Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Living To Suffer - ch11

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia

Living to Suffer chapter 11
The prequel to TDDUP


When his shifu came, Ch’in Ching had just washed the dirty linens and hung them up to dry in the yard. Although no signs of indulgence could be found, he was nevertheless a little troubled. He could not have been more thankful that his shifu had missed Shen Liangsheng because otherwise he would have been stumped by the question of how to properly introduce the two.

“You know, Shifu, you don’t need to constantly appear out of thin air. At least send me a letter and notify me ahead of time.”
Ch’in Ching showed the older man into the hut and poured tea before sitting across from the man at the table.
“It’s nothing, really. I simply wanted to visit you while I was free, as the chances are only going to become fewer.”
When it came to expressing good intentions in a bad way, Ch’in Ching could well have inherited that from his master, too.
“But what are the latest developments?”
Ch’in Ching was well aware that his shifu would not visit without a good reason in times like these.
“You had written me last time regarding the incident of the Yichian Sect…”
“Didn’t you bid me wait?” Ch’in Ching let out a few quick laughs, but his eyes remained untouched by the laughter. “Be frank with me. Which one is next?”
“Broken Zither Hills.”
Ch’in Ching paused momentarily in surprise. Unlike the populous and wealthy Yichian Sect which stood amongst the main players, Broken Zither Hills had stayed far from chianghu matters for many decades, so much so that the newer generations might even have no knowledge of it. Perhaps only the previous generation could vaguely remember a certain man by the name of Shan “Tanchingk’e” Hai-hsin who was a legendary wielder of a pair of Judge’s Brushes[1] and remained undefeated in the chianghu. However, he accidentally caused the death of his good friend due to a misunderstanding and, taking the friends’ broken zither with him, established Broken Zither Hills. Not only had the master never again been spotted in the chianghu, but his disciples were rarely active, too.
Now, it must be mentioned that Ch’in Ching had had a connection with Broken Zither Hills when he was young, partly due to a relationship between his shifu and the wrongfully killed friend of Shan Hai-hsin. While he was alive, he was an excellent zither player as well as a brilliant doctor, and after death, his broken zither and medicinal notes all went to Shan Hai-hsin. Ch’in Ching’s shifu took him along to request a viewing of the notes in an attempt to find a treatment for his heartache. Although the treatment was never found, the talented boy had memorized a good chunk of the thickly bound books by the time his short stay at the Hills came to an end. That more or less qualified him as the dead man’s disciple, and Shan Hai-hsin said to the boy barely ten years of age, “He would have been glad had he known you would inherit his learning.”

When Ch’in Ching snapped back from the momentary lapse, he merely remarked, “Still trying to find the pages?”
“What they are searching for might be the stone rubbing of the pages. Chances are that somewhere out there they exist, since the pages have been circulating for quite some time. But Buddha and Mara have been in conflict since the beginning of time, so they have their bets on the original being safe kept in Shaolin. That’s why the false rumours lured them in so easily last time. The only regret is that we failed to stop them from leaving.
“Do you blame me for the imprudent act, Shifu?”
“No, and dwell not on that thought. The target of our previous plot was the current deputy leader, but unfortunately they were also aware of the importance of the soul trigger and sent only the hufa to test the waters. Who knew we wouldn’t be able to stop even a hufa. If it had been the deputy himself who came, it would have been an even more perilous situation.” The older man heaved a long sigh. “Ultimately, we were at fault for underestimating the enemy. It would have made no difference whether you saved that man or not.”
“No, certainly there would be a difference.” Ch’in Ching took a sip of tea and smiled calmly, “You’ve never tried to hide it from me, and I had guessed it myself, that the original pages had disappeared from this world long ago, and the ones in your hand are replicas as well. I cannot say with certainty whether the Hsing Sect will ever find the stone rubbings, but the chances that they do before the astronomical date next year are fairly low. There will be another date after this one, but the problem lies in whether or not you will be able to find the next vessel…” Putting down his cup, he raised a brow sarcastically. “First, for all we know, you might not live to see that day. And I’ve come to realize after all these years, Shifu, that you probably used up all your luck for this lifetime to locate me. Therefore, if the next vessel falls into the hands of the Hsing Sect, then the wood would have become a boat that would be impossible to stop from drifting away.”
“Tell me, lad, why do you spend your time contemplating this instead of taking care of your weight?” Shaking his head, the man sighed again. “The contents of the replica are not false but if revealed too soon may grant them time sufficient to consider their options. I fear they may become wary and opt to wait a few more decades to be certain. If so, we are doomed.”
“And that is why I said there would be a difference.” Ch’in Ching poured another cup of tea as he flashed a sly smile. “He asked me what I wanted in return for saving him, so I requested a stalk of huaimeng-ts’ao.”
“Hengsu! You are digging your own grave!”
“No, no, not a grave. It’s obviously a tunnel to life.” Ch’in Ching’s voice was still a bit hoarse, and he kept drinking tea to compensate for the talking. “Though that tunnel is not for me to walk, you taught me to abandon my own life and death and to hold within me all of mankind – and that is love at the grandest scale.”

