Chapter 2: Qi Mao Mountain

MC: But… I really am a fish!

The tallest mountain within Zhushan county is Ji Mao mountain (鸡毛: chicken feather).[1]

According to the country’s records, in the ancient times, this mountain was called Qi Mao mountain.

Qi from the word “forked road”; Mao from the word “luxuriant”, which is used to describe the flourishing landscape. As its name suggests, Qi Mao mountain is a place whereby one could easily get lost in. There are many, many trees, vines and wild weeds barricading the mountain road. After a time of ten days to half a month has passed, the path that one had taken would become utterly unrecognisable.

This kind of place where one could go in but not come out, would undoubtedly be filled with all sorts of legends.

According to hearsay of the people living within Zhushan county, there are several different types of mountain gods alone.

Aside from the most commonly seen Fox immortal and Weasel immortal, there were also the human-like cat demons, the fiery mountain trolls who loves to feast on human flesh and a long list of other gods and demons.[2]

There are also several temples scattered throughout the vicinity of the mountains.

Apart from those lying at the foot of the mountains, there are not many incense offerings in the other temples as only hunters and woodcutters would drop by occasionally for a rest.

Braving the wind and snow, Mo Li arrived in front of a temple with red tiles and yellow walls. The temple door is already half-buried within the snow, which he had to shovel aside in order to fully uncover it. Once that was done, he opened a slit to let himself through before shutting it tightly behind him.

A faint fire flickered within the temple, and the delicious aroma of roasted sweet potatoes permeated the interior. Even though the temple was obviously occupied by other people, Mo Li was not surprised, seeming as if he was aware of it beforehand.

He had just placed his medicine basket on the ground when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from behind the statue of a mountain troll.

“You’re here just in time.”

The one who spoke was a dignified-looking elderly man. Even though he was dressed in an ordinary cotton robe and his face was filled with wrinkles that were akin to a pine tree, he possessed a pair of sharp, clear eyes, and temples that were slightly bulging at the sides. When he walked, his footsteps were measured, completely unlike that of a person in his old age.[3]

“Master.”[4] Mo Li bowed to him respectfully.

This man is his teacher, Qin Lu, who not only taught him how to read and write but was also responsible for his peerless medical skills and even his philosophy in life. According to human traditions, he should be termed as “master” or “sir”.

Qin Lu nodded his head and casually found a straw mat to sit down.[5]

He is a hermit who lives in the mountains all year round, and the only people whom he comes into contact with are woodcutters and hunters. Giving these settings, it is unnecessary for one to pay attention to their etiquette, but yet Qin Lu maintained a regal air and manner that seemed as if it belonged to a nobleman.

“Sit.” Qin Lu instructed. Only then did Mo Li grab a straw mat and a few things from the medicine basket along with it: salt, a gourd-shaped bottle of medicinal pills, flint and silver.

“There is no end in sight to the snow. I was worried about sir, so I came to pay a visit.” Mo Li sat upright, displaying in all respects, a proper, well-educated appearance.

Elder Qin heaved a sigh and nodded his head, “You have shown your sincerity.”

Not waiting for Mo Li’s reply, he continued, “Before the snow sealed off the mountain pass, the woodcutter Zhou’s third child ran into a suspicious person in the mountains. From his description, it seems as if it involves some outsiders. Qi Mao mountain does not produce any good quality ginseng; it is strange that these people chose to visit.

Mo Li bowed his head, seeming as if he was seriously listening, but in fact, he was hiding a guilty conscience.

That’s right, the wild mountain ginsengs found in Zhushan county were only normal ginsengs. That white ginseng that he found after scouring the entirety of the surrounding three hundred mile radius, was the plant with the greatest amount of spirituality. Every year, he would even shift its position and plant it in a new area where the spiritual veins converged. Now the white ginseng has been fattened until it is twice the size it was the year that he found it.

Not just the white ginseng, but the white fox too.

Besides the serpent that was born and raised here, the other two were forcibly brought back by him to this mountain.

Nowhere else, because Mo Li felt that only the spiritual air on Qi Mao mountain was the most abundant within a three hundred mile radius. Leaving aside the white ginseng, the white fox had initially been very unwilling and unhappy but became obedient after staying for a while. This was a good place, as all who lived here knew.

“These visiting mercenaries hunting for ginseng are basically in the business of killing people. [6] They flock like flies to wherever they can earn a fortune and aren’t necessarily interested in searching for spiritual ginseng.” Elder Qin sighed.

“When I came here, I happened to meet the mercenaries you mentioned. They are now buried under Songyun cliff.”

Looking at the respectful Mo Li, Elder Qin became thoughtful. He was interested in how those mercenaries managed to anger Mo Li. Based on his understanding of this disciple, as long as others do not trouble him, then he would be too lazy to get involved.

However, seeing that Mo Li did not have any intention of explaining himself, Elder Qin decided not to pursue this matter.

– This disciple was different from others, and one could not speculate using common sense.

“Those mercenaries probably left some reinforcements behind before entering the mountains. You should be more careful when you leave and return to Zhushan county.” Elder Qin casually stated. Though he personally wasn’t worried about those men, however those living around Zhushan county are poor, ordinary folk, and their hunters are but men with slightly thicker fists[7] that could not provide much resistance, and who were unable to defend against those murderers.

