golden rays, incomparably magnificent, surpassing the sun in the sky. The entire grasstemple, cracked, with the two men fighting as the storm center, exploded outwards including upwards.

His heart, was empty, he only felt sharp whistling of the wind, incessantly blowing past his ears.

He felt afraid, subconsciously wanted to curl his body but he had no strength, he could only drift to the unknown place.

In his mind, a thought surfaced: Am I dying? Strong fear, suddenly overwhelmed him, he shivered with cold sweat.

When death was standing before you, how should you face it?

He fainted, unconscious.

Puzhi slowly walked over, his footsteps hobbling, carrying both Zhang Xiaofan and Lin Jingyu under his arms, he came to a slightly cleared area and placed both of them down, immediately he felt his entire body in pain, almost about to break apart, unable to sustain any longer, he collapsed sitting.

He looked at his chest, saw through the burnt monk robe, he could still see, a black energy had already encircled his chest, only a tiny spot near his heart was untouched.

He laughed bitterly, his hand searching for something in his bosom. His hand was trembling violently, after a while, he slowly felt a red medicine pill, about the size of a finger, plain and ordinary. Puzhi sighed and softly said, “Didn’t expect that the ghostly doctor was right, should I or should I not take his ‘Three days must Die Pill’.

He hesitated, finally with a nod, swallowed it.

Then, he looked up, into the distant hill.

The sky finally rained.

Qing Yun mountain stood lofty in the storm, obscured and mysterious.

“Taoism skills, are really amazing, it can actually use the divine power. If it can be corroborate with our Buddhism sect, learn from each other strong points, we will definitely able to comprehend and solve the mystery of immortality. A pity that Reverend Daoxuan’s cultivation tho far surpassed me but eventually is the same as my other three senior brothers, unable to put down the sect indifferences, unable to put down his status. Sigh!” Puzhi heaved a long sigh, looked away, glanced at the two boys. The storm had worsened, drenching their heads. The temple was already devastated during the battle, and there wasn’t any place nearby that could shelter them.

His heart suddenly tightened, couldn’t help but be worried for the two boys. He was forced to exert his powers just now, with Tianyin Temple ‘Great Brahman Wisdom true way’ and using the sect’s treasure, ‘Jade Beads’ power, created the power to banish the evil and block that evil person’s powerful Celestial Sword Wield Thunder True Formula, and also injured him heavily, causing him to flee. But as he himself was severely wounded, and also received a blow too, he was already at his end, even the last ray of hope was also gone. Right now he was only using the special pill to extend his life for three days only.

“That evil man although heavily injured but his core was unhurt. After I am gone, he would surely come back to kill the witnesses. By that time, not only these two children, I’m afraid the entire village would be in danger. This, this, what should I do?”

Puzhi’s heart was in a mess, he had cultivated to an extremely high level but firstly he knew he was dying and his mind was not in control; secondly he worried for the innocent commoners lives, and unfortunately that evildoer was someone of status in Qing Yun sect, if he sought help from the sect out of a sudden, most likely it might make matters worse.

But the most regretful thing in his heart, was his greatest wish unfulfilled. He as Tianyin Temple Four Great Holy Monks, respected and admired by the world, extremely revered. However, to him, even more important was to comprehend the mystery of life and death, unravel the knot of immortality. He had long at fifty years ago, realized that even how hard he tried to practise and cultivate Buddhism ways, he could only strengthen his powers and cultivation, and not solve the mystery of life and death.

He pondered hard and long, after decades, he thought of a way that was never heard before. In the current world, Buddhism, Taoism and the Evil sect were the most prosperous, skills attainments were the highest and deepest. The Evil sect’s reputation was abominated, the evil skills cruel and immoral, too evil to be referenced; and Taoism’s skills, profound and ingenious, with Buddhist sect each had its strength in different areas, if they could come together and study, that would definitely break the stalemate. But he would never imagined, his three senior brothers who have always been broad-minded, would object unanimously, thought it was heresy and unimaginable, instead tried to persuade him not to. He was unwilling, tried to visit the various Taoist sects, it was already several times with just Qing Yun but there was not a single time he was not rejected by Reverend Daoxuan.

Thinking of it, he made a bitter laugh, with some self- mockery, thought to himself: he only had three days to live, why was he still thinking of immortality, wasn’t it just needless worries?

But although he had let it go but when he looked at the two children, he really could not put down his worries, for a moment he could not think of any good solution, glanced around, saw that there was a pine tree in the distance and could provide some shelter from the storm, and so carried the two children and struggled to reach there.

He managed to walk to the tree, carefully placed them down, Puzhi was already exhausted, fell sitting onto the ground, leaning against the tree, panting unceasingly. Heaven and Earth heartless, treats all living things as straw dogs!

These Taoist words, conveyed some harshness and anger, from Puzhi’s mouth, slowly chanted.

The sky was as dark as ink, covered the heavens and earth. The infinite gloomy clouds loomed above, rain fell from the sky, thin and dense, the cold wind blew, drops fell onto his face, chilling the heart.

He looked up at the sky, after a long time, looked away, glanced at the two children before him, quietly said, “Two little patrons, old monk wants to save you but unfortunately I am helpless. The events are because of me and instead implicated both of you, it is really a sin! Sigh, if both of you are Qing Yun disciples, at that Qing Yun Hill, among the people, most likely would be safer, now instead…

Suddenly, Puzhi’s body shook, his mouth mumbled, “Qing Yun disciple, Qing Yun disciple…” his mind thought quickly, as if thought of something but in a blink about to lose it. In that moment, he was already sweating cold sweats. Then, his eyes, for some reason, had that inexplicable fervour again.

He raised his face up to the sky and laughed loudly, his laughter had a trace of madness!

“Excellent, excellent! Although my life is short but if I could pass on Buddhism amazing skills to one of them and instruct him to join Qing Yun sect, practise Taoism skills, isn’t it killing two birds with one stone, this could save their lives and also help me to fulfill my wish!”

“Buddhism and Taoism are have always been estranged since ancient times, never have contact with each other. Qing Yun sect will never imagined, a young man, also living at Qing Yun Hill foot since young, would have Buddhism skills. As long as someone has both knowledge, he will definitely solve the ten thousand years old mystery of life and death. He he, if it is so, what regret will I have when I died?”

His mind was made up, his entire self was extremely excited, both his cheeks red, his eyes bloodshot, subconsciously he glanced at Lin Jingyu, his hand stretched out. However, halfway he stopped, his mind thought: this was an important matter, now that each sect sectarian bias was extremely important, especially secretly learning from other sects, if this was found out, the plan would fail and the person would be killed. Lin Jingyu this child had excellent aptitude, if he was accepted by Qing Yun sect, would definitely received his teacher’s attention. At his young age, most likely he would not be able to hide this great secret!

Thinking of this, he turned and looked at Zhang Xiaofan, thought about his stubborn character, nodded and said, “Although his aptitude is rather poor but it is alright, in the future you will have to depend on your own luck.”

After speaking, without hesitation, he patted a few times on Zhang Xiaofan’s body, using his remaining power, woke him up.

Zhang Xiaofan slowly came awake, his eyes blurred, his ears ringing. After a while, he recovered fully and looked clearly, immediately was startled, his mouth opened in shock. That old monk was covered with wounds, sat before him, left side of his body seemed to be burned, extremely withered and ugly, the dark energy heavy on his face, a look of death. However, for some reason, the monk was energetic, smiling broadly. Other than that, he also saw Lin Jingyu lying beside, unconscious.

“You, you what are you doing?” Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, stammered and asked.

Puzhi did not answer, carefully watched him and asked, “Little patron, this storm is so heavy, you as a little child, why did you come to this secluded place?”

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, said, “I saw you still standing in the temple during evening, and later saw it was about to rain, this place is very dilapidated, I think it would be very cold and so came to give you some food to eat.”

Puzhi’s lips moved, his palms clasped together, “Shan zai, shan zai. All living things are predestined, their lives are already decided, Buddha is merciful.” Zhang Xiaofan asked puzzledly, “What did you say?”

Puzhi smiled and said, “What I mean was, little patron and I are fated. Since it is so, I have a set of cultivation skills, little patron are you willing to learn?”

Zhang Xiaofan asked, “What thing is this cultivation skill?”

Puzhi was stunned for a moment and then laughed loudly, stretched out his withered hand, patted his head and said, “It is not a thing, it is just to teach you some breathing techniques. After you learnt it, you have to promise me a few things, alright?”

Zhang Xiaofan, not knowing if he comprehend, still said, “You can tell me.”

Puzhi said, “You must not tell anyone about this, not even to your family, can you do it?” Zhang Xiaofan nodded and said, “Alright I know, I will not say even in death.”

Puzhi’s heart was shocked, at his young age, his face was steadfast, the rain fell like knives and frost, drenching his little face, looking haggard.

Puzhi suddenly inhaled deeply, closed his eyes but he was still speaking, “Other than that, you must practise this technique every day but not before anyone, you can only practise it during the late night. Lastly, unless at the critical moment, you must not display this technique, if not there would be great trouble.”

Speaking till here, he again opened his eyes, stared at Zhang Xiaofan, said, “Can you do it?”

Zhang Xiaofan hesitated, tilted his head, scratched his head too, his face bewildered but eventually still solemnly nodded.

Puzhi smiled, did not speak more and started to teach him the words formula. The words were not that long, about thousand words but it was dry and profound, Zhang Xiaofan diligently memorized and used a total of six hours before he could remember it all.

Puzhi waited until he was done before heaving a sigh of relief, his expression looking very exhausted. He looked at Zhang Xiaofan, his eyes containing affection, said, “I have cultivated a lifetime and have never thought of taking a disciple, didn’t expect that before I die, I would have a teacher and disciple destiny with you. Speaking of which, you should also know my name.”  He paused and said, “I am known as Puzhi, a Tianyin Temple monk. Eh, child, do you know Tianyin Temple?”

Zhang Xiaofan paused, shook his head.

Puzhi let out a laugh, said, “Really is a child.” Then recalled something, searched out a deep purple bead from his bosom, looked at it carefully and passed to Zhang Xiaofan, said, “Keep this bead well, do not let others see it. When you are settled down in the days later, find a deep valley clift, throw it down, and that’s that. And, the name that I have just told you, you also must never tell anyone.” Zhang Xiaofan took the bead, said, “Yes.”

Puzhi patted his head, said, “You and I have this destiny, not knowing if we can still meet in the next life? Child, kneel and kowtow to me three times, call me teacher!”

Zhang Xiaofan looked at Puzhi, saw that he was now looking solemn, and also nodded and acknowledged him as teacher, knelt and kowtow heavily three times. He had just finished and before he could look up, Puzhi was heard laughing softly, but his laughter contained grief.