In reality, the last two pages of the mantra not only contained the key to achieving the tenth stage of the Five Skandhas but also crucial details regarding the blood trigger vessel. This information not only included the vessel’s patzu but also mentioned that the vessel would experience excruciating pains in the heart at the change of season, and the only way to alleviate the suffering was to use huaimeng-ts’ao as a catalyst in medicine. The headquarters must have been established on Mount Fut’u because this herb only grew on the very peak of the mountain.
“I requested a stalk of huaimeng-ts’ao to create a catalyst of my own,” Ch’in Ching continued smilingly. “Not as a medicinal ingredient but as a dramatic prop after they discover the contents of those pages. If I were to be honest with you, Shifu, the hufa and I share a relationship of sorts. As you may know, there are men in this world who have plotted so often against others that they come to understand this world as one of deceit and treachery, and when someone treats them in earnest, they in turn can’t help suspecting foul play. Yet, when someone cheats them, it is easier for them to believe the authenticity of that lie. The pages state that the treatment for the heartache requires huaimeng-ts’ao as a catalyst, and the production of the physic takes an overwhelming three hundred and thirty-three days. Now, what would the average person do in this period of time, nearly one year long? Find a hole to hide in and make the medication? I think the Hsing Sect was clever enough to keep tabs on me from the moment I left their territory even if they didn’t know the blood trigger needed huaimeng-ts’ao, so naturally the best choice for me is to stay put. When they find the pages, they will surely assume that saving him and requesting the herb were part of a plot to stay alive and that we believed they would not find the pages that quickly. My getting to know him afterwards would also become an act of espionage in their eyes, as if I were ready to leave as soon as something unfavourable happened. After putting on this elaborate play, do you think the Hsing Sect would believe that I was yearning to stay alive or that I was purposely seeking my death? And do you think the thought would even occur to them that we have already discovered a way to resolve the mantra?”
“You…” After listening to Ch’in Ching’s long-winded speech, the older man replied with another question, “You have obtained the meng-ts’ao, and you say that the Hsing Sect might not find the pages before the upcoming celestial date. Given that, you would be able to live if it weren’t for me releasing the two pages. Hengsu, do you blame me for pushing you to meet your end?”
“Blame you for what?” Smiling, Ch’in Ching stretched a hand across the table and grabbed that of his shifu, giving it a light shake. “You need to stop growing soft as you age, Shifu. Besides, it’s not as though I never knew about your plans, and if you are going to pitch your own life in this and maybe even drink Old Lady Meng’s soup[2] before I do, what is there for me to blame?”
“But Hengsu…” The older man grabbed his pupil’s hand, too, sighing. “In the end, ‘tis I who am indebted to you.”
“If you must feel that way, then let us be real parent and child in the next life. As they say, children come to this world to collect debts owed by their parents.”
Ch’in Ching kept poking fun at the situation, but not even a trace of a smile could be found on his shifu’s face. He began to wonder if emotionlessness was an infectious disease that caused the old geezer to be so difficult this time.
The truth, however, was that Ch’in Ching had no idea that his shifu had kept one thing from him: the blood trigger vessel is destined to live only one lifetime and one lifetime only. His shifu had made up his mind to wager his own destiny to work against the heavens and rewrite that of his beloved student, but he could never be certain of the outcome. Speaking of the next life now only made his heart ache.

