LY 5

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Yan Zhengming’s attitude was disdainful, the gesture he used to beckon Cheng Qian over clearly one that was used to call for dogs.

His conduct successfully made Cheng Qian instantly snap out of his astonishment.

Since no one had ever been affectionate towards him, Cheng Qian had a deep sense of inferiority. After a long time, that inferiority had sunk into his bones and transformed into self-esteem that filled him intensely, to the point of near-paranoia. A single glance could make him raw, to say nothing of this gesture for pets.

It was like someone had dumped a basin of cold water over his head in the dead of winter. His face was also frozen into ice, no expression on top of it. He stepped forth while avoiding Yan Zhengming’s hand, then bowed in proper greeting. “Eldest.”

The other craned his neck to look at him, after which he leaned forwards ever-so-slightly. A seemingly barely-there fragrance of orchids enveloped Cheng Qian—however much incense he’d fumigated those lousy clothes with was enough to repel insects.

This Young Lord Eldest Senior guy probably wasn’t too great at reading peoples’ expressions, since he didn’t at all notice how Cheng Qian’s anger was soon about to overflow. He even casually took Cheng Qian in from head to toe, as if he was appraising a horse. Afterwards, Yan Zhengming nodded languidly as he probably felt that this one wasn’t an eyesore.

Completely ignoring the reactions of anyone else, he gave his newly-met junior an earnest message, his words hitting like a club, “You’re passable. Don’t ruin your looks later on.”

With that, for the sake of showing off the amicableness an eldest sect-brother ought to have, the Young Lord forced himself to sweep his hand a cun over Cheng Qian’s head in a fake pat. “I’ve met the one that’s bearing with an injustice and the one that is an injustice, so you can take them both away, Master,” he proceeded to half-heartedly order. “Hm. Xiao Yu’r, give him… them a handful of pine nut candies each.”

Zhenren Muchun’s old face suddenly twitched a little. He suddenly had a weird feeling, like the people he’d brought in to meet this degenerate disciple were not his juniors, but two bedmaids that had come from far away to entertain him.

…And they weren’t very pretty maids, either!

The candies were not typical candies. They were packed full into small, delicate sachets, had a layer of translucent sugar coating them, and were mixed with an indescribable floral scent that refreshed one’s mind.

Children from poor families would have never seen such exquisite food before, but Cheng Qian was hardly fond of it. The second they were out the door, he firmly stuffed his sachet into Han Yuan’s hands. “You can have it,” he said casually.

His ‘generosity’ rooted Han Yuan to the spot. He accepted the sachet with mixed feelings, as well as a little embarrassment.

At his age, the young beggar had always needed to fight over food. Everyone he’d known had mingled together for the sake of survival, each one of them living like a feral dog—who’d have the energy to care about other people?

He felt a warmth in his chest. While he was affected, a massive misunderstanding was born; his newly-acknowledged little senior was probably not weak and gullible, but actually non-confrontational and treated him well.

Zhenren Muchun was not so easy to fool, however. He plainly caught sight of Cheng Qian wiping his own hand off out of distaste like it had touched something unclean, and it was immediately apparent that this boy giving away his candy had not been done out of any sort of goodness. It had purely been because he hadn’t felt like giving his ghoulish Eldest any face.

That being said, the biggest temptation kids of this age could ever encounter was none other than food and drink, yet Cheng Qian had resisted it, hadn’t appreciated it, and hadn’t taken another look at it.

This little bastard is too hard-hearted, Zhenren Muchun thought, sightly rueful. If he doesn’t become a great genius in the future, he’ll turn into a great calamity.

Like so, Little Bastard Cheng Qian officially became a part of the Whirlwind Sect.

He stayed by himself in the Residence of Repose the first night, then slept until the hour of the Rabbit and some change. His night had been sweet and dreamless. There’d been no hardship from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, nor a longing for home.

Early that morning, Xueqing gave him robes to change into and combed his hair into a bun, dressing him up into fake poise.

Children didn’t need to have their hair tied back, but Xueqing said that because he had already enrolled in an immortal sect, he was no longer a child of the common world.

The biggest difference between goodchicken and malfeasant sects was that the latter was complete rubbish. Even though this goodchicken sect’s origins were unclear, it seemed to have some actual foundations on the surface.

