Chapter 7: Dragon in the Clouds

After talking for half a day yet it wasn’t a monster, how disappointing!

Although Zhushan county is a small county, the county administration is not small.

At the front is the lobby which is used for handling official duties, followed by rows and rows of neat houses. Besides Magistrate Xue who held the seal of office in the county, from the lowliest servant up to Master Li, who was a senior official, all lived here, with the only difference being the size of the room.

When Constable Qin returned with the people from the Holy Lotus Shrine, he did not enter through the main entrance, but instead went directly to a side courtyard. Directly behind this courtyard is the county’s jail.

This courtyard is very large, it is the place where servants always come to eat. The person in charge of purchasing supplies often dumps the whole cartload of dry charcoal and Chinese cabbage into a big pile stacked against the wall before slowly moving them into the cellar for storage.

Similarly, Constable Qin roughly threw the captives in the corner. Because of the snow, if those who enter the courtyard did not pay attention it would be difficult to tell that they were people and would assume that it was some sort of supplies.

The moment Magistrate Xue received notice, he came very quickly, but made this mistake.

“Where is the Holy Lotus Shrine’s people?”

Constable Qin rushed to a corner of the wall and Magistrate Xue didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, awkwardly stroking his beard.

Magistrate Xue is already at the age of knowing his destiny [1] and normally did not display any signs of haughtiness. When not wearing the official’s robes, he seems exactly like an old farmer out in the fields, with a weathered face and tanned yellow skin, and only the beard was carefully trimmed.

He is a magistrate and an elder, Mo Li would naturally take the initiative to greet him, “Minister Xue.” [2]

Minister is the honorary title of a Magistrate, according to custom, only those distinguished scholars can choose not to greet officials when they meet one, [3] however Magistrate Xue has an easygoing personality, and rarely wears his official robes. As long as they weren’t in court, [4] he would forego greetings when meeting people, no need for so many rules.

“Physician Mo, you’ve worked hard. I heard that Elder Qin was also busy for a few nights, it truly has been a great deal of effort. The county administration has some freshly steamed mantous that are still hot…… there’s still half a pork slice, Physician Mo, why don’t you take it, it is good to nourish the body.”

As he said this, Magistrate explained somewhat embarrassedly, “The storehouse doesn’t have much money, dare not to casually use it. This old man [5] was still thinking of waiting for the snow to melt before heading to the neighbouring county to buy some grains back for emergency relief. But there are still some medicinal herbs left in stock, if Physician Mo thinks they are useful, please feel free to take them.”

Mo Li had good etiquette and said in a manner that was neither obsequious nor arrogant, “Humble me went with Master to save people, [6] it wasn’t for the sake of money, but just doing what we can. We save whoever we can, and cure whoever can be cured, that’s it.”

After saying this, he thanked Magistrate Xue for the herbs that he had gifted.

Magistrate Xue said with a smile, “Those herbs were mostly sent by the people, not even a single one was wasted. It is always necessary to make the best use of things.” When he turned his head, he instructed a clerk to go to Elder Li for the keys. Because there are several warehouses in the county, all of it were used to store supplies and money in order to provide emergency relief. Early in the morning, Magistrate Xue had already ordered the opening of the warehouse and picked some necessary items.

The magistrate has called, naturally the elder would hurriedly carry out his orders, until now Elder Li had yet to take a bite.

When Mo Li followed the clerk to find Elder Li, this man that was working behind the scenes had his head covered in rags and was busily counting a pile of newly-stitched cloth. Such a big room was filled with elderly women who were temporarily called over to do needlework.

Elder Li’s appearance wasn’t very appropriate, his features were like a monkey’s and he had a thin frame. From afar, it looked very comical.

“Physician Mo, you’re here.” Elder Li licked his lips, and the cloth stuck to the corner of his mouth.

The clerk standing to the side laughed, and quickly helped him swipe the cloth away.

Mo Li did not laugh, to him, whether a person’s appearance is beautiful or ugly does not matter to him. Don’t say that it looks like a monkey, even if it looks like a bear, he would still remain unmoved and would not even wrinkle his forehead.

When the clerk passed on Magistrate Xue’s words, Elder Li took out a large bunch of keys and picked out a single silver-coloured one, and personally brought Mo Li into the warehouse.

On the way, Mo Li took the opportunity to inquire, “Elder Li, what is the Holy Lotus Shrine?”

“The blight of the country.” Elder Li casually replied then felt that something was off and asked, “Physician Mo, why are you bringing up the Holy Lotus Shrine for no reason?” [7]

“Naturally, it’s because I’ve seen them.”

“What?” Elder Li was surprised.

