Chapter 8: Connected to the Vault of Heaven

Doubting his fish lineage

Mo Li held a heavy heart as he headed back to his medicine shop.

Upon entering the house, he noticed that the atmosphere there was strange. Tang XiaoTang was hiding behind a door, looking around timidly, while Qin Lu stood with his hands clasped in the courtyard, deep in thought as he stared blankly at the wall, not uttering a word.

Elder Qin did not wear a hat, only a thick robe, looking as if he had just woken up.

“Master?”

Mo Li followed his gaze to look at the wall.

– There were traces left within the fallen snow, where someone had once turned over the wall and into the yard.

Although it couldn’t be said that one didn’t need to be guarded at night in Zhushan county, and there were no bandits on the roads, however as a Physician, Mo Li still holds a prestigious position here. Part of it stemmed from the good foundation left behind by his master, Qin Lu, and a greater part was because Mo Li spent the last four years continuously curing diseases and saving people. This wasn’t to say that the physicians in the village weren’t dedicated to their craft, but that they simply did not have the capability to resolve an emergency in the middle of the night. On the other hand, Mo Li would head out of the door, be it tramping over mountains or through ravines it wasn’t a big deal, and his footsteps were swift.

Physician Mo often hauled the family member who was seeking treatment for the patient off, running ten miles of mountain road without batting his eyes.

Thus, basically everyone in Zhushan county knew the Physician Mo was well-versed in martial arts. But their knowledge toward martial arts was very poor, in their hearts, Constable Qin who was responsible for arresting wicked people and Hunter Zhou who had once killed a tiger, were stronger than Mo Li.

As for Physician Mo’s skills, it all came from collecting herbs along the cliffs and rushing along the road through the night.

Mo Li: “……”

Other physicians: “……”

No, they didn’t have any martial skills, it definitely wasn’t because of collecting herbs, nor was it because they travelled lesser, it truly wasn’t.

Whenever people ate five-coloured grains [1], they would all fall ill, no matter whether rich or poor it was the same. Physician Mo was very easygoing, it was alright if they couldn’t afford to pay temporarily, however ruffians and blackguards didn’t have this privilege. Even if Mo Li treated them, it was only after they had been in pain for a few days. Such a person couldn’t be offended, which thief would dare come through their walls?

It wasn’t that Mo Li looked down upon those thieves living within Zhushan county, but that with such a thick layer of ice and heavy snowfall, it would be difficult to even climb up the walls with just the ability of a three-legged cat. [2]

Mo Li took a few steps back, and circled around the courtyard wall, his expression slowly changing.

Zhushan county is a small place, there were only three and a half people who could be counted to possess true martial arts skills, with that half being Constable Qin. The others were only physically strong, picking up a few kicks and punches from random outside sources. The martial arts that they practice didn’t form a set [3] nor did they possess any internal strength. Yet on this day alone, Mo Li has seen a lot of martial arts practitioners. Aside from the Saintess and her bodyguards from the Holy Lotus Shrine, now there was actually a guy who climbed over his own wall?

When Mo Li reentered the house Tang XiaoTang ran over, staring at his hands as he said somewhat guiltily, “Physician Mo, it’s all my fault, I was fooled by that person. I really thought that he came in though the doors……” After hearing this, Mo Li finally understood why Elder Qin looked so grave.

The place where the intruder stood at after entering the courtyard was just outside the scope of Qin Lu’s perception. If he had walked forward a few more steps, it is likely that Qin Lu would have been alerted. As a hidden expert with a strong cultivation, he was extremely sensitive to the spiritual Qi of others, let alone one that did not have good intentions.

“You said he stared at you?” Mo Li reached out with a hand and picked his junior disciple brother up, first touching his head and then his face.
En, very cute, looks just like the type that would be targeted by human traffickers.

“His eyes were like knives, like he wanted to pierce someone with them.” Tang XiaoTang nodded his head in emphasis and said loudly, “I’ve seen this person before, Constable Qin said he’s a foreigner, and I also heard him inquire after Uncle Niu about you, Physician Mo.”