Zhang Xiaofan was about to look up at him but suddenly felt someone hit his back, immediately his vision blackened and he was again unconscious.

Chapter 4 - Shocking Change

Dawn, the rain had finally stopped.

The crystal-clear sparkling water beads on the trees, dripped silently from the leaves, due to the wind, made beautiful arcs in the air, landing onto Zhang Xiaofan’s face.

The cold sensation woke Zhang Xiaofan up from his slumber, he opened his eyes, subconsciously called out, “Teacher…” but there was nobody, only Lin Jingyu beside him, sleeping soundly.

As if it was all a dream.

But the dilapidated temple in the distance, his sleeping companion, all told him, that was all real.

He thought dazedly for a moment, shook his head, walked to Lin Jingyu and pushed him ard, Lin Jingyu muttered a few words and slowly woke up, rubbed his eyes and before he could speak, felt a gust of chill and couldn’t help but shiver. He opened his eyes, saw Zhang Xiaofan and him were all drenched, lying under a pine tree in the wilderness, stare dumbfoundedly and said, “Wasn’t I sleeping at home, why am I here?”

Zhang Xiaofan shrugged and said, “I don’t know too, but I am very cold, let’s quickly go back.”

Lin Jingyu still had questions but he was really very cold, nodded and stood up and ran back with Zhang Xiaofan to the village.

Before they reached the village, both of them had already realized something was wrong, usually at this time, the villagers would be long up and about but today it was very quiet, not even a single person was seen, and when the morning breeze blew over, there was a faint smell of blood.

They looked at each other, saw the uneasiness in each other’s eyes, at the same time quickened their steps and ran towards the village. Soon they came to the entrance, looking in from the main road, they saw in the centre of the village, the forty plus families of the Grasstemple Village, more than two hundred people, old and young, men and women, all lying on the empty ground, their bodies stiff, already turned into corpses, blood flowed like rivers, flies flying around, the blood stench, assaulted them.

Lin Jingyu and Zhang Xiaofan were extremely shocked at the scene, shouted and then fainted. Not knowing how much time had passed, Zhang Xiaofan abruptly came awake, sat up immediately, panting heavily, both of his hands trembling. When he was unconscious, his mind was full of ferocious savage ghost faces, dripping blood and white bones, nightmares consecutively.

He calmed himself down, looked around, saw an ordinary room with two small windows, the room’s furnishings were simple and clean, there were a few pine wood tables and chairs, water flask and cups on top of it. Occupying half of the room were brick beds placed side by side, there were four beds. Other than the one he was lying on, the bedding beside him looked ruffled, seemed like someone had slept on it just. As for the other two beds, the beddings were folded neatly and tidily.

On the wall above the four beds, a painting hung, in it a large character: Tao!

Looking at it, it seemed like an ordinary room in an inn or a dormitory for a few disciples learning from a master.

Zhang Xiaofan sat for a while, a thought suddenly surfaced in his head: Maybe last night was only a nightmare? Maybe I had been sleeping here all along? Maybe if I walked out this room, mother would as usual, chided him while smiling, “You this little lazy worm!”

He slowly got down the bed, wore his shoes, walked towards the door.

The door, was left unlocked. From the door gap, slight breeze blew in, chilly.

He walked slowly, both hands slowly clenching tightly. His heart pounding fast, he held his breath, soon, he came to the door, both hands on it. That instant, the door was as heavy as mountain, dense like metal.

He gritted his teeth, made up his mind, [zhi ya] a sound, pulled opened the door.

The bright light outside flooded in, forcing his eyes to squint.
The warm sunlight shone onto him, a faint warmth.

Just that, his heart, dropped into ice.

There was a small yard, a few pine trees and grasses, also few flowers within it, bloomed. A corridor ahead led to outside the yard. Four chi outside the door, there was a short flight of stairs, connecting the yard and the corridor.

At the corner of the stairs, a child sat alone, his hands on his cheeks, sitting dazedly, unmoving. Perhaps the sound of the door opening disturbed him, that child hesitated and slowly turned around.

Lin Jingyu.

Zhang Xiaofan opened his mouth, thousands of questions in his heart but the words became silent when they reached his mouth.

He very much wanted to shout out, but his heart felt heavy, unable to shout out.

Two rows of tears, just like that, silently, rolled.

The two children, just like that, without words, looked at each other.

Somewhere in the distant, clear cries of birds were heard, the sky was blue with clouds. Zhang Xiaofan sat at the other end of the stairs, looking down, watched the small stone path in the little yard.

The little yard, a blanket of silence.

Just like that not knowing how long had passed, Lin Jingyu slowly spoke, “I woke up slightly earlier than you, at that time there were still a few people in the house, I asked them, this is Qing Yun Hill Tongtian Peak.”

Zhang Xiaofan quietly said, “Qing Yun Hill…”

Lin Jingyu said, “‘They said there were a few Qing Yun sect disciples who were passing by, saw in the village, in the village…”   his  voice  became  choked.  He  rubbed  his  eyes strongly, inhaled deeply, and continued, “Then they found us both at the village rear and brought us up.”

Zhang Xiaofan’s lips moved but he did not look up, “What are we going to do now, Jingyu?” Lin Jingyu shook his head, forlornly said, “I don’t know.”

Zhang Xiaofan was about to speak again when he heard an unfamiliar voice behind him, “Ah, both of you are awake?”

Both of them turned around, saw a young priest standing there, dressed in blue robes, looked rather dashing. He approached  with  quick  steps,  said,  “Just  nice  that  the  few teachers also wanted to meet you both to ask a few questions. Both of you follow me.”

Zhang Xiaofan and Lin Jingyu looked at each other, stood up, Lin Jingyu said, “Yes, this big brother please lead us there.”

That young priest glanced at Lin Jingyu, nodded and said, “Follow me.”

They walked out of the yard, before them was an even longer and bigger circular corridor, every two zhang of its boundary, there was a red pillar. And between every two pillars, there was a arched door. They followed the circular corridor, passed the arched doors and pillars and then realized, in every arched door, there was a similar small yard behind it, seemed like this was where the disciples resided.

Not mentioning others, just from this scale, this small yard contained most likely not less than hundred rooms, reflecting the number of Qing Yun disciples.

After a while, they reached the end of the corridor, a lofty white wall reaching high up into the clouds, below it a big door was opened, two thick wooden panels, height of several zhang, one needed to raise their heads to view, not knowing where they had managed to find such huge wood materials in the first place.

The young priest was long used to the scene, his expression did not had the shocks on the two youths, expressionlessly walked out the door. Zhang Xiaofan and Lin Jingyu hurriedly followed.

Once they stepped out, the two children again held their breaths, couldn’t believe the sight before them. There, was almost like the legendary paradise.

A huge vast ground, covered totally in white marble, sparkling in the sunlight, at one glance, made one felt insignificant. In the distance, white fluffy clouds like fine gauze, drifted below their feet. In the centre of the public square, a huge copper cauldron was placed every ten zhang, arranged in three rows, each row had three, a total of nine, placed orderly. Faint smoke drifted up from the cauldrons, the clear scent lingering.

“Over here.” As if he understood the children’s thoughts, the young priest revealed a smile on his face, after letting them looked for a while, reminded them and continued ahead.

“This is one of Qing Yun’s six sceneries, ‘Sea of Clouds’, there is  something  even  better  ahead!”  The  young  priest  chatted while walking.

Lin Jingyu couldn’t help but asked, “What is it?”

The young priest pointed, said, “Rainbow Bridge.” Both of them gazed ahead, saw ahead in the distance, at the end of the square, behind the hazy cloud mist, there seemed to be something shining, they quickened their steps up.

Gradually, there was the sound of water, occasionally one or two thunder-like strange roars, not knowing where it came from.

As they approached, the cloud mist like a gentle celestial lady, lightly wrapped around them and slowly pulled opened the indistinct veil, revealing a clear sight.

At the end of the square, a flight of stone steps, without any base or stand, floated in the air, one end at the square, stretched up slanted, deep into the white clouds, like the flood dragon leaping into the air, proud and aloof. Trickling sounds of water was heard, under the sunlight, the entire bridge radiated seven colours, like the rainbow in the horizon, descended into the mortal world, gorgeous and magnificent, its beauty beyond comparison.

Both of them stared nonplussed. The young priest laughed and said, “Follow me please.” and then walked up the stone bridge.

Once they stepped onto the bridge, both of them then realized, water was constantly flowing down at both sides of the bridge, extremely clear but none of it touched the middle of the bridge. The sunlight penetrated through the clouds and shone onto the bridge, refracted by the flowing water, forming a magnificent rainbow.

The  priest  glanced  at  their  mesmerized  faces,  said,  “Be careful, the bottom of the bridge is a bottomless abyss, if you fall in accidentally, then it would be a place where your body would not even be buried.”

Both of them were shocked, quickly focused themselves and carefully walked.

The bridge was rather high and long, the three of them walked on it, felt the sea of clouds was gradually left at their feet, guessed they were getting higher. And that strange noise, continued incessantly. The three of them walked for a while, the clouds gradually thinned and they had walked out of the clouds, their visions brightened, a clear sight, the blue skies so clear as if transparent. Around them were all skies, so vast that there was no boundaries; below them was the vast sea of clouds, floating gently, looking over, their hearts immediately broadened.

And ahead, was Tongtian Peak Qing Yun master’s building ‘Crystal Jade Hall’.

The green hills contained jade, the temple building was magnificent, ‘Crystal Jade Hall’ sat at the summit’s peak, clouds surrounded it, at times white cranes flew past, circling around, like a celestial paradise, invoking an awe-inspiring feeling.

By then the bridge was no longer ascending, forming an arched shape in the air, the other end was erected beside a green-jade lake located in front of the building. At the same time, Taoism chantings were heard indistinctly from the building. Also that strange noise, was getting louder. The three of them walked down the bridge, came to the lake, a wide stone steps linked it to the Crystal Jade Hall’s grand door. The lake water was jade-green, still like mirror, humans and the mountains images all could be clearly seen.

As they walked up the stairs and was about to head to the entrance, suddenly a roar was heard from deep within the lake, the sound like thunder, it was that strange noise they heard before. Looking at it, the centre of the lake had a huge vortex suddenly, the next moment, huge waves rolled up, a large body leapt out, spraying drops of water over.

But the young priest seemed prepared, his left hand stretching out, his body leapt up into the air, swiftly drifted back two zhang away in mid-air. The two children as expected couldn’t escape in time and was drenched wet.

Both of them had not realized that, only stared dumbfoundedly at the huge beast which appeared before them, as tall as five zhang, dragon head lion body, scales covered its entire body, huge eyes and wide mouth, two sharp fangs sparkled in the sunlight, its appearance hideous, a fearful sight. That huge beast shook its body, [hu la]...another spray of water rained down, and then as if discovering something, its huge head stretched over to the stairs.

