Xiaodong was right. Jiang Fan easily found the oil-storing box, which he had dropped next to the well that Xiaodong spoke of. He hurriedly picked it up and used his sleeves to rub the dirt off it.
The lid was not tightly shut when the box fell on the ground, revealing a slit. The oil that was close to the opening had all hardened. Jiang Fan felt a slight ache in his heart, and suddenly felt that it was a little strange.
This oil box had gone missing for several days, and back then, his junior brother had only just recovered. How did he know that he had left the box here? If he had seen it, why didn’t he pick it up?
He couldn’t figure it out.
Jiang Fan scratched his head as he tucked the box into his sleeves. He had never split hairs over matters, and this was a good small point of his. He wouldn’t dwell deeper in matters that he didn’t understand either. In any case, a few things would naturally become clear when given time.
Xiaodong could not bear to let go of that piece of warm wood. When he heard a knock from the door, he finally stood up and walked over to open the door with the wood in hand.
“Senior Brother Chen?”
Xiaodong was surprised.
Among his senior brothers and senior sister, Senior Brother Chen spoke the least, though he practiced his martial arts especially seriously. In a day, other than matters like sleeping and eating, he mostly spent the rest his time practicing martial arts.
He must have a concern since he took the initiative to come over, right?
Xiaodong hurriedly led him into the room. The winds outside were strong. Looking at how dark the sky was, there was a good chance that it was going to snow the moment the sky turned dark.
Chen Jingzhi was carrying a small dark flower-embroidered bag. After untying it, a pair of gauntlets made with rabbit fur was revealed. “I used this in the past. Junior Brother, please don’t mind taking it. I realized that you haven’t been leaving your room the last few days. Are you not used to the weather here?”
Xiaodong was a little embarrassed, “I’m fine, I’m fine… The winds are just too strong.”
“When I first came here, I wasn’t used to it either. It slowly became better later on. Use these gauntlets for now. Once Master returns, he will circulate his power to adjust your body, and you won’t fear the cold so much after that.”
Xiaodong thanked him and tried on the gauntlets. Though they were old, it could be seen how cherished by Chen Jingzhi they were. The moment he stretched his hands inside, he could feel the thickness and softness of the fur. They were indeed very warm.
He raised his head and said with a smile, “Thank you, Senior Brother.”
Putting the gauntlets aside, Xiaodong then moved to pour a cup of tea. Because he was afraid of the cold, the room did not lack any hot water.
Chen Jingzhi sat down. Though there was still barely any joy or gentleness to be seen from his expression, at the very least, it wasn’t that cold.
“I noticed that you haven’t been eating much in the last few days, do the meals not suit your taste? You should stop being so shy. If you can’t get used to eating the meals, let the cooks know. After all, you’re going to be staying here for a long time. You’re thin-skinned and you might think it will trouble them, but are you going to let this continue forever?”
Xiaodong indeed was not used to the meals here. The taste of the dishes here on Returnflow Mountain were heavy. They were served with lots of salt and sauce would always be dumped all over them. It was as if without this combination, they wouldn’t be called dishes. He recalled a dish from a few days ago – a pancake made with taro and bacon, the saltiness kicked in the moment he bit into it. Even his tongue felt strange for a good few days, and it felt unbearable no matter how much water he drank. He wondered just how much salt was dumped into it.
“Stop treating yourself as a visitor, you’re a member of Returnflow Mountain too. If you have any inconvenience, feel free to voice it out.”
Xiaodong felt that Senior Brother Chen’s words had instantly struck a chord in his heart.
In his heart, there were most likely faint traces of him feeling like a visitor here.
Only a visitor would think of saving trouble and not do anything that would inconvenience the host.
However, Senior Brother Chen was right. He was not a visitor, and he was not going to leave after staying here for just a short while.
He was now a disciple of Returnflow Mountain. He had officially been taken in as Master’s disciple, and was not a visitor.
