After such a harsh winter, Chang An finally cut down his very first branch when the Qiongjiang tree was growing new shoots.
He could finally taste the sweet liquid inside it, and Chang An thought that it must be much sweeter than the malt candies1Author only used 芽糖 (ya tang) in the raws, but later they will use 芽麦糖 (ya mai tang), which I assume is the same as 麦芽糖 (mai ya tang)–which is what is actually translated as “malt/maltose candies” Bei Shi would casually toss to him.
Bei Shi saw the child squatting on the ground like a small animal as he held the branch in his hands, not caring about how dirty he was from head to toe. He first sniffed it carefully, then took a big mouthful like a greedy cat. His face suddenly changed from white to red, then from red to blue. Finally, he spat it out, choking and coughing.
Seeing the long-awaited scene, Bei Shi couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
Chang An turned around with tears in his eyes and looked at him indignantly. He finally realized that he had been pitted by Bei Shi, this big bastard. There was no sweet syrup flowing in this ghost tree. It was clearly spicy and pungent!
“Little pup, you’re recklessly wasting the goods. You can’t tell good from bad.2 Bei Shi spoke in two 4-syllable idioms here: 暴殄天物 (to waste natural resources recklessly) and 不识好歹(unable to tell good from bad). I just thought of making a note since I can’t really translate Bei Shi’s voice that well. This guy especially loves to use idioms when he speaks.” As Bei Shi spoke, he walked to the Qiongjiang tree. His slender hand suddenly turned into a beast claw and easily pierced through the grain of the tree. He took a twig, tilted his head up, and drank all the juice inside. The man breathed out a long sigh. “Natural jade nectar, so many times better than what those idiots brew from rice. Its fragrance can be passed down for generations. One cup can make you forget your worries; two cups can make you happy; and three or five cups can make you drunk for thousands of years. Did the True God, who is said to have fallen a long time ago, ever had such a happy time?”
After saying this, Bei Shi looked down at Chang An. Something different seemed to flash across that moody face that Chang An had gotten used to seeing. He looked up at this teacher of his who liked to pit people and had no idea what he was talking about.
He seemed to be saying that the sap was a good thing, yet his tone was not like that at all.
Chang An frowned. After thinking about it for a while, he finally decided to let the facts speak for themselves and to taste for himself what this thing really was.
This time, he was more careful. He only tasted a little bit and held it in his mouth for a while, trying to taste something else from the choking and spicy taste. After keeping it in his mouth for a long time with a miserable face, he finally wrinkled his face and swallowed it hard. It was spicy all the way from his throat to his stomach, and he felt that his whole body was burning up.
The straight trees swayed around him for a moment. Before Chang An could understand what was happening, he had taken a few twisted crab steps and fell head first, passing out from extreme drunkenness.
From then on, Chang An understood—Bei Shi was a big freak.
Gradually, Chang An became accustomed to living in the mountains, to living on the roof in the open air, and to his body, which could seriously overwhelm him, even to the point of death.
He found himself in a pattern. As soon as his back and arms began to feel strangely numb, he would put down his saber, get a bowl of herbal medicine to drink, then go back to the roof and lie down for a while. When it was no longer numb, he would continue practicing.
During this time, he would catch up on sleep. This way, he could get up and continue to practice his saber at night without any delay.
In the beginning, Bei Shi would study his body and find new herbs for him to drink. However, the new herbs didn’t always work. Ever since Chang An got a stomachache for three days after drinking his new recipe, he refused to trust the guy again.
Chang An finally understood why Bei Shi lived alone in the mountains. He must’ve killed someone as an amateur doctor at the foot of the mountain, so he had to go up the mountains to hide from his enemies.
He had no qualms telling his Shifu3 师父 – Refers to one’s master. The word uses the characters for teacher (师) and father (父). In China, acknowledging a person as your master is like taking him as your father. about this utterly disrespectful speculation, and as a result, Bei Shi chased and beat him with a stick in the Qiongjiang forest for a whole afternoon.
In the autumn of that year, when the sprouts of wheat began to be harvested, Chang An finally had his own cabin. The fourth saber he had switched to had also curled up, and Chang An naturally thought that this was because Bei Shi had a bad technique in forging sabers.
