Xiaodong laid back down on the bed again and hugged the warm wood tightly. He closed his eyes, wanting to get a bit more sleep before the sun rose.
He might even dream of Master and Eldest Senior Brother again.
Unfortunately, whether or not he could get the dream that he wanted wasn’t under his control. Not all wishes would come true after all. At first he tossed and turned and still could not sleep. Then, when he finally fell asleep, it did not go as smoothly as he hoped. For some reason, his heart would beat fast and he would startle awake. This continued until the sun rose, when he was finally able to get a short nap.
After practicing martial arts with his senior siblings, they came together for breakfast. Their topics of conversation were naturally about Master, Senior Liu and Eldest Senior Brother. Senior Sister Linglong ruthlessly bit on a bun. “Even if I learn and practice hard for a dozen more years, I’m afraid I still won’t be able to beat the current Eldest Senior Brother in martial arts. But, no one knows when the opportunity to watch Master and Senior Liu compete will ever come again.”
With an especially good temperament, Senior Brother Jiang was still smiling as usual. He stood up and filled Senior Sister Linglong’s bowl with porridge. “It doesn’t matter if we miss it this time. Once Eldest Senior Brother returns, are you telling me he won’t tell us about it? Receiving pointers from Eldest Senior Brother is basically the same as us heading over ourselves to have a look.”
Linglong rolled her eyes. “This is how you are! You lack the desire to seek progress! Do you really think listening from others is the same as actually watching yourself? What Eldest Senior Brother comprehends from the fight will suit him, but it might not suit us.”
Even after her retort, Jiang Fan did not feel annoyed. He simply scratched his head and chuckled.
Whenever Xiaodong was eating with his senior siblings, he would eat more than usual. If he was alone, he would slice a large pancake into four pieces and would be full with just one piece. When with them, after talking and laughing, he could swallow down another piece.
These soft and crispy pancakes were always freshly steamed, and the more he chew, the more fragrant they became. As Xiaodong ate, he could not help but miss Eldest Senior Brother again.
He wondered just how Master and Eldest Senior Brother were passing the night on the mountain top? Did they sit on blocks of ice and meditate throughout the night?
And what were they eating now? The rations would be rather hard when frozen, so how would they eat them?
Jiang Fan realized that Xiaodong was in a daze. With his chopsticks, he lightly knocked on Xiaodong’s bowl. “Hey, time for your soul to return. What are you thinking about so intently?”
“I’m wondering how Master, Eldest Senior Brother and Senior Liu are eating breakfast… Can they make a fire there?”
Jiang Fan laughed the moment he heard Xiaodong’s answer. Even Senior Sister Linglong couldn’t help but laugh.
Xiaodong felt a little embarrassed when they laughed. Though he did not know why they were laughing, he could guess that he had asked a silly question.
“It’s easy to have a warm meal. Come over here, Junior Brother Chen. Show Little Junior Brother your hand. Neither of us two can use your traditional martial arts, so come and open Little Junior Brother’s eyes.”
Xiaodong curiously looked at Chen Jingzhi.
Though Chen Jingzhi usually kept silent and kept to himself, this time he was actually grinning as well. He put down his chopsticks and agreed.
Usually, this Fourth Senior Brother would always have a deadpan face, and after living together for such a long time, Xiaodong felt that this was the first time he saw Fourth Senior Brother smiling a little. With this smile, it finally made Senior Brother Chen look as a young man ought to.
Chen Jingzhi looked around the table and then picked a piece of pancake that had already turned cold. He clasped the pancake between his palms, and said to Xiaodong, “Please tolerate my poor performance, I’m still only at the rudimentary level for this martial arts.”
Xiaodong’s gaze was drawn to the pancake between his hands.
Chen Jingzhi held the pancake in his hands and stroked it a few times. Then, he passed the pancake to Xiaodong.
The moment he touched it, Xiaodong was surprised. The cold pancake had actually turned hot and even a little searing to the touch. The moment it heated up, it turned soft as well. It could now be eaten and swallowed, and did not look as cold and hard as it had a moment before.
“Senior Brother Chen is really amazing.” Xiaodong had really experienced something new. He faintly recalled hearing that there were martial arts that could emit heat, but he never expected Senior Mother Chen to know any.
From what Senior Sister said, it was not part of Returnflow Mountain’s martial arts, but traditional martial arts belonging to the Chen Family. However, given Master’s and Senior Liu’s abilities, they should possess such skills as well.
Looking at Xiaodong’s slightly embarrassed look, Senior Brother Jiang spoke up and smoothed things over, “Enough, enough. Little Junior Brother is still young, so let’s stop laughing. Little Junior Brother, are you still able to eat this pancake?”
Xiaodong rubbed his belly. He had already eaten quite a bit. He really could not stuff down this piece of pancake that Senior Brother Chen had just passed to him.
Jiang Fan was not courteous either as he picked up the pancake. After adding a few vegetables and some sauce, he finished it in less than three bites.
Senior Brother Jiang sure had a good appetite.
After breakfast, Senior Brother Jiang was still the one giving pointers on Xiaodong’s training. Senior Sister Linglong had a short temper and was impatient, while Senior Brother Chen should not be expected to teach at all. Not to mention he had yet to master his own martial arts, so he should not be giving pointers just yet.
After practicing with the sword for a while, Xiaodong stopped for a rest. Suddenly, he recalled the set of sword techniques that Eldest Senior Brother displayed, and could not help but ask, “Senior Brother Jiang, just how many sets of sword techniques does our sect have? Have you learnt all of them?”
