Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
How would the people from Huanxi mountain villa know of these events, they were happily discussing the previous incident and as they thought back to Shi Niu’s might, they felt deep admiration and jealousy. Thus, many people made up their minds to work harder when they returned back to the sect in order to reach a similar level of martial arts in the future.
Only Shi Niu was as nonchalant as before, he steadily steered his carriage as though he was unaware of being idolized by the many disciples there, and fortunately for the rest of the passengers, he was not in the mood to sing that particular song of his because of the previous match. Otherwise, the image that the disciples had built up would crumble down immediately.
Of course, not all of the mountain villa people were feeling excited or unbothered, there was currently one person who was feeling upset at himself, and the person was He Tianshu.
Even though He Tianshu could not be considered as a remarkable person within Piaomiao sect, he was a leader and despite being dispatched to Huanxi mountain villa to work in the fields, his martial arts were still of substance or why would he be assigned as a squad leader? He already knew that there was a disparity between him and Shi Niu but was unaware of by how much. Now that he saw for himself, he had fought with his opponent for almost half a day without any sign of victory while the other party seemed as if he still had some excess strength, yet Shi Niu could use a single palm thrust to cause their leader to fly away with internal injuries. From his observations, there was not just a star between him and Shi Niu, and he had been too proud of himself in the past.
From today on, he would embark on an even longer journey ahead.
In the party, there was another person whose mood was different from the rest, it was the unbothered and carefree Zhang Xiaohua. He did not learn martial arts the traditional way and was thus unaware of the hardships and dangers of learning martial arts, especially when he saw Shi Niu pushed the person into the air with a single palm thrust, he recalled his own incident and lost all interest in the matter. Thus, while everyone else was discussing excitedly, he already picked up his book silently and ignored all other matters.
He did not even notice He Tianshu’s dejection.
Soon after, the robbery incident rolled off everyone’s mind like the waves in a sea, it became a joke for everyone to share after their dinner, or something trivial to share with when there were Piaomiao disciples to welcome them in the town they passed by.
However, the listener may have a different interpretation of the same event, and the Piaomiao disciple in this particular town, Lan Dong, was a meticulous person by nature. He felt something amiss although it was normal for the Huanxi mountain villa people to be unaware of. After all, they were only passing by the place, but he had been in this area for many years so why had he not heard of mountain bandits around before? Furthermore, the bandits had martial arts that were uncommon.
Thus, a small ball of suspicions appeared un his heart, but these thoughts were not something he could share with Ou Yan and the rest. After all, they had already put the matter to rest and declared the group to be bandits, perhaps a new group of bandits really appeared recently while he was not paying attention?
All he could do was find a way to write a message to inform his own superior so they could make the appropriate decision, and he believed that once his superior saw that this matter was related to villa master Ou, he would revert it back to the upper echelons of the sect without delay.
His heart only settled down after he sent the message, but the next thing he had to do was find an opportunity to remind Ou Yan, Shi Niu or someone else to put up their guards.
However, when he talked to Ou Yan and the rest, Ou Yan and Shi Niu did not take the matter seriously at all to his surprise, and only Madam Qin wrinkled her brows slightly as if she wanted to say something but did not because of Ou Yan’s firm expression. She knew that Ou Yan was determined to visit Rejuvenation valley and anything she said would be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, when the matter came down to it, how many people would have learnt of Ou Yan’s trip to Rejuvenation valley?
Even if they learnt about it, what reasons do they have to stop her from going?
Could they just be bored and wanted to stir up trouble for them?
When Lan Dong saw that his words of caution were not heeded at all, he did not pursue the matter further and only offered to send some disciples to follow her before she left. However, his suggestion was declined because they were already not many disciples in this small town and their martial art skills were only average. This Lan Dong was only about He Tianshu’s level but he could not leave the town for long, and unless there was a good reason for him to leave, the other party would only accept his kind intentions.
Ou Yan stated that she did not want to disrupt the daily operations of Piaomiao sect as the main reason when she rejected Lan Dong’s suggestion.
Hence, the party boarded up the carriages again and continued on their journey while Lan Dong returned to his town and continued his daily tasks.
