Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
However, Qiu Tong changed her mind not long after.
Ou Yan did not inform Qiu Tong on which books Zhang Xiaohua could borrow, and it was not appropriate for anyone to enter the villa master’s study room without any prior permission.
Hence, Qiu Tong led Zhang Xiaohua towards the main hall instead.
As they neared the main hall, Zhang Xiaohua could hear two people having a conversation. One of them had a melodious voice like a yellow oriole which one would not even get tired to listening to, while the other had a rounded articulation and spoke in a pace that was neither too fast nor slow.
Zhang Xiaohua immediately guessed that the owner of the melodious voice was the villa master.
Actually, Zhang Xiaohua had already tried to construct the image of the villa master since he entered the mountain villa, the latter had treated him extremely well for the past few months and since he had yet to meet the other party personally, he wanted to give his thanks even more so now since he was borrowing more books from her.
Qiu Tong instructed Zhang Xiaohua to wait outside while she entered the hall.
When Qiu Tong entered the main hall, the two voices stopped as well. Zhang Xiaohua heard Qiu Tong said, “Villa master, Zhang Xiaohua from the herb fields came over to return the books and would like to borrow more, which books are he allowed to borrow?”
This time, Zhang Xiaohua perked his ear to listen carefully to the voice which replied.
Unfortunately to his disappointment, the other warm voice sounded, “Ah…… so soon? This child did not just flip through the pages blindly right? Let him come in, I will question him to see if he truly understands the contents, and it will not be too late for him to borrow more books after that.”
It seems that the melodious voice was not from Ou Yan speaking.
Qiu Tong went out and motioned Zhang Xiaohua to come inside, and when the latter entered carefully, he saw a twenty plus year old lady who was extremely pretty sitting on the other side, her demeanour was like Liu Qing, her skin was white and bright, and if not for the phoenix eyes which were unlike Liu Qing’s almond shaped ones, Zhang Xiaohua almost called out “sister-in-law”. On the other side in the same hall, there seated a middle aged lady with ordinary features and dark skin, and even though her clothes were brightly coloured, they could not conceal her barrel shaped body.
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised, could the melodious voice from before came from such a lady.
At that moment, Ou Yan spoke up, “You are Zhang Xiaohua?”
Zhang Xiaohua quickly retracted his gaze and bowed deeply before replying, “Indeed, elder sister villa master, I am Zhang Xiaohua.”
Ou Yan was slightly surprised and she almost let out a laugh, “Elder sister? Haha, it has been a long time since someone called me that. Zhang Xiaohua, your little mouth can speak such sweet words.”
Zhang Xiaohua did not feel the same way so he scratched his head and asked, “Is there a problem, elder sister villa master?”
Ou Yan was not upset, she asked, “Why did you think of calling me elder sister?”
Zhang Xiaohua felt strange, and he replied, “Villa master is older so I have to call her elder sister. Furthermore, villa master looks so much like my sister in law that I almost called her sister-in-law. Oh right, my sister-in-law is called Liu Qing, and I would call her elder sister Liu Qing before she married my eldest brother. Thus, I feel that villa master is familiar, so I should naturally call her elder sister.”
The dark skinned lady on the other side spoke and the melodious tone of her voice sounded, “Haha, this Zhang Xiaohua is quite interesting, I have not seen such an innocent child for a long time.”
Zhang Xiaohua looked at the lady and he could not help but reply, “Elder sister’s voice is very nice to listen to.”
Ou Yan smiled and said, “You can call her elder sister Qin, just call her more often and she will respond to you so you can hear more of her voice.”
The other lady was actually Piaomiao sect’s Mingcui hall hallmaster Madam Qin.
Upon hearing her reply, Zhang Xiaohua said honestly, “Greetings to elder sister Qin.”
Madam Qin was surprised and she laughed, “Other people call me Madam Qin, but this little child actually called me elder sister Qin instead. Never mind, it sounds quite pleasant anyway. If you need my help in the future, feel free to look for this elder sister.”
Ou Yan laughed even more as she said, “Zhang Xiaohua, what are you waiting for. Hurry and thank elder sister Qin; she does not do this often at all.”
Zhang Xiaohua felt like a dense fog was covering his head, he bowed politely, “Thank you elder sister Qin.”