“Go inquire about how they managed to arrive here. Qi Mao mountain is relatively unknown and there has never been anyone who came here to hunt for spiritual ginseng. Moreover, it lies about seven or eight hundred miles away from the border. Even if one got lost, one couldn’t possibly end up here.”

“Yes, Master.” Mo Li lifted his head and hesitantly reminded, “…… Master, Qi Mao mountain is an old name. Nobody calls it by that name anymore. This is Ji Mao mountain.”

Elder Qin’s faced turned black.

Even though as a hermit he was open-minded, however the name given to this reclusive mountain was simply too unpleasant, causing his heart to give a painful clench.

The hermit of Ji Mao mountain, he simply couldn’t accept that.[8]

Perhaps it’s because the name Qi Mao mountain was too difficult for the illiterate common people to understand, and it was difficult to write, hence after passing it down for a few generations, a slip of the tongue resulted in a perfectly good name being gone.

In the past, Mo Li used to be very afraid of encountering those like him who resided in other mountains. After all, when getting to know one another, one had to introduce their name and place of origin. To have to say that he came from Ji Mao mountain, he wouldn’t have any face left.

Even if this face was worthless, one also couldn’t casually toss it away like this.

That said, children didn’t think their mothers were ugly and dogs didn’t fault their owners for being poor…… Forget it, if it was called Ji Mao mountain then so be it.

Ever since Mo Li could remember, he had lived within these mountains. It wasn’t wrong to say that this was his home. Mo Li wasn’t a human being, his real body was that of a fish. To use human terms, he was a spiritual being.[9]

– Thankfully his original body wasn’t that of a chicken. Otherwise, to be known as a chicken from Ji Mao mountain, then that chicken must really be dumb. If he were to introduce himself as such to other spiritual beings, then he would definitely be made into a laughingstock.

Later, Mo Li knew that he was overthinking it. Even if he was a chicken from Ji Mao mountain, there wouldn’t be anyone to make fun of him because there wasn’t a single spiritual being within a three hundred mile radius. He has travelled throughout Zhushan county and all its surrounding mountains, but even though each mountain was associated with many legends, however none of them have been confirmed. Having lived for so many years, Mo Li hasn’t even seen a single ghost, much less a spiritual being.

It was a lonely existence.

Fortunately, he met his master, a knowledgeable person and a true hermit who did not seek fame or fortune, who taught him many things, including how to live in this world.

Under the glow of the fire, Qin Lu watched the sitting-upright and vacant-eyed Mo Li before him and knew at once that he was distracted. He shook his head helplessly.

Mo Li was intelligent and eager to learn, highly gifted and excelled in both civil and military affairs and was also humble and courteous. However, there is one problem……

Elder Qin could not understand why Mo Li, the legendary doctor whom he personally acknowledged, would possess a certain irrational streak. This child would always think that he was a fish, a spiritual being that became human only after cultivating the essence of the sun and the moon for many years.

Perhaps it was because he had been given the wrong name?[10]

Although this disciple was an orphan that he had picked up from the mountains, however it was better for outsiders not to casually change the name that had been given by one’s parents. Thus, Qin Lu gave him a courtesy name since early on, and never called him by his actual name.[11]

 His name Li (鲤) can be associated with the fish (鱼). A befitting name used in the hopes that he could live a free and easy life and follow his heart’s desire.

Qin Lu personally did not care for fame or fortune, of course he would not wish for his disciple to become an extremely successful and famous person.

Seeing that Mo Li’s irrational side did not interfere with his daily life, and the fact that Qin Lu could not cure him of it despite his best efforts, he subsequently ceased to concern himself with it.

After all, Zhuang Zi dreamed of being a butterfly,[12] and was caught between illusion and reality. It doesn’t matter who the “self” is, be it a butterfly or fish. What matters is what the “self” is made up of, and how to be a proper human being, a person that is upright and honest and who brings no harm to others.[13]

Elder Qin firmly believes that Mo Li fulfils the latter category, thus he was willing to turn a blind eye to his minor problems.

Once Mo Li came back to himself, he consulted with Qin Lu some problems he had with prescribing medicines before getting ready to leave.

“The wind and snow is so heavy, you can stay here for an additional day.” Qin Lu attempted to detain him.

“Disciple still has not visited spiritual mountain spring yet[14], and is preparing to head over now. I will visit master again tomorrow.”

“En.”[15]

Qin Lu stared emptily ahead.

This again. His disciple kept thinking that the living spring located within the depths of Qi Mao mountain was a home where fish sprites had lived for many years.

In reality, there were no fishes or prawns living within that spring, nor were there lizards, frogs or insects. The spring water is crystal clear till one could see the bottom, and absolutely did not resemble a misty sky. Even if one tried to spin a tale about the spring, they also wouldn’t be able to weave any mythical legends about it.

At the same time, upon seeing the expression on Qin Lu’s face, Mo Li let out a sigh within his heart.