The two children looked as that beast which was very much larger than them, under the sunlight, sharp fangs clearly visible, watching as it was approaching, their hearts terrified and couldn’t help but lean tightly against each other, their hearts pounding.

At this moment, the priest was back, his palm held in front of his  chest,  respectfully  said,  “Honourable  spirit,  they  are especially summoned by the various teachers.”

The strange beast stared at him, [zhi] a sound, snorted, a pair of eyeballs actually turned, like a human contemplating thoughts. And then no longer paying attention to them, slithered to the side, lay on the dry grounds beside the lake, yawned and lazily placed its head down, basking in the sun and slept.

The priest signaled the two shocked children to continue walking, said, “Honorable spirit is an ancient spiritual beast subdued by our sect founder, Qing Ye, thousand years ago, known as ‘Water Kylin’. That time Qing Ye Founder glorified Qing Yun, subdued the demons and eliminated the devil, it also assisted greatly. Now it is our Qing Yun sect mountain spiritual guardian, respectfully known as ‘Honourable Spirit’.”

After speaking, he again bowed to the direction of the Water Kylin, Zhang Xiaofan was still in a daze, Lin Jingyu pulled him and signalled him with his eyes, and he also respectfully bowed to the Water Kylin. However, the Water Kylin did not turn around, motionless and snorting loudly, most likely it did not notice.

After both of them finished, they continued on. Walked past the tall stairs, from far they could see the golden inscribed board, ‘Crystal Jade Hall’ three words inscribed on it. When they reached the building, the doors were wide opened, the interior brightly lit, the Three Pure Ones deities were worshipped; the Jade Pure One, Lord of Lingbao and Grand Pure One, the atmosphere dignified and solemn.

Before the statues, in the great hall, several people stood, there were taoism and secular, seemed like they were all Qing Yun sect people. In front of the people, there were seven sandalwood big chairs, three on each sides, and one in the front center, there were only six people sitting, the right row last chair was empty.

Chapter 5 - Acceptance

At then, the people in the hall were chatting, seemed to be in some discussion. The young priest who was leading the children in, respectfully spoke at the entrance, “Sect head, various teacher uncles, disciple Changjian, instructed to bring the two…”

Before he could finish, suddenly in the sacred solemn hall, a shrill shout was heard, interrupted him, “Ghost, evil ghost! Ghost!...”

Changjian was shocked but the children were even more shocked, this voice although was shrill and unpleasant but it was extremely familiar. Zhang Xiaofan couldn’t care less, dashed in and shouted, “Wang Ershu, Wang Ershu, is it you?”

In his anxious state, his shouts were tense and tearful, the people heard him and felt pity. Behind the people, on a corner of the great hall, a man who dressed like a woodman, both hands clutching his head, rolled tightly into the corner, his entire body shaking, from the gaps behind his fingers, cries of “Ghost, ghost…” were heard. The children both immediately recognized the person as one of the woodmen from the village, his surname Wang, second child of the family, a kind person and loved to laugh, he was also amiable to the children and would always bring wild fruits for them whenever he had time after cutting wood in the mountain forests.

Zhang Xiaofan without thinking, dashed over to Wang Ershu, grabbed his shoulder, said loudly, “Wang Ershu, what exactly happened? Why were all of the villagers...dead? And, my mother, my father, what happened to them? Tell me!”

Wang Ershu heard Zhang Xiaofan asking a barge of questions,  seemed  to  comprehend,  did  not  mutter  “Ghost, ghost” word and slowly looked up, at Zhang Xiaofan.

The people in the hall immediately quietened down, even the person sitting on the chair couldn’t help but stood up, looked over.

But Wang Ershu’s eyes were red, filled with fear and bewilderness. He silently looked at Zhang Xiaofan for a long while but did not speak, frowning tightly, seemed to be making an effort to think.

At this time, someone from Qing Yun sect couldn’t help but step forward, was about to speak but was silently pulled by the person beside.

Zhang Xiaofan saw that Wang Ershu did not have any response after a long while, only stared silently at himself, felt greatly anxious, loudly said, “Wang Ershu, what happened to you?”

Unexpectedly Wang Ershu was startled by his shout, his body shook, his face fearful, suddenly rolled and scurried to a side, again hugged his head into a ball, crying incessantly, “Ghost, ghost, ghost!...”

Immediately sighs were heard in the hall, the people looked disappointed, the person who had stood up also sat back down. Zhang Xiaofan wanted to pursue and ask but was stopped by Lin Jingyu. Zhang Xiaofan looked bewildered at him but Lin Jingyu who had tears in his eyes, quietly said, “It’s no use, he is already mad!”

Zhang Xiaofan’s head suddenly rang out with a [zhen] sound, he stood dumbly there.

Lin Jingyu who was older than him by a year, his thoughts were also more meticulous, glanced at the hall, saw the people were all wearing Qing Yun sect robes, men and women, some priests some secular. Most of them also carried weapons, long swords the majority. Among them the six who were seated, looked even more distinguished and stood out from the crowd. The six people; three were priests and three secular, the one in the middle was wearing dark-green priest robes, celestial- demeanour, both eyes gentle and bright, naturally he would be the well-known Qing Yun sect head Reverend Daoxuan.

Lin Jingyu pulled Zhang Xiaofan, came to the six people, knelt before Reverend Daxuan, [pong pong pong] kowtowed ceaselessly. Reverend Daoxuan looked carefully at them, sighed softly and said, “Poor children, you can get up.”

But Lin Jingyu did not move, looked up at the celestial-like person,  miserably  said,  “Reverend,  we  are  both  young  and ignorant, with such a calamity, we really do not know what we should do. You are resourceful and knowledgeable, have ability to know the past and future, please decide for us!”

Zhang Xiaofan was not as well-spoken as him, his mind was also in a mess, followed along and said, “Yes, deity grandfather, you must decide for us!”

The people couldn’t help but smile upon hearing it. Zhang Xiaofan naturally was young and unrestrained in his words but following which, their gazes fell onto Lin Jingyu.

Lin Jingyu at his young age, faced a major crisis, and facing Reverend Daoxuan who was a famous master, yet his words were still proper, clear-minded, this clear-headedness far surpassed normal children, not to mention that ignorant Zhang Xiaofan who treated Daoxuan as deity. The tragic Grasstemple Village incident, was something unheard and unseen in thousand-years-Qing Yun sect, and the incident happened right below the mountain, shocking the entire Qing Yun sect. Reverend Daoxuan was shocked and enraged after receiving the news, immediately summoned the other six branches leaders for meeting. Right now other than ‘Small Bamboo Valley’, the rest of the leaders were seated.

Those people who could take on the responsibility as the leaders of the seven branches, were naturally the elites in Qing Yun sect; and the elites in Qing Yun sect, were naturally also the world’s cultivated martial artists elites. Those seated, each one with bright gazes, right now everyone was also silently telling themselves, “What a piece of beautiful jade.”

Reverend Daoxuan smiled and said, “I don’t know about the future and the past but since both of you reside at Qing Yun Hill foot, my Qing Yun sect definitely will not stand by and do nothing. Just that I have a few questions to ask, I hope you all can give me a proper answer.”

Lin Jingyu nodded and said, “Yes, disciple will say all that I know. Reverend please ask.” Reverend Daoxuan nodded and asked, “How did you escape this calamity?”

Lin  Jingyu  was  stunned  for  a  moment,  said,  “Replying Reverend, last night I only remembered that I was home sleeping on my bed but when I woke up in the morning, I was with Xiaofan lying under a pine tree in the wilderness, I don’t know what had happened too. Afterwhich Xiaofan woke me up and we both ran back to the village, saw that, that, that scene, and fainted.”

Reverend Daoxuan frowned, looked at Zhang Xiaofan, said, “It was you who woke him up, then what was your recall?”

Zhang Xiaofan thought for a moment and said, “I too do not know why I was there, when I woke up I saw Jingyu beside and so I woke him up.”

Reverend Daoxuan and the other leaders looked at each other, their eyes puzzled. If a master had saved them, then why only these two children, if not, there was no other explanation! Reverend Daoxuan was silent for a moment, said, “So you are saying, both of you knew nothing about what happened last night?”

Both of the replied together, “Yes.”

Reverend Daoxuan sighed and called, “Song Daren.”

“Disciple is here.”  A Qing Yun disciple acknowledged and walked out, tall and big, a layman’s attire. He was standing behind a seated plump man, seemed like he was that person’s disciple.

Reverend Daoxuan said, “You were the first to discover the village incident, tell me again that day’s incident.”

Song  Daren’s  voice  was  loud  and  clear,  said,  “Yes.  That morning, disciple and a few fellow branch brothers were returning after our errands and travelling by flight. When we passed by the village, disciple happened to look down and saw the village had two hundred over corpses piled together, extremely horrible. Disciple and the rest of us quickly went down to investigate, and found these two children at the rear, saw them unconscious and so sent them back with one of junior disciple. Afterwhich, at the village latrine, “ he pointed to Wang Ershu who was curled up in a corner, “found this person inside. However, he was looking lifeless and in a trance, no matter how disciple tried to ask him, he would not answer and only kept repeating, ‘Ghost, ghost, evil ghost’ these words.”

Lin Jingyu’s body shook, spoke trembling, “This big brother, would like to ask if you have counted the numbers?”

Song Daren’s eyes had pity, said, “I found a junior brother who had frequently traded wood with your village, he was familiar with your village villagers. With his identification and also with our count, the Grasstemple Village forty two households and a total of two hundred forty seven people, other than the two of you, are all dead.”

Even though he was mentally prepared but after hearing Song Daren’s affirmative words, Lin Jingyu and Zhang Xiaofan still could not help but saw darkness before their eyes, almost about to faint again. Reverend Daoxuan sighed softly, waved his left hand, a dark red bead flew out from his sleeve, to both of the children, at their forehead, heart rolled a few times, immediately they felt a refreshing energy entering their bodies. For some reason, their tense states also seemed to relax, felt mentally and physically exhausted, couldn’t help themselves and lie on the great hall and fell asleep.

Reverend Daoxuan waved his hand, those disciples standing started to bow and retreat out. In the great hall, only the six of them left.

At this moment, that plump and short person spoke, “Sect head senior brother, you have used ‘Composed bead’ to temporarily calm them but when they wake up, what are you planning to do with them?”

Reverend Daoxuan was silent for a moment, turned and spoke  to  the  first  Taoist  sitting  on  left,  “Cangsong  junior brother, what do you think?”