However, he did not think the same way in his heart, there would not be a biscuit that would fall from the sky into his hands so easily; it was the first time he was meeting the other party and she would not help him so simply just because he called her so he assumed that Ou Yan was probably playing a fool.
Everyone laughed and commented a little more.
Ou Yan then asked Zhang Xiaohua, “Zhang Xiaohua, you have read all these books? Did you understand them?”
Zhang Xiaohua answered honestly, “I have finished them, elder sister villa master.”
Ou Yan’s brows wrinkled as she said, “Elder sister villa master sounds quite uncomfortable, you can call me elder sister Ou or elder sister Yan instead.”
Zhang Xiaohua pondered and said, “I understand, elder sister Ou.”
Ou Yan still did not believe Zhang Xiaohua completely, she said, “Zhang Xiaohua, the worst thing there is while reading such books is to form a superficial understanding from them, it is not good to be too greedy for knowledge. I have heard from He Tianshu that you borrowed quite a few books the previous time, and now that you came over with so many books, are you sure that you have finished reading them and are able to recall their contents?”
Zhang Xiaohua felt slightly anxious and he said, “Really, elder sister Ou, I understand them completely. However, because of that, I feel as though there are more things I do not understand.”
When Ou Yan heard his reply, the wrinkle between her brows smoothened and she said, “In that case, I shall test you with some questions.”
After finishing her sentence, Ou Yan flipped through the pages and picked a few questions for Zhang Xiaohua to answer.
In Zhang Xiaohua’s opinions, those questions were not questions at all since the answers were written clearly on the book, hence he answered all of them smoothly without any pause.
Upon seeing the speed of Zhang Xiaohua’s response, Ou Yan was very happy and she almost seemed to read Zhang Xiaohua’s mind as she asked him more questions which answers are not directly from the books.
This time, Zhang Xiaohua pondered for a moment before replying to the questions according to the knowledge he gained from reading the books.
Ou Yan grew even happier when she heard his answers, she first pointed out the weaknesses in his answers before saying, “Zhang Xiaohua, you could actually understand many of the principles inside these books, good job. Wait a while, I will bring you more books and if you encounter any areas which you don’t understand, you can come and ask me in the future.”
After finishing her sentence, she bid Madam Qin farewell and led Qiu Tong out of the hall with a big smile on her face.
Hence, only Zhang Xiaohua and Madam Qin were left together in the main hall.
Madam Qin looked at Zhang Xiaohua who had his head lowered and she asked him about the things that happened to him recently. Zhang Xiaohua did not hide anything from this elder sister with the melodious voice, he shared how he came to Pingyang city, how he entered Huanxi mountain villa as well as the events that led to his injury, leaving only the matter about the dipper heavenly fist and sword martial arts out of his recount. Madam Qin was marvelled when she heard of Zhang Xiaohua’s life, she recalled her eventful youth and naturally felt closer to Zhang Xiaohua.
Just as the two were chatting, Ou Yan returned with Qiu Tong carrying a white cloth bundle that seemed heavy behind her. Zhang Xiaohua quickly went over to relieve Qiu Tong of her burden, his hands slumped when he received the bundle, and he guessed that there must be many books inside.
Ou Yan reseated herself and said, “Zhan Xiaohua, these are books that I have picked for you in consideration of your situation, so do your best to read them. Earlier, I heard from Qiu Tong that you understood the importance of practical experience, this is very good and you should continue on that path to improve your knowledge to walk as far as you can. It will be benefit to both you and our mountain villa in the future.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “Alright, elder sister Ou, I will work hard to read them and comprehend their meanings in hopes of solving elder sister Ou’s problem with the seeds.”
When he mentioned the matter of the seeds, a frown naturally appeared on Ou Yan’s face as she said, “It is good to aim high, but if the answer to the problem of the seeds could be found in the books, I would have solved the problem much earlier.”
Zhang Xiaohua felt slightly embarrassed; it seemed that now was not a good time to express his goals so he said, “As the saying goes, three smelly cobblers wins over Zhuge Liang*, when everybody brainstorms together, perhaps an idea can be found.”
*TN: Zhuge Liang- famous historical figure/ war strategist
Ou Yan smiled and said, “Your words are reasonable, however, there are many things that cannot be solved with just numbers, the quality of the people is more important than the quantity in these cases.”
She then coughed and said, “Zhang Xiaohua, first take a look at these books. After a while later, I will bring you to meet an expert to watch how he tends to the herbs.”
