Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Living to Suffer - ch4

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia

Living to Suffer chapter 4
The prequel to TDDUP


The temperature had yet to drop as lich’iu[1] passed, and it came time again for Ch’in Ching’s quarterly suffering.
His inborn heart condition did not prevent him from functioning normally, merely limiting him to weaker forms of martial arts and a minimal level of neikung. However, four times each year, at the turn of the seasons, it was as though two masters were battling to their deaths within Ch’in Ching’s heart, paying no mind to whether Ch’in-taifu’s mortal organ could withstand such a duel.
As the saying goes, a healer cannot heal himself. Ch’in Ching’s shifu[2] had some expertise in medicine, and Ch’in Ching excelled even further in the field. But neither of them could do anything about this strange disease. Not only were painkilling herbs ineffective, the pain would tear Ch’in Ching from his slumber even when his sleeping points[3] were sealed with silver needles.
Ch’in Ching had been following his shifu, visiting all the mysterious and unknown corners of the land, until four years ago when they came upon a certain medicinal spring hidden in the mountains. During those changes of season when his heart began to ache, he would enter the spring and the pain would become more bearable.

Ch’in Ching still recalled the conversation with his shifu four years ago as he lay soaking in the pool, oblivious to night and day.
“If you ask me, you should not have found this delightful treasure for me. Before, I had to suffer four times a year, so living meant nothing good to me. A quicker death meant a quicker reincarnation. But now that you’ve found such a place, I might just start to cherish my life and fear death.”
“Are those words true?”
“Which ones? Cherish life and fear death? Certainly.”
“Nay, the previous ones. You said there was nothing good about living.”
“Hengsu, lie not to thyself.”
“I wish for your total consent. If not, I will not force you.”
“Are those words true?”
“This is what you call ‘the apple does not fall far from the tree,’ Shifu. Lie not to thyself.”

A deep rumble of thunder sounded from the horizon, and immediately, rain began pouring down in buckets. Soaking in the spring, Ch’in Ching had his eyes closed while resting his head on a hand. Suddenly, the cold rain ceased to hit his head. He blinked open his eyes to find Shifu on one of his expected quarterly visits. The man stood by the pool with an umbrella, dressed in black, the same old ethereal figure.
“I have been most disrespectful, Shifu. I lost the umbrella you painted for me last time.”
“It is of no concern. I can simply paint another one for you.”
“Could you paint a fan this time?”
“The weather is becoming colder. You will not be an embarrassment and wave around a fan in winter.”
“…Hengsu, two months ago an intruder entered the Shaolin[4] Treasure Pagoda.”
“The abbot had made preparations. Skilled persons of Wutang[5], Songshan[6], O-mei[7], and Ch’ing-ch’eng[8] had gathered in the pagoda and created powerful formations.”
“And the results?”
“Within an ace of victory.”
“I see.”
“Huisheng-tashi[9] channeled all his cultivation into one ultimate strike, but not even that could end the life of the intruder.”
“And what of the tashi?”
“Gone to meet his maker.”
“Hengsu…the identity of the intruder…”
“I’ve got an idea.”
“…News came one month ago that the hufa of the Hsing Sect had returned safely.”
“I know. It was I who saved him.”

Ch’in Ching witnessed a rare display of speechlessness from his shifu and chuckled aloud.
“How comes it that you did not foresee it this time, Shifu? I thought your divinations had already reached a supernatural level.”
“…So be it. All is predestined. Heaven’s will–”
“Heaven’s will shall not be violated. Say, could you tell me something new for once?”
“You shouldn’t linger on that thought. Let us discuss the key issue. Is the Hsing Sect in possession of the last two pages?”
“They should not be. That the pages were in Shaolin was a lie to begin with. ‘Tis a pity however…”
“No need for pity now. It is fine that they have not obtained the pages. I have plans of my own.”
“Do not tire of my wordiness, Hengsu… I simply want to ask you one more time, have you any resentment?”
“So what if I do?”
Shifu, I’ve long forgotten words of hypocrisy.
Ch’in Ching let his smile fade and straightened his pose and expression.
“For the land, for humanity, I have no resentment.”

After lich’iu came chungch’iu[10]. Ch’in Ching had no family other than his shifu, so the festivities were of little interest to him. Rather his dice hand was itching for some long-awaited action. Seeing that litung[11] was still some fortnights away, he hopped on a boat to Chinling[12] and dove head first into the largest gambling house in town, staying from dusk to dawn. By the time he stepped out of the establishment, his steps were wobbly and his eye bags dark.
The only game that Ch’in Ching played was sic bo.[13] Simple and painless, one could win big or lose everything, and the delight was all in the transition between those two extremes.
Ch’in Ching had never concerned himself with money. When he became swept up by the game, he went all in, betting and losing all of his silver. He made a ‘tsk-tsk’ sound without appearing very troubled at all and ambled out of the gambling house empty-handed.
Only when he left did he realize he might not even be able to pay for the boat ride home. Then he took a look at himself – a blue cotton robe that was faded white from numerous washings and a plain old peachwood hairpin – and found nothing he could even pawn for money.
Searching himself all over, he dug out a few pieces of copper. Although it was not sufficient for the boat, it was for a few hearty shaoping.[14] He thought Chinling was not terribly far from his dwelling, a three day walk, and he could pick some wild fruits for sustenance along the way. With that, he began his trip with the shaoping in hand, strolling towards the city gates.