Mo Li began to speak in a way that was not too fast or slow, about everything, from the sudden appearance of the Holy Lotus Shrine to Constable Qin arresting them and throwing them into the jail, leaving out only the details about him dealing with the Saintess and her bodyguards.

However even though he did not say, Elder Li could also guess. He sighed, “It’s all thanks to Physician Mo, if not Constable Qin would be at a disadvantage…… Ai, even being disadvantaged would be having good luck. I’m afraid that the people he brought with him would immediately be down by a few. These bunch of people from the Holy Lotus Shrine, whenever they enter a place, they’d always attack the adminstration’s people first.”

Elder Li pulled at his beard agitatedly and sighed continuously while lamenting, “Why did the Holy Lotus Shrine come to this place? Zhushan county is so poor and it’s out in the wilds, there is neither oil nor water. This really is a big trouble!”

He took two steps and suddenly looked around, there was no one around. He quickly grabbed Mo Li’s sleeve and headed toward a corner.

“Physician Mo, just a moment.”

Mo Li was waiting to dig up more information from Elder Li, so he followed him to the back of a pine tree. It happened to be at a corner between the courtyard’s walls, and there are no windows on both sides, so no one could see them.

“Physician Mo, did you happen to see the cloud dragon in the sky today?”

“Cloud dragon?” Mo Li never thought that Elder Li wouldn’t be speaking about the Holy Lotus Shrine, but instead talk about that dragon, and was very surprised.

Elder Li’s tiny eyes stared at him resolutely and he nodded, “That’s right, the dragon body that’s made from the clouds.”

Mo Li vaguely felt that Elder Li knew the truth of the matter and was puzzled. Even Elder Qin was unaware of this, yet Elder Li was very clear about it?

Elder Li seemed to guess his doubts, his eyebrows pulling down as he sighed, “This thing isn’t some sort of secret, it’s just that Elder Qin has never believed in these, unless he has seen it with his own eyes.”

“……”

Don’t believe in what? That there are dragons in this world?

Physician Mo’s eyes brightened, he has been lonely for too long. In the three hundred miles surrounding Qi Mao mountain, there were no monsters. Although he was close to his master, however there were some problems that he couldn’t discuss with Qin Lu.

For example, Mo Li couldn’t figure out how old he was, the books say that trees have rings and fishes have scales.

Fish scales vary in size, and rarely fall off. The scales that grow in the spring and summer are larger, while those produced in autumn are fine, and there are no scales that grow in winter, only in spring do they appear again.

Thus round and round, the traces left by each year are clear. By counting the thickness separating the circles of scales, one would know the age of the fish. However ever since Mo Li attained consciousness, ten years has passed, but his real body remained at the same size, and there was not the slightest bit of change. The scales shone with light and gave off reflections, like a flawless piece of black jade. There was completely no clear boundary between the scales.

Mo Li’s current appearance was like that of a young man in his twenties, but he has always felt that he wasn’t just this old, but might even be older than Qin Lu. Although people sometimes learned things at an earlier age than others, and a teacher did not necessarily have to be older than his students, Mo Li still did not want to let Qin Lu know that he might possibly be a hundred-year-old fish.

Elder Qin slept early and woke up early. He was particular about what time he ate, what he ate and even how many times he moved his chopsticks while eating. Mo Li really didn’t want to be dragged into that kind of life by Qin Lu.

Just thinking about it was scary.

– Plus, he still had the white ginseng, white fox and python that he was raising in the mountains.

Obviously, they were all spiritual in nature, but they just couldn’t transform. Could it be that they were lacking something?

When Mo Li transformed, it was with ease. He only had to think about what he wanted to do and he smoothly became human. Yet having this experience was equivalent to not having, there was simply no way to teach the fox/ python/ ginseng.

Dragon. Looking at its powerful appearance, it should know all these!

Physician Mo’s eyes turned sharp, and Elder Li shivered involuntarily. He was puzzled and couldn’t understand why Mo Li was suddenly so excited. The pressure behind this gaze, no one could stand up to it!

Elder Li blurted out, “The earth’s veins is the reason for the cloud-formed dragon.” [8]

“The earth’s veins? What’s that?”

“It is……” Elder Li looked around and whispered, “The dragon of this world.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Mo Li said with a stern face, “In the previous dynasty there was an emperor who thoughts did not seek progress, and who listened to the words of alchemists. He sent people to dig up the ancestral graves of the rebel army, destroying their so-called dragon veins so that they can’t become dragons and sit on the throne. [9] In the end, the nine tripod cauldrons [10] still had different owners and the country was torn apart!”

