After laying in bed for three whole days, Xiaodong could no longer stay still. Because she was feeling restless seeing Xiaodong bedridden, Senior Sister Linglong would visit him five to six times a day, and Xiaodong felt restless seeing her restlessness. If he stayed sick any longer, Senior Sister would most likely continue to wallow in self-blame. He had to hurry and get better so that people would stop treating him as an ill person.
In fact, in his heart, Xiaodong faintly understood that half of his illness was due to a psychological issue of his.
For as long as he could remember, his uncle was his only relative. The two of them had always depended on each other. However, now that his uncle was gone, he no longer had any other relatives and was now alone. How could he not understand that his uncle died because of a relapse from his old illness? His Master promised to take him in right before his uncle died, and he understood that this was his Master’s goodwill. However, in his heart, there seemed to exist a particular thought.
That thought was very vague and unclear.
If his uncle had not come to Returnflow Mountain and instead stayed and recuperated at home, he might still be alive.
In the depths of his heart, Xiaodong might have thought this way before.
Probably because this thought existed in his heart, he hadn’t been able to like Returnflow Mountain. He felt that if he hadn’t come here, his uncle might not have died.
Of course, he understood that it was an illogical thought. He understood that it was illogical to bear a grudge towards Returnflow Mountain and the people living here. His Master took him in and treated him very well. His Senior Brothers and Senior Sister also treated him very well. This whole time, he had just been drilling into a dead end and throwing a fit.
He did not stay idle during the days he was recuperating. Xiaodong discovered that the atmosphere on the mountain had instantly changed the moment Eldest Senior Brother returned. Senior Sister Linglong was hot-tempered, and whenever she encountered problems, she would usually grow irritated after speaking just two sentences. However, in these few days, there hadn’t been a single instance where she raised her voice. Senior Brother Fan was no longer as lazy as he used to be, and even his walking pace had increased. As for Senior Brother Cheng, there hadn’t been a big change in his behaviour, though Xiaodong felt that he seemed to have a lot on his mind. When he came over yesterday, while he was chatting, he suddenly looked at Xiaodong listlessly and entered a trance. He only regained his senses after Xiaodong raised his voice and called out to him twice.
As for Eldest Senior Brother…
Xiaodong felt that Eldest Senior Brother was truly a great person.
As a gift, he gave Xiaodong a silk multi compartment pouch the size of his palm. When he handed it over, he said, “I only found out that I got a new Junior Brother after I got back. If I’d known earlier, I would’ve bought something from the capitol. This is something someone from Haozhou gave me. The insides are split into three compartments, and you can place pills, sweets, money, or anything else inside. Furthermore, their scents won’t seep out from between the compartments. Hold onto it well. Next time I leave, I will return with some better things for you.”
Xiaodong received this present.
Eldest Senior Brother was treating him as a child. He intentionally gave him a silk pouch that could store both commonly used pills and snacks.
On that day, when he heard from Senior Brother Fan that Eldest Senior Brother was picky, Xiaodong still doubted it a little. However, he now felt that Senior Brother Fan was not exaggerating in the least. Eldest Senior Brother was especially knowledgeable in all sorts of food. As long as it was something delicious, it seemed as if there was nothing he didn’t know.
Though there was something Xiaodong wanted to know especially badly.
Just what kind of person would give Eldest Senior Brother such a silk pouch? No matter how Xiaodong looked at it, it looked like something that a lady would give him. In the past, Xiaodong had witnessed the female household helper from the Zhang family giving her sweetheart a purse. In plays, he had also heard of songs where ladies would give things like handkerchiefs, hairpins, purses or sachets to scholars as tokens of their love.
No matter how much he yearned to find out, Xiaodong did not actually dare to ask his Senior Brother which lady he received this item from.
Furthermore, if it was really an item given by a lady, Senior Brother wouldn’t have given it to him, right?
After a few more days of recuperation, Eldest Senior Brother finally heaved a sigh of relief and said that his illness was more or less healed.
In other words, from the second day onwards, Xiaodong was going to join the rest of his Senior Brothers and Senior Sister in the morning for practice.
When he woke up the next morning, the sky had only just begun to shine brightly. Third Senior Brother was worried that Xiaodong wouldn’t be able to wake up, and intentionally came over to call him. Xiaodong tightened his waist belt, carried his sword and left the house.
Third Senior Brother sized him up, and after seeing that nothing was left behind, he said with a smile, “Alright, let’s go. I’m telling you this ahead of time, Eldest Senior Brother is a lot stronger than me. My Introductory Sword Techniques were taught by him as well. Later, after he’s coached you for a short while, you will definitely improve.”