Jiang Fan patiently listed them out for him, “We do have quite a lot. What you’re learning now is the most basic Rudimentary Sword Techniques. After you have familiarized yourself with it, you should be learning the Long Moon Sword Techniques next. That set of techniques has a total of eighteen moves…”
Xiaodong stood up. Recalling how Eldest Senior Brother looked last night, he reenacted one of the moves. However, he was in a trance back then and had only managed to vaguely remember it. Not to mention his body and movement techniques could not keep up with him, and so he was not able to mimic even a tenth of Eldest Senior Brother’s display.
However, it was after all still a sword technique of the sect. Senior Brother Jiang recognized it with a single glance. “Oh, that’s the move ‘Fiddling with the Flowers under the Moon’. Even I’ve yet to learn it. Among us siblings, only Eldest Senior Brother had learnt it. Senior Sister Linglong had begged Master to teach her before, but Master said that her foundations were still not stable enough yet. With her current abilities, she would be biting off more than she could chew learning an even more profound sword technique. It would bring no benefits to her. Just where have you seen it?” Before giving Xiaodong a chance to reply, he continued matter-of-factly, “You saw it when Eldest Senior Brother was practicing, right? This move is not as simple as it looks. I say, Little Junior Brother, don’t be too ambitious. It will take you another eight to ten years before you can even learn it.”
There was another thing that Jiang Fan did not mention.
Even after eight to ten years, looking at Xiaodong’s comprehension ability, it was hard to say if he even could learn this set of sword techniques. Master took Little Junior Brother in as his disciple because his old friend entrusted Little Junior Brother to him right before his death. Little Junior Brother had no family to return to nor did he have anyone else to rely on. If Master did not take him in, how was he going to survive all alone? However, Jiang Fan could see that Master was not placing much focus on Little Junior Brother.
However, even if Jiang Fan liked to talk, he would not say such things casually. Little Junior Brother had a pure and simple personality, and he was willing to bear difficulties and work hard. Even if he could not make a name for himself in the future, wasn’t that the same for most people in the world? Just how many people as incredibly talented as Eldest Senior Brother could there be?
Jiang Fan himself did not have much comprehensive ability either. However, he had an honest personality, which was something Master thought highly of.
Xiaodong never expected that just mimicking Eldest Senior Brother’s moves a little would result in Senior Brother Jiang giving him such a long lecture. He hurriedly nodded, expressing that he had learnt his lesson and that he would definitely work hard a step at a time, and never make the mistake of setting his expectations too high. Only then did Jiang Fan nod, satisfied.
Lin Yan was standing under a tree not so far away when she called out to Jiang Fan and Xiaodong. “You two are practicing martial arts here?”
Jiang Fan’s smile remain unchanged as he replied from afar, “We’re done practicing. Is there something you need, Senior Sister Lin?”
Though he looked the same as usual, Xiaodong could see that Senior Brother Jiang’s smile was not sincere. Unusually, his smile was more courteous.
Xiaodong had not been on the mountain for long and had not seen much of the world, but he knew of one thing. Every sect’s martial arts are secrets never to be disclosed outside of the sect. Peeking at others while they were practicing was taboo. If Senior Sister Lin had seen them from afar, she should have left on her own.
Though they were not practicing any sort of profound martial arts and Jiang Fan had simply been giving him pointers on the Rudimentary Sword Techniques, the reasoning was still the same.
“I’ve been here for two days. I keep hearing that your mountain sceneries are great. I’ve yet to see them for myself, but I can’t move about freely.”
Jiang Fan said, “Oh, this matter? If Senior Sister Lin wants to have a stroll, we can guide you. But, Returnflow Mountain’s great sceneries are only visible during the warm seasons. It’s freezing now and the place is covered in ice and snow, so there isn’t much to see. The paths aren’t easy to walk either.”
Stretching out her hand, Lin Yan combed through her hair that had been messed up by the breeze. Her smile looked very gentle and moving. “No worries, we don’t have to go too far. Why don’t we have a walk nearby?”
She was a guest, and a lady at that. Since she said it like that, Senior Brother Jiang was unable to further decline.
“Alright, then Little Junior Brother and I shall return to change our clothes. Senior Sister Lin, please wait a moment.”
After turning around, Senior Brother Jiang softly warned Xiaodong, “Later, if she tries to find out anything from you, just say that you’ve only just came up the mountain and know nothing. Let me do the talking, understand?”
Xiaodong hurriedly nodded.
Furthermore, he had truly not been on this mountain for long, so he indeed did not know too much about the mountain’s situation. Even if Lin Yan asked, he most probably wouldn’t be able to answer.
“Senior Brother, what will she try to find out?”
“I don’t know either,” Jiang Fan frowned, “Both Master and Eldest Senior Brother aren’t here. If these three try to start something, it would first bring us trouble, and second… since they’re guests, it might damage Senior Liu’s reputation.”
Xiaodong was beginning to admire Senior Brother Jiang.
Usually, Senior Brother Jiang face was always smiling. He never expected that Senior Brother Jiang would actually have such thorough thoughts. Both Master and Eldest Senior Brother were not present. Senior Sister Linglong’s rash personality meant no hopes could be placed on her, and Chen Jingzhi and Xiaodong were both still young. Senior Brother Jiang was really the only one who could represent them and make decisions.
After retrieving their coats, Jiang Fan and Xiaodong accompanied Lin Yan out for a stroll.
It did not snow today and the weather was great. The mountains near and far were covered with snow, revealing a beautiful silver scenery. The sun shone down on the accumulated snow, which, lustrous and white, reflected the blue sky. It was as if the higher the sky was, the further away the mountains were, giving onlookers joy and comfort.
Lin Yan was wearing a blue leather cloak with silver edges, and around her collar there was even a circle of white fur, heightening her elegant visage. When speaking to them, her tone was especially gentle. When they were about to reach Cloud Sinking Stream, she asked, seemingly casual, “Where are we? Is that a waterfall up front?”