Mo Li couldn’t help but glance at Qin Lu.

The outsiders that he met that day, none of them were dedicated experts. [4] Why is it that their accomplice was different from them? Moreover, what is this situation? This person took notice of him because of the ginseng, yet he was also aware of Elder Qin’s capabilities, and ultimately his target turned out to be the Tang XiaoTang who wasn’t even as tall as the stove top? Where was the causal relationship between these three things?

Qin Lu was also troubled. When he woke up and saw the tracks left on the courtyard wall, that person was already gone without a trace of shadow. With only that few words from Tang XiaoTang, he completely couldn’t figure out what techniques that person used and what it was that he wanted.

“Master……”

“En?”

Mo Li held Tang XiaoTang and asked seriously, “Do you have any enemies?”

Qin Lu glared, and was about to say something when Mo Li pointed toward the junior disciple brother in his arms and asked, “If you don’t, then what about XiaoTang?”

“How is it possible for him to have enemies, how old is he? His parents were ordinary people living within the mountains, and couldn’t even read, what kind of enemy could they possibly have?” Qin Lu flapped his sleeves and said coldly, “As for your master, those enemies of mine have already gone down to the Yellow Springs.” [5]

Mo Li and Tang XiaoTang’s faces were filled with admiration, especially Tang XiaoTang with his child’s temperament, especially worshipped those heroes told of in the books, who made sure to repay gratitude and hatred alike.

Looking at their expressions, Qin Lu said sourly, “It’s not like what you’re thinking. It’s only that I lived longer, and they just didn’t have this kind of ability. People who are getting on in years have to eat at an appropriate time, according to the time of the day……”

Mo Li hurriedly put Tang XiaoTang down, and switched to a different topic, “Master, are you thirsty, I’ll go boil some hot water.”

“Little disciple will go get some tea for Elder Qin!” Tang XiaoTang also ran off in a flash.

Qin Lu lost his smile, these two clever little brats.

Auntie Ge was busy sewing at the county administration area where dinner was provided, so she won’t be able to head back to the medicine shop to cook. But this wasn’t a problem for Physician Mo. The house didn’t lack rice or other food staples, and he could just casually come up with two dishes and one soup to rectify it.

When it was time to lit the evening lamps, Uncle Ge came back with a neighbour. This medicine shop accountant brought back a few cold and hard fried pancakes, [6] which tasted very good when it was torn and dipped into the meat broth. In one breath, Tang XiaoTang had stuffed himself with two bowls.

When Auntie Ge came back, the table was just cleaned up, and she began speaking enthusiastically about the dragon god. With Tang XiaoTang nestled in her arms and Uncle Ge who had just finished washing the dishes, looking from afar, they seemed just like a family of three.

Mo Li silently looked at that for a while, then returned to his bedroom.

Even though the room wasn’t lit, it was still bright due to the moonlight reflected by the snow outside.

At this time, if there was a red mud stove, be it making wine or tea it would be an enjoyable thing, Qin Lu thought to himself, yet he didn’t do anything for he could tell that Mo Li had something he wanted to say to him.

“Shi Zhi, [7] you’ve got something on your mind.”

“…… Master, have you heard of dragon’s veins?”

Qin Lu halted his actions, and he lifted his head to ask, “Who told you about that?”

Mo Li did not hesitate to sell out Elder Li.

“Magistrate Xue’s aides actually spread these hearsay?” Qin Lu was extremely dissatisfied.

“But Master, if it’s not a dragon’s veins, then what about the dragon that appeared during the day?” Mo Li hesitated, then asked the words that he had kept within his heart for a long time, “Qi Mao mountain is different from elsewhere, its always blooming with plants and there are many beasts, could it be because of the dragon’s veins?”

Qin Lu was speechless for a moment.

As a scholar, he had always been very disdainful toward things like auspiciousness and immortality.