Senior Sister Linglong and Senior Brother Cheng both arrived early, and they were already practicing on the stone platform. With edgeless swords, they exchanged blow after blow. Third Senior Brother once again urged him, “You’ve just recovered and your body is still weak, so if you’re tired, let me or your Eldest Senior Brother know immediately. Don’t overexert yourself.”
Xiaodong nodded and replied, “Senior Brother, don’t worry. I know.”
Third Senior Brother first walked to the side and practiced his punches and kicks. Even though he was fat, his actions were very agile. Xiaodong chose a spot near the corner to practice the Introductory Sword Techniques. The Introductory Sword Techniques consisted of twenty-eight moves. He had more or less memorized the moves, but actually demonstrating them was a different matter altogether. He found it obstructive and awkward when he was linking the moves together. After practicing a single set of sword techniques, he was already panting a little from fatigue as he stood to the side and wiped his sweat.
When he turned his head around, he realized Eldest Senior Brother had arrived since god-knows-when, and was standing close by looking at him.
When did Eldest Senior Brother arrive?
Did Eldest Senior Brother see his set of sword techniques that were riddled with mistakes?
Xiaodong was a little nervous. When he opened his mouth to speak, he almost bit his own tongue.
“Eldest, Eldest Senior Brother?”
Fortunately, Eldest Senior Brother was as kind as Third Senior Brother had mentioned.
He gestured Xiaodong over, and then looked at the hand that was holding the sword.
Eldest Senior Brother was wearing a black robe today, and the lining made his arms look especially chalk-white and slender. Xiaodong looked at his arms in a slight trance, thinking that they didn’t look like the arms of a swordsman at all.
Eldest Senior Brother did not notice that he was in a daze.
In the past few days when Xiaodong was ill, Eldest Senior Brother had already noticed it while he was taking care of him. This Junior Brother actually had a very average build. Among the disciples Master had, he most likely had the worst.
Master had most likely taken him in for the sake of his deceased friend.
Little Junior Brother might not have huge prospects by taking this path, but it was also unlikely that learning a set of Introductory Sword Techniques should be this difficult.
“Did you learn other sword techniques in the past?”
Xiaodong shook his head. “I’ve never learned sword techniques. My uncle used a sabre.”
Mo Chen understood immediately.
It seemed like the set of sabre techniques he had previously learned had left quite a deep impression, which was why even though he was currently wielding a sword and his mind was thinking about sword moves, everything he threw out was still off the mark.
“Was it your family’s set of traditional sabre techniques? Does it have a name?”
“There’s no name to it, and uncle did not teach them all to me either. I’ve learned merely half of it, while I’ve only managed to see uncle demonstrate the other half. He wasn’t able to teach them to me in time.”
Before he could teach him, the person himself had already disappeared.
He was certain that Eldest Senior Brother was going to give him pointers, just as Third Senior Brother said he would. However, Eldest Senior Brother instead said, “Then that’s great. Demonstrate half of those sabre techniques to me then.”
Xiaodong was momentarily stunned.
Eldest Senior Brother even thought that it was taboo. “If it’s inconvenient, then…”
“N-no, there’s nothing inconvenient about it,” Xiaodong said. “It’s just I didn’t learn the sabre techniques completely either. Not to mention there isn’t a sabre here.”
Could it be that he had to pick up a twig?
Eldest Senior Brother pointed at the sword in his hand. “Just use that then.”
Use a sword?
Xiaodong was puzzled. He looked at Eldest Senior Brother, and then back at the sword he was holding.
“Don’t worry about it too much. Just demonstrate as much as you remember.”
The more he talked about it, the more worried Xiaodong became. He was not worried about the sabre techniques being seen, but rather that he really was unable to unleash those sabre techniques to their fullest potential. Even when his uncle was still around, he would often say that he did not have the talent for martial arts, and the reason why he was taught was merely so he could strengthen his body a little and learn to defend himself. His uncle simply did not harbour any hopes of him doing any sort of earthshaking deeds.
Now that Eldest Senior Brother had put it this way, Xiaodong had no choice but to grit his teeth and close his eyes. He was going to make a fool out of himself, but so be it. In any case, Eldest Senior Brother looked rather reliable, so he wouldn’t bring up this embarrassing act to others.
Xiaodong took a deep breath, and then demonstrated that set of Absolute Cold Sabre Techniques his uncle taught him, one move at a time.