Cangsong Taoist was tall and big, his face serious, was the leader of ‘Longshou Valley’. In Qing Yun sect, other than Reverend Daoxuan’s oldest branch, his Longshou Valley was the most prosperous. Cangsong’s character was stern, other than handling his own sect, he also handled the disciplinary matters of Qing Yun sect. The disciples were usually revere and respectful to Reverend Daoxuan but they were the most afraid of this taciturn Cangsong leader.

Cangsong Taoist immediately frowned, after a while, said, “There  are  too  many  questions  about  this  matter,  for  the moment I’m afraid we might need some time to investigate. But the Grasstemple Village villagers have always been simple, we cannot stand by and do nothing for their orphans. I would think let’s take them both into the sect.”

Reverend Daoxuan nodded, said, “That’s right, I am of this opinion too. These two children have unfortunate lives, we should take care of them. But I have not taken in disciples for many years, I wonder which junior brother will take them in?”

At this moment, that plump short person, also Qing Yun sect ‘Big Bamboo Valley’  leader Tian Buyi, said, “Sect head senior brother, from what I see, best not to let them enter the same branch. Their fates are similar, if they stay together, they would be reminded of the past every time they see each other, the vicious energy would be never-ending, most afraid it would not be good in the future!”

Reverend Daoxuan thought and said, “Tian junior brother is right. Both of them are very young, encountering such a big change, we must do well to resolve the hatred in their hearts, as such it is best not to let them stay together. Then I would need two junior brothers to take them in.” After speaking, he looked at the group.

The other five leaders, their gazes almost at the same time landed on Lin Jingyu, lingering there, but no one glanced at Zhang Xiaofan beside.

In the path of cultivation, aptitude was the most important, there was a saying, once genius comprehend enlightenment, far surpass hundred years of cultivation. And Qing Yun sect, understood this even more. When Qing Yun sect was at its lowest point, it was only because of one exceptional Qing Ye founder, although young in age but his aptitude surpassed others, comprehended the ancient writings and his cultivation surpassed the ancestors, brought the small Qing Yun sect up to current full of vitality, extremely prosperous, and even till today as the world’s leader for Good Faction. In addition, although famous teacher was naturally hard to find but disciple with excellent aptitude was as hard too, Lin Jingyu’s aptitude was better than others, his foundation exceptional, each branch leader naturally saw it at the first glance.

A silence for a while, Tian Buyi coughed and said, “Hehe, sect head senior brother, you know that my Big Bamboo Valley always lack people, this time let me help you resolve one.”

After speaking, his finger was about to point to Lin Jingyu but was blocked by Shang Zhengliang from Morning Sun Valley who quickly stood up, spoke to Reverend Daoxuan, “Sect head senior brother, I felt an affinity with this child at first glance, I guess I have some fate with him, why not let him join mine.”

Qing Yun sect had a long history, each branch appeared to be on harmony but internally they were competing with each other, Lin Jingyu whose aptitude surpassed others, nobody could predict if he would be the next Qing Ye founder, at most it was only one more disciple, definitely they would not let the other branches take the chance. Initially with Reverend Daoxuan’s awe and cultivation, who dared to snatch disciple from him but since he said that he was not taking, then how could they missed this good opportunity?

Shang Zhengliang had just finished speaking, Sunset Valley Tianyun  Taoist  said,  “Shang  senior  brother,  your  branch already has two hundred disciples, if each also has affinity with you, then wouldn’t you have too many fates?”

Shang Zhengliang tuned red, was about to reply, Tian Buyi cut  in,  “Tianyun  senior  brother  is  right,  speaking  about disciple numbers, most of you have at least hundred and above, my Big Bamboo Valley only has seven people, it's not right too. Why not…”

Cangsong  Taoist  interrupted,  said,  “Tian  junior  brother, these two children have such tragic fates, we must give them the  best  care,  and  not  how  many  people  we  have.”  After speaking, he turned and cupped his hands towards Reverend Daoxuan, said, “Sect head senior brother, this child is indeed good material, please allow me to take him, I will surely teach him with care and make him a talent, so as to console the dead villagers spirits.” Reverend Daoxuan was silent, Tian Buyi, Liang Zhenliang and the rest felt uneasy and as expected, Reverend Daoxuan said, “Cangsong junior brother is right too, then let him join your sect.”

Cangsong  smiled  and  said,  “Thank  you  sect  head  senior brother.”

The group saw it all, they were long acquainted with Cangsong and knew he had always been taciturn, today he was smiling because he was really happy inside his heart, they couldn’t help but fume. However, because Reverend Daoxuan had spoken and Cangsong’s Longshou Valley was powerful, they could only swallowed it down.

Reverend Daoxuan paused, said, “Then this…”

Shang Zhengliang coughed, closed his eyes; Tianyun looked at the ceiling of the hall, as if he had suddenly discovered the drawings were especially beautiful; Tian Buyi laughed dryly, suddenly felt sleepy and was about to fall asleep; Zeng Shuchang from Return of the Wind Valley who did not had a chance to speak, went into meditation, as if he was not interested in this in the first place.

Only Cangson Taoist who had won, coldly glanced at them but still could not hide the smile in his heart.

Reverend Daoxuan also felt awkward but he was a high figure, naturally would not say out that they were not taking because of the child poor aptitude, he thought and immediately found a scapegoat.

“Tian  junior  brother.”   Reverend  Daoxuan’s  was  smiling amiably.

Tian Buyi’s heart jumped, immediately stood up and was about  to  speak  but  Reverend  Daoxuan  spoke  first,  “The Grasstemple Village was first discovered by your disciple, seems like this child has an affinity with your branch. Hehe, better you take him in.”

Tian Buyi panicked, Zhang Xiaofan’s mediocre aptitude, at one glance it could be seen, he would only be a burden if he was taken, he naturally was displeased. He was about to argue but how would Daoxuan allowed him, spoke first, “Alright, this matter has come to an end, junior brothers to carefully investigate this matter, understand?”

The rest of them stood up, spoke together, “Yes.”

Reverend Daoxuan nodded, coughed a few times, without glancing at Tian Buyi, he walked quickly out of the hall. Until his figure had disappeared from the hall, in the Crystall Hall, loud laughters were heard.

Song Daren was waiting outside the hall’s entrance, finally saw the leaders coming out, went up to receive his teacher but saw him carrying Zhang Xiaofan, was stunned and asked, “Teacher, what happened?”

Tian Buyi saw him, felt vexed and angrily said, “What do you mean what? Are you a fool! Why aren’t you taking him over quickly?” Song Daren quickly took over the sleeping Zhang Xiaofan, Tian Buyi infuriated, glanced sideways at Shang Zhengliang, Tianyun etc who were secretly laughing at him, felt even more enraged, spoke loudly to Song Daren, “Quickly go, why are you in a daze there?”

After speaking, ignoring the rest, his right hand made a slash in the air, a flash of red and a red long sword appeared, drifted onto the sword and swiftly flew away.

Song Daren for a moment was puzzled but at least understood he had gotten one more junior brother. He looked at  Zhang  Xiaofan,  couldn’t  help  but  asked,  “Little  junior brother, I still don’t know your name.”

Zhang Xiaofan was still sleeping, did not know his own fate, had made a turn unknowingly.

Chapter 6 - Acknowledging a master

Zhang Xiaofan slowly came awake, after staring blankly for a while, he slowly sat up, the past gushed in like tide waters, into his heart.

Like a nightmare!

“Ah you are awake, this is good.” A sound was heard from the door, a person walked in.

Zhang Xiaofan looked up, recognized that it was Song Daren whom he had met at Tongtian Peak, his stature tall, his appearance honest, with his current emotions, for some reason, when he saw this person whom he recognized, he felt a kinship.

“Song big brother,” Zhang Xiaofan called out.

Song Daren although was a burly fellow, couldn’t help but also feel pity, he walked to the bed, patted Zhang Xiaofan’s head, gently spoke, “Little junior brother, don’t be upset, we will be one family from now on.”

Zhang Xiaofan was surprised, said, “What one family?”

Song Daren smiled and explained to him regarding Tian Buyi taking him as disciple, that day at Tongtian Peak Crystal Hall, the small fights that happened between the various elders, he was unaware.

Zhang Xiaofan heard it, for a moment was stunned, Qing Yun sect to him this farmer boy, were like celestial beings, he never imagined that one day, he would have a chance to enter Qing Yun sect. Just that, this price that he paid was not something he was willing to.

He clenched his teeth, knew that it was no use brooding on it, called out, “Song senior brother.”

Song Daren smiled and nodded, said, “Good good, little junior brother, you have slept for a day and night, you should be hungry right?” Zhang Xiaofan initially did not feel so, when he asked, his stomach grumbled in response.

Song Daren smiled and said, “Come little junior brother, let’s go eat something first, at the same time let me explain to you about our branch, and then we can go and greet teacher and teacher’s wife, and other senior brothers.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, got down from the bed, then noticed the room he was in, similar to the rooms Qing Yun disciples staying at Tongtian Peak but seemed bigger.

Song Daren led him out and explained at the same time, “Our Big Bamboo Valley is not like other branches, we don’t have many disciples, even including you, our numbers are not more than  ten,  therefore  our  houses  are  much  spacious.”  while speaking, they walked out of the room, there was a similar small yard, after a few steps they walked out the yard, a winding corridor stretched before them but it was all within sight, there were only ten rooms, far inferior to Tongtian Peak.

Zhang Xiaofan followed Song Daren to the kitchen, understood from him that Big Bamboo Valley was started by Qing Ye Founder’s fourth disciple Zheng Tong and a total of six generations including Tian Buyi, the situation has always been the same, their population small. And currently for the elders generation, other than branch head Tian Buyi, there was only Suru, who was also Tian Buyi’s wife. They have a daughter Tian Linger, thirteen this year, older than Zhang Xiaofan by two years, therefore Zhang Xiaofan was indeed the little junior brother here.

And Tian Buyi’s disciples, Song Daren was the big senior brother, next was Wu Dayi, Zheng Dali, He Dazhi, Lu Daxin, Du Bishu.

Zhang  Xiaofan  remembered  by  heart,  “Oh,  Dayi  senior brother, Dali senior brother, Dazhi senior brother, Daxin senior brother, Dashu senior brother…”

Song Daren smiled and said, “It’s Du Bishu senior brother.”

Zhang Xiaofan was surprised, then realized and couldn’t help but ask, “Why is this sixth senior brother different?” Song  Daren  said,  “He  was  indeed  called  Dashu,  but  try calling it a few times.”

Zhang Xiaofan mumbled, “Du Dashu, Du Dashu, Du Dashu (translator’s note: ‘shu’ has the same pronunciation as uncle)...”realized it in his heart and immediately laughed.