Before anything else, there were inscriptions. Precious and rare immortal inscriptions from legend were almost everywhere here—even the trees and stones and such were all carved full of them. Pointing out an inscription on a tree’s root, Xueqing said to Cheng Qian, “If you ever get lost on the mountain, all you need to do is ask these stones and trees, Third Elder.”

While he spoke, Xueqing stepped up to demonstrate. “Please show us to the Hall of Ignorance.—That’s the Sect Leader’s residence. You’ve just entered the sect, so you must go to him today to receive your precept.”

Cheng Qian didn’t answer, looking on in amazement as the root emitted a faint light before him.

It wasn’t too bright out right now. That faint glow came up in clusters as lustrously white as moonlight, the shine giving the forest around an inordinately fanciful atmosphere. It attached to a few other stones and trees, thus snaking a clear and simple path through the woods.

This wasn’t the first immortal mechanism Cheng Qian had ever seen, but it was the first useful one he’d ever seen!

Xueqing was skilled at reading expressions. He knew this boy to be sour-faced and very pretentious, so he didn’t say anything upon seeing his surprise, simply waiting until he looked over to calmly mention, “This way, Elder. Let’s follow the light.”

While walking on this path paved with lights, Cheng Qian finally felt like he was becoming another person on the verge of living another life.

“Who made all of this, Brother Xueqing?” he asked.

Xueqing had no way to correct the boy’s form of address, so he simply let it go. “The Sect Leader did,” he answered.

Cheng Qian was shocked, finding that a little hard to believe.

Up until not too long ago, he had thought of his Sect Leader Master as only a slightly lovable, long-necked pheasant, neither pleasant to look at nor of any use. Was he not a charlatan after all?

Was he actually in possession of skills no one else knew?

Was he also how legends told, someone that could devastate everything before him and summon the elements themselves?

Cheng Qian imagined so with somewhat unfathomable hope, only to find that it was still difficult for him to brew genuine reverence towards his Master.

Xueqing brought him along the lit-up path to Zhenren Muchun’s Hall of Ignorance.

The ‘Hall’ was actually a tiny thatched-roof cottage with no immortal artifacts or fancy plaques. A palm-sized wooden signboard was hung on the courtyard’s gate, which had a crude animal’s head carved into it; the head looked a little familiar to Cheng Qian, but he couldn’t remember what it was for right now.

Next to the head was a series of small characters that read, ‘Proclaim Ignorance to Every Question.’

The cottage made Cheng Qian think back to his own countryside home for a moment. It was far too simplistic here, nearly having nothing to it at all.

There was a tiny, lonely courtyard at the home’s entrance. Within it was a small wooden table arranged with a three-legged stool; the latter’s lame corner where a leg should have been propped up on a boulder, while the table’s surface was full of cracks. Zhenren Muchun was currently sitting upright behind it, staring hard at a small tray placed on top of it.

Said tray was rough, poorly-fashioned pottery; its craftsmanship was laughable, its shape was neither square nor round, and not even its bottom had been rubbed level. A few old, corroded copper coins were dispersed on its surface, complementing it very well, which gave it an eeriness of old, strangely enough.

Cheng Qian involuntarily stopped in his tracks. In that very moment, he felt like his Master had a heavy austerity as he stared at the copper coins.

Meanwhile, Xueqing laughed. “What heavenly decree have you scried from the trigrams today, Sect Leader?”

Hearing that, the Sect Leader solemnly put the coins away, then tucked his hands away into his sleeves. “Heaven has decreed that chicken stewed with mushrooms should be added for today’s meals,” he casually answered.

While he spoke, his beard puffed out, his shifty eyes looked around, and the tip of his nose twitched, displaying his genuine excitement.

As soon as he saw that look, Cheng Qian felt it was really familiar, and then he swiftly connected everything together until he had an epiphany—the animal head on the Hall of Ignorance’s sign was a weasel’s!

Country bumpkins knew nothing about the sages, nor would they have ever understood any Buddhist or Daoist scriptures. The gods they worshipped were completely random. Unorthodox ‘deities’ like the ‘Immortal of Yellow’ and ‘Immortal of Green’ were included in that, and they were known across the land.

‘Immortal of Yellow’ referred to a weasel spirit. ‘Immortal of Green’ was talking about a snake spirit, which also known as the ‘House Guardian Serpent.’ Supposedly, enshrining those two Immortals had them guard one’s household and keep one area safe.