Not again, he thought. Ever since master found out that he was a fish sprite, he became extremely anxious and even gave him lots of medicinal soups that were filled with strong spiritual Qi to eat. Afterwards, he also instructed him to never tell this to anyone else.

Every time they touched upon these topics, Qin Lu would begin acting in an unnatural manner. Mo Li learned from books and from listening to the woodcutters and hunters that mankind were afraid of spiritual beings. Nine out of ten stories pertaining to the appearance of spiritual beings would feature the poor human falling in a dead faint. Though Elder Qin was well-versed in martial arts, is resistant to cold and heat and eighteen warriors alone are incapable of matching up to him, however he is after all already eighty years old. How could a spiritual being like Mo Li, who sincerely respects his master, deliberately scare his elderly self?

“Alright, then go. If the snow does not stop tomorrow, help master bring some wood to fortify the temple.” Qin Lu calmly picked up the teapot on the table.

Mo Li bade his farewells and left with his medicine basket.

***

The distance between the spring and the mountain temple is not far, and it is located within the depths of a hidden cave.

The cave is not sealed off, and there were large and small gaps formed on all sides due to the long term erosion by the water. Now the cave is a silvery landscape, and its interior filled with ice sculptures is a stunning sight.

Mo Li followed along the path of the biggest gap into the cave, completely unaffected by the slipper ice surface.

The cave is extremely deep, and he took half a candlestick’s time to reach the end.[16]

Mo Li placed his medicine basket down and cast a quick glance around his surroundings before stripping the clothes from his body and stacking them neatly on top of the medicine basket. Under the reflection of the snowy light, the fair jade-like skin that was hidden by ebony black hair glowed with a faint blush, as bare ankles came directly into contact with the icy surface of the spring.

“Crack, crack……”

Deep cracks began to appear on the surface of the ice, revealing the thickness of the layer of ice.

Such a thick layer of ice shouldn’t start breaking as soon as it was stepped on.

The ice layer cracked and melted quickly, uncovering the clear spring water below.

Mo Li did not enter the water as the ice cracks continued to spread, causing the fine ice and snow to pile up, covering the entire surface of the water. Only when they slowly disappeared, did a dark shadow appear in the water.

“Pa!”[17]

A black scaled fish with the width of an arm jumped out of the water, flicking its tail before splashing back into the water.

  
  

Translator’s Notes:
Ahhhh Mo Li you’re such a cutie~ His master must be thinking what a silly disciple I have… ( ̄□ ̄;)

And I just love those bathing in a river/pond/spring scenes ♡ look at this art I found:

(Well technically, he is a merman… you know being a human-fish and all that :3)

[1] Literally means chicken feather, but it is also a word used to insult someone. To be more precise, I think it’s meant to refer to someone who is dumb, but correct me if I’m wrong.

[2] To be exact, the author writes 人面豹尾的山妖 (literally human faced leopard tail) and 山魈 (mountain elf, but ‘elf’ seems weird, so I changed it to trolls).

[3] Here the phrase 完全没有风烛残年、老态龙钟之相 is used to describe the elderly man. This roughly translates to him completely not resembling a flickering candlelight.

[4] The author uses the word 老师, which translates literally to ‘teacher’. However, given that this is an ancient Chinese novel, it is more appropriate to use the term ‘master’ to symbolize a master-disciple relationship.

[5] 蒲团: I think it’s translated as a straw mat.

[6] 参客: refers to visitors who are hunting for ginseng. I chose to use the word mercenary because I thought it fit the context better.

[7] 粗通拳脚: men with slightly thicker fists = those who know how to throw a punch/ use their bare-hands to fight.

[8] 根本说不出口: (it sounds so bad that) he can’t even bring himself to say it.

[9] The word 妖怪 was used here, which translates literally to ‘monster’ in English, but the author is going for a different meaning here, and that is to refer collectively to supernatural creatures.

[10] 名字: refers to his actual name, the name given at birth. Though I used ‘given the wrong name’ to preserve the essence of the author’s writing, in simpler terms, it means Mo Li was given an inappropriate name. Names are important things to the Chinese and is believed to shape one’s path/life.

[11] A courtesy name or style name is a name that is bestowed upon reaching adulthood.

[12] A famous Chinese philosopher. You can read about his dream here

[13] 俯仰无愧于天地 comes from a phrase by Meng Ci, another famous Chinese philosopher. The exact phrase is 仰不愧于天,俯不怍于人 which is to be upright and honest and not committing any actions that would bring about a guilty conscience.

[14] 灵泉: a spiritual water spring

[15] 哦: Basically a sound to acknowledge something that someone has said.

[16] One candlestick’s time is equivalent to one Shichen, which is about an hour.  

[17] Sound of something hitting the water.

  

Chapter 1Chapter 3

4 thoughts on “Chapter 2: Qi Mao Mountain

  1. Hi. I have added all of your novel chapter releases at Full Novels: fullnovelsDOTcom
    Can you check if I missed any of the chapters? And can you please add new chapters there whenever you post them? They are one of the biggest community of readers who are definitely interested in your translations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there. While I’m okay with my translations being shared on other platforms, I don’t have any intention of updating my chapter links on other sites, though you may feel free to do so. Thanks.

      Like

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