Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
The three men sighed in relief after they returned to the thumb of the five claw peak by using their qinggong. Sir Yanming sat casually on the ox-sized stone and asked, ”Junior nephew has not finished his explanation then so let’s hear it now.”
Lu Yueming said, “There are no birds in the forest so this later generation disciple has two conjectures. Firstly, there may be a beast in the forest which the birds fear so they dare not roost in nearby. As for what type of beast it was, I am at a loss for ideas myself. The second possibility is that this jujube forest is a formation which also has the properties of preventing birds from roosting inside.”
Sir Yanming pondered and said, “Junior nephew’s propositions are reasonable. However, the way of formations has been long lost in the Jianghu world, so I am unable to speculate on how likely for this to be the case. As for the conjecture of a beast, I think that it is too far-fetched for now. Either way, there are too many mysteries in this forest which are beyond my abilities to investigate so it is better for us to wait another year before we enter. To leave with our lives is already a good enough outcome that we should be satisfied with, our speculations can never win over heaven’s decisions and we cannot force a claim on something that does not belong to us.”
Up to this point, Sir Yanming’s tone has become serious and it contrasted from the current mood of spring.
Lu Yueming and Tan Feng were the same, their hearts were in a mixture of fear and relief. Previously, Zhang Zhaoyang was so optimistic and positive that they almost wanted to tag along with him into the forest. Fortunately, they resisted the temptation and looking back, their decisions had saved their lives. Their faction leaders had also issued a strict order to never let the four parchments fall into the same hand, which was why they had chosen not to enter the forest.
While the three men were in an introspective mood, Sir Yanming spoke up, “This expedition has come to an end here. Even though we did not succeed, and have even lost a disciple from the thousand swords peak, our goal has been satisfied so the two of you can return to your factions to report our findings. I will still have to pay the thousand swords sect a visit to provide an explanation to their sect master so both of you can go ahead first.”
Upon hearing Sir Yanming’s words, Lu Yueming and Tan Feng did not stay any longer, they bade their farewells and flew off in different directions.
Sir Yanming looked on as the figures of the two people slowly disappeared, not knowing if they would return directly to their own factions or to go about with their own matters. Whatever they did was none of his concern anymore. Sir Yanming took out the thousand swords peak’s leather parchment from his breast and caressed its surface before putting it back, it was better to hide it after all. Sir Yanming observed his surroundings and strained his ears before activating his qinggong and vanishing off into smoke.
The ox shaped stone became quiet as it patiently waited for the bustle to come again next year.
In the middle of the night on the same day on thousand swords peak, the sect master Wan Chengjiu just received a message from the fierce tiger sect’s Qu Xiangfeng, “Senior brother Zhang Zhaoyang has disappeared.”
Wan Chengjiu’s face turned into an ugly green color of rust, and his two hands trembled while his eyes were filled with regret, although one cannot be certain if he was regretting the loss of a disciple or the failed attempt to obtain more rare herbs.
In Zhang household’s courtyard, the solemn atmosphere was still prevailing as people walked to and fro to pay their respects. The Zhang household had a good reputation in the Guo village, and the grandmother had always been kind and warm-hearted towards the fellow villagers. Hence, the number of people who came was not small, and because the Zhang household’s main room was not big, only a few people could knew while most people stepped in for a short moment to send the grandmother off on her last journey.
On the day of the grandmother’s passing, Liu Yueyue was escorted back to Bali Guo under the protection of several reliable people. Teacher Liu had also received the news and was worried both for his recently married off daughter and his new son-in-law. Thus, he arrived in the Zhang household the next day with butcher Liu, and the two men decided to stay temporarily in the grandmother’s room to provide some moral support and physical help.
Zhang Xiaohua seemed to be spacing out all the time during these days. He would stay in that little corner of his and nobody could guess what was on his mind. When it came to mealtime, Zhang Xiaohu would bring a bowl of food over and wait for Xiaohua to finish his meal before bringing the bowl away. Zhang Xiaohua would stay in that corner until nighttime when Zhang Xiaohu would carry him back onto the bed after the former fell asleep, and once the first rays of sun appear in the sky, he would return to the corner again like a walking corpse. Teacher Liu was the first person to notice Zhang Xiaohua’s abnormal behavior, but everyone could tell that it was caused by missing his grandmother too much although they never saw him cry a single tear.
Guo Sufei has cried countless of times, and was naturally unable to comfort her own son during this period of time. Zhang Cai and the rest were also unsure of what to say or how to persuade the boy, but they all thought that Zhang Xiaohua would recover and naturally walk out on his own in a few days’ time.
While happy days are short-lived, the sad periods would not last too long as well. The seven days of mourning period passed soon after, and it was time for the grandmother’s coffin was to be buried then. The grave was already prepared, and was situated on one the side of the Guo graveyard hill.