Song Daren also laughed, “So you know. Actually teacher wasn’t that bothered but teacher’s wife was vexed, after calling a few times said that Du junior brother was not observing respecting teacher etiquette, wanted to punish him and Du junior brother was half scared to death, quickly requested teacher and teacher’s wife to change his name, and so teacher’s wife named him ‘Du Bishu’. Try calling this name a few times.”

Zhang Xiaofan quietly repeated, “Du Bishu, Du Bishu, Du Bishu (translator’s note: literally means gamble sure lose)...”laughed out and bent over.

Song Daren deliberately wanted to make him laugh, to lessen his misery, as he watched Zhang Xiaofan being happy, his heart was delighted too, said, “Sixth junior brother had a habit of gambling before he joined the sect, and later on his affinity arrived and he was converted by teacher into the sect, although he never gambled money again but in normal times he like to bet with others, teacher’s wife’s intention, also has a warning meaning to it.”

Zhang Xiaofan with his child-like mentality, smiled broadly, his sadness had faded much and with big senior brother’s warm approach, his fear of the future also slowly settled down.

After having his meal in the kitchen, Song Daren brought Zhang Xiaofan to Big Bamboo Valley main hall, ‘Observed Silence Hall’. All of Qing Yun sect Big Bamboo Valley members had gathered there, here red bricks covered the floor, red tiles and stone pillars, in the centre of the hall, a huge ‘Taiji’ drawing was engraved, overall it was all very simple.

Two chairs were arranged in the hall, two people sat on it, one was Tian Buyi, the other was a quiet dignified beautiful lady, looked to be around thirty plus, elegant and charming, a young girl stood beside her, her features delicate, a pair of eyes bright and shiny, extremely spirited, and looking lovable. As for the other five male disciples, stood in a row on the right, tall or short, fit or thin, right now their attention on Zhang Xiaofan.

Song Daren walked up, respectfully said, “Teacher, teacher’s wife, disciple has brought little junior disciple over.”

Tian Buyi snorted, was rather impatient but that beautiful lady glanced at Zhang Xiaofan, said, “Daren, he has slept for a day and night, he must be hungry, bring him for some food first.”

Song Daren replied, “Replying teacher’s wife, I have already brought little junior brother to have his meal at the kitchen.”

Suru nodded, glanced at Tian Buyi, did not speak anymore.
Tian Buyi snorted again and said, “Let’s start.”

Zhang Xiaofan did not understand, heard Song Daren quietly whispered,  “Little  junior  brother,  quickly  kneel  down  and kowtow to teacher.” Zhang Xiaofan immediately knelt down, [gu gu gu] several times, heavy and loud.

“He he” that young girl couldn’t help but laugh. Suru smiled and said, “Good child, just kowtow nine times will be enough.”

Zhang Xiaofan ‘oh’ a sound, stopped, lifted his head up, everyone saw his red forehead, couldn’t help but laugh, Tian Buyi saw it, felt that he couldn’t be more foolish and thinking that he had to teach this idiot, his headache seemed to become even bigger.

“Alright, it is done.”  Tian Buyi in an extremely foul mood, waved his hand and said, “Daren, I will leave him to you first, our branch rules and regulations, and some beginner skills, you will teach him first.”

Song Daren acknowledged, said, “Yes.”  And then hesitated, spoke again, “But teacher, little junior brother is still young, this beginner homework…” Tian Buyi rolled his eyes, “Do as follow.” and stood up, did not even turn his head back and walked to the rear hall, the disciples bowed together and said, “Respectfully sending off teacher.”

Once Tian Buyi left, before the group spoke, the young girl, Tian Linger, already flashed over to Zhang Xiaofan, stared at him, Zhang Xiaofan watched her flower-like adorable face in front of him, although still young but already the making of a beautiful lady, he had never seen such beautiful similar-age girl in his village before, couldn’t help but blush.

“Ha”  Tian Linger, like having found a treasure, pointed to Zhang Xiaofan and laughed loudly, “Senior brother, look, he blush when he see me.”

The hall broke out in laughter, Zhang Xiaofan turned even redder, Suru walked over, reproached, “Linger, do not bully your junior brother.”

Tian Linger made a face but did not seem to regard her mother’s words at all, stood straight and spoke to Zhang Xiaofan, “Hey, quickly call me senior sister.” Zhang Xiaofan felt annoyed but before his eyes, Tian Linger’s bright eyes and pearly teeth flashed past, his heart for a moment lost, couldn’t help but call out, “Senior sister”.

Tian Linger was the most junior at Big Bamboo Valley, now that she actually had a junior brother, was extremely delighted, immediately felt superior, said, “Good, little junior brother, in the future you must listen to your senior sister.”

Zhang Xiaofan faltering in his speech, replied, “Yes.”

Suru pulled her daughter over, said, “Be serious.” and said to Song Daren, “Daren, little junior brother is still young, the homework might be too strenuous, please do take more care of him.”

Song Daren replied, “Yes.”

The other five disciples stood together, giggling and glancing over, looking as they were taking pleasure over his misfortune. And at this moment, Suru suddenly made a strange movement, as if stretching her muscles she turned her head, strangely as she always had an elegant bearing. Immediately, the giggling stopped, everyone kept quiet, as if trouble was approaching.

Suru cleared her throat, “You all…”

“Teacher’s  wife!”   A  shout,  it  was  Song  Daren,  whose forehead was sweating, shouted out.

Suru frowned, said, “What?”

The other five disciples called out at the same time, “Big senior brother, what are you trying to do?”

Song  Daren  urgently  said,  “Teacher’s  wife,  little  junior brother has just joined the branch, disciple receiving teacher’s orders, has to teach him the sect rules and regulations and also the homework, I will go now.” Suru was silent for a moment, nodded and said, “You are right, you can go.”

“What?” The rest of them shouted.

Song Daren coughed dryly twice, without more words, went forward and carried Zhang Xiaofan, before he could speak, immediately headed out while saying, “Little junior brother, let senior brother find a secluded spot and teach you the sect rules…”

Tian Linger smiled and followed along, feeling intrigued, behind them someone scold loudly, “Big senior brother you are so shameless!”

“Coward!”

…… Zhang Xiaofan hearing it, felt bewildered, could not understand why Senior brother was scolded a coward for teaching him the rules?

While thinking of that, Suru suddenly with a shout, her voice clear and pleasant, like cutting through the ice and frost, “Shut up!”

Immediately the hall was silent.

Suru was heard saying, “All of you good-for-nothing fellows, became so terrified once you saw that I am going to test your cultivation. In five years time it will be Qing Yun sect every 60 years ‘Seven branches martial contest’, the last time you all have already half infuriated me and your teacher, this time if you still don’t work hard, both of us will have to be mocked to death by our fellow branches! Quickly come, five of you together…”

Song Daren ran even faster, with vigorous strides, headed straight for the rear mountain after exiting the hall. Zhang Xiaofan lay on his shoulder, the two rows of trees beside [hu hu hu] flew past, the speed extremely fast. Behind them Tian Linger not knowing since when, wielded a scarlet jade silk, glowing an amber colour, almost transparent, emitting a red glow, evidently a celestial weapon. Right now Tian Linger leisurely stood on the red silk, her hand casually made a formula, that scarlet silk flew her to mid-air, following closely behind Song Daren.

Zhang Xiaofan had never seen such wonders, was stunned, saw Tian Linger flying with ease, his eyes immediately revealed envy.

Tian Linger saw his expression, felt conceited, flew forward and came to Zhang Xiaofan’s side, said, “How is it, am I powerful?”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded vigorously, “Yes, senior sister you are really powerful, you can actually be so fast while riding on a red cloth!”

Tian Linger was taken aback, and then realized what he meant by red cloth, was so angry that she [pei] a sound but still couldn’t help but laugh, “Big fool!” Zhang Xiaofan felt puzzled, heard Song Daren laughed in front  and  said,  “Little  junior  brother  what  are  you  talking about, that ‘Amber scarlet silk’ is a famous treasure weapon cultivated by teacher’s wife when she was young, its magical effects and power extremely huge, even within our Qing Yun sect, it is also a reputable celestial treasure weapon, how can it be, what a red cloth?” he laughed loudly.

Zhang Xiaofan turned red, sneaked a glance at Tian Linger, she smiled at him, her face revealing two small dimples.

After travelling for a while, the three of them came to a small hill, Song Daren stopped and placed Zhang Xiaofan down. Tian Linger stopped and with a hand formula, the ‘Amber Scarlet Silk’ rolled by itself and coiled at her waist, looked like an extremely nice-looking red belt.

The hill was full of bamboos, some thick some thin, dense and exuberant. However, looking carefully, the bamboos here were different from normal, their appearances black.

Song Daren pointed to the bamboo forest, said to Zhang Xiaofan, “Little junior brother, our Big Bamboo Valley’s rule, newcomers have to come here every day to chop the bamboos. You are still young, the first three months you will only chop down one bamboo per day, as for thick or thin, it's up to you.

When Zhang Xiaofan heard that Suru wanted Song Daren to take more care of him for his homework, he was wondering about the difficulty of the task, seemed like it was just a normal woodchopping task. He was born in the village and from a farmer’s family, and also chopped woods a few times in the mountains, immediately felt relieved and smiled, “Big senior brother, I have chopped trees before, not to worry.”

Song Daren watched him, wanted to speak but stopped, smiled and said, “Then it is good. Let’s slowly go back, I will show you the path in, next time you will come on your own, at the same time I will explain to you the rules.”

Tian Linger laughed and said, “Big senior brother, why do you came all the way here just to say inconsequential words, and still wanted to walk slowly back, are you afraid of being beaten by my mum?” Song Daren turned red, ignored her and said to Zhang Xiaofan,  “Little  junior  brother,  you  must  remember,  our branch first rule is to respect teacher…”

Actually for Qing Yun sect Big Bamboo Valley, Tian Buyi was by nature slothful, although he was prideful but had always been lax in teaching his disciples, usually after passing them the skills he leave them to their own cultivations.

However, his wife Suru was more driven and active, she was also famous when she was younger, a somebody, after marrying Tian Buyi, she had tamed down much but she still felt restless and also her disciples were not doing the branch justice, the ‘Seven branches martial contest’ held every sixty years, for a few series, Big Bamboo Valley disciples repeatedly lost, other than Song Daren who occasionally won, the rest usually exit with failures, becoming the internal laughingstock of Qing Yun sect.

Suru being ambitious, couldn't accept, and so frequently acted on her husband’s behalf to teach the disciples. Although her appearance was gentle, her character was rather impatient and her cultivation high, if she was not careful, her disciples would be beaten like frightened rats, wounds and bruises all over, and so the group feared this beautiful teacher more than that short and fat teacher.