Upon listening to these words, Qiu Ton’s face changed its colour and she said, “Young mistress, have you decided to go yourself?”
Madam Qin also said, “Yan’er, you have to think through this thoroughly. The road is long and far, can your body take the stress of the journey?”
Ou Yan smiled and said, “Elder sister Qin do not have to worry about me, even though the journey will be slightly far, hadn’t Qiu Tong gone through it as well? this body of mine is not anywhere weaker than hers, so how will I not be able to endure it?”
Qiu Tong half-pleaded, “Young mistress, it is better if I go again this time. As the villa master, it would be better for you to stay in the mountain villa and let us servants run these kind of errands.”
Ou Yan smiled bitterly and said, “A year has passed in a blink of an eye, there are still no change in these seeds which will cause quite a large problem in Piaomiao sect. I have already promised in front of my elder brother, so won’t I become the sect’s enemy if I do not deliver on my promises?”
Madam Qin persuaded as well, “These seeds have already been lost long ago and the methods to cultivate them have been lost with them. Even though you have promised in front of the sect master, most of the herbs have grown so why go through all these trouble just for a little of them?”
Ou Yan’s expression turned bitterer as she said, “It is precisely because this little part is that important. The last time Qiu Tong went over, the other party did not open the door to entertain her, and I suspect that he is doubtful of our sincerity. If I do not go this time round, then won’t we be breaking off this road?”
Madam Qin and Qiu Tong saw that their persuasion was ineffective so they did not continue any further. Only Zhang Xiaohua who was listening to the three’s conversation was still clueless of what they were talking about, but he seemed to recall Qiu Tong mentioning that she had gone somewhere south while he was injured which was why she did not visit him. From this, he guessed that it was related to the herbs that would not sprout, but the other party deemed Qiu Tong’s position as inferior so he did not open his doors for her, which was why Qiu Tong returned empty handed and Ou Yan was personally making the trip this time round. Mm, after listening to Ou Yan’s words, she probably meant to bring him along, and the other two were trying to stop her because they were afraid that an accident would occur on someone of her position.
Zhang Xiaohua pondered and observed the three people’s reactions, he quickly thanked Ou Yan for the books and bid his farewell. Ou Yan smiled and added some words of encouragement before letting Qiu Tong take him away.
Qiu Tong’s mood was not very good, she was dejected as she led Zhang Xiaohua back to the courtyard where he met Qiu Ju and said, “Zhang Xiaohua, if you want to look for the villa master or me in the future, do not just charge in like this time. Even though you are still young, the villa rules have to be followed so you can wait here for Qiu Ju or someone else to ask them to look for me inside, understand?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he replied, “I got it, elder sister Qiu Tong, don’t be sad, I believe the problem will eventually be solved.”
Qiu Tong smiled weakly back and said, “Alright, Xiaohua, work hard as well. I hope that you would become of help in the future.”
As she watched Zhang Xiaohua dragged the bundle of books back, Qiu Tong then turned around and returned to her own place.
Zhang Xiaohua’s left hand was gripping onto the bundle of books as he walked, and thanks to his five hundred jin of strength, he was able to carry such a heavy bundle with ease. If it was someone else, they would have their work cut out for them, who knew how Qiu Tong was able to carry all those books from the study room in the first place?
When Zhang Xiaohua returned to his room, he threw the bundle of books onto his bed, drank some water, and opened the bundle to take a look. He could not help but gaped in wonderment, “Oh my goodness, there are so many of them. There has to be at least dozens of books here, no wonder they are so heavy.”
However, a smile appeared in the frown on Zhang Xiaohua’s face, these many books would mean that he could be kept preoccupied for the following days to come.
In the night after Zhang Xiaohua finished his martial art practice, he casually took out a book when he suddenly realized the difference between them and the books he had read before. Firstly, the books before were foundational books but these were obviously more profound which was just suited for Zhang Xiaohua’s current standard of knowledge. Just by running through their covers, Zhang Xiaohua could feel an itch in his heart which made he wanted to start reading immediately. Secondly, unlike the previous books which were crisp and clean, these books were tattered and filled with untidy scribbles all over the place. Zhang Xiaohua had to squint his eyes to read them, and realized that those were notes written by the previous reader; this method of reading was still the first time Zhang Xiaohua encountered, his eyes naturally brightened as he read them carefully.
