Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Actually, little Meng had thought too far ahead, Zhang Xiaohua was only saying what he felt at the moment and he never had a female friend to play with since young. These ten days were when his body was weakest since his whole life, and there was suddenly a girl of similar age to accompany him to pass the time and chat idly so he naturally wondered how it would be if they had stayed together for a longer time. Hence, he never thought about how the other party would interpret the words, and even less about the feeling of the so called “first love”.
Zhang Xiaohua continued, “To be able to be saved by the two of you in the remote area can be counted as fate, however, who knows when we will meet again? From master Jing Xuan’s meaning, you must work hard to learn martial arts and once you achieve some accomplishments and wander around Jianghu as a heroine, then perhaps we can meet each other again.”
Little Meng pondered slightly and said, “Elder brother Xiaohua, I still do not know which sect our master is from so can you tell me where you are from?”
Zhang Xiaohua was quiet for a while, he then replied, “I have not joined any sect yet, and have only learnt some incomplete fist martial arts. I have told you everything else I could say, and regarding other matters, it might endanger the safety of some people so it is better kept to myself.”
Sigh, poor Zhang Xiaohua, how could he not know a girl’s heart? Can’t you say something else instead?
However, his response that day made little Meng feel that he was different from other people.
Little Meng nodded her head and said, “I know that elder brother Xiaohua is from Lu town and lives in Guo village, that is enough for me.”
She then bit her lips and her hands shifted uncomfortably behind her back before she raised them to the front and said to Zhang Xiaohua in an uncertain tone, “Elder brother Xiaohua, I do not know when we can meet again after we separate today. This is something I found in my bag that I would carry around wherever I go. I don’t remember its origins, but it seemed quite close to me so I guessed that it is something I used to own. I am giving it to you today as a memento.”
Zhang Xiaohua squinted his eyes carefully and saw her took out a hairpin that looked like a jade catkin. He could not help but feel surprised; he quickly waved his hands and said, “How do I dare to accept such a precious item?”
Little Meng replied in mock anger, “What is so precious about this? Is it because it is expensive? Even if it is worth a lot of money, it will still be useless if I do not use it and leave it lying around. Since it is useless to me, won’t it be better if I give it to someone who will cherish it more? If you don’t want it, I would just throw it into the river instead.”
After finishing her sentence, she motioned a throw and when Zhang Xiaohua saw her intentions, he quickly replied, “Don’t throw it, I will keep it alright.” He quickly took it away and thought secretly, “This thing is worth four to five coins, it will be such a waste to throw it into the river.”
How would little Meng know what he was thinking, she just beamed happily when Zhang Xiaohua took the hairpin from her.
However, following this, Zhang Xiaohua fumbled around his body before taking out the small sword embarrassingly and passing it to little Meng. Little Meng was confused, she stuck out her hand to receive the sword but it was unexpectedly much heavier and she almost dropped it on the floor. Little Meng exerted more force before she could carry it in her hands, and she then heard Zhang Xiaohua said, “As the saying goes, one must return a gift with another, I have searched my entire body but this is the only thing I could find, how about I give it to you as a memento?”
Little Meng did not know whether to laugh or cry when she saw the strangely heavy, black and dull object, she said, “Such a precious (made of two words heavy and precious) object, how could I receive it?” The word “heavy” was emphasized especially! Zhang Xiaohua scratched his head and shrugged his shoulders, he said, “But I only have this thing in my possession.”
Little Meng saw his sincere gaze and her eyes rolled, she smiled gleefully and said, “Then I will accept this gift. However, this gift is too heavy and will be inconvenient to carry during the trip, how about if you keep it for me first?”
After finishing her sentence, she passed the small sword back to Zhang Xiaohua with great difficulty. Zhang Xiaohua tilted his head and pondered for a while before extending his hand to receive it back. He said, “In that case, I will do as we promised and hold on to this thing for now, but it will belong to you.”
Little Meng nodded her head as she smiled.
When Zhang Xiaohua put the sword back into his breast, he still felt uncomfortable with the exchange and pondered for another moment before slapping his forehead and saying, “I got it.”
