Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Living to Suffer - ch6

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia

Please re-read if you read it for the first time before June 21.


They had arrived at the sect early, for the huai-meng ts’ao appeared only at the Hour of the Rat.[1] They had to wait another twelve hours or so.
Naturally, Shen Liangsheng would not allow Ch’in Ching to roam freely in the sect, so he led him straight to his own quarters. He signalled with his arm, “Take a seat.”
So Ch’in Ching sat down.
“Have some tea.”
So Ch’in Ching drank tea.
A servant delivered their meal, and Shen Liangsheng invited again, “If you would excuse the bland meal…”
So Ch’in Ching ate.
These three utterances were all the communication they had until it came time to pick the plant.
It was not that Shen-hufa­ was a poor host – although he had been on the road for days, he did not rest but instead sat accompanying Ch’in Ching.
Ch’in Ching would stare at the tea cup but sometimes at the other man. When Shen Liangsheng noticed the gaze, he would look back at the doctor. After the silent eye contact, however, the one to look away in the end would always be Ch’in Ching himself.

As expected, night time on Mount Fut’u was particularly eerie. The sorrowful hoots of the owls resonated near and far, sounding like the moans of wicked ghouls. Dressed in white, Shen Liangsheng led the way to the plants, and Ch’in Ching trailed behind the hufa, watching him tread onward without making the slightest noise.
“Yes?” Shen Liangsheng sensed the man behind darting forward and soon felt a hand around his own. Pausing for a split second, he glanced out of the corner of his eye.
“Nothing. Just wanted to see if you were man or ghost.”
“So you are afraid of ghosts, Ch’in-taifu.”
“No, why would I be? All ghosts were once man.”
“Is that so?” Shen Liangsheng displayed no trace of mockery on his face but lifted his left hand as he spoke – Ch’in Ching’s hand still firmly attached to it.
“Well, hiking at night can be a bit dangerous, can’t it?” Ch’in Ching laughed nervously.

The mountain path was indeed steep and irregular, but it was not especially hazardous to trek. With a torch in one hand and the man’s hand in the other, Ch’in Ching could still let his mind wander off while he paid attention to the stone steps beneath.
Shen Liangsheng did not hold Ch’in Ching’s hand or pull away either, simply letting the doctor do as he pleased.
“Shen Liangsheng.”
After a while, Ch’in Ching called his name out of nowhere.
“It seems I have been like this ever since I met you.”
“Like what?”
“Holding a torch against the wind.”
“How so?”
“The flame burns my hand, yet I cannot let go.”
“Letting go of all mortal desires proves a difficult task.”[2]
“It’s ironic to hear you, the hufa of the Hsing Sect, invoke the words of Buddha.”
“The truth requires no justification.”
“That is reasonable, indeed. But what if…”
Ch’in Ching fell silent abruptly and did not continue. Shen Liangsheng did not demand closure either, but after a few steps, he felt the man letting go of his hand. All that was left in the darkness was a flickering flame that illuminated only a tiny space ahead.

It was nearing the Hour of the Rat when they arrived at the peak. No longer wavering, Ch’in Ching focused on catching any signs of the rare plant.
However, when the Hour of the Rat came, the black mountainside was instantly alight with thousands of fire-red plants, almost recreating the banks of the Yellow Spring[3] over which the Bridge of Helplessness[4] arched.
“Pfft.” Ch’in Ching immediately began working, placing a stalk into a box that had been coated with some kind of herbal powder, but he still joked in meantime. “No wonder you agreed so readily. I’d thought that there would be only a handful of them, but from what I see, your entire sect could very well survive off of huai-meng stir fry for three whole days.”
Unsurprisingly, Shen Liangsheng ignored his quips, only saying that he would escort him down the mountain now that the business was finished.
“Do you know of the story of the huai-meng ts’ao?” Ch’in Ching started casually, swinging his sack over his shoulder. “Legend has it that holding its leaf enables one to test the auspiciousness of dreams. That is the first. Another source says that holding it enables one to dream of what is on one’s mind. Maybe you should pick one and try it for yourself, Shen-hufa.”
Not wanting to waste time chattering, Shen Liangsheng turned and began the descent, leaving behind only a curt reply.
“I have naught on my mind.”