On the second night after Ou Yan and her party left, Piaomiao sect send down their instructions and when Lan Dong opened the message that was sent via pigeon carrier, his face lost its colour. The words written on the message were, “Piaomiao sect has sent an elder over to provide additional assistance, immediately send out all your manpower upon receiving this message to protect the villa master, her safety is of paramount importance.”
Lan Dong could not help but call out bitterly, the distance between him and Ou Yan was already two days and nights worth of travel so who would know what had happened to them? He quickly wrote a simple reply and sent back the pigeon before spreading the instructions down to the other Piaomiao disciples in the town. However, this town was not within Piaomiao sect’s area of influence and their manpower was dispatched quite far apart, while the next closest town was very far from their own so he was unable to pass the message soon enough. Because of all these problems, he could only try and spread the message for now.
After he finished these tasks, Lan Dong immediately assembled the disciples in the town and rode their best horses to follow the path Ou Yan and her party took as they tried to chase the latter.
After Ou Yan and the rest departed from the town Lan Dong and the other Piaomiao disciples were stationed at, they followed the pre-determined route and continuously went ahead. The only difference was after the previous robbery, they raised their level of alertness and whenever they encountered any suspicious place ahead, they would send some men to scout the area beforehand. In this way, the passed the next few days and no unusual event occurred during the period while everyone slowly let down their guards.
Actually to these people, these robberies did not account for much, after all, to people like Shi Niu and Madam Qin, which of them had not experienced the bloodshed and killings of Jianghu? The only obvious problem was the insufficient manpower and that they still had to protect Ou Yan so they had to think thrice before taking any steps to not let anything pass through their gaps.
Three days passed like that, and during that particular night under light of the setting sun was a place that was neither an inn nor a town ahead of them. From the map, the nearest town was nowhere close to their current location so they guessed that they would have to spend the night in the wilderness again. Thus, Madam Qin quickly instructed Shi Niu to go over to find a place for them to set up their base.
As the sky slowly turned darker, the carriage finally reached the bank of a small river where a large empty space that was suitable for setting up tentages was. Hence, everyone unloaded from the carriages and placed the required things out to prepare to set up camp for the night.
Even though the matters of setting up camp and digging up entrapments were unrelated to Zhang Xiaohua, the boy had gotten along well with everyone else during this period of time so why not lend them a helping hand? Not to mention that Zhang Xiaohua’s abnormal strength was a great help in moving the items off the carriage and setting up the poles, et cetera, so everyone grew to like this hardworking boy. When everyone was finally done with setting up, they split into their different responsibilities. The male disciples went to patrol the vicinity while the female disciples and the mountain villa people prepared the food, leaving Zhang Xiaohua free to himself.
Zhang Xiaohua saw that there was still some time before dinner so he looked around at the surroundings but it was mostly pitch black as though they were in a small forest. His heart stirred, why not use this opportunity to gather some firewood while finish his homework for the day.
After he made up his mind, Zhang Xiaohua got up and was prepared to leave but after taking a few steps, he heard someone called him and when he turned around, it was Qiu Tong with Ou Yan and Madam Qin beside her.
Zhang Xiaohua quickly stopped and smiled at them while greeting, and after getting over with the courtesies, Qiu Tong asked, “Zhang Xiaohua, are you going out?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “I saw that there is some time left before dinner so I plan to get some firewood from the forest for us to use at night.”
Qiu Tong praised, “Such a good boy, you even know to pick up firewood for us.”
Zhang Xiaohua quickly said humbly, “It is nothing, elder sister Qiu Tong, I do this often at home.”
At that moment, Ou Yan asked, “Pick up firewood, or are you planning to practice your martial art?”
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised, he asked, “Elder sister Ou, how did you know?”
Ou Yan smiled and said, “Throughout the journey, you would go out to find somewhere to train your martial arts, how would we not have noticed? However, Zhang Xiaohua, you have really exceeded my expectations, and are very hardworking. I have even heard He Tianshu said that you would read every day, and have gone though many of the books in the collection I lent you.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face turned slightly red as he said in an embarrassed tone, “Elder sister Ou, I do not have a choice as well. The fist martial arts I practiced is broken and incomplete and I am too ashamed to show anyone, while elder Yu taught me the sword martial art and disallowed me to let anyone know but I am afraid that I would forget so I can only avoid other people when I trained.”