He then took out the hairpin and removed a piece of it to pass to little Meng. He said, “Since you gave me this hairpin, then it can be considered mine so I can give you a portion of it. What do you think if we each hold a piece?”
When little Meng heard his words, her face became so flushed that she almost bled, she could neither accept nor not except the hair pin that Zhang Xiaohua was offering her. In the beginning, she only wanted to give a small gift for remembrance to her first and only playmate, but this Zhang Xiaohua seemed to have misunderstood something and wanted both of them to each hold a piece of the hairpin, what did that represent?! What could he mean? Was Zhang Xiaohua hinting at something? Should she accept it or not? Should she explain it to him? Even though she had good feelings towards the latter, surely it was not up to that stage!
Thus, the choice to accept or reject the object became a problem!
However, Zhang Xiaohua’s following words removed her dilemma, he said, “This hairpin would cost at least four coins, I will feel safer if I keep only half of it which is about two coins worth.”
The blush on little Meng’s face faded immediately and she stared at Zhang Xiaohua severely. She stomped her feet, snatched the piece of hairpin in Zhang Xiaohua’s hands and said angrily, “Feel safe you idiot.”
She turned around and ran into the grass hut after finishing her sentence.
Zhang Xiaohua was stunned, he asked in confusion, “Weren’t we still good just now? I only wanted to return you half of the hairpin, why did her expression change so much?”
Zhang Xiaohua looked at the sky and said, “It doesn’t seem to be raining any time soon, why did she run back so hurriedly? There is no need to keep the clothes at all.”
Little Meng’s face had a cold and distant expression all the way up till night, she did not smile at the Zhang Xiaohua who was still confused about how he had offended the former.
In the morning of the next day, Zhang Xiaohua found a small cloth bundle beside his bed and when woke up. He opened it and saw a few broken silvers; Zhang Xiaohua could not help but feel a wave of warmth wash over him but at the same time, he felt like there was something not right. Thus, he took the cloth bundle in his hands and went out hurriedly, and indeed, the house was empty. Master Jing Xuan and little Meng had left early in the morning before dawn.
Zhang Xiaohua clutched onto the cloth bundle which was still slightly warm and he understood in his heart that master Jing Xuan was a good person. She had given him some coins on the previous day, but just as she was about to leave, she became afraid that it was not enough so she gave more. Zhang Xiaohua decided that he would repay the other party when he met her in the future.
However, he did not notice that the cloth used to make the bundle was little Meng’s handkerchief! That was normal, however, as this servant’s eyes would be drawn to the money even when it was placed with other things.
Zhang Xiaohua stood at the entrance of the grass hut and spaced out for a moment before recollecting himself and returning inside. The master must have gone into this room before she left to bade farewell but because he could not wake up, she must have felt puzzled but thought that it was fine anyway and thus left stealthily. In that way, they would still have good memories of each other, and neither party would cry or feel too hurt.
At that moment several tens of li away, a person was thinking, “Why does this Zhang Xiaohua sleep like a pig and cannot be woken up no matter what?”
The grass hut which usually had three inhabitants was suddenly left with only one so Zhang Xiaohua’s loneliness grew by a large extent. During the previous period of time, little Meng was always by his side to chat and even though master Jing Xuan was not around often, she could come back in the evening so Zhang Xiaohua could see her regularly. Now that he was alone in the grass hut, every moment became boring and lonely to him.
Ever since Zhang Xiaohua learnt to read, he would always use books to pass his free time, but how would this simple grass hut have a collection of books for him to read?
Thus, he went back to the empty space in front of the grass hut. He initially wanted to pull a few stances and practice his dipper heavenly fist but after performing a few stances, he felt a surge of pain in his body from the vigorous movements so he could only stop in cold sweat.
What should he do then?
However, Zhang Xiaohua felt another wave of inspiration when he saw the small mountain which was not far from the grass hut.
Even though he had been living in the grass hut for a long period, he had not stepped far out from the hut before so that day was a good day for him to explore his surroundings.