Ch’in Ching made his way back to his hut at a leisurely pace, and by then the chill had set in. Before he could enjoy some peace and quiet, however, trouble came looking for him.
It must be noted that even the walls have ears. Ch’in Ching was the first man in recent decades to come down from Mount Fut’u alive and well. Although it was not an important event, some chianghu people caught wind of the news and were curious as to whom this famous nobody was.
In actuality, the event that was important occurred on first day of the ninth month, coincidentally the day of shuangchiang.[5] The entire Yichian Sect was killed over night, and the sect leader appeared to have undergone severe torture and interrogation before death. His extremely disfigured corpse was a sight which few could bear to witness. None but the Hsing Sect was capable of such cruel ways.
The strange thing was that, although Yichian was generally recognized as a major sect, it was hardly comparable to the truly powerful sects like Shaolin and Wutang, and nobody had ever heard of any grudges between Yichian and the Hsing Sect. The eradication simply seemed made no sense.
Ch’in Ching had heard of this matter on his way home and was fully aware of the cause. All he could do was silently exclaim, “Yüannieh!”[6] He wrote to his shifu, but the reply he received was only three words long, “Trouble not. Wait.”
But after all the waiting, it was none other than the victim who came to Ch’in Ching’s doorstep.
That day, Ch’in Ching was practising calligraphy by the window when he felt his circles being breached, so he put his brush down and left the valley to inspect. What he saw in the enchanted maze was a young swordsman darting about like a blind bat. He was dressed in white mourning clothes, and his eyes were raw.
Sighing quietly, Ch’in Ching disabled the circle since he had a fairly good guess about the identity of the intruder. There were rumours throughout the chianghu that on the day of the massacre, the youngest son of the Yichian Sect leader was staying as a guest at Mount K’ongt’ong[7] and luckily avoided the misfortune. This man must be he.
The young mourner fell to his knees as soon as he spotted Ch’in Ching.
“I am not worthy!”[8] Ch’in Ching quickly pulled the man to his feet. After a short conversation, his prediction proved true; this man was indeed the sole survivor, the young master of Yichian Sect.
The visitor did not waste effort on politesse and expressed his intentions honestly. He, too, had heard about a certain someone ascending Mount Fut’u. After asking around, he found Ch’in Ching’s location and came to request the way to enter the mountain.
Ch’in Ching was honest as well and explained his connection with the mountain. He then asked in a soft voice, “Young master, now that you know I saved the hufa of the demonic sect, do you think I still count a good man?”
The youth stared at the doctor with his bloodshot eyes before taking one step back and kneeling down once more.
“If I were to tell you the way into the mountain, the Hsing Sect would not let me off easily.” Ch’in Ching tried to help the man up, but the man was intent on staying on his knees. “And since I’m not a good man, why would I risk my own life to help you?”
“Even if I do decide to help, you must realize the situation. You are merely going there…to die.”
“I must fight to avenge this debt of blood!” The youth finally spoke. There were no sign of tears in his eyes, but his words were harrowing like a sword snapping in half, like a cuckoo[9] singing with blood in its mouth. “I’d gladly give up my life!”
“I…” Moved, Ch’in Ching stepped towards the man and knelt down on one knee to look in the man’s eyes. “If I may ask for your trust…” He paused because he knew he absolutely should not, under any circumstance, say the words he uttered next. “Could you…could you just wait a bit longer…If you can trust me, I promise I will give you justice in three months’ time.”
“Not that I don’t trust you…” the youth croaked after maintaining eye contact in silence for some time. “But I cannot wait. Not even a day longer.”

After looking at the dead quietude in the man’s eyes, Ch’in Ching stood up and spoke in an undertone, “Wait patiently here. I will write down the route to the mountain and the key to the protective circles, but these were the defensive formations when I visited. Only the heavens know whether they have been altered.”
Ch’in Ching turned back into the valley and did not see the man behind him kowtow to express his gratitude. He was contemplating the reality that some sought life when they could not live while others sought death when they could live. Perhaps a quick death really was better than living in pain and suffering day and night.