On the afternoon of that day, the people in Zhang household kowtowed towards the grandmother while the other people at the side were getting ready to close the lid of the coffin. As they were about to nail the lid on, Guo Sufei broke out into tears again and refused to let go of her hands from the coffin as she looked at the smiling expression on the grandmother’s face. Finally, under the persuasion of Zhang Cai and the others, she softened her grip and let herself be led aside.
The people who were helping out immediately knocked the nails in and sealed the coffin. Hearing the repetitive hammering sounds, Zhang Xiaohua felt that each sound was like a knock onto his heart.
During this period of time, Zhang Xiaohua felt like he was still living in a dream. He was constantly thinking and regretting. He thought that he could have protected his eldest brother and sister-in-law if he knew martial arts, and they would have returned home happily and their wedding would have gone one smoothly, and the grandmother would not have passed away so soon. Zhang Xiaohua grew to hate himself, he hated his inability to use martial arts to protect his loved ones. Ever since the New Year in Lu town, he has been bullied wherever he went, and he could not defend himself when other people were trampling on his life. He hated that he has not enough strength, and that he could not spend more time with his grandmother because of it.
Even while he was sleeping, the bright flickering lights that seemed to breathe appeared to have felt his anger, and they shone with even greater intensity.
The hammering sounds shook him awake, and he felt a tinge of pain in his heart before realizing that the grandmother is being sealed in her coffin. “Grandmother…..” Zhang Xiaohua called softly and the tears which had been held back began to fall like a torrential rain after a drought. Zhang Xiaohua leapt over and pushed the people away in a budge, while those people looked on dazed as they sat on the floor wondering how a thirteen year old boy had just nudged them away.
The coffin has been nailed more than halfway but Zhang Xiaohua was anxious and he used his fingers to grab on to the nail. With a jerk of his arm, the nail which was already settled deep into the wood was yanked out again, and Zhang Xiaohua pushed the heavy coffin lid to reveal the smiling expression on the grandmother’s face again.
Zhang Xiaohua continued to call out for his “Grandmother”, while his tears streamed uncontrollably down his cheeks and onto his clothes before falling into the coffin.
Everyone was surprised by the astonishing display of strength and they started to tear quietly as they witness the moving scene before them.
The village had a rule that the coffin has to be buried within the allocated hour or it will be inauspicious and would affect the peaceful rest of the deceased. Even though everyone was crying, they stopped when they noticed the time as they wanted the grandmother to be peaceful even in afterlife. However, the Zhang Xiaohua of that moment could not be consoled, and even though several strong villagers came to pull him away, they were surprised by his strength and failed. Hence, they could only look at Guo Sufei pleadingly but the latter was too upset to try. Just as everyone was about to give up, Liu Qing walked over.
She walked over to Zhang Xiaohua’s side and said gently, “Xiaohua…..” After four to five calls, Zhang Xiaohua finally turned around and said, “Elder sister Liu, grandmother has really gone away.”
Liu Qing has put Zhang Xiaohua’s head into her bosom and stroked his hair. She said, “Xiaohua, do you remember what we spoke about at the river outside your village?”
Zhang Xiaohua cried as he replied, “I remember, elder sister. I already knew that grandmother was going to leave me soon at that time.”
Liu Qing said, “Yes, Xiaohua, there is no banquet that will never end in this world. Everything must have an end, your grandmother has worked her entire life so it should be the time for her to rest now. Look at your grandmother’s face, isn’t she smiling so happily? We should be sending her off happily knowing that she could leave with such a happy face. Otherwise, won’t you be disturbing her rest and making her angry by behaving the way you are right now?”
Zhang Xiaohua said, “Elder sister, I know this, but, but I will not be able to see grandmother again. I will not have grandmother around anymore, I do not want her to leave me.”
Liu Qing continued to say, “Then how long are you planning to stay beside your grandmother? Half a day, a full day, two days, or ten days? Grandmother will have to be buried eventually and you are aware of this. Even if you can accompany her for a time, can you accompany her for all your life? Come, Xiaohua, get up quickly and let them send your grandmother off this final journey.”
Zhang Xiaohua looked reluctantly at his grandmother’s face as he tried to carve it into his heart while it was gradually covered by the lid. He closed his eyes tiredly and the tears fell continuously from his eyes, while he kept on questioning in his heart on why his grandmother had to leave, and why people cannot live forever?”
There was some distance from the back of the village to the grave site of the grandfather and grandmother, so the other villagers had to help carry the coffin over while the crying Zhang household members followed behind. Many people from the village also went along to send this familiar person away.
The grave had already been dug, so the villagers carefully placed the coffin into the grave and began to shovel dirt over it. Not long after, a mound of earth was shoveled and a new grave was built. The villagers who came to help eventually left, and only the Zhang and Liu households remained behind. Zhang Cai and Zhang Xiaohua carefully tidied the gravesite of the grandmother while adding on fresh earth onto the grandfather’s gravesite. Guo Sufei and Liu Qing then placed the candles and other items which they prepared into the appropriate positions, and everyone stood in front of the grave until twilight before they returned reluctantly.