He had also drunk all the herbal medicine that Bei Shi stored during spring. Bei Shi didn’t expect to have picked up such a wasteful pup, and he regretted it so much that he was green in the gut.
Anyhow, Chang An was finally able to hold a great saber4大刀 (dà dāo) – Literally “large blade.” Based on agricultural knives, dadao have broad blades generally between two and three feet long, long hilts meant for “hand and a half” or two-handed use, and generally a weight-forward balance. Some were made for military use, but they were most commonly associated with civilian militias or revolutionaries. While not a particularly sophisticated sword, the weight and balance of the dadao gave it considerable slashing and chopping power, making it an effective close combat weapon for untrained troops (source). that was two feet long.
In the third year, the saber in Chang An’s hand grew another foot longer, growing much faster than his own height. Bei Shi had also released him from the grove, letting him plague the entire Yufeng mountain.
At first, Bei Shi would follow him, but after Chang An killed a bone-winged Great Peng5大鹏 (dà péng) – A creature in Chinese mythology that is said to be a giant bird transformed from a Kun, which is a giant fish by himself, he no longer showed up when he went hunting. The daily hunting task also became Chang An’s business. He would have more meat for snacks, as well as more time to smelt sabers.
Later, when Chang An recalled the days he trained with the saber, he found that during the whole time, the words “eating” and “drinking” had always accompanied him.
It was said that, in order for the young eagle to learn how to fly, a big eagle would ruthlessly push it down a cliff. However, Chang An never waited for the big eagle to speak. While the eagle was still sleeping, he would take it upon himself to dive down headfirst, simple-mindedly free and happy.
Bei Shi’s herbal medicines still couldn’t save lives or cure diseases. Chang An had grown to fourteen or fifteen years of age and was beginning to look like a teenager. His facial features were gradually developing, and although they still lacked color, they slowly developed into a beautiful face that reminded people of the words, “finely crafted.”
Bei Shi thought that when Chang An sat there without speaking or moving, he looked like a delicate flower facing the water.
This delicate flower was quietly watching the water for a long time, then suddenly, his eyes flashed. He jumped up and drew out a saber with a length that was nearly twice his height, and the big, bulky thing didn’t even look heavy in his hands.
At the same time, a huge shadow rose from the water. It was a blue-green two-headed snake. When it opened its wide, bloody mouth, it seemed to blot out the sky and cover the earth. It went down to bite on the little thing that dared to challenge something beyond himself.
Chang An nonchalantly slipped a step back. In the blink of an eye, his saber accurately passed through the gap between the snake’s venomous fangs, piercing its mouth. The snake reared its head in pain. Chang An’s toes were pointed towards the snake’s body, and as the long handle of the saber turned over, it mercilessly drove through one of the snake’s brains with the force of the lunge.
The snake’s other head became even more furious from the pain and tried to hit him. Chang An leaped up onto the hilt of the saber that was still stuck in the other head, and more nimbly than a monkey, he climbed along the black iron hilt.
The snake slammed into nothing but air, so it turned to bite the hilt of the saber.
Chang An jumped down and grabbed the handle with both hands. With the pressure coming down from above, the blade of the saber stuck in the snake’s head tore through the skin and bone. It spread its fetid flesh everywhere and stained the water in the stream. At that moment, the saber in his hand strangely turned in the air, hitting the other snake head sharply.
The sound of two things splashing into the water resounded. One was Chang An; the other, the snake head.
After a while, this “delicate flower” emerged from the water, carrying his large saber and leaving behind the corpse of the two-headed snake and two smashed-up brains. He casually squeezed out the water from his clothes while he familiarly ran barefoot through the woods. He ran halfway up the hillside, and entering Bei Shi’s courtyard, he yelled, “Shifu, I cut down a snake.”
Bei Shi was sharpening a saber. Hearing this, he didn’t even lift his head up. Focusing on the saber’s edge, he said casually, “What’s so new about you cutting down a snake?”
Chang An thought about it, and there really was nothing new. He said, “I can’t drag it on my own. Shifu, you pick it up. Shall we make snake stew?”