Ch’in Ching was not lying when he said that the Hsing Sect would not let him off easily, and the person who came was none other than Shen Liangsheng.
Unlike the youth who was trapped, Shen Liangsheng was not hindered in the slightest by the defensive circles. Ch’in Ching had just sensed an intrusion when a monstrous, murderous blast of energy ripped through his spells as though they were merely cobweb. The next thing he knew, a white shadow resembling the white wuch’ang[10] spirit materialized before him.
“It has been a long time, Ch’in-taifu.”
“Well…it hasn’t been that long actually.”
“I was not aware that you had perfect memory.”
“Unfortunately, I have few talents, but I do have brains.”
“Do you?” Shen Liangsheng took a step forward, sword in hand. His face showed no emotion, but the air around him explicitly revealed his cold-blooded, savage intention. The temperature in the hut felt colder than winter itself. “I think not.”
“Whatever you say.” Ch’in Ching knew he could not overpower the man, so he was merely waiting for his death. If he died, Shen-hufa would spend his days moping in regret after they found the pages and learned that the doctor was the blood trigger they had been seeking all along. The next viable vessel would not appear for at least another fifty years, so if he could still see from the underworld, he would be able to laugh about it for a few decades. It would mean his shifu’s efforts all these years had gone to waste, though.
A little impatience spoils the grand scheme – if his shifu knew that his one foolish move ruined the carefully planned game, he would probably be furious enough to breathe fire.
“You are rather composed, Ch’in-taifu.”
“I beg to differ.” Ch’in Ching understood the sneer in Shen Liangsheng’s voice. The man was mocking his stupidity in not running and instead staying in his hut awaiting the reaper. “But where in this big, wide world could I possibly find refuge?”
“Or perhaps you were wagering that I wouldn’t kill you?” Shen Liangsheng’s tone was flat, but his actions were unforgiving. His sword shot forth, piercing through Ch’in Ching’s right shoulder blade, but far from stopping, it kept flying until it pinned the doctor onto the wall.
“I…” Ch’in Ching’s vision went black for a moment from the pain, and he inhaled sharply to finish the sentence. “I am no fortune teller. All bets are off. I hoped only that you would spare me a quick, painless death for old times’ sake.”
“Oh? But you’ve got your huai-meng ts’ao. The accounts have been settled. What old times’ sake is there to speak of?” Shen Liangsheng retorted coldly. Then he leaned in, as close as that day in the cave, their lips a hair’s breadth apart. “Think not so highly of yourself, Ch’in Ching.”
“Whatever you say.” Ch’in Ching repeated. He made as if to avoid Shen Liangsheng, but sadly the sword held him firmly in place, not allowing him any leeway. All the action achieved was to tear further the wound on his shoulder. The sword likely severed a major pathway. Blood welled out like a fountain and kept gushing.
As the silence ensued, Ch’in Ching lowered his eyes. His breathing was shallow and his face a sickly yellow. He was not on the verge of death but in excruciating pain.
“This is to teach you a lesson. Do not poke your nose where you should not be poking, and conduct yourself accordingly.”
After Shen Liangsheng spoke, he drew back and pulled out his sword, putting a considerate amount of force into the move. A bloody mist exploded and swirled around in the air.
Through the light, crimson rain, Ch’in Ching seemed to wear no relief or joy on his face. He only remained standing by leaning against the wall, and with his eyes downcast, he said:
“Lesson learnt.”

[1] 11pm to 1am.
[2] A phrase from The Platform Scriptures of the Sixth Patriarch is referenced. (Verse 17)
[3] The underworld in Chinese mythology.
[4] A bridge that one must cross to enter the underworld.
[5] Late October. The 18th solar term that signified the first frost of the year in East Asia.
[6] A sin in Buddhism akin to anantarika-karma but not as severe. It has entered the Chinese language as an exclamation when a heinous (e.g. murder) or undesirable (e.g. son who turns out to be a good-for-nothing) event occurs.
[7] A holy mountain in Taoism located in Gansu Province. K’ongt’ong is also a fictional sect.
[8] It is said that a man has gold beneath his knees, and he kneels only to the heaven and the earth, and to his parents. This saying exemplifies how weighty a message kneeling down is for the Chinese culture.
[9] Cuculus poliocephalus. The lesser cuckoo is known in East Asia for its cry which represents extreme sorrow. The mouth and tongue of the bird is bright red and it cried throughout the night, and people believed it was bleeding from the crying. In China, the bird represents Wang Di, the king of Shu who, depending on the version of the story, left his country in bad hands and died and became the bird. The people of Shu named the bird and the rhododendron after him, believing the colour of the flower to have come from the blood of the lesser cuckoo.
[10] One of two spirits that escort souls to the underworld. One dresses in white and the other in black

An illustration of the Chinese underworld with a Bodhisattva and his attendants in tow

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I uploaded the wrong chapter........................ >A< IT HAS BEEN FIXED! THIS IS THE RIGHT CHAPTER YOU ARE LOOKING AT!!! I am so sorry omg.... >_<

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