Eldest Senior Brother stood at the side and watched him from start to end. It was still fine in the beginning, and the moves seemed to have considerable meaning behind them. However, Xiaodong was still thinking of sabre techniques while holding onto his sword earlier, but now, as he demonstrated the sabre techniques, he would often recall that he wasn’t holding a sabre but a sword. This made practicing sword techniques awkward, and it made practicing sabre techniques a little awkward as well. He did not learn this set of sabre techniques completely. The other half set of moves were too difficult, and because his uncle’s condition was already pretty bad by then, he wasn’t taught anymore than that. That was why after demonstrating half of the sabre techniques, he found it hard to continue and had no choice but to hastily gesture his inability and stop.
Eldest Senior Brother first nodded, and then praised, “I can see that you have placed considerable effort and diligence onto this set of sabre techniques.”
These words made Xiaodong blush a little.
He knew that this bit of skill of his could only be said to be embarrassing in front of Eldest Senior Brother. Furthermore, back then, he hadn’t put in that much work into learning the sabre techniques. There were simply too many things distracting him.
Back then, if he had learned diligently and practiced properly, he might already have completely learned this set of sabre techniques.
He had been too ignorant back then. If he had known of the severity of his uncle’s illness…
But no matter how much they regretted, it was impossible for humans to return to the past.
“However, Junior Brother, you couldn’t focus when you were practicing the sword techniques earlier. You’re constantly remembering your sabre techniques. When you were demonstrating the sabre techniques, once more, you would constantly remind yourself that what you’re holding isn’t a sabre, but a sword. The sabre and sword techniques have become jumbled up, resulting in such a mess.”
Eldest Senior Brother’s tone was gentle, but his words were right on the mark.
Xiaodong’s face slowly turned red. He hung his head down, not daring to look at Eldest Senior Brother’s expression.
He was afraid of seeing disappointment and ridicule.
“Junior Brother is still young. Take your time learning martial arts.You have a long time to do so. However, Junior Brother, there is one thing you have to remember.”
Xiaodong unconsciously raised his head. Mo Chen was looking at him seriously. The colour of his pupils seemed to be lighter than regular people’s, like an amber. Being watched by such a gaze, Xiaodong felt as if his heart and soul were about to be absorbed into those eyes.
“You must first understand what you wish to accomplish. If you continue to stay half-hearted and indecisive, you won’t even know where you’ll end up going. Just what can you accomplish then?”
Eldest Senior Brother laid it out plainly. His words were not a solemn warning nor were they a reprimand, but Xiaodong felt that the importance of these few words was especially heavy. His shoulders sunk from their weight, as if he were barely able to carry them.
Eldest Senior Brother then urged him, “You’ve only just recovered, don’t strain yourself practicing martial arts. Let’s stop here and head back to your room to rest.”
Xiaodong lowered his head, and with a very soft voice, he whispered, “Alright.”
Eldest Senior Brother’s earlier words sounded very plain, but to him, they were like a streak of lightning tearing through the sky. His words were also like a knife, bloodily slicing apart the reality that he had been avoiding all this time.
His hesitation, loss and cowardice were all laid bare before his Eldest Senior Brother.
And here he thought that no one could discover the troubles in his heart.
Eldest Senior Brother might not have been the only one. Senior Sister and Third Senior Brother might have realized it as well, along with Master. Master once mentioned to him that learning martial arts wasn’t urgent, and he wanted Xiaodong to settle down in Returnflow Mountain with peace of mind.
However, his heart simply couldn’t stay peaceful.
His uncle doted on him when he was still alive, not allowing Xiaodong to suffer even the tiniest grievance. He was like a little grass underneath a large tree, unaffected by wind and rain. He didn’t have to worry about anything. Back then, he had never thought about the path he wanted to take, nor what kind of person he wanted to be.
He had never thought about these things, not even once.
Those kind of things felt too far out of reach to him. Not to mention, he had his uncle. His uncle would naturally plan it out for him.
However, his uncle suddenly died and left.
He became alone. Things that he hadn’t seen nor thought of before all came crashing down in front of him in an instant. No one would make decisions for him again. No one would protect him in every possible way again, as his uncle had.
He had been muddle-headed these past few days. To put it nicely, he had been going with the flow. To put it badly, he was like a turtle, thinking that all it had to do was retract its head into its shell to avoid the wind and rain, deceiving himself that his troubles would all cease to exist.
If they were truly just wind and rain, after avoiding them for a short while, his troubles certainly would just cease and disappear. However, the troubles faced by humans were not like wind and rain. Mere avoidance would not solve any problems.
Then, just what kind of path should he take in the future?