Ou Yan let out a laugh and said, “I do not have any intention of blaming you, and am just complementing your diligence. As for elder Yu’s sword martial arts, I am well aware of the matter so you can practice it to your fill. Just be like before and not show it to anyone. Seeing how dedicated you are to martial arts, once this trip is over, I will speak on your behalf to my elder brother to see if you can be given any opportunities.”
Who was Ou Yan’s elder brother? That was the sect master of Piaomiao sect, just a sentence from him could fulfil all of Zhang Xiaohua’s dreams. At that moment, Zhang Xiaohua could not believe what he was hearing as he stood dazed at the spot.
Qiu Tong saw Zhang Xiaohua’s foolish expression and said softly, “Zhang Xiaohua, aren’t you going to thank the young mistress quickly.”
Zhang Xiaohua woke up from his dream and said with a face full of excitement, “Thank you elder sister Ou, I will definitely practice well if given the chance.”
Ou Yan said, “Zhang Xiaohua, don’t be happy too soon. I am only saying it, but whether or not it becomes a reality depends on yourself.”
Zhang Xiaohua replied, “Just having this opportunity is enough, elder sister Ou, I will definitely seize the chance. Oh right, there is another matter which I do not know if I should say.”
Ou Yan asked curiously, “What other matter? Say it.”
Zhang Xiaohua said sheepishly, “About this, He Tianshu also wants to look at the books you lent me. Is that okay?”
Ou Yan laughed, she said, “It’s fine, He Tianshu is not an outsider anyway. Everyone from the pharmacy hall would all want to learn about herbs, he is no exception. Oh right, do not spoil my books or I won’t let him borrow them.”
Only then did Zhang Xiaohua calmed down, he had been trying to find an opportunity to ask Ou Yan about He Tianshu’s request ever since He Tianshu bought him the small sword but could not find the time to, so at least he accomplished this aim that day and his heart inevitably felt lighter. As the saying goes, one becomes guilty when they owe a favour.
At that moment, a melodious voice sounded out, “Zhang Xiaohua, how is your right hand now? Can it still hold a sword?”
Zhang Xiaohua looked at Madam Qin gratefully and said, “Elder sister Qin, thank you for your concern, it is still fine and the recovery is very fast, I can already hold a sword although it is still not as comfortable as before.”
Madam Qin said, “If your fingers are not nimble, it will be a large impediment to your sword martial arts. You have to practice well and take note of your own limits, do not overwork your fingers or the consequences will be severe.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “I know that, I have always been doing recovery exercises and would stop immediately when I feel pain.”
The four chatted a little more before Zhang Xiaohua excused himself. However, Ou Yan stopped him again after a few steps and said, “Zhang Xiaohua, do not walk too far and come back early after your practice. There may be bad weather tonight.”
Zhang Xiaohua looked at the sky upon hearing her words, and indeed, the sky was becoming dark and ominous. The usual brilliance of the stars in the night sky were hidden, and even the round moon could not be seen.
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “I understand, elder sister Ou, I will come back immediately after my practice especially since I have not eaten yet.”
After finishing his sentence, he waved towards the three ladies and walked alone into the darkness.
After Zhang Xiaohua walked over to the place, he realized that it was not a forest but rather a slightly small hill so there was no firewood to pick up, although it did not mean that he could not practice his martial art.
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua took out his beloved small sword and effortlessly practiced the sword martial arts over once. Perhaps because of the several days of practice, the sword martial arts had become more sophisticated compared to the time Zhang Xiaohua first pierced a hole though the bamboo. During this period, Zhang Xiaohua was mostly concentrating on his control of the small sword, and now that his control has become so delicate, he could easily pierce though anything in front of him if he exerted additional strength such as through a rock or a large tree. However, he would use less strength on purpose and puncture a smaller hole on his target instead, this was also something Zhang Xiaohua picked up during his countless practice.