As the sky was darkening, the sunset in the west, the horizon a brilliant sunset glow. The sunset shone onto Big Bamboo Valley, a big and two small group of people slowly walked to the front of the mountain, the housing far ahead at the summit, long howling were heard, among it a few pitiful human cries of pain.

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.

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.

Chapter 9 - Buddhism and Taoism

Song Daren who took on the role as a teacher for the first time, saw Zhang Xiaofan cupped his chin in his hands, looking mesmerized by the teachings, couldn’t help but become more excited and spoke with fevour and assurance, “Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way training process begins from easy to difficult, Jade Qing Realm first level realm most of the people are able to achieve in the first year but after which, the difficulties and complexities will start to surface. The second level, most of them needed to practise for five years. The third level is a watershed level, those that are mediocre will come to a standstill here for the rest of their lives and those that are better, it is not surprising that they practise it for fifty or sixty years.”

Zhang Xiaofan stared tongue-tied, Song Daren smiled and continued.

In actual fact, Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way’s principal cultivation method would more or less be completed by the third level, following which would depend on oneself cultivation and aptitude to progress, the higher skilled elders might be able to advise some pointers but that would only be from their experiences, preventing the disciples from going down detours. And of course, the ‘detours’ were mostly hundred years in numbers.

And to be able to practise Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way till Jade Qing Realm fourth level, it would be considered having the foundation for thousands of skills, and would be able to start practising other rare skills and create their own magical treasures. Magical treasures, secret weapons to say, their origins started very long ago, legends said that the various celestials and spirits all had their own celestial weapons and wielded great powers. And in the mortal world, the cultivated true way Taoists with the initial power of Heaven and Earth creation, had great powers, those lower-skilled could fly in the sky, swift as the wind and quick as lightning, those higher could even shake the Heaven and Earth, destroy mountains and break river flows.

And the material for the magical treasures also varied, thousands of strange and hundreds of rare, but there was only one point to note, the weapon material determined the power of the weapon, if ordinary metal was used to wield ‘Celestial Sword Wield Thunder True Formula’, before it could hit the enemy, that sword would have turned to ashes with its owner. As to Qing Yun Sect, because Qing Ye Founder received the ancient sword, ‘Zhu Xian’ in the Illusory Moon Cave, he was almost invincible across the world. Most of the descendents envied and admired, and most likely they were using celestial swords to practise. Thousand years later, chivalrous swordsman emerged from the later generations, it almost became an unspoken rule of Qing Yun sect, if the sect changed its name to Qing Yun Sword Sect, it could even be possible.

But until here, one must mentioned Big Bamboo Valley Tian Buyi. He himself was also trained in swordsmanship, his weapon ‘Scarlet Fire’ was one of Qing Yun sect’s famous swords but to his disciples, for some reason, he had never encouraged them to train using swords. Not only that, he even frequently egged them to train using other types of weapons. This was rather disapproved in Qing Yun sect but firstly there was not a written rule on it; secondly Tian Buyi’s disciples’ aptitude were also mediocre, their population sparse so the rest just let it be.

In the Big Bamboo Valley disciples, Song Daren’s cultivation was the highest, already achieved till Jade Qing Realm fifth level, following closely was lao si, He Dazhi, who was at level four. Although he came in later than Wu Dayi, Zheng Dali but among the disciples, he was the smartest and so caught up faster even though he came in later. As for lao er Wu Dayi, lao san Zheng Dali, lao wu Lu Daxin, lao liu Du Bishu, all were bitterly struggling at Jade Qing Realm third level, as for their junior sister, Tian Linger, who was bright and clever, she received her parents’ devoted teachings since young. Although she only started to chop bamboos at the age of ten, her training in Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way had already been a few years, from a young age, she actually reached Jade Qing Realm fourth level at thirteen and could wield the magical treasure. She was already known in Qing Yun sect to be one of the precocious children, a doted child and protected and loved by the various teacher elders, Suru even gave her her famous ‘Scarlet Red Silk’.

“Senior sister is so powerful!”  Zhang Xiaofan couldn’t help but exclaim.

Song Daren smiled and said, “That’s right, little junior sister is very clever, she also has an aptitude for cultivation, whatever teacher and teacher’s wife imparted to her, she understood upon listening, far surpassing us these senior brothers. Right now she is still young in her training, her level of attainment not there yet, with time, I’m sure her achievements will be limitless, much more than us. The hope of carrying forward Big Bamboo Valley’s reputation, will be on her now.” After speaking, his eyes filled with hope, evidently extremely doted on this little junior sister.

Following which, Song Daren instructed Zhang Xiaofan on some areas to note during cultivation and then at the end solemnly said, “Little junior brother, there is one last thing, I must tell you: The value of our sect training is on the proper and orderly approach to cultivation. If you in greed and haste, I’m afraid the greed will never be satisfied and will also result in great calamity. Whether you will eventually succeed or not, it is all destined, one need not force it. Like the demons and evil spirits, their strange evil skills, unable to satisfy greed and all wanted to quickly attain, in the end most instead met with Heaven’s wrath, pitiful and sad. You must be careful.”

Zhang  Xiaofan  felt  shocked,  quickly  said,  “Yes  big  senior brother, I know.”

Song Daren nodded, stood up and said, “Then it will be for now, Tai Ji Cave is at the rear mountain, only disciples with Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way third level and above are able to enter and train. Before this, you will practise in your own room. This place is very tranquil, teacher and teacher’s wife usually don’t come here, you must work hard.” Zhang Xiaofan nodded and said, “Thank you very much big senior brother.”

Song Daren smiled, patted his head and turned to go.

Zhang Xiaofan sent him off and returned to his room, closed his door, an inexplicable excitement in his heart, even the morning tiredness had disappeared.

He inhaled deeply, calmed down, slowly walked to his bed and following Song Daren’s instructions to sit down for meditation, he closed his eyes and recalled his teachings on Jade Qing Realm first level from beginning till the end, was about to practise when suddenly he opened his eyes abruptly and cried out, “Not right!”

Song Daren had taught him the first level which was the most simple training method with only two words, ‘practise Qi’. The practitioner, under meditation, released their prohibitions and troubles in their minds, guided the spiritual energies of Heaven and Earth into and circulated around their bodies, taking this to breathe the same as Heaven and Earth, entering and appreciating and comprehending Heaven and Earth creation. If one could guide the spiritual energies to circulate in their bodies for thirty six days consecutively, and one’s own channels were already stable, they would be able to practise to an even higher realm.

This type of cultivation method, was originally Taoism several thousand years of thoroughly tempered and honed method, would never be doubted to be wrong, but right now in Zhang Xiaofan’s mind, it was like an urgent storm, shaking non-stopped. All these were because of what he had heard today, completely different from what Puzhi monk had imparted to him, the word formula and cultivation methods.

The night before the tragic event at Grasstemple Village, when Puzhi imparted to him the word formula, he had clearly said, during the practice of the Qi, one must cut off all connections to the outside world, experience one’s own nature, as said: The appearance of emptiness of all ways, are eternal, are untainted and tainted, will not increase or decrease, are colouress within emptiness, without manipulations from thoughts, movements or consciousness, without eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body consciousness, without colour, sound, smell, taste, touch, vision, and even without awareness, without ignorance, also without the extremity of ignorance, and also without aging, death, and without extremity of age and death, without the Four Noble Truths, without wisdom and without gains. (from The Heart Sutra)

Such profound meanings, Zhang Xiaofan at this moment naturally couldn’t understand but these two practices being completely different, he could tell, and was in a state of panic, did not know what to do.

Actually Zhang Xiaofan did not know, Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way although was the supreme skill of Taosim but Puzhi had a big hope on him, his entire lifetime of desire, the word formula that he had imparted, was Buddhism supreme skill - Great Brahman Wisdom true way.

These two methods, completely different way of cultivation, yet it must be told from the source.

Buddhism and Taoism, have a long history, never had any dealings with each other, the cultivation skills also started from each separated thoughts and flow processes. For Taoism, the gist of it was a ‘Tao’ word, as said: From Tao came one, one becomes two, two become three, three become all things and all beings. All living things carry the Yin and embrace Yang, breathing as the harmony. (From Tao Te Ching.Te Ching Fifth Chapter) Taoism teachings origins from Taoism’s way of thoughts, even Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way three realms namings, were also based on Taoism legends Jade Pure One, Lord of Lingbao and Grand Pure One’s Jade Qing, Shang Qing and Great Qing, also commonly known as the ‘San Qing’ (Three Pure Ones). Taoism cultivating the true way, technique was to exist together with Heaven and Earth, the body to be in nature, as the natural creation, to evolve into great powers.

And contrary to Buddhism, the key was ‘Mind which does not abide in anything, all dharmas are not apart from the self- consciousness‘. [Translator’s note: I referenced all sutra translations from the Internet]. Again quoted: ’Who would have thought that self-consciousness is originally pure; Who would have thought that self-consciousness does not create or extinguishes; Who would have thought that self-consciousness is self-sufficient; Who would have thought that self- consciousness is unwavering; Who would have thought that self-consciousness is able to give birth to all living beings!’ (Diamond Sutra.First Article) Buddism cultivation, focused on experiencing the body, illuminating and seeing the Five Aggregates, ‘one Prajna produces eight-four thousand ways of wisdom’, it was this meaning. The school of thoughts were different, their cultivation methods naturally ran counter to each other, just that for several thousand years each protected their own in secret. And right now the Qing Yun sect Big Bamboo Valley a little junior disciple Zhang Xiaofan, was having a big dilemma because of this.

“Which method exactly is correct?”

Zhang Xiaofan jumped off the bed, paced non-stopped in the room, felt his mind in turmoil, his thoughts in chaos but he did not dare to ask others, in the end he could only sit dumbly on his bed, heaved a long sigh.

He was not an intelligent person, born in a farmer’s family and at this young age, he did not have the knowledge or experience and after half a day, he still couldn’t think of the reasons. Until the end, he said to himself, ‘Forget it, anyway Puzhi teacher also did not talk about this kind of situation, I will just practise both of it will do.”  And so without further ado, his heart felt light too and again went up the bed, meditated and started on practising Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way. Just that although he thought it that simply, practising it was another scene. Practising Qi he would have to open his entire body seven meridians, guide the natural spiritual energies into his channels and stabilize his body vitality and channels; the Great Brahman Wisdom true way instead required one to go into seclusion, shut off all senses and view his own enlightenment.

The two methods were completely different, and made Zhang Xiaofan suffered untold hardships. In the next three months, other than going up the mountains to chop bamboos, he practised diligently on these two cultivations. However, although he had a small achievement with Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way, his body senses opened and allowed the energies to enter, the next Great Brahman Wisdom true way required him to close up everything and entered into silence, his efforts in the beginning seemed to be wasted.

