Records of the Dragon Follower
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 12: Suspicion
The sky was clear blue the instant the snow stopped, and sunlight shone on the snow that had accumulated on the mountain. For a moment, the surroundings were like bright and lustrous crystals, as if one had entered a world of stacked glass.
Afraid that the winds and snow would pick up again, Xiaodong decided to sweep the tomb today.
At first, he wanted to go alone, as the offerings had all been completely prepared by Senior Brother Jiang. One fish, one chicken, two types of fruits, a jar of liquor, as well as gold and silver joss papers that were folded into ingots. In the end, Senior Brother Jiang insisted on going, claiming that he was afraid that Little Junior Brother was not familiar with the steep mountain path because of the accumulated snow. It wouldn’t be a small matter if he were to slip, fall, or get lost in such weather. Eldest Senior Brother said that he wanted to come along too, claiming that he had never seen Uncle Yun before. Because he didn’t send Uncle Yun off during his burial either, no matter what, he wanted to give a few kowtows in front of his tomb and show respects as his junior.
Now there were three of them.
Xiaodong did not expect to see Senior Sister Linglong the moment he stepped out of the door. When she saw that the three of them were heading out, without even giving them a say, she decided to tag along too. Great. People who knew would say that they were going to the tomb site, while people who didn’t know wondered if a big event was about to happen, seeing that four Direct Disciples were heading out all of a sudden. Fortunately, Fourth Senior Brother injured his leg two days ago, otherwise he might have wanted to accompany Xiaodong as well.
With more people along, Xiaodong did not have to carry all of the offerings alone. Senior Brother Jiang snatched away a basket holding the offerings, and Senior Sister Linglong pulled the bag of joss paper ingots away from him. Eldest Senior Brother was not empty-handed either. He untied his personal sword, held it on one end, and had Xiaodong hold onto the other end. This way, Xiaodong would have a support to hold onto even if he slipped, so he wouldn’t fall.
Eldest Senior Brother’s handkerchief was wrapped around the half of the scabbard that Xiaodong was grabbing. At first, Xiaodong was a bit confused, but he understood the moment he held the scabbard. There were plates and metal embeddings on the scabbard, and they would feel cold and sharp to the touch. The scabbard felt more comfortable with the handkerchief wrapped around it.
He never expected Eldest Senior Brother to be this considerate.
Xiaodong held onto the scabbard as he slowly walked forward, stepping on the footprints that Eldest Senior Brother left in the snow. The two of them were very, very quiet. Though, with Senior Brother Jiang and Senior Sister Linglong present, the atmosphere didn’t feel cold at all. “Little Junior Brother, look over there. That’s Sword Conferring Peak. According to legends, there was once an immortal who conferred about the Dao on that mountain peak, and he sliced that mountain into half with a single slash. That was how the name came about.”
No matter if the mountain was really made because of an immortal conferring about the Dao, in Xiaodong’s eyes, every place here could be said to be mystical sceneries and of unreal workmanship. That mountain stood out from afar with its stalagmite looks. One of the mountain’s faces was a steep stone wall, smooth, flat, and devoid of plant life. It indeed looked as if someone had sliced it with a divine sword that no mortal could see.
“It’s so steep. Can anyone climb it?”
“I can’t, but Eldest Senior Brother can, right? Eldest Senior Brother even said that there’s medicinal herbs up there.”
Xiaodong turned to look at Mo Chen.
Mo Chen nodded, “There are indeed medicinal herbs up there.”
Who cared about the herbs? He wanted to know how Eldest Senior Brother climbed it. From the looks of the Sword Conferring Peak, even monkeys would find it difficult to climb. Unless Eldest Senior Brother could grow a pair of wings like a bird?
Senior Brother Jiang then talked about the up ahead.
“Look over there. That’s the Three Star Platform. It’s said that on a clear summer night, you can faintly see three different types of brilliant lights on the platform, as though they’re stars in a night sky.”