“Senior Brother is right. I will keep it in mind.”
“Junior Brother, where did you live in the past? I noticed that you prefer meals with blander tastes, moreover, you’re afraid of the cold. Did you live in the south?”
“When I was younger, the place I lived in was very warm. It’s a place which felt like spring all year round.” Xiaodong recalled the days when he was younger.
He couldn’t remember them all clearly. He was too young back then. He vaguely recalled a stone-paved road on a green field in front of his doorstep, and a river was right next to it. His uncle was carrying him to the door, calling halt to a boat crossing by. He bought peaches and apricots that were wrapped in large green leaves. Without washing them, he bit off a little of their skins and let Xiaodong bite them.
That was all he could remember from back then. Most likely, he was too young, and his memories were all a blur. He couldn’t even recall where the place he lived in was, or what the name of the town was. After that, he followed his uncle around and had the four seas as his home. There wasn’t a single place where he had a long stay in.
Senior Brother Chen accompanied him for a little while before leaving. The sky was all dark now. Xiaodong sent him off at the doorstep. The winds were no longer as strong as they were in the day, but snow had already begun to fall.
He wondered just how long it had been since the snow began falling, as his doorstep was already covered in a sheet of misty white.
“Senior Brother, be careful.”
Xiaodong was a little worried. Senior Brother had to cross the bridge to return home as well. Moreover, the sky was dark and the ground was slippery, yet not a single lantern was hung on his apartment.
“Don’t be afraid. I’ve long since gotten used to walking this path. As for Junior Brother however, you best hurry back into your room. You’re wearing too little, so don’t catch a cold again.”
Xiaodong stood at the doorstep as he watched Chen Jingzhi slowly walk away. After his figure had disappeared, he then returned into his room.
When he first moved into the room, he had very few things. He merely had two sets of thin clothes to wear in alternate days. He did not have any other belongings. However, the longer he lived here, the more things he acquired.
A few days ago, Eldest Senior Brother came over to give him this piece of warm wood. When hugging it to sleep, his blanket no longer felt cold as an icehouse. Today, Senior Brother Chen gave him a pair of gauntlets. Just like that, as days continued to pass, the once empty room was now filled with so many things that it was barely able to hold them all now.
After dinner, Eldest Senior Brother came over to give him pointers on meditation and breathing techniques. This had gone on for several days now.
Snow had begun to fall, so Xiaodong had thought that Eldest Senior Brother wouldn’t come over today.
To tell the truth, he felt a little guilty. He was truly speechless on how well Eldest Senior Brother treated others. It was no wonder Senior Brother Jiang would praise him to no end. He was a real role model, as expected of an Eldest Senior Brother.
Eldest Senior Brother did not hold back in his teachings, and was very thorough in his explanations of the principles. Furthermore, he even circulated his power to adjust Xiaodong’s body. However, Xiaodong felt that he was most likely not the sort for martial arts as Master had said. Senior Brother was very diligent in his teachings and Xiaodong himself was not slacking off either, but his progress was truly depressingly slow.
“Do not be anxious.” Senior Brother was not annoyed in the slightest. He held onto one of Xiaodong’s hands, and then lightly tapped his fingertip onto Xiaodong’s pulse. “All beginnings are tough. Isn’t there that saying? A master can lead you to the door, but the rest is up to the student. You have simply yet to reach that doorstep, and have yet to be enlightened. As long as you cross that threshold, the journey after that will be smooth-sailing.”
Senior Brother was afraid that Xiaodong was depressed, and was consoling him with good remarks.
Xiaodong himself understood that had indeed yet to be enlightened. His heart was completely filled with anxiety. However, being anxious for results would not help his current situation at all.
Eldest Senior Brother picked up the rabbit fur gauntlets from the top of the cabinet and glanced at them. “I believe I remember seeing Fourth Junior Brother having one of these.”
“Fourth Senior Brother gave these to me. He said that he was letting me have them to fight off the cold. He came over in the afternoon especially to give them to me, and even stayed for a little while to chat with me.”