Ou Yan was indeed right, after Zhang Xiaohua finished nine repetitions of the dipper heavenly fist and felt the familiar cooling sensation envelop his body, the light pattering sounds of the rain began to sound. Since he had finished his homework for the day, Zhang Xiaohua naturally did not stay any longer and immediately ran back to the encampment. However, while he was running halfway, he felt a strange sensation and immediately stopped while the rain drops fell onto his body. When he strained his ears to listen, apart from the sounds of quick footsteps and people shouting “It’s raining” that came from the direction of their base, there did not seemed to be any other movements. Perhaps it was the sound of the rain, or perhaps the rain masked the actions of the sound.
However, the rain grew heavier so Zhang Xiaohua did not dare to stay ay longer as he rushed back to the base.
On the hill where Zhang Xiaohua was training earlier, a person who was dressed in dark camouflage and with his face covered appeared from nowhere and looked at the back of Zhang Xiaohua as the latter ran off. He then turned to look at the raining night sky before laughing in satisfaction, and with his qinggong, he disappeared again.
When Zhang Xiaohua reached the base, it was a flurry of chickens flying and dogs jumping, the rain fell too suddenly and even though everyone had some sort of preparation, they were still flustered by its sudden arrival and their hands and legs became busy and messy. After everyone finished packing their stuff, the rain was already falling heavily like a river from the sky.
Zhang Xiaohua was in the same tentage as He Tianshu again, and by the time the former entered, He Tianshu had already set up everything as he smiled at the boy and asked, “You went to practice again? It is raining everywhere.”
He casually threw over a towel which Zhang Xiaohua caught smilingly and replied, “It began to rain after I finished. This rain poured for the sake of hurrying them to finish packing.”
Zhang Xiaohua used the towel to dry the rainwater from his hair and suddenly recalled, “I just met the villa master, she gave her permission to let you borrow her books. However, you cannot spread them and have to keep them in good condition as well.”
He Tianshu said, “I have to thank you in that case, Xiaohua.”
Zhang Xiaohua felt strange and asked, “Won’t it be the same if you asked the villa master yourself? Why do you need me to ask in your stead? You see her face to face every day while I have to wait for so many days before finally getting to talk to her.”
He Tianshu said embarrassedly, “About this, you are still young so it is harder for you to understand. Villa master Ou is the villa master of Huanxi mountain villa, while I am a disciple of the pharmacy hall in Piaomiao sect, so I am afraid she might reject me if I asked her personally.”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded in understanding, and as if he thought of something again, he said, “Oh right, I still have to thank squad leader He for saying good things about me in front of the villa master. The villa master said that after this trip is over, she would find an opportunity to talk to sect master Ou to let me learn martial arts.”
“Ah? Really?” He Tianshu asked in disbelief, and he asked, “The villa master really said that?”
“Yes!” Zhang Xiaohua nodded his head happily.
He Tianshu smiled and said, “I only said the truth about you to the villa master, for you to have caught her eye is your own fate, so you have to thank her properly in the future when there is a chance to.”
Zhang Xiaohua replied, “I will definitely do so. Villa master is so kind just like an elder sister, I will definitely repay her kindness.”
He Tianshu continued, “However, learning martial arts depends on fate, if your body has not recovered, you might not be able to achieve much even if you learn martial arts so you need to be mentally prepared. Furthermore, Piaomiao sect has many disciples who are just as hardworking as you, you are only considered hardworking when being compared to the other servants like Ma Jing in Huanxi mountain villa, so you will still need to put in extra effort in the future.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s face turned solemn as he said, “I understand, squad leader He, you all treat me so well so I will definitely work hard in learning martial arts.”
He Tianshu laughed and walked up to the front and patted his shoulders, he said, “I was just as hot-blooded as you in my youth, good job, I will watch you carefully…..”
He then wrinkled his brows and said, “The rain is so heavy and our base is close to the river, I wonder if there will be any danger in the night. I shall go find Shi Niu and the rest to discuss this. Zhang Xiaohua, go and rest early tonight.”
Suddenly, right at the midst of his sentence, within the pitter-patter of the rain emerged the sounds of horses galloping. He Tianshu and Zhang Xiaohua exchanged anxious glances as they ran out of the tentage at the same time.