After three months, Tian Buyi out of a sudden, came to check on Zhang Xiaofan’s progress, unexpectedly after questioning and testing him, he became much infuriated. With common knowledge, ordinary person practising the Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way, with level one as basic, after three months there would be progress, able to guide the energies into the body and circulated it for three to five days. Unexpectedly Zhang Xiaofan’s poor aptitude, was really rare. After three whole months, he couldn’t even control opening his body apertures at will, moreover guiding the energies in or holding it in the body for a few days.

Tian Buyi glared fiercely and angrily at Zhang Xiaofan, the disciples beside all looked empathetic but did not dare to speak, Song Daren actually wanted to speak a few words but saw for himself Zhang Xiaofan’s progress, casting shame on himself too, and so kept quiet. As for Tian Linger, she was giggling beside and watching the scene.

Zhang Xiaofan looked ashamed, knelt before Tian Buyi, not knowing where to hide, knowing that no matter how his teacher reprimanded him, he deserved it. However, after a long while, nobody spoke, not even Tian Buyi, he felt puzzled, secretly glanced up but saw Tian Buyi’s infuriated face had turned into disappointment, it was really fulfilling the idioms: There is no grief greater than when the heart dies.

Tian Buyi flung his sleeve, shook his head and moved his plump body to the rear hall. The disciples looked at each other, did not understand. Song Daren was the longest with Tian Buyi, indistinctly knew what Tian Buyi was feeling, guessed his teacher had gave up on this little junior brother. For the past three months, Zhang Xiaofan other than training, helped out here and there when he was free, he being an honest person, won the rest over. In the secluded mountains, even the spoiled Tian Linger, suddenly had a playmate almost her age, also liked him even though she was often berating him.

Song Daren frowning, helped Zhang Xiaofan up, said, “Little junior brother, teacher is only momentarily angry, it is alright. As long as you continue to work hard, one day you will be recognized by teacher.”

Zhang Xiaofan felt ashamed, nodded his head and became even more hardworking.

Every morning he travelled up the mountain with Tian Linger to chop bamboos, usually the disciples after practising for three months would have been able to chop down the black bamboos but Zhang Xiaofan was only able to chop down his first bamboo after six months. However, rain or shine, he would continue to do his homework and he had become fitter as a result too, at least he was no longer panting like a cow after ascending the mountain.

And since then, Tian Buyi never asked about Zhang Xiaofan, Song Daren initially would enquire Zhang Xiaofan’s progress but as time passed, Zhang Xiaofan’s progression was really beyond slow, until the end Song Daren also gave up, and never asked again.

However, Zhang Xiaofan did not mind, he knew his own aptitude was bad and at times wondered if it was a result of practising two schools of cultivation together but every time he wondered, he would recall Puzhi’s voice and face and felt a rush of heat in his heart and again persisted on. Although his trainings were extremely difficult but his character was stubborn and determined and so he bore it down.

His living quarters was secluded, in the day he practised Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way and late at night he practised the Great Brahman Wisdom true way, time passed by quickly that way, without realizing it was already three years. And in this period, Zhang Xiaofan also made history in Qing Yun sect by having the worst record: he used three years in total, which was to say, three times a normal person’s training duration, and finally completed the first level of Tai Ji Xuan Qing Way, Jade Qing Realm, he could control his body apertures at will, guide the spiritual energies and maintained in his body circulation for thirty six days. However, what others did not know was, he at the same time practising the Great Brahman Wisdom true way, touching on the initial path to controlling his internal energy, building a solid foundation.

As Zhang Xiaofan nervously announced to the rest during dinnertime, the Big Bamboo Valley disciples were dumbfounded, as if a thousand-year-old iron tree had blossomed, immediately everyone burst out laughing, Song Daren even picked up Zhang Xiaofan and threw him up in the air a few times, extremely delighted.

And Tian Buyi who was sitting at the end of the table watched coldly, snorted and quietly scolded, “Big idiot!”

In these three years, Zhang Xiaofan had grown to age fourteen, because of the daily choppings, his body had also become muscular, although younger by his senior sister by two years, he was already the same height as her. Tian Linger from a thirteen years old girl had grown to sixteen years old lady, her face even more beautiful, in her smiles and chats, beautiful and elegant.

Tian Linger had always felt the other senior brothers were much older than her, lacking in youthful vigour and so liked to hang out with this silly junior brother, for the three years they had become very close. But it has always been Tian Linger being superior, Zhang Xiaofan truly felt that his senior sister was much stronger than him and although ordered him around most of the time but whenever he was made fun of by the senior brothers, she would always be the first to stand up for him.

The mountains were secluded but at the same time tranquil, Zhang Xiaofan had asked Tian Buyi and Song Daren a few times regarding Grasstemple Village tragic incident but until now nobody had a clue, as time passed, Zhang Xiaofan’s heart also finally settled down.

On this morning, Zhang Xiaofan as usual brought his axe and walked out, heading to the rear mountain. Tian Linger had already completed her homework two years ago and so no longer went along. Zhang Xiaofan had been going up alone for the past two years but sometimes when Tian Linger felt bored, she would also tag along.

Today Zhang Xiaofan did not see Tian Linger around and so went up by himself. Another one month he would also be ending his homework. He could now chop down two bamboos daily but it was still far from Tian Linger, who could chop down at least ten per day.

A month ago, when he finally attained level one, Song Daren imparted to him the second level. He practised for about a month and although it was much more profound than level one but for some reason, he could indistinctly feel, it was much easier than level one. Like example, level one required him to control his body apertures and he only managed to have a small progression after three years and level two required ‘transform Qi into essence’, transforming the spiritual energies in his body into essence. According to big senior brother, this was more than ten times harder than level one but Zhang Xiaofan instead felt that it was surprisingly easy.

Tracing it to the source, almost seemed to be connected to Great Brahman Wisdom true way, these three years he had been practising the Great Brahman Wisdom true way without ceasing, his internal energy circulation was already at a certain level and essence belonged to internal energy, with the three years of foundation, Zhang Xiaofan progressed quickly.

However, he did not trust in himself, others needed one year and yet he took three years to train, this time most likely he had mistaken it. Therefore, he did not take note of it and instead continue to practise everyday and nobody came forward to enquire too.

Chapter 10 - Secluded Valley

Zhang Xiaofan went up the mountain, came to the familiar bamboo forest, the lush greenery, layers and layers, where the mountain breeze blew, the sea of bamboos rose in unison, like the waves of the sea, he immediately felt calm.

He inhaled deeply a mouthful of the clear mountain air, stretched and picked up the axe and went in. The place he was heading was no longer the same place three years ago, it was the deepest part of the forest where the big sturdy bamboos were.

The faint morning mist drifted within the forest, like a light veil, on the green bamboo leaves along the small path, there were sparkling dew drops, clear and beautiful.

After a while, he was within the sea of green, here the black bamboo were lofty, their leaves lush, shot up straight to the sky, the sunlight penetrated down through the leaves gaps, creating areas of shadows on the ground. Zhang Xiaofan glanced right and left, picked a big bamboo, made a gesture and started to chop. [Pu] a muffled sound, Zhang Xiaofan felt pain in his head, he was hit on his forehead by something. He looked down, a pine nut was rolling on the ground. The whole area were all black bamboo and there were many bamboo shoots but definitely not pine nuts.

He pondered for a moment, a smile revealed on his lips, looked around and shouted, “Senior sister, is that you?”

His voice echoed far into the forest, after a long time nobody answered. Zhang Xiaofan knew his senior sister was cheeky and liked to tease, was about to shout again when his head felt pain, this time extremely painful, it was another pine nut and above his head, a shriek [zhi zhi zhi zhi] was heard.

Zhang Xiaofan bore the pain and looked up, on the bamboos, a grey-furred monkey crouched there, in its hands a few pine nuts, its tail hung from the bamboo branch. [zhi zhi zhi zhi] it laughed, looking like it was gloating at him.

Zhang Xiaofan was stunned, he had never seen the monkey for the past three years and at Big Bamboo Valley, almost everywhere was bamboo forest, only at the northern side of the mountain deep in the valley there was a patch of wild pine and cypress trees, seemed like this monkey came from there and for some reason came up the mountain today.

Big Bamboo Valley was steep and precipitous, although it was not like Tongtian Peak penetrating into the sky but it also reached into the clouds, climbing up from the foot, there was almost no path, most of the disciples usually flew up.

Zhang Xiaofan’s cultivation was still low, other than chopping bamboo daily, he also heard from his senior brothers’ conversations that the deep valley at the rear mountain, the pine and cypress trees formed into a forest, the secluded valley hard to fathom, uninhabited. The forefathers of Big Bamboo Valley had once wielded their swords and explored the area but there were only primitive forests, nothing suspicious, only wild animals and poisonous insects were abundant but they never exited the valley so it was peaceful for all these years.

While he was pondering, he saw the monkey raising his hand, his heart jumped and he quickly shifted, and as expected, a pine nut smashed onto where he was previously. The monkey shrieked twice, apparently angeried that Zhang Xiaofan avoided the hit.

Zhang Xiaofan made a funny face at the monkey and ignored, walked away, thinking to himself that this monkey actually made fun of people by hitting them, it was rarely seen and really an ignorant beast. After two steps, he heard the sound of wind behind, unable to avoid in time, [pu] a sound and the back of his head was hit by another pine nut, this time the blow was quite hard, Zhang Xiaofan felt darkness before his eyes, couldn’t help but shouted out.

The monkey clapped and laughed, wavering to and fro, extremely delighted. Zhang Xiaofan was infuriated, dashed over and shook the bamboo roughly, the big bamboo shook left and right but that monkey using only his tail to curl onto the branch, was totally unafraid and still [zhi zhi zhi] laughed.

Zhang Xiaofan saw that he could do nothing to the monkey, felt even more infuriated, took out his axe and started chopping. The monkey was unafraid and only watched him with interest from above. Zhang Xiaofan was sweating profusely from the chopping, after about seven or eight chops, he was about to succeed when he heard a shriek from above and looked up, that grey monkey swayed its tail, flew up and jumped to another bamboo beside and suddenly [pa] a sound, threw another pine nut down.

Zhang Xiaofan was incensed, disregarding whether the monkey understood him, pointed and shouted, “Come down if you dare!”

The monkey scratched its head, tilted its head and thought, most probably did not understand and only laughed and made a funny face at Zhang Xiaofan.

Zhang Xiaofan was so mad but he could do nothing. He managed to finish his homework but his head was hit seven or eight times by the monkey and was throbbing in pain.