Thus, not long later, Zhang Xiaohua looked around and found a rod inside the grass hut which he could use as a crutch. He held it with his left hand and walked slowly step by step to the mountain behind.
However, just as he crossed the grass hut, he realized that behind the hut was a small hill and given his current injuries, there would be some difficulties for him to cross it. Zhang Xiaohua walked along the side of the hill and indeed, somewhere about the time it takes to boil a teapot ahead was a gentle-sloped path. Zhang Xiaohua checked his surroundings before holding on to his crutch carefully and climbed up with much difficulties. However, it was a different scene that greeted him when he reached the peak of the hill.
There was a plateau filled with trees, the trees were blown by the winter wind leaving their multiple bare branches and stalks that pointed up to the sky and the ground was full of fallen leaves and weeds. What he saw from the grass hut was only the beginning of the wilderness, and it was only the beginning of the forest, and from his current view, a single glance could tell that the wilderness extended who knew how far.
Zhang Xiaohua walked along the hill for a while before finding a spot he could descend before sliding down from there. The forest was full of fallen leaves which made walking comfortable, Zhang Xiaohua looked at his surroundings as he continued to walk ahead. There were numerous bird sounds that could stir one’s heart, and once in a while, there would be the rustle of vegetation when a small animal moved about the tree tops. Zhang Xiaohua listened earnestly, he guessed that they must be squirrels so he ignored them and continued to walk some more. Suddenly, Zhang Xiaohua heard more rustling of the leaves and grass and for a moment, he thought that there was someone who was walking in the same area as him. After listening to the sounds for a while, Zhang Xiaohua realized that it must have been a rabbit that was looking for food for the winter.
Zhang Xiaohua gulped his saliva when he thought of the small animals, life in the grass hut had been simple and meat was scarce among their meals, it had been a long while since he smelled the scent of meat. Sigh, if he could catch a rabbit or something similar, how wonderful it would be?
Except, what about his injury? Zhang Xiaohua looked at the crutch in his hands and extinguished the idea for the moment.
Zhang Xiaohua walked forward for a while longer and then lifted his head to look at the small mountain, it still seemed close from his position. Zhang Xiaohua then realized what the books meant when a man could ride his horse to death to reach the first mountain he saw, if he continued to advance further, perhaps there would be a dead Zhang Xiaohua that day.
So be it, he had only come over for a walk and had no intentions of tiring himself out. He picked up a few dried branches on the floor and turned around to head back.
At that moment, Zhang Xiaohua thought of a question, master Jing Xuan would always leave every morning and come back in the night, but in remote place where birds would leave their guano, what was there for her to be busy with? However, the master’s qinggong was probably superb and the area she could cover would naturally be far, perhaps she was looking for something in the vicinity? Or perhaps looking for someone?
Maybe because Zhang Xiaohua was preoccupied with the puzzle in his head, or perhaps because he was returning back, Zhang Xiaohua reached the front of the high slope he came from not long later. As he looked at the steep slope, Zhang Xiaohua shook his head and thought, master Jing Xuan definitely has her reasons for whatever she was doing so who was he to worry for her?
Zhang Xiaohua shook his head and began to make the climb.
When he reached back at the hut, Zhang Xiaohua’s entire body was wet with perspiration but it also felt comfortable, as the saying goes, life lies in exercise, and the sayings do not lie.
The rest of the day was similarly boring, Zhang Xiaohua took the fishing rod that little Meng left behind and thought of going to fish. However, he could not find any suitable bait so he could only learn from little Meng and threw the fishing line into the river, looked at the flowing waters and prayed that a fish would hook itself up.
Perhaps because Zhang Xiaohua’s prayers were not sincere enough, it was not heard by the heavens who did not send any fish along his way, so Zhang Xiaohua did not manage to catch anything at all. However, this idle time was passed by Zhang Xiaohua like that.
The weather grew colder with each passing day and a question that Zhang Xiaohua could not solve arose, he remembered being afraid of the chill last winter and would wear warm clothes early in the season. However, when the cold wind blew that year, even though snowflakes had yet to fall, the temperature had already fallen quite low and he was still wearing the travelling clothes from Huanxi mountain villa yet did not feel cold at all. It was a really strange occurrence.