“Ai, they’re not the same thing!” Elder Li waved his hands, “The dragon veins come from the sayings of Fengshui, but it is not as simple as that. Some wandering priests like to use the dragon veins to spin tales, going around to swindle others, saying what Azure Dragon White Tiger [11], good and ill luck being foretold in the stars, all of that are gibberish. If the ancestral graves are where they are, then their descendants would be able to sprint like a Feihuang [12] horse and rise to the top as officials. Then what use is reading books and learning martial arts? How can there be such good things in this world, they are all liars!”

Mo Li was silent, these words were the same as Qin Lu’s, and Elder Qin has always been very contemptuous of alchemists.

“Physician Mo, you’re a medical practitioner, you should know that Fengshui is based on rumours. In this world, there are definitely people who have slept in the wrong position, opened their windows in the wrong direction, resulting in their families getting sick again and again. But those are visible and tangible reasons, who in the world would stand in the wind all day long and not fall ill?”

Mo Li shook his head slowly, “But it is still useful to learn Fengshui, for example where those who are devout to Fengshui are buried.”

Elder Li lost his smile and quickly said, “These words that are said in jest privately, you definitely cannot let Magistrate Xue and Elder Qin hear. Desecrating tombs is a crime punishable by beheading.”

Mo Li was not interested in Fengshui, he continued to ask, “Then what is going on with the dragon veins?”

“There is this mountain, the medicinal herb-collector suddenly saw a field of spiritual plants, and there are many more birds and beasts. If wheat was planted, the harvest was several times that of previous years. Or there could be a river that has been ordinary for many years, but the fisherman’s catch increases day by day, and the pearls within the shells are as big as the thumb, won’t you say it’s strange?”

“……”

Why did this sound like a surge in the spiritual Qi that affects all life within the mountains? Mo Li’s brows creased deeply.

Elder Li said mysteriously, “ Moreover in all these places, there are people who have seen the shape of a dragon within the clouds, and later there was a saying about the veins of the dragon. It is said that there are many dragon veins in this world, shaped by the mountains and the rivers, that are not seen by mortals. However there are always accidents, such as mountain mining, or natural or manmade disasters, which will alarm the dragon veins and cause it to surface.”

Mo Li’s face filled with disappointment, so to speak it wasn’t a monster. [13]

  
  

Translator’s Notes:
[1] He’s old enough that he will probably come to the end of his life soon
[2] Mo Li addresses him as 令君 which translates into something like “Minister”.
[3] In ancient China, there is a custom (or I should say, a rule) whereby people with lower statuses have to perform a formal greeting to those of higher rank to them. Though I say “greeting”, this can range from a more casual verbal greeting, to bowing, to kneeling (servants). Usually scholars perform a verbal greeting accompanied by a slight bow.
[4] Court is a formal session where all the officials gather to discuss important matters, usually it’s held in the morning in the Imperial Palace, with the Emperor.
[5] He’s referring to himself (Magistrate Xue) in third person.
[6] “Humble me” (在下) is a, well humble way, of referring to oneself when speaking to another who is superior to you in status. It could also mean “humble subject”.
[7] Okay I’m getting lazy to type out “the people from Holy Lotus Shrine” every single time. Anyway, the Holy Lotus Shrine by itself signifies a sect of some kind… so I’ll just be using it’s name from now on when making references to its members.
[8] It also means the layout of the land/ geographical terrain (how it’s formed).
[9] In the past, emperors were akin to dragons (a powerful creature to symbolize a seat of power).
[10] The nine tripod cauldrons symbolized sovereign power. You can read more about its origin/legend here.
[11] Azure Dragon White Tiger: Qinglong Baihu (青龙白虎) are mythological creatures in Chinese legend. Read more about it here.
[12] The full phrase is 飞黄腾达加官进爵, where “Feihuang” refers to a legendary magical horse that can run/ rise very fast. This is a phrase that is used to describe one’s meteoric rise in his/her career.
[13] The author uses the word妖怪 here which translates to “monster”. However, that has a bad connotation to it, and such creatures aren’t necessarily bad. Obviously you have the good ones and the bad ones. Thus, I decided to translate it into “spiritual beings” which is a much more encompassing term but… it’s gotten to be a bit of a mouthful to type. So just note that I’ll be using these two terms interchangeably in the future.

Another chapter~ I hope I got all the translations right XD There were so many references to Chinese legends/ mythology. Oh and I’ll try to get chapter 8 out by this week too.

PS: You might have noticed that I often use “Physician Mo” to refer to Mo Li (not including those instances when the other characters address Mo Li of course). That’s because the author wrote it that way. Would you prefer it if I changed it to just Mo Li (again, aside from conversations)? (Personally, writing “Physician Mo” feels a little off to me) Let me know in the comments! 🙂

  

Chapter 6Short Hiatus

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