Those rumours about a dragon’s appearance in the clouds, including the sudden increase of wild beasts in the mountains, the discovery of an elixir etc. have all been regarded by Elder Qin as “auspicious”, and as every official knows, such things were like hot air. [8] If those in power liked to hear it, then every year would be an auspicious year, and a sign would appear every month, and there would be all sorts of tricks every day.

So when a dragon appeared in the skies, Elder Qin was shocked to his core.

“Master, I wish to head back to the mountains and look around.”

If the dragon veins have surfaced in this world, and the mountains are filled with spiritual grass, then would the white ginseng turn into a human? What about the fox? And the python?

Mo Li was somewhat unable to sit still.

Qin Lu started to speak and then stopped. He surmised that his disciple’s problem has reacted once again.

– Elder Qin’s heart suddenly had a strange thought, perhaps Mo Li didn’t have a problem and everything he said was actually true?

Qin Lu was shocked by his own thoughts and he couldn’t help but to recall the circumstances of the first time he met Mo Li.

That year, it rained heavily for three continuous days in Zhushan county. The water level in the river had soared and overflowed, eventually forming a mountain flood. Qin Lu walked along the mountain’s ridges, and estimated that there was a village in the direction of the flood route, He hurriedly rushed over to rescue them but was late by a step, and the whole village was covered by a vast stretch of water. Those thatched houses made of grass were swept aside by the waves, immediately disappearing without a trace.

Qin Lu followed along the edge of the water to search, hoping that some people had managed to get into barrels and tubs, and were still left alive.

Yet despite going back and forth three times, he only found a naked toddler atop a large, broken branch.

That child was possibly scared by him, yet he did not cry, and only hugged the tree branch with a dull expression. When Qin Lu lifted him up, the child did not resist, and no matter what was asked, he did not speak. The child had clear eyes that were full of innocence and ignorance.

Qin Lu did not expect that during a mountain flood, he would casually pick up a toddler with a good aptitude for practicing martial arts. Otherwise he wouldn’t just immediately decide to keep a child after finding it.

Qin Lu taught the child to read, taught him the way of life and the foundations of the world.

This child’s name was Mo Li and it seemed like he couldn’t remember anything else except this name. He was just like an ordinary child, growing one headlength every year, and Qin Lu personally watched as his disciple grew from a toddler that bit his own fingers into his current appearance of a jade tree in the wind. [9]

How could he possibly be a fish demon? Wasn’t it written in the records of the strange [10] that spiritual beings who transform into humans have a fixed appearance?

“Master? Master!”

Seeing that Qin Lu was suddenly lost in thought, Mo Li could only helplessly call out to him a few times.

“Oh, where was I? If you wish to go back then go, master……” Qin Lu wanted to say that he would come along, but because of what happened today, Qin Lu subconsciously felt that Tang XiaoTang couldn’t be left alone.

Recognising Qin Lu’s worries, Mo Li simply said conveyed the matter about the Holy Lotus Shrine and requested Elder Qin to remain at home to watch over.

Sure enough, Qin Lu hadn’t heard of the Holy Lotus Shrine. He had lived within the mountains for many years, abstaining from world affairs, and never thought that not only did the world not gotten more peaceful, it was instead in even more chaos.

“Now that the snow has closed off the mountain roads, the Holy Lotus Shrine shouldn’t be sending more people over.”

Qin Lu has never before seen anyone in the Holy Lotus Shrine, but in history books, there were all sorts of people who were like this, using the title of immortals to preach various things [11] and stir up a rebellion. Yet it basically said that by chanting scripture one would be invulnerable, and that by converting one would be wealthy and eat good meals, while demonizing those who did not believe and getting their followers to kill and rob them.

Elder Qin thought, if it wasn’t because he was old, he might just pack up and head out to chop the head off that nuisance sect leader.

“Master will head to the county administration tomorrow and inquire from Magistrate Xue, where is the den of that Holy Lotus Shrine.”

“Master!” Mo Li was shocked. He knew Qin Lu’s temple very well.

Who would travel in this bitterly cold weather? No matter how high is Qin Lu’s cultivation he was still human, and swords have no eyes on the battlefield. It would be dire if ten thousand arrows were shot at once.