The state roads were safe, but that route was longer. After half a day of walking, Ch’in Ching turned onto a tiny path cutting through the hills. With the sky dimming, it became prime time for monetary and sexual harassment.
Perhaps the heavens knew Ch’in Ching was lacking in both departments and did not send any bandits or lechers his way. However, karma did send trouble his way, of an origin even Ch’in Ching had forgotten.
Ch’in Ching eyed the three assailants before him. They looked somewhat familiar, but he could not recall the time he had last met them.
“My friends…could it be that I had the honour of saving an adversary of yours?”
“A damnable honour, all right!” The bulky man who was the least familiar to Ch’in Ching spat in disgust at the lack of shame displayed. “You simple-minded lad, you held a candle to the devil!”
“So you come looking for trouble with the doctor instead of the actual villain…” Ch’in Ching sighed. Thinking this trip was going to be one of relaxation, he did not even bring the soft sword that he received as a gift from his shifu, so he picked up a dead tree branch from the ground. “After you.”

Although Ch’in Ching had a much higher mastery of medicine and circles and formations compared to the art of the sword, he was considered strong amongst the second-raters. If not for his heart condition and its subsequent restriction on his neikung, he might have had more luck with climbing the ranks of the chianghu.
Using the opponent’s force against him, turning solid into hollow, Ch’in Ching appeared rather at ease with the dried branch, but regardless of his success against swords and knives, he could not defend against concealed weapons – poor neikung equaled poor ch’ingkung. Even though his eyes recognized the threat, his feet could not react quickly enough.
The girl who looked the most familiar threw a handful of caltrops, two of which Ch’in Ching deflected, two of which he evaded and two of which hit him. He dropped his stance and surrendered. “M’lady, if you have vented your anger, I believe it is time to let me go. I, Ch’in, promise to ask for their full name, their patzu,[15] whether they are betrothed before I save anybody else in future!”

The girl did not hold a great grudge, and Ch’in Ching had learnt his lesson. Although the girl was thin-skinned and disliked his tongue-in-cheek comments, she did not bother to stoop to his level and left with her gang after shooting him a deadly glare.
Ch’in Ching found a tree to sit against while appreciating how proper the pupils of the orthodox sects were. They might have been a little arrogant, but they knew the boundaries. The concealed weapons had not been coated with poison, only with monkshood extract and one extra ingredient, orange jessamine. It was an anesthetic that also reduced swelling and hastened the healing process of flesh.
But coincidentally and unfortunately, the harmless orange jessamine spelled disaster for him.

“Hail to you, Ch’in Ching.”
As daylight faded away, the orange jessamine began reacting with the medicines Ch’in Ching had been taking since an early age, and his temperature spiked. In his feverish state, he heard a familiar voice greeting him and answered wryly, “What a coincidence, Shen-hufa.”
“Many days have passed. Have you decided what it is that you desire?”
“Shen-hufa, I know no action of mine can escape your eyes. But I won’t die here even if you leave me be. You will get nothing out of this.”
“You overthink, Ch’in-taifu.”
“Hah…What I do think is that the heavens must have taken pity on my craven self…” Ch’in Ching opened his eyes and looked at Shen Liangsheng smilingly. “Too afraid to go to that hellish place to find you, but still wanting to see you again… And lo and behold, the mountain cometh to me.”[16]
“The yin pass is in your hands. I had to come to you sooner or later, so no need for impatience.”
“Indeed…” Ch’in Ching chuckled softly before closing his eyes again. “Then let us talk after my sleep.”

Author’s comment:
Shen-hufa is twenty-six, not a small number. Other parts of him are not small either.
I appreciate the comment “waiting for the continuation.” The truth is this story is just for self-entertainment purposes, to fight the loneliness when I get bored. I almost wanted to drop this because nobody was reading and I have no time to be all wistful and lonely. Thank you to the madam up there. Seeing the word “waiting” made me realize I do want to finish writing this.
There’s someone waiting, and although it’s for a lame story, it’s still heart-warming.
Therefore I decided to say a few more words to express my gratitude – unlike the bottled-up Shen-hufa whose habits are not good for the mind and body -.-
PS. I said I’d write smut, but it’s been 14k characters and the uke has only been able to entertain himself. How sad orz

[1] Early August. The 13th solar term that signifies the beginning of autumn in East Asia.
[2] The title used towards one’s teacher.
[3] Acupuncture points that would induce sleep.
[4] A fictional sect based on the real Shaolin Monastery.
[5] A fictional sect based on Mt. Songshan like Shaolin but on a different peak.
[6] A fictional sect based on the real Wudang Monastery.
[7] A fictional sect based on the real Emei Monastery.
[8] A fictional sect based on the real Qingcheng Monastery.
[9] A title for a high-ranking monk.
[10] Mid-autumn, or more commonly the Mid-Autumn Festival
[11] Early November. The 19th solar term that signifies the beginning of winter.
[12] An old name for Nanking/Nanjing.
[13] A dice game of chance of ancient Chinese origin.
[14] A baked flatbread.
[15] Literally ‘eight characters,’ an East Asian concept of one’s birth hour, date, month and year, each represented by two characters, affecting one’s destiny. It is similar to the idea of fortunetelling based on horoscope or zodiac.
[16] This is wordplay based on the expression “The mountain cometh not to me, and I shall go to it.” The expression itself comes from the Islamic tale of Mohammed summoning a mountain that entered the Chinese language through the Muslim Hui minority. A related expression in English is “If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.”

Caltrops thrown by the assailants

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Further reading:

ayszhang: Thanks for reading :D

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