“Hengsu…” After a long silence, his shifu changed the topic. “I actually visited you once yesterday, but I noticed you had another guest and did not come inside.”
Ch’in Ching immediately choked on his tea and began coughing as he panicked. He wondered how much his shifu had heard, so he reluctantly hummed in agreement and mustered a response. “It was him.”
In reality, his shifu should not have heard anything improper because he had not entered the yard. It was only that Ch’in Ching himself was feeling guilty. His cheeks would not stop reddening, and he was not even able to verbalize Shen Liangsheng’s name, muttering nothing more than the word, “him.” Furthermore, his shifu could factor in all the laundry hanging in the yard to make some sense of the situation. However, he was not angry as Ch’in Ching had predicted and instead said, “I was not aware that your relationship with that hufa was of that sort.”
“Well, it’s a long story, a very long one…” Ch’in Ching could only gulp down more cold tea to relieve his anxiety. Seeing his master remaining speechless, he carefully probed, “I–”
“Hengsu, I remember you once liked a girl who lived on the next street over…,” the older man interrupted and switched to a recollection. “I had hoped then that you would cut all mortal ties to the world, thus I did not allow even a pet dog. Later I even made us move away from that place…but after these years, I’m actually a bit regretful… Perhaps it’s the age, but I regret being so extreme then and even thought it would be good if you could again find someone you like. It’d be good even for temporary pleasure.”
“But now that you are involved with that man like this, first of all the violation of principle and even his identity aside, I am only afraid that you…”
“That I would forget about the task at hand because I might truly fall in love?” Ch’in Ching rushed to finish the sentence. “Shifu, you must know my personality by now. Naturally, I would–”
“It’s precisely because I know your personality that I fear you would take down a thousand enemy troops while expending eight hundred of your own. Why put yourself through that?”
“Naturally, I would be able to distinguish the important matters from the insignificant, and act accordingly.” Without further explanation, Ch’in Ching finished his own thought. “Moreover, you are the one who has attained a more comprehensive understanding of all the principles and ethics. Do you remember what you once said to me?”
“He who realizes grand love,” Ch’in Ching iterates, “harbours not selfish emotions. Your concerns are unnecessary, Shifu.”
“…so be it. It is getting late, and I should be leaving.” The older man was a little slow on his rise from his seat, and the otherworldly figure now gave off a sense of senility. “I cannot say with certainty when our next meeting will be. You–”
“I will proceed with caution.” Ch’in Ching saw his master to the door and watched the man cross the yard and push open the gates. He suddenly let out hearty laughter. “Shifu, don’t worry yourself anymore after you return home. Your pupil remembers and feels gratitude for the care and teachings he has received in all these years. With you as company on the road to the Yellow Springs, he shan’t be lonely.”

[1] The Judge’s Brush is the name given to two types of weapons: 1) a pair of short to medium length wood or metal sticks with one or both ends sharpened and a circular ring in the middle to be worn on a finger to allow for spinning; 2) a pair of short to medium length metal baton-like weapons with a fist-like contraption made to be thrown and to grapple, and attached to the fist a shorter protrusion that is used to tackle the enemy’s acupuncture points.
[2] Old Lady Meng, or Meng Po, is a figure who is stationed in the underworld and distributes a liquid literally termed “water that confuses the soul” to each soul before it leaves the underworld to be reincarnated.

Pictures of the two types of Judge's Brush

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ayszhang: And the plot has been revealed.... XD

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