Perhaps this place was already in the south? And the winter will not be as cold as in Guo village?
For the following days when Zhang Xiaohua immersed himself into the fist martial arts, he still could not find an answer to the question, but the problem which he encountered while trying to practice his martial arts naturally solved himself. Zhang Xiaohua was soon able to perform the dipper heavenly fist in its entirety. Speaking of this dipper heavenly fist, it was quite mysterious because despite Zhang Xiaohua’s slow speed, a feeling would still appear and circulate around his body as long as he persisted to practice up to the ninth repetition, although the thickness of the feeling differed.
Could this feeling only appear after every ninth repetition?
Actually, apart from the fist martial art, Zhang Xiaohua also tried to practice the sword stance which elder Yu had imparted to him. After all, this sword stance was pivotal in Zhang Xiaohua being able to kill the martial arts expert black clothed elder. Having personally experienced how life-saving the sixteen sword variations were, how could Zhang Xiaohua not try to practice them again?
Unfortunately, the sword martial arts were unlike the fist martial art. Zhang Xiaohua would try to practice for a while but he immediately felt unwell and had to stop. However, it was not as if his attempts were fruitless. When Zhang Xiaohua stopped to rest, his mind would immediately return to the moment when he pierced the black clothed elder’s throat. If he had immediately used another sword variation, the palm that almost took his life would not have reached his body. Of course, this was purely his conjecture because without foot movements to supplement his sword stance variations, this sword would never have reached its offensive potential but Zhang Xiaohua would never be able to realize this with his current understanding.
Zhang Xiaohua would practice his fist martial arts each day and slowly tried to perform his sword stances as well. His body seemed to get better with the passing of time, except, there was no news whether in the form of visitors by land or a boat by river. Sometimes, Zhang Xiaohua would feel wonderment on how master Jing Xuan was able to find such a remote spot.
Zhang Xiaohua would occasionally mutter to himself, should he stay or should he leave? Perhaps he should have left with master Jing Xuan earlier on.
While Zhang Xiaohua was entangled with his thoughts, the first snow of the New Year fell. Actually, Zhang Xiaohua was unsure if it was the New Year, but seeing that snow had arrived, he naturally linked it to the coming of the year and celebrated it as such.
Zhang Xiaohua had also gone to the forest at the back of the grass hut more than once after the first time, and now that there was so much snow, it was the perfect opportunity to go hunting. On the morning of one day, Zhang Xiaohua carried his crutch and went again to the hill behind the grass hut. Everyone seldom break away from a habit after it has formed, and Zhang Xiaohua was no exception as he chose the same path as the very first trip.
When Zhang Xiaohua entered the snow white world, he could not help but feel amazed at the scene of ice and snow before him, and even more so at the many marks of animals in the thick layer of snow on the ground as he thought that he would not return empty handed this time round.
However, just as Zhang Xiaohua was about to enter the forest, he realized that he had made a large estimation error. The snow was so thick, it was either flat like it has just fallen or dotted with many small footprints, so where should he look to trace any rabbits? On this wide expanse, it seemed that the only footprints that were traceable from afar was his own.
Zhang Xiaohua deliberated for a moment before heading in the direction of the small mountain, maybe he could find some animals to hunt from there.
Perhaps because of the snow, Zhang Xiaohua did not hear any bird sounds on his way as they bird were probably sleeping in their nests. Despite Zhang Xiaohua’s investigation, he could not find any trace of animals on the snow but he was not surprised, perhaps all the tracks were covered by the snow that was continuing to fall.
After walking for half a bell, the little mountain still looked the same as it was before, but Zhang Xiaohua had steeled his heart this time. He was determined to hunt over at that side and would not return empty handed this time round. However, the crafty rabbits had multiple burrows so how could Zhang Xiaohua who had so little hunting experience find them?
Hence, the greedy Zhang Xiaohua could only walk on the snow to continue his difficult journey.