“Is that so? He sure has a good heart. I heard that you’re thinking of sweeping Uncle Yun’s tomb and paying respects to him in a few days?”
“Senior Brother Jiang said that the weather will be bad these few days, so he wanted me to wait till the sky clears up before going.”
Eldest Senior Brother nodded. “When the time comes, I will accompany you to pay respects to Uncle Yun as well. I wasn’t here when he came up the mountain, so I wasn’t able to have a chat with him.”
Actually, even if Eldest Senior Brother was there back then, he wouldn’t have been able to have a chat. His uncle had struggled up the mountain, and he was bedridden with illness after reaching the mountaintop. After entrusting Xiaodong to Master, he no longer had any lingering attachments and drew his last breath.
When Mo Chen saw that he had agreed, he turned his head away and stayed quiet. He thought Little Junior Brother must be feeling depressed recalling his deceased relative.
The winds outside grew louder once more. Snowflakes swirled and struck against the windows’ paper panes, causing rustling noises. The room was dyed with the dim yellow of the candle light. Xiaodong was skinny and small in the first place, and now that he was lowering his head with his shoulders slightly shivering, he looked like a pitiful little pudding.
Mo Chen’s heart tightened all of a sudden.
It wasn’t as though he didn’t know how to give consoling words.
However, he also understood that some words should be said for formality sake, after all, you shouldn’t just sit by and say nothing. However, even if those words were said, it would be the same as if nothing was said. The sadness of one’s heart could not be easily dispelled by just a few words.
Maybe as time passes, as the days go by, the pain of losing a relative would then slowly be healed.
He reached out his hand , and then gave Little Junior Brother’s head a stroke. Then, he saw Little Junior Brother raising his head and frowning.
He didn’t like people stroking his head that much.
But of course, right? Who would like others stroking his head over and over again as though he’s a disobedient child?
Mo Chen did not console him any further. Seeing that he had regained his spirits, he began to continue giving pointers on his training. Watching him regaining his focus and closing his eyes to concentrate on training, Mo Chen finally heaved a sigh of relief.
After Xiaodong was done reciting a round of heart cultivation mantra, it was already nearing the start of the second day. The moment he pushed open the door, Xiaodong was shocked. He did hear how heavy the snowfall was from inside his room, but he never expected that such a deep layer of snow would actually be accumulated outside. Snow had covered everywhere his eyes could see. The sharpness of the strong winds made it difficult for people to open their eyes.
Eldest Senior Brother stayed further away than Fourth Senior Brother. He was closer to Master’s compound.
Such a heavy snowfall left Xiaodong dumbfounded.
The places that he had gone to with his uncle were not small in number, but this was the first time he had seen such heavy snowfall.
The night was growing deeper and the snowfall was so heavy. It would be difficult to travel anywhere in this.
Xiaodong turned his head around and said, “Eldest Senior Brother, why don’t you stay here for the night? It’s snowing too heavily, making it hard to traverse. Why don’t you return tomorrow when the sun rises?”
This little bit of wind and snow was nothing to Mo Chen. Little Junior Brother had only just come under Master’s wing and was not proficient with martial arts yet. He was still using the eyes and knowledge of a regular person to view situations.
At first, Mo Chen had wanted to say it wouldn’t be a problem, but he changed his mind at the last second.
With how heavy the winds and snowfall were, with how Little Junior Brother was staying here alone, even if he was not afraid of the cold, he might be afraid of the dark.
He quickly agreed, “Sure, then I shall trouble Junior Brother for the night.”
The moment he said that, he saw Xiaodong’s eyes brightened in an instant. He hurriedly retrieved a blanket and a pillow from the cabinet and got to work. He was moving around busily, as if he was a little bird happily making a nest.
It seemed like Mo Chen was right. Now all he had to figure out was if it was the cold or the dark that Little Junior Brother was afraid of.