Zhang Xiaofan was boiling with rage, left the mountain angrily and ignored the monkey. Unexpectedly the monkey enjoyed it and for the next few days when Zhang Xiaofan came to chop bamboo, it would hit him with the pine nuts for fun, looking at his angry face, it was extremely happy. On this day at dinnertime, Tian Linger pulled Zhang Xiaofan aside and asked, “Xiaofan, what happened to your head?”

Zhang Xiaofan being bullied by the monkey for the past few days, his head had bruises all over, but he felt it was embarrassing to be made fun of by a monkey and so did not tell anyone, when his senior sister questioned him now, he hesitated but eventually still spoke the truth.

Tian Linger’s rosy lips widened, couldn’t help but laugh out, two tiny dimples appeared on her cheeks, looking charming. Zhang Xiaofan seemed to be embarassed, either by her laughing at him or something else, turned red and looked down.

Tian Linger swiped on Zhang Xiaofan’s shoulder, said, “Don’t worry little junior brother, these few days mum wanted me to train more in Taiji Cave in order to prepare for the competition two years later, didn’t expect you will be bullied by a monkey. Tomorrow I will accompany you up, teach that monkey a lesson.” Her tone sounded like someone senior, like consoling a kid, but Zhang Xiaofan was used to it, smiled bitterly and did not mind.

The next day morning, Tian Linger really accompanied Zhang Xiaofan up the mountain.

The cool mountain breeze blew over, Tian Linger wearing a red dress, just like the past where she went up to chop bamboo with Zhang Xiaofan, skipped ahead. Zhang Xiaofan followed behind, looking at that beautiful girl in front, like a red cloud, drifting gently in the mountain, following the wind, an indistinct fragrance drifting over.

A thought suddenly came to his mind, if only he could walk on like this forever.

While he was in his thoughts, Tian Linger was already far ahead, turned over and shouted, “Xiaofan, why are you so slow!”

Zhang Xiaofan startled, turned red and quickly caught up. Both of them reached the forest, Tian Linger said, “Xiaofan, you go in first, I will follow behind.”

Zhang Xiaofan nodded, carried the axe and went in, after a few steps, he suddenly recalled to give some instructions to Tian Linger and turned around, but she was no longer there.

He was stunned, felt lost and then shook his head, threw off those useless thoughts and headed deeper in. When he came to his destination, the forest was silent. Zhang Xiaofan looked around but couldn’t find the monkey. He muttered to himself, “Could it be that monkey has spiritual intelligence, knew I have found a helper and did not dare to come.”

While thinking, he peered around but couldn’t see the monkey figure, felt it was in vain and so started to chop at a nearby bamboo.

[zhi zhi zhi], suddenly a familiar shriek above him.

Zhang Xiaofan immediately reactively jumped back but his forehead felt pain, he was still not in time, his head throbbed. Zhang Xiaofan looked up, saw the monkey as usual, hung from the bamboo branch, laughing non-stopped.

He felt delighted, pointed and laughed at that monkey, “Ha ha, you are finally here!”

His shout was not loud but the monkey was startled, thinking this person had always been jumping with rage after getting hit but why was he being so happy today, could it be after being hit for a few days, he didn’t feel comfortable when he wasn’t hit and instead happy after feeling the pain?

At this moment, a red figure suddenly flashed, Tian Linger standing on the Amber Scarlet Silk, flew over, like a flash of lightning, five fingers like claws, grabbed towards the monkey.

But the monkey was extremely agile, it immediately reacted, its tail uncurled and it dropped down. Tian Linger had analyzed the areas left and right of it where it might escaped to but did not expect it to drop down, and so grabbed nothing. Zhang Xiaofan at the ground also moved but halfway through, the monkey stretched its limbs and grabbed a bamboo, wrapped around it and then without stopping, as if knowing that the red-clothed girl’s ability, leapt, jumping from one bamboo to another, intending to flee.

Tian Linger feeling competitive, shouted, “Pursue!”  her left hand moved, the Amber Scarlet Silk flew over, Zhang Xiaofan also started to run.

If they were on empty ground, with Amber Scarlet Silk’s speed, Tian Linger would have caught that monkey but now that they were in the thick forest, they faced obstacles. The monkey was intelligent, never ran in a straight line, leapt left and right. Tian Linger had to follow the monkey and also to avoid the bamboo, extremely cumbersome. As for Zhang Xiaofan, he could only pursue on the ground, not helping much.

Both of them chased after the monkey, the monkey [zhi zhi zhi zhi] shrieked, not knowing for how long, Zhang Xiaofan gradually started panting heavily, felt exhausted, most likely they had gone very far. But the green lush forest ahead, seemed endless, layer after layer. Zhang Xiaofan felt his throat dry, suddenly saw the grey figure flashed and dropped down. He was delighted and immediately became alert, dashed up but at this moment, Tian Linger shouted, “Be careful!”

Before Zhang Xiaofan, a clift abruptly appeared, he quickly stopped his steps and almost fell over. He calmed down and saw a deep valley below, thick mist lingered over the valley, unable to see clearly over it, and around the valley, it was no longer bamboo, instead different types of wild trees, mostly pines, seemed like they had came to that secluded valley.

Zhang Xiaofan watched that grey monkey dropped down, replayed his old tricks, grabbed a branch, swayed and broke the fall, leapt ahead.

He was just panicking where he heard the sound of wind, Tian Linger flew over, stretched out her hand and said, “Come up.”

Zhang Xiaofan without hesitation, grabbed her hand and went up, the silk sank for a moment but soon recovered. This was the first for Zhang Xiaofan, he was unsure and Tian Linger pulled him to her back, said, “Hold my waist, quick.”

Zhang Xiaofan followed her instructions, Tian Linger sped forward, the both of them on the Amber Scarlet Silk, dashed into the valley, chasing after the monkey.

The sound of the wind was sharp, Zhang Xiaofan couldn’t even open his eyes, and the silk under his feet didn’t feel that sturdy, as if he could fall anytime, feeling afraid, he tightened his grip on Tian Linger, the red clothes like clouds, drifted before him, his senior sister’s back was like the Nine Heaven Celestial Fairy, extremely beautiful and a faint fragrance also drifted over, he felt happy and hope that time stopped there.

Tian Linger didn’t expect that the young boy was having all those thoughts behind her, concentrated fully on that grey monkey in front. She was doted on and praised by her parents and senior brothers, her character rather proud, if she couldn’t catch up to that monkey today, that would surely be unacceptable. And in the secluded valley, between the trees, a grey figure ahead, red figure tightly pursuing, wavering here and there.

And so it was another hour or so of pursue, that grey monkey, not knowing which breed it was, seemed not exhausted at all, was still speeding ahead. And Tian Linger after pursuing for a distance, became familiar with traversing the forest and so gradually increased her speed.

The grey monkey escaped deeper into the valley, Zhang Xiaofan peered ahead and saw the forest ahead was thinning, light started to shine brighter from above, indistinctly seemed like an empty space with sounds of water. The monkey’s shrieks sounded more urgent, seemed like it didn’t expect the two of them to continue pursuing it but it had no other routes and so had to continue.

Not long after, it suddenly became brighter before them, it was really an open space, the ground were all broken stones and a tiny small lake in the middle, water rippling, flowing towards the west. The grey monkey clearly hesitated for a moment when it arrived here but as its pursuers were about to reach, it had no choice but to land and run ahead. However, for some reason, its steps became extremely slow, looking like it was taking a stroll. Even though it was so, it was still taking steps and moving ahead.

Zhang Xiaofan saw it and felt strange but Tian Linger was only concentrating on avoiding obstacles while following the monkey’s figure and did not notice what’s happening on the ground. As she saw the monkey was just ahead, she was delighted and with a shout, headed in and straight for the monkey.

As she was about to catch the monkey, Zhang Xiaofan suddenly felt his mind popped, his body wavered on its own, a nauseous feeling from his five internal organs, straight to his head, instantly his entire body started to shake. Zhang Xiaofan was shocked, did not know how to react to this and at this moment, his chest felt warm, a burst of warm energy dispersed, protecting his heart and swiftly suppressing the nauseous feeling.

Zhang Xiaofan looked down, felt that warm energy emitting from that deep purple bead given by Puzhi, and at that moment, Tian Linger’s body wavered, went slacked and fell. Both of them were still in the mid-air, when Tian Linger lost control, Amber Scarlet Silk immediately stopped, both of them fell from the sky.

Zhang Xiaofan rolled a few times on the ground, felt pain from the fall but he didn’t care about that, hurriedly shouted even before he stood up, “Senior sister, senior sister, are you alright?”

However, Tian Linger only lie motionless there, her face pale, cold sweat covered her brow, she had already fainted.

Zhang Xiaofan turned pale from the shock, guessed it must be because of that strange feeling just now, ignored his own pain and ran over to Tian Linger, after calling her a few times, she was still not responding.

Zhang Xiaofan looked around, saw in the centre of the lake, within three zhang, there was not a single grass but after three zhang, lush greenery thrived. He clenched his teeth, controlled the nauseous feeling that surfaced frequently, carried Tian Linger on his back and also the Amber Scarlet Silk and headed outwards. Just this two zhang distance, it was not even worth mentioning at usual times, but under the frequent attacks of nauseous feeling, it became extremely difficult. With difficulty he managed to walk out of the three zhang, came to a big pine tree and that feeling instantly disappeared.

Zhang Xiaofan placed Tian Linger down, his breathing heavy, looking over at the lake, that grey monkey was still there, not moving anymore, its face in pain, glancing over here, its eyes pleading.

Zhang Xiaofan frowned, finally gave in, stood up and walked over again. After a few steps, that nauseous feeling again came back, at the same time that warm feeling in his chest surfaced, suppressing the uncomfortable feeling.

Zhang Xiaofan slowly came to the monkey, he was already sweating buckets, the grey monkey looked at him, motionless, seemed like it was also suppressed down. Zhang Xiaofan inhaled deeply, grabbed the monkey and started to turn back. The monkey at that moment seemed obedient, lay quietly in his embrace. He managed to walk out and came to Tian Linger, that nauseous feeling disappeared. Zhang Xiaofan placed the monkey down, fell sitting down and panted heavily, that monkey also let out a breath of relief, crouched on the ground, its eyes peering around, but it did not run, only looked at Zhang Xiaofan.

Zhang Xiaofan opened his shirt, took out the bead which was hung from a red string and looked carefully, the exterior of the purple bead had turned pale purple, the inner dark green energy seemed to be stimulated, its rotating speed increased ten times, spinning unceasingly, crashing against the exterior of the bead. Like before, every time the energy crashed, a Buddhism sign, 卍 would appear to block it. And that warm feeling that saved Zhang Xiaofan, came from this sign.

However, Zhang Xiaofan clearly noticed, compared to three years ago, that 卍 sign had faded.

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