The fish swam thrice around the pond in a carefree manner before it slowly came to a stop.
Fine snowflakes drifted down in a circular motion and gently landed onto the water. They floated and sank according to the fluctuation of the waves, shrinking slowly from big to small and eventually vanishing.
It was indeed a beautiful sight. However, to view it from beneath the water was like watching a snowy fireworks display from across the world, it looked lively on the surface, yet it was not and never would be.
Mo Li watched quietly for a while, then slowly sank to the bottom of the pond.
This was a living spring. Even though it was midwinter season and the surface is encased in ice, water constantly flows at the bottom of the spring and through the cracks of the four stone walls.
Because the water was trickling down very slowly, it wasn’t obvious from watching the water’s surface and one would think that this was a small pool that was formed by water dripping from the cave.
The spring was not large, but it was very deep, such that even a pyramid formed by three adult men could not reach the bottom.
This place is Mo Li’s home. His original home.
Ever since he could remember, he had lived within this pool of water. The waters of the spring were full of spiritual Qi and moonlight would shine through the holes lining the top of the cave into the water, just like a silver thread that had fallen into the pool. As an ignorant fish, he could not help but to playfully chase after it for a long time.
As for his consciousness –
It was probably that he suddenly became enlightened one day after playing for so long. These are the rays of the moonlight. Even if they were broken, they could still be restored.  Although its silvery appearance made it look like it would be very delicious, however it couldn’t be eaten, it was completely fake, and one would only end up drinking a belly full of water!
Mo Li refused to recall his past stupid self.
Fortunately there weren’t any other fishes or prawns living within this spring. Otherwise, upon thinking that they might have witnessed his past silly self, Mo Li might have been tempted to eat them all up. This line of thinking led to Mo Li wondering for a long period of time afterward as he watched the empty spring, whether he had killed off the entire brood before he had become enlightened.
This matter left a hidden scar within Mo Li’s heart until he became human and wanted to find companions of his kind. Only then did he realize that that wasn’t the truth.
The air on Qi Mao mountain was filled with an abundance of spiritual Qi, and amongst them, the most dense of all could be found within this mountain spring.
Mo Li had once thought of planting the white ginseng within this cave. However, after only a day had passed, its leaves became wilted, and three days later, it was already half-dead. A panicked Mo Li transplanted it in a rush, moving it to a different place where the spiritual Qi was less dense, and only then did the white ginseng begin growing in such a robust manner.
The same went for the white fox and the giant python. Upon entering the cave, both immediately became uneasy and anxious, and slipped out after a while, refusing to stay inside no matter how they were persuaded to.
Those ordinary birds and beasts avoided the cave even more. Even if they were forcibly brought in, it was not long before they were dying. At this point, Mo Li could only let them go.
It was only after studying medical books that Mo Li understood what was going on.
Just like how a ginseng had to be sliced, a diagnosis had to be made using the pulse, and medicine had to be prepared according to the prescription. One couldn’t eat something just because they felt like it. Even more so, one couldn’t stuff themselves with something just because it is something beneficial. If taken at random, even an elixir could cause one to die prematurely.
In order to become a spiritual being, one first had to have the talent. After absorbing a lot of spiritual Qi, it was crucial not to let the Qi seep out from the bones, for then it would end up costing one’s life. Even if one had the talent, it was something that had to be done gradually, and one could not attempt to boost the cultivation speed of a seedling.
Mo Li guessed that many years ago, when he was still just a small fish, as he instinctively searched for a place filled with dense spiritual Qi along the mountain stream and swam into an underground current, he was brought into this cave and into the vicinity of the water spring where he resided. There he drank water infused with spiritual Qi from the spring and fed on the essence of the sun and the moon, which filled him after consuming just a little. Eventually, as he ate more and remained there long enough until he attained enlightenment, the fish had grown large enough that it became unable to swim back through the cracks and leave the spring.
– It is reasonable to infer from this that he is an exceptionally talented fish.
If he wasn’t, then how could he have not only lived, but even cultivated into a human?
According to the ancient books, those that were like the mythical blue Qilin  belonged to a special class of beast that was fortuitous and unique. Many times, Mo Li had examined himself in the reflection of the water, but no matter how he looked, he was still just a fish.
– An ordinary black scaled fish.
Mo Li was the name that he had come up with for himself, Li because he possessed a few similar features, and also because he wished that he was a carp.  It was said that the carp leaped through the dragon’s gate.  No matter how one considered, the carp had to be the most promising one out of all the fishes.
But master had said that in this world, there has never been a fish that successfully leaped through the dragon’s gate.
Because there were no dragons in this world, only fish.
…… No dragons!
Mo Li began to panic in his heart, he believes his master because Qin Lu wouldn’t lie to him. Even if the legend of the Yellow Emperor  becoming a dragon was recorded in the ancient books, even if there was a story of a white dragon playing in a waterfall in the mountains, if Qin Lu says no, then it certainly does not exist. All those talk about dragons were merely empty words with no evidence to back them.
However, that was all in the past when he was “just a child”. The Mo Li now no longer worried about these things and would not think about leaping over the dragon’s gate. He was a fish, and Zhushan County’s Physician Mo.
Even the serious Physician Mo would miss his old home at times.
No matter how small it was, it was still comfortable.
It was possible to swim one full round in this small pool within the blink of an eye, and it wouldn’t take long even if he used his tail to slide against the four sides of the stone wall. The black scaled fish swam along the big and small gaps in the stone wall against the current and used this to scrub his scales clean.
