Chapter 4: Unexpected Occurrence

My master is getting old, I can’t scare him like that.

The sky had just turned bright when Zhushan county’s medicine shop boy crawled out of bed.

He rubbed his hands and put on a pair of cotton trousers, then seriously finished five sets of morning exercises before pushing the windows open by a small gap and looked outside with squinted eyes.

The snow outside had stopped, it was a good sign.

The boy happily went out the door and happened to meet the cook who had come out early to work.

“Ai, Tang Ya Zi, why are you awake? It’s such a cold day, quickly come over here.” Auntie Ge [1] held a bunch of firewood, about to enter the kitchen. She smiled and urged, “Eat some hot porridge for breakfast, I’ll add an egg and a few sweet rice cakes to ensure that you won’t be hungry.”

The boy scratched his head embarrassedly. He had barely stuck out his head when the cold wind blew, and it felt a little chilly.

Turning back to the house to look for a hat to wear, the boy named Tang Ya Zi then returned to the kitchen.

“Auntie Ge, it’s already the third day, Physician Mo should be coming back, I don’t dare to sleep in.” The boy pouted as he helped to fill the stove up with firewood.

Auntie Ge smiled and pinched his face and said jokingly, “If you were really afraid that Physician Mo would come back to test you, then you would be frantically trying to memorize your books right now. I think you’re just anxious to show your accomplishments. Go back quickly, there’s no need for your help here. Besides, Physician Mo might not necessarily be back today.”

“Ah?” The little boy was stunned.

Auntie Ge looked outside and said worriedly, “The snowfall this year is exceptionally heavy and isn’t over yet, and there are few clear days. The night Physician Mo left it started snowing again, now the snow in the courtyard is half a person’s height. I’m afraid the snow in the mountains will be even bigger.”

To be trapped in the mountains now would be troublesome.

As they spoke, the sounds of clanging suddenly drifted in from the streets, but it was only the calls of the county administration, going from door to door. [2]

Auntie Ge went out of the kitchen and the boy continued staring at the stove. It didn’t take long for Auntie Ge’s man to appear. He was the medicine shop’s accountant, dressed and ready to leave. Before he left, Auntie Ge only handed him a few cold mantous [3] for her husband to eat.

“Auntie Ge, what has happened?” The boy looked around curiously.

“Ai, several of the villages houses’ roofs have collapsed from the snow, and the county magistrate is asking for help to save the people!”

Shocked, the boy looked up at his medicine shop’s roof.

Auntie Ge hurriedly added, “This isn’t one of those wooden houses in the county village but is made of stone bricks so it’s very sturdy. Besides, this town is located on the southern side of the mountain and that goose feather snowstorm is blowing in from the north, so we are still shielded by Ji Mao (chicken feather) mountain.” [4]

The boy was quick to catch on and hurriedly asked, “Which village did the county magistrate say was in trouble, the northern or the southern mountain village?”

“Isn’t it obvious, it must be the southern mountain village. Such a heavy snowstorm, it must have taken days for the news to travel to this side of the mountain…… Oh, my buddha!” Auntie Ge finally reacted. If the roofs on the southern side’s mountain village couldn’t hold on, then what about the northern ones on the other side of the mountain?

Auntie Ge began to pray anxiously, “Heavenly disaster and man-made calamities, Amitabha……”

Before she could finish, a knock sounded on the door, and this time the boy ran out to open it.

Standing outside was a person from the county administration, Constable Qin, covered in snow. He dusted his clothes and eagerly asked, “Has Physician Mo come back?”

The boy shook his head, his expression like one that was about to cry.

Originally Constable Qin wanted to request Physician Mo’s help for saving people, but upon looking at the boy’s appearance, he also became distressed.

“Nothing will happen to Physician Mo.” The boy whispered.

Constable Qin wiped his face, because they were still hurriedly trying to save people, he can’t delay, and he lifted his foot to make to leave.

“Wait Uncle Qin, I can go save people too.” The boy spun around, intending to get the medicine chest.

Auntie Ge immediately grabbed the boy and stopped him, “Tang Ya Zi you shouldn’t run about, you’re not even as tall as the snow piling outside. If you get lost, then how will Physician Mo find you when he comes back?”

The medicine shop boy bit his lips, knowing in his heart that he wouldn’t be able to be of much help, and could only watch Constable Qin walking away.

The sky is overcast, and it was unknown whether the bit of light came from the sun that was hidden behind the grey clouds, or if it was light that was reflected from the snow.

Auntie Ge shut the courtyard door. Upon turning back, she saw the little boy staring at the clouds and couldn’t help but to glance at it as well – thick clouds, that didn’t seem to be clearing. “Tang Ya Zi, what are you looking at?”

“Claws.”