When Cheng Qian had been small, he’d seen a tablet that enshrined the Immortal of Yellow, and an animal head just like it was on it.

Thinking as much, he looked at Muchun’s body again. The man had a long torso, short legs, slender bones, thin skin, and a small chicken-y face… no matter how one looked at him, he was the spitting image of a weasel having turned into a spirit!

Harboring this doubt that defied description, Cheng Qian stepped forward and bowed towards his Master—who he suspected of being a weasel in a mortal’s body—with complicated emotions.

His Master waved him off with a laugh. “No need to be so courteous, it’s too pedantic. Our Whirlwind Sect finds that stuff out of vogue.”

Cheng Qian thought with a bitter heart, What’s in vogue? Chicken stewed with mushrooms?

At exactly that moment, Han Yuan also arrived, and he shouted from far away, “Master! Senior!”

He personally practiced what was known as ‘out-of-vogue courtesy.’ As soon as he came in the door, he started harping about stuff. “Hey, Master, why do you live in such a cruddy place?!”

Done harping, the young beggar toured around the Hall’s courtyard once more like he was getting familiar with it, and then ended up stopping in front of Cheng Qian.

This beggar, who was as short-sighted as a rat, had been entirely bought off by one pouch of pine nut candies. He’d decided that Cheng Qian was nice to him, so he didn’t call him ‘senior’ in any mocking way as he stepped up and took the other’s sleeve affectionately. “Xiao Qian, why didn’t you come find me to play yesterday?”

Annoyed at the sight of him, Cheng Qian quietly took a step back at once, pulling his sleeve out of his hold. “Fourth Brother,” he greeted flatly.

After having been changed into an adult’s outfit by Xueqing, his smooth forehead and slender brows were now exposed, making him graceful and good-looking, like a jade figurine. Anyone actually made of jade would be forgiven for being a little reclusive, probably.

Han Yuan was a beggar child with no mother, no father, and no proper upbringing. Whoever didn’t please his eye just didn’t please his eye. Whoever pleased his eye was pleasing in general. In his current opinion, Cheng Qian was the kind that seemed pleasing regardless, so he didn’t mind the other’s indifference even a little.

A domesticated boy like this is different from us who’ve traveled the world, he yet thought happily. He’s shy. I’ll have to look after him more in the future.

In spite of how small Zhenren Muchun’s eyes were, his gaze shot out of them like a torch. After idly watching this all for a time, he spoke to cut off Han Yuan’s shameful, one-sided act of friendliness. “Xiao Yuan, come here.”

Han Yuan toddled over to his teetering little table. “What is it, Master?”

“Even though you became a part of the sect later, you are a little older than your Third Brother,” Zhenren Muchun said seriously, watching him. “I have a few things I need to tell you first.”

Their weasel-like Master was still a Master. It was rare for him to be so serious; Han Yuan automatically straightened his back out.

“By nature, you are impulsive. Carelessness is a fault of yours. For that reason, I am giving you the words ‘stable stone’ as your precept. It’s to warn you that the heavenly path is the avoidance of opportunistic exploitation, the avoidance of excessive arrogance, the avoidance of a divided mind.[1] From now on, you should always restrain yourself and concentrate. Don’t slack off for even one day, understand?”

Han Yuan raised a hand to wipe his snot off. He hadn’t understood even half a sentence of that precept poem, so he gave a confused grunt.

Thankfully, Muchun didn’t go after him for his lack of courtesy, turning to Cheng Qian once he was done speaking.

Only at this time did Cheng Qian realize that their Master didn’t have natural triangular eyes. Rather, he had inner-double eyelids that were always half-hooded, and his seemingly wandering gaze looked terrible.

When he opened his eyes this time around, they briefly held some clarity within their contrasting black and white, slightly abstruse, and he looked at Cheng Qian almost sternly.

The translator says: Thus marks the end of non-Google Docs updates. The rest of the posts will be truncated and include a click-through to the Doc.
Not everyone likes Docs, but we can thank site crawlers for the fact that I have to do this, as well as braindead individuals for why I don’t offer EPUB versions anymore.

Google Doc is here.

[1] Author’s note: This quote comes from one of Zeng Guofan’s family letters, one of which mentions ‘the heavenly path is the avoidance of opportunity, excess, and disloyalty,’ which I’ve expanded via my own wild interpretation.

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