“Don’t worry, I won’t be going, XiaoTang is still at home!” Qin Lu said sullenly, “Since I know someone has certain intentions for us, naturally, I will keep XiaoTang by my side. With such a baggage, where can I go?”

Mo Li let out a sigh of relief, then quickly bid his master goodbye and headed out into the night toward the mountains.

A cold wind blew, and as soon as he entered the mountains, Mo Li vaguely felt that there was something in his surroundings.

“…… Spiritual Qi?”

Mo Li closed his eyes doubtfully and probed his surroundings.

It wasn’t spiritual Qi but a unique fragrance.

Mo Li’s face changed. He thought back to a few days ago when he was sleeping in the spiritual pond, he suddenly noticed a unique scent that was exactly like this one.

For now, he couldn’t be bothered about the spiritual ginseng or the fox anymore. He gathered his legs and ran toward the cave.

As he got closer, the scent grew stronger.

Finally arriving at the cave, Mo Li rushed in, but the cave which was covered by a blanket of snow was completely empty.

No that’s not right, the pool was not frozen and there was something on the water.

Moonlight shone through the top of the cave into the water, the silvery light forming a straight line. A misty white object was floating on the water’s surface, bobbing up and down gently.

Mo Li inhaled a breath of cold air, carefully making his way to the water.

That ball of white mist suddenly floated up, and Mo Li’s expression changed rapidly. He could feel that this thing was the source of that unique fragrance, and could even sense that the other was absorbing the essence of the moon.

What is this thing?

A demon? Perhaps it was another fish? Or was it a dragon?

The misty white object drifted in front of Mo Li. It was round and only the size of a child’s fist.

Suddenly four tiny claws and a tail appeared on the white ball, and it rolled to the edge of Mo Li’s feet.

Mo Li was stunned.

This, this seems to be a mouse?

No that wasn’t right, mice didn’t look like that and they weren’t as fat as this. It’s fluffy image was like a ball, and it was also really soft. Mo Li’s body stiffened as he felt the tiny drops of moisture emitting from its body, and those tiny claws pressing against the top of his shoes.

So, so tiny.

  
  

Translator’s Notes:
[1] Apparently there’s a history behind five-coloured rice (五谷杂粮); you can read about it here.
[2] Though it’s translated literally to “three legged cat”, it actually means “jack of all trades, master of none”.
[3] Basically the things that they learn are incomplete. Usually a good martial arts technique would be divided into sections (on different manuals). These people probably only learned the first (and most basic/ foundational) set, and even then it’s not from a proper sect.
[4] “Dedicated experts” was the best term I could come up with. The author used the word 内家 which is used to refer to disciples belonging to a sect.
[5] Yellow Springs = Underworld
[6] It’s kind of like a savoury pancake (炊饼).
[7] If you’ve forgotten, this is the name his Master bestowed on Mo Li.
[8] Basically, empty words.
[9] Jade tree in the wind (玉树临风) is an idiom used to describe a handsome young gentleman’s talents and his physical appearance.
[10] Records of the strange (神怪志异) is a type of literature in Chinese culture that first appeared in the Han dynasty.
[11] I used “preach” because it was the best word I could come up with. But it actually means a set of teachings/beliefs that is passed on within a sect (传教). In a way, it is a sect’s inheritance (this can include martial arts techniques).

dreamxx: Oh I really didn’t expect the end. Looks like it might be another fish x hamster pairing? XD (reborn into a hamster, anyone?) Also in case you missed it, I’ll be going on a hiatus. You can check it out in the announcement page.

  

Short Hiatus

7 thoughts on “Chapter 8: Connected to the Vault of Heaven

    1. Hey I’m glad you like it! This is currently on hiatus though as I am currently busy with school and my other projects. I’ll continue with it once my schedule frees up ^^

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      1. Ahhh bimonthly is a little difficult right now given that I have other projects and I’ve started working full time now T.T but I’ll try to update monthly at least

        Like

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