Bei Shi followed him out of the house, wanting to meet this snake that the wolf pup couldn’t drag… As a result, he saw the two-headed snake coiled up bigger than the little pup’s cabin by the river.
Bei Shi was stupefied, and he tilted his head up to look at the huge thing for a long while. Looking back at the ferocious, delicate flower he had raised with his own hands, he finally sighed. He pressed hard on Chang An’s head, swearing, “You beast.”
Chang An blinked stupidly, not understanding.
“Why is there no humanity in a human-looking dog6 Bei Shi is making a pun here. 人模狗样, literally “human-looking dog,” is an idiom for a person pretending to be someone they’re not.?” With a sigh, Bei Shi dismembered the body of the two-headed snake. Then he turned into a giant beast, dragged the snake meat with his body, and took it home. He wasn’t afraid of the dripping blood attracting other beasts. There weren’t many things in the world that would dare covet the two-headed snake… except for that daring little wolf pup.
Bei Shi thought to himself—A good child had only been in his hands for seven to eight years. How could he become more and more unreasonable?
However, after pondering for a long time, Bei Shi really couldn’t think of anything wrong with himself. In the end, he dismissed it all to “nature”—Chan An, this boy, was born to be a beast, although he couldn’t turn into one.
Chang An followed up and asked him with a puzzled face, “Shifu, what is humanity?”
This question also puzzled Bei Shi. He paused, unsure of how to answer— what was humanity? People knew to be afraid, knew to bully the weak and fear the strong, and knew to hide daggers in a smile, but they were not much better than animals for it. When they transformed into beasts, they were no longer distinguishable from ordinary animals, being driven by only food and lust.
Thinking of it in this way, humanity… really had nothing good about it. On the contrary, it even had no shame.
In the evening, Chang An took a large piece of snake meat that he couldn’t finish, wrapped it in rot-proof yellow lawn leaves, and went down the mountain.
Ever since Chang An was able to pick up the large, black iron horse-chopping saber, Bei Shi no longer set restrictions on him. He was free to go crazy wherever he went.
From then on, Chang An would go down the mountain every ten days to half a month and deliver the processed hides and meat to someone down there, sometimes bringing with him a handful of the most gloriously blooming flowers.
When Chang An went up the mountain, he was only seven or eight years old. Seven or eight years later, he still remembered the person who had taken care of him for only a few months. Only then did Bei Shi feel that Chang An was a good child. He at least knew how to repay kindness, which was much better than most people in the world.
One day, when Chang An was seventeen years old, he came back from the foot of the mountain and saw Bei Shi sitting alone at the gate of the courtyard. He was holding a bowl of wine from the Qiongjiang tree, but he wasn’t drinking it. The bowl of wine had been held in his hand for an unknown length of time, and he didn’t even notice that a leaf had fallen into it and was now floating around.
Chang An vaguely felt that something had happened.
Bei Shi looked at the young man he had brought up himself and sighed. He said, “Little pup, you’ve been learning the saber from me for ten years. Tomorrow, pack up and go down the mountain.”
Chang An didn’t expect Bei Shi to say such a thing, and he was caught off guard, dumbfounded.
Bei Shi said softly, “On Yufeng mountain, there are only animals who don’t understand anything. You even killed the two-headed snake, and now there’s nothing else left to hone you. However, there are things in this world that are far more powerful than animals, and you can’t go through your whole life without seeing them…”
Chang An squatted down and suddenly interrupted him. “Shifu, do you have a problem?”
Bei Shi raised his hand and touched his head. Chang An wasn’t stupid, and he was even clever. However, he’d been living with him on this barren mountain for years and never learned how to be a man. He paused for a moment, and said frankly, “I’m leaving too. If fate allows, we’ll see each other again in the future. If…”
His voice came to an abrupt end. Bei Shi stood up, glanced at the dirty wine, and conveniently threw it out the gate. Then he once again ruffled his disciple’s hair into a bird’s nest.
“There is no feast that doesn’t end. You’ll get used to it.” He looked at Chang An and suddenly smiled. “I also hate to part with you, little pup.”
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End of Volume 1 ^_^