It felt very comfortable, except that the water was a bit cold.
The black scaled fish lazily opened his mouth to make a yawning action as he sank to the bottom of the pool, near the heart of the spring. One of the beautiful round stones happened to be stacked together with some nearby stones to form a natural groove, which Mo Li immediately used as a bed. It was the perfect size and there was an abundance of spiritual Qi there which came from the heart of the spring.
If there was fine weather, the skylight that came through the hole in the roof of the cave would shine directly on that spot.
The gathering of the essence of the sun and the moon and the spiritual energy of the earth here could be said to be a gift from nature.
As he laid down in that familiar spot, Mo Li quickly fell asleep and entered a dream.
Outside, the heavy snow did not stop falling, and the pool of water soon formed a thin layer of ice. As the snow accumulated on the ice, it became thicker and thicker until midnight, when the cave’s silvery-white appearance was restored, the ground and the surface of water was frozen, and there was the pool was no longer visible.
A medicine basket remained near a corner of the cave, a pair of shoes lying next to it.
Everywhere it was silent, except for the snowflakes falling gently to the ground.
Suddenly, the medicine basket toppled over without warning and a neatly folded robe tumbled onto the snow.
The medicine basket wobbled a little before it stabilized once more. The cause wasn’t due to the wind blowing, but rather it seemed as if it was upset by an invisible presence which then hurriedly righted it back.
After this sudden disturbance had passed, the cave was restored to silence once more.
Almost as if there was someone who remained still in the same place, not daring to move an inch for fear of startling something again by accident.
A long time later, a crack appeared on the icy surface of the pool. Following that, more cracks emerged, spreading out from the centre in all four directions. The snow that fell into the cave seemed as if it had been caught within a whirlpool, in an instant it had disappeared without a trace.
The icy surface broke apart and the spring water gushed forth, like boiling water within a pot.
The sleeping black-scaled fish that had been startled awake slipped out forcefully from amidst the pile of stones and quickly floated up to the water surface.
However the strange occurrence had passed, and the wind and snow were the same as it was before, crushed ice and snowflakes mingling above the water surface. Mo Li swam a few laps around the pool suspiciously but was only able to capture a mysterious scent.
That scent was difficult to describe, and extremely faint. If it wasn’t because it was so out of place, Mo Li would have missed it.
Just as he was trying hard to discern this unknown scent, it vanished without a trace.
The more he thought about it, the more Mo Li felt that something was wrong. With a single sweep of his fish tail, Mo Li changed directly into his human form within the pool of water. He emerged from its surface naked, his body a faint blush, as he stepped onto the shore of the icy spring.
His lithe body drying at a speed visible to the naked eye, Mo Li stopped before the medicine basket and took in the scattered clothes, his face hardening.
Could someone have really been here?
Mo Li inhaled deeply, not even bothering to put on some clothes, and stood there with his eyes shut as he listened quietly to the sounds of his surroundings, feeling for changes in the spiritual Qi near the cave.
His range of sensing slowly expanded, from this cave to half the mountain, including the temple, the foothills where he planted the white ginseng, the white fox’s nest and the cave where the python was hibernating. All of it he examined carefully, but there was no difference.
Finally, his senses covered the entire mountain, including the village lying at the foot of the mountains. He didn’t sense anything unusual but saw something else happening.
Mo Li’s eyes suddenly opened, and he hurriedly put on his clothes, grabbed his medicine basket and rushed out of the cave.
On this night, Elder Qin who was asleep in the temple, was startled awake by the frantic sounds of his disciple’s knocking on the door.
Rolling his head and yawning, Qin Lu pulled on his shoes and came out.
Although Elder Qin was someone that paid attention to etiquette, however he wasn’t one to be restrained by it. Since his disciple came by in the middle of the night it must be an urgent matter, then why bother to properly dress and waste time.
“What has happened now?” Qin Lu blinked his eyes to make himself more awake.
Mo Li circulated his spiritual Qi to get rid of the lingering cold air on his body and walked a few steps closer, saying anxiously, “Master, the villages on the northern side of the mountains are in danger, and their temples have collapsed.”
“What?” Qin Lu hurriedly put on his clothes.
Having lived within Qi Mao mountain for so many years, he had never once seen a snowfall as big as the one this year.
In previous years it was also snowing, but it was basically gone by this time. When he thought of the snow that hadn’t stopped falling since evening, Qin Lu then realized that the snow collecting around the temple had already almost completely buried the door, even though when Mo Li left, half of it was still exposed.
“Master, I’ll help you gather your things.”
“No need, there’s nothing important. The books are locked in the box, it can be dug out later. Saving people is more important.” Elder Qin was already eighty years old, but he was even faster than his own disciple. Taking his medicine basket from the bedroom, he swiftly followed Mo Li out of the door.
Hmmm I wonder who that mysterious person is…
 I had difficulty translating this. But basically the author is trying to say that the rays of moonlight that are reflected in the water might be ‘broken’ or dissected but they can be restored once more if the waters are undisturbed.
 Also known as the Kirin (Japanese). You can read more about this mythical beast here.
 The Li (鲤) in Mo Li’s name refers to a carp: 鲤鱼.
 鲤鱼跳龙, literally the carp leaped through the dragon’s gate basically means that someone is very successful
 Those interested in the figure of the Yellow Emperor may read more about it here.
2 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Spiritual Pond”
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Thanks for the chapter!
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