The more Zhang Xiaohua read, the more astonished he became, and he could not help but feel a deep sense of admiration for the author of the notes. These words on the blank sides of the book pages contained the essence of each paragraph while adding on several related information which revealed the profoundness of his knowledge. While looking through them, Zhang Xiaohua suddenly recalled something and he picked up another book from his bed, flipped it open, and indeed the book had many tiny scribbles as well. Zhang Xiaohua checked through several other books and the result was still the same.
Zhang Xiaohua felt enlightened, such elegant handwriting probably belonged to the villa master Ou Yan. When he saw how large the collection of books was, and assumed that the latter had probably went through them in detail, Zhang Xiaohua felt a deep sense of admiration in his heart.
Another thing was gratitude, this villa master elder sister did not treat him as an outsider, she generously shared the books she had read through thoroughly to him. Right at that moment, Zhang Xiaohua actually put elder sister Ou in a position above his own sister-in-law within his heart.
With a sufficiently wide collection, Zhang Xiaohua’s life naturally became richer; whether it was working in the herb fields, practicing martial arts in the forest or reading books under the oil lamp light, Zhang Xiaohua would keep himself occupied and satisfied at all time.
The only thing was during the brief moments of idleness, Zhang Xiaohua would think of one thing, travelling afar!
The last time elder sister Qiu Tong went off for several months in the said south direction, he wanted to go out for himself and see what it was like there, having come to Pingyang city from afar himself. From what he read in the books, the climate in the south was different which led to a different lifestyle and habits compared to Pingyang city, and the variety of herbs was also naturally different. If Zhang Xiaohua could go over personally for himself, then naturally he would be able to learn more than what he could read from the books.
As the saying goes, reading thousands of books, travelling thousand li of road. Towards such a mentality, Zhang Xiaohua actually had some desire, books were indeed important tools for people to cultivate themselves.
However, the distant trip that Zhang Xiaohua was looking forward to never came, and despite several days passing, he still received no news on it and Zhang Xiaohua slowly lost any initial anticipation towards it.
On that day, Zhang Xiaohua was working in the fields as usual when he saw He Tianshu brought several people over, there were two old men with white hair at the forefront and relatively young people behind. Some looked gentle and civilized while others were muscular and brawny, but they all were like He Tianshu and had deferential attitudes towards the two men in front.
Zhang Xiaohua sighed, he had never seen squad leader He behaving like so before so he guessed that these two men were people in high positions in the pharmacy hall. Since he was not a disciple of the Piaomiao sect, there was no need for him to use such a deferential attitude to treat these men. Zhang Xiaohua bent his body and carefully dug the earth, raked the weeds, and poured his attention into the herbs at his feet.
Unfortunately, things do not go as one wishes them to. He Tianshu saw Zhang Xiaohua from afar and had no intention of sparing the boy, he led the people over to somewhere much closer where he called out, “Zhang Xiaohua, come over.”
Zhang Xiaohua raised his head helplessly, carried his little hoe and walked over.
Upon seeing Zhang Xiaohua nearing them, He Tianshu said to the boy, “Zhang Xiaohua, come over and greet hallmaster Bai and elder He from the pharmacy hall.”
Zhang Xiaohua quickly took a deep bow and said, “Greetings to hallmaster Bai, elder He.”
He Tianshu smiled and said towards the purple-faced elder, “Hallmaster Bai, this is the Zhang Xiaohua whom I have mentioned to you. He is very steady with his work and very smart as well, having read many books related to herbs.”
The two men did not reply to Zhang Xiaohua’s greeting, hallmaster Bai raised his hands and waved slightly while elder He nodded without saying anything.
He Tianshu was unsure of the two men’s opinions so he said, “Hallmaster Bai, look, Zhang Xiaohua is very studious in his pursuit of knowledge. Our hall has many collections so can you lend him some to let him widen his horizons? After all, he is working in the same fields and it will only be beneficial to us if he learns more things.”
Even before hallmaster Bai responded, a middle-aged man spoke up first, “He Tianshu, I think that you have stayed in Huanxi mountain villa for too long and forgotten the rules of our sect. How can the books in our secret books repository be shared with outsiders?”
He Tianshu smiled bitterly and replied, “I am aware of these rules, senior brother Chang, but isn’t Zhang Xiaohua a person of Huanxi mountain villa, so he would not count as an outsider right?”