Xiaodong curiously asked, “We didn’t see any during summer though?”
Senior Brother Jiang laughed, “I’ve been here for so many years and yet even I haven’t seen them myself, let alone you.”
Xiaodong understood now.
The origins of many places were based on legends. Some of these legends might have been real, while some might have just been birthed from fake stories. It seemed like the Three Star Platform was the latter.
Usually Actually, when people hear of such origin legends, they are curious just for fun. They might not really care if they are true or not.
Xiaodong’s uncle was buried at the back of the mountain, and they arrived in a short amount of time. Senior Brother Jiang rolled up his sleeves, broke a few branches, gathered dried leaves, and returned with them. The disciples worked together to completely sweep off the snow that had accumulated on the tomb. Then, they neatly placed down the offerings that they brought along. After that, together with Xiaodong, they prayed and kowtowed.
With reddened eyes, Xiaodong brought the liquor in front of the tomb.
On the rare occasion that Senior Sister Linglong was considerate, she called out to Eldest Senior Brother and Jiang Fan, “Let’s go take a look over there. Since we’re already here, we should sweep the snow over there too.”
Most likely, even if he wanted to cry, Little Junior Brother found it embarrassing to with them around. Or, he might have some things that he wanted to say to his uncle alone, but couldn’t bear to say it with them here.
Xiaodong’s uncle was not the only one buried here. There were many other quiet tombs. Some had tombstones engraved with their names, while there were some that were empty with no labels whatsoever. Linglong had been on the mountain for so many years, and all she knew was that the people buried here might be her sect seniors and ancestors.
Jiang Fan went into a daze while sweeping the snow. He turned to glance back. Little Junior Brother was kneeling alone in front of the tomb, and it seemed like he had cried.
Though it’s said that men do not shed tears easily, Little Junior Brother was, after all, still young…
Something had been bothering Jiang Fan, and he found it hard to say. Though, even if he were to say it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
When he was sweeping away the snow earlier, he realized that a part of the patterns engraved on the circular stone platforms were wrong. On the day Xiaodong’s uncle was buried, Senior Brother Jiang was busy from beginning till end, and he did not slack off a single bit. When the soil covered the coffin, and when the tomb was erected, he remembered it all. The patterns were engraved all around the sides of double stacked stone platforms. The outer circular platform was engraved with clouds, while the inner circular platform was engraved with lotus flowers. He had a glimpse when he swept the snow off earlier, and he was certain the stones were moved. How did the pattern on the outer circle end up inside the inner circle?
He thought that he was mistaken, and so he took a closer look. There were two strips of stones that were misplaced, and they were both on the same side.
If the stone strips were slightly displaced, it wouldn’t have been a problem. They might have been struck by the rushing water at the beginning of autumn when there was heavy rainfall, or, because this place was already nearing the edge of the array, they may have somehow been damaged by wild beasts. However, no matter if it was a natural disaster or wild beasts, it would have been impossible to build the ruined stone foundation back to its original state. Only humans were capable of doing that.
Could someone have seen the stone strips displaced, and thus helped to build them back? That person was then pretty careless during the process, not noticing that there were patterns on the stone strips, and thus switched the outer circle and inner circle strips.
It would be the best case scenario if that was indeed true.
However, people rarely ventured into the backside of the mountain, and there were even less who would come to the tomb site.
Jiang Fan was afraid that his best case scenario did not happen.
If that wasn’t it, then who would move the stone strips of a tomb? And why? For what purpose?
He was afraid that he was thinking too deeply about this, but he was also afraid that it wasn’t all just his imagination.
No… Other than the sect members of Returnflow Mountain, there were only a few indigenous people and hunters on the mountain. These people lived very far, and they wouldn’t usually head over to this side of the Returnflow Mountain. Furthermore, those people were very pure and simple, they definitely wouldn’t do things like digging up people’s graves.
As for their own people, that was even more impossible. Jiang Fan definitely did not believe that people in the sect would do such a thing.