The boy replied vaguely so Auntie Ge did not hear clearly, and because she was afraid that the fire in the stove would extinguish, she didn’t bother to inquire further but entered the kitchen straightaway. The child was left staring at the sky, doubt written across his face. He was certain of what he saw, except that it wasn’t very clear.

There shouldn’t be any monsters hiding behind the clouds, right?

The boy was only eight years old, but he had already heard of many stories of strange happenings daily, so instead of being scared, it stirred up his curiosity and he shifted a stool over to the courtyard and sat there, staring up at the sky.

Until Mo Li came back, his junior disciple brother [5] was still staring dazedly at the sky.

That’s right, his junior brother. Ya Zi was also someone that was brought back by Elder Qin, his name was called Tang XiaoTang. This child’s parents were poor people who lived in the mountains. Because they had contracted typhoid fever and dragged it out for a few days, even a miracle doctor couldn’t save them. In the end, the husband and wife passed away, one after another, leaving behind a child that was just beginning to mature. [6]

An orphan like this whose parents had both passed away, became the responsibility of relatives and neighbours. If there was any surplus food at home, one would adopt the child, or everyone would contribute some to let the child be able to eat.

There are many poor people in Zhushan county, but the people here are simple and kind-hearted. Even Elder Qin said that this was a rare place to see, one that was filled with a taste of paradise.

The people live and work in contentment, working when the sun rose and resting when the sun sets. The county administration is clean and there was no strict taxation, taking only what was needed, and neither was there anyone who tried to skim money.

Qin Lu had saved many people including children, but eventually, the only ones left were Mo Li and Tang XiaoTang.

Mo Li was smart and eager to learn, with a good physique and aptitude for cultivation. Ya Zi who at such a young age could already recognize ten different types of herbs to make medicine, was a talent in this area, except that his physique wasn’t very suitable for cultivating. Qin Lu thinks that when this child has grown up, it would be enough as long as he could learn a little self-defence. As for his medical skills, he was still young, so there was no hurry to raise him.

Because Qin Lu lived in the mountains and Tang XiaoTang didn’t have any aptitude for cultivation, it wasn’t necessary for him to suffer and learn to fight when he was still young. Thus, he followed after Mo Li to learn and help out in the county’s medicine shop.

Originally, according to Qin Lu’s habits, one could only be counted as his personal disciple only if they had learned everything from him. If they only learned a portion of his skills, then at most they could only be disciples in name only. In the past, he wouldn’t pay attention to someone like Tang XiaoTang, and even more wouldn’t have placed him by the side of his closest disciple, Mo Li, to take care of. However, as people got older, they tended to worry more. Elder Qin didn’t have any worries, except for Mo Li’s little problem.

Even though this problem didn’t really affect anything and Mo Li himself was also a prodigal doctor, but just in case! Qin Lu was afraid that after he died, Mo Li’s problem would suddenly deteriorate. At that time, who would take care and treat his disciple? < Of course, it would be Elder Qin’s backup plan.

Qin Lu’s thoughts, Mo Li wasn’t aware of it. Anyway, this child was very carefree, so it was fine to let it be.

– Compared to raising children, Mo Li was more concerned about the spiritual ginseng, fox and python in the mountain.

Since there weren’t any spiritual beings within Qi Mao mountain, Mo Li wanted to search in a different place. However, now wasn’t the right time to leave. His master was getting on in years and his junior disciple brother wasn’t yet skilled. There’s an old saying in books that said not to stray too far when the parents are around. [7]

Seeing that Mo Li had entered through the door, and after blinking for a few times, notice Qin Lu right on Mo Li’s heels, a happy greeting sounded out.

“Elder Qin, Physician Mo!”

Because he didn’t formally become a disciple, Tang XiaoTang’s greeting was the same as that of outsiders.

Qin Lu’s face was lined with exhaustion, he hadn’t closed his eyes for two days one night. Yet it was only at Mo Li’s urging and the thought that his body indeed wasn’t like before, that he agreed to rest at his disciple’s home. Running about, bringing basins, getting towels and tagging behind Mo Li. [8]

“Physician Mo, the county administrator said that the roof of the southern mountain village has collapsed. Uncle Ge went out early to help, and at noon Auntie Ge was also called to sew some blankets to keep the cold out……”

“I already know of this, I’ll head out in a while.” Mo Li went to the kitchen to get some hot water and grabbed a hot towel for Qin Lu.

Qin Lu looked at Mo Li’s unchanging expression and thought emotionally, what a young man.

Mo Li followed Qin Lu’s line of sight, and was first startled, then stood up, giving a smile and a nod to put his master at ease. – He was a spiritual being, not a human, and would be fine with not sleeping for ten days, master knows that.

“The snowfall in the southern mountain village is smaller than that of the northern one so the situation wouldn’t be as serious there. I can handle it alone.” Mo Li stated calmly. When he saw that Mo Li was about to leave, the boy hurriedly got to his feet and said, “There is still some porridge left in the pot, I’ll go get it. Physician Mo, you should have some before you go!” He didn’t wait for Mo Li to reply and rushed to the kitchen.

Qin Lu wore an imposing look as he looked at Mo Li, about to speak but then he hesitated.

“Master?” Mo Li had already discerned that Qin Lu wanted to speak with him, but because they were busy saving people, thus he didn’t mention anything.

“Shi Zhi, [9] even though you are young and energetic, however you must also love and care for yourself.” Elder Qin still resisted and held back. Just now, when he saw Mo Li’s expression, he immediately knew that his problem had surfaced once more. He couldn’t speak casually for it would hurt Mo Li, so he could only attempt to subtly give advice.

– What do you mean the energy and endurance level was different from ordinary people? Obviously, it was because his cultivation was high, and he had good internal strength!

“Since Master has said so, Shi Zhi will keep it in mind.” [10] Mo Li was aware that Qin Lu was just concerned about him, so he listened obediently and brooded, “Disciple is just worried that if the snow continues to fall, many people might not be able to survive.”

“This is the work of heaven.” Qin Lu raised his head subconsciously. As a learned scholar, he was well-versed in astronomy and geography, so naturally he could see that there was no sign of the weather clearing, and there might even be a blizzard.

As the cold wind continued to blow, Mo Li suddenly frowned because he felt as if something had just flashed through the clouds.

“……”

The eyes of both master and disciple met, and they could determine from the other’s stunned look that it was not an illusion.

“Master, could it be that something is stirring up trouble?” Mo Li murmured. After all, amongst the numerous county legends, there were magistrates who offended the mountain god, causing the land to experience a drought for three years, or because a demon wasn’t given offerings, so it came out to create some waves. [11]

If it really was a spiritual being, then why as one himself did he not have such an ability?

Now that this thought was born, Mo Li’s mind suddenly had the feeling of being slammed [12], and he could only feel that heaven and earth had reversed. His consciousness had drifted out of his body to some unknown place, his heart empty, and he could see no road ahead.

“Pa.”

A clear sound, and the mist in front of Mo Li’s eyes quickly dissipated, his consciousness returning to his body.

How dangerous, his form almost crumbled. [13] Mo Li hurriedly smoothed out the scales the had begun to form on his face.

However, Qin Lu did not notice his disciple’s error. His neck was craned back, and he was staring at the sky, dumbfounded. By his side, Tang XiaoTang was also mimicking his action. The boy was so shocked that the bowl in his hands had fallen out of his grasp. It was precisely this sound that had called Mo Li’s consciousness back.

Seeing his master and junior disciple brother gaping stupidly at the sky, Mo Li couldn’t help but to look up.

“……!!!”

Amidst the roiling dark clouds, an enormous pitch-black dragon appeared. There were horns on its head, its claws were slightly outstretched, and its body was slender and looked extremely lifelike.

  
  

Translator’s Notes:
Surprise~ there’s another chapter this week since I was done translating it early.

On another note…
From now on I will be using ‘doctor’ and ‘physician’ interchangeably, though the official title for Mo Li is ‘physician’.
Demons and spiritual beings may be used interchangeably as well. Usually, spiritual beings just mean… well mythical creatures from legend, while ‘demon’ connotates something evil, so I shall switch between both words depending on the context.

Also, I noticed a mistake in my translation of chapter one (it has already been corrected). Remember Qin Bu Kuai? I just realized that ‘Bu Kuai’ (捕快) refers to a constable/officer and isn’t a name.

[1] 大娘 translates to ‘aunt’ and is used as a polite way of addressing an older lady, usually someone you are familiar with, but it does not necessarily mean that you have to be related to that person by blood or marriage.

[2] The author uses the word 保甲 here, I’m not too sure what it meant so I looked it up online and it seems to refer to some sort of township council/ administrative system

[3] Mantous are steamed white buns that are slightly sweet.

[4] Wordplay by the author: the battle of the goose and the chicken 🙂

[5] Tang Ya Zi is Mo Li’s 小师弟 or junior disciple brother. That is, they both have the same Master.

[6] Come of age.

[7] 父母在,不远游: basically, not to leave for somewhere far when your parents are still around

[8] Okay, I have no idea why this sentence was written here and if the author meant it for Qin Lu or Tang Ya Zi.

[9] Shi Zhi (适之) is the courtesy name given by Qin Lu to Mo Li.

[10] Yes, Mo Li referred to himself in third person (it’s not a mistake; it was how people sometimes spoke and is meant to sound respectful)

[11] Can also be written as ‘making waves’ (of trouble).

[12] Mo Li was utterly stunned.

[13] His human form.

  

Chapter 3Chapter 5

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