Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Entering the forest
The person who brought Zhang Xiaohua then spoke up, “Butcher Liu has maligned another good person, this little brother had walked all the way from Guo village to bring good news of your daughter. It appears that you have lost control of your emotions again.”
Butcher Liu did not mind his fellow villager’s words, and patted Zhang Xiaohua’s shoulders with his large hands, and said, “Looks like this little brother is magnanimous, why would he take a such a little joke to heart?”
Seeing the large palms that were marked with years of experience of slaughtering pigs, he thought in his heart, “Of course I do mind, why don’t you lend me some of your guts. I rather not be close to you, my body has only just recovered recently.” However, on the outside, he replied politely, “How would I dare, this esteemed person must be elder sister Liu Yueyue’s father, since you appear just as majestic as her.” And in his heart, he thought “as majestic as a bear”
Hearing Zhang Xiaohua’s reply, butcher Liu was so happy that his eyes squinted in joy, saying, “Both you and Yueyue sing the same tune, has she… oh right, how did Yueyue and Qingqing end up in your village, are they doing okay?” Midway of his sentence, he remembered his daughter.
Teacher Liu who was standing at a side said, “Let us talk in the house, from this little brother’s calm behaviour, I am sure that nothing major happened to the girls.”
After finishing his sentence, he led Zhang Xiaohua and his guide, as well as the fellow villager who brought over the two visitors back towards the house. The fellow villager interrupted, “I am not going in, I should be going back now. I can also call Liu Kai to come back on my way.”
Teacher Liu nodded in gratitude, and send the villager back, before inviting Zhang Xiaohua into the house.
When Zhang Xiaohua entered the courtyard, he noted that there was not much difference from his own house, it was arranged simply but with less farming tools, and the stove area did not seemed to be used much. There were two rooms in front, and two additional rooms at the sides, which was unexpectedly more than they needed since they were only a family of three. Only after he entered did he realize his mistake. Upon entering the first room, there was a portrait of a wizened old scholar, and some plates of fruits and snacks before the portrait as though it was an altar. On the left wall was a painting of snow, and some people under a pavilion enjoying the snow, on the right was some calligraphy, written with much gusto as the characters were cursive and full of expressions, unfortunately Zhang Xiaohua could not recognize the words.
When Zhao Xiaohua realized the stark differences between this house and his own home, he thought in his heart, “Is this the difference between an educated person and a farmer’s home?” Under the housekeeping of his mother, his home remained clean and tidy, and there were also a hanging on the wall, but it was just a picture of a deity, and his mother did not even bother to put flowers for worship. Zhang Xiaohua was struck with a sudden thought, “If elder sister Liu took over the housekeeping, what could become of our house?”
These thoughts ran through Zhang Xiaohua’s mind as he stood silently on the spot, but it was not because he had lost his bearings, but rather, he was unsure of where to sit. There were only a few chairs at his house, and they would usually stand at home, but this teacher has so many chairs in his house, he is sure to be fastidious about manners and thus, Zhang Xiaohua did not dare to sit anywhere.
Upon seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s discomfort, teacher Liu immediately brought Zhang Xiaohua and his fellow villager to be seated, then, butcher Liu took out a kettle of tea to serve to their guests. Zhang Xiaohua took the cup and poured the contents into his mouth; the water had a rather nice taste. When butcher Liu saw that he emptied his cup, he immediately refilled the cup. Zhang Xiaohua and the fellow have been walking for the whole morning, and were already feeling thirsty; put together the fact that the tea tasted so good, the two men finished four cups of tea at a go. Butcher Liu’s expression then softened, even though he is boorish, he could tell the his visitors have travelled from faraway to the point of such thirst just to share the news of their daughters’ safety.
After Zhang Xiaohua finished his cup of tea and was about to speak, he heard urgent footsteps coming from outside the house, and not long later, he saw a youth scholar whose height was similar to his eldest brother run into the room, and guessed that he must be Liu Qing’s elder brother, Liu Kai. When Liu Kai entered the house, he first greeted teacher Liu and butcher Liu, and who then introduced Zhang Xiaohua and the fellow villager to him. When Liu Kai greeted Zhang Xiaohua, the latter was unsure of how to return the greetings so he made a little effort to do it. Only after then, Liu Kai turned towards teacher Liu and asked, “Where is younger sister?” When Zhang Xiaohua looked at this youth who was obviously much skinnier than his eldest brother, he sighed in his heart, “Sigh, learned people sure have many unnecessary customs. This elder brother Liu sure has patience to finish his greetings before asking any questions. If it was butcher Liu, he would have asked the moment he entered. Right, the latter must be thinking that this elder brother Liu has arrived at a poor time.” Zhang Xiaohua could not help but turned to see butcher Liu who was still waiting anxiously for Zhang Xiaohua’s explanation.
Indeed, before teacher Liu could speak, butcher Liu interrupted, “Why don’t you take a sip first. This little brother has not even spoken up when you arrived.”
Liu Kai then took the seat opposite Zhang Xiaohua, and drank his water slowly as he looked at Zhang Xiaohua, waiting for his reply.
Zhang Xiaohua then introduced himself, before narrating the previous day’s events in a detailed way, but out of caution, he did not reveal the total amount of compensation from the bullies.
Zhang Xiaohua was not eloquent with his words, and his story was in bits and pieces, however, even so, the four men in the room felt as though their hearts were going to jump out of their mouths. Teacher Liu, butcher Liu and Liu Kai’s faces were as pale as ash, butcher Liu even stood up from his chair on several occasions but he was persuaded back to his seat by teacher Liu at these times.
After Zhang Xiaohua finished his story, butcher Liu immediately poured two cups of water for Zhang Xiaohua, and the rest of the audience also drank a cup of water, as it seems that not only was the storyteller thirsty from speaking, his listeners felt their throats parching from anxiety.
After everyone had relieved their thirst, teacher Liu walked to Zhang Xiaohua’s front and took a deep bow saying “This old man sincerely expresses his gratitude to your father and his sons for saving his daughter.” Liu Kai and butcher Liu also scrambled quickly to bow, which shocked Zhang Xiaohua out of his chair, stammering that he could not dare to accept their bows, and worriedly return the bows.
Zhang Xiaohua comforted them and said “Elder sisters Liu are currently resting at my house and are alright now, you do not need to worry. “Actually, everyone was already aware that their loved ones are safe, but still could not fully calm down until they see them personally.”
Until everyone was seated again, teacher Liu said, “Xiaohua has walked the whole morning to reach here from Guo village, it seems that we will not be able to bring our children back today. Why not second brother first return home and let your wife prepare some lunch for Zhang Xiaohua and his fellow villager, and let them have their meal first before returning to Guo village with Liu Kai. Then, we can fetch our children together tomorrow. What do you think?”
Butcher Liu replied, “No, it is better if I head off first. I am still unsettled, and part of the return journey back to Guo village will be in night-time, so it will be safer if I accompany them.”
Teacher Liu deliberated shortly and agreed.
Thus, lunch was at butcher Liu’s place. Liu Qing was not around so there was no one to prepare food at teacher Liu’s home. Since Liu Yueyue’s mother knew that her daughter was safe, she made an extravagant meal to thank her family’s benefactors. Zhang Xiaohua was already feeling hungry, and coupled with the fact that he has not eaten red roast meat in a long while, he filled his tummy to the brim.
After the meal, Zhang Xiaohua, the fellow Guo villager and butcher Liu hurried towards Guo village without stop, and few hundred li away was a different scene at five claw peak.
In the morning when the shadow passed between two trees, Sir Yanming shot his body through the forest. Luckily, he was an experienced martial artist with very sharp eyesight, otherwise it could have been easy to miss the opportunity. While the rest had not figure out what was going on, they only stared as Sir Yanming sped ahead. Sir Yanming was not angry, and he raised his voice, “Aren’t you guys coming?”
When everyone reached these the spot of the two trees and observed their surroundings, they could not feel any difference between this area and the rest of the jujube forest. Sir Yanming laughed, “There is no need to look any further, there won’t be any visible difference. Otherwise, we would not need to go through all these troubles. Now that we are ready to enter the forest, you should take out that leather parchment.” The few people followed his instructions and took the parchment out, while Sir Yanming continued, “Drip some blood at the top of the back of the parchment.” Then, he took out a dagger and cut his finger, rubbing his blood on the parchment. Ma Xiangyang, Wen Wenhai and Tan Wen followed suit, and they noticed traces of words appear on the parchment. The words read: walk ten trees straight ahead, walk back six trees, walk left six trees, and walk right eight trees. Sir Yanming then pieced the words from the four parchment together and read out the instructions.
Sir Yanming said, “Alright, everyone should prepare themselves, when we are travelling through the forest, I shall lead from the front, followed by hero Ma and hero Wen, heroine Xue and sect master Shitu will be in the middle, and the Tan brothers at the back. Everyone should put up their guard, move according to how the situation flows and not lose the formation.”
The jujube forest in front of them was no longer covered by the darkness of the night. However, the bright rays of sunlight still could not penetrate through the thick canopy, and there was dense mist among the trees, and despite the blowing of the cold winds, the mist did not dissipate.
Sir Yanming took out his dagger and made a mark at the two jujube trees, before carefully treading between the trees, while the rest of the group followed closely behind in formation.
The forest mist was so thick that one could not see more than ten meters ahead, and it was so humid that everyone was wet with perspiration not long after. To pre-empt any danger, everyone had brought out their weapons, and they started to fill the chill pervade their bodies. It has been many years since someone last entered the forest, and the ground was covered in a dense cover of decomposing leaves, thus, walking across the forest floor was energy- consuming, and the jujube trees which were tightly spaced together frequently became an obstacle to the large sized party. Nevertheless, no one dared to cut the trees down in fear of provoking more danger.
Just as everyone was walking in the orderly formation, they heard Shitu